Mommy Wars: A Province of the Privileged

When I saw last week’s much-discussed Time magazine cover with its provocative mom-breastfeeds-toddler photo I groaned, worried that the debate over attachment parenting and breastfeeding would bring with it another chapter in the “mommy wars.”

When it comes to parental choices, such as staying at home vs. going back to work, breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding, it seems that even some of the most die-hard feminists struggle to apply the rhetoric of reproductive justice — that every choice is unique to the woman who is making it and can’t be understood unless we’re in her shoes to the choices we make after birth.

But the media’s focus on the “mommy wars” ignores the real issue: Without policies that support families, no moms (or dads) can make those parenting choices that are so hyped up by the media. The folks at MomsRising are starting a campaign to ask Time to change its focus on covering families. They write:

These facts are stark. We remain the only country in the industrialized world without paid sick leave or mandatory paid parental leave. We have pitiful and costly daycare options, and there is little support for single mothers, poor mothers and others. Bryce Covert recently wrote a piece at the Nation about how new mothers are being driven into debt. She interviewed several women who had complications that led to their being driven deep into debt, or on a razor’s edge.

One such example:

If you’re not depressed enough by these stories, it gets even worse than that: These days, the state is actively prosecuting moms. There’s the case of Bei Bei Shuai, who suffered from depression while pregnant and is now being charged with homicide thanks to a suicide attempt that caused a miscarriage. The New York Times Magazine just ran a piece on prosecutors who are going aggressively after pregnant women who do drugs. There’s Marissa Alexander, the Florida mom who fired a gun in the air to warn off an abusive husband. Alexander is also facing a prison term for homicide. There’s the story of Raquel Nelson, a mom who was crossing a dangerous road late at night because there was no nearby crosswalk. When her whole family got struck by a drunk driver and the accident killed her son, she was charged with manslaughter. Julianne Hing wrote about Nelson’s story in Colorlines

The list goes on and on, so discouraging it makes my blood boil. Because these “mommy wars,” that tendency to judge mothers for not being up to snuff, feed directly into this kind of overzealous action on the part of the state. I so desperately wish that we’d turn our attention away from the “mommy wars,” which are the province of the privileged, to the war on moms, which mostly affects low-income women. We need to fight the war on mothers — not each other.

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Mommy Wars: A Province of the Privileged

Thank you!

This article has been sent!