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Womankind’s REAL Curse PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rick Epstein   




It was only a coincidence that Mother’s Day was approaching when our 8-year-old daughter Wendy came home from a weekend with her girl cousins and began quizzing her mom about some improbable things she’d heard about the menstrual cycle.


It had only been a few years since she’d been horrified to learn that there is a skeleton living inside her. We’d helped her through that crisis, and she was hoping that this new menace was just another false alarm. But her mom’s expert testimony was not reassuring. My wife Betsy reports that little Wendy received the details with fascinated dismay. Finally, she asked: “And what do BOYS get?”


“Nothing like THAT,” said Betsy, who was (literally) the first to agree with Wendy that it’s not fair.


Luckily it’ll be years before Wendy discovers womankind’s REAL curse – the bind between being a working mother and a stay-at-home mother.


Nowadays mothers are expected to stay at home lavishing all their attention on their children AND to get jobs through which they will find fulfillment while bringing home some bacon. Any woman who fails to do both of those mutually exclusive things will be frowned on by society – or at least by the other half of womankind, which is divided into grim battle lines.
Working mothers are made to feel guilty about being away from their kids all day, and their kids sense it and play them like pianos. If they feel under-served, they just say, “Mom, I’m sick; I wanna stay home from school,” and suddenly there’s a pint-sized Chopin at the keyboard.


Also feeling guilty, stay-at-home mothers are as scrappy as short, drunken men in barrooms. These moms are ready to mop up the floor with anyone who implies that they are not “working.” Plus, they have the additional curse of handling everyone else’s loose ends, because their working-mom neighbors suspect they do nothing all day but watch Oprah and flirt with the UPS man.


And where are the dads? We are miles away, either suffering horribly at our desks or eating delightful lunches, getting paid top dollar to not wonder what our children are up to. And no one says, “That bum! Why did he have kids if he’s going to get someone else to watch them all day?” If Dad comes home from work and changes a diaper, he’s a big hero.


When we started our family, Betsy was a full-time baby-wrangler for several years. Then she enrolled in grad school and studied library science. Now she works three days a week as a children’s librarian in a big library. Even though she’s away from her own motherly role on those days, ironically most of her job has to do with motherhood.


Stay-at-home, super-service moms keep her busy all day as they do their children’s homework. And, when school lets out, kids flock into the library, which is their after-hours club. They are either coming there because their moms aren’t home or because their moms ARE home. At the library, local tax dollars and centuries of technological progress are put to work as two 15-year-old boys sit at adjacent computers and Instant-Message curse words to each other. When the guffaws get too loud, or the nonsense turns physical, or a little kid needs a turn on the machinery, Betsy must intervene like the Mom of Steel.


Betsy’s job really enhances our lives. For one thing, she brings home expertly selected books in such quantity that they accumulate into dunes. A child wallows in the dunes, a book strikes its fancy, and reading ensues. The job has also sharpened Betsy’s disciplinary skills. Besides telling our kids things they need to hear in a prompt and forceful way, she’s begun a bit of community outreach. Standing on the front porch, Betsy sees a seventh-grade boy lounging in the park across the street. “Andrew!” she yells, “Put out that cigarette! You KNOW there’s no smoking allowed over there.” Betsy just made up that rule, but she had brought The Voice of Authority home from work. Andrew steps on his cigarette and skulks away without so much as giving her the finger.


So where does this leave womankind? Still cursed? No, free. When you can’t please everyone, you’re free ignore your critics and do what you want to do (or at least what you need to do). But you knew that. Happy Mother’s Day.


Rick can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
 

 

Womankind’s REAL Curse
By Rick Epstein

 
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