Twenty years ago, at the beginning of the Los Angeles riots, I was driving home from a girls’ day out at the beach with my daughters, who were 6 and 9 years old at the time. My husband and the three boys were on their own. Listening on the car radio to the violence that was happening in Watts was frightening and tragic.
Today, reflecting upon the various comments and reactions to Hillary Rosen’s critique of Ann Romney and reading a blogger’s scathing review of The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women, I am disturbed by our ongoing societal struggle to tolerate differences and embrace diversity. Whether it is an issue of race, socioeconomics, or sexism, all of us need to find ways “to get along”.
What fuels the mommy wars? Why do some women feel compelled to take sides?
I remember feeling in awe of those women who chose or had no choice about being stay-at-home moms. I simply did not have the fortitude or patience that it required. I felt grateful and blessed that my line of work afforded me the freedom and flexibility to work part-time. I have great admiration for women who work full time and take care of their families because their professional and personal lives have become so blurred by technology. Similarly, mothers who stay at home with their children either by choice or necessity continually garner my utmost respect and regard.
Feelings of conflict, competition, and hostility habitually occur when individuals feel inadequate or unsure about what they should want, need, or have. Women are bombarded with opinions, ideas, and choices that make it exceedingly difficult or nearly impossible to figure out what is right for them without being unduly influenced by what everyone else seems to want or have. Advertising and information overload seduce us to such a degree that we lose faith in our own convictions, good judgments, and intuitive reasoning. A lack of faith in our ability to make informed decisions undermines our willingness to behave in a collegial and collaborative fashion.
Wisdom and hindsight are gifts of aging. The reality is that we all make some good decisions and some poor ones. It is important to forgive yourself for the lackluster ideas and feel gratified about the triumphant ones. At the end of the day, whether or not we stayed at home with our children, we want to feel that we did the best we could in the face of our life circumstances. Rodney King ‘s plaintive plea for restoring calm in Los Angeles twenty years ago - “can we all get along . . . for the kids and the old people” - should be a reminder that women need to be supportive of one another and find more substantive and unifying causes to champion.
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