Leslie Morgan Steiner wrote Mommy Wars
, a best-selling and controversial book filled with essays by stay-at-home and working moms, talking about their lives, choices, and struggles. Leslie now writes a great blog for the Washington Post called On Balance
. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and three young children. Leslie has done a lot of research into the issues - personal, societal, professional - facing moms today and she highlights a few of her findings in this interview. She also offers great perpectives, supported by her research, for moms looking to get back into their careers after taking time off to take care of their kids.
Your wrote the much talked about book titled Mommy Wars, in which 26 career and stay-at-home moms write about their lives and choices. You also write a blog called On Balance for the Washington Post. What inspired you to explore these topics?
Whether you work or stay at home after having kids has become one of the defining issues of our generation for most college-educated American women today. For me, as a working mom with three kids, I was curious about – and sometimes jealous of – moms who decided to stay home. However, five years ago when I started working on Mommy Wars, the subject was borderline taboo – women were reluctant to talk openly about the tradeoffs we’d made. As a writer I’ve found that people will tackle with written words complicated subjects they are reluctant to speak about, so I asked 26 of the real experts on motherhood – moms -- to explain in short, candid essays what life is REALLY like for working and stay-at-home mothers today. My hope was that by explaining our lives to each other, we’d all have greater compassion for, and less judgment of, other mothers – and ourselves. Motherhood should unite women, not divide us.
Do you think career moms and stay-at-home moms are really at war with each other or has this issue been exaggerated – and thus perpetuated - in the media? Why are we, moms, so divisive?
The “mommy wars” are not a typical war where one side wins and the other loses. Women are not looking to defeat other women. We are looking to feel good about ourselves as mothers – which is a pathetically difficult task in the US today. Sometimes, when you struggle to feel good about yourself, the next best thing is to feel superior to others (kind of like seventh grade girls). Hence the judgment and belittlement of moms who’ve made different choices.
However, the tension, envy and suspicion between working and at-home moms is real. But the worst mommy war is the one that rages inside each mom’s head as she struggles to feel good about being a mom -- no matter what her choices about work. This inner battle plays out on an external stage -- through judgments about other moms.