Taking a Stand for a Mother’s Right to Choose

 

Are stay-at-home-moms damaging their long-term career prospects, putting themselves and their families at financial risk, and wasting their potential? Diana Kapp, author of a recent article in San Francisco Magazine, thinks so. http://www.sanfranmag.com/story/mother-of-all-recessions. Partly because I and several participants from one of my workshops were featured in the article, I want to weigh in on the topic, which has caused a stir among SF moms.

No matter how confident we modern mothers may claim to be about our choices around parenting and work, many of us still feel judgment everywhere, and unfortunately this article feeds into that judgment. Kapp, an MBA-toting mother of three who works as a freelance journalist, “never considered” giving up her own career and remains apparently mystified by other women’s decisions to relinquish their careers in favor of full-time mothering. With disdain, she likens the mothers in my workshop to pre-feminist housewives, but then herself buys into the sexist view that sees “work and career” as “values,” while “strong families and loving relationships” she dismisses as “fuzzy female clichés.” Her article recites a litany of costs to women, couples, children, and society if women opt out of the workforce to care for their children. Kapp acknowledges few benefits of this choice, seeing it as a “retreat” and a “waste,” and even goes so far as to suggest that the recession might be doing women a favor if it pushed them back into the paid workforce. With so many women wishing they could afford to take more time off, would we really want economic pressure to take choices away from still more women and their families? The fact that a mother’s decision to stay home has negative as well as positive consequences – and what hard choice doesn’t – only makes me more convinced than ever that it’s not a decision that anyone should make for anyone else. I trust women to choose for themselves based on their own values, priorities, and needs and those of her families. Choice – isn’t that what the women’s movement hoped to achieve?