Hey ladies, you know that whole stay-at-home vs. working thing you’ve been trying to figure out for a while? Well step aside. Matt Walsh, blogger, radio host, father and more importantly, MAN, has come to our rescue to help us figure it all out.
Matt Walsh, the author of the Matt Walsh blog, went viral with a post that puts stay-at-home moms everywhere on a pedestal. He supposedly had a conversation or two where a woman was vaguely condescending about his wife’s choice to stay at home. And you guys, he was shocked. How dare anyone judge anyone. So, he’s going to judge you and take a stand. A brave stand. Much like saying cancer is bad or being illiterate isn’t ideal, Matt Walsh is bravely staying that stay-at-home moms are awesome and they should be put on a pedestal. A huge pedestal. And well, let’s let him tell it:
The people who completely immerse themselves in the tiring, thankless, profoundly important job of raising children ought to be put on a pedestal. We ought to revere them and admire them like we admire rocket scientists and war heroes. These women are doing something beautiful and complicated and challenging and terrifying and painful and joyous and essential. Whatever they are doing, they ARE doing something, and our civilization DEPENDS on them doing it well. Who else can say such a thing? What other job carries with it such consequences?
Thanks, but no thanks, Matt Walsh. I really don’t want your pedestal. And frankly, it doesn’t help.
This stay-at-home v. working mom issue has been tackled for decades in more thoughtful less reactionary ways. It doesn’t help the conversation to stymie in this place of female/mother worship. Do you know why? It’s the Madonna/Whore complex. Because when you elevate women to a pedestal you put them in a place where they can’t fall. Because this elevated position means that with all the glory comes all the blame. Because this sets up the dichotomy where mothers are highly valued until they make a mistake. Then, they are the problem with everything.
And what do we gain by belitting the work of others in order to raise mothers up? There are many people who have impacted my life in a profound way, who are not mothers, nor will they ever be. I think of the surgeons who saved my sisters’ life. My friend who is a lobbyist, my friend the teacher, my friend the seminary student. Each has a vital role in society and in shaping the woman I am today. Regardless of the status of her uterus, no woman is an island.
But ultimately, I (as a stay-at-home mom) reject the pedestal because pedestals are for idols and icons, not for people. It seems almost ridiculous to have to say this, but women (stay-at-home, work-at-home or otherwise) don’t need a pedestal and pandering, we need the space to be people–flawed people. Needy people. People who can’t hack it. People who are just finding their way. We need help. We need more equal pay so we can hang onto our jobs. We need better maternity leave policies so we don’t have to make the choices that men do not have to make. We need to be asked about us–you know, the people who we are outside of child rearing. It benefits no one if a woman drowns herself in the role of a mother without the ability and the space to be something more, even if that something more is just a wife, or a lady with a glass of wine and Downton Abby on her DVR. The space to be fully human.
Walsh also writes:
Of course not all women can be at home full time. It’s one thing to acknowledge that; it’s quite another to paint it as the ideal. To call it the ideal, is to claim that children IDEALLY would spend LESS time around their mothers. This is madness. Pure madness. It isn’t ideal, and it isn’t neutral. The more time a mother can spend raising her kids, the better. The better for them, the better for their souls, the better for the community, the better for humanity. Period.
This is a bit of a strawman. What about being around a father? Is it ideal for Walsh to be cavorting around coffee shops instead of at home with his children? Where is the role of the co-parent in this argument? And why does the mother bear the sole responsibility for the raising of her children and as Walsh puts it, their souls and humanity? And honestly, it’s a fallacy to think that mothers themselves are entirely responsible for life and the raising and managing of it. Truthfully, raising and managing children, is more than just the mothers’ calling and glory. It belongs to a cohort of people. Teachers. Doctors. Extended family. Friends. Neighbors. Fathers. It takes everyone to help raise a child and to put all the responsibility on the shoulders of the mother is exhausting and a burden no woman wants to bear alone.
Frankly, I doubt that these coffee shop harpies were being condescening. I think Walsh misinterpreted their questions. I personally love it when people ask me about what I’m doing and if I’m working, because it gives me something to talk about besides how much poop I had to wipe off the floor in a given day. It’s not condescending when I hear a working friends say, “I couldn’t do what you do.” I understand where they are coming from. I respect their ability to know their limits to know their personalities and their ability to seek a path that works for them and their families.
Society does treat mothers horribly, but not because of the judging. (And for the record, the way to combat judging isn’t with more judging.) It treats mothers horribly by forcing them into a position where many women often have to chose between the careers they’ve built and the children they love. The problem is that women still earn less then men. The problem is affordable heath care and birth control. The problem is maternity leave. The problem is expecting women to bear the weight of humanity with no real help. The problem is that we exonerate men because, well, women are AWESOME. HOORAY! And deny them the ability to be people beyond just mom. The problem is that we totally ignore the role of the co-parent
The problem is the pedestal.
Thanks to my friend KT for her help clarifying my thoughts for this post. And for the phrase “coffee shop harpies.” KT shapes and influences more lives as a teacher than I could ever hope to as a mom. I’d be honored if my daughter grew into half the woman she is.