Dr. Laura's 'In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms'

| by Suzanne Venker

Dr. Laura is busy promoting her new book, In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms; it's been covered by virtually every major media outlet. Eight years ago I wrote a book on this same subject. Though the angle and content is different, the message is 100% the same -- which is fine with me. You can't have too many books supporting moms!

But watching Dr. Laura do the media circuit reminds me of my experience. I, too, sat down one day to write a book about the importance of motherhood. I too wanted to offer at-home moms the support and encouragement they so desperately need. Modern culture does not honor the work of motherhood; instead we support and even encourage mothers to drop their children off with substitute caregivers while they tend to more important matters. Plus we've changed what it means for a mother to "have to work." Instead of using this phrase to refer to women like my grandmother, whose husband lost his job during the Depression, we use it to refer to any mother who chooses to return to work and place her children in full-time, substitute care because they are used to their comfortable lifestyle and can't imagine changing it -- which does a tremendous disservice to parents who make great sacrifices to stay home with their children. Indeed, an honest assessment of the major sociological change that has taken place in this country -- from mothers at home to mothers at work -- requires a response much deeper than just "she has to work."

Despite the working mother trend, there are millions of women who don't follow it -- millions of mothers who wouldn't dream of dropping their babies off with virtual strangers for 8-10 hours a day -- and they need recognition and support in a way our own mothers didn't. In our mothers' day, it was understood that children are entitled to be raised in their own homes by their own parents. It was a collective understanding that moms belong at home -- not, as feminists taught you to believe, because women are oppressed or have nothing better to do with their time. It was a collective understanding because America was cohesive in its appreciation of the greater good of society. Our priorities were entirely different then, and mothers never questioned the value of what they were doing. Women may have wanted more out of life at that time, and perhaps they didn't know how to marry these two separate spheres; but they never considered paying other women to raise their children for them in exchange for their "right" to pursue these other ambitions.

Today mothers do this as a matter of course. As a result, women who make the choice to stay home do so hesitantly, questioningly -- as in, "I think this is the right thing to do, but society tells me otherwise. Is there something wrong with me?" My book was written for these women. It assures them that not only are they doing the right thing, they will be happier in the long run -- when they see the fruits of their labor. So I titled my book The Work of Motherhood, and its premise is this: Raising children is a full-time job, one that dramatically alters the paths women were on prior to becoming mothers. Therefore, working full time while trying to raise young children is impossible. This is not anti-feminist, nor is it a matter of one's politics. It is just a fact. No matter how much women would like to balance work and family, the endless demands of children don't allow mothers to dedicate themselves fully to someone or something else. This doesn't mean mothers must be out of the workforce permanently. But it does mean they'll need to sequence their lives -- plan their lives in such a way that they'll be able to pursue work and motherhood, but at separate times. Or do them simultaneously when their children are older, as women have historically done.

Unfortunately, when you sign up with a publisher you sign away a few rights. One of these rights is the right to title your own book. So my publisher decided to change the title of my book from The Work of Motherhood, which clearly focuses on at-home mothers, to 7 Myths of Working Mothers -- which clearly does not. They did this to get the attention of the media, and it worked. We heard from Glamour magazine, CNN, the Today show, etc. But it didn't work out for me on a personal level. People were (and still are) under the impression that I sat down to write a book to attack working mothers. And nothing could be further from the truth.

Still, the media wants to "get" anyone who supports moms at home. Why? Because the vast majority of women in the media aren't or weren't home with their kids when they were little -- so books like mine and Dr. Laura's don't serve their purpose. By now we all know how the media operate: They're the most self-serving bunch on the block. But while the media may have hated my book, I heard from hundreds of parents across this country who were grateful for it -- which makes all the flack from the media pale in comparison.