Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I'm a Mom, I'm a Mississippian, I Work

When I lived in North Carolina, I spent the better part of 6 years defending Mississippi because of its perception as a place full of bigots, racists, and general backwoods idiots. Often, with tears in my eyes, I would passionately argue that "my" Mississippi wasn't like what is often depicted in Hollywood's portrayals of our state or even in media snippets. Even recently, I have been able to explain away displays of hate speech or ignorance as coming from someone on the fringes, not someone who represents a large portion of the state. But now I wonder if I have been kidding myself.

As I read and subsequently listened to Governor Phil Bryant attribute the decline in the entire American education system to WORKING MOTHERS, I was shaking with anger, hurt, and utter disbelief. If I thought this was just the misguided notions of one man, as disturbing as that may be considering his position, I might be able to look past it with a sad shake of my head.

Sadly, I am afraid there are people, some very close to me, who are reading these same remarks and nodding their heads in full agreement. Many who may be thinking, "good for Gov. Bryant for speaking up against these mothers who can't love, nurture, and care for their children the way a stay-at-home mom can. And ya know what, he's on to something: giving women the right to vote is really the root of all economic, educational, and criminal issues in our country."

I often find myself in situations feeling like a square peg in a round hole (even though I am not "that" strange). I know about belief polarization and confirmation bias, so in writing this I run the risk of alienating those who think a woman should be at home ---although that is not my intent.

I'm not going to delve into what seem to me obvious arguments of major social and economic reasons that have profoundly impacted the education system in our nation. However, I just want to point out- in my own little blog that I always neglect- what I feel is a growing backlash against working mothers, perhaps glaringly so in the conservative South and in the "sanctimommy" blogs popping up unchecked in the blogosphere. I feel there is a general acceptance of mothers who "have to" work, although there is a certain arrogance implicit in that acceptance. A quick Google search reveals countless posts of frugal living advice with undertones of "there's no excuse why you can't be a stay-at-home-mom."

Well, I am a mom who enjoys and chooses to work. I firmly believe that I am a more patient, more attentive, more nurturing mother BECAUSE I work. I have friends who are wonderful stay-at-home moms, and I have often wondered what is "wrong" with me because I am unable to structure days with creative activities, educational moments, patience, and organized play. When I don't work, I suffer bouts of depression. I could speculate on reasons why, but if you're still reading at this point, I'll reward you by not doing so :).

I also enjoy working because:
*I am part of a team.
*I can set, work toward and achieve goals.
*I learn new skills and build on those skills.
*I want to show my daughter that there are options available to her.
*I don't want to just tell my daughter that she can "be anything, do anything." I want her to know that there is work involved, and that opportunities aren't only for men. Why would we push girls to do well in school, attend college, etc., with this line of thinking?

Do not misunderstand me: I have no problem -at all- with stay-at-home parents. It would never occur to me to assign blame or find fault with a family's choice unless it was causing real harm to someone.

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