I got a letter from a reader who was up in the middle of the night stewing over praise heaped on men when they are seen to be caring for their children. Her frustration practically leaps off the screen as she insists mothers don’t get the same public empathy fathers do. This is what she says:
If you see an exasperated mother with her kids in the grocery store, exhausted, overwhelmed from a full day’s work, picking up dinner, scolding her children for acting out–what opinion do you form? Is it positive? I think probably not. Would she encounter hostility or rolling eyes? Maybe. Probably. “Why didn’t she plan ahead?” you’d wonder. “Maybe she shouldn’t be working if…..”
BUT, if you subtract the mother and put the father in her place…..isn’t he glorified? “What a hero..he must be exhausted…..I feel so badly for him. Where is the wife…..shouldn’t she have dinner ready?…blah blah blah.” Doesn’t it seem like a father and a mother can perform an identical caregiving task, but be perceived and judged on totally different levels? According to completely opposite standards?
What are the things that a mother “should” do? And why is it that people have such ingrained ideas and opinions regarding what “those things” are? Are there such “things”? And who decides this? More importantly, why are we, as mothers, crucified if we are perceived as not measuring up? To whose standards, anyways? And why is our society so hard on its mothers? Am I not being a good enough mother because I don’t make lunches everyday or do laundry 24/7 like June Cleaver?
Well, readers, what do you think? Can you help my insomniac friend? Is her perception accurate? Is it fair? Can it be changed? Leave your comments below, or write me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Til next time,
Your (Wo)Man in Washington