The decision to work outside the home or not work outside the home has pitted mothers against each other — sadly and needlessly — for years. Emma Thompson’s recent comments on parenting give us all permission to parent in a way that works for us, hopefully putting an end to this debate.
Can we be done now?
Since the early days of feminism, women have been embroiled in a battle over who is the more effective parent — the stay-at-home mom or the working mom. Working moms are made to feel guilty for working outside the home, yet stay-at-home moms are made to feel like they lack value unless they bring home a paycheck.
It’s infuriating that while mothers are sinking their claws into one another, there was no such debate among our children’s fathers. More vexing than that, however, is the undeniable fact that all moms are working moms. Stay-at-home moms are hardworking, dedicated, selfless parents whose day doesn’t end until their head hits the pillow — and they do it without monetary compensation. Working moms work all day, then assume the duties of stay-at-home moms at night, and their day doesn’t end until their head hits the pillow. The gap between these two groups is marginal, at best.
The point is, all mothers are working mothers — so can the debate just be over?
Enter Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson is receiving a lot of heat for comments she made to the Daily Mail about giving herself a year off work as a birthday present to spend more time with her family. The 55-year-old actress and mom said, “I taught drama at my daughter’s school, cooked meals and had fun. I highly recommend others to do the same if they can afford it.” The comedic actress also told the Daily Mail, “You can’t be a great mum and keep working all the time.”
Why the uproar? All Thompson is saying is if you can afford to take time off to be with your family, do it. In a way, doesn’t that empower mothers who are sitting in a cubicle right now, debating on whether or not to investigate working from home or job-sharing so she can see her kids a little more? It’s all in creative parenting. Thompson took a year — maybe some moms just want to feel justified taking a week to spend with their kids on a family vacation.
The comment that you can’t be a great mom and keep working all the time is not news to women who work inside and outside the home. It’s why most of us are bundles of stress — there just isn’t enough of us to go around much of the time, regardless of how we spend our days.
Easy for her to say
The knee-jerk reaction to Thompson’s comments was, “Yeah, well she’s a millionaire. She can afford to take a year off of work.” If you look at the mirror image of that argument, it could be said that Thompson is willing to forgo potential earnings in the millions to make time for her family. And isn’t that the inherent message in all this? If an incredibly successful actress can take a year off to be with her family, risking notoriety and piles of cash, doesn’t that embolden the rest of us who are trying to create ways to spend more time with our families? If she can do it on that scale, doesn’t that help to encourage us to do it on ours?
We’re all working mothers, regardless of what our work environment looks like. We should all encourage each other in the ways of creative parenting that work for us, our kids and our families.