Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Mom or Wife: which is the tougher job?
What’s the tougher job: Housewife or Working Mom?
Check out the anecdote I’m leading with, below. It has nothing to do with my major premise. At least on the surface…
The scene is the Washington DC Metro Red Line, between the Rhode Island Avenue and the Catholic U. stops. The train’s slowed to tortoise pace due to “track work.” Bored and ruffled, I eavesdrop on two white women who look to be chaperones for what’s apparently a middle school field trip…yet quickly, as I crane my neck like I have no damn sense, I realize that all these kids are theirs. One of them carries a nylon backback with a “Palin” sticker. Not McCain-Palin. Just Palin.
Turns out the two of them of them are housewives from rural Virginia visiting the Capital with their brood in the aftermath of the annual anti-abortion march protesting the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Funny, they talk about the crowd. On 1/20 I could have shown them crowd, Lord. Funnier still, they live only 25 miles away yet are only now marveling at our decaying, unreliable subway. As if Kismet, there’s a poster for a cable TV show on TLC about an evangelical Christian family with sixteen children. Oh, the conversation moves to Michelle Obama. Nothing positive yet nothing nasty, either, as quite a few sisters got on at Rhode Island Avenue. My molars grind anyway when one grouses to her daughter, “She [the First Lady] must have had such an easy time of it."
Now, diagonally across from me all this time sits a young Hispanic woman with a long pony tail. That, not her security guard's uniform, caught me attention first. She’s pretty but has that tired, beaten look. Not ennui. Not the weariness of her young blond counterpart also seated, punching on a Blackberry and sporting a vinyl satchel embroidered with the name of large D.C. law firm. The Hispanic woman nuzzles a little girl who's clearly doing her homework on the train. No wedding ring on the mom's finger. Before a tunnel cuts her signal the woman finishes a conversation on her mobile phone. Perfect English, not Spanish. Something about rent, cut back on hours. Health insurance…
That’s the vignette. Here’s the totally unrelated premise. Being a mother is the toughest job on earth. But is being a housewife so? No.
My mother, who was a housewife till she decided to go back and get her degree, then a masters then a real job, would agree were she alive. I’m sure she, like a lot of middle class women from the 1950s to the 1980s and irrespective of race or color, had sprinkles of Kate Winslet- “Revolutionary Road” moments.
Being a working mother/wife is very hard. And being a single working mother is toughest of all—especially if you don’t have the type of job where Blackberries are de riguer. The only reason housewife is even in the mix is the mom component.
So...let me have it with both barrels, or agree. Talk to me about equal pay battles, pregnancy leave, the fulfillment of motherhood versus the glass ceiling, giving it all way to be with one’s baby. Knowing “Dora the Explorer” episodes by heart. I’m only a man, after all. Being a husband and dad, well that’s supposedly a piece of cake…