The most popular story this week on the new Public Radio International/WNYC radio show, The Takeaway, is about "Mad Moms." Yes, "Mad Moms." Not, Mad Men. (That's TV, not radio.)
But not just mad moms. Or all mad moms. "Mad Working Moms."
(Listen to the full transcript and read the summary of the PRI story here. Host John Hockenberry talks about the supposed phenomenon with guest, Lisa Belkin, The New York Times journalist, Motherlode blogger, and author of several books -- and one of the sanest and together voices around on parenting issues. And with guest, Jeremy Adam Smith, founder of Daddy Dialectic and author of the new book, "The Daddy Shift: How Stay-at-Home Dads, Breadwinning Moms, and Shared Parenting are Transforming the American Family.")
Who are these working moms mad at? Well, not other moms. For once. This is not a "Mommy Wars" retread.
These women are mad at their husbands. The come-on on PRI's home page screams: "Working moms fed up with husbands."
Hockenberry leads off the PRI program with a rehash of numbers from a controversial January 2009 article in Parenting magazine, Mad At Dad. The Parenting piece found a lot of anger out there: 46% percent of moms get "irate" with their husbands once a week or more, 40% are mad at "dads who can't multi-task," 33% say their husbands “aren’t shouldering equal responsibility and are less concerned than they are about their children’s basic needs, like nutrition and clothing," and so on and so on. (Lisa Belkin wrote about this in her Motherlode blog earlier this year.)
There's also some anger right here. Not at my husband, though. My anger is at Hockenberry, The Takeaway, and PRI.
Because of The Takeaway's focus on mad working moms. As opposed to moms-in-general. Working moms often are typecast as "guilty": they don't need to be tagged as "angry" too.
Indulge me as I vent my top three grievances.
1. Working Moms Aren't Any Angrier Than Other Moms. The references to the statistics from the Parenting article imply that the numbers were based solely on information obtained from working moms. Never mind that the data from was gathered from "1,000 mothers on MomConnection, an online panel of moms . . . ," which included moms of all acronyms - SAHMS, WAHMS, WOHMS, etc. Although there were anecdotes about selfish spouses from women who work outside the home, an equal number of diatribes came from stay-at-home moms. To the extent that women feel anger, it's not correlated with employment status. (In fact, some of the angriest women in the article were SAHMS who felt that their husbands did not value their contributions and neglected family life.)
2. Working Moms Aren't Angrier Than Working Dads. The summary of the program on PRI's webpage makes it seem like only women -- not men -- are susceptible to work-life juggling-induced anger. (Or at least, conflict.) The lead-in actually states: "While working fathers are content with their job-life balance, moms are increasingly angry as they try to balance work and family." Say, what? As Jeremy Adams Smith and other dad bloggers have made clear, there are many men who are not content with their traditional societal role. They struggle with the the pressures involved in reconciling breadwinning expectations and caregiving responsibilities. Especially in this tough economy when more men are facing pressures to work longer hours or are losing their jobs. Maybe they're not angry, but it's not fair to characterize them as content and paint their spouses as conflicted.
3. Working Moms Aren't Always Angry At Their Husbands. This is the big one. Although the radio program did tap in to some of the sources of stress for working parents (and both Belkin and Smith were careful to couch their observations about relationships in "parent" rather than "women-only" terms), the quick listen (or read) nonetheless perpetuates the stereotype of angry, stressed-out, working moms. This doesn't jibe with the emotional state of most of the professional working moms I know. Yes, we're busy. Yes, we're tired. Yes, we're frazzled. Sometimes, we're grumpy. And, yes, we tend to care more than our mates about making sure that our kids eat healthy multi-colored meals and go to school with clothes on all private body parts. But angry? At our husbands? Well, sometimes, of course. (Although lately my frustrations are directed more at my husband's iPhone than my husband himself.) I just don't see (or feel) extreme anger around me.
Many - but not all - of the professional working women I know are married to men who are as competent and committed to family and home life as they are. And because both partners are working, there tends to be more give and take in dealing with the tasks of domestic life than in more traditional marriages. At least that's true in my house. Mommy and Daddy both get the kids dressed and fed, do laundry, and tackle sick duty. We don't divide up all responsibilities entirely equally (e.g., husband gets the "fixer" jobs while I take on the "scheduler" functions) and sometimes nobody does the dishes, but we're happy with our choices and each other. Most days. Sometimes we both get overwhelmed and fed up but we're not seething all the time.
There, I feel better! (Plus, there are much better targets for working parents' anger than each other. Like the fact that child care options are often limited and expensive. Or that even dual income families feel economic stress from rising healthcare and education costs.)
Seriously, despite my quarrel with the way PRI framed the "Mad Moms" issue, my main takeaway from The Takeaway, wasn't about anger at all. It was about happiness. And gratitude.
As Smith explained on the program, "[A] lot of studies ...have found that just as important [as sharing parenting and housework] is expressing gratitude for what your partner does and cultivating an attitude of gratitude in your home and when you do that couples tend to be a lot happier, individuals are happier, and the relationships tend to last longer and also, I think, it's good for the kids."
So, instead of spewing more anger, I'm going to finish writing this post and let my husband know that I'm grateful to him for putting the kids to bed tonight and emptying the dishwasher while I blogged away. Thanks, honey!