Mommy Wars: The Beginning

July 2, 2013

To understand the Mommy Wars, we must start at the beginning. The very beginning, before the first whimper of media outcry over working women, or even before women had jobs to “opt out of”. We must go back to the conception of the modern idea of the stay-at-home mom, or as the Victorians call her, “the angel of the house”.

The rise of the Industrial Revolution saw families moving from country to city, and men leaving home to pursue work in factories, while women stayed at home with children (Chira 25-26). Unlike with agricultural work that required the entire family to be involved, there were now two separate, distinct roles for husband and wife to fill. After a brief respite during WWII, when women’s labor was in demand to fuel the war machine, the idea of separate spheres returned to the post-war 1950’s, when women were encouraged to find fulfillment in maintaining their homes.

Indeed, the majority of families in 1955, 60 percent, in fact, were made up of a stay-at-home mother and a working father with at least two children (Eyer 32). Many argued that working women took jobs away from returning vets, and the market depended on the unpaid labor of women in the home to function. Indeed, the rise of domestic science made motherhood a legitimate and fulfilling career, anyway.

 Pop-psychology stated that women were supposed to revel in motherhood, surely something was wrong with women who needed any kind of fulfillment outside of the nursery. But indeed, was that the case, and how did women respond to other women who chose to work outside the home?

Chira, Susan. A Mother’s Place: Taking the Debate about Working Mothers beyond Guilt and Blame. New York: HarperCollins, 1998. Print.

Eyer, Diane E. Motherguilt: How Our Culture Blames Mothers for What’s Wrong with Society. New York: Times /Random House, 1996. Print.

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