Soccer Mom, Slacker Mom, Heartless Working Mom: Enough with the Stereotypes Already.
My entry into the competitive world of daycare and preschools came 10 years ago. It was during my second maternity leave. I was working fulltime for Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey and living in Manhattan . My first child, 20 months old, went to daycare 45 minutes away from my New York apartment, next to J&J’s headquarters in New Brunswick .
Looking for something more convenient as I nursed 10 times a day and tried to care for a toddler and newborn on three hours sleep, I discovered a lovely preschool in the synagogue directly across the street from my apartment building. Could they take my son for the four months of maternity leave?
The admissions director suppressed a smile. “You’ve probably been too busy working to notice,” she explained. “But moms sign up for this school YEARS in advance.”
Her words made me feel like an idiot, a bad mom, and a stereotype: one of those clueless, selfish working moms.
The next time I had to apply my child to preschool, I was prepared: I took the day off from work, dressed in stay-at-home casual clothes, and loitered with a pack of other moms in yoga pants as visibly as possible in front of the school during our children’s admissions visit. I practically held a placard that said “SEE? I’M A DEVOTED STAY-AT-HOME MOM! LET MY SON INTO YOUR SCHOOL!”
There were not any dads in costume there, pretending to be something they weren’t.
That was a decade ago. During the past ten years, I’ve watched the tides turn: now at some schools, particularly in the most competitive preschool markets of DC, Los Angeles and Manhattan, it’s an asset to be a high-powered working mom who can offer behind-the-scenes tours of Nickelodeon, The Discovery Channel, or the set of Hannah Montana (or a big cash donation to the school auction). But the switch in what’s more fashionable – working or at-home motherhood – distresses me just as much as the early bias I encountered as a working mother. It’s the stereotyping of motherhood that’s the problem here, more so than the specific stereotype.
With nearly 83 million moms in America today, why are there so many stereotypes about us? Heartless working mom? Overprivileged stay-at-home mom? Soccer mom? Slacker Mom? Welfare mom? Mommie dearest? We can’t each of us just be the completely individual mom we actually are?