Published on Mommy Tracked (http://www.mommytracked.com)

Dr. Phil: Guilty of Starting a Mommy War?

by Leslie Morgan Steiner


God, even the title of the show made me cringe.


Guilty Moms: The Debate That Never Dies [1]” was the headline for the Wednesday October 14, 2009 Dr Phil Show.


Phil’s sensitive-wise-man intro prolonged my wincing.


“This show is the best we have ever done on the important challenges both types of moms face. In fact, something took place that’s never happened before in the history of Dr. Phil.”


Meaning that guest/blogger/saint/at-home-mom Jessica Gottlieb [2] had dared to speak her truth in front of all the at-home moms watching TV at 3 p.m. in the afternoon (and Dr. Phil is paraphrasing here):


“If a woman is so selfish she can’t stay at home with her kids, then maybe she just shouldn’t have them!”


That’s the earth shattering view from daytime TV.


Please raise your pinky if you are sooo past all this.


Now I’ve often thought I should not have had kids. In fact, once or twice I’ve been tempted to rip out my uterus with my own hands. But it’s never, ever because I don’t have time for my children. Quite the contrary. My worst moments are always when I’m spending TOO MUCH time with them. If Ms. Gottlieb wants to swing by my house to give my kids some of that nurturing she thinks they’re missing, honey, come on down! Just get here quick before the neighbors’ windows shatter from my decibel levels.


A few things to ponder that were not settled by Dr. Phil on Wednesday.


First, let’s not leave out the dads. We American women have fought hard for decades for gender equality, so let’s give some back. Do daytime talk shows tar-and-feather MEN if they don’t spend “enough” time with their kids? When was the last TV show titled “Guilty Dads?” University of Maryland sociology data shows that dads with employed wives [3] actually do more with their children. When is Dr. Phil going to do a show about THAT?


Second: If the Jessica Gottliebs of the world can judge me, I get to judge them too. My vote is that anyone who degrades other mothers’ choices automatically loses her parenting license. I sure don’t want the children of the future to have those sanctimonious mamacitas as role models. Or, to paraphrase here, “If a woman can’t raise her kids to be tolerant of others’ different lifestyle choices, then maybe she just shouldn’t have kids!”


Third, if this debate is really about what’s best for kids, let’s ask our kids. Not a slew of judgmental other moms. And most definitely not Dr. Phil.

Over the past 12 years, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, a fulltime working mom, a part-time working mom, and a work-at-home-crazy-hours mom. Do my three kids care? Can they even articulate my status in these terms? Nope. Not a chance. Whether I work or not has never made my children’s top ten list. My kids care that I’m available for them, I’m happy, and my family is stable. Sometime that means working overtime. Sometimes it means not working at all. Sometimes it means changing my schedule to meet their needs. And vice versa.


The bottom line is that as long as I’m not abusing or neglecting my children, it’s not up to Dr. Phil, Jessica Gottlieb, other parents or our government to judge how much I work. Regrettably, sometimes moms’ intense need to feel good about ourselves means we stoop to denigrating other women who’ve made different choices or face harsh financial realities. But truth is, I haven’t found too many other people who deep down can justify condemning other moms’ parenting approaches . Even when I specifically asked the 26 contributors to Mommy Wars [4] to write about the “tension” between working and stay-at-home moms, no one could cough up more than a few paragraphs. Instead we all wrote furiously about ourselves – and how we want to feel good as moms, and that our lives challenge us mightily no matter how we juggle kids and work.


There’s a simple way to judge whether you are doing your best as a mom: ask yourself if you’d like to be your own kid.


Despite my many failings, I would LOVE to be any one of my kids. We laugh all the time. Sometimes even when I’m about to spank them. I let them sleep in my bed when they are lonely. The pets in our family usually outnumber the people. I yell a lot but I also give fantastically heartfelt apologies. I don’t keep track of how many times my kids see my naked butt. I love their dad. I love my work. And most importantly, I love my children and let them know it every day. I’m the only woman, among the 80 million moms in America, who loves my kids in the uniquely passionate way I do, whether I’m at home or at work or both.


So tell us – would you like to be your own kid?



Send us an email or leave a comment below to let us know if you've written a response to Leslie's question. We'll link to our favorite posts about this latest skirmish in the stay-at-home / working mother debate here on Mommy Tracked.


The public debate over Dr. Phil's "Guilty Moms" show is heating up. Here are some other interesting reactions we've read, from both stay-at-home and working moms:


Finally, the Mommy Wars are Over! [5] by Deb from Deb on the Rocks

Mom Vs. Mom: The Age Old Debate [6] by Rhea from Mommy 2 3 Monkeys

Working Mom Smackdown [7] by Romi Lassaly at The Huffington Post

Dr. Phil Stay-At-Home Mom Vs. Working Mom Show [8] at PhD in Parenting

Dr. Phil Is Having the Wrong Discussion [9] by Amy at Selfish Mom

Working vs. Stay at home moms: If you work, are you outsourcing the job of loving your kids? [10] by Romi Lassaly at Parents Ask

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