I had to watch 20/20 last night, not because I normally go for rehashed, let’s re-invent the wheel news shows, but because for once the topic actually interested me.
Elizabeth Vargas did a short, and in my opinion anemic, piece on the plight of working moms and I foolishly thought she might actually have some insight on the problem facing American women today. We’re programmed to believe we have to work full time, keep a spotless Better Homes and Gardens House, look like supermodels and raise happy, well-adjusted children all at once. And if we don’t, we’re some kind failure because there are always those women on TV, much like Vargas, who have huge salaries, great hair and angelic cherubs waiting for them when they waltz through the door in pumps and pearls.
Sorry for the sarcasm, really, but I can’t help myself. For once, I’d like to see some balance on this subject. Let’s see the women who have decided that no, we cannot have it all. It’s not possible to be a fabulous full time employee raking in an impressive salary, a super mom who builds cardboard castles for Junior’s birthday party, and a Martha Stewart style hostess and housekeeper who always has everything totally under control on all fronts. People who seem to have all that either have lots of behind the scenes help, or are lying through their teeth. And they’re not happy.
What bothered me about this segment most was that it turned into a debate on whether or not companies should provide paid maternity leave or not. The 20/20 message boards are all lit up with the arguments for and against and everyone is having their say, but in my opinion, the real issue is not about should single workers pick up the slack for working parents who need time off to deal with their kids [I’ve known plenty of childless workers who slack off and bring their personal problems to the office], or should companies give better paid parental leave [of course they should. Parenting isn’t just a strange lifestyle choice some of us have made, it’s what keeps the human race going, duh.] or should the government step in and help working parents [maybe by lowering taxes for everyone, and stop wasting so much money...oh that’s another rant for another day]. The real issue that I thought Ms. Vargas’s segment was going to be about is, why do we let society dictate what we should be and then blame society when we can’t be it?
We can’t have it all. We’re expected to do too much and thus everything we do suffers. Children are left unsupervised way too much, or they spend too much time in daycare, women feel guilty if they work and guilty if they don’t, families can’t survive on one income so that child rearing can be a priority for those of us who choose to have them and those of us who don’t resent what they perceive as special treatment in the work place. Something needs to give, but namby-pamby, let’s re-invent-the-wheel reporting on the subject isn’t doing anyone any good. We need someone who’s got the cajones to stand up give us permission [that’s women I mean] to be mothers without apology and fix the economy so that we can afford to do that and still keep our heads above water.
How that’s going to happen? I don’t know. Too bad Elizabeth Vargas didn’t have the answer.