Yay! Sandra Tsing Loh has a stingingly witty review in the Atlantic of Leslie Morgan-Steiner’s “Mommy Wars :Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families,” ja collection of essays just out from Random House. For those of you aren’t up on your news of over-educated, highly compensated liberal-feminist females, the ‘Mommy Wars’ are an apparent running battle between affluent working moms and affluent stay-at-home moms over which group has the higher status, can afford the most stuff, and level the cattiest zingers at each other in such blue-chip (and blue-voting) nabes as Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Washington, D.C.’s Cleveland Park.
Actually, the “Mommy Wars” are wars of the whines, as every representative of this privileged nano-slice of society complains about how bad she has it from chauvinist, non-caring America:
And Sandra really gives it to them all:
“Life at the top may be privileged, but it is not simple. Take the mini-autobiography proffered by Steiner, a graduate of Harvard and Wharton, the general manager of The Washington Post Magazine, and the former Johnson & Johnson executive who was responsible for the international launch of Splenda. Her dilemma, she explains, was being married to an investment banker who kept getting ever more attractive jobs in ever new places. The crisis came when he was “offered the presidency of a hot Internet start-up,” which would require a family move to Minneapolis. The pain of it had Steiner lying on the parquet floor in her beloved Upper West Side, fighting tears: ‘Within a ten-minute walk lay my son’s favorite playground, my sister’s apartment, my in-laws’ condo, Gymboree, a pediatrician as kindly as Big Bird, five or six Starbucks, the Reebok gym, and at least a dozen museums.’ But no. ‘My husband calmly explained that we were very lucky and really had to go. Millions of dollars in stock options, he said.
“(Again, for comparison, I don’t want to go red state on you but a military wife might take the news of a move differently, perhaps even thinking something like, Yes, moving is inconvenient, but sacrifice is part of the duty our family owes our country … which in the ‘mommy wars’ universe would be a strange notion full of foreign words.)….
“It began with little things, like Georgetown mom Page Evans’s frustrating day juggling three-year-old daughter Katherine’s ballet class with six-year-old daughter Peyton’s kiddie yoga class ($15 per session). There was stay-at-home mom Monica Buckley Price’s resignation about her husband’s having to work out of town, co-executive-producing The Joan Cusack Show, in order to cover her autistic son’s expensive Santa Monica preschool and therapy bills of $700 a week. On the Upper West Side, Drzal’s small son mistakenly consumed a brunch centerpiece of two pounds of Barney Greengrass eastern Gaspé smoked salmon. In yet another gastronomically sophisticated part of Manhattan, working-from-home mother Susan Cheever’s baby literally hurled foie gras and made playthings with quenelles de brochet. (I wondered if there was any Random House editor for whom that image had given a moment’s pause: ‘Baby hurling foie gras … Let them eat cake … Marie Antoin — hmm.’)…
“I agree that mommy wars are not good for any mothers, that such wars are time and effort wasted. But what are these wars really about? Susan Cheever would have it that the catfighting is actually due to suppressed rage over the age-old inequities between women and men:
“‘Women do the lion’s share — perhaps it should be called the woman’s share — of the child care and household work in this country … What worsens our predicament is that women lack core representation in our government … There isn’t much support for women who work — support like office child care, flexible hours, and reasonable maternity leaves. There isn’t much support for women who stay home — like tax breaks, financial protection in case of divorce, subsidized medical care, or even licensed child care.’
“For mothers who can afford full-time baby nurses and $20,000-a-year private schools? Who would no sooner partake of universal day care (‘Women, unite! Universal day care!’) than they would of their corner brown-skinned public elementary, where their nanny’s children go? I don’t think so. (Wealthy, powerful left-leaning women will never be able to admit that they have much more in common with wealthy, powerful men than they do with their poor, disenfranchised pseudo-sisters.) I do, however, like Cheever’s notion that ‘working and stay-at-home moms today are like the famous psychology experiment in which too many rats are put in a cage with too little food.’ Although I think the cage is the three square miles around 76th and Broadway, and the problem is too much food (if not actually Barney Greengrass eastern Gaspé smoked salmon).”
There’s much, much more from Sandra, and it’s all just as dead-on.