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Often this decision is portrayed in terms of whether one will be a "stay-at-home" and presumably "full-time" mother or a "working mother" and therefore one who prioritizes paid work.
Experts in popular media as well as academia refer to this rhetoric as an ideological war waging between two camps, with the "stay-at-home" ("good") mother pitted against the "working" ("bad") mother (Douglas, 2000; Hays, 1996; Johnston & Swanson, 2004).
Proponents of each side of this "Mommy War" claim that their approach is the appropriate form of parenting in current times.
Specifically, it assumes that those who are at home are not participating in the paid work force and that those who are working outside the home are disengaged from being mothers.
The reality is not clear cut since stay-at-home mothers have varied levels of interaction with their children, complete domestic work without receiving salaried income, and work for paid income either from the home or part-time outside the home (Garey, 1999; Hertz, 1997; Johnston & Swanson, 2004; Ranson, 2004; Uttal, 2004).
Hays (1996) explained that the dominant motherhood ideology in the U. today is that of "intensive mothering." There are three main tenets of "intensive mothering" to which all women must adhere if they are to be viewed as "good" mothers: a) childcare is primarily the responsibility of the mother; b) childcare should be child-centered; and c) children "exist outside of market valuation, and are sacred, innocent and pure, their price immeasurable" (Hays, 1996, p. The "good" mother focuses exclusively on mothering her children and is committed to them in time, energy, and affection (Berry, 1993; Glenn, 1994; Hays, 1996).
In other words, a "good" mother is "all-giving" (Thompson & Walker, 1989).While our focus is mostly on the complexities of motherhood and paid work, we include a discussion of fatherhood at the end of this section to illustrate how men may be engaging in similar efforts to balance parenthood and paid work.We argue that fatherhood and paid work may be as intertwined as motherhood and paid work, despite cultural discourse.Our focus in the first part of this article is to review the current ideology surrounding "stay-at-home" and "working" mothers.Second, we critique these ideologies and the mother-work dichotomy by highlighting reasons why mothering and working are not mutually exclusive.Motherhood and paid work are intimately intertwined and most women maintain both social roles simultaneously, negotiating the boundaries of each every day.Most women cannot even decide to be a "stay-at-home" mother or "working" mother.In addition, both sides argue that society does not see the full value of what women do as mothers whether they are "at home" or "at work." Yet, neither characterization of motherhood necessarily reflects what all mothers actually experience.We argue, as other feminist scholars have (e.g., Garey, 1999; Hondagneu-Sotelo, 2001; Uttal, 2004), that the dichotomous construction of mother versus worker oversimplifies the complexities of motherhood and work in the current economic system which requires most adults to participate in the workforce.This image has become an ideal version of what a "true" and "good" mother is and should be.It gained its popularity from the iconic homemaker imagery of the 1950s even as the number of employed women grew (Garey, 1999).