Mother Love Does Not Extend to Other Mothers

There’s nothing like motherhood to set women at each others’ throats. A survey by Baby Talk documents a remarkable level of ill will between stay-at-home mothers (a.k.a. SAHMs) and those in the paid labor force. (Most of the magazine’s respondents had kids under age 2.) For starters, a majority of mothers in each camp said “they’ve been told outright by someone from the other side that their choice was the wrong one.” Forty percent of working mothers said SAHMs have “made them feel guilty about having a job”; one-quarter have been made to feel “selfish” for working. Forty-four percent of SAHMs feel working mothers disdain them for having “no life of their own”; one-third said working mothers make them “feel like they’re not as interesting as women with paying jobs.” As far as SAHMs areconcerned, mothers who have jobs usually do so to maintain a cushy standard of living, not because they absolutely need the income. Indeed, 85 percent of SAHMs “firmly believe the mothers who really want to be at home with their kids can do so by making some material sacrifices.” One implication for marketers: When a commercial presents a mother who’s visibly of the stay-at-home or the working variety, many viewers who inhabit the opposite camp will see her as a class enemy, not as a fellow mom. The magazine suggests working mothers are the more vulnerable side of this intra-motherhood war, since they’re beset by their own doubts about what they’re doing. While 95 percent of SAHMs are “completely satisfied with their choice to stay home,” about 80 percent of working mothers “admit they are quite conflicted about their choice.” In fact, the survey shows 89 percent of the latter view their employment as a “sacrifice” they must make to keep the family solvent.