One of the “perks” of my kids’ particular daycare is that upon enrollment of your teeny, tiny infant you get a free one-year subscription to Working Mother magazine. While a free magazine seems nice as a general proposition, the fact that the daycare located on-site at my husband’s employer gives out Working Mother magazine really says a lot about how far society has come in viewing women as equals in the workplace: not very far at all.
Why does my husband’s employer give out Working Mother magazine? Obviously, my husband is working and has kids. Why not give out a publication dedicated to helping him balance his personal and professional obligations? A quick Google search answers that one: there is no Working Father magazine. And there’s a good reason why. Dads wouldn’t read that garbage. Dads who work outside of the home know that they don’t have time to sweat the small stuff. If you gave a dad a Working Father magazine he’d toss that thing straight into the “later” file (read: trash) and move on with his day. And if you asked him about it, he’s say something like, “I’ve got a job, kids, a wife and a house. I don’t have time to read that.” And he’d be right.
So why do we working moms need this magazine? It isn’t like Working Mother reveals the secret to work/life balance or magically makes dinner for four appear on your table five nights a week. Instead, it’s full of articles on DIY Halloween costumes and dressing your child in designer clothes. Maybe it’s just me, but I work so that I don’t have to do things like make my kids’ Halloween costumes. And if anyone in my household is getting designer clothes it certainly isn’t going to be someone who might throw up on it at any moment.
And don’t even get me started on the “this is how she does it” stories. Very often “she does it” by using one (or more) nannies, working for an uncommonly progressive large company or working a job as opposed to a profession. In the two (consecutive) years I received my free copy of Working Mother, I never once saw a story of a daycare mother making in a male-dominated, glass-ceilinged profession. Come on, Working Mother. How does she do it?
I understand that Working Mother can’t profile every single type of job a working mom might encounter. But it also can’t really convince itself that it is advancing the plight of working moms by profiling only women with extraordinary situations. While the women (and the employers) profiled in the magazine may be inspirational, they don’t represent what the majority of us working women face day in and day out. And therefore, it doesn’t really matter how they do it.
Society has convinced the working mom that her children are disadvantaged due to her decision to work. Magazines like Working Mother prey on that theme, constantly barraging working moms with articles “reminding” her that nothing says love like homemade holiday cards or showcasing someone else doing work/life balance better. And employers (or, at least my husband’s) have bought it. They believe we working women need this magazine to manage our lives.
This isn’t working woman empowerment. This is an insult. We don’t need Working Mother magazine any more than a man. Our kids don’t need homemade Halloween costumes to feel special and they won’t end up in therapy because they ate dinner from a crock pot three nights a week. I’m the first to agree that working women need a forum to talk and swap ideas and generally promote each other in the workplace. But magazines like Working Mother distract from this cause. If Working Mother truly wants to promote women in the workforce and if they really want to help me balance my work/life, then have some articles on the tough issues, like negotiating the four day work week in a family-hostile environment or pulling off baby spit-up as a fashion-forward accessory.