Ah, the so-called mommy wars. In one corner, you've got mothers who preach about the joys of working outside of the home. In the other, you'll find moms who say that staying home with the kids is the highest calling. And, based on the frequent stories in major newspapers and the plethora of books on the topic in the past few years, both sides look for any excuse or new study to prove the other wrong.
All that manufactured chaos gives a gal like me—a woman who isn't quite sure how she'll eventually balance kids and work, or if she'll pick one over the other—a big fat headache. Then Amy Richards steps in, offering a new point of view in her book Opting In—the perspective of a professional feminist writer and mother to two young boys.
The book is, quite literally, a response to a 2005 New York Times article about a study of 138 women attending Yale—the majority of whom indicated they'd work for a while, before giving up their careers to stay home (or "opting out"). With the title Opting In, I was sure Richards would advocate for the opposite, encouraging mothers to stay in the workforce, for the good of themselves and the feminist movement.
On the contrary, Richards doesn't push a right way to do anything. In fact, Richards' thesis is not entirely clear—which makes for a slightly disorganized book, but otherwise works to her benefit. The book explores the intersection of motherhood and feminism from every angle you can think of—whether or not to work outside the home, workplace culture, abortion, gender roles in homemaking, raising boys vs. raising girls, single motherhood, etc.—but Richards sidesteps pushing an agenda or advocating any particular position. The way she sees it, there's way more to this feminism-and-motherhood thing than an us-vs.-them battle. "I want to celebrate the links between motherhood and feminism, rather than bemoan which is a better or more admirable choice," she writes in her introduction, which is as close to a theme as she treads. And she does just that, accomplishing what celebrated feminists have done so damn well all these years: She shows women like me that we can choose our own path, and that a thoughtful choice will never be the wrong one.