The Mother Superior
My friends know me far too well.

Every now and then – okay, at least once a week – someone will forward an email or web link for the express purpose of sending me into a blind tizzy (and also as a not-so-subtle prod to force me to update my website more often).  Such emails are generally accompanied by a cute little note, along the lines of “Hi!  Thought you’d get a kick out of this!” even though the sender knows all too well the only kicking that will be performed is by me upon the nearest inanimate object.

Yes, I do tend to take some things too seriously.  Why do you ask?

The outrage of the week came my way courtesy of my friend Jessie, who discovered it in the Boston Globe’s “View from the Cube” section.  “View from the Cube” is a cute little colum the Globe runs every Sunday, featuring short essays, usually humorous, about life in the modern workplace.  Ironically, because the only people who seem to have time to write about their view from the cube are professional writers who don’t even really have cubes to speak of, most of the articles center around the difficulties of working from home and/or returning to the workplace after a long stint of working from home.  As a result, some of the features are good and relevant, others are pointless, and, every now and then, one of them will really, really tick me off.

Like this little gem.

Where do I even begin to discuss how thoroughly loathsome this essay is?  It offends me on so many levels it’s impossible to measure the depths of my disgust.  But, just for starters, it offends me as a humorist, because, well, there’s nothing unfunnier than a writer who thinks she is funny, has been told she is funny, yet is decidedly not so. (Shut up!  I have it on good authority that I am, in fact, empirically funny.) 

The fact is, there’s nothing clever or lighthearted about the piece.  It’s merely a smugly supericilious rant from an obviously conflicted woman who has yet to resolve her work/family angst.  Which is all very well and good, and I sympathize and everything, but there’s no reason for her to drag down the rest of the world – other working mothers, non-working mothers, non-mother workers, and even self-respecting freelancers – in her poisonous wake.

Let’s deconstruct, shall we?

For starters, there’s the generally dismissive attitude toward work in general: 

It was fun to dress up each day, sit in a real office (as opposed to my make shift "office" in my living room), and reclaim the feeling that I was a true professional.

What a wonderful way to look at full-time, onsite employment – a fun opportunity to play dress-up!  God forbid one should ever actually take a job because you enjoy the work.  Although I do think it’s very sad that someone who evidently makes a fairly decent living as a home-based freelance writer doesn’t consider herself a “true professional.”  Everyone I know who works at home certainly takes their work seriously and behaves professionally.  Of course, given the appalling details of this author’s work-at-home habits, I suppose I can understand why she might consider herself as something quite less than a “true professional.” Here’s a clue for anyone who’s wondering:  Hair-raising anecdotes about your children being rude to clients - whether they're belching into the phone, insulting their appearance, or engaging in other inappropriate behavior - are neither cute nor funny.  While you may, in fact, believe everything your little darlings do is too precious for words, the rest of the world does not.  When I hire freelancers – which I do regularly – I expect them to be polite and anyone associated with them to be polite as well.  I expect this because I, too, am a freelancer and that is how I behave.  It’s called “I’m working for you, how can I make your life easier today?”  How about a separate phone line for work-related calls?  How about maybe putting the kid down during a conference call and giving your full attention, oh, I don’t know, TO THE PERSON WHO IS PAYING YOU MONEY TO TALK TO HIM?  Sheesh.

It’s bad enough that freelancers – particularly those of us in the writing/editing field – are perceived as flakes and dilettantes (an image this author sadly reinforces with an unfortunate hat choice on her personal website photo).  But there are far too many working women – including mothers struggling to juggle children and career – who seem to manage to behave as “true professionals” just fine, thank you very much.  Way to make them look bad.

But maybe that’s the point of this article.  The assumption – or, rather, the expectation – that the world should bend to the will and convenience of those who have “chosen” motherhood over career because they are, after all, superior to those who have not - as evidenced by the Fox News-inspired dig at other working mothers while the author gives herself a pat on the back for leaving her high-powered career to “put her family first.”  As if women who work two jobs to pay the rent and put food on the table aren’t putting their families first?  Or women who excel in their careers and serve as role models for their children aren’t putting their families first?  Or women who realize they feel healthier, more balanced, and more fulfilled in general if they work outside the home aren’t putting the well-being of their families first?

And, given that the entire piece is about this particular woman’s experience in a full time, albeit temporary, office job, isn’t this just a smidge hypocritical?  Where was her family when she was writing this piece? In cold storage? 

In the end, though, I don’t really believe this piece – or this author – set out to intentionally bash other working women to support some ill-inspired right wing political cause.  I think what we have here is an angry, frustrated individual who, rather than come to terms with her own life and choices, has opted to lash out at those who have taken a different path.

She’s certainly pulling out all the stops, beginning with the tried and true Uber Mommy mantra that raising children is “the most important work of all.” (Because curing cancer, working for world peace, and striving to end famine and genocide in Darfur are less important than this woman getting her little ones to preschool on time every day.)  And, because she needs just one more layer of self-validation on her giant superiority cake, she dabbles in a bit of wish fulfillment, musing that the young women who were “taking” the jobs that could have been hers might, in fact, want to trade places with her.

Yeah.  Sure.  All those hordes of young women out there aren’t merely plotting to snatch the jobs this author feels rightfully entitled to – they’re after her husband and kids as well!

You know, I may not be a mini-skirted twentysomething sporting black nail polish and scary brown lipstick, but, after reading this piece, I think I can speak for the vast majority of single professional women of all ages when I say a hearty “Thanks but no thanks.”

In fact, I’ll even make a deal:  I’ll stay out of this woman’s home if she stays out of my office.

There you go.  Conflict averted.