The XX Factor

Have We Reached a Mommy Wars Detente?

Apparently there’s been a “row” in the U.K. over some comments that parenting author Oliver James made on a show called Woman’s Hour. James, the author of How Not to F*** Them Up , implied that children would be better off if their mothers stayed home with them during their first few years. Writing in the Telegraph , Kate Figes disagrees. “No choice is better than another,” Figes says, sensibly. “But given that the majority of women now have no choice but to work, it is time we moved the debate on.”

What struck me about Figes’s piece is that the debate has already moved on, at least in the United States. In my admittedly anecdotal survey, I haven’t read anything like it in months. I’ve been covering the “woman” beat for three years, and for the first two years of it, one could not go more than a few days with out some wrinkle in the working mom vs. stay-at-home mom debate bubbling up in a mainstream publication. As recently as last summer, our own Emily Bazelon was writing about rescuing a playdate from the mommy wars . But in the past year, that old saw has been thrown over for a new meme: Working women will rule the world (as a Newsweek story touts). Because of the recession, the choice to be a stay-at-home mom has evaporated for many. As Newsweek writers Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison speculate, “Perhaps the revolution will simply be the way we think about workplace culture.”

Which is to say, perhaps this is an opportunity to lobby for things like paid maternity leave and better child care, rather than fight over whether women should be working at all. Sharon Lerner argued last year that maybe better workplace policy is what’s going to improve those depressing parenting happiness stats we keep reading about .

Photograph by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images.