Dr. Laura, Sheryl Sandberg, And The Giant Chasm Between Their Views On Working Mothers

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art

To pass the time on long-distance drives, I listen to audiobooks. I also tune into Dr. Laura Schlessinger on XM Satellite Radio, not because I like her, but because her harsh advice and pissy demeanor spark enough anger to keep me awake. That’s not to say I don’t agree with some of her counsel, but she’s far too black and white for my taste. As far as I’m concerned, life is full of in-between gray.

My most recent road trip produced an interesting dichotomy. I first listened to Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. She discussed how women often step back professionally once they have children, when instead they should be “leaning in” and advancing their careers.

Then I switched to Dr. Laura.

Dr. Laura To The Rescue…Or Not

Image credit: drlaura.com

Image credit: drlaura.com

An internal medicine doctor called in. Given the woman was a physician, my interest immediately piqued, and I braced myself for the tongue-lashing she was about to receive.

The woman’s nanny was quitting, and she was seeking advice from Dr. Laura on what to do with her children.

As it is, the woman’s work schedule would be envious to anyone: she works one week a month and is off for three (I assume she’s a hospitalist).

Well, anyone but Dr. Laura.

According to the hawk doc (whose PhD is in physiology, by the way, not psychology), twelve weeks of work per year is twelve weeks too many. She advised the woman to have grandma (who is a professional woman herself) or dad (who also holds a full-time job) take over childcare duties for that week. If they can’t, then the mother should quit her job, keep up her medical license, and go back to the workforce later. No one else should care for the children.

When the internist told Dr. Laura that reentering medical practice after an extended time away was not easy to do, Dr. Laura said something along the lines of, “See? This is why women who plan to have children shouldn’t become medical doctors.”

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art

I believe at this point, I nearly veered off the road in shock. Was she implying women shouldn’t be doctors? Try telling that to the millions of people who are thrilled to have a female physician. Or to our daughters:

“Hey sweetie, you can be anything you want. Well, anything but a doctor.” (Unless you’re the PhD kind with a radio talk show…)

As you can imagine, the answer wasn’t what the caller wanted to hear. She’s correct—it’s no longer so easy to step out of medical practice. And really, is one week of work a month so bad for the kids? Might they gain some independence being away from Mom? Might they develop the benefits of attaching to another caregiver? Might they grow from seeing their mother in a professional capacity?

Should They or Shouldn’t They?

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Image Credit: Wikipedia

This post is not about whether a woman should work outside the home or not. I am a HUGE proponent of mothers doing whatever works best for themselves and their families.

As a pediatrician, I’ve cared for kids whose mothers worked full-time. I’ve also cared for children whose mothers worked part-time or stayed at home. I’ve seen kids thrive in all three settings. I’ve seen kids fail to thrive in all three settings.

In my experience, a child’s well-being has less to do with Mom’s work schedule and more to do with good parenting.* Children whose at-home mothers have a host of personal problems might do better in a daycare environment. Children of working mothers who don’t make extra effort to be in their child’s lives might do better with more focused attention.

Of course, the same goes for fathers. Last I checked, it takes two to make three.

So to Dr. Laura I say, “Your answer sucked.” To Sheryl Sandberg I say, “Good points, but remember, most families don’t have the resources you have.”

The decision of whether a mother should work outside the home or not comes down to what makes most sense for the family and what makes the mother most comfortable. As such, over the years I’ve been both a stay-at-home mother and a working mother, depending on our situation.

Unfortunately, many women have no choice at all. It’s work or don’t pay the bills. Perhaps Dr. Laura knows of a tree that sprouts money, but I sure don’t.

Nirvana will never be reached. We will always be balancing something. But if we love, respect, and invest in our children, they will thrive no matter where we spend our workday.

*Obviously there are other factors involved as to how much time is optimal with a parent at home, such as with infants or with children with special needs.

*     *     *

Rubin4Carrie Rubin is the author of The Seneca Scourgea medical thriller. For full bio, click here.

221 Responses to “Dr. Laura, Sheryl Sandberg, And The Giant Chasm Between Their Views On Working Mothers”

  1. Kate Johnston

    I love this: “To Sheryl Sandberg I say, “Good points, but remember, most families don’t have the resources you have.” I feel that way EVERY single time I see or hear someone talking about how a celebrity looks so young/thin and willing to share those tips! Then, we go on to learn that those tips include a personal trainer and a personal nutritionist and a personal stylist and the ability to go to the gym 6 hours a day…

    I totally and completely agree with you, Carrie. I’m a stay at home mom who freelances. I’m able to work my hours around my kids’ schedules, but it’s a constant juggling act. Sometimes I wonder if I’m making the right decision because, even though I’m home with them, I’m also straight out ALL the time. However, my doubt is always overruled by my personal conviction that I want to be the one raising my kids. It’s something I had decided even before I had kids. It’s a choice I made, and I do the best that I can.

    Great post!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you! For those of us lucky enough to have a choice it should be just that–our choice. What is right for one person may not be right for another. When my kids were young, I wanted to be home and that meant first taking time off and then working off shifts so either my husband or I would be home. I also had my sister as a nanny for a time which was wonderful. On the other hand, I had colleagues who used daycare and were fine with that. Their kids have turned out great because they’re great parents. Of course, I guess I “leaned back” some of those times, but I believe life is a series of chapters. We can “lean in” when we’re ready too.

      Like

  2. Isabella Norse

    You are spot-on, Carrie! There is no one-size-fits-all answer; every family is different. I was a working mom out of necessity. However, looking back, I think it was the best decision for my sons. I am introverted and shy; I don’t think they would have gotten the socialization that they needed had I stayed home with them.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      That’s a good point. When I stayed home with my kids when they were young, I had to force myself to go to Mommy and Me classes and such. I was sooo uncomfortable with it. The years my sister cared for them as my nanny gave them better social outings!

      Like

  3. Andrea

    Dr Laura is like the perfect example of who/how/what NOT to be. shudder. I hope she and Ann Coulter enjoy their adjoining seats in Hades, someday.

    Like

  4. earthriderjudyberman

    I am in agreement with the photo of that little girl who looks aghast. Dr. Laura, that’s horrible advice. I remember a girl I know who excelled in science who talked about becoming a nurse when she was still in high school. I said: Why not become a doctor? She is now in medical school and she will be a plus in that field.

    Carrie … I also concur with your statement: “I am a HUGE proponent of mothers doing whatever works best for themselves and their families.” I did both. I stayed home with our two girls until both were in school. Then I worked. It was a juggling act that sometimes I wouldn’t recommend to my worst enemy. But, in the end, I believe we all benefitted. Good parenting is the key. I hope that I was guilty of some of that. 😉

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I bet you were plenty guilty of good parenting! 🙂

      It does take juggling, and it’s best if both partners are committed to making it work. It’s even a plus when one of the kids start to drive and can help out as well. Given I had to leave on short notice a couple times this summer to help with my mother, it was so helpful to have my oldest son driving. He stepped up and chipped in too, driving the youngest to his dental appt, etc. So there, take that, Dr. Laura. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Curmudgeon-at-Large

    “Dr. Laura said something along the lines of, ‘See? This is why women who plan to have children shouldn’t become medical doctors.’”

    Even a curmudgeon is aghast at the crazy logic of Dr. Laura.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your insightful summary: “In my experience, a child’s well-being has less to do with Mom’s work schedule and more to do with good parenting.” (From both parents, I might add.)

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Absolutely. Dad’s should be just as involved. With two teenage boys, I thank my lucky stars every day that I’m married to such a wonderful father.

      As for Dr. Laura, she with the PhD, I wonder who took care of her son while she was advancing her career. Hmm…

      Like

  6. Valentine Logar

    I could not listen to the ignorant cow, not even to keep me awake. More power to you for doing so. I find her foolish and I will go one step further, out of touch with the real world and stupid to boot. She plays to a base that believes her brand of ‘advice’ that has not one thing to do with the real world most of us live in.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      She is definitely out of touch. I wouldn’t normally give her the time of day, but when I drive out to see my mother in New England I start to get sleepy mid-afternoon. The anger-induced adrenalin she fuels me with keeps me awake!

      Like

  7. iamtheinvisiblehand

    I can’t believe there are still people out there who haven’t caught up with these modern days.

    I mean, I’m a work-at-home mom because it works for me, but I’ve seen both working moms that manage to juggle everything successfully, and stay at home moms that have no idea who her kids’ friends are.

    As you say, there is no nirvana. What works for some may not work for others, which makes sense, seeing that every family is as unique as each individual who is a part of it.

    However, I find that the problem here is that people are way too judgemental. I’d never hear about this Dr. Laura, so I looked her up. It turns out that she has a child, but more surprisingly, that she has a sister and a mother (now deceased) with whom she never speaks. A person who doesn’t have a functional relation with her family should not be giving advice to other people on how to live their life. Ok, experts don’t have to have a perfect life, but the fact that she was not capable of mending her own personal life says a lot about her as a doctor.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Spot on comment! I agree with you on all counts. Yes, Dr. Laura has a son. He’s grown now, but I’m curious as to who took care of him while she sought a PhD and launched a radio show. Plus, she’s been divorced, though she takes major issue with this route when others go it. Not to mention that she’s rude and even hangs up on callers. And yet they seem to love her. I can’t figure it out. I only listen to her on a long-distance drive when I need to stay awake. Nothing like a little anger-fueled adrenalin to keep me alert!

      Like

  8. Britt Skrabanek

    Holy hell! What is wrong with that chick?! I agree with you on…”In my experience, a child’s well-being has less to do with Mom’s work schedule and more to do with good parenting.”

    Absolutely! Both of my parents worked full time and were separated, but they did a great job raising me. I went to daycare during my childhood years and got myself home after school during middle school and high school, which made me independent and very self-sufficient.

    On the flip side, I think a stay-at-home parent can be an awesome thing as long as the finances are steady enough so as not to bring on additional stress. And most importantly, that the adult staying at home is feeling happy and fulfilled with their choice.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Well said, and your last sentence is spot on–the person at home needs to feel “happy and fulfilled with their choice.” It’s nice to hear about your experience and that you thrived in the setting you had. There’s much to be said about gaining independence. So many kids today don’t.

      Thanks for visiting! I know you’re on a break so I appreciate it!

      Like

  9. Sue Archer

    I wouldn’t be able to listen to Dr. Laura, I’d end up causing an accident! You’re braver than I am. 🙂 I liked how you mentioned dads as well…in some cases, it makes more sense for the father to stay at home, and yet the value of a stay-at-home dad is largely ignored. All the parent-and-child day programs seem to have the word “Mom” in it. I know a stay-at-home dad who works occasionally as a freelancer when he has time, and all anyone wants to know about is how his “job” is going. It’s like if he didn’t work outside the home he would be seen as worthless. And that’s just sad!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Very true. I’m thrilled to see more stay-at-home dads. If the wife makes the most money, and they can afford to have someone stay home, that’s just as viable an option. Moms and Dads may do things differently, but that doesn’t mean one way is better than the other. Everybody has the right to decide what’s best for them. Without Dr. Laura’s input…

      Like

  10. Kourtney Heintz

    Carrie, I agree with you. It’s about balance. My mom was a single mom most of my childhood and she worked full time. My grandparents watched me after school. They made sure I did my homework. By the time Mom got home from work, we had a nice dinner and got quality time together. It’s not easy but it can be done. It doesn’t have to be an either or situation.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Exactly. In fact, when grandparents get involved, it’s all the better for the child. They get attached to others, and that’s important for kids for so many reasons. And if it was Grandma H you were with, I bet there was no shortage of good times!

      Like

  11. jeanjames

    Great post, sad this debate is still ongoing. If I leaned in any more in any more in my job I would fall flat on my face. Each mom needs to find what works, and sometimes that doesn’t include a choice, there is no room for judgement here!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Exactly. What fits for one person may not for another. Good for you for leaning in. I haven’t done such a good job with that, but for me life is about stages. My youngest will be out the door in four years (gulp). I’ll lean in more then. But knowing me, I’ll indeed fall flat on my face. Such a klutz I am…

      Like

      • jeanjames

        Don’t get me wrong my leaning in is going from per-diem to part-time, which is why I feel like I’m going to fall flat on my face lol. But someone needs to carry the benefits, and go back to school, and bring home the bacon, and fry it up in a pan…yada yada!!

        Like

        • Carrie Rubin

          Indeed. Even though I “leaned back” with part-time work, they sure didn’t feel like part-time hours. With call, some weeks were 40+ hours!

          Liked by 1 person

  12. robincoyle

    Yeah, according to Dr. Laura, women can be anything they want to be as long as it doesn’t involve a job. Oh, brother.

    Like

  13. Zen A.

    People like that remind me of those who says that women who don’t have children are not fulfilling their purpose in life and therefore cannot be really considered women. It really makes my blood boil. Having a PhD doesn’t suddenly make you an expert in the home situations of every mother (or I should say parent) out there.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      No, it certainly doesn’t. Especially a PhD in physiology! I’m not sure why people think that what might be best for them would be best for someone else. Everybody’s situation is different. And I hear you on the flak childless women often take. Who’s business is it if they decide to have kids or not? And the choice certainly doesn’t make them less of a woman. In fact, no kids means more chocolate for oneself. 😉

      Like

  14. Brother Jon

    This reminds me of my earlier days. Back when I was about 25, and hitting the sauce heavily I would often need something to wake me up in the morning. Aside from coffee I would often turn to Fox News. They always had something to bring the heat of my blood up.

    Like

  15. morristownmemos by Ronnie Hammer

    There’s no one answer to fit everyone in every situation. It’s a simplistic attitude to pretend to have a rule like the one Dr. Laura espouses. Should women bow down to the great wisdom of this quack and obey her?

    I don’t think that ‘s gonna happen!

    Like

  16. leamuse

    BTW, if you want an excellent article on parenting check out this one in The Wall Street Journal dated February 4, 2012 by Pamela Druckerman. She is an American living in Paris.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Oh, yes, thank you! I actually read her book “Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.” Really liked it.

      Like

      • leamuse

        No doubt you saw some of it while working here. I see it everyday since I arrived and you really get up-close in a small village.

        Liked by 1 person

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