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.

*     *     *

standing color cropped tiny for blog postsCarrie Rubin is a medical thriller author with a background in medicine and public health. For full bio and a list of her books, click here.

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

  1. leamuse

    First off, I will admit I have been away from “the system” for a number of years. However, I do believe that Dr. Laura and Dr. Phil both need to have their medication checked and the plug pulled! That is the media plug!
    I must admit that I was a bit concerned when you said you were listening to her… 😉

    Like

      • leamuse

        Oh I do understand! We all have things that work when needed. As for Sheryl Sandberg, I am not familiar with her but I have been here for seven years and focused on my writing, painting, exploring…

        Like

        • Carrie Rubin

          Wonderful things to focus on! And what a beautiful place to do those things. The hubs and I are getting serious about returning to Paris. We’re thinking maybe spring break we’ll do a Paris/London trip. Our teens have two weeks off. Of course, then the issue becomes whether to take them or not. It’s awfully expensive to fly so they might have to enjoy some time with the grandparents. 🙂

          Like

          • leamuse

            Mais oui! But travel is the best education! 😉 Yes. I am a trouble maker!

            I want to go back to Paris and see some of the many things I couldn’t fit in to in a mere two weeks and then another trip to the Montemartre…

            Like

  2. Joanna Aislinn

    Through some sacrifice, I’ve been blessed enough to be able to work part time since my boys were born. That doesn’t mean I haven’t done a fair share of day job related work at home on many occasions and continue to do so.

    The danger with people like Dr. Laura is for those who don’t have a strong enough sense of self to figure out where they fit into their own bigger picture. Folks like that will pass Laura’s judgment onto themselves, often creating unnecessary angst and stress when they just might be doing the best they can in any given situation.

    I’ve never heard of Dr. Laura. From what you’re sharing, she’s a sensationalist and uses her rants to make $$, not help mothers. I’m a firm believer in live and let live (without judgment). I’ve got no tolerance for folks like her. She’s up there with Howard Stern. At least he seems honest enough to be out there running his mouth for cash and not claiming to help folks.

    Okay. I be done now. Great post, Carrie 🙂

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thanks, Joanna. 🙂

      I’m amazed you’ve never heard of Dr. Laura. She’s been ticking people off for years. She got in some major flak a couple years ago and almost quit her show as a result. But here she is, still at it. And you’re right–some people without a strong sense of worth might indeed take her advice which is scary because I’ve heard her counsel both women and men to quit jobs immediately. Um, what about that little thing called the economy or taking time to look around to find something better first?

      Yep. She’s a treat, all right!

      Like

      • Joanna Aislinn

        Chances are, HAD I heard of her I would have tuned her out and ignored her, exactly the way I am/was about Howard Stern.

        The economy? That pesky thing associated with $$ that makes our world go ’round?

        Confession: If I had the choice I’d retire today–to pursue other means of adding to the economy at my end. Keeping moms (or dads) solely dedicated to raising their children deprives many–including folks outside the home–of talents that can benefit all of them. Maybe it’s better some folks never hear of Dr. Laura. Sounds like she abuses those credentials and freedom of speech as well. Just sayin’ 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Gwen Stephens

    Dr. Laura is an extremist, no different than Rush Limbaugh, really. I really can’t stand her or her judgmental platform. It’s interesting that she took up preaching to the masses after she’d raised her family and could view the whole experience in hindsight.

    I saw Lean In on your Goodreads (or FB?) update, and I was intrigued. You summed it up perfectly here in this post – there’s no one solution for everyone, but most books on the topic will advocate side or the other. Each family has to evaluate its individual situation and do what works best within their unique parameters. Like you, I’ve stayed home, worked full-time, and now for the last 3 years, part-time, but I do it because I can. This winter I will be filling in full-time for a colleague who’s taking 10 weeks maternity leave. It’ll be an interesting experiment in how the family re-adapts to my 50 hour/week schedule, even within this fixed period of time. Maybe it will be a great lesson in how lucky we are to have choices and a bit of financial flexibility. Maybe, just maybe, Mom will be appreciated just a tiny bit more (a girl can dream, right)?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      I think your flexibility and various work schedules in the past will benefit your children. They see their role-model adapting to new situations, and they too must adapt. Life is full of changes. They’re learning to accommodate them. Very good life lesson!

      Lean In is good, and Sandberg approaches the topic diplomatically. She doesn’t preach that every women should work or become the company’s top leader, rather she offers advice for those who would like to. As for Dr. Laura, yeah, she’s an interesting bird. I believe she was getting her PhD while she had a child, and if not, I suspect she was working. Not sure who took care of her son…

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Polly

    I don’t know how I missed this when first posted but somehow I did…the radio presenter sounds horrible, rather like a male TV presenter in the UK who is famed for inane / insulting comments. The BBC are always having to apologise on his behalf. Rumour has it that he’s on his final warning and I say ‘good’—why should we have to listen to his nastiness when it’s clear it’s done to be controversial and to attract comment?

    Smashing post, Carrie, and I like the ‘like’ stars in each reply…cool 🙂

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you! You can go into the settings and activate the ‘like’ button for comments now. That was a nice feature WordPress offered.

      Dr. Laura frequently debases and yells at the callers. Sometimes she even hangs up on them. I don’t know why anyone would call her, and yet they do. But those antics are probably what get people to listen. I’m guilty of it, but only on long distance drives. 🙂

      Like

  5. El Guapo

    Not sure if schlesinger has kids, but when I think of her (which I rarely do), I hope not.
    I also hope her fifteen minutes will be up soon and she’ll go away.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Inion N. Mathair

    Well Carrie, I thought I’d heard it all!! What century are we in? I have to get a visual of YOU driving & hearing this. LMFAO~ Sorry for the f-bomb but seriously, would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall!! You should have totally called in and given them hell baby; tell them how it’s done!!!! I can’t imagine anyone saying that kind of bullcrap (being nice) and getting away with it in this day & age. As you know, I’ve worked in law enforcement throughout my career until my accident four years ago. It was hard juggling my career & two kids three including hubby. lol but we women find ways to do it and do it well!! This Archie Bunker mentality has no room in today’s age of “both-parents” work. Hillary had it right. “It takes a village to raise a child.” But the child is stronger and the life made better both financially and in allowing both the mother and father to follow their dreams. Fact is, you can have it all it just takes a helluva lot of work to reach your dreams and potential!! Great post sharing now!! 😉 xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you! You’re always so generous with your shares. 🙂

      It does take a village, and really, what child would only want mom or dad 100% of the time? Even if a parent stays home, having other attachments for the kids is so important as is socialization with others (says the introvert…) Dr. Laura really messed up on that one, and yeah, I was saying some colorful things to her (by the 9th hour of my solo driving it’s interesting what comes out of my mouth…) Why these people call her when they know she’ll probably yell at them is beyond me. But I guess she’s getting people to listen, so I suppose she’s doing something right. 😉

      My niece is a police officer and just had her first baby. I’m sure she’s already stressing about going back, but I know she’ll pull it off beautifully.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. benzeknees

    I think I would have not been as good a mother if I had been a stay-at-home parent. I know myself well enough to know I would get interested in something (maybe even TV) & my daughter would have had no more attention from me than if I was working all day. Even though I was stressed from working & my commute I was able to work out a 15 min. downtime with my kid(s) when I first got home so I would be a better parent.
    I am an excellent baby person – I love getting down on the floor with them, reflecting their sounds & faces back to them. I love holding them as they get sleepy & drop off to sleep. I love watching them figure out how to get food to their mouth or manage holding their bottle for themselves.
    I am also excellent with toddlers, but when they get to 4, 5 or 6 years old, I had a glitch. They would want to tell me all about their day as soon as I walked in the door (while I was still stressed from work & the traffic). So we made a deal, you give me 15 mins. to myself & then we will spend 30 mins. talking about your day.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      “my daughter would have had no more attention from me than if I was working all day”—You hit on a key point. Studies have suggested that mothers at home only spend a few more hours a week in one-on-one time with their kids than working mothers.

      You sound similar to me. I needed about fifteen minutes when I got home before I could absorb things. I’d give the kids a quick hug and kiss, then head into the kitchen to start dinner. By the time things were simmering, I was ready to hear about everyone’s day. Sometimes we just need that time to switch gears.

      Like

  8. Rutabaga the Mercenary Researcher

    Than god I work in a place that allows for career, in 40 hours/week, flex hours and the ability to leave after my 8 hours and forget my work. Lean-in? NO thank you…not everyone aspires to have a 90 hour/week job.

    Great post… people are such buttheads about having opinions that they feel everyone should follow to the letter.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      “Buttheads”–yes, indeed. What works for one person might not work for another. Surprisingly, I’ve had a fair amount of flexibility in my job (well, once I was out of training). I’ve been able to work part-time and also went through a time of working evenings and weekends to be home during the day with my kids. I guess I was “leaning back” with those options, but it’s what worked for me. And yet I still got burned out from primary care. 😉

      Like

  9. pegoleg

    This is a question that never gets old, and never gets answered.

    My mom was a teacher who had to quit work as soon as she was “showing.” I think she really chafed at the requirement that she HAD to be a full-time mom.

    I went back to work a few weeks after my kids were born, and I regret that decision. I didn’t feel I had a choice at the time because at 55 I am very much a product of the women’s movement. I thought only women with no other skills were stuck at home.

    I think too many people use the concept of quality time vs quantity, and the theory that kids are happier if their mothers are fulfilled as human beings to justify doing exactly what they want to do. Kids are basically selfish – they don’t care if their parents are happy or fulfilled in their jobs or in their marriages. They want a peaceful, stable home-life as a jumping off point for THEIR lives.

    That being said, I’m glad that today mothers have a choice. That they are not being bludgeoned by the hammer of societal expectation – either for or against staying home.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I’m not a real fan of the quality over quantity concept either. For the most part, the more time you spend with your child the better. I did stay home when my kids were babies, and as I look back now, I’m still glad I did (though sorry Ms. Sandberg, I leaned back to do so), but I sometimes wonder if my staying home was more for me than my kids. They certainly don’t remember any of that, and I see the kids of my colleagues who worked full-time from the get-go have turned out wonderfully. So I guess it still comes down to what makes the most sense for the family at the time. I would imagine most mothers would like to spend the first year or two home with their babies. Unfortunately, many probably don’t get that choice.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Like

  10. aetherhouse

    “Was she implying women shouldn’t be doctors?”

    I’d say she was implying that women should only be doctors if they’re childless. Which isn’t a slight against women so much as it’s a slight against mothers specifically.

    Which is still is obviously problematic. For one, who is she to tell mothers what they can and cannot do? And two, you’d never hear someone say that about a man! When has anyone ever said “men who want kids shouldn’t be doctors/lawyers/soldiers/any profession”? Never. Only women are shamed about their career aspirations, because women still do the majority of housework, child-rearing, and are often the main breadwinners too. For half my childhood, my mother stayed at home. Due to circumstance, she became a single working mom when I was eight. I think she did a great job at both, and both were “right” for the situations we were in. I thrived just fine in my grandparents’ after-school care, and my mom made herself very accessible to me at all times. As long as you’re a good parent, what’s it matter? *shrug*

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      Well said. Few people’s situation are so static and black-and-white that they will never change over time. I’m sure your mother hadn’t planned on becoming a single mother. Naturally she had to work then, and it sounds like she did a brilliant job of making sure you were well cared for in her absence.

      And really, where does Dr. Laura’s advice end? Doctors aren’t the only ones with long work hours. In fact, many physician jobs are much more flexible now. My schedules over the years are proof of that. But what about pilots or lawyers or engineers? Should women who plan to have children not enter those careers either? Funny advice from a woman who pursued her PhD then worked hard at launching a radio show. (Who cared for her child then?…)

      Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. Much appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

      • aetherhouse

        Yeah, sounds like the only profession Dr Laura thinks a woman should have is a 9-5 secretary. Which isn’t practical at all, and again, is a standard we don’t judge men by. 😉

        I was also surprised to see that Dr. Laura had a kid. Seems pretty hypocritical!

        Like

        • Carrie Rubin

          Doesn’t it though? Plus, she’s been divorced, and yet she chastises women for going that route. As I said, she keeps me angry enough to stay awake while driving. 🙂

          Like

  11. Carol Balawyder

    Wow! Doctor Laura gives damaging and dangerous advice. I hope the poor woman didn’t follow it.
    I read Sandberg’s book and found it very motivating. I always like to read about women who’ve made it to the top of their game. Of course, she’s got resources most of us don’t but at least she’s a role model for women, unlike Doctor Laura.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Dr. Laura’s advice can be very harsh, and sometimes I think it can indeed be dangerous. Other times it’s practical, and I can’t argue with her thinking. But her delivery stinks. She’s SO mean to people. And yet they still call in…

      Liked by 1 person

  12. tomsimard

    “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.”

    Loved the above.

    Like

  13. char

    Well, I know my son was telling me on our last hike all about his idea for rolling a dollar bill up around a seed and then planting it in the ground to grow a money tree. If his idea works, I will let you know so you can do a follow-up post for everyone to get free money so they can stay at home and not worry about those pesky bills anymore. I’m crossing my fingers that his idea pans out.

    Like

      • char

        Well, being the kind, supportive mom that I am, I told him that was a stupid idea and wouldn’t work (I’d already tried it and lost a dollar)

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Sammy D.

    Excellent post, Carrie. I agree with everything you said -especially the world being gray. If more people were willing to hear varying viewpoints and admit neither black nor white is THE answer, we might actually resolve some things.

    But child care and working parents have many moving parts, none of which is THE answer that fits everyone. Great thought-provoking piece.

    And please, more women doctors !!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you for your supportive words. Much appreciated. Just think if our Congress people could see shades of gray. We might actually get compromise and resolutions. How cool would that be?! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Brigitte

    GREAT post, Carrie. I can understand why you nearly drove off the road! I personally prefer female physicians — thank God women are in those professions now. And succeeding and excelling in male-dominated professions. Every choice has consequences and there’s hardly ever a black and white answer. There are great Moms that stay at home and ones that choose or have to work. And the opposite of that in both vases as well.

    And let me know if you do find that money tree. Hope you and yours are great.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      We’re good, thank you. But no money tree located yet. 🙂

      I like having women doctors, too. I even have a woman dentist. In fact, I long for the day we no longer say “female doctor” or “female pilot” and just say doctor or pilot or whatever the case may be. I don’t have daughters, but if I did, I certainly wouldn’t want to limit their career choices. I would, however, offer guidance on how to best time things and to be sure to find a supportive spouse. On that, Dr. Laura and I can agree.

      Like

  16. Katie

    Most things do seem to have more grey than black and white. However, having a grey radio show might be too boring-though refreshing. 8)

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      You’re right. When the talk doc yells at people and hangs up on them, listeners stay tuned. If she was saccharin sweet, they probably wouldn’t. She managed to get me me listening… (But I like to yell at her; instant alertness while driving. 🙂 )

      Like

  17. Exile on Pain Street

    I glad to hear you tune in to hear her. There’s too much political isolation going on. You don’t have to agree with opposing viewpoints but I think it’s important to expose yourself to them. I rarely agree with Fox News but I occasionally tune in. It’s important. Once you become drunk on one ideology, you lose your objectivity.

    Sandberg reminds me of something I heard on the radio. I listen to, and enjoy, Howard Stern. Recently, his sidekick, Robin Quivers, had a cancer scare. Their sage advice for curing cancer was to put together the best team the medical profession has to offer. Advice from two multimillionaires.

    I just demanded an explanation as to why you haven’t posted over in my comment section. You can ignore that.

    Like

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