Does being a stay-at-home mom while your husband is the breadwinner define you as a weak and dependent woman?

Wednesday Martin seems to think so. She is a writer and social researcher whose book “Primates of Park Avenue” has got tongues wagging. In a recently penned op-ed in the New York Times titled “Poor Little Rich Women”, she describes her culture shock when she moved to Manhattan’s Upper East Side. She coined the term “Glam SAHMs”, for the glamorous-stay-at-home-moms whom she met at playgrounds, play groups and nursery schools where she took her sons. These women are portrayed as mostly 30-somethings whose husbands are rich and powerful; many of them run hedge funds.

Though they had graduated from distinguished colleges and business schools the women do not presently work. Instead they spend their days “toiling at extensive mothering.” They are seen as beautiful, thin, well dressed, and acting as their children’s advocates while navigating their kids social and school lives. Wednesday Martin believes that as a social anthropologist she has unearthed a fascinating story.

Describing a life of being cloistered from men with “women only” events like luncheons, mommy coffees and trips, Martin is struck with the thought that there lies a deeper reality to this chosen segregation while these women masquerade through their days. She is ‘”thunderstruck” hearing that some women receive so called “wife bonuses” based on how well she manages the children and the home.

Martin bemoans these highly educated women who “tend to give away the skills they honed in graduate school and their professions-organizing galas, editing newsletters, running the library and bake sales-free of charge.” She draws on her studies in anthropology where female birds and chimps never stop searching for food to feed themselves and their young; as well as the Agta, Hadza and !Kung women who all participate in the hunt or forage for food. These are the females, she says, who are the most empowered. She tells us with all certainty that the bottom line is that if you do not bring home “tubers and roots” then understand that your power is diminished. not only in your marriage but in the world as well.

“Tell anyone you’re a stay at home Mum at a party in New York,” she adds, “and the conversation just dies there. And when you’re not culturally valued, it makes you anxious.”

She concludes that these stay-at-home moms who have chosen to put their energies into their families are “dependent and comparatively disempowered.”

Why should a woman who uses her talents in the corporate world command more respect than one who uses those talents for her family or school?

Social media has been filled with judgmental ping-pongs traded across Facebook, blogs, and letters to the editor. Some (including NYC matrimonial lawyers) highly doubt if these “wife bonuses” even exist while others happily put down the Glam SAHM’s and their privileged tribe. I am not here to debate the lifestyle choices of other women. It is not up to us to peer behind people’s doors and throw out opinions on their lives. I believe that mothers all over the globe are trying hard to achieve happiness within their homes and do their best to raise successful, well-adjusted children.

What does bother me, though, is the inference that women who choose not to work are somehow lesser, smaller and disempowered. It is time to stop making women feel as if they must battle one another, embroiling us in a constant mommy war between those who work and those who opt to stay home. Why must it be that if I use my talents in an office or the corporate world, I command more respect than if I take those very same gifts and use them for my family or child’s school? What exactly does “poor” refer to? Who am I supposed to pity here?

One of the most difficult jobs in the world is called “mother.” There are some moms who work all day, return exhausted, and are disrespected or at best ignored in their homes. Yes, the same can be said for some mothers who stay at home, give all they’ve got to their families and yet are disregarded and taken for granted by their children. It has nothing to do with how much money has been amassed in the bank account. Both these women feel weak and little. We cannot always equate cash and clout. These are the moms that I feel badly for.

At the same time there are mothers who are beloved, cherished, and appreciated. Their voices are heard, their opinions respected. They walk with a force of grace and dignity. These are mothers who parent from strength. They put thought into their parenting, overcome challenges, worry about each child’s character and soothe their hurts and pains while filling their homes with a sense of blessing and joy.

And many of these children relish the love, recognize the sacrifice, and bask in the bond that has been forged from the moment they took their first breath in this world. In this home exists a sense of consideration, regard, even reverence and awe that borders on the sacred. It does not depend upon moms who work versus stay=at=home moms. It does have to do with parenting style, family dynamics, kids’ natures, effective discipline, and prayer for success and peace in the home. To love and be loved, to hear and be heard, to own self-respect and be respected – this is the ultimate feeling of empowerment for a mother.

Indeed, it was Adam, the first man, who gave words to the essential life force called “woman.” When faced with his destiny to die, Adam calls his wife “Chava, for she is the one who gives life to all the living.” She will ultimately deliver him from a finite death and through her, man becomes immortal. ‘Chava’ denotes spiritual life, for not only does this woman/mother give physical life but a spiritual and emotional life as well. She creates this incredible legacy that is eternal as she gives life to the next generation. The destiny of man continues. It is the mother who has been charged with this noble and mighty task.

Judaism reveres the powerful role of mothers. These women have paved the road that we walk on till today through their loyalty, strong faith, heroism, deep love and Shabbos lights. Far from being dependent, it is the women upon who our nation depends. Mothers ignite the sparks that are waiting to be kindled within the hearts of the next generation. Mothers nurture the soul of each child teaching them the meaning of endless love. Mothers carry life, give life and shed tears as they pray that each child lives a purposeful and good life. To me, this is the greatest most empowering mission of all; one that I feel incredibly privileged to have been given.