Sunday, February 16, 2020


It is fascinating to me that two articles in the recent Columbia Flier focus on successful local women professionals who are the heads of their households.

Atterbeary Juggles Motherhood, Politics, Activism, Ana Faguy*
Fire Chief to Retire at End of Month, also by Ana Faguy

I am of two minds about this. On the one hand, I do get tired of seeing journalistic takes on how women have to “juggle” their responsibilities if they venture out of the home sphere. It galls me. You seldom, if ever, see this line of thinking applied to men. The underlying concept is that motherhood is a woman’s true responsibility and that anything else is selfish or irresponsible.


On the other hand, it is worth noting that we see two such stories in the paper this week because women continue to persevere and move forward in their careers, achieving professional milestones that would have been unthinkable in my childhood. We may see more and more of these stories before the old “juggling” trope wears out. I am looking forward to that day.

Both Delegate Atterbeary and Chief Ulhorn are single parents. There are plenty of worn-out tropes about that, as well. I am equally tired of aspersions cast upon women who are the heads of their households. Pundits use the spectre of “unwed mothers” and “single-parent families” as a scapegoat for any number of societal ills.

It’s just a lot of hogwash.

Whether a family unit is loving, supportive, and healthy/functional is dependent upon a number of factors. It is small-minded and just plain inaccurate to say that families with one parent aren’t truly ”families”. It’s simply another way for some folks to shake their heads and say “those people” as a way of othering those who are different from themselves.

It is a challenge to be a single parent, whether you are a woman or a man, but it is not a failing, an act of selfishness, or a crime.

I learned from an article in Columbia Patch that these attitudes are actually enshrined in Maryland law:

In vitro access has become an “equity issue” in Maryland since unwed women are not covered by insurance, a Baltimore County senator says. (Elizabeth Janney, Columbia Patch)

Senator Shelley Hettleman is sponsoring a bill which would require that Maryland health insurance plans add unmarried women to their coverage for in vitro fertilization. I suppose that there will be some pushback on this of the “family values” variety. I’m interested to see if this bill succeeds.

The news this week is that women are mothers, and fire chiefs, and legislators, and heads of families. They can face their own challenges and make their own choices. 

*The title of this piece has been changed. It now reads, “Howard Del. Vanessa Atterbeary finds balance as a mom, a politician, an activist“.

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