When Oprah still ruled the talk show air waves, she took on the hotly debated topic of the stay-at-home vs. working

Thanks to Cara’s post last Friday, I asked my husband to record Tuesday’s Oprah show so I could finally get a straight answer to that burning question, “Can working mothers have it all?”

Alas, the answer was not a simple yes or no. Surprised?

I enjoyed Oprah’s too-brief interview with Elizabeth Vargas, who explained how she came to the “agonizing” decision to step down from her coveted position as ABC World News Tonight anchor. She found out she was pregnant (surprise!) just three weeks after returning from a reporting stint in Iraq. Then her coanchor Bob Woodruff was critically wounded by an IED in Iraq, which was a big wakeup call to her.

Eventually, Vargas and her husband came to the conclusion that she couldn’t be “the kind of mother I wanted to be” and anchor the evening news with excellence. So she gave up her post and now hosts 20/20.

The rest of the show included brief glimpses of stay-at-home moms and working moms, why they made the choices they did, and what they think of each other. Occasionally, Oprah’s go-to psychologist Dr. Robin Smith piped in about “being attuned to your children” (whatever that means) and how “Guilt and having remorse, regret, is really in our lives to teach us not to torture us.”

The moms made some predictable “mommy wars”-style jabs at each other:

Lisa, the stay-at-home mother of two children, says, “I feel like, because I do stay home, I’m making my children a priority. If you’re working outside of the home, they can’t be your top priority.”

Barbara, one of the working mothers, says, “It’s more important, I think, that you’re around when your kids are teenagers. You know, anybody can read your kid a book or cuddle your kid. Not anybody can ask your kid how the soccer game went or cheer them on at the soccer game.”

I guess I was most annoyed by all the judging and mama-hatin’ on this show. Each family needs to make the choices that are right for them. What business is it of mine if another mom chooses to stay home, or work?

And the other thing that bugged me: What about the “Daddy Wars”? Of course, there are no Daddy Wars, because everyone just expects that dads will work. If they stay home, it’s an oddity (though it’s becoming more common, I think). Why weren’t fathers mentioned at all during this show? Parents have an equal obligation to care for their children, yet our culture continues to put the burden of caring for children squarely on moms.

I was hoping Oprah would push the discussion a little further than the usual boundaries and arguments. But her big insight was “you can have it all. You just can’t have it all at the same time.”

If you didn’t catch the show, you can still see clips and read most of what was said on the Oprah website.

Anyone else watch this show? What were your thoughts and reactions?