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An Oscar winner thanks his wife for leaving her job. What if we didn’t judge others’ parenting choices?

Donald Sylvester accepts the Oscar for sound editing during the live ABC telecast of the 92nd Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Calif., on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020.
Blaine Ohigashi, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

I’ve believed for many years that most women don’t care whether other women choose to leave the workplace to raise their children or to remain employed while raising families. It’s a personal choice that almost invariably hinges on the particulars of the family itself.

I still think it’s true, although I’m not sure I can include Hollywood wives in that category. Or husbands, either, for that matter. Every time I think the “mommy wars” are done, they come up again.

The issue of stay-at-home moms vs. working moms raised its head in especially unpleasant fashion during the Oscars, when Donald Sylvester was accepting the award for sound editing of “Ford v Ferrari” and thanked his wife Penny Shaw Sylvester for giving up her own editing career to stay home with their children.

As my colleague Jennifer Graham reported, some people attending the Academy Awards stopped applauding mid-clap and a segment of Twitter got nasty about his remark. The whole episode has me pondering, for maybe the 2,000th time, whether we should all stop patrolling other people’s parenting choices and just support each other a little bit — for our own sanity and the sake of the kids and the society they will one day run.

I have two children, now grown. And I was a working mother over the course of their childhood and beyond. Much as I love my girls, I never left the workplace for a number of reasons, from my own temperament to the financial reality of my family. My husband and I both needed to work.

My own mother made a different choice, staying home with my siblings and me, and I am grateful for that because it worked for my family during my childhood, just as my choice worked when my husband and I had kids. Truly, though, my parents’ choice might better be described as shift work. He was a piano tuner and she made his appointments and kept track of the financial side in the evening when he was home to cook dinner and run the house. One of them was nearly always available, but both of them worked.

My siblings and I were well cared for — and so were my children.

My friends and relatives have chosen variations that make their family life work and their children thrive. I know guys who stay home with the kids while their wives work. One of my male pals has the perfect temperament to be a househusband, while for others it’s a matter of who makes more money and has the better trajectory for advancement at work. I know lots of wives who stayed home — and even more two-worker families that figured how to balance life so their kids weren’t neglected.

It seems to me that families can’t win in this hyperjudgmental society. Penny Shaw Sylvester told my colleague she stayed home because she wanted to; one of their children needed extra care and she felt she’d manage that best. And why pay someone else to do it if she was better equipped?

Nobody glaring at her from their seats in the auditorium or blistering their fingers in their haste to sound off on Twitter likely had an inkling of what went into the calculation the Sylvesters made.

I firmly believe families do what makes sense in their situation. And we’d be better off as a society if we put some of our aggressive attention into ensuring that families have choices that meet their needs and that those who need child care have access to it in its most excellent form.

Family circumstances vary greatly, as do the offerings within a community. It’s quite likely some women would go to work if they could afford child care and that others would choose to exit the work place if they could afford to do without those wages.

What you, Hollywood or I think is nothing more than parakeets tweeting in the distance. It’s a choice best made by those who will live it.