Much has been written in the past week about the so-called ''mummy wars'' after a controversial comment in the US that denigrated Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's stay-at-home wife.
The conflict many modern women face between their family and their career has been analysed by feminists, economists and political commentators here, in the US and in Britain. But the term ''mummy wars'' is a truly derogatory expression that diminishes motherhood and belies reality.
Despite the popular impression of vicious catfights between careerists and stay-at-home mothers, there are many more mothers who quietly help and support each other regardless of the personal choices individuals make in caring for their children.
And no amount of rational analysis can overcome the biological fact that not all the alternatives are truly equal.
It is true that in relation to mothers' careers, the landscape has changed dramatically. These days it is more or less accepted that women potentially have the same rights as the men to a career and a family.
Some couples, and statistically they are still few, do make rational decisions about who will work and who will stay home.
But, in most families, when both parents are in paid employment for whatever the reason (purely financial, career opportunities, boredom or various combinations) the under-threes will require some form of care by adults who are not their parents.
The so-called mummy wars rage, in my view, not so much because mothers are hormonal basket-cases, but rather because of something deeper that we are reluctant to acknowledge, that we want airbrushed out of the equation, perhaps because it is considered politically incorrect. That something is called mother love.
There is much more to the messy emotional business of being a mother than contributing to a household production of children, as an economist would see it. I have never viewed my children as commodities and it's not my experience that many parents do. There still remains, thank goodness, something about the having and the raising of children that goes way beyond their care being a ''burden'', and that something is for most of us unashamedly emotional. Once we take the emotion out of the public debate about who is going to be ''stuck with the burden of the children'', we might as well put all newborns into nurseries and let the state raise them.
The thing is, all else being equal, young children - particularly in the first few years - want their mothers. It's irrelevant whether their mothers are fat or thin, daggy or smart, sometimes cross and impatient, have a PhD or work in a factory.
It doesn't matter if the childcare is top-notch or the nanny is perfect.
It is their mother they want, especially when they are lonely, sick, tired or hungry. This connection is biological, psychological, emotional and natural.
Many mothers who stay at home in the early years do get bored or fed-up and are often made to feel inadequate by the general assumption that they should be out maximising the family income or getting about their career. Many who go to work in the first few years suffer guilt and anxiety even if the decision to do this is out of choice, not necessity.
It's little wonder then that the unacknowledged strength of mother love has the power to provoke ''catfights''. But it has to be said that the appalling language used to describe the very real dilemmas of motherhood and paid work is more an indication of the way commentators portray mothers than a true representation of them.
Children are resilient. They do adjust to childcare and nannies. If their home is stable and secure, there are unlikely to be long-term problems as a result of non-parental care in the early years.
However, contrary to what feminist, financial and political commentators seem to argue, the connecting bond called mother love actually does exist. It is primordial, emotional, unconditional, profound and in many ways defies rationality.
We still haven't figured how to satisfactorily reconcile the right children have to this love with the rights mothers have to careers and paid work when their children are very young. I'm not sure we ever will.
Robin Barker is a registered nurse and midwife and the author of Baby Love (Pan Macmillan).