Archive for Women and Work
“I just don’t believe you can work full time, run a household, raise great kids, and keep your marriage strong without losing your mind along the way. I think something will suffer, either your marriage, your kids, or your sanity….
“Really, what is the point of working so hard toward a career that isn’t conducive to raising a family?”
~Darla Shine, Happy Housewives
First, I really do agree with Shine’s basic motivations behind writing the book. I also believe a woman is fooling herself if she thinks she can have a demanding career and be an excellent mother to young children at the same time. And I also share the view that it would be awesome if we could remove the stigma attached to staying at home – which has been the legacy of the feminist movement. I just don’t love the manner in which she presents these ideas, and the way that she attacks everyone in the process. I don’t think there is ever one right way to live life, and I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to tell others that the way they live their lives is wrong. I believe in being honest about one’s opinions, but I think there is a difference between the way one speaks in the privacy of her own home and in a public forum. At home, one’s close friends and loved ones will understand the difference between venting and making broad generalizations about people who are different from oneself. But, when you are speaking in a public forum you need to be more conscious of how you present your opinions. You can be honest and funny without attacking others.
Now, let me show you what I agree with, and how even then, I think Shine misses valuable points about women in forming the agenda of her book. I agree with the idea that the choice to stay home for our generation of women is difficult and we may not be prepared for how it will make us feel or how we will be treated by others – that’s partly the whole point of this blog – coming to terms with what I want out of life as a woman and what I’ve been raised to believe I want. So, here are the words that come from the most honest and likable side of Darla Shine, in Happy Housewives (emphasis mine):
I left my career to be with my children because I thought I had no other choice, and I was full of resentment. I refused to let myself feel like a housewife. I rejected the idea of motherhood. I told myself it was all temporary, like a criminal sentence – and I was doing my time.
I began to get disconnected from my home and my kids. p. 6
(I relate to this oddity of rejecting traditionally female parts of myself.)
“I feel sorry for all the women out there who are still trying to hold on to this image of being a supermom. It’s just impossible. I know that I can’t have it all. Something has to give. I’ve finally let go of my ego, and since then I finally have freedom. I’ve let go of all the demands and the expectations society put on me to be this perfect woman. I cannot be her, and I choose not to be her. I don’t want to work ten hours a day. I don’t want to get on the commuter train at 5:00 A.M. in a blizzard. I don’t want to break the glass ceiling. I now know exactly what I want. I am desperate no more. I am proud to say I’m a happy housewife.” p. 9-10
…. I was full of baloney. I chose to leave work. I wanted to be at home with my son…. I was finally able to admit to myself that I had no intentions of going back to work and that it was time for me to give up that identity. I was a housewife. Why, though, did I feel so ashamed for so long?” p. 21
“I know the answer now. It’s because our society has looked down on motherhood as an option for a career. As if it isn’t good enough for you to be a mom, to be a housewife. My entire generation of women were raised to be more than housewives. It was engraved into our brains at an early age that we could finally be something. Our sisters before us – oh, and I’m going to talk about them in a bit – opened so many doors for us, and now we were expected to step up. We had to take our places in the workforce. We were expected to be something. Aspiring to be a mom, to get married, was not something we said out loud.
The luxury that our mothers had as girls was that they knew that even though they would go to college, most likely their main goal was to meet a man who could take care of them so they could stay home. I think our mothers were far more fortunate than us. They weren’t plagued with this unrealistic burden to be superwomen juggling career, marriage, and family. They knew being home raising a family was the most important job, and they took pride in that.
It’s such a shame that society has put this terrible pressure on women – this ridiculous notion that we can work full time, raise a famliy, keep a happy home, and not lose our sanity in the process. p.22
“But my mother never raised me to believe that I could only be a housewife. My parents gave me the confidence to believe that I could be anything I wanted. My father said, ‘Go to college, have your career.’ My mother said, ‘But then go home and raise your babies. You can always go back to work when they get bigger.’
I don’t think either of them knew how conflicted I would be. It was easy for my mother to say, ‘Hey, go become something and then give it all up to be a mom.’ Our mothers have no idea how they have burdened us with liberation and equality (ooh, she gets a lot of flack for that line). It’s an enormous responsibility to live up to. It’s exhausting. It’s a shame that so many of us are still trying to juggle everything, and it’s no wonder so many of us are getting desperate int he process.
I’m angry that I wasted so many days of my new baby’s life on that emotional roller coaster, struggling with the knowledge that I chose motherhood over my career, conflicted over the fact that I was no longer of value in this society because I wasn’t a big career girl. I felt less valuable being ‘just a mom.’ I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to break back into the industry when he got older. Instead of embracing new motherhood, I was worried that I was turning into my mother and that I would never be more than a mother and wife.” p. 24
Okay, so it’s the common struggle of women today to feel undervalued for being at home with their kids and not working. And kudos to Shine for suggesting that we find creative ways to work part-time from home when our children are older; I believe in broadening our ideas of what a valuable work is. But, I don’t think the way to lift up stay-at-home moms is to bash working moms. I was annoyed by her moralistic admonitions about the one true, correct way to do things.
I don’t think that all women want to be home bonding with their kitchens. I don’t think that all women like making crafts, baking, and cooking. And not all women can afford to stay home full time. In an ideal world, I don’t think anyone would deny that children would fair better with their mothers being around much more. But it isn’t productive to put down women who have decided that they will not be sane people if they don’t work part time. Many good family men admit that, although going to work every day is sometimes grueling and that they wish they could be home with their children more of the time, the truth is, they need their careers for their sanity and their identity. They admit that they would go insane not having a job to go to. But, working full time as a bread winner is a dilemma for men as well as women. I know that my husband will have rough times when he wishes he were home with his wife and children, living life with them and creating memories together, instead of working long hours with strangers. Some women, like men, would go insane if stuck in the home and unable to use their brains, skills, and education. We should not punish women for having the same desires as many men. We should support families with two working parents so that husband and wife together can balance that outside fulfillment with that of raising a family.
At the same time, I agree that we shouldn’t assume that women who choose to be at home, do not feel ambiguous about this decision, or are not intelligent women with educations that they hope to use later on in life, when the children are grown. They deserve respect for sacrificing the kind of fulfillment that a career can bring. Maybe some of them have never wanted or dreamed of doing anything except raising a family, but there are many who have to fight the daily feeling that they are missing something vital by being at home. But in supporting the at-home-mothers, let us not put down the working ones. Let us build that system which supports all women and mothers.
My husband and I recently spent a lovely Sunday strolling up and down South Broadway St. in Denver, which is rightly called antique row. We each found a book that we couldn’t live without – published in 1970 and 1971, respectively.
I mean seriously, how have we survived without these books!? The covers are priceless and the info inside is top notch.
The inside cover to Heloise’s Hints for Working Women beckons:
Leading a Double Life?
Are you the lady of the house–and the brains of a business? The wife and the working girl? The comforting mama and the chic careerist?
And on the back:
your mattress do your ironing!
your old nylons do your scrubbing!
Cut Cooking Time
by slicing pies before freezing!
by making “squareburger”-hamburgers!
Be Prettier Quicker
by wetting rollers instead of hair!
These will be fun to read. I’ll share the best gems of wisdom with you as I come to them.
Yikes! I’m sure you’re all familiar with the studies which show that women are still earning less than men, or the studies which demonstrate the supposed monetary value of a housewife, but a Vanderbilt professor of law and economics, Joni Hersch, has found that housework decreases the earnings of both men and women. That is, the more hours a woman spends on housework, the lower her hourly wage will be, regardless of her profession outside the home.
You can read the story here:
I suppose that’s why such successful career-holding mothers as Caitlin Flanagan, and Penelope Trunk have – or have had – nannies, cleaning services, and “House Managers.” (And by the way, when Penelope Trunk announced that she hired a House Manager, her reader response was off the charts. People do NOT like a working mom who can afford such luxuries. Surprisingly, of her 175 commentors, it was the men and fathers who were most supportive of her decision.)
I think the moral of the story is that you cannot have it all – there will always be a trade-off.
I don’t know as much about politics as I should, but thanks to a continuing education pamphlet I received in the mail recently, I’ve discovered a new website designed to increase the knowledge and leadership of women in politics.
The White House Project has got some cool stuff for young girls, including a Ms. President Barbie. Below is an article about the woman who is responsible for creating the Ms. President Barbie. The doll was produced in 2000, 2004, and 2008 and expressed racial diversity with Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, and African American versions.
Anyway, in an era when young girls are exposed to so many raunchy and sexualized female role models through the all-pervasive media, and the clothing for six year olds and some dolls looks like a street walker fare, it’s nice to see these steps being taken. It sure beats Bratz, a product I have never understood. I think I would have liked to have grown up with a President Barbie.
When I was growing up, we had Day to Night Barbie. She worked from 9 to 5 and got dressed up to go out with Ken promptly at 5, with her sparkly pink camisole and reversible skirt. I urge you to click on the picture below and follow the link to the commercial, it will bring back some memories.
The White House Project has also partnered with Girl Scouts of the USA to create a Ms. President Girl Scout Patch, which is cool, but I was a member of Campfire USA, which was supposed to be co-ed. Do they get a patch too?