The Conversation

The Feminists' Mistake

This New York magazine article is making its way around.  There has been a lot of talk lately about the work-family balance and how women are opting to stay at home.  Women have more choices than ever before, so have a career or stay at home aren't even the only choices.  Thanks to technology -- not feminists -- women have greater choices than ever when it comes to staying at home, while also contributing to the household income.  From New York mag:

For some women, the solution to resolving the long-running tensions between work and life is not more parent-friendly offices or savvier career moves but the full embrace of domesticity. "The feminist revolution started in the workplace, and now it’s happening at home," says Makino. "I feel like in today’s society, women who don’t work are bucking the convention we were raised with  "Why can’t we just be girls? Why do we have to be boys and girls at the same time?"  She and the legions like her offer a silent rejoinder to Sandberg’s manifesto, raising the possibility that the best way for some mothers (and their loved ones) to have a happy life is to make home their highest achievement.

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If women and men are at odds with themselves over what they value most, if a woman says she wants a big job but also needs to be home by 5:30 to oversee homework, and her husband promises to pick up the kids from chess club but goes instead to the meeting with the boss, how can marriages with two working parents not wind up conflict-ridden? From Kelly Makino’s perspective, it was a no-brainer. "Some days I just have to pinch myself," she says. "It’s so easy, it’s so rewarding to live this way."

There's a lot of talk about what the women give up, but as a single woman I've found that many men are the first ones to make the case against the wife staying home.  The don't want to lose the second income.  In areas with a higher cost of living, like DC for me, opting to be a stay-at-home mother means downsizing and/or putting more of the financial burden on the husband.  Some are uncomfortable with this responsibility.

More from the article:

Kelly loved her old profession and does not want to be painted as betraying the goals of feminism. She prefers to see herself as reaching beyond conventional ideas about what women should do. "I feel like we are evolving into something that is not defined by those who came before us," she says. By making domesticity her career, she and the other stay-at-home mothers she knows are standing up for values, such as patience, and kindness, and respectful attention to the needs of others, that have little currency in the world of work. Professional status is not the only sign of importance, she says, and financial independence is not the only measure of success.

I press her on this point. What if Alvin dies or leaves her? What if, as her children grow up, she finds herself resenting the fact that all the public accolades accrue to her husband? Kelly wrestles with these questions all the time, but for now she’s convinced she’s chosen the right path. "I know this investment in my family will be paid back when the time is right." When her kids don’t need her anymore, she’ll figure out what she wants to pursue next. Someday, she’s sure, she’ll have the chance to "play leapfrog" with Alvin; she’ll wind up with a brilliant career, or be a writer, or go back to school. "You have to live in the now. I will deal with later when later comes. I’ll find a way," she says. "Who knows? Maybe I will be home for ever and ever. Maybe I will have the best-kept lawn on the block for the rest of my life."

Feminists always put a higher premium on what women miss in their careers -- advancement, fulfillment, salary -- while ignoring what they miss in their home life -- time with children and spouse, hobbies, greater connection with what their children are doing.  They were able to sell this bill of goods to women in the 60s, 70s and 80s because those women were less likely to be the children of working mothers.  Women my generation and younger know what's missing when living in a single parent or dual-working parents homes.  Every generation wants their children to have better.  For many mothers, that means being at home during the development years.

The other lasting effect of feminists' cause of convincing women their careers should come first is that there are millions and millions of women who ignored biology and find themselves unable to conceive.  They now find themselves eager to give up their careers for a family, but unable to start one because they're older.  Yes, there are other options (and there would be even more options if feminists' other pet project, abortion, were didn't exist).  Feminists enticed women on a phony vision of success and self-fulfillment , while deriding women for making choices that didn't fall in line with the feminists' version of success.


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