Thursday, March 23, 2006

So irate I can't see straight.

This makes me so mad I don't know if I can even put my thoughts into coherent sentences. The gall some people have! Some people have apparently forgotten the whole reason women fought for equal rights: so women would have the right to choose whether or not they wanted to work outside the home!

Okay, the gist of the article is this: some professor named Linda Hirschman has written a book in which she asserts educated women are making a grave mistake by becoming stay-at-home moms. She says they can't possibly be satisfied by giving up their careers, and women who claim that they've never wanted to be anything but a homemaker are basically lying and fooling themselves.

You know, I just now remembered that in high school one of my classmates made this same claim--that women have an obligation to work. I was so stunned that someone would make a comment like that that I couldn't even respond, and I find myself in the same position now. It's just such an absurd, ridiculous, and offensive statement that all the arguments against it seem way too obvious to outline.

I feel doubly affronted, because Hirschman's claim is not just a direct criticism of my choices, but of my mother's as well--even more of a criticism of her than of me, in fact. I've always wanted to be a writer and a teacher, and I knew I wanted to be in the classroom, although I knew I wouldn't be there for the whole of my working years and would eventually be at home with my kids. But my mom is one of those women for whom Hirschman apparently has no respect: a woman who desired nthing else than to put her life into her family. Yeah, gosh, what a mistake--to want to dedicate yourself to raising your children, being there for them whenever they need you, supporting your husband and taking care of him and the home you share. I can say, as a child of a stay-at-home mom, that the security I felt knowing my mom was always there for me played a direct role in making my child as happy as it was. I always knew she was available in case I got hurt or sick at school; she was was always there when I came home in the afternoon to make me a snack and ask how my day was and listen to my lame school stories. When I was in a play at school or had a choir concert, she didn't have to juggle work or beg off with a "I promise I'll come to the next one, honey!" She was always there, and not many of my friends could say the same.

"Don't give it more time than it deserves," my husband just told me. He's right. This kind of crap naturally makes me want to go face-to-face with this chick and tell her off, but what's the point, really? She's not going to listen to me, because, in her eyes, I'm apparently missing a few screws--why else would an educated woman like myself choose to give up a successful teaching career for a shaky career that lets me stay home? But before I sign off, one last comment: make no mistake, I have nothing but respect for women who have to work. Sometimes putting your kids first means having to work outside the home, and I totally understand that. I'll admit I don't understand people who want to work rather than stay home and raise their kids, but hey, just because I don't understand it doesn't mean I'm going to knock it. Women's lib was about letting you make that choice, so you go ahead and make it however you want, just as I have. Just don't follow this woman's poor lead and look down on those of us who ahve chosen the home as our office.


StLmom said...

I think the most important item to remember on this topic is that we women, the SAHMs, the WAHMs, the working moms and even the stay at home or working non-moms, need to respect one another's decisions and celebrate the ability to choose what we want to do.

I've worked as long as I've been a mom (16 years), mostly out of need, but now that my kids are older, I've had the opportunity to become a work at home mom. I value and appreciate the difference and yes, sometimes wonder what life would have been like if I'd been able to stay home while they were little (the guilt persists!).

Most of my friends have chosen to stay at home and at times, I have found it difficult to understand why, particularly when I see them facing serious financial difficulty or getting futher away from the likelihood of ever using the education they poured themselves into during their twenties.

It's tough for any of us to be completely satisfied with our lives no matter what we choose, I think. The grass is sometimes greener.

Hirschfeld is quite a piece of work, though. Her recommendation that working moms only have one child takes the cake, for me.

Meg said...

Well, that crabby woman's opinion is definitely not worth losing any sleep over... but the whole thing truly is a conundrum. Little girls need role models in corporate boardrooms (and in doctors' offices and on the Supreme Court, etc.), true, but they also need their mommies.

I don't know what the "right" thing to do is... all anyone can do is make the choice that they feel is best for their family, and for their situation. Truly, it kind of stinks.

Rebecca said...

I love my job---I teach middle school...but...with our baby due in 5 weeks, I can't imagine wanting anything more than staying home with her. We've been working hard to come up with a way so I can take next school year off...if even for one year.

The bottom line is that people need to do what is best for their families...financially, emotionally or otherwise. Whether that means that parents do a juggling act so that one is always around or that both parents have to work full time or even that some are fortunate to be able to be full-time, stay at home moms/dads, the most important thing is to be there for your kids as OFTEN AS YOU CAN, even in the seemingly small ways. They'll appreciate it--so will their teachers.

Rosemary Esehagu said...

I disagree with Hirshman in that she is essentially saying that the only choice is to be a working mom. The modern-day woman has the freedom to choose whichever option, stay-at-home mom or working mom.

That said, I do find something wasteful and unwise in women spending years (and lots of money) to get specialized degrees (e.g law, engineering, medicine, etc) but then doing absolutely nothing with them, by choosing to stay at home. Still, it is her prerogative. However, people are happier when they pursue their interests. I assume that if one pursued law, one had a passion for it. Motherhood does not mean abandoning one’s interests. The two can co-exist. During my childhood years in Nigeria, my mom worked and was readily available to me. I plan on being like her, if I ever become a mother.

The problem here is a social structure that more or less forces one to choose to be a working mom (with no time for mothering) or a stay-at-home mom. Our work structure, as it stands, is designed for people without reproductive interests. Women being the sex that gestates and delivers babies face a problem in adjusting to the working environment. A woman, when she is pregnant and after birth, needs some time to bond with her child and ensure both her and her child’s health.

I believe that for women to truly say that they have a choice as to what kind of mom they’ll be, the options, stay-at-home mom and working mom, need to have about the same social (and maybe even economic) value. Moreover, the working structure needs to make some changes to accommodate the fact that women do give birth and so need time to recuperate and to bond with their newborn. We need to actively involve men in childcare as well. It is NOT cute or “manly” that a man does not want to (and is unskilled to) change his child’s diapers or walk his child in a stroller in the park. A child is not made by one person alone.

I believe women do need to be in the workplace, to be role models for others, and to make sure that women’s interests and needs are represented in the community. I also know that it helps for children to have their parents ( mommy and daddy, not just mommy) at home to some degree. Until our society actively acknowledges and responds to women’s diverse reproductive role (e.g by maybe allowing new moms to work from home, if it’s appropriate, etc), moms will always argue about who made the right mothering decision.

As an aside, I think it is a bit ridiculous for Hirshman to suggest having only one child, just for the sake of fitting into the workforce. Life and the pursuit of happiness isn’t all about making money or advancing one’s career. One cannot measure the amount of joy and pleasure that each child has the very real potential of adding to one’s life. Besides, when one is old and gray, it helps to have children (as in more than one) at one’s side in different capacities. One child can only do so much. One child can only be so much.

uwtbco said...

Have you actually read Hirschman's work, or just "getting the gist of an article about it?" I think one of the most intelligent things she says is, "I am always suspicious of a "choice" that only one group tends to make."
I am so happy my little sister (now 45) kept her career going, part-time and self-employed, during her time as a mother, which is still underway. Now, as a single parent with one income, she can actually pay her bills and live in a place where she feels safe with her 7-year-old, even though she works full time. At least she can keep body and soul together.

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