a new tempest in the stay-at-home-mom/work-outside-the-home-mom teacup: linda hirshman’s article in The American Prospect, “Homeward Bound.”
the reader’s digest condensed version:
- “choice” feminism, where well-educated upper middle class women make the overdetermined “choice” to stay at home and raise kids, is in practice regressive in its politics and has potentially bad results for women
- the public sphere has had to accommodate itself to feminism (women in the various professions, etc) but the private sphere has not
- divorce makes it exceedingly likely that previously upper middle class women who abandoned careers will be left substantially impoverished single parents
hirshman suggests 3 Rules to counter those stupid “Rules” that were supposed to help single women get married:
- Prepare yourself to qualify for good work, treat work seriously, and don’t put yourself in a position of unequal resources when you marry.
upon exploring her points further, we discover that “qualify for good work” means don’t major in the humanities and social sciences, or do so only at your potential earning peril.
ahem. harumph. says this humanities doctorate. then again, am i bringing home the bacon? not yet.
2. treat work seriously
means don’t have unrealistic expectations of the work world, a sort of “learn to play team sports and take your lumps on the playing field like a man” exhortation. it also means don’t job-hop or use family as a refuge against the slings and arrows of climbing the career ladder.
this i’ll give her. girls cave too easily.
3. don’t put yourself in a position of unequal resources when you marry
means marry someone younger, a partner in a dependent position (someone foolish enough to be an english major?!), or an older, more established man. if all else fails, marry a liberal man and hold his feet to the fire to make sure he picks up on the second shift too.
this advice seems all over the place. haven’t geriatric dudes been hooking up with fresh young things since time immemorial? what’s so progressive about this? your sugar daddy is likely to be from a PRE-feminist era and probably likes your lack of status, money, and experience in contrast to his. try to be someone substantial around the wrong sugar daddy and often you’ll just get your wings clipped. younger men of late–readers of laddie mags–seem to have gone right back to the 1950s starting with all those stupid cigars everyone seemed to be smoking in the late ’90s. i’d say men who took feminism seriously are probably college grad vintages ’82-’95. any other years and the grapes were likely off. and marrying a liberal man…well, it still takes effort holding feet to fire, doesn’t it?
marriage advice, down to the types of men to go after…sounding more and more like jane austen, isn’t it?
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a young woman in possession of a brain, must be in want of a wife.
see? not so far off the original after all. make the “wife” a housekeeper or maid or nanny and all’s easy and right with the world. it seems like a crucial blind spot in hirshman’s article that she doesn’t take into account that former high-powered attorneys and what-have-you turned moms most likely do have paid help. so we’ve left the snake’s tail only to find ourselves in the snake’s mouth: only upper middle class women get to stay at home with the kids and have a moment to spiritually or intellectually self-actualize, because they likely have hired help.
now, i cop to hiring someone to clean every so often. that’s only because i follow hirshman’s “virginia woolf” style admonition to let the housework go pretty religiously. i can and have had dust bunnies the size of tumbleweeds under my bed, and so on. i am nobody if i ain’t murdering the angel in the house. while some might be outraged, as i was initially, to discover that Ms. “500 pounds a year, a room of one’s own and a lock on the door” Woolf had a maid AND a cook, i kinda get it. not everyone was born martha stewart. some of us hate her with a passion.
but better than hirshman’s solution, which i think still relies too heavily on liberal humanist-rugged individualist feminism of the upper middle class white woman kind, is to do it ethnic style. yep, my retired in-laws and parents are over at my house cooking, cleaning, tending to the Nubbin, and basically enjoying themselves greatly several times a week. it’s become their job. they get up, bring meal fixings, or sometimes offer to pick up the tab for takeout, and they get to feel purposeful, spend time with their chopped liver kids and genius unique demi-god grandson, and i get several hours a week to do my thing. my parents and in-laws have even come with me on shoots for the doc, to take care of the Nubbin. they are totally amazing.
it’s not if there haven’t been a few bumpy spots, but hey–therapy’s a given. for the Nubbin and us. i like the “it takes a village” solution and i think it can work as long as we’re all reasonably healthy and functioning. it’s probably the one thing i’d add to hirshman’s list of how to be a mom with brain:
get your family on board and close by. don’t try to do it all alone and have a meltdown in your home.