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On "The Feminist Housewife"....


I must admit, I didn’t read the whole thing, I ran out of time because it took me twenty two minutes to convince my 19 month old daughter to let me put on her shoes and then I had to literally run to the subway to make it to a meeting, so maybe somewhere near the end the author stopped to consider the fact that the subject of her story, much like every other woman living within the bounds of this magazine’s domestic subscription service, is a member of the only generation of american women to have ever lived that truly have the luxury of choice between career and full time motherhood, not to mention anything in the ever-expanding grey area that lies between that we might be crazy enough to consider attempting, and I just missed it.

Its an awesome thing to consider, isn’t it? That we actually have that choice? And I don’t know about you, but when you consider that fact it makes listening to someone like this woman prattle on about her adorable husband and giving up her gratifying pre-baby career sound a whole lot like the two women standing behind me at the coffee bar at the Tribeca Whole Foods this morning discussing wether or not they should have to pay their housecleaners extra for doing laundry, and not just because both discussions are incredibly boring.

And the idea that this woman has this luxury of choice, between career and raising their children, because she has an education? If that were true then my husband, who holds several degrees and also has a real knack for managing our toddler, would have a choice too, when the reality, at least for him, is that taking a few years off to raise our children would be career suicide, and would probably also cost him, through the rules of social norms that have applied, unchanged, to men for centuries, many of his friendships.

This woman has this choice, this luxury of a choice, as difficult and decadent as it is, not just because she has a skill or an education, but because of the generations of american women who came before her, because of the rules that they broke and the laws that they challenged and all of the frightening and humbling and brave things that they had to do, so that their daughters would have the freedom - within their society as well as within their own minds -  to choose between two equally righteous paths. How disappointing that this woman, who has "put her children first", is on the cover (in a proud pose that almost completely obscures her child, I might add) when an inspiring story about a loving, committed for life, couple made up of two women, which runs in the same issue, is not. Feminist housewife, indeed. Who here, is the courageous one, bilking the system and blazing a new trail towards equality? Or wait, what's the definition of feminism again? I'm getting confused. I thought it was something about believing in the importance of freedom of choice.

This is not a new or newsworthy debate, it’s one that plays itself out in the mind of every american woman through every phase of her life, and regardless of the side we each choose or the variation or combination of the two paths that we opt to attempt to wrangle on a daily - no, hourly -  basis, it will not be concisely answered by any one of us, regardless of trends. Each of us must do what is best for us, and for our families and our children, and like it or not, we all must choose a side, and then, in the name of good manners if nothing else, we ought to just respect, even support, one another and the decisions we each have made, and shut the hell up about it.


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Reader Comments (19)

I, too, didn't get to finish the article. After reading the first subject blather on and on I just wanted to slap her then ask her "who cares?" I'm not certain why this article is on the cover except if to just ruffle people's feathers.

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJill @ Made with Moxie

By the sounds of it the article would irritate the heck out of me, but what a well-written response. Heather, you rock on so many levels. Good manners, yes please!

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJane

I started to read it, laughed, read Jonathan Chaitt's reaction to it, laughed and thought 'what a dumb****'.' I WISH I'd had a 'choice'. I worked, I raised my kids, i volunteered at their schools, I helped with homework and yes, my house was a mess. What a glorious mess! My kids love me, my husband still laughs with me and life goes on........

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

Your daughter is 19 months old?!! Already?!!! Dang, time is passing way too fast!

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLorene

The article got me at "...his low six-figure income." Huh. Of course she has choices. BTW, I love seeing this other socio-political-editorial side of you Heather.

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCLou

"......and shut the hell up about it." Thank you Heather, this sums up my feelings about this nonsense. I don't have a choice. I have to work. My husband has to work. It wouldn't do a bit of good for another mom to judge me for being a working mom. The mortgage has to get paid and dinner has to get on the table.

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

I love you Heather.. and that article rubbed me the wrong way too. But I guess that's the point of all this Feminist rehash? To get everyone all riled up and further entrenched in their bunkers. Stay at home moms on this side, working moms over here... and heaven forbid the two sides ever speak to one another. Each side too busy throwing rocks and defending their choices to maybe find some common ground.

March 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrooke Reynolds

I too feel richly blessed to have a choice, but my husband decided to have the same choice and when our first was born, he announced he wanted to work part time to stay home. I thought I was free of gender stereotypes, at least as far as they applied to me!!! But 10 years and 3 kids later, it has been a glorious ride. Pretty much everyone criticized us at the outset, both working part-time - but now I hear almost nothing but wistful approval. I don't miss the income we could have made (check back when I'm 70 and still working) and I love how its worked out for us. But in the end, your choices must work for each family, be flexible, and take the needs of each member into account.

March 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMamadoc

I'm a well-educated mom (2 degrees from top-level colleges), but there's no choice for full-time parenting work for me. As a single mother, I used my freedom of choice to adopt and raise two older children who would otherwise have no family, no anchor and most likely, little chance for a solid, secure adulthood. I'm dang proud of making that choice (and of my two fabulous teens), but I'd be lying like a rug if I said I don't struggle with envy (and a little bitterness) of my age-mates who have the option to do just one job, caring for children, home and family. What a luxury! But being a solvent, relatively sane, single parent is also a luxury that previous generations of women didn't have. Lucky me :-)

March 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnna in Atlanta

I just wish as women we could support each other and stop comparing.

March 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMargie

Thanks Heather...I think the point has gotten lost - we have choices, lots of them, and mine aren't necessarily going to right for you. And as far as I'm concerned, that's okay

March 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterleah z

Amen! Respect, support each other and then shut the hell up! Damn straight.

March 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermelissa q.

Thanks for reminding me how blessed I am to stay home with my 3 kids. When I had them - 3 in 4 years and couldn't afford childcare to go back to work - it wasn't really a choice. Now we have learned to make do with less and I really enjoy being the mom that hides the Easter eggs for the class. (today's job!) I also know I am a big ball of stress just doing the SAHM life and I can't imagine if I added the insane stress of job to the mix. I am not cut out for that and I would be the biggest crab apple ever. So I don't get Tory Burch flip flops like my neighbors, but I get peace of mind.

March 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDeirdre

My mother worked full time (out of need, not to fulfill some sense of self worth that she couldn't find in her family) when I was a child and my father worked two jobs. From the age of 8 I was home alone after school (they could not afford day care) and from the age of 12 was the full time care giver to my 6 year old brother. Coming from the life I did I do respect women and/or men who (when they have the choice) choose to stay home. I would have given anything as a child to have come home to someone who loved me instead of a TV. It is a very complicated issue indeed.

March 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKellie

Okay...that is a really long article and I stopped reading after the first page. I am 55 and grew up during a lot of the feminist movement, the bra burnings etc. You know what? It is wonderful to have a choice and a voice. And I thank all those women before me who made it happen. It is wonderful to have a working outside the home/full time home person choice...do it or not. But not everyone has that choice. Some do and decide to work outside the home...go for it, be happy in whatever you are able to decide to do. Some decide to be full time stay at home parent/person, be happy in whatever you choose to do. And don't give someone else who decides differently than you a hard time.

March 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSue.

"Each of us must do what is best for us, and for our families and our children, and like it or not, we all must choose a side, and then, in the name of good manners if nothing else, we ought to just respect, even support, one another and the decisions we each have made, and shut the hell up about it. "

March 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie

Oh wow, I actually wasn't aware of this article at all until I did my occasional-check-up-on-how-Heather-Ross-is-doing. I haven't started a family yet, but I can't imagine being able to renounce my career for it (although I would love to, if anything to stay home and get some sewing done, heheh). The stance that the article seems to take is really disappointing and seems to exemplify an ignorance that's really rather frightening. I appreciate the food for thought this morning!

March 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen

I agree! We all need support in our decisions from each other (by that I mean our comrades....other parents of children!) We all make sacrifices, we all make tough choices. My mom was a single mom and I spent *a lot* of time w/ my grandparents. I have a really close connection with them because of that and a lot of great memories. But I also have a couple memories of crying because I wanted to see my mommy. And my mom telling me how she would sit in her car and cry because she had to drop me off at daycare.

I know very happy working moms, and very stressed and miserable working moms. I know very happy stay at home moms and very stressed and miserable stay at home moms (and several dads). We all do the best we can, and yea, I absolutely consider myself lucky that I had the choice today at home full time! I hope to return to work (teaching) one day, but I would like to have and raise a second do who knows when that'll be. ;)

My husband is a student and works part time. I'm bit sure how we work it that I get to stay home with our son but we do. And I count my blessings every day that I'm able to do that, and in some sense heal my own childhood (though that's not the only reason I do it).
I too, get judged and get comments often (mostly from family) about how I should go back to work, at least find something part time, since my husband is so busy. But we've talked and talked about it and this is what works for our family, it makes us happy and removes some stress. We don't have any savings but my time with my son us do valuable to me.

So anywho, I feel no one deserves to lord their position over others, and no one deserves to judge other parents' decisions in life!

April 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJulia

Maybe you should have read the whole article before criticizing... I do not agree with everything that lady says in the article, but I think that she is quite honest and I don´t think she is looking down on those who make a different choice than herself.
I grew up in Czechoslovakia, then a communist country, where it wasn´t allowed for women to stay at home with their kids - they were required to take a job. And I can tell you - there is nothing exciting for the child to be "raised" by day-care workers and/or other institutions... As Kellie, I too had to take care of my much younger brother and had to bear too much responsibility too soon. As an adult, I had to deal with lot of problems that were a fruit of this livestyle.
I have three kids, now 16, 13 and 8. Before having kids, I was a social worker as the lady in the article. And I decided to stay at home with my children as well. And it doesn´t mean that all I did was cooking and changing diapers :) I wrote several books and curriculums, taught number of seminars and workshops... Now, I work part time as a teacher at college (I teach social work), I homeschool my youngest as he has some learning challenges. I never regreted my choice. And yes, I do consider myself to be a feminist.
I really do not understand why you are so negative and upset about that article. It is about an interesting phenomena in US, a new wave of women choosing to stay at home with their kids. That´s all. If you are sure about your own choices to be right than you do not have to be so upset about others making different choices from your ow.

January 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

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