Feminism v. Mothering

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“Of all the rights of women, the greatest is to be a mother.”
– Lin Yutang

I am a mother.  I am also a feminist, although it seems like these two ideas have become rather incompatible.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that being a feminist these days seems to involve a disdain and disregard for motherhood that is deleterious to everyone involved.  I believe this sect of feminism (because sect it is, despite how mainstream it’s become) has done more harm than good when it comes to motherhood and families, something I will elaborate on below.

Given that, why do I call myself a feminist?  I say I am a feminist because I believe that all individuals are equal, regardless of sex, gender, race, creed, age, and so on.  I believe we should all have the same unassailable rights to vote, to be educated, to be free, to be able to pursue life, liberty, and happiness so long as we refrain from interfering or harming others.  For much of history, this also seemed to be the ideal to which feminists aspired.  If you look at history books, you see such names as Florence Nightengale, Margaret Fuller, Harriet Martineau, Jeremy Bentham, Mary Wollstonecraft, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Stanton, and many more.  These women (and men) fought for women (and many other marginalized groups) to be seen as equals, not inferiors, by writing, engaging in politics, becoming scientists, or taking on the Church.  The largest of these movements, the suffrage movement, was critical in giving women a voice in the politics of their countries; to ensure that they had a say in the direction their country was moving; to make sure that the interests of women were counted.  It is these women and men who were actively involved in abolishing slavery and fighting for the rights of African Americans as well, because they realized the inherent wrongness of believing certain people were somehow better than others.  Frankly, I consider it an honour to call oneself a feminist in the tradition of these individuals, but as people try to change the meaning of the term and with that, the implications of feminism.

This ‘first wave’ of feminism gave way to the next movement, which began in the mid-twentieth century.  Credited as the first, and most notable, book for this movement, The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan changed the nature of feminism from a fight for rights and equality to a social commentary on the structure of society and how the tradition role of women has harmed them irrevocably.  In her work, Ms. Friedan aims to identify the reason for what she saw as the widespread female unhappiness and identifies the culprit as the traditional role for women as housewife, a role that had been pushed onto women during the 1940s, 50s, and early 60s (it is worth noting that in the 1930s, there was a greater societal emphasis on independent women with careers).

The book pins the blame for women’s problems on the societal ideal of femininity (hence the feminine mystique) and calls for a change in society to allow women to pursue their life, without being confined to the biological roles of mother and wife.  It is important to state that this book is actually a great analysis of how the first wave of feminism fell away after obtaining the right to vote, with women returning to the role of housewife and mother without obtaining an education or pushing for a career of their own.  However, I struggle mightily with some of the implications this book made (interestingly even Ms. Friedan later argued it was too anti-family), and how these implications seem to have taken the forefront in the modern feminist movement.

I don’t believe that many women would argue that we should return to a time in which women were barred from obtaining an education or pursuing a career.  But what began with Ms. Friedan’s work was a disdain for motherhood and the idea that it could never be fulfilling and that women need something outside of the home in order to feel fulfilled.  In short: It promoted the masculine ideal of work while eschewing anything traditionally feminine.

In her review on how feminism has treated motherhood in writing, Ann Snitow[1] wrote that the period from 1963 to 1974 is comprised of the “demon texts” (p. 34) on mothering (though she argues some were taken out of context).  These texts, The Feminine Mystique among them, are generally known as those that promoted the idea that motherhood and pregnancy are bad for women.  These texts have been demonized for promoting this view and in turn, feminism had to shift away from this in the mid-1970s.  But what interested me beyond these texts is what she didn’t find.   Most of the feminist pieces in that time and beyond simply ignored mothering – as if it were a non-entity, or something beneath consideration.

Not really until 1980, when Sara Ruddick wrote Maternal Thinking, was there a piece talking about why women are and should be committed to mothering, despite some of the more off-putting aspects of it (particularly in our society)[2].  This again gave way to more work on the negatives of mothering and calls for women to question why they should have children and what their lives might be like if they instead opted for work, a career, travel, etc.; in short, if they unburdened themselves from the shackles of family.  (For a full review of the texts, I recommend Snitow’s work, despite disagreeing with her view that these were good and necessary directions for feminism to take.)

I should make it known here that I am certainly not against the idea of equality in education, the workplace, etc.  In fact, it’s absolutely necessary for an equal society.  The problem is that in pushing for only this sect of the feminist movement has managed to do much more harm than good.  The crux of the most vocal modern-day feminist movement has been to fight for women to have the chance to make it equally in what they themselves have called the patriarchal society.  By doing this, they have placed immense value on the traditional work of men, making it the pinnacle of success and fulfillment in life.  Indeed, according to these feminists, the only way women can be fulfilled is to pursue one of these masculine endeavors; to not do so leads to depression and resentment.  By opting to prize one sex’s work over another, feminists have harmed not only the family, women and children, but men as well.  (This is the issue us other feminists take with this particular sect of feminism – it supports the patriarchal society that is what should be the focus of change.)

Certain misguided politicians have called the recent feminist movement what prompted the downfall of the traditional family, and while vocal feminist scholars have “shunned” the traditional family[3], there is as much blame to be placed on everyone for upholding the notion that motherhood lacks value.  Politicians, corporations, men, women, and feminists have all played their part in making the family a burden instead of a joy.  However, where one might have expected feminists to help change this, too many (but not all) instead worked to ingrain it even more.

Women suffer because it seems that no matter what they choose to do, they can’t win.  In today’s society, the role of mother still is demeaned. In turn, the workplace has evolved with the idea that women aren’t needed at home, pay for work in general is less than it used to be, and certainly not enough for most families to live off one income, as used to be the case.  When a society has decided that women are no longer needed at home, the idea of a stay-at-home mom is a luxury afforded only to the rich.  Women may be getting educated at a much higher rate, but many of them still work jobs that have nothing to do with a “career” in order to help put food on the table while their children are raised by strangers in a daycare setting. The individuals working in the daycare setting, mostly women, are paid low wages (sometimes under the poverty line) because the “work” of caring for children is completely marginalized.  Those with a career aren’t able to balance the work-family life because the family element is so degraded that businesses fail to offer the degree of flexibility needed for women (and men, but we’ll get there) to maintain their career (even with some sacrifices to it like fewer promotions) and care for their family.

Our children have suffered as well.  They’re being raised in record numbers in settings that are not ideal and by people who really have very little vested in their well-being.  When we realize, as a society, that certain aspects of mothering are beneficial to our children, like breastfeeding, we find ways to get them the bare minimum while still keeping mom at work, like pumping, instead of offering reasonable maternity leaves (see Theseus’ Parenting and Maternity Leave Matters).  This still ignores the reality that children need a caregiver who loves and cares for them beyond all else.

The result?  We have children with a plethora of disorders, particularly attachment and mood disorders[4], many of which could be aided and helped by a change in environment, notably more responsive parents or higher quality alloparenting options.  The change in work structure also means that far too many children live in poverty.  Currently, more than 1 in 5 children live in poverty in the United States (defined as less than 50% of the median income)[5][6].  Those numbers are higher than those of the 1970s[7] and possibly higher than the 1940s, though it’s hard to know because they didn’t actually keep records as they do now until the 1960s.  That isn’t to say that poverty didn’t exist, but it was certainly rare for families to have two working parents and still end up under the poverty line, something that happens more often than it should today, with children paying the highest price.

The effects on family, women and children are expected though; after all, devaluing the work of a mother is bound to hurt both mom and child and thus the family dynamic, but people seem to forget or simply not realize that this also has a detrimental effect on men.  One would think that because they were put in the idealized spot of being able to take on the world and conquer it that they would be fine, and for some, they are.  However, the debasing of motherhood has made it even harder for any man who wants to be involved in his child’s life.

A man who says he’d like to stay home with his kids, or take leave after a child is born is generally looked down upon even worse than any woman who makes the same claim.  Although people understand when women try to jump into the traditional men’s sphere, there’s no such understanding when it goes the other way.  For example, while the US doesn’t even have paternity leave (though fathers can take time off under the Family Act), Canada allows 35 weeks of the year’s paid leave to be split between parents as they see fit.  However, only 11% of eligible fathers take this time (although apparently 55% of fathers take some time off, though it may be as little as an unpaid week or two)[8].  While other factors, like financial ones, are bound to be a part of that decision, the fact remains that there is still a stigma against fathers taking leave to do what is considered less valuable work – raising children – yet, the fathers who do take this route seem to unanimously value and love the time they were able to take with their children and wish they could have more of it.

[As a positive note, Sweden offers 60 days of paid paternity-only leave and Norway offer 10 weeks for fathers only.  This is time that cannot be shared with mother and the family forfeits the payments for that time if dad isn’t the one who takes the leave.  This has led to more than 80% of fathers taking leave[9] in Sweden and in Norway 90% of fathers took their leave[10].  The rest of the world should take note.]

This is what this group of feminists fought for.  And now they blame things like attachment parenting and mothers not living up to what they should be doing for the state of women and families because we haven’t seen any real gains for anyone recently.  I question how they could have ever expected anything better when they started with the assumption that one person’s work is more valuable than another’s.

I don’t disagree that many women were depressed and feeling lost when Betty Frieden wrote The Feminine Mystique in 1963, but I don’t think it’s because they all weren’t out there working like men (though that certainly was it for some and is a valuable discussion).  When one’s work, regardless of what it is, remains undervalued and unappreciated, it’s difficult to find joy in what you do and women’s work at this time was regularly looked down upon.  This time also signaled a societal shift to the suburbs where lots were bigger and people moved even further apart.  The loss of community and isolation is enough to drive any person insane – especially one whose primary companions don’t know the alphabet.

What if, however, instead of idealizing the traditional, masculine work, all feminists opted to try and raise the value of the traditional work of women?  To fight for society to recognize the myriad roles a mother plays in a child’s life – teacher, doctor, playmate, parent, etc. – and to value and respect the feminine role of primary caregiver in a family or out, as teachers and other “feminine” jobs continue to be some of the lowest paying.  These feminine roles don’t need to be completed solely by women, but rather by anyone who has the strengths and will to complete them, and that these roles are valuable.  Immensely valuable.

I can’t help but imagine what things would have been like today if instead of fighting for the right to be like men, feminists had fought for the right to be women and to have that acknowledged.  If that had been the route and we had managed to win that battle, would we see men and women openly taking part in the parts of life that worked for them, whether it be having children and staying home or going off to have a career?  I think so.  I also think it’s not too late to change that.

[1] Snitow A. Feminism and motherhood: An American reading. Feminist Review (1992); 40: 32-51.

[2] Ruddick S. Maternal thinking. Feminist Studies (1980); 6: 342-367.

[3] Nelson HL (Ed). Feminism and Families. New York, NY: Routledge (1997).

[4] Mash EJ & Barkley RA (Eds.) Child Psychopathology, 2nd Edition. New York, NY: The Guildford Press (2003).

[5] UNICEF. Child poverty in rich countries 2005. Innocenti Report Card No 6.

[6] U.S. Bureau of the Census. Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009. Report P60, n. 238, Table B-2, pp. 62-7.

[7] http://www.npc.umich.edu/poverty/ (Accessed June 30, 2011)

[8] http://www.canadiancrc.com/Newspaper_Articles/Globe_and_Mail_The_Daddy_Shift_STATSCAN_Fathers_parental_leave_24JUN08.aspx (Accessed June 30, 2011)

[9] http://communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/parenting/archive/2010/09/20/swedish-paternity-leave-canada.aspx (Accessed July 1, 2011)

[10] http://www.norway.org/aboutnorway/society/welfare/benefits/ (Accessed July 1, 2011)

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  1. Jo says

    Love the article!

    I worked in day care (after dropping out of Uni when I got behind after my mum died) and lasted just over 2 months before I quit to be a housewife and now nearly 2 years later have a 3 month old too.

    I am not suited to full time work, it’s not good for my mental health, or my relationship or my physical health (constantly tired and aching ankles and feet) and the house was a tip and I didn’t get to do any of my hobbies. I didn’t want to be at work, I wanted to be at home pursuing my interests of art, reading, writing, cooking, and raising a family.

    I went to University and all the time was thinking to myself: Why am I doing this? But I felt there was something wrong with not wanting to work, as if that was lazy or shameful because I’m intelligent. I would be ‘wasting’ myself. But motherhood is a lot of work and I want to do it properly.

    I wish attitudes could change so that when people ask me when I’m going back to work/what did I do before I had baby, and I respond that I was a housewife and I haven’t a job to get back to (although could do with getting back to being a better housewife!) that they don’t go ‘Oh…..!’ and back away as if it’s contagious, as if I have no value at all. So I drop in that I’m writing a novel and their eyes spark with interest and relief that perhaps I’m not completely useless and lazy.

    It doesn’t seem acceptable to actually mother your children yourself, as if you are being smug by not following what everyone else does which is put them in day care and go work a meaningless, unimportant job, as if that’s not good enough for you or your children. Well it isn’t. I want to claim my biological right as a woman.

    • says

      I’m so glad you’re able to be a housewife and mom. So many are unable to do that. But I agree that people need to realize how demanding and difficult a job it is and how much respect a stay at home parent deserves!

      I’m finishing up my PhD so I have a very flexible schedule (meaning my daughter will not be entering daycare come September when school starts up again), but when I tell people that if I didn’t have this flex time, I probably would take a personal leave to be with her, I get some very weird looks. Like how I could possibly want to stay home with a little girl instead of finishing up my PhD and getting to work. If we could afford it, I’d be at home until she was in school and then find work I could do part time so that I could take her to school and pick her up again!

  2. says

    One of the main problems with modern feminism is they equated equality with sameness. When it is most assuredly not the, ahem, same thing. For a modern feminist to be ‘equal’ with a man they need: dangerous medication to change their body chemisty, dangerous and murderous surgery when the medication doesn’t work, preferential treatment in hirings/applications, and a different set of rules on the job, and, should a woman be gouche enough to not take advantage of items 1 & 2 they need a nanny in their home or a daycare out of their home (both of which take money). All these things are required to be ‘equal’ because they don’t actually *see* women as equal to me, they see them as *potentially* equal if they can achieve ‘sameness’ with a lot of outside help. Traditional feminism, and traditional women, know we *are* equal with men, and *demand* only that the law treat us as equals (rights to vote/education/hold a job). We don’t need all that external stuff because we are *already* equal, and beautifully different, and we revel in our uniqueness as womenand don’t try to become men to please a bunch of femnazis who think we’re inheriently less than a man, even while they scream their superiority and some lame lines about fishes and bycicles.
    “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”, modern feminists gave up their power to rule the world for a crummy 9-5 job that any male and most adolescents could do. The woman who acknowledges her husband as her natural head (and breadwinner) knows the head can’t turn to look without the support of the neck (“behind every good man is a good woman), and the breadwinner goes hungry if he doesn’t have a cook! Women give up their real power, uniqueness, and feminity when they try to be men. We aren’t men. And men aren’t women. Trying to make men into women and women into men makes no one happy, healthy, or prosperious, especially the next generation which is now lacking in proper role models and a proper home environment.
    My worth as a stay at home mother who cares for her husband and children and sees my household fed and clothed, my husband honored, my children raised right is, as the Proverb says “greater than rubies”. Why would any thinking woman give *that* up to be worth hardly more than the gas and childcare?

    • says

      I agree – the idea that equality has to also be the same is deeply flawed. And I would argue (as I did) that that sameness is the form of having to be like men. That what is emphasized is the role of men as being superior. Sadly I don’t think all women give up being at home by *choice* but rather by necessity as pay for most jobs has drastically decreased to the point where the idea of a one-person working family just isn’t feasible most of the time and it’s very sad. I love that some women can do it, but it’s still few and far between!

      • Kerstin says

        The thing with the families that can “afford” for the woman to be at home and with the children usually contains a man that works 12 to 14 hrs a day — which turns the woman into a single parent without the money problems 😉

    • Anon says

      From the article:
      “But what if, instead of idealizing the traditional, masculine work, feminists had instead opted to try and raise the value of the traditional work of women? To fight for society to recognize the myriad roles a mother plays in a child’s life – teacher, doctor, playmate, parent, etc. – and to value and respect her role as primary caregiver in a family (or out, as teachers and other “feminine” jobs continue to be some of the lowest paying). To fight for the work done by women in families to be seen as equally valuable to the functioning of society as the work done by men in companies and corporations.”

      From Jespren:
      “One of the main problems with modern feminism is they equated equality with sameness.”
      “The woman who acknowledges her husband as her natural head (and breadwinner) knows the head can’t turn to look without the support of the neck (“behind every good man is a good woman), and the breadwinner goes hungry if he doesn’t have a cook! Women give up their real power, uniqueness, and feminity when they try to be men.”

      I agree that equating equality with sameness is a problem. But a bigger problem is gendering work in and outside the home, as the author has done by calling work outside the home “masculine” and homemaking/primary caregiving “feminine.” That’s why terminology such as “working inside the home” and “working outside the home” exists. Similarly in Jespren’s comment about acknowledging the man as the natural head, and implying that women working outside the home are trying to be men: In my opinion, the only reasons that these roles are seen as “masculine” and “feminine” are a) Biology has meant that women are more likely to take time off work due to being the one who has to carry, birth and breastfeed a child; and b) society has painted homemaking as feminine and work in “companies and corporations” as masculine for decades, so much so that people actually believe that anything else is strange and unnatural.

      As a feminist, my view is not about swinging the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. It is that men and women should both have the choice between work inside or outside the home, or a combination of both. I am female and very much a career-oriented person, whereas my partner is not and is much better at homemaking than me. There is a good chance that when we have children, he would be the primary caregiver and I would be the “breadwinner.” Saying I am being “masculine” and “trying to be a man” and that he is “feminine” is not helpful to couples inclined towards that sort of lifestyle and not helpful to society’s progress towards more equal opportunities for men and women.

      No, men and women are not the same, but no two people are the same either. Being female does not make me a better primary parent. In my view, this particular “battle” will not be won until the choice of who primarily works inside the home and who works outside it is based on the people involved and not their gender, and choosing to have a female “breadwinner” and a male stay-at-home parent (or part-time working primary caregiver, etc) is not seen as strange and unnatural solely based on gender.

  3. says

    Well, we are in different countries, so it’s possible you’re right when you say a household *needs* two incomes (although that still means somewhere down the line women gave up home for job because it didn’t get that way overnight). But in the U.S. (and I’ve know a lot of stay at home and working moms in my life), what people mean when they say they ‘need’ two incomes is: we need two incomes to have day care, two cars, full cable, high speed internet, home phone, cell phones, date night once a week, take-out every night, $100 jeans and $200 shoes, designer clothes for the kids, etc, etc, etc. In other words: we need two incomes to be in our prefered socioeconomic bracket. One income households are rarely wealthy, but that doesn’t mean single income families are eating dirt. Maybe it means not having cable, a 2nd car, and doing without designer clothes. Maybe it means a smaller house, used car, and brown bag lunches. But the only reason (that I’ve seen in the U.S.) that you ‘need’ that 2nd income, is if you put material gain and items ahead of your families actual needs. The riches of money can never compair with the riches of love and family.

    • says

      Very good point. And it’s not countries – it’s cities. We’re in Vancouver which has topped NYC in cost of living. It’s horrible here and that’s with renting (we can’t afford to buy), one car, brown bag lunches, used (or uber-cheap like Joe) clothes, cheap cell phone plans (we do need them and my hubby needs it for work), etc. The only thing I do spend more than I’d like on is good food because I will spend more to have local, sustainable food when possible as I feel we need to support our local farmers. If it weren’t for my school, we’d be elsewhere (and hope to be later). That said, we have been able to survive this year with me not getting my school scholarship (though I had saved a ton ahead of time by not living extravagantly), but I will be very happy to have my school money back again as it’s now gotten too tight for comfort and I’d like to keep feeding our family :) Thing is, my hubby makes a decent living too, but just not enough here.

  4. says

    Yeah, I think you’ve already heard my thoughts on cities, I’ll summerize if you don’t remember: they suck 😉 . Anyway, absolutely there are singular places and/or circumstances that may (at least for a time) necessitate two parents working outside the home, just like there are those that absolutely necessitate a person working two jobs. But this notion that ‘most’ families just can’t make it without mom and dad both working outside the home, I think, is absurd on it’s face.
    I know I remember you saying it somewhere, but what are you studying if I may? Have a good night.

    • says

      I think in cities it’s much more common – the cost of living is just too high for most one parent families. It’s definitely different if you move out of the city! And although it’s pricier – I admit, I love Toronto (my home city), but that’s primarily because there are so many areas that are so close-knit and family-oriented. I just love that.

      I am studying developmental psychology. Specifically, my dissertation is on empathy in 5-8 year olds (what cues they use to decide whom to help).

      Btw, did you get my request for a guest post? Thoughts?

  5. says

    Ooo, like the dissertation choice. Maybe you’ll let me read it when you get done? I’m a layman, but I’m a lay ‘scholar’, so I can usually keep up with the disciplines I’m interested in. (Although I’ll admit my one and only ‘highly technical’ research book “The Age of the Earth’s Atmosphere: A Study of the Helium Flux through the Atmosphere” is more mathmatical equations than words, took months to get through, and I only understand it in the vagist of senses, which is which is what I get for buying a highly technical book by a Ph.D. in a math based science! I still tackle highly technical pieces on occassion, but stick with shorter articles rather than books, although I really want to get my hands on the R.A.T.E. project’s technical book, the layman’s book is just not detailed enough for me. Ok, I’m done babbling.)

    Guest post? No, I didn’t get that request. I’m flattered! As long as you don’t mind a rather ironic aside about *me* posting on a blog called ‘Evolutionary Parenting’ 😉 i’d love to do a guest post. As for thoughts…I’ve been up since quarter to 3, I think thoughts are beyond me right now, but I’ll think on it. Suggestions welcome! Anything you’d like my take on?

    • says

      I see you got the request – and I don’t mind an aside on you posting on ‘Evolutionary Parenting’. And if you’d prefer to do a different guest post later, I’d be happy to have that :) Especially if you have a topic of interest!

      Hopefully the dissertation pans out with good data – I’m specifically testing kin-detection cues versus others with respect to similarity and how they affect sharing/helping. Btw, if you ever have specific article that you want, email me the citations and I’m happy to download them and email them back.

      Off to airport but send me an email and we’ll discuss guest post further :)

  6. Natasha says

    Thank you so much for this post! I have been mostly home with my baby for the past 1.5 years while my husband has been working full-time. I have still done some side tutoring lessons, but I was just thinking of finding a “real” job, not for financial reasons, but mainly for those societal pressure reasons. I thought that I would feel better about myself and feel more valued for working. Where I live, the childcare cost would be about half of the salary I could get. Do I really want to work some random job just to have my baby cared for by someone else and make not much more money? Also, by staying home, I save all sorts of other money by having the time to do things frugally. My husband doesn’t make a fortune (not even close!), but we make more than we spend most months, plus it’s very important to me to be there for my child (and coming child!). My husband thankfully supports whatever decisions I make.

    Bottom line – some mothers need to work for their sanity or personal fulfillment or extra income, those mothers should work and use daycare. I thank the feminist movement for those opportunities. For me personally, I don’t want to be pressured by society to work or to be devalued for doing my natural role in this world. I enjoy it and love it more than any other job I ever had before it. Plus no one could mother my children better than me!

  7. says

    There was no time when every family could have an adult at home taking car of children. At-home parenting is in some ways a luxury. I grew up in a household with one income-earner, where money was tight because of it, but the one income was a middle-class one. If my dad couldn’t earn the wages he did, my mother would have had to work outside the home.

    More to the point of the actual post here, I think our blogger is confusing a desire for autonomy and self-determination with a distaste for domesticity (You are kind of screwed when you need to re-enter the workforce after parenting full-time for many years). I don’t think she’s the only one who does this – it’s common amongst the mostly young feminists whose blogs are popular. And, it’s an easy conclusion to draw with a drive-by look at what feminists work for. As a kid who identified heavily as a feminist, I tended to live by the shallow, misogynistic, “be like men” interpretation of feminism. As I’ve grown up a bit and started to think about applying feminist thought in my life, I’ve thought a few things through more. And I do agree there’s a pernicious note of misogyny in the rejection of domestic life in general (in fact, I’d call it an attempt to grab for male privilege).

    I’m a feminist in her late twenties who’s looking at having children, and may in fact have to settle for at-home parenting, due to circumstances beyond my control. I say “settle” because it’s not what I’d ideally like to do, and I hate hate hate the financial and social vulnerability that come with the vocation. In fact, I am sure I’d like full-time mothering to a certain extent. I also only liked full-time work outside the home only to a certain extent. But isn’t that life?

    • says

      Sarah – I’m curious as to why you say there was “no time” at which families could have an adult at home taking care of their children. Or is it “every family”? I ask because currently in Japan, there are many families with a stay-at-home parent. In the mid-twentieth century, the same. In certain hunter-gatherer societies, children are constantly with an adult, though the adult is working from home.

      As to the suggestion that I have mixed up the desire for autonomy and self-determination with a distaste for domesticity, I have to disagree. Feminism, as it has been touted and promoted recently, has focused on vilifying the chains of family *while* working for autonomy, but they haven’t been able to separate the two, and it’s that lack of separation that I believe has led to even worse conditions for families today than in the past and in other cultures. However, I will also add that if you desire autonomy, you shouldn’t have children! Bringing another human being into this world who is dependent upon you is tantamount to giving up your autonomy. As for self-determination, I would prefer to see a push towards models of work that allow for women (or men) to be at home with their families while also working, but to do that requires people to realize the importance of the domestic work done in a house. That is lacking.

  8. Kerstin says

    I love the whole post and discussions above. There are so many ways to live ones life, with some elements being taken out of your choice basket (as one of you guys said — that is life). The only problem I have is that the people that should read all this are probably not doing so….like that part of society that makes us feel not valued or is judgemental about the choices we make or have to make about family and child upbringing…

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