This segment on ABC's Good Morning America has a lot of stay-at-home moms really up in arms. The guest, Linda Hirshman, has basically declared that raising children and running a home are not worthwhile pursuits for an educated woman. That we owe it to feminism to work and that our place is in an office. That, in fact, staying home is not an option women should be allowed to choose.
This article is a very good overview of her position and of why she's just so wrong, so I won't go into all that right now. What I want to talk about is this quote. When confronted by women who say that staying home to be wives and mothers is the most fulfilling thing they could do, Ms. Hirshman has this to say...
"I would like to see a description of their daily lives that substantiates that position," she said. "One of the things I've done working on my book is to read a lot of the diaries online, and their description of their lives does not sound particularly interesting or fulfilling for a complicated person, for a complicated, educated person."
Let's nevermind for a moment that she's calling me "uncomplicated" (the educated woman's code word for stupid) and that she assumes her definition of interesting and fulfilling should go for everyone. What's so striking to me is that we do, as a culture, believe that "homemaker" is about as dull an occupation as there could be. We value home and hearth and family so little that this woman believed she could get away with calling for women to be unable to choose staying home. And she's gotten national exposure for this idea. Can you imagine Good Morning America doing a segment on someone who didn't believe women should be allowed to work? Could a person get on national television saying that women were letting down society by going to work?
But frankly I have to say that I'm grateful to Ms Hirshman, at least in some small part for opening my eyes. I guess part of me really thought that with so many intelligent, educated women of my generation choosing to stay home, that we were past the point where making a home and raising children was seen as a big dull waste of time. I thought at the very least we'd progressed to a point where most people viewed it as an equal option to working full time. But clearly the idea that I am "just" a housewife or "just" a mom is still going strong out there. So what do I do? Do I go door to door defending myself with studies that show children are better off when mom stays home? Do I turn on the moms I know who work - my own mom included - in an effort to make myself feel better? I don't think so. I don't have time to go around proving how fulfilled I am or fighting to make everyone take me seriously. And no way am I going to pretend that every minute of my day is mentally challenging and stimulating - no one who's ever swept the kitchen floor nine times a day would buy that anyway. But I can do all those things that make this a fulfilling profession instead of sitting around watching Dr Phil and parking the kids in front of Sponge Bob. And I can make sure I keep my own attitude straight. I can know in my head and heart that what I'm doing is worthwhile. I can really believe that my job is as noble a calling as being a missionary or brain surgeon or Supreme Court justice. And I can let my actions and my speech reflect that. Never again, NEVER AGAIN, will I say I'm "just a mom."