Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Just A Mom

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."

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

At least your a mother. I have no children, but I stay at home. Women like that make it even more difficult to say that I am a housewife- with no children. What do you do all day, they ask, all knowing smiles...

But I do a ton, and I am far more productive than I ever was when I was a wage slave. I need to come up with a clever answer.

baby room store said...
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Geekwif said...

I want to comment to this, but it is so irritating, so aggravating – her arrogance and extreme presumption are so over the top – I can't even think straight to formulate a decent comment. All I can think at the moment is to pray in desperation that we are saved from a future shaped by those who share her views. Lord, help us if our world ever comes to that.

cute baby photo said...
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Not Crunchy said...

Hey Shannon, I watch GMA when I'm getting ready to go to school in the morning and I think that I caught that spot. I remember being taken aback by some of the comments and agreed with the woman who said that different things work for different people. I think it's ridiculous for any woman or man to tell another woman that she has to either stay home or work while having children. It's a personal decision. I used to work with women who looked down on some of the scientists' wives who stayed home with their children. I thought that was incredibly unfair. But I also think it is incredibly unfair for stay-at-home mothers to condemn working mothers. Live and let live. Good post. -Alice

Not Crunchy said...
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Cathy said...
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Ann V. said...

No "justs" about it, is there??!! I am thankful to Ms. Hirschman too--and you expressed exactly why! Smiling right along with you!!!!
Great post!

molly said...

GEEEERAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATE
post, Shannon!

Anonymous said...

Just meandered to your blog from Mommylife.net and your post got my dander up! (I totally aggree with you!) I've been reading the book "Domestic Tranquility: A Brief Against Feminism" by F. Carolyn Craglia and your post aggrees with everything she writes in the book. I am SO GLAD I do NOT have a TV to watch. I would have been 'FUMING" all day had I seen that ABC interview.
Feminism is a LIE from the pit of hell that completely devalues the position of the SAHM (and the "traditional patriarchal family"). I am so glad there are so many THOUGHTFUL and INNTELLIGENT and DEDICATED SAHM's out here in the REAL world!!!!!

Billy said...
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Shannon said...

Anonymous - I really sympathize! I have wished so many times that I stayed home before we had kids - it was (IS!) rough to learn how to run a house, budget on one income, etc at the same time you're adjusting to becoming a mother. I wish I had a clever answer for you to give - when you come up with one, let us know!

Shannon said...

Geekwif - That was my biggest thought in the midst of watching the show...what if she got to decide? WHat if she could convince enough people? I can't even imagine. But I do feel like I need to step up my efforts to find fulfillment in this *job*. I mean if I'm harboring (way deep down) the idea that what I do isn't as important as an outside career, then how could I expect anyone else to be convinced?

Shannon said...

Alice - Thanks for dropping by! I certainly agree we need to avoid condemning one another. I wouldn't want to demand that mothers stay home any more than I'd want someone to mandate that I go to work.

Shannon said...

Ann - Thanks for commenting. I'm so glad to know other moms who smile about their jobs!

Molly - Thanks! You'd have been a great cheerleader!

Anonymous - I'm sop glad you meandered! Isn't Barbara Curtis just fabulous?! And that is a great book. I love stuff that makes me think!