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The Mommy Wars continued: The Retro Wife

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Culture & Entertainment

The Mommy Wars continued: The Retro Wife

Lots of commentary going around on the New York Magazine article "The Retro Wife". I happened to read it while I was hiding in the bathroom this morning pretending I was still getting dressed for work as my seven-year-old cried that March Break was over and my toddler ran around carrying his diaper yelling "no school!" Let's lay out some ground rules for discussion here: First and foremost, whatever choice you are making for your family's work-life balance, I support you in making it. Second, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Third, economically, a lot of families do not get the luxury of choice about two paycheques coming in. But boy did this article annoy me. The premise of the latest NYC-based volley in the mommy wars is buried on page two: "Generally speaking, mothers instinctively want to devote themselves to home more than fathers do." If I may summarize what I took from the article: Working is not that fun, women naturally want to stay home, so why should women not stay home and do that really well? It might even make their families run more smoothly. And isn't that a feminist choice? Well...sure. I don't have a problem with individual women making decisions that are right for them. You can absolutely be a stay-at-home-parent and be a feminist. I do have a problem with deciding, as the article seems to, that women biologically have a greater desire to stay home. Look, I just don't believe that I was born to be more concerned with domestic life.  I believe that I learned, by watching my mother, by watching other women around me and by the messages I got growing up from television and books and society at large that the domestic sphere was important, and my job. I also know that if someone in my family were to step out of the workforce it would, in fact, be me...for the simple reason that I am the lower income earner. And to frame it a little simplistically, I am the lower income earner because although both my husband and I were completing our educations as the Internet was coming into existence, I chose to create words and pictures and he chose to create scripts and databases. And I'm pretty sure that grade 10 math had a lot to do with that, for me, and I don't think it was the feminine hormones hitting, if you know what I mean. It was a case of a teaching style that did not mesh with my learning style, and hating math being acceptable for girls. And from there, a multitude of choices and challenges. There have been times in my career that I have, to use Sheryl Sandberg's thinking about it, leaned back...that I have not gone after a big job because I was anticipating the biggest job (having kids) landing on my plate. My husband also raises our kids but I don't think he ever saw it as incompatible with his professional goals. So if I were to walk away from full-time work today so that our family ran more smoothly, would it really be because that was more important to me than my husband or because I am better at multi-tasking? If our salaries were reversed, I'm pretty sure that picture would change. So, no. In other words, I suppose my feminism still includes the idea that women need to be careful about accepting the idea that trading in economic power for domestic harmony is biologically wired. I don't mind if women want to be "retro housewives" as long as they don't imply that it's something all women should be doing.  
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The Mommy Wars continued: The Retro Wife

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