Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Desperate ex-housewives

Of course that title was going to catch my eye.

The ex-housewife in question is Terry Hekker, a woman who made waves in the 70's by writing about the pleasures of just being a housewife in a world where Ms magazine had us burning our bras. Apparently life ended up not going smoothly for Terry down the road, and she recently gave us an update; a cautionary tale prompted by "The Times story that will not die: young women opting out."

Yes, the mommy wars just won't seem to die. I read about Terry in Ellen Goodman's syndicated column. I've always enjoyed Goodman's writing, but this time she managed to part through the muck being flung from both sides and hit the nail right on the head, echoing my very point on the whole matter with this quote:

"We still haven't made work bend to the arc of life and love. Nor have we made it easy to opt back into the workforce after you opt out. As long as this is cast as an individual choice, as long as it's left to the mommy warriors, the rest of society gets off the hook."

As long as we keep looking at it as a war, no one wins. And you know, of course most of the women at the center of this debate would not end up in Terry's financial predicament. But her admonishment to those who are pondering "opting out of the workforce" is not without merit. Nothing in life is certain, and the way we live these days---the creature comforts we enjoy tend to have us living beyond our means. Even a well educated woman with a business degree, staying home with her two or three kids, a mortgage and an SUV would find her life turned upside down if her husband left her for his secretary.

And don't get me wrong, those of you who have never heard my diatribe on this topic before, I am not taking sides. Women need to do what's best for them and their families. What I hate about the mommy wars are those who presume to think it's a simple choice for most women, when it isn't, those who have it all planned out or think they know what they want at 24 when in reality nothing is going to go as you plan, and the system in general that is still not friendly and flexible to the working woman. When all is said and done as long as the SAHM's and professional women of the nation sling "who's better than who?" and we debate what's right and what's unfair, we haven't come a long way baby after all.

Anyway I started this whole thing just to bring up that Terry Hekker is going to be on NPR's On Point today.

I'll have a more light hearted stuff later.


Jobee said...

Sorry -- I don't get it. How does an article about how a woman gets dumped after all these years tie into the "going back to work" choice? The inequity of the article is in the crappy decision of the judge where it appears that assests and expenses were not split equally. She seems to have lived a full life, whether paid or not. I think we need to start separating out the money equation from fulfillment and happiness.

Giovanna said...

Well, there's a lot of things tied in together, it's not just about money.

I brought Hekker up, only because she was adding another voice to the newest twist of young women getting their MBA or law degree, admitting that once they have a baby they are just going to stay home. This infuriated the feminists who cry foul, because after working so hard to get women to the positions they are in now, (which are still not equal to a man's) these girls are not taking using the opportunity afforded to them, and furthermore, by making this open admission are hurting future female hirees in migh power careers because now a manager or partner will look at any young female applicant and ask, "Should I waste my time and effort grooming this woman here if she is just going to bail in 3 or 4 years?"

What do your friends do with child care and stuff? Have they run across any conflicts or discrimination because of kid issues? I know one is a lawyer right?

My point is that as long as women have a uterus and not a penis there will never be equality in the workplace. If there were more systems in place, like childcare, flex time, work at home, job sharing, so women didn't have to "choose" between work and family, (because despite what people may think, you can't have it all, not all at once anyway. Something will always have to give) then much of the animosity and risk would diminish.

Jobee said...

Most of my friends with children have just made it work. Only one seems to have been passed over for promotion because of pregnancy (and twice, I might add), but did agree to part time work so she can spend 2 days at home. The other women have either bought support through day care, nanny, or have family members that help out. NYC is so expensive that very few could choose to stay home, but most wouldn't anyway because they like what they do and worked hard to get to where they are now.

The feminists who are angry that those chicks want to stay home are the problem. Feminism means equality, but also choice. Just because those women are highly educated, they can choose however they want to live their lives. I don't feel that they are hurting me and my ability as a woman to suceed in the workplace. Perhaps my field is just more enlighted than most.

Jobee said...

"so women didn't have to "choose" between work and family, (because despite what people may think, you can't have it all, not all at once anyway."

This makes it sound so black and white -- no one can ever have it all -- having what is important and how one prioritizes counts. Perhaps those chickys know that their family will be a priority for a while and when priorities shift, life changes, kids are kicked out of the house, they will at least have the degrees to look for work.

Giovanna said...

they will at least have the degrees to look for work.

That is the crux, and Hekker's point: they may not be able to get it, despite the degrees or what you can do.

I agree with you btw, on the black and whiteness, and the femi-nazis having the problem. Everyone needs to just chill.