The mommy backlash is now really underway
Seems like Judith Warner's article in the New York Times was just a warm-up to a longer one in Newsweek. Of course, the trend of pushing back at the mommy myth was kicked off by the book by Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels. Douglas and Michaels had an astute feminist view of the whole mommy myth thing, which is that it is backdoor way of rebuilding a culture of female servitude--if we can't demand that women live for men anymore, then we will simply say that women live for children.
Anyway, because it was in Newsweek, I had real fears that the feminist critique of the problem would be watered down, but it wasn't as bad as I feared. Warner, for instance, breaks protocol and blames society.
They've been bred to be independent and self-sufficient. To rely on their own initiative and "personal responsibility." To privatize their problems. And so, they don't get fired up about our country's lack of affordable, top-quality child care. (In many parts of the country, decent child care costs more than state college tuition, and the quality of the care that most families can afford is abysmal.) Nor about the fact that middle class life is now so damn expensive that in most families both parents must work gruelingly long hours just to make ends meet. (With fathers averaging 51 hours per week and mothers clocking in at an average of 41, the U.S. workweek is now the longest in the world.) Nor about the fact that in many districts the public schools are so bad that you can't, if you want your child to be reasonably well-educated, sit back and simply let the teachers do their jobs, and must instead supplement the school day with a panoply of expensive and inconvenient "activities" so that your kid will have some exposure to music, art and sports.
Good so far, and even better than she makes practical suggestions for collective action later in the article. But am I asking for too much when I ask that these things stop being considered the problems of just women or just mothers? Men want their kids to be safe and well-educated, don't they? Warner gives a nod to the fact that men are overworked, too, and that this is a problem for families but then drops it.
I don't think she's deliberately trying to excuse men, really, it's just that women are probably the ones that are most frazzled by the demands of child-rearing. And that's because they do most of the work. It's a difficult tightrope to walk, acknowledging that men have time issues too while trying to figure out a workable solution while oh-so-gently trying to hint that maybe women would be a little happier if they didn't have to do everything around the house.
Now that I've complained, I don't have any solutions. I'm not going to have kids, in no small part in order to wiggle out of finding out if I could get their father to pull his fair share or not. Ignorance is bliss when it comes to that particular battle. But I know well enough that this problem isn't going to go away without a some men's Me Time getting sliced into, and the only intellectually honest route is to just admit it.