on looking “down on young women with husbands and children…”

My mother-in-law had been in town so I missed this post when it first went up: “I Look Down on Young Women with Husbands and Children and I’m Not Sorry.” Many have responded, viscerally, thoughtfully, angrily, nonchalantly… All of that. The blogosphere is a rich, vibrant thing. Terrifying, too, as the author is receiving death threats. What the what?

My reaction? The author asks pretty early on, “Do people really think that a stay at home mom is really on equal footing with a woman who works and takes care of herself?”

Well, I don’t at all, really.

In no way, shape or form would I request or expect equal footing with say, my best friend. She has the same education as me, but has worked steadily since we both got our graduate degrees 20 years ago. She advanced in her field is now directing governmental affairs for a very large energy company. We’re not on equal footing financially or professionally. She is a powerhouse in her industry. She is amazing. Me? I’m a writer and editor, I managed public affairs at nonprofit organizations. Even if I had continued to work steadily after having children, I still wouldn’t earn what she does. She’s in a more lucrative field.

We each made different choices. I don’t expect mine to have the same payoff.

As for this: “…women secretly like to talk about how hard managing a household is so they don’t have to explain their lack of real accomplishments.” Ouch. It hurts because she struck a nerve.

I openly discuss how hard I work to manage a household. I do consider it an accomplishment. It’s not at all equal to anything other than perhaps what my mother did when she was my age (as that’s my only real point of comparison). But I will also openly discuss all my other accomplishments, as a volunteer, as a writer, as an athlete, as a singer, as a friend, blah blah blah. I have an ego. Who doesn’t?

But I’ve written before how a break from the world of paid work can affect one’s confidence, since there’s less pressure to perform. Since that post nearly two years ago, I took on more as a volunteer, I revved up my writing consultancy… I put myself under some pressure. Pressure’s a good thing. It inspires change.

And I appreciate Ms. Glass’ post. I do. But she used a bit of a straw man in her opening salvo: “equal footing.” I’m not certain that’s what any stay-at-home parent really wants. Nor am I certain that stay-at-home parents need applause.

I’m pretty sure they just expect acknowledgement. If children are to continue to be born, households will continue to need to be managed so that children will be able to grow. It’s not rocket science, or neurosurgery, or international diplomacy. It’s just a factor in our economy.

You know the one, that thing that allows some of us to work hard and earn lots, and others to earn nothing and give lots… and allows all the others to do everything in between… Until we choose or are able to do something differently.

Choices reflect points in time. Nobody is one thing forever. Looking down on young women with husbands and children may not make Ms. Glass feel sorry, but if done too long… her neck will get sore.

Chin up, everybody.

5 thoughts on “on looking “down on young women with husbands and children…”

  1. Thank you for this balanced observation. As you point out the key term is “equal footing.” What does the autfor mean? Her conclusion: “Women will be equal with men when we stop demanding that it be considered equally important to do housework and real work. They are not equal. Doing laundry will never be as important as being a doctor or an engineer or building a business. This word play is holding us back.” She appears to mean that “equal with men” is a sex-blind existence. If so, she’s bound to be disappointed. Her frustration is palpable but her focus is strictly on herself. She “looks down” on “young women with kids” not because these women are leading unfulfilled lives but rather because they contribute, in the author’s mind, to a society that still values men more than women and that diminishes her achievements. I get it, but haven’t we all had enough of some people telling others what to do and trying to shame them if they do not?

  2. I always wonder, when people write those types of pieces, if they realize it’s like the alcoholic going around telling people not to drink. Or the person who makes sure to tell you they don’t care what people think of them (and then keeps telling you over and over). If you have to defend it this hard AND put down others in the process, you’re probably a little insecure about the choices you made.

    At least that’s what I always tell myself when someone puts me down.;)

  3. You did it again. This is exactly the very thing I was just feeling- that I get looked down on by people. You’ve really got wonderful perspective on everything. You are so right- we, the moms, who stay at home, are not in fact equal to the working woman with the awesome career. We are two different people, two different lives. It’s comparing apples and chicken.

    Some people to write to get a reaction and sometimes, the level headed people (like yourself) think..oh boy…well they don’t deserve death threats. But to some people, it truly hurts them to their core…esp when the core is still new, young, and fragile.

    Long thought short…I still hold on dearly to your earlier feelings of being equal to your husband. I think we have to remember that hourly…especially if our husbands are not treating us differently otherwise.

    Not to sound immature, but I absolutely heart you.

    1. Thank you Kate. I heart you back, if only because all these kudos go straight to my head. And heart. 🙂 And yes, equality in a marriage is a different animal than equality among our cohorts or peers.

      Yesterday I actually complained to my husband that I was really tired after reading at my laptop all day and writing for a couple hours. He said ‘mmm hmm…’ He was in another state, essentially fulfilling the duties of two completely different positions in two completely different locations, and was on his way back to to us. As soon as the words came out of my mouth I said, “Not that you don’t know what tired is, working two jobs 12 hours a day from a hotel and and an office in the snow…” I could hear him smile and he said “It takes a while to get used to a new routine.”

      That. That right there is equality in a marriage: respect for what the other one is doing. Acknowledgement that what you’re doing is hard, and what the other is doing is hard. And the foundation of that equality? I think I’m pretty fantastic. And my husband thinks he’s pretty fantastic. We don’t need the other to make us feel good about ourselves. We just happen to enjoy the fact that the other does.

      Thank you for reading and commenting. Please don’t stop! 🙂

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