On the face of it you would think that Lisa Endlich Heffernan has done well, by herself, by her children, by her marriage.
True, she had to give up her career to stay at home with her three young sons, but she could afford to do it. Her boys are now grown and mostly on their own.
You would think that she would manifest some pride in her achievement. Bringing up three boys and maintaining a solid and stable marriage for well over two decades give her the right to feel some measure of pride.
But, she doesn’t. Now that her children are grown, she has launched a new career as a sad feminist whiner. She bemoans what she lost, what she gave up, what she sacrificed for her children, her home and her family.
Her article on the Huffington Post shows her indulging an embarrassing bout of moral self-flagellation. Somehow or other, feminism has taught her to drown her natural pride in self-criticism. If she wasn’t depressed before she turned down this dead end street, she soon will be.
Since it is well known that self-deprecating criticism is the root of depression, one is justified in saying that the feminist mindset produces depression. Heffernan’s is a classic in glass-half-empty thinking.
For those who think that feminism promotes the freedom for women to choose to live their lives as they see fit, note well that for Heffernan, making a choice that contradicts feminist dogma is very costly indeed.
Why did Heffernan quit her job? She notes that while she was working full time, she had two small children, with another on the way. Despite the best efforts of her super-competent Nanny, her household was complete chaos.
Yet, her mind, addled by feminist pieties, does not look back at the advantages that her children gained by her being a stay-at-home-mom. In retrospect, she can only see the cost. As she looks at the fine young men her boys have become Heffernan is obsessed with how much income she would have earned if she had stayed on the job.
In her words:
The most expensive decision of my life I made alone. There was no realtor, no car dealer and no travel agent when I chose to leave the paid workforce. There was just me looking at my husband, my children and the chaos that was our lives. At no point did I calculate the lifetime impact of diminished earnings and prospects. I looked at the year we were in and the following year, and I bolted.
No part of my brain sat itself down and thought, What is the price, both in this year's dollars and my lifetime earnings, to leaving the workforce, and is it a decision that I might regret a decade or two from now? At no point did I examine the non-monetary cost that would loom just as large. At the time, it seemed forgone: We had two demanding careers, two small children and another on the way, and two adult lives hopelessly out of control.
She ought to feel some shame for quantifying the benefits that have accrued to her and her family. Instead, she feels genuine “remorse,” that is, guilt, for missing out on all that extra income and for having let down feminism.
Her children’s well-being pales in comparison to the “cosmic” importance of feminism.
In some cosmic way I feel that I let down a generation of women who made it possible to dream big, even though I know the real goal of the Women's Movement was to be able to dream anything.
She adds that since she used her driver’s license more than her degree, she was letting down those who had educated her. She says nothing about whether her education might have made her a better mother and whether she might have imparted some of that learning to her children.
She was actively engaged in volunteer work throughout, but she considers that activities like serving on hospital boards were, in the end, a waste of time:
Some of this work was deeply meaningful and some of it trivial in the extreme. Whether it is sitting on a hospital board or raising funds for a nursery school, volunteer activities involve a flurry of activity, but at the end of the day, those who are running the organization carry on and my job was over.
Living in a tony suburb allowed Heffernan to make wonderful friends. Yet, she happily discovers the downside of those friendships: they lacked diversity.
In her words:
During the years at home with my children, I made the most wonderful friends, women I hope to know all of my life. But living in the suburbs among women of shockingly similar backgrounds, interests and aspirations narrowed the scope of people with whom I interacted. In the workplace, my contacts and friends included both genders and people of every description, and I was better for it.
Actually, she was living in a community that was long on social harmony. Nothing prevented her from moving to a community that was short on social harmony and long on diversity, but she chose not to do so. Why do you think she didn’t? Could it be that social harmony contributes to emotional well-being while too much diversity risks producing anomie?
Among the other indignities of being a SAHM, Heffernan found herself functioning as a wife and homemaker. To her that means becoming something that feminists have consistently disparaged.
She does not think that if she had made a different choice she might, at this point, have a fat bank account and a dead marriage. And, she does not seem to recognize that her wonderful children might have been less wonderful if they had felt abandoned by two working parents.
Heffernan says that she has lost confidence in herself, but since feminism does not allow her to gain confidence from the good job she has done with her children, she is forced to define confidence solely in terms of career success:
What I hadn't realized was how my constant focus on my family would result in my aspirations for myself slipping away. And despite it being obvious, I did not focus on the inevitable obsolescence that my job as mom held.
Strangely enough, she is saying that her aspirations for herself did not include being a good mother and a good wife. She is right to say that children, as they grow up, need their mothers less. It’s a sign that she has done a great job at bringing them up to be independent adults.
But, not too independent. A mother who writes an open letter to her children telling them how much she sacrificed for them, is also telling them how much they owe her. Heffernan is now passing her feminist guilt trip on to the next generation.