Sunday, November 27, 2011

Repudiating Her Feminist Mother

There you are, living the feminist dream. You have a husband, children, and a career. Better yet, you are a work-at-home Mom. Your work does not force you to be separated from your children for extended periods of time.

And then one day it crumbles. Your daughter calls you out; she speaks her truth to your power. When feminists ranted about speaking truth to power, they were not thinking of a seven-year old girl talking to her mother.

Dorothy Pomerantz was gobsmacked when her seven-year-old daughter looked up from her pancakes one morning and declared: “When I’m a mom I’m not going to get a job. I’m just going to look after my children.”

Shocked, but still composed, Pomerantz asked why. The girl answered: “Because James, who I’m going to marry, wants to get a full time job. If we both have jobs we’ll have to hire a babysitter to look after our children.”

You have carefully constructed a fulfilling life. At the least, you have constructed your life in accord with advance feminist principles.

And then, one day, your choices are tossed on the guilt heap by a child. Obviously, the little girl does not know what she is saying. She is, as they say, speaking directly from the heart. She has not been exposed to the siren song of feminist ideology.

From the heart, she says that her mother is too detached and distracted, not sufficiently present to her. And, Mother Pomerantz is working at home.

Let’s grant that a working mother can be a good mother. No one is going to say that women may not choose a career path and a lifestyle that allows them to discharge their multiple responsibilities is the best way possible.

Yet, it should not be a secret—I’ve heard it often enough from women I know—that a woman who works full time can be a good mother, but not a great mother.

Certainly, Pomerantz feels some guilt.

She does not take personal responsibility for her decisions. Given her feminist leanings she thinks she is making a sacrifice for the cause.

Instead of asking whether she can improve the way she conducts her life, she says that her feelings are common to working mothers. She is consoling herself by declaring herself to be one of the normal crowd.

In her words: “I don’t think there’s a working mom out there who doesn’t experience some degree of guilt about the choices she has made. A part of me wishes I could be there to pick my kids up after school and take them to soccer and help them with their homework. But a bigger part of me is very happy to be sitting at my desk writing or out at a meeting talking to the interesting adults who populate Hollywood.”

Is she making a free choice? Is she following the most responsible path?

She does not articulate her dilemma in those terms. She resorts to standard feminist boilerplate: “By working (and working at a career I love) I hope that I’m teaching my daughter that as a woman, she can be anything she wants to be. She can work and be fulfilled professionally and have children. I’d also like to think that by the time she gets old enough to work, attitudes in the workplace will have changed from the above so that both parents will be recognized as equal caregivers and employees will be encouraged to find balance and have lives outside of the office.”

Note that work comes first. After work, comes the idea that a working mother can rationalize not helping with the homework because she is setting an example for her child. She wants her daughter to know that “she can be anything she wants to be.”

If there is a more misleading principle in the therapy culture I don’t know what it is. The rest of her thought is simply wrong.

First, you cannot be whatever you want to be. No one can. If you think you can, get over it. You have talents in some areas, but not in others. If you have a tin ear, all the practice in the world is not going to make you another Mozart.

Second, you have responsibilities, not just to your feminist masters, but to your home, your family, and your community. There is no virtue to sacrificing your life to the feminist cult.Or in pretending that you can abrogate your duties in the name of what you want to be.

Third, you have roles. If you have children you might be a mother or a father, but you can’t be both and you can’t be neither. Roles are not interchangeable. A stay-at-home father is not a mother. Even seven-year-olds grasp this point. Blaming cultural attitudes and the business world is like hitting your head against reality. You will damage your head before you make a dent in reality.

Fourth, while a woman can certainly have both a career and a family, it is not necessarily desirable in all cases. It might depend on how old her children are and how much they need their mother’s guidance. The fact that it is possible does not make it desirable or responsible.

Pomerantz does not denounce her daughter for being a traitor to the feminist cause. She sucks it up and tells her that she would support her because women should stick together.

In her words: “I told my daughter that if she wants to stay home, that’s a good choice because I truly feel that as women we should support each other regardless of whether we decide to work outside of the home or not. But I also told her to consider finding a career that she can love.”

Happily, she does not want to manipulate her daughter. Unfortunately, she does it anyway.

Saying that women need to support each other suggests that women belong primarily to a feminist cult. What is wrong with considering women to belong to marriages, families and communities, like everyone else?

And why the emphasis on loving a career? Why not talk about loving her husband or her children? What warp of mind connects true love with careerism?

A young child has not yet suffered the influence of the kind of indoctrination that her mother and her schools will shower on her as she grows up.

Today, in her innocence, this child has seen through her mother’s ruse. She may not know that she is guilt-tripping her mother, but she does know that she does not want to have her mother’s life.

That should give her mother pause.


n.n said...

women belong primarily to a feminist cult

Exactly. As we correct for the excesses of the past, we pursue another extreme. The men who have recognized a reasonable compromise will feel oppressed and betrayed. Our children will be caught in the middle of the confusion and conflict. So the cycles of extremes will inevitably continue. The result will be a lower quality of life for both men and women.

Then again, if Pomerantz's daughter was capable of recognizing both a natural and an enlightened order, despite her mother's prejudice, then maybe there is hope for us yet.

Let's hope her daughter marries and has a family with someone who is equally well balanced.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

We all hope so... but it takes some effort to remain optimistic... seeing what she will be exposed to.

David Foster said...

I really wouldn't read too much into a single comment by a 7-year-old. How many boys over the years have said, "Dad, I'm not going to be a farmer like you--I want to be a locomotive engineer" or "Dad, I really don't want to be a fighter pilot, I want to be a writer"??

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I agree that we should not put too much credence in the words of a 7 year old. I gave it some emphasis because it feels like it is part of a trend. I saw evidence of the same trend in the post I wrote just before this one. And I am seeing it around town, too.

Anonymous said...

Things I said when I was seven...
I'm going to be a male stripper.
(I heard a classmate say they made millions of dollars, and thought it has something to do with stealing mail. I'm female by the way.)

I'm only going to have sex to make babies. (Well...not exactly.)

When I was four I was going to marry a girl, because girls are smart and boys are dumb.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks, for the comment, Anon. I agree that we all say strange things when we are children... that's why we have to put away the toys of childhood.

I would only mention that saying and wishing are one thing... taking a vow and swearing is quite another.

I am aware of people who swore as children not to do something or to do something and who felt bound to keep their word.

But, it's an interesting point to discuss.

Liam said...

Tis is one of that articles I've ever read.

My mother is a feminist and my dad stayed at home, I sort of rebel in favour or mans rights and have joined a men's movements because I see men as being grinded down and emasculation, I feel it's important to rebel, if I didn't have a feminst mother I wouldn't even care about stuff like that.