There are many times when we are discussing difficult issues and the issue is staring us right in the face. But the reason we don’t go there is because we think it’s not permissible in the current culture. There was an article recently on CNN.com that is a great example.
A digital producer, Alexandra King, recently wrote about an interview that the Harvard Gazette gave to Lauren Groff, a novelist. During the interview, Groff was asked how she achieves a balance between work and family. King was really interested in what she would have to say. Most women struggle to balance the two, so King was hoping to get some insight into how to juggle both work and family. Instead, Groff said:
Until I see a male writer asked this question, I’m going to respectfully decline to answer it.
Social media picked this up, and many women heartily agreed with her answer. But King was disappointed.
King does not have children. She must be thinking about it, although I have no idea what her marital status is. But Groff did not answer the question for King. All she did was have a snappy comeback.
King is struggling here. She’s wondering if super women really exist. In her view, work/family balance for most women is achieved:
WITH GREAT DIFFICULTY. BALANCE ISN’T EVEN THE RIGHT WORD. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO SOMETHING.
King was searching for some help, some advice, but she received none. Most women in today’s society, bombarded by the feminist message, don’t see why women should be hindered in their careers by their family. They want to be unhindered, just like men appear to be. King feels the same way, yet, she says:
But more broadly, I’d argue, whether we like it or not… current circumstances do make this a woman’s question. It’s an undisputable fact that it’s the ladies, not the gents, who have to endure the physical onslaught that is pregnancy, birth and postpartum recovery.
And later, she says:
It’s safe to say that American mothers live in crisis. Yet your average working mother is rarely asked how she balanced work and family. She just has to figure it out.
The problem, says King, is that successful women such as Groff never really say how to achieve work/family balance. They never answer the question. And most women in our society are simply struggling. They believe everyone else is doing it except them. Most women believe the successful women have actually figured it out. However:
The sort of women who are publicly asked about what it’s like to be a working mother in the United States are almost always the ones more likely to have more resources to address the myriad challenges every working woman in America faces.
Exactly, celebrities and top business women seem to have it all together, but that’s because they’ve got money to hire “resources” to take care of their children. They may have nannies, tutors, or well-paid babysitters. Or they send the kids to top boarding schools where they don’t have to worry about them. Or they can take off a year or two from work without seriously damaging their family’s finances. Meanwhile, most women today aren’t at a financial level to have those “resources”.
So what is the answer?
In her article, King seems to believe the answer is for the U.S. government to give women more paid maternity leave. She misses the point that it’s not the government who has the answer. Even if a woman were to get 3 years of paid maternity leave, she might not be present for her child. The answer is for the parents to allow the mother to take time away from her career in the early years to be present for her children.
But what if King could actually question whether her premises about feminism are true?
- Why do women struggle so much with this?
- If women are liberated, why is childcare still a burden for them?
- Why does the daily burden of caring for children still mostly fall to the mother, while men still feel most comfortable with being the primary provider for the family?
- If nature or God equipped women with the means for giving birth, for nourishing them when they are infants, and with empathizing with their children more than men, then is feminist ideology really true?
I’m sure some of you reading this are wondering what cave I crawled out of. Where have I been for the past 50 years?
I get it. I’m not trying to say that women are not equal with men, nor am I trying to say that women are the only ones who should be raising children. Women are just as smart and capable as men. Women should be allowed to have the same careers as men, where physical strength is not an issue.
But why not look at whether mothers should look be spending more time with their children and less time at work? Perhaps suspend their career, especially when the children are very young. Perhaps super women don’t really exist.
This is the recommendation of Erica Komisar, a psychoanalyst who wrote Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters. She writes about many studies that show how children do much better physically and psychologically when their mothers – yes, their mothers – stay home and take care of their children. This I not a religious belief. It’s something she discovered through her own work. She herself worked part time in the early years. She writes:
From my firsthand professional observations, I have come to understand the connections between these symptoms and disorders and the emotional and physical absence of young children’s mothers in their day-to-day lives. An increasing number of parents come to see me because their child is suffering from a variety of social, behavioral, or developmental disorders. It’s clear to me that these symptoms are often related to the premature separation of children from their mothers.
What is the primary problem?
Too often, mothers are putting their work and their own needs ahead of their children’s. I know this issue is a very controversial one – so controversial, in fact, that few dare to address it.
There it is again. No one wants to talk about it. Young children need their parents’ time, especially their mother’s time.
The obvious answer for King’s question of work/family balance seems to be to put career on pause, at least for awhile. Stop struggling and searching for an answer that doesn’t seem to exist. Instead of stretching both you and your child, give yourself time to be with your child by taking time away from your career.
But the feminist leanings in King don’t seem to allow her to go there. I suspect it’s hard for most women to consider that. Most probably still think there’s a way to do both excellently.
It has only been since the 1970’s he women have entered into the workforce in large numbers. It remains to be seen whether the social experiment of feminism actually works. We have already seen that no-fault divorce, which was a well-meaning approach to helping couples get out of a failed marriage, has been a disaster. It may be that we will see that with feminism as well.