So, I just got an email from a friend promoting a book written by one of her friends. It’s The Feminine Mistake: Are We giving Up to Much?, and it looks to be an honest assessment of the affects of quitting one’s job in order to raise one’s children, with something of an emphasis (as one might gather from the title) on why that might not be such a great idea after all. I’m planning on reading it; I’m hoping it won’t be quite such an extension of the so-called “Mommy Wars” as the title suggests, and I’m hoping that I can read it without taking it as an indictment on my whole life as I currently live it, since what I make as a writer would not actually support me and my children in the style to which we have become acustomed.
I’m hoping that, of course, but I have to admit that the email, detailing the buzz and promotion that lies ahead of writer Leslie Bennetts (The NYT Magazine, The Today Show, etc.), combined with the news that the library has suspended my borrowing privileges because “Locked in the Library” by Marc Brown is “seriously overdue” has sent me into a spiral of depression and directly caused me to dive into the bag of Pirate’s Booty, which is really scarcely junky enough to meet the case.
Am I bothered because I have a sneaking decision that I’ve just been called a “mistake”? (And let me say that I get the title, I couldn’t have resisted it myself in her shoes.) Or is it, could it just very probably be, that I too have written (co-written) a book, but one on a somewhat less academic subject that received just a tad less buzz? Or is it that “Locked in the Library” has been sitting in the front seat of my car for days and I just haven’t managed to return it yet?
Sadly, I think I know.
I just spent upwards of an hour reviewing this issue for myself, talking about my own working mom, my compromises, and whether I feel like, in choosing to write part time instead of taking on a “real job”, with a real, identity creating title and just a tad more in the way of paychecks, I’ve sacrificed the “intellectual, emotional, psychological, and even medical benefits of self-sufficiency.”
Then, I hit some random wordpress button and somehow lost it all. I’m not sure that was a bad thing, though. My conclusion–I’m lucky enough to have it both ways. My work provides intellectual self sufficiency if not financial. Half time care of various kinds means I’m a primary influence on my kids–and although I don’t kid myself that even an all mom, all the time regimen would create exactly the kids I imagined I’d have (it would be more likely to create a whole family of raving banshees in our case), I know that kids who are with me most of the time behave differently than kids who aren’t. These are our kids, and that’s what works for us.
Plus, it was part of the particular deals that we’ve made within our little family to make certain arrangements in case of the worst–and as a former prosecutor and lawyer, you’d better believe I can imagine the worst.
So I’ve come around. I can read “The Feminine Mistake” without feeling like I’ve made one, although I’m sure there will be pages that make me shriek in anger on all sides of the issues Bennetts raised. I’m looking forward to it.
And all without forcing everyone to listen to me air once more the inherent insecurities that go with closing any door. I suspect that I agree that, in general, the rash of well educated women who’d planned big careers dropping out of the workforce, even temporarily, reflects a mistake–maybe a personal one, but more importantly a mistake on the part of a country and a society that doesn’t support mothers and families in a way that makes a career feel like a viable option if not having one is just as viable. And the not-so-subtle forces that make all of us mothers feel like the only person who can protect and raise our children, as described in THe Mommy Myth, already make me want to scream. It’s one thing to want to be a primary influence on your children, and another to be made to feel like you are the only thing standing between them and autism, child-snatchers, obesity, and certain life failure, whatver that means. I hope that aspect of the “mistake” gets some play.
So this is one book I’ll be reading. Now, that little jealousy matter, the one where I’m secretely hoping this author is interviewed by Katie Couric on the nightly news with lipstick on her teeth…well, we really can’t come to terms with everything in one night, can we? Give me time. The book’s not out until April.