June Cleaver Wants Flex Time
Jennifer C. Braceras proposes a Third Way for mothers.

For too long the debate over issues that affect women and about the role of women in society has been dominated by the extremes. On the one hand, radical feminist groups like the National Organization for Women have marginalized stay-at-home mothers and, indeed, any woman who dares to question their goal of an unfettered right to abortion on demand.

On the other hand, radical traditionalists often seek an unrealistic return to the 1950s when women stayed home and minded the children while their husbands brought home the bacon. . . .

At the same time, the radical traditionalists sometimes fail to recognize that many women are financially unable to stay home with their children or that many women may actually enjoy spending some time working outside the home.

By placing women in ideological straitjackets, both the feminist and traditionalist women’s groups have made themselves largely irrelevant to today’s women. Luckily, things are beginning to change.

The failure of women’s groups to address adequately work/family issues has been criticized by several prominent women. Several years ago, Professor Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, an Emory University historian and the founder of Emory’s Institute for Women’s Studies, published a book entitled Feminism Is Not the Story of My Life.

In the book, Fox-Genovese weaves together anecdotes from her interviews with women from all walks of life. Her conclusion? Traditionalists and feminists have betrayed modern mothers. “Conservatives,” writes Fox-Genovese “talk as if they want to imprison women in motherhood; feminists talk as if they want to liberate women from it.”

Fox-Genovese calls for a new kind of feminism-“family feminism” that would speak more to the one thing that women have in common: the ability to bear children.

As Professor Fox-Genovese has noted, the time is ripe for a third way.
~Summer 2001

Is That All There Is?
For a good time, get married, advises Lisa Schiffren.

While there was a time when I thought that the main cost of the sexual revolution was all of the emotional pain my generation absorbed from premature or frivolous sexual relations gone awry, in the long run the greatest cost to women of uncommitted sexual relationships-of short and long duration-is that the window for getting married and having children is way smaller than one can possibly foresee at, say, twenty-five. There are worse things than being pregnant when you don’t want to be, and not being able to have children when you finally do want them is one.

I need hardly add that conservative girls, religious or not, know that marriage and family are the heart of life. Without it, almost all endeavor is somewhat hollow and life is pervasively lonely (for men, too). If that implies a defense of the traditional bourgeois social order, well, it turns out that for all its drawbacks, most alternatives are worse. Of course you could “take control of your sexuality,” as so many “powerful” women have. I’m thinking Madonna. Surely, I am not the only one who thinks it more than a little distasteful to respond to the ticking of your biological clock by having yourself impregnated by a personal trainer, having tried cruising Hispanic neighborhoods, picking up teenage boys? It is unclear what, precisely, “power” means in this context, or why one might want it.
~Autumn 1997

Day-Care Capital
Kathryn Jean Lopez on motherhood Beltway-style

Within the ambitious circles of the Beltway, the world of stay-at-home moms and families cutting costs to keep their kids at home seems very far away. But on Capitol Hill, even staunch conservatives now lead untraditional lives and have bought the politically correct line on day care. If a male Republican’s office is not being run by career-minded women, he is probably married to one. When you ask younger Capitol Hill staff, most don’t know too many stay-at-home mothers. One expects a Hillary Clinton or Madeleine Albright to take institutional day care as an unquestionable good. (Albright told Vogue that when her twins came home after two months in a hospital incubator, she “kind of sat there during the day, feeding them, watching soap operas, and thought, I didn’t go to college for this.”) But even female Republican politicians, such as Nancy Johnson (Conn.) and Sue Kelly (N.Y.), who both stayed home during their children’s early years, are leading the way toward more federalization of child care. One Republican staffer told me matter-of-factly, “Many mothers are just not good mothers. Kids are safer in day care than at home.”
~Spring 1998