The Soapbox: The Truth About Being A Stay-At-Home Mom
I just had the extreme displeasure of reading Elizabeth Wurtzel’s essay for The Atlantic, about how rich stay-at-home moms are “anti-feminist and helping make the ‘war on women’ possible.” In the opener, Wurtzel says that she wants to “smack the next woman who says that raising her children full time—and by that means going to yoga classes and pedicure appointments while the nanny babysits —is her feminist choice.” Why yes, we’d all want to smack that woman too. Does she even exist?
To be honest, I seriously doubt that even the wealthy 1 percent women are going around making up excuses for why they don’t work—they’re rich enough not to, and surely don’t feel defensive about it. So it really seems that Wurtzel is just pissed that some women out there can afford what she perceives to be a life of leisure. She bashes them by saying people who don’t pay their own rent and bills are immature and anti-feminist. Actually, what Wurtzel is doing is immature and anti-feminist. Sure, everyone is jealous of rich women from time to time, but to take a personal axe-to-grind and pretend it’s about feminism is a total joke.
I’m a stay at home mom. Well, technically I am a “freelance from home” mom, which means I do have some babysitting help during the week so I can get work done to help pay the bills. But the rest of the time, I am totally in charge of the safety, health and entertainment of a hapless toddler. Sometimes it’s actually really fun, sometimes it’s boring as all hell—as are most things in life. But it’s not my “feminist choice,” or even a choice at all. In fact, when you have a kid these days, there are almost no decent choices when it comes to raising them.
This country makes it really difficult for many smart and able-bodied women to stay in the workforce after they have kids. Daycares are expensive, preschools are worse, and nannies can eat up more than 50 percent of your salary, and then there’s rent, food and bills, and the rest to think about. Maybe if companies offered daycares in their buildings, three or four-day a week working hours, or even the option to get in by 7:30 a.m. and leave by 3:30 p.m., then there definitely would be far less women leaving the working world to stay at home. But we’re not there yet.
The fact is, in the majority of two parent heterosexual households, men make more money (though there is evidence to show that this starting to shift). So when it comes down to deciding which parent is going to keep “bringing home the bacon” and which one is going to stay home, women are, by and large, the ones for whom it makes the most practical sense for the family unit to leave the workforce, at least while the kids are young. That’s why all the moms I know, including myself, have ended up staying at home with our kids — it made/makes the most financial sense for our families. Should that just be ignored just to make some sort of “feminist” point? I don’t think so.
(And newsflash, Wurtzel: Sometimes even broke, stay-at-home moms go for runs, go to yoga, get pedicures and have a sitter so they can go to dinner from time to time. They should. Everyone should! Those things are awesome, and having kids doesn’t exclude you from being able to do things that are awesome.)
I get the feeling that Wurtzel (who is childless, by the way) has formed her opinion of rich stay-at-home moms by either hanging around really awful people (begging the question “why?”) or from watching Charlotte on old “Sex and the City” reruns. (A show that was relevant in the ’90s. by the way, kind of like the author herself.) Regardless, she’s spewing crazy talk when she says things like, “Having forgotten everything but the lotus position is the reason why their husbands think that their wives and all women are dumb, and I don’t blame them.” Honestly, if a rich SAHM wants to spend her days either volunteering for the blind or masturbating to 50 Shades of Grey, who the hell cares? It only impacts Wurtzel negatively because it seems as though she might secretly crave that life for herself.
To say that the “husbands” of these stay-at-home moms are right to think that their wives and all other women are dumb is truly disrespectful to women and men. I hang out with married people with kids all the time, and see nothing but respect and love from the guys towards their women, whether they work or don’t. Because unlike Wurtzel, they know that their wives have a shitload on their plates no matter what. Kids are crazy tiring, and nannies clock out at the end of the day. Kids don’t. As for these men who think that all women are dumb, who are the awful misogynists Wurtzel keeps company with? They sound like real fun people all around!
Finally, in the middle of the article Wurtzel smugly states that she herself shunned marriage proposals because she valued independence and integrity over what was obvious or easy. And that she’s happy. Which sounds an awful lot like the “insisiting so much is in itself overcompensation” comment that she makes about women who claim that raising a family is actually an important or hard job.
If there’s a war on women out there at all, then Elizabeth Wurtzel is on the front lines and has her catty guns blazing. Personally, I can’t wait for her to eat these words with a baby spoon if she ever ends up pregnant herself. I guarantee her essay then will be called something like, “Why I’m a Superior Mother Because I Care Enough to Stay at Home.”