I was led to an interesting blog about someone on Facebook dissing a friend because she chose to stay at home and take care of her children after spending years in a university. We all know that is so wrong every which way to Sunday. No one should presume to know what's right for another person's children and lifestyle. Then her article led me to her piece on Linda Hirschman, who, on the surface, seems to say that women who opt for the stay-at-home role are ruining the work of feminism by bowing down to male pressure to give up good jobs to stay at home. This always gets me up in arms. The so-called "Mommy Wars." Because the options argued by women and among women are either, a) moms, you must stay at home with your kids or they will turn out bad and you are a bad mom, or b) moms, you must get out and work and use your talents or you will waste your education and brain by dealing with children all day.
This argument rages and rages and yet I never once see someone say, "My husband does 50-100% of the housework when we get home." I never see anyone say, "Well, what does it mean if dad stays at home? It's still a parent at home." And did Betty Friedan talk about changing the role of the husband? I don't know, I really need to read that book, but I'm betting it didn't get top billing if she did.
My theory is to level the playing field, men should have to stay home with their children for part of the baby or toddler years. Women need to make them change diapers, watch the kids, be DADS, who are as present in their children's lives as working mothers make an effort to be. 3-5 years in the home should be enough.
Not so long ago, moms AND dads were at home. This was called the family farm. Dad was at home for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sure dad might go out to the field, but he often took the children with him to help. Mom might need some help in the house and with the critters she took care of. Lots of give and take, adn back and forth. Sure, there were defined roles, but I'll bet many a good marriage was a partnership with the man and woman worked TOGETHER to help the family survive and to care for the kids.
Feminism's ideals are not going to succeed until we get the men not just helping, but doing work at home and taking care of kids at home, whether they work or not. And it starts with women expecting them to haul the change diapers, wash the clothes, kiss the boo-boos, play the games, do the dishes, make the dinner, and so on. When the boys of those men see what they do, they will model that in their own marriage (we hope). Change starts at home. Your husband may not be a crack cook, but he can probably figure out the laundry. Your wife may burn the cookies, but she may prefer to do the baths. Who doesn't love doing the bedtime stories? And kudos to the dads who choose to stay at home. I know that's a very hard trend to buck and even harder when people ask you what you do. I've seen and heard about the looks my husband got. We wonder if some little friends weren't allowed to come over to play because HE was the stay-at-home person. But what a great bond he developed with his kids. And even though he's in the work world, the kids are everything to him and he misses us. No late nights when he can avoid it. And making dinner is so much easier when we each take a dish and do it together.
Once I was going to write a book. Maybe I still need to.