Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Motherhood - a career

I came across this quote at "Focus on the Family" today. Completely incensed, I could write pages and pages of discourse on my feelings of disbelief at this statement. Here is the statement:
"...not everyone is singing the praises of women who trade their careers for motherhood. Philosopher and author Linda Hirshman says, “Women who quit their jobs to stay home with children are making a mistake. . . . The tasks of housekeeping and child rearing are not worthy of the full time and talents of intelligent and educated human beings.”
Curious, and always wanting to verify my sources, I looked up Linda Hirshman and found myself first on her website, and then linked to her original article for "The American Prospect" titled "Homeward Bound." Although masked in a seemingly convincing argument and the cloak of equality for women, she undercuts her writing with derisive remarks about the inferiority and waste of those who choose to stay home to raise children. For your reading pleasure, here are some direct quotes from her about her opinions on those of us women who waste our time, talents and intelligence raising children:

On her website, about her book:
"[Her book] traces the history of a movement that failed to address the most important question of the family and how the unchanged family prevents women from gaining access to social and economic power."

Most importantly, Get to Work shows why getting to work matters in a full, flourishing life, according to any standard of flourishing Western philosophy has produced so far."

"[Hirshman] advised young women to find jobs that show them the money, to marry "down" or to marry feminist men, and to have no more than one child."

From her article:
"The 2000 census showed a decline in the percentage of mothers of infants working full time, part time, or seeking employment. Starting at 31 percent in 1976, the percentage had gone up almost every year to 1992, hit a high of 58.7 percent in 1998, and then began to drop -- to 55.2 percent in 2000, to 54.6 percent in 2002, to 53.7 percent in 2003. Statistics just released showed further decline to 52.9 percent in 2004. Even the percentage of working mothers with children who were not infants declined between 2000 and 2003, from 62.8 percent to 59.8 percent. This represents not a loss of present value but a loss of hope for the future -- a loss of hope that the role of women in society will continue to increase."

"Conservatives contend that the dropouts prove that feminism “failed” because it was too radical, because women didn't want what feminism had to offer. In fact, if half or more of feminism's heirs (85 percent of the women in my Times sample), are not working seriously, it's because feminism wasn't radical enough: It changed the workplace but it didn't change men, and, more importantly, it didn't fundamentally change how women related to men."

"The best way to treat work seriously is to find the money. Money is the marker of success in a market economy; it usually accompanies power, and it enables the bearer to wield power, including within the family."

"Why do we care? [Mothers who stay at home] seem happy...We care because what they do is bad for them, is certainly bad for society."
"Finally, these choices are bad for women individually. A good life for humans includes the classical standard of using one's capacities for speech and reason in a prudent way, the liberal requirement of having enough autonomy to direct one's own life, and the utilitarian test of doing more good than harm in the world."

Are you as shocked as I am? Feminism and choice issues aside, I think what Hirshman really missed is the true power of motherhood. Mothers are the greatest influence on their children. We provide them with their moral foundation and their value system. We teach them what is important in the world, and how we can change it. We may not be "society's leaders" ourselves, but if not, there is certainly a mother somewhere who is raising the next President or Prime Minister or Nobel Prize winner. These great men and women are (most often) direct results of the upbringing of wise mothers. Go ahead and search online about a "mother's influence". You will find a fountain of quotes from "great leaders" who dedicate their success to their mothers.

In the end, I think this quote encapsulates all that I want to express about motherhood. And when someone has already done it so well, why try to best it?:
"The noblest calling in the world is that of mother. True motherhood is the most beautiful of all arts, the greatest of all professions. She who can paint a masterpiece or who can write a book that will influence millions deserves the plaudits and admiration of mankind; but she who rears successfully a family of healthy, beautiful sons and daughters whose immortal souls will be exerting an influence throughout the ages long after painting shall have faded, and books and statues shall have been destroyed, deserves the highest honor that man can give."
- David O. McKay

1 comment:

heather80 said...

In my experience, a lot of these types of articles, studies, and opinions stem either from someone wanting to defend their own choice, or make it clear that the choice they made is the best one (and if she`s writing and publishing, she`s quite likely employed), or it comes from guilt. Ever notice that the people who offer the most advice about, say, breastfeeding, are the ones who never breastfed or gave up early√Č Reality says, 98% of women can breastfeed, and those who can`t usually have a medical condition, have had breast reduction, etc., and yet how many people have I heard, even recently, say they`re going to give breastfeeding a try, but they know it doesn`t always work out, etc., because they know so many women who were told, or thought due to lack of information, they couldn`t breastfeed. Whenever I hear of articles like this, I wonder what happened in the author`s life to make them feel that way, since finding clear facts obviously wasn`t the goal.

That, or they know controversy sells. You did find her article, afterall, regardless of the reason you looked for it.