It seems you can’t turn a corner nowadays without hearing someone saying what women should be like, what they should accomplish, or how they should do it. Flipping through the latest issue of Chicago magazine, for example, I read an interview with Leslie Bennetts, author of The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving up Too Much?
I hadn’t read the book, in fact had heard nothing about it, but the topic intrigued me. The central issue: are stay-at-home mothers sacrificing too much?
According to the interview, Bennetts says yes. After conducting research primarily through the Council on Contemporary Families, she concluded women who opt out of career-building in favor of keeping house/raising children will regret it.
She highlights the dangers of staying home: “Half of marriages end in divorce. Husbands might die prematurely or be injured. It’s a volatile job market; he might become unemployed. None of the [other] coverage [on this issue tells] women they would pay a penalty for opting out for even a year.” She also says wives who stay home put too much pressure on their husbands: “It creates an unbelievable pressure on men to be the breadwinner. Wouldn’t you feel pressure if someone said to you, ‘You’re supposed to be the breadwinner and you’re disappointing me’?”
Contrast that with what Shaunti Feldhahn calls eye-opening information in her book, For Women Only: In a survey question posed to 400 anonymous men, 78% said they felt compelled to provide for their family even if their wives earned enough or more than they needed. She writes, “[The husband’s] need to provide goes so deep that even if you personally brought home enough money to nicely support the whole family, your man would probably still feel compelled to provide.”
Bennetts goes on in the article to call for change: “Women need to get serious about what they want. We teach girls that ‘wife’ and ‘mother’ are job titles. It’s crucial to change the way we raise girls. They need to know they have to support themselves, not just economically but also emotionally.”
She says, “The good news is there are benefits of working, and it’s more than just a paycheck. Working women are happier and healthier than women who stay at home.”
I believe the decision to work or not to work lies with the individual, and she should have the freedom to choose. That said, as a Christian, the interview makes me wonder about the downplay of the value of mothers, and I’m curious how a paycheck/job title could give more emotional support than parenthood (or better, a relationship with God) could. What do you think?
*Edit: The author of this post has not read The Feminine Mistake and is not claiming to have full knowledge of its contents. She is rather discussing the interview referenced, which (see comments) she now sees may have contained misquotes. Also, she invites readers who have examined the book to comment and clear up any misunderstandings.