The Motherhood vs. Career Problem — Solved!

 

Listen up, ladies. New York Magazine has some good news for you.

It’s easy to balance family and career. All you have to do is ditch the career completely, hurl yourself into a classically prefeminist, fifties-era version of motherhood and wifehood (updated with details like nose studs and hoodies), and declare that that is your career. Done. Onward to climate change!

Meet Kelly Makino, a postgraduate-trained social worker who once aspired to run a nonprofit. She is now the 33-year-old mother of two young children, and her perspective has shifted completely:

She [now] believes that every household needs one primary caretaker, that women are, broadly speaking, better at that job than men, and that no amount of professional success could possibly console her if she felt her two young children—­Connor, 5, and Lillie, 4—were not being looked after the right way. The maternal instinct is a real thing, Kelly argues: Girls play with dolls from childhood, so “women are raised from the get-go to raise children successfully. When we are moms, we have a better toolbox.” Women, she believes, are conditioned to be more patient with children, to be better multitaskers, to be more tolerant of the quotidian grind of playdates and temper tantrums; “women,” she says, “keep it together better than guys do.”

Behold the gung-ho Donna Reed:

She has given herself over entirely to the care and feeding of her family. Undistracted by office politics and unfettered by meetings or a nerve-fraying commute, she spends hours upon hours doing things that would make another kind of woman scream with boredom, chanting nursery rhymes and eating pretend cake beneath a giant Transformers poster. Her sacrifice of a salary tightened the Makinos’ upper-middle-class budget, but the subversion of her personal drive pays them back in ways Kelly believes are priceless; she is now able to be there for her kids no matter what, cooking healthy meals, taking them hiking and to museums, helping patiently with homework, and devoting herself to teaching the life lessons—on littering, on manners, on good habits—that she believes every child should know.

Her husband is also benefiting from her exclusive focus on the family:

Kelly keeps a list of [her husband Alvin’s] clothing sizes in her iPhone and, devoted to his cuteness, surprises him regularly with new items, like the dark-washed jeans he was wearing on the day I visited. She tracks down his favorite recipes online, recently discovering one for pineapple fried rice that he remembered from his childhood in Hawaii. A couple of times a month, Kelly suggests that they go to bed early and she soothes his work-stiffened muscles with a therapeutic massage. “I love him so much, I just want to spoil him,” she says.

Now, one could certainly argue that these choices are themselves feminist — indeed, one of the more exasperating elements of feminism has long been its rejection of the validity of these choices. But the premise of the article is not that Kelly is making a choice at all, but that she is rather brilliantly fusing one choice into the other. She has not denied herself anything; she’s simply slapped the “career” label on her home life.

This semantic sleight-of-hand doesn’t make it off the first page of the article, though. Career remains the thing you throw overboard when you decide your family comes first. “I want my daughter to be able to do anything she wants,” Kelly explains. “But I also want to say, ‘Have a career that you can walk away from at the drop of a hat.’ ”

All righty then. Just make sure you keep reassuring yourself that you’re better than the women who trod both the career and the domestic paths before you. “This is not the retreat from high-­pressure workplaces of a previous generation but rather a more active awakening to the virtues of the way things used to be,” the magazine says. “The harried, stressed, multiarmed Kali goddess, with a laptop in one hand and homemade organic baby food in the ­other, has been replaced with a domestic Madonna, content with her choices and placid in her sphere…Home, to these women, is more than a place to watch TV at the end of the day and motherhood more than a partial identity. It is a demanding, full-time endeavor, requiring all of their creativity, energy, and ingenuity.” Videlicet Kelly:

Kelly loved her old profession and does not want to be painted as betraying the goals of feminism. She prefers to see herself as reaching beyond conventional ideas about what women should do. “I feel like we are evolving into something that is not defined by those who came before us,” she says. By making domesticity her career, she and the other stay-at-home mothers she knows are standing up for values, such as patience, and kindness, and respectful attention to the needs of others, that have little currency in the world of work. Professional status is not the only sign of importance, she says, and financial independence is not the only measure of success.

And if you’re the kind of woman who still can’t wrap her mind around making domesticity her career — well, sorry, sister. For you, it’s back to square one.

There are 34 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Member
    @

    This is an example of why, as an older mother and career woman, I despise young feminists. This young woman’s article and shift in opinion is similar to the politician who discovers his son is gay and wants to change everyone’s definition of marriage without recognizing the enormous impact of that shift.

    So when this woman’s husband dumps her at age 45, will she write about that? Or about the ability to return to a full time career once the kids fly the nest?

    Honestly, this is what new mothers do, is be besotted by our children, it is called hormones, something feminists have tried to blot out and deny.

    Imagine if teenage girls could be told to plan their lives around children because they are the ultimate joy, as is creating a happy home for a husband who dedicates his life to his family. That manly dedication goes unrecognized too by feminists.

    Instead of blaming others, understand human nature and let a woman be a mother instead of looking down on devoted young, at home mothers?

    Before gay marriage, the priority for public policy should look after at-home mums with a pension plan.

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Inactive
    @LHFry

    Women CAN have it all – they just can’t have it all at once.  

    Managing a household and caring for children is a full time job.    It is grossly undervalued, unfortunately, but if one person stays home and does this work, all participants benefit.  It doesn’t have to be the woman, but it usually is.   Once the children are older or out of the home, the stay at home party can return to work.    We are living much longer now, staying healthy longer, and likely given our economic situation, must work longer.   So there is plenty of time for both “careers.” 

    Spousal IRAs are one way to ensure independent income for the party who stays home.   If the money is available – often staying home requires significant economic sacrifice.    However, planning to be “dumped” at 45 is not any way to make a marriage last.  

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Inactive
    @KayBee

    Oh goody–“Mommy Wars” on Ricochet. Just what we need to distract us from YEC and SSM.

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Karen

    I can definitely relate to Kelly. I’m in a similar position as a sahm to young children. The motherhood-as-career has been a growing trend. There are many factors, but one is I think many of us grew up in stress-filled homes where both parents worked. I like being home. I like being involved in my children’s schools and activities -something my mother didn’t do. Women are becoming mothers later, after they’ve worked a few years. I think that makes walking away from a job easier. This is also a trend for the more affluent. It’s become a status symbol if you can afford not to work. Another reason is that the first 5 years of a child’s life is so critical to their development. They need their mothers as primary caregivers, especially boys. Though anecdotal, when I taught school, boys who were disruptive and got into trouble at school consistently had working mothers. Yes, it’s a financial strain, and I’ll return to work in a few years, but it really is important to me to be home right now. And I think it’s a good thing that other moms are making that choice.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Inactive
    @RedneckDesi

    I thought feminism was the right to choose what is best for you and your family. Who is arguing otherwise?

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Inactive
    @KimK

    What?? You mean to say I have had a career these past 25 years?? I thought I was just a stay-at-home mom!! Or worse – housewife!! Stagnating in an endless cycle of diapers, dusting, and dishes. But now the light bulb has been turned on and I am told I’m actually “reaching beyond conventional ideas about what women should do.”

    I just might have to bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies to celebrate.

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Contributor
    @MollieHemingway

    I had the luxury of growing up with parents who taught me the truth about motherhood. I was the only female undergraduate who seemed to factor my goals of marriage and motherhood into my life plans. I believe I even bothered my feminism and labor econ prof by bringing it up.

    Having never had to grapple with choosing work *or* career — but thinking of my whole life — I think things were easier for me once I did get married and have children.

    Now, having said that, I thought both would happen much sooner than they did and so I made some miscalculations about career path (e.g., not going to law school …).

    But the sooner men and women acknowledge, instead of hide, their desire to marry and be parents, the easier things go, no?

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Member
    @Grendel

    Good for Kelly.

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Reagan
    @She

    So, Mitt and Ann’s family values, which six months ago were held up to widespread ridicule, were in no way an anticipation of this brilliant new insight and freedom from traditional gender expectations, now that Kelly with a pierced nose has invented the strong nuclear family held firmly together by each gender playing its prescribed role?

    Excuse me while I strangle myself with my apron strings.

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Member
    @Grendel
    Judith Levy, Ed.

    And if you’re the kind of woman who still can’t wrap her mind around making domesticity her career — well, sorry, sister. For you, it’s back to square one. 

    Maybe I’m reading too much between the lines, here, but there is in your comments the kind of bitter totalitarian hostility typical of leftist ideologues such as feminists.  They can’t tolerate anyone having a different value system, and it really cheeses them off to see someone being happy with those choices.

    Indaba seems to start out that way, then seems to do an about-face halfway through her comment.

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Contributor
    @RachelLu

    It’s sort of a shame that the mommy wars have to be so, well, belligerent. But the reason, basically, is that nobody wants to admit that they gave up anything worthwhile, regardless of what path they chose. It’s hardly ever true, but in a sour-grapes-y sort of way, we do keep pretending.

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Reagan
    @She

    Grendel, your point is well taken.

    Speaking for myself, I enjoy Kelly’s (and the other moms’) viewpoints, but am amused that’s they are presented as such incredible revelations, the likes of which the world has never seen before. Does anyone really think that, were Kelly a practicing Roman Catholic with twelve children, no iPhone and who did her grocery shopping at WalMart, the magazine would be applauding her ‘choices,’ or that it would even frame her life’s circumstances as ‘choices’ at all?

    And I can’t help thinking that just as the last GOP dinosaur caves (in the name of ‘caring’) on–pick one–gay marriage, abortion, single sex parenting, someone like Kelly will pop up with the full support of the left to explain why the Right has got it wrong again . . . .

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Contributor
    @RachelLu

    Well, exactly, She. 

    This story — what I think of as the “maternal turn” narrative — is an old and familiar trope. “Thought I wanted other things… children born… realized they’re the only thing that matters… overcame selfish, frivolous interests of past life…”

    Nothing new to see here, folks.

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Contributor
    @MollieHemingway
    Rachel Lu: Well, exactly, She. 

    This story — what I think of as the “maternal turn” narrative — is an old and familiar trope. “Thought I wanted other things… children born… realized they’re the only thing that matters… overcame selfish, frivolous interests of past life…”

    Nothing new to see here, folks. · 10 minutes ago

    The new thing, though, is that society thinks mass delusion until that moment is a good idea.

    I know it’s championed by feminists but it’s actually quite harmful to women. Mixing career and family is incredibly difficult and I have many friends who are struggling with it and wonder why everyone basically lied to them about how it works.

    I wish we’d all just stop pretending (and codifying into law and institutions) that our sex doesn’t matter. It does matter in many real ways and ignoring or fighting against it is destructive to individuals.

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Reagan
    @She
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.

    Rachel Lu: Well, exactly, She. 

    This story — what I think of as the “maternal turn” narrative — is an old and familiar trope. “Thought I wanted other things… children born… realized they’re the only thing that matters… overcame selfish, frivolous interests of past life…”

    Nothing new to see here, folks. · 10 minutes ago

    The new thing, though, is that society thinks mass delusion until that moment is a good idea  . . .

     . . . and it only becomes a good idea when it’s an experience that I have  myself (vide: Rob Portman).  There is no external authority or truth that I can reference or turn to for guidance, and which might steady me through times of change.  Those fusty old books and those decrepit old people  couldn’t possibly teach ME anything . . .

    It’s the logical outcome of the 1960’s.  Or, it’s the Wife of Bath (1360’s).  I can’t decide.

    • #15
  16. Profile Photo Member
    @DrewInWisconsin

    “I want my daughter to be able to do anything she wants,” Kelly explains. “But I also want to say, ‘Have a career that you can walk away from at the drop of a hat.’ ”

    Hey, you know what that requires? A man. And one making enough to support the whole family on one income.

    Those are getting kind of rare — outside government work, anyway.

    • #16
  17. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @danys
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.

    I know it’s championed by feminists but it’s actually quite harmful to women. Mixing career and family is incredibly difficult and I have many friends who are struggling with it and wonder why everyone basically lied to them about how it works.

    Several years ago at a party w/ women who made 6 figures+ (as did their husbands) and complained about stress of family & career I committed the blunder of pointing out that they can walk away from their careers if they really want to. Icy stares were the reply. Status, gorgeous houses, etc. are seductive.

    As Drew notes, this requires a man who can support his family & honor his wife when they choose to live on 1 income.

    I’m happy for Kelly.

    Although I do wonder how often she really does take those young children on hikes. :-)

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Listener
    @FricosisGuy

    At least we’re coming full circle. 

    My wife will tell you that more than half the reason she became a career woman was because her mother seemed so miserable, but not because she didn’t want to be a homemaker and a mother. Her mother internalized the second-wave feminist rejection of family life all too well.

    I am, however, quite grateful she waited!

    She: And I can’t help thinking that just as the last GOP dinosaur caves (in the name of ‘caring’) on–pick one–gay marriage, abortion, single sex parenting, someone like Kelly will pop up with the full support of the left to explain why the Right has got it wrong again . . . . · 1 hour ago

    • #18
  19. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @BryanGStephens
    DrewInWisconsin

    “I want my daughter to be able to do anything she wants,” Kelly explains. “But I also want to say, ‘Have a career that you can walk away from at the drop of a hat.’ ”

    Hey, you know what that requires? A man. And one making enough to support the whole family on one income.

    Those are getting kind of rare — outside government work, anyway. · 35 minutes ago

    And how does he feel about that getting married?

    My wife thanks me, about once a month or more, for working and supporting the family.

    It feels great when she can see I am facing challenges at work and she says

    “Thank you for going to work to support our family”

    You want to see a man straighten his spine and march off to work? Tell him that. I feel like I can face anything after that. 

    • #19
  20. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Lee
    Bryan G. Stephens

    My wife thanks me, about once a month or more, for working and supporting the family.

    It feels great when she can see I am facing challenges at work and she says

    “Thank you for going to work to support our family”

    You want to see a man straighten his spine and march off to work? Tell him that. I feel like I can face anything after that.  · 6 minutes ago

    That is really sweet. You’re lucky to have each other.

    • #20
  21. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Jennykins

    It’s always so interesting to me when “The Feminists” are so pro-choice when it comes to a woman divesting herself of an unwanted pregnancy in the interest of her own plans, career, convenience, etc. but so dismissively anti-choice when it comes to a woman divesting herself of her career in the interest of her own sanity, her family’s well-being, and her changed perspective of what really matters to her. 

    I’ve done both:  stay-at-home mothering of four children, and full-time working mother.  I’ve also worked out of the home part time, and worked in the home (teaching piano lessons).  Each job situation had its blessings and challenges, but each job situation was chosen–by me, in consultation with my husband–to meet the financial, emotional, and physical needs of my entire family (myself included).  If the Feminist Movement wasn’t for the purpose of allowing women to figure out what works best for them, what WAS it about?

    • #21
  22. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Polyphemus

    Grendel said:

    “Maybe I’m reading too much between the lines, here, but there is in your comments the kind of bitter totalitarian hostility typical of leftist ideologues such as feminists. They can’t tolerate anyone having a different value system, and it really cheeses them off to see someone being happy with those choices.”

    I kind of picked up the same thing. As I read about Kelly I’m thinking about how I am a bit bemused that this woman finds the need to frame this insight in feminist-friendly terms. Nonetheless I’m grateful to hear the acknowledgement of the value of the traditional mom role. So, I can’t quite see what the original poster’s point is. I wish she would explain.

    • #22
  23. Profile Photo Member
    @JosephEagar

    Judith, there are plenty of mothers who do work hard enough that “career” applies, I think.  For example, if public schools are not an option, and the mother has to homeschool all of her kids (as happened with my mother), I think that qualifies as “work”.

    • #23
  24. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Lavaux

    How do you homemakers tolerate the boredom? I stayed home with my daughter on paternity leave for six months and treated the gig like a job, taking care of an infant while doing the shopping, cooking, cleaning, and laundry between naps and feedings.

    Homemaking was real work – real hard work, in fact. But it was also crashingly boring. So how do you liven up the job, professional homemakers?

    BTW, I can’t blame women who don’t want this job – I don’t either (Hell for me would be having to work in a daycare for eternity). But these women should just say so instead of inventing an entire -ism to justify their choice.

    • #24
  25. Profile Photo Inactive
    @CrowsNest

     

    Rachel Lu: It’s sort of a shame that the mommy wars have to be so, well, belligerent. But the reason, basically, is that nobody wants to admit that they gave up anything worthwhile, regardless of what path they chose. It’s hardly ever true, but in a sour-grapes-y sort of way, we do keep pretending.

    And yet, it might be that some people just prefer reserve rather than airing all of their dirty laundry in public. Hard to believe in the reality tv age, but there it is.

    What frustrates me a bit about Rachel’s comment here is that, without exactly saying so, it seems to imply the_equation is one sided–whatever the woman chooses, she gives something up. The man gets to ‘have it all’. But this is a misconception: we’re just more laconic_about_our_sacrifice_then_women_are.

    The truth is: both partners give somethings up. The moment you realize and internalize that life is about trade-offs and choices is a good working definition_of_’adulthood’.

    I can remember vacations where my father was on the phone more than on the beach. I certainly don’t see as much of my extended as family as I would like.

    • #25
  26. Profile Photo Inactive
    @RadiantRecluse

    Shortly after joining Ricochet last year, this was posted.  One of my favorite Chesterton quotes:

    http://ricochet.com/member-feed/Chesterton-s-War-on-Women

    • #26
  27. Profile Photo Reagan
    @She
    DrewInWisconsin

    “I want my daughter to be able to do anything she wants,” Kelly explains. “But I also want to say, ‘Have a career that you can walk away from at the drop of a hat.’ ”

    Hey, you know what that requires? A man. And one making enough to support the whole family on one income.

    Those are getting kind of rare — outside government work, anyway. · 4 hours ago

    Yes, and isn’t Kelly lucky that she has one?  My own close family member, whose story is a bit like Kelly’s, apparently didn’t choose so well.  The result has been an extended, unfortunate, and ugly mess.

    • #27
  28. Profile Photo Contributor
    @RachelLu

    I don’t see how that’s implied by my comment, Crow’s Nest. I think the story does shake out rather differently for men, but what I said doesn’t, it seems to me, imply much of anything about the desirability of their situation.

    And I’m afraid I just don’t understand the comment about reserve. 

    • #28
  29. Profile Photo Contributor
    @RachelLu

    That is, I don’t see who in this scenario is being reserved, or not reserved enough, or whatever the case may be.

    • #29
  30. Profile Photo Member
    @DrewInWisconsin
    RadiantRecluse

    James Lileks: Lavaux: I loved every minute of being a stay-at-home dad. Every minute. It’s the office that’s crashingly boring.  

    Couldn’t agree with you more.

    I’ll third that opinion. I really miss being the self-employed stay-at-home/work-from-home dad. But that’s probably because I’m not well-suited to working for anyone other than myself.

    • #30

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