‘The Feminine Mistake’ is Mistaken

In her new book, The Feminine Mistake, author Leslie Bennetts suggest that women who give up their career to stay at home to raise their children will later regret the decision.  Not only do I think she’s mistaken, but I think she’s made some huge generalizations that stay-at-home moms lose their identity.

Feminine MistakeLet me clarify my status.  I am not a stay-at-home mom.  I work full time albeit not in the traditional sense.  I telecommute three days a week to spend extra time with my children.  But if it were financially feasible, I’d jump at the chance to stay at home full time with my children.

While it’s true that most careers cannot survive a multi-year absence, the rewards of additional bonding time with your kids is unparalleled.

For years I’ve worked hard at my career because I wanted to do something that made a difference.  But when the twins were born, I realized that they are my legacy — my chance to make a real contribution to the world.  While I like the feeling of a job well done, a successful work project in never nearly as satisfying as an hour with my children learning a new skill.

Don’t get me wrong I admire women who work and raise a family.  They are inspirational.  Nor do I believe that their decision to work means that they love their family any less.  But combining motherhood and career isn’t for everyone.  And those mothers that choose motherhood alone should not be made to feel guilty for doing so.  The same is true for fathers who give up their careers to stay at home, which is happening more and more these days.

Careers can be rebuilt.  I’ll even admit that the longer you are away, the slower the rebuilding.  Even the same, careers can be rebuilt.  Your children are only young once!

But just because a woman chooses to stay at home doesn’t mean she has to give up her identity.  I have a friend who stayed at home with her kids, but at night took sign language classes.  Now that her children are in school, she’s a sign language instructor.

Likewise, my time at home with the twins has given me time to resurrect one of my first loves — writing.  I not only write this blog, but I write a journal about my kids.  I’ve also started freelance writing and editing, something I’d never had time in the past for because I was busy “pursuing my career.”

And just because women stay at home with children doesn’t mean they have to completely abandon their professional aspirations.  Women have found several ways to stay connected with the career passions — take classes, do some consulting, stay active in professional organizations and mentor.

Still more women like me have been able to strike some kind of compromise between traditional full-time work and staying at home.  Employers offer more flexibility — part-time, telecommuting, compressed work weeks, job sharing — than they did in our mothers’ time.

Bennetts is mistaken if she thinks that staying at home with one’s children is limited to caring for a child’s needs, cooking and cleaning.  I will admit that before I had children I was under the same misconception.  In my pre-children days I used to swear that I was nothing but a career woman.  I don’t clean (thank God for cleaning services) and I don’t cook (but my husband does), so I couldn’t image what I’d do at home all day.

Nevertheless, staying at home with your child can be so much more.  It’s a time to bond with your child, to mold their development into the type of person you want them to be.  But even more, it’s a time for women to enjoy the little things in life, like smelling flowers with your tots while on a walk or watching a sunrise on a weekday (because you aren’t rushing off to work).

For me, my time with my children is actually a time to rediscover myself.  I’ve always been rushing around working 12+-hour days in the name of my career that I’ve often lost sight of the things that really matter to me — time with family and friends, hobbies and just general relaxing and enjoying life.  These things are what I want my children to learn to appreciate too.

The Feminine Mistake goes on to talk about how stay-at-home moms are sacrificing their financial security because at any time they could become widowed, divorced or their husbands could lose their jobs.

First, while it’s true that these tragedies are all a possibility, with a little advance planning much of the financial inconvenience of these situations can be mitigated.

Secondly, Bennetts misses the boat if she thinks that just because a woman has a career that she’s safe from these same threats.  A career does not necessarily mean financial security.  Likewise, even career women make the mistake of be entirely financially dependent on their husbands.  He handles all the bills and the investments.  All their assets are in his name.  I’ve seen women who have their own careers become financially devastated by a divorce or widowhood.  The main reason — they have no credit of their own. 

I believe that all women — working or not — should have some financial independence.  I’m not advocating entirely separate finances from their husbands, but a little independence.  Just get a checking account and one credit card for spend money.  Put assets in both names.  Alternate whose name the utilities are in (electricity in yours, cable in his). Set up your own little nest egg.  Talk to a financial advisor for ways to make sure you are provided for if your spouse passes away and vice versa.

In addition, I think that the decision to say home is ultimately yours.  Don’t be bullied by books, blogs, your friends or even your boss.  Talk it over with your spouse.  However, at the end of the day only you and your spouse know what’s best for you and your family.  Good luck!

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17 Responses to ‘The Feminine Mistake’ is Mistaken

  1. IndianPad says:

    ‘The Feminine Mistake’ is Mistaken

    ‘The Feminine Mistake’ is Mistaken posted at IndianPad.com

  2. ‘The Feminine Mistake’ is Mistaken

    Liked what you just read here ? Vote for it on Blogmemes ! In her new book, The Feminine Mistake, author Leslie Bennetts suggest that women who give up their career to stay at home to raise their children will later regret the decision. Not only do I …

  3. While feminists do have some valid points, why they would rather be “equal” to & compete with men rather than participating in the greatest miracle and adventure of humanity, I’ll never understand.

    I hope you can soon achieve your dream of being able to stay home with your children.
    Even if you can never work it out, it sounds like your children are deeply loved and well nurtured by a wonderful, compassionate & wise woman.

  4. vacelts says:

    James, thank you for your comments. I thought your blog on the same book was very insightful.

  5. Laura Skoff says:

    Rachel Shea’s “The Mommy Trap,” a review of The Feminine Mistake by Leslie Bennetts leaves readers, particularly mothers, with the sense that they’d better not leave their jobs – and certainly not their husbands — or doom and financial ruin are theirs. Unfortunately, what is overlooked in the mommy track discussion is that being at home can be not only personally fulfilling but also financially rewarding. As a corporate executive turned entrepreneur, I stared a business that taps the talented at-home workforce to provide outsourced business services to organizations. Bennetts’ assertion “that if mothers continue to leave their jobs, instead of forcing employers and policymakers to address the real needs of real families, no solution will be found” couldn’t be further from the truth. We’ve found our solution — we’re at home with the kids, working flexible hours and commuting to the laptop in the den. Why would we want to join that rat race again?

    Laura D. Skoff
    Team Dynamics
    Lskoff@teamdynamics.bz

  6. vacelts says:

    Laura, I totally agree with you. My children are far more rewarding than my job ever was!

  7. Emily Stuart says:

    I am very proud of my career, and so is my family. Its not just the money that I earn, its the fact that we have extra health insurance in case my spouse were to lose his job. Also I have a 401K where my employer matches dollar for dollar on my contribution. I also have paid holidays, paid vacation days and paid sick days. My husband and I travel occasionally for work, and with our accrued air miles, we’ve been able to take some really nice vacations. Some of my SAH friends act jealous about the perks and salary that I get from working. However, I am satisfied that I am doing the right thing for my family by providing financial security for them and myself. Also with my kids in school all day, there is no need for me to be sitting home and watching Oprah.

  8. vacelts says:

    Emily, I’m glad that you are able to balance your career and your family. It’s not something everyone can do. But everyone’s situation is different. Nice to know that you’ve found the solution that works best for your family. Good luck!

  9. cc says:

    James,

    Feel free to quit your job and join in this most wonderous thing.

    I mean really, men have so much power, if staying at home really was the wonderous thing that you describe why aren’t men opting out in droves? Methinks that they are voting with their feet.

    To the blogger and the other subsequent posters:
    Have you really ever thought about the message that you are sending to the same daughters that you are staying at home to help better prepare for the future?: Work hard, stay in school, go to college, hopefully postgraduate school and then give it all up to stay home and go to playgroups. Wow. What an inspiring message for our daughters. . .How long to they start to think: why bother?
    How ironic; how sad

    • Michelah Strawson says:

      Although I came to this site really late (through another website) I really appreciate this comment. I have 4 kids and work full time. With no particular direction while I was young, and our first child was born when I was 24, meant that I didn’t have a career before kids that I could ‘telecommute’ to once I’d had our first and subsequent children. I spent 3 years at home as a “full time” mum and really enjoy being at work. I love my kids and do all I can to give them everything they need. But I feel that I’m better at being a mum by being at work. It isn’t easy, but it’s something that I need personally as well as a family of 6 we need financially. I applaude stay home mums, even if we won the lottery, I’d probably still work, but I don’t think I’m disadvanatging my kids by working, just today the after school carer told me ‘I don’t know what you’re doing with you’re kids, but they are so well adjusted and really good boys’. As a parent, is there anything else you want from you’re children but to be well adjusted, contributing members of society?

  10. […] Message I’m Sending My Children In response to my post on The Feminine Mistake, a recent commenter questioned what kind of message stay-at-home moms are sending their daughters […]

  11. vacelts says:

    cc, I belive that I’m sending the message to my daughter — and my son — that they have the choice to find whatever brings them happiness whether it be career, family or some combination. I think that I’m also teaching them independence from stereotypes.

    https://redlightnaps.wordpress.com/2007/04/27/message-to-my-children/

  12. Flicka Mawa says:

    Good post. I got here from Geeky mom’s post on the same subject, and I’m glad I came to visit. I’ll be sure to drop by your blog and check out what you’re up to again!

  13. […] traditional Mommy War has been between working moms and stay-at-home moms.  Since I’m a working mom who telecommutes four days a week, I think I have the best of both […]

  14. Tarran R says:

    The main point the book is trying to get across is protect yourself and protect your children. Should women rely on the dream that their relationships will remain so lovely and passionate forever? It is definitely risky business… but, I must disagree with the author making such assumptions that motherhood is a trap, and all full-time mothers/wives are miserable.

  15. Anze says:

    “And those mothers that choose motherhood alone should not be made to feel guilty for doing so. ”

    Yes, they should, because they perpetuate the stereotypes and imprint wrong values to their kids. Stay at homes mum are the reason why equality between man and woman has never actually happened.

  16. vacelts says:

    Anze,

    I think it’s very limiting to suggest that men-women equality is only a result of the workforce.

    Equality between men and woman should start at home. And it isn’t dependent on working. It’s about how mother and father treat and respect each other.

    It’s learning that to be equal men and women don’t have to do the same things, but develop a relationship where they both bring their strengths to the table.

    If one of a woman’s strengths is nuturing why should she ignore just to prove herself to some man.

    For more on what I think I’m teaching my children, read https://redlightnaps.wordpress.com/2007/04/27/message-to-my-children/

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