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March 24, 2006

the happy homemaker

Ladies, start your engines. In reverse. Caitlin Flanagan is here to tell you how much you are screwing up your lives, your kids and your marriages by not being a good housewife, old school style. Here's a long, remarkably evenhanded profile from Elle, and a short, suitably scathing quip from Gawker to tell you what it's all about.

Perhaps the most offensive nugget presented in the Elle piece is Flanagan's assertion that her husband's kindness after her chemo was payback for all those years of domestic servitude. "If marriage is like a bank account, filled not only with affection but also with a commitment to the other person's well-being as much as to one's own, I suppose my balance was high. I suppose that all the days I had made a home for my husband, and all the times I had ended my writing days early so that he could work late or come home to a hot dinner and not a scene of domestic chaos—all that, as much as the desire and intensity that originally brought us together, were stores in my account.”

First, there's the horrifying fact that she's implying those who don't similarly subvert themselves are less deserving of care. Then, there's the fact that a woman's "well-being" might actually benefit from being able to work late herself, or from just having a career at all. C.Flanagan simply doesn't seem to think this is so. The problem, for us, with her as so many of the other mommy reactionaries, is the homogeneity. How is it possible to steamroll details like financial need and personality and ambition and fulfillment out of the picture? Are we hoping that our ever-growing drug industry will smooth out the edges for anyone who isn't happy doing what Flanagan suggests? Little yellow pill style? Her technique seems to be to boldly deny difference, or to scare the dissenters into submission. Either way, yuck.

by rebecca at 2:22 PM
in baby | parenting


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