The incoming CEO of Yahoo, Melissa Mayer, announced her pregnancy, which has provoked another round of the Having It All Olympics. Joanne Bamberger, a mother of teens who has already medaled in these events, has 6 tips for Mayer. You can read them here at HuffPost Parents. Tips 1-5 offer sound advice, but number 6:
Don’t listen to me. I know I’ve just given you all this advice, but don’t listen to me or other critics. Don’t listen to anything but your inner voice. If working through your maternity leave makes you feel energized and seems like the right path for you, go for it. But just promise me you’ll listen to that voice and take heed of what your inner self is telling you to do when it comes to being a professional and a working mother. Because we’re all tired of having the debate over how women should manage their lives and their parenting.
If Mayer’s inner voice were giving her sound advice then she wouldn’t need Bamberger’s and we wouldn’t be having another round of this tiring debate. Following our inner voices is the sort of thing that got us into our postmodern mess. When we tossed standards, when we stopped listening to voices of experience, we became naive enough to think, among other things, that having it all was just a matter of good time management.
But the voices of experience say — we know — otherwise. Bamberger’s advice should command respect and consideration simply because she’s already been there. Mayer doesn’t have to follow the advice, of course. She might have extenuating circumstances that outweigh the sage advice. Those are the things only Mayer can judge. But Bamberger tells her to discount her voice of experience. This is folly.
Ironically, it will probably be the bit of advice that Mayer does follow. Inner truths are essential to the modern world view. Respect for the past and lessons from elders are two of those things that give conservatives reputations as backward thinking dolts. So, following the last bit of advice, Mayer will make most or all of the mistakes Bamberger warned her about. She will learn the same lessons. And in about 15 years, she will write an advice column to some rising female star in which she laments her weariness in the Have It All Olympics. Perhaps she won’t undercut her own advice with some platitude about inner voices.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
5 Reasons We Can’t Have It All by John Hawkins
Recently, Kathy Shaidle posted about whether women talk too much and kill relationships. She concluded that it isn’t that women talk too much or are too smart, but that they are often too critical. True enough, but that isn’t what caught my attention.
- You’re a Bitch: How defensiveness and anger can hide behind a tough, take-charge exterior, and why being nice is never a sign of weakness.
- You’re a Liar: How to stop lying to men—and get honest with yourself—about the kind of relationship you really want. It’s the only way.
- You’re Shallow: Being a woman who insists on a tall guy is no different from being a man who demands big boobs. Learn why you should let go of trying to get what you think you should have and focus on getting what you need.
- You’re Selfish: The big secret about marriage: It’s about giving something, not getting it. The other big secret: You will have to go first.
Shaidle compares McMillian’s book to other advice books of the past, one of which I devoured in my 20‘s, Advice to a Young Wife from an Old Mistress. I am struck by the differences in the advice. The old advice focused on how to be a good woman. The new advice, however, focuses on how not to be a bad person.
The really short summary of Advice to a Young Wife: have a life and don’t nag. More eloquently, Advice to a Young Wife maintains, “One is born female, but being a woman is a personal accomplishment.”
Doctors have developed a way for women with premature menopause, either due to cancer treatment or natural causes, to have babies post menopause. At least, those are the women for whom the treatment — doctors take a piece of active ovary, preserve it, and then re-implant the piece when the woman wants to have a child — was designed. Now, however, Dr. Sherman Silber is touting the procedure as a way for career women to delay motherhood:
Dr Silber has previously claimed ovary transplants could be a solution to the increase in fertility problems caused by career women putting off having children.
In 2008 he predicted women who had an ovary frozen in their 20s could look forward to the best of all worlds.
‘A young ovary can be transplanted back at any time and it will extend fertility and delay the menopause. You could even wait until you were 47,’ he said.
The best of all worlds, huh? Does the “best” include health and comfort for the mother? Women discuss pregnancies and deliveries often. The typical consensus: those of us delivering in our 30s had a much harder time than our 20-something counterparts and usually required a c-section. We had it far easier, however, than our friends who tried for children around 40. They typically had difficulty conceiving, had more miscarriages, and had the most sluggish recoveries of all of us. (A woman’s body snaps back from delivery at 25 in a way that is uncommon for a 35 year old and lost to a 40 year old without surgical intervention.)
After delivery, of course, come the sleepless nights, which we did for fun in our early 20s. Functioning on four hours sleep is less fun later on.
And that’s just the mothers. Does the “best” count children who are more likely to have older, less active, and more over-protective mothers Additionally what about the grandparent math? If a mom waits until she is 40 to have a child, and that child waits until 40 to have a child, then the mom will not be a grandmother until she is 80. Both grandmother and grandchild — and society — could miss the benefits of an important relationship.
Society would be wise to consider this another lesson in “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”
Continuing with the war theme, check out the latest round of men don’t do their domestic share from The Nation:
What’s irked me is the continued assumption that this is a women’s issue. The problem isn’t that women are trying to do too much, it’s that men aren’t doing nearly enough…
Dismissing socialization and gender roles as piddling compared to this amorphous idea of “maternal imperative” is part of the reason progress is stalled for family-friendly policies. I don’t believe we must ignore how much we love our kids and want to be with them in order to effectively fight for better parenting policies—but the assumption that women want to be mothers above all other callings in their life directly impacts the way we talk and work on these issues….
This isn’t about wanting “it all,” it’s about wanting fairness and justice—something that’s only possible if we radically change the gendered expectations of parenting. Anything less will keep us talking in circles.
First a point about terms: what is “choice feminism”? For most casual feminists, “choice feminism” is the idea that feminist accomplishments gave us the opportunity to choose our own lives whether it be domestic or professional. This is real feminism. (See here and here for examples of such discussions.)
Intellectual feminists, however, hate choice feminism, and the above quote illustrates why. They want pure equality where men and women do the same amount and types of work. Therefore, they cannot accept any notion of “la difference.”
Feminists only use the language of choice when they want us to feel empowered for the choices they would have us make. See Cherie Blair who thinks it “dangerous” that stay-at-home-moms “married rich and retired.”
So what about the men? First, articles like The Daddy Wars fuel wifely assumptions of husbandly incompetence. “Why can’t you do something right?!” barbs are common and are relationship poison. Second, the evidence is rather murky that husbands are slackers. A Time magazine piece from last fall challenged the notion that husbands do less work than wives. It is an interesting read, so do read the whole thing if you subscribe, but this caught my eye:
But what we weren’t seeing was that there was a mounting body of evidence that women were not, in fact, workhorse wives picking up their husbands’ slack, that there are several variables in the dual-earner equations… So does that mean that my sense of injustice and that of so many other women have all be a result of an accounting error? Thankfully, it’s not quite so simple.
Thankfully? The gist of the article is that men have been slandered for decades, yet the author is “thankful” her sense of injustice was not entirely misplaced? Either men have been wrongly accused and reduced to annoying sperm donors or the evidence shows that men are still sometime slackers. Neither bothers her as much as the horror that she might have been mistaken.
And feminists wonder how they get a reputation for bashing men.
See Leslie’s previous blogs on the gender and family wars
Remember a few months ago when Hilary Rosen stoked the Mommy Wars by insulting Ann Romney and stay at home moms as too uninformed to have an opinion on anything outside the home? Well, the UK’s Mummy Wars flared up this week when Cherie Blair, Queen’s Council and wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair made some disparaging comments about stay-at-home-mums.
One of the things that worries me now is you see young women who say: “I look at the sacrifices that women have made and I think why do I need to bother, why can’t I just marry a rich husband and retire?” and you think how can they even imagine that is the way to fulfil yourself, how dangerous it is.
Ah, yes, that is what we stay-at-home moms have done, married a rich man and retired. What exactly do some working women think that we SAHM’s do all day? And how do SAHMs handle the inevitable “what do you do?” and “isn’t it boring?” questions that we field from working women, with or without children?
Beyond the Mommy/Mummy Wars, however, I see doubt and regret. Older feminists talk about how we need to be independent for our own good, how we need to fulfill ourselves, but what really seems to irk Blair and other feminists of her generation is that younger women don’t herald “the sacrifices that women [of Cherie's generation] have made.” They want assurance through our endorsement, and they aren’t getting it.
Modern parents struggle with how much responsibility to give to children and when. Typical American practice calls for parents to keep children available so they may have the time for enriching, resume enhancing activities or for just being kids. Yet even once we found our houses dominated by spoiled kids from 20-somethings down to toddlers, we still use a ‘less and later’ responsibility pattern.
Modern parenting stories are loaded with unintentionally humorous “paradoxically” comments. From a New Yorker review of a slew of books about how to avoid raising spoiled kids, “Paradoxically, [an author] maintains, by working so hard to help our kids we end up holding them back.” That hard work by Group A on behalf of Group B results in less work from Group B? This is not a paradox. It is cold reality.
I’m tempted to be smug on these chore wars. My kids are expected to do chores, but I usually have to be “instructionally repetitive.” (That is my husband’s polite phrase for “nagging.”) The New Yorker review suggests — and I think she is on to something — that we get “kiddie whipped.” Describing her own experience with chore assignment:
[M]y husband and I gave [our children] a new job: unloading the grocery bags from the car. One evening when I came home from the store, it was raining. Carrying two or three bags, the youngest, Aaron, who is thirteen, tried to jump over a puddle. There was a loud crash. After I’d retrieved what food could be salvaged from a Molotov cocktail of broken glass and mango juice, I decided that Aaron needed another, more vigorous lesson in responsibility. Now, in addition to unloading groceries, he would also have the task of taking out the garbage. On one of his first forays, he neglected to close the lid on the pail tightly enough, and it attracted a bear. The next morning, as I was gathering up the used tissues, ant-filled raisin boxes, and slimy Saran Wrap scattered across the yard, I decided that I didn’t have time to let my kids help out around the house. (My husband informed me that I’d just been “kiddie-whipped.”
That I would have made my children clean up the grocery and garbage messes doesn’t change the fact that it would have been easier to do the jobs myself. That thought undermines my resolve to have my children help around the house. Even though I’m trying to raise responsible kids, they still see that I don’t always expect them to do chores, and so they don’t.
Any parents out there who avoided becoming “kiddie-whipped?” I’d love some advice.