Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Here's a Cold Shower for those . . .

who get their rocks off for the dependent, domestic goddess.

Thanks to reader "I," we have the antidote to Brooks' fairy-tale land lunacy. Terry Martin Hekker published this response to the uber-elite opt out women, which got published in the Style section of all places. Hekker was a proud stay at home mother in the 70s, writing pieces that defended a very traditional version of the family during the tumult of second wave feminism. 40 years later she find herself abandoned by her husband and thought it was time to share some pearls of wisdom to the young bride.

Here's a dose of icy cold reality for those of you "Charlotte" (i.e. Sex in the City) wannabes:

Like most loyal wives of our generation, we'd contemplated eventual widowhood but never thought we'd end up divorced. And "divorced" doesn't begin to describe the pain of this process. "Canceled" is more like it.It began with my credit cards, then my health insurance and checkbook, until, finally, like a used postage stamp, I felt canceled too.

I faced frightening losses and was overwhelmed by the injustice of it all. He got to take his girlfriend to Cancun, while I got to sell my engagement ring to pay the roofer. When I filed my first nonjoint tax return, it triggered the shocking notification that I had become eligible for food stamps.

The judge had awarded me alimony that was less than I was used to getting for household expenses, and now I had to use that money to pay bills I'd never seen before: mortgage, taxes, insurance and car payments. And that princely sum was awarded for only four years, the judge suggesting that I go for job training when I turned 67. Not only was I unprepared for divorce itself, I was utterly lacking in skills to deal with the brutal aftermath.

I read about the young mothers of today - educated, employed, self-sufficient - who drop out of the work force when they have children, and I worry and wonder. Perhaps it is the right choice for them. Maybe they'll be fine. But the fragility of modern marriage suggests that at least half of them may not be.

Regrettably, women whose husbands are devoted to their families and are good providers must nevertheless face the specter of future abandonment. Surely the seeds of this wariness must have been planted, even if they can't believe it could ever happen to them. Many have witnessed their own mothers jettisoned by their own fathers and seen divorced friends trying to rear children with marginal financial and emotional support.

These young mothers are often torn between wanting to be home with their children and the statistical possibility of future calamity, aware that one of the most poverty-stricken groups in today's society are divorced older women. The feminine and sexual revolutions of the last few decades have had their shining victories, but have they, in the end, made things any easier for mothers?

Before closing today's post, I want to add one more observation to the social conservative claim that "the power is in the kitchen." If this were actually true then it would be commonplace to see men opting out of their careers to stay at home and raise their children. When the stay at home father is not an anomaly, rarity or "cute," but as normal and expected as the stay at home mother then I will believe this nonsense that real social power is to be found in domestic duties.