If you pay any attention at all the blogosphere, you might have read about Amy Glass this week. She recently wrote an inflammatory article called “I Look Down on Young Women with Husbands and Kids, and I’m Not Sorry.” In it, she unapologetically and, in many ways, offensively derides motherhood and marriage as easy and completely “average” and no real accomplishment at all. She directly challenged the bedrock of modern feminism that says any life decision a woman makes about balancing (or not balancing) work and family is equal and beyond reproach. She also questioned why society and especially other women choose to celebrate something that “literally anyone can do” because she believes these milestones come at the expense of a woman’s ability to achieve other things like a career and to travel while they are young. While I certainly don’t agree with the needlessly offensive language she used to say that marrying young was an inhibitor to personal growth and other opportunities, her point was not wholly dissimilar to the point I made about marrying young for both men and women in my article on marriage a few months back.
Glass’ article generated about 200K shares on Facebook and more than 11,000 comments on the website it was first published on. Naturally, most of them were from women and the overwhelming majority of those were from women fiercely defending motherhood and stay at home mothers specifically. They explained how much work goes into raising children and managing a household and how modern feminism does not allow a woman’s life decisions about such things to be questioned.
Glass responded with satirical, second article called “Hillary Clinton Has Given Just as Much to This world as the Stay at Home Wife in My 11am Yogalates Class.” Ignoring how many people in the comment section of this article failed to realize it was satirical and the obvious question of what the hell is “yogalates,” Glass went directly at the notion that anything a woman chooses to do with her life is as respectable as anything else. In talking about stay-at-home moms and full-time wives, Glass questioned if their productivity and accomplishments are equal to those of a surgeon or a mother who works full time and challenged the notion that every life decision a woman makes is equally as praiseworthy and worthwhile. And to this I say, isn’t Glass right?
I consider myself a feminist. I’m supportive of women’s rights and genuine equality in all aspects of life. I also believe the world is replete with male privilege and that every society has historically been structured in such a way as to systemically deny women equal opportunities and fair treatment. Even as I say all these things, I’m aware that as a product of modern American society, I am laboring under some deeply rooted sexist notions, some of which I am not even aware of. Still though, I cannot help but see a debate about who is more accomplished between a working mom and a stay-at-home parent as being resolved with simple math. If a woman raises two kids and works full time then she is by definition more accomplished than a woman (or a man) whose full-time job is raising two kids. That’s just a resume thing.
The only rebuttal to this argument that I can think of would be if there were demonstrably and dramatically better outcomes in child rearing for stay-at-home parents than working parents, but there is no clear cut data that proves that there are. While I can agree that a stay-at-home parent who also homeschools has then taken on an extra job, I can’t get over the idea that being a parent is, in and of itself, a full-time job. Being a parent is the byproduct of having a child. It’s what you’re supposed to do when you have a child, and it’s what many people do while working at a job like my mom.
For my whole life, my mom worked full time in her own business, managed the household (in accordance with the horribly outdated gender roles of the 1950’s, which meant she did everything and my dad did next to nothing) and raised me and my sister. How can someone scratch “worked full time” off that list and say they are doing just as much? What is a stay-at-home parent doing that my mom wasn’t doing that bumps their workload back up to that of my mom’s? How is being in a financial position to focus almost exclusively on your children not simply a huge luxury? And as a luxury, why does it also need the validation of being considered comparable to someone doing the same while building a career?
I have some clue as to how much work goes into raising kids but, even if I am way off about it, I don’t see how it compares to doing it while working full time. It’s not the same thing, just like going to college and going to college while working is not the same thing. Where I do differ from Glass is that I don’t have an issue with someone deciding to be a stay-at-home parent and can appreciate the fact that they’ll get a lot of satisfaction out of it, but I don’t agree with this idea that it should be treated as equal to someone who does that and works. I also wonder, similarly to Glass, if by treating what is, in reality, a luxury the same as a career, we aren’t encouraging some people to set their bar too low? Is this just another part of our participation-award society where everyone gets an award just for showing up regardless of their actual accomplishments?