Ann Marie Slaughter has written a piece for the Atlantic bemoaning the fact that once you have children, you have to take some responsibility for those children. And that really put a cramp in her professional plans.
She WANTS IT ALL, and she has a very clever plan to get it. She will simply change the basic psychology of human beings, so that women can have EVERYTHING they want without having to trade anything for it.
Here’s the thing Slaughter is missing: NO ONE GETS TO HAVE IT ALL.
It’s ridiculous to even expect such a thing. What does it mean to have it all anyways? For Slaughter, it means having a fabulous, high profile, well-paid career that requires virtually all your waking time and energy AND having deep, meaningful, loving relationships with children AND having a fulfilling, close, connected marriage to a man who participates in equal amounts of housework and childcare AND having a organized, well run home AND having time to take care of personal needs for reflection and exercise AND being respected and admired for having all those things. *catches breath*
And that’s obviously just insane.
Underwriting her piece is the idea that MEN somehow get to have it all, and WOMEN don’t, and that must somehow be the fault of MEN because it sure as hell can’t be women’s fault, amirite?
Wake up, Slaughter. No one person gets to have everything. It’s physically and mentally impossible. If you want loving, deep, meaningful relationships with your husband and children, you need to spend lots of time with them. There is no way around that. A 15 minute daily bitch session on the way to daycare ain’t gonna cut it.
There IS, in fact, a way to have it all. Stop thinking in terms of individuals, and start thinking about family.
A FAMILY can have it all. The balance Slaughter seeks needs to come in the form of her FAMILY having it all, and that contains some uncomfortable truths for many women, especially those holding the feminist banner high.
The simple biological truth is that women are best suited to take care of small children and infants. A baby doesn’t grow inside her father’s body. She doesn’t recognize the smell of her father from birth. She doesn’t know the sound of his heartbeat, the cadence of his breathing, the hum of his digestive system.
A baby is fine-tuned to detect her own mother, because her life depends on it. Her mother will feed her, calm her, protect her, keep her safe. Survival requires that mama stay close by. Babies and toddlers don’t just PREFER their mothers, every cell of their bodies SCREAMS for her.
Which is not to say that babies don’t love their fathers. Of course they do, but evolution has given them a strong preference for their mothers when they are small because she is the source of their food and survival.
Being a proper mother takes time and effort and more time and then add some more time on top of that.
So in the modern world, if a woman wants to actually BE a mother and not just hire someone to take the responsibility on for her, what is she to do?
Isn’t it obvious? She needs a partner. The father of her children, who has as much interest in seeing them survive as she does.
That part of the narrative always gets lost in articles like Slaughter’s.
Fathers love their children with as much intensity, passion, depth and fierceness as any woman ever has. Working women whine “how come no one ever criticizes men with children for working long hours at the office”? Men with children work long hours at the office or pick up extra shifts or work a second job on the side because that is how they SHOW their love. Men embrace the responsibility and do what they need to do to take care of their families.
Men work long hours so their wives can be MOTHERS, proper mothers to the children they have created together. That is how you have work/life balance. One of you works, and the other creates the life worth working for.
Younger women, who have tried the whole work while you have small children thing and found it desperately wanting, are returning in droves to the home with a male breadwinner in place, a family configuration that has worked for millennia, for obvious reasons.
And good for them, but I hope they realize that they’re giving up some very real power. Being economically dependent on a man can be a dangerous thing, which is why all women should have some qualifications as an insurance policy against disaster.
But that’s not really what I’m talking about. Most divorces are initiated by WOMEN. The odds of your husband walking out and leaving you and HIS children to starve in the street are actually quite low, and you can make them even lower. — and here’s where we get to the heart of the matter.
If you want a man to spend his life and energy and talent taking care of you and the children you have together, he is going to need to get something from that bargain. And that something is YOU.
Having someone else earn your living has a flip side: you will need to be grateful, and to show that gratitude, every day. Men who work so their wives can stay home have accepted a huge responsibility, and men seem to be willing to do this, but that responsibility comes with obligations.
If you accept your husband paying for your home, you have an obligation to make that a welcoming, joyful place to be. If you accept your husband paying for all your food, you have an obligation to cook. If you accept your husband working long hours so that he can care for his family, you have an obligation to keep that family in tact. If you accept that he will come home tired and demoralized from the things he has to do all day, you accept the obligation to provide love, comfort, charm and a warm embrace.
And that’s just what feminism does not want women to do. NO responsibilities, no obligations. The only thing that counts is YOU! You must have it all, all the time, with no trade-off. Go ahead and do that, but don’t count on being happy.
Being a mother is a great privilege. The instinctive love your child has for you and your body is one of the most profoundly moving experiences any human can go through.
But it comes with great responsibilities. That child in your arms has a father, who loves it with all the same intensity as you. You have an obligation to make certain that baby grows up protected by fatherly love.
Once you have decided to bring another human being into existence, you have a moral responsibility to do the very best you can for that child. And that means you need to be there. Physically.
You take care of the baby, and let Daddy take care of you.
That’s how you have it all. You share.