Well within our rights.

Trolling around the interwebs, I discovered this op-ed. Elizabeth Stewart, the author, is pissed off. She’s pissed off because she works a full day, just like her husband, and works her ass off at home as well. She feels underappreciated and at her wits end: “It’s a constant struggle to meet the demands of my various roles as wife, mother, daughter, colleague, lover, friend. I feel as if I short-change everyone all the time.”

By the time I read to the end of the piece, I felt a very close connection with Elizabeth. That may sound pretentious, because I don’t have an impressive or stressful career with an ad agency, nor do I have a husband and child to care for. But I admire her ability to juggle everything in her life, and feel her anger is justified. If I had crawled into bed just four hours earlier, while my husband was at home for most of that afternoon, I would hope that he would volunteer to be the one to get up and clean up our child’s vomit. It’s not out of resentment for the child, and it’s not because I wouldn’t be concerned and want to take care of my sick baby. There has to be an equal division of labor, that’s all.

I scrolled down to the comments, expecting to see more angry women in a little show of girl power. What an unpleasant surprise it was to read the following:

So give up your job and stop whinging. You say you need two jobs to keep a roof over your head? Downsize to a smaller roof and you’ll be just fine on your husband’s salary. And you can ditch the nanny then too and care for the child you brought into the world yourself. Son at boarding school? You chose to put him there, your problem if you miss him. Sorry, honey, but my guess is you’re not short of a bob or two – you’ve just grown acustomed to a certain standard of living and are damned if you’re going to give it up. Fine, but you’re smart enough to know you cannot have it all.
Click to rate Rating 250- Anna, London, 22/2/2009 16:40

Yes, she has a nanny. Yes, her son is in boarding school. Those both cost quite a bit of money. I choose not to begrudge her those things, because she can’t very well leave the youngest at home by herself, and if she can give her son a chance at a better education and future, more power to her.

You need to stop working and let your man take over all fiscal responsibilities until you are out of the weeds. Best of luck, girl. You have simply overcompensated.

Sigh. That one doesn’t need my commentary.

Why do women feel so angry? Glad you asked.
Well of course the irrational (and incorrect) explanation is to blame men. But in fact anger is a disease which starts to seriously inhibit women after the age of about 33. This is the age when the waning interest in them from men finally serves as confirmation that they are losing their looks. It is also the time that they reluctantly come to the realisation that ‘having it all’ is a cruel, feminist perpetuated myth.

That was the tone of most of the feedback, divided about equally between men and women. There were also a number of scoffs at this woman daring to get a bikini wax. How dare she do something that makes her feel attractive.

Obviously, she could be much worse off. There are plenty of single mothers who would die for a dual income and a nanny. I appreciate that, and I’m sure Ms. Stewart does as well. What troubles me here is the amount of people who are so sure that a woman should not have both a family and a career. I want both. I want to go to work, I want to put my education to good use, I want to teach, and I want to enjoy it. I also want to have a baby and raise her to be a loving, intelligent, and all-around wonderful human being. My mother did both. She worked in the morning, my father worked at night. We needed both incomes, and they both wanted to be with their baby. My father was ridiculed by other men for wanting to stay at home with me, and change my diapers, and clean up my sick. Not a glamorous line of work, and I’m sure there were times when the stress from work and from a child drove both of my parents insane. But they managed, and I lost nothing in the end. Two working parents. Daughter who never felt neglected.

It can be done. We can do it all. It’s shouldn’t be a question of whether or not a woman is capable of having a family and a job. It should be a question of whether or not we have the support system to do so, be it friend, boyfriend, husband, or our own parents. Wanting everything includes wanting some help from time to time…and we shouldn’t have to feel guilty about asking for it.

3 Responses to “Well within our rights.”

  1. Angela Says:

    Is there a particular reason why the whole entry is slashed out?

    I think we need to send a memo to the universe: “It takes two people to create a child (the usual way). Both of these people are equally responsible for raising that child. Child-rearing skill is not genetically pre-determined. Neither is cooking or cleaning.”

  2. Allison Says:

    After I accidentally found this article via Fark.com, I figured I’d share my point of view with you. I know we often come from different points of view, but right or wrong, the reasons for the angle that the commenters are coming from is easily seen.

    Elizabeth made the choices that led to her anger and expects that since she does extra things, the work she left behind should automatically be picked up by someone else. You saw this exact same complex in my mother- she chose to do a billion things outside of the household, but forgot that there are only so many dollars/hours in a day, and then got angry with other people when the things she leaves behind aren’t magically taken care of. What it comes down to is that Elizabeth made choices and now has to face consequences. To take something, in life, always means giving something else up.

    Unfortunately, people who comment on news articles aren’t usually ones to figure out why they’re saying things- they just say them. Their suggestions are valid solutions to her problems- just not ones that fit with Elizabeth’s (and your) way of thinking/ ideal.

    There aren’t enough hours in the day to “do it all.” I mean, maybe if she found a little time for methamphetamine in her routine, then she would find herself with a full 8 hours a night of extra time to do all the things she wants to do, but until then, or the time when science finds a way for women to truly be everywhere at once, we’re all going to have to make some cutbacks.

    I’m rambling, but I’ll also say this. A support network is necessary for a busy life, and part of having a support network is communicating with them. The more I live with Adam, the more I realize that women really DO expect men (and everyone else) to mind-read. Need your husband to pick the kid up/do dishes/ make you dinner/ clean up sick? Don’t expect him to realize that- ask him to do it. Once you let him know, you’ll find that if he’s as good of a man as you think, and he’s as not-busy as you think, that he won’t have a problem doing it. Don’t want to ask for help? Then don’t get angry when you make that choice to not get any help. Oh, and fire the nanny, if she’s not doing her job.

  3. Elana E Says:

    You can have it all. It takes a reevaluation of priorities, time, and lifestyle. Once you decide what is important (the child) everything else is easy: deciding who stays home when, how you live on one income, when to see each other when you are working opposite shifts, etc. Most decisions that you make are temporary. You can change jobs. You can move in to a smaller house. You can have it all, you just have to decide what “all” is to YOU!

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