Feminine Mistake

by gurumommy on June 28, 2011

in from the desk of

I know this groundbreaking book, The Feminine Mistake,  is NOT new but I could not put it down!  Leslie Bennetts writes a compelling wake-up call to all mothers (mostly stay-at-home moms) that they owe it to themselves, family & children to keep working after they have kids.  I for one cannot believe how much this kind of logic has not reached the mainstream.  In her book, the Feminine Mistake, she writes:  “It’s nice to be at home when your child loses her fourth tooth, but is it worth the price you might pay if your breadwinner dies or divorces you, and you end up losing that home entirely?” The feminists of Bennetts’s youth proclaimed that a woman needs a man the way a fish needs a bicycle; Bennetts’s point is that bicycles get broken or stolen all the time.

“Under questioning, many stay-at-home wives admit they were bored or unhappy with their work before quitting their jobs,” she writes. Their insistence that they are fulfilled by taking care of their families is, she says, “the socially acceptable cover story” for their failure to find work that they like enough to leave the kids with a sitter for it.

To Bennetts, the new “stay-at-home momism,” as she termed it in the 2005 magazine article from which this book grew, is a kind of nationwide female delusion: “a plague of silence across the land,” she says, with Friedanesque rhetoric. (Elsewhere, she cites a soccer mom turned entrepreneur who likens the divorce and desertion among her peers to “the slaughter of the lambs”—a slightly less inflamed metaphor than Friedan’s description of domesticity as “the comfortable concentration camp,” but along the same lines.) Where Friedan’s interviews convinced her of a pervasive discontent, though, Bennetts finds, and deplores, a pervasive contentment. Interview after interview reveals a woman who seems, actually, pretty happy with her lot, at least until Bennetts sweeps in and points out how terrible things will become if her husband leaves her. (A typical response to a question about plans for the future—“To be honest, I haven’t thought long and hard about that”—is provided by the stay-at-home mother of a two-year-old and a two-month-old, a woman who deserves a medal simply for answering the door to Bennetts.) The response of one woman to the bald question of what she would do if the worst were to happen—“I would get married again”—strikes Bennetts as so absurd as to be barely deserving of commentary, although half of all divorced women remarry within five years of their first marriage ending, and three-quarters remarry within a decade of a split.

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