Hello SCS Book Clubbers! How’s the reading going? Wait. You haven’t started reading Opting In: Having a Child Without Losing Yourself by Amy Richards, yet? No problem! There’s still plenty of time. How’s Jan. 22, 2011 sound for a deadline? I’m so there!
If you haven’t started yet, Opting In is a smart look at feminist motherhood — from the biological clock to boys playing with dolls — and the artificial hysteria that intelligent, college-educated women are “opting out” of the career world to have babies.
In the opening, Richards says the genesis of the book came after Lisa Belkin’s The Opt-Out Revolution hit the front of the New York Times Magazine in 2004, which brought ample fuel to the old career vs home debate and seemingly declared feminism a failure. Indeed, Richard recalls thinking, “How lame of those women. How could they ruin it for women who do want to work? How typical of the New York Times to run another antifeminist story…” But as we read on, we see that Richards realizes the problem isn’t that women can’t balance home and work or that women are “opting out,” it’s the very framework that we use to define motherhood. And the media only amplifies this all too well.
It’s just like any good reporter or researcher will tell you: The conclusions we reach are framed by the questions we ask.
And lest we think this issue is dusted over since 2004, here’s a story from the Careerist from June of this year, yet again decrying the damn shame that women “take the path of least resistance” instead of working at challenging jobs outside the home. I will not pretend to hide my disdain for just such stories, which not only feed into the frenzy around “opting out” but offer the suggestion — by a college-educated career woman, in fact — that women who do anything less than work at fast-paced, competitive jobs outside the home are failures. Careerist’s Chen writes:
…I can’t help but feel a bit deflated that so many of her female classmates have decided not to pursue any type of career at all. Yes, I realize that these are personal choices, and that many women are perfectly fulfilled minding the home and kids. And as the cliché goes, kids grow up so quickly. So who can blame anyone for not wanting to miss those magical years?
Yet, I’m baffled. Are these women just burned out by the legal profession? Is it that impossible to balance–however badly–home and career of any sort? Or are these women taking the path of least resistance?
It’s a mystery to me.
Thanks, Chen, I hadn’t been kicked in the teeth yet today. Am I really such a mysterious phenomenon? I am college educated. I worked in a highly competitive field for 10 years and earned prestigious awards and accolades. And now I am a stay-at-home feminist. But I ask you, is this the product of some break-down in feminism? Some failure in me as a career woman to excuse myself for an easier life? If you answered yes to either of those questions you couldn’t be more wrong.
And this is where Richard’s Opting In picks up the debate.
There may be a right way for each family, but there’s not a single right way for all families.
So far, I have only read the beginning sections. She moves quickly and thoroughly through some heady stuff. But there have been some pay-offs already. (I had to get a pencil to underline all the quotes I like!) And I can’t wait to talk about it with all of you! So start reading! Or, keep reading!
And no more trash-talking each other, okay? No more mean mommies! No more cold career women! We’re on the same damn team!