Sitting on the porch just now I watched a daycare bus turn the corner. I wondered whose baby it was headed to pick up. I wondered what its mother thought?
I remember many years ago when all mothers stayed home. They would gather at each other’s homes for gossip fests. When I’d go to friends’ houses in the afternoon, the mothers would still be drinking coffee and sitting around talking.
There were times when I’d catch one of them cleaning. Cleaning is a hard job and was done daily. Because it was done every day, there was not so much cleaning to do and homes stayed fresh and nice to be in.
Now worn out mothers rush home, often with a stop on the way to pick up dinner. They try to help with homework, while doing laundry and some housework. You won’t find them collapsed in front of a TV at night rejuvenating for the next work day. You’ll find them staying up later than they feel like and running through lists of things their children or they need to do to prepare for the next marathon day.
I warned the other women in college as they harped on demanding their right to work. My own mother was not so fortunate as to stay home every day. Left to raise two children alone, she trudged off to work every morning. I saw how tired she looked when she came back home that late afternoon/early evening.
I told the clamoring women who wanted “equal rights”, those who wanted to have it all. They screamed for choices. They did not scream in vain, no matter how many times I told them what it was like to be a working mother.
They bragged about how much more spending money they’d have if they and their husbands went to work. They didn’t want to hear about my summer working at the shirt factory while I saw different women with pictures of small children propped in their machine areas. Yes, these women who showed up for work every day to sew seams all day long “had it all”. They got to work and they had a husband and children. They looked haggard to me daily. Was that the result of “having it all”?
As I predicted, the costs of things rose with the rise of family income. Women began to work and then women began to not be able to not work. They couldn’t afford to stay home. Daycares sprung up all over America, and people willing to work for minimum wage began to raise generations of children.
I worked briefly in a daycare center. I saw that children who were the loudest and most obnoxious got the attention. What did that teach our little ones?
I’ve worked with other women all my working life. I’ve seen them cry on their first day of returning to work after giving birth. I’ve seen them go in bathrooms to “pump milk” so that their baby could have breast milk daily, even though the bonding ritual of drinking it was missing much of the time.
My “voice of reason” was a cry into the wilderness of women who knew it all and demanded it all. Now the current generation of mothers are reaping the benefits of that all too powerful women’s rights movement.
I warned them.
As I sit home now with time to contemplate how the world has changed during my lifetime, I think about how women’s lives would have been different if young women had not scorned what their own mothers’ lives were like.
It might have looked like their mothers did nothing all day, but they took care of hearth and home and that was a very important job.
I feel sad for the women of today who have to rush all the time just to keep up with the demands of living. The only way it can or will change is for women to quit working and just stay at home. Standards of living in some ways may fall. There may be no vacations, if there are any now. There will be no fancy dress clothes. There may only be one car per family, but women can turn back the pages of time until they too can visit each other during the day. They can take their children to doctor visits without having to ask for time off work. They can clean their homes and take care of their families and not have to hurry back to work after giving birth. They can breastfeed and they can teach their children family values that daycare workers may not have or may not have time to teach.
Changes take time and are often painful. Women I’ve spoken to today are as sure of themselves as women were when all the womens’ rights movements were taking place. Todays women are sure they cannot afford to stay home.
They should sit down and figure out how much it costs them to work. They should figure out how much less home cooked meals cost than the ones they buy on their way home. They should realize that motherhood and wife-hood have their own values.
They won’t listen to me, just as their mothers didn’t listen years ago, as I warned of what a working life for a mother was really like. I saw it daily. They didn’t and their fantasy dream over-ruled my sensible comments.
Have it all? That’s a lot to want and too much to ask for. It will overwhelm and exhaust a body into an early grave. My own mother died at age 52. She was completely worn out.
My heart breaks for today’s women. If only , if only, if only . . .