So, all Good Feminists know Retro Housewives are A Bad Thing, right ?
( Thank goodness for bloggers like Blue Milk and The Blasphemous Homemaker who do a wonderful job of articulating a coherent and complex reply to some of the more didactic commentators out there. Myself, I'm only good at snarky capitalisation.)
One of the more mind-boggling criticisms of stay-at-home-mothers I've come across in the past week is the accusation that staying at home teaches and reinforces sexist roles and attitudes in our children.
I did a little investigative reporting at the dinner table last night.
Both girls reported feeling no familial pressure to grow up and become stay at home mums. Some eye rolling then ensued as I pursued the topic of whether they felt capable and able to have a career as an adult. Arwen looked at me like I was insane. Lucy kindly said, yes, they knew about Having a Career and the odds were good they'd have one.
With Yoshi I went for a simple yes and no.
"Hey, you know mums can go to work outside the home, right ?"
"And dads can stay home and take care of children ?"
"Yes." Long suffering tone...Mum has bee in bonnet...how long will this inane questioning over things we take for granted go on ?
Satisfied that neither of the girls felt apron-related Retro Mum oppression or that Yoshi was a cave-man in waiting, I turned my attention to the reasons they may have escaped my pernicious influence.
Reason One: Me. Sure, I set a bad example with my evil muffin baking ways but I counterbalance this with a healthy dose of liberal education.
Reason Two: I'm the primary care-giver around here. Have been for the last 1.5 decades. But even in this regressive set up, due to the nature of C's work, he's at home as much as he's out. There's a blurring of lines when one or both parent works from home - no-one gets to claim Home, no-one belongs to Work.
Reason Three: All the kids have seen me work from the time they were tiny, and I'm not just talking about scrubbing the toilet. They've seen me study, volunteer as a breastfeeding counsellor, run book clubs and theater groups and children's co-ops. They've seen me teach for pay at a school and a library. They've seen me write. They've seen me run meetings. They've seen me tutor for cash. Even though my main job is parenting, they haven't lacked a female model of work.
Reason Four - All kids - yes, even the homeschooled ones! - live in a community. And what do you know ? They've grown up with a grandmother who works. Aunties who work. A grandfather who does grandchild-care. Friends of mine who work part-time. Neighbours whose dad stays home while mum works full-time. Jeez Louise, they are not stupid, my kids. They understand that the way we live is one among many. And that they are free - or as free as men and women can be in a consumerist society - to chose to live in a way that corresponds with their values and beliefs.
At which point we find ourselves back at the liberal education I spend my days providing...
The kids are OK.
Or, as Arwen says: Mum, get over it.