Might some of us be more fruitful without multiplying? Lauren Sandler thinks so, and she wrote about in her new book, “One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child and the Joy of Being One.” In the book, Sandler takes on stereotypes of only children and explores whether single-child families might be the solution for parents looking to strike a better balance between work and life.The Sisterhood spoke with Sandler about why she loves having one kid, how she found inspiration in her own mother and how she creates a sense of community for her daughter.
THE SISTERHOOD: So, why did you write this book?
LAUREN SANDLER: When I learned that most people have their first child for themselves, and their second child for the benefit of their first, I thought, wow, that’s a lot to do to keep your kid from being an only child. And when I found that our stereotype of the lonely, selfish, maladjusted only child had been disproved over hundreds of studies and decades of research, it struck me that something was really off. I wondered if people had better information about only children, what choices they’d feel freer to make—or in the case of people who didn’t have much say in the matter, how they’d be freed from all that guilt. Since it struck me that the more we parent the less we can do anything else—including dedicating ourselves to our relationships, our community, and the betterment of our society. (Or, heck, just spend a weekend plowing through a novel or having dinner with friends!)
Facebook Chief Operating Officer and newly self-styled feminist leader Sheryl Sandberg wants women to “Lean In,” as the title of her new book tells us, instead of “pulling back.” Well, let me tell you — I’ve been leaning in for two decades until the point that I am almost flat on my face from exhaustion.
The first thing one might ask is: where the heck is this woman coming from, telling other women that “we hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands,” and that this is why “men still run the world”?
I know exactly where Sandberg is coming from: a 9,200 square foot home in Menlo Park, Calif., which sits on property she and her husband bought for almost $3 million. She’s also coming from a situation in which she has “a small army of household help,” according to a recent article by Jodi Kantor in The New York Times.
I can assure you that I have always been one to raise my hand (just ask any teacher, professor or boss I have ever had.) Sure, I’ve had my moments of self-doubt, but most people would not characterize me as someone who lacks self-confidence.
The New York Times blog Motherlode provides a smart and nuanced look into the pressing parenting issues of the day. Led by KJ Dell’Antonia, the blog covers things like work-life balance, breastfeeding, divorce and infertility. What is absent is things like shedding the baby weight, nursery decoration tips, or why moms with $1,000 strollers do or don’t suck.
The blog is a serious look at parenting, and shows how a smart discussion on the topic will inevitably hit upon matters of politics, economics and science. And yet, the New York Times considers the blog as part of the Style section online and features it in the Home section in the print edition.
The Times’ editors think the blog best fits in among stories about fashion, beauty, and interior design. I don’t.
So, so much has been written about work-life balance in the past year, which is an old conversation re-ignited by Anne Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic cover story. What emerged in the recent discussion about balancing career, money and child rearing is that this isn’t just an issue for moms. Instead, this debate probes deeply into how we, all of us, men and women, work and organize our family life today.
One of the threads of the heated discussion surrounding Anne-Marie Slaughter’s new Atlantic article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” is whether feminists should rid themselves of the phrase “having it all.”
Rebecca Traister at Salon writes:
Here is what is wrong, what has always been wrong, with equating feminist success with “having it all”: It’s a misrepresentation of a revolutionary social movement. The notion that female achievement should be measured by women’s ability to “have it all” recasts a righteous struggle for greater political, economic, social, sexual and political parity as a piggy and acquisitive project.
Lindy West at Jezebel adds:
First of all, nobody’s happy. Nobody “has it all”— not women, not men, not presidents, not heiresses, not babies, not kittens (maybe kittens). The idea that there is one homogeneous definition of “it all” that all women are supposed to desire is painfully reductive.
While I agree with the larger points Traister and West make in their responses, I would like to defend the use of the term “having it all” on behalf of the many feminists who, like me, totally got it.
Get out your virtual pitchforks. I’m about to defend Elizabeth Wurtzel.
Last week, the writer-turned-lawyer curried ire with many a stay-at-home mother (#sahm, in Twitter verse), when she denounced “1% wives”–referring to America’s most privileged, educated women–as collaborators in the “war on women.”
In her red-meat-for-the-blogosphere polemic, Wurtzel argues that “being a mother isn’t really work” because it’s not selective. “A job that anyone can have is not a job, it’s a part of life, no matter how important people insist it is (all the insisting is itself overcompensation),” she writes.
Read the rest at kveller.com.
Elizabeth Wurtzel actually has a solid point in her latest screed in the Atlantic.
Her argument is that until women have economic equality, and insist on economic equality, other notions of equality will fall flat. She echoes the solid economic and political arguments that have been laid out briskly by both Leslie Bennetts and Linda Hirshman, whose respective books soberly point out the real consequences of what happens when women sacrifice careers for family: they set the bar lower for other women, they risk losing everything in divorces and they miss the chance to affect society on a larger scale.
This argument is also backed up by a recent study that shows that men with stay at home wives in “traditional marriages” tend to treat their female colleagues more poorly:
“We found that employed husbands in traditional marriages, compared to those in modern marriages, tend to (a) view the presence of women in the workplace unfavorably, (b) perceive that organizations with higher numbers of female employees are operating less smoothly, (c) find organizations with female leaders as relatively unattractive, and (d) deny, more frequently, qualified female employees opportunities for promotion.”
Okay, Elizabeth Wurtzel, you’re incendiary, condescending, a bit heartless and inexperienced, but you’re not totally wrong. The premise of your screed in The Atlantic that motherhood is not a job is true. At the risk of engaging in some blustering semantics—motherhood is messy. It’s consuming. It’s a woman’s blood. A mother’s milk. Motherhood is a mind-blowing, body-altering experience and no one can come close to telling you how radically amazing, frightening, depressing, frustrating and exhausting it is until you become a mother. That’s just the way it is. And believe me, I hate to admit when my mother is right.
Just to be clear, I’m not the 1% stay-at-home mother you take to task, Ms. Wurtzel. I’m a writer. I work hard at it, but I don’t come close to paying the mortgage from my wages. I also devote a lot of my time to mothering my two teenagers and I don’t get a dime for that. My husband supports our family. He’s in a field that’s more lucrative than mine. That’s a fact.
I’m blessed to have the choice to work from home, but I’m not spoiled. I think multi-tasking is a myth perpetuated to drive women crazy. I decided to stay at home when my first child was born because I wanted to be the most important person in her life. That’s not egotistical, that’s love. Full-blown maternal love. I break my own glass ceilings each time my children choose me as their go-to-person. Sometimes I lose out to their friends, but I can live with that. At the end of the day, I’m the one that they confess their sins and their fears to. And to paraphrase you, if you tell me that anyone can do that for my kids, I swear I’m going to smack you. No one, but no one, could ever love my kids like I do because I am their mother. Period.
This is the tenth entry in an ongoing series exploring Jewish feminism.
I embraced Jewish feminism with passion, as did many women in my generation. We were the mothers, the founders, the fighters. My special battle arena was having women ordained as rabbis in the Conservative movement. When that was accomplished, I knew we would win the larger war; we were helping to create a generation of learned, committed women who would change the face of Jewish communal life. What we predicted came true. Female rabbis now seem as natural a sight on the podiums of liberal synagogues as any male rabbi ever did, and Orthodox women have begun to find their way as religious leaders.
Now I listen with puzzlement when my almost-teenage granddaughter tells me that neither she nor her friends think of themselves as feminists. “That was in your time, Grandma,” she says, “it’s not part of our lives.” But what does she think when she chants a Torah portion out loud or leads services in our Conservative synagogue, as she has done since her bat mitzvah?
She must know — because I’ve told her — that only in recent times have women been permitted to do such things. Yet she takes these activities so for granted that she doesn’t want to hear about what used to be. She is happy with what is. So am I. We always said that we looked forward to the day when women will be so fully integrated into roles that once belonged exclusively to men that nobody would even comment on their presence. We have reached those goals and can feel good about our achievements.
But here’s a worm of discontent that gnaws away at my feminist soul: We opened the doors for women in many areas, but we did not show them how to manage their lives once they stepped through those doors.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has come out of the closet. No, not that closet, but rather the one in which she’s been hiding the fact that she leaves the office each day at 5:30 p.m. so she can have dinner with her children.
In this new video, Sandberg says that she wasn’t confident enough, until the last year or two, to admit that she leaves at a reasonable hour in order to attend to her family life. It’s amazing that even a woman as powerful as Sandberg has felt a sense of shame about it, as if she wasn’t working hard enough, though as she says in this article, clearly she is working at all hours: “I feel guilty when my son says, ‘Mommy, put down the BlackBerry, talk to me’ and that happens far too often.”
Nothing is as powerful an influence on changing a culture than seeing people in power illustrate values like this.