Monday, June 19, 2006

A Well-Rounded Life

I was greatly amused this morning to log onto washingtonpost.com and see one of their blogger/columnists (whose name I now forget) writing about how wrong Linda Hirshman was in her book, Get to Work. Because the long comment stream that followed this columnist's (and I wish I could locate the link on the Post website, but I can't) was about 80% in favor of Linda Hirshman.

I think a lot of woman are tired of this phenomena of a segment of highly educated woman deciding to make staying at home with their kids not only a 'choice' but a career. One of the posters pointed out that raising is your kids is a part of life, not a job. I agree. It's an important part of a typical life (regardless of your sexuality) and should be taken seriously, but it does not replace work. And work is good for the soul, both the male and female soul. You have to have interests and passions beyond your children. If your whole focus in life is your kids, aren't they going to turn out a little egocentric? And aren't you encouraging them to be hyper-competitive in a negative way? I mean, I'm a competitive person, and I think competition is healthy--but if every school project, every Scouting activity, every single thing your kid does turns into something they have to win at, be better at than the other kids--there's something wrong.

I have seen parents like this right here in Bethesda. It's why I don't want to have much to do with my kids' public school. Because everything is a competition among the parents. And often, the kids. My kid is better than yours. I just don't need to go there and get involved in it. And I don't want my kids involved in it, either. One of my neighbors brought a breakfast dish--fruit salad--over to the teachers' appreciation breakfast a year ago. She brought the fruit salad in a Tupperware dish. She was embarrassed because the long tables were laid out with the best linen tableclothes, and other mothers had brought all kinds of more complicated hot dishes in their best china, with silver serving utensils.

These people have too much time on their hands. They need to go back to work. And it is a huge waste of resources, as Linda Hirshman points out, to go to college if you're going to cop out and do the mommy track. You don't need a BA to be a mommy. And you certainly don't need a JD or a PhD or an MBA. Think how many underprivileged high school graduates could have gone to earn a college degree if all you wanted to do with your life is be a mommy.

But going to school to get a basic liberal arts education in order to be an educated (non-working) wife to a powerful man has long been a staple of colleges for upper-income white woman--like Smith and Mt. Holyoke. Let's face it, Sylvia Plath didn't attend Smith to get a job. She went to get a husband. Just like the rest of her classmates.

It is a a good thing to lead a well-rounded life--to set a good example for your children of how to be a productive member of society, how to make a difference with what you do or what you give away from what you earn.

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