Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Return of the Happy Housewife

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A little while, Literary Mama published my review of Darla Shine's Happy Housewives. I half expected Shine to respond as she had to some of my previous blog posts, but my review was greeted by silence.

Perhaps she hadn't read it. Perhaps she had and was pleased: although I was not a huge fan of the book, I did try my best to be fair.

Well, as it turns out, she did read it. She even commented on it. She simply did not comment on it on Literary Mama.

Andi Buchanan had blogged about the review on Mother Shock:

Jen Lawrence, of TO Mama, MUBAR, and LM blog fame, takes a long hard look at the current "sexy housewife" movement in her excellent, in-depth Literary Mama review of Darla Shine's Happy Housewives titled "The Feminine Mistake." It's long and well worth reading, as it touches on everything from Flanaganalia to the troubling sexification of domesticity to feminist bashing and mom-on-mom judgment cloaked in the rhetoric of "values" and "choice."

And there, buried way down deep beneath all of the comment span, was a response from Ms. Shine, which Andi forwarded to me:

"Troubling sexification of domesticity to feminist bashing and mom-on-mom judgment cloaked in the rhetoric of "values" and "choice." What the hell does that mean? You really are reaching here aren't you?

You know, I try not to respond to all of the bloggers writing about me because I do not want to stir this pot, but you are really funny. I had to respond to your quote.

As for the Literary Mama review saying my book isn't well researched, Hello! It is not an acedemic paper. It is a fun book, specifically written in journal style for moms to have a good time reading. Fun, a word you just don't know about. I do have a sense of humor and I laughed all the way through the review of my book on Literary Mama. Do you all try to prove how smart you are using big words? Are you so smart that you just can't absorb satire, is that beneath you? Do you understand that when I write, don't talk to your husband, just have sex, that it is a joke? Don't you get it? I guess not. Maybe if you opened yourself up and laughed a bit, you wouldn't be so uptight.

We do agree, that the Feminine Mystique is an amazing work. I have a copy too. Does every mom's book have to be a serious look at the plight of women?

And speaking of provoking, who is provoking the mommy wars? I'm not. You are the ones who continue to write about me. I specifically wrote a book for women who CHOOSE to be home. I wrote in the first few pages that my book is not for women working full time. There are so many books out there for career moms, God help us all if one book comes out supporting the stay at home mom, and you all get yourselves into a frenzy.

I wrote my book as a journal, to help other SAHMS, like me, who were having a bit of a struggle being at home.

Maybe you should all focus your energy on improving the workplace for moms, maybe then all women would get what they really want, mom share programs, flexibility, quality child care, and longer maternity leave. Maybe instead of trashing me all over the internet you should use your strength in numbers for a bigger cause.

I don't know why you would write a review saying you don't want to give more publicity to my book and then promote the review on your other website? Who asked you to review my book? Take it off your site.

I do think that maybe you did enjoy Happy Housewives a bit. I do think that if you would allow yourself to get off your high horse, you just might realize we aren't that different. It sucks being a woman. Having to choose your career or your kids. We have to do it all. Hold it all together. Some days are a nightmare. I wrote in my book that we should all come together to support each other, that if we did, we would be the most powerful political group. We could take over. But, that will never happen will it?

And let me say for the record. Why on earth would any of you not agree with what I am saying. Why would you allow yourself to work for a male owned corporation where you were not being supported as a mom? Why would you leave your child in day care for 10 hours a day? Why shouldn't you agree with what I am saying? If we refused to work with any company that did not support moms, that company would topple. The fact is women decide what car, what house, what vacation, what the money will be spent on, and corporate America would have to wake up if we banned together and demanded some respect.

You try to spin my book into something it's not. I am not trying to repress women. In fact I tell moms that they can achieve everything from home. Which is why some of my biggest fans are Doctors, Lawyers, Educators, and women who realize they can start their own business and set up shop right from their homes.

The stay at home moms are getting powerful. I think that's what bothers you the most. And that is really sad.

Oh and for the record, I don't serve dinner every night in an evening gown, it was a photo shoot.

I'll file that under things that make me say "Hmmm". I do, however, want to highlight what I think is a very astute observation on her part -- one that I've written about myself in the Canadian context -- is "If we refused to work with any company that did not support moms, that company would topple. The fact is women decide what car, what house, what vacation, what the money will be spent on, and corporate America would have to wake up if we banned together and demanded some respect." Amen to that. That's exactly the reason I am so hard on books like hers which seek to divide us. (After penning my review, one of her fans left the following comments on my personal blog: "I can't believe you would say that you don't miss your babies when you are away from them! Why would you have them? Shame on you" and "Why are you bragging about being a lazy homemaker? And Darla is not stepford, and neither am I. Why do women have babies and then don't want to be around them?" Oh no, that's not divisive at all.)

The ironic thing about all of this is that although I seem to have be held up as the humorless, anti-stay at home mother poster-girl, I've been invited to appear on ROBTv (a Canadian business channel) this week to discuss how I disagree with the views of some radical feminist thinkers like Linda Hirshman who devalue at-home mothering and caregiving.

I think I'll file that under things that make me say "Hmmm" too.


Jen Lawrence is an MBA and former banker who left the world of finance for the world of sippy cups and goldfish crackers. She writes about her experiences on her blog MUBAR (Mothered Up Beyond All Recognition). She is an Editorial Assistant for Literary Mama’s Reviews section and also contributes to the Literary Mama blog. Her work has appeared in The Philosophical Mother. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and two children.


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It sucks being a woman. Having to choose your career or your kids. We have to do it all. Hold it all together. Some days are a nightmare. Gee, who's lost their sense of humor now? I'm so glad I don't have to do it all. I'm glad my dh is here to parent with me, to give the kids a bath and put them to bed, and to do some housework. I mean really, why should MEN have kids if they don't want to spend any time with them? Troubling sexification of domesticity to feminist bashing and mom-on-mom judgment cloaked in the rhetoric of "values" and "choice. Translation: Women doing all the housework is a sexy role for some men and women. Just like some women are into masochism and being "slaves" in their role playing. Well, if that's what floats your boat...(that's the "rhetoric of choice" here, that last sentence). The "rhetoric of values" part is where someone says "it's ok to oppressed if I don't see it as oppressive". That's an open question, and one that the third wave of feminism has been debating for years, but you're going to have to wade through lots of those big words (speaking of which, I love "Flanaganalia", LOL) if you want to engage in debate. Do I really need to translate "feminist bashing" and "mom on mom judgment"? It is a bit of a paradox, though, as we cannot comment on Darla Shine or Caitlin Flanagan's writing without engaging in some "mom on mom judgement". I think that when you publish a book (or a blog), however, you are asking for judgment. No one here is criticizing their worth as a mother, they are criticizing their intolerance of other mothers and their choices and values. I do suppose the term "feminist bashing" could go either way, though - we've got Linda Hirshman as a feminist bashing SAH mothers, and those promoting an exclusively SAH-mom lifestyle bashing feminists. Ironically, both Flanagan and Shine don't seem to realize that many SAH-moms are also feminists, and proud of it. In fact, some of us are even big-word using feminists with wicked senses of humor. Which is perhaps why we enjoy skewering pompous intolerance and those unable to see issues in anything other than black and white. Now excuse me while I go find my high heels to mop the kitchen floor.
How nice for Shine that she is able to make the choice. How many moms out there are able to choose where they will work? Personally, I'd love to work for a corporation based in Quebec with on-site daycare for $9 a day. But here I am in Toronto, paying $33 a day for daycare 30 minutes from my workplace. Did I choose to join the ranks of the working poor? Did I not make a solid attempt at post-secondary education before realizing that (a) it's not for me and (b) at the age of 18, I needed to be making money, not going into debt for tuition. I'm sure there's alot I could accomplish from home. But it wouldn't be a home we would be living in. As the major wage earner in my household, home would be a too-small apartment. And accomplishments would include finding some way to fund the expensive medications that help me deal with my depression (both clinical and post-partum). It's all fine and good for Shine to think that we have a choice and to suggest that moms can make a difference in creating a mom-friendly world. But frankly, after getting up at 6:30 am, working an 8+hour day and spending at least 2 hours commuting, I'm just too tired and conscious of the fact that I have only 2 1/2 hours a day in which to spend with my daughter while she's awake.
"Why would you allow yourself to work for a male-owned corporation where you were not being supported as a mom? Why would you leave your child in child care for 10 hours a day?" Ummm...lemme think....Oh, I got it! Because you need the money? Sorry. That was snarky. But I had some blood work done this morning and found myself standing in line with a woman who was a) going to be late to work because the lab opened 30 minutes later than the posted time and b) was going to have to put in some hours at a part-time job later on that evening. She's a mom. It was 8 a.m. and she already looked weary. Our conversation was limited but I would bet that she is not going to put in the hours she will put in today because she wants to be away from her children, or because she gets a huge ego thrill from her work. My bet is she and her husband need the money. My bet is that she doesn't have the luxury of telling her boss, "You don't support families, so I quit." It's just a thought.
You know what really bugs me? People who can't write who get book deals. Signed, Dani A mom and feminist who values her family so much she works to support them - and who doesn't think being a woman sucks in the least.
Interesting. She took one line of your comprehensive thorough-going review and went into a long defense of Herself, while creating a humorless, sexless straw figure of you (and anyone who might agree--so that's me too I guess.) The element of choice is where it all lies but doesn't always happen. I didn't choose my car: the car shop for someone with bad credit chose it. My clothes come from thrift stores. We eat generic cereal. I can't topple a company by not working there because I can't get a job right now with all the holes in my resume. When I do re-enter the workforce so that there can be hope of college for the kids and retirement for us, my skills will have to be overhauled in some official capacity. More school loans no doubt. I could go on and on, but just sayin. I haven't met many SAHM's who chose it so much as stumbled into it for a variety of reasons, and for whom it is a transition state. I am trying "desperately" to make this transition state meaningful. But it is not a career. One of the things that astounds me about those who embrace raising children as a career move is that kids. grow. up. And then what?
My, my. I didn't think a happy housewife could harbor that much hostility.
She strikes me as a coward.
Shame on you, Jen, for not being easily categorizable! I should be able to stick you right in an ideological mail slot, and I CAN'T! How am I supposed to bash you if I can't quite get an ideological grip on you, you slippery fish! Must be because you're Canadian!
It just makes me sick that us moms are bashing each other all over the internet. It makes it easier for the media to prolong their coverage of the mommy wars. Women would be much better served if we supported each other for the choices we make, rather than putting each other down.
I really feel for the single mothers that have no choice but to work to support their children. But there are so many mothers in the work place that are there because they simply can't bring themselves to live on a tighter budget. The fact is, your kids won't remember what kind of car they ride to daycare in, or what the living room furniture looks like. But they will remember the time that mommy spent with them, the things that she taught them, and the sacrifices she made for them. I really respect mothers who make the choice to stay at home and raise their children. And I'm not directing these comments toward families that can't survive on one income, because they're out there, and that is very sad. But I've been in both positions: I was in the military when I had my first child, I chose to separate when I had my second, because I knew that I couldn't put 100% effort into my career, and being a mother. Though with just my husband working, we are on a tighter budget, but I didn't see the point in planning a family, and then paying someone else to raise them. And, I must admit, full time mothering, is the hardest job I've ever had. It takes patience, and planning, and is not always pleasant. It's a 24 hour 7 day a week job of cooking, cleaning, supervising, teaching, etc. But it is also the most rewarding job I've ever had. Kids grow up so fast, and sometimes the smallest things effect the rest of their lives. Mothers have a HUGE responsibility: we influence and instruct the next generation from presidents and leaders to ordinary citizens. We leave our thumbprint on society, so we can either work together to make a positive impact on the world, or we can spend our time backbiting, and critisizing. I'm currently providing childcare for a lady freind of mine, because she wanted more individual care for her son. I don't know if she's working out of necessity, or because her husbands income alone doesn't suffice, but we have a mutual respect for one another. That's hard to find among working moms and SAHM's, but it's the most productive and positive arrangement for all concerned. Anyways, that's my two cents.
I AM one of those single mothers who has no choice but to work, and I worry about the stay-at-home mom, like Shine, who assumes her position of relative financial security is secure. I was a stay-at-home mom until I got divorced and my soon-to-be-ex-husband lost his job-- then, suddenly, I was thrust back into the job market as the sole bread winner with a gap in my experience, no savings, and less retirement and social security laid up. Heaven forbid, but what if the happy housewife's husbands dies, leaves her, or becomes disabled? She will end up like me. And in a country with as high a divorce rate as ours, stay-at-home moms need to be conscious of the financial insecurity they are creating for themselves and their children. Believe me, I loved being a stay-at-home mom. But even if I married again, I would not give up my finanical security -- I would keep working not for my personal gratification, but for my child's future, for my future, and for the good of the family. Depending on only one person to make the money can be hazardous --because we never know what will happen to that person or to our relationship to him/her. And in this context, working has nothing to do with choice.
Wow, there are about ten thousand things that I'd like to say about this. But, really, they all boil down to this: somebody has issues. Wee bit defensive about her position, isn't she? But the most extraordinary thing about her comments is this: her insistence that her book was not meant to be read by WOHMs. That it was expressly and exclusively directed at SAHMs. Like we're such completely different creatures as to constitute different readerships. That the difference between between staying at home and working outside the home renders us so 'other' to each other that it appears that we have nothing in common, nothing to offer each other. This is such total bunk that it takes my breath away. And does more to perpetuate the so-called and so-tiresome 'mommy wars' than anything else I've seen.
Yikes! All the mom-to-mom bitterness is hard to take, but here's a point I don't often see made... some of us make BETTER MOTHERS when we aren't at home full time. I stayed home for 4.5 years until I realized I was so unhappy that I was making my kids unhappy, too. I say with all sincerity that I wanted to like being at home SO MUCH, but I just didn't. My husband has taken my place for now because we have a little one (age two), and he wants to do it. I know, lucky we can do that, no doubt about it. My point is, can we not all admit that parenting is about WHO WE ARE, not just about what we do?? Why are we attacking each other for BEING OURSELVES??? For those of us who get to choose, can't we just be happy for each other and cut the criticism? I think the root of judgment comes from not feeling OK with our own choices, so we feel the need to boost ourselves at someone else's cost. I will love the day when moms no longer feel the need to have these divisive conversations -- but that won't happen until society puts less burden on us for perfection...
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