got me a college girl

in celebration of formal education in the life of the Christian girl

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Happy Housewife? (Monica)

I happened across this story in today's local paper. Sad that the female author is once again pitting women against women. Beyond that though, it sounds like the same kind of schizophrenia that shows up in Where the Girls Are, the desire to be at home nesting, enjoying all the things traditionally "feminine," and yet not finding that the only place that God-given talents could/should be developed and used, needing a bigger horizon than the four walls of the house. The author, Flanagan, describes her book as "trying to say...It's a kind of life, a way of life that's wrought with divergent conflicting impulses."

Has anyone read her book? It's brand new, and I'm hoping to get it from the library in the next couple days.

Disclaimer: I'm not suggesting that there's anything Christian about Flanagan's book. I've not read it yet, and I don't know anything about her other than the reviews I've seen. I would expect her to mention education for women, and I'm curious to see what she has to say there.

7 Comments:

  • At 3:39 PM, Blogger Laura said…

    I've read only the first chapter (it's available on nytimes.com currently) but I'd be very interested in reading a "college girl" review of the book if not the book itself.

     
  • At 6:46 AM, Blogger Monica said…

    Update:

    I spent a couple hours at B&N last night to read the Flanagan book. It just hit the shelves yesterday, so it wasn't even on the purchase list for the libraries yet. It took me about 2 hours to read. I need another pass at it to really unpack it, but here's my first impression.

    It's a very human book, and it lives up to its subtitle ("Loving and Loathing Our Inner Houswife"). The title was from something her mother said. As Flanagan describes it, her mother was washing the wallpaper down one day when she just decided that she had had enough. She said, "To h--- with all this," put down her sponge, smoked a cigarette, picked up the want ads, and went out and got a job. And was a much happier person for it.

    In some ways, what she was saying reminded me a little bit of Friedan's "Feminine Mystique." Flanagan talks a lot about the competition she senses between working moms and stay-at-home moms, and the ensuing guilt for the working moms. For example, she would drop everything and go to a soccer game so that her kid wouldn't be the one whose mom was too busy to come. She talks about the obsession with reducing clutter as a means of control and the specter of the perfect wife/mother hanging over her head.

    But where Friedan found hope in the ability to get a job and throwing off the nonsense that housework is the woman's biggest horizon, Flanagan looks back at her job and her children and finds loss. She begins her book by saying, "What few will admit...is that whichever decision a woman makes, she will lose something of incalculable value." And she ends with, "For many women the decision to abandon--to some extent--either their children or their work will always be the stuff of grinding uncertainty, of indicision and regret."

    These two statements I find unbearably sad. While it's true that life is a series of trade-offs and that we will always trade some things for others, I'm not sure that the trade-offs justify such strong language. To say that either way you go, you will lose something of "incalcualable value" doesn't help anyone--it just makes us all losers. She's got a little bit of an either/or going on here. Either you can be at home and take care of your kids and be a good mom and lose important parts of yourself, or you can go to work and enjoy your career and develop your brain and your talents and lose the love of your kids. To be fair, that's not how she lives. She's a writer, and she works from home (and an office, I think), and I didn't pick up on her feeling like she was disconnected from her kids. So maybe she's trying to describe someone else.

    It's not the best organized book in the world. I would be hard-pressed to put her thesis into a sentence or two. It's more of a story/collection of her experiences and opinions. In fact, I'm not sure that she really intended to have one thesis so much as she wanted to describe life as she saw it. It's wickedly funny at times, and unbearable sad at others.

    Has anyone else read reviews or read the book itself?

     
  • At 6:25 PM, Blogger Camille said…

    Ah, the double bind. That's a good book too. . . . I believe that we choose our perspectives. Are we going to see the glass half-full or half-empty. Every situation offers hope or doom. Choose the hope! Be a comedian!! ;)

     
  • At 6:36 PM, Blogger prairie girl said…

    "Choose the hope! Be a comedian!"

    Ah, yes Camille, my fellow lover of Lucy Ricardo!

    Glad to see you still have a sense of humor having so recently experienced labor, delivery, and so many sleepless nights! Good to have you around these parts again and Praise God for your precious new little one!

     
  • At 7:00 PM, Blogger Camille said…

    Ah yes -- Lucy *and* Kenneth Burke!! :-) It doesn't get much better.

    It's nice to be back too!!

     
  • At 7:09 PM, Blogger Monica said…

    Good to have you back, Camille! :-) I actually was constantly reminded of our discussions about comedy as I read Flanagan's book. I walked away from it sad that she was so sad and glad that I could look for hope and see the gains rather than the losses.

    I am eagerly watching your blog and Gavin's page for news. :-) He's a doll!

     
  • At 10:58 PM, Blogger ShangriLewis said…

    Since, going back to school and letting go of homeschooling...I am really fighting with these issues. I worry about what I will miss. But, then I watch my little boy come home so happy. I see him finally reading. My oldest can't wait for school.

    I really hope I can find some balance with all these feelings. I feel like a cloud has been lifted for me since I started back to school. I'm so happy I go that time with my boys. But, I'm so happy that I have something that I have wanted for a very long time.

     

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