Suggesting that women should forgo working outside the home is just wrong.
On Sunday, Aug. 28, we took a step back in time.
Before our boys woke up, we got caught up on a couple of episodes of “Mad Men.” You know, the TV show set in the ’60s about a Madison Avenue advertising firm. A parallel plot to the happenings at the firm are the trials and tribulations of the family life in the 1960s. You remember the time — most of the women were encouraged to stay home to cook, clean and tend to the children. The only working women in the show are secretaries.
Our trip in the way-back machine continued after a family breakfast, when we opened up the Sunday paper and read Sybilla Pettingill’s guest column, “Home is where the heart should be” (another title could be “How to get Gloria Steinem mad at you”).
Apparently Ms. Pettingill of Lisbon is upset that women are working too much, they are spending too much time away from the home, families are suffering and husbands/dads aren’t capable of taking care of family and household needs.
We consider ourselves a pretty typical family: two kids, a mortgage, active in our community, volunteering our time and, yes, we are a two-income family.
Could we be a single-income family? It would be difficult and still live the life we want. Not if we want to help our children experience the things we believe are important. Not if we want to instill shared responsibility for family, home and community.
In our home, when one of the boys is sick, sometimes it is mom, sometimes it is dad, who stays home. When a family crisis happens, we tackle it as a family, drawing upon our individual experiences and those we share, to get through it. We create an environment of success by showing our children that dad and mom can have successful, rewarding, professional careers.
In this fast-paced world, our family flourishes (not flounders as Ms. Pettingill suggests) because we are active, engaged in our community and aware. Failure to participate and be active would mean that our children would be left behind.
Our children know that a family doesn’t necessarily always look like ours. They know that some of their friends just have a mom or just a dad; sometimes two moms or two dads. Just because those families look different, they are still like ours — sharing our values of respect and responsibility.
Before- and after-school time is centered around meal time. Yes, even with both mom and dad working, we have family meals. The catch is, without mom slaving away in the kitchen all day, dad and the boys are expected to pitch in.
During breakfast, we discuss our expectations and hopes for the day. At dinner, we talk about whether those expectations were met; what was good, what was a “bummer,” and what was our favorite memory of the day.
When a mom is working, a father can be more engaged. He doesn’t expect to come home to a wife with pipe and slippers in hand. As a team, they work together to get it done, no matter what “it” might be. With dad an active participant in all aspects of home life, mom doesn’t have to be a liaison between father and child. The bond between them has already been secured.
Working moms can provide an important perspective on the world. We have very similar jobs, but our experiences and how we perceive our work are different. We share those varied perspectives with our children.
Families have a stronger economic foundation when both parents work. That is particularly important in difficult economic times, as it provides better economic stability for the whole family and, hopefully, the opportunity to put away money for things such as college for all the children — the boys and the girls.
To suggest a world in which women should be tending only to matters at home will cause young women to forgo college and educational opportunities. Telling young girls that their only future is in the home will set our nation back and is simply sexist. Sexist, as it assumes only women can fulfill these roles in the home; sexist, because it assumes that men are not equipped or interested in these roles.
Please excuse our tone. We are a bit offended at the suggestion that working moms are bad parents and that dads aren’t capable of providing support around the home.
We want our boys to grow up to be independent, happy and secure, knowing they have two parents who love them and that we all played an active role in raising our loving family.
Jennifer Radel and Will Fessenden of Sabattus just celebrated their seventh anniversary. Each has a full-time job. They have two children in primary school.