Feminist Housewives

Feminist Housewives

Just saw an interesting New York magazine article called “The Retro Wife: Feminists who say they’re having it all—by choosing to stay home “ by Lisa Miller. Special thanks to Manhattan JewishMOM Serena S. for sending this my way!

Here’s some of my favorite quotes from the article:
“Home, to these [modern housewives], is more than a place to watch TV at the end of the day and motherhood more than a partial identity. It is a demanding, full-time endeavor, requiring all of their creativity, energy, and ingenuity.”

“Two of the fastest-growing religious movements in America are Mormonism and Orthodox Judaism, which clearly define gender roles along traditional lines. It’s difficult not to see the appeal—if only as a fleeting fantasy. How delicious might our weeknight dinners be, how straight the part in our daughter’s hair, how much more carefree my marriage, if only I spent a fraction of the time cultivating our domestic landscape that I do at work.”

“[One SAHM mother says]’I feel like we are evolving into something that is not defined by those who came before us,’ she says. By making domesticity her career, she and the other stay-at-home mothers she knows are standing up for values, such as patience, and kindness, and respectful attention to the needs of others, that have little currency in the world of work. Professional status is not the only sign of importance, she says, and financial independence is not the only measure of success.”


  1. So far I have enjoyed every article on your blog. But I have to vehemently disagree with this piece. It is truly offensive to mothers who need to work, such as single mothers. Women need to support each others choices, instead of claiming the superiority of their choice. While I believe that there are inherent gender differences, I felt uncomfortable with the gross generalisation s made in the article.

    • JewishMom

      Dear Rachel, My feeling about the article was that it wasn’t putting down working mothers, but rather trying to validate the much-maligned choice to stay home with one’s children.

      Western society tends to look up to working mothers and look down on stay-at-home moms. Just imagine the mothers gathered at their 20 high school reunion. Who is considered the success story? The principal/pediatrician/psychologist or the housewife? So I think that this kind of validation of housewives is important.

      But, with that said, I personally think that mothers who manage to balance motherhood and work are heroes:)

  2. The problem with the article is that it’s just so extreme. Is my choice really between either 1) both my husband and I having high-flying stressful jobs, working day and night, weekends etc. and on top of that, all domestic duties are my responsibility or 2) I stay at home full-time, baking and even treating my husband like a child (“Alvin benefits no less from his wife’s domestic reign. Kelly keeps a list of his clothing sizes in her iPhone and, devoted to his cuteness, surprises him regularly with new items”) while my husband works??

    First of all, I just can’t understand why 2 working people, with or without children don’t share domestic responsibilites. Sounds to me like sheer laziness on the part of men and perhaps women are at fault for allowing the men to get away with it.

    Secondly, this picture of the stay-at-home mum also lumps together parenting and doing domestic chores, which are totally different things. I think women do the former injustice when they elevate the value of domestic chores to that of parenting. Being a good mother does not require being a good cook or cleaner.

    How important is it to our children’s development who it is who does the dishes, whether meals are simple, quick and not necessarily made from scratch (as long as they’re healthy most of the time)and who it is who cleans?? I would rather work, use my brain in other ways/contribute to society and pay someone else to clean etc. (if my husband and I don’t have enough time to do it). What IS important, is being there for your children, listening to them, spending time with them. Yes, that may well mean reducing the no. of hours that you can work and maybe taking a less exciting/prestigous job (maybe temporarily) but that doesn’t require being at home all day, every day. And that doesn’t automatically require you to become an expert chef, cleaner, personal assistant to your husband etc. These things may make you a better housekeeper, but not a better mother and that’s an important difference.

    • As a working mom and daughter of a working mom, I can’t understand why working moms try to convince the world they can do the job just as well as a SAHM. Working outside the home is stressful, and you expend physical and emotional energy on it. If you’re out of the home during the hours your kids are not in school, someone else must watch them instead of you.

      A mother doesn’t have to clean everything and cook from scratch, but she is the “manager” of her home. If she’s never there, the “business” falls apart due to lack of management. If she’s tired or stressed, it runs poorly due to poor management. The more time, energy and effort she invests in its success, the better it will be–isn’t that obvious? Home-cooked meals are healthier and make kids happier to walk thru the door. A clean home is more inviting.

      Let’s be honest–a working mom is really diverting some of her resources elsewhere. If she still wants her home to run well, she must sacrifice something–sleep, personal time, hobbies–to maintain the same level a SAHM could achieve with naps and scrapbooking.

      We don’t always have a choice, but we shouldn’t turn that into our ideal.

  3. well, i’m not even finished reading the article yet, but this quote stuck out for me. “the best way for some mothers (and their loved ones) to have a happy life is to make home their highest achievement.” it says SOME, not all. so far i haven’t read the evidence of shunning another path than staying at home…

  4. i have a master’s degree in psychology, specifically in “Human Development”. when i started to have children, my husband and i decided that i would stay home and raise them. we believe that it is an Awesome Responsibility to create and raise a Jewish child.
    with all due respect to the above respondents, i found the article refreshing. it definitely voiced some popular sentiments with women who have chosen to stay at home, even if not PC.
    many women think that staying at home is about housework. a visit to my home would prove this to be a myth. in addition, i don’t think i am a great example of the enthusiastic “let’s-fingerpaint-or-read-books” kind of mom, either. the world is made up of all kinds of mothers, and the one thing they have in common is their eternal presence. that means that just “being there” is extremely important for the development of the sense of Trust and Permanence in a child. without that most basic building-block of human relationships, the child will have difficulty growing up to be a trusting and trust-worthy partner.
    that’s not to say that a child raised with an absent mother cannot grow up to trust, but it certainly is not the most direct way to achieve that goal.
    notice that i didn’t say “being there for the child”. that implies that somehow we respond to their needs when necessary. that is important, but i don’t think it is the key to forming that sense of security that anchors us in our lives. that sense of who we are and where we stand in relation to others. i said, “just being there” creates that sense of trust in the child, whether or not we are baking cookies, washing floors, or playing.
    so, even though i personally wouldn’t have minded more intellectual pursuits during my motherhood, and definitely would have loved to have the paycheck and the wardrobe to feel appreciated and accomplished, i have chosen to stay at home. after all, my main job has been to create and maintain the home, a place that is my mini Beit HaMikdash, an incubator for the Holy Jewish Souls that have been entrusted to me, the resident High Priest.

    • beautifully said tamar!!
      i agree i have always been home with the kids after school and during the holidays but i am not the perfect creative “madrikha” one would expect!! i just love being with them…. even if that means being an alien in the high heeled world of the wonderwomen!

  5. Excellent article. Relieved that someone has put this out there. I was not the perfect stay at home Mom, was actually pretty frazzled a lot of the time, but it was much less stressful lifestyle, knowing that I was the one in charge of the kids and the home and my husband was the breadwinner.
    That is not to say that my husband did not chip in when he was home. He did do a lot of stuff. I think the difference is the 2 vs. the 4 kids that we have.
    I also agree with Tamar, I feel that just being there with my kids, not necessarily having tea parties and playing with them, gives them a tremendous feeling of security which is important for their emotional development.
    Thanks again, Chana Jenny for passing this article my way.

  6. “Home, to these [modern housewives], is more than a place to watch TV at the end of the day and motherhood more than a partial identity. It is a demanding, full-time endeavor, requiring all of their creativity, energy, and ingenuity.”


    hahaha. OK, got that out of my system. This article seems to paint housewives and former business women as two dimensional. Why did the Lisa Miller paint what these women are not as she says what they are? When my husband and I decided to have a family and for me to stay home, it wasn’t a cop out so I could be a traditional wife. There is little that is traditional about me. We decided on this route because the kids needed someone at home.

    If women choose or must to work, we should get equal rights, period. If men decide to stay at home, they should be allowed to feel like they belong in the class room and wherever they go. This article is “quaint” with it’s stereotypes.

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