Thanks a million, Gloria.

When I was growing up in the ’70s, the “women’s lib” movement was in full swing. I have three older sisters (10, 12, and 14 years older), so I heard more about it, perhaps, than some little girls. I remember that the Title IX education amendment in 1972, giving girls an equal footing in school, was a big deal (equality in athletics was the major fallout, but the original amendment never mentioned athletics and the law applies to all areas of education). Not that I was an athlete; it was just part of the whole “having it all” scene — girls could do anything boys could do. You could have a husband and kids and a career. Burn that bra, get a job, earn equal pay for equal work (oh, wait, we’re still waiting for that one…). Cosmo and Ms. were in; Ozzie and Harriet were out.

I’ve rued those well-meaning activists for years now. Thanks to them, women everywhere are now expected to work, to raise the kids, to take care of the house — to do everything they did before, on top of having a “career” and being a co-breadwinner. Bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, indeed.

It’s the biggest crock.

In striving to give women the “choice” to work, they all but took away the choice not to.

The outcome: a lot of exhausted women and a nation dependent on two incomes. Most of us aren’t willing to radically downscale our lifestyle to live on one salary. (And, most men I know won’t accept their wife not working.) That’s not to say that all women wish they didn’t have to work — I hear some women really love their job and can’t imagine life without it. They’re the ones who benefitted from the efforts of our foremothers.

As for me, I would love to be a “housewife.” I’d be good at it, I think. I’d happily clean and cook and shop and tend the house and the garden — most of the things I do already, though haphazardly. And I’d happily chuck my day job. I’ve done everything I can to make “having a career” as painless as possible. I work from home. Set my own hours. Choose my own clients (as the budget allows). Blog as a creative release. And still, I’d rather be giving the wood floors a good scrub with Murphy’s Oil Soap than worrying about that case study due on Monday and that big project I agreed to in September and that article I’ll need to start soon.

I can believe the whole women’s lib movement was a grand and wicked and incredibly brilliant male conspiracy. 

This article on CNN’s Web site prompted this post. But it’s a sentiment I’ve had for years and years. Who knows, maybe I’d feel differently if I truly didn’t have the choice to have a career if I wanted one. Or if my choices were (a) stereotypical Stepford wife or (b) old maid secretary or teacher or nurse, because those were the only jobs open to me. I’ll never know. All I can do is dream about “retirement” (a dream that gets fainter with each uptick in prices and downtick in the ol’ IRA). If my mother is any indication, I’ll cease caring about cleaning and cooking and gardening (or be physically unable to) by then anyway. Although, she WAS the stereotypical housewife and stay-at-home mom…after working (as a telephone operator) for a decade before she got married. She saw both sides. I wonder what “having it all” means to her?

Life often presents us with a choice of evils, rather than of goods.
                                                          ~ Charles Caleb Colton