Lean Out, Ladies. It’s Long Overdue.

Last week, after an especially long day and an “epic” tantrum from her 3-year-old, Sarah Buckley Friedberg, a Massachusetts mother of three, posted on Facebook a mock ‘to-do list‘ that society expects of mothers today. The ending was inspired:

“I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to lean OUT. Thanks for coming to my Ted talk.”

Friedberg’s post went viral. But in just a few weeks most people will have forgotten about the article. Don’t be one of those people. Instead, do as Friedberg suggests.

Lean out.

Reading Friedberg’s post took me back in time to the very first book I wrote, some 20 years ago now after the birth of my first child—before I’d had a second child and my writing for the subsequent five years amounted to whatever blog post I could squeak out when I wasn’t falling over drop dead from exhaustion—on the absurd idea that women can and should raise children and pursue careers simultaneously.

It also reminded me of Tina, a mother of three children under six who’s profiled in my upcoming book, Women Who Win at Love. Every time I hear Tina talk about her life, my heart breaks because I know the reality looks nothing like the mirage.

Like most women her age, Tina absorbed the idea that “balancing” full-time work with young children is just what women do and must therefore be manageable.

Her chaotic life proves otherwise. Like most families in which both parents work full time and year-round, Tina and her husband live what can only be described as a rat race. For starters, every day they must decide who’s going to schedule their work life in such a way as to accommodate the children’s needs. That alone sounds exhausting.

Moreover, their children don’t wake up according to their own body clocks to a calm house and warm food on the stove. Instead, they’re awakened from their slumber, dressed as they’re half asleep, fed protein bars, and then shuttled from daycare to round-the-clock babysitters. And God forbid they get sick. Then all hell breaks loose.

None of Tina’s children sleep through the night and more often than not end up in their parents’ bed. Needless to say, Tina is utterly sleep deprived and as a result her sex life is non-existent—much more to her husband’s dismay than to hers. All she wants is sleep.

Finally, her son has behavioral problems. Unable to control him, Tina took him to a psychologist, whereupon he was immediately diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder.

Tina’s son doesn’t have oppositional defiant disorder any more than her children have a sleep disorder. Her children are simply too young to express what they want and need—order, stability, Mommy—so they act out their pain instead.

The most recent book to explain this phenomenon is Being There, by psychoanalyst Erica Komisar. Gravely concerned about what modern women are trying to do—hint: too much—Komisar provides a roadmap for how women can structure their lives in such a way that they can enjoy their young children, and their children can get what they need.

Because that’s really the crux of the issue: children aren’t getting their needs met—and mothers, well, if they were brutally honest, would admit that motherhood is a nightmare.

Of course, motherhood has never been easy; but compared to today our own mothers’ experience was a walk in the park. Case in point: I recall a friend who told me how her working mom friends are stressed to the max trying to get dinner on the table every night. When she brought this to her mother’s attention, her mother reminded her that in her day, mothers weren’t responsible for working a full-time job in addition to getting dinner on the table. Getting a healthy dinner on the table was the job.

All of which is to say, the ‘to-do list’ Friedberg described is real. And it exists, whether modern women realize it or not, because for years feminists disparaged the work of motherhood and told women to leave their homes in search of greener pastures.

Only it turns out those pastures weren’t so green after all. And now many women who want to stay home now or in the future feel stuck, for they’ve created lives that demand two incomes because that’s what they’ve been encouraged to do. As one millennial mom wrote to me the other day,

“Raising children and attending to their constant needs takes up so much mental brain space and physical energy. There are times when my business needs attending, and when this happens while my child wants to play, I get a lump in my throat. The push and pull is relentless.”

This “push and pull” is the end result of what began as a full-scale attack on mothers and the subsequent promotion of daycare as a reasonable and harmless mother substitute.

Previously, mothers at home were considered vitally necessary to the health and well-being of children, families and society. But feminists insisted it was a waste of a life and that men had the better end of the deal. And women listened.

Ms. Friedberg’s post hit a nerve because millions of mothers just like her are looking for support to, as she put it, “lean OUT.” So here I am, shouting as loudly as I can:

Do it, Moms. Lean out.

Not only are you just as valuable without a job, women are manifestly different from men. In her article, Ms. Friedberg said more than once that her pediatrician husband does plenty at home in addition to his day job—but it is she who carries the “mental load.”

The reason women carry the mental load is simple: they’re women. Women are more intuitive by nature and are thus more emotionally responsive to children’s needs. They were literally once connected to their babies—how could they not have a visceral reaction?

“The ability to nurture is in our DNA as women. But it must be turned on by the environment,” writes Komisar.

Precisely.

Only it hasn’t been turned on by the environment. For decades women’s unique nature has been categorically denied, to the detriment of both women and children alike. Mothers belong with their children—there’s nothing more natural in the world. Which is why, when women ignore this truth, their lives become nothing but chaos.

Until we change course, the American family will continue its downward spiral. Tucker Carlson addressed this issue back in January but focused primarily on economics. It’s true we’ve created an economy that demands two incomes to maintain (particularly if you live on either coast), but we did it by insisting mothers couldn’t be happy at home and would be letting down the Sisterhood if they did. That message came first.

The economics came later. All the income growth in the US since 1970 has come from women working outside the home. That’s what raised the GDP, making it harder for families to live on one income.

And note the date: 1970. That’s when feminists began their push to get mothers out of the home and into the workforce. It was a calculated ideological and political move, and it worked.

Married mothers didn’t leave their homes en masse because they needed money; they left because they were pulled in that direction. People want to be be valued for the work they do, and the workforce was fast becoming the place to get it—for everyone. It was this loss of respect, this elitism really, that fueled the dual-income family.

So that’s where we begin, then, in turning things around. Yes, mothers who want to be home need practical solutions for how to make it work—how to live on less, how to use their time at home to everyone’s benefit, how to keep a toe in the professional waters, etc.—but first they need respect.

They need cultural support to stop running around like chickens with their heads cut off so they can enjoy motherhood and understand that raising one’s children is crucial to the health of their families and our nation.

Until we get that across, the rest is just fluff.

Suzanne Venker

Suzanne Venker is an author, columnist and relationship coach known as The Feminist "Fixer.” She helps free women from feminist lies so they can find lasting love with men. Suzanne's newest book, WOMEN WHO WIN at Love: How to Build a Relationship That Lasts, will be published October 2019.

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Comments

  1. It is not just income that is required for women to stay home, it is that her husband must trust that the will not break the covenant – and well, feminism, or at the least the changes it has wrought, like it or not , has spoken to men as well. That is, it has made clear that the covenant – is not a thing that women can be assumed to take seriously.

    It would take a fool to not understand that her being at home, also means that if she decides that she is no longer interested, can in effect get enough money from the courts – to maintain herself and the kids in a lifestyle that is close to the one she has had. This without regard to what it does to him. It is that he knows that she has been encouraged to view him as an oppressor. He knows that she has been encouraged to think that it is her right to dictate how things work, and tell him that he must do equal duty in the home, even if he is the only one working outside the home. He knows she is in effect handed the ability to get utter control over the children merely by stating that he is an abuser, and further if she is abusive – it is he that is likely to be arrested.

    That is, in all reality, it has been made clear to him, that this is not a partnership, and regardless of how she feels, what she thinks, the degree to which she sees the narrative as poison – he too has seen it, and seen the effects on other men. Few men want to be the man who ends up sitting in jail, because he cannot both feed himself and pay the child support. Few men look forward to the feeling of knowing that any time that she is mad, he may be in serious trouble, whether he has done anything or not. Few men like being treated like lesser beings- and they have seen quite enough of the fact that may. Now it may be true, that not all men have come to question things in this way – but it is the message that they are being sent with the sexism at University and the endless denigration that men are faced with.

    It is that leaning out, has more than just income issues, it is that the family court and approach of feminists – that have made it clear dad is disposable, is rapidly increasing the number of men who see marriage in this light, and thus decreasing the number of men who would be willing to both get married, and be the sole serious income. That is, what feminism has said to men, may present at least as large an obstacle as what it has said to women, or the economic realities of needing 2 incomes, to actually having a society where her staying home is realistic.

  2. It would be interesting to run the economics of a classic stay-at-home Mom. The sort who raises the kids, cooks, and handles the family errands.

    Which in turn means that the family is not spending money on day care, can buy food in much cheaper bulk raw materials, and Dad is not taking time off his work to take the car to have the oil changed, etc.

    I’m not so sure the stay-at-home Mom really costs that much.

    • For the vast majority its true that having one parent stay at home with the kids would raise their standard of living. If you factor in daycare, office clothing, extra gasoline, the cup of starbucks every morning, and the lunches and dinners out or convenience meals from the frozen aisle, that 2nd job wage has to be greater than $35,000 / a yr before you start seeing anything for the family. Add in the lower household taxes, not having to have 2 car payments, the healthier meals, the better rest, the happier and healthier children….

    • Mike, when my oldest was small, my husband did the math for us and consequently, many other families. Unless the mom is in a very profitable career like being a lawyer or a doctor, the family is not making money from her job. In fact, in some cases, like mid-level office work, we found that Mom working actually cost the family money!

  3. I am so thrilled to read this! So overdue. I worked until my first child was born at 32 and then stayed home to raise my two boys. I was able to thoroughly enjoy it. It seems so obvious that when the woman is home caring for the home and children while the husband earns a living, it allows for balance and peace. I know not everyone can stay home, and I’m thankful for all the teachers and medical workers and women serving other roles, but working full-time when your kids are little is just too much.

  4. the only thing i get from this is children shouldn’t have children
    raising kids is tough as hell,but worth every bit.grow up

  5. hey ! Their choice,their philosophy,right down to kids somehow NOT sleeping and waltzing in on their parents and over taking THEIR bed,their privacy,EPIC tantrums on and on. oh the humanity but HEY,it’s all about THEM and the choices they made, LOL. Most are working as a necessity and the children are disciplined,things get done,things are done as a family and they all grow up to be responsible .

  6. First, GOD BLESS OUR MOTHERS

    my one regret is not being able to tell my wife she did not HAVE to work out if she didn’t want to. Our second child had birth defects that her insurance covered to the tune of hundreds of thousands. I am an organic dairy farmer and the kids, all five have been around the farm with me all summer every summer from the age of 8 or so, my youngest son is taking over the farm, so all is ending well
    My mother was a stay at home mom, she also helped milk the cows, raised a HUGE garden, her and my paternal grandma, who lived with us spent all summer canning and freezing veggies and fruit plus all the laundry from 6 kids and the 4 adults on that farm. And my sisters helped, period, I was out in the field and in the barn with dad from the time I was 8
    My maternal grandmother also a dairy farmers wife and mother of 4 said, I was liberated before those silly bats knew what the term meant

  7. You’re so absolutely correct!
    What can culture do? Promote the reality that being a good mother is wayyy more sexy than being a wage-slave for the rich corporation owners, stressed about the next powerpoint webinar.

    As I read about the children’s needs, I’m reminded of how good families are pretty socialistic – both parents put in what they can, each family member gets out what they need from the family. Perhaps the rise of socialistic desire in college is due to a failure to get the healthy family socialism.

    Helping husband-wife families be healthy and ADMIRED would be good for every society.

    Hungary has done some good gov’t to support families, mostly economically. Yet the econ help is a reflection of Hungarian social support for healthy families.
    http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/Katalin-Novak-explains-to-the-Register-how-her-pro-family-government-is-cou

  8. The late Christopher Lasch wrote about the rush of modern life and its effects on a child’s development. When the person(s) with legal and moral authority over children are not the ones actually being with them in most of their waking hours, experts come in and displace them. You become a co parent with a system that can change without your ability to control it.

  9. I’ve watched (and marveled) for years as women I knew, family, friends, and coworkers, had babies, tended to and loved them intensely for 6-8 weeks, and then handed them off to complete strangers to raise, just so they could get back to their mind-numbing, almost always entirely pointless jobs. I will never understand it. Attention People: You don’t HAVE to have a new, expensive vehicle every other year (never mind two of them); you don’t HAVE to have a private bedroom and bathroom for every person living in a house; you don’t HAVE to vacation in Europe, or go skiing in Jackson Hole, or take the kids to Disneyworld for Spring break (when they’re toddlers and probably won’t remember it), or do ANY of the other things the Jones do. You can choose any life you want. You can choose the health and well-being, physical and mental, of yourself and your children over all of the noise and garbage.

  10. You can decide to invest in your kids. Or not. Either way you get return on investment. The ROI for the second choice is rather unpleasant, and saddening.

  11. Wow, this was an awesome article – and you have an awesome blog. Keep up the good work telling inconvenient truths!!

  12. Seriously! Come on. We are not living in the 1950’s or 1960’s in the era when I was born. This is 2019. Yes, in an idealistic world I would love to see every mother staying at home. I think it is best for the child if that is possible but it is not. Yes, the people profiled in this article are their own worst enemies. If they both have big salary jobs, it is riduculous to put yourselves through this. However, for most of the lower middle to middle income families, this is just not possible. The cost of insurance alone for a family is outrageous and usually negates that an extra income is needed. My one friend works part-time and her husband just got another job with better insurance, but the stress for several years of not having good insurance took a tremendous toll on their family. I wasn’t her working, it was the insurance! There were 9 people in our household growing up and my Dad didn’t have to pay a penny for insurance. His company covered it. You need to look at the BIG picture here. Yes, we don’t need huge houses, yes we don’t need all this “stuff”. Most of my friends live very simple lives but still have to work at least part time to make ends meet. My boss (who is a female) along with her husband have a very simple house with one bathroom and 4 teenagers. She has a degree in accounting, and she still works about 30 hours a week to make ends meet. I don’t know what the answer is but tomake us working Moms feel bad, please back off. I finally come to realized that I am not a “bad” Mom for working part-time. I am accepting this world for what it is and taking responsibility for taking care of my family. BTW, I work in with children and I see some of the children of stay-at-home Moms and some of them are the worst. It is how a Mom, working or not working, runs her home with boundaries and responsibilites and order. BTW, it it wasn’t for a working Mom, who would have been with you in labor back in the 50’s and 60’s and who would have taught YOUR kids.

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