The Myth of the SAHM

I read an interesting article in the New York Times the other day and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.

Stephanie Coontz wrote an opinion piece about all the opining about how mothers used to be valued back in the “good old days,” those being the 1950s and 1960s and how feminism came along and ruined all of that. You can find that article here.
What I found most interesting is how she cited that stay at home mothers back in the “good old days” used to not get any domestic help from their husbands at all, not even on the weekends. How they spent 55 hours a week doing chores and taking care of children. Women with smaller children worked longer hours than that. Can you imagine changing every diaper, giving every bath, making every meal, folding every basket of laundry, washing every dish, cleaning every toilet, without any help from your spouse? Because men who helped out were considered weak and unmanly. And women were property with barely any rights and received little help even in domestic violence situations. Wait…I get to do all the chores and get beat too? Sign me up for that deal.
A few years back I worked in the library at my church. The women from the ward just after mine would come in early and start making programs for their meetings right away. I was there checking in stuff from my ward members while they were copying and folding programs. There was this father who taught a Sunday school class who always had his baby daughter with him. The women in the ward just after mine were probably old enough to be in the generation between my mother and grandmother. I remember one would always say when this father left the library after checking in all his stuff, “I just can’t get over men taking care of babies.” To me it was the most normal thing in the world that I didn’t even think about it. I knew this family and I knew this man to be a very involved father. In fact, most men I know are very involved fathers. To these women it was a sign that times had changed.
And thank goodness they have.
When I think of what the generations of women who came before me had to put up with, all I can think is, thank goodness for women’s liberation.
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5 thoughts on “The Myth of the SAHM

  1. Thanks for posting this. I was from that generation, and do you know what the worst thing about it? The disconnected that those fathers and husbands had from their families. Change has been as beneficial for the men as for the women, and the children.

  2. I agree chiefnutcase. I know my children have benefited from having a committed and loving father. I can't imagine the disconnect fathers must have felt in their own families when it wasn't considered masculine to nurture and love their own children. I told the hubs I wanted our daughter to have a daddy that she could look up to, that would love her, and she could go to with her problems. I wanted my daughter to have an example of manhood that was decent and kind so that she would never except anything less from a life partner. So far, so good 🙂

  3. I agree that disconnect may have been a problem in industrialized society pre-60's and 70's. In terms of mom workload, you have to remember that at the same time that moms were doing all of the home stuff and child-rearing stuff, they were not doing any of the "manly" stuff, like earning wages, maintaining the yards, cars, finances, repairs, etc. And the children's social lives were far more free from mom involvement, as well. I also think, as I read this, that when you go back further, to the pre-industrialized societies, dads probably spent more time with their children because they all worked together in the family business, whether it be on the farm, in the town bakery or butcher shop, or what have you. I do think we have made great strides in the last 40-50 years in terms of what men are willing to (expected to) put into the domestic side of life. They are even putting diaper changing stations in men's restrooms these days. Thank God.

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