Old Adam, New Eve

Feminist writers sometimes give us the impression that the nonworking mother is a rare bird like the Bach man's Warbler—sighted (not very reliably) once a decade or so in a corner of I'on Swamp in the South Carolina low country. The ladies magazines do occasionally report on rumors that some professional women like Janet Fallows have taken a few years off to be with their children until they're old enough for playschool. But these cases almost always involve eccentrics or writers—a species that will do anything so long as it makes good copy. In the old days, writers went to exotic places and paid for the trip by writing articles. Now, the really exotic thing to do is to fix dinner and change diapers on a regular basis.

To show how out of touch some of us are, I know very few mothers of small children who actually hold regular jobs. Of course, I know one who is a "novelist" and countless numbers who get involved in arts councils, church rummage sales, and substitute teaching. Some even do crafts for an hourly "wage" that no sweatshop in Los Angeles would dare to pay illegal Mexicans. In the case of the one or two mothers who actually want to work, they appear to be equally miserable at home and at work.

Obviously, many mothers of small children do work, some of them because they have to, more of them because they feel they really ought to. The strong social pressures on women to...

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