By Sandra Beck
“You’re a waste”. That’s was my friend’s mothers reaction to her decision to stay at home with her baby. “I don’t know why you even bothered with university”.
In my circle of friends, decisions about how to raise kids are inextricably woven with the politics of women’s liberation. I hesitate to generalize – but there is a very strong generational divide in attitudes.
There are the pioneers, who remember when women’s higher education wasn’t a given thing. However, most of these ladies didn’t work while raising their kids. Working practices and society’s attitudes hadn’t caught up. They’ve felt regretful about it ever since, projecting their attitude onto their daughters.
Accordingly, their daughters have children later and go back to work earlier. They aim to make the least concessions to maternity that they can. They are shocked and dismayed at how hard it can be – and how unequal the sacrifices are in their partnership.
The sufferings of the daughters breed the reactionary born-again 50s housewives. They buy floral print aprons without a hint of irony. They abandon their jobs – replacing corporate superwoman with an even more ambitious and perfectionist hausfrau incarnation. They earnestly re-manualize their lives – from baking their own bread to washable nappies.
There are real people in my life who are described by these sketches. The reason why the caricatures seem crude and almost grotesque is that there is a guilt driver behind the decisions. The concerns and preferences of the human beings involved get swallowed up in a play for an unseen audience, who are felt to be judging the decisions made, judging if the woman deserves her advantages.
My view? Education is freedom – and women will never be free without education. In any case, the strongest indicating factor in the level of educational attainment of the children is the educational achievement of the mother.