Strong Mom's—Strong Families
Dr. Dobson's May 2013 Newsletter
Are you tired of hearing about same sex marriage coming from President Obama, liberal Congressmen, media spokesmen, leftist commentators, activist judges, entertainment moguls and homosexual advocates? These and other powerful influencers have set about redefining marriage as it has been known for 5,000 years. The institution of the family has been staggered by relentless attacks. Many in the millennial generation appear to have “given up” on committed, lifelong love. There are more single women in America today than those who are married, which has catastrophic implications for the nation.
I just came across a comment made by Masha Gessen, a lesbian journalist. She admits that homosexual activists are lying about marriage. She says she and her colleagues don’t want to access the institution of marriage; they want to radically define and eventually eliminate it. “I don’t think it should exist,” she says.1
In the midst of this never-ending battle, there is evidence that a fascinating new phenomenon is taking place. Many women and some men are rediscovering something basic that yesterday’s generations understood and cherished. Let me explain this remarkable sea change in attitude that is occurring around us.
Its roots go back to something called “The Women’s Liberation Movement” and the sexual revolution that swept the nation in the late 1960s and 1970s. It had many components, but the power that drove it was open warfare between men and women. The divorce rate went through the roof in 1969 as women “broke the chains of perceived bondage.” The most vocal leaders of the movement were deeply angry at men and everything traditionally masculine, including the way the romantic game was played.
I remember having completed a tennis match one day and walked to a chain linked gate just as a young lady approached. I stepped back and opened the gate for her politely, as my father had taught me to do in deference to women. This young lady told me in no uncertain terms that she was capable of opening her own gate, thank you, and to never do it again. She was incensed by what she perceived as my insult. I wondered what I had done wrong, and later learned that she and others of her ilk thought of guys like me as “male chauvinist pigs,” and that we should have known better. That was my introduction to “the movement.”
If traditional men were hated during that time, it was nothing compared with what women did to each other. Those who focused on full-time motherhood and managing their homes were derisively called “housewives,” and were subjected to the most vicious criticism. They were made to feel like fools who were being exploited by oppressive men. It was said that they were wasting their talents and had nothing meaningful to contribute to the real world.
“I’m just a housewife,” they were taught to say apologetically.
Believe me. I heard from tens of thousands of these homemakers who felt enormous pressure to wake up and smell the coffee. Never before in history have women been required to justify their traditional roles. I worked hard, and still do, at defending these women against this social ostracism. I also tried to encourage female college students who dared to express their desires to be wives and mothers. The disdain they were subjected to was almost unbearable.
I was counseling a “co-ed” (oops, wrong word,) one day about some things that were troubling her, and I asked what she wanted to do with her life. She paused, leaned forward and said in a hushed tone, “Can I be honest with you?”
“Of course,” I said. “That’s why you are here.”
“Well,” she replied, “I really don’t want to have a career at all. What I most want is to find someone to love and to have a bunch of children and to be a full-time homemaker.”
I said, “Jan, why do you feel you have to whisper that dream to me? Whose business is it but yours?”
She looked shocked and said, “Are you kidding? If my professors knew that was my goal, I would be laughed out of school.”
The dominance of that perspective resulted in a mass migration into the workplace by America’s women. Day care centers sprung up, and the home front changed overnight.
My purpose in recounting the Mommy Wars today is not to express disrespect for women who want or need to work outside the home. Again that is nobody’s business but women and their husbands. Furthermore, millions of women have no choice in the matter. Those who are single are among them. The tax burden on families and the poor economy today may dictate the decision that is ultimately made.
I raise the matter because those who choose to be full-time homemakers are entitled to respect too, and that fact should be appreciated.
That’s enough of the background for now. Let’s return to what is happening today. Perhaps you have been reading in the secular press that millions of women, including some who call themselves “liberal feminists,” have begun leaving the workplace and found joy and fulfillment in doing what their grandmothers did: staying home with their children and devoting themselves to domestic duties. What a turnaround!
I could cite many respected sources for the observations I have reported above. Space limitations will allow me to quote only one of them. The others are available for anyone who consults the Internet.
Here is an article that appeared March 17th, in New York. It is called “Retro Wife,” bearing this subtitle: “Feminists who say they’re having it all—by choosing to stay home,” by Lisa Miller.
I’ll share a few excerpts, but I hope you will read the entire article for yourself:
Kelly is 33, and if dreams were winds, you might say that hers have shifted. She believes that every household needs one primary caretaker, that women are, broadly speaking, better at that job than men, and that no amount of professional success could possibly console her if she felt her two young children—Connor, 5, and Lillie, 4—were not being looked after the right way.
The maternal instinct is a real thing, Kelly argues: Girls play with dolls from childhood, so “women are raised from the get-go to raise children successfully. When we are moms, we have a better toolbox.” Women, she believes, are conditioned to be more patient with children, to be better multitaskers, to be more tolerant of the quotidian grind of playdates and temper tantrums; “Women,” she says, “keep it together better than guys do.” So last summer, when her husband, Alvin, a management consultant, took a new position requiring more travel, she made a decision. They would live off his low-six-figure income, and she would quit her job running a program for at-risk kids in a public school to stay home full-time...
…Kelly’s priorities are nothing if not retrograde. She has given herself over entirely to the care and feeding of her family. Undistracted by office politics and unfettered by meetings or a nerve-fraying commute, she spends hours upon hours doing things that would make another kind of woman scream with boredom, chanting nursery rhymes and eating pretend cake beneath a giant Transformers poster. Her sacrifice of a salary tightened the Makinos’ upper-middle-class budget, but the subversion of her personal drive pays them back in ways Kelly believes are priceless; she is now able to be there for her kids no matter what, cooking healthy meals, taking them hiking and to museums, helping patiently with homework, and devoting herself to teaching the life lessons—on littering, on manners, on good habits—that she believes every child should know…
Dobson’s Comment: Lisa Miller doesn’t mention the importance of spiritual training when kids are young, which I would have put at the top of my list.
Retro Wife continues: Alvin benefits no less from his wife’s domestic reign. Kelly keeps a list of his clothing sizes in her iPhone and, devoted to his cuteness, surprises him regularly with new items, like the dark-washed jeans he was wearing on the day I visited. She tracks down his favorite recipes online, recently discovering one for pineapple fried rice that he remembered from his childhood in Hawaii. A couple of times a month, Kelly suggests that they go to bed early and she soothes his work-stiffened muscles with a therapeutic massage. “I love him so much, I just want to spoil him,” she says.
Kelly calls herself “a flaming liberal” and a feminist, too. “I want my daughter to be able to do anything she wants,” she says. “But I also want to say, ‘Have a career that you can walk away from at the drop of a hat.’ ” And she is not alone. Far from the Bible Belt’s conservative territories, in blue-state cities and suburbs, young, educated, married mothers find themselves not uninterested in the metaconversation about “having it all” but untouched by it. They are too busy mining their grandmothers’ old-fashioned lives for values they can appropriate like heirlooms, then wear proudly as their own.
Feminism has fizzled, its promise only half-fulfilled. This is the revelation of the moment, hashed and rehashed on blogs and talk shows, a cause of grief for some, fury for others. American women are better educated than they’ve ever been, better educated now than men, but they get distracted during their prime earning years by the urge to procreate. As they mature, they earn less than men and are granted fewer responsibilities at work. Fifty years after the publication of The Feminine Mystique, women represent only a tiny fraction of corporate and government leaders, and they still earn only 77 cents on the male dollar…
Reading The Feminine Mystique now, one is struck by the white-hot flame of Betty Friedan’s professional hunger, which made her into a prophet and a pioneer. But it blinded her as well: She presumed that all her suburban-housewife sisters felt as imprisoned as she did and that the gratification she found in her work was attainable for all. But today, in the tumultuous 21st-century economy, depending on a career as a path to self-actualization can seem like a sucker’s bet.
Meanwhile, what was once feminist blasphemy is now conventional wisdom: Generally speaking, mothers instinctively want to devote themselves to home more than fathers do. “Are there characteristics inherent in sex differences that make women more nurturing and men more assertive?” she asks. “Quite possibly.” If feminism is not only about creating an equitable society but also a means to fulfillment for individual women, and if the rewards of working are insufficient and uncertain, while the tug of motherhood is inexorable, then a new calculus can take hold: For some women, the solution to resolving the long-running tensions between work and life is not more parent-friendly offices or savvier career moves but the full embrace of domesticity.
“The feminist revolution started in the workplace, and now it’s happening at home,” says Makino. “I feel like in today’s society, women who don’t work are bucking the convention we were raised with … Why can’t we just be girls? Why do we have to be boys and girls at the same time?” She and the legions like her offer a silent rejoinder, raising the possibility that the best way for some mothers (and their loved ones) to have a happy life is to make home their highest achievement…
The harried, stressed, multiarmed Kali goddess, with a laptop in one hand and homemade organic baby food in the other, has been replaced with a domestic Madonna, content with her choices and placid in her sphere. “I was … blessed,” wrote one woman on the UrbanBaby message boards recently, “with the patience to truly enjoy being home with my kids and know that in the end family is what is important in life—not pushing papers at some …… job.”2
It’s about time the culture began applauding the contributions made by families, and recognizing what a division of labor can accomplish in the lives of children. It’s all about the kids. We must reexamine the chaos of modern life with its constant obligations and impossible schedules, where every member of the family, children included, careen through endless days with their hair on fire. Children are not designed for frantic lives. They need moms and dads to guide them as they are growing up. Obviously, my bias is that the family, if possible, should have a full-time manager to keep everything on an even keel. (Moms make great managers.) Indeed, there has to be a better way of running our families than how we are doing it now!
That is my message for this month. I wish I had another 50 pages to describe the revolution that might now be catching hold. I pray that it is. The spiritual implications are eternal.
In short, this is what Family Talk is trying to do and why I have not retired to a quiet farm somewhere. This is life and death stuff for the institution of the family. It begins with a stable marriage for those who find the love of their lives, and if it results in the births of children, they should be given top priority for the brief moments when they are young. After they are grown, the priorities can change. But then, there are grandchildren to consider. That is the way it used to be. Maybe it can happen again.
I wish I had workable solutions for the pressures experienced by single mothers. Trying to earn a living and raise children too is one of the greatest challenges in life. The rest of us must be mindful of their needs and do what we can to help, such as men taking boys on outings with their own kids. Single moms need all the help they can get.
Thanks so much. I appreciate you more than you know.
James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
Founder and President
P.S. For those of you who have been listening to Family Talk radio programs for the past three years, you know that our broadcast has been co-hosted by my son, Ryan Dobson, along with LuAnne Crane and me. It has been a labor of love and we have each enjoyed preparing these programs for you. However, several weeks ago LuAnne asked to see me one afternoon. She told me that the Lord had been speaking to her about her future with the ministry and about her family. Three of her children are grown, and Robbie, her youngest, is now 15.
LuAnne said with tears streaming down her cheeks, “I have three more years with Robbie. I cherish every moment I can spend with him. I feel led to phase out of my role as V.P. and co-host on June 1st, and to ‘Go home.’ I am, after all, doing what you have taught for so many years.”
We are all saddened by LuAnne’s departure, but support her decision fully. How fitting that my letter this month applauds the desire of women to put first things first. I pray that many other moms who have the option will consider what I have written this month.
Thank you, LuAnne, for your dedication these past three years and for the excellence you invested in Family Talk. We will miss you!
This letter may be reproduced without change and in its entirety for non-commercial and non-political purposes without prior permission from Family Talk. Copyright © 2013 Family Talk. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured. Printed in the U.S.A. Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk is not affiliated with Focus on the Family.