Dads Against the Divorce Industry

DA*DI is devoted to reinstating the societal valuation of Marriage and the traditional, nuclear American Family, with particular emphasis on the essential role of FATHERS.

DA*DI offers contemporary reports and commentary on culture; its aberrations and its heroes.

To mother a child; indentured servitude?

Women can control their own lives

Published in The Orlando Sentinel, Oct 28 1998

By Kathleen Parker

Somebody fix this mess!

If I had to sum up the thoughts of women trying to juggle work and family, those four words would do it. At least that was the underlying, if unspoken, murmur I heard at a recent conference on "Women and Power."

The conference, sponsored by The Hartford Courant in Connecticut, offered a breakfast panel discussion on "Women and Power," followed by breakout sessions throughout the day on various other topics -- including business, family and health.

The audience for the "Women and Family" panel, on which I served, consisted of women of all ages from all backgrounds. The panel was made up of five women -- a physician, a Connecticut Supreme Court justice, a non-profit CEO and two columnists -- presumably selected for seeming to have fathomed the secret to keeping all those little balls in the air.

Our role as panelists, essentially, was to tell the story of how we did it and to discuss how our lessons might instruct others. The discussion was interesting, but not necessarily the stuff of epiphanies. The fact is we know no secrets, no special formulas, no way to make it work. We've all managed our lives in different, individualized ways.

Clearly, a doctor and a judge have options other women don't have. Well-educated and well-married, they don't have to settle for less-than-best child care. The executive member of our panel went back to work after raising her children. And the two columnists both work at home.

Audience members listened politely as we each described how we've navigated our lives. Then, in so many words, they said, "how nice." Now what about us? We have to work. We have to use day care, even if it's lousy.

One woman lamented that she had to go back to work because: "You can't support a family of five on $30,000 a year." Another complained that she had to put her third child, just 3 months old, in day care, what with the mortgage and all.

So, they wanted to know, what are you going to do about it? Or more to the point, what are "they" going to do about it? Those people out there, whoever they are, who did this to us. What few seem willing or able to see is that the "they" is us, and so is the solution. The key words that are unutterably hard to say is we have to manage our own lives -- in different, individualized ways.

The assumption behind such discussions seems to be that if only women would band together, they could fix everything. The truth is, the only way to fix this mess is for each to take control of her own life. If you can't feed a family of five, don't have three kids. If you can't afford the mortgage on your home, buy another or postpone the mortgage trap.

That's oversimplifying, but it's a start. Somewhere in all the talk is lost the concept -- long ago co-opted by the women's movement -- of choice. We all have the choice to plan our lives, to not be victims of circumstances.

Yes, some are luckier than others. Some are born smarter, prettier, taller, faster, funnier. Some are blessed with parents who read books; others are saddled with those who watch television and swat flies as the days go by. And there are too many stories of people who've made the right choices in spite of abominable circumstances to placate ourselves with blame.

That said, lest my sisters feel abandoned, let me quickly add that there is someone to blame in all of this. "They" are the purveyors of half-truths who made women feel that staying home to mother a child was indentured servitude and who made men feel no longer responsible for their families. "They," unfortunately, were us, and it's long past time to correct the record.

Kathleen Parker's column is distributed by Tribune Media Services. Her column also appears Sunday in the Sentinel's Insight section. Mail: The Orlando Sentinel, MP-6, P.O. Box 2833, Orlando, Fla. 32802-2833. E-mail:

[Posted 10/27/1998 19:0]

Back to Moms, Dads, and Kids

home marriage & family moms, dads, kids current affairs