Work or home? Breast or bottle? Spanking or spoiling?" asks the front cover of the New York Times Magazine. "No matter what they choose, they're made to feel bad." This "special issue on the joy and guilt of motherhood" is titled in big red letters: "Mothers Can't Win."

Is this a special issue from 1987? 1993? 1972? Does it matter? This story has had more lives than Shirley MacLaine. No matter how we fret about the situation, it never gets better, and it never goes away. It's a bad rash, and we're stuck with it.

A survey in the Washington Post not long ago asked respondents their opinion of "recent changes" in the status and role of women. What recent changes? I wondered. The trend of young women once more staying home to raise their kids? The emergence of "sequencing" a woman's career around the childrearing years? No, these changes are apparently too recent to be on the I radar screen. By "recent changes," the survey meant the entry of women into the professional workplace.

So why does a change heralded in the sixties still feel "recent"? Because it isn't working. The fatal flaw in the feminists' plan to reject traditional roles was lumping childrearing in with housework. Most women would gladly kiss a dustpan goodbye, but kissing Junior goodbye as he shrieked in the daycare worker's arms proved more difficult. Women in the workplace isn't the problem. Moms in the workplace is.

"No matter what they choose, they're made to feel bad." By whom? The government, the experts, their husbands, their in-laws? Nope; the prime culprit is themselves. It's an inside job.

The more moms absorb insanely conflicted messages about what they should or should not do, the less able they are to tune in to their instinctive knowlege of how to handle ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Frederica Mathewes-Green
Frederica Mathewes-Green is the author of several books and has been a commentator for National Public Radio, National Review, and other media outlets. Her books include The Jesus Prayer and Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy. Mathewes-Green's podcast "Frederica Here and Now" is carried on Ancient Faith Radio. Her column, "Your World," ran from 1998 to 2000.
Previous Frederica Mathewes-Green Columns:

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.