Patriarchy, thy name is Dr. Laura

I am usually sent these salvos in the ongoing Wars of Mommydom, because I am a unique case–I’m an at-home parent who doesn’t think everyone needs to do it. But despite my penchant for cackling at Rush Limbaugh’s radio show whenever I can, I live in a pretty insulated left-wing bubble. No one I know reads the Wall Street Journal, so no one sent me this gem, published in April 2009, which is so full of baloney it should be banned by the CDC for possible swine flu contamination.

[In Praise of Stay At Home Moms]

So the article begins with a point on which Laura and I can agree–that there are middle class, two-income families who could make the drop to one income if they wanted to care for a child at home. Of course, Laura Schlessinger has not middle class when she got herself knocked up, so that’s easy for her to say. She doesn’t consider the public library to be her family’s entire entertainment budget, nor does she chauffeur her li’l pumpkins in a dented ’99 Saturn. I do.

But here’s where the conversation veers into the Hall of Fucked-Up Mirrors in Phyllis Schlaflyland.

WSJ: What do you tell women who are hesitant to leave their jobs?

Dr. Schlessinger: You know how when you try to quit smoking you chew gum? You replace one thing with another because it distracts you. What I would tell these women is that they’re spending too much time thinking about what they have to give up, and feeling angry about not being valued. Look at me — I made the transition from being a powerhouse to being at home, folding laundry. What they need to do is find value elsewhere. I tell these women to look in their children’s eyes. When your husband comes home, wrap your body around him at the door and look at his eyes. What people need to learn is that it’s not about the drudgery of housework — it’s about being at home for all of those incredible moments that make your life more valuable than the person who replaced you at work. No one can replace mom. Kids who don’t have moms suffer a lifetime. (emphasis mine)

Let me declare to all the world that my husband truly is my best friend and partner in life. I don’t tell him this often enough. But if my only joy in life were wrapping my body around his and gazing into his big brown eyes, he would likely divorce me. Surprise! He respects my intellectual pursuits, too. No reasonable adult wants to be put on a pedestal like that.

Why are women still telling each other that love is all we need?

WSJ: What questions should working mothers ask themselves when deciding whether to quit their jobs and become stay-at-home mothers?

Dr. Schlessinger: The nut questions should be: Do I feel fulfilled as a woman? Do I feel like my husband’s girlfriend? Do I feel like I have touched the soul of my kids? Those will help you decide.

My biggest beef with the Mommy Wars is that it perpetuates patriarchal systems by perpetuating women’s self-hate. Yeah, I said it: PATRIARCHY! What else is at work when we’re told that all we should be when we grow up is someone’s caretaker?

WSJ: Where do stay-at-home dads fit into the picture?

Dr. Schlessinger: I recommend that during the first three years, the mom should be at home because all of the research shows that the person whose body you come out of and whose breast you suck at, at that stage, really needs to be the mom — unless she’s incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial. After that, flip a coin.

Ha, ha. Dr. Laura said “you suck.” Back atcha, bitch.

WSJ: At what point do you advise mothers to go back to work?

Dr. Schlessinger: The answer is never.

Blah blah, there’s more about the virtues of playing board games with your kids, which is such incredibly insightful parenting advice that I’m amazed no capitalist fatcat at Parker Brothers ever thought of it.

WSJ: Do you think it’s possible for a working mother to raise a smart, successful child?

Dr. Schlessinger: I didn’t write this book about working moms. I wrote it in praise of stay-at-home moms. It’s a wonderful choice, but to be absolutely truthful, having been on both sides of this mentality, my heart hurts for what these women miss and what their children miss from them. No argument, no criticism. My heart just hurts — because when you get those pudgy arms around your neck, and being told you’re someone’s lullaby — the fact that a woman would miss that is so, so sad. (emphasis mine)

Did I neglect to mention that the most powerful weapon in the culture war is the reinforcement of self-hate? Women’s self-hate kept them from thinking they deserved the right to vote, after all. What Laura is spewing here is no different than the ideological cult of motherhood that developed after the GIs came home from WWII and wanted their damned jobs back. Your time for riveting is over, Rosie–because you wouldn’t want to miss out on a chubby pair of arms snuggling you! What kind of woman would you be then, Rosie, huh? Don’t you kinda hate yourself for missing out on that womanly experience?

Do not misunderstand–I love the feel of my babies’ skin. They sucked me for nourishment until they drained me dry. I play board games with them. I did, and still do, all of the things that Laura is advocating here. But to glamorize it in black and white terms is dangerous, to both women and to their families. No job should be so imbued with this kind of ridiculous mythology, much less a job that is thankless, dirty, and unpaid.

Speaking of pay, just how did Laura find the time to get famous enough to get a book publisher for this tripe? I thought she spent all of her time cuddling her son Deryk, who, according to Wikipedia, was born in 1985, making him nine years old when her radio show was syndicated. In the WSJ piece she claims that she made sure she did her on-air chats when he was in school, but looking at Wikipedia again, we also see that she published her first book in 1994. When did she write it? She wrote another in 1996, another in 1997, another in 1998, 1999….. that’s a lot of writing to get done while you have a teenage boy drinking from your breast. I bet he hates her fucking guts, if only for being stuck with the name “Deryk.”

But look at me, sillies! I’m pointing out the hypocrisy of another woman, and I’m not supposed to do that! I’m a nurturer! Loving others is my only role in life! I AM A MOMMY!

One thought on “Patriarchy, thy name is Dr. Laura

  1. Alex

    this is a wonderful and dead-on commentary on this book and i loved reading it. but my favorite part has to be where you labelled it under “idiots.” LOL!

    also, i like how her justficiation for having a daily radio show was that she did it while he was at school — i thought women were supposed to be fulfilled by mounds of laundry and preparing dinner while their kids were at school and, what was it, “it’s about being at home for all of those incredible moments that make your life more valuable than the person who replaced you at work.”

    sadly, the hypocrisy doesn’t surprise me one bit.


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