Divorce and Stay at Homes

by Annette Burns on September 2, 2006

In December 2005 and January 2006, two articles appeared in the national press that were remarkably related to each other, and each offered an interesting social commentary on divorce.

On January 1, the New York Times ran (in its "Modern Love" column, a favorite of mine) an article by a woman in her 60’s who had received her divorce papers from her Husband of 40 years (received on their 40th anniversary, no less;  nice touch).    Her description of the way she saw her life as a mother and housewife and the shock she felt at facing the divorce and being "cancelled" angered me for some reason.   Had she never heard of divorce?  Assuming she knew it existed (she seemed like a very intelligent woman), had she simply dismissed it as "doesn’t apply to me"?     I’ve never suffered short-sighted people very well, and her article smacked of short-sightedness and an "I’m above all that" attitude.   

But the article fascinated me, and I’m drawn back to it again and again.   It’s worth posting here.

Download HekkerArticle.pdf

The other article appeared in The American Prospect in December 2005 (online edition November 2005) and was essentially an indictment of the stay-at-home mother and wife.   Linda Hirshman went so far as to say that woman who give up or limit careers to stay home are actually stifling "full human fluorishing".   

Hirshman has some catchy hooks to her story, including the use of Mark Twain’s quote "A man who chooses not to read is just as ignorant as a man who cannot read".   She extrapolates this to state that a woman who chooses to stay at home is just as ineffectual as a woman who cannot leave the home.   

Hirschman does offer some hope to juggling two lives:  "Have a baby; just don’t have two".  Apparently giving birth just once doesn’t trigger the metamorphosis to "untouchable" (her description of stay-at-homes). 

Hirshman’s article:   Download HirschmanArticle.pdf

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