Feminist Jill Filipovic criticized stay-at-home mothers in a lengthy Twitter thread on Thursday, suggesting they are unambitious and a bad example for children.
Filipovic was reacting to a post from Slate concerning a man who was upset that his wife wanted to be a stay-at-home mother. Slate’s advice was to be more understanding with his wife.
“This is good advice, but man I feel for this letter-writer, because it’s exactly how I would feel if my spouse decided they wanted to be a stay-at-home parent,” Filipovic commented. “Also… is it really ONLY her decision whether to quit working when she’s then going to be entirely dependent on him?”
She then suggested stay-at-home mothers are unambitious — a remark she would later try to walk back.
“I realize this is like the third rail of the Mommy Wars, but yeah, lots of super-ambitious people marry other super-ambitious people because they’re attracted to ambition,” she wrote. “I would have a really, really hard time being married to a spouse who chose not to work.”
The feminist noted that if she wanted to stay home to run the household, it would be unfair of her to take from her husband’s income.
“If I came to my husband and said I am going to quit my job and dedicate all of my time to keeping our household, now I need your income, I think he’s in his rights to say, uh, no,” she wrote.
Women staying home to raise their babies set bad examples for children, she argued.
“And now I am really going to get myself yelled at, but I also think the issue of example-setting for a kid is a totally fair one,” Filipovic said. “What example are you setting when dad works for pay and mom does the care work at home? Lots of reasons not to want to set that example for a child.”
“Among them: Girls with working moms do better in school,” she claimed. “Men with stay-at-home wives are less likely to promote & support women in their workplace. Sons with working mothers do more housework and childcare when they grow up. These aren’t just individual choices; they’re social.
Seemingly after getting some pushback, Filipovic circled back to her suggestion that raising children is not a real job. Her answer was muddled, highlighting the apparent importance of women working outside the home and simultaneously blaming our “our capitalist society” for not valuing stay-at-home motherhood.
“I can see that this is now going to around in the circles of ‘but being a stay-at-home parent IS a job’ and ‘why don’t you value care work?’ Care work should be valued much more than it is. It’s also good for people to work outside the home,” she wrote.
“The reality — in our capitalist society — is that if you are at home full time, your husband is your boss and there is no HR department. Should care work be valued much more? Yes! In the reality we live in, are women who stay home taking on significant risks? Also yes.”
“I would also argue that I am not convinced that this division of labor — one full-time wage-earner, one full-time at-home carer — is a good or healthy one, even when you take out of it the (very salient) fact that it’s women who are overwhelmingly the at-home carers,” she said.
“At-home work is incredibly isolating. It also occupies a pretty unique space where it’s centered on one of the most fundamental familial relationships — parent/child,” Filipovic wrote. “No other job is like that, which is where ‘staying at home IS a job’ doesn’t quite tell the whole story.”
Viewing a woman’s choice to stay home and raise her children and manage the home as a win would be “shallow” thinking, she said, noting that it’s not “judgmental” for her to weigh-in.
“The point is, a lot of the go-to talking points on this issue are really insufficient. The shallowest among them is the dialogue around ‘choice’ and the claim this is all private family decision making — that it’s wrong to comment on this at all because that’s ‘judgmental.’”
“In the US we give families few options, that’s baked in. But in this specific instance, I do think it’s worth talking about ambition, attraction, and the fact that there are real and tangible benefits to children having a working mother — something we’re often hesitant to say,” she wrote.
Walking back her language about stay-at-home mothers and ambition, Filipovic said “plenty of them are ambitious,” noting of “intensive parenting.”
“‘Do you think stay-at-home moms aren’t ambitious?’ Plenty of them are! Welcome to intensive parenting. But to be honest I would have a really hard time being married to someone who decided they wanted to direct their ambition into the sole work of raising our child.”
“That’s not because I don’t think that work is important,” she concluded. “It is because it’s very inward-looking and wrapping one’s identity in one’s progeny. If you have a passion for child development, great, there are many paths to walk down that do a lot of good for lots of people.”