Caitlin Flanagan's Baffling Piece in Time Magazine

May 3, 2006

Our favorite “housewife,” Caitlin Flanagan, wrote a scathing piece in Time about how the Democratic Party is losing the votes of stay-at-home mothers no thanks to the feminists at Salon and “much of the Upper West Side of Manhattan.” The Dems simply don’t respect her choice to have a “traditional family.”

I’m in charge of the house and the kids, my husband is in charge of the finances and the car maintenance, and we all go to church every Sunday.

She is correctly describing many American households, including those of the liberals she says are attacking her. What she doesn’t touch on is the real reason why some of us here at MT and Salon have made her the so-called “beaten wife of the Democratic Party:” She does not represent the “traditional” American woman. By that, I mean the 1950s housewife she loves to glorify, meaning the mom who trades in her career to complete all domestic chores and childcare — BY HERSELF. Maybe in Flanagan’s fantasy world, she is this woman. But as Joan Walsh of Salon correctly pointed out, she is not:

Second, my problem isn’t with Flanagan’s lifestyle choices, it’s with her lying about them. Having a full-time nanny until her children went to preschool makes her privileged; it doesn’t make her an at-home mom who’s given up her career for her family, and I did take the time away from my family to point that out in a book review recently. And now she’s traveling the country flacking her book, flirting with Stephen Colbert (OK, I admit I’m jealous), creating straw women and writing about her martyrdom at the hands of feminists, all the while bragging about how she’s an at-home mom: Well, I don’t know how she does it. Except with a lot of self-delusion.

As Flanagan pointed out in her Time piece, I HATE it when reporters assume she is a neo-con. (Please don’t leave us, Caitlin! We like rich women, too!) Of course, the Democratic Party represents stay-at-home moms. We are working our butts off and making zero money in the private sector. Yes, we could use a little help from the government in the form of health care, quality childcare and universal preschool.

Actually, all moms can.

But I also feel that Flanagan, like the Republicans, is flacking a lifestyle that is simply not accessible even to today’s housewife. Who is watching her children while she travels the country to flack her new book? When does a stay-at-home mom have time to write a book?? Exactly.

Both my dear grandmother and mother — who both heavily shaped my life — were traditional housewives and they were NOTHING like Flanagan: They were selfless to the point they tolerated cheating husbands. “I knew I didn’t marry a priest,” my grandmother recently told me. They did all the household chores and childcare by themselves. They NEVER hired a babysitter and went out with their husbands. They never had any money to buy anything for themselves. They also had no college educations, careers or interests outside of motherhood — or at least, any that they expressed.

Once I stop seeing Flanagan’s bylines in favor of her scrubbing her own floors, I will be impressed.