Caitlin Flanagan has become one of my favorite journalists in recent years, as she writes so well of the modern family and encourages her readers to question our current state of affairs. One of the articles she wrote for The Atlantic, "Housewife Confidential," contrasts the modern day "at-home mother" with the "housewife" of years past. (For the record, I identify more with the "housewife" than the "at-home mother," but that's another post.)
I've been bemoaning of the main differences the last couple of days (and nights) when I've been stuck alone with a fussy kid, in desperate need of a break and a friend.
She writes, "The kind of childhood that many of us remember so fondly—with hours of free time, and gangs of neighborhood kids meeting up after school—was possible partly because each block contained houses in which women were busy but close by, all too willing to push open a window and yell at the neighbor boy to get his fool bike out of the street."
There once was a time when women stayed home- with their babies, with their children- all hours of the day, rather than drop them at daycare or transport them to a different activity each night. These women were there, in their houses, going about the work of the house. While they may not have been making regular playdates with the children across town, I'm sure that they would have been available to lend a hand when a fellow housewife was at her wit's end with her own children. If they were willing to discipline her child by yelling out their windows, they would have payed her a visit if she called in tears. Or at least sent their eldest daughter over as a mother's helper for the evening.
But now, when a mother has been left to tend to her house and child alone, and she feels the same anguish, she looks out the window, and realizes she's alone. The town has emptied with everyone running to work, and she has no help. How does she go about making friends, when she doesn't cart her children to different activities each day, and the only other adults she sees in a week beside her husband, are the members of her church who attend the same service on Sunday morning? Or has loneliness just become part of the burden she must bear as a mother?
Flanagan's full article is here.