Missed Motherhood: A Casualty of the Sexual Revolution

Susan Shapiro’s article at The New York Times is as sad as anything I’ve read in a long time. She is the quintessential modern woman, having pursued a career and a life in the city through her childbearing years. Twice she got pregnant, and twice she aborted her children. She didn’t want to be pregnant before her life and finances were stable. She would “have it all” eventually–so she thought.

After entering her forties in a more secure situation, she decided to try and get pregnant only to find that she couldn’t. She had always said that she didn’t want the life of her mother, who begin having children at a very young age and who defied feminist expectation by becoming a stay-at-home mom. Shapiro now thinks very differently about her mother’s decisions and her own. She concludes:

While I’d fought for equality, vociferously an abortion rights advocate, I didn’t know that some women need to battle to have a baby, too, blazing a different path to motherhood. Wasn’t feminism about getting everything you want in life?

After her four children graduated from college, my still-dazzling mother enjoyed a thriving party-planning business for 15 years. In her 60s, she quit to be the grandmother of five. So she’d had jobs she enjoyed for 25 years, before and after motherhood. By 50, I felt blessed in work, love and real estate. Yet some nights I’m haunted walking by the empty room in our apartment. Maybe my mother aced the modern female clock by realizing: You can have it all, just not at the same time.

There is much confusion and regret in this one. It is still mistaken on so many points. Nevertheless, you should read the rest of it. The sexual revolution has its casualties, and this woman is one of them.

20 Responses to Missed Motherhood: A Casualty of the Sexual Revolution

  1. Caree Lookabill January 25, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

    Wow. Thank you for posting this. As a woman, wife and mother I would say that the great lie is believing we can have it all. She still seems to be believing this lie. So sad.

    • Ann January 26, 2015 at 1:38 pm #

      Oh, that was my thought exactly, when she said, isn’t feminism about having it all? No, feminism is about self, and only self. It doesn’t view motherhood, sacrifice, love, and delay of self-gratification (selfish gratification vs. maturity).

      I was a liberal feminist for almost 30 years. Oh, I would never, ever return to that life where it was always all about me. 🙁

  2. Ryan Davidson January 25, 2015 at 9:05 pm #

    The article addresses the complex world into which young professionals enter. This is not just an issue for women; it’s an issue for men as well.

    Thirty years ago, the single income of a college-educated father was often sufficient to make one a comfortable member of the upper middle class. Today, it generally takes two incomes to enjoy the lifestyles our parents enjoyed on a single income. That means putting off marriage and children. I was nearly 40 before I had paid off my school loans and become sufficiently established to have enough leverage to negotiate a less demanding work schedule (at a lower salary).

    Rising education expenses often play a role too. The cost of education has risen at about 3 times the rate of inflation. So, young professionals now spend 10-15 years paying off loans that their parents paid off in 3-5 years.

    I’m not sure that the sexual revolution is to blame. Simply put, professional degrees are too expensive and the professional workplace is too demanding on younger workers. One of my former colleagues was called back to DC from his honeymoon in Hawaii to work on a deal that was about to close. His marriage was over within 18 months.

    • Ian Shaw January 26, 2015 at 11:35 am #

      I agree with much Ryan. Though I have to ask, why do we (generally speaking as a Gen-Y) feel that we are entitled to have it “just as good or better” than our parents generation? You’re right, society has changed- going to college is exponentially more expensive and there may not be as great of a return on the investment, if you have to push off home-buying, marriage, kids, etc. I am 30 and my wife and I are saddled pretty good with student loan debt. Probably won’t have them all paid off until I’m 40-45.

      But it’s all about perspective. Could I have waited to get married, perhaps. Could I have waited to had kids, perhaps (I did). I was married at 19 and have a 4 and a 3 year old. There are many millennial couples at my church who are sub 25 with 2-3 kids. They don’t seem to mind that they don’t have it as good as their parents or other people, as that’s not their focus of fulfillment. We shouldn’t feel that we have to put a “one-size fits all” box around people and if they don’t fit, say oh well. Sure, my wife would work, but most if not all the income would go towards child-care, so what’s the investment worth? She has embraced her role as a mother and does an outstanding job with them at home.

      The “blame” or shift of focus if you will is that the equality movement pushed many women out of the house and into work, feeling that true fulfillness comes only through working as a man does. What good is it to gain the world but lose your soul? Being fulfilled comes not through work, but knowing your identity in Christ.

    • tedfrazier February 10, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

      As a non college educated father who supports a family(with a decent 1600sf house, two cars, several computers, plenty of the necessities and enough left for a few luxuries) on my single income of 36K per year, I find your argument unconvincing. It may be hard to do that, but it was hard for our grandparents too.

  3. Elle January 26, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    My issues aren’t with having it all feminist style. I never thought I would be a career woman. I wanted kids. I wanted to home school. But it took me a long time to get-over my evangelical dating hang-ups and I didn’t even start dating much until my late 20s.

    So, we’re trying to get financially stable. We have a sort of target date for when we’ll start trying for kids. It’s not the distant future, because we know our time is limited.

    But what about the church’s idea of having it all?
    I’d gladly quit my job and the idea of sending my babies to daycare makes me want to cry – but we won’t have babies at all if I wait until we can afford them on only my husband’s salary.

  4. Elle Psmith January 26, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    My issues aren’t with having it all feminist style. I never thought I would be a career woman. I wanted kids. I wanted to home school. But it took me a long time to get-over my evangelical dating hang-ups and I didn’t even start dating much until my late 20s.

    So, we’re trying to get financially stable. We have a sort of target date for when we’ll start trying for kids. It’s not the distant future, because we know our time is limited.

    But what about the church’s idea of having it all?
    I’d gladly quit my job and the idea of sending my babies to daycare makes me want to cry – but we won’t have babies at all if I wait until we can afford them on only my husband’s salary.

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    • Ian Shaw January 26, 2015 at 3:52 pm #

      I guess I question what the church says “having it all” is.

      No church I’ve ever been to has ever said that, nor is it found in scripture. Maybe in a health/wealth or prosperity church (Osteen), but not a solid biblical preaching church. I think “church” collectively as a whole can muddy the waters at times into believing what society tells us we can have.

      Not nit-picking but when you say “waiting until we get financially stable”, what do you mean? I know what it’s like do that. We told ourselves that we would wait until we were out of college and had a house. It worked out that way, but part of me always wonders why I thought that way and didn’t trust that the Lord would provide for us. Part of me wishes I would have put more trust in Him when we were putting kids off.

      • Denny Burk January 26, 2015 at 4:01 pm #

        I don’t know of a church that says that either. “You can have it all” is the unofficial motto of feminism.

        • Lynn B. January 26, 2015 at 11:07 pm #

          I think Elle might be referring to being a stay at home mother when she says “the church’s idea of having it all.” She goes on to say she would gladly quit her job if they could live on her husband’s salary and she cries as the thought of sending her babies to daycare.

  5. Dal Bailey January 26, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

    Yes, very sad article. But kind of like she did admit that God gave her 2 chances, but she blew them off. Shows how the things you think are worth chasing after, turn out to be put of reach when you try and grab them.

  6. Christiane Smith January 26, 2015 at 6:17 pm #

    I’m not sure what ‘having it all’ means. I do know I was fortunate to come from a family that prized higher education, and I did complete university with my family’s help. And there was some substitute teaching when my children were in school, but no regular job. What did get done was a master’s degree, but even that took six years as my children were still young. In time, I was given a contract to work with a school system, when the children were older . . . and because of the intensity of the work, I realized that there was no way I could have done that job while the children were small . . .

    thing is, so very many of our American mothers didn’t have my opportunities for education, for being home with my small children, for the support of a husband . . .

    it is for the grim situation of these women that I am profoundly moved . . . their low pay, their long hours at work, the cost of child care, or God forbid, the practice of ‘latch-key’ children . . .

    we hear platitudes about ‘the place of women’ which do not work for these single mothers and their families, no

    The Church must do better. If nothing more, for the sake of the children who are impacted, the Church must advocate for those who do not have influential voices in our society. In that way, the Church can become a powerfully positive force against poor decision-making when vulnerable women find themselves in crisis. The Church must help in the right ways.

  7. JohnM January 26, 2015 at 8:03 pm #

    Does it really take two incomes to enjoy the lifestyles our parents enjoyed – or did our parents never really enjoy the lifestyle we imagine? Partly, I suppose, it depends on your age. Once upon a time, and not that long ago either, middle class American homes – which is to say quite comfortable homes – were not as big as now, and were not quite as full of things large and small. I know it sounds preachy, but I have to believe part of the takes-two-incomes perspective stems from what people observe as the current norm and then mistakenly take for granted as necessary.

    • Christiane Smith January 26, 2015 at 9:57 pm #

      JohnM,
      a favorite motto when I was home with small children was this:
      “Good schools, good doctors, good shoes, good food:
      everything else you can get at the Public Library or the Salvation Army.

      It sounds almost un-American not to be a hearty consumer, but in those days, school tuitions, Stride-rite shoes, and good nutrition consumed much of our extra income after bills were paid,
      so the thrift shops, the library, garage sales, and consignment stores were a big help for our budget . . . it worked out quite well for us . . .

      I suppose if parents aren’t too proud to buy second-hand that they might benefit (and even enjoy) shopping and finding needed items in thrift shops. We did. Our children were dressed as well as anyone else and I have the pictures to prove it. 🙂

  8. Cindy Chang January 26, 2015 at 11:24 pm #

    Feminism….meh. This whole ‘having it all’ argument is sad. If you have God at your centre, then you shouldn’t even speak these words. What you SHOULD be talking about is what God’s will is for you. God owes us nothing, while we, well, we should gratefully give it all up.

    And the other thing. It took our parents alot of years to earn what they had. Don’t expect to start out at the same level. You have to earn it. Takes time, patience, and just may not happen. And we’ll survive.

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