Women are constantly being told that it's simply too difficult to balance work and family, so if they don't really "have to" work, it's better for their families if they stay home. Not only is this untrue, Leslie Bennetts says, but the arguments in favor of stay-at-home motherhood fail to consider the surprising benefits of work and the unexpected toll of giving it up. It's time, she says, to get the message across--combining work and family really is the best choice for most women, and it's eminently doable.
Bennetts and millions of other working women provide ample proof that there are many different ways to have kids, maintain a challenging career, and have a richly rewarding life as a result. Earning money and being successful not only make women feel great, but when women sacrifice their financial autonomy by quitting their jobs, they become vulnerable to divorce as well as the potential illness, death, or unemployment of their bread-winner husbands. Further, they forfeit the intellectual, emotional, psychological, and even medical benefits of self-sufficiency.
The truth is that when women gamble on dependancy, most eventually end up on the wrong side of the odds. In riveting interviews with women from a wide range of backgrounds, Bennetts tells their dramatic stories--some triumphant, others heart-breaking.
The Feminine Mistake will inspire women to accept the challenge of figuring out who they are and what they want to do with their lives in addition to raising children. Not since Betty Friedan has anyone offered such an eye-opening and persuasive argument for why women can--and should--embrace the joyously complex lives they deserve.
It would be easy to dismiss this as yet another salvo in the mommy wars- the debate over women opting out of careers to be stay-at-home moms. But Bennetts, a longtime journalist and writer for Vanity Fair, is more interested in investigating what she sees as the heart of the matter: economics. Through impressive research and interviews with experts and with real women, Bennetts shows that women simply cannot afford to quit their day jobs. Long-term loss of income has a cascading impact in areas such as medical benefits and retirement funds, not to mention a woman's sense of autonomy, derived from financial independence. Further, a career supplies a woman with a measure of security for herself and her children in the event of unexpected sickness or divorce. As any woman who has tried knows, returning to the workforce and finding a well-paying job after an absence of years, or even decades, is difficult. Not so long ago mothers would pin a dollar bill to their daughters' underclothes when they went out on a date in case, for some reason, they needed carfare home. Those mothers knew all to well that without money of your own it's easy to be left stranded. As Bennetts expertly shows, it's still true.