Tough Call


My mother is thinking about going back for her last year of college so she can earn a bachelors degree. Why? Because my father is virtually forcing her after almost 20 years of being a stay-at-home mom.

It sounds like a man trying to help a woman reach a state of “fulfillment” – or whatever it is that comes from doing something OTHER than the soul-sucking housework that my mother has undertaken as her role in our family. And I do believe my father’s intentions are sincere. Let it be known, however, that the choices laid out before my mother are anything but pie-in-the-sky. I’m reminded of Marilyn Frye’s concept of the double bind, in which a person is left with few options and every one of them comes with a negative consequence. Essentially she or he is damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

If my mother goes back to school, she will have to send her 10-year-old daughter to daycare. If she asks my dad to quit his job or take fewer hours he probably won’t, but even if he does our family will face a serious drop in our standard of living.

If my mom doesn’t return to college, she will continue to be perceived by her peers and by my father as the “uneducated”, “unworldly”, degree-less housewife who contributes nothing to the family’s income (except for all the unpaid, tireless domestic labor that keeps our family alive and enables my dad to work, of course). If she doesn’t earn her degree now, she may be mired in her career-less state of domestic servitude forever, denying her the ability to engage in the creative labor that gives the spice of life.

As I talk to my mother about this “decision” of whether or not to go to school, I can’t help but think it’s not a decision at all. It’s a determination of the lesser of two evils, stemming from a system (patriarchy) that was out to get her from the beginning. I guess it’s #HFSF

DC from Fem Phil, Corvallis

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7 Responses to “Tough Call”

  1. skyhawkmkiv Says:

    Wow. That’s quite a bind this person’s mother is in. I guess her husband never thought to ask her if going to school was what she wanted. I guess it’s #HFSF.

  2. piewackett1 Says:

    I was just speaking about the term”stay at home mom today” again today. We’ve decided to rename and reclaim that term as “UNPAID moms.”

    “Stay at home” doesn’t have even imply work. One can stay home and lounge, stay home when sick, etc. “Working moms” really means PAID or remunerated mothers, as ALL moms certainly work. Do they ever!

    Any feminist thoughts would be welcome. Just like adding”mansplainer” to our lexicon, we can change vocabulary very quickly using the intertubes, and there is so much patriarchal language to hack away at I am champing at the leash to get going. I’d also be willing to work on a group project reclaiming terms and/or words just like “stay at home mom.”

    Phil, your mom has my total support and sympathy! Hard to read your dad sees her this way. Dollars to fucking donuts holes in the head she knows boatloads your “educated” dad does not.

    (Low, fierce and menacing growl)

  3. kktwain Says:

    I don’t know if you’re looking for advice, (probably not) but I’d say wait a few years until her daughter is old enough to take of herself/stay home alone. And don’t go to college full time, just take it a few classes at a time.

    That’s what my mom did (kind of. Her circumstances were different but whatev.)

    • kktwain Says:

      Ah, but only if your mom WANTS to go to college. Otherwise ignore what I just said. College isn’t everything. Not even close.

  4. szaghata Says:

    I don’t really understand the problem. If your mother want to go to school -than go. 10 years old is not a child that can’t stay at home few hours and anyway she could just go for a few curses during the school time.

    • gloinson Says:

      I see it this way too. Of course, I’m from (eastern) Germany, with 10 years age it was normal to have a key to the flat/home. Normally both parents worked full time (whole family manages the home) and you just went home on your own and started chores/homework.

      The post is a little bit confusing, as there is an implied force of the husband but also an idea of her working later to add to the income.

  5. lydiafree Says:

    Ugh, I am so sick of this matyred SAHM crap. Working mothers do EVERYTHING sahms do AND have gainful employment outside the home. Spare me this selfish, poor-me martyr act.

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