Coming Next Issue
Winter 2013 will celebrate
those who have won monetary
awards from Phi Kappa Phi in
the past year.
In “Can American Women Have It All and Be Happy?” from the spring 2013 edition, Ling-Yi Zhou offers an explanation for a reported decline in their happiness. She concentrates on some barriers facing U.S. women in the
workforce. Zhou ultimately answers the titular
question affirmatively by pointing to and urging
further progress in achieving “gender egalitarianism” throughout society.
It’s also true, however, that many mothers
reject the “have it all” concept in which full-time employment through the child-rearing
years is a necessary component of a happy,
fulfilling life. In fact, among working mothers
in the U.S., 52 percent would prefer to be at
home with their children but need the income
their job generates, according to “Modern
Parenthood,” a March study by the Pew Research Center on attitudes of American mothers (and fathers) with children younger than
age 18. The Pew researchers also document
that whether mothers work outside the home
or not, 47 percent prefer part-time employment, 32 percent prefer full-time, and 20 percent prefer not to be employed. The paper additionally finds that among all mothers in
2012, “51 percent had worked full time in the
previous year, 19 percent worked part time
and 29 percent did not work at all.”
Citing clinical psychologist Daphne de
Marneffe’s 2004 book Maternal Desire: On
Children, Love, and the Inner Life, Zhou notes
“economic, historical, and psychological fac-
tors” that contribute to maternal anxiety. “To
reduce this tension,” Zhou asserts, “some
women have to opt for part-time work. And
others remain childless.” But de Marneffe
also illuminates “the pleasures, the self-ex-
pression, and the moral fulfillment mothering
can afford,” envisioning a culture that values
mothering in a way that is consistent with
feminism and that helps mothers “tap into
their own human happiness.”
As Zhou mentions, mothers have pro-
fou biopsychosocial experiences in
egnancy, birth, and postpartum.
Indeed, interdisciplinary researchers exemplified by UCLA’s Allan
N. Schore, who integrates psychiatry, biology and neurosci-ence, demonstrate the enormous
mpact of mother-infant relation-hips. Physical, emotional, social
nd intellectual development de-ends on intimate, nurturing rela-onships, which require time to
uild and maintain.
Southern Methodist University
hilosopher Jean Kazez says in her
07 book The Weight of Things:
ilosophy and the Good Life that the
rent grows with the child and the
job of parenting evolves as the child changes.
The U.S. needs better family policies, as
Zhou observes, but her focus on promoting
policies for mothers who pursue full-time careers leaves out mothers as well as fathers
who make other choices. Instead, policymak-ers could enact inclusive family policies that
support parents regardless of the ways in
which they meet their income-earning and
Family and Home Network, a grassroots
nonprofit for which I serve as volunteer executive director (go online to familyandhome.
org), is one organization advocating for inclusive family policies to increase choice and
flexibility for parents.
— Catherine H. Myers
(George Mason University)
Falls Church, Va.
Parenting Is Vital Work
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