In an age in which everything can be bared, from marital intimacies in The Bride Stripped Bare to spiritual epiphanies (Madonna and the Kabbalah), to political and sexual proclivities, the only thing that is off the acceptable agenda for the chattering classes is women and work.
The newspapers, it is true, are full of dissertations on the need for good child care and the continuing feminist battles for equality in the workplace, for the freedom to make good choices. But where in the public forum is the question that refuses to budge from the conscience of most middle-class working mothers: Is my working life good for my child?
How often do you hear mothers say: "It's good for them to see me work. It's good for them to know I can be a mother and a professional." I think I've said it myself, hoping against hope that in the saying of it, it will somehow come true.
Frankly, my daughter is going to grow up with the image of a woman who struggles all the time to be anything at all, who runs frantically from the computer to the kitchen, who tries to write three sentences between looking for Batman's scuba equipment in the fruit bowl and answering the phone, who is capable of falling to bits from one minute to the next with the grief of being a not good enough mother, because she wants too much to be other things as well.
I used to be angry at feminism, at the damage it had done to so many families. Nowadays I am just so very sad. I wonder at times if it isn’t a case of too little, too late when I read articles like the above.
Kevin Michael Grace has linked to a quote from director John Boorman. Speaking in the context of the “necessity” of creating a more “flexible” family, he says (in an interview originally from Salon):
I mean, what you're looking at today is disintegration of family. You can talk as much as you like about family values in a political sense, and the reason these politicians insist on this so much is because of the insecurity. Everyone's afraid of the way families are disintegrating now and nobody knows what replaces that or what they do about it. Everyone is aware of the misery and unhappiness that comes about through that, and yet it just seems to be inevitable somehow.
I think it is inevitable for anyone not working overtly to avoid this result (and more than a few of us may be torn asunder as well). I no longer think it is possible for anyone to remain neutral in this culture war.