Raina Kelley Explains the Dilemma of Modern Motherhood

It has occurred to me that I wasn't as clear as I should have been in my Mother's Day story on work/life balance. The column's commenters have been taking me to task for what they believe was a sexist presentation of gender roles. As commenter "D. Marzi" wrote:

I am infuriated by the fact that as progressive as Newsweek is, it still publishes articles like this one, where everything falls on women, not men. How come there are never any articles tirading about how modern fathers can or cannot have it all? How modern fathers can balance work AND raising a family? Articles like this one only support and spread the stereotyped notion that it falls on mothers-whether working or not- to do everything.

Well, I love this topic and I'm thrilled to be able to answer Marzi's questions.

1. There are never any articles on modern fathers because the notion of fatherhood has yet to modernized in a way that's culturally relevant. Yes, men spend a lot more time with their children and some even stay at home; but the bulk of childcare is done by women. I don't like that and I wish that there were more moms and dads that worked as a team; but wishing doesn't make it so.

2. Dads balance work and family by being able, for the most part, to put work first. I don't know a lot of men other than my husband who would even consider taking a day off when the babysitter is sick. Even in two-income households, men are considered the breadwinners. Of course, there are exceptions, but I don't even know a lot of women who would ask their husbands to take over kid duty except in case of emergency. I don't think that's right (and I think the smartest thing men ever did was convince us they were incompetent around the house) but it is the way many heterosexual relationships work. It's hard to break a lifetime of gendering, especially when it starts at birth with the pink and blue hat newborn babies get in the hospital. And besides, I did say that "it's time to give ourselves the only gift we really need this Mother's Day—the right to stop the madness."

3. If my story had been about imagining a world in which women didn't have to both run their house and their careers, I would have put a lot more emphasis on the responsibility dads have to their families. But it was about the current state of motherhood and the guilt trips that women inflict on themselves in the name of perfect mothering. Patriarchal or not, sexist or not, women put an extraordinary amount of pressure on themselves to be the "right" kind of mother, and it's killing us. I just wanted the reader to be able to take a step back from the madness and reconsider those aspects of parenting that are cosmetic and unnecessary and to take a more balanced, holistic approach to life. Attacking what dads do or don't do would not have achieved that end. (But it does feel good, I'll admit that.)