Jewish World Review Nov 15, 2011 / 18 Mar-Cheshvan, 5772
Does a Full-Time Homemaker Swap Her Mind for a Mop?
By Dennis Prager
For example, one of the biggest left-wing websites (Daily Kos) wrote that "Dennis Prager advocates marital rape." Why? Because I wrote a column in which I suggested that if a woman loves her husband, and if he is a loving and good man, she might not want to be guided solely by "mood" in deciding whether and when to have sex with him.
And just a few weeks ago, the same website declared me a misogynist for my column on what I believe to have been four negative legacies of feminism for women. I actually wrote the column on behalf of women, yet I was labeled a misogynist. Why? Because I suggested that feminist pressure on women to emphasize career over finding a husband, career over marriage and career over child rearing has not been good for most women or for society. That means, according to the Daily Kos writer, that "basically Prager is upset with contemporary women because they seek a life beyond being confined to domestic space and swapping their brains for a mop."
To suggest that children benefit from having a full-time parent — which will usually be the mother — is, in the eyes of the dominant intellectual culture, equivalent to advocating suppression of women and "swapping their brains for a mop." The left views full-time homemakers as individuals who, because of patriarchy and other nefarious forces, have abandoned their minds to the lowest intellectual activity the human being can engage in: homemaking. Being a full-time homemaker, mother and wife is the left's vision of hell.
Why that is so is not my subject here. Rather, I seek to refute the idea that full-time homemaking is intellectually vapid and a waste of a college education.
Let me first state that I have no argument with those mothers who need to or even just wish to work outside the home. My argument is with those who believe that staying at home is necessarily mind-numbing.
Nor do I wish to romanticize child rearing. As a rule, little children don't contribute much to the intellectual life of a parent (although older children who are intellectually curious can spur a parent to seek answers to challenging questions they may not have considered before). Any intellectually alive woman who is a full-time mother must therefore find intellectual stimulation elsewhere.
The point is that she can find such stimulation without leaving her house. Furthermore, the intellectual input she can find is likely to be greater than most women (or men) find working outside the home. There is a reason that about half the audience of my national radio show is female — they listen to talk radio for hours a day and broaden their knowledge considerably. To the left, the notion that talk radio enhances intellectual development is akin to fish needing bicycles. But that's because the left's greatest achievement is demonizing the right and because they never actually listen to the best of us.
I am syndicated by the Salem Radio Network. My colleagues are Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Michael Medved and Hugh Hewitt. Two of us attended Harvard, one Yale and one Columbia. One of us taught at Harvard, another at the City University of New York. And a third teaches constitutional law at a law school.
In addition to reviewing the news and discussing our own views, we all routinely interview authors and experts — left and right — in almost every field. The woman who listens to us regularly will know more about economics, politics, current events, world affairs, American history and religion than the great majority of men and women who work full-time outside of the house.
Lest the latter seem a self-serving suggestion, there are many other opportunities for full-time homemakers to broaden their intellectual horizons: recorded books and a few television networks, for example. And if a woman can get help from grandparents, neighbors, older children or a baby sitter, there are also myriad opportunities for study outside the house — such as community college classes, book clubs, etc. — and for volunteer work in intellectually more stimulating areas than most paid work.
Let me give an example of the woman I know best: my wife. She is a non-practicing lawyer with a particular interest in and knowledge of taxation and the economy. She decided to stay home to be a full-time mother to her two boys (one of whom is autistic) and her two nieces (who lost their mother, my wife's sister, to cancer, when they were very young). Between talk radio, History Channel documentaries, "BookTV" on C-SPAN2, recorded lectures from The Teaching Company/The Great Courses, and constant reading, she has led a first-class intellectual life while shuttling kids, folding laundry and making family dinners.
So it is not only nonsense that full-time homemaking means swapping the mind for a mop. It is also nonsense that the vast majority of paid work outside the home develops the mind. One may prefer to work outside the home for many reasons: a need or desire for extra income; a need to get out of the house; a need to be admired for work beyond making a home; a need for regular interaction with other adults. But the development of the intellect is not necessarily among them.
JWR contributor Dennis Prager hosts a national daily radio show based in Los Angeles. Click here to comment on this column.
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