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Tell Me About It | by Carolyn Hax

Want to teach your girls a lesson? Respect your wife

If husband wants to help kids, he should support his wife

Q: I'm the administrative assistant who wrote recently regarding my husband's negative feelings about my job. We have been talking about this quite a bit lately, and it turns out that his primary concern isn't so much that my job is embarrassing to him, but that I'm a poor role model for our kids.

He grew up around women who thought they could only pursue typically "female" professions, no matter how smart they were, and now he thinks I'm demonstrating to our kids (both girls) that (a) women can't be anything other than secretaries; and (b) women can't balance high-caliber professional jobs with their family responsibilities.

I'm not sure what to make of this. On the one hand, I agree that I'm a role model for my kids, for better or worse, in everything I do, but at the same time, it is just way too much pressure to feel I have to be the "perfect" role model in absolutely all things.

Do I have an obligation to pursue a high-powered job in order to demonstrate to my girls that women can achieve positions of power without giving up the opportunity to be wives and mothers, too? For the record, I want to raise my girls to be happy, confident, productive members of society — whether that involves being secretaries or president of the United States.

Washington, D.C.

A: Great to hear from you again, and I'm glad you and your husband are talking. As I mentioned before, my mother was an executive secretary, and I'm one of four girls raised by that mom, so I think I'm in a particularly good position to speak to your husband's concerns.

And I still think he is full of (it). Of the four girls in my family, two of us are primary breadwinners for our families. Two of us have advanced degrees — the two who, as it happens, chose to be stay-at-home moms. Both have since gone back to work part time now that their kids are teenagers.

As for my mom's choice to take an administrative job, she was often frustrated by having to follow rather than lead. But it was good money for manageable hours, so she was accessible to us even when she worked full time, which she didn't at first. In fact she didn't work at all for years, and even with her Ivy degree the work force wasn't as kind then as it is now to women who take many years off to raise kids — and many would argue it isn't terribly kind even now.

Kids aren't complete morons. We knew our mom had choices, knew we had more choices than mom, and we knew the whole point of feminism wasn't to pack law schools and boardrooms with women, but to get rid of lingering restrictions on women (including purely ideological ones) that kept them from exercising their full range of choices. As long as your kids have eyes and/or ears, they are getting the message that women have choices.

Including the choice to remind your husband of the following: Showing their mother a little respect would be healthier for his girls' self-esteem than your working 60 hours a week.

Advice

Want to teach your girls a lesson? Respect your wife

06/15/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:38pm]

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