Foundering Feminism

What Do Women Really Want?

A corporate lawyer named Jill Natwick Johnston was about to be rewarded for 15 years of grueling work: She was offered a prestigious promotion where she'd enjoy double the salary and the freedom to write her own job description.

But Johnston turned down the promotion. As she explained in the Wall Street Journal, "There was no way I could take the job unless [I] wanted [my] children to be raised completely by the sitter and [my] marriage further stretched."

Johnston's decision is certainly praiseworthy. But it's one "woman's choice" that America's feminists are not likely to support.

In her book, "Feminism Is Not the Story of My Life," historian Elizabeth Fox-Genovese says that feminists have lost touch with the real concerns of everyday women. In particular, Fox-Genovese says, feminists tend to ignore the importance of children in the lives of most women.


While feminists insist that they respect any lifestyle choice a woman makes, Fox-Genovese writes, "it's difficult to find much feminist support for women who decide that their commitment to family must take precedence over their commitment to work."

For example, a few years ago the National Organization for Women held a convention offering hundreds of workshops on every aspect of women's lives. Only one workshop focused on children--and that had to do with lesbian motherhood.

But mothers understand something that sometimes career-obsessed feminists don't: Children are not simply small appendages to their lives, something to put on their after-hours "to do" list. As Fox-Genovese puts it, to bear and rear children "might well be the most important and rewarding thing that most women... do in their lives." In fact, several recent studies reveal that many parents are doing exactly what Jill Johnston did: They're trying to find ways to cut down on their work hours in favor of spending more time nurturing their children.

For example, a 1993 poll by the Family Research Council found that "most working people would trade even early retirement for more time to devote to their children."

Scholar Dana Mack writes in The Women's Quarterly that "growing numbers of families are [renouncing] second incomes... for the sake of their children's well-being." And a study reported in the book, "Staying Home," found that women who left their jobs in favor of full-time mothering said they did so in order to rear their own children "with their own values."

Teaching their own values: That gets to the heart of why both mothers and fathers are longing to spend more time with their children.

Proverbs 23 instructs parents to "train up a child in the way he should go." The verse tells parents that THEY are the ones who are primarily responsible before God for their children's moral education.

When parents strive to arrange their careers so they can nurture their children, as Jill Johnston did, they are fulfilling a Biblical mandate.

So three cheers for Jill Johnston, and for all the courageous parents across American who have made hard choices to slow down their careers to cultivate a richer family life.

Well-nurtured children are a much better "reward" than that next promotion.