"KIDDING OURSELVES: Breadwinning, Babies, and Bargaining Power" by Rhona Mahony

"KIDDING OURSELVES: Breadwinning, Babies, and Bargaining Power"

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An odd, unconvincing case for breadwinning mommies and homemaking daddies. Harvard-trained lawyer, columnist, and mother Mahony fears that women will remain subject to glass ceilings, the ""second shift,"" spousal abuse, and economic peril unless they get men to do half the work of raising children. According to the author, this doesn't mean 50-50 parenting, each spouse working half-time; it means half of all families nurtured by stay-at-home fathers. Mahony draws lots of graphs and borrows lots of jargon from economics, game theory, psychology, and anthropology to show how various hypothetical, overly generalized couples negotiate badly over who does the laundry. Despite her pedantic posturing, she has a strong point: A woman's economic dependence on a breadwinning male can rob her of both bargaining power and self-esteem. But her thesis -- that the only way for women to shore up bargaining power at home is by fleeing from the nursery en masse -- is not likely to win converts. The author is simply too dismissive of mother-baby bonding, maternal instinct, breast-feeding, and the sundry arrangements many women choose, such as maternity leave and part-time work. She is also too rigid about the necessity of a parent at home, scorning day care by ""some six-dollar-an-hour hireling who will abandon [the baby] in three months to sell nose rings at the mall."" Mahony is not above informing the reader how she divides parenting chores with her spouse or dispensing parent-mag household tips (""Bagel pizzas and yogurt smoothies make an elegant meal""). Those seeking specific advice on how to negotiate child care will be disappointed, although they might be intrigued by her suggestion that a moralistic quotation from the Bible now and then ""may make all the difference."" Too judgmental and pretentious to earn a wide readership.

Pub Date: June 21st, 1995
ISBN: 0465085946
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Basic