WHY WE CAN�T "ALL JUST GET ALONG."

WHY WE CAN�T "ALL JUST GET ALONG." I am the author of "Homeward Bound" (The American Prospect, December 2005), where I argued that women quitting their jobs to stay home are making a mistake, work in the public and market world is more likely to produce a flourishing life, and, if men did more domestic work, women could do more public work. On June 12, my book, Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World, will be in the bookstores.

I expected that people would argue back. Instead, all of a sudden the subject of women's lives became the new taboo. A chorus of stay-at-home moms filled the papers on Mother's Day. "A bit of mutual respect? " the Chicago Tribune asked. "Ceasefire for Moms" implored the Boston Globe. "Why can't we all just get along?" they say. Let's concentrate on getting the things we need from 'the government' or 'business.' We all have the same interests in being good mothers.

What can this mean? No one tells Democrats not to disagree with Republicans, or libertarians with socialists, Christians with Muslims, preservationists with developers. Surely women's lives aren't the only subject in human experience not worth arguing about.

It can't mean that we all have the same interests. If all mothers had the same needs, wouldn't the millions of moms have gotten what they need years ago? In truth, career mothers have very different needs than stay-at-home moms. British sociologist Alison Wolf just published a long article titled �The Death of Sisterhood,� about this divide: �The first [consequence of women's liberation into the workplace] is the death of sisterhood: an end to the millennia during which women of all classes shared the same major life experiences to a far greater degree than did their men.�

Common sense would reveal that career mothers need more day care so they can get to work. Stay-at-home moms need more maternity leave so they don't have to get to work so much. Since the publication of Taxing Women in 1997, we have known that career mothers need every worker to pay his and her own taxes so their salaries aren't taxed at their husbands' marginal rates. Stay-at-home moms need taxes to be paid by the "family," so their lack of income will reduce the taxes on their husbands� incomes. Career mothers need mothering to be treated as a manageable task. Stay-at-home moms need it to be the executive job of "Chief Household Officers." Career mothers need their husbands to do more than 30 percent of the housework. As Caitlin Flanagan informs us, stay-at-home moms need their husbands to be grateful for all the work they do.

For twenty-five years, the media have been full of voices that have taken the side of the stay-at-home mom. Conservative commentator Danielle Crittenden recently informed childless women that their lives were nothing but "a pile of pay stubs." Only when someone speaks up for working mothers do commentators suggest the whole subject should be banned. No way. At least not this week on TAPPED.

--Linda Hirshman

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