Books Ring Mah Bell's Reviews > The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much?

The Feminine Mistake by Leslie Bennetts
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Sep 11, 2013

really liked it
bookshelves: womens-interest, mom-stuff, need-to-purchase
Recommended for: all women (and guys too!)
Read in July, 2008

20 years ago, in a mouse infested, 1 bedroom apartment in a scary neighborhood, I sat across from my mom, watching her weep over the checkbook. Wiping the tears from her eyes, she told me, "Don't ever depend on a man to take care of you."
Recently divorced, she was struggling to put food on the table, a roof over our heads and hand me down clothes on my back.

Now here I am, a stay at home mom who depends on my husband financially. (Okay, I work maybe 30 hours a month. My son stays home with my husband while I work.)
There are some things that really suck about this situation. I feel I don't have a say on what car we should get or what furniture to choose. After all, it's not my money. I feel guilty buying things for myself. (for the record, I am very low maintenance)
There are some things that are good about the situation. My husband does not beat me for blowing $25 at the bookstore ($25 that I feel a bit guilty about). He has handed me a wad of money and said, "go get new clothes". What I am driving at here is that he's not a prick about money.
(Unlike many of the men in the is book)
I am home with my son until he goes to school. We wanted him to grow up with me, not a day care person. Being at home has been a gift. I can take sick relatives to the doctor, help my friends with new babies, keep things around the house in order (somewhat). The best part of it all is, I was not planning on being a mom, ever, and here I am, loving it. 9 days out of 10.
So am I giving up too much to take a time out from the workplace and be home with my son? Yes and no.
As the author points out in this book, shit happens.
Say, for example, my husband decides to leave me for a new and improved model. I'm potentially screwed. Say he drops dead or becomes disabled. Well, we have insurance for those events, God forbid that happens. (Plus, that job I work at 30 hours a month? I can easily get a full time job. Health care is always in demand, folks.)
What is simply stunning in this book is the amount of seemingly intelligent women who completely leave the workforce to be housewives and moms.
"But our love is forever!"
Gimmie a break. We have a 50% (at least) divorce rate in this country. You think half the people getting married expect it to end? Read again: shit happens.
"Well, if he leaves me, I'll get half and I can survive on that!"
Sure. If he doesn't piss it away, hiding it in other accounts or with someone anticipating that you are going to want a chunk of it! If he even sends you the check!
"I'll get right back into work when my kids go to middle school or high school!"
Right. After 13 years off the job, you are at the top of your game! (NOT) Employers like fresh, young meat. Yeah, young. They will hire a 30 year old over a 45 year old. Ageism. Check it out!
(If you are lucky, your husband has turned you into a trophy wife, all plastic with the frozen Botox head, so maybe you look 35 instead...)
This book is a must read! Cover your ass. Have a backup plan that does not include finding another man to marry. This is incredibly important if you have children. This is also important for you, as a woman, so you do not end up old, living under a bridge eating dog food out of a can.
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Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Valerie (new)

Valerie Wow - I'm not sure if I want to check this book out of the library and read it, or go hide my head in the sand (like you, I'm a stay-at-home-mom, but without the thirty part-time hours a month).

I think that where I differ from you is that I feel like my contribution to the family is important, even though it doesn't bring in a physical paycheck - although I admit that I'd be pretty screwed financially if my husband left me for a "younger model".

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't think you should underestimate what you bring to the table, Bellsy. You have every right to speak up about what kind of car or furniture you buy. The job that you do enables your husband to go to work and do his.

I'm getting slightly freaked out that I'm sounding like a SAHM-nazi - that's not my intention at all. I have friends that stay at home and friends that work full-time with their kids in day care, and the kids are fine - all family situations are different. But it sounds like you think that what you do at home doesn't qualify you to be an equal to your husband when it comes to your finances, and that's where I disagree with you.

Books Ring Mah Bell You so don't sound like a SAHM-nazi!

I think there are all sorts of family set-ups out there that work, including the stay at home option. (and I do believe the value of staying at home is very unappreciated/unrecognized)

I think I struggle personally because I was making $19/hr when I was 20, bought my own house, and now I'm so damned... dependent.

message 3: by Valerie (new)

Valerie I try not to look at it that way (although I completely see where you're coming from). I prefer to see myself as "retired" from the workforce. Now I get to sleep in, hang out with the kid (I have two, but the older one is seventeen - not really "hanging with the parents" age) and cook a bit, which I like. Oh, and I clean up, but probably not as much as I should.

The little one is up. GoodReads time is over for now...

message 4: by Matt (new)

Matt "I feel guilty buying things for myself. (for the record, I am very low maintenance)"

My wife has over the course of our (now 13 year marriage) made at least half of the money and probably more than that. Yet, both of us often feel very guilty buying things for ourselves, and both agonize from time to time over getting 'permission' from each other to buy something.

I'm not sure that that has anything to do with feminism or being a SAHM or anything else of the sort. I think it is a side effect of being a responsible person who thinks before they act and who wants to do the right thing. Human emotions sometimes suck as feedback.

"Say, for example, my husband decides to leave me for a new and improved model. I'm potentially screwed. Say he drops dead or becomes disabled."

Say, for example, my wife decides to leave me for a new and improved model, or simply decides that she's tired of my crap and wants to explore her freedom. I'm pretty much screwed. I can take care of myself, but not the kids. I wouldn't want to give up my kids, but courts will almost certainly side with the woman regardless of the circumstance. My funds and savings are pretty much entirely in her hands. There is nothing that prevents her emptying our savings, spending it, running up a huge debt on the credit cards, taking all of the furniture, and then sueing for alimony while leaving me with the debts. I'd probably no nothing about it until I came home to an empty house. (This actually happened to a guy I know.) And, if she just abandoned the kids, then I've got pretty much no choice but to find another wife (the idea of which is just utterly bizarre) whether stay at home or working because I can't take care of the kids with my own labor alone - especially not if I'm forced to remotely support her as well. (This actually happened to another guy I know.)

So I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm not sure I see this as a feminist issue or a SAHM issue, but a marriage issue.

Basically, divorse sucks.

"But our love is forever!"

Well, our love is forever. It's not been easy all the time, but it is forever.

I think I can pretty easily spot the ones that aren't going to work out - the serial dater that finally decides THIS is the one, the couple that never goes through a period of friendship before going straight to bed to the alter, the whirlwind engagement where the two seem to have nothing in common but emo, and the couple just using the spouse to get away from thier parents/hometown/last relationship/whatever.

I married the smartest woman that I could find. She's incredible. I married a woman with a Ph.D., and I'm a terrible student. I'm not at all afraid of successful women. But if I was married to a woman who took care of the kids and cleaned the house and fought the good fight at home, I'd be no less in awe and admiration of her. In fact, I'd have to fight off a degree of envy, because she would have the higher better role than me. You think I'm happy that my lot in life as 'the man' is to watch my children grow up more or less without me? I don't think my feelings are rare. I think most men are in awe of thier wives energy, commitment, concern. (I don't know any men that don't want to be equally appreciated though.)

Marriage is about dependency. I need her. I think she needs me. The kids need both of us and are quite vocal about it.

Fortunately, I had that figured out going in. I think maybe codependency gets a bad rap. The question isn't whether we are mutually dependent, it's whether we are mutually healthy and make each other more so.

Books Ring Mah Bell ... what I'm trying to say is I'm not sure I see this as a feminist issue or a SAHM issue, but a marriage issue.

Matt, I am not going to say that some guys don't get completely SCREWED when it comes to divorce. They do. This book could just as well go for any man who is going to be the house husband or a stay at home dad.

However, women really do struggle more financially. We make less than you for the same work. (It's getting better there... slowly)

There is a lot of trust in being codependent. I'm slighty jaded from seeing my parents failed marriages.

Human emotions sometimes suck as feedback.

You can say that again, brother.

Congrats on 13 years... may you have at least 50 more good ones! From the sound of it, you and your wife are both lucky!

message 6: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony Good review, hon.

My wife is extraordinarily low-maintenance as well. Don't tell I said that, though. Heh.

Marriage is about dependency.

I don't believe I agree with this, but I get the feeling you might mean something different than the way I'm taking it.

Books Ring Mah Bell I'm with you, RA. I think I know what he's trying to get at, but as it is worded, I can't agree.

message 8: by Fostergrants (new)

Fostergrants i feel like giving you a big hug and telling you everything is going to be ok. you are doing fine. you have a conscience and a heart. you have no idea the true value of your worth. you are willing to serve your family when they need you the most. you have realized that some burdens are a privilege to bear. if your children love and respect you at the end of the day then it does not really matter how much money there is or how prepared you are for future "sh*t happens" events, or how young you will have what you need and the rest is gravy. you will land on your own faithful feet when you really need to. have a little faith in yourself, take a deep breath, and give thanks for what many a lonely woman probably envies you for.

one other thing i've learned in my 40 years that may come in handy for are NOT your mother.

Books Ring Mah Bell *fist bump*

I only fist bump you Mimi, because Barack did it.
Oh, wait. That's a terrorist gesture?

Nevermind then, let's hug!

Tracy I read this book a few years ago. It is fantastic. I was raised by a single mother of five children. I had my first child when I was 23, still in school My first husband was a lovely guy. He supported me until I finished my nursing degree. We had another child when I finished school at age 27 and found a job. My son had baby sitters from the time he was three weeks old (for the record I am Canadian, we do have mat leave, back then it was six months, but I was a student and he was born in August).
My husband and I were always fairly poor (huge student loans) but things gradually improved. He paid off his student loans in February of 1998. He was diagnosed with (ultimately) terminal cancer that same month. He lived another six months and died when he was 34. Yes we had insurance. But a couple of hundred thousand doesn't really go that far. My kids were seven and twelve. I raised them alone.
I've always worked. I have an excellent paying job and I know I can look after things. I'm glad I never had to cry over my check book. I've always envied women who could stay at home with their kids but I've always treasured the independence my job gives me. My kids are now 25 and 20. One has graduated from university the other is in her third year. They are good kids. I read this book and I think these women are fools. But then most of them were lawyers I think which demands a huge time commitment. While nursing is stressful and shitty at times (literally) it is also the kind of job you can leave behind at work. I give report the next shift takes over, I'm not responsible any more (which is not to say I've never cried over a patient when I got home). Maybe women just shouldn't study law. It's a terrible job to have and be a mother. Nursing has a lot more flexibility for mom's.
Anyhow. This book really resonated with me. It was very well written and presented a compelling argument.

message 11: by Arnie (new)

Arnie Marriage is a partnership and you should be codependent on each other. If you are worried about your husband trading you in for a newer model you should discuss it with him. You can have a lawyer draw up papers protecting your financial interests but that doesn't send a good message about trust. Tell him you want your marriage to be a true partnership and put the house and cars in both your names and make all you bank accounts and investments joint accounts.

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