The Feminine Mistake

Could staying home to care for your kids put you at financial risk? That's the premise of The Feminine Mistake. PLUS: 3 books on equality for working moms.
Could choosing the “mom ramp”—staying home to care for your kids—put you at serious financial risk?

That’s the premise of a new book provoking lots of discussion in the momosphere, The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? by Leslie Bennetts. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve seen enough reviews and interviews to pique my interest.

Could staying home to care for your kids put you at financial risk? That's the premise of The Feminine Mistake. PLUS: 3 books on equality for working moms.

Here’s a little sampling of the buzz about The Feminine Mistake:

So mothers, whether stay-at-home or working, have plenty to be mad about. The condition of motherhood — the embodiment of all the “family values” about which our politicians sermonize so odiously — will make them either dependent on their husbands or subordinate to men in the workplace.

—Rachel Hartigan Shea, The Washington Post

And as long as affluent women opt out or get pushed out of top jobs and decision-making positions in order to raise children, men with stay-at-home wives and daughters and mothers will continue to make rules that make it hard for less privileged women — and men — to balance work and family. So these advantaged women and their decisions do matter.

—Joan Walsh,

The Feminine Mistake is a well-crafted cautionary tale for women of all ages. Its basic message is passionate and unflagging: Women who depend on men for economic stability do so at their own considerable peril. …Leslie Bennetts, who writes about celebrities for Vanity Fair, uses a dizzying array of statistics to back up her thesis: Women should make work a top priority with the lifelong goal of self-sufficiency.

—Leslie Cauley, USA Today

Everyone knows that authors have to be prepared for negative reviews. What I didn’t anticipate was an avalanche of blistering attacks by women who hadn’t read my book but couldn’t wait to condemn it. Their fury says a great deal about the current debate over women’s choices —all of it alarming.

—Leslie Bennetts (the book’s author), The Huffington Post

Having seen all the hubbub, I’m definitely planning on reading this book (in my non-existent spare time, of course).

Who’s with me? Let’s make it our first WMAG book club venture. If you do read The Feminine Mistake, email me with your thoughts about it (say, by May 15?). I’ll put together a book club post that encompasses your reviews. Should be fun!

More books on working moms and equality

  • Getting to 50/50: How Working Parents Can Have It All by Sharon Meers: Here are real-world solutions for parents who want to get ahead in their careers and still get to their children’s soccer games; strategies for working mothers facing gender bias in the workplace; advice to fathers new to the home front; and tips for finding 50/50 solutions to deal with issues of money, time and much more.
  • Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg: In Lean In, the Facebook COO and working mother digs deeper into these issues, combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to cut through the layers of ambiguity and bias surrounding the lives and choices of working women.

  • Mogul, Mom, & Maid: The Balancing Act of the Modern Woman by Liz O’Donnell: This book takes an honest look at how women are balancing home life and career. The pressures of child rearing, coupled with an unfulfilling corporate culture, are too great to be ignored. O’Donnell goes beyond statistics and tells the stories of women all across America who are juggling careers, motherhood, marriage, and households.

7 thoughts on “The Feminine Mistake

  1. jobmom/crazedparent says:

    I honestly have zero desire to read this book, or any other, quite frankly, that causes working moms or SAHMs to basically flip out about their very personal – and oftn very difficult decisions. If I have time to read, I would much rather pick up a fun book…an escape!

    On the “mom ramp” term, i don’t view this as a new way of saying someone’s on the “mommytrack.” i use it to refer to the highway of working motherhood. you can jump on or jump off the ramps anytime, and and as many times as you want/need. to me, it’s a more postive way of talking about this “opt out/opt in debate.”

  2. Selfmademom says:

    Charlene I was waiting for you to comment. Ha ha! Susan- I am interested in reading it as I mentioned on my blog a couple weeks ago, but haven’t found anyone else interested. Not sure I can do it by May 15 though??

  3. Interested in the read – but the May 15th deadline may be tough unless it’s under fifty pages – I’m averaging about 7 pages a night…two nights per week :-)!!

  4. kristen - SAHM says:

    ENOUGH ALREADY! That’s what I have to say about this media-fueled “debate” over what moms of America should or shouldn’t do. I’m sick of the one-sided views and opinions of judgemental people. And it breaks my heart to see moms pitted against each other. Motherhood is tough no matter what your situation, and we all need to support one another.

    If someone wants to come out with a book with real tips and advice on how to support your own decisions, great. But I am tired of moms who work and therefore feel the need to defend it. And I’m tired of stay-at-home moms who DARE make working women feel guilty by saying that their decision was better.

    The author was on GMA recently, at about 9am, presumably to reach us SAHMs with her message that by choosing to leave the workforce, we become financially reliant on our husbands and are doing the women of America harm by pushing back years of feminism. She went on to say that many SAHM make this “mistake” only to be faced a few years later with their husbands either leaving them or dying. And then the poor woman returns to work and is punished for the years “lost” from the workplace. WHAT????

    Let’s pretend I’ve stayed at home 5 years with my daughter. Something happens to my husband, he leaves me or God forbid he dies. And now, stricken with grief, I must raise her alone and forced to return to the workforce. Do you think I’m going to look back on those 5 years and say “Gee I really wish I had stayed in the workforce so I had kept my title and salary position?” Give me a break.

    The author clearly had the intention to spark debate with the SAHMs to draw attention to her book. It sickens me that moms would support this and make her rich by it. Please reconsider suggesting people read this book and instead consider supporting causes that unite us mothers instead of furthering this “divide.”

    MOTHERS FOREVER! Let’s support each other and our personal family decisions, and give each other advice that makes us stronger, not that justifies our own viewpoints.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have nothing against sahms, but they are so money hungry all the time!! They call working women greedy, yet sahms are always trying to sell Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Silpada Jewelry, etc etc, and use all kinds of greedy tactics to push people into buying this crap. And these work-from-home businesses offer no financial security – no 401K, no retirement plan, no stock options, no health insurance. Just extra nickels and dimes so the sahm can go out and do some more shopping. These women have the mentality of teenaged girls. “Life for today, blow all your money, let someone else support you, do you what you want”. No wonder so many of them wind up old and broke.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Interesting book anyways, thanks. I see it as an eye-opener. I have worked and juggled between work and family for 4 years and it was sure not easy. I worked from home since I left the full-time workforce and that I felt was a good decision. I took care of my kids now 7 and 13 for 5 years while working at home as a graphic designer. (Ladies, if possible this field really helps.) Women in general are muti-tasker and we should be proud of that. I have not regretted leaving the workforce to bring up my kids, teaching them about the good things and learning about them too. It has benefited me and them spiritually and the foundation was important. The money fell short but to bring kids with love and encouraging them felt good.

    So now, I have been offered a full-time job, and I feel confident to accept it as I have worked from home, gained experience running my own business. I have decided to take the offer because my kids are more matured now to understand that their mummy also have a future to think about. My husband also supports my move.

    My kids now knows hoe to clean and cook too.

    I have not started working yet but I am confident. These years away from the workforce, have taught a lot about people, life and raising kids, learn to interact with different kinds of people and many others things. Thats for me a life learning experience!

    For mothers who have chosen to stay at home, it is a big sacrifice but do start learning computer skills and software at home, you never know when it comes in handy. And of course play a sport regularly.

    Nevertheless, a mother’s sacrifice do always add to an advantage. No matter what. Money is always associated with success but truthfully, to instill good attributes in your kids goes a long way.

    And make time to go out with friends to strike a good balance to be an individual again. I go on weekends alone and thats good for me.

    Sometimes, we tend to blame ourselves and feel guilty to whatever decision we made, but the truth is :

    Life is what you make it not anyone else. Make the best out of it and kids are a reflection of your happiness. Go with your basic instincts. 🙂

    Have a good day!

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