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To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife Hardcover – April 17, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Flanagan's take on why modern mothers are conflicted about their roles is so witty and well researched—she quotes sources ranging from Queen Elizabeth's childhood nanny to Total Woman Marabel Morgan—that it's easy to overlook that she offers no evidence to back up her chief notion "that women have a deeply felt emotional connection to housekeeping." Coming from someone who admits she doesn't change her sheets or clean her house (the maid does it), it's hard to take this assertion seriously. But then, while Flanagan is a staff writer for the New Yorker and a regular essayist for the Atlantic, she's more a polemicist here than journalist. The problem is her self-contradictions. Flanagan is fed up with what she sees as self-indulgent upper-middle-class mommies (like herself and unlike her mother's generation) who have elevated motherhood at the expense of housekeeping, which she sees as a lost art. Yet she goes into great and fascinating detail about her relationship with the nanny she hired after giving birth to twins. Flanagan is particularly disdainful of feminists who "imposed" a narrative of oppression on women. The author claims she's not a cook, but in her debut book she proves herself to be one heck of a pot-stirrer. (Apr. 17)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
A true wit providing tons of gentle "aha!" moments, New Yorker writer Flanagan has outdone herself and is sure to evoke smiles and tears from her readers. This series of stories is as old as our humanity: the push-pull between the privileges of womanhood versus the power of masculinity. The remedy is the logical sequence of life events, beginning with the wedding--"A place setting of Lennox is, after all, a liquid asset"--and punctuated by Flanagan's cogent observations. Every rumination is, in fact, a microcosm of today's headlines and self-help books. Is sleep, as Dr. Phil asserts, the new sex? Are nannies all that necessary to the raising of a professional woman's children? And at what time, during what event, does a woman truly recognize the reality of all her various roles, whether mother, wife, or aunt? An insightful, incisive look at the multiple demands on American women in the new millennium. Barbara Jacobs
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
In other words, Flanigan speaks to the fact that so many of us give lip service to "family values," yet we remain oddly and stubbornly conflicted about who will take care of the homefront. We want the ironed linens on the bed and the fresh-cut flowers in a vase on the table -- but we want a mom or a maid to do these homey things for us. Flaganan's essays explore WHY we are so divided and often confused about these issues.
Flanagan's style is elegant, and she's included a lot of fascinating research and some interesting historical references to housewifery -- without boring us to tears. Speaking for myself, a work-at-home columnist, I think Flanigan has done a fabulous job articulating my own longing for "home" as well as this country's weird conflict surrounding all things domestic. -- Cindy La Ferle, author of WRITING HOME. [...]
A better book, if more serious, is "for better: the science of a good marriage" by Tara Parker-Pope.
To be a mother is to, at times, neglect oneself and one's children, whether or not one earns a paycheck. There is tension, hypocrisy, and grinding anxiety sandwiched between the moments of transcendence. Can we talk about these things already without the polemics of the working mom vs. at home mom debate and have some fun while doing so? Caitlin Flanagan does just that in To Hell with All That : Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife.
Flanagan herself is a living contradiction. She is an at home mom to two twin sons and has a gardener, maid and organizer. She writes at length about the relationship she had with her sons' daytime nanny. True, I am a bit jealous of her ability to outsource so many menial tasks but her writing style is sparkling and witty and she doesn't have a "do it my way" attitude.
She warmed my heart by devoting several pages to columnist Erma Bombeck , the icon of the post-World War II housewife. A housewife from that era was a different creature from today's at home mom. Housewives didn't trail in the wake of their children the way today's at home moms do. House and husband came first. And they had Erma to make them (and their teenaged daughters) laugh. When I heard the report of her death ten years ago I sat down and cried. It was almost like losing a friend. Today's icon is Martha Stewart, who doesn't make anyone laugh (except, maybe, when she's sent off to prison), but seems to inspire many and Flanagan spends some time pondering the core questions of her phenomenal success.
Flanagan gives lavish weddings a proper dissing, discovers that de-cluttering is the new housekeeping, and tells the compelling story of how her competent and seemingly content housewife mother abruptly sought employment in 1973. And she makes her readers laugh along the way.
If you're looking for a Mother's Day present, this book might be just the thing.
Most recent customer reviews
We're all supposed to take you seriously on the subjects of feminism and stay-at-home moms when your hired help outnumbers your children?