I Am the Ideal Mother

In an attack on gay marriage in National Review, David Frum complains that it undermines the gender roles of husbands and wives:

... one effect of this revolution -- and for many proponents, one of the revolution's aims -- is to make forever unthinkable the idea that husbands and wives each have special duties to one another, and that a husband's duties to his wife -- while equally binding and equally supreme -- are not the same as a wife's duties to her husband.

Once we lose that knowledge, we lose the basic grammar of marriage.

As a parent who has taken over the "house spouse" duties while my wife resumes a career after 10 years, I'd love to hear from Frum exactly how my family responsibilities differ because I have a penis.

My spouse is an accomplished journalist who is capable of financially supporting the family, which I presume is what Frum considers the primary duty of a husband.

I'm capable of taking care of my three sons at home, though my cooking is an ongoing health code violation and I run things by Malcolm in the Middle rules -- I do not intervene in a fight until somebody draws blood. In Frumworld, I guess I'm the housewife.

In Frum's own marriage, his wife Danielle Crittenden is an author, frequent TV commentator, and former New York Post columnist. She has primary care-giving responsibility for their three children and actively works out of a home office.

Running a household is without a doubt the hardest job I have ever taken on, thanks to a million small tasks that have to get done: homework, meals, finances, illnesses, clothes, dishes, sports, shopping, trash, potty training, and on and on. I haven't had a single chance in six months to take Oprah's advice and remember my spirit.

There are one million dads at home, according to the family weblogger RebelDad. Leave it to Beaver went off the air in 1963.

If there's a basic grammar of marriage that monogamous gay people are scheming to undermine, I can't find it in my own life, and it seems curiously absent from Frum's as well.

In her novel Amanda Bright@Home, Crittenden lampoons a liberal feminist (and her mother!) for her lack of knowledge that raising children at home is a worthy and satisfying pursuit.

She used the novel to chart a course for today's ideal mother, as she explained in an interview with Insight on the News.

For all of her distaste for feminism, Crittenden touts a version of motherhood that's a long way from June Cleaver. A satisfied woman doesn't choose family over a career; she simply does both:

... with the enormous flexibility of the economy attitudes have changed even within the past five years. Women feel more comfortable about going in and out of the workforce. Many women I know are doing legal briefs while their kids nap. They're adapting their work much more easily to their children in a way that 10 years ago would have been looked at as an either/or situation. You're either going out the door and laboring in the workforce 40 hours a week or you're at home.

Change the word "women" to "men" in the above quote, and she's describing my new life. I am apparently Danielle Crittenden's vision of the ideal mother.

As far as I can tell, in the "me Tarzan, you Jane" grammar of Frum's marriage, both spouses work but the obligations of home lie entirely with his wife.

I can see why Frum would be so determined to protect that, but it's ridiculously weak justification for stopping gay people from the life-altering experience of getting married.


It's one thing to have a penis, it's quite another to have a set of balls.

Here here, as a stay at home dad as well, I applaud your family choice. It is hard and lonely being the at home spouse no matter what the gender.

Sam D

J. S. Bryan - "Many men can make a fortune but very few can build a family."

I'll second Sam D. I got here from RebelDad's, and am myself a former stay-at-home dad.

Frum and his ilk seem to be either shameless provocateurs, or else clueless about how real people live their lives.

I have yet to figure out how the marriage of two people who are in love and committed to each other, but happen to be of the same sex, in any way threatens or undermines my own marriage to my wife. The gay couples I know have kids and are wonderful and committed parents.

But I guess Frum would argue that those of us with penises who stay home and take care of children are just as guilty of undermining gender roles as the gay couples who want to marry. Well, I personally think that puts us in great company.

I wonder where hired cooks, nannies, and assorted others fit into the Frum home economy? It is nice to be able to espouse what you think the perfect solution is; and really nice if you actually live it.

Work at home dad here - we're in good company.

And imagine what great role models are kids will have - a mom and dad who worked together to figure out how best to raise the kids AND earn the money and keep the house running....

Your "I am the ideal mother" comment cracks me up. I'm a working mom with an at-home spouse and I'm very aware that I don't match up to society's parental ideal ... but my husband does. (Especially since he can do all the stuff my mom could do, but without the attendant rage, and also rewire the basement.)

Let's face it ... there are not enough hours in the day to do it all well. Instead of the constant criticism for anyone who's different, why not honor the families who figure out a good solution for their kids?

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