A couple weeks ago Newsweek gave its guest editorial space to a
30ish woman who complained that she was irresponsible after refinancing
her student loans and is now stuck with unmanageable debt. That was bad.

This week, the cover story is “The Myth of the Perfect Mother” with an early excerpt from the book Perfect Madness by Judith Warner. It’s a sad day when Anna Quindlen is the voice of reason.
Warner’s piece starts out reasonably enough with anecdotes about how
the hypercompetition over children’s achievements has found its way to
toddlerhood and infancy. But Warner is not criticizing the insanity of
these parents, she sympathizes with their overly high expectations. She
later complains that women have learned about personal responsibility
and “privatize their problems.” [emphasis in original]

And so they don’t get fired up about our country’s lack of
affordable, top-quality child care. … Nor about the fact that middle
class life is now so expensive that in most families both parents must
work gruelingly long hours just to make ends meet.

She says, “Many others would like to be able to maintain their
full-time careers without either being devoured by their jobs or losing
ground, and they can’t do that.” These women face despair, she claims
because nobody will help them. Of course, the women profiled in the
piece for the most part have beautiful homes with modern kitchens,
SUVs, jobs on local TV with touring pro golfers for husbands. It’s not
clear how many of them despair, but Warner herself seems unwilling to
recognize that trade-offs are part of life. Children can drain your
energy and your wallet. Work can drain your energy while it fills your
wallet. You can devote yourself to your children and your work if you
give up sleep. There’s no easy way through it.

Warner, however, has some great ideas to make life easier for
herself and those like her–government help. We need incentives for
family-friendly corporations; government-mandated child care standards;
flexible, local, affordable, top-quality, part-time day care; vouchers
and other ways to make childcare more affordable so women can work part
time; and “progressive tax policies that would transfer our nation’s
wealth back to the middle class.”

As usual, it is society that
must change to make it possible to have the dream life. There is no
reason to settle for a used car, to leave your children with the
neighbor or a family member, or find other ways to spend less and
accept the consequences of our own decisions. Instead of questioning
the feminactivists who set up the false expectations, it is the
responsibility of the rest of the country to meet those expectations.