Friday Feminist – Betty Friedan

An hour a day, a weekend, or even a week off from motherhood is not the answer to the problem that has no name. That ‘mother’s hour off’, as advised by child-and-family experts or puzzled doctors as the antidote for the housewife’s fatigue or trapped feeling, assumes automatically that a woman is ‘just a housewife’, now and forever a mother. A person fully used by his work can enjoy ‘time off’. But the mothers I talked to did not find any magical relief in an ‘hour off’; in fact, they often gave it up on the slightest pretext, either from guilt or from boredom. A woman who has no purpose of her own in society, a woman who cannot let herself think about the future because she is doing nothing to give herself a real identity in it, will continue to feel a desperation in the present – no matter how many ‘hours off’ she takes. Even a very young woman today must think of herself as a human being first, not as a mother with time on her hands, and make a life plan in terms of her own abilities, a commitment of her own to society, with which her commitments as wife and mother can be integrated.

Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, 1963


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