For some reason, my thoughts wandered back to 1994 when I was teaching English to a group of German engineers working for a Swedish seat belt manufacturer on the outskirts of Munich. There were 15-20 engineers in my class of which only one was a woman. For some reason, we were talking about housewives in that lesson - I had not approached the subject - in 1994 I would still be in my smirky stage regarding all things housewife. In fact, I was somewhat uncomfortable with the topic given the lone female engineer in the group.
When it came to be her turn to talk she announced matter-of-factly that German women are the best housewives in the world. The men all nodded their heads in agreement. I didn't dare argue.
I am fairly certain that I will never hear similar words uttered by an American woman engineer. This woman was no damsel seeking to score girly points with her male counterparts, nor was she meekly paying lip-service to accepted social convention. She meant it, and would back it up if pressed. (Also, as anyone knows who has experience dealing with Germans, meek is not a word which would typically be used to describe them - I dare say it would not even make the top 1000 list, were somebody to compile a list of top 1000 words used to describe Germans.)
Then I thought about the comments on the blogs I wrote about Hillary Clinton running for the democratic nomination for president. I got more guff from readers when I praised her child rearing and homemaking skills than when I said nasty things about her qualifications to be president. It is as if raising a poised, intelligent, respectable young lady was something to be ashamed of and that the lady Chelsea Clinton turned into happened by accident. Or maybe we want to pretend the secret service raised her? (I would, perhaps, believe that the decision to send her to Stanford was the result of a coin toss, or was made by a disgruntled gardener - bad luck, Chelsea). How is it that I feel safer saying "Hillary Clinton is a whiny, incompetent, floozie who hates puppies and babies and apple pie and is also a bit of a lush" than "Hillary Clinton is an excellent wife and mother".
Finally, I thought about a friend of mine and mother of one of my daughter's schoolmates. On the surface, she is one of those liberal elites we keep hearing about. Wealthy, connected, democrat till the cows come home, solidly Boomer and probably one of the best examples I have known of how to care for home and family.
Her home could easily appear in an issue of Better Homes and Garden without moving a stick of furniture and yet I have never seen anything resembling a maid or housekeeper set foot on the property. Her garden screams "elegant garden party" yet is still invitingly casual.
When it comes to her kids, nothing is left to chance. Despite growing up in Santa Barbara, they have avoided all of the usual teenage pitfalls of excessive partying, promiscuity and extreme bubbleheadedness that often trap the golden children of the area. (I grew up there, I know very well what kids are really up to while their parents are not paying attention.) Her daughter is polite, responsible and off to Yale in the fall. There is nothing accidental about that. It is the direct result of her mother's day-to-day efforts as well as the means and positive influence provided by her father.
Some who think of themselves as feminists may sneer at that. Me, I'd take that any day over a fabulous career as Senior Vice President of Book Cooking, or Regional Director of Red Tape and Bingo for some company that in all likelihood won't be around in 10 years.
Although if I had a chance at the position of heading up the Ministry of Funny Walks, I have to admit - that would be a toughie.
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