Betsy Hart

"Methinks the lady doth protest too much" is one reaction I had to Leslie Bennetts' whiny new book, "The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much?" (Voice/Hyperion press).

Bennetts essentially argues that any woman who "opts out" of a full-time career for any length of time to take care of children and home is, well, an idiot _ which makes me wonder if a part of her is secretly a bit envious of them.

Anyway, her focus is on economics. She wonders: If life throws these women a curveball, in the form of a husband who leaves or gets disabled or loses a job, what are they going to do? Do we really want to leave our daughters in that position?

I had many reactions to this book. One is that, well, even whiners can make some good points.

Yes, I'm one of those women who never dreamed my husband would choose to end our marriage. (Isn't that exactly how married people should think?) But Bennetts' weakest argument is that only working full time without interruption can protect women from the fallout of such human tragedies.

Not true. For one thing, women who work full time are far more likely to divorce than their stay-at-home counterparts. Women file for most divorces. Sure, some have to leave _ their spouse's ongoing adultery or abuse forcing their hands, for instance _ and it's a good thing to have the financial resources to protect oneself in those instances. But for every stay-at-home mom who gets left behind, it appears that there's a husband whose professional wife simply felt like leaving and looking for greener pastures _ and she could afford to try. That's an injustice that Bennetts doesn't dwell on.

A fault-based divorce system could provide more economic protection for an innocent spouse as well as an incentive against casual divorce. But, ironically, Bennetts and her feminist sisters are the very ones who fought to give us disastrous "no fault" divorce laws to begin with.

The good news is, we live in an amazingly dynamic economy. The ability to work effectively from home for a time, or to work part time, is very realistic. Look, most women simply want to be home with their young children, and to be available to them during their school years. And that's what the kids want, too. Bennetts is fighting an uphill battle if she thinks she can change that dynamic.


Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart is a nationally syndicated columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service. Her column on cultural and family issues, “From the Hart,” is distributed each week to hundreds of newspapers cross the country. Betsy’s first book, "It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting out Kids – and What to do About It," was released in September, 2005, and was a top seller for its publisher, Putnam Books.