Jennifer Roback Morse

She is at it again. Linda Hirshman keeps turning up like a bad penny. Her friends at the New York Times have given her more space to spread her poisonous message that the intelligent woman’s place is at the office.

She has two objections to stay at home mothers. They are allowing their brains to rot, because any idiot can take care of children. And they are not sufficiently civic-minded, because they only care about their own children, and not the wider public good.

In that case, how dare Linda Hirshman retire? She is obviously an intelligent woman, highly trained, who spent her career teaching law at a prestigious university. How can she allow her brain to rot, playing shuffle board and knitting and going on cruises, and writing trivial essays for the New York Times? Oh, you say, that is just a stereotype of the activities of retired people. She is really still using her brain. Ah, but doesn’t she realize that the Social Security system is going bankrupt, paying benefits for the next thirty years to able-bodied 62- year-olds who feel entitled to retire just because they personally can afford it? She should keep working, as a public service to the Treasury. She should go back to her job at Brandeis, and spare the rest of us her New York Times essays.

Contra Ms. Hirshman, motherhood doesn’t mean the end of intelligence, any more than retirement does. My friend Kelly has nine children, and she works part-time as a tutor for special needs children in the public schools. Last summer, she taught herself algebra. Yes, her brain is definitely on hold. Surely that should impress Linda Hirshman: in my experience, most law professors, male or female, have at least a touch of math-phobia. My friend Leslie left the legal profession for a while when her five children were small. She now works in a family law office. These women have placed their intelligence at the service of their families, instead of at the service of an employer.

Let’s talk about the public goods produced by stay at home mothers. Feminists of the Linda Hirschman type evidently don’t realize that mothers are producing the next generation. The United States is the only developed country that is anywhere near replacement levels of fertility. Within our lifetimes, there will be no recognizable Italy, Spain or Japan, because there won’t be enough young Italians, Spaniards or Japanese to sustain the culture. American will survive as a distinct civilization because American women are taking the time to create, educate and sustain the next generation.

Jennifer Roback Morse

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love In A Hook-up World. She blogs at

Be the first to read Jennifer Morse's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.