May 9, 2006

Caitlin Flanagan on Reality TV

Caitlin Flanagan has been getting lots of press for her new book The Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife, about how mothers should stay home with their children. Not just that, but how they should joyfully keep house. Ms. Flanagan has been accused, for good reason, of hypocrisy. You see, she writes all day, while her children are in school. She has had domestic help, for years, including a full-time nanny when her twins were babies. But she still claims the right to be called a "stay-at-home mom." I guess because she is mostly at home, and a mom. Ms. Flanagan freely admits, right in the book, that she has never changed a sheet. Let me repeat that. She has never changed a sheet. Was she never a 22-year-old living in a railroad apartment, maidless and husbandless? Was she never a college student? Plainly, this statement is hyperbole, no? . . . . Okay, maybe not.

At any rate, I believe she is perfectly aware that her idealization of the 1950s housewife can only be sustained at a distance, either through a mist of nostalgia or through intellectualizing the concept of "The Housewife."Ms. Flanagan is begging for a reality check. So I say she gets her own TV show, American Housewife. In it, she lives in her own house, but all her domestic help have been relieved of their jobs temporarily so they can create the laugh track. See Caitlin scrub the toilets, rotate a mattress, wash the windows, scrub vomit from the carpet. Can she singlehandedly prevent entropy from conquering her universe? She must do all this while working under a non-negotiable deadline for an article for The New Yorker, cooking from scratch every day, helping the children with their homework, and "putting out" for her husband several times a week (as Stephen Colbert so delicately puts her insistence that wives need to be more available) .Oh, and Martha Stewart and Cheryl Mendelsohn are coming over for dinner in a week.

Then, Ms. Flanagan, I'd be glad to hear what you have to say.

7 comments:

jo(e) said...

This is such a great idea!

Sugarmama said...

Ha! I haven't heard about this woman because, y'know, I'm a stay-at-home mom and don't have time to keep up with the news and stuff. But I'd sure stop scrubbing toilets long enough to watch THIS show. You've gotta pitch it someone...!

Phantom Scribbler said...

This is the best take on Flanagan that I've heard yet.

Scrivener said...

Brilliant!

Scrivener said...

Hey, I just remembered that I first found your blog because of Caitlin Flanagan! She had an article in New Yorker (at the time I didn't know who she was), one that was actually pretty good in fact, and she criticized a very consumerist mommy blogger, so I went by her blog and she had a post up congratulating herself for being mentioned in the magazine, with no sense so far as I could see that the article was criticizing her. There were a number of comments telling her congrats too, and one from you, pointing out that maybe she shouldn't be quite so thrilled to mention the article. So I followed you over here.

Anjali said...

Wow, all this time I was trying to figure out why I wasn't happy as a SAHM. It's because I SHOULD have been a FSAHM (Flanagan-like Stay at Home Mom). With a nanny and a housekeeper, I'd LOVE staying home full time with my kids.

Great post Lauren.

Carson said...

I hadn't heard the sheets thing. If you haven't changed a sheet, you aren't a SAHM. I'll go further--if you haven't changed the sick toddler's sheets at 3am while your husband is bathing the vomit-covered toddler, you aren't really a mother. (Unless you have another equally disgusting story, because I've heard rumors that there are children who don't catch every stomach virus coming down the pike.)

Thanks for stopping by.