Not many would have heard the word “Retro wife”, which describes, Feminists who say by choosing to stay home, they’re having it all.
Long back, when Kelly Makino was a little girl, she loved to go racing and exploring, the wilderness near her rural home in Pennsylvania. She used to find her way back with a map and a compass. She used to imagine a very adventurous future for herself. By the age of 16, she wanted to be a spy or a CIA operative, just like “La Femme Nikita”. She got herself enrolled at a college in Georgia state and paid her fees by slinging burgers and working in bars. With her degree in social work, she was planning to move to Africa or India, to work for the welfare of the people, for some years. She imagined her husband to be a nerdy person and wanted to settle down in someplace like Williamsburg. After having children, she would continue working full time, just like her mother did, from moving up the nonprofit ladder to finally “run a United Way chapter or be the CEO”. After graduating from college, Kelly got a M.S.W. from Penn, with honors, and also received an award for her negotiating skills.
Now the dreams of Kelly, who is 33, has shifted like winds. According to her, women are the primary caretaker, that every household needs, better than men in this job. She even says that no amount of success in her professional life would satisfy her if her children, Connor, 5, and Lillie, 4, were not being looked after the right way. Kelly argues: Girls play with dolls from childhood, so “women are raised from the get-go to raise children successfully. When we are moms, we have a better toolbox”. According to her, women should be more patient with children, so as to be better in multitasking and more tolerant of the tantrums. Women’s keep it together, better than men. So last summer, when Alvin, her husband, who is a management consultant, took a new position which required more traveling, Kelly made a decision, that they would live off his low-six-figure income, and she would quit her job which was running a program for, at-risk kids in a public school, to stay home full time.
When I first met Kelly, in her family’s New Jersey home, the morning’s breakfast dishes were piled in the sink and the bedroom looked like a laundry explosion. Kelly’s main priority is to take care and feed her family. She spends hours and hours doing so many things, that would make any woman scream with frustration. Although her sacrificing her job, tightened the Makinos’ upper-middle-class budget, she is now able to be there for her kids always, either cooking healthy meals or taking them hiking, to museums, helping then with homework, and teaching them life lessons.
Kelly says that she is “a flaming liberal” and a feminist. She wants her daughter to do whatever she wants and also in future walk away from the job, if the situation arises. And thus feminism has inflected its promise half-fulfilled.