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Comparing and Contrasting Terry Martin Hekker’s Essays and Edelman Hope’s Essay on Family Life in America

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Updated: Jul 1st, 2020

Introduction

Families are the basis of all societies in the world. Their sizes may range from very small groups consisting of a husband, wife and their child living under one roof to a very large and complex group consisting of multigenerational combinations staying in a single household or in even more than one household. As families evolve consistently, so does the society structure.

“With the modification of other factors – for example, life expectancy, or attitudes towards adoption – the impact on the family is telling” (Family life in the U.S “, para 1). Considering the case in the United States of America in regard to family life, the traditional family structure (father, mother and children) goes on existing for the most part while the 21st century unfolds.

However, in the course of several years that have passed, the American society has seen the family structure and the day to day life evolve in many ways basing on a number of factors, “running the gamut from advancements in science to the composition of the workplace single parenthood, adoptive households, step-parenting, stay-at-home fathers, and grandparents raising children are but a few of the newer tiles in the mosaic” (“Family life in the U.S”, para 2).

In this paper, there is going to be comparing and contrasting of essays presented by two different authors who talk about the family life. The articles to be looked are “The satisfactions of housewives and motherhood” and “Paradise lost” written by Terry Martin Hekker and “The myth of co-parenting: how it was supposed to be” by Edelman Hope.

These articles are about family life, and particularly marriage life and the roles played by men and women in marriage. It is going to be argued that; in the modern world, a successful family life and marriage require both a man and a woman helping one another in bringing up the children and meeting other family obligations while each of them seeks to have financial stability of self-sufficiency as well.

The American Family Life

Family life requires both a husband and a wife to play particular roles in bringing up children and meeting other obligations without one of them feeling he or she is doing much more than the other. In considering Edelman’s article, it is seen that at the time she got married to John, she did not have a feeling that she was going to be carrying out more activities at home than her husband while at the same time going to work.

John gets very much busy following his move to start a new internet company. He spends long hours working and coming home late. He leaves the burden of looking after their daughter and carrying out other family activities, which otherwise could also be carried out by a husband, to his wife.

This makes her reduce the number of hours she takes at her workplace as a result of her husband increasing the hours he spends at his workplace. As much as he is seeking to increase the overall family income, this does not satisfy the wife. In this article, Edelman points out that a child needs to have parental care from both sides and it is not good for a father not to be there for his child. In addition, she feels that a husband should be there for his wife so that they can discuss some important issues together and also offer his love to her (Edelman 430).

Terry martin believes that a mother should be there for her children at all times, caring for them and also doing all the household chores on behalf of her husband and allow the husband to spend more time at the workplace in order to provide the family needs. Unlike Edelman who still believes in not abandoning one’s career and caring for the family, Terry believes in her first article, “The satisfactions of housewives and motherhood”, that a woman can still remain to be a housewife and she can choose not to look for a money making job.

She chose to become a housewife because she saw it as being another option that can be taken by a wife. However, this is a belief she adopted in the 1950s and it is currently realized that societies as well as the family structures are evolving and this may not be applicable in the present day.

She points out that “We’d been faithful wives, good mothers, cooks and housekeepers who’d married in the 50’s, when ‘dress for success’ meant a wedding gown and ‘wife’ was a tenured position……we anticipated lives similar to our ‘mothers’ and ‘grandmothers’…then we watched with bewilderment as the rules changed, and the goal posts were moved” (Hekker 415). At the present, things have changed.

She might have chosen to become a housewife in order dedicate all her time serving the family, unfortunately, she ended up being divorced by the husband after they had stayed together for forty years.

In a successful marriage, both partners need to have lifelong commitment and adjust themselves according to the changing times in order to prevent their marriage from ending. Terry’s marriage ended up by her being given a divorce by the husband when she had approached her 60s. It is pointed out that she had been loyal to her husband who was working hard as a judge and had been providing for the family.

Terry played her part by carrying out the home activities on a full-time basis. However, the husband might have felt that the wife had not been playing her full role or was not showing enough “commitment” on her part and he felt she deserved a divorce even if they had stayed together for forty years. However, such a move may be attributed to some factors.

For instance, as time goes by, the family and society structures have been changing and what used to be seen as relevant four or five decades ago in regard to family life may no longer be relevant (Shannon 6). Terry had chosen to remain a housewife but forty years later in marriage, this might not have made sense to her husband and he could have taken up an idea that he was supposed to have the “present day wife”; one who could not just stay home as a housewife but instead pursue a career.

On the other hand, Edelman’s marriage does not end despite the fact that she had initially been upset by her husband’s conduct of not seeming to care about his family. She exercised patience; reduced working time at her work place to be there for the baby and carry out other household activities until the time their son went to school.

Eventually, the husband started being there for his family when he had set up his company and employed people to help him in carrying out some of the activities. This couple seems to have recognized each other’s commitment in offering service to the family and the only thing which they had to work on was how to balance between the time that can be spent together as a family and time spent at work.

When they came to later work on this, the imbalance was reduced. On the side of Terry, she got unexpected divorce; she was not aware that may be she had to do more and adjust to the current lifestyle in order to be seen by her husband as a fully committed wife and mother.

Perhaps she could also have given room for her husband to find time to take care of children and to do some household activities while on her part she could also have looked for some work for which she could be paid rather than staying at home as a housewife and leaving the husband to provide everything in the home in terms of financial support.

At the present time, one needs to take precautionary measures in terms of having a source of income in order to avoid encountering many problems just in case his or her marriage comes to an end. In the Terry’s article “Paradise Lost”, she points out that following her divorce she faced several problems including paying bills that she had not even known; “the judge had awarded me alimony that was less than I was used to getting for household expenses, and now I had to use that money to pay bills I’d never seen before: mortgage, taxes, insurance and car payments” (Hekker 416).

She points out that it could have been better for her to take time to go to undertake further studies at the time all of her children had reached school-going age. She believes this could have made her life better. She warns that;

I read about the young mothers of today – educated, employed, self-sufficient – who drop out of the workforce when they have children, and I worry and wonder. Perhaps it is the right choice for them. May be they will be fine. But the fragility of modern marriage suggests that at least half of them may not be (Hekker 416).

This might be the reason why Edelman hangs on to her job and does not quit in order for her to be a housewife despite the fact that the husband is setting up a new company and has increased working hours and has little time left for his family. It seems that the women in the modern society have become aware of how fragile marriage has become and they can not take up a risk of entirely depending on a husband for support (Cossman 410).

Terry Hekker draws a conclusion on this issue that “where traditional marriage through centuries had been a partnership based on mutual dependency, modern marriage demands greater self-sufficiency” (Hekker 416).

Conclusion

Despite the fact that both Edelman and Hekker have expressed varied views in their articles concerning marriage and family life; what is eventually learned about their views is that; in the modern world, a successful family life and marriage require both a man and a woman helping one another in bringing up the children and meeting other family obligations while each of them seeks to have financial stability or self-sufficiency as well.

Hekker preferred to stay at home and remain to be a housewife so that she could be able to serve her children as well as her husband on a full-time basis instead of her going to look for work. On the contrary, Edelman preferred to continue serving the family and at the same time going to work even if this was quite challenging for her. She did not take a risk of quitting her job so that she could serve her family on a full-time basis.

Even if her husband was initially busy working long hours, later on they were able to reduce the imbalance between time spent together as a family and working time. The marriage did not end up breaking. However, the case was different on the side of Hekker.

She ended up getting a divorce from her husband. The different views held by both Hekker and Edelman are based on the fact that the family and society structures are changing as time goes by.

Hekker got married in the course of the 1950’s; a time when being a housewife and entirely depending on the husband was common. On the other hand, Edelman got married in a modern era where people; regardless of their gender, should seek for self-sufficiency, and especially ensuring that they are financially stable and do not entirely depend on another person.

Works Cited

Cossman, Brenda. “The ‘opt-out revolution’ and the changing narratives of motherhood: self governing work/family conflict.” Journal of Law and Family Studies, 11.2 (2009): 407 – 426.

Edelman, Hope. The Myth of Co-Parenting: How it was supposed to be. How it was.

“Family life in the U.S”, aboutusa.japan.usembassy.gov. Embassy of the United States in Japan, 2010. Web.

Hekker, Terry Martin. The satisfactions of housewifery and motherhood/ Paradise lost.

Shannon, Thomas. “The working mother’s debate”. Dayton Daily News, 26 January 2006. Web.

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