The renewed popularity of stay-at-home motherhood has led a lot of young women to believe they don’t have to get serious about a profession, because they’re just going to quit when they have children anyway. Instead of dreaming about individual achievement, they imagine a career of domestic bliss, enjoying an affluent lifestyle that will be paid for indefinitely by an obliging husband.
For many working women, it’s difficult to believe that today’s young women would subscribe to such an old-fashioned attitude.
But in a suburb of Chicago, a 17-year-old confides that her primary goal for the future is to have an enormous, extravagant wedding, which she refers to as her “Bridezilla” fantasy. In the Bronx, a 17-year-old with the highest grade-point average in her class is admitted to Harvard, but says she’s planning to stop working and stay home as soon as she has kids. In Houston,yet another 17-year-old reports that all her friends’ mothers are telling them to find a rich man to marry, so they won’t “have to” work.
But as many older women learn too late, that scenario doesn’t always work out so well. “My husband’s niece is very pretty, and her parents raised her to marry a rich guy so she wouldn’t have to work,” says Amanda Barron*, a former dancer who lives in a New York City suburb.
“She dropped out of college to marry her husband, and they had three children. Now she’s 31, and he’s just left her. She has no education, no career, no work experience, and no skills. She also has no idea how she’s going to support herself. Her husband is being nasty about money, she can’t pay her bills, and she’s in a lot of trouble.”
In marriages that stay together, conflicts over money can still be vicious. “I have friends whose husbands are torturing them,” says Wendy Greenberg*, a Manhattan stay-at-home wife who prides herself on being able to buy what she wants without her husband objecting.