Features

Liberated but bound

"Liberated but bound" Continued...

Issue: "Books and Movies 2006," July 1, 2006

WORLD: The tendency is to push kids into all kinds of special activities . . .

FLANAGAN: Do 6-year-olds really need to be stressed-out by competitive sports and Japanese lessons and art classes? Nail a basketball hoop over the garage door, buy a sandbox and some Crayola crayons-that should about do it for the average 6-year-old! The contemporary overscheduled child is a victim of the tensions that have evolved between the working and the at-home moms. Former career women organize kids' events as though they were corporate takeovers, and working moms-not to be outdone in the mom department-stay up all night decorating Valentine cookies that kids hardly notice. Are the kids being served by this-or are the moms? And if it's more about the mothers' needs than the kids' needs, why do the women resent it all so much?

WORLD: You suggest that all these expectations have not improved family life . . .

FLANAGAN: If you want a rewarding family life that is centered on meaningful time spent together, you may have to reduce the family's achievement and performance in the outside world. If you really want to get to know your child, to impart your deepest values to him and to fill him up with things that matter to you-don't race him off to a dozen high-pressure activities. Take him with you to the grocery store and the dry cleaners, let him play close by while you cook dinner or read the mail. You can center the family's value system on achievement and profit or on meaningful time together. It's a choice.

WORLD: Feminists complain when you write about Martha Stewart and women's emotional connection to housekeeping . . .

FLANAGAN: It doesn't mean we like it! It means we care about it. When's the last time you saw a married man hunker down with a copy of Martha Stewart Living? When's the last time a man said, "I've got two days off and I'm finally going to get that linen closet organized!" If there's housework that needs to be done, and if that work has been apportioned fairly, men will do it. But they will not do it the way a woman would. Don't expect a husband to fold all the guest towels so that the borders match up perfectly! A wife wants things done a certain way-she cares about the way housework is performed. That's the "emotional attachment." Most arguments about housework aren't the result of a husband not helping out-they are the result of his not accomplishing his work in a womanly manner.

WORLD: You survived advanced breast cancer. How did that experience change your perspective?

FLANAGAN: There was a period of time in which I thought I might not see my children grow up. What more can I say?

WORLD: You mention taking your children to church. What do you believe about God and how has that influenced your thinking about what's important in life?

FLANAGAN: I believe that God is always with us, that He hears our prayers and that He moves powerfully in the world. I believe that God reveals Himself to us in sorrow and tragedy as much as in the fullness and happiness of life.

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.

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