F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines

Week of:
April 2, 2000
Home's More Important Than The Office

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

Mothers who work outside the home often give up more than they gain.

"An economic environment and a business ethic that favor the formation and maintenance of traditional families are much needed," observes Brian Robertson of the New Economy Information Service, "but even more crucial," he contends, "is recognition by our culture that mothers who devote themselves to raising their own children at home are performing a vital task. Decisions about child care, ideas about work and leisure, even aspirations for the future -- all of these are formed in response to subtle and not-so-subtle messages of cultural acceptability received from schools, popular press, literature, and entertainment," Robertson says. "If young mothers who go back to work as soon as possible after giving birth are cultural heroes," he posits, "if those who put their children and families second to professional attainment are singled out as models, we should not be surprised that fewer women are devoting themselves to children and family. . . .."

In his new book from Spence Publishing, There's No Place Like Work, Brian Robertson laments that American culture "undervalues hearth and home." He argues that "an effort must be made to restore cultural status to the mother and homemaker, not just for the social utility of those roles but for their intrinsic value. At the same time," Robertson continues, "we must debunk the myth that work outside the home is the best opportunity our culture offers for self-fulfillment and self-expression." He notes that "the most compelling arguments for staying at home to raise the children are [now] coming not from women who have always been stay-at-home mothers, but from women who are professionally experienced and accomplished and who have discovered, to their surprise, the joys of mothering."

Robertson concludes that "we must clearly enunciate the principles of a new economy ordered toward the good of our citizens rather than toward merely abstract goods like growth, efficiency, profit, and productivity. As elements of an economy that serves the interests of real people, real families, and real communities, those concepts have value," he acknowledges; but, "if they simply dictate a bottom-line approach to economics that views persons as a means toward achieving some unspecified and perpetual goal of directionless economic expansion, they are worse than useless; they are positively dangerous. The economy exists for man," Robertson emphasizes, "not man for the economy."

In his 1944 treatise on economics, Money Manipulation and Social Order, philosopher and theologian Denis Fahey made much the same point, arguing that financiers "must be the servants of the State, not the dictators of government policy; they must aim at aiding and strengthening family life, not at disrupting it for the sake of the figures in their ledgers. It is completely against order," he declared, "if the production and the distribution of the goods needed by families must conform to the exigencies of [financial interests] instead of the other way round. If, by a perversion of the right order, money or exchange medium becomes the master," Fahey warned, "family life will suffer."