|Angry reader, pre-comment.|
Recently, I posted my piece about the effect of empty nest on fathers at Generation Fabulous, a site for women over forty. One of the reader comments came from a woman who said, "I'm years away from an empty nest, but if women got a life, they wouldn't have to deal with empty nest and there wouldn't be these stories all over the internet," or words to that effect. I responded, "When I was your age, I felt the same way."
I deleted the rest.
Sharon Hodor Greenthal is the co-founder of Generation Fabulous She is also a frequently published blogger and speaker about social media issues. She is an intelligent, kind, and insightful writer whose observations of everyday life often make me see things a different way. Her blog is here.
Last week, she wrote about her choice to stay home full time with children while her husband worked outside the home to support the family. The piece appeared on Huffington Post, and it is here. In it, she was responding to a study which claimed single-earner marriages fail more often than others.
Her point: her own single-earner marriage survived not because it was easy - it was hard for her to sacrifice a career and hard for him to be away from the family while he built a business - it worked because it was a choice they arrived at together to best support their common, guiding priority: what was best for their kids.
Their kids. Not everyone else's.
Their choice. Not everyone else's.
Of the 171 comments she received (and they're still coming in) dozens leapfrogged Sharon's point about collaborating within a marriage to attack her as a woman. Here are some:
"You can rationalize it however you like, but either your husband was working an insane amount of hours to keep you in your preferred lifestyle, or he found homelife so horrible that he preferred workaholism to coming home to wife and family."
"It's dangerous to express your feelings as if they were your husband's, not to mention completely disrespectful of him as a person. And when you spend a few months working eighty hour weeks you can let us all know how much you enjoyed it. What colossal nerve"
"How ironic! We do need to be supportive, not drive our spouses to work themselves to death while we bake brownies and take elocution lessons. Life is hard and we need to support our loved ones, not pile on. But I'm sure your nails are simply lovely!"
"You won't know you've done a good job for quite awhile yet... it doesn't sound like you did, not even close."
I thought about this, people who attack a writer who, by holding a position which argues with their own, has, in their perception, attacked them.
In my unscientific opinion, people shoot the messenger on message boards for several reasons:
- Because they can. They're anonymous, and possibly in a real life sense as much as in front of the computer.
- They have been bolstered in their lives and community by like-thinkers long enough to be appalled by ideas that argue with their own.
- They kind of don't like their own choices. And wish they did.
- They kind of support the choices they would never makes themselves. And wish they didn't.
In my other, equally unscientific opinion, we don't get angry with the choices of another when our own are steeped in our truest beliefs and knowledge of who we are. People who are childless by choice don't get angry with people who have babies. People who have no desire to marry don't get angry with those who do. But people get frustrated, vitriolic, scornful, and hateful when, to accept the quality of another's beliefs, it feels like they must cheat on their own.
Sharon's post, for 171 people and counting, held up a mirror that many were not ready to look into.
"Maybe your poor husband will find some cuties at the local gym," said one woman. Does she know Sharon or her husband or even their proximity to the local gym? No. Did she offer an opinion? Yes, this one, by default: women who stay at home deserve it when their men grow bored and find someone else. Does she really believe it? I'd like to think not, but it was hard to hear over all that yelling.
We want to be mature, approachable, reasonable people (have you ever been told you're not?) and so we take a balanced position on the things that don't cost anything: what kinds of food to eat, exercise that is best, appropriate clothing for the office, where to go on vacation and so on.
But push the ever-contentious buttons: SAHMs, breast/bottle feeding, home vs. public vs. private schooling, politics and then, well, look at Sharon's critics, it's kids off the street. Quickly, the discussion veers from agreeable and civil to hostile and polarizing.
How great it would be to identify, as the adage goes, and not compare. To read the opinion of a stranger that differs from our own, and based on their argument, be able to defend both. But this is a stretch for people still trying to reconcile their own choices, or, themselves.
I learned a couple of things watching this unfold: That Sharon Hodor Greenthal has more class, restraint and professionalism than most would under attack. And, that if I plan to blog about things that inspire comment, in places where anyone can make them, I gotta get me a thicker skin.