The XX Factor

Drunk on Not Working

Here’s one other take on Katie Roiphe’s addiction to her newborn: In addition to the mistake of assuming that all or most “feminists” think X , I think Roiphe has fallen prey to the error of conflating what happens when a woman stops working with the magical experience of having a baby. Which is just to say that the professional experience she’s describing here-of fearing the return to work, of the soggy cognitive skills, of cutting short professional commitments, and of her complete lack of enthusiasm for the impending return to “the great world where people talk and think and write” is precisely what I experienced on my own maternity leaves. But it’s also what I’ve just experienced in the days after my recent vacation to Israel.

Whether you take time off to have a baby, to undergo surgery, or to remodel your house, the act of dropping out of the work world for a while has very real consequences; chief among them being that you just stop caring about work so much. I can look at my own muzzy-headed disinclination to rejoin the world of Big Ideas this week as a consequence of “falling in love”-with the sunsets over Jerusalem; with my family there; with the experience of again caring, full-time, for my sons for a few weeks. And all those things really did happen. But what also happened is what happens to every woman to takes a time-out from a consuming career: perspective. Suddenly the deadlines and the bylines don’t feel all that important. And as mothers we have to learn somehow to toggle back and forth between thinking that work is the only thing that matters, and believing our babies are the only things that matter. On a good day, that only happens about 13 times per hour.

At the risk of suggesting that “feminism” means X , I always thought it meant balancing and juggling a life that may seem to have shrunk down to the size of a onesie, but which is actually much bigger than the life we knew before.

Photograph by Getty Images.