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Monday, April 19, 2021

18 years ago, I was a ‘mommy dilemma’

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Ann Heilpern is a mother of four children and a grandmother of five. Along with her husband, she owns a traveling theater troupe, the Granhill Players.

On the front cover of The Women I’m Cooking For, HarperCollins released me in 2001, in a one-shot special, “The Mommy Dilemma: Should I Stay or Should I Go?” As a toddler, I asked him to brush my teeth, but as an adult, because I don’t make them, I ask him to repeat. Mostly, I’m impressed with his concentration, as he handles five giant bottles of dish soap while pressing two outstretched fingers together and saying: “Honey, shake.” When he applies wet towel to his lower back, as we stand in a bathtub, he doesn’t squirm out of the pose and cries loudly as I ask him to remain in it.

Heather Timmons, who authored this book, the second in a series on American family life, “Family of Four,” with Celeste Wakeman, traces the development of her extended family’s beliefs about child-rearing through the years. In the pre- feminist era, their guiding social principle was “Charity first — then the children.” Today, when a women drops out of her marriage of 20 years to pursue a career or because she’s just run out of patience, they’re upset that she didn’t give her children a chance to grow up without her.

These modern women have been used to being listened to. In their first marriage, any time they asked their partners to participate in childcare, they were told they were setting themselves up for a heartbreaking reckoning in which they would forever be blamed for the demise of their offspring. What did they know? How did they not know?

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