Liza Donnelly's brief-and-eloquent reflection on the upcoming commercial holiday and the roles of dads and moms comes at a particularly interesting time.
I've been visiting my son and his family. His wife has just completed her first year as a professor at a well-respected liberal arts college while he has been substitute teaching and staying home with the kids.
He's got six years of teaching under his belt and, having observed him in the classroom, I can say he's a terrific teacher. As can many people whose opinions matter a great deal more in the job market than mine.
Mox nix. For every job that opens, 150 or more people apply. This is the reality of the job market, not just for teachers but across the board.
As a consequence, several of their friends consist of female college professors and their stay-at-home or under-employed or both husbands. It's not because the men lack talent or drive. The jobs simply aren't there, and -- here's the crucial part -- the option of being with the kids is far more acceptable than it was a generation ago.
It's not as simple as role-reversal in the sense of men having a new, compelling desire to stay home with the kids. But staying home with the kids is as okay for them as it was a generation ago for talented women who were prepared to work but were also prepared to follow their husbands.
This is a significant shift. A generation ago, while the women's movement meant more women with good educations, solid job skills and an interest in using both, the man's job opportunities were more apt to determine the move.
The woman, whatever her skills, was the one who would come along and make adjustments and compromises.
I was on the board of Literacy Volunteers in one community where our executive director was a physician's wife. When he retired, this brilliant, well-organized, over-qualified, under-paid woman joined him, but it was okay: We hired the wife of a new school superintendant in the area, who was not only willing to work for birdfeed but had experience as a lobbyist and, as a result, was one heckuva brilliant fundraiser.
Now, the new underpaid executive director of a community agency could well be the colonel's husband or the dentist's husband.
The change is not just coming. It's here.
It's not about men staying home, keeping house and watching the kids. It's about that being an option that no longer challenges their self-image, and a trend that, after some adjustment, will cease to be a trend at all, or anything worth remarking upon.
Remember that, a generation ago, women entering the professional marketplace felt compelled to wear string ties and blue suits, and the promotions went to the women best able to act like men.
We're getting over that, and we'll get over this stage, where we discuss the choices being made.
And folk tales about men being yanked up the chimney by one leg because the cow fell off the roof are going to be hard to explain to the next generation of children. I'm not sure those stories are even being told to this generation of children, although I was shocked and more than a little horrified recently to find this counter-revolutionary piece of ephemera from my own childhood still on the spin rack at the supermarket.
In the meantime, as Donnelly suggests, the purveyors of these ersatz commercial holidays are going to have to step up their game to adapt to the new reality.
What I find most interesting is that we expected a revolution -- a sudden overthrow of the existing structure -- that never quite came about, and, at the moment, seems to have sparked a significant counter-revolution in politics.
But, if the world ends not with a bang but a whimper, it seems also to operate not by revolution but through evolution.
(Fear not for Madison Avenue. They will find a way to cheapen and exploit it. But the change will remain.)