There was no news to report, but a gleeful Katie Couric felt otherwise. In her interview Monday morning with Terry Hekker, the divorced grandmother who was once a champion of stay-at-home motherhood, Couric tried to use Hekker’s experience to make a case for working motherhood. Hekker was once a young, happily married mother living in the suburbs of New York. She had the “perfect life,” as she described it. In fact, she was so enamored with her existence that she even appeared on The Today Show in 1977 to discuss the importance of raising a family–and the importance of a mom being home to do that. At one point, she even said, “I just can’t see how anyone could raise children and work at a full-time job.” Fast forward 40 years, and Hekker’s husband files for divorce. On New Year’s Day 2006, Hekker wrote a New York Times piece about how she now regrets not finishing her education or developing any skills which she could now draw upon. A good lesson for any woman, to be sure. But this is hardly news.
Nevertheless, the producers of The Today Show clearly felt Teri Hekker’s story would validate working mothers. Unfortunately for them, that’s not what happened. One of the first things Couric asked Hekker was whether she regrets having appeared on The Today Show in 1977 to tout the life of stay-at-home moms. Hekker told Couric that she didn’t. She said that she wouldn’t give up having been at home with her kids for anything; she just regrets not arming herself with a marketable skill in the case of an unforeseen circumstance, such as the one she finds herself in today. (Of course, there was no discussion of the no-fault divorce laws that feminists are responsible for implementing–which may just be why Hekker finds herself in this predicament.) Couric’s response to Hekker’s regret was to point out how important it is for women to keep their hand in the workforce, suggesting that women should never “opt out” of the workforce in the first place. She then asked Hekker how her children feel about the fact that her husband “traded you in for a younger model, so to speak.” Hekker’s reply: “Well, there were lots of reasons why my husband left,” and then she reported that her children are doing very well and “couldn’t have turned out better.”
It was painfully obvious that Couric was hoping Hekker would take back every positive statement she ever made about at-home motherhood. Unfortunately for Couric, it was like pulling teeth to get Hekker to say anything of the sort. It’s interesting that Teri Hekker–who has no real news to report and no new advice to offer women–has no problem getting an interview on national television. But there’s no bias there, no. None at all. Perish the thought.
–Suzanne Venker is a freelance writer and author of the new book 7 Myths of Working Mothers: Why Children and (Most) Careers Just Don’t Mix.