Ruth Marcus: Mommy wars

BY RUTH MARCUS Published: August 11, 2012

Summer is the season of reruns, and the retro discussion this summer has featured a trans-Atlantic replay of the Can Women Have It All? debate.

First up was Anne-Marie Slaughter taking to the pages of The Atlantic to proclaim not, on the basis of her experience at the State Department. Then came newly installed Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, seven months pregnant and announcing that she planned to take just a few weeks of maternity leave “and I'll work throughout it.”

Now, Louise Mensch, a high-profile conservative member of Parliament, has announced she is quitting to move to New York, where her husband works, and spend more time with her three young children from an earlier marriage.

“I am completely devastated. It's been unbelievably difficult to manage family life,” Mensch, 41, told her local newspaper about her decision to quit two years into a five-year term. “I just can't spend as much time with my children as I want to.”

Mensch's glamorous pre-Parliament life included a stint in the music industry (her second husband is the manager for Metallica and the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and writing chick-lit fiction that Mensch proudly describes as having “no redeeming literary merit at all.”

Her glamorous during-Parliament life made Slaughter look like a slacker. She was a fixture on television, founded a social media site, Menshn, and worked on “a slightly more literary” new novel. She described to the London Telegraph how her “palms still sweat with adrenaline” when her husband enters a room, and she posed in a tight skirt for British GQ for an interview in which she said that she changed her name because she “was longing to brand myself with his name for a very long time.”

Wow. The Mommy Wars sure have more racy bits here. But the reactions are just as predictable, ranging from hand-wringing over the family-unfriendly life of an MP to blaming Mensch for being a Sarah Palin-style quitter.

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