Social Philosophy and Policy 10 (1):135-16 (1993)
|Abstract||Sacrificing one's own interests in order to serve another is, in general, supposed to be a good thing, an example of altruism, the hallmark of morality, and something we should commend to (but not always require of) the entirely-too-selfish human beings of our society. But let me recount a story that I hope will persuade the reader to start questioning this conventional philosophical wisdom. Last year, a friend of mine was talking with me about a mutual acquaintance whose two sons were in the same nursery school as our sons. This woman, whom I will call Terry, had been pregnant with twins, but one of the twins had died during the fourth month of pregnancy, and the other twin had just been born prematurely at six months with a host of medical problems. We were discussing how stressful this woman's life had been while she was pregnant: she was a housewife, and her two boys, aged three and five, were lively, challenging, often unruly--a real handful to raise. Her husband worked long hours in a law firm, so the vast majority of the childcare and household chores fell on her shoulders. "You could see that she was exhausted by end of the first trimester," I maintained, "because her eyes were tired, and her cheeks were sunken--she looked almost like a cadaver." My friend agreed. I went on to blame her exhaustion on the fact that she had to do too much during a pregnancy that anyone would have found difficuIt. "I don't understand her husband," I maintained. "Surely he could how badly she looked. If he had concern for his future children, why didn't he do something to help her so that the pregnancy had a chance of going better? And if he loved her, why didn't he cut down his hours so that he could help out at home? Surely he could see just by looking at her that she was in trouble," My friend said nothing at the time, but after a week she called me, and told me that my criticism of this woman's husband had bothered her all week. "You're wrong about Terry's husband not caring enough about her, They have a good marriage," she insisted, and then she continued: "You know, you're not like us, We accept the fact that we should do most of the childcare and housework..|
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