If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

March 1951


How can I reassure my children about the atom bomb? They’ve heard so much about it on the radio and at school, it seems to be an obsession with them.

You can only free children from fear by developing a philosophy yourself which is free from fear, and by explaining to the children that to live in fear is worse than actually to face the danger of extinction. If you can give them a trust in God, that is the one sure way of being able to meet all the uncertainties of existence.


It seems to me that women who hold jobs outside the home should be allowed income-tax deductions for domestic help they would not otherwise employ. What is your opinion of this?

I do not see why women who work outside the home should be allowed to deduct the cost of domestic help any more than men who employ domestic help in their homes are allowed to deduct the wages from their income tax. If a woman wants to hold a job outside of the home, she does it on exactly the same basis as a man, and should take the same deductions on her business expenses as he does. If she has help for reasons that are connected with her business, such as entertainment, she can legitimately, I imagine, show the connection and make a deduction. But what deductions she makes should be on the basis and not on that basis of "I want to work and therefore need help in my home."


A neighbor of mine who reads child-psychology books says I shouldn’t spank my children or raise my voice when they’re bad. Would you be kind enough to tell me how you punished your children when they misbehaved?

I tried to never punish any of my children while I was angry, and I do not think I ever raised my voice. When they were very small I took them, on a number of occasions, to their father at the end of the day and asked him to spank them. I knew they would receive a mild spanking! I would never spank a child who is old enough to be reasoned with, because I think it does hurt his sense of self-respect.

There are many other ways in which children can be punished. They can have things they like taken away from them, and they can be deprived of certain privileges. Above all, they can feel the displeasure of the people they love. That, I have always found, is the worst punishment one can administer.


What do you think of Winston Churchill’s statement that your son Elliott’s account of his attitude toward De Gaulle at Casablanca is “rubbish" (Life, November 6, 1950)?

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion. Elliott described in his book accurately what his thoughts were on things that he had seen. Mr. Churchill is entirely entitled to consider them rubbish if he feels that way. They were not his thoughts; they were those of an onlooker, Elliott Roosevelt’s, who had the right to his ideas too.


What do you consider the best years of a woman’s life?

I do not really know what are the best years of a woman’s life, because it depends so much on how she develops. If she is able to learn from life to get the best out of it at all times, then probably at whatever age she is those years will be the best she has had. But we do not all do that.

If you ask me what years I thought were the most enjoyable I would again have to qualify my answer because the enjoyment is different at different times. Certainly the years when women have young children are very rewarding, but again they are often filled with anxiety.

The years of youth, when there is less responsibility, are enjoyable—but the anxieties of youth are also very marked, and there are few young people who escape them.

The best thing we all can do is to learn to make use of the years as they go by and enjoy whatever period of life we are in.


Is it true that married couples are not allowed to adopt children if the husband is in the Army?

As far as legal provisions are concerned, there are none that say a family cannot adopt a child if the father is in the Army. All of the agencies state they haven’t yet established a definite policy in the present emergency. They would not say a family could not adopt a child if the father is in service. They feel very strongly that it is unfair to the child to come into a home while the father is away. That would mean another adjustment after the father returned.

The agencies would try to hurry the adoption after the father returned and if the couple still wanted a child, but the consensus is that it is better to wait for the father’s return. If the father had an assignment which did not take him away from home, that would be a different situation.


Why do you bother to answer some of the intimate questions people ask you, especially when it’s obvious they’re trying to needle you about your personal life?

I think it is only courteous to take for granted that when people ask questions they really have an interest in getting answers, and as far as possible I answer all questions as honestly as I can.


My twelve-year-old son is forever after his father to buy him a rifle. The whole idea terrifies me. Don’t you think he’s too young? What did you do when your boys asked to have guns?

I think when a boy wants a gun it is not enough just to buy it for him. The father must teach his son how to use it and teach him the proper safeguards that must always be observed. If the boy does not observe them he should forfeit the gun for a certain length of time. Twelve years does not seem too young to be taught, and he may be a good shot. Many boys are at that age. The important thing isn’t whether he has the gun but whether he has been taught to use it with care and discretion.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, March 1951

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
[ ERPP bio | VIAF | WorldCat | DPLA | SNAC ]

McCall's, volume 78, March 1951

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Digital edition published 2014, 2016 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
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