She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. "The world's best mom," her son Matthew said.

Thus began the obituary heard 'round the world, written for Yvonne Brill, a rocket scientist, wife, and mother memorialized in the New York Times last weekend. It didn't take long before the Times changed its first sentence to reference Brill's work as a rocket scientist ("She was a brilliant rocket scientist who followed her husband…"), but that hardly satisfied the outraged masses, who called her gendered portrayal "disgraceful" and "inappropriate."

The New York Times doesn't write obituaries about mothers, no matter their chops in the kitchen. They write about people who have lived extraordinary lives. Weird lives. Lives that broke some sort of cultural expectation. A rocket scientist who happens to be a mother? Now, there's a story.

Here is a list of Mrs. Brill's accomplishments (she liked to be called "Mrs. Brill," her son said), as per her NYT obit:

· Invented a propulsion system to help keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits (You can thank her every time you make a call.)

· Worked on satellite design in the 1940s, the only woman to be working in the rocket science field at the time

· Helped NASA develop the rocket motor for the space shuttle

· Remained married almost 60 years, until the death of her husband in 2010

· Made a mean beef stroganoff

· Raised three children

In the Times, Brill was remembered first and foremost as a wife and mother. Had she been a man, the mention of career and family wouldn't have been an issue, since relatives typically only get a brief line at the end of an obit. Brill's, though, read like something out of the 1950s, praising the dutiful Stepford wife.

Perhaps the obituary's writer, Douglas Martin, reminds us of Brill's domesticity to highlight the remarkable life she lived in an era not known for being friendly to professional women. She was a rocket scientist with culinary prowess. She was the world's best female rocket scientist and the world's best mom. In other words, she had it all: the children, the career, the contented husband. (Take that, Anne-Marie Slaughter!)

In doing so, though, Martin also perpetuated the idea that women need those things—to be married, to have children, and to build a fruitful career—in order to be successful. From making a mean beef stroganoff to returning to work after having kids, the details in Brill's obit hit right on the vein that feeds the Mommy Wars. (Don't you hate that name? Can we call it something else? The Great Mom Wars? Agreed.) At the center of the Great Mom Wars is the question: Should moms work outside of the home, especially when their children are very young?, which gets into issues of parental insecurity and nags at our fear of not being good enough.

(If this were an editorial, I would remind all of you reading that no, of course you aren't good enough; what a silly thing to think. I would also remind you that being good enough was never the question in the first place, that the goodness of God moving toward us is that being good is completely irrelevant, that you do not have to be good, as Mary Oliver says in her lovely poem "Wild Geese." But this is not an editorial.)

Her life was not unique because she "followed her husband from job to job," but because she was a trailblazer in a field hitherto restricted to men. Even the word follow seems like a mistaken description of what Brill did with her husband. "With" being the operative word there—it is impossible to follow "with" someone, since following requires one person to be traveling behind the other. But if marriage operates as I believe God designed it to—as a partnership—one spouse doesn't follow other, but both spouses follow God. In my own marriage we have seen seasons of heightened commitment to one's career or the other's, and I don't imagine those seasons will get any easier once we have children. But if my husband or I pause our careers to care for our children (which we will surely do, in some way), it won't be to follow the other. It will be to follow God in the way we best know.

Being remembered as a wife and a mother is a wonderful thing, and clearly Brill made wonderful work of it. There is a place for that, of course. But let's not pretend that men who are fathers and women who are mothers get the same treatment in their newspaper remembrances. These obituaries are the way we use language to remember people. In our memories, we can recall someone fully, with all attributes mixed together at once, but once we put those thoughts into words, we have to choose what to say in what order and how to say it. The way we talk about someone says as much about that person as the information itself.