All Women's Fault

Linda Hirshman, a retired philosophy professor-cum-provocateur with an ego bigger than Mumbai, seems to be making a second career infuriating moms -- those at home and those at work. Hirshman wrote a condescending American Prospect article last year deriding women who stay home with children, 60 Minutes interviewed her in October 2004 about her pseudo "analysis" of the percentage of women profiled in the New York Times Weddings section who were staying home with children five years later, and Good Morning America featured her on their infamous "Mommy Wars" segment this spring, which prompted the National Organization of Women to circulate a petition in protest. Hirshman just published the modestly-titled "Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World."

Most moms have not been too happy about her views; in response, Hirshman told her side in a Washington Post Outlook piece yesterday, "Everybody Hates Linda."

To me, what's fascinating and infuriating about Hirshman's arguments is that there's often a (teeny) grain of truth in what she says.

For instance: According to Hirshman, working women should have just one child. In an article dated today in Newsweek, she justifies her position with the fact that women are more likely to leave the work force after the birth of a second child.

Grain of truth: Working full-time outside the home certainly becomes harder when you go from child to children. But how about women who want more than one child? What about those of us who already have more than one child? Are we supposed to give the "extras" away? But most of all: Why are moms called upon to make such a huge sacrifice to accomodate the current work environment -- instead of asking the workplace and our government to make relatively minor changes to accomodate employees with children?

Or another Hirshman diatribe: Women with advanced degrees who stay home with children are wasting expensive hard-won educations. She seems to argue that women should study something less serious or better yet, not study at all.

Grain of truth: When picking squashed peas off the kitchen floor or using one's pincer grasp to carry soiled underwear to the washing machine, the risk neutrality derivation of the Black-Scholes equation does seem kind of irrelevant. But how do you know at 18 or 22 whether you want to work, stay home, or combine the two? And who's to say that penal law or penicillin titration is knowledge that women at home today won't put to paid use again tomorrow?

But Hirshman's deepest cut comes in her insistence that women are the cause of society's mixed feelings about -- and limited support of -- working parenthood. She's almost Biblical in her conclusions that our society's evils are due to women "not sticking it out" at work once they have children.

There's no grain of truth here. Moms did not cause the problems of workplace discrimination or create the immutable needs of children or engineer maternal instincts. Practical, workable solutions that help parents better balance work and family alone can be developed only by men and women working together -- for the good of all.

And a grain of truth for Linda Hirshman: By definition, all moms have already gotten to work.

Listen to today's Washington Post Radio discussion with Hirshman here .

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  June 19, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Moms in the News
Previous: Father's Day | Next: Guest Blog: Down Will Come Mama: Work & Postpartum Depression


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I read this blog all the time and this is the first time I've ever posted. And my comment is for all of you regulars I loving reading: Please actually review Linda Hirshman's article and it's included links, I think Linda is challenging us in a very important way and Leslie's summary of her work is closing/limiting the potential of that discussion.

Posted by: Tracy | June 19, 2006 7:31 AM

I agree with Tracy. Furthermore, please clarify who NOW protested. Your usage in that sentence implies that the petition was in protest of Hirshman, when it was really in protest of GMA's entire "Mommy Wars" story.

Posted by: Tom | June 19, 2006 7:48 AM

"professor-cum-provocateur with an ego bigger than Mumbai"

Seems a little judgemental to me. I agree with Tracy. I think it's important that someone say what Hirshman is saying. And I don't think she absolves employers from doing the right things for women employees, but women, society needs to demand these things. Men have families too so then why do almost all fathers work without the guilt or anxiety? Her premise, while provacative, needs to be heard.

It does seem that a subset of educated women has retreated into their homes while others work "part-time". How has this impacted on women in general? I think it has allowed the status-quo of discrimination against women in the workplace, inadequate childcare, and society's view that the family is the woman's responsibility. It has created the unfair expectations of women by employers. We need stronger anti-discrimination laws that are enforced. Unfortunately this administration does not feel this issue is important.

I think we need books and point of view's like this. There is a "mommy war" because many stay-at-home women would prefer to work if circumstances were improved and the women who work are made to feel guilty for working by society. Each side thinks the other has it "better". Until the tide turns, we vote for less "conservative" anti-family politicians/administrations and employers find it profitable to make the workplace less hostile for everyone, we'll still struggle to decide if we can be a whole person (have a career) or sit at home and pick peas off the floor.

Posted by: Working mother | June 19, 2006 7:49 AM

well we've heard from the working mothers , can't wait 'till the stay at homes have coffee and fire up the computer . Just live your lives and be happy , who cares what linda whatever thinks or anyone else for that matter ?

Posted by: shoreman | June 19, 2006 8:01 AM

While I weight in on the side of "choice" if you want to work - work - if you want to stay home - then stay home - none of these arguments address the fact or needs of those women who have no choice but to work outside of the home - whether they want to or not - educated or not...I for one, had not choice but to work (single mother) but also WANTED to go to work - and not only because I had to work very hard on obtaining my education...success in the business world is gratifying in its own way - not only monetarily...

Posted by: Donna | June 19, 2006 8:02 AM

Working Mother , nobody can " make " you feel guilty , guilt is by definition from within.

Posted by: nj | June 19, 2006 8:05 AM

The problem I had with Hirshman's article, and this whole "mommy wars" idea in general, is that everything is black and white. Most of the moms I know are living in ever changing shades of grey--maybe SAHM for infants, working PT for a while, FT when kids go to school, and every permutation in between.

But I must say that the idea that my degree is wasted by showing my son the world is beyond insulting--it's just ridiculous.

Posted by: PTJobFTMom | June 19, 2006 8:11 AM

"Linda Hirshman, a retired philosophy professor-cum-provocateur with an ego bigger than Mumbai . . ." Hey, pot, the kettle's calling.

And this one always annoys me "By definition, all moms have already gotten to work." What a crock. It is unreasonable to compare taking care of your children with getting out and going to a job every day. Despite the whines and cries of the more militant SAHMs continent, not every mother is a "working" mother. Every mother is a mother. Every father is a father. Everyone who holds a job is working. The rest is just life. Where's the cute cliches to cover the women without children who stay at home? Don't you think they're "working" as much as any SAHM? These stupid slogans do nothing to help the problem of working moms vs. SAHMs and only further arm each side with BS to fling at one another.

Posted by: Jayne | June 19, 2006 8:18 AM

I'm glad to read the first few comments because I agree that I think Leslie got this one wrong and her comments are going to limit debate on what I think are some valid points Hirshman makes. (And if she hadn't been provocative, would anyone have paid attention?) I get mad every time a (highly educated, professional, fast-rising) senior woman in my firm leaves to stay home with kids because it makes it harder for me to demand what I need to make the balance work. The senior leaders tell themselves these women made a choice, and so the company doesn't need to change to facilitate better balance--basically, those of us who stay just have to suck it up. And, although they would never admit it, I'm sure they take me less seriously as a worker because they assume that when I have #2 or #3 I will also be out the door, and that hurts my career. It does hurt the feminist cause in many ways when educated, professional women "opt out" to stay home, and I'm glad someone has spoken up to say so.

Posted by: Arlmom | June 19, 2006 8:18 AM

I applaud Hirschman. That doesn't necessarily mean that she is right - or, more importantly, that her view needs to be the view of every woman, or that her words are not incendiary. However, I am a 25-yo (childless) soon-to-be lawyer who feels much higher pressure to be a good mommy than to have a career. I applaud Hirschman because she is the only ne standing up for my generation - those girls who were told that we could be anything, do anything - until we actually did it. Then the emphasis shifted to marrying someone similarly educated so that we can become perfect mothers to perfect overachieving children. No thank you. I would like children someday, but you better believe that those kids will grow up knowing (1) that mommy and daddy are equals, and that means they both work and they both empty the dishwasher, and (2) that life and children and jobs are hard. No fairy tale here.

Posted by: scr | June 19, 2006 8:18 AM

Sorry, that should be "contingent," not "continent."

Posted by: Jayne | June 19, 2006 8:19 AM

What;s interesting is that Linda H. seems to only be able to see women -- or people, for that matter -- as economic entities, useful only as workhorses. This sounds an aeful lot like Karl Marx's thinking. And it's just as limiting.

Also, if women are not using thier college degrees, why has no one mentioned that those resources perhaps could be used to serve African-American men, who DO NOT go to college in record numbers -- and who would certainly put these degrees to use. Women, it seems, are getting useless boutique degrees while African-Americans are trapped in the economic underclass.


Posted by: Sarah H | June 19, 2006 8:21 AM

I am kind of surprised that so many readers so far have disagreed with Leslie's analysis of this article. I actually spent quite a bit of time discussing this article with my husband last night. From my reading of the article, Linda does seem to relish her new found fame and stirring the pot. I thought Linda's ego was inflated (to say the least) and her dismissiveness of other people's life choices shameful.

What I don't understand is why some people only find value in their time if there is some monetary reciprocation. If I am paid, I am valuable. If you are not paid, you have no worth. I think you are duped if you believe that the only things that are worthwhile are in the public sphere.

I don't understand how patriarchy keeps women in the home, but you aren't buying into the patriarchal system if you discount women's historical and continuing contributions to home life and agree that the only things that are worthwhile are those that are traditionally male. Without the home, we would have no society. It is the foundation of culture everywhere.

This is not to say that I think women must stay home; men can stay home too, and shouldn't be discounted for it. But let's be honest, women already have to take substantial time off because biologically they have babies and they make milk. So although philosophically everyone should be free to make choices about their lives, biologically there are restraints.

I am not fundamentalist. I am not even religious. But I plan on being a sahm. I graduated summa cum laude, but I didn't go to college just to get a job. I went because it is personally satisfying. I love my family more than anything, and being the center of home life has always been my dream. I won't apologize for that, or be guilted.

Posted by: ceb | June 19, 2006 8:23 AM

How great it is, to be wealthy and elite, and have a 'choice' as to whether or not to work. Isn't it just great that women have the choice to become financially dependent? What an accomplishment it is that woman make up the majority of the poor, especially when they are old and no longer are unemployed 'by choice'. Isn't it just great that woman have a choice not to have a career? After all, we can count on men to be sure that our interests are represented when it comes to the types of laws that they pass, and the types of social and economic policies that adopt for us.
I guess that the concept of 'majority rules' doesn't apply when it comes to having a say amongst the decision-makers in the world. We choose not to have that essential 'critical mass' in those corporatate, government, media, scientific, military, and legal jobs that we retire from in our early thirties our decide not to pursue. We don't need to be one of the people who set the cultural, social, and economic agenda that we always complain about? No, it is better that we stay home and enact a shield around our family to protect them from the elements that we don't like, rather than work in a position that might have some control or influence over them. We can count on our men to set the rules, and we will play by them.
After all, the workplace is not accommodating to us. Leaving the workplace will force it to change, because it isn't like there are plenty of other people to replace us. We don't want our husbands to share the responsibilities of cutting back on their careers, to have to leave early to take care of a sick child, to have to say no to excessive overtime even though something important is happening at work. If we work we would hurt our husband's careers. We don't want them to feel pressured into demanding the type of workplace flexibilities that might make it possible for us both to work. No, it is better for our husbands to accommodate the sixty hour work weeks. After all, if the workplace would not say yes to our demands, then they certainly aren't going to ask when men start asking for reasonable hours. We will punish the workplace by quitting, that will teach them!
Oh, and this is all true only for those of us who can afford it. You know, those of us that worked hard in school and whose husbands make a lot of money. Everyone else who didn't make the right choices, you need to work. It is only best for our children to have a mom at home. Your children are better off having you work at that very important job of driving the school bus, making copies at the office, serving me my morning coffee at the drivethru window, and cleaning public restrooms. You know, those important jobs that men are just dying to have. This will teach you responsibility, about the work ethic, and also will keep you from needing my husband's tax money to feed your kids. But you women out there that had the opportunity and the skills to learn to be a scientist, a corporate ladder-climber, a doctor, a lawyer, or anything else with a title, your children need you at home. And, you should get a tax cut and Social Security motherhood credits to help you. After all, you have the most important job in the world.

Posted by: June19 | June 19, 2006 8:35 AM

I have found this "opt out" trend that is discussed in Ms. Hirshman's article fascinating. I am one of the affluent, educated women she is discussing. I am 29 and went to a top 25 law school. I am the only working mother (my son just turned one) out of all of the women I went to law school with. Each woman that has had children so far, has left their firm/company to stay home. I am literally the only working mother I know that has my educational background and is my age. The other two working mothers in my office had their kids in their 40s and are the major breadwinner at home. I feel completely alone.

Posted by: Arl. lawyer | June 19, 2006 8:52 AM

A stay-at-home mom, with a Ph.D., can be a wonderful role model for her children - male or female, that education has inherent worth. Worth should not be measured solely in the dollars of corporate productivity.

Posted by: Niles | June 19, 2006 8:53 AM

I actually can't believe it, because I don't agree with almost everything she says, but I AM happy that she's talking about these things. Not because I think women need to "get to work" instead of staying home with the children -- I think it's up to the individual -- but because I have hopes it will force a dialog that will maybe get family-unfriendly companies to start bending the rules a little. The journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step. Maybe we'll all be thanking her in 10 years.

Posted by: MJEMom | June 19, 2006 8:57 AM

nj,
Uh, please...all parents care about how they bring up their children. It's tiresome to hear stay-at-home moms say over and over again how wonderful they are for being home, "doing the right thing" for their kids, etc. in order to justify their choice. I understand that that comes from their own angst about being at home and not pursuing a career.

And Jayne and Arlmom are on target.

And Ceb, it's not only about money. You miss the point. In our society, what one earns, defines success. I mean look at Oprah Winfrey...a conceited bag of hot air and she is "important" and has influence because she is a billionaire. For those of us with careers, it is the meaningful work, the contribution to society that is as important or moreso than the money. Even someone who serves burgers at the mall feels a sense of contribution after a day of a job well done and a paycheck. Most of us can be and are good mothers. But all humans want to make our "mark" on the world, even the SAHM. But women don't make our "marks" by staying at home. And no amount of bogus feelgood sloganing ("staying at home contributes to society") will change that.

We need to change how employers behave and think and pressure society to accept women in the workplace. We need flexibility for time off to have a baby and come back (like everywhere else in the world). We need employers who will promote women and their careers even if they're in their child-bearing years.

Posted by: working mother | June 19, 2006 9:01 AM

If staying home and taking care of the children were so wonderful, men would have been doing it all along.

Posted by: MLH | June 19, 2006 9:01 AM

If staying home and taking care of the children were so wonderful, men would have been doing it all along.

Posted by: MLH | June 19, 2006 9:02 AM

"Grain of truth: When picking squashed peas off the kitchen floor or using one's pincer grasp to carry soiled underwear to the washing machine, the risk neutrality derivation of the Black-Scholes equation does seem kind of irrelevant. But how do you know at 18 or 22 whether you want to work, stay home, or combine the two? And who's to say that penal law or penicillin titration is knowledge that women at home today won't put to paid use again tomorrow?"

Silly me, but I always thought that the overall purpose of getting an education was to gain critical thinking and problem-solving skills, both of which are very relevant to raising smart, capable children.

As for the Black-Scholes equation you learned in MBA school, Leslie, I have a question for you: just how often did you use Black-Scholes in your paid job in Marketing at J&J or in your paid job at the Post?

"...we'll still struggle to decide if we can be a whole person (have a career) or sit at home and pick peas off the floor."

As someone who left a six-figure job to be a full-time mom, I emphatically disagree that having a paid career makes someone a "whole person." Being a full-time mom to my toddler is much more meaningful than being a cog in the corporate machine ever was. To me, money is necessary to pay the bills but most definitely not the purpose of life.

Posted by: MBA Mom | June 19, 2006 9:02 AM

Read her book, cover to cover, it will only take a couple hours, and then you can post. She makes very valid points. However, you have to be completely honest with yourself to grasp them. I, for one, am pleased that she puts the responsibility and the solution in the hands of the individuals complaining, the women, rather than in the hands of the husbands, employers or government.

I work. It makes me a better mother, wife, woman and human being. You can have it all, it just takes effort, and really not that much if you make the right "choices" throughout your life. That is what we should be teaching our daughters and sons.

Posted by: lf | June 19, 2006 9:02 AM

Hey Arl. lawyer,

I know exactly what you mean. I'm an academic, working, hoping to have kids soon, not EVER planning to leave this amazing job that I love, where I make a huge difference to others, and where I am personally fulfilled, happy, and paid, with benefits and a retirement plan.

Within my own small academic community I get lots of support from women and men, so I'm clearly more fortunate than you there, but once I go outside it to the rest of America, all I hear is how staying at home and making sure my kid gets the absolute most out of Baby Einstein is the single thing that matters in the world. Oy!

And let's not forget that if I did stay at home, that would lock my husband into a job with hellish hours forever... I've asked him never to leave me managing a job and a home job (i.e., kids) all by myself, and he has asked me never to leave him bearing the financial burden of our lives by himself.

But as far as I can tell as I read this blog, we're in a stunning minority... when I read Linda's article I thought, ok, so she's controversial, but

1) Shes' TRYING to be (as she states, explicitly)

and

2) THANK GOD someone doesn't make me feel like a monster just because I don't want to stay at home. Ever.

Posted by: Mass. Prof. | June 19, 2006 9:05 AM

Dear no name: Yes, yes, and yes again. I could not possibly have said it better. I think we should coin a new term to describe those who employ working women to make their non-working lives more agreeable: "dogwhistle feminism" (based on the notion of "dogwhistle fashion"), which is to say, a focus on something that is so exclusive and so out of reach for the majority of people that the issues surrounding it are unfathomable and it might as well not exist. And yes, I am very tired of the schadenfreude class that stays at home and secretely hopes that the children of us working stiffs will bear emotional scars for life so that they can validate a choice they obviously feel very conflicted about. LH is too dogmatic, but this is an area where only a sledgehammer wielded with a very secure grip has any prayer of bringing down the scaffolding so elaborately constructed to shield out the obvious.

Posted by: Barbara | June 19, 2006 9:06 AM

"To me, what's fascinating and infuriating about Hirshman's arguments is that there's often a (teeny) grain of truth in what she says."

I saw that GMA segment and have been trying for months to find out who that woman [Hirshman] was, and now I know. I have to agree with Tracy, the first poster, that Hirshman made some excellent points. IMO she takes things way too far, but I think a lot of the uproar from women regarding her comments is because she hits a deep nerve and challenges asumptions. Extreme opinions like hers are often very helpful to a debate.

Posted by: JJ | June 19, 2006 9:08 AM

Dear Mass Prof.,
You're not alone. Most people like us are too busy working to blog. I happen to have the day off--I'm an academic like you. We are terrific examples to our children. My son had to write an essay in school one year about who was a "hero" in his life and he was the only kid in his class to write about his mother. He wrote "even though she is busy saving lives, she still has time to spend with me".

Children recognize the important work that their working mothers do and in fact do better with happy, fulfilled mothers. If I were to stay at home, I'm sure my kids would not be as well-adjusted as they are. Some of the "highly educated" SAHM I know are on prozac and/or have difficult marriages. I'm not necessarily saying that staying at home causes unhappiness, but often staying at home is not really a "choice".

Posted by: Working mother | June 19, 2006 9:17 AM

I also have to applaud No Name (name is posted as 'June19'). You NAILED it. I have nothing to do with SAH moms -- they are of no use to me. Depending on how long they've been home, they are clueless to the outside world and how competetive it is. Not only that, I feel I am making strides for woman by working where I am in the capacity I have. I feel I'm doing my part to make women as important as men in that regard.

As a professional woman, I see how power is transfered, and ladies, it ain't at by staying home. Like No Name said, woman need to be out there, everyday, making laws, making businesses, being in the face of the bigwigs to make our world the way we want it. SAH moms completely drop the feminist ball when they drop out of the rat-race. You leave the rest of us out there to fend for ourselves. And really, for you, too, although you don't contribute. THAT'S why SAH moms bug me and why I love that Hirshman sparked this debate.

Posted by: CAH | June 19, 2006 9:18 AM

Sarah H wrote:

Also, if women are not using thier college degrees, why has no one mentioned that those resources perhaps could be used to serve African-American men, who DO NOT go to college in record numbers -- and who would certainly put these degrees to use. Women, it seems, are getting useless boutique degrees while African-Americans are trapped in the economic underclass.

"Women" (did you forget to write White in front of it?) are not taking away resources from African-American men or women who wish to obtain higher degrees. Indeed, most colleges would be delighted to admit more African-Americans in the name of diversity, and will bend their admissions to permit such. Just typical blame someone else for "our" problems rhetoric.

Posted by: Michael | June 19, 2006 9:18 AM

Working mother, you wrote: "But women don't make our "marks" by staying at home."

You're totally wrong. My mom "stayed at home" and has been a community volunteer for 45 years. She has been elected to the Hall of Fame in our county. She is known as a mover and shaker and someone who has made a great contribution to the quality of life in our area. My mother could have been president of a bank or, as one of her (male) friends said, "She could have managed Chrysler." But that was not her choice. She raised me and my sister, built a happy home with my dad, and "had it all" as far as she's concerned.

I can't believe some women in this day and age still think the only way anyone can make a "mark" in this world is to earn a huge salary and be an executive or something.

Posted by: JJ | June 19, 2006 9:22 AM

Wow, CAH, you have a real chip on your shoulder. You have no idea how a so-called "SAH mom" might be contributing to society in ways other than being part of the "rat race". Just because you chose the competitive corporate world to do your good in, it doesn't mean there aren't other avenues. Some women who are "SAHs" serve on local committees and boards that directly impact your life, but you wouldn't know that because you're too busy cutting them down. Your anger stuns me.

Posted by: JJ | June 19, 2006 9:27 AM

Hooray for Mass. Prof! My daughter was telling her friend on the playground about what her mommy does all day, taking care of patients(which she does not want to do--prefers to take care of elephants) I have invested a lot in my career, love what I do everyday. While my kids are the most important thing in my life, I will make the choices necessary to make the combo of family and career work. And I think that is a great example for my two girls. I do not want them to think that they are limited by the restrictions that society places on families. Hopefully, when they have their careers things will have changed and they will have an easier time. If LH did not provide some of these provocations, people would not talk about them--talk does lead to change eventually.

Posted by: Sunniday | June 19, 2006 9:33 AM

Every time someone "chooses" the SAHM life, it plays right into the hands of those that were never comfortable with women having substantial careers.

Posted by: Lilybeth | June 19, 2006 9:36 AM

While I am a working mother, I really dislike Hirshman condemning other women's choices. I hate the mommy wars and I don't like the idea of slamming other women to justify our choices to ourselves. Why can't we make choices that work best for our family?

Posted by: Ms L | June 19, 2006 9:36 AM

And, wow, JJ, you stupidity stuns me. Seriously, who cares if your mom worked on the 4-H float or something like that? That's not bettering women or their place in this world. Women who worked their way up the corporate ladder and now mentor other women are the ones that make a difference.

You cannot be so naive to believe that little county or community activities hold a candle to owning your own business or being on the executive board. It doesn't. If you want to make a difference, if you want to be heard in this world, you better be prepared to play with the big boys. Your post makes me believe you have no concept of how competetive it is out there.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 9:37 AM

As far back as I can remember, the women in my family - grandmothers et al - had jobs AND raised children (in some cases, large numbers of children). It wasn't questioned. Why is it so hard now? I'm really asking - not just being rhetorical. Because until a few years ago when all this hype erupted, it didn't seriously occur to me that a choice between going out into the world/staying at home was necessary, or desirable.

Underlying the anti-Hirshman talk, I get the feeling, is a presumption that child-raising/home stuff is just the more "natural" realm of women. Do you all believe that? If so, why?

Posted by: Lilybeth | June 19, 2006 9:40 AM

I'm with those who feel that what Hirschman is saying needs to be said. My only major criticism of Hirschman is that she may not be examining other workplace trends that make women decide to leave. The fact is there is still the perception that women don't "need" our jobs as much as men, even if we're not married!

I'm a PT SAH Wife (we're discussing children). And I'm PT because of the treatment I've received in the workplace. The nature of my job is that I can design myself out of it - in past years I've been "regretfully" laid off three separate times because of budgetary cuts.

While I understand marketplace pressures (and two of the layoffs occurred during the dot-com implosions), the layoff that really irked me and sent me into entrepreneurship was the last one.

I'm a specialist in technical web site interface issues - pretty much everything but performing the actual graphic design qualifies as my job skill set. Usability, Accessibility, cross-browser stability, picky and detailed stuff like that.

I was hired in my 30's into a web site development project run by a "Beltway Bandit" about 6 months after a male, 50-something colleague who had a similar skill set but claimed the project was overwhelmingly large and he absolutely *needed* help. (Actually, his skill set wasn't all that similar - he was a graphic designer who had been called upon to learn HTML - that's the only point where our skill set met.)

In the first 3 months of my employ, it became apparent to myself, my new boss, my new colleague and the rest of my team that the job was only overwhelming for my colleague - I had caught everything up, repaired major mistakes, and was developing new paths in the project. I did this gently and firmly and with good grace, but it was obvious that the improvements were due to my work alone (I'm not one to hide my light under a basket, but I don't stomp on someone when they're down, either.)

But about a year into my time on the project, there was a small round of layoffs. Guess who lost her job, despite a sterling performance review, two written commendations from the head of my department, and had had a spot created for her on the standards development team because of her obvious expertise?

The choice hadn't been made by my boss - it had been made by the client. My boss truly felt horrible because he didn't want to let me go, both professionally and personally, because it made no sense whatsoever. He had lobbied hard to keep me, but the client wouldn't budge.

So what's the kicker? My former boss told me about a year later (we remained friendly and in contact with each other) that the mild suspicions I'd voiced at the time were correct: my male colleague kept his job and I lost mine because mostly because the perception was that he had a family to support and I - recently engaged but still single - didn't need the money as much because now I was going to have a husband to fall back on.

Wonderful (and illegal, for that matter, but I didn't push the issue)...especially when you consider his wife made more money than he did!

Ms. Hirschman might do well to ask some of these PT, work-at-home mothers what were *all* of the reasons they left the workplace. Because sometimes, despite being a nearly perfect employee, gender and perceived societal roles can still blind people making the hiring/firing decisions (and in my case, the person making that decision was a woman!).

I may not be the CEO that Ms. Hirschman hoped women could become, but I do own my own business and stay out of the red - there's got to be something said for that.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | June 19, 2006 9:42 AM

Hi everyone -- I'm off to Wash Post Radio (1500 AM in the DC area) to discuss these issues with Linda Hirshman from 10 - 11 am. Please listen and call in! Great discussion so far.

Posted by: Leslie | June 19, 2006 9:42 AM

Honestly, in answer to Lilybeth's question, I believe that women have or had higher expectations and are much more disappointed by how hard it is to work for a living. I don't blame women who leave the workforce for tiring of the so-called rat race. While it's hard to find balance, I have a feeling that many women who stay at home are expressing a stronger opinion about the work they are leaving than they are espousing a set of beliefs about child rearing.

Posted by: Barbara | June 19, 2006 9:46 AM

Hirshman's article (which I read months ago)raised important points that no one else talks about any more. That if it is going to survive as a movement, there has to be more to feminism than the notion of "personal choice." That if the brightest, best educated women drop out of the paid workforce to do the unpaid work of childrearing, women as a class will be excluded from the decision-making processes that shape our society and economy. That the economic consequences of choosing not to work can be dire, and it's naive to believe otherwise. All of these points struck me as very true, and very important. And I say this as a SAHM (well, I work PT from home to help with the bills. I didn't marry "well" enough to give up work entirely. I hope to find a FT job soon so we can keep up our modest middle class lifestyle). Of course there is intrinsic value in raising your children, but try taking that to the bank. "Money isn't everything" until you don't have much. And in our capitalist society, not having a job that pays money is tantamount to not existing. After all, the hard work of mothering doesn't show up on your social security statement, and it won't help pay your bills 40 years from now.

Posted by: Susan | June 19, 2006 9:48 AM

One thing to bear in mind is that as Hirshman herself points out in her Outlook piece from Sunday is that she is a philosopher and philosopher take their call to make people think seriously about the issues. Philosphers of importance are never beloved by their peers. She cites what happened to Socrates.

It is also very important to remember that the vast majority of the criticism that is lobbed at Prof. Hischman is from the evangelical Christian right. They have an agenda that she challenges.

I agree with everyone who sees the relevance of her work. I find her view refreshing for the intellectual challenge that she infuses into the debate which has been sorely lacking. Americans are so afraid to think and heaven forbid someone, anyone but especially a woman criticize any mother. None of us across the spectrum from WOHM to SAHMs are perfect parents. Why is it okay to be criticized about one's work product and decisions when formally employed and forbidden when one gives up formal employment to stay at home and raise children?

Posted by: mommy works | June 19, 2006 9:50 AM

I echo previous posts in suggesting you read Hirshman's original article - I see more than a grain (or handful of grains) of truth in it. Something we often gloss over when discussing the "choice" of staying home or working is that when educated/highly educated women "choose" to stay home, they are negatively impacting others. This is why I can't buy into the "to each her own" mindset of working v. sahm. If you go to law school and then "opt out," as a previous poster noted, you are negatively impacting the professional environment for other folks who want to try and strike a balance personally & professionally, and you are particularly hurting other women who want to stay at work and have to fight the "she's just going to leave when she has a kid" mentality. The knee-jerk response to this is - why should I care about other people? I am doing what is best for my kid by staying at home. But what about you who have daughters? You are contributing to the belief that women are just going "to leave, anyway" after reproducing, so why bother to invest in women colleagues? What if your daughter wants to be a lawyer? Then she grows up, goes to law school and works at a firm that doesn't REALLY think she's worth investing in, because so many women leave the work force, anyway. You have explicitly contributed to the (often quietly prevalent) mindset that it is less fruitful to invest in professional women because they're going to leave the workforce. If you want to stay home/opt out/whatever - fine. Just don't say it doesn't negatively impact other people - including your own female offspring.

Posted by: Just a thought | June 19, 2006 9:50 AM

It seems like one big problem here is the definition of "staying at home". Linda Hirshman seems to define it as a mother who does exactly that, stay at home, rather than as a mother who doesn't have a paying job. The only "stay at home" mothers I know who do nothing outside the home are the mothers of very young children or disabled children. And those mothers plan to return to work soon. The other mothers I know who have left their paying jobs do many things besides clean house and prepare meals. They work in the schools or they volunteer at nursing homes, local libraries, for Special Olympics, or on hospital boards, or they manage the family money and investments. My aunt took carpentry classes so she could remodel her home and also the homes of her two aging sisters and my grandmother. Each time she and her family have moved, she's sold the house on her own and make a great profit for her family.

Yes, the moms I write about have the financial resources to "stay at home" (it's not always as difficult as people make it out to be) and most have college degrees. Some plan to return to paid work at some point. Most have made a decision, along with their husbands, that having to conform to the schedule and demands of paid work was not what they wanted while their children were small.

What I don't like about Hirshman is that she would prefer us all to be worker drones rather than people who have the right to make choices about the lives we want to lead. I have a master's degree and will soon leave my paid employment to pursue another degree. My goal in life is to educate myself and find ways to help others. Helping others to me is not necessarily being in some corporate job and fighting so the woman who comes after me can get take months off and promoted regularly even if she had five kids. If that's what you want to fight for, great, but it's not what ALL women need to fight for.

Posted by: Tanger | June 19, 2006 9:50 AM

Oh, just wanted to point out - I didn't push the issue of my layoff because a lawyer friend of mine said it probably wasn't worth my time.

Even if I thought I had been chosen to be let go more for personal than professional reasons, Virginia's "termination without cause" laws in concert with the budget cuts would just mean an expensive legal battle for me that would probably be unsatisfying, to boot.

And by that time I had also moved on to something better, so it just didn't seem necessary.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | June 19, 2006 9:52 AM

To Susan -- I am standing up and applauding right now. Excellent post.

Posted by: CAH | June 19, 2006 9:54 AM

Is it really necessary to drum into our progeny that "life and children" are "hard?" I plan to wait until mine are at least 12 to tell them the bad news, combine the talk with rational discussion of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the birds and the bees. As long as I am shattering the fantasy might as well get it all out of the way at once. Seems much more emotionally economical that way, you see. Linda'd be proud.

From Linda's target Audience (scr): I applaud Hirschman. I would like children someday, but you better believe that those kids will grow up knowing (1) that mommy and daddy are equals, and that means they both work and they both empty the dishwasher, and (2) that life and children and jobs are hard. No fairy tale here.

Posted by: Father of 3 | June 19, 2006 9:55 AM

To all of you disapproving of SAHMs, what do you think of SAHDs?

Posted by: A question | June 19, 2006 9:59 AM

Tanger, I agree that LH is too dogmatic, but I think her bracing style is just what is needed to raise some very important issues, and frankly, to get past the denial that many women engage in when they leave the workforce. I always tell women who ask, that even if you leave work for home, you need a plan -- training as a carpenter and remodeling your house might be that plan. I mean, my sister's husband basically quit his day job to do the same thing to investment properties. Nobody accused him of dropping out. So might pursuing another degree, finding a more personally fulfilling job with an organization you feel excited about, even if it pays less, and so on. But no woman should ignore the cost of staying at home. And yes, I want the world to be better for my daughters. That is one reason why I am still working even though it does sometimes feel like I'm banging my head against the wall.

Posted by: Barbara | June 19, 2006 9:59 AM

I have never heard of this woman until I read her rebuttal piece on the link here. She has no clue why people are upset. She really seems quite delusional about what she actually wrote. She seems to think that her piece is a defense of working woman, when it fact it is a condensing attitude why there is a division between stay at home moms vs working moms. Her basic argument seems to be that any dimwit could say at home and raise kids, but it takes intelligence to rise in the workplace, and educated women would be stupid to give up their careers for raising kids. Then she proceeds to blame fundamentists for woman staying at home. I think more woman than just fundamentists stay home with their children. The Last thing that I dont think she seems to get is that A lot of woman enjoy staying home with their children, and it does not seem that she could ever get that. I'm sure she would also browbeat one of daughters,(if one of her 3 children is a woman) to stay in a job, even if that daughter wanted to stay at home and raise the child.

Actually, her type of attidude is exactly why there has been a backlash. Another Ironic point in her article was her subtle attempt at victimhood , when she got support from everybody around her because everybody else was being mean to her. That from somebody who wants woman only wants woman to work, but seems to also want some ability to cry "I am a victim. She really is quite pathetic.

Posted by: niceday | June 19, 2006 10:00 AM

To the anonymous poster (why not sign your post?) who wrote: "And, wow, JJ, you stupidity stuns me. Seriously, who cares if your mom worked on the 4-H float or something like that?" -- you have no idea what my mother did or what her contributions were. Yes, she worked with Girl Scouts at one time, but she has also served on the boards of many local institutions, for just one example. Wow, I guess it didn't impact anyone that she got bad doctors out of the hospital or found good doctors to replace them.

I don't know how competitive is is out here? I need to be prepared to "play with the big boys"? Ugh. What kind of society are you creating with this type of attitude? You are the type of person that turned me off of the corporate world to begin with. "That's not bettering women or their place in this world. Women who worked their way up the corporate ladder and now mentor other women are the ones that make a difference." Well, it would be a wonderful world if every female CEO was so kindhearted as to want to help those below her on the ladder, but I saw in the corporate world that that is often not the case. What most seem to have learned from "playing with the big boys" is that they need to climb to the top and then kick the ladder away in order to keep their position in the pecking order. Guess what? It's not all about climbing the ladder and being "competitive". Some of us just have other goals in life.

Posted by: JJ | June 19, 2006 10:01 AM

"And in our capitalist society, not having a job that pays money is tantamount to not existing."

I want out of your society.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 10:02 AM

What really irks me about the "opt-out revolution?" The women we speak of are generally upper-class and extremely well-educated. When I think of all of the resources that went into my education at a prestigious college, I can't in good conscience make the argument that raising a good kid or two is my fair return to society. I owe the world a lot more than that, and I fully intend on paying up.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 10:04 AM

Is there really proof that a huge majority of "the best and the brightest" are dropping out of the workforce to raise their children and stay at home? I'm just asking. I'm not seeing that here in DC. The women I know who work and have kids only took a few months off with each child. I work for a nonprofit scientific organization. Most of my female co-workers (ages 22 to ~60) have Ph.D.s and don't have any plans to quit working.

Posted by: Dr. LA | June 19, 2006 10:05 AM

"It is unreasonable to compare taking care of your children with getting out and going to a job every day."

You're right. I've done both, and going to work is infinitely better paying and at times, both more and less rewarding than staying home.

Staying home could break even the strongest working woman. It's harder than working, psychologically speaking. I've spent about equal time doing both.

Staying home is a "risky occupation."

It's interesting, there is usually little discussion of "unemployed mothers." I was laid off/fired specifically because I was a mother, and then became pregnant with my second child (when my first was 7). I would have preferred to work at the time, but it wasn't to be. (My father was also dying, too.)

I think Linda's Hirshman's view that working moms ought to have only one child is very wrongheaded, although I agree with some of her other points. Why should smart, successful women cede family life to less educated women? It doesn't make any sense.

As a mother, I want my daughter to be able to have a good life. It's my hope that she won't be vilified for her choices, or forced to make false choices -- between career and family.

The whole "Mommy Wars" topic is verging on the completely idiotic. And, it's doing nothing to make life better for the next generation.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 10:08 AM

That was me, JJ. I forgot to put in a name. As far as a response, read what Susan and Just a Thought have posted. They are saying what I'm saying -- only much more eloquent.

Posted by: CAH | June 19, 2006 10:08 AM

To all the working prof. moms out there who feel isolated and alone as you muddle thru -

There are a large percentage of younger professional guys out there who respect you very much. You guys fight the good fight at the office every day and you carry your weight. You're like the running back playing hard every week even though you don't have the benefit of the good offensive line. We're happy to work FOR you on your teams and would be happy to have you work for us on ours (and not just b/c you understand when we have to leave to go get the sick baby). We're rooting for you, and a good percentage of us hope our wives are doing as well at work as you guys are.

We can't actually say this stuff to your face though. HR would kill us. :-)

Posted by: Proud Papa | June 19, 2006 10:08 AM

Linda Hirschman Quote from 'Everybody Hates...' link:
"But, I kept asking myself, were my only backers people related to me by blood or friendship? Why wasn't I getting bouquets from Morgan Stanley and chocolates from Arnold and Porter? Did every working mother in America wish only for a hedge-fund manager to come and rescue her?"

Mom stay home or Dad stay home - or both work? The toughest choice for husband and wife who both decide to continue careers after having kids, and decide to opt to have daycare/nannies/extended family bringing up their toddlers, will have a difficult experience when the reasonable hope to bring up their kids "their way" seems to be be slipping away. In-laws providing the day care is strewn with minefields.

Paid professionals isnt a panacea either: I had the pleasure of overhearing a supervisor level daycare provider describe her day while getting PT on an injury at the next table. Her operation supervises babies from 6-weeks to 5 years old filling the gap from the end of maternity leave up to kindergarten. Oh the sound of condescension and superiority of this high qualified and veteran SAHM substitute: "Sigh, well we give the kids all the love we can, but the sadness when their parents abandon them in the morning breaks my heart."

June 19: How great it is, to be wealthy and elite, and have a 'choice' as to whether or not to work.

My mom was an attorney in NYC and we had a live in, documented, FICA legal nanny from the age of 6-weeks until my mom left the firm and set up a local law practice when I was 13. The cost/benefit of Day Care vs the pay/benefit of the career (mom's or dad's) are clearly factors and there is no easy template to make the decision. Since my household has the means our analysis has led us to decide to have our kids taught, cared for by "blood and friendship" (to steal linda's term) instead of surrogates no matter how well-meaning or qualified.

Leslie's point has always been that working mothers/fathers should at least get some slack from the face time workaday pressure as their role as involved parents matters, and an individual's WOHM skills should not be discarded in the workplace. Linda saying that SAHM's and the desire to be a full time mom IS a prime driver of the discrimination in the workplace is a bit of a tough sell for me. My wife's college education and nurse training are invaluable on the home front. Teacher, doctor, leader, role model, publisher, designer manager etc. My degree doesn't apply directly to lawn pesticide application, basement insulation, distant hockey rink/soccer field navigation and transportation, plumbing, painting, coaching, civics instructor, comedian etc.

Being philosophically critical, and bitterly judgmental of already overworked/underpaid condition of entry level child supervision household management using purely economic analysis clearly strikes a raw nerve - and that the highly educated usually can write, have access to the internet are happy to throw flame right back at bitter, judgmental, know-it-alls from academia don't surprise me none.

Posted by: Fo3 | June 19, 2006 10:09 AM

Re: What I think of SAHDs - I would be inclined to feel more positively about the SAHM "choice" if equal numbers of men and women made that "choice." Yes, more men are making that choice nowadays (including one of my friends from law school - he's my age, 29), but it's still very, very few compared to women.

So it makes me suspicious that it's such a wonderful choice. (I think Hirshman points this out too.) If it were, why wouldn't men be lining up to do it? (Same with changing your last name after marriage, but that's another topic...)

It seems more like an acting-out of the presumption that women are just more suitably MEANT to stick to the realm of home/children, while men are just meant to work out in the world.

Sad. :( This is not the world view I grew up with. I'm not buying into it myself - I love my job (in fact, I have 2!) and what I do - but I feel like others' choices will make it that much harder for me b/c people will look at me and assume I'll eventually drop out to have children.

Which I won't. If there was any doubt. ;)

Posted by: Lilybeth | June 19, 2006 10:11 AM

Feminism is about equality and equality means being able to have the same opportunities and choices that men have. It DOES NOT mean dictating to women what their choices must be, i.e. working outside the home... that is no better than forcing women to stay home. I am appalled that there are women out there who think that they know what is best for all women and can't understand that what is fulfilling and rewarding to each woman is different. Women should be allowed to pursue whatever path they want and expect SUPPORT from thier own gender, not judgement and ridicule.

Posted by: in-arlington | June 19, 2006 10:15 AM

I find myself in impossible position of being infuritated by Linda Hirshman's philosophy and at the same time agreeing with (some of) her views. I chose a career in international relations. Without any connections in this field, it took me a long time to reach a senior position and a dream job in which I wanted to retire. But I also wanted to have a family and not just one child. To make a long story short, I lost my dream job but I was lucky to be able to find a somewhat family neutral position that is still international and looks good at least on paper. I love working in international field but this is a very "hot" area and employers are not really sympathetic to families. I don't want to be on travel weeks at a time and miss my children but it's a kind of either or situation. Again, I repeat I was lucky. How many of those women who chose to be SAHMs, former fund managers and lawyers, who could not stay in those all-encompassing jobs? Does one really need to work 80 hours a week to be a valuable employee? Also, having a support network makes such a difference. A supportive husband, grandparents, good nannies and babysitters. But every morning when I leave in an ungodly hour so that I can be home early and spend some quality time with my kids, I feel awful and am envious of all my friends who are SAHM, though I am fairly happy with my life as a woman, a wife, and a mother.

Posted by: conflicted | June 19, 2006 10:15 AM

"Like No Name said, woman need to be out there, everyday, making laws, making businesses, being in the face of the bigwigs to make our world the way we want it. SAH moms completely drop the feminist ball when they drop out of the rat-race."

How disappointing. The purpose of the feminist movement was to make the world better for women and men, not pit working mothers against SAHMs.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 10:18 AM

WashPost radio has too many commercials. :-(

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 10:19 AM

To begin with: I think LH is off base in some ways and on in others, and I applaud her contributing to the discussion in a way that gets people thinking. I am not a blanket supporter of Camille Paglia, either, but I appreciate her style since it jumpstarts conversation.

That said, I'm surprised at a _philosopher_, for crying out loud, taking such a utilitarian view of education. Is the only purpose of education to get a job? What "worth" has her educational background? For my part, I graduated with a double major and use neither aspect of my degree in my directorship. Is my degree wasted? Half the people I know are in the same boat.

I read the link at "Everyone Hates Linda" and frankly I didn't interpret it as a screed against her, but a serious discussion of her points and some agreement. The title was simply inflammatory to get people reading. LH's citing it as evidence of how people hated her ideas made no sense at all.

Posted by: 2nd timer | June 19, 2006 10:21 AM

It is hard to understand why there are ideological wars on the issues of whether or not mothers should work. Most mothers who work have to work for financial reasons and find it nearly impossible to do what they have to do at home and constantly feel overloaded and overwhelmed. I think that telecommuting for working mothers, if at all possible part or all of the time, is very helpful. The fact is that women are still paid less than men for the same work. Often in the workplace, there is no recognition that women have major responsibility for a child or children at home. Women in the workplace continue to get the short end of the stick on both counts. Business reaps the benefits: less pay for the same work, which also helps to keep down the wages of men.
For myself, I would be willing to take home less pay than a man if I had an option of also having more time off--especially in the summer months and in December. But of course that option has never been offered.
In short, I think that rather than issuing manifestos and counter-manifestos on whether women should or should not stay at home, energy would be better spent improving working conditions and pay for women who work and are also mothers, so that they fell that they can do both jobs well.
Lastly, if all women work and all women have only one child, we will have a perpetually shrinking population, so clearly Hirshman's recommendation cannot be extended to all.

Posted by: Linda | June 19, 2006 10:22 AM

If "Feminism is about equality and equality means being able to have the same opportunities and choices that men have," then I take that as an implicit "thank you" to all the women who continue to stay in the work force to allow your daughters the same opportunities and choices as men have when they grow up - and not have to battle the assumption they are just going to quit after they have kids.

Posted by: Just a thought | June 19, 2006 10:22 AM

I'm really quite befuddled as to the disgust and judgment being brought down on SAHMs. How long will you allow us to be away from work after a child is born before it's OK to go back? Is it OK to work part-time for a while? Is it OK to switch to a lower-paid but more family-friendly position in order to have more time with your kids?

From your comments I'm getting the feeling that the more hours you work, the more power you have, and the more money you earn, the better a feminist (and person) you are. Is this true or do you see any accomodations for your family? And if so, how do you reconcile it with your feminist principles?

Posted by: Ms L | June 19, 2006 10:23 AM

Why aren't men having this heated a discussion about whether they should work?

Posted by: Lilybeth | June 19, 2006 10:24 AM

"And, wow, JJ, you stupidity stuns me. Seriously, who cares if your mom worked on the 4-H float or something like that? That's not bettering women or their place in this world. Women who worked their way up the corporate ladder and now mentor other women are the ones that make a difference."

Actually, kids do care if their parents are involved in their activities. That's not to say you have to be involved in every single one, but the truth is, most of them would rather have "hands on" parents rather than "important" parents. The same is true with marriage. Isn't it more satisfying to have someone who cares about you on a personal level than someone who has an important title but is unavailable?

The two are not mutually exclusive, of course. There are many accomplished people who can handle it all, including intimate relationships with their families.

But the reality is, most people work to live as they say, not live to work. They are working for a paycheck in order to support their families, not to make a political statement or to better the world, although that can be nice.

Some people work at a job, and then spend their spare time in civic activities. I think outside of Washington, this is how most people live. Washington presents a distorted view of power and career (speaking as someone who was raised in the DC area, but has lived most of adult life outside of it).

The truth about the corporate ladder is that it often can really just suck. There is no moral obligation to climb it. That's ridiculous.

On a final note, when I was growing up (70s), women were returning to work in record numbers after staying home. And, believe it or not, they were able to perform their jobs and compete with men very well, despite having stayed home. So maybe there's a little bit of myth-making surrounding working outside the home. That it makes you better or smarter or superior. With the exception of brain surgery and rocket science, most of the work can be learned without too much trouble.

Posted by: Kate | June 19, 2006 10:29 AM

>>Women should be allowed to pursue whatever path they want and expect SUPPORT from thier own gender, not judgement and ridicule.>>

Except, not really. Only the ones with husbands who make enough money to support the family can "pursue whatever path they want." The rest of us are out here fighting to pursue the paths WE want, it's not like we get a ton of support from other women, either. Look at the previous threads on this blog...the SAHMs who resent being asked to watch working moms' kids on snow days, the PTA clique moms who don't want the help of working moms who can't give 110% to volunteering, the moms with the anecdotes about the daycare workers who know how sad the kids are when they get dropped off...

Posted by: AlsoinArlington | June 19, 2006 10:31 AM

If all women in the U.S. worked and had only one child, would be become like China, with a surge in abortions to get rid of unwanted female children in preference of males? (What percentage of men would fully support their only child being a female?) How would this help the feminist cause?

Posted by: Dr. LA | June 19, 2006 10:32 AM

Lilybeth, as has been discussed on this blog quite a bit, society has not given men the "choice" to not work -- whether to be SAHDs or to be a househusband. SAHDs are generally subjected to scorn. Househusbands are generally derided as lazy golddiggers...

Posted by: C'mon | June 19, 2006 10:32 AM

"Only the ones with husbands who make enough money to support the family can "pursue whatever path they want."

Or the ones who've earned enough money to do so themselves. You're not being very supportive of women's achievements to say that the only way they can expect to afford to stay at home is by living off their husbands. I worked and built my finances so I could afford to stay at home even if I had a child on my own.

Posted by: Tanger | June 19, 2006 10:34 AM

I am a man and I agree with Linda Hirshman's views.

In fact, I actually lose respect for women (or men if they chose to as well) who stay at home with the kids and dont't work at all.

I see it more and more and it boggles my mind.

People keep saying that kids turn out better when a parent stays at home, but I look at myself whose mother and father worked, and I am successful.

Posted by: kme | June 19, 2006 10:36 AM

"And in our capitalist society, not having a job that pays money is tantamount to not existing."

"I want out of your society."

Well then, what's your plan? Are you lobbying your local congressman to give parents social security credit for years spent providing free childcare? Or to pay stay-at-home parents a monthly stipend? Or will you just live off the money someone else earns? That's not dropping out society. That's just being powerless within it. I never said I agreed with or endorsed our current economic arrangements. But to pretend that you can just ignore the system is silly. And that's Hirshman's point.

Posted by: Susan | June 19, 2006 10:36 AM

I work full time. In my department, I am one of two women with children. I would say that less than 10% of the men I work with have wives that work out of the home. When people find out I have a toddler at home, I get a mix of sympathy and outright pity from my co-workers.

Guilt? I know it well. Self-inflicted or not, its a fact of my life as a working parent.

For my female colleagues without children, business travel, happy hours after work, evening networking events and the like are no big deal. To me, its a matter of being able to spend quality time with my daughter. Is it preventing me from growing in my career? I don't know. It shouldn't, but I've also made it known that I won't work or travel any more than I already do.

Is my daughter healthy and happy? Yes, but there are definite drawbacks to not being her primary caregiver. Most of them are too lenghty to list.

So, all of this being said - why do I still work full time? Because I love it, it makes me a happier person. It makes me more focused on quality time with my daughter. It makes me feel like I'm making a financial contribution to my family. I feel like I'm giving back to the community.

But this is ME. It is not my neighbor, or my other neighbor or my co-worker or my cousin or my best friend. My situation isn't perfect, but I feel its the best I can do for myself and my daughter. There are times that I wish I was a SAHM, and other days when you couldn't pay me to do it. But again, this is ME. What I do for myself isn't for everyone. Whether or not there is a grain of truth in Linda Hirshman's manifesto or not, the real conversation is about choice and supporting everyone, regardless of their decision.

Posted by: Suzmarmac | June 19, 2006 10:39 AM

I'm saying we should not accept that premise.

We shouldn't say, "OK, it's just a given that men will work and be able to have 100000 children without a second thought or blink of an eye. Women, on the other hand, just HAVE to go through these intense struggles of the mind to figure out how they will deal with these thorny questions and decisions about 'juggling work and family,' 'guilt' over having their own interests and goals in life separate from their husband and children, etc. So where do we go from that premise?"

I reject it. If men aren't having this intense personal turmoil, let's "choose" not to have it either.

(Though as you can tell, I LOVE to get baited into the drama of these discussions! LOL ;))

Posted by: Lilybeth | June 19, 2006 10:40 AM

Don't many of you realize you are playing into the game of "make them fight amongst each other so they won't see what is going on?"

While we are pointing fingers and making dire predictions about each other's choices, business -- private and public -- are MAKING DECISIONS ABOUT WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE -- and they aren't favorable to families.

The minute a woman walks in for an interview -- there is a litany of questions that are illegal to ask, but are hinted at by many.

Age, wherever the woman is on the spectrum is suspect of something -- young enough to be engaged; young married without children YET; married with children - (that one breaks down into several categories - can the is there adequate back-up day care coverage; child stay home alone if mom has to work overtime; is the child having trouble in school; is the mom working so child can go to college; has the woman been out of the workplace too long to be of any real value; is her husband retired and therefore going to cause her to make choices (that's where I am.) Having faced every single one of these questions my entire work life -- Hirshman is right on. It has nothing to do with a value judgement on motherhood, stay at home or otherwise; but it has everything to do with businesses that do not support family choices.

What other country in the industrial world gives less than 10% time off? (10 days vacation, 11 holidays out of 260 possible workdays.) By the time vacation rolls around, people are burnt out and overtired to really rejuvinate themselves. They come back to work more tired than when they left. Men are just as suseptible to being overworked and overtired, but again the perception in the workplace is that since he is not primary (I said PERCEPTION) caretaker of family (whether children or aging parents) and therefore is not as stressed out.

So, by keeping all of us fighting among our selves and pointing fingers, no one is questioning that the workplace in today's society does NOT support family - whether family is a single person, single parent, two-parent, and/or taking care of aged parents.

Posted by: Columbia MO | June 19, 2006 10:40 AM

Just wondering: if all women are supposed to work (and most men have/want/are supposed to work, who is "supposed" to take care of the children.

Oh wait, I know, underpaid, overworked, under-educated immigrant women with questionable documents.

This whole argument is lame. I should get back to work.

Posted by: Working too much | June 19, 2006 10:40 AM

Susan, see Tanger's post. I've earned enough too, to be able to stay at home. I live in a small house, cook all our meals (no dining out), buy secondhand clothes-- and can afford to stay at home. Not with huge material consumption, but a comfortable existence.

I would have no worth if I chose not to work? Is a person's worth proportional to income?

Posted by: Tanger fan | June 19, 2006 10:41 AM

Lilybeth - where have you been all my life?!

Posted by: Just a thought | June 19, 2006 10:41 AM

"Why are moms called upon to make such a huge sacrifice to accomodate the current work environment -- instead of asking the workplace and our government to make relatively minor changes to accomodate employees with children?"

-Because a one-size-fits-all gov't regulation would inevitably lead to complaints that it doesn't work for everyone;
-Because employers are running a business not a social services agency. They can and should be accommodating, but that's up to them. They shouldn't be forced;
-Because anyone who takes more than the usual amount of time off (male or female, parent or not, sick or well) puts burdens on both the employer and their co-workers. Even if it's just a couple of hours once or twice a week that can be made up, co-workers have to work around those couple of hours. Those people are less likely to be available to work overtime or weekends on emergency projects, putting a burden on those who might be. When I had to re-schedule meetings for the fourth time in two weeks because of sick kids and such this really sank in. Those folks are getting paid the same as me to do a similar job, but they're not doing the job as well because they're irregularly out of the office. Why can't employers take that into account?
-Because society should not be expected to take responsibility for the decisions of individuals. If you choose to have a kid and work, you know that there will be trade-offs and you accept that. Bravo. If you choose to have a kid and not work, or work and not have a kid, you know that there will be trade-offs and you accept that. Bravo. Take responsibility for your actions. Maybe society could be more helpful, maybe it will be in the future, but you're making decisions for the present. Deal with that.

Posted by: M. | June 19, 2006 10:42 AM

It takes a genius to raise a successful kid. Any idiot can work at the office. People who think they are a member of the "best and the brightest" because they have a college degree are just flat out wrong, not to mention that their ignorance is appalling.

Posted by: Father of 4 | June 19, 2006 10:46 AM

Leslie, I was hoping you'd redeem yourself on the radio with Linda Hirshman, but you're just digging yourself a deeper hole. I'm really offended by your assertion that I can't relate to someone unless they're "vulnerable," and have a nice "tone." How incredibly sexist and condescending -- shame on you!

You say she's too angry, but your response to her displays a lot more anger than she does. Besides, what's so wrong with being angry -- don't you think the persistent inequality between women and men at home and at work is worth getting angry about? Oops, I forgot, I'm not supposed to be angry, I'm supposed to be "vulnerable."

Posted by: Sara | June 19, 2006 10:46 AM

Kate, you said it much better than I did. It's not that I don't think working women are important -- of course they are! It's just that not every woman must devote herself to this one cause. Bright and successful women who climb the ladder should do their best to change the rules and the environment for women who come after them and for men who also work in the "rat race". But not everyone who works will rise up the ladder to positions of great influence. Many of us have worked hard but been affected by situations in the workplace that are beyond our control and not "worth" our time, money, and energy to fight against -- as many who have been laid off unfairly can attest. Certainly the perception of the upper ranks of management needs to be changed from one of a "rat race" mentality and "playing with the big boys". How does that help anyone -- male or female, with children or without? I thought the whole argument was that we need to make the working world more hospitable to parents who want to be somewhat involved in raising their children.

Posted by: JJ | June 19, 2006 10:47 AM

First, we're supposed to feel guilty about not staying home.

Now, we're supposed to feel guilty about not work.

And we all wonder why it's stressful just living with the choices we've made.

Posted by: Danielle | June 19, 2006 10:49 AM

I've always agreed with Hirshman. One thing I was prepared to disagree with was any contention that conservative Christians were the primary source of complaint about her views. Clearly, plenty of otherwise liberal women get offended when someone observes that they apparently used their education for nothing more than hunting down a man willing to pay for them.

But in fact, Hirshman mentions both those women and other erstwhile "choice" feminists in her op-ed piece. She singles out three groups, not just Christian conservatives. Her essay would have been better if she'd downplayed that part.

BTW, if anyone is interested, The Perfect World has an ongoing discussion about this, with a better interface for give and take.

Posted by: Cal | June 19, 2006 10:50 AM

Business will resist any and all manner of regulation no matter how much it might benefit society. So far, with lots of support from the religious right and others, we have come to this pass: It is good for society as a whole if parents are available for young children; women should bear 100% of the cost of that social good. That's called free riding. Women got tired and said no and they're still being guilt tripped for it.

Posted by: Barbara | June 19, 2006 10:50 AM

I'm not a woman, but if I were, I think that (especially after reading some of the thoughtful comments here) I would feel a sense of duty to remain in the workforce, for the benefit of my daughters. In a similar way I feel an obligation, as their father, to lead by example when it comes to doing housework, staying home from work when they are sick, etc. Generally, being an equal partner (and parent) in all respects with my wife.

That doesn't make me a hero, or make me better than anyone else here. We all have to live our own lives. But I am very conscious that, if I want them to grow up believing that they really can be anything they want to be, and do whatever they want to do, without any thought that they might be limited due to being women, then I have to show them, not tell them, that this is the case.

They ought to believe that they can balance a career and a family if they so choose, and when the time comes they should demand a partner who supports them in this.

Posted by: Brian | June 19, 2006 10:52 AM

It is a conundrum that women who work and raise daughters have daughters who are less prepared to go out in the world and get great jobs than those women who don't work. It may be great to be an example of being a working mom but those daughters are actually better off with mothers who supervise homework, take them to music, sports and scouts and who get them tutors when they need it.

In my family we are skipping generations. My mom had a graduate degree and a great job. She was very unavailable as a mother. I am one of those who quit working after the second child. I'll tell you something I believe, my daughter is going places. She has real talent and I make sure she has excellent training. If I was working, she wouldn't get half that training.

It'd be nice to be both the example and available but limitations of time and energy are real. I know lots of women who believe they have it all, but most are kidding themselves. The ones with the biggest careers have the highest number of failed marriages and unhappy and unfulfilled children. This is not my fault.

I want opportunity for my daughter and I also want her to have choices. What bothers me about Hirshman is that, if she could, she would deny my daugher those choices.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 10:55 AM

To the women who do not yet have children, it is a little premature to talk about how you will never give up your job to be a SAHM. You really cannot surmise what your preferences will be before children happen. That said, as this blog reflects, people react very differently to parenthood, some want to stay home, some want to keep working, some have no choice in the matter. I suspect very few had any idea prior to their birth how much they would love their children and what they would be willing to do for them.

The thing about LH's article (the original) that is troubling to me is that it concludes that life is more fulfilling for working women than SAHM moms. Who is she to make that judgment for all women. I work as a lawyer, I graduated from a top law school 13 years ago, yadda, yadda yadda. I left a top tier law firm because it was a MISERABLE place to work and I see no reason that anyone wanting to have a real life outside of work should stay in such a place. I know enough people in firms to know that where I worked was not an exception. I just do not need that big of a house (and I have a very successful legal carreer with the government, so I did not drop out of the workforce for a failure to be able to cut it).

I am a happy person not because I work, but because I have a wonderful husband and daughter and great family and friends. We work hard (at work and at home) to have a good life, to get out and appreciate all that life has to offer, and we keep a sense of humor. If I gave up my job tomorrow to be a SAHM I would be working harder at home than I am now and very fulfilled. That fulfillment is a function of who I am and what I have made of my life, not what my job is.

I get that women who want to work should have the same opporunities as men. That said, who is anyone to second guess our choices. The consequences of choices are complex, I prefer my free time with my family to a high paycheck, I prefer working to staying home so that my husband does not have to work 60+ hours a week to support us. I prefer a small house in the city to a large house in the burbs so that I do not spend half my life commuting. I prefer Thai over Chinese. My point is these are peoples lives, so who is this person to tell me what I "should" do.

Also, to the person insulting the value of community involvement. Get over your self-importance. You are kidding yourself that you somehow contribute more to society than people involved in the community.

Posted by: Another DC Mom | June 19, 2006 10:56 AM

It's unfortunate that there needs to be a zero-sum game here. Do the existence of SAHMs really take the air out of the argument that employers in our society need to be more family-freindly? My wife and I both work, and try to share equally in the raising of our only daughter. I think she feels that I'm helping out. It seems to work for us. We absolutely love maximizing our time with our daughter, but certainly see the important strides she has made at her pre-school daycare, which perhaps she wouldn't have had if one of us had stayed at home (that's just a comment on us, not SAHMs generally). I can understand, just from a daycare cost perspective alone, why having children (particularly multiples) would lead to staying at home. The cost, particularly in the DC area, for daycare is insane. However, I hope this doesn't detract from a recognition that our American society has been utterly ineffective in encouraging or yes, even compelling, employers to offer something like a family friendly environment for all of their employees. Certainly by European standards, the FMLA was utterly pathetic. Sure, perhaps we lead the world in productivity and GDP, but you'd don't think there's a downside to our working our tushes off? Think again.

Posted by: vienna local | June 19, 2006 10:57 AM

Our lives don't come to a screaching halt when our children grow up. The argument that education is wasted on SAHM's assumes they shrivel up and die once their children are gone.

Add ageism to my complaints about her.

Posted by: RoseG | June 19, 2006 10:58 AM

Hey, here's an idea: Why don't we just accept that each woman does what she truly believes to be best for her children and family and stop trying to tear each other down on the time. Jeepers, what a bunch of mindless jerks are on this board! Staying at home and working have value in different ways, you're not better than anyone else for making the choice you did.

Posted by: chi | June 19, 2006 11:00 AM

Egads Fo4, maybe any idiot can work at YOUR office, but that's certainly not universal.

Posted by: ? | June 19, 2006 11:03 AM

I hope that all of the SAHM know about their financial stituation and take care of themselves as well. I am a lawyer and a mother. I have a very satisfying legal career in the govt (very flexible environment), and 2 kids. My CFO husband decided to quit his job and move to the beach. We are obviously in the process of divorce. I do not have to worry about my financial situation, health insurance, etc. I can provide that for my kids. I can not tell you how many of my SAHM friends are also getting divorced and are getting screwed... must move, etc. because they had no money put away for themselves and didnt think thier lives would end up that way. PS: My kids are doing fine and I am an awesome role model for them.

Posted by: Street smart | June 19, 2006 11:03 AM

Just "accepting everyone's choices" is fine if those choices have no impact on others. But the choices we're talking about DO affect others, as discussed above.

(Checking out for a while now....I have some work to do ;) ...)

Posted by: Lilybeth | June 19, 2006 11:03 AM

I have been reading these comments with great interest, and one sentiment I'd like to agree with is the 'live and let live' one -- where women make their choice(s) and we support them.

I'd LIKE to do that. But here's my problem with it -- if a woman is a working mom, her actions don't impact the SAH mom. However, if a woman leaves her job to SAH, her action DOES (negatively) impact the working mom. Others have posted about this, but essentially, women leaving work to have kids puts a bad mark (if you will) on other women in the workforce. I have personally seen this where I work.

I feel that is where the debate lies -- yes, we're all free to make our own choices, but people don't have to like or support your choice if it negatively impacts them.

Posted by: ilc | June 19, 2006 11:08 AM

Gee Becky and Friends,

The board is all yours, but I don't see any of you on it. I hope you feel really good about your posts on Thursday.


Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 11:12 AM

I completed work on my MSA, while working full-time, and in my first trimester of my first pregnancy. I was awarded my degree in February, and left the workforce (for what turned out to be an 11-year hiatus) in June of that same year. I took a lot of flak for 'wasting' my degree, to which my response was that famous quote from Dr. Charles McIver: "When you educate a man, you educate an individual; when you educate a woman, you educate a family."

Not to mention that my advanced degree was an employment guarantee (of sorts) when I did return to the workforce.

Posted by: Deb Johnson | June 19, 2006 11:12 AM

>>It is a conundrum that women who work and raise daughters have daughters who are less prepared to go out in the world and get great jobs than those women who don't work. It may be great to be an example of being a working mom but those daughters are actually better off with mothers who supervise homework, take them to music, sports and scouts and who get them tutors when they need it.>>

Huh? Working moms don't supervise homework or take their kids to practice or, you know, mother them? News to me. And to my mother, who worked full time and rose high up the ladder, raised three succesful kids (including one with LD), served on the school board for several terms, sewed our Halloween costumes (even if we wanted store-bought), supported my dad when he started his own business...

I just don't buy that you have to stay home all day to be a "good mom." The moms at my office manage to leave during the day to see the school play, spend weekends at soccer games, go to CVS at 9 at night to get poster board and glitter (because that's when their kids tell them about the project due the next day), send cookies to the bake sale and bring in extras for their colleagues...

It's not easy. But it's not impossible, either. Having a dad who's equally involved makes a huge difference. Demonstrating that you work hard for your employer and developing your skills so that you can demand some flexibility at work helps a lot too. As a working mother, I am so tired of the implication that I'm short-changing my kid (or that I was short-changed myself). It's just not true, so it seems like a flimsy excuse to stay home to me.

Posted by: AlsoinArlington | June 19, 2006 11:14 AM

All the sarcastic and cutting remarks about how staying home is a choice of the elite and pointing to all those that have to work in menial jobs makes a very black and white story of the haves and have-nots. What nobody seems to address in these "mommy wars" is the have-a-littles. I worked as a bartender until I had kids and now I stay home because I can't afford TO work - my paycheck would not cover child care for my three kids or if it would cover we would just break even which makes no sense. Not everyone is either a corporate lawyer or a drive-thru attendant.

Posted by: April Mom | June 19, 2006 11:15 AM

"And no amount of bogus feelgood sloganing ("staying at home contributes to society") will change that."

When my mother stayed home, if she did nothing else, she raised five children who now pay social security for the people who collect it. So, I guess if you're measuring people only by their economic worth, she did something few other people have done. (And, oh by the way, those five people are also decent, hardworking, contributing members of society).

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 11:16 AM

I personally have no problem with a woman being a WOHM or a SAHM. I do, however, heartily dislike the way in which women are villified either way. "Oh, why did you bother to have children if you weren't going to take care of them?" or "You're letting down women's rights if you quit to stay home with your children." Give me a break. We all make choices. Now, I can't imagine not working for an extended period of time (i.e. years) to stay home with the kids. I currently have the perfect job for me. I like it, not love it. If I were to suddenly be independently wealthy, maybe I'd leave but in the meantime, there is the reality that somebody has to earn a paycheck. And I can't see myself ever wanting to feel totally dependent on someone else. I don't feel that daycare is inherently evil like some seem to want to say. We're currently expecting our third child and in all likelihood my husband is going to make the switch to SAHD. He really wants there to be a SAH parent and he wants it enough that he's willing for it to be him. We have very similar (decent although not excessively high) salaries currently, with me having a slight edge so there isn't the automatic "oh, her salary wouldn't pay for daycare anyway."

As for furthering the rights of women, or I should say, better family/work balance, maybe if more fathers were SAHDs and more mothers stayed in the workplace (and get real, not everyone, male or female, is going to be or wants to be a CEO) the perception of who is more or less likely to leave a job due to the kids will be less cliché. And if the family caretaker/family breadwinner identity is more ambiguous, maybe employers will have to care more about having family friendly policies.

As for the poster who said they had less (or was it no?) respect for SAHMs or SAHDs, well, get over yourself. Work isn't everything. And even if you are CEO, or President, it doesn't mean you're going to rate someone else's respect.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | June 19, 2006 11:17 AM

You all still just don't get it. Yeah, women's choices affect others, their kids, their families, and their coworkers. Each woman will have to choose what her priorities are and there is no right and wrong. Tough noogies if a SAHM's choice makes you uncomfortable at work if it's what SHE thinks is best for HER kids, she should do it. Tough noogies too if some SAHM feels put out because the working moms don't pitch in enough or if they resent WOHM asking favors etc. - the working mom is doing what she needs to do to support her family. OUr choices have impacts but nobody really knows what they are, so we do the best we can. Deal.

Posted by: chi | June 19, 2006 11:18 AM

"Dear Mass Prof.,
You're not alone. Most people like us are too busy working to blog. I happen to have the day off--I'm an academic like you. We are terrific examples to our children. My son had to write an essay in school one year about who was a "hero" in his life and he was the only kid in his class to write about his mother. He wrote "even though she is busy saving lives, she still has time to spend with me".

I'm not religious, nor am I part of the right. (I'm liberal to moderate). But in all seriousness, I can completely see why the Rush-Hannity-Dr. Laura crowd (three I wouldn't listen to if my life depended on it) could be so completely against anything they perceive as "liberal."

The condescending tone of the above post is really astounding. It reads like a parody.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 11:19 AM

Do people actually go to work for the prestige of their career label? Personal satisfaction? I don't believe it. When the lottery rounds 100 million dollars, the line to purchase tickets goes around the corner. It seems to me that the original feminist sold a well disguised "prestige package" to a generation of unsuspecting females and wrapped it in dollar bills. When the girls opened it up, they loved the idea of partying for years at college. Wow! Lots of fun! But when they entered the work force,they quickly found out that the surprise in the package actually led to a chain that was attached to a cubacle at the corporate prison. Oh yeah, evening and weekend passes on good behavior only. So they got pregnant, appointed their baby their new boss, and documented peapicking and bottom wiping as tasks in their new career. The new boss is really cool. It's easy to negotiate time for shopping, luncheons with the friends, and sunning themselves in the lounge chair all summer at the pool. What woman wants to go back to the penatentuary? Not anybody in the line waiting to purchase those lottery tickets for sure!

Posted by: Father of 4 | June 19, 2006 11:20 AM

"I can't in good conscience make the argument that raising a good kid or two is my fair return to society. I owe the world a lot more than that, and I fully intend on paying up."

Jackie O said that was her biggest accomplishment. And, I don't think she meant it as a political statement about SAHMs or WOHMs.

It's a lot more difficult than people believe. I'm guessing you don't yet have children. Especially a teenager.

I live in a very affluent area, and there are a lot of poor little rich kids here. Some of the moms work and some don't.


Posted by: Kate | June 19, 2006 11:22 AM

If other women choose to leave the workforce, how does it impact you? Because people will assume that you will leave too or be less involved?

Who is to blame here, then? The SAHM for leaving, or the person who is discriminating against you because of what someone else did? That's sexism, plain and simple. Let's place blame where it belongs.

Posted by: I don't get it | June 19, 2006 11:25 AM

I read this blog all the time, but have never felt really compelled to post until now....

I agree with several of the early posters that Ms. Hirshman's opinions shouldn't be blithely dismissed. After reading all of the links, I have to admit she has a point. After all of the attacks on working mothers, it's a little nice to have my choice to work validated.

But Ms. Hirshamn's views also make me feel uncomfortable. Why? Because I've debated staying home with my kids on more than one occasion because it's so darn hard to find a proper work/home balance. If I'm honest with myself, I contemplate staying home because it would be easier than fighting for accommodations from my firm or challenging how society views women. Yes, that's a heavy responsibility but it's one that we *should* all share. I think Ms. Hirshman is just trying to remind us of that, albeit using shock value to do so.

Posted by: Lawyer Momma | June 19, 2006 11:26 AM

To reiterate what some others have already posted, it is important to actually read Hirschman's pieces. I don't think she argued that government and work should not accommodate women so much as that without women staying in the workforce, there is no impetus for society to enact these changes.

I for one, find it very difficult to swallow the arguments of stay at home moms with high-flying degrees that they are making the most of their education. I have a small child, love him, and help educate him, but I didn't get two MAs to tour local museums with him and bake exclusively. I work in a field where the majority of my coworkers are men with stay at home wives. It is difficult to convince them that women can do the same work they do, have the same professional desires, and have familial desires too--particularly when they see women drop out of the workforce or subjugate their desires for everyone else in the family. After all, no one questions husbands and fathers when they take business trips, work a full day, then see the kids. Why should I as a working mom be held to a different standard? To me, staying at home as a mom will be a good thing when men value it so much as to do it themselves in equal numbers. Until then, it just encourages the devaluation of women professionally.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 11:26 AM

In don't agree with everything Hirschman says, but she raises good points. I know three women with $100,000 educations from private colleges who have never worked outside the home after graduating from college. When their girls are ready to go to college, will there be some reluctance to send them if, statistically, they won't economically recoup that investment? Will scholarship committees become more reluctant to invest in women if highly educated women are statistically likely to leave the workforce?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 11:28 AM

Debate over these issues is empowering to women. Silence is crippling. So whether we agree with each other or not -- this conversation is fantastic. Kudos to Linda Hirshman for getting it going. Bravo to all of you for being honest and opinionated. Can't wait to read more --

Posted by: Leslie | June 19, 2006 11:31 AM

Will scholarship committees become more reluctant to invest in women if highly educated women are statistically likely to leave the workforce?

Posted by: | June 19, 2006 11:28 AM

And admissions committees too.

I think is an important that gets overlooked. Graduate school and their admissions is often driven by 1)what applicant intends to accomplish with his/her degree and 2) potential for alumni donations.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 11:35 AM

"I hope that all of the SAHM know about their financial stituation and take care of themselves as well."

I've been out of the paid workforce for 10 years. I'm 43. I started saving for retirement right after grad school at 25. I have more in my 401(k) than any of my four siblings, all of whom have pretty much worked uninterrupted their entire adult lives (actually I have one sibling who was unemployed off and on, and she is not a mother). I was always frugal, own my own home, and plan a return to work someday where I'm going to make and invest a lot of money.

My son just started working and I've insisted he open a Roth IRA for himself (he's still in high school).

My daughter will do the same in a few years, too.

I think women and men both need to have a clearer vision of what their lives can be like when they're not tethered to the whims of employers.

Posted by: Kate | June 19, 2006 11:35 AM

I have to applaud Ms. Hirshhorn's article. A lot of people (on both sides of the issue) seem to be replying with a knee-jerk reaction to support whichever side they're on. Yes, she's rather incendiary, but she has some valid points, which I think most people could see if they could calm down long enough to actually listen to what she's saying. I find it distressing that almost all of the women I know who have degrees have quit jobs to raise children. Not 'took a sabbatical', not 'taking time off'. Quit. With no plans to go back. Is it any wonder that women still haven't achieved equality in the work-place? When more women than not 'opt out' of a career? Why *should* companies take women seriously, if there's a better-than-even chance that she'll up & quit when she stars having children? Why *should* companies do more about having flex-time, day-care, and the like? Nobody is saying that raising a child isn't an important job. The point is that in our society, it's the *mothers* who are facing this 'choice', the guilt, and judgment of society. The *mothers* are the bad guys if they choose to work. The *mothers* are the ones who stay home. It's not called the 'Daddy Wars'. Society is still so judgmental & unequal in it's treatment of parents in this respect. And it would be nice if everyone could get off their high horses, cut out the personal attacks and debate the merits of the argument.

Posted by: workinggirl | June 19, 2006 11:37 AM

Deb wrote: "Not to mention that my advanced degree was an employment guarantee (of sorts) when I did return to the workforce." Good for you, but it doesn't work that way for everyone. I know you understand that, and I know you are finessing a fine point - but there are women, with advanced degrees in a particular field, now making $12.19/hour because of a particular perception in the workplace about age and gender.

Also in Arlington wrote: "Demonstrating that you work hard for your employer and developing your skills so that you can demand some flexibility at work helps a lot too." Yes, but that flexibility does not exist everywhere --- at my call center, a mom with a disabled child discovered that the home health aide from a company with "Integrity" in the name had stolen checks from within their checkbook and cashed over $1,200 from their bank account in a matter of a few hours. She is devastated. Our company's response? "Oh gosh, so sad, so sorry. Can you work overtime tonight?"

April Mom wrote: "...now I stay home because I can't afford TO work - my paycheck would not cover child care for my three kids" Cheers to you, mom. Hard choices are made more trying when others are judging.

I don't get it wrote: "Who is to blame here, then? The SAHM for leaving, or the person who is discriminating against you because of what someone else did? That's sexism, plain and simple. Let's place blame where it belongs." HEAR, HEAR!! I agree 100%.

Again, my point is this is a workplace issue - not a parenting one.

Posted by: Columbia, MO | June 19, 2006 11:40 AM

Lilybeth - 'Just "accepting everyone's choices" is fine if those choices have no impact on others. But the choices we're talking about DO affect others, as discussed above.'

I feel inclined to point out that this is a problematic argument. As one of what may be relatively few black males who post, I can tell you I hear this argument all the time, but in a different context. It just doesn't hold water.

Does a highly-educated woman with a good job who leaves to be a SAHM do damage to the WOHMs who are trying to climb the corporate ladder? The answer is exactly the same as to the question of whether William Jefferson (D-LA) has limited my ability to be elected to House of Reps. The answer is NO. Those who would not elect me (or promote WOHMs in the workforce) would choose to use Jefferson to justify their own predjudices. Call them on it.

As a WOHM, your path might be easier if their were more examples of women who had kids as a junior staffer, but still rose to CEO. You did not choose the easy path. That should not stop you from walking it.

-Pp.

Posted by: Proud Papa | June 19, 2006 11:42 AM

(OK, I just couldn't stay away. :) But I am on lunch break now!)

Re: "That's sexism, plain and simple." Sexism that may well be fueled by real evidence. If you see so many educated women "opting out," why isn't it fairly reasonable to think others like them may do the same? You really expect people to think, "Oh, just because 90% of young, educated women in this job have quit after having children, there's NO reason to think THIS next one will either" ??

I mean, look at all the people that post on this blog about how delighted they are that they decided to quit and 'stay home.' Sometimes after reading this blog I'm amazed to go back to the real world and see women actually working.

2 true stories (brace yourself; they're depressing): at an office baby shower for a 34-ish coworker of mine - we're lawyers in the federal government - her assistant director heartily gave a toast in which he remembered how he and the director didn't want to hire her b/c "She's mid-30s; she'll just have kids soon and leave." Ha ha ha.
Then another coworker grew up with a girl whose family didn't want to pay for her to go to college, b/c "She'll just get married and have children anyway."

Basically, a lot of posters to this blog, and people that so vehemently oppose what Hirshman says, are fueling these very attitudes.

Posted by: Lilybeth | June 19, 2006 11:43 AM

IMO, feminism is a joke. I want to be a woman, and I want my husband to be a man. To me, it seems as though the feminist movement is a bunch of bitter women trying to be men. Isn't it easy to see that we are different??? (ie why certain roles come more naturally)

My mom worked and I can't wait to stay home with my kids--when they get here!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 11:44 AM

An observation - over my soon to be five decades, I've noticed something evolve about children ...I can pick out the ones who have a parent staying home full time.

They stick out because they appear to me to be better behaved, better mannered, more self-confident, and overall more successful in their endeavors.

It might be overly simplistic, but I'd say there's something to be said for children having that fixed role model available in the home...who can argue that always having a "go-to guy (or gal)" isn't useful in their personal lives at any age.

But as the majority of the posters here note and the facts of life elsewhere in this country state, that "parent at home" scenario is no longer a reality but a phenomena.

In fact, even suggesting that its a good thing is a sure-fired way to start a heated "not my job" discussion almost anywhere...and the concept that "children are humanity's future" never makes it onto center stage.

Posted by: Stephen | June 19, 2006 11:44 AM

"It is a conundrum that women who work and raise daughters have daughters who are less prepared to go out in the world and get great jobs than those women who don't work. It may be great to be an example of being a working mom but those daughters are actually better off with mothers who supervise homework, take them to music, sports and scouts and who get them tutors when they need it."

Ummmm, wow. Speaking as the daughter of a working mom, I was extremely well prepared to handle a life in the working world. No, I didn't have a mom to supervise homework, or take me to music, sports, or scouts. I had a mother who pointed me to all those things and then taught me to be independent enough to do them myself.

It's not just being an "example," like eating broccoli or using a seat belt. It's more seeing every day that my mom needed to work like she needed to breathe. So I grew up assuming that I would find a career that provided that same fulfullment, devoted a lot of time and energy to that search, and found a husband who respected and supported that part of me. That understanding became one of the foundations for how I structured my life.

I'm with Brian: we all model for our kids the values we want them to learn. Personally, I work in part because I want my daughter to see, like I did, how both working and being a mom help make me a whole person, as they both exercise different parts of my brain (and heart). I think SAHMs (and SAHDs) do the same thing: if you believe that the most important role you can have is to be at home full-time with your kids, then you find some way, any way, to make that happen, so your kids learn those values.

Might my daughter rebel? Of course (my mom sure cast her tradional '50s upbringing aside). In parenting in general, the more one-sided the approach (like working 80-hr weeks, or hovering over every homework assignment), the more likely the kids are to take the opposite approach (my mom: organic vegetarian; me: Captain Crunch). I just try to model the balace I want for my daughter, and hope that will serve her well down the road when she gets to choose her own priorities, values, and desires.

Posted by: Laura | June 19, 2006 11:44 AM

This one is going to set off a firestorm . The women on this blog attack each other like I've rarely seen . Each side is sooo superior , the working mothers are particularly venomous . This is why men are running things , WE STICK TOGETHER , yes we argue , fight, start wars etc. But nothing compares to the catfighting between working moms & stay at homes or women in general . If all my best friends stopped working tomorrow , I could care less , God bless 'em. i sure as hell would not be passing ANY judgement on any of them . If my male neighbor stayed at home , I don't walk around the neigborhood saying " What a terible waste of earning power , and i fear for his son's future because of that bad example he's setting " . We just don't care that much to slice each other up this way , stop with the " it's society " , it's seems apparent that this is a women thing ! Why the undying need to degrade someone else's life to feel good about yourself ? Trust me , men do not sit around bashing other men like this . Why can't you just be happy with your own choice and move on with life , damn . This is why you never hear of Daddy Wars.

Posted by: neutral | June 19, 2006 11:45 AM

Columbia in MD wrote: "flexibility does not exist everywhere --- at my call center, a mom with a disabled child discovered that the home health aide from a company with "Integrity" in the name had stolen checks from within their checkbook and cashed over $1,200 from their bank account in a matter of a few hours. She is devastated. Our company's response? "Oh gosh, so sad, so sorry. Can you work overtime tonight?"

Very good point. I should have acknowledged that not everyone can get flexibility in their jobs. Good social supports are also important.

Posted by: AlsoinArlington | June 19, 2006 11:49 AM

Neutral, EXACTLY!

We are just playing into the hands of businesses who don't want to make the kind of radical changes that might affect the bottom line. Better a group of men, whom they can make assumptions about and be right 90% of the time, than having to add women to the mix, and be right about their assumptions 60% of the time.

Posted by: Columbia MO | June 19, 2006 11:49 AM

You know, right now there are more women attending college than men. There are more women attending graduate school than men and every year the gains are getting greater. Maybe in 50 years it will be the Daddy Wars, who knows? Everyone needs to get an education whether they stay home or not. Our society and our country depends on this. Plus what if you want to work after being at home for awhile. It would be like an insurance policy. Today's undergraduate degree is more like a high school diploma. Even if you have an Associate's degree that will help employers see you can think and learn. And as far as family friendly benefits from corporations, well they are more like recruiting tools to get top quality people. The best companies will have the best benefits and they won't be the ones who are forced to offer them.

Posted by: Dlyn | June 19, 2006 11:49 AM

Who is to blame here, then? The SAHM for leaving, or the person who is discriminating against you because of what someone else did? That's sexism, plain and simple. Let's place blame where it belongs.

I blame those who know in their hearts that they will not be returning to work after their kids are born but never reveal this to their employer until they have collected every last penny of paid maternity leave. I know that it is not black and white for everyone but there are those who want to quit when the EPT says pregnant. Paid maternity leave is becoming a thing of the past due to this absolute sense of entitlement. This is where the poor attitudes towards women come into play. HR could have filled that slot in the interim rather than being bound by the law to wait for the mother to officially resign. The projects put on hold could have been easily handed off before the expectant mom left, etc. I have seen 3 women do this in my office over the past few years. It creates an atmoshere of resentment and discrimination. There are elements of sexism there but I lay the blame on selfishness that allows the sexism to flourish.

Posted by: mommy works | June 19, 2006 11:53 AM

I am truly surprised to see no mention of the Family and Medical Leave Act here. This is partly in response to M., who gives the usual blather about "government regulation" and "personal choices." Um, gee, M, if no one chose to have kids, we all might be in some trouble, no? (But we'd have really productive employees for a while!) The simple changes allowed by the FMLA have helped so many families, and I don't see employers suffering too much.

I am a long-time feminist raised by a Betty-Friedan-reading mother. She herself gave me some guilt for going back to work because she was glad to have stayed home with me for twelve years...but she sees the truth of what I have always believed: happy mommy = happy kids. Duh.

I also stayed home with my two babies for two years. I think the vitriol Linda has received arises out of a general anger many stay-at-homers feel. They envision peace, freedom from hurry-itis, road rage and office politics, Hallmark moments in sunshiny meadows... Instead, they get condescending husbands who wonder "what they do all day." They get lonely suburbs which offer very little real nature or beauty to anyone. And they get the immense pressure documented in "Perfect Madness" - the belief that they should be utterly devoted to their children at every moment, and that every little thing they say or do will affect their children for years to come. I treasure the times I had with my babies, but I know I am happier working. I don't have any problem with other women choosing to stay home, and I do know some who are very happy, but enough with the guilt already!

This spurious "either-or" junk has to stop. Men and women should be able to work to support their families and use their potential, AND have time to be present for their children. The world of work needs to give appropriate consideration to *everyone's* lives outside of work (including single people). What the heck ever happened to the notion of on-site daycare at large corporations, paid for in large part by employees? How hard is that?

Aagghh, it all just makes one tired.


Posted by: Jill in Denver | June 19, 2006 11:55 AM

Anonymous said: "It is a conundrum that women who work and raise daughters have daughters who are less prepared to go out in the world and get great jobs than those women who don't work."

A conundrum for you and your family, apparently, and I'm sorry to hear that. But as AlsoinArlington already pointed out, you're way off base in applying your own personal "conundrum" to others. My mother worked full-time, but she didn't raise some unprepared daughter. I went to great schools, including law school, and I now have a great job as a lawyer. And (lest you assume that my mother's working had an adverse effect on our relationship) my mother and I have a wonderful relationship and see each other every week.

Plus, if I take a look at all my female friends from law school, all of whom have good, fulfilling jobs, ALL of their moms worked at least part-time (most full-time).

So it's one thing to believe in a notion for your own family's purposes. But please don't assert it here as if it's a well-substantiated fact.

Posted by: Mo2 | June 19, 2006 11:55 AM

"If my male neighbor stayed at home , I don't walk around the neigborhood saying " What a terible waste of earning power , and i fear for his son's future because of that bad example he's setting " .

EXACTLY! Stop acting like every woman owes you a duty because of her sex. Pursue the goals you want and let others pursue theirs. Make the road by walking, and yes, all by yourself if you have to.

Posted by: Chi | June 19, 2006 11:57 AM

Jill in Denver. "The world of work needs to give appropriate consideration to *everyone's* lives outside of work (including single people). What the heck ever happened to the notion of on-site daycare at large corporations, paid for in large part by employees? How hard is that?

Aagghh, it all just makes one tired."

Hear, Hear

Posted by: Columbia, MO | June 19, 2006 11:57 AM

It would be interesting to know how women from other countries/cultures feel about this. My boyfriend's mother and grandmother both have college educations (one lives in France and one in Algeria) but didn't work outside the home. However, they both married educated men and raised sons and daughters who are highly educated and who work. My boyfriend's sister enjoys her work, but says she will stay home with her children when she has them and perhaps return to work later. This is the family and cultural belief/norm and she seems very happy with it. She is not going through all the guilt and anxiety the U.S. posters speak of.

A poster wrote about women with $100,000 educations who don't work: "When their girls are ready to go to college, will there be some reluctance to send them if, statistically, they won't economically recoup that investment?"

Is the only benefit an economic one? My bf's family certainly doesn't think that the money spent on educating women was wasted -- instead they believe that educated women make better wives, mothers, and contribute more socially. My father's family thought exactly the same and my aunts were offered college educations at the turn of the century, even though I'm sure my grandfather felt that most of his daughters wouldn't do paid work after they married (and only one of five did). Although my bf's grandmother didn't work outside the home, she did become an well-respected artist in her later years and also published a book.

I guess that my point is that educating women is always worthwhile, even if they chose not to take a traditional career path.

Posted by: Tanger | June 19, 2006 12:03 PM

This entire blog makes my heart sad. My fondest childhood memories are coming home from school to be greeted by my SAHM. As an adult I see the value of her choices to do so and as a working women I understand the value of working. My worth however is based on me as a person! I hope to be a SAHM within the next few years, and in my heart believe that I will be contributing to my community and the world by supporting a new being grow. That is not to say that a "working" mom couldn't do the same. But this is about choices. I have never wanted to be a CEO or Executive..that is not who I am. Putting people into categories is so damaging.

Posted by: HH | June 19, 2006 12:05 PM

So good it had to be said again, from Kate:

"I think women and men both need to have a clearer vision of what their lives can be like when they're not tethered to the whims of employers."

It's one thing to leave work with a loaded 401(k), an almost paid mortgage, and a well-stocked college fund, but it's another to escape the work force when it isn't fulfilling simply because you can depend on someone else to pay the bills. Being a SAHM is seen as a conventionally acceptable choice, and one that seemingly requires no planning and no justification. But it won't be the rest of your life no matter how much you wish it were otherwise. What happens when your kids push you away at the age of 13? (yep, it happens) Economic productivity isn't simply being a wage slave -- the SAHMs I know, many of them, anyway, not only don't work, they don't insist, for instance, that their IRA be funded because that would be a burden on their family finances. I am not denigrating the value of spending time with your children, and I want women and men to have choices, but I can't help but see that women and men alike expect women's choices to be, essentially, sacrificial whenever children are involved, and are often made even though they place women in a very deep hole financially and professionally.

And Deb, if your MSA guaranteed you a job after an 11 year hiatus from the job market you are either in an incredibly underserved profession or you are incredibly lucky. I can't tell you how many women I know with advanced degrees who find it extremely difficult to find anything approaching a career track job after such a long exodus. Many change careers -- it's often easier to go entry level in a different area.

Posted by: Barbara | June 19, 2006 12:05 PM

Note to my post above: My aunts were offered college educations at the turn of the past century, in the early 1900s, when most women didn't have that option.

Posted by: Tanger | June 19, 2006 12:06 PM

I confess that I haven't read LH's original article, but I did read her outlook piece. And once again, I am left wondering why some people feel it is necessary to, in the name of supporting one lifestyle choice, excoriate another. It's not a zero-sum game, and we should stop treating it as such.

That said, I must admit that LH has some valid points. If you'd have asked me four years ago whether I'd ever consider being a stay-at-home-mom, I would have laughed. But that was before I spent the ensuing years working 13 hours a day, and commuting for another 2.5. Ultimately, I wanted a child, and the job I had was utterly incompatible with raising a kid as I wanted to. Yet, in order to be "successful," I would have had to work even harder to make partner and to keep moving up the ladder. So I left.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't worry about whether I'm doing the right thing, or that I never think that I took the coward's way out by quitting rather than trying to make my workplace more hospitable to parents. But, in the end, I figured that I'll only be the mother of very small children for a few short years, while I have the rest of my life to work on my career. Looked at in that way, I don't see my choice as a problem, either for me or for society as a whole.

Posted by: NewSAHM | June 19, 2006 12:08 PM

"Being a SAHM is seen as a conventionally acceptable choice, and one that seemingly requires no planning and no justification."

Barbara, I don't see a lot of mothers just suddenly deciding to stay at home. Most seem to spend a lot of time discussing it with their husbands and "working the numbers" to see how it will affect them financially. They do a lot of planning and they revise their plans as their children get older.

So many people on this chat seem to perceive SAHMs as less intelligent than moms who choose to work. How did that happen?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 12:10 PM

I know a lot of women who left the work force because, essentially, they gave up. They aren't less intelligent. I don't believe this is about intelligence at all. Many intelligent people feel stymied by work because they have an overly narrow view of success (typified by many of the comments posted here). I agree that it's bad to set it up as a dichotomy between those who SAHM and those who WOHM -- the categories can be and are often fluid for economic as well as personal reasons. But if you leave without a plan for getting back in you will fall behind economically. Maybe that's not the end of the world but I don't like the level of denial I see over this issue.

Posted by: Barbara | June 19, 2006 12:15 PM

Neutral, I so agree with you. When my friends stay home with their kids, I say "yay!". When they become executive directors of their organization, I say "yay! And when they choose not to have children, I say "yay!" Everyone has a choice and for anyone to declare that anyone else's life path is wrong or invalid is so ridiculous. This "mommy wars" stuff does a lot to sell books and newspapers and dog food. I'm not so sure how much it's really doing to improve all of our lives, at work and at home.

Posted by: Wish women would stop fighting each other | June 19, 2006 12:16 PM

"Look at the previous threads on this blog...the SAHMs who resent being asked to watch working moms' kids on snow days,"

Just curious. I've been taken advantage of more than once in this way. Have you ever offered to reciprocate, or even pay the SAHM for babysitting services?

Even as a SAHM, I once had jury duty and needed a friend to babysit. It was all day, 8 - 5, so I offered to pay her and she accepted. I paid her the going rate, which back then was probably $7 per hour.

I figure, snow days are going to happen, and if you work, you should factor them in. When I worked, my husband and I took turns staying home. We have no family nearby and no one else to rely upon.

It's the cost of working, just as your commuting costs, drycleaning, etc. are.

Posted by: Kate | June 19, 2006 12:16 PM

"If my male neighbor stayed at home , I don't walk around the neigborhood saying " What a terible waste of earning power , and i fear for his son's future because of that bad example he's setting ."

Actually, you probably would, IF he wasn't doing anything constructive, and if your neighbor were not providing for his family when he was able to. Men are under incredible pressure to maintain their status as breadwinners.

My former brother-in-law felt this pressure enormously, so much so that he faked having a job throughout his marriage. He had jobs here and there, but his lie was that he was working out of a home office in sales. He borrowed on credit cards to keep the lie going.

My sister-in-law worked (and does even after the divorce), so she was able to maintain some semblance of a normal family life.

She suspected he wasn't always working, but she didn't look closely enough (probably didn't want to she said later) at the facts.

My point is, few men feel open to staying home without a paid job. Yes, there are sah dads, but they still are rare.

So, if great numbers of men decided in the next few years to drop out, there would indeed be "Daddy Wars."

Posted by: Kate | June 19, 2006 12:23 PM

Barbara,

I agree with you that I've seen a lot of women who became SAHM moms give up because it was hard work asking their employers to make accommodations or find an employer who would be flexible. As a new mom, I face a lot of the same challenges. My bosses didn't want to transfer me to the overseas assignment I (and my husband) wanted because they assumed I'd follow my husband's carrer. I had to lobby very hard for two years to get it. I have to pump in a closet because my cubilce and office restrooms can't be used. All of my bosses have SAHWs and made snide comments about me using daycare. It would be so easy to walk away to stop dealing with the bull***. Instead, I'm applying for management so that I can argue for the changes that my current (male) managers don't see a need for. I sympathize with the women who despise working 80+ hour weeks to make partner, feel belittled, and want to pack in the towel--but doing so ensures that your daughters' live will probably entail much of the same. I'd like to at least try to make a change.

Posted by: Norfolk | June 19, 2006 12:23 PM

To neutral and Columbia:

You're completely wrong. Men who choose to stay at home and raise their kids are subject to all kinds of sanctions, from the scorn of their peers to the impossibility of ever reentering the workforce. It's far harder for a man to get an employer to take him seriously if he spends five or ten years raising the kids and then tries to reenter a professional career. One of LH's points was that men are raised to believe that they have to have jobs/careers in order to have any worth--and we (men) treat each other as such. This is one of the pressures on women, then--since women are also aware of these values, a woman who asks her husband to leave his job to take care of the kids while she continues to work is essentially devaluing her own status in society. She will have to hear the jokes, incredulous questions, and scornful remarks about her husband. Not to mention that since women earn less than men in our society, it is economically more difficult for the male partner to be the one to quit work--it means a lower standard of living for the whole family.

Posted by: Tom | June 19, 2006 12:24 PM

Wow - it's amazing. I totally agree with those who think: hey, why are *we* fighting when it's the 'world' that is crazy? If companies allowed people to work part time or have a normal work schedule, many more women would return to work. I know plenty of SAHM's who would LOVE to work a set number of hours a week, but can't find those jobs - which they are COMPLETELY qualified for. One consulting co. (I believe, Deloitte) found that so many of their women employees were leaving the work force - after many years there, with tons of useful experience, rather than going back to such a crazy schedule - and they changed their corp. culture to accomodate. That's what co's should do - but not regulated by anybody but themselves. They are losing valuable resources, but they think it doesn't matter. They are wrong, but they don't really care.
I would love to work part time (working FT after almost four years off for kids), but that doesn't pay enough, so I work FT - found the best person for the job of looking after my baby (older one in school FT). Actually, the parents of other kids at my older boy's school look at me askew when I say my little one is home with the nanny - so even WOHparents have issues with each other. Personally, I wanted my baby to not be in day care - that was my choice, and I never told anyone they made the wrong choice, but they act as if I did.
In any event, why are we yelling at each other. Everyone has to figure out how they fit into our society, and what works for them. Personally, the people who are condescending (if you're not working, you're not contributing) *shouldn't* be home with their kids - the less time their kids spend with them the better!

Posted by: AtlMom | June 19, 2006 12:25 PM

I've been blessed with a 2-yo daughter, a flexible govt job as an attorney, and a loving and very involved husband. I can choose to work because I have a great support network of nanny and extended family, and I recognize that it'd be much more daunting if we didn't have these perks. I'm thankful for my grad school education and our well-paying jobs, and I try my darned-est not to be judgmental of others who "mother" differently than me. That being said, life is chaotic and I struggle with the feeling of doing everything mediocre, rather than 100%.

The SAHMs I know, and some of whom I envy, also love their lives but are increasingly facing the question of whether/how/when to re-enter the workplace. Some never had highly rewarding (professionally, monetarily, whatever) jobs that made the decision to leave the workplace in the first instance very easy. It's not easy for a 40+ year old woman to "fit in" as a barrista at Starbucks or a clerk at the grocery store. Seeing them struggle with what to do when their kids move on, motivates me to appreciate the chaos of my working-mom life and stick with it.

Posted by: arl mommy | June 19, 2006 12:26 PM

Our society may pay lip service to mothers and families, but that is all it is. What parents do for their children is totally taken for granted. There is no monetary value to caring for children so there really is no value attached to it by our society. We also see this reflected in teachers' salaries and salries paid to daycare providers and others who care for children. If this were not true, businesses and government policy would accomodate the role of a parent and not try to undermine it. My son has an autisic son who required a great deal attention and care when he was first diagnosed. My son and daughter-in-law both had to make work related sacrifices for their son. My son was layed off as a result because he could not put in all of those extra hours that were demanded by the workplace. 40 hours was not good enough for them. We always talk about "family values", but our society does not really value families. We just say we do.
I totally disagree with Steiner's comments about Hirshman. That was not the way I interpreted her article or point of view. I think that Steiner should go back and read it again. This whole thing is not just about workiing mothers and or stay at home mothers. It is about parents and how much we as a society really value the role of parenting.

Posted by: Ellen | June 19, 2006 12:26 PM

Stephen: "An observation - over my soon to be five decades, I've noticed something evolve about children ...I can pick out the ones who have a parent staying home full time.

They stick out because they appear to me to be better behaved, better mannered, more self-confident, and overall more successful in their endeavors."

Really? Because I think that has little to do with it. I've known SAHMs whose children are obnoxious and annoying in public and they do little to change that behavior because (and I'm not kidding, someone told me this once), they can "tune it out."

Heck, I was raised by two working parents and my sister and I were known for being polite and easy to manage. We also were excellent students.

I think the general problem with this argument is that Hirshman is making generalizations and everyone is personalizing it. Which, considering the narcissistic nature of our society, is spot on.

Posted by: Tom | June 19, 2006 12:26 PM

My grandmother didn't stay home with the kids because my grandfather passed away when mom was about 10 (and her sister was 8). The choice she had was to go on welfare (they came to her house, from the feds, to tell her how to do that when her husband died). She told them to get out of her house, she was going to work because 1) she would have more money for her kids and 2) what example would it show her kids for her to just take a check for not working?
*My* mom 'stayed home' with the kids - i.e., had 'no job' outside the home. BUT from first grade on, she wasn't home when I was home from school - my sisters were tasked with watching me as she was off doing her own thing, having her own life. No one ever looked over my homework - my whole life - but I went to college and grad school. Hmm, wonder how that happened.
My mom raised three daughters to *not* stay home with the kids - she ensured that we could go to college and have careers. She was an AMAZING cook, but I don't remember her once teaching me that - she didn't think it was important for us to know how to take care of the house and the kids. She wanted us to have more choices in our lives than she had with hers. Two of us are working moms, one is a SAHM. I certainly don't judge my sisters for what they do, nor do I judge anyone else.

Posted by: AtlMom | June 19, 2006 12:29 PM

I cannot believe this:

"They stick out because they appear to me to be better behaved, better mannered, more self-confident, and overall more successful in their endeavors."

NO! I see it with my child, with his friends, I saw it when I was single -- children who experience day-care are more indepentant, more problem-solving, get along better with others, etc. etc. They are able to seperate from Mommy's apron strings.

I do all the "mothering" of any SAHM -- I do more than some pathetic SAHMs I know who are not on committees and who are not learning woodworking and who are simply pathetic.

In fact, this whole issue is so complex. But this discussion has been great -- and I feel so much better today about working, and having to work on so many levels, than I did before.

Posted by: another Vienna person | June 19, 2006 12:31 PM

Tom -- I guess Iwasn't clear. I know what you are saying and agree -- Men DO suffer. I never addressed that issue, because I wanted to keep focused on the fact that the workplace today is not employee friendly -- regardless of gender, age, or family situation. I've been trying to address this thread from the point of view that we get people (women mostly) fighting against each other so that keeps their focus in the wrong place.

I too had a husband who did not keep pace in his profession, quit numerous jobs over some issue or another, and each time struggled to get back into his field. The last 5 years of his life, he worked as a temp. There were those in his field who had assumed he died years before he actually did because while he was quite well known in his field during his heyday, the last years of his life he was virtually "gone."

I'm sorry if I was misunderstood.

Posted by: Columbia MO | June 19, 2006 12:31 PM

CAH
BBBBbbblah
Your blog is limited, entitled and boring,
Your work "colleagues" probably think the same thing. Your comments stigmatize and segregate just like a SAH blog for her life choice does.
BBB blah blah to you
This entire subject should be called a mindless BOG instead of an educated Blog.
Some girls are lucky, some are not, some made good financial decisions from the education they pursued to the job they accepted to the men they marry
Some did not- That's life girls stop justifying your cause, get back to your jobs, your housework, nursing your child, caring for an elderly parent, picking a teen up from rehab, driving your cleaning lady to her stop. Sooner or later you will do it all. Praise each other not penalize.

Posted by: thisway | June 19, 2006 12:32 PM

"Who is to blame here, then? The SAHM for leaving, or the person who is discriminating against you because of what someone else did? That's sexism, plain and simple. Let's place blame where it belongs."

I couldn't agree more. When I left grad school for personal reasons, I was granted a one year leave of absence. After that year, I became pregnant and asked for a second year of leave. I was told I had to re-apply if I wanted to return. I let it drop, since I had earned my M.S. degree and had a good full-time job, too.

I have since found out that my alma mater grants TWO years' leaves of absence for male undergraduates who become Mormon missionaries. Surprisingly, my husband's undergrad alma mater, a US service academy also allows this two year break in service!

I was shocked. This is an example of how institutionalized discrimination is...these are practically secret policies that offer special exceptions to MEN only.

(Not to pick on a specific religion, just using an example here folks).

Similarly, when I worked in the corporate world, if a man had a health problem, his bosses and the company bent over backwards to offer him everything he needed to recover from that stroke or heart attack.
Which was compassionate, yes, but unfair when compared to how women with pregnancy or childcare issues were treated.

I've seen men kept on the payroll at 100 percent (not disability) when they couldn't even show up to work. The women were not similarly treated.

It's so ingrained that it's not even questioned.


Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 12:34 PM

I love the comment about how working mothers want "family accomodating businesses". Wake up, it's not the businesses that will be accomodating - it's workers like me - 42, divorced, no children. Have any of you given a second of thought to who picks up the slack when you are taking the kids to the doctor/going to a school play/etc etc etc? I know I will get slammed for this, but believe me it is many more hours than you think it is.

Posted by: missi | June 19, 2006 12:35 PM

"In fact, I actually lose respect for women (or men if they chose to as well) who stay at home with the kids and dont't work at all."

Well, if you have children, please make sure you don't sign them up for scouting or sports where the sahms are volunteers. Don't get involved with someone you don't respect, after all.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 12:36 PM

Regarding the workers who have to make up for the working mothers who take off I know how you feel sometimes and I have kids of my own because I think some people just take advantage of being a parent or at least it seems that way. I once worked with a grandmother who would take off to care for her sick grandson so her daughter could go to work. The kicker is she had a son-in-law who NEVER seemed to be able to help out. I think it was more of "oh, look I can take a day off to spend with my grandchild." And not to mention how she spoiled her own children with some designer what-ever-they-wanted-item on ebay.

Posted by: Dlyn | June 19, 2006 12:44 PM

"Wake up, it's not the businesses that will be accomodating - it's workers like me - 42, divorced, no children. Have any of you given a second of thought to who picks up the slack when you are taking the kids to the doctor/going to a school play/etc etc etc? I know I will get slammed for this, but believe me it is many more hours than you think it is."

These comments mystify me. In all of my jobs, my co-workers did not have to pick up the slack for me when I went to a dental appointment or missed two days of work for illness. Same for my husband. Our work was waiting for us when we returned.

What kind of work do people do where their co-workers can do it FOR them if they're out? I'm missing something. I've never had that sort of position.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 12:47 PM

tom & kate , 1st, Kate , how do you know what I'd probably do ? i just stated that i would not , and a recurring them of this blog shows itself again. That theme is , " if i disagree with what someone say's , I'll disregard and reieterate my own belief . " Your ex brother in law is your ex brother in law , not a representation of all men. 2nd , is it your position that raising children is not constructive? Tom , What exact sanctions are currently in place for SAH Dads , Jail time ? Fines ? Perhaps a diversion program ? Also if you are comfortable with yourself , it will not matter what anyone thinks of you , because your children are what is most important , not what the other kids in the cafeteria think of you. You may notice that I have no interest in whether a man or woman works or stays at home , it is their families decision , none of my business . Why do others care so much what my wife and I do? do what you do , take what anyone thinks with a grain of salt , because there is no perfect being who has it all figured out and will decide for the rest of us. Oh and the whole women can't advance because other women leave work to raise kids is not an argument , it's a cop out . If your not getting ahead at work look in the mirror , not at a women who left the office 2 years ago.

Posted by: neutral | June 19, 2006 12:48 PM

Does no one notice that CEOs, if they are male, are rarely single (and usually have kids), while CEOs that are female, typically are unmarried, and rarely have children?
It's the world we live in...

Posted by: atlmom | June 19, 2006 12:49 PM

Wow! Amazing how these salvos in the ridiculously named mommy wars boil down to folks justifying their (perhaps difficult) life choices at the expense of others who made other choices.

At what point do we step back and ask, "what's in the best interest of the child?" and let the answer to that dictate how people choose? People may choose differently - because they can either afford to or because their value system bests the economic arguments for the alternative choice - but they ought to be choosing based on what is right for the kid(s) since they are in essence taking responsibility for children when they decide to have them. I know stay at home moms whose kids would be better off if mom worked and working moms whose kids would be better off if their moms (and dads for that matter)didn't think that parenthood only means earning the income that is used to pay for someone else to rear their children (daycare, nannies, gameboys, afterschool sports.)

Bottom line - people who don't want to commit to being full time parents shouldn't have kids. And that would be an honorable choice. People who do want to be full time parents should do whatever it takes to do the right thing for their kids. And if the kids are doing alright developmentally, then the parents made the right choice. If not, adjustments have to be made. Paying a therapist to solve ones problems is not a solution.

Wow. Too bad parenting has to be one of the battlefields of the larger culture wars between progressives and traditionalists. I feel for the kids who have deal with the parenting of either type.

Posted by: RB | June 19, 2006 12:49 PM

Missi -- you are correct. Those of us who don't have children living at home suffer the same fate. I try hard, though, not to resent the honest illness or problem encountered. I rather place the blame on non-employee friendly employment practices.

After many years in my field, I now work in a call center for a health care agency. Our schedulers are nurses who have had extensive nursing experience. They are treated like they are small cogs in a wheel. We are chronically understaffed and our supervisor takes on more and more tasks - she can't say no to upper management who thinks if the phones aren't ringing 8 hours a day, we must be sitting on our duffs eating bon-bons at our desks.

It is a poor way to manage people. It is a deplorable work environment. The turn-over is extremely high because these well qualified nurses CAN work elsewhere. As an over qualified office management assistant, I can too, as soon as my probation is up. The fault is the average workplace is focused on the bottom line and not interested in what makes a company truly great.

Posted by: Columbia MO | June 19, 2006 12:51 PM

JJ,
I would venture to say then that your mother was a "working" mother and she just wasn't paid. What a crock it is to say women can "volunteer" and make their marks on the world. And I am not a "highly paid executive"--though I am a fairly highly paid professional and highly educated. I volunteer too and have receieved numerous awards, but "volunteers" don't run the world, make policy, etc. I'm sure your mom was just terrific, but she wasn't a SAHM because she worked for free outside the home.

Posted by: working mother | June 19, 2006 12:51 PM

"What kind of work do people do where their co-workers can do it FOR them if they're out? I'm missing something. I've never had that sort of position."

Try working in a small non-profit company where everyone is responsible for answering the phones as well as doing their own work and being cross-trained to do a job so that area can be covered on vacations and sick days. We usually call it teamwork and what generally happens is the phones get busier when the certain members of the team are out and your own work gets put aside. I don't work there anymore which is good BUT I do miss the team.

Posted by: Dlyn | June 19, 2006 12:54 PM

Hey - if you're single and childless and picking up all the slack in the office when those you work with are out (how often is it, really, in any event?). Then maybe you're getting better raises, bigger bonuses, whatever. And there is nothing wrong with that. Why do you think you're not being rewarded for the work? If you don't want to do it, don't do it - don't blame others, though. On second thought, maybe you're NOT being rewarded, because your attitude stinks.

Posted by: atlmom | June 19, 2006 12:54 PM

Well, I stay at home with my two kids, a first-grader, and a 3-year old. I also have a social sciences PhD, have published a book and several articles, and have taught classes at a couple of local universities during my children's lives (and during my pregnancies). Why don't I work full-time? Because a full-time job wouldn't cover child-care expenses. Because I would have to have a full-time job before I could even look for child care, and I can't look for a full-time job without childcare. I live, with my family, in a part of the country where $50,000 a year will never ever ever buy a house. Where childcare (full-time) is about 1,100 a month, per child. Am I really choosing to stay at home, or has my choice been made for me? I feel that I'm trying to make things work with the circumstances I face. I think I'd enjoy working out of the house, but haven't managed to achieve that yet. Maybe once both kids are in school full time? I think all people have choices made for them, to some extent, because we cannot control everything around us. Especially in the United States, where there is less of a socio-economic net for citizens in general, we are so very much on our own. The radical individualism of the US does not serve us well in the quest for balanced lives.

Posted by: SAHfornow | June 19, 2006 12:55 PM

atlmom - you're joking, right??? The minute someone who picks up the slack gets a raise, promotion, bonus, etc., the screeching of "we're being discriminated against" begins with the mothers. And as I have said, it is always much more than the mothers think it is.
My attitude stinks? Wow, you determined that by one posting!!! Can I borrow your crystal ball? Sounds like I hit a sore spot...

Posted by: missi | June 19, 2006 1:00 PM

"In all of my jobs, my co-workers did not have to pick up the slack for me when I went to a dental appointment or missed two days of work for illness. Same for my husband. Our work was waiting for us when we returned."

Poster, then you and your huband have one type of job while I have another.

I'm much like Missi. I have done my share of picking up after co-workers who are out of the office due to sick children and other family related emergencies. I'm an editor in an office of other editors. We live by deadlines. Thus, when one editor is out unexpectedly, the work falls onto others because it can't just "wait" for that worker to return.

When 4 of 7 people in the office are parents (one is a father) of young children and they are running out to pick up kids or take them to medical appointments, and allowed unscheduled last-minute "work at home" days, the little emergencies and extra work in the OFFICE falls to those of us who are actually there. This includes the admin assistants who have to stop whatever they are doing to support the people who are out of the office and need this or that faxed or FedEx'd or printed out and handed to someone else. I would not mind this at all if I was offered the same deal, but as a single with no kids, no one can imagine that I also have family issues that I need time off for, and I've been questioned about medical leave when it was I personally who needed it. Sure, it's a workplace issue and those of us who don't like it should take it up with HR or whatever. But since the parents are managers and HR will stick up for it as "workplace flexibility" then there's no hope.

Posted by: C. in Landover | June 19, 2006 1:04 PM

There are a lot of interesting topics raised, and it probably doesn't hurt to raise them. But one thing that struck me was Hirschman's almost naive understanding of what goes on in today's corporate workplace.

The idea that women in power are mentoring women coming up is amusing. Not that individual women don't mentor individual women (as just individuals -- male or female -- do for other individuals) but there have been many studies showing this is simply not the case across the board, especially along gender lines.

Secondly, perhaps these high powered, highly credentialed women have reached their plateau. It's not a pleasant idea -- but all the degrees and potential in the world can't be absorbed into the law firms, accounting firms, PR etc. There is a winnowing out of the herd -- and often this winnowing occurrs around the same time a woman may be making decisions about having children. (Say, five to ten years upon entering the workforce.) Men go through a similiar process -- and many of those highly credentialed former wunderboys go one to take professions less challenging. Are they "letting men down?"

Finally, the reality is that most of us aren't highly credentialed, with our wedding pictures in the NYT. But I'm betting most of us believe we have fulfilled lives, and are hoping to leave the world a little better than we found it. Sometimes that will include a magnificant career, othertimes, a family, but it's not the means, it's the end.

Posted by: geml | June 19, 2006 1:07 PM

I think that Linda Hirshman's accounting of "home economics" is silly. She says that "If a woman making $50,000 per year whose husband makes $100,000 decides to have a baby, and the cost of a full-time nanny is $30,000, the couple reason that, after paying 40 percent in taxes, she makes $30,000, just enough to pay the nanny. So she might as well stay home. This totally ignores that both adults are in the enterprise together and the demonstrable future loss of income, power, and security for the woman who quits. Instead, calculate that all parents make a total of $150,000 and take home $90,000. After paying a full-time nanny, they have $60,000 left to live on."

Basically, she's saying that work is *so* important that you should be paying to work. Even if childcare is more expensive than your salary... even though her case shows that the costs would be the same, it doesn't include the dress clothes, commuting expenses, etc. that working involves. Why should you pay to work? I guess her answer to it is don't have children (or perhaps only one).

By the way, how dare she retire when she could be working her way towards being the president of a University?

Posted by: Ms L | June 19, 2006 1:07 PM

June 19
Wow sounds like you have a major chip to carry on those -"picking the slack up from everyone else shoulders"
Get over it- if you enjoy your choice and your job why are you posting anything on this Blog- its not that we dont want to hear your thoughts its just we dont want to hear your thoughts !

Posted by: JYC | June 19, 2006 1:07 PM

SNIP: "I volunteer too and have receieved numerous awards, but "volunteers" don't run the world, make policy, etc."

So let me get this right, having an fleeting impact on many peoples' lives is more important than having a really significant and positive impact on the life of the person who will be your biological successor?

You will create the world you deserve.....

Posted by: RB | June 19, 2006 1:07 PM

One think I have found this blog useful for has reappeared again today. Because of comments by folks like Missi & C. in Landover, I try very, very hard to make sure no one in my office has to pick up any slack for me when I miss work/leave early, etc. for kid-related events. Take heart folks - sometimes we don't realize or remember that other people may be helping us out, but with a gentle reminder, we'll try to avoid it in the future!

Posted by: Just a thought | June 19, 2006 1:08 PM

Niceday, you wrote "Her basic argument seems to be that any dimwit could say at home and raise kids."

Hmmm... It takes love and care to raise a healthy child. No advanced degree required. Women of all levels of intelligence and education levels are birthing children all over the world every day. Many of them will do just fine.

Posted by: Tomato | June 19, 2006 1:09 PM

Just a thought - thank you very much for posting that note. It's not that I want a bonus, more money, whatever...it is just that an occasional "thank you" would be nice. Instead it is the "well, it's not like you have a reason to go home" attitude that burns me.
And JYC, "don't" is a contraction....please remember the apostrophe....

Posted by: missi | June 19, 2006 1:11 PM

I couldn't agree more that educating women is worthwhile, whether they choose to work full-time, be SAHM, volunteer, etc. But, college is expensive. Fifty years ago, it was widely believed that women didn't "need" educations because they were going to be supported by their husbands. I sincerely hope we don't return to that mentality. But I do worry that parents will eventually question the expense of sending girls to college, if they believe that women won't "use" their educations. I hope it won't come to that, and I am encouraged by the strong support by people on this board for the value of educating women no matter what their choices are.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 1:14 PM

Several of you argue that stay at home moms aren't doing any harm. I don't know about harm, but non-working spouses--whether or not they are parents--are heavily subsidized by federal and state taxpayers. Their working spouses are allowed to include them as a dependent on tax returns. If they get divorced, we pay for the costs of garnishing their spouse's wages or argue about child support. The big whammo, though, is Social Security, which pays married couples more, even if only one person worked.

So don't kid yourself. People who marry and don't work--a group that is overwhelmingly female parents--make everyone pay for their choice.

Posted by: Cal | June 19, 2006 1:15 PM

Jill in Denver, why is it "blather" to think that everyone should make their own decisions and take responsibility for their own decisions? A parent can decide to work or stay at home or some combination of the two. A business can choose to be family friendly or choose not to be, and will pay the price for their decision either way. Why does the government need to get in and regulate even more on this topic? We've got the FMLA and we've got a dozen other federal and state regulations that touch on this topic. Eventually it has to come down to individual choice. Lots of people don't like being responsible for their own actions, I know that, but that doesn't change the fact that they are.

As for the "no one having kids", that's a fine bit of over-blown rhetoric, but no one is advocating not having any kids, ever. Like I said, have kids or not, but be prepared for the consequences of your decision.

The problem with this debate is that everyone is judging the question based on their experiences as a child and a parent/non-parent. Most everyone is throwing out personal annecdotes as if they were persuasive evidence of a point. No one is objective about their own experiences, particularly not when kids are concerned. Remember the survey that showed that 80% of parents said that their child(ren) are of above average intelligence? People are taking their personal experiences and beliefs and applying them to a societal question, which is a huge mistake and leads to all the nastiness going on here.

Posted by: M. | June 19, 2006 1:16 PM

I'm just going to pick this one little nit here...
*But how do you know at 18 or 22 whether you want to work, stay home, or combine the two?*

I'd say then that the LAST thing a person should be deciding is if they want to create a child that they will be responsible for turning into a responsible adult.

Sheesh, we're so encouraging of people to pro-create, without even THINKING that perhaps if they can't really answer VERY BASIC SERIOUS questions about their OWN futures, that perhaps they shouldn't be embarking on a journey that has so many more serious questions about someone ELSE's future (and who can't even consent to being born to someone so selfish and clueless)?

Posted by: Liz | June 19, 2006 1:16 PM

Atl mom, it's not acceptable in the workplace to say "I deserve a bigger raise because so and so and so and so are out a lot to take care of their kids and pick up the slack." That immediately sets you up as someone with a "bad attitude" and your manager is told that you're unhappy in your job and you get zip.

I don't have a bad attitude -- the bad attitude that I see, in my specific situation, is that most of these "working" parents, all of whom now have 2 or more kids, use every chance they can to "work at home" where they can be with their kids or simply put the kids in daycare and use the time they are supposed to be working to clean house or do errands.

Posted by: No kids | June 19, 2006 1:16 PM

Missi - Bonuses would be great, too bad so many companies don't work like that! :) At least at one company, I'm going to try and dole out a few more thank-yous. It's interesting, sometimes this blog is so depressing (and incredibly addictive), but there are a few lessons and new ways of thinking I've definetely learned from it. Thanking my coworkers more often is one, and resolving never to ask a SAHM to watch a kid on short notice without some sort of compensation/thanks. I can understand why people get miffed about things like this, but I had honestly never thought about it before reading many of these posts. There's hope for us all yet!

Posted by: Just a thought | June 19, 2006 1:18 PM

So, you want to have children, come back to work, but have the workplace revolve around your children's soccer games and stomach virus. The parents (not just moms) I work with are constantly leaving early because they have to do something or other with the children. Forget working 60 hours a week, they don't even work 40 hours a week. And those of us without children have to finish the work that they left undone. I'm tired of staying late so someone else can go play with her kids.

Recently, I was on a project with a Monday deadline. So we all had to come in on Saturday. The dad in the group stood up at 5:30 and said, "I have to leave. I have kids in my life." The rest of us were there until 10:00 pm. We probably could have been done by 8:30 if he hadn't left. But none of us could complain, because he has children.

If you're going to work, then do the job. Don't expect to get a full-time salary for part-time work, while the rest us work long hours to finish your work.

You're always harping about "family-friendly" policies. Why do you think parents alone should get to leave early, work from home, not work weekends?

Posted by: Tired and outraged | June 19, 2006 1:19 PM

"The ones with the biggest careers have the highest number of failed marriages and unhappy and unfulfilled children. This is not my fault."

To the person who didn't sign her name--what a crock! You are making assertions without proof. Where are the studies that show that career women have more failed marriages and unfulfilled children than SAHM? Me thinks that you feel undervalued as a do-nothing, dote-too-much on your kids SAHM. In my anecdotal experience, it is the husbands of SAHM that feel unfulfilled and whose children feel smothered. Many I know (educated, upper middle-class) are on anti-depressants. I can't assert that SAHM have more failed marriages and I won't, but there are definitely more benefits to children in having happy, productive parents. And you may want to see a therapist before you smother that "talented" kid to death.

Posted by: Working mother | June 19, 2006 1:20 PM

Here's a question for SAHM's (specifically, those of you who feel unambivalent about your decision to stay home): How are you raising your daughters? To achieve in the public sphere? Or to value home-life most of all?

Posted by: Just curious... | June 19, 2006 1:21 PM

These posts have really angered me. I also have to take issue with the poster talking about women entering the workforce in the 70s. My mother got her college education in 1958 from Vasser and then married my father -- she worked while he got his law degree. Then in the 70s when all of her friends went back to work, she was asked over and over to be the driver of their children constantly -- all of her friends tried to dump their kids on her because she didn't work. That time was a big mess and we should all be thankful that those women, our mothers, paved the way for us to have choices. Now there is quality day care, and flexible opportunities in many companies. I work in state government and i have decent hours.

I am a working mother and proud of it. I have two children -- 7 and 3 and yes, OMG what a difference going from one to 2 was but I'm managing ok. I made a choice not to move up the ladder so am probably in a job that I am over qualified for but am able to balance my life. My husband's job involves many hours and you just can't have two spouses with high powered jobs with long hours. I know people who do that and their kids are really screwed up, no matter how much household help they have -- nothing replaces mom and dad.
I am very concerned about the way our society is going. Companies need to wake up and realize that women make up a huge percentage of the work force. At the same time, however, we need to recognize the value of stay at home mothers -- and I hate to put them in a category, just as stay at home mothers put working mothers in a category. We are all parents trying to get by and to be perfectly honest I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders constantly but that's me. The divorce rate is high because there is too much stress on families today -- our taxes are horrible, gas prices, cost of college, and single people want nothing to do with marriage any more -- who suffers the most, the children. I like working but I can tell you that since I commute I can't do some of the things with my kids that i'd like to do like take off and go down the street to their school for an event.
Working mothers provide financial security and I do think get the brunt of the child care/household stuff -- sorry guys, but its just been my personal experience and my friends personal experience -- god bless you if you split your home duties with your working wife by 50%.

And, our elementary school would be in terrible shape if not for the volunteer efforts of SAHM's who volunteer in the classroom, etc -- our libraries would suffer without the help of volunteers and our hospitals benefit so much from volunteers. The list goes on and on. Personally I don't want to be a Carly Fiorina or a Katie Couric because I don't have the drive for it -- its whatever makes you happy.
So lets stop the bickering here -- some of you are trying to devalue the "other side's" contributions to society and I have to wonder if you have a little of the "grass is always greener" syndrome deep down in side. And, no thanks, I hate the "playing with the big boys" is needed to move up -- those people aren't nice to each other and I don't ever want to look back on my life and say "I wish I had spent more time at the office because I would be this really awesome CEO." Many of those "big boys" are on their second and third marriages and don't speak to their children and care about the bottom line. So the question is why focus on other people's choices -- focus on you and what is important to you, but make a contribution to society, whatever that may be.

Posted by: typical working mother | June 19, 2006 1:21 PM

Here's a question for SAHM's (specifically, those of you who feel unambivalent about your decision to stay home): How are you raising your daughters? To achieve in the public sphere? Or to value home-life most of all?

Posted by: Just curious... | June 19, 2006 01:21 PM


Or maybe they're teaching their daughters to whatever pleases them and makes them feel fulfilled and to not pay attention to schmucks like the people on this blog

Posted by: dorca | June 19, 2006 1:29 PM

Yay, Dorca!

Posted by: Junebug | June 19, 2006 1:32 PM

Part of the problem is society's view. When did it change? My mom always had her working mom available when she needed it. My mom did not work outside the home - but she certainly needed plenty of help with three children! When did it become fact that only a mom and a dad should be responsible for the kids? Of course, mom and dad choose (usually) to have the kids - but seriously, it takes more than mom and dad to raise a child - it takes outside family, it takes the community, etc. You cannot raise a child without any help - well, you can, but I doubt that child will be well adjusted. We all need to be a part of society, and part of that is that we all need help sometimes (and help out sometimes). When did this become taboo?

Posted by: atlmom | June 19, 2006 1:35 PM

Tired and outraged - I don't think anyone who actually thinks about it is saying that parents should be paid the same for less work than nonparents. However, there are many ways that work can be made more flexible in ways that can benefit all workers. It just adds complexity to work that businesses don't like. Too many parents approach the subject with an attitude of entitlement and neglect to acknowledge that their co-workers have concerns as well, but it really should be possible to make work easier for working parents fairly by making it more flexible for everyone.

Posted by: SEP | June 19, 2006 1:36 PM

"Recently, I was on a project with a Monday deadline. So we all had to come in on Saturday. The dad in the group stood up at 5:30 and said, "I have to leave. I have kids in my life." The rest of us were there until 10:00 pm. We probably could have been done by 8:30 if he hadn't left. But none of us could complain, because he has children"

it's your own fault you had to stay late, good for the dad who has some balls.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 1:36 PM

Right on Dorca . Many of these people might be happier if their self worth wasn't so tied to what your or I or anyone else thinks about them . Apologies to those who make a valid , non bile filled , argument without resorting to the " my way or the highway " theory .

Posted by: shoreman | June 19, 2006 1:37 PM

Linda said:
"Conservatives contend that the dropouts prove that feminism "failed" because it was too radical, because women didn't want what feminism had to offer. In fact, if half or more of feminism's heirs (85 percent of the women in my Times sample), are not working seriously, it's because feminism wasn't radical enough: It changed the workplace but it didn't change men, and, more importantly, it didn't fundamentally change how women related to men."

This is where I think Linda is dead on. Feminism told us we could have it all. Be wives and mothers and also work and be independent. The failure here is that it expected women to do more than men have ever done. We had to work outside the home and also keep the home fires burning. This is a recipe for disaster, because it is too much to for anyone, man or women, to do successfully. The real solution to the home/work balance is to insist that men do their fair share of the grunt work at home. And we have not done this yet. We women keep on giving our husbands a free pass when it comes to raising kids and doing housework. Ironically, I see Leslie as an example of this problem. She is a working mother, but it seems that she and her husband have negotiated a relationship where she does the bulk of the child raising while he complains about changing the kitty litter, and she lets him get away with that!!!! No disrespect intended for Leslie, as I think there are many others marriages like hers, and her marriage is probabaly not as egregiously unbalanced as some. The fact of the matter is, until we women insist that men take on their fair share of work involving child raising/home-making, we will be at a disadvantage. I think this is Linda's point, and I think she is right about that.

Posted by: Rockville | June 19, 2006 1:38 PM

Just curious asked a serious question there is no reason to be flip. We teach by example and let's be honest, are you going to believe a parent who is pushing the values of education, empowerment, and personal responsibility if they dumb their work on others, don't do anything more complex than baking cookies with their Master's degrees on display, and in their spare time tear down women who work for not being their with the kids?

Posted by: Oh please | June 19, 2006 1:38 PM

SEP - I agree with you 100%...I wonder if anyone has any suggestions to promote flexibility? Just curious on what people's opinions on the subject are...

Posted by: Missi | June 19, 2006 1:40 PM

Dorca - Thanks for the reply but it's awfully flip. My question is sincere. Would love a sincere answer from whoever cares to give one.

Posted by: just curious... | June 19, 2006 1:40 PM

RB
So easy for you to criticize others. I'm assuming you're one of those SAHM jealous of those of us doing meaningful work and bringing up great children. I feel sorry for you.

Posted by: Working mother | June 19, 2006 1:42 PM

To Just curious... I'm planning to be a SAHM if it is financially possible when my husband and I start having kids in a few years. In the mean time, I'm finishing my master's and work for a government contractor, where I work just as hard and with the same amount of ambition as if I would be in the work force until I'm 65. The reason is that I want my daughters to know that women can do anything they want. Just because I am at home with them won't mean I'm not educated or couldn't have a long/succssful career, it simply means their father and I made the choice that was right for us. My daughters will know that we will be just as proud of them whether they are a doctor, lawyer, teacher, or whatever, as we will be if they decide to stay home with their kids. And most importantly, they will know that that choice is up to them to make with their husband when the time comes and not for someone to dictate to them.

To the posters who've stated that if women don't continue to be apart of the work-force, equality between men and women will cease, I say stop the dramatics. There will always be women who want to work and there will always be women who want to stay home... we should be supporting each other for the important roles that each of these choices plays in society, not saying that one is better or more important to the "cause".

And yes, there will always be women who have to work and they deserve just as much support as those who are part of the work-force by choice.

Posted by: in-arlington | June 19, 2006 1:43 PM

I am raising my daughters as I was raised: To partner with their husbands (or "spouses") to making a good home and to raise their kids to be secure, confident, independent indivduals capable of finding and choosing fulfilling paths in life.

What does "achieve in the public sphere" mean? Apparently many posters here think it means a corporate corner office and a 6-figure plus salary, or perhaps becoming a judge, as my mother did. But she raised me to know that my choice of staying at home, after several years of paid employment, was an equally valid life choice.

Posted by: Junebug | June 19, 2006 1:47 PM

"To the posters who've stated that if women don't continue to be apart of the work-force, equality between men and women will cease, I say stop the dramatics. There will always be women who want to work and there will always be women who want to stay home... we should be supporting each other for the important roles that each of these choices plays in society, not saying that one is better or more important to the "cause"."

Yeah, whatever you need to tell yourself to make you feel better about your decision...

Posted by: DC | June 19, 2006 1:49 PM

DC, what's bugging you so much? Someone makes a rational comment and you get all bitter. Sounds like you're the unhappy one.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 1:50 PM

"Why are moms called upon to make such a huge sacrifice to accomodate the current work environment -- instead of asking the workplace and our government to make relatively minor changes to accomodate employees with children?"

Newsflash! EVERYONE is called upon to make huge sacrifices to accommodate the current work environment! Your self-important victimhood and sense of entitlement is often staggering. The changes you're looking for aren't "relatively minor," when you consider the numbers of people who need help, and if put in place they should be for all employees, not just those with children!

I recognize that I wouldn't be working 60 hour workweeks if I weren't ambitious and happy with my salary. My family has adjusted in ways I didn't like. I turned back my last promotion because I wanted more balance in my life instead of moving to 80 hour weeks. We're a lot happier.

Leslie, consider doing less instead of whining that you should be subsidized for doing what you want. You have more control here than you believe, and both of us have so many more options than people less fortunate educationally than ourselves! You have to find balance within yourself first.


Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 1:50 PM

"equality between men and women will cease"

Men and women are equal? I wish! I think that women and men who believe in male-female equality need to continue to make it a reality. If that means a man staying home and raising his kids or simply cutting back to 30 hours a week to make sure someone attends their soccer games, then that's great. If it means a woman gets an advanced degree and becomes CEO of a major corporation and then changes the corporate culture there, then that's great, too. Or vice versa.

Posted by: Darlene | June 19, 2006 1:53 PM

To tired and outraged -- I feel your pain but what does a parent do -- I have had to leave meetings when my husband is out of town and I'm it for daycare pickup. I can't show up to pick them up at 10pm -- maybe the father was frustrated not with being at the office but that real work wasn't being done -- I used to work as a financial advisor (with a small child) from 9-9 every night and we were supposed to be on the phones calling all day -- most of my coworkers pretended to be doing actual work.
To Working Mother -- I'm sorry, you really epitomize the stereotypical working mother (yes, I work full time with 2 small children and have a 60 mile round trip commute every day so there is nothing you can say back to me that I haven't experienced in the working world) what SAHM mothers think about working mothers -- I have good friends who stay home -- I don't judge. You shouldn't either -- I don't know what line of work you are in but you seem very angry.

Posted by: typical working mother | June 19, 2006 1:54 PM

"Newsflash! EVERYONE is called upon to make huge sacrifices to accommodate the current work environment! "

Can I hear an AMEN??

Posted by: Missi | June 19, 2006 1:54 PM

To: Rockville.
Right on!
And as long as women quit working to stay home, they'll keep on perpetuating (by example to our sons, among other things) the thought that women should mind the home forever. Nothing will ever change. Men will never do their part in homework.
And at work, let's face it, CEOs, (most of them men) don't want things to change, it is up to us, women.

Posted by: MLH | June 19, 2006 1:55 PM

I didn't get "all bitter" to the person who can't bother to post their name (or even a fake name or something). I get tired of these people (women) who keep saying that there's no problem with women leaving the workforce to have families because, yes, there very much IS a problem. They leave and those of us still here take the brunt of management/supervisors getting really tired of having this scenario happen over and over again. I see it, others see it, and it just amazes me how SAH moms (or those hoping to be SAH moms) seem to think it's no biggie.

Posted by: DC | June 19, 2006 1:56 PM

Missi asked for specifics to workplace changes that allows for flexibility for all employees - not just those with the overriding, value-laden reason of "I have kids."

In my work environment, because I seem to have an awful lot of free-time (because the job is structured for an entry level employee) I've been tasked (or actually volunteered) with reviewing systems and figuring out how to stop our turn-over and disgruntled employees. I have begun to suggest and make changes (within my purview) and have already seen some results. Just because "that's the way we've always done it" doesn't fly with me and I've been asking questions from everyone.

The "sacred cow" exists in every workplace. These conceptions must be challenged.

Understaffing for the responsibilities involved is first and foremost the easiest fix.

Using technology to do more. For instance, in my workplace, we rely 100% on phone calls. I made a minor adjustment and one particular type of incoming call, turned into an email request, immediately reduced "time spent" on that type of request and relieved pressure on our staff.

Less scheduled "holidays" replaced with more "personal days" helps some companies reduce unscheduled out time. There are some families who don't celebrate certain holidays, or employees who wouldn't mind working a "fourth of july." By allowing the employee that choice of when they could take their measly 21 days during the year, might provide more people working more days, and easing tension for people who are taking vacations.

Just some thoughts.


Posted by: Columbia MO | June 19, 2006 1:56 PM

I'm not sure why people can't have both - work for a while, SAH for a while, perhaps go back to the workforce if they want. How would this in any way be wasting an education? An education is never a waste, no matter what you do, in any case.
However, my husband and I are desperately trying to get out of the workforce and start businesses - so we don't ever have to work for anyone else, so we can do what we want, when we want, and the outcome will be more related to what we do and how hard we work.

Posted by: atlmom | June 19, 2006 2:00 PM

What I find interesting is that the "support each other doctrine" seems to be coming from the women who want others to do for them. Look, I have worked with working mothers who worked their butts off and were there for their children. I have also worked with "working mothers" who did nothing, bought into the "it takes a village" mentality only when it came to people picking up their slack and have since left the workforce. We are all responsible for our own decisions. Just don't be surprised when people don't like them, you get passed over for a promotion, or because of the growing trend of women living the workforce, your DAUGHTER gets passed over for a promotion.

Posted by: Oh please | June 19, 2006 2:02 PM

So let me get this right, having an fleeting impact on many peoples' lives is more important than having a really significant and positive impact on the life of the person who will be your biological successor?
You will create the world you deserve.....

Here's the problem with that argument. No one is saying that kids don't have to be raised or nurtured. What Linda is saying is that as women, we need to make sure that men do their share in the home sphere so that woman are not constantly subsidizing men's success in the work world and undermining their own chance to participate in that success as well. Plus, if, as women, we decide that we will stay at home and raise our children because it is the more noble calling, we are teaching our kids, both sons and daughters, that it is the place of women to "choose" the more "noble" calling of raising kids and tending the home fires. We are limiting our sons and daughters in unimaginable ways, because ours sons, with that mentality, will never get a chance to experience the rewards that raising children offer, and our daughter will never get to experience the power of working and making a difference in the market place.

Posted by: Rockville | June 19, 2006 2:02 PM

Of course you're not going to spend time at a review babbling on about how you work harder than others - just worry about how *you* work and what *you* do.
If your employer is not rewarding you for that, find another job. It's that simple.

Posted by: atlmom | June 19, 2006 2:02 PM

My goodness, the vitriol is a tad bit thick in here today.

Leslie, this is by far the most contentious blog you've posted -- just look at the number of posters and you can see the passion, and if you start reading . . . well, it's actually kind of ridiculous. I can't stand all of these people anonymously slamming each other. But I do wish we could somehow take all this amazing energy we feel about this topic and create a useful forum for CHANGE -- like creating more family friendly policies (I do think it's inevitable, by the way), instead of just spinning our wheels helplessly, endlessly on this blog.

And to all of you who for some reason feel compelled to make personal attacks in your posts, I wish you a few nights of a hard time sleeping while you wonder what compelled you to be so harsh.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | June 19, 2006 2:04 PM

sorry -- I meant "NOT understaffing for the responsibilities is first and foremost the easiest fix."

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 2:05 PM

By their arguments ye shall know them and Hirshman's are rather shrill and feeble.

Would she get any attention in countries where things like REASONABLE materinty (and paternity) leave are written into the nation's laws? Perhaps. As a bit of comic relief on the evening news. I hate to see people sparing this person any anger when it should be directed at the attitudes and institutions that create an environment where the choice is work (or higher education) OR parenthood.

As for her "waste of education argument," I found this amusing. I'm one of 50 zillion psychology majors roaming the planet. The only time I refer to Herr Freud is when I'm making silly jokes about certain fruits and vegetables. Was that a waste of education? If so, she is suggesting that EVERYONE (male or female) must follow the career set out by their choice of major in collge (and as a result, record un-employment rates and a further crippled economy). If not, then she must be suggesting only women be held to this standard. Or perhaps only women who will have children, which means she must think all women have paranormal abilities.

Fine, I'll make a prediction: No one will remember Hirshman this time next year.

Posted by: Not worthy of anger | June 19, 2006 2:05 PM

Dorca - Thanks for the reply but it's awfully flip. My question is sincere. Would love a sincere answer from whoever cares to give one.

I think Dorca was being sincere . I'm not being flip either .

Posted by: shoreman | June 19, 2006 2:06 PM

and I forgot to sign my post ......


"NOT understaffing .....

Posted by: Columbia MO | June 19, 2006 2:07 PM

I teach Children's Literature at an Ivy League school. Yes, the course is a major gut, and attracts both smart techies who fear long books and the party-hearty crowd desperate to fulfill the Literature and Arts requirement. ("Um, remind me...is Wilbur the pig or the spider?") But I've never despaired until last fall, when I simply could not persuade most of the women to rethink the princess problem, or to consider Marjorie Williams's Di-driven argument that to be a princess is, ultimately, to be a passenger, passive, commodified, vulnerable. "But every girl wants to be a princess," they insisted. "It's how we're raised." When one of the frat guys announced his willingness to be a trophy husband--"Yeah, I'll stay home with the kids and watch soaps and shop"--I inquired what he planned to do should his high-achieving wife be run over by a bus at the age of forty, leaving him with three gradeschoolers, no resume, and no job skills. He blanched. "Geez, you're a hard woman," he told me. No, kid. Just a realist.

Posted by: April | June 19, 2006 2:08 PM

"To me, it seems as though the feminist movement is a bunch of bitter women trying to be men. Isn't it easy to see that we are different??? (ie why certain roles come more naturally)"

You're kidding right? Do you vote? Do you have a credit card in your own name? Can you go to college if you want to do so? (Or have you). Let's say for some reason you must work through a pregnancy and even afterwards (maybe your husband gets fired or dies suddenly, God forbid). You have a right not to be fired, due to laws enacted after women complained. Simple as that. So stop knocking feminism when you benefit from it every day.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 2:09 PM

Colombia, MO -

It's amazing how far a little common sense goes, isn't it? Keep up the good work...

Posted by: Missi | June 19, 2006 2:10 PM

June 19, just because feminism did a lot of very good things does not mean feminism and feminists can't be criticized either individually or as a group. I mean, we knock the Founding Fathers of the USA regularly for all sorts of things, but they set up the system that gave us the platform for all our freedoms today...

Posted by: M. | June 19, 2006 2:12 PM

Right on, Alt Mom -- it is our world that is crazy. The moms I know ar just doing the best we can to juggle work, kids, friends, family, and not harrass our husbands too much. Disparaging other moms' choices is crazy -- why does anyone care how another moms balances work and family, as long as she's not hurting anyone?

And there are more and more part-time placement agencies, such as MomCorps, McKinley Marketing, and United Talent Group, if you want to find well-paid part-time work. Some companies are catching on that there are a ton of qualified moms (and at least a few dads) who can add a lot of value in a less than full-time fashion.

Posted by: Leslie | June 19, 2006 2:14 PM

"People keep saying that kids turn out better when a parent stays at home, but I look at myself whose mother and father worked, and I am successful."

And my dad worked and my mother stayed at home, and I'm successful. There, we're even.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 2:16 PM

RB
So easy for you to criticize others. I'm assuming you're one of those SAHM jealous of those of us doing meaningful work and bringing up great children. I feel sorry for you.

Posted by: Working mother | June 19, 2006 01:42 PM

once again , men are running things because we are not eating each other , not necessarily because we're better at anything . Oh , also , we can't get pregnant and give birth , I always forget that one because i'm overwhelmed worrying about whether the neighbors are both working or not.

Posted by: shoreman | June 19, 2006 2:16 PM

The moms I know ar just doing the best we can to juggle work, kids, friends, family, and not harrass our husbands too much. Disparaging other moms' choices is crazy -- why does anyone care how another moms balances work and family, as long as she's not hurting anyone?

Leslie. what is so sacred about husbands that we need to worry about harrassing them too much. Is demanding that they do their share harrassment? Don't you see the gender injustice in this attitude? This kind of injustice does hurt women, but some of us refuse to see it. We are just too brainwashed by society to see it.

Posted by: Rockville | June 19, 2006 2:19 PM

During my career, I have become acquainted with several well-educated women who admitted to becoming pregnant partly to avoid having to work; in each case they were dedicated home-makers who simply prefer the nest to the working world. One woman, an engineer, gave birth to her fourth, because, she said, her husband would not "force" her to take a job while she has a baby at home, although they had agreed together that she would return to work when the children were old enough for her to do so. Another simply stated that she would not continue to work because her children "needed" her and with more than one child, daycare and commuting costs would eat up much of her salary. Her husband took a second job. Her attitude: tough for him; she hated working. Could it be that work avoidance is actually at the root of some dropping out from the workforce, and not "infexible" or "family unfriendly" employers? Tending to the needs of the family--full-time, for years upon years--seems a nice, socially acceptable way of ducking a paying job and all the annoyances of being employed.

Posted by: Observer | June 19, 2006 2:23 PM

Go Linda. I thought her observations were spot on.
As a working single parent, I had to work and I wanted to work. Plus take care of the house and child myself. My child did just fine, thank you.
To you whining wives out there, try doing it all on your own.
I can't imaging staying home and being dependent on someone else to support me. How can you have a good self image? These are the women who have nothing when their husbands leave them for someone else. Work, so you have your own money to put aside.

Posted by: Dottie | June 19, 2006 2:24 PM

Tom and others -- Interesting idea to analyze whether kids of WM or SAHM are better behaved. I echo the sentiments that working moms' kids are more independent, outgoing, and less indulged. (Not mine, unfortunately.) But I think we see what we believe, not the other way around. We are all biased in our observations, and I think we look for (and find) justification in our small sample sizes of friends and family. It would be interesting if someone actually studied this one on a large scale.

Posted by: Leslie | June 19, 2006 2:25 PM

Let me clarify. If you were true to feminism in the early days (ie the right to vote), you would also be pro-life. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony didn't believe in abortion. Seeing it as an attack on feminity. Pretty true.

Feminism-what it has turned into today-is a joke. Roles are and will always be different. I don't feel at all beat down by men. Sorry, I just don't feel it. Even if I were to stay home and "waste my education" caring for the "homefront."

I don't want to compete with men, I want to complement them, and I hope for them same from them.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 2:27 PM

Anonymous 2:17 poster: Susan B Anthony worte agains abortion not because she was pro-life, but because at that time the procedure was extremely unsafe and imposed on women for such things as being "too emotional."

She blamed men, laws and the "double standard" for driving women to abortion because they had no other options. ("When a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is a sign that, by education or circumstances, she has been greatly wronged." 1869) She believed, as did many of the feminists of her era, that only the achievement of women's equality and freedom would end the need for abortion.

Posted by: Columbia MO | June 19, 2006 2:31 PM

Missi -

I've said it before but it's worth repeating: it's a crazy notion that you are picking up the slack for a working mom. This is the kind of discrimination that makes a workplace hostile. You are picking up the slack for YOUR COMPANY -- the place that employs you. Complain to them about the extra work you are doing. It's wrong to take it out on an innocent working parent who is just trying to meet family obligations, not get away with something or make you work harder. I think you will be far better off if you complain to someone who can actually rectify the situation and compensate you for the extra work you are doing.

Posted by: Leslie | June 19, 2006 2:32 PM

when I type too fast "worte agains abortion..." happens.

wrote against...

Posted by: columbia mo | June 19, 2006 2:33 PM

By "achieve in the public sphere" I mean any achievement or success that's relevent outside of or extends beyond your family. Yes, becoming a judge absolutely falls within this definition.

Posted by: just curious... | June 19, 2006 2:34 PM

Go Linda. I thought her observations were spot on.
As a working single parent, I had to work and I wanted to work. Plus take care of the house and child myself. My child did just fine, thank you.
To you whining wives out there, try doing it all on your own.
I can't imaging staying home and being dependent on someone else to support me. How can you have a good self image? These are the women who have nothing when their husbands leave them for someone else. Work, so you have your own money to put aside.

Posted by: Dottie | June 19, 2006 02:24 PM

The eating continues , soon you will be eating your young .

Posted by: shoreman | June 19, 2006 2:35 PM

Just a mishmosh of reactions to this whole thing . . .

1) Hirshman makes some excellent points: women's presence in the workplace, especially in the echelons where decisions are made, makes a huge difference for all of us.

2) I also agree with Leslie and posters who point to changes we might make in society which could help many of us be more present in the workforce. On-site daycare or year-round school, anyone? What about caring for aging parents, or a disabled spouse? The trouble is not just with childcare, but with balancing ANY kind of sustained caretaking, with sustained workplace demands. All of society benefits when people are able to use their education and talents in the workforce; all of society benefits when our children, our elders and our disabled receive responsive, intelligent and humane care. We have a patchwork system right now: if you're "lucky," you have great daycare, or great home health care or a fantastic nursing home available where you live. (And you can afford to pay for it, too.) If you're not "lucky" (perhaps you live in a rural or underserved area), you sometimes have to make some very hard choices.

3) For those who resent working parents and SAH parents, I hope, in your cost/benefit analysis, that you are calculating in your future Social Security, prescription drug benefits and Medicare benefits which will be paid for from future generations' wages.

4) Work-life balance, a brief survey: my sister is a teacher. She has summers, holidays and snowdays off -- the daycare for her toddler and preschool is provided by her mother-in-law. My friend (with a preschooler and toddler) works at a great, visible DC job with lots of travel involved, and her husband works full-time as well. They have excellent childcare, for which they pay $20,000 a year. Since I had my first child in 1994, I have been a SAHM, a WOHM and now have started my own business to become a WAHM.

4) When I went back to work full-time in the highly technical field where I have that expensive master's degree, I was told that the company was very flexible because both owners had kids with disabilities. Great! I finally had a job in my field (in a small town where such jobs are rare), and I had understanding employers! Jackpot! (My daughter was born with a birth defect which required, on and off, ten years of operations, plus weeks to months of rehab/recovery time after each surgery. Note to women who are planning to follow Hirshman's advice and have one child: Be sure that your one child does not need long-term medical care, har de har har.)

Due to unexpected complications from my daughter's last, outpatient surgery, I used up my year's two weeks off within the first three months. Then, I was let go. Which actually worked out well, because two days after I found myself unemployed again, my daughter had to be hospitalized for a week when the surgeon discovered the site had a deep infection.

During that time I had a realization. Suuuuure, both the male company owners had disabled kids . . . and at last, the lightbulb went on for me! THEY ALSO HAD STAY-AT-HOME WIVES!

Pretty funny, huh?

Posted by: AK | June 19, 2006 2:36 PM

Leslie -- Missi was complaining, you are correct. However, in most workplace's the environment does NOT facilitate the type of dialogue you are espousing.

In fact, her complaints might be well be met with "if Janie hadn't had to leave...." thereby creating conflict and animosity among co-workers.

Posted by: Columbia MO | June 19, 2006 2:37 PM

Rockville -- Trust me, I have very high standards for my husband in terms of doing his fair share at home and with the kids. But I find that I (and other moms I know) have endless gripe sessions about our husbands. Seems a lot of moms are really angry about how much we are doing. And at a certain point, it's unproductive to keep nagging my husband. It's better for me to find different solutions, like letting go a bit about how neat the house should be, asking my kids to do more chores, and hiring help for menial taks.

Posted by: Leslie | June 19, 2006 2:37 PM

It would not be feasible nor desirable for every woman in this country to work full time, or conversely, to stay at home. What makes us interesting, and what makes us individuals, is that we all have different situations, desires, and abilities.

We must stop condeming other women's choices/situations.

For myself, I am currently a full-time working mother. I am the sole breadwinner of the family as my husband is a graduate student. Three quarters of my salary goes to day-care for our daughter. But I need to work because we need some kind of income, and of course the health insurance is necessary.

But I love going to work every day. However, I would also be happy spending all my time with my daughter, and perhaps will one day.

Posted by: Emily | June 19, 2006 2:38 PM

Some of you should write shorter posts if you want people to actually read them.

Posted by: troggle | June 19, 2006 2:45 PM

"Plus, if, as women, we decide that we will stay at home and raise our children because it is the more noble calling, we are teaching our kids, both sons and daughters, that it is the place of women to "choose" the more "noble" calling of raising kids and tending the home fires."

That might be the most ridiculous post I've ever seen on this board. If I choose to eat a cheeseburger am I teaching my daughter that it is a woman's place to eat only cheeseburgers?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 2:45 PM

Leslie...
I am trying to follow your logic. If we are both employees with jobs to do, you leave, I finish your work...how is that NOT picking up your slack???? Of course, using your logic, if I am picking up the company's slack...you are slacking off (boy that sounds weird) on the company. I know that sounds awkward, hope I get my point across.
I am not trying to be "hostile" - I think your skin is a bit thin. I am merely giving the other side of the story.
Just a thought...

Posted by: Missi | June 19, 2006 2:46 PM

I'd love to see a world where my daughter can be a CEO and raise 6 wonderful kids and have a fabulous marriage. But get real.

If you are a CEO, Director of Engineering, Corporate Lawyer, Congresswoman and you come home every night at 6 p.m. for your kids, you are a slacker at work. If you come home at 8, you're a slacker as a mother.

The only way to make a high powered job and motherhood work is to make sacrifices and compromises. You can have a husband who sacrifices his ultimate success to be an equal or greater partner at home. You can have colleagues who pick up your slack at work. You can work part-time, which makes you wonder why you work at all for the small financial reward. Or you can give up anything that resembles a life for yourself.

What do I want for my daughter? Much the same as what I want for my son. Opportunity, choices and the ability to have personal and professional success. Sure I want them to dream but success demands choices. If you tell them they can have it all, you might as well be telling them they can be princes and princesses.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 2:46 PM

Rockville -- Trust me, I have very high standards for my husband in terms of doing his fair share at home and with the kids. But I find that I (and other moms I know) have endless gripe sessions about our husbands. Seems a lot of moms are really angry about how much we are doing. And at a certain point, it's unproductive to keep nagging my husband. It's better for me to find different solutions, like letting go a bit about how neat the house should be, asking my kids to do more chores, and hiring help for menial taks.

I agree that letting some things go and outsourcing others is a good idea. I do it too. I also think that the image of a spotless house is a fantasy that needs to die. It was conceived in the days when when were at home cooking and cleaning and making their home a haven for their children and husbands, but honestly, when two parents work, it is ridiculous to have to keep up that facade. In my home, we try to keep things clean enough to be hygienic (and even that is a challenge sometimes), but don't worry about a spotless appearance.

Posted by: Rockville | June 19, 2006 2:51 PM

Leslie-
Blaming the system is another method of not taking personal responsibilty. Everyone should do the job they are hired to do in the time frame that is specified to do it or until the project is complete. It is a fallacy to think that professionals who work with parents aren't picking up their slack. In fact, it is only the increasingly oblivious parents who feel that way.

Posted by: Oh please | June 19, 2006 2:52 PM

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony didn't believe in abortion. Seeing it as an attack on feminity. Pretty true.

I don't recall reading Cady Stanton's views on abortion, but she did favor infanticide, so don't see where your argument gets you. And she was no big promoter of "feminity" she was a advocate for women having control over their lives.

Posted by: untrue | June 19, 2006 2:52 PM

Hey everybody,

Over here! There's a catfight going on!

Watch these women rip each other up! No fight like a catfight!

238 posted body blows already, and counting!

And is that Girls Gone Wild filming in the corner? Could be! Won't know for sure until you look for yourself!

Tickets $0 each! Get yours now while they last!

Hurry, Hurry, Hurry!

Catfight! Catfight!

=====
For the humor impaired, the above is a SATIRE of the ridiculous cockfighting (or is that hen fighting?) that goes on in this blog...

Posted by: Spectacles | June 19, 2006 2:56 PM

"...when two parents work, it is ridiculous to have to keep up that facade. In my home, we try to keep things clean enough to be hygienic (and even that is a challenge sometimes), but don't worry about a spotless appearance."

Heh heh. We call that going for the "illusion of clean." It's as good as it's going to get.

Posted by: opk | June 19, 2006 2:56 PM

ok whatever. Now it's time to check your sources. See below from Wikipedia---

Stanton believed that abortion was infanticide.

Stanton wrote, "When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit."

Posted by: to untrue | June 19, 2006 2:56 PM

I love the people who say, "If you aren't happy because working parents are causing you to do more work, then find another job" and at the same time tell me, "Hey, you can't leave the work world just because you don't like working conditions!" Well, I did exactly that. It's not always possible to change the working conditions and it's unfortunately not all working moms are working to make things better for everyone.

When I got passed over for a promotion because my boss couldn't and wouldn't also promote a young mother who expected to be promoted despite her lousy record of poor work and many missed days due to a "sick child", I decided to leave a job I liked and the workforce altogether. Luckily I have enough money to do that. What's been lost to the work world is my knowledge and abilities.

Sorry, I'm not going to fight your battles for you, ladies, I have my own life to live. If you want to be a working mom, then work.

Posted by: SAH student | June 19, 2006 2:57 PM

To the anonymous poster at 2:45 pm

That might be the most ridiculous post
I've ever seen on this board. If I choose to eat a cheeseburger am I teaching my daughter that it is a woman's place to eat only cheeseburgers?

Please, you are being dense when you use the cheeseburger analogy. A more apt analogy is that if if choose to wear a dress, and all other women also choose to wear dresses, your daugher will grow up thinking that women should wear dresses.

Posted by: Rockville | June 19, 2006 2:57 PM

But Rockville, ALL other women are not choosing to wear dresses. EACH women may make their individual choice. I don't see why you view that as such an issue....

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 3:01 PM

Spectacles - thanks for the laugh!!! We are getting way tooooo serious here... :-)

Posted by: missi | June 19, 2006 3:01 PM

typical working mother | June 19, 2006 01:21 PM

"focus on you and what is important to you, but make a contribution to society, whatever that may be."

Utopia.

Unless it makes me work more! Ya know those empty nesters and swingin' singles come in hung over more than WOHMs and Dads with kids! It's not fair!

That's VassAr, Dahling. Mumsy would be miffed.

Posted by: Fo3 | June 19, 2006 3:03 PM

I am curious about the comments about working parents and other employees who feel as though they pick up their slack. Is this a job sharing situation? Are you part of a team? When my first child was born I made a point of getting my work done so I could leave promply at 5pm every day. My boss began to make comments about my "short" day which started at 8:30 and ended at 5 (ate lunch at my desk unless work related), while she slaved away until 8-9pm every night. Then it dawned on me. She arrived everyday around 9:30am and when she got on the phone she would spend hours socializing with people (her phone calls would sometimes last an hour or more and she wasn't talking about work) and would go out for long lunches. So from a productive point of view she was putting in longer hours but we were accomplishing the same amount of work.
As a working mother, I try to get out of the office on time -- I've had to learn time management skills -- others might resent working parents leaving at a normal time but maybe there are ways to make better use of time. The Washington DC work environment seems to thrive on long hours -- how productive are they in reality?
PS -- I no longer work there because of the attitude/resentment towards children.

Posted by: typical working mother | June 19, 2006 3:05 PM

It's such a lovely blog without Scarry and Megan on here! Everyone is getting along so well and there is no back and fourth, lovely, we should have kicked them out weeks ago.

Posted by: silly people | June 19, 2006 3:05 PM

But Rockville, ALL other women are not choosing to wear dresses. EACH women may make their individual choice. I don't see why you view that as such an issue....

I think that with few exceptions, women still take on the brunt of the household responsibilities, whether they work, stay at home, work part time. So the idea that the majority of childraising and housework
should be done by women is perpetuated. Further, because women are overworked, many "choose" to stay home. In fact, she notes that 85% of the women she interviewed from the Times Wedding page are now SAH moms. Have you read Dr. Hirshman's article? These are women who had careers before they married. So with so many women doing this, society begins to expect women to be the ones who give up their careers in order to raise families. With this kind of pressure, the choice becomes less of a choice and more of an obligation. Get it?

Posted by: Rockville | June 19, 2006 3:06 PM

silly people-- at least we are staying on topic

Posted by: anonymous on purpose | June 19, 2006 3:09 PM

I think most women secretly want to stay home. Yikes!!

Posted by: bottom line | June 19, 2006 3:11 PM

Silly people,
Don't you have anything interesting to say, or is cattiness your contribution?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 3:12 PM

Typical working mother...

Again, I am not being hostile...I am certainly not saying every single working mother is a slacker, and every childless worker is a hardworker. My parents and grandparents instilled very firm work ethics in me, and maybe my problem is I expect everyone to feel the same. I know there are single people who do exactly what you describe...talk on the phone, post on blogs (oops!), etc. It is just in my experience, probably because I have always worked in small offices, that I am expected to stay late/work on weeksends, etc. because "I don't have kids". Therefore I don't count. Hostility and stereotyping can go both ways...I agree with whoever said we need to find some way to work together to meet everyone's needs. Peace?

Posted by: Missi | June 19, 2006 3:12 PM

>

This is a funny comment. Because it shows you for being what you are. Your obviously acutely sensitive about working and leaving or having left your child in daycare. And to cover up your being smug and arrogant. Your the one people should feel sorry for.

Posted by: niceday | June 19, 2006 3:14 PM

For Oh Please and Missi-

I completely agree with Leslie that if you are surrounded by parents who aren't pulling their weight/have emergencies/are underskilled, that is the company's issue, not your issue to "own". If the company responds by saying: "You three employees over there now have to work harder" that is a sign of oversimplistic management. Management could change the deadline for whatever is being produced, or simply live with having less of "x" item produced that day. Or longer wait times at the call center.

If management makes you own the issues of other individual employees, you're working for the wrong management. The business has a weak foundation. If three people called in sick would the whole place go bankrupt? No, "quit and get another job" is not simple to do. But if you're going to stay, you may want to find a tactful way to address that problem. It (inability to absorb short-term workforce elasticity) is bad for business, and the CEO should respond to that kind of argument.

Sociological texts from 'How to win friends and influence people' to 'Art of War' would tell you to couch your argument for any workplace change in terms good for the employer.

Answer the question: "Having more moms remain in the workplace would be good for business because _______________" and maybe companies will start to change, one at a time....

-Pp.

Posted by: Proud Papa | June 19, 2006 3:15 PM

Missi -- I think you are biased against moms without realizing it. People who work harder than others -- men and women --reap the benefits through promotions, raises and plum assignments. That is how most companies function. Unless you are officially job-sharing with another woman who leaves you in the lurch, I don't see how you can blame HER for the extra work you are doing. Why don't you blame your employer for making you do extra work that you don't want to do?

Posted by: Leslie | June 19, 2006 3:15 PM

The pasted comments did not post on the above comment.

Posted by: niceday | June 19, 2006 3:16 PM

Hey Bottom Line -

What evidence do you have that most women want to be stay-at-home wives?

And do you want to put some qualifiers in? Such as "to men who don't beat them" or "to men who are good providers and treat their wives with respect"?

Posted by: Leslie | June 19, 2006 3:18 PM

Typical Working Mother, I've had to pick up the slack now and then, and had co-workers' family and/or health issues interfere a fair amount. Sometimes it's a team thing, sometimes they are the experts in a particular field (the top IT person, the supply person, the only one with approval authority, the hiring manager). If we have three folks working tech support, one goes home to take care of a sick child and the late shift one isn't in yet, well, the third techie gets the shaft and everyone else has to wait twice as long for help.

In my job (not IT) I work a bunch of projects at the same time. Some are solo, some are group projects, some are a mix. Everyone in the office is also expected to be available to handle "taskings" from the bosses at all times. Those typically hit at the start and end of days. When a working parent works a full day, but misses those times, the rest of us get nailed with all the last minute/emergency stuff. When a project requires working late/weekends and a co-worker can't because of family commitments, that's fine, but they aren't pulling the same weight as everyone else.

I know that they have tons of additional responsibilities at home, but they chose to assume those as well as a job. Taking care of a kid isn't relaxation, but it's what they chose to do when they aren't at work. When they show up at 9:30 am, missing the morning rush, can't stay past 4:30 pm, have to go home randomly when a child gets sick, and can't work half the weekends, I do get a little resentful. They are leaving work before their job is done in order to do what they chose to do in their recreational time. I can't do the same because my free time isn't eaten up by a kid. I certainly don't blame them, I certainly don't fault them, but I do resent it a bit: they signed up for this job, and now they aren't completely living up to it. I try not to feel that way, what they are doing is more important in a lot of ways than the job, but I still do.

Posted by: M. | June 19, 2006 3:18 PM

It really is just my opinion. I could be wrong and that's ok. I just think that in an ideal world (where $$$ is not an issue) most women would prefer not to work.

And sure, "to men who are good providers and treat their wives with respect", qualifies it more.....

Posted by: bottom line | June 19, 2006 3:21 PM

Peace Missi -- I wouldn't like it either -- I think we all just post based on our experiences -- I was once the one who was asked to work overtime all the time so I feel your pain.

And Fo3, I am FLATTERED you would pick my little posting out of 256 to point out a typo and to make a snide remark about my mother. My point was that she went to college back then when it wasn't the thing to do and worked, then stayed home babysitting for all of her friends children who had to go out and find themselves. Your comments made me feel really important Thank you for adding to the debate...

OOPs, I'm sounding mean today. Must be something in the 100 degree heat.

Posted by: typical working mother | June 19, 2006 3:23 PM

>>>>These are women who had careers before they married. So with so many women doing this, society begins to expect women to be the ones who give up their careers in order to raise families.

Rockville, I have read the article and we'll agree to disagree. I think I hear you assigning causality for women opting out to those who have opted out before them. I still don't "get it" in terms of you making that leap. There are a million reasons for a woman to opt out, and "society says I should" seems pretty low down on the lists cited by these successful women.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 3:23 PM

I have never considered giving up my job because I am 2/3 of the household income. And we need that remaining 1/3 from my husband, so no, he is not going to stay at home, either! In this area, I know lots of families for whom this is an utterly irrelevant argument b/c life is too expensive for one income!

But, even if I had the choice, I would continue to work. I had a stay at home mom who simply wasn't cut out for the job. She is not a very patient person, by nature, and being viewed as professionally successful is extremely important to her. As I make different decisions than she did, I realize how a lot of the bad blood between us results from the fact that she resents all the time she spent out of the work force. She feels compelled to keep working now, when she could be retiring, because she is still looking for the professional validation that she missed out on by staying at home for almost 20 years.

I wonder how many young, well-educated women who are opting out will one day harbor similar resentment!

Posted by: curious new mom | June 19, 2006 3:24 PM

Doesn't sound like any of you are working...at home or in an office (I took the day off and my wife is too self-confident to care about what you folks think). Stop catfighting and decide what you want to do...then do it. As a man, I suppose that all of your husbands will have to hear about this topic when they get home.

Honestly, nobody really gives a damn about what you do with your life...just take care of your own business and let others do the same.

You all have an internet connection so life can't be that bad.

Posted by: Me Again | June 19, 2006 3:24 PM

"People who work harder than others -- men and women -- reap the benefits through promotions, raises and plum assignments. That is how most companies function."

Leslie, I wish that were true! I've seen people promoted and rewarded for lots of reasons other than hard work. I have worked hard at some jobs and gotten rewarded for it. I've worked hard in other jobs and gotten very little reward and even laid off. And everything in between, including slacking off in a few jobs and being treated and rewarded like I was Employee of the Year. This has happened to most everyone I know. It all depends where you wind up. It's not some truism for the working world. If we all reaped the benefits of our hard work, then so many of us wouldn't be sick of the working world.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 3:24 PM

Leslie - Have you actually read my comments? I mean without your obvious bias? *beats head against wall*

M. - That is what I am talking about...when you are on a team, you need to work as a team.
Believe me, you really don't want to feel resentful, but sometimes you cannot help it.

Posted by: Missi | June 19, 2006 3:24 PM

"I just think that in an ideal world (where $$$ is not an issue) most women would prefer not to work."

I think that most *people* would prefer not to work, if money is not an issue.

As things are, though, I really really like earning money.

Posted by: Lizzie | June 19, 2006 3:25 PM

I was starting to write a comment explaining why your choices do affect other people and illustrating it with the former feminist slogan "the personal is political". Then I read the LH chat today and found that she'd said the same thing. Exactly. So go read it and save me the typing.

Incidentally, I'm one of those women who decided against having children when she had a spouse whom she loved dearly but did not trust to being an equal partner in parenthood. Funny about how my attitudes about being a parent (albeit not the one giving birth) changed when I had a spouse whom I _did_ trust to be an equal partner in parenting.

Posted by: 2nd timer | June 19, 2006 3:26 PM

I notice no one is discussing doing less, across the board...deliberately simplifying and downsizing. Reduces craziness, stress, costs, and makes the kids part of the family enterprise, not entitled, demanding princes and princesses. What about choosing a calmer life? I'm not saying move to Walden Pond, just dial it back. You know--unplug.

Posted by: Aspen | June 19, 2006 3:28 PM

Anybody else wondering why so many of us with the almighty , money making jobs have so much time to post while we're at work ? Maybe work is overrated ... Seriously.

Posted by: shoreman | June 19, 2006 3:28 PM

Thank you to M and Missi for explaining the situation better -- I see what you mean! I'd be mad too. OK, now we are having a nice debate... I work in a different type of office so I guess I just didn't get what you were saying. Now I do.

Peace!

Posted by: typical working mother | June 19, 2006 3:29 PM

DC... if you read posts more carefully, you would have noticed that I DO NOT have children yet and therefore have not made any decisions to be guilty about. Maybe you should think about why you automatically assumed that... maybe because you feel guilty about YOUR decisions.

Posted by: in-arlington | June 19, 2006 3:30 PM

"I just think that in an ideal world (where $$$ is not an issue) most women would prefer not to work."

But money is always an issue, even for women who can choose to stay home. When they do this, they depend on their spouse to make the money, and that makes them vulnerable (to illness, death, divorce, irresponsible financial decisions). When us money not an issue?

Posted by: Rockville | June 19, 2006 3:31 PM

Why is it that I seem to agree with the men more often on this blog?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 3:32 PM

One last post on the "how do you raise your daughters?" topic & then I'm done for the day:

Here's where I'm coming from... Five years ago I left a lucrative full-time gig to freelance because I didn't like the rigidity/time-constraints/airlessness associated with working in an office. I craved autonomy, which I've found but at a high financial cost. I don't yet have children but hopefully one is on the way.

For those of us who've dropped out of the conventional workforce the question of how we raise our daughters is an important one. I was raised in the 70's & 80's to believe I could be anything and anyone I wanted to be. When I entered the workforce I discovered that full-time work in a corporate environment (even in a creative field) wasn't all I'd hoped it would be. (I found it was stressful, banal and disappointing). So what do we who've rejected corporate work (in favor of family or other pursuits) tell our daughters about about the working world, what it's like and what women can do there? "Don't bother honey, it's not all it's cracked up to be?"

I want to raise a daughter who believes, like I did, that she can do or be anything she wants to be. And I want her to get the education she needs to make her dreams, whatever they may be, come true. I hope that by the time she gets to be the age that I am now, the work-world has changed to better accomodate the needs of both men and women for personal time, family time, or whatever one needs to keep life's joy-juices flowing.

I LOVE that Hirshman wrote what she did even if I don't agree with all she said. This discussion's an important one.

Posted by: just curious... | June 19, 2006 3:32 PM

Wow, people seem so hostile. It is amazing that people feel so free to judge others' choices so harshly. I think there are plenty of SAHP who make huge contributions to their communities, plenty of working peeople who make huge contributions to our society. There are fabulous and dynamic companies and organizations doing tremendous good. But there are plenty of SAHP who do not contribute to the greater community and plenty or working people whose contribution is only to their own company or organization. Obviously, there are plenty of companies who are only interested in their own bottom line. So working for such a company may actually hurt society as a whole. I really think this is about individuals and not groups of people.

Posted by: Yikes! | June 19, 2006 3:32 PM

I don't think $$$ is always an issue. Lots of successful marriages only have one person working. There is always risk, but when the right people are involved, I don't see much room for one person to be "vulnerable". (old discussion, I know!)

Money is not an issue, when you live within your means and are happy with your lifestyle. I also was referring to when the working spouse makes enough to support said lifestyle.

Posted by: bottom line | June 19, 2006 3:37 PM

"But money is always an issue, even for women who can choose to stay home. When they do this, they depend on their spouse to make the money, and that makes them vulnerable (to illness, death, divorce, irresponsible financial decisions). "

I'll say it again. I do NOT depend on my spouse to provide money. Not every SAHM does. I am vulnerable, of course, as we all are, to reversals of fortune. But what I'm saying is that I took a different but planned path from the one Linda Hirshman promotes. I made money and saved money so that I could leave work to care for a child when I had one and NOT have to depend on my husband's income. I'm not the only person in the world to do this, though maybe I'm one of the first you've heard of. Hirshman makes some good points about women taking more economic responsibility, but I chose a different way to take mine.

Posted by: Tanger | June 19, 2006 3:43 PM

I think Silly People did have something interesting to say. Who cares if it's on topic or not. In fact i'll say something that does almost nothing to help parents raise decent kids:
"Psychology degree!"
So there, I made my point!

Posted by: Father of 4 | June 19, 2006 3:43 PM

Typical Working Mother,

I'm not mad at all at them, I just resent them from time to time. There's the assumption that as the 29 year old single person, I can always change my plans and work late/weekends when the job requires it. The fact that I can, and do, doesn't help. :) I do try to be considerate: I take duty officer responsibilities (no, I'm not in the military) over holidays and weekends whenever I can to spare those folks with families the trouble. I cover for people as much as I can, and they are always polite about it. I've worked in great offices with great groups.

As long as the parents aren't taking excessive leave and are playing by the employer-set rules, I'm not going to complain. It's just that the nature of the job requires a little above-and-beyond that they don't always go in for and I almost always do simply because I don't have the same home life constraints. Their free time is with kids, mine is with friends/family/myself, so their desire to be away from work is given priority over mine. It's the way things work, but it's not entirely fair to those without kids. That's a big reason why I "blathered" earlier about not wanting more regulation on the subject: parents already get a lot of consideration from the government and from most employers. Is it really fair to the working population as a whole to give them more?

Posted by: M. | June 19, 2006 3:44 PM

VassAr Dahling, my mumsy went to Wellesley '46.

My comment wasnt a snide remark about your mother -It was a snotty remrk aimed at you for dropping a Ritzy name and screwing it up.

Matriarch didnt like Vassar grads. Its like a RedSox/Yankees thing.

Anybody try the cat toilet cleaning exercise over the weekend?

Posted by: Fo3 | June 19, 2006 3:46 PM

It is interesting that there are very few posts about one's own experience as a child of working moms. I happen to be one, and because that experience was extremely negative, I have decided to leave the work force in order to give my children a better start on life than I recieved.

I'm not saying that my mother was not a good mother, but her work definitely was a problem with her ability to be their for me and my brother. I was part if the latch key generation with no one home to monitor me until parents arrived home. She was also unable to tend to me if I was ill; in fact, I remember becoming extremely ill at school, my mother rushing to pick me up and after deciding that I wasn't going to die, letting me wait (puking and feeling like I was going to die) in her office until the all-important conference was over. And where was dad you ask? Working at his job which was over an hour commute away and completely unavailable due transportation (he carpooled).

I have vivid memories of the late night arrivals of both parents and of all the trouble I had been into in those unobserved hours. My grades suffered, I resented both parents because they were never there, and I developed a lovely probelm with alcohol before I got to college. Sounds pretty, huh? Now, just imagine if my mom was a SAHM that was waiting for me after school to help me with my school work, to ask me where I was going and with whom, and to make sure that someone was aware of developing problems in my life. Just imagine...

Now, I chose to leave my well-paying job because my husband and I decided that it is logistically better. I had to take maternity anyway, I was breast-feeding, and drum roll please...I WANTED to stay home with my kids. It's called maternal instinct people. And believe me, I don't regret it one bit. I am a contributer to society in that I won't reproduce and turn outanother ill-raised child that suffers from neglect because mommy and daddy feel the need to have the nicer car. I won't let my children suffer due to anyone's ill-concieved notion that money rules our lives and that bringing home the bacon is a measure of one's worth. Please.

Posted by: another view | June 19, 2006 3:47 PM

Now, just imagine if my mom was a SAHM that was waiting for me after school to help me with my school work, to ask me where I was going and with whom, and to make sure that someone was aware of developing problems in my life. Just imagine...

Another view, I am so sorry your parents neglected you. It sounds like a very sad childhood. But I can't help but notice how you blame most of it on your mother, when in fact, you had a father who should share the blame. Good for you to want to be there for your kids. The problem is that you put this responsibility mostly on women and give men a free pass.

Posted by: Rockville | June 19, 2006 3:55 PM

I fully believe that the only people who can claim that SAHM's are not "working" are those that have worked in Daycare and considered that not "working". Seriously, give me a break here people. If you send your kid out for care or do it at home, whatever, someone is doing the "work". Maybe, not rocket science, but it is important and hard work that is required. If you think raising a child only happens early in the morning and late at night then you are delusional.

This is not to say that parents who work are not raising their child, but part of their job is to find the most qualified person to do the day work when they can't be there. And what that person is doing is "work".

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 3:55 PM

Another view, do you use a ladder to get down off that high horse, or do you just jump off into a bail of hay or something?

Posted by: Sheesh | June 19, 2006 3:56 PM

Just Curious, sorry I sounded flip but I really wasn't being (OK, the schmuck bit was but I really do think the people tearing each other down are schmucks). Why should a mother (or father) choose one side of a false dichotomy and raise her daughter (or son) under that shadow? My parents taught my brother and I to follow our hearts and not be limited by other people's views. I will teach my children the same.

Posted by: Dorca | June 19, 2006 4:01 PM

To FO3,

Now it all makes sense! mumsy was Vassar '58 -- as you can tell, I can't spell so I couldn't get into Vassar..... Yes, the seven sisters (did I screw that up too -- there are seven, right?) had very distinct personalities. Pardonnez moi for name dropping. Its just not the waspy thing to do.

I actually have a very good sense of humor but didn't pick it up at first. The temperature here in Maryland is beginning to go down due to rain so I'm feeling much happier.

peace and I think you are very funny.

Posted by: typical working mother | June 19, 2006 4:04 PM

>>I fully believe that the only people who can claim that SAHM's are not "working" are those that have worked in Daycare and considered that not "working".>>

I don't think anyone is saying they are not *busy.* But it is *not* the same as having a job. Plenty of people take time off, even a few years, when they have kids and I think they will all acknowledge that there is a big difference in the demands on your time and your flexibility between staying home and working outside the home. If there was no difference, why would the concept of work/life balance even exist?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 4:04 PM

Typical working mother...

Could you send that rain over the bridge into Virginia?? PUHLEEZE?

*melts*

Posted by: Missi | June 19, 2006 4:06 PM

In my parents view, they were not neglecting. They were prviding me with what they thought was a stable and secure upbringing by making sure that we always had enough money for what ever. I don't blame them really, I blame everyone who pressures parents to keep up with the Jonses and who gives them the idea that money solves all problems. The reason I addressed my mother so much is that this blog is basically centereing on working moms, not dads.

And in regards to my father's role, he participated as much as my mother. His job required him to often work at night, so he was truly unavailable for many of the parenting roles.

And my high horse is about one foot high and happens to belong to my toddler. I don't feel that all working parents are neglectful, but I am concerned that our society has decided that children are so unimportant as compared to a paycheck. Is a babysitter really an appropriate parental substitute? How much quality time can a child recieve from his/her parents if both arrive home at 7 and the child's bedtime is 8:30? I don't care if it is mom or dad sacrficing to be there, but I think it is wrong for all women to feel that they should work simply for the good of the feminist movement. Women could support women's rights just as well by voting and pressuring our government, not by trying to satisfy everyone else.

Posted by: another view | June 19, 2006 4:10 PM

To Missi,

Although I know I am superwoman being a full time working mother and care for two children, I unfortunately cannot guarantee the weather. But I am trying to send your way as fast as possible. this weather has been horrible.

Have a nice cool day!

Posted by: typical working mother | June 19, 2006 4:11 PM

I was reading Hirshman's online chat and read about the offices in which a woman is the token female. In what fields are these jobs? I want to be a token female so I can work with men who care about working rather than being in a henhouse where women bring cookies and snacks every day, plan office parties for pregnant women's showers, and spend hours on the phone with their husbands arranging childcare, soccer schedules, and playdates. I am so sick of working with other women who put their children and their personal situations ahead of just doing their jobs. I honestly think that if most women got off the phone (do you REALLY need to answer cell phone calls from your children every 25 mins. Ms. Manager?) and back to the tasks at hand, they would have finish work in time to go home to their kids.

Posted by: Know I'm going to get yelled at | June 19, 2006 4:12 PM

SAHM posts tend toward the defensive/self-justifying. I think this is because for women who spent (or excuse me, had parents spend) tens of thousands of dollars on an education to become a 'professional' that trading all that hard work in for a job as chaffeur/Cheerio provider makes them feel guilty. When working moms call them on it, they get their backs up, but the truth is, if you go to any mall in the DC suburbs during the daytime what do you see, these "hard working" SAHMs with their strollers and little tykes in them getting asked if they think mommy looks good in that color. Face it, if you have the wherewithal to quit work after you have your child you have absolutely no worldview or perspective to provide to a woman who HAS TO work because she's either a single parent or her partner/husband does not make enough for the home to be a single income situation.

PS .. Leslie's characterizations of Linda would be laughable if they did not show a tin ear for how many people who respond to her blogs think of HER!

Posted by: Anonymizer | June 19, 2006 4:12 PM

Contribution to Community:

My mother was a SAHM. She was the only one in a neighborhood with many mothers and fathers in full time jobs working on the hill or at the CIA or FBI so she helped out by watching over the lot of us whenever we needed it. She was the one the school called when one of my friends or my brother's friends was ill. She was the one who taught my girlfriends how to do their hair, shave their legs and put on makeup. We all learned how to ride bikes together and got crash courses in how to cook in a dorm room before college. She taught us all how to study and how to put together a really good report. How to parallel park and to drive stick. And funny thing is on Mother's day she gets calls from about 20 girls and boys. You can do something for the community staying at home. And I don't think her PHD in English lit was wasted at all. 7 of us majored in English and all of us love to read.
People should do what feels right and what they are good at, stay at home or work. Neither one is better then the other, just different.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 4:14 PM

but I think it is wrong for all women to feel that they should work simply for the good of the feminist movement. Women could support women's rights just as well by voting and pressuring our government, not by trying to satisfy everyone else.

Posted by: another view | June 19, 2006 04:10 PM

well said another view , apologies in advance for skewering you will get . Not mch tolerance for moderation here , it's you EVIL for working or EVIL for staying home .

Posted by: shoreman | June 19, 2006 4:15 PM

Please lets give SAHMs a break! You aren't "working" but you are "working." Spending all of your time with little people can be draining. 3 year olds having temper tantrums is not fun. And, taking care of the household/kids full time is not easy to do -- I don't care what other working mothers say (and yes I work full time)

And yes, I loved having my mother home when I was growing up. Yes, I'll admit it, even though I like working and being around adults all day long I'd love to stay home sometimes or at least work close to home.

Posted by: typical working mother | June 19, 2006 4:18 PM

"People who work harder than others -- men and women -- reap the benefits through promotions, raises and plum assignments. That is how most companies function."

This is sweet. I worked for a man who was the biggest slacker of this century. He was the one who always took time off for a sick kid, sick cat, sick dog. If he had to leave for an hour he'd make it the rest of the day. "Family" always came first.

I cared about our assignments. I cared about those people who counted on us. I made things happen. The people around me looked good and got promoted. I didn't, because it was my boss's job to make sure I got promoted and he was just too lazy to make that happen.

Now I am a SAH. I hated being the one who was late to meetings because my two kids had to be in two different places and my husband traveled. I was not going to be one of those mothers who thought that "family came first" and to heck with the people I worked with.

I made the decision to do one thing very, very well. I see way too much rationalizig here that working parents aren't hurting anyone else with all the compromising going on.

Posted by: coaster | June 19, 2006 4:19 PM

My mother stayed at home until I was 13 (and my youngest sibling was 6) and the folks got divorced. After that she went back to school (though she already had an M.A.), then taught. Dad was the primary breadwinner and travelled a lot. He never made any secret of the fact that his kids were the most important thing in the world to him, and that some sacrifice was required to provide them with opportunities. From him we learned the value of sacrifice, the virtues of hard work, self-discipline, and the importance of making every minute together count.

Mom did a ton of volunteer work before the divorce, but was always there doing the "traditional" mother roles. She taught us how to fend for ourselves in all those little ways that matter so much, demonstrated that you can always have fun, fostered a love of music and books in us, taught us to be a part of our community, and showed us just how important family is. Things changed for the worse after the divorce when she went back to work.

This wouldn't have worked if dad had stayed home and Mom worked. We all would have gone nuts. If both had worked, well, we wouldn't be the people we are today. I'm a firm believer in children having parents who are active in their lives at all times. If they both work, it's still possible but a lot harder. I know some families where one parent works evenings/weekends for the most part while the other works during the day. They don't get much time together, but they do get 100% coverage on the kids. Kids who come home from school to an empty house suffer, there's no two ways around it in my mind.

Posted by: M. | June 19, 2006 4:24 PM

From Linda's chat: "There is a lot of data that women who leave the workplace for more than a couple of years never come back to where they left. At the highest end, they miss out on the high trajectory that puts you in the Senate, the CEO's office, the producer's office, the editor-in-chief's office."

Yikes. I have a friend who unexpectedly has been out of the workplace for 3+ years. She thought she had it all planned out so that she could have a baby, take basic maternity leave, and return to work full-time. And then fate threw in a twist when she had a disabled child. She wants very much to be climbing the ladder, and for her husband to leave work or scale back to take care of their child, but she's having trouble getting a job at her level. She is older (45) and has been out of work (except for occasional projects) for so long. What would Hirshman say? That my friend made a mistake in having her one child? We can't all plan what happens to us. Even the best careers can be sidetracked.

Posted by: Getting back in | June 19, 2006 4:28 PM

"There is a lot of data that women who leave the workplace for more than a couple of years never come back to where they left. At the highest end, they miss out on the high trajectory that puts you in the Senate, the CEO's office, the producer's office, the editor-in-chief's office."

Well yeah, why is this a surprise? If you miss two years to take care of a child or two, due to injury, to go bum around Europe, to find inner peace or to follow the Dead, yeah, that'll set your career back. It's the trade-off you make, voluntarily or otherwise: your kids or your job? Your health or your job? Europe or a cube? Your soul or your job? The Dead or your job? As getting back in just said, the unexpected has a way of popping up.

I'm about to drop my career for at least a year for the sake of the one I love, I know the risks, and they're worth it to me. I don't expect a subsidy for it...

Posted by: M. | June 19, 2006 4:33 PM

Hirshman seems to be saying that all working moms have "the better life" than all SAH moms. Geez, what a generalization. It's really different for each situation. Sure, it's great to work and build your retirement fund and SS and get that great sense of achievement that work can provide (if you're lucky enough to get a job that actually fulfills you and to keep it for, say 40 years). But life does throw curve balls to women, and the solution is to swing at them as best you can, which sometimes means leaving a job for a while and depending on your spouse to support you, not just "go to work and continue to work".

Posted by: Late to the debate | June 19, 2006 4:35 PM

"It is interesting that there are very few posts about one's own experience as a child of working moms."

Here's mine - it was great. Both my parents are lawyers, and both were very involved in my life. I didn't go to daycare - I stayed with my grandparents or aunt (one grandmother living kitty-corner from my parents, the other pair of grandparents a 5-min drive away). My father also came home from work at a pretty early hour, usually; my mother has her own law firm and so her hours could be (and still can be) unpredictable.

As I got a little older, I started getting involved in a lot of after-school activities (of my own choosing; I've always been someone that is interested in like 1000 things) like ballet and horseback riding; both parents would take turns driving me. Since my mother usually worked later, my father would often drive me there, with my mother picking me up.

My mother's office is very close to where I went to high school, so she and I would normally drive together.

My parents both found their jobs generally very fulfilling...and also felt that way about spending time with me. At least that's the message I got. And we are still very good friends that talk on the phone all the time (we live in different states; I'm in DC). They enjoy coming to visit me.

I feel like they both gave me a very good start in life. I saw the importance of fulfilling work AND maintaining a healthy balance with other interests. I consider myself a very independent person (though I like being around people, I love my own space too!).

Not to be too pollyanna-ish about the whole thing....I know this sounds like a Hallmark card! Maybe Mother's Day and Father's Day have put me in a sentimental mood... :)

Posted by: Lilybeth | June 19, 2006 4:36 PM

"If they both work, it's still possible but a lot harder. I know some families where one parent works evenings/weekends for the most part while the other works during the day"

We did this until my daughter was about 5 while my husband was in school. Now that we both have decent day jobs to pay for a good school with after school care we are spending a lot more time together as a family and totally enjoying it. We are less stressed. One thing though, we don't do much with other people or belong to groups other than church because it takes away from family time. I do hope to work less when she gets older when adolescence kicks in even though I know she will say she doesn't want me around. I think she will need me much more then. I know I did my mother although she was at home and I still managed to get in trouble just not as much as I could have. And we decided to, unfortunately, pay more in rent so we wouldn't have a big commute.

Anyway, eveyone's choices or needs are different and we do what we gotta do.

Posted by: Dlyn | June 19, 2006 4:36 PM

To Getting back in,

Wouldn't Hirschman say that your friend demonstrates her exact thesis?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 4:36 PM

But what "mistake" did my friend make? Having a child? So -- great idea -- let's all stop having children! It seems to me that what's called for is a more flexible workplace, not for women or men to just accept that they must continue working no matter what, not even taking time off for maternity leave or to care for an ill or disabled child (or parent).

Posted by: Getting back in | June 19, 2006 4:38 PM

"It seems to me that what's called for is a more flexible workplace, not for women or men to just accept that they must continue working no matter what..."

1 more stab at it -

Step 1: Answer: "A more flexible workplace would be good for business because _______________". (There are some valid answers here.)

Step 2: Sell it to management or start a company using the answer to #1 as your competitive advantage.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but anything else is just complaining.

Posted by: Pp. | June 19, 2006 4:49 PM

I worked as a trial lawyer for 13 years before I had a child, and have cut back my case load dramatically since then. Most of my partners are men with wives who stay home (even though many of their children are grown), and most would probably say this didn't surprise them in the least. And interestingly enough, I don't see the opportunities for women at my firm being limited because of my decisions or because of any prevailing mentality (whether or not grounded in fact) that women inevitably cut back when they have children, and if they don't, they should. That mentality is out there, by the way, but I honestly don't find it harmful. Men tend to see life choices as personal, rather than precedential. Most of them can be perfectly happy THEIR wives stay home and yet still treat their women colleagues as equals. Women should learn from that.

At its best, feminism should have created opportunity for women, not dictated to us how to exercise it. If that's the case, we've simply gone from sacrificing ourselves for our families to sacrificing ourselves and our families for The Sisterhood, to set an example. This is an improvement?

Everyone - even a feminist - is entitled to live life according to what, personally, matters most: career, marriage, children, personal politics, or some combination of the above. Of course personal circumstances affect that choice: those who stayed in school, stayed married, or had children later in life will have more flexibility. That isn't a wrong to be righted; it's a fact, and ultimately choice is about recognizing the trade-offs. Better that we have it, than not to have it at all.

Certainly the most productive workers are going to be those without children and those with spouses who stay home. But that doesn't mean theirs is the only contribution that counts. Frankly, a lot of the tension in the workplace is caused by telling ourselves we need to treat these contributions as "equal," lets we "discriminate." So we live with that tension, because it's the best solution we have.

When it comes to work/family tensions, there's nothing new under the sun and never will be, as long as there are 24 hours in a day. It would be nice if we could just get off each other's backs and let everyone else do her own thing.

Posted by: MomWorksToo | June 19, 2006 4:54 PM

Funny how traffic on this blog basically ends just before 5 p.m., also known as "quittin' time". I'll bet there are a lot more "working" moms on here than SAHMs.

Posted by: Passes the time | June 19, 2006 5:03 PM

I just wanted to tell MomWorksToo: great post.

Posted by: Mo2 | June 19, 2006 5:09 PM

"Funny how traffic on this blog basically ends just before 5 p.m., also known as "quittin' time". I'll bet there are a lot more "working" moms on here than SAHMs."

I've often noticed that as well. Says a lot about the term "working". I'm in CST so I guess I'll have to "work" for another hour now that most of the catfight is over.

Posted by: Barely workin' | June 19, 2006 5:09 PM

Jayne doesn't think parents "work" at taking care of children? Then why do we pay people to take care of children? Isn't that "work"? Isn't anything that involves cooking, cleaning, teaching, organizing, and carrying heavy loads (try picking up a 3-year-old) and that leaves you exhausted at the end of the day "work"? What would you do with children--just turn them out to fend for themselves? Someone, paid or not, has to take care of them. At-home parents make an economic contribution to their families, because they either take care of the kids themselves, or they pay someone. My perspective at nearly 60 has changed over time--my mother stayed home, and was clearly a very frustrated and depressed woman; I earned a degree, stayed home with kids, worked as a freelancer, worked part time, worked full time, worked freelance and part time again so I could help with grandchildren, started working full time again. . .and on it goes. I've been a married mom and a single mom, and I just do what I need to do. My education, far from wasted, was showered liberally upon my children, who would probably tell you that they got very tired of it. I never wanted to be the CEO of anything, but lots of people don't--we can't all be CEOs or high-powered professionals. We do need better accommodations for parents in the workplace--mothers and fathers, rich and poor. No family with children should have two people in the family who work 60 or 70 hours a week, each. No family should need to work that much. Children aren't hobbies or indulgences. They will be our doctors and nurses and teachers and CEOs someday; they will be paying our Social Security and the taxes that run this country. Someone needs to raise them.

Posted by: Having it all ways | June 19, 2006 5:13 PM

"It is interesting that there are very few posts about one's own experience as a child of working moms."

Here's mine-- it was lousy. My mom was great but my dad was not helpful, and she had to do 95% of the housework and all of the childrearing. (He's a nice guy and was supportive of her career but is lazy and self-centered) There were so many details she had to take care of that she missed the big picture of things-- whether I was bullied in school, whether we were learning anything, noticing that my sister was completely miserable, for years, and getting her help, noticing that my sister and I were bussed for 2 hours a day (first ones on, last ones off). I understand that it's because she had so much on her plate, and I don't blame her, but there were huge costs to my upbringing.

She's a wonderful person and I'm proud of her. She's a professor and once she got tenure things got a little easier. I can't say I had a happy childhood, though. It definitely made me decide that 1) I was going to marry a guy who would treat me equally; and 2) I was going to stay at home or work few enough hours when my kids are little to stay emotionally involved in my kids' lives. This is just my opinion, based on my experiences-- I know this is not right for everyone.

Posted by: Annie | June 19, 2006 5:14 PM

"Funny how traffic on this blog basically ends just before 5 p.m., also known as "quittin' time". I'll bet there are a lot more "working" moms on here than SAHMs."

Do SAHMs actually use a clock???

Just kidding

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 5:21 PM

In response to neutral who wrote: "1st, Kate , how do you know what I'd probably do ? i just stated that i would not , and a recurring them of this blog shows itself again. That theme is , " if i disagree with what someone say's , I'll disregard and reieterate my own belief . " Your ex brother in law is your ex brother in law , not a representation of all men."

I think I've not explained myself well at all. I'm a SAHM. To me, raising children (whether you work at a paid job or not) is constructive.

I made a comment in response and was sharing an anecdote about a man who was not working, but also not doing anything constructive (no, he was not raising children, he was simply opting out of work). He was not a caregiver, and he also was not a financial contributor. He was not cooking and cleaning either.

The point is, most of society would frown upon men who opted out of work to do nothing. That's what my former BIL was doing. I am in no way saying that he is a reflection of anyone but himself.

The point is, even though he was avoiding work, as a man, he felt compelled to PRETEND as if he had a job. That's where the deception comes in...opening secret credit card accounts to fake an income.

Most women who stay home do not have to pretend to hold a job. Even if they are not very good SAHMs.

Society as a whole does not frown on women opting out of the workforce. So my point was, there is a double standard. And, for a man to say that he wouldn't care what other men do, I say there are probably not a critical mass of men opting out to make it worthy of comment. If, all of a sudden there was a movement of men to stop working, there would be the "Man wars" or whatever you want to call it.

The ones who opt out are not advertising it for the most part, because there is a lot of pressure on men to maintain the status quo as breadwinners.

Sorry, didn't have time to edit.


Posted by: Kate | June 19, 2006 5:22 PM

SNIP:RB
So easy for you to criticize others. I'm assuming you're one of those SAHM jealous of those of us doing meaningful work and bringing up great children. I feel sorry for you. Posted by: Working mother | June 19, 2006 01:42 PM

Working Mother:

Funny how quick people are to assume in this cosmic debate between the isms and the straw (wo)men they create. Your pity is misplaced, though I'll still take it given that I'm a working dad with two great children who would rather be a stay at home dad, or at least a dad who did not have to be absent from the house from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm while I'm at work! And my "meaningful" high profile, high paid work frequently pales in comparison to the meaning of my potential impact as a caregiver on my kids' intellectual, psycholgical, and emotional development.

SNIP: Here's the problem with that argument. .... we need to make sure that men do their share in the home sphere so that woman are not constantly subsidizing men's success in the work world and undermining their own chance to participate in that success as well. Plus, if, as women, we decide that we will stay at home and raise our children because it is the more noble calling, we are teaching our kids, both sons and daughters, that it is the place of women to "choose" the more "noble" calling of raising kids and tending the home fires. We are limiting our sons and daughters in unimaginable ways, because ours sons, with that mentality, will never get a chance to experience the rewards that raising children offer, and our daughter will never get to experience the power of working and making a difference in the market place.

Posted by: Rockville | June 19, 2006 02:02 PM

Rockville:

I would trade success in the workforce for success as a parent. My employers will forget about me 10 years down the road. My kids hopefully won't ... or won't want to because I was never there for them. I can't buy into the notion that workplace success trumps any other kind. I know plenty of successful workers who are absolute failures as parents, friends, and people in general because they lost sight of what is really important in life. I'd rather teach my kids to be open minded, knowledge hungry, tolerant, non-materialistic, and kind-hearted (all aspects of identities) and let them decide what roles they want to play.

My general point is that there's no right answer for everyone. This debate is more about false assumptions leading to imperialist prescriptions from hoary pontificators and the subsequent sending of straw (wo)men into battle, than about people from all walks of life figuring out what works for them.

And don't even get me started on the family values fascists who are so afraid of the diversity of society that they rear their kids in suburban tract gulags and drive their kids to Chick-Fil-A in armored SUVs after a long day of homeschooling because public schools do the unthinkable and recognize diversity.

Hey what do I know. I'm just a dad with two terrific kids who actually do not behave like monsters like many of their peers. Hmmm, upon reflection perhaps this is a debate seemingly reserved for women. My bad. Forgive the intrusion.


Posted by: RB | June 19, 2006 5:23 PM

To Getting Back into It.

Who said your friend made a mistake? She chose to have a child and now must devote more time at home than initially anticipated. This has an impact of her earning potential. I'm not sure what so wrong or upsetting about pointing out this. No one has said that she did anything "wrong." People's decisions have reactions and consequences.

I think people are getting upset about Hirschman, not because her comments are so off-base but because they actually are correct and hit close to home.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 5:24 PM

"just because feminism did a lot of very good things does not mean feminism and feminists can't be criticized either individually or as a group."

Of course feminists and feminism can be criticized. But let's criticize them for what they do or don't do instead of the generalized "man hating" and "bitter" attitude attributed to them by their rivals.

Posted by: Kate | June 19, 2006 5:29 PM

A nanny taking care of my kid works. If I stay home to take kid of my kid it's work. It's just a question of who gets paid how much by whom.

Posted by: Shandra | June 19, 2006 5:29 PM

Does a housekeeper work when s/he cleans the employer's home?

Does the SAHM work when she cleans her own home?

Does the single, working person work when she cleans her own home?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 5:40 PM

Actually, I think men have many of the same concerns about balancing work and child-rearing that women do, men just don't fret about them so much. Part of it is the way we are wired; I am constantly amazed at the hundreds of things my wife seems to go out of her way to worry about for our kids. I find myself concerned with long term things like paying for college, having enough around to deal with unexpected illnesses, what might happen if I get hit by a bus on the way to work, etc. She worries whether someone's backpack will get lost or if so-and-so's clothes help her fit into whichever 15-minute-duration social group she's aiming for in junior high. No wonder SAHs can work themselves up into a frenzy, particularly when exposed to one another. Relax. Put some perspective on it: 300 years ago, kids were rolling around on uncured animal hides and getting kicked in the head by mules. Your child will live even if she's 10 minutes late to soccer practice. Your son will not grow up to be the next Hitler simply out of spite for the time you couldn't make it to the choir recital.

I'm probably sterotyping a fair bit, but men seem better able to compartmentalize "work" and "home" - and I'd like to think consequently do better at both. Being a good parent doesn't mean you have to micromanage everything - in fact, it's often the opposite. Even with an equal level of love and affection, families that aren't wound too tightly tend to raise better kids than those that are severely over-mothered (I'd say "over-fathered" too...but that's not a phrase I hear. Wonder why).

Posted by: Irresponsible Speculator | June 19, 2006 5:51 PM

Sorry I hit submit accidentally too early.

So in the original Hirshman article I thought she was making a point about women stepping back economically, and I had to agree it's a slightly worrying trend (not that I think women shouldn't do it, but why are men not doing it).

However in her latest article it seems like she is treating women working to raise children unpaid like idiots and that is really - hard to see. I lost a lot of respect for her in reading this one.

Posted by: Shandra | June 19, 2006 5:53 PM

"it's your own fault you had to stay late, good for the dad who has some balls."

Let me introduce you to this thing called "reality." If all of us "had some balls" and got up and left, we would have been fired. That's what happens when there's a deadline and you miss it. I didn't set the deadline (Congress did that), and I fail to understand how it's my fault that we had to stay late.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 5:53 PM

typical working mother said "To tired and outraged -- I feel your pain but what does a parent do -- I have had to leave meetings when my husband is out of town and I'm it for daycare pickup. I can't show up to pick them up at 10pm -- maybe the father was frustrated not with being at the office but that real work wasn't being done"

You just made my point. Parents can't/won't/don't put in the same time as non-parents, yet want the same salary, promotions, etc. And there's an attitude that those of us who are child-free should accomodate this. Anyone who objects is "not a team player" or "has a bad attitude." It's simply not fair.

This was definitely not a case of real work not being done. We were writing and editing a report for Congress. It had to be on the VP's desk when he came in on Monday. Daddy didn't finish his section, so those of us who stayed had to finish it.

Posted by: Tired and outraged | June 19, 2006 6:02 PM

"I honestly think that if most women got off the phone (do you REALLY need to answer cell phone calls from your children every 25 mins. Ms. Manager?) and back to the tasks at hand, they would have finish work in time to go home to their kids."

Your post made me laugh. Ironically, one of my jobs in a male dominated field was software telesales, so we were all REQUIRED to be on the phone all day long. And, the days we didn't have enough clients to talk to, we had to make up people to call. I learned a lot working with those guys.

Mostly, I heard a lot of swearing (after hanging up with clients) and a lot of bawdy talk.

Posted by: Kate | June 19, 2006 6:03 PM

To Linda and all working women please ponder this question :

Would you be still working at your jobs if you are told that you are not going to get paid for your work anymore. Its highly unlikely that you would - which in turn implies that you are only in it for money and not for any higher pursuits.

The point here is that while stay at Moms dont get paid for their work - they value it nonetheless and would never 'quit' their jobs.

Posted by: SAHM supporter | June 19, 2006 6:15 PM

To SAHM Supporter:

Why didn't you ask that question of the men? I suspect that they wouldn't stay there were it not for the cash. Who do you think the money is going to anyway?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 6:18 PM

I was raised by a working mom and was in daycare from about 10 months on.

I loved it. I loved having friends in daycare, I loved the field trips and activities. I loved going to my mom's office (which I had to do sometimes when I was sick and she couldn't stay home - she was lucky enough to have a very understanding office). My mom drove me to school for 3 years (1 hour commute) and it was great. I loved the time I spent with her.

My dad was often responsible for picking me up and taking me to activities because his work was closer to home than my mom's work.

Mom and Dad shared the household responsibilities pretty evenly. My mom finally went to law school when I was in high school.

I plan on working after kid #1, and would like to do it after kid #2 if we can afford it.

Luckily my WOH mom and dad are now nearing retirement age and are very near us, and can be SAH grandparents!

Posted by: alexvawife | June 19, 2006 6:22 PM

"Would you be still working at your jobs if you are told that you are not going to get paid for your work anymore."

If I could afford it, yes, at least part-time. Or if I did quit, it would be because I found something more satisfying in the volunteer world (again, if I could afford it). But I will always do some sort of intellectually stimulating work outside the home.

Now, let me ask you: you say you'd never "quit" your job. I'd never quit being a mom, either. But I know a fair number of SAHMs who happily use part-time childcare, child-swap arrangements, etc., so that they can have kid-free time to get things done. And then, of course, there's the school day. So is having/making time to pursue interests outside your kids only bad if it's paid?

Why does it all have to be all or nothing? If you've found your calling, then more power to you. But snide comments that suggest that your solution is "right," and anyone who doesn't realize that is fooling herself, don't do anything to advance the discussion.

Posted by: Laura | June 19, 2006 6:29 PM

"I honestly think that if most women got off the phone (do you REALLY need to answer cell phone calls from your children every 25 mins. Ms. Manager?) and back to the tasks at hand, they would have finish work in time to go home to their kids"

I was once the only (and first) female to work at a place where the work was semi-manual. I loved the guys I worked with, and after they got over some initial hesitation (about half were sure a woman was incapable of doing the job and were very opposed to my presence) we all got along great. You would not have believed the amount of time these guys spent sitting around and gossiping like hens. It was just the same as any group of women, although the topics were different (generally more bawdy and more light-hearted). It was the type of job where we were on the clock, so it's not like anyone had the option of leaving early. Though often they would show up about 15 minutes early to sit and chat, and that was so disruptive that the management set a rule that you couldn't arrive more than 10 minutes before your shift.

Posted by: token female | June 19, 2006 6:36 PM

Anonymous on purpose,

You are right, you are on topic (the topic of being mean), sad thing is you don't contribute anything to the real topic. So you are no better then the people you pissed off.

Posted by: another silly person | June 19, 2006 7:18 PM

Has Hirshman addressed "quality of life issues"? I wonder about that if she says that working women should limit themselves to one child. Reasonable, unless you'd like more than that.

Are women with advanced degrees required to follow the choices they made as young adults for the rest of their lives? I mean, if my engineer husband thought he could make a living as a guitar player, he'd make the switch in a heartbeat. Does that mean he wouldn't be following the politically correct agenda?

That second child and full-time work turned my world upside down and I didn't enjoy it. Most people who know me comment on how much more relaxed I am now that I'm a SAHM.

My quality of life has improved and so has that of my entire family. We all eat better and healthier. The house is organized and we don't have screaming fits in the morning when trying to find matching socks. The kids get their homework done on time and have time to go to sports, music AND have friends over to play. Best of all, we finally got the dogs that the kids have always wanted. I'm amazed at how much we all manage to do as a family without the stress and craziness of the working years.

I see my friends with demanding careers wink at their kids when they see me in my new life -- and they aren't winks of approval. But I see the envy in their kids eyes as they see my kids playing with their dogs and knowing that my kids get picked up straight from school and not hours later.

Does Hirshman really believe we should stay in unhappy situations just to prove her point?

Posted by: Finally -- Peace | June 19, 2006 7:33 PM

What struck me about this harridan's strident article was all the language about how women should "demand this" and "demand that." I tried that -- I tried forcing my husband to care about things like school fundraisers and whether or not we were out of milk and all it got us was a trial separation.

Ultimately, I decided I wanted to be married more than I wanted to have a career.

the thing that maybe she's not realizing in this article is that in every family somebody has to be the grown-up, somebody has to do that crap work or it just doesn't get done. Yes, ideally society would figure out how to make infants that didn't defecate and require changing -- but so far that hasn't happened.

We tried delegating it to the underpaid Portuguese au pair, we tried daycare and none of it worked. Life's too short to spend all your time fighting about whose turn it is to buy the groceries/pick up from soccer/wake up at 5 AM to log on to that ridiculous computer system to sign your kids up for swim lessons in Fairfax County.

Darn tooting. If I can afford to quit, I'm going to. Get yourself a copy of the Happy Housewife book. Darla Shine's got the right idea.

And why is she so threatened by people who LIKE traditional gender roles anyway?

Posted by: Guilty As Charged | June 19, 2006 7:42 PM

Another Silly person, how do you know I haven't contributed to the topic today?

Posted by: Anonymous on Purpose | June 19, 2006 8:06 PM

"They leave and those of us still here take the brunt of management/supervisors getting really tired of having this scenario happen over and over again. I see it, others see it, and it just amazes me how SAH moms (or those hoping to be SAH moms) seem to think it's no biggie."

I'm confused. Why does it bother you if someone leaves her job to stay home, or for any reason? Is it possible your company is just managing its human resources poorly and you're upset about that?

What if that employee were to become disabled, die, or leave to take a promotion at another company? Do you have the same level of anger and distrust?

In this economy, people leave jobs for all sorts of reasons. If you don't like how your bosses manage change, why not look for another job somewhere else?

Don't be a victim to bad management.

Posted by: Kate | June 19, 2006 8:26 PM

Shandra's excellent point reminded me of Erma Bombeck's humorous story of hiring another SAHM to be the nanny/housekeeper while the other SAHM hired her. They were doing the same work, only at each other's houses, and earning money, and therefore respect, from their spouses.

Hirshman would like this much better than being a SAHM.

Posted by: Ms L | June 19, 2006 8:31 PM

To Finally-Peace,
Well good for you. And are you sure that the working mother's kids are eyeing your kids with envy? I think you're dreaming. So what, you now have a dog and your house is cleaner. Big deal. I'm not criticizing you choice, it's just your justification is so superficial and the benefits are rather trivial. And guess what? Those of us who work pick up our kids on time (carpool), take them to activities (soccer, music lessons, etc) and spend evenings doing homework with them. Just because we work doesn't mean we are not parents FULL-TIME. The people who suffer are not the children, it's typically the parents and that's fine with me.

And the work I do is meaningful. Anyone who has a job or career they dislike would leave it if they could afford to. Most people don't have that choice, but the small number of us that do, would. I would then choose some other meaningful work if my current profession was no longer stimulating and meaningful. Back to the original premise---we live in a world that values people based on the quality of their work and what they earn. That's reality. PTA presidents don't get written into the history books and don't make policies or rule the world. How come we don't criticize fathers for being doctors, lawyers, congressmen, businessmen, etc?

If you choose to SAH, that's peachy. Just don't expect to garner the same respect from society as mothers who work. That's the trade-off.

Posted by: Working mother | June 19, 2006 8:32 PM

Am I the only one here who sees that the problem isn't necessarily whether a woman works or stays home -- but that she is the only one in a two-parent relationship who is expected to make a career sacrifice? What I took away from Hirshman's article is that there will be no equality among the sexes until men and women take on these sacrifices in nearly equal numbers -- that is, that Dad's go the "daddy track" just as often as women cut back on their hours with the "mommy track." I'm all for women making their own choices of whether to stay home, work part time, or work full time -- I just don't think it is a real "choice" yet.

Posted by: Kim | June 19, 2006 8:34 PM

The poster wrote: I can't imaging staying home and being dependent on someone else to support me.

If you're in a long-term relationship, you are inter-dependent. My husband and I share our finances. At some point, I may return to work and make more money than he does. Should he then feel bad about himself? (He changed careers a few years ago and makes a lot less than he used to).

I was lucky that my parents were partners who shared their lives and their finances.

When one of my parents became ill and was physically dependent on the other, that was part of the package deal too.

Posted by: Anotherreader | June 19, 2006 8:34 PM

Finally -- peace said

My quality of life has improved and so has that of my entire family. We all eat better and healthier. The house is organized and we don't have screaming fits in the morning when trying to find matching socks. The kids get their homework done on time and have time to go to sports, music AND have friends over to play. Best of all, we finally got the dogs that the kids have always wanted. I'm amazed at how much we all manage to do as a family without the stress and craziness of the working years.

I do all of that and I work. It's not that hard and I wish everyone would quit with the histrionics. It's life. Just do it.

Posted by: lf | June 19, 2006 8:35 PM

Nicely said Kim

Posted by: Working mother | June 19, 2006 8:37 PM

I just heard a social scientist on the 'With Good Reason' radio show say that of the mothers she studied who worked full-time, stayed at home full-time, or worked part-time at about 20 hours a week; that the part-time working mothers were the happiest.

I like a lot of what Linda Hirshman had to say in the Prospect article, and in the Post's Outlook section. Our society is indeed impoverished when women forsake the public world for the private. But then I think of women like Sandra Day O'Connor and former Governor of Texas Ann Richardson. If I remember their biographies correctly, they were at home when their kids were young and then concentrated on their careers later on. I also know a business owner who worked as a part-time consultant when her daughter was young, and gradually ramped it up into a very successful small business, employing 12 expert medical researchers, by the time her daughter was ready to go to college.

Why does it have to be all at once?


Posted by: AK | June 19, 2006 8:50 PM

"Back to the original premise---we live in a world that values people based on the quality of their work and what they earn."

I think "working mother" wrote this. That may be true of many people, but not all. In my family, I don't think it's true.

I have over 25 first cousins and my husband has nearly 50. When I was growing up, someone's importance or respect in the extended family was sometimes attached to how smart they were, or whether they were a good person. But in all honesty, I never remember my parents speaking ill of anyone who worked at a less than desirable job. And, certainly no one held greater esteem because they had more money than another relative. It was all about their personal attributes -- their character.

All work was good and honorable. (My grandparents were all immigrants).

I have to say, however, that I have a sister-in-law who has made disparaging comments about flight attendants (my brother is a commercial pilot, so perhaps she's jealous). She called them "flying waitresses" at a family gathering.

You could have heard a pin drop. In my family, it would not have been beneath anyone to be a waitress, although there aren't any waitresses.

Today, my husband and kids and I live in a very affluent area. We are not on the high end, although we could be (I'm not working at a paid job just now).

In all honesty though, after my father suffered for years with a degenerative brain disease, I decided that the greatest resource I have is TIME and not money.

I saved and invested earlier in life, and while my cash flow isn't always what it could be, I have the time I want.

And, so does my family.

But, just as working moms make sacrifices to get what they want and need, I've sacrificed, too.

In my case, I didn't "opt out." I was fired/laid off, mostly because I was a mother. I never managed to get back on that treadmill.

Posted by: Kate | June 19, 2006 8:52 PM

The poster wrote: I can't imaging staying home and being dependent on someone else to support me.

If you're in a long-term relationship, you are inter-dependent. My husband and I share our finances. At some point, I may return to work and make more money than he does. Should he then feel bad about himself? (He changed careers a few years ago and makes a lot less than he used to).

I was lucky that my parents were partners who shared their lives and their finances.

When one of my parents became ill and was physically dependent on the other, that was part of the package deal too

I agree with the original poster --and I am married have joint finances, etc. It's exactly for the reason you mentioned. We have both experienced career shifts, downsizing, health problems, both partners in the relationship have an obligation to keep their skills sharp and be able to financially provide for the family.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 9:00 PM

Hmmm. Having read everything, I'd stake my overeducated soul that Tracy is right. The Prospect article was far less a diatribe than the original commentary in this blog. How was it condescending if you weren't looking to take offense from it?

WashingtonPost.com, more Linda Hirshman please! (I've gotta stop reading this blog, but it's like an awful accident and I just can't look away!)

Posted by: x^2 | June 19, 2006 9:06 PM

This blog has turned into a battle of working mothers v SAHM, with both extolling the virtues of their choice and the evils of their counterpart's choice. Very defensive. How about we stop fighting each other, as neither choice in today's world is ideal, and start demanding that our men (and instilling in our sons the need to) put in their equal share of the work and sacrifices of family?

Posted by: Kim | June 19, 2006 9:24 PM

I was actually kind of surprised when I read this blog today because I didn't realize that there were so many negative feelings on both sides of the work/stay at home issue.
I wonder if people's opinions are based on the area in which they live. I live (and used to work) in New Hampshire. I have never heard anything but positive comments from people when I've told them that I am a stay at home mom. This includes co-workers, family, friends and random strangers.
I've been a SAHM since my son was born one year ago. Prior to that, I had worked in a professional capacity at the same company for 11 years. My husband and I always knew, though, that when we had children we would do whatever was necessary to be able to stay at home with them because that is right for us. I have several close friends who are mothers who work and I respect their choice as I know they respect mine.

Posted by: Rachel | June 19, 2006 9:25 PM

Hi Kate , no you did not explain ourelf very well . I took umbrage to your comment , responding to my stated lack of commenting on a non working male neighbor ," that I probably would " . You are correct , i misunderstood you to mean I would not comment regardless of effort . I do feel however that a man who was not trying to avoid work , but do the real work of child rearing , taking care of home, would not be ashamed , as opposed to trying to be a slacker , which comes with it's own special shame . Thank you or taking the time to clarify.

Posted by: neutral | June 19, 2006 9:26 PM

"Another Silly person, how do you know I haven't contributed to the topic today?"

You probably have posted under another name so that other posters won't think you are the jerk who made Scarry and Megan leave the blog, but that still doesn't mean you have anything interesting to say!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 9:47 PM

oh, and stay on topic will ya!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 9:48 PM

Kate -- I loved what you wrote. It was one of the most grounded and touching stories of the day. Thanks.

Posted by: Leslie | June 19, 2006 9:51 PM

Really, life is a balance. There are no perfect solutions, and the right answer for some people may not be the right answer for others. I think also the personality of the mother plays a very important part in a woman's decision to work or stay at home. My own mother hated her job, was never very comfortable in the work place, and couldn't wait to have children and stay home with them. My best friend's mother, on the other hand, is very type A, and would never consider leaving her position as a medical researcher. She would absolutely go crazy at home. Family values are also really important. My father is a sucessful lawyer, and he's told me that the only profession I am not allowed to pursue is that of a lawyer. He says that it is not friendly towards women, and they are often unfairly derided for "taking the mommy path." I will never forget this, and his opinion will have an impact as to whether I stay home with my own children in the future. It's really such a personal choice, I don't know how people can argue about it on a blog, making statements as though they apply to all women everywhere.

Posted by: hmm | June 19, 2006 9:54 PM

But our choices, especially whether or not to stay in the work place, do affect one another?

Why can't we talk about it?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2006 10:06 PM

While slightly off topic, I think some people might benefit from reading "Freakonomics" by Levit and Dubner. In one small chapter they discuss the nature vs. nurture argument. They conclude that working parents do not have a negative effect on their child's development and stay at home parents do not have a positive impact on their child's development. As a father-to-be, it put my mind at ease. There is no right or wrong decision.

Posted by: Bryan | June 19, 2006 10:11 PM

It's time for everyone to stop fighting about each other's choices. The time we spend doing that should be spent trying to help make changes for the moms and families who don't have a choice and must work to make ends meet and to try to get health care for their kids. Imagine if all the posters here gave a few minutes of their time to lobby their employers or Congressmen for some real change -- that would be a conversation worth engaging in.

http://punditmom1.blogspot.com

Posted by: PunditMom | June 20, 2006 8:44 AM

Still puzzled by the posters who think that if working parents go home for the day (or if any other people go home for the day) that you have to put up with management assigning you their work. Lack of staff is management's problem!

If the stock room runs out of pens, you don't have to bring them in from your home. If HR runs out of labor, you don't have to bring that in from your home either. If congress is waiting on something from your company, then it is your company (HR) that will drop the ball, not you personally.

I'm all for taking pride in your work but remember you are bailing out THE COMPANY in that situation, not your co-worker. It is not the co-worker's fault that the project got behind in the first place....

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2006 8:54 AM

And I am still baffled by the people who refuse to _acknowledge_ that leaving early may actually force others to stay late at work.

That's what many of the posters have said they want -- thanks and acknowledgement.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2006 9:02 AM

To tired and outraged:

I think explaining the situation better was helpful. I spent 11 years working in DC in politics and you cannot have a life if you work there (or need to have a very supportive spouse willing to let you do your job). I have been there -- the call Friday afternoon for something needed first thing on Monday because the politician has a speech to give or whatever -- Don't know if you work in the White House but my advice to you and others is LEAVE that environment if you want some semblance of a personal life. I worked an average of 60 hours a week before I had kids. Now its a normal 40 hour week. And yes, that father shouldn't have left the situation without finishing his section -- could he have come in on Sunday and done it (is there flexibility in that way)? Or did he just say I'm done which is so not helpful to you. If it were me I would have only left if I had no one to watch the kids and then figured out a way to come back.
Anyways, even though I thought the blogs were really sort of nasty I think that it was a healthy debate. I learned a lot from the "other side." Good job every one.

Posted by: typical working mother | June 20, 2006 9:14 AM

"She chose to have a child and now must devote more time at home than initially anticipated. This has an impact of her earning potential."

This is what so many working parents won't accept, that often their child's needs -- whether it be special education or a soccer game -- take the parent out of the workplace and thus impact their earning potential. Parents just don't want to accept this.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2006 9:14 AM

So what if you are baling out the company? They pay your salary. They expect the work to get done. What happens when a bunch of people leave early? The company does not say "Oh, well, we can't get it done today." What world do you live in????

Most people work at jobs where they have very little to say about the company's goals, bottom line or business plan. Yes, many companies want employee participation, but it's still the boss's party --

Get out of your ivory towers people. Some of us work at jobs where if the phone is rining, or a patient is having trouble getting sedated -- you just pick up our bags and leave, leaving your co-workers to finish the job. THE WORK IS STILL GOING ON WITHOUT YOU.

Posted by: Columbia MO | June 20, 2006 9:15 AM

Working Mom, some of us -- men as well as women -- simply have no desire to "get written into the history books and make policies or rule the world."

Posted by: Weary of all this arguing | June 20, 2006 9:24 AM

To those pointing out that women can't work because the workplace lacks flexibility: you're missing Linda's point.

Linda implies that the workplace is as open and flexible as it's probably going to get until more women assume leadership positions in government and business. The women who are best positioned to do so are increasingly refusing the responsibility. The result is that, after all these years, men remain in charge. And we can't depend on men to craft the solutions that can enable both the flexible workplace and the course of business. After all, if women aren't willing to change things, why should men?

To those who plead for more tolerance of other women's choices: you, too, are failing to grasp a critical argument of Linda's. In her American Prospect piece, Linda observes that the genteel custom of respecting the "choice" to become a housewife is effectively preserving the sexist myths that have stalled progress and opportunity in the workplace. She is not arguing that all women should remain childless or have only one child. Neither is she declaring that all women should pursue occupations that aren't fun or personally fulfilling, or outsource the housework and childcare. But she *is* arguing that these are the likely sacrifices to be borne by the women who will make the positive, lasting change we all need.

The article is a clarion call to leadership. Who will take the hard path so that our children needn't?

On a separate note, I'd like to see fewer personal anecdotes - they're all very well but most of them are completely off-topic - and more discussion of the arguments in Linda's article, which I suspect hasn't been read through by many of the posters here. Just my $0.02.

Posted by: Susan | June 20, 2006 9:26 AM

"It is not the co-worker's fault that the project got behind in the first place...." Who said the project was behind? You are lucky you never worked in an organization that deliberately did not replace workers who quit or were laid off and simply expected others to take on the extra work. Should we all have quit? Probably. Most people in that situation do begin to look for other jobs, but have you noticed that you don't just find another job overnight? Usually it takes a few months or longer. The people out there who are saying "Well, if you pick up someone's slack then it's MANAGEMENT'S problem" don't seem to be working in the real world. You're lucky.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2006 9:28 AM

First, I don't *really* care what choice women make -- I just don't want to hear anyone whine about the consequences of their choice.

Secondly, a lot of posters advocate for women to get more involved in pushing for more work/life balance. I agree, except that's not going to happen until women move into positions of power to exact that change. Because, trust me, a bunch of middle-aged men in management are not going to wake up one morning and say, "You know, we should implement flexible work schedules." Those that want these policies the most are the ones that need to be in a position to submit and fight for them.

Posted by: ilc | June 20, 2006 9:38 AM

**Standing up and applauding**

ILC! Excellent explanation of Linda's proposition.

ROTFLMAO -- "...a bunch of middle-aged men in management are not going to wake up one morning and say, "You know, we should implement flexible work schedules."

Posted by: Columbia MO | June 20, 2006 9:58 AM

Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all day.

**Deep bow**

Posted by: ilc | June 20, 2006 10:06 AM

Secondly, a lot of posters advocate for women to get more involved in pushing for more work/life balance. I agree, except that's not going to happen until women move into positions of power to exact that change. Because, trust me, a bunch of middle-aged men in management are not going to wake up one morning and say, "You know, we should implement flexible work schedules." Those that want these policies the most are the ones that need to be in a position to submit and fight for them.

You are so right about this. And Linda Hirshman's point is that since the most educated women are leaving the workplace in droves to tend to their families, the leadership positions in business and government are going to men instead, and they will not enact this kind of change.

Posted by: Rockville | June 20, 2006 10:13 AM

"And Linda Hirshman's point is that since the most educated women are leaving the workplace in droves to tend to their families, the leadership positions in business and government are going to men instead, and they will not enact this kind of change."

Sure, and her point makes sense to me (hence my post). Another thing to keep in mind is that if something doesn't (personally) affect us, we don't attend to it. Hence (my word for the day), if those in positions of power see no need for work/life balance or flexibilities, those concerns won't even see the light of day, let alone be enacted.

Posted by: ilc | June 20, 2006 10:23 AM

>>>>The people out there who are saying "Well, if you pick up someone's slack then it's MANAGEMENT'S problem" don't seem to be working in the real world. You're lucky.

>>>>Get out of your ivory towers people. Some of us work at jobs where if the phone is rining, or a patient is having trouble getting sedated -- you just pick up our bags and leave, leaving your co-workers to finish the job.

Granted, there are, and should be, exceptions for patient care. Yes, if someone (parent or otherwise) has to leave, the patient-care slack should get picked up --- but maybe by an on-call person, not by making it **policy** to just stretch everybody further. That's stupid.

As for us "not living in the real world", well your company isn't living in the real world. You help perpetuate an environment at your company where it is no problem for the company to understaff. Why should they create a better work environment for working mothers or anyone else? You guys will just pick up the slack for the company without pointing out the problem to the boss.

Oh well. No need for the bosses to change any working conditions since the employees will just blame each other for the problems.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2006 10:37 AM

Another thing. I work directly in policy (although in nothing relation to this discussion) and it's amazing how policy can be rushed for signatures and 'deployement' or brushed under the rug, depending on the Director's or other division manager's whims. I sometimes get the feeling that people (women) truly do not understand how precarious it can be for making progressive changes. And, in my situation, unless I'm the Director or a division manger (not yet....), the policy I submit is absolutely subject to their edits or vetos.

Posted by: ilc | June 20, 2006 10:42 AM

"...without pointing out the problem to the boss."

that is an unfair statement. Most people who work at someone else's pleasure have very little input into corporate culture, and eve fewer have access to the corporate decision makers.

That is the point of Linda's article. Most people WITH the capacity to get into the corner office are men, because too many women are getting out before they reach the hallway.

So, Anonymous poster at 10:37 am, while your post made me crazy-mad, I have to agree with your assessment.

Posted by: Columbia MO | June 20, 2006 10:51 AM

Brian, I loved Freakonomics and think it's a fun read. But just a small point, I thought they found that whether a parent stays at home or works doesn't affect the child's test scores, which is not exactly the same as saying it doesn't affect the child.

I personally don't think that whether a parent stays at home or works out of the home is nearly as important as the parent's attitude and approach, but I don't think we can go so far as to say it's been statistically proven that it makes no differenc whatsoever.

Posted by: small point | June 20, 2006 11:08 AM

If only Alvin Toffler's predictions in "The Third Wave" came true more than they have, this issue would be all but moot. He wrote of the "electronic cottage," where most work would be performed from people's homes, business meetings would be conducted in cyberspace, etc. This would make balancing work and child raising a lot easier. It would also help to stop global warming. Why it hasn't happened, I think, is mainly due to vested interests in the type of office politics people here have been describing, as well as in the energy and automobile industries.

Posted by: Sam | June 20, 2006 11:08 AM

Columbia said - "Most people who work at someone else's pleasure have very little input into corporate culture..."

Columbia, I can tell that you've thought about these concepts enough that if you review and consider what you just wrote there, you might re-think it.

The '...people who work...' largely comprise the corporate culture. If they change their behaviors (e.g. what they put up with) they necessarily change the corporate culture. In terms of being able to get into the corner office with enough power to independently make sweeping changes, most of us will never have that chance. The "think globally, act locally" cliche definitely applies here. I think that office-workers (I don't mean cops or assembly line people) generally have more access to corporate decision makers (e.g., email, suggestion boxes) than they believe.

Sorry I made you crazy-mad ;-)

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2006 11:24 AM

"the most educated women are leaving the workplace in droves to tend to their families"

First of all, does Hirshman give solid evidence that "the most educated women" are leaving the workplace "in droves"? If the women are so educated and intelligent, then WHY are they making this choice? What benefit do they see in it? What drawback do they see to staying in the workplace and moving up the ladder? Could ALL of these educated women who quit working have made the mistake of marrying husbands who don't support them having a career and a family?

Or is it that these women have decided that what's best for them and their families is to leave the workplace for a time and then go back to it when they feel they and their families are ready? Perhaps we need to see a study of mothers who left the workplace and then returned some years later. Did they really never reach the levels they aspired to before they had kids? Or did their aspirations change?

Posted by: Anne | June 20, 2006 11:31 AM

Thanks for the response Anonymous at 11:24 am.

And I know what you are saying, because personally, I have experienced that "power to change things" as others will note from my previous posts on other topics. I do believe in personal power to gently nudge things along.

But this new job I have has opened my eyes to some very disturbing situations. As a worker bee working for someone of the status I used to supervise, it has become obvious that while I was willing to take chances and propose new ideas, there are few women, especially single-moms (like my young supervisor,) who are willing to rock the boat.

So yes, I do agree with your assessment, and the crazy-mad making comes more from a position of being powerless in my current position to DO anything creative or progressive for the ladies I work with. I have not experienced this level of frustration where I can see and am willing to say what can be done, only to have it disregarded because the messenger is too afraid to carry the mantle.

So, today, while my supervisor is at a "how to be a great manager" conference, one of our long time (17 month) staff gave their notice. And the 200+ tests we schedule a day, will now fall on the shoulders of 4 actual schedulers, not 5 warm bodies we have had, nor the 6 FTE positions we have on the books.

And yes, we are all women over 38 years old. The supervisor being on the younger side of that scale.

Posted by: Columbia, MO | June 20, 2006 11:35 AM

My department was suddenly put under the charge of a person we'd never met in our lives, brought in from out of state, who then told us she would be commuting and working in our office with us about 6 days per month. She had no knowledge of our processes or procedures but she took orders from her boss, the person who brought her into the organization under direct orders from our CEO. Whatever her boss told her to do, she tried to implement. We saw that most of the changes she tried to force on us were ridiculous, so we changed our behavior. We continued to run the operation in the way we knew worked best and guess what? We all got laid off. If the CEO decides you're going to do something, you're going to do it her way or take the highway. There is no such thing as change fom within if the CEO isn't convinced it will somehow benefit him/her, NOT necessarily the organization or the employees. Employees are expendable and completely replaceable.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2006 11:36 AM

I sometimes wonder if more women in the workplace will necessarily mean more family friendly policies and flexibility. I have worked under women managers who were even less flexible than many men. These particular women were childless, and they just did not care about the needs of working parents. I do think that if men and women contribute equally to the home and child rearing tasks, it will translate into more flexible and family friendly policies at work because men will need them as well as women. As long as the people at work, whether men or women, don't need to worry about the home because either they are childless or their spouse does it, the workplace won't change in favor of families.

Posted by: Rockville | June 20, 2006 11:37 AM

"I have worked under women managers who were even less flexible than many men. These particular women were childless, and they just did not care about the needs of working parents."

I once worked for a female CEO who had a child yet refused to offer employees a maternity benefit. It doesn't matter if the female boss had kids or not, not every woman cares about other women.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2006 11:39 AM

I once worked for a female CEO who had a child yet refused to offer employees a maternity benefit. It doesn't matter if the female boss had kids or not, not every woman cares about other women.

I think some women in power have a great fear of giving the impression that they are less tough, less hardworking, or less driven then their male counterparts. So they adopt the male way of approaching work and people.

Posted by: Rockville | June 20, 2006 11:44 AM

Is workplace cultural change from the top down or the bottom up? Do the workers or the CEOs make the changes? Hirshman seems to think only women at the top can make effective changes to benefit women, but many people blogging here seem to say that workers have the power to change and organization from wherever they are on the ladder, as long as they pull together.

I honesty think that we'll see change in the future not as the result of "the most educated women" staying in the workplace and getting to the top of the ladder so they can make policy changes, but as a result of so many children growing up with working and SAH mothers. I don't believe that we're actually going backwards. Men and women who are raised my mothers who work will remember what their mothers' experience was and perhaps want to change the workplace to make it better. Men and women whose mothers were SAH might decide to change the culture so that SAH moms can reenter the workplace easier or decide not to leave it altogether.

Posted by: Anne | June 20, 2006 11:45 AM

Anon 11:36, would the CEO argue that you were laid off because you changed your behavior, or were laid off because your boss asked you and your co-workers to do something and you "continued to run the operation in the way we knew worked best"?

Huge difference. If you didn't have a conversation with this person then the behavior could be (probably was) seen as insubordinate.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2006 11:45 AM

Oh, we tried plenty of discussions with "the boss". Our managers risked their careers to try to be reasonable and present our situation. We tried to follow instructions, then found that it was easier to pretend to do it "their" way while continuing doing it our own.

People here say "change the culture" and "have discussions with your boss" -- sorry, it just doesn't always work and I have much sympathy for those who go along to get along. Sometimes people (bosses and CEOs) just don't care or have the employees best interests in mind. It was a rotten organization and I was glad to get out with a nice layoff package, but it was very upsetting and painful for others.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2006 11:51 AM

This blog reminds me of the film "Mona Lisa Smile" in which Julia Stiles, who has been accepted to Yale Law School "in one of two spots for women" in ~1960, tells Julia Roberts that she's decided to marry and have a family. Because she was presented as one of the "best and brightest" of her generation, I always felt that her decision actually was "to marry and have a family FIRST".

When I look around and see so many women I know having their first child at age 37-42, and sometimes having to go through infertility treatments and such to have this child, I think maybe there's nothing wrong with educated women deciding to leave the workplace to have a family while they are young (say between 26-36) and THEN returning to their career path. Maybe we need to put more effort into making this a possibility and accept that women will be the ones having the babies. (Nothing so far has changed that, although maybe some highly educated woman of the future will find a solution so that men can give birth also.)

We've put so much emphasis on career that a lot of women feel they must put off childbearing for years and years to try to get to some place in their careers where they can "come back" or at least work part-time or some middle way. Then they feel bad/guilty when they find they have fertility problems. I think that first of all we simply have to abolish "mommy track" thinking and accept that most women WANT to have kids, maybe even more than they want careers.

Posted by: LC | June 20, 2006 12:04 PM

Rockville Says: "So they adopt the male way of approaching work and people"

Search Leslie's blogs for anything Rockville has ever written. Just about everything she writes is nakedly generalized male-bashing. Unfortunately the more she does it, the harder it is to tune her out. Almost no constructive suggestions, just men are keeping us down or men need to change or men are doing it wrong.

Posted by: Not Even Subtle | June 20, 2006 12:06 PM

not even subtle, are you becky or anonymous on purpose reincarnated? Rockville makes a lot of thoughtful posts on a variety of topics. If you don't agree, talk argument instead of attacking the person. What's up with you people.

Posted by: wow | June 20, 2006 12:14 PM

wasn't me. I tried not to attack. All I stated in the very first post I ever posted -- was that certain people were using this board as a personal playground, posting lots of fun banter, which in and of itself wasn't a problem, expect that a few posts of consequence to the subject matter were lost in the middle.

I tried not to attack, in fact, I even admitted to playing along a few times, until I noticed the posts that were ignored because of the joking and playing around.

I don't object to playing around or the friendliness among some members - like Scarry, Becky, et all. But I was asking to tone it down.

Then people started attacking me for wanting to make this small point.

ugh

Posted by: Anonymous on purpose | June 20, 2006 12:20 PM

Here's a post from Rockville on the postnups:

"When you are first married and in love, you can put measures in place that will assure that your spouse gets a fair shake in case of divorce. To me, that is pretty romantic. I see it as planning to succeed. I am the working parent in my relationship, and I love my husband and have shown him that if for whatever reason our marriage ever failed, I respect him enough to make sure that his contribution to our marriage is not disregarded."

Doesn't look like naked male bashing to me. Rockville, please ignore this person, don't go the route of Scarry and Megan (who I think is back on today's blog, by the way), there's no reason the crabs should chase away thoughtful people.

Posted by: I searched | June 20, 2006 12:20 PM

To I searched,
Thank you and don't worry. I am far to thick skinned to run away from a little confrontation.

To not even subtle,
I am sorry that you think everything I say is male bashing. I never saw myself that way, and I truly do love quite a few men, including my husband, my son, and my brothers. But the fact is, whether you like it or not, our society does accomodate men, and women must often make do. If you take this as male bashing, then so be it.
Oh, and I forgot to add, "Death to the Patriarchy!!"

Posted by: Rockville | June 20, 2006 12:43 PM

Rockville, you raise an interesting point.

OT1H, in order to reach a position where she can effect real and lasting change, a woman may very well have to forgo childbearing.

OTOH, we can't assume that a childless person would be particularly motivated to create a family-friendly workplace. It's a heckuva paradox.

Posted by: Susan | June 20, 2006 12:51 PM

Good points, Susan. I think Hirshman helps us to raise a discussion but then I look more closely and find problems with her thinking. It seems to me that she thinks that the best and the brightest women are from Ivy League colleges and THEY (and only they?) will be the ones to reach the top of the power structure. I'm betting that in 15-20 years we'll have a female African American Supreme Court Justice who has two children by two fathers she never married and who put herself through school until she got a scholarship to a good but not Ivy League law school, and then worked her way up from there. What do I mean by this? I mean that not all women with top educations will fill top positions, and when they do, are we so sure they'll work to change the corporate culture or work within it? And some women who we don't exactly think are the best and brightest when they are in their early 20s might amaze us when they are 60.

Hirshman is trying to sell books.

Posted by: M.L. | June 20, 2006 1:03 PM

I have noticed that there seems to be a huge rift between women who have children and and those who don't. I have seen the discussions on this board, and they are very contentious. A lot of working women without children feel very put upon by workking parents who need flexible schedules and decent hours in order to take care of their families. And some parents, whether they work or not, view childless/childfree people as lacking in the most important thing in life, kids. I think this rift will always be there. I also think that the rift is widened by the fact that most women do the lion's share of the home duties, and thus, men expect that they will, and women in the workplace are expected to act just like men, and as a result, the workplace is a bit unfriendly to the needs of working parents.

Posted by: Rockville | June 20, 2006 1:09 PM

Hirshman writes, "...among the educated elite, who are the logical heirs of the agenda of empowering women..." in discussing the optout women. Since when were daughters of the elite the most liberal? Often "elite" families are quite conservative and their children follow and maintain their conservatism. Someone above mentioned the film "Mona Lisa Smile". What I remember from that film was that most of the young women at that elite college were quite ready to maintain the status quo and that it was their more middle class teachers who were trying to wake them up and question their conservative values.

Posted by: Elite doesn't equal liberal | June 20, 2006 1:13 PM

What I remember from that film was that most of the young women at that elite college were quite ready to maintain the status quo and that it was their more middle class teachers who were trying to wake them up and question their conservative values.

I think that was set in the 50's or 60"s. I went to an elite women's college (Bryn Mawr) in the 80s, and believe me, it was anything but conservative.

Posted by: Rockville | June 20, 2006 1:17 PM

M.L., you're absolutely right. There's nothing intrinsically special about an Ivy League education. But the cold fact is, Ivy Leaguers are in the best position to achieve positions of leadership, due to the marketing-fed biases of those who hire executives and finance political campaigns.

I would love to see a Supreme like the one you describe. Hope I live long enough!

Hirshman's article isn't without its flaws. The one that leapt at me was where she sourced her initial study group. The sort of woman who'd go out of her way to post a wedding announcement in the NYT's "Sunday Styles" section has a different value system to begin with. I'd hesitate, at any rate, to characterize this group as representative of "brilliantly educated" and "accomplished" women everywhere.

Posted by: Susan | June 20, 2006 1:30 PM

I also went to an elite college (Hollins) in the '80s and there were plenty of conservative women who thought they should be liberals. And plenty of women who hated men and blamed them for everything wrong with women's lives. It would be interesting to see what most of our classmates are doing now. I see from the class letters that it's the expected mix. Women who stayed home with kids now trying to rebuild careers, women who had careers now having children and staying home. And then women who continued working while raising kids, but they seems to be the minority.

Posted by: Sandy | June 20, 2006 1:30 PM

If all the young women who were so liberal in the '80s and '90s truly were liberal, we'd see changes by now, but they were far more conservative than they wanted to admit on their ultra-liberal campuses.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2006 1:37 PM

If all the young women who were so liberal in the '80s and '90s truly were liberal, we'd see changes by now, but they were far more conservative than they wanted to admit on their ultra-liberal campuses.

I think a lot of people who were very liberal kind of mellow with age. Being liberal and rebelling against the status quo is a part of being young. Many of our baby boomers were in college in the 60s, marching for civil rights and protesting the war.

Posted by: Rockville | June 20, 2006 1:47 PM


Remember, mothers doubleplusungood. Only money doubleplusgood. Only job performance doubleplusgood. Motherhood doubleplusungood. Motherhood unthought. Motherhood doubleplusungood. Only economic contribution doubleplusgood.

Posted by: Bryan | June 20, 2006 2:15 PM

as one who was at the tail end of the Baby-boomer generation, who fought, argued, stood up ---- and lost -- many of us got tired of fighting the never ending uphill battle. There were many young people, men and women, who gradutated in the late 80's and early 90's who came to work where I was. What was obvious is the sense of "duty to the community" was not primary in their minds (I worked in local gov't) but many were interested in getting rich quickly. They had at their disposal resources which we did not (computers, internet, day-trading, real estate boom) and no real object to rally against like we did in the 60's (or thought we did.)

Does the search for $$$ lead to a more conservative world view? When the likes of Donald Trump can make millions without regard to the community's best interest, what impetus is there for the young person to care about what happens to their co-worker? Also, very very few of us are staying in the same job for very long, and the thinking that "if you don't like it, leave" became an anthem of sorts.

Posted by: Columbia, MO | June 20, 2006 2:30 PM

eh?

Posted by: double... | June 20, 2006 2:38 PM

Okay, I read the article in question and I feel that
1.) The point being made is not so much about the work, but about the war itself. Is it being faught on the homefront? In otherwords, are we, inthe privacy of our homes, submitting?
2.) I am qualified to address the issue as I am a sahm/now student of six, yes biological children and, yes, married to a Republican who thinks I should be the primary care giver and who thinks I should submit. I am/do neither, we have great sex, and we fight alot. We also talk alot. We discuss these issues almost daily. The war is being waged, but in how many homes? Are women being silent in order to get the latest Prada purse and Lily Pulizter wear without a knock-down drag out argument?

As for me and my five daughters, we shall wear second hand clothing and declare our femenism. Let the Baptists poke holes in their tongues with jealousy.

Posted by: Jael from Texas | June 20, 2006 2:51 PM

I'm late to this discussion but I find on reading Hirshman's American Prospect that I've followed most of her advice, including marrying down (and younger) because I knew that a husband who had equal or more wealth or success than I would want me to subordinate my career and life goals to his. Oh, sure, I might have found one who didn't want that, but I found a guy who was not doing as well as I and who I loved and loved me, so I married him. No, he doesn't give me Prada, but he also is very supportive of whatever I want to do with my life, career or just job, stay home with kids or not. He's doing well because I could give him the opportunity to try a new career. We're an equal partnership in caring for our home.

On the other hand, am I at the top of the ladder making good policy for women who come after me? No, I have a career I love that combines my English degree and my Art History degree (so HA to Linda Hirshman) and pays well enough that, in 2000, I could afford to buy a nice house in DC on my salary alone.

She also advocates marrying an older man, which is what my mother did. She then used her ability to "stay home" to become active in her church and community and then, as we kids got older, to go to college and then build a great career. My older dad was thrilled to have a family, established enough to support it, and liberal enough to share housework AND all the secrets of how to run his business with my mom.

Maybe Hirshman is onto something.

Posted by: Followed her advice | June 20, 2006 3:25 PM

Here's something about those NY Times brides. Hirshman wrote: ""The women that I have interviewed are completely dependent upon the goodwill of their wealthy income-producing husbands," says Hirshman. "They chose dependence."

Were they truly "totally dependent" on their husband's income? I can't believe that women who got to such high positions never made enough to build a decent savings account. What were they doing with their big salaries? Buying shoes? If these women were educated at "elite" colleges and had their photos in the Sunday Times, most came from wealthy families. Did none of them have trust funds so they had SOME money to call their own when they quit work? I just can't believe these women would be penniless without hubby's income. If so, then they were stupid to quit working.

Posted by: Tanger | June 20, 2006 3:39 PM

Correction, Hirshman wrote: "completely dependent upon the goodwill" of the husbands. But I still think she meant they are financially dependent.

Posted by: Tanger | June 20, 2006 3:42 PM

Linda Hirshman has some valid points about the realities of the job market and the precariousness of families' economic positions, but her approach really pisses me off. I guess it's this -- she's incredibly elitist. In her view, full-time motherhood is somehow beneath you if you're an urban/educated/privileged woman. But if you're just one of the masses, then no big deal, in her view -- you can go ahead and do that lowly job.
Bear in mind that most mothers work outside the home, and most don't have the so-called "opt-out" option. Linda's whole schtick is irrelevant for the vast majority of American society. And this idea of having only one child? Advancing a career is more important than a child? Giving your kid a sibling is a bad idea because it may stymie some future promotion? Something's wack here.
By the way, Linda is wrong when she asserts that only women make the decision to stay home full-time with kids. There are plenty of stay-at-home fathers. Also, there are gay couples with kids. Among those I know, there are parents at home full-time, and I doubt that sexism had anything to do with that labor-division decision.

Posted by: working mom | June 20, 2006 3:44 PM

Anonymous on purpose,

First, Becky is not my friend, that's Megan thank you very much.

Second, This isn't your blog.

Third, I've decided that if you don't like my posts, to bad, over look them. I ignore posts I don't like.

Fourth, Don't act so innocent now that people are calling you out. You were rude.

Fifth and final, I'm back.


Posted by: Scarry | June 20, 2006 3:57 PM

There are plenty of stay-at-home fathers.

Yes, there are some, but I think plenty is overstating it. A few is more accurate.

Posted by: Rockville | June 20, 2006 4:02 PM

Third, I've decided that if you don't like my posts, to bad, over look them. I ignore posts I don't like.

No you don't, Scarry. You respond to them, and throw little tantrums, threatening to leave the blog.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2006 4:04 PM

No you don't, Scarry. You respond to them, and throw little tantrums, threatening to leave the blog.

Yup, and then she remembers that a lot of people like her here and she comes back!

Posted by: hooray | June 20, 2006 4:14 PM

Yay, Scarry's back! Please stay!!

Posted by: Laura | June 20, 2006 4:16 PM

Welcome back Scarry, and don't let the turkeys get you down.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2006 4:21 PM

Scarry -- I searched the last 4 blogs for my postings. I wrote nothing offensive except that I commented that the number of "joking" posts sometimes overshadowed some serious posts that got lost in the midst of the joking ones.

I also stated that I enjoyed the bantering among you and sometimes participated.

If you are offended by my pointing out the possibility of losing some good posts amid the joking, then I apologize.

Posted by: Anonymous on Purpose | June 20, 2006 4:30 PM

Wow. We got over 400 posts on this subject. I like that people are at least thinking about this.

Posted by: Rockville | June 20, 2006 4:39 PM

Another comment -- what kind of sociological study is done by interviewing women whose weddings are featured in the New York Times?!?!?!?! Those women are, to put it mildly, not exactly representative of the general public. Her focus on a few socialites instead of us normal working stiffs really undercuts Hirshman's argument, in my opinion.
I personally do know quite a few stay-at-home dads, but then again, I'm living in flyover country.

Posted by: working mom | June 20, 2006 4:45 PM

What was the original subject again? [smile]

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2006 4:45 PM

Rockville -- I am a firm believer in articulating the problem first. I believe this particular thread struggled and hopefully achieved some common language and common ground. It ONLY took 400+ posts. ;)

First step toward resolution.

Posted by: Columbia MO | June 20, 2006 4:51 PM


IMO, feminism is a joke. I want to be a woman, and I want my husband to be a man. To me, it seems as though the feminist movement is a bunch of bitter women trying to be men. Isn't it easy to see that we are different??? (ie why certain roles come more naturally)

My mom worked and I can't wait to stay home with my kids--when they get here!

Wow, this has to be one of the most ignorant things I have ever read, you can disagree with feminists' policies or ideas, but to sit there and stereotype feminists as man-want-to-be's is wrong. Just out of curiousity, does wanting to achieve parity make one a man? Does wanting to be able to vote or to study medicine or law masculine? I think not. In previous generations, women were denied these rights. The people who fought for them then were feminists. They're not women trying to be men, but rather women trying to ensure the interests of women are fairly represented. You said it's easy to see why women are more naturally suited for certain things; well, then wouldn't it make sense to you why a female employer would be more likely to have family friendly policies? Woudn't it make sense that a female policymaker would be more likely to eye policies favorable to parents and children? Things like domestic violence, pornography's negative impact on society, are probably more likely to be on female radar screens. There are young women who in tough places feel like they have to dress a certain way or have a certain hairstyle, but feminism which prides women not only as girlfriends and wives who cook and clean, but as writers, leaders, educators, and creatures of the world can empower them.

Posted by: college kid | June 20, 2006 5:08 PM

Anonymous on Purpose,

I went back and read the blog again too. I feel like a jerk. I confused you with the other Megan and Scarry haters, i'm sorry.

Posted by: Scarry | June 20, 2006 5:22 PM

"No you don't, Scarry. You respond to them, and throw little tantrums, threatening to leave the blog. "

I did leave the blog for a few days, and I don't respond to every post. How could I, there are like 1,000 of them

Posted by: Scarry | June 20, 2006 5:24 PM

apology gladly accepted.

(scarry)

Posted by: Anonymous on Purpose | June 20, 2006 5:31 PM

"I just think that in an ideal world (where $$$ is not an issue) most women would prefer not to work."

An ABC poll asked working mothers about this, and it indicated otherwise. In fact that numbers were very similar to men's.

22% of women would quit working. 20-something percent would keep their current hours, and 50-something percent would work but less hours. So, I think that's not entirely true.

I think it's true that it does create hardships for career women when some women leave the workplace, but it is true that there won't be female leaders if they don't work. I mean people made a big deal out of Brenda Barnes and Karen Hughes, but Barnes is now CEO of Sara Lee and Karen Hughes is supposed to be fixing the US image abroad.

Posted by: college kid | June 20, 2006 5:33 PM

Kudos to Susan and "college kid" for their thoughful comments. Keep it on topic. I too find the personal anecdotes irrelevant to the discussion. Hirshman brings up issues that should be considered on the macro level. The fact that someone's mother is proud of them for being a SAHM is unhelpful.

As long as educated women retreat into their homes, policies will not change and the workplace will continue to be hostile to women and families. It was the early large group of women entering the workplace in the 70s that forced change upon business and society. As long as the educated class retreats, the glass ceiling will continue to exist.

Posted by: Working mother (not working mom) | June 20, 2006 6:39 PM

I am AlWAYS late to this party! After reading the article, I went over to Barnes and Noble and picked up Linda's book. I sat down and read it in a big comfy chair in the store, then put it back (it was 20 dollars and only 95 pages!). What I took from it was that Linda thinks that unless women stay in the workforce and push for more flexibility in the workplace mothers are going to lose ground in the workplace. The whole 'you get the government you deserve.' I also thought that it was poorly written and that she was the left's answer to Coulter, after the remark about boo-boo's in the first chapter. I think women have a hard time building each other up on some level. As a group, we compare our hair, houses, hips and husbands (or lack thereof). Some of us have easier lives than others, some us have passion for our careers while others dream of winning the lottery. Some of it is luck, our own childhood experiences and some hard work. There are some SAHM's I know who can't manage to find the socks, much less mate them, while others run their homes like clockwork. What I am trying to teach my daughters is to be proud of whatever job they do, whether it is taking out the trash or creating something beautiful or schoolwork. I am subversively trying to get them to NOT do things they wouldn't be proud of. How was I able to take this time in the middle of the day? 1, I work part time, 2, I am a teacher, so I am off in the summer, 3, my kids get to choose two camps each and that is where they were! You can't live your life with your spouse like it is an 'equal' partnership and expect success. You must give 70 percent to their 30 and not resent it. And so must they. (Sorry, tangent on the milk aisle!) We have to stop comparing what our contributions are to those around us and just contribute what we can. Gandhi, one of my heroes, said that what we do is insignificant, but it is very important that we do it. And THAT is what I think!

Posted by: parttimer | June 20, 2006 10:49 PM

Census data places the number of stay-at-home dads at roughly 150,000 vs. 5.6 million stay-at-home moms.

Separately, one reason there are so many "elite" (ie, Ivy League educated) stay-at-home moms is that we tend to marry men just like us -- ambitious and driven. But then usually, when kids come along, someone has to cut back. And our husbands feel little pressure to stay home, from us, from society, from extended families, so they keep working incredibly hard, long hours with lots of travel. The women tend to be the ones who make the career sacrifices -- even though the women were equally, if not more, ambitious prior to having children. These are generalizations, but it's what I see among my colleagues from Harvard and Wharton.

Posted by: Leslie | June 20, 2006 10:49 PM

Miami 79, Dallas 79, and I'm looking in on this blog....

To be fair Leslie, I'm 34 and every male I know that is about my age has made a career shift when his first child came along. My buddy moved closer to his in-laws and works from home 3 weeks/month. I took a job where I'll never have to travel and can mostly leave by 5:30.

I guess that I'm just making the point that lots of people have said "Why are things the way the are for women and families?" My point would be that things are changing for the better, probably due to thoughtful approaches like those that get presented by the posters in this forum.

Men may "feel little pressure to stay home", but we younger men definitely feel pressure to share the household and childrearing responsibilities equally, and make her family feel confident that she doesn't feel like she has to work if we decide its not best for the baby, AND stay up until midnight reviewing these blasted documents while watching the NBA game and posting on web blogs....

Posted by: Proud Papa | June 20, 2006 11:46 PM

Annasa kata, Rockville!

It all makes sense now.

Posted by: Arlmom | June 21, 2006 8:24 AM

One thought that keeps coming to me as I read through this debate is "What about the men?" I mean, why is the child unfriendly workplace all the fault of the women who decide to "opt out"? The assumption is that only women are going to care enough to change it. And if women leave the workforce to take care of their children, even for a time, they're hurting the cause of making the workplace more family-friendly. IMO, this is kind of a cop out for men having any responsibility. Don't misunderstand me. I don't mean that women should expect men to fight all the battles to make life easier. But we all have a stake in this. Men have children too and there are many men (I see some on this blog) who want to be more a part of their children's lives than the "traditional" father and who participate in the details (not just the finances) of taking care of children. Parents (of whatever gender) should be united together to enact change in the workplace for the good of the family. And I don't believe that is always to the detriment of the workplace. It's just different and it's change and people fight change.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | June 21, 2006 8:37 AM

Leslie--on the at home dad figures, those might not be exactly correct, because those only count people who don't make any income in 52 weeeks, so a mostly at-home dad who might have done something (taught a course at a local comm. college, had one or two clients an entire year, freelance journalist who wrote two or three stories) aren't counted. The actual number may be around 1 million. Still 5.5-1.

Posted by: college kid | June 21, 2006 10:24 AM

Rockville Mom, I totally agree! I thought that was one big thing missing from the whole discussion, how are men changing the workplace? And they are! It's not entirely up to women, it's up to all of us to gradually put the pressure on to make changes. Men DO care about their families and I'm tired of women who act like they don't.

Posted by: Tracy | June 21, 2006 10:42 AM

This line from Hirshman's piece infuriated me:

"I'm a philosopher, and it's a philosopher's job to tell people how they should lead their lives."

Bull. I wish I could write the sentence below in 500-point type:

IT IS NO ONE'S JOB TO TELL OTHERS HOW TO LIVE THEIR LIVES.

Advise, suggest, yes. Tell, no. Even advice columnists don't offer advice unless solicited.

Having said that, I think Hirshman is largely correct when she pointed out that religious fundamentalism is behind a lot of the stay-at-home movement. I'm a man who believes that feminism is about women making choices without men, other women or society interfering in those choices. I think the fundamentalist connection needs to be explored further. Have any of you ever read Margaret Atwood's novel "The Handmaid's Tale"? Or Judy Mann's book "The Difference," which traces much of society's patriarchal attitudes to religion?

Posted by: Tonio | June 21, 2006 12:28 PM

A couple of points: On men. I think that's true, that some (especially younger) fathers do feel like it's important to be a presence in their kids' life and feel a family pull. While many professional men with at-home wives do feel they can easily work crazy hour days,etc. I think that some fathers with SAHMs actually still try to be home by 6, are involved. If you see 'Gen X Dads' in Boston Globe magazine, it did describe a man who may have been 'one or two rungs lower on the corporate ladder', but was involved and had a wife who while she planned to go back to work, stayed home at the time.Also, a father's day CBS thing featured a dad who was sole provider, but still tried to work sane hours. I realize this is highly anectotal, but may be true of husbands with at-home wives.

http://www.boston.com/news/globe/magazine/articles/2005/01/16/gen_x_dad/

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/06/18/sunday/main1726667.shtml

And I'd add in terms of smashing the glass ceiling, I think a lot of this research overlooks single and childless women. Someone (Sylvia Hewlett?) did research on high earning women and found that 49% of women earning over 100k annually are childless.

Posted by: college kid | June 21, 2006 1:17 PM

Which is NOT to discourage career women from having kids or anything of the sort but simply to say that if people are truly scared of the prospect of an all-male supreme court, single or childless women might be a "safety net."

Posted by: college kid | June 21, 2006 1:19 PM

Proving Hirshman right? My friend married a guy who would rather ride mountain bikes than work, or take care of his kids, for that matter. Even though her husband was working from home as a freelancer (a few paltry hours per week) she still had to hire a sitter because he was "too busy" to care for their son. They ended up paying for daycare and sitters so she could keep her high-wage job, and when she had her second child she cut back at her job and told hubby to get gainfully employed. He picked up a basic job with decent benefits, she stepped down a rung at her work. She had a career, he had a job. But because he wouldn't participate in childcare and she couldn't demand he do it, she may have "mommy-tracked" herself to her detriment. She's a good worker, so maybe it won't matter, but being the only real breadwinner, she put her career at risk.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 1:48 PM

Just chiming in again. I appreciated your comments, Tonio. It dawned on me yesterday that one of the key things bugging me about all this Hirschman brouhaha is that she is instructing us on how to live our lives to better serve some sort of "ism," in this case, feminism. But humans come before any "ism," whether it's feminism, fundamentalism, socialism, fascism, conservativism, Americanism, globalism, etc. When Linda orders us to have only one child so that we can better serve the cause of feminism, or that we must not stay home from work so that we can better serve the cause of feminism, well, no wonder that pisses off so many people. (She is, of course, not the first person in history to make such demands.)
It's one thing to give advice on how to make wise decisions about personal financial security. Such advice can be really helpful. But that's not really what Linda's doing.

Posted by: working mom | June 21, 2006 2:25 PM

I know what you're saying, Working Mom, and I agree totally. I want to clarify what I wrote above about my friend (and forgot to sign my name, sorry). By "cutting back" at her work I mean that she started working 3 days per week, I think 28-30 hours, so she could be home with her kids two days a week. Partly this was a financial choice due to childcare costs and partly she just wanted time with them. Where Hirshman seems to give good advice is that, in this case, she would point out that my friend stepping down from her strong career path (especially when her husband's earning potential and career path is poor) is financially unwise for her future career and for her family.

Posted by: Thinking it through | June 21, 2006 2:52 PM

Sorry to come so late to this discussion.
The basic problem with Linda Hirshman's theory, I think, is that she put the cart before the horse. To her, excelling in the work world or at a career is the ultimate end result, and you have to make sure that family obligations are minimized so that they don't get in the way of that goal. (Come to think of it, that's C. Montgomery Burns' philosophy, too!)
But for most working parents, I think, the point of working is to earn a living to support our families. Sure, it's great to have a job that's fun/intellectually rewarding/fulfilling/whatever. But after all, it's called "work" for a reason. Otherwise, it would be called "play" or maybe "hobbies." And, as a wise woman once told me, when you have children your Number One work-related goal is to financially support those children. Before you have children, she said, you can work for yourself and your own satisfaction. Once you have kids, you're working for them, period. That is the whole point of building a career and securing the best possible pay, benefits and promotion opportunities. Or at least that's what she told me. And she's one of those tough, top-level, Ivy League-educated business executives who makes more money than probably my whole block combined, someone Linda Hirshman would probably admire, except that she has more than one child.

Posted by: latecomer | June 21, 2006 9:41 PM

latecomer, I'm curious, but what kind of role does your friend's husband play? Does he work a job, but with sane hours? Does she seem happily married?

I would also add to what Leslie said about marrying ambitious driven men--it makes sense, also, I think that in many cases where there are two parents with fast track careers, in many cases my guess is that in some of these families, when they have kids, particularly younger kids, the wife and husband may be at different points in their careers, and at the point around a child's birth, a wife may be in a position where her career seems less likely to suffer long term damage, whereas the husband may be in a position where a couple of years off or even part time may make a big difference in progression.

Posted by: college kid | June 22, 2006 2:16 AM

How do you do it?

Two points:

First: after reading all these entries I wish that that women with professional degrees and kids who are working would tell us how they manage to do it "all." It's difficult to imagine how one can give 100% to working full-time outside the home and fulfill your responsibilities as a mother at the same time when you have kids under five. PLEASE NOTE: I'm not saying it can't be done, but I truly would like to get some tips from these bloggers as to how they successfully accomplish both jobs. I'm sure they have much to share with the rest of us. I am an attorney and loved my litigation job but after my baby was born I left the workplace to stay at home. I have always thrown myself into whatever I have done--including motherhood. My rationale is that the time I have at home with my child is so short in the greater scheme of a lifetime (5 yrs out of 70?) that I do not want to miss out on this experience. I also want to give my child the best start I can. I do miss the law and miss the intellectual stimulation of my work, but I perform volunteer legal work which keeps me feeling connected to the outer universe. In two years, she will be in school full-time and I'm left with the next 30 or so years to dig my career out of the gutter. No regrets.-------------------- Second: an excerpt from an email I sent to Hirshman following her article Sunday (no reply yet): I think your article or thought process seems to be missing a major piece of the puzzle (disclaimer: today's post article is all I have read)--that is, the debate simply cannot be about if it is better for women to work than to stay at home since this is only part of the equation. What is better? Better for my career? Better for my pocketbook? Better for my stock portfolio? Better for my family, my peace of mind, my fulfillment?

Second, please don't sever the sisterhood. This is the feeling I get from the article I read today. It's us verus them. Yes, it is but the us and them shouldn't be working moms versus stay at home moms. Striving for equality with men is feminism, right? The way this debate is framed splits the troops and the troops are women. Women fighting for social, political and economic equality.

Should we not celebrate the choices our sisters make if they are well reasoned and responsible? It's true that they are many ways to make sausage and as long as the ingredients are all there, a tasty product is always possible. It's not just about working or staying at home. This framing is one foisted upon us by an unimaginative, rigid society. The choices should be about fulfillment as a person, a woman, a mother, a wife. And the solutions should include telecommuting, part-time, job-sharing and extended maternity and paternity leave. On this issue, all women should be united.

You are obviously a smart, well-connected woman so, would you please use your power to direct the discussion towards solutions that all women can benefit from?

Posted by: Vera | June 22, 2006 10:02 AM

Vera, I actually do have some advice on how to (seemingly, anyway) do it all.

On the job:

* Enter a knowledge field in which location is irrelevant and work can be done remotely.

* Avoid billable-hour or commission-based fields.

* On the job, take on only those tasks at which you excel, and delegate or outsource the rest.

* Multitask during low-value lunchtime conference calls like the one I'm currently on.

I'll pause here to observe that in order to reach these objectives, you'll probably need an MBA from an accredited university, at least ten years of experience - for a woman, fifteen is probably more like it - and at least a couple of years with your current employer to have built a good reputation among your colleagues. You also may need to decline promotion opportunities if the promotion will increase your administrative or travel burden.

At home:

* Outsource your housekeeping, or let it go.

* Outsource your lawn care.

* Shop online.

* Live in a neighborhood where your children can walk to school and the swim club, even if this means choosing a modest home in an urban or semi-urban (older inner suburb) area. This is especially worthwhile if the public schools are excellent.

* At your childrens' school, limit your participation in low-value activities such as class parties. Instead, choose one high-value activity to own, such as organizing the chess club. And for heaven's sake, ignore the pointless homework assignments some teachers love to give parents, such as the hundred-day project or the "Star of the Week" poster. Your child will survive, believe me.

* Instead of organizing playdates, let your children play with the other kids in the neighborhood.

* Pare your childrens' activities down to what they need or like best. As they get older, these activities will demand more commitment from both you and them.

Posted by: Susan | June 22, 2006 12:01 PM

I forgot to add:

* Don't waste your time responding to folks who haven't done their homework, be they salespeople who don't know your business, colleagues who come to meetings unprepared, or anyone else.

I don't mean any offense, Vera, but that's probably why Hirshman hasn't responded to your email, in which you acknowledged not having read the article to which you were reacting.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 22, 2006 12:12 PM

But Ms. Hirschmann's points are invalid. Companies (at least some) are realizing the drain to the company that leaving entails - and are actually changing their policies/how they treat employees, etc. So companies (Deloitte, I believe) are trying to figure out how to keep employees that they spent years and money training - giving employees flex time, part time, less travel, whatever it takes. Yes, all of this takes time to trickle down, so to speak, to other companies, but everything is slow. So I don't agree with Linda's assessments - leaving the workforce certainly sends a message to companies. When the economy gets so strained for workers (as in the late 90s) again, workers will have more say in the workplace, and there will be changes made. Everything takes tons of time, though...

Posted by: atlmom | June 22, 2006 12:49 PM

College Kid, the woman I referred to is actually a close relative. She'll give great career advice, but only when asked. Her husband is a successful attorney; both are doting and devoted parents. They are financially very comfortable, and don't put in particularly long office hours, but both worked very hard in their younger years to get where they are today.
The gist of her advice, to those who seek it, is that working parents who are searching for some kind of self-actualizing dream job need to get a grip on reality; you work to support your family, not to support your personal dreams. If you can find a job that's fun and satisfying, great, but that's just icing on the cake.
And this gets me back to what's so puzzling about Linda Hirshman's theory. Why does she think people work for pay in the first place? Unless we are in some rarified economic group, it's because we need the money. Those of us with kids (moms AND dads) especially need the money. We work harder, or at jobs that we don't necessarily like but that give us better compensation, precisely BECAUSE we have kids. Supporting the kids is the ultimate end; advancing the career is just the means to that end. But Linda assumes that advancing the career is the ultimate end, and kids are the impediment. Weird!
Linda would be making much more sense to me if she were advocating for things like better and more affordable child care, better family-leave policies or changes in somewhat antiquated sections of the U.S. tax code that are sometimes punitive to two-income families.
Not to be too anecdotal here, but I can tell you that if I didn't have kids, I wouldn't be sitting here at a computer number crunching and reviewing scientific and economic data so boring that it makes me wander over to the Washington Post blogs! I'd be up in the mountains, working as a ski instructor/backcountry guide, making enough money to support myself, but less than I am now, and having lots more fun.
Although you have not asked for it, College Kid, here's my advice for you -- get as much and as varied job experience as you can before you have children, take the risks that you might not be able to take when you have a family to support, and do be serious about finding a vocation that you love. That may mean a lot of trial and error, and you can afford to do that when you're young. I am thankful that 1. I was serious about building a career when I was able to focus exclusively on that, because it's put me in a better financial position now, when my financial position really counts, and 2. I did spend a lot of my youth cavorting in the mountains.
Now. . .back to my boring job!

Posted by: latecomer | June 22, 2006 2:27 PM

Susan, excellent advice!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 22, 2006 6:14 PM

I agree with most of what Susan said except that participation in class parties at the school is low-value. There is very high value in activities that are strictly fun.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 22, 2006 6:51 PM

Vera - basic, primary and foundational point for having a professional degree and being a parent - MARRY A SUPPORTIVE HUSBAND. One who doesn't "help" around the house, but one who actually sees marriage as a partnership, sometimes to be split 50/50, sometimes 70/30 and sometimes 30/70. I feel like an incredibly lucky person married to a man who says he wouldn't ask or expect anything from me that he wouldn't be willing to do himself - i.e.: would he be willing to go part time or cut down on his billable hours (he's also a lawyer, which seems par for the course here sometimes!), if I think I'm going to have to? It isn't a tit-for-tat situation that gets mentioned here a lot (for example, I spent one hour cleaning the bathroom, how many hours did you spend vaccuuming?), but rather what short-term decisions are we making that could have long term implications for both of us? Having a supportive partner is the #1 thing (in my book) that helps us both chip in to cover all the bases. Hope this helps!

Posted by: Just a thought | June 22, 2006 8:00 PM

Just a thought--
You are exactly right. If you're married to a supportive person, who sees you as an equal and not the maid and nanny, then 2 careers are possible. Every couple, as parents, need to understand that they have to make sacrifices for the family at one time or another. One spouse may get the job offer of her life so the husband might need to be willing to move. After 1-2 kids, one or both may want to switch jobs/careers to accomodate the family's needs.

Someone wrote that parents only work for the money to support the family. I don't agree with that. A lot of people do work only for the money, but for those of us who have careers and/or are professionals, it is part of our identities. I can't imagine giving up what I do---I have the great honor and privilege of serving people and I derive great satisfaction from it. I am a great example to my kids as well. Both my husband and I have made career moves, sacrifices, to improve family life. It's about balance and collaboration. And whoever said forget the housework is right! My sacrifice has been, as an obsessive clean person, learning to live with a little clutter.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 22, 2006 9:22 PM

* Enter a knowledge field in which location is irrelevant and work can be done remotely.
...
I'll pause here to observe that in order to reach these objectives, you'll probably need an MBA from an accredited university, at least ten years of experience - for a woman, fifteen is probably more like it -
-----------------------------

As a senior, female knowledge worker, I'd have to add here--be prepared to be on call 24/7/365, especially with remote logon. On the other hand, I earn at least as much as the men at my level, and it only took me the same 10 years it took them. MBAs aren't necessarily highly regarded. I have an MS in Computer Science, which is.

Posted by: fract'l | June 22, 2006 10:59 PM

If you are working at a job and a profession that you love and that is satisfying to you, great. That demonstrates foresight, brains, a good work ethic, a good attitude and a social conscience. But. . .would you be working even at a job you love for no pay whatsoever? For most people, the answer is no. We're making a living, which is the goal of working (not, by the way, making a killing). And making a living is especially important to parents. Of course, generally speaking, if you find work that you like and that suits you, you're more likely to be successful at it, financially and otherwise. Also, happy parents are probably better parents.
But back to Linda Hirshman.
For someone who's a self-proclaimed philosopher, she seems to have a lot of flawed logic. Examples:
-- She bases her theory on the idea that our family lives and our most personal decisions about children should be arranged around career ambitions. For most people, it's the other way around. Career ambitions or job schedules and plans, for most people, are arranged around in in service of our personal lives, needs and families.
-- She argues that our family lives and personal decisions should be shaped to promote some particular social dogma, in her case feminism. For most people, even a staunch feminist like myself, nonsense.
-- She argues that women who decide to be SAHMs have made the wrong decision because many of them are fundamentalist Christians. She's engaging in guilt by association, a common logical flaw. Now, I hate fundamentalism as much as anybody -- as far as I'm concerned, it's one of the great scourges of this earth -- but if Linda wants to have a religious debate, she should have a religious debate. Whether a SAHM is a conservative Christian, Reform Jew, agnostic or whatever has nothing to do with whether the decision to be a SAHM was the right one, even if the religion or lack thereof inspired the decision. Here's a parallel: Say someone voted in 2004 for John Kerry because of his nice hair. Wrong reason, but right decision.
-- She argues that the division of domestic duties is the single most important issue facing women. I say, really? What about Third World poverty, fistulas and AIDS in Africa, honor killings, lack of voting power in much of the world and domestic violence here in the US of A? Compared to those problems, the division of diaper duty seems rather minor, at least to me.
I think Linda Hirshman might have something valuable to say if she were an economist and could give some kind of analysis of the average financial costs (and financial benefits) of being a SAHM, or even the costs of motherhood in general. I'm sure that's do-able. And it would be really valuable if, as an economist, she could give some practical advice on how to lower those financial costs.
Really, the advice given upthread by Susan and others was far more practical, logical and cogent than anything Linda Hirshman has said.

Posted by: latecomer | June 23, 2006 1:14 AM

Free choice is bad. One must adhere to the party line. One must be a good little feminist and march in good little lines. Independent thought is bad. One must subsume individual life to the needs of the party, to the needs of the cause. Any woman who deviates from the tightly-delineated terms of feminist correct thought is bad. Diversity is bad. Women must only be "diverse" in ways that are pre-approved by the academic feminist establishment. Women who stay at home to care for children are race-traitors. Oops, sorry, I'm confusing one sort of narrow-minded totalitarian for another. Silly old me, I guess I was incorrectly indoctrinated. I had thought that feminism was not all about demanding that women only value having lots of money and having big, important titles. I thought that feminism was about giving everyone complete freedom of life choice. How silly of me to believe that. Evidently, feminism is all about just substituting one narrowminded, thoughtless world-view for another.

Posted by: Bryan | June 23, 2006 8:08 AM

I don't believe that marriage should be 50/50. Marriage should be 100/100; that is, each spouse should always be giving 100%. If both spouses are truly working for the good of the other and doing everything they can do make the other's life easier without worrying about "who did it last" or "who's turn it is," there won't be any of these conflicts. Mature couples know they are equals and don't need to resort to silly games to prove it.

As a working mother by necessity who would give her right arm and both legs to be a stay-at-home-mom (and who hates the corporate world with a passion), I honestly don't understand how someone can derive such a large amount of their identity from their job. I admit that I'm young and perhaps part of why I feel the way I do is because I haven't yet experienced a "fulfilling" job. I also think personality plays a big role in one's taste for corporate life. That said, though, I don't believe that anyone can truly "lose their identity" by quitting their job, because a truly strong identity can never be lost. Your core identity should be based on who you are, not on what you do.

In addition, even if you do quit your job to stay home, you can always go back to work later. My own mother was a stay-at-home mom for 20 years and is now working. So is every other stay-at-home mom I knew while growing up.

Oh, and Linda Hirshman really, really makes me want to vomit. :) I could write a novel on the ways she pisses me off, but I'm very late to this discussion and others have pretty much said what I would say, and said it better.

Posted by: This Blog Drives Me Nuts | June 23, 2006 8:47 AM

My own wife chose to be a stay-at-home mom after having worked for several years. When I tell people about her choice, their response is usually some version of "Good for her." That response has begun to irritate me. Regardless of their intentions, the implied message I get is that my wife should get their approval before making her life choices.

My wife kept her own name when we got married, and she believes in most of feminism's principles. But she doesn't like to be called a feminist, because like millions of other women, she believes that feminism has been hijacked by men-bashing extremists like Andrea Dworkin. My theory is that the nature of the media is to focus too much on the vocal extremists, because it is part of an extremist's personality to crave attention.

Posted by: Tonio | June 23, 2006 10:18 AM

To latecomer, who said "She argues that the division of domestic duties is the single most important issue facing women. I say, really? What about Third World poverty, fistulas and AIDS in Africa, honor killings, lack of voting power in much of the world and domestic violence here in the US of A? Compared to those problems, the division of diaper duty seems rather minor, at least to me." This is a great point - but I think this IS Linda's point. If women were in more positions of power, we could be making strategic decisions (which come down to money, as most decision in the world) that have far-reaching influence. Having input into decisions like divesting from companies that do business in nations that allow honor killings, becoming judges/legislators, etc. and make domestic violence more severely punished under the law than it currently is, etc. Also, I don't get this argument, which has been articulated a number of times on the blog: "But. . .would you be working even at a job you love for no pay whatsoever?" I think many people would, and do! I lot of SAHMs who have posted here say staying at home allows them to volunteer or work in an area that truly interests them - they are working for no pay whatsoever. Plus, "work" as a general category involves things beyond interpreting statutes (if you're a lawyer) or crunching numbers (if you're an accountant) or diagnosing illness, etc. You are involved with another community, many jobs require complex problem solving, you interact and communicate with a broader group of people than your immediate circle of acquaintances. Certainly not all jobs are like this. But I keep wondering - men have many of these same tedious jobs folks talk about on this blog, but they aren't quitting to stay home, and I have to wonder, why not? Latecomer - I appreciated your thoughtful posts and just wanted to reply.

Posted by: Just a thought | June 23, 2006 10:33 AM

Just a thought-
Thank you.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 23, 2006 10:55 AM

"Marry a supportive husband" is excellent advice for those who have a reliable crystal ball. (Mine has an unfortunate habit of clouding over at critical moments.)

Posted by: Susan | June 23, 2006 12:56 PM

I'm very late to this and am going to past a very long response. Bear with me!

From a poster: "Feminism told us we could have it all. Be wives and mothers and also work and be independent. The failure here is that it expected women to do more than men have ever done" Not exactly, but I like where you're going. Feminism taught us that if we wanted children and felt that marriage was a good way to have and raise children, we had to pick a partner. Not a boss, not an employee, but a partner. Feminism never taught us that we had to raise families and be a maid--it taught us that we didn't have to shoulder the burden of keeping the home because as we entered the workforce, men should be introduced to the housekeeping. Unfortunately, in our patriarchal society, men did not latch on to that idea and instead tasked us with doing 100: percent of working, childrearing, and housekeeping. And popular media (products of a patriarchal society) enforced that role, which is why so many women feel guilty about not doing 100% of every role. And don't kid yourself about getting support form other women. Women raised in a patriarchal society who have not been taught another way (like feminism) are puppets for that society. So all the posters out there making women feel bad about working and having children and vice versa are parroting back what our society has been telling them for years. Case in point "You can't live your life with your spouse like it is an 'equal' partnership and expect success. You must give 70 percent to their 30 and not resent it. And so must they." From another poster, "I WANTED to stay home with my kids. It's called maternal instinct people." No, it's called status quo, and implying that women who don't stay at home do not have this made-up thing might be insulting to some here. To support the point, "How come we don't criticize fathers for being doctors, lawyers, congressmen, businessmen, etc?"

From a poster:..."what is so sacred about husbands that we need to worry about harrassing them too much. Is demanding that they do their share harrassment? Don't you see the gender injustice in this attitude? This kind of injustice does hurt women, but some of us refuse to see it. We are just too brainwashed by society to see it" Add to this the post by this enlightened man "As a man, I suppose that all of your husbands will have to hear about this topic when they get home." Oh what a burden that a husband should talk to his wife. Maybe he should have married someone he actually got along with. The comment again reinforces the idea that men should not be bothered with this topic (what women need to succeed in life and work); that they have more important things to do.

From a poster: "I'm probably sterotyping a fair bit, but men seem better able to compartmentalize 'work' and 'home' - and I'd like to think consequently do better at both. Being a good parent doesn't mean you have to micromanage everything - in fact, it's often the opposite. Even with an equal level of love and affection, families that aren't wound too tightly tend to raise better kids than those that are severely over-mothered (I'd say 'over-fathered' too...but that's not a phrase I hear. Wonder why)." This also proves my point. Men are "wired" by society to leave the small things to their wives; the petty matters of rasing children. Incidently, the moments your wife spent focusing on the small detail of clothing in your daughter's life probably means a lot to your child--engaging your children on their level means you respect their choices and value what they contribute.

The solution is clear. From a poster: "The real solution to the home/work balance is to insist that men do their fair share of the grunt work at home. And we have not done this yet. We women keep on giving our husbands a free pass when it comes to raising kids and doing housework." Amen!
From a poster: "I am not denigrating the value of spending time with your children, and I want women and men to have choices, but I can't help but see that women and men alike expect women's choices to be, essentially, sacrificial whenever children are involved, and are often made even though they place women in a very deep hole financially and professionally" Amen!

Another point that sticks with me is this: "I stay at home with my two kids... I live, with my family, in a part of the country where $50,000 a year will never ever ever buy a house. Where childcare (full-time) is about 1,100 a month, per child... Am I really choosing to stay at home, or has my choice been made for me? ...I think all people have choices made for them, to some extent, because we cannot control everything around us" Well, you chose to have kids and you're choosing to live in an area where the cost of living is grossly inflated.

From a poster: "Lots of people don't like being responsible for their own actions, I know that, but that doesn't change the fact that they are." From another: "Bottom line - people who don't want to commit to being full time parents shouldn't have kids. And that would be an honorable choice. People who do want to be full time parents should do whatever it takes to do the right thing for their kids"

Amen! Having a child is a serious decision, and one that most people don't even consider. Ask a teenaged woman if she wants kids and the answer will almost always be "yes." The question should then be followed with "why?" and then "how?" Unfortunately, it's not always a discussion. It's a given. People like me who decide not to have children are often asked why, like there must be a medical or phychological reason behind the decision. Whatever the answer, the response is usually, "how selfish!" In my opinion, it is most selfish to have children because you "want to feel complete" or you "want the unconditional love of a child" or you "want to pass along your ideas and attitudes."

"Sheesh, we're so encouraging of people to pro-create, without even THINKING that perhaps if they can't really answer VERY BASIC SERIOUS questions about their OWN futures, that perhaps they shouldn't be embarking on a journey that has so many more serious questions about someone ELSE's future (and who can't even consent to being born to someone so selfish and clueless)?" I couldn't have said it better myself.

Posted by: Meesh | June 23, 2006 1:03 PM

Meesh - welcome to the party. Better late than never!

Posted by: Just a thought | June 23, 2006 1:21 PM

When I asked, "Would your work your current job, even if you love it, if you got no pay whatsoever," I should have clarified that I was referring only to paid jobs. I'm not referring to volunteer work or family work or any other labors of love. Most people who are in the paid labor force cannot afford to work there for free, or even for a deep discount.
However, I appreciate your comments. This is, all in all, a pretty thoughtful discussion.
I also liked the comment from the person who was troubled by the message that one's job or career is supposed to be one's identity. It's true, there is something wrong with that way of thinking, which is likely more prevalent in the US than in other countries. Jobs and careers are sure important, but they're not the be-all and end-all of who were are. A career is more a means to an end than an end in itself, I would argue. And that brings me back to a lot of what troubles me about the Linda Hirshman philosophy, that when it comes to family and work, she kind of has things bass-ackwards, as the saying goes.

Posted by: latecomer | June 23, 2006 1:56 PM

Meesh,
Well said. You are right on about society's view of women. The US world is still run by men and until women assert themselves, it will always be thus.

However, You lost it a bit at the end. I could say that our only reason for being is to procreate and spread our DNA if you want to get to the fundamental level of human existance :-). Seriously if all of those parents who had kids for selfish reasons or those who were not great parents did not have kids, the human race would be extinct.

Yet, I do respect highly people who have carefully thought out their options and for whatever reason decide not to have children. That should definitely be a choice and it's not anyone's business why.

With regard to some of us whose life's work is a calling---I do what I do for money for free too. I'm in a helping profession and it's my avocation. My children know this, respect it and both want to grow up to do what I do. This working mother (I consider myself a full time mother too, how insulting to say otherwise) must be doing something right.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 23, 2006 2:12 PM

Nationally syndicated Newsmagazine show is doing a story on this piece. We are looking for supporters of Linda's view. Please send your contact info and location if you are interested in being interviewed on television.

Thank you.

Posted by: jkh | June 26, 2006 11:24 AM

I strongly support Linda Hirshman's main points (though her delivery can come across as judgemental and abrasive).
But lets face it. Everyone and their mother feels ok aout smugly telling working women about how "wonderful" it is for children if mommy "works at home"/ "is a homemaker".
But, when someone reverses that "GASP-MOMMYHOOD HAS BEEN ATTACKED."
Whatever...

Woeking women mostly support Ms.Hirshman strongly..just don't have hours and hours to bloviate about it on the net :p.

Posted by: Raj | July 10, 2006 1:22 PM

err that was "about" and "working"

Posted by: Raj | July 10, 2006 1:23 PM

How come no one ever mentions that the daycare staff is largly made of women (who are usually low paid?) Somebody has to take care of the children, and usually men just don't take those jobs. How is providing all these low paying jobs for women, doing what the working mothers don't want to do in the first place, helpful to women's rights? And what message does it send to our children? I for one think there is much more potential in being a work at home mom then people acknowledge.

Posted by: Artist | September 26, 2006 1:33 AM

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