Ask A Working Woman

The AFL-CIO, which bills itself as the largest organization of working women in America, is sponsoring the 2006 Ask A Working Woman Survey.

The online survey, which the AFL-CIO describes as "our chance to be heard as working women," lets you rank the importance of laws that would improve working women's lives, offers an opportunity to complain about how woman-unfriendly your job is, and asks the usual demographic age/education/ethnicity questions. It takes less time to complete than snickering through Father of 4's latest rant. I recommend it to all of you who love to express opinions (ie, everyone).

Smart idea, this survey. Can't wait to see everyone's answers, which will be delivered to all U.S. representatives and senators as well as state and local officials around the country on Labor Day.

In the meantime, here's the best question: In 600 characters or less, describe the most important thing members of Congress need to understand about working women.

American politicians, hear me roar:

As a woman, I want to -- need to - work to provide for my family, keep my sanity, and give back to my country. But in order to max out my abilities as an employee and mom over the course of my lifetime, I need a few things:

1) Real economic incentives for companies that provide flexible schedules for family caregivers, maternity and paternity leave, onsite day care and aftercare, and a cool, well-lighted place to pump at work

2) At least as many high-quality, affordable child-care centers as there are Dunkin' Donuts (preferrably next to every Dunkin' Donuts)

3) A Constitutional amendment protecting women's rights to birth control (so that we can choose when to work and when to focus on raising kids).

4) Subliminal cultural messages (an advertising campaign, role models on TV and in movies, newspaper articles with supporting data) just like the ones moms have endured for the past 40 (or 40,000) years, but this time communicating the value to American society of supporting women's efforts to combine work and family.

So, what do you need?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  July 17, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Moms in the News
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The "the most important thing to understand about working women" answer I gave, because unfortunately some people still don't get it:

Work for women isn't just an option - it can be a lifesaver. Since I don't depend on a romantic partner for my food and shelter, I can afford abstinence and I'm better able to protect myself from HIV. Too many women out there have to choose between dire poverty and HIV infection when their husbands turn out to be condom-hating cheaters. They who claim that encouraging women to do no job besides housewife will benefit society forget this risk.

Posted by: Maria | July 17, 2006 7:41 AM

Also, shouldn't 3) be

A Constitutional amendment protecting the right to birth control (so that we can choose when to work and when to focus on raising kids).

? A while ago in Somalia some people threatened to flog merchants for selling condoms. Both men and women can have their access to birth control threatened, so protecting the right to birth control should protect both genders! For that matter, how about protecting the right to birth control for everyone (for example, protecting a 15-year-old girl's right to abstinence even if her parents want to marry her off)?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 7:45 AM

Leslie,

It is very hard to view you as a spearchucker for working women when you live in a 2+ million dollar 13 room home, with a nanny, probably a housekeeper, etc. and a dopey husband who can't figure out if he is a goood father? Come on, how much credibility would have if you weren't with the Washington Post?

Posted by: Marlo | July 17, 2006 8:24 AM

Women need a clean and healthy workplace free from harassment of any kind. We need to be able to take time off to care for elderly parents as well as children. We need equal pay for equal work. We need respect for the work we do.

Posted by: KB Silver Spring | July 17, 2006 8:40 AM

Wow, Marlo, jealous much. I feel bad for you. You are a sad person if that is all you cna contribute to this conversation.

Posted by: Thought | July 17, 2006 8:43 AM

"Subliminal cultural messages (an advertising campaign, role models on TV and in movies, newspaper articles with supporting data) just like the ones moms have endured for the past 40 (or 40,000) years, but this time communicating the value to American society of supporting women's efforts to combine work and family."

You might as well wish for the moon. The essence of a "culture war" is the concern that the "subliminal messages" of the current culture undermine my beliefs and values (or your beliefs and values). The ugly truth is that most of the sources of "culture" in our society do not care what my beliefs and values are, what your beliefs and values are, or what anyone else's beliefs and values are. They are filming, or writing, or singing to make money, gain fame, rebel against something, shock someone or to express themselves in a unique way.

Beyond that, despite a lot of happy talk, we really do have deep divisions about what believe and value. As a result, our culture does not have a single, coherent (or even sane) message. Those voices that are consistent with what I believe are likely to undermine what you believe - and vice versa. It appears that the solution we're stumbling towards is to develop a variety of niche cultures - red state vs. blue state, conservative vs. liberal, religious vs. non-religious, NASCAR vs. Lacrosse, home schoolers vs. PTA moms, etc. I don't think that's a particular desirable or sustainable solution, but for the life of me, I don't see anything else likely to work.

But understand - the culture you seem to be asking for would likely be seen by my wife as devaluing the choice she made to stay home with our kids (whether you would intend it to or not - people are just like that). Why? Because it would seem likely to imply, as a social norm, that working a full time job is the normal and desirable thing for a mom to do.

Culture is like a teenager - it just grew, and is very, very hard for anyone to control.

Posted by: Older Dad | July 17, 2006 8:51 AM

I need clear office policies about snow days, sick days and vacation days. I also need flexibility from those that are in control to do my job in a way that I can excel as an employee and as a Mommy (not to mention a wife). I don't need to be given less work and I don't expect my single and/or childless co-workers to have to work harder to overcompensate for my life choices... just need the ability to work a bit differently.

Posted by: DC Metro mommy | July 17, 2006 8:52 AM

Oh -- and another thing --

I need SAHMs and WOHMs to get on the same side and realize that we have to support each other. Our outside pressures may be different but they are rooted in the exact same place -- to be good to our kids, our husbands and ourselves.

Posted by: DC Metro Mommy | July 17, 2006 8:54 AM

NICE - the study says "All members of Congress are up for re-election this year. What is the most important thing you think members of Congress need to understand about working women?"

Um, OK, I would have thought the AFL-CIO would be smarter than that - Senators serve 6 year terms. The most important think I think for the AFL-CIO to understand is that all reps are up for re-election this year - less than HALF the senators are. All 435 seats in the House and 34 off 100 Senate seats are up for election in November. WAY to spread mis-information!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 8:55 AM

Marlo, thank you! Leslie is not a good advocate for working mothers, as is evidenced by her book. This blog is a good idea, but washingtonpost.com should have had the sense to find someone who would be more representative of the working mother population, not a former J&J executive married to an investment banker making millions of dollars a year (according to the mini-biography in her book). I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like me.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 8:58 AM

oh - and by spreading misinformation, I meant the AFL-CIO, not Leslie.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 8:59 AM

All Senators serve 6 years, but all members of Congress serve TWO years, therefore they are all up for reelection this year. Just wanted to let you know that the AFL-CIO wasn't spreading misinformation.

Posted by: Not a Mom Yet | July 17, 2006 8:59 AM

>>But understand - the culture you seem to be asking for would likely be seen by my wife as devaluing the choice she made to stay home with our kids (whether you would intend it to or not - people are just like that). Why? Because it would seem likely to imply, as a social norm, that working a full time job is the normal and desirable thing for a mom to do.>>

OK, "devalue" in what sense? Who does she need to "value" what she does, outside of herself, you, and your kids? Working moms, on the other hand, are affected by employer policies, which are in turn affected by laws and by societal expectations. We need the societal norms to be changed to support flexibility and balance. Your wife, to do what she wants to do, does not need that kind of societal/legal support--she needs your support. Also, with 2/3 of moms in the workforce, why shouldn't working be seen as the default instead of something "abnormal"?

Posted by: Arlmom | July 17, 2006 9:03 AM

What we ALL need, men and women, is a country where public education is minimally decent in EVERY neighborhood, and where EVERY neighborhood is safe enough to live in -- on a reasonable one income.

As long as women's (and men's) career choices are dictated largely by the fact that they need two incomes to afford safe housing and decent education for their children (not to mention saving for college) -- we in essence have no power and no economic choice.

Dress it up any way you want, but I feel there's an insidious movement to make EVERY family in America a two full-time career family, or a two-taxpayer family as some of us think of it. As long as there's no decent public transportation in most of the US, and two cars are necessary, college costs are out of control, private medical insurance is outrageously expensive -- then we will have no real economic choice.

Rather than thinking about how we can make womens' cubicles more cushy, we need to think about what's gone wrong in America that life is untenable for so many families without two full-time jobs.

Posted by: My Two Cents | July 17, 2006 9:03 AM

"All Senators serve 6 years, but all members of Congress serve TWO years, therefore they are all up for reelection this year."

This sounds like another classic case of confusing the terms "Senator," "Representative," "Member of Congress," "Congressman/Congresswoman."

Posted by: Huh? | July 17, 2006 9:04 AM

"But understand - the culture you seem to be asking for would likely be seen by my wife as devaluing the choice she made to stay home with our kids (whether you would intend it to or not - people are just like that). Why? Because it would seem likely to imply, as a social norm, that working a full time job is the normal and desirable thing for a mom to do."

Hey, and why not create the working mother as the social norm? Because in reality it is. Over 60% of women go back to work after maternity leave and it's an even higher percentage for women with older children (over 80%). As a working mother, I'd like to see my life portrayed as the "norm" and as a desirable way to live. Because in reality, women who stay at home are non-contributors to the economy and society (baking cupcakes for the PTA is NOT a meaningful contribution). We need to show our daughters that they too matter in this world and staying at home gives them the opposite message. Then, the equal pay and the rights in the workplace we seek will happen.

With regard to making birth control a constitutional amendment, I think that this is not what the framers of the constitution had in mind. It's like the conservative idiots who want to make marriage between a man and a woman into a constitutional amendment. There is no doubt that we need to get these creeps out of Washington and the statehouses so that we can more freely develop ways to reproductive freedom without the constraints of their misguided ideology (meant to keep women "barefood and pregnant").

And what can we do really to fix some of these things? Vote for candidates that will support and enact laws that gives us these things (parental leave, reproductive freedom, stronger EEOC, etc.).

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 9:07 AM

I just want to point out that while this is a fine idea, AFL-CIO should not call this a survey (at minimum it's not a scientific survey). The opinions it generates are only representative of those who opt to participate, not of "American Working Women." I hope when it goes to Congress with the results, it does not misrepresent the results.

Posted by: VAMom | July 17, 2006 9:07 AM

Health care, health care, health care. It does apply to more than just mom, but I think its such an important issue. I'm a working woman with a PhD fellowship waiting for me. But with the paltry fellowship pay, I can't afford health insurance, and with my medical history, I can't afford to be without it. So I'm stuck in a job I hate, misrable, desperatly searching for something better - as long as it provides full coverage on day one.

I think of single moms out there - the ones I keep hearing people say need to get an education to get a better job. I wonder if they would be able to get that education if they knew their kids would eat and be able to see a doctor if the needed to.

Posted by: RT | July 17, 2006 9:09 AM

RT,
You are so right. Health care is an issue on everyone's mind, but seems to scare off politicians. As employers shy away from providing it, raise the employee's premiums and as it has become unaffordable for those families that have to purchase it themselves, it has become a huge issue for all of us. I can't even begin to imagine how hard it must be for families to have to decide between healthcare for themselves or their children and other necessities. I predict this will be a #1 or #2 issue of the next election.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 9:14 AM

"But understand - the culture you seem to be asking for would likely be seen by my wife as devaluing the choice she made to stay home with our kids (whether you would intend it to or not - people are just like that). Why? Because it would seem likely to imply, as a social norm, that working a full time job is the normal and desirable thing for a mom to do."

Can we all just lay off of everyone? You make your decisions, I make mine. No one is less valuable than another. We all contribute differently. Why must this blog be made into a tangent-laden civil war everyday?

Answer the questions -- what do you need at the office to make your life better??

Posted by: DC Metro Mommy | July 17, 2006 9:15 AM

"OK, "devalue" in what sense? Who does she need to "value" what she does, outside of herself, you, and your kids? Working moms, on the other hand, are affected by employer policies, which are in turn affected by laws and by societal expectations. We need the societal norms to be changed to support flexibility and balance. Your wife, to do what she wants to do, does not need that kind of societal/legal support--she needs your support. Also, with 2/3 of moms in the workforce, why shouldn't working be seen as the default instead of something "abnormal"?"

I'm going to have to disagree here, on a couple of levels. First, the specific issue I addressed was the cultural message - not specific legal protections. In other words, the plot to sitcoms, the words and images in advertisements, the lyrics of songs, the jokes of late-night comedians, and the language in popular novels and magazines.

Second, seeing someone "communicating the value to American society" of your life's work is fully as important to stay at home moms as it is to working moms (and working dads, stay at home dads, and babysitting grandma's as well). We all, every one of us, crave a sense that other people recognize what we're doing as honorable and valuable.

Third, whether you recognize it or not, stay at home moms are fully as affected by societal expectations as you are. You may feel that you're choices are somehow seen as "abnormal" - so does my wife. That sense hurts her just as much as it does you. Saying that she only needs for me and our kids to value her just doesn't cut it - any more than sayng that you only need your family and boss to value you would be satisfactory.

Finally, with 2/3 of the moms in the workforce, I think you'll find that most stay-at-home moms believe that staying at home is no longer considered the default - working is.

Please understand - all of this is separate and apart from any discussion of labor law. We very well may need some changes. That's a political and economic debate. My real point here is that you may not like the current cultural messages you're seeing, because they aren't in accord with what you think is important. If you could change them, other women would likely still be unhappy with them - because they wouldn't be consistent with what they value.

Posted by: Older Dad | July 17, 2006 9:18 AM

Thank you, My Two Cents! Couldn't have said it better myself.

Posted by: This Blog Drives Me Nuts | July 17, 2006 9:20 AM

To Arlmom:

9:07 provides a great example of what drives my wife absolutely up the wall. She/he said: "Because in reality, women who stay at home are non-contributors to the economy and society (baking cupcakes for the PTA is NOT a meaningful contribution). We need to show our daughters that they too matter in this world and staying at home gives them the opposite message."

This is a large part of our culture, and it hurts and angers her (and, I suspect, a lot of other women). My valuing her choice is important, but it doesn't make the other not hurt. If the cultural gestalt were changed to consistently project 9:07's message, stay-at-home women would in fact feel devalued.

I'm not suggesting that this is what you want. But the bottom line is that the beliefs and values of 9:07 are evidently quite different from those of my wife. No one point of view can control our culture (which I think is a good thing), and if it could, not everyone (or even all women) would be happy with the result.

Posted by: Older Dad | July 17, 2006 9:29 AM

Congress denotes the entire U.S. Legislative branch, Senators and Representatives. (It is also "the act of sexual procreation between a man and a woman..." Gives a new meaning to what the government is doing.) So those that say the AFL-CIO is wrong are correct.

One of my pet peeves is using the Constitution to legislate human behavior, whether it be alcohol consumption or birth control usage. That is what laws are for and should be left to the states. If you don't like your state laws, work to change them. The Constitution should be used to enhance the protections of the human race.

Posted by: Working Dad | July 17, 2006 9:29 AM

To DC Metro Mommy:

"Can we all just lay off of everyone? You make your decisions, I make mine. No one is less valuable than another. We all contribute differently. Why must this blog be made into a tangent-laden civil war everyday?"

I apologize - I really do not intend to challenge the choices or value of working moms. My only real point is that the wish for a culture that consistently supports being a working mom is 1) unrealistic, because you can't control culture, and 2) if it were possible, might not be the message stay-at-home moms would prefer. Better to wish for your preferred change to our labor laws.

Posted by: Older Dad | July 17, 2006 9:33 AM

Older dad, I think you are missing the point. As long as the "culture" supports the notion that women belong at home with the kids (that it is "valuable" and "normal" and "desireable"--or at least more valuable than the contributions women make in the workplace), women will continue to get paid less than men. Employers will not have incentives to become more family-friendly. Lawmakers will not have the political mandate to support universal health care and stronger worker protections for parents and caregivers.

The cultural aspect is very, very, important. And to come on a blog specifically about work-life balance and post that we shouln't even talk about changing the culture because we might offend an insecure SAHM....I don't even know what to say about that. If *you( value her, why can't *I* say that I wish that employers had to offer 12 weeks of paid maternity/paternity leave?

Posted by: Arlmom | July 17, 2006 9:34 AM

Older Dad,
I don't advocate changing our culture. I just advocate for a little flexibility for WOHMs -- and for people to stop egging on this civil war between SAHMs and WOHMs.

It gets us nowhere. Actually, that is not true... it sets us back even further. I admire SAHMs... heck, I wish that this was a choice that I had. I also admire and am proud to be a WOHM. My kid is doing great (just as I am sure that yours are). All of that being said, today's blog is about "our chance to be heard as working women" and although I understand that SAHMs are working their tails off, I think that the AFL-CIO meant those who work outside of the home. So, lets stay on topic.

Posted by: DC Metro Mommy | July 17, 2006 9:40 AM

Cheers to Marlo for ripping the veneer off of Leslie's pseudo-advocacy for real working and stay at home parents. It must be nice to be able to afford that option. I guess I'd have a lot more respect for her if she was actually doing something to advocate for the issues she espouses. You can talk the talk, Leslie. NOw it's time to walk the walk.

Posted by: Glover Park | July 17, 2006 9:44 AM

Why do we have to argue about who is more valuable to society? We are ALL valuable in our own way. A SAHM may do volunteer work that a working mother can't do. A working mother pays taxes, etc. Maybe later in life the SAHM goes back to work and the working mom stays home to take care of her ailing mother. It can all balance out in the end.

Posted by: DC | July 17, 2006 9:45 AM

Very well said Arlmom. And you are absolutely right about culture influencing people's thoughts and ideas--including employers. Geez, marketers make big bucks to influence our thoughts through the media and if it were not important, then companies wouldn't spend so much money to advertise and influence our choices.

"Older Dad" is the misguided soul. It is men like him who encourage their wives to stay at home. If more men instead supported women in careers and work, then working women would be more supported in the workplace. I sure hope "older dad" isn't an employer. I wouldn't care for someone who thinks it's ok for women to stay at home to be my boss.

And lastly, that's what these blogs are for--to discuss issues even if they are controversial.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 9:46 AM

I wish that the Congress would actually pay attention to something like this. I do not have high hopes, however. There are only 14 women U.S. Senators out of 100 and only 15 percent of U.S. Representatives in the House are women. With numbers like that, and the way the GOP feels about labor unions like the AFL-CIO, do we really think they'll pay any attention to such a survey?

http://punditmom1.blogspot.com

Posted by: PunditMom | July 17, 2006 9:48 AM

Arlmom - perhaps you're right. But don't blame me for more than I'm guilty of - I never said you "shouln't even talk about changing the culture because we might offend an insecure SAHM." What I did say was that 1) I don't think it will work, and 2) if it does, there are other women who likely won't be happy. Both of those seem to me to be legitimate points. I could be wrong, though, and I have work to do, so I'll bow out. I would ask that you consider whether our culture really "supports the notion that women belong at home with the kids (that it is . . .at least more valuable than the contributions women make in the workplace)" - a lot of us don't see it that way.

Posted by: Older Dad | July 17, 2006 9:49 AM

If I were a member of congress reading the comments posted this morning, especially "you make too much money, you don't represent me and my problems" and "you don't make meaningful contributions to society," I would definitely think that working women were a united group who had clearly laid-out goals that I should support.

Posted by: Charlottesville | July 17, 2006 9:50 AM

I think the most important thing working Mom's need is a good fair-paying job.

I don't want the government to choose how to solve my problems, I want to choose how to do that.

My best asset is training so I can earn a good wage. That said, good wage jobs in my locality must exist so I can work.

Once I have the wage then I can choose how to solve my child care problems.

Those who earn a low wage, for whatever reason, need to recieve subsidies. I think European countries with their extensive mandated benefits -- and high unemployment are a good reason to stay away from too many programs.

Posted by: RoseG | July 17, 2006 9:54 AM

O.k. - I lied. I have to respond to ""Older Dad" is the misguided soul. It is men like him who encourage their wives to stay at home."

This sort of ad hominem attack isn't justified. In point of fact, it's my wife who's the hard-liner on these issues. I'm fine with her doing whatever she wants. She strongly believes that her choice is the best for our family (it seems to have worked well).

Again, this is the sort of thing that drives her up the wall - 9:46 clearly doesn't give her much credit for making a reasonable decision.

Posted by: Older Dad | July 17, 2006 9:56 AM

I'm curious about how it is that everyone knows so much about Leslie. I don't recall that she's said anything here about where she lives, how many rooms her house has, or how much money her husband makes. Based on what she's said about her childcare arrangements, I also don't think she has a nanny.

Obviously, both Leslie and her husband are well-educated, and equally obvious, they are not poor. But unless someone has a private investigator tailing her, I'm not sure how anyone would know more . . . or, really, why it's relevant.

Each of has the right to disagree w/ Leslie, but certainly she has the right to say whatever she has to say regardless of her personal circumstances. We all have opinions about things we haven't experienced . . . and wouldn't want to experience. If, in fact, Leslie is as well off as some posters seem to think, she should be given all the more credit for taking positions that would benefit people whose who don't have the financial resources that she does.

Posted by: THS | July 17, 2006 10:00 AM

Charlottesville - Excellent point!

In my time "on the Hill" the most important thing I learned about Congressmen (and, yes, I mean all 535 of them)is that they give a damn about what affects them (ever wonder why congressional pay raises pass failr smoothly?). However, they also care/are forced to care when a large group of their constituents form a united form and bombard them with the same message, over and over again until they can no longer ingnore that message. Women of the US - UNITE! If the debate about working mothers and equality is centered around in-fighting and judgments aimed at each other, we cannot hope to promote a message in a way that will get Congress' attention.

Posted by: scr | July 17, 2006 10:08 AM

A lot of the information comes from her book jacket, other articles about her, etc.

But I STRONGLY disagree with your point that since she is so well-off she should get credit for her advocacy. That's the problem. There is no advocacy. She's talking about the issues facing working and stay athome parents to an audience that can afford to either be at home and read her blog (time permitting) or can fire up their computer in their nice air conditioned office to check out the blog. The women who really need help can't even afford a computer, or are working back-breaking blue collar jobs all day. What is Leslie doing to relly help them? Not a damn thing, and that's where the hypocricy of all of this lies.

Posted by: Glover Park | July 17, 2006 10:10 AM

I care that, when my wife does have our child, that we won't have to worry about how we will be able to afford good child care when she returns to work. Affordable health care is also high on the list, for all of us.

Posted by: John | July 17, 2006 10:13 AM

Older Dad - Does your wife have an internet connection at home? You keep saying my wife believes this... this is the sort of thing that drives her up the wall... If we heard from her as opposed to her husband speaking for her it might make more of impact.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 10:15 AM

So, Glover Park, what are YOU doing to help women working back-breaking blue collar jobs?

Posted by: Charlottesville | July 17, 2006 10:16 AM

Way to go, Marlo. Couldn't have said it better myself. Leslie's whining doesn't get any sympathy from me. BTW -- a friend is a nurse who has no sympathy for the moaning mothers in the labor room. She says 'You got yourself into this fix yourself, honey, so don't go whining about how it hurts.' Think about that next time you're in labor.

Now for Leslie's demands:
1) Pump what at work? Gasoline? Iron? As for all those other demands for childcare, you should have thought about that before you spawned.
2) Daycare next to Dunkin Donuts? We're an obese nation for a reason. We don't want kids sucking down donuts to add to their obesity and attention deficit problems.
3) Why do you need a Constitutional amended to provide birth control? Just go to your doctor and get a prescript. for birth control pills and remember to take the damned things. Easy as that.
4) Subliminal advertising? Isn't that another form of brainwashing?

Posted by: Childless by Choice | July 17, 2006 10:18 AM

Well, I don't have as much money as Leslie, so both my wife and I need to wrk full-time. Indeed, we cannot even afford to have the option of one of us staying home to raise a child. I live in the real world, where people have to work everyday and cannot abide the hypocricy of SAHPs who sip their Starbucks, drive around in luxury SUVs, go to their spa appointments and personal trainers, and finally check on the nanny and their child, yet wonder why no one takes them seriously.

Leslie likes to put herself out as an advocate for all of this, but when it comes down to it, she's as full of it as the next person.

So what am I doing? Being a truthsquad.

Posted by: Glover Park | July 17, 2006 10:20 AM

Umm, unless you want to revoke democracy, it is impossible to legislate that all neighborhoods be affordable on a decent single income. Good neighborhoods have signficant value, and there is competition for the limited amount of housing available, so people (that would be consumers, not the government) raise the prices by being willing to outpay others to live in a particular house. "Good" of course, means different things to different people, for some it means schools, for others it is location, proximity to things like public transportation, etc. This simply cannot be legislated. No one wants the government overseeing the prices of housing. REALLY, we do not want that.

The government can contribute to making neighborhoods safer, have better schools, etc.

It is simply going to cost more to have the same house in North Arlington than in Centerville. There is more competition for good housing, in good school districts close in to DC where a large percentage of the population works.

Posted by: Another DC Mom | July 17, 2006 10:23 AM

As a working mother I would like to have paid maternity leave for 6 months. And YES, I am willing to pay the higher taxes for this. Having absolutely NO PAID maternity leave in this country is a disgrace.

Posted by: anotherarlmom | July 17, 2006 10:30 AM

This is off topic, but I noticed in the New York Times Book review a new book on Single moms. It is entitled "Unsung Heroines: Single Mothers and the American Dream, by Ruth Sidel. There has been much discussion about single moms and the hurdles they face. This book looks very interesting.

I wish there was some way to curtail the insideous message the media sends our daughters with regard to how they look and how they should behave to succeed in America. My daughter is a bright teenager and luckily she does not to subcribe to the media's position that she should be sexy and available looking for boys and men.

Posted by: Virgina | July 17, 2006 10:31 AM

"She says 'You got yourself into this fix yourself, honey, so don't go whining about how it hurts.' Think about that next time you're in labor."

If someone said this to me while I was in labor I would sue the hospital for harassment. Then, after I had my kid and was feeling better, I'd probably punch her in the mouth, then the next time she said it, she could gum it. Not having children isn't an excuse to be rude, and a nurse, give me a break.

I also agree that it is hard hearing what we perceive to be Leslie's whining about how bad everyone has it. However, if the people who "have" don't whine and try to do something about it, then the people who "have not" will continue to have not. It takes everyone, even people we perceive to have it all.

Posted by: scarry | July 17, 2006 10:31 AM

"All Senators serve 6 years, but all members of Congress serve TWO years, therefore they are all up for reelection this year. Just wanted to let you know that the AFL-CIO wasn't spreading misinformation."

Hey, Not A Mom Yet, when that day comes, please make sure your children aren't as ignorant as you. Get an education!

Posted by: Michael | July 17, 2006 10:34 AM

Glover Park, you hit the nail on the head. But at least the people who are most likely to read about, discuss and vote are reading this blog and thinking about these issues. I am well-off. I DO live in a 13+ bedroom house. So what. I have also lived in efficiencies, lived paycheck-to-paycheck, been in debt, and juggled daycare with my husband because of a lack of daycare. Does that make me less concerned for the wellbeing of fellow humans? It is better for eveyone to have the policies we need to care for our children,even if it is the well-off and educated ones who make it happen. In fact, I would rather have someone who has the time to ponder the issues making policies than the underpaid, overworked woman who is exhausted to do it. One of our biggest problems is our lack of looking outside our own needs and looking at the big picture. I personally do not need policies that help working mothers because my kids are older now and I work part-time. But I talk and think about how to best change the world/laws/etc. because my children may need those policies, and also the teachers, doctors, soldiers, plumbers and firefighters and all the other working people who are trying to work and balance their lives. The trickle-down effect takes a long time, but it does have an effect.

Posted by: Parttimer | July 17, 2006 10:36 AM

"Your wife, to do what she wants to do, does not need that kind of societal/legal support--she needs your support. "

This comment brings me to what I need as a working mom....

I need people (companies, society, individuals) to realize that taking several years off to be "home" with my small children does not mean a death sentence for my ability to make a living. My degrees and years of experience do not magically go POOF! just because I spent time doing something else.

So what I need is the ability to go back to work, should I want to, when my children are older.

I also need people like Leslie, Maria and others to quit spewing venom about how dangerous it is to not provide financially for my family, and for others to quit spewing venom about my contribution to society.

Posted by: momof4 | July 17, 2006 10:37 AM

. . . that some people on this blog obviously don't like Leslie for whatever reason but continue to read the blog. If you think she's not genuine why continue to come back and just basically disagree with whatever she says or "how" she says it or whether she genuinely cares or not.

I think it's great that there is a post for working women on the Washington post website. Most of us who come to this blog are not impoverished but we still have issues that we would like discussed on a national level. I believe Leslie's main message is that if we working mothers who are successful still have it so rough what hope is there for the less fortunate? Her living in a mansion has no bearing on whether she cares about the issues facing working women in this country.

Now that that's off my chest - what do I wish for? I wish that we had a decent maternity leave policy (at least 6 months) and I wish that the government would give companies telecommuting incentives.

Posted by: I think it's wierd . . . | July 17, 2006 10:40 AM

Parttimer,
You make some excellent points, but I guess I'd be happier hearing tales of what people are actually DOING to makes some of these things happen, and reading and writing a blog doesn't really qualify in my book.

I spent 10+ years getting people elected to office that I hoped would improve the lot of everyday Americans. Then one day I woke up and realized that they are crooks, interested solely in lining their own pockets, and this was true for Democrats and Republicans alike.

So what does Leslie write about? $100,000 a year nannies and stuff like that. I'd be a lot more impressed hearing about her experiences volunteering at a child care center, or helping out in inner-city schools or volunteering in an adult education class. Something that is actually making a difference. Because right now, if you think that taking up little bits and bytes of cyberspace amounts to anything, you're deluding yourselves, all of you.

Posted by: Glover Park | July 17, 2006 10:42 AM

Hey Childless by Choice,

"3) Why do you need a Constitutional amended to provide birth control? Just go to your doctor and get a prescript. for birth control pills and remember to take the damned things. Easy as that. "

Um, did you read the Post over the weekend? Front page - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/15/AR2006071500846.html - A Medical Crisis of Conscience
Faith Drives Some To Refuse Patients Medication or Care

Might not be so easy for some to get a prescription written and/or filled.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 10:43 AM

1) Real economic incentives for companies that provide flexible schedules for family caregivers, maternity and paternity leave, onsite day care and aftercare, and a cool, well-lighted place to pump at work.

How's this for an economic incentive--they are a more desirable place to work, so attract more applicants, so they are able to hire the best employees. And then they have lower turnover costs as well. No government regulation needed.

And, as others have pointed out, this "wish" assumes a white-collar office type workplace. For women (and men, for that matter) working in a factory, or in many trades, employers would never implement many of these ideas because they are completely impractical for the work environment.

2) At least as many high-quality, affordable child-care centers as there are Dunkin' Donuts (preferrably next to every Dunkin' Donuts)

This conundrum has been discussed before. There is inherent tension between high quality and affordability. If we want lower child/staff ratios, better trained and educated child care workers, that costs money. Where does it come from? Not from patrons (affordability). The government? That is problematic for a number of reasons.

3) A Constitutional amendment protecting women's rights to birth control (so that we can choose when to work and when to focus on raising kids).

You don't need a Constitutional amendment to a) abstain from sex; b) insist that your spouse/partner use a condom; or c) decide together with your spouse/partner when to have kids.

4) Subliminal cultural messages (an advertising campaign, role models on TV and in movies, newspaper articles with supporting data) just like the ones moms have endured for the past 40 (or 40,000) years, but this time communicating the value to American society of supporting women's efforts to combine work and family.

I think that there are a lot of people who would say that there are already lots of these subliminal messages out there. Angelina Jolie seems to have balanced a career and a family. Katie Couric. I think if you look at TV shows and movies, you will see many more working women than June Cleaver stay-at-home types. Some would say that these subliminal messages are undermining "traditional" family values.

I realize that this post could make me sound quite conservative, and I'm not. But some of these problems are more manufactured than real, and others (like the child care issue) deserve serious, extended debate rather than a slogan: "A child care next to every Dunkin Donuts!"

(Which, incidentally, wouldn't do families where I live much good. We're in Krispy Kreme Kountry)

Posted by: Brian | July 17, 2006 10:45 AM

Glover Park - Writing about issues brings it to the public sphere and can lead to change in many ways that volunteering can't

Posted by: fabworkingmom | July 17, 2006 10:46 AM

Re: "Childless by Choice" comment --

"Why do you need a Constitutional amended to provide birth control? Just go to your doctor and get a prescript. for birth control pills and remember to take the damned things. Easy as that."

Wish it was "easy as that" for everyone. Some women (and men) are turned away from doctor's and pharmacies (and other health care professional) because dispensing birth control is against moral beliefs. Some of us have options to go another pharmacy or doctor, but others (especially in rural areas) don't.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 10:48 AM

"Older Dad - Does your wife have an internet connection at home? You keep saying my wife believes this... this is the sort of thing that drives her up the wall... If we heard from her as opposed to her husband speaking for her it might make more of impact."

I also found it ironic that "older dad" is speaking for his wife. Geez, either he's one of those paternalistic husbands with a barefoot and pregnant wife or he's hiding behind her to express his views. Maybe older dad can enlighten us as to why his wife thinks it's so much better to be at home with the kids? Did she have a meaningful career prior to kids? Does dad not contribute to the caring of the children so she feels she must be at home? These are often reasons why women "choose" to stay at home. Also, in the higher socioeconomic groups it's almost a status symbol. How many times have I heard a SAHM brag "I don't HAVE to work".

With regard to Leslie, I think that there are a spectrum of working women in our country and all of our voices should be heard. Many issues cross socioeconomic lines and yes, there are those that affect only women in lower paying jobs. I think those in the "higher" socioeconomic groups are often in positions to have some power, sway over the powers-that-be and to have them advocate for others is laudable. Also, if the "higher" groups get it, then it trickles down to the rest of the workforce...at least you hope so.

And I like what both Arlmoms have to say.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 10:48 AM

Childless by choice, would you please go back and read your post? And tell me that you don't need some compassion in your life? I personally don't believe that a nurse who is paid actually says that to anyone. If she did, she would be out of a job in less than a heartbeat. It sounds like she is just spouting off what she might WANT to say. And get a sense of humor. Leslie meant the Dunkin Donuts to be for US---a little coffee for the drive to work. I think it is a good thing you are childless by choice, but it sounds like you are ambivalent about it because you sound so bitter and are not adding anything to the discussion. And Glover Park, those SUV, Starbuck-sipping, spa-treatment getting moms with nannies are really not the issue. There aren't that many of them, and they don't care if they are taken seriously. It sounds as if they are enjoying life!

Posted by: parttimer again | July 17, 2006 10:49 AM

Michael, I would be more than happy to teach my kids. Would you like to teach me, rather than insulting me? Am I wrong? Having grown up in the shadow of Capitol Hill, I always referred to Senators as Sentators and Representatives as Congressmen as well. I'm sorry if this confused you, but I don't think I was rude, I was just trying to point out that, at least when I was filling out the survey, I understood that "members of Congress" referred to Representatives. Please feel free to educate me (rather than throw insults my way) if I am incorrect.

Posted by: Not a Mom Yet | July 17, 2006 10:50 AM

"Because in reality, women who stay at home are non-contributors to the economy and society."

This is ridiculous, unless you are going to say that childcare workers, nannies, and housekeepers fall into the same category. Oh and incidentally nursing home workers, since that also is traditionally unpaid women's work.

Once again, children need to be cared for (as do the elderly). The only difference between a SAHM and a WOHM is a) salary and b) what they do between 9 and 5 (or whatever the WOHM's paid hours are).

Posted by: Shandra | July 17, 2006 10:52 AM

"3) Why do you need a Constitutional amended to provide birth control? Just go to your doctor and get a prescript. for birth control pills and remember to take the damned things. Easy as that."

Yeah, except for when your doctor refuses to give you a prescription, or the pharmacist refuses to fill it because THEY believe birth control is wrong. Like the pharmacist that refused the morning after pill to a rape victim? There's an article in today's Post about this. Not everyone has the option to shop around for good health care.

*And does your nurse friend yell at other people in pain too? "it was your choice to walk outside on an icy day, so don't whine to me about your broken leg" That's ridiculous. I hope I never encounter her when I need help.

Posted by: to Childless By Choice | July 17, 2006 10:52 AM

Glover Park, I think you woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. Just because you are a successful business woman does not mean you can't understand people and you can't be an advocate.

I am a mid-30s woman who is just getting ready to start a family. I have worked hard since graduating college and am financially well-off. I didn't grow up this way, but learned early that I need to work hard and speak up for myself in order to get ahead.

Now, I have the luxury of determining whther I want to work or whether I want a nanny. Not sure yet. I'll need to figure that one out as I go.

Before we can advoate anything, we all need to be on the same side. People like you have to stop sterotyping people you dion't know and learn to listen to all sides. And people like me need to learn to be less defensive.

Posted by: Thought | July 17, 2006 10:52 AM

Paid maternity leave! I would even be ok if you had to pay it back if you chose not to return to your employer after the baby is born. My org's short-term disability does NOT cover pg or maternity leave. I have to use my accrued vacation and sick leave and then go unpaid with FMLA. Ridiculous.

Posted by: Raia | July 17, 2006 10:52 AM

Forgot to add...paid paternity leave also!

Posted by: Raia | July 17, 2006 10:53 AM

Dear Congresspeople/Senators,

On my wishlist:
-Portable, affordable health insurance, which benefits ALL citizens.
-Quality childcare both full-time AND part-time so that the choice to return to work perhaps part-time while a child is young is easier.
-Governmental support for liberal leave policies for employees of ALL businesses. Perhaps even a short paid maternity leave.

Just those three things would make a HUGE difference in most peoples lives.

One more thing, housing costs are going up all over the country, not just the DC area. Unless a concentrated FEDERAL effort is made to support affordable housing, fewer and fewer people will be able to get on that home escalator.

Posted by: NC Mom | July 17, 2006 10:53 AM

"I also found it ironic that "older dad" is speaking for his wife. Geez, either he's one of those paternalistic husbands with a barefoot and pregnant wife or he's hiding behind her to express his views. Maybe older dad can enlighten us as to why his wife thinks it's so much better to be at home with the kids? Did she have a meaningful career prior to kids? Does dad not contribute to the caring of the children so she feels she must be at home? These are often reasons why women "choose" to stay at home. "

I wouldn't have any problem with my husband posting on this blog about my contribution to our family as a SAHM or about why I have chosen to not work outside the home at this point in time. It is my choice, and I am the one who feels more strongly about the presence of a SAHP in our young children's lives. He feels similarly but not nearly as strongly.

Possibly - OD is posting here instead of his wife because she's just not interested in blogging or defending her choice all of the time, and he is.

I had a meaningful career, and my husband helps with the children when he is home. Because I am a SAHM, I know many women and men who are also SAHPs and the vast majority of them also had careers and have spouses who help out with the children. I don't know anyone, frankly, who uses those reasons to SAH.

Posted by: momof4 - not Older Dad's wife | July 17, 2006 10:56 AM

To Not a Mom Yet, "Please feel free to educate me (rather than throw insults my way) if I am incorrect."

You are incorrect. A person elected to the Senate is a Senator. A person elected to the House of Representatives is a Reprecentative. A perons elected to either is a Congressperson.

" Having grown up in the shadow of Capitol Hill, I always referred to Senators as Sentators and Representatives as Congressmen as well." To be expected from DC public schools.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 10:56 AM

What do I do to help working women/mothers? I volunteer to teach financial principles to people who need help (usually the people I see are those who make the least and accrue the most debt trying to make ends meet); I volunteer with my church making food for the homeless and distributing it. I donate money to organizations that use it to help families. What I don't do: Write a book dealing with "working mothers" that only discusses upper-middle class working mothers and then give the money from my sizeable advance to the already wealthy contributors. What do you do, Charlottesville?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 10:57 AM

Thought,
You miss my point when you write: "Now, I have the luxury of determining whther I want to work or whether I want a nanny. Not sure yet. I'll need to figure that one out as I go."

The question I want answered is: what is anyone doing to make that option available to everyone?

Not much, if you ask me.

Besides, tapping away on a computer is SO much easier than actually doing anything...

Posted by: Glover Park | July 17, 2006 10:57 AM

"unless you are going to say that childcare workers, nannies, and housekeepers fall into the same category. Oh and incidentally nursing home workers, since that also is traditionally unpaid women's work"

These workers (men or women) ARE contributors to society. They enable others to work AND they derive a paycheck, pay into social security and pay taxes. They are definitely contributors to the economy and society. Women who stay at home do none of the above except to enable their spouses to enjoy a career/meaningful work free of housekeeping and childcare responsibilities. Very selfish of the spouses.

And Dunkin Donuts has great coffee, don't they :-)

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 11:00 AM

I appreciate the non-rude comments correcting me. I may be wrong, but I just wanted to show that it isn't just my (non-DC public school) education that would have led me to believe that Congressman is a term synonymous with "Representative": "It is important to note that although it is technically a term for members of either house, "Congressman/woman" is used almost exclusively to refer to members of the lower house in the United States in formal address."

But I accept I was wrong, and in the future will simply refer to Representatives as Representatives.

Posted by: Not a Mom Yet | July 17, 2006 11:06 AM

Glover Park, you haven't answered the question about what you do to improve the circumstances of children and families. Since you are so ready to pass judgment on Leslie for not doing enough (or anything), you should, it seems to me, be contributing in some way to an enterprise that is larger than your own career and the well-being of your own family.

Posted by: THS | July 17, 2006 11:07 AM

I think we have to be careful about certain legislative fixes -- such as mandatory/longer paid maternity leave. It's my understanding that in Europe such policies have led to employer reluctance to hire female, child-bearing aged employees. I do like the idea of tax breaks for participating companies, though.

Posted by: My 2 cents | July 17, 2006 11:09 AM

I'm not the one sticking myself out as some kind of advocate, Leslie is. To that end, she's the one who needs to prove her bona fides, not me.

But since you ask, I help teach financial literacy to those who need it, and I meet with public school students to talk about books we've read together. It's not much, but between a full-time job and working my way though graduate school, it's about the best I can manage. At the very least, it is a more meaningful contribution to society than writing a blog.

Some have asked why, then, do I participate? Because hopefully, maybe sopme of what I say will rub off on all of you, you'll stop reading this blog, the Post will end it, and Leslie can go back to whatever she wants to do with her hefty book advance.

THS, what are YOU doing, if anything?

Posted by: Glover Park | July 17, 2006 11:13 AM

For the record, I am in my middle thirties and female. My wife-to-be is also in her middle thirties and female. We plan to have kids. When we do, we BOTH want (she wants and I support her) for her to stay home with the kids while they're little. I will support the family and help her get back in the job market when it's time. Point being, you don't have to be either older or particularly conservative (we're not, as you might guess) to support this model if that's what works best for your situation.

I do not expect her to spend time on a blog supporting this statement or defending her decision. She's got other things to do.

Posted by: Defending Older Dad | July 17, 2006 11:14 AM

My experience as a woman who is in her upper twenties.

1. Women in my generation are getting paid the same as men for the same jobs. Some women make a lot more than their male counterparts for the same job.

2. Women in my generation seem to care less about the mommy wars issue. We will stay home with our kids if we want to and work if we want to. We can have it any way we please, but we understand there will be sacrifice EITHER WAY we choose to go.

Isn't that what having kids is about? Sacrificing for them? Everyone does it in one form or another.

3. Simple economics says that if you want QUALITY childcare, you will pay more for it. If there were a higher demand for childcare next to the Dunken Donuts, you'd see it. Why do I want the government interferring with this?

4. What do I want from work? Pure and simple - more vacation time. Who doesn't?

5. Leslie, you say the #1 reason you work is to provide for your family? Doesn't your husband make millions? Seems to me wtih that much cash you don't really have much to complain about since you can afford to stay home, work part time, or be a work-aholic since you can afford a nanny. What are you whining about? You have every option available! Do you really think you relate to 99% of parents on this chat?

Posted by: Upper Twenties | July 17, 2006 11:16 AM

"I think it's weird" made a good point with the telecommuting option. In our technology-laden society, telecommuting is a great option (obviously not for jobs that can't function w/o actually being physically there). When people can telecommute, they can afford to live in cheaper areas, they have more time to work because they're not commuting, and they can work even when they're sick.

"Glover Park", at 10:57 you asked what people were doing to help every person have the option of not working to raise kids. I have to point out that you mentioned in another blog that SAHP are essentially worthless. Personally, I don't think we need to help more people stay at home to raise kids. I think we need to help more people work while they raise kids, which is what this blog is about.

In addition to paid leave and affordable child care, I would add to the list and increase in the pay of public servants. When you think about it in the long term, paying teachers, day-care workers, and police officers more would result in: (1) safer neighborhoods because there would be more police and the police could actually afford to live the neighborhood where he or she works, (2) the merit of day-care centers would rise because the higher pay would attract more people, so the application process could be more selective, and (3) schools would improve because teachers would be rewarded for their work and would not get burned out so quickly. The same rationale for (2) also applies to all three conclusions. The bottom line is that if we pay more, we get more and better people.

Posted by: Meesh | July 17, 2006 11:20 AM

I would be ok with PAID maternity/paternity leave for two months (six months is ridiculous) for the first TWO children. This could be combined with vacation and sick leave for a longer paid leave period. After that, I think the employee should fund his/her own leave because it's their choice to have more children. Companies can't take the "hit" of paying for employees to be off work several months every two years (or less). It's not fair to other employees who do not have children (either by choice or because they're older and have already had kids).

Posted by: Let's be sensible | July 17, 2006 11:20 AM

I would be ok with PAID maternity/paternity leave for two months (six months is ridiculous) for the first TWO children. This could be combined with vacation and sick leave for a longer paid leave period. After that, I think the employee should fund his/her own leave because it's their choice to have more children. Companies can't take the "hit" of paying for employees to be off work several months every two years (or less). It's not fair to other employees who do not have children (either by choice or because they're older and have already had kids).

Posted by: Let's be sensible | July 17, 2006 11:20 AM

I make no claims to be doing great things to help the poor or to change society, but neither am I publicly criticizing other people for their supposed lack of contributions.

Posted by: THS | July 17, 2006 11:21 AM

If you read my posts carefully, I am not criticizing what Leslie does. Rather, I am criticizing her choice of subjectmatter.

For the record, I wish I too had millions so I didn't have to work, or my wife didn't have to work. But I don't, and I don;t like that.

But what I don;t like even more is the way in which Leslie has created a cottage industry in trying to get all of us to feel sorry for her, her luxurious life and her money, and all the other parents like her.

My point, as ever, is the same: we should all have such problems.

Posted by: Glover Park | July 17, 2006 11:25 AM

Until we can unite and actually come up with a true "Top 3" list of what would really help working women, working mothers, and working families, nothing will get done. As I see it from this blog, everybody (including Leslie) has their own view of the utopian (white collar) working mommy workplace of the future.

We need to back off the detailed demands ("cool, well-lighted place to pump at work") and decide on the larger issues. For example, universal healthcare would help working women, SAH women, men, childfree people, the elderly, etc. Rather than focus on what working mothers need, we must first get our country on the right track to helping ALL working people.

Posted by: Fragmented demands | July 17, 2006 11:25 AM

Glover Park said -
Some have asked why, then, do I participate? Because hopefully, maybe sopme of what I say will rub off on all of you, you'll stop reading this blog, the Post will end it, and Leslie can go back to whatever she wants to do with her hefty book advance.

Glover Park - I think you would be doing the community a service if you spent more time teaching financial literacy (as you said you do) and less time trying to get us to stop reading the blog. The blog is of value to some of us as a place to discuss issues of important to us and I don't think your postings will change our minds.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | July 17, 2006 11:26 AM

What women need the most are decent men who, not only respect a woman for the economic value they contribute to society, but for their unique ability to nurture, raise, and educate the next generation. There are still some of us decent men out there, but unfortunately for you women, a lot of us are somewhat dorky and/or geeky, which are undesirable according to social norms.

so how do you women get more decent men in your society? You raise your little boys from the get-go, be a model for your children, and try your best to get their fathers to do the same. That will be you're best work, by far! And your posterity, as well as yourself, will reap the benefits.

Anyone on this blog ever read Cinderella to your kid? Shame on you for promoting such a sexist idiology. Imagine, a little girl who embraces the goal of waiting around for Prince Charming to come around to get a life. Mothers, teach your daughters that there is no Prince Charming. At best, your daughter will end up with Prince Charles.

Interesting how the AFL-CIO has a survey targeted specifically for working women. I'm sure they have one for working men, but I haven't seen it.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 17, 2006 11:26 AM

"I wouldn't care for someone who thinks it's ok for women to stay at home to be my boss."

As a working mom, I have to say this comment makes no sense. My employer allowed me to take two years off as maternity leave--unpaid, but a wonderful benefit nevertheless. I am very grateful that my boss indeed thought it was "OK" for me to stay home for awhile. Bosses who support their employees should be commended!

As to what I want, I want 6 months of paid maternity/ paternity leave. PATERNITY leave is critical! If the dads are also taking time off, then employers are unlikely to discriminate when hiring because it is just as likely that the young man will take time off in the future. More importantly, it will help daddies bond with their kid which benefits the whole family in the long run.

The "paid" part doesn't need to be much-- just what they would get if their were unemployed. I think California has something like this?

Posted by: Capitol Hill mom | July 17, 2006 11:29 AM

Amen Father of 4! I thank God that my husband supports my career and helps around the house. However, at the risk of being stereotypical, women tend to have more guilt issues than men do in terms of time spent away from their children. We are therefore more likely to advocate for flexible work-life policies or choose to quit the workforce altogether. I think that's why when we discuss work-life balance the focus tends to be on women. But I agree that this is an issue for all parents and those caring for elderly parents.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | July 17, 2006 11:32 AM

Yes - paid parental leave available for both parents. I can't overstate how great it was for both of us to be home during the first months of child's life. Also, by taking this time off, my husband has sent the signal in his own work place that he (at least) supports men taking paid leave to help raise their children. We both work in white-collar jobs, so this may not apply to everyone, but I don't want anyone to think I'm trying to speak for them. Has anyone else had an experience that worked for you that might work for other folks if more widely implemented?

Posted by: Just a thought | July 17, 2006 11:35 AM

Movements start with communication and the open expression of ideas. I think that only when you've bounced your ideas of peers (and your critics) and gathered information from others to support your ideas can you implement your ideas. Leslie is not a fake because she's wealthy, and those who are not contributing at this very moment are not hypocrites. Each of us is involved in a discussion that may inspire action. No one is not allowed because we can all learn from each other. I have some views that I believe in and preach wholeheartedly, and I have some that are still evolving. This blog helps me spread my solid ideas and shape the malleable ideas.

And implying that posters on this blog are wasting time that should be spent volunteering is silly. I can't volunteer with rape victims and NARAL at work, but I can spread the word about women's reproductive rights through this blog at work (although I'll save that for another discussion).

Posted by: Meesh | July 17, 2006 11:38 AM

Father of 4 hists the nail on the head, and brings us back to the cultural messages issue. I HATE the Disney princess, helpless female, model. My daughter, however, has been far more influenced by her pre-school peers than her feminist mom. Our compromise is several books in which the princess is the strong, confident heroine. More of those, please, children's authors! Don't even get me started on the "girl toy" aisles at the toy stores. But, the power these messages have on young girls is huge. We make an effort to point out gender based bias to our daughter and our sons, and to enforce that girls and boys are equals, both can do anything, and both have the same expectations regarding education and career. Outside of our control, however, remain the cultural messages with the helpless princess/girl; the dolls and home appliances marketed to girls; the lack of strong female characters in children's programming, literature, music, advertisements, movies; and, the constant pressure for a girl to focus on appearance. If I could wave my proverbial magic wand, my wish would be for our society to stand behind the equality message and to quit undermining the equality by providing sub-par role models for our daughters. Banning Cinderella may be a good start ...

Posted by: SS | July 17, 2006 11:39 AM

Here. here Fatherof4 and SS. My daughter wants to be an eco-architect and I am thrilled. She also wants to have a family and I am sure that with proper support from her future husband, family and future bosses she will succeed in her endeavors. I strongly believe that all girls should aspire to be the best they can be and they should be encouraged to forge paths in the workforce. Their lives will only bethat much more fullfilling.

Posted by: working mom of two | July 17, 2006 11:50 AM

""Older Dad - Does your wife have an internet connection at home? You keep saying my wife believes this... this is the sort of thing that drives her up the wall... If we heard from her as opposed to her husband speaking for her it might make more of impact."

I also found it ironic that "older dad" is speaking for his wife. Geez, either he's one of those paternalistic husbands with a barefoot and pregnant wife or he's hiding behind her to express his views."

Yep - it's broadband. Right now she's up to her eyeballs acting as executrix for an elderly relative who just passed on (and tends to be more task focused than I am, which is why she doesn't waste her time with blogs). Before our kids were born she worked for the government training low-income mothers (and loved the job).

Having answered your question, please let me vent. The "barefoot and pregnant wife" and "hiding behind her" are absolutely beyond the pale. I am very, very careful not to personally attack anyone, or speculate about their lives. Yeah, if she took the time to fool around with this blog, you might listen more. I doubt it, though. She's several degrees more conservative than I am - and much more likely to respond directly and bluntly to personal attacks.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 11:54 AM

"Women who stay at home do none of the above except to enable their spouses to enjoy a career/meaningful work free of housekeeping and childcare responsibilities. Very selfish of the spouses."

What I have done to contribute to society outside of my family in the past year:

Volunteered my time at a Special Olympics state swimming meet

Volunteered my time at a run/walk to raise money for CARDV (Center against Rape & Domestic Violence)

Organized and ran a food drive at my daughter's school

Coordinated, to the tune of 5-10 hours a week year round for the last 4 years, a fundraising program at the school that raises $8-9000/year and has zero financial impact on parents

This is in addition to the many hours I spend helping in the classrooms & with events at two different schools, belonging to two different co-ops (an indoor park and a babysitting group) which provide meaningful services to parents and children, and volunteering with various sports teams that my children belong to. Yes, my own children benefit from my involvement in these activities, but so do many other children.

I could do some of these things if I worked outside the home, but not all. Your statement about SAHMs doing nothing but housework is just entirely ridiculous.

Posted by: momof4 | July 17, 2006 11:59 AM

Why so much wrath towards Leslie? She is not the problem. So she's rich - so what. Does that mean she should shut up, stay home, and eat bon-bons?

She is doing a job she likes and that benefits others by opening a forum for sharing of thoughts on an important topic.

We don't all have to live identical lives to understand each other.

If you belong to a union, you already know if you benefit from it. If you do not belong to one, you may not be familiar with the history. Either way, if you are a working woman, try the survey. It can't hurt.

Posted by: granny | July 17, 2006 12:01 PM

I have volunteered to work with battered women and rape victims. I can safely say every one of the battered women had small children and the majority had little or no marketable skills, therefore they had to stay home and take care of their kids. One woman had 5 kids from 15 to 4 and claimed incompatibility for her marital problems. They couldn't earn enough to pay a sitter while they worked, IF they could find work. Amazing how much it hurts the poor male ego to have his partner working to make a few dollars. Most like to brag "My wife doesn't HAVE to work." (I'm being sarcastic here, ladies.) You flaming left-wing liberal affluent bloggers should see how the other half lives. We have situations as bad as third-world countries right here in the US.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | July 17, 2006 12:10 PM

"All Senators serve 6 years, but all members of Congress serve TWO years, therefore they are all up for reelection this year. Just wanted to let you know that the AFL-CIO wasn't spreading misinformation."

"Michael, I would be more than happy to teach my kids. Would you like to teach me, rather than insulting me? Am I wrong? Having grown up in the shadow of Capitol Hill, I always referred to Senators as Sentators and Representatives as Congressmen as well. I'm sorry if this confused you, but I don't think I was rude, I was just trying to point out that, at least when I was filling out the survey, I understood that "members of Congress" referred to Representatives. Please feel free to educate me (rather than throw insults my way) if I am incorrect."

Fine, my apologies. There are enough personal attacks on this blog (poor Leslie) without my adding to them. Congress is comprised of BOTH members of the House and the Senate. All members of the House of Representatives are up for election every 2 years. Senators are elcted for a term of 6 years. I will leave out the explanation for my the civics blog. So I was rude, but it was frustrating to read your correcting the poster who initially got it correct, while your "correction" was wrong.


Posted by: Michael | July 17, 2006 12:10 PM

momof4:

With the exception of "helping out in the classroom", which pretty much requires being available during the day, which of your activities CAN'T be done by a motivated working mother?

Posted by: Jolie | July 17, 2006 12:13 PM

Marlo: Leslie is both a woman AND working, so, despite her financial and domestic situations, has a good reason to contribute. Heck, men contribute and they lack half of that equation.

The survey would have better been titled: "2006 Ask A Working Mother Survey" if talking about working women who are mothers, because there are lots of working women who don't have or never plan to have families or children.

Posted by: Stacey | July 17, 2006 12:15 PM

momof4,
Many working women and men also do those activities. You are not doing anything that out of the ordinary.

Posted by: CH | July 17, 2006 12:17 PM

momof4,
That is an impressive list of activities. Now what did you do with the remaining 90% of your time?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 12:21 PM

Jolie:

Without going into excruciating detail :o) (i.e. our indoor park is only open during the day so the volunteer jobs there can only be done by someone who doesn't work full time during the day), the answer to your question is "none of them" (can't be done by a motivated working mother.)

However - I *was* a full time working mother - for 8 years. I helped in the schools some and helped with the very occasional non-parenting event. But there simply wasn't time to do what I do now. By the time the evenings and weekends rolled around, I was too tired to do anything but relax (and do housework!) and spend time with my family.

The way I look at it - the work I do now is unpaid, and I can do it with my children with me for the most part. Some of the time I used to spend in my office working for pay is now replaced with volunteer work that I do with my children in tow. I don't claim to be the goddess of all things philanthropic - I am far from that. But I do believe that parents who don't work outside the home *do* have more time for volunteer work. And someone who says that volunteer work isn't contributing to society is making an incorrect statement.

Posted by: momof4 | July 17, 2006 12:22 PM

OK, I'm not trying to offend you, but I would argue that it is the volunteering that is a contribution to society, not just being a SAHM. (Although obviously being a SAHM gives you a little more time/flexibility.) You didn't make the point, but it seems that others have, that staying home to raise your own kids in and of itself is valuable to society.* I disagree. I think it is valuable to your family, and that's fine.

*Raising good kids is, of course, good for society. But I think we are all trying to do that, whether we work outside the home or not.

Posted by: Arlmom | July 17, 2006 12:22 PM

While I am all for subsidized daycare for low income families, I vehemently oppose subsidized daycare for the middle and upper classes. My husband and I choose not to put our kids in paid care, and I shouldn't have to pay taxes for families who make other choices. In addition, the cheaper daycare feels (even if it costs us ALL a ton in taxes), the less people will appreciate it, and quality will fall, regardless of what government does to ensure "high quality care". Just look at the public schools.

FWIW, plenty of 2 income families don't use paid care either-- either the spouses work different shifts, or a family memeber watches their kids. Even if you think "the spoiled sahm" should subsidize your kids' daycare, certainly they shouldn't have to.

I'd prefer the government didn't try to control what I and my children think. The influence of Disney princesses can be limited, if parents try (fwiw, I have 2 daughters, and they make me crazy too).

Posted by: WiSAHM | July 17, 2006 12:24 PM

"*Raising good kids is, of course, good for society. But I think we are all trying to do that, whether we work outside the home or not. "

I have never seen any proof that work status has any affect on raising good kids.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 12:28 PM

Why all the hostility for Mom of 4? People on this blog complain that SAHPs don't participate in the discussion or speak up about what they think, and then when one does all she/he gets is criticized and devalued. I think what Mom of 4 contributes is important- I bet her family thinks so as well. A working parent could do these volunteer projects too, but when? What would have to be given up for them to do it? Time at work? Time with his/her spouse and children? Weekends for family fun? No one can do it all.

Posted by: NotASuperwoman | July 17, 2006 12:28 PM

I agree with father of four. But I do read Cinderella to my daughter and its multiple versions but I change the words. In our household version, she goes out into the world and works hard and gets to know the guy before she decides he's the one to marry.

As for what I want. I would like Congress to raise the amount that the federal Internal Revenue Code allows an employer to provide an employee in child and dependent care benefits tax-free, if the employer provides these benefits pursuant to a written, qualified plan from $5,000 to a more reasonable amount. Child care costs way more than $5,000 a year. I don't expect the amount to cover the entire cost of care but it would be nice if it were a higher amount (the amount hasn't changed in YEARS). I would like Congress to continue to protect a woman from being discriminated against while pregnant or post childbirth. I would also like to see more tax breaks in general, so we can put the money we earn towards our families and other good causes.

However, I don't think government should provide paid parental leave. I think FMLA is as far as the government should go. However, I do wish the private sector would figure out how economically beneficial it is for them to provide paid maternity leave. The company I worked for when I had my second child (I had worked for them for two years) provided NO paid maternity leave but did provide two weeks of paid paternity leave (as a separate leave category). I was welcome to use vacation leave (already accrued) if I wished and I had short term disability (strictly limited) but we were not allowed to use any sick leave after the short term disability (because "you are not sick"). I came back to work after my second child after 9 weeks but I only stayed with that company for less than a year and moved on to a company that valued the contributions of all its employees.

As for the long running tangential debate on here about "members of congress". I would just like to point out that the person disparaging dc public school education, apparently has not had much of an education themselves. Or at the very least spelling and grammar did not figure prominently in said education.

Posted by: soleil | July 17, 2006 12:28 PM

There is something wrong with those of you who critize and judge the choices and situations of others. I learned an important lesson from my own working mother when I was young:

My grandmother was an independently wealthy woman who never worked a day in her entire life. And though she gave a substantial amount of her money to charity, she never actively volunteered in her community. Her days were spent playing cards and lunching with friends. I commented to my own mother once, "How can Grandma live her entire life without working or volunteering or really making any active contribution to society?"

And my mother shook her head and said, "You have to just let people live their own life in their own way."

Posted by: EH | July 17, 2006 12:29 PM

Meesh:
I have NEVER written that SAHP are worthless. In fact, I'd like to be one!

I think you have me confused with someone else.

Posted by: Glover Park | July 17, 2006 12:31 PM

To Childless by Choice: thank goodness you are, because you are one of the least compassionate people I have ever 'heard' on here.

I would have LOVED to get a line from your friend about "[you got yourself into this mess so stop complaining about the pain]" My slapping her in the face would be chalked up to to labor pain and given a pass by all of the other staff(I can take it AND give it!). Who do you think will be paying into the SS when she retires? Running the government, healthcare, transportation systems, etc? If everyone stops having children, who will be around in 100 years? If everyone stopped 100 years ago, WE wouldn't be here. I am not saying people need to rush out and have four+ kids; that is for them to decide, not for you to criticize.

The Dunkin' Donuts comment was intended as a joke; lighten up!

Posted by: Stacey | July 17, 2006 12:32 PM

Women who stay at home do none of the above except to enable their spouses to enjoy a career/meaningful work free of housekeeping and childcare responsibilities.

Women who raise children are raising our next generation of citizens, workers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, social workers, mechanics, electricians, and a multitude of other careers. Children do not raise themselves. It this is not a contribution to society, then I don't know what is.

Posted by: Rockville | July 17, 2006 12:45 PM

As far as Subliminal cultural messages go, they are alive and well as early as the 1st grade in public school. My son had a reading book that illustrated the father of the family with an apron wrapped around his waste as he did the dishes. The mother wore a tool belt, complete with the hammer hanging down to her side. The older daughters, amused by the illustration, however, dismissed it as social propaganda because the mother wasn't showing any butt crack.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 17, 2006 12:48 PM

"Who do you think will be paying into the SS when she retires? Running the government, healthcare, transportation systems, etc? If everyone stops having children, who will be around in 100 years? If everyone stopped 100 years ago, WE wouldn't be here."

------------------------------

We could always considering open up the immigration gates!

As a childless single I think it is correct that I pay for public schools & pay a higher percent of my income to taxes than those with children. I also think that social security should cover stay at home moms, not just those who paid directly into the system, etc. - However, I would appreciate it if parents recognize that I do pay a fair amount into the system to cover the current generation of children.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 12:48 PM

No, they don't raise themselves. But aren't working parents also raising our next generation of citizens? I agree the quote you posted is extreme, but it does seem that most of the benefits of having a SAHM accrue to the SAHM's spouse and kids, not society.

Posted by: ToRockville | July 17, 2006 12:49 PM

"Women who raise children are raising our next generation of citizens, workers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, social workers, mechanics, electricians, and a multitude of other careers. Children do not raise themselves. It this is not a contribution to society, then I don't know what is."

Rockville,
No kidding...working and stay-at-home parents are both raising their children...what is your point??

Posted by: CH | July 17, 2006 12:51 PM

"As long as there's no decent public transportation in most of the US, and two cars are necessary, college costs are out of control, private medical insurance is outrageously expensive -- then we will have no real economic choice.

Rather than thinking about how we can make womens' cubicles more cushy, we need to think about what's gone wrong in America that life is untenable for so many families without two full-time jobs"

Bravo, My Two Cents. I completely agree. I don't even think I will read the rest of the posts today (though I probably will because I just can't help myself). I really fear for this nation with the state of economics and the disappearing middle class.

Posted by: Dlyn | July 17, 2006 12:56 PM

I am a fulltime working mother who enjoys her job, but is not passionate about it. I am working, frankly, because my family needs the money. So, my question for you is, "How can I go from a paycheck-to-paycheck worker to a parttimer living in a large house?" Any tricks you can share? LOL.

I would like to see employers offer more parttime positions for all employees, male or female. If some of the sixty-hour-per week positions could be change to 2 30-hour per week positions, then more people would have the option to have more balance with home and career. Of course, people would have to be willing to make less money since employers will be financing benefits such as health care, 401K contributions, paid vacation for 2 people instead of one.

Posted by: To parttimer | July 17, 2006 1:01 PM

SAHMs do provide a job - for someone else - by staying home. At least while there aren't negative unemployment rates. If a nanny works so someone else can work, well, a SAHM does the same, because someone else does the job she's not doing out of the house. See how it works?

For Social Security, it seems to me that if the rules allowed people to contribute while they weren't working, they well might, if they weren't already maxing out. (I might put that on the policy wishlist.)

On the other hand, SAHMs might be saving money they aren't spending on nannies, housekeeping, and takeout meals and putting that into retirement savings. You never know. It depends on their situation.

For taxes, I don't know. Certainly SAHMs don't pay income tax, but their families still pay other taxes - property tax etc. - at the same rate. But SAHMs may not be wearing the asphalt on the roads down as quickly. Also they aren't accessing things like unemployment. For all we know their lifestyle may mean they need less medical care when they're into the social security/medicare years than someone who's experienced work stress - or a work environment that includes toxic chemicals or bad air or sitting near a smoggy corner.

So it's really hard to say whether they're a tax burden overall. Just like it's hard to say about any individual.

Of course most women work these days. Staying at home for a few years does NOT equal "never worked in her life." So we're really not talking about a huge lifetime difference. Do people who have the means to retire early (shaving 5 years off their professional lives) get this kind of ire too?

Certainly some SAHMs make bad decisions. But not all of them do. I don't think even most of them do. Working is not the guarantee that some people seem to think it is - divorced working people end up poor too via layoffs or just plain low salaries.

In fact I don't think Congress needs to understand a lot more about working women than it does; I don't think it's a lack of understanding that is an issue. Congress has chosen to spend money outside the country and not inside and that debt is about to tie everyone's hands for a long time.

Posted by: Shandra | July 17, 2006 1:03 PM

I am a working mom, and I am not so sure I agree that all working parents, mom or dad, are necessarily "contibuting to society" just because they are working. It depends on what they do. Look, we are not all doctors, scientists, teachers or social workers. A lot of us have jobs that may contribute to our bank accounts without doing much good to society. So I think that some stay at home parents who do nothing else than raise kids and keep house may actually be doing more to contribute to society than for example a person out there in the world who works for money in a job that is enriching but not really useful in terms of its real contribution to society. So this generalization that SAHMs or SAHDs do not contribute to society versus working parents who do contibute is really false. Working parents also can be non-contributors, depending on their careers and fields, if you look at more than just the money.

Posted by: Rockville | July 17, 2006 1:03 PM

Have to agree with Rockville on that one. Not every does something that is so important. I am a manager at a DC law firm who caters 24/7 to the whims of spoiled attorneys. If what I am doing is contributing to society, I sure would like more information about it. It would make me feel better about dragging my sorry a** to work on days when I feel I just can't put up with the b.s. any more!

Posted by: Funny | July 17, 2006 1:08 PM

I suggest checking out Lang's "The Fairy Books" and looking at all the variants of the Cinderella tales. "Moss Gown" stands out in my mind.

Also read the ballad o' Tam O' Shanter, and irish tales.

Irish women routinely had to take care of and defend their households due to men being away at war, so there is a rich tradition of "strong women" folklore in Irish lore. Of course, it never meant that women got a fair share in life, either.

It's good to find a storytelling compromise between the frail helpless princess and the "gotta do everything myself" strong woman.

And the purpose of tales is always to mix truth with fanasty. If you think about it right, you can turn every story in a discussion.

Snow White: Jealous, vain women will go to extremes to elminate competitors that outshine them,and powerful women can be just as cruel or ruthless as powerful men.

There's not much that Snow white could have done to stop the Evil Queen... but then again, why was the Evil Queen so preocccupied with her beauty? Discuss.

Sleeping Beauty: Never offend a vengeful enemy. You cannot overprotect a child, sooner or later all your precautions will come undone. Aurora got pricked by that needle after all.

Had she been shown a needle and told what it was and why she shouldn't touch it, possibly things could have gone better? Your child might have a lot to say about this idea.

Cinderella is a rags to riches story, which is why it appeals, and also it is a tale about escaping an abusive family to happiness.
That's not always about marrying the prince (not even for a green card). You could translate it into getting a scholarship to college, or other avenue of freeing herself from her family. But maybe a prince is the easy way to explain it.

The princess and the pea is an interesting tale. It's obviously a satire of how spoiled and picky wealthy people can be, although since girls WANT to be princesses, you could change this to "the Evil Queen and the Pea." and have her change the whole peasantry into frogs because she didn't sleep nicely, only to be faced up by a wizard or the resident magic creature and be taught that after all, if she could turn people in frogs she could very well MAKE HER OWN BED.

Giggle.

Maybe I'll do the fairy tale collection for Parents Who Hate Princesses

Posted by: Confused Godmother | July 17, 2006 1:10 PM

It's funny you use your own career as an example. I used to work at a law firm also, and while the pay was good, I would have never described my job as a contribution to society. But yes, I did a lot of catering to egos that had run amock. These days, I am a bureaucrat. I do my job pretty well, and get paid for it, but frankly, I don't see how navigating this red tape is a real contribution to society either. But I do see raising my son as a real contribution, and my job is just a way to get there.

Posted by: To funny | July 17, 2006 1:14 PM

Read your daughters "Paper Bag Princess"

Posted by: Instead of Cinderella | July 17, 2006 1:15 PM

If there were a book for Parents Who Hate Princesses, I would buy a copy for every parents I know. I think you just hatched an idea for your own business!

Posted by: Just a thought | July 17, 2006 1:16 PM

"As to what I want, I want 6 months of paid maternity/ paternity leave. PATERNITY leave is critical!"

Six MONTHS? That is truly ridiculous. Six weeks PAID is plenty. After that, save your sick days and vacation time. Please. Most workers in this country don't even have sick days to take off for parental (maternity/paternity) leave. FMLA is all they have. We're not going to suddenly make the leap into giving everyone who gives birth to, fathers, or adopts a child six months paid leave. Can you imagine the disruption to the workplace? I mean, let's get it straight, the point of our jobs is to get work done, not to put in time and collect a check.

I really don't get the this: It seems that if you have a child you are making a huge contribution to society and are thus entitled to a large block of time off from work, preferably paid your full salary the entire time. But if you stay home for any amount of time AFTER that six months of paid leave to raise your child, then you are NOT making your proper contribution to society by going to WORK.

And if you choose not to have a child or you have already had your children, you do not deserve any time off on equal par with parental leave, even if you would take it as unpaid leave.

Clearly procreating is valued but then raising the child is not.

Posted by: Puzzled | July 17, 2006 1:17 PM

"Certainly SAHMs don't pay income tax"

A generality that is not true of every SAHM. I have an investment income (one reason I can stay home) and I pay taxes on it.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 1:19 PM

"Amazing how much it hurts the poor male ego to have his partner working to make a few dollars. Most like to brag "My wife doesn't HAVE to work." (I'm being sarcastic here, ladies.)"

Where did this come from? Am I missing something, or has anyone on this blog ever said anything like that? We've had some people say that for them, given their financial situation, working or staying home was a choice. But I haven't seen that as any sort of macho brag or taunt - just a "here's where we are, and here's why we did what we did" comment.

Posted by: Huh? | July 17, 2006 1:26 PM

"A generality that is not true of every SAHM. I have an investment income (one reason I can stay home) and I pay taxes on it. "

Excellent point - my apologies.

Posted by: Shandra | July 17, 2006 1:27 PM

"Women who stay at home do none of the above except to enable their spouses to enjoy a career/meaningful work free of housekeeping and childcare responsibilities."

Wow, what a generalization. My husband does indeed do less of the general housekeeping and childcare chores, but in no way is he "free" of them. He doesn't want to be! He has many things he does around the house (fixing and renovating, especially) and he loves being with our sons. Also, he cooks dinner most evenings since I don't really like to (and I do all the cleaning up afterward, which I like).

The difference is that he has more time to devote to his job, and I have time to devote to our sons, extended family, home, investments, volunteer activities, and hobbies. I have no interest in some "career" that doesn't contribute to society. (Yes, please examine your job and tell me how deeply it impacts society each day. Not everyone has such a job, and many of those who do sure aren't paid what they should be and aren't likely reading this blog today.)

I have an education and I worked for many years. I will go back to work in about 3 years and make my SS and tax contributions probably until I'm 67.

I WANT to give my husband more time for his career (which he loves) and fewer weekends spent doing nothing but the housework we wouldn't have time to do if we both worked. I WANT to spend time with my sons and not ship them off to daycare and summer camps and deal with the childcare scramble and the problems of "snow days", etc.Why does my taking off 6 years from working make so many people so upset?

Posted by: What's wrong with that | July 17, 2006 1:29 PM

In an economic sense, contributing to society is not a moral judgement. It means you're generating wealth (for someone - maybe not yourself). A family that earns $100,000 a year will usually generate more wealth than a family earning $50,000 - the $100K family will buy more stuff, which generates more wealth in the economy as a whole.

The job you're doing may be boring or unfulfilling, but in an economic sense, it's a contribution to society. I'm not going to get into the debate about whether SAHPs contribute anything to society or not - just wanted to try and clear up the confusion over that phrase.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 1:31 PM

Thank you, father of 4: "The older daughters, amused by the illustration, however, dismissed it as social propaganda because the mother wasn't showing any butt crack" made the time I've wasted on this blog worthwhile.

Posted by: Huh? | July 17, 2006 1:31 PM

The Paperbag Princess is great - so is Princess Knight.

I agree that SAHPs - as well as working parents - are raising the next generation of citizens, workers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, social workers, mechanics, electricians, and a multitude of other careers (some of which may not be the cushy white collar ones being slammed here today). My question is whether we are telling our daughters the same thing we are telling our sons about their ability to have these careers, their value and equality in attaining them, and the expectations of them when it comes time for them to decide when, if, how to have and raise their own children. I would, personally, have a problem telling my daughter to attain the education and expectation or a career when I myself had opted out of my career to stay home.

For my daugher (and sons), I hope there is greater acceptance by both working and stay at home parents for the choices either make, as well as equal pay for equal work . I also hope there are better child care options available, universal and affordable healthcare, recognition of the value of recreation and vacation as well as work, time off for both mothers and fathers when a child enters the family, flexible work options, acceptance and encouragement of breastfeeding, a healthy economy, world peace and prosperity - and while we're at it, a "happyily ever after." Where is that magic wand?

Posted by: SS | July 17, 2006 1:31 PM

Wow, Paris Hilton is making a huge contribution to society. I had no idea.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 1:32 PM

"But aren't working parents also raising our next generation of citizens? I agree the quote you posted is extreme, but it does seem that most of the benefits of having a SAHM accrue to the SAHM's spouse and kids, not society."

Look - this whole line of argument is beside the point. Good sanitation, childhood vacination and fire safety are all important to society. If I keep my septic system in good repair, vacinate my children, and install smoke alarms, it directly benefits my family. If I don't, the septic system can become a public nuisance, my kids can contribute to an outbreak of disease, and when my house burns my neighbor's can too.

It doesn't matter whether I fix the plumbing myself, or hire a plumber, go to a free clinic for the vacinations or pay a pediatrician to do it, or install the smoke alarms myself or hire a handyman to do it - I benefit, my family benefits, and society benefits too.

Society benefits when the next generation is civilized, educated, productive and responsible. It doesn't matter whether I do my own child care, or pay someone else to do it - I benefit, my family benefits, and society benefits if the children are raised well.

SAHM's are doing something that benefits society just as surely as are daycare workers (or do we really thing that doing something "pro bono" makes it meaningless?)

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 1:38 PM

Yes, Paris Hilton is making a huge contribution to society. It just ain't a good one.

Posted by: Confused Godmother | July 17, 2006 1:38 PM

10:56 anonymous poster: no need to be rude. Education was requested and would be appreciated more without snotty comments, like yours, about DC schools.

FYI: according to dictionary[dot]com (I think my links kept my post out)
Congress:
1. A formal assembly of representatives, as of various nations, to discuss problems.
2. The national legislative body of a nation, especially a republic.
3. Congress
1. The national legislative body of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
2. The two-year session of this legislature between elections of the House of Representatives.
4.
1. The act of coming together or meeting.
2. A single meeting, as of a political party or other group.
5. Sexual intercourse.

Congressman:
A man who is a member of the U.S. Congress, especially of the House of Representatives.

Senate:
1. Abbr. Sen. An assembly or a council of citizens having the highest deliberative and legislative functions in a government, specifically:
1. Senate The upper house of the U.S. Congress, to which two members are elected from each state by popular vote for a six-year term.
2. often Senate The upper house in the bicameral legislature of many states in the United States.
3. Senate The upper legislative house in Canada, France, and some other countries.
4. The supreme council of state of the ancient Roman Republic and later of the Roman Empire.
2. The building or hall in which such a council or assembly meets.
3. A governing, advisory, or disciplinary body of some colleges and universities composed of faculty members and sometimes student representatives.

Senator
A member of a senate.

Representative:
1. One that serves as an example or type for others of the same classification.
2. One that serves as a delegate or agent for another.
3.
1. A member of a governmental body, usually legislative, chosen by popular vote.
2. A member of the U.S. House of Representatives or of the lower house of a state legislature.

Posted by: Stacey | July 17, 2006 1:39 PM

"We're not going to suddenly make the leap into giving everyone who gives birth to, fathers, or adopts a child six months paid leave. Can you imagine the disruption to the workplace? I mean, let's get it straight, the point of our jobs is to get work done, not to put in time and collect a check."

I am posting way too much today but I do want to point out that other countries feel differently. Canada, where I'm familiar with the policies, has 15 weeks maternity leave that is to be taken by the birth mother and then 35 weeks parental leave that can be taken by either parent (or adoptive parents).

It is funded through employment insurance premiums and works like unemployment insurance - people making a claim get up to 55% of their salaries, up to a cap.

The advantage to employers of the year's leave (which is mostly taken by women, but not always) is that they can usually get a good person in for a year - on contract. In a lot of cases it's a LOT less disruptive than 6 or 12 weeks off with no replacement person (because who is going to bother to orient someone for that amount of time?).

The advantage to childless workers is that mat leave contracts are an amazing way for people to break into a professional area, because the company is not committed to them but they can get the experience, build their professional networks, etc.

Quite often employers pay less for those contracts (fewer benefits but also lower salary) so they save a bit of money. In my sister in law's case case her employer saved about $10k on salary - and her expertise was available by phone any time, 'cause she was still part of the team.

It obviously depends on training costs too, but since mat leave is relatively planned it works out ok overall for a lot of positions.

It's not always win-win but it often is. It really depends on how you look at it.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 1:39 PM

"For Social Security, it seems to me that if the rules allowed people to contribute while they weren't working, they well might, if they weren't already maxing out. (I might put that on the policy wishlist.) "

My family would.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 1:44 PM

"I am posting way too much today but I do want to point out that other countries feel differently. "

Yes, they do - about this and many other things. Every society has to decide what level of public services to provide, and what sort of tax rate to impose. That's a political and economic decision that people and countries disagree about. Those disagreements are legitimate - there are pro's and con's to each of the various approaches. The U.S. approach does not mean that we are, as a country, anti-family or anti-children. It's not necessarily the best one, either, and we may well change it with the next election.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 1:49 PM

I like Fairy Tales, kids really dont take everything literally...

And the people in the houses
All go to the university,
And they all get put in boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
And there's doctors and there's lawyers
And business executives,
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf-course,
And drink their Martini dry,
And they all have pretty children,
And the children go to school.
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
And they all get put in boxes
And they all come out the same.

And the boys go into business,
And marry, and raise a family,
And they all get put in boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.

-Malvina Reynolds; Pete Seeger

Posted by: Fo3 | July 17, 2006 1:54 PM

"We could always considering open up the immigration gates!"

Those children were given birth by parents; not by cloning.

Posted by: Stacey | July 17, 2006 1:54 PM

"The U.S. approach does not mean that we are, as a country, anti-family or anti-children. It's not necessarily the best one, either, and we may well change it with the next election."

I'm a dual US/Canada citizen and I find much to agree with in both countries. I do think that looking at lots of different ways of addressing things often opens up options. In Canada there tends to be an assumption that if the government doesn't do it, no one will, which the US disproves in droves with really quite amazing philanthropy and corporate giving unmatched on that side of the border.

Posted by: Shandra | July 17, 2006 1:57 PM

Upper Twenties says, "Women in my generation seem to care less about the mommy wars issue. We will stay home with our kids if we want to and work if we want to. We can have it any way we please, but we understand there will be sacrifice EITHER WAY we choose to go."

I totally agree that the mommy wars issue seems unnecessary - can't we just support each other as mothers and trust one another to do what's best for our own families? Mutual respect would serve us so much better than animosity.

But I must respectfully disagree that we can have it any way we please. I'd always thought it was a no-brainer - I'd continue my career because I'd worked hard for my degree and wanted to make my way in the world. By husband and I built a life around that assumption, making financial committments along the way. Then we had kids. When it was time to go back to work after my first daugher was born, I was taken aback by how emotionally difficult it would be to leave her with someone else. I've known my daycare provider most of my life, she runs an excellent in-home daycare, she's like a 3rd grandma to my kids (have 2 now)...and it still felt wrong when I first went back to work.

And I was in no way prepared for how brutally exhausting it is to be a parent, and how hard it would be to function at work through the sleep deprivation and separation anxiety. But my salary allows us to stay in the neighborhood we chose because it's a great place to raise kids, so I've learned to just suck it up and keep on working. Until my husband gets a ginormous raise or we win the lottery, this seems to be the best option for our family right now.

So yes, we have a choice. But like many parenting decisions, whether to stay home or work is not always an easy one. You don't always know which side of the fence you're going to land on until you're there, and you won't always be 100% happy with the way things are. But as a parent, you make the best choice for your family given the options, and you soldier on.

Posted by: Lower Thirties | July 17, 2006 1:57 PM

6 months maternity leave? You should title that ferry tale "Princess and the dream job".

I have an idea that when companies start paying a half year's salary for maternity leave, women will start having babies for all the wrong reasons.

This blog is very entertaining to me, and also, Paris Hilton, from the 3 times my family watched her in a reality show, was also very entertaining. thus, both blog and Paris, are contributers to society.

And if you decide to post a thought, you too are contributing.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 17, 2006 1:58 PM

You make a good point SS. However, I think a SAHM who just took a short break to care for her kids can still tell her daughters to reach for the skies while one who foregoes her career entirely may have a difficult sell. That raises an important issue - a lot of successful women opt out of their careers because they don't see a viable flexible option. If more companies offered good part time options, job sharing and telecommuting I believe less women will think staying at home is their only option.

Posted by: fabworkingmother | July 17, 2006 2:06 PM

Don't you just love the way Fathe of 4 dictates his beliefs to all of us, and all the while he is feeding the brains of his children with pablum like Paris Hilton's reality show.

I really MUST listen to every syllable of what he writes now.

Posted by: Glover Park | July 17, 2006 2:07 PM

Six months maternity/paternity! If I play my cards right, I would only have to work three months a year for the next 10 years. Do I have to be married to the woman to take paternity leave? My wife has been wanting me to spend more time at home.

Posted by: Working Dad | July 17, 2006 2:08 PM

"You flaming left-wing liberal affluent bloggers should see how the other half lives."

I have. Maybe that's why this flaming left-wing liberal affluent blogger feels the need to advocate for solutions that go beyond the end of my own nose. And just because I'm lucky enough to afford good childcare doesn't mean I have somehow magically lost the ability to understand how hard it is for those who can't.

I also don't get the "whining" criticisms today (some other days, maybe, but not today). Why can't Leslie suggest that affordable childcare should be a congressional priority, just because it's not an issue for her? Warren Buffet has spoken out strongly against repealing the estate tax. Does his amazing wealth automatically make him a whiner when he's not advocating in his own self-interest? Does it somehow preclude him from supporting policies that would benefit those with less? As Scarry said earlier, sometimes you need the "haves" to speak out on behalf of the "have nots" before the people in power will listen.

I would personally put affordable, high-quality childcare for everyone a lot higher on the top of a congressional priority list (with an income phase-out, as someone else suggested -- seems only fair). It's a question of priorities: as Shandra pointed out, "Congress has chosen to spend money outside the country and not inside and that debt is about to tie everyone's hands for a long time."

Posted by: Laura | July 17, 2006 2:09 PM

You don;t get it Laura. That's as far as it goes for a lot of these people. They figure that when they write a $2000 check at some white wine and brie fundraiser for the latest liberal candidate of the month, that they've done their bit for humanity and affordable healthcare will magically appear.

What no one seems to realize is that you need to work for these things and that writing a check, posting on a blog, and feeling bad about it just doesn't do it.

Posted by: Hypocricy | July 17, 2006 2:12 PM

I know one thing, the people who are "serving" in Congress now are not likely going to listen to anyone outside of lobbyists and corporations. They have all lost touch with the real backbone people of this country and all they can seem to do is vote to increase their own pay and benefits while prices increase and salaries decrease.

Posted by: Vote them all out | July 17, 2006 2:21 PM

The survey needs to add "unemployed" to question #9. Some of us used to be "working women" and hope to be fully employed again and would like to add our 2 cents' worth, too; a category on age discrimination would help as well. Apparently there are employers out there who think once you hit 50 your brains turn to mush. Not so. I keep up with technology, changes in my field, volunteer etc. but I am apparently invisible.

Posted by: Auburn Annie | July 17, 2006 2:24 PM

Hypocricy - would you rather they not write the check or post on the blog and just stop feeling bad? Maybe it isn't as much as you are doing (which is what by the way) but it is better than saying oh well I can't meet "Hyocricy's" or whoever's expectations for me so I will do nothing.
Most people understand that the more active someone is the more they affect the issue but the same people do what they can after balancing, their other committments (parents, childern, friends, jobs, school, etc) and other causes.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 2:32 PM

"However, I think a SAHM who just took a short break to care for her kids can still tell her daughters to reach for the skies while one who foregoes her career entirely may have a difficult sell. That raises an important issue - a lot of successful women opt out of their careers because they don't see a viable flexible option."

Are we implying that the "skies" only extend as far as paid employment, and that "success" is only measured in terms of non-family endeavors? My Dad once said at a public gathering, "every good thing I have in life has come to me through my wife." He wasn't talking about her paycheck. I recently attended a funeral of a relative, and they talked about the man's job (which was long gone and could have been done by anything else) and some ordinary civic activities. Driving away from the cemetary, I told my son and daughter that when I died, I wanted them to be my legacy (and yes, I'm very successful in my career - but my job isn't my life, it supports my life).

Working is a fine and honorable choice. But before we assume that every parent has to work, let's ask ourselves what will be most important when we die - our career advancement and the money we made, or the children and grandchildren we leave behind. How then will we define success? How should we?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 2:33 PM

Off topic, but one last post before I knuckle down and start contributing to the corporate greed.

My youngest had his 4th year birthday party yesterday. He crawled up on my lap and dropped his lollipop. He retrieved it, brushed off the cat hair, then washed it off in the kitchen sink. He climbed back up my lap again and offered me a lick. I declined. this is what he said:

"Some day, Daddy, you're going to learn how to be a kid."

OK, carry on...

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 17, 2006 2:34 PM

"I have no interest in some "career" that doesn't contribute to society. (Yes, please examine your job and tell me how deeply it impacts society each day. Not everyone has such a job, and many of those who do sure aren't paid what they should be and aren't likely reading this blog today.)"

Too many anecdotes on this blog...too many people thinking of lovely sounding justifications for "staying at home". I'd venture to say that most paying jobs contribute to the economy and society. How insulting to the garbage collector (keep our streets clean), to the nursing home worker who cares for our elderly, etc. I work in a field where I save lives. Yadda yadda yadda....the fact remains that if you choose to stay at home, you are NOT a contributor to the economy, you have opted out of society and you have wasted any education that you have. And good luck coming back after 6 years of child rearing. Plenty written on how hard it is to get back to where you were before taking off. That is the truth of it and if you can't face it, then you made the wrong decision.

With regard to no one on this list saying "I don't have to work"---I've heard that phrase numerous times in person by snotty stay at home waste products. Yes, these women do exist--they have housekeepers, go to spas, go to the gym and basically exist to serve their husbands. Many of these women seek out wealthy men so that they don't have to work. Many of these women too are on prozac and other mood altering drugs because deep down they realize what nothings they really are. And by the way, I don't notice that they are particularly good parents either. This is why someone like Leslie should be applauded for her work and advocacy on behalf of all working women. If her husband does make millions then good for her and her family. She has shown that she is her own person and wants a life for herself.

So I agree with others that this shouldn't be a "war". In my socioeconomic group (yes, I am fairly well off), working women are sneered at and considered...tsk tsk tsk a lesser human, a bad parent...I've heard it all.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 2:35 PM

My bad, Glover Park!

Posted by: Meesh | July 17, 2006 2:39 PM

"6 months maternity leave? You should title that ferry tale "Princess and the dream job".

I have an idea that when companies start paying a half year's salary for maternity leave, women will start having babies for all the wrong reasons."

Are you kidding me with this? Did you know that the United States is one of the only countries in the world that doesn't already do this? How 'bout you open your mind a bit and look at maternity leave in the rest of the world, then have the decency to be embarrassed at what the US "provides."

Posted by: gidge | July 17, 2006 2:41 PM

" . . . snotty stay at home waste products . . ."

Well, here's an interesting description of stay-at-home moms offered by someone who complained that "[i]n my socioeconomic group (yes, I am fairly well off), working women are sneered at and considered...tsk tsk tsk a lesser human, a bad parent." This commentator had the temerity (or the chutzpa) to say (with a presumably straight face) "[s]o I agree with others that this shouldn't be a "war"."

Any SAHM's care to rebut?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 2:42 PM

Much of the discussion today focuses on parental leave of some sort. Can we narrow it down? Do folks advocate for maternity leave? Paternity? Both (in the form of parental leave)? Is this something that businesses should take on? How can we continue to advocate for this in our own positions (besides leaving)? This isn't an argumentative post - I actually would like to know what folks think about parental leave, the possibilities, limitations, etc.

Posted by: Just a thought | July 17, 2006 2:46 PM

Why brought all the small-minded, jealous people out today to pick on Leslie today?
I'm sure if she were a man would these same individuals would not be attacking her economic situation. In fact, they would probably be likely to see this as a sign of her strength and capability as an advocate. They might even try to get her elected to Congress or the White House.
Let's stop already with the the wealthy woman = uncaring phony &#%# and wealthy man = strong advocate and provider. Get's old fast ladies...

Posted by: rumicat | July 17, 2006 2:48 PM

To "Hypocricy":

And how do you know that Leslie is one of "these people"? So far, the only complaints I've heard are that she makes a lot of money and lives in a big house and drives an expensive car. Which to some poeple seems to automatically discredit anything that she might say.

Honestly, I don't know Leslie, I have no idea what she does or doesn't do to support causes she believes in. But it does bother me that so many people prefer to attack her personally instead of her ideas. I expect that from politicians (it's a longstanding tradition to sling mud when you know you'll lose on the issues). But since we're not all using this blog to try to run for office (at least, I hope not), I was hoping for an actual, substantive debate on the issues, not just "rich people should stop pretending to care about anyone else."

Posted by: Laura | July 17, 2006 2:49 PM

To answer Just a Thought's question...

I'd settle for starting with maternity leave. There is something wrong when the US - the world's superpower - comes in dead last in the number of maternity leave weeks a mom gets.

A maximum of 12 weeks...and unpaid at that? That's an embarrassment. Most women I know don't even have their kids sleeping through the night at that point. Yet the workforce expects them to be back and 100% productive. Doesn't happen.

And for a measley 12 weeks, we're supposed to thank our lucky stars that our employers saved our jobs for us? Gee, thanks.

The Family Medical Leave Act was a nice benign try at placating working moms, while trying not to piss off the business community. It needs to go way beyond that.

Posted by: gidge | July 17, 2006 2:50 PM

July 17, 2006 02:42 PM, it would be a bit easier to rebut if we knew the entity to whom we are delivering the rebuttal. It's getting hard to follow all the un-named posters. Are you all the same? (boy, you write a lot, and you may want to work on that split personality issue you've got going) Or are you different people? (some of you could learn from the others and the others of you could learn from the some) In either case, having at least a moniker, it doesn't have to be witty or charming, allows the rest of us to form a coherent picture that lets us know where you are coming from.

Posted by: Working Dad | July 17, 2006 2:55 PM

My god, I just can't believe the amount of pure vitriol on this blog directed at SAHPs, especially moms! I am a married working woman expecting our first child in about 2 months, and I for one think it's great if women or men want to stay home to be the one taking care of their infant(s) or child(ren). SOMEONE has to do it - you can't leave a baby in her crib all day or a 3rd grader home alone after school for 4 hours. So if SOMEONE is going to have to do it, what in the H-E-double hockeysticks is the problem with a parent doing it instead of a daycare worker or nanny or other family member? The "it's a bad example for children if their mother doesn't work outside the home" argument cracks me up. If you pay a nanny to do it, it's work, right? The kids are still seeing a woman provide child care, right? Is it somehow anti-feminist or demeaning or destructive for the child to see a female non-parent taking care of them? Or is it only destructive if they see their college educated mother quote -wasting- her education by taking care of her children? Why in the world is it so threatening to some of the working parents on this blog if SOME PEOPLE, NOT ALL, choose to use their educations and their time to raise their children, whether it's for 6 months or 6 years or 20 years? If a SAHP of either sex can provide a more stimulating environment for their kids because of their college education, all the better! And before anyone attacks me and puts words in my mouth, this post is NOT meant to demean all the excellent working parents out there who utilize excellent daycare settings and nanny care for their kids, whether the care providers chosen by working parents have degrees or not. Most people in this country, whether working or staying home, are doing the best they can for their kids. I support the working parents' choices too. The point is, there's no law saying we all have to make the same decisions, and it would be nice if people could just stop attacking SAHPs in general all the time. I've lived in DC for 7 years, and it still amazes me how absolutely disconnected the Boston to Washington corridor is from the rest of this country. In most of America, the people who call SAHPs a waste would be the ones being ridiculed. Just stop judging other people's choices when you know nothing about them!

And yes, if I can get into a freaking daycare by the time my FMLA 12 weeks ends, then I will be going back to work. If not, then we'll just have to move! Add that to the AFL survey - if the cost of daycare (if you can even get into one) is half your take home salary, then the entire question of whether to work or not gets even more complicated!

Posted by: stop attacking SAHP's | July 17, 2006 2:55 PM

Gidge - thank you for posting. I hear you on the sleeping issue!

Posted by: Just a thought | July 17, 2006 2:56 PM

There is a huge difference between contributing to the economy and contributing to society. Yes, anyone with a paying job (even those who work for cigarette companies) contributes to the economy, more so than those people who do not work. Contributing to society, on the other hand, includes respecting other people and their ideas and lifestyles, raising your children to do the same, and helping your neighbors (idealistic, yes). This has absolutely nothing to do with whether you have a paying job.

Posted by: Charlottesville | July 17, 2006 3:01 PM

Hey, 2:55. Stop being so open-minded. It might make the minds of the rest of the people posting on this blog implode! ;-)

Posted by: gidge | July 17, 2006 3:02 PM

I've been reading this blog for some time and it always seems to come down to "SaHM vs WM" or "Leslie bashing/defending." In fact, in some ways it seems to always be about Leslie. Maybe it's time for the powers that be to replace her. If her writing (which, i must admit, I find limited to her white upper middle class perspective) isn't compelling enough to get people to focus on the topic they should find a new writer.

As for WM vs. SaHM: Thankfully, i am neither but to be brutally honest,from a monetary standpoint, SaHMs are not contributing to society. That doesn't mean that are not be supportive of those who are (spouses) or those who will be(children) but they themselves are essentially out of work. It's not good, it's not bad, but it is what it is.

Posted by: Oh please | July 17, 2006 3:02 PM

Wow, some of you are thin skinned...

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 3:04 PM

"Plenty written on how hard it is to get back to where you were before taking off. That is the truth of it and if you can't face it, then you made the wrong decision."


Why is it so important for some people here to say "you made the WRONG decision" to stop working? A lot of women I know have no regrets, HAVE gone back to the workforce, and are doing quite well, thank you.

It may be "difficult" but that doesn't mean it's impossible. I'm sure there are many women who took some time off with their kids who are now doing just fine in careers. Possibly better careers than they would have had while raising children, and perhaps at higher incomes.

Why is it so important for some people here to say "you made the WRONG decision" to stop working? A lot of women I know have no regrets, and HAVE gone back to the workforce.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 3:05 PM

Yes, what is this picture that's being painted of women who took a few years off and apparently NEVER were able to get back on track in a job. What, they all end up working at MacDonalds? Prove to me that all women who take a few years off suffer deeply from doing so, lose whatever career momentum they had and NEVER regain it.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 3:06 PM

If any of you have a Wall Street Journal subscription, in the B section today they featured an interview with Dr. Shirley Tilghman, the molecular biologist who is currently the President of Princeton. It wasn't focused entirely on female work/life balance, but she made a few interesting comments, particularly about her placement of women in positions of power at the university.

Posted by: Susan | July 17, 2006 3:07 PM

To Oh Please - if you think the value of a human being is only how much money earning, then I just have to completely disagree with your worldview on that. Are people in Appalachia or the victims of Katrina who lost their property and even their lives because they didn't have much money really worth less than someone making a hefty paycheck? Is that how their contribution to society should be measured? The amount of money earned by an invidivual may indeed be the stick by which that person's worth is measured but that doesn't make it right!

Posted by: stop attacking SAHP's | July 17, 2006 3:08 PM

I completely agree with Hypocricy. White wine and brie? You need a diet of Velveeta and beer (Budweiser, not one of those fancy microbrews) to really feel the pain of working folks.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 3:08 PM

Gidge,
In response to maternity leave, all I have is my story as a manager and the bad taste it left in my mouth. We had one of our best staffers go on maternity leave. Yes, it was unpaid, that was policy. We had hired her while she was pregnant, so we knew it was coming. She was highly specialized, so we couldn't hire anyone to fill in temporarily. Two months later, I tried to contact her to see if she was going to come back and at what capacity she would like to return. No response. Same thing at 10 weeks. At 12 weeks, I began calling every day. Turns out she had taken a job with another company who also needed her skills. "Oh, sorry. I meant to call you," was all I got. Sorry to say, I will be wary about repeating that scenario. One bad apple may not spoil the whole bunch, but it sure doesn't make you want to dig through the bushel to find the good ones.

Posted by: Working Dad | July 17, 2006 3:09 PM

"Just a Thought", I have a response to your questions.

All the employers I've worked for have had healthcare options (lucky me). The standard stuff covers basic health issues (doctor's stats, vision, dental). Then there are "add ons" like cancer protection and long-term disability funds. These add-ons are voluntary. When you sign up for them, you get the coverage when you need it but you pay a little out of your paycheck.

I think maternity and paternity leave should work like an add-on to healthcare coverage. People (ideally) should be planning on having children. If you know that you want to have kids, you can elect for the leave add-on and start paying for days off. Because you're paying a little each paycheck, you will be paid during your time off. And best of all, you can pay for as much of that time as you want. I like this system because it does not punish single employees who want leave time for their own interests.

As far as how to help employees who don't have healthcare through work, maybe something like this could be adopted for personal healthcare.

I am open to criticism in terms of whether this is actually possible with the system now.

Posted by: Meesh | July 17, 2006 3:12 PM

Wow, I leave for a week on vacation and the lid comes off :-)

As somebody who occasionally stakes out positions that are not in-line with Leslie's I'd have to say that folks criticizing her motives and taking her to task for not doing enough are really misguided. Seems to me that altruism is always to be applauded. It is almost always much easier to act in one's own self interest. Hence all the biblical references to doing unto others and being your brother's keeper and loving your brother and mitzvahs and everything else.

Even if you want to make the argument that Leslie blows her daily issues out of proportion compared to those who are less wealthy, well so what? Who among us is not guilty of that? The whole no-shoes v. no-feet complaint.

By starting a blog in the hopes of sponsoring civil discourse usually) about important issues, she's part of the solutions much more so than part of the problems. So why vilify her?

I had to chop this in here, because people tend to attribute this to an anonymous author. It's not.... ". . . once, when my feet were bare, and I had not the means of obtaining shoes. I came to the chief of Kufah in a state of much dejection, and saw there a man who had no feet. I returned thanks to God and acknowledged his mercies, and endured my want of shoes with patience . . ." --- Sadi, The Gulistan, Story 19

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 17, 2006 3:14 PM

The add-ons sound like a great idea! I'm very interested in that...did the money then go to the insurer or your employer?

Posted by: Just a thought | July 17, 2006 3:14 PM

Mulan strong female character based on Chinese legend

Posted by: stop being so mean | July 17, 2006 3:15 PM

I think, Working Dad, that your example is an extreme case of a namby-pamby employee who has trouble telling the truth to her employer...I don't know that I'd attribute much of that to her new mom-ness.

And, to use your phrase, if you'd found the one good apple in the bushel, wouldn't you be willing to wait a few extra weeks for her to come back? And wouldn't she have been more likely to come back if you'd been paying her all along and winning her loyalty?

Again, I agree that the woman in your example was a first class nimrod. But I think she's a rarity.

Posted by: gidge | July 17, 2006 3:16 PM

WoW "stop attacking SAHP's"

I guess you didn't read my post (and i was sort of waiting to see how long it would be up before someone would attempt to rip it. Simmer down and read). I never said that i felt money was the only way to contribute to society (It is a way and an important one but certainly not the only). What i said was from a "strictly monetary" standpoint they aren't. . .which they aren't.

Posted by: Oh please | July 17, 2006 3:17 PM

>>One bad apple may not spoil the whole bunch, but it sure doesn't make you want to dig through the bushel to find the good ones.>>

Really? I was assured a few weeks ago on this very blog that the choices some women make for their families do not impact the choices I can make for mine. Hmmm...

Upper Twenties, who thinks that "our generation" doesn't face these problems...are you still reading?

Posted by: Arlmom | July 17, 2006 3:21 PM

Oh Please, then what is your point, other than to keep everyone riled up?

We'll never get better conditions for working women in this country until we can at least agree that it isn't a terrible thing to put your career on pause for a while to be at home with your kids nor is it a terrible thing to go straight back to work after your maternity leave is up.

Yet we can't agree on that and everyone on the opposite sides is bound and determined to prove him/herself RIGHT.

Posted by: Divide and conquer | July 17, 2006 3:21 PM

In the case of add-ons that already exist (I got the cancer protection, which is a fund that would essentially pay for radiation treatments and chemo and sick leave), that money went to Aflac (the insurance people) because they were offering the plan at my work.

In the case of the theortical paid leave add-on, I would imagine that it would go straight to your company because they're the ones paying you.

By way of explanation, we also have a vacation buy-up program. You sign up for it, have money taken out of each paycheck by your employer, and get however many extra vacation days you want. The paternity/maternity leave I suggested would ideally work like that.

Posted by: Meesh | July 17, 2006 3:25 PM

Wow! Today is a good one. We have people debating contributions to society vs. economy - which sahp are not either. Since we don't spend money or do anything worthwhile. However, if I went out and worked at my prebaby career we could have a nanny watch the kids 24/7 (would she be contributing to society since she is being paid a job someone else could do for free?) and barely contribute to the economy since we would hardly have the time to shop. Instead, my husband works the required hours at a job he enjoys (society contribution), I do the shopping (economy contribution) while caring for the children (what could have been a contribution to society if we paid someone else to do it) and then spend what time my husband has on weekends as a family. Maybe I should look into a parttime babysitter to make the childcare both a societal and economical contribution.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 3:25 PM

I would just like to point out that in other countries where paid maternity leave is required by the government, women are discriminated against in finding jobs. Studies have shown that women of child bearing age have a very difficult time in those countries finding jobs. Companies are just not willing to risk a mandatory loss of an employee for six months - 2 years, while still having to pay them. In addition, salaries for women of child bearing years (whether they have a child or not) are depressed for the same reasons. One recent study stated that in Europe "Younger women's low employment rates can be attributed to their high level of school enrollment, their difficulty in finding jobs, and their tendency to drop out of work to raise children. Parental leave, predominantly taken by women, in many countries is contributing to employers' reluctance to hire and invest in training younger women, while women themselves may find it difficult to reintegrate into the workforce and may lose job skills during their absence. State policies no longer try to assist women to balance work and family. Instead, they have reinforced the tradition of women's sole responsibility for reproductive work."

Posted by: soleil | July 17, 2006 3:29 PM

SAHMs contribute to their families like everyone else does and nothing to society over and above what anybody else does (working or not). I think that is fine and a choice that some can make.

No problem, just the facts.

Posted by: Just the Facts | July 17, 2006 3:30 PM

Trust me, this bunch doesn't need me to get them riled up. My point (which frankly most people on this blog don't seem to have) is that we need a better writer/moderator for this blog. Someone who isn't so divisive. For the record, I think it's great if someone chooses to stay at home with their kids but it is important to be honest about what you are actually doing. You are not an accountant, judge, ruler, police officer, whatever. You are a stay at home parent. Why isn't that enough? Why do people try to spin into something else?

Posted by: Oh please | July 17, 2006 3:33 PM

Soleil - that is interesting. I wonder if, in these nations, the employers are more or less reluctant than employers in the U.S. Even though legally you are not permitted to take into account a woman's reproductive capacity when hiring, I'm sure many employers do here, and if that is on par with these other countries that offer good parental (not only maternity) leave policies.

Posted by: Just a thought | July 17, 2006 3:40 PM

>>>>>we need a better writer/moderator for this blog. Someone who isn't so divisive.

Yeah, what we need is more one-sided "balanced" news outlets like Fox (and whatever outlets people want to label as liberal). More people preaching to the choir! That's what we all need! Bully for that!

When did sincere debate become a bad thing to Americans? The hell with getting along, can't we at least talk about why we DON'T get along?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 3:41 PM

Soleil, that's a good bit of information. The French have this stereotype of "revering motherhood" and perhaps it's so revered that young women are discouraged from working through hiring discrimination. Also, I've heard a lot about low birth rates in European countries. Could it be that women are choosing to have fewer children so they CAN concentrate on work and not be pegged as "mommies" who will want six months leave every couple of years?

Posted by: K. J. | July 17, 2006 3:43 PM

But in the US employers are not required to offer paid maternity leave. Some do, but most don't. U.S. Employers of a certain size are required to allow unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. That unpaid leave is limited to 12 weeks (although some states and jurisdictions, including DC extend that to 16 weeks). It also covers all family medical leave so that if you have a baby in one calendar year but later in that calendar year need to take leave for an ailing parent, your employer is not required to allow you to do so under FMLA if you have already used teh 12 week benefit earlier in the year. I have looked at similar studies for the US and while it can be a problem here, it is not as huge a problem as it is in countries that require the paid maternity leave. I have nothing against employers offering the paid leave, I think it becomes problematic when employers are required to do so. I think being able to purchase extra leave for whatever purpose would be an excellent benefit. Another way I have seen companies handle this is to have a leave bank. Every employee that wants to participate contributes the same amount of leave (for example 10 hours), then when you have need of the leave you can withdraw up to a certain amount of leave(at my old company I used this for the birth of my first child). It worked quite well.

Posted by: soleil | July 17, 2006 3:53 PM

K.J.
That is what some of the studies have concluded. Still it's quite difficult to convince employers in France and other places that a woman won't change her mind and leave to have a child.

Posted by: Soleil | July 17, 2006 3:55 PM

really trying to stay on topic...

Leslie's (4): "Subliminal cultural messages (snip) just like the ones moms have endured for the past 40 (or 40,000) years, but this time communicating the value to American society of supporting women's efforts to combine work and family."

GAG. Yeah culture does a great job portraying Dad's too. From quite a slide from "Father Knows Best" to "The Simpsons."

Your wish is toungue in cheek I hope, as culture and media in the USA seems to have great difficulty communicating anything but "buy, drink, eat, smoke, do this" and or "vote for X" to be happy. Buyer/voter beware.

How is that "VERB" campaign aimed at couch potatoe kids doing reducing childhood obesity anyway? Glad my tax dollars go to that.

Americans acknowledge the inalienable right to life, liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness.

America works. Capitalists invest, Businesses manage, workers produce, lawyers sue, bureaucrats - what do they do again?

I weeded a grotequely overgrown "flower" bed this weekend. Looked like the Munsters. Went overboard - I planted corn. Anybody think I'll get native corn by September?

oops I tried so hard to stay on topic. Doh!

Posted by: Fo3 | July 17, 2006 3:58 PM

It's amazing to me that so many people here know exactly how I (along with every other SAHM) spend my time. I really need to order those blinds...

Now I MUST get back to wasting my time and talents.

Posted by: WiSAHM | July 17, 2006 3:59 PM

Well, you are probably not worrying about how to pay for day care. You're probably not trying to fiogure out how much leave you and your husband can take after the next kid. You're probably not trying to figure out how to negotiate with your employer about how to work at home or work part time so that you can maintain some semblance of balance. You're probably not worried that it's August 17th and you've already used up your sick time for the year thanks to the stomach flu and a bout of pinkeye. You're probably not worried about what the heck you're going to do for the three days at the end of August when the day care is closed.

Not saying you don't have worries. I know you do. But working moms have a lot of issues to try and work out, and this blog is a place they can try and do that, and I don't understand why everyday a bunch of people (not just SAHMs--some men, some childless people) come here and say we are whining/should just stay home/shouldn't ask anyone to try and change or help us. WHY DO YOU PEOPLE COME HERE ARE HARASS THE WORKING MOMS! Then, when we get mad, start saying that WE are denigrating the SAHMS! Either contribute to the discussion on issues that concern all parents, or find your own blog to complain about the selfish money-grubbing child-neglecting working moms.

Posted by: ToWISAHM | July 17, 2006 4:12 PM

Uh, ToWISSAHM, the blog isn't just for working parents, it's about 'finding balance'. I think all parents struggle with that. The things you listed that you are dealing with are complicated and tough issues - kudos to you for doing your best to handle it all. But the SAHM in Wisconsin didn't 'HARASS WORKING MOMS' in her post, she commented on the near-daily stream of people who attack SAHMs for being a waste. Her defense of her choice is not an inherent critique of yours!

Amen to Divide and Conquer who posted at 3:51 - until everyone can accept a person who makes the opposite choice, we're never going to make progress on the issues the AFL-CIO survey is trying to address, the 'balance' issues that ALL PARENTS deal with regardless of whether there's a parent at home or not.

Posted by: stop attacking SAHP's | July 17, 2006 4:22 PM

Whoa, just trying to lighten things up...

FWIW, when 2 income couples want "the government" to make daycare affordable, it means shifting the burden of paying for their daycare to everyone else (unless you want lower pay or have fewer workers per child). That does involve me.

I know plenty of excellent WOHMs. I don't have anything bad to say about it. I don't believe I'm harassing anyone.

Sorry about the pink eye and stomach flu, it sounds rough. My sister was able to borrow sick leave when she ran out, maybe something liek that will work for you.

Posted by: WiSAHM | July 17, 2006 4:23 PM

Perhaps the government should stay out of all of this and let people run their companies the way they like. It is a business, not a social project. If you don't like your company's policies, quit and get a new job, or get more education or whatever, but don't whine that they're not family friendly. Start your own business that *is* family friendly, and you'll have loyal employees (very loyal employees!).

Posted by: atlmom | July 17, 2006 4:23 PM

"I don't understand why everyday a bunch of people (not just SAHMs--some men, some childless people) come here and say we are whining/should just stay home/shouldn't ask anyone to try and change or help us."

I am always amazed by the number of non-moms reading this blog and wonder what their motives are. I know there are some who are thinking of or planning to have children and I think that's great that they can listen in on what the current issures are. But why read this wasting your time if these issues aren't yours?

Posted by: Dlyn | July 17, 2006 4:25 PM

"This blog is devoted to illuminating the work/family debate through stories from moms about how we juggle work and kids, in whatever portions we've chosen (including none). So welcome, working moms, sort-of working moms and not-working-right-now moms."

This quote is from "About On Balance" in the menu on the left.

I don't know who this blog is intended for any more.

Posted by: reader | July 17, 2006 4:29 PM

ToWISAHM -- hang in there, sister! You drive home the fact that you are frazzled by putting in the wrong month. You raise great points about the motives of people on this list. As we tell our kids, play nice or go play somewhere else!

Posted by: Arlington Dad | July 17, 2006 4:30 PM

Gidge,
My thought was that by giving her a position when she was obviously going to be going on extended leave in a few months, training her in the intricacies of the position while she took time off to go to her medical appointments, and then saving the space three months for her to come back should have elicited at least a complete year before she jumped ship. And, I would have waited 2-3 more months to have her return. At 10 weeks, she had already started working for someone else.

I did not hire her because I thought she would be loyal. I just expect more from a professional. Maybe I am just overly loyal when I find a company/manager that would do that for me.

Arlmom,
You can make whatever choices you want to make for your family. But I am not required to give you more options to choose. For example, if you are more qualified than another candidate and fit the office culture better, I will select you. If you are similarly qualified and have the same office rapport as another candidate, other factors will influence my decision.

Posted by: Working Dad | July 17, 2006 4:32 PM

So I guess you believe Father of 4, fo3 and Proud Papa (among others) should beat it, huh?

Posted by: To Dlyn | July 17, 2006 4:33 PM

Some of us read it while we're on hold in order to watch the train wreck. This is one cranky group of people! You've got a point, though--it HAS become rather repetitive.

Posted by: why do people who aren't working mothers read this? | July 17, 2006 4:39 PM

"So I guess you believe Father of 4, fo3 and Proud Papa (among others) should beat it, huh?"

Oops, I should have said non-parents. No way do I want these 3 to go or any other father. That would be a grave injustice. Sorry, I became all mommy defensive, please forgive me.

Posted by: Dlyn | July 17, 2006 4:40 PM

Wait a minute-- who says that making money is the only way to contribute to society?

The real concern about SAHP is that they're not contributing to themselves-- their families' and their own financial security.

Peace corps volunteers are contributing WAY more to society than the income they earn ($1000 a year) and building up goodwill towards America, which certain policies have shot to kingdom come. But they do take a hit to their finances to 1) do good work and get experience 2) get loans reduced/paid and 3) educate themselves.

I'm surprised nobody is talking about how students don't "contribute to society" because they go into debt studying rather than doing something useful and making money. Of course we ALL know that students go to school in part to better their economic future.

But let's face it, a lot of students come out with massive debt and they are doing the ol' rat race just to pay off loans, and finally paying taxes. Until then, useless freeloaders on society.

Or so that's how the thinking would go, if we focused on "am I making money RIGHT NOW" as a benchmark of "contributing to society.

I'll go up to a doctor and tell him "you don't contribute to society because you wasted 6 years in college and running around on beaches during lengthy spring and summer breaks and tanning yourself instead of getting a proper job.
So now you're in a white coat, big whooah. You cheated society of 6 important years in which you could have contributed."

Or a lawyer, etc... you get the point ;).

Posted by: Confused Godmother | July 17, 2006 4:40 PM

Working Dad, you sound like a fabulous manager who got royally screwed by a woman who didn't deserve you! Can I come work for you? ;-)

Posted by: gidge | July 17, 2006 4:41 PM

I'll tell you why I read this blog. No, as a single, childless twenty-something, these issues are not "mine." But as a professional woman, they may well be my issues within a few years, and that possibility has some bearing on the decisions that I make now.
Also, frankly, it's entertaining to hear a group of adults name-call like 5-year olds.

Posted by: Charlottesville | July 17, 2006 4:41 PM

Leslie Steiner started this blog with: "Poring over other moms' dissections of their work/kid choices had a healing, restorative affect on me. I learned that at-home moms are doing far more than "nothing," and that they're just as busy as I am, taking care of their kids and homes and pitching in at school on critical volunteer projects that horrify me and other working parents because of the time commitment. My brain no longer automatically divides moms into at-home vs. working, you vs. me categories. I've become at peace with myself and all moms of the world!"

I was pouring over other mom's ruminations and debates over SAH or WOH as I grapple with the balance issue on my home front, I found this forum coupled with my own experience growing up with a WOHM helpful. I eventually decided to post.

Sometimes I have a Talking Heads moment, ie "How did I get here?!" and writing helps sort it out some. Better prepares me by thinking things through and understanding the mother's point of view as we debate whether my better half will go back to WOHM'dom now that the littlest is close to school age. I find, that among my many deep seeded an obvious flaws, that I often stray from the topic at heand. Of course instrumental to mental clarity and lucid communication is the CO2 powered home beer dispenser. Tears well up in my eyes as a little one brings me a cold draught with a perfect 3/4" foamy head, clink with the no-spill sippy cup and utters a familiar toast, "Here's to us, there's nobody in the whole wide world I'd rather fight with than you."

Likewise. Cheers everybody.

Posted by: Fo3 | July 17, 2006 6:03 PM

Yikes Leslie, why don't you just ask the government to wipe your mouth after you eat and tuck you in?

So much for free markets, let's force employers to do everything for us!

Posted by: cmac | July 17, 2006 7:28 PM

Very late to the game but the AFL-CIO survey stank. Wow. Talk about biased and incomplete. UGH.

Posted by: Bethesda | July 17, 2006 9:15 PM

This is in response to "To Parttimer", who had a full time job but wanted to know how she could go part-time.

When I was first married at a very young age, my husband and I were stone poor. We were barely out of high school (I know--you are all gasping with the horror of it all!) and starting a family (the oops reason we got married, but we had been engaged for two months--we just moved the date up A LOT). Being quite young and stupid and in love, we were quite content to perfect the art of living on nothing while we finished college,worked, and whatnot. We simply could not get child care so we juggled our schedules and prayed for a few years. After we graduated my husband got a fulltime job and we bought a little house. One,that I might add, would have been fine forever except for a couple of minor details. I started working from home (this is post-Internet, and I am 33 now) and we still lived like monks. I learned how to cook well on a budget of about 70 dollars a week, which isn't a lot around here. We didn't buy stuff like paper towels, alcohol, or clothes we didn't need. We drove one car. In fact, I didn't replace my winter coat for 7 years! We looked at it as a challenge: to live like our grandparents had in the 30's and 40's. We never had any serious debt, and then suddenly the real estate market took an upward swing and we did well in that arena. We bought a bigger house because we looked at it as an investment. So we were a little lucky. But the big house is SOOO overrated. When you have lived simply in formative years it is hard to change. Three of the rooms still have no furniture. We could STILL make it without my salary because we said we would always try to live on one salary, and we basically did. The hardest part of it was watching our friends go out to dinner or buy stuff that we were putting off. Now many of them are where we were: little sleep, big workload, young kids and sacrifices. I have to say--no way could I do it now. When you are young you really DO have more energy! But I love working: it gives me the structure I need. I spent a lot of time with my kids when they were babies and am proud of how they have turned out so far. I also picked a profession that allows for parttime work that could easily transition to fulltime work if needed. No doubt I will when the time comes.

Posted by: parttimer | July 17, 2006 10:01 PM

Someone asked why people without children read this blog. Normally I don't, but the title is "Ask a Working Woman" and I am a working woman. How was I to know that in this world woman = mother?

But I have a serious question of my own for those of you who support the idea of paid parental leave, subsidised childcare, and any other benefits that are only used by parents and also claim to support the idea of equal compensation for equal work. How do you reconcile these two ideas? If you are entitiled to more leave than I am simply because you have a child, aren't you getting more compensation for the same amount of work? Or looking at it differently, the same compensation for less work? If your employer is paying part of your childcare costs, aren't you getting more compensation for the same job?

Posted by: Why? | July 17, 2006 10:44 PM

City people....ugh. You people really are delusional, pampered, wasteful, closed minded, angry, non-driving, egotistical, self centered, and down right insane.

You make me sick Mrs. Steiner.

You know what I need? I need mothers like you to quit with the "I, me, and my". I need you to quit putting employee before mother. I need you to actually fix your kids a meal before stopping by dunkin donuts and putting your kids in a sugar induced frenzy and causing every teacher to run screaming ritalin. I need you to actually admit you are a self centered hag who cares nothing about what your kids feel inside as long as they represent outside your "standard" of life (whatever the hell that may be).

I feel for women like you that feel they need a job and time away from their children in order to "keep your sanity". My children ARE my SANITY. They are the people that can compliment me and tell me I am beautiful and that they love me and I know without a doubt it doesn't come from envy, or jealousy, or to score brownie points, or because they need anything from me in return but the same unconditional, beautiful, sincerity.

It is so obvious in your writing that career comes before family. You don't fool anyone except those with your same blind, self centered agenda.

Posted by: Gina | July 17, 2006 11:09 PM

Oh come on if you don't want to take the time off to look after your own kids why bother going through pregnancy and oh, that dreaded labour. Why not pay one of those terrible SAHM's to have a child which you can sponser. That way you can make them feel better in their dreadfully dreary lives. They will need to pay taxes which will help send your sponsered child to school or maybe she will even teach them, but no, the teachers union might be upset, so better she pay taxes and send them off so she has time to have more sponsered children so she gets more money so she can pay MORE taxes. You can take credit for the kid without doing the work and make some poor wretched woman be a contribution to society. Should she cook these sponsered kids of yours a healthy meal or should she rather contribute to the economy by supporting Mc Cain's, Mc Donalds, Sara Lee and other large corporations? It is such a pain having to deal with getting good care for your own kids. Why not just let the state take care of "the next generation" and you can enjoy your hard earned money without having to worry about all the commitment. We do not want woman making costly mistakes because of lack of sleep due to being bothered by children who have trouble sleeping. You may be required to attend sport or other functions which your sponsered child is taking part in but don't worry, no need to hug them, give them a cheque and make sure they also get taxed so they learn to contribute to society! In the transition period we can take all the other children and put them into boarding schools, payed in part by taxes from proffesional child bearers, who have been screened to have no genetical defaults and have a 2 year diploma in producing good workers for the state or maybe they should have a degree and an union cause they won't have time to worry about their own affairs they need to make sure they pop a baby at least every 2 years.

Posted by: Wretched Soul | July 18, 2006 7:30 AM

wretched soul has been watching to much TV. At least be orginal with your insults.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2006 8:14 AM

Hooray for parttimer, Gina, Why, and Wretched Soul. At last, some common sense in this train wreck of a blog. Parttimer, I can identify with you. We aren't all rich, college educated cotillion princesses, and I doubt our fellow bloggers know what it's like actually work for a living. They excel at office politics, networking, rabble rousing and me-ism.

Why should parents get 6 months 'parental leave' after spawning? For Pete's sake, why bother having a career at all if you're going to cop out 50% of the time? I'd like to get 6 months off to take my cat to the vet, or have the car worked on, or to wait for appliance repairmen. I have to use my vacation time to do that. Why should those so very important, selfish people with children get all the breaks and the time off? Use your own vacation time for raising your children.

I once worked for a local police department. When a female officer gets knocked up -- oops, sorry, preggers or 'in the family way' -- she is put on light duty. Meaning she sits behind a desk and does clerical work while still getting her full officer salary. I worked with one female officer who produced 3 kids in five years. She was making a career out of producing her own kind while keeping her full officer salary. She slept at her desk in the front office, right where visitors could see her and the commanding officers said 'That's OK, she's pregnant.' Now if I had done that, I'd be fired on the spot but it's OK to have sleeping pregnant women on the front desk. Go figure.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | July 18, 2006 9:42 AM

If you are entitiled to more leave than I am simply because you have a child, aren't you getting more compensation for the same amount of work? Or looking at it differently, the same compensation for less work? If your employer is paying part of your childcare costs, aren't you getting more compensation for the same job?

This is the way I look at it. Yes, perhaps a person with children is getting more compensation from the employer, but there are lots of things that work this way. People with home mortgages get more tax deductions than those who rent, for example. And raising children is not just a choice. Raising children is a contribution to society. If people stop having children, the world stops. Period. There should be legislated incentives (other then the paltry child care credits) for people to raise children because they are our next generation of citizens. To all the childfree people by choice who don't want to be penalized for not having children, remember that your social security taxes will be paid by the kids of the people who put in the work to raise the next generation of workers. Why should you get a free ride?

Posted by: Rockville | July 18, 2006 9:56 AM

childless by choice,

One I think you make all of your stories up.

two I think you probably cry yourself to sleep at night because you are unable to have children

Three why don't you just find another blog, blog about you cat, yeah, your cat.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2006 10:09 AM

City people....ugh. You people really are delusional, pampered, wasteful, closed minded, angry, non-driving, egotistical, self centered, and down right insane

Yeah, people in the city are really closed minded! non-driving? Wouldn't that equal saving resources which wouldn't make us wasteful?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2006 10:12 AM

Anonymous coward: No, I do not make up my stories. Every one is true. I could tell you the name of the very lenient commanding officer but he's retired now and he'd probably deny it.

And I thank my lucky stars I don't have children when I look at the wretched messes everybody else is raising. I chose not to have children because my lover is married and I didn't want to burden him with it.

Rockville: I have worked full time for 41 years to support myself without a dime from rich dadddy or spouse. Half of my taxes go to public schools, which I have never had to use == Thank God! I do, however, go to the track at my local high school and jog after work. I paid for that track.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | July 18, 2006 10:21 AM

I chose not to have children because my lover is married and I didn't want to burden him with it.

I see now why you are so bitter, childless. I might be too if I was pushing 60 (at least), and had a lover who was married to someone else. You are looking at a lonely old age, but then again, that was your choice, so don't take it out on the rest of us who made better ones.

Posted by: Rockville | July 18, 2006 10:26 AM

Anon @ 10:12...Oh? So thats all we disagree on? Fair enough. *wink*

Posted by: Gina | July 18, 2006 10:33 AM

Gina, what are you going to do with your empty life when your kids leave home?

Ugh, people like you, who get everything from their children, make ME sick.

Posted by: Shelly | July 18, 2006 10:42 AM

Ugh, people like you, who get everything from their children, make ME sick.

Why does it bother you? How on earth does it affect you? I just don't get why people are offended by other peoples' lives, especially when it has nothing to do with them? Live and let live.

Posted by: Rockville | July 18, 2006 10:44 AM

"If you are entitiled to more leave than I am simply because you have a child, aren't you getting more compensation for the same amount of work?"

Well as a self-employed person I don't get leave unless I give it to myself. But I support the idea of maternity leave the same way that I support the idea of unemployment insurance or short-term disability insurance or caregiver leave for people who have, for example, dying parents.

If it's set up as an insurance programme everyone pays in and then accesses it as needed. If my parents never get terminally ill but die peacefully in their sleep one day, then I wouldn't get caregiver leave. If my company doesn't go through a round of massive layoffs then I never get unemployment... so? I don't have a problem with the idea of pooling resources.

That's one reason I find other countries' answers interesting. It's all trade-offs. But assuming that things can't be done just locks everyone into current policies and those may work and they may not.

And yes, having children is a choice, but I wouldn't want only the richest people to be able to have them because of a very short period of time where some leave would be helpful to working people. But discourse is a good thing. :)

Posted by: Shandra | July 18, 2006 10:48 AM

"City people....ugh. You people really are delusional, pampered, wasteful, closed minded, angry, non-driving, egotistical, self centered, and down right insane.

You make me sick Mrs. Steiner."

This from someone who isn't angry? Gina, you may want to look up the word to see what it means.

"...admit you are a self centered hag who cares nothing about what your kids feel inside as long as they represent outside your "standard" of life (whatever the hell that may be)." Closed-minded much? Wow, you certainly are projecting!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2006 10:57 AM

Shelly,
Why would you assume my life to be empty when my kids leave? My plan is to do what motherhood is preparing me for and what I do pretty much full time (for my family) and part time as a hobby (for friends). Since you seem so concerned with what I intend to do (note the EXTREME sarcasm here), I will tell you. I intend to do something I am very good at, something I enjoy, and something that is very profitable and pleasurable to me. I intend to cook. Yep, thats right....cook. As in wedding cakes, catering, etc. Something in the food industry. I have oh...at least 10 more years or better to build my "portfolio" or "resume" as you in the business world call it. For me its just a scrapbook with pics and thank you letters. Feel better?

Posted by: Gina | July 18, 2006 11:00 AM

"I chose not to have children because my lover is married and I didn't want to burden him with it."

Ahh, but you are burdening his wife by being a partner in his infidelity. Rationalize yourself out of THAT one Ms.ThankGodyouarechildless

Posted by: Stacey | July 18, 2006 11:02 AM

10:57

It's called disgust. Look it up.

Posted by: Gina | July 18, 2006 11:14 AM

Childless, I actually feel very sorry for you. And, I also thought you were a man!

Rock on Rockville

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2006 11:26 AM

I need the government to stay out of my private life.

It's not the government's job to find you a place to nurse, or a place to babysit your child, or guarantee your right to prevent conception. (Should they buy your doughnuts too?) When I worked I negotiated my own benefits or I didn't work there. Period. I was never forced to work on Sunday and any day my husband had off (before I quit altogether) I had off. Ladies, if you want to work, that's your right. Go for it. I support your freedom to choose in every way except one - with my tax dollars. Don't ask the government to negotiate your benefits for you and provide subliminal psychological messages to support your choice. The state is not your personal nanny. It's not their job.

Why is it that women who claim they are independent, depend on the government for so much of their independence? I just don't get it.

I blogged this on my own blog but there is a glitch in the trackbacks and it isn't pinging.

www.spunkyhomeschool.blogspot.com

Posted by: Spunky | July 18, 2006 12:08 PM

the same could be said for the student aid that your children are going to use to go to college, if they go, spunky. I don't want my money to go there for your kids to use.

I also don't want my money to go to faith based initives but it is, so I geuss you will just have to put up with it like everyone else.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2006 12:47 PM

I'm sure some people really need good childcare. Circumstances are not the same for everyone and some people do need some help. The states idea of quality childcare or people who want to make money hiring others to take care of children may not always be that "quality". I don't mind if my families tax dollars go to help people who are in real need. I do strongly object at subsidizing someones childcare when they "need" to live in the right neighborhood, have a house bigger than 1000 sq ft, drive a new car or two and go away from home for vacations every year. If you NEED to go to work for your own sanity or reasons mentined before I'm not here to judge you BUT please pay for your own childcare. A good deal of the kids in bad neighborhoods turn out to be wonderful teens and adults, a good deal of children in "the right" neighborhoods turn out to be drugdealers and selfcentred adults. A parents involvement has more to do with how they turn out and giving them all the things their friends have to fit in does not do much for them in the long run. Lots of parents work out ways to take good care of their kids without state involvement.

Posted by: Wretched Soul | July 18, 2006 1:26 PM

Why would to assume I'm a man? Because I worked for a police department and jog after work? Some of you aren't as liberated as you'd like to be -- what a stereotypical thing to think that only men do those things.

You folks should read "The Baby Trap" by Ellen Peck, published in 1976. Childless people have fuller, more exciting lives than those tied down by babies, stretch marks, cleaning up vomit and messy diapers. Oh, that's right, you people hire other people to do that for you. What about embarrassing your husband by sending him to the pharmacy to buy a -- gag -- breast pump? My life is quite full and exciting without the burden of children and I feel sorry for people whose world revolves around their spawn.

Oh, what about those affluent baby buyers who go to China, Thailand or Russia to 'adopt' and then turn the kid over to a housekeeper or nanny to raise it. That's real 'motherhood,' isn't it? We've done a royal job of screwing up the world by way of mixed up kids; maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea of the human race died off.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | July 18, 2006 1:51 PM

Oh my goodness rockville give up already. Childless loves her life, however horrible it is. One question? Does your lover's wife have children? Maybe that's where all the hatred comes from.

Posted by: scarry | July 18, 2006 2:22 PM

"the same could be said for the student aid that your children are going to use to go to college, if they go, spunky. I don't want my money to go there for your kids to use."

Exactly my point. Who's priorities get the cash? You're beginning to think like me.

There is an excellent article about Davey Crocket and a wise old farmer that chastised him for spending money that wasn't his? It's called "Not Yours To Give".

Here's the link (copy and paste)

http://www.juntosociety.com/patriotism/inytg.html

How I wish we had politicians and citizens who still thought this way.

Posted by: Spunky | July 18, 2006 2:26 PM

sorry about the bad grammar in the last post. I clicked on submit instead of preview.

Posted by: Spunky | July 18, 2006 2:28 PM

Oh my goodness rockville give up already. Childless loves her life, however horrible it is.

Scarry, I will take your advice on this one. Thank you. The only good thing about beating your head against the wall is that it feels so good to stop.

Posted by: Rockville | July 18, 2006 2:32 PM

From childless by choice " Oh, what about those affluent baby buyers who go to China, Thailand or Russia to 'adopt' and then turn the kid over to a housekeeper or nanny to raise it. That's real 'motherhood,' isn't it? We've done a royal job of screwing up the world by way of mixed up kids; maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea of the human race died off." I hope your the FIRST to volunteer to die off! Really, I have never heard of such disgusting anti-child rehetoric in my life. I guess you should thank god your own parents thought enough to give birth to you and raise you till you turned 18. In general, I wish mothers, fathers, and single people would just stop attacking other people's legal choices. I don't know why people have a problem supporting other people in their decision. Whether it is subsidized paid day care, health care, flexible hours for every one, or tax credits for SAHP or WOHP. Really, with all this energy fighting each other we could solve the more evident problems in the world. Like world hunger.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2006 2:32 PM

Hey Childless?

Do yourself (and those of us who also choose to remain childless) and stop. Just stop. I feel like raising a sign saying "Not all childess people think like that!"

There are parents who lead full lives and childess people who don't. And vice versa. Just because at this time in my life I don't believe I'll have children doesn't mean that I need to denigrate those who made a different choice.

And to answer the question of why a childess (and single!) woman would post on this blog...I don't have kids, but I've seen how the decision whether to have them has affected my coworkers and my friends. Personally, I think if we can make the workplace better for moms and dads, it'll spill over to help everyone. (Best example: affordable health care!)

Posted by: AG | July 18, 2006 3:01 PM

The only good thing about beating your head against the wall is that it feels so good to stop.

Posted by: Rockville | July 18, 2006 02:32 PM


So right, Rockville! Popped by for a break from bar study and that's exactly how it feels... And don't let the disgusted, angry folks get you down! I know I personally have never felt "tied down" by my stretch marks, har har

Posted by: Megan | July 18, 2006 3:05 PM

AG, Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Of course having or not having children is not the only standard against which our lives are measured. Either way, our lives can be full and joyous, or not. And I would never generalize what childless people think based on one unhappy person's deranged comments.

Posted by: Rockville | July 18, 2006 3:07 PM

Wow. What an unproductive mess this has turned into. No wonder Congress can't meet the needs of working women. We're too busy fighting with everyone who eggs us on to even figure out what those needs are. *roll*

Posted by: gidge | July 18, 2006 4:28 PM

Okay Leslie I'll play along here's my demands (er requests) of Uncle Sam,

American politicans, hear me roar.

As a woman, I want to --need to-- stay home with my family and homeschool. It's for my sanity, my children's safety (have you been in a public school lately?), and a way to give back to my country. After all, if I do this right, my kids will one day be workers in the global economy and the providers of everyone's social security checks. But in order to max out my abilities as a mom over the course of my lifetime, I need a few things:

1. A fifteeen passenger van is an absolute necessity. Any color but white will do. White looks terrible on the road in a Michigan winter. (Image is everything you know, self esteem is important.) A gas card would be a real help. Just because my van gets 15 miles per gallon less shouldn't mean I have to foot the whole bill. And if it had one of those state-of-the-art OnStar devices, that would round out the package very nicely. (And you'd be able to know where I was at all times. What a bonus!)

2. A high quality park near every Starbucks. This is really a no brainer. They seem to put most Starbucks near major roads and highways. What are they thinking? That only caters to busy working moms on the go. How am I supposed to relax, enjoy my coffee and watch my children play while cars are whizzing by at 50 mph? For the sake of my sanity and my children's safety, this is a must!

3. A Constitutional Ammendment protecting my right to have as many children as I want free from the unsolicited comments. It's downright insulting the way most women treat a pregnant woman who has more than 2 children anymore. Complete strangers think nothing of walking up and asking, "Don't you know what causes that?" or "Are you done yet?" Why this doesn't already qualify as hate speech is beyond me. Some countries have already gone so far as to limit the number of children. (I think the UN has something to do with that one. ) Please Uncle Sam, save me from these intolerant people! And while you're at it, can you do something about the latest maternity fashions? Mercy, there oughta be a law against all those bulging bare bellies!

4. A subliminal propoganda campaign, letting women know they can be happy and fulfilled as the wife to one man and the mother of many children. In an effort to control wasteful government spending, I'd be happy with something simple like mandated, nightly, prime time reruns of Leave It To Beaver or Little House On the Prairie on every channel. The positive messages and role models will go along way to ease the tensions between working and stay at home women across the nation.

There are a few more things, but I really don't want to presume too much on the generosity of the American people. After all it is their money. And these poor women who choose to work shouldn't have to sacrifice their hard earned cash to support my ridiculous decision stay home and raise my own children. (How unfulfilling, they say!) I don't want to create any ill will by forcing them to pay for things that aren't really necessary, so I'll stop here.

Thank you for your time, Uncle Sam. I know your a busy man, but never too busy for me.

(This post was copied from my blog at

www.spunkyhomeschool.blogspot.com

but there was not trackback available so I reposted here.)

Posted by: Spunky | July 18, 2006 10:02 PM

it's a fantasy to wish for a society that reflected "norms". if it truly did we would be reading about overweight divorcees who can't get along with their kids or tackle their credit card debt, instead of reading about anorexic and rich celebrities in our weekly tabloids.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2006 10:09 PM

In response to Rockville, who said:

"This is the way I look at it. Yes, perhaps a person with children is getting more compensation from the employer, but there are lots of things that work this way. People with home mortgages get more tax deductions than those who rent, for example."

True, but it has absolutely nothing to do with what you are paid to do your job. My point is equal compensation for equal work. Whether tax breaks for home ownership makes sense is a completely different issue.

"And raising children is not just a choice. Raising children is a contribution to society."

Wrong. Having a child is a choice and raising it is a responsibility. Do you expect me to beleive that the only reason you have a child is to make a contribution to society? I'm not buying it. You (and others) decide to have children for some perceived benefit to yourself personally. I choose not to have children because I perceive no benefit. Now, either the actual benefits don't match up with what you thought they would be and so you've decided you deserve some compensation, or you want the benefits without making any sacrifices.

"If people stop having children, the world stops. Period. There should be legislated incentives (other then the paltry child care credits) for people to raise children because they are our next generation of citizens."

So you're saying that raising children is such an unrewarding enterprise that we have to provide people incentives to do it or they'll stop? I'm glad I was not raised by someone with that kind of attitude.

"To all the childfree people by choice who don't want to be penalized for not having children, remember that your social security taxes will be paid by the kids of the people who put in the work to raise the next generation of workers."

Wrong again. My social security taxes are paid by me. My social security benefits (if there are any by the time I retire) will be paid by the taxes of the people who are working at that time. But if you're going to justify parental benefits based on raising the next generation of workers, would you propose paying back those benefits if you fail to raise a productive member of society?

"Why should you get a free ride?"

This is a joke, right? Just who is getting a free ride here? I pay significantly more income tax than a person at my same income level who has kids, but at the same time I am much less of a drain on resources. I pay property taxes that support schools that I don't use. I pick up the slack for co-workers who spend half their day at work on the phone to their kid's teacher, doctor, therapist, whatever. Tell you what, you give up your "paltry" tax credits, tax deductions, demands for paid parental leave, and public schools and after-school programs that are paid out of property taxes, and reduce my tax burden accordingly, and I'll waive my social security benefits. I pay my way and you pay yours. I'll even continue to pay social security tax to support those receiving benefits now. Deal?

Posted by: Why? | July 18, 2006 10:56 PM

In response to Shandra, who said:

"If it's set up as an insurance programme everyone pays in and then accesses it as needed. If my parents never get terminally ill but die peacefully in their sleep one day, then I wouldn't get caregiver leave. If my company doesn't go through a round of massive layoffs then I never get unemployment... so? I don't have a problem with the idea of pooling resources."

Thank you for a thoughtful response. While I agree that the program you describe would be fairer, it's not at all what most people I've talked to mean when they talk about parental leave. They're talking about straight paid leave for which they don't have to pay anything. Besides which it seems odd to me to have an insurance program that covers situations over which one has control. To me, insurance is intended to deal with the unpredictable, like the possibility that you might need caregiver leave or you might not.

Posted by: Why? | July 18, 2006 11:12 PM

When enough people stop accepting job offers because of lack of maternity/paternity leave, or enough good workers leave for that same reason, then there will be more offers in the workplace. As long as the businesses don't suffer, paid leaves will not be rampant. FMLA may not seem great because of the unpaid factor, but I remember when there was no job protection and maternity leave was restricted to the time you were under the doctor's care (6 weeks).

As a nation, I would like to see mandatory money management/budgeting classes in the high schools so that our young people would understand early on that living below your means is possible and beneficial in the long run. I say this as someone who grew up poor and didn't learn how to save because there was never anything to save. I found myself living beyond my means due to easy credit and could not afford to stay home with my children because of my existing financial obligations.

I never considered bankruptcy because my family, though poor, taught honesty and responsibility. I made the debts, I was responsible for paying them, even though that meant having no children or being WOHM. My feelings on bankruptcy and walking away from debt could fill an entire blog ;).

Off track a little there. If young people knew how to handle money a little better, then maybe they would look for more affordable colleges and have less student debt. Then maybe they would save longer before buying toys (cars, big tv's, golf equip, ski trips), or buy less expensive ones. Then maybe, by the time they had children, there would be enough saved to allow them to stay home without depending on their paychecks. Or, they would already be living on less and could afford to stay home with less income.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 19, 2006 7:23 AM

"What about embarrassing your husband by sending him to the pharmacy to buy a -- gag -- breast pump?"

What's with this? Speaking as a man who's been married for over 20 years, I've been sent to the pharmacy to buy just about every personal item a woman could need, running the gamut from home pregnancy tests to tampons. Most husbands are adults - it's no big deal.

Posted by: Huh? | July 19, 2006 9:13 AM

Yeah, not to mention that most pharmacies don't sell breast pumps.... Childless is clueless too!

Posted by: uh huh | July 19, 2006 10:21 AM

"Why?" your last comment was a hoot. As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom, I agree that my husband and I should get no special favors for having kids. It is our responsibility to pay for and take care of them, not yours.

(And we pay for schools we don't use, too.)

Posted by: another mother | July 20, 2006 5:08 PM

"While I agree that the program you describe would be fairer, it's not at all what most people I've talked to mean when they talk about parental leave."

Sorry this response is so late... but to my understanding, that is how EI/maternity leave/caregiver leave works in Canada. My understanding may be incomplete though. The premiums are paid off everyone's paycheque. And maternity is included because that's the political will of the people, I guess it boils down to. I believe the maximum benefit is around $450/week so we are not talking a vast largesse. :)

I have no idea how this effects people hiring women or whether it creates a glass ceiling.

I believe having kids is a choice on the part of the parents, but not on the part of the kids. I have no trouble seeing the leave as being more for the kids, and less for the parents.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 9:44 PM

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