Hirshman and the Value of Working, Round Two

Former lawyer-cum-philosphy professor Linda Hirshman continues to fire up debates over the value of working vs. stay-at-home motherhood. For some of the latest coverage, see The Los Angeles Times She's The Woman All The Other Women Love or Hate and two articles in Slate, Emily Bazelon's Understanding Betty Friedan and Megan O'Rourke's A Working Girl Can Win.

Although I disagree with the way Hirshman blames stay-at-home moms (she calls them "dropout daughters" on page 66 of Get to Work, compares staying at home with kids to riding a motorcycle without a helmet, and accuses at-home moms of not being tough enough to "stick it out" at work once they have children), she's getting a lot of women -- and men -- talking about work, economic independence, power and choices. The heated discussions she generates are an unmitigated public good. Hallelujah!

After debating Hirshman on Washington Post Radio and Fox News Channel's Dayside, I can attest that she's never going to win any personality contests. Her take-no-prisoners approach undermines her credibility. She should take a memo from this blog -- angry rants aren't taken as seriously as rational ones.

What I want to ask you today is to comment on three tenents of her "Manifesto for Women of the World" (and anything else in the book if you've read it):

1) Women need to work in order to influence social change, because stay-at-home moms have no power in the world (pps. 34 & 63)

2) If you want to be a mother, have only one child because continuing to work is easier with only one dependent (pps. 45, 62 & 63)

3) Although large numbers of stay-at-home moms report they are happy with their choice, this doesn't mean their choice is the right one for society overall (pps. 16-25)

As I've said before, I see a grain of truth in many of Hirshman's rants. However, her desire to antagonize the very women she's trying to rally decimates the chances of anyone acting on her advice. During the long trip back to Washington after dueling with Hirshman on national TV (serious rain delays at Reagan National Airport last week), I happened to come across an article in Newsweek's June 26 issue titled Try Being Nice about a new book by two female ad-agency partners who've grown their company, Kaplan Thaler Group, to $1 billion in annual billings in less than 10 years. Their theory (and their book title): The Power of Nice. I think I'll send a copy to Linda.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  July 5, 2006; 9:57 AM ET  | Category:  Moms in the News
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I have no kids of my own but my mother chose tenent 2 25+ years ago. She was a working Army spouse when that was a rare breed - she felt she could handle a job, household, and a sometimes absent spouse with one child but with more than one she'd be outnumbered!

Regarding tenent 1: Hasn't social change - music labeling of explicit content comes to my mind - been influenced by working and stay-at-home moms? Her definition seems rigid to me.

Posted by: Product of a working mom | July 5, 2006 10:28 AM

I'm wiped out from the long weekend, so I don't have the strength or desire to rise to this bait today!!!

Posted by: June | July 5, 2006 10:41 AM

I am stunned at how sexist your comments continue to be. No one ever discusses men in the terms that you chose for Hirschman. Try Being Nice? Please find me one example when that was a comeback to a man's comments.

I find the idea that women can only speak from personal experience or that the message needs to be nicey-nice, frankly, more insulting than anything you accuse Hirschman of. For years (and it continues today), society has had little problem telling working women they were bad mothers. We need a strong voice pulling in the other direction, so finally we can all rest somewhere in the middle.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 10:45 AM

10:45 AM, I don't think that a man could get away with making the same comments about stay-at-home moms that Linda has.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 10:56 AM

I have not read the book in its entirety but two things come to mind. Tenet 1, as a SAHM I have the time and ENERGY to help and change my community from within as a volunteer. Where would small communities be without volunteers, the majority of whom are SAHM or D's? Tenet 2, while I only have one now, there is the old saying, "one's a pet and two's a family". (smile)

Posted by: LDB | July 5, 2006 10:56 AM

Also regarding #1-- I wonder what Hirshman specifically means by "influencing social change."

Don't many stay-at-home moms devote a lot of time and effort towards making schools and other community organizations better for our kids and neighborhoods, etc? I'm not talking about the "helicopter parents" discussed on this blog several weeks ago, and also don't mean that working parents don't also contribute in this way (although maybe don't have the same time and energy to do so)-- but "influencing social change" doesn't neccessarily mean influencing social norms on the grand scale-- keeping an art or music program alive at an underfunded school, for example, would qualify as "influencing social change" to me. After all, if the next generation is influenced positively, by definition the future of society is as well.

Posted by: Ingrid | July 5, 2006 10:58 AM

To 10:56, And in response to a man who said such things -- would we debate him on the merits, or would we tell him to be nice and watch his tone?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 10:59 AM

It's so hard to address Hirshman's points in her terms, because they are so politically loaded. Can stay-at-home moms make social change? Well, on the one hand, it's going to be hard for SAHMs to have an impact on codified social policy if they don't hold positions of power, but they can, and many do, work behind the scenes in many local organizations to do that. Not to mention social change through the way we raise and socialize our children.

I struggle every day as a mom who straddles the two worlds -- I work from home, so I'm not the typical "working mom" in an office, but many of those moms see me as a SAHM because I work from home and have more flexibility in my schedule as a result. I'm both and neither, and that puts me in an odd place when thinking about these issues.

Hirshman is so judgmental in her thoughts and her tone, I think it's hard for most women to get past that to see any validity in her points.

One question she doesn't address -- how about if we also start focusing on whether the choices that men make are right for society, as part of this equation?

http://punditmom1.blogspot.com

Posted by: PunditMom | July 5, 2006 11:00 AM

I read the commentary in response to Hirshman's book and found this comment particularly noteworthy:

Anna Fels, a psychiatrist and advisor at Sylvia Ann Hewlett's Center for Work-Life Policy and author of the 2004 book "Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women's Changing Lives," said that perhaps Hirshman placed too much responsibility on women.

"The pressure on young women who are facing motherhood for the first time and dealing with a new marriage and a career is just overwhelming," she said by phone.

What if we change that to: "The pressure on young MEN who are facing FATHERHOOD for the first time and dealing with a new marriage and a career is just overwhelming."

I really can't imagine that, can you? If there's a point in Hirshman's writing, perhaps it's that equality does not exist and has not been attained. And for those women who think it does exist, and who find staying at home to be an experssion of equality, they are not being realistic. When taking time off to raise children makes it difficult, if not impossible, to re-enter the workforce, the "women's movement" has not succeeded. When women are more likely than men to quit their jobs to stay at home because the man earns more, then there is no equality. When, as often mentioned on this blog, the choice of a woman to work is measured against the cost of daycare (as compared to only HER paycheck) then there is no equality. It's not just the paycheck amount that matters - it's the contribution and power that accompanies it. Find a woman who gets an "allowance" from her husband and this becomes crystal clear.

What I think Hirshman is pointing out is that the work our mother's generation did by going to work, like the work of the feminists to attain equal rights, is NOT OVER. We are not there. It's not acceptable to think that my daughter will earn less for the same work as one of her brothers. If we hope to get there, this generation of women has to go the next step, use their work and economic power to effectuate change, and make the world a lot more even-handed for our daughters AND our sons.

I, for one, think the best example I can set for my daughter is as a working mom. She is learning that her dad and I do share the housework, and her dad and I both find fulfillment in our careers, and her dad and I both contribute equally to the household income. She also sees her brothers expected to pitch in and do the same chores she does - and her brothers see their sister expected to know how to mow the lawn and do the same chores they do. I expect each of them to know how the house runs - and I will not assign them roles based on their gender. Not anymore than I'd let my husband get away with telling me something is "woman's work."

I agree with Hirshman's tenets in theory but in spite of having three children, rather than one, I think I've been able to be educated, work, experience career suceess and advancement, and not sacrifice my earning or economic power. I don't think "one" is a magical number. Frankly, after the life-alterning and incredible changes I went through with having the first child, the second and third did not have the same effect. If there's a "cost" to having more than one child, it's economic in the sense that child care is expensive as well as setting aside sufficient college funds. But, balancing one child is not that much easier than balancing three.

Posted by: SS | July 5, 2006 11:04 AM

To 10:45 a.m.

If you don't like Try Being Nice, how about How to Win Friends and Influence People. Hirschman doesn't seem to have a handle on it. And quite frankly, more men ought to try being nice too.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 11:09 AM

What if even if combining the two salaries, the family comes out ahead by one partner staying at home? Not to mention the fewer scheduling stresses. Both partners need to make a pretty good living for putting three kids in child care to pay off. This is however not considering the emotional benefits of work, which are not small.

Posted by: reply to SS | July 5, 2006 11:11 AM

I am struggling with tenant #2 myself. My husband and I are overwhelmed with one toddler, two full time jobs (out of necessity), and active volunteer work (strong feelings of social responsibility). We'd like another child, but I fear the strain of the first few years will be too much for me. Any advice on how to maneuver through such an important decision would be appreciated. Everyone says it gets easier as they get older...does it really? Is it selfish to only have one child even if you believe raising a child (or children) is THE most important thing you will ever do?

Posted by: Crossroads | July 5, 2006 11:13 AM

In response to the idea that the unpaid volunteer labor of SAHMs contributes to society, I have no doubt that it does. But, in our local school district in particular, the availability of those SAHMs to work at the school as volunteers means that the schools no longer pay someone to do the same job. Yes, it means more money (in theory) for educational items, books, classroom supplies etc... but it also means that someone who would have had a paid job now does not. It seems to me that the unpaid labor just means that those jobs which can be tossed off to volunteers are and it harms the worker who would have been paid to do the job as well as harms the volunteer whose effots and labor is not assigned any economic value. In our economy, every task, job, role and product has some value - it makes capitalism work. If you make a job a volunteer position, and if you provide free labor, all that's really been accomplished is the devaluing of the task, work, role or product. Maybe not a popular notion, but for our culture, economic value equals power and by providing "free" labor, the power associated with the work is eliminated.

Posted by: SS | July 5, 2006 11:13 AM

Hey June, your comment about the difference between men and women the other day made me laugh, which I like to do. My wife spent hours making a pie and pasta salad while I took a nap. When we got to the 4th of July party, she made me a plate and brought me beers while I hung out with the guys as we bashed politicians and bragged about our wives. Apparently, from the feedback, I have the best one...

And my wife is exactly the type of woman that LH would like to slap.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 5, 2006 11:16 AM

What amuses me about Ms. Hirschmann is that she has a law degree that she used only briefly before entering the traditionally female-dominated profession of teaching. This would seem to directly contradict her prescription for other women. She hasn't made it easier for other women to stay at high-powered law firms, apparently.

Posted by: Working Mom | July 5, 2006 11:17 AM

To reply to SS:

I think I may define "comes out ahead" as including more than the financial bottom line. I was at home for a few years because at the time, childcare was not cost-effective if I worked. But the cost to me was enormous - I was depressed and isolated, my income was gone, I was dependent on someone else (not the way I was raised) and my ambitions, needs, career were all placed on hold. It was not a good situation for me. I get so much more from working than my paycheck. And, I still think it's a better example for my children - not to mention they have a happier and less stressed mom.

Posted by: SS | July 5, 2006 11:17 AM

SS, do you really think that the schools wouldn't hire if they could? In the professional world the logic was always she who controls the most in the budget wins. You don't think that holds true for school systems as well? Some schools can't afford the basics, much less extra help in the classroom.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 11:18 AM

Hirshman's argument seems to be that the primary purpose in women's lives is attaining power/prestige. To that end, having every woman work is essential, even though they may be working retail and making less than daycare. Is this correct? Can others clarify this for me?

My husband has more earning power than I do, and he still chose to be the SAHD, since my job has more flexible hours and allows me to telecommute (live where we choose). Most families I know have made the choice of whether to stay at home, or who should stay at home by looking at:
1. costs of childcare;
2. income of both parents (I know many dads who became SAHDs because they made less)
3. opportunity costs of staying at home (advancement, ability to re-enter workforce)
4. temperament/ needs of the parents (and kids), values, energy levels, etc.

What bothers me is that Hirshman is saying every couple should go through this complex process and come up with the same solution. Family situations are not one-size-fits-all.

Posted by: Ms L | July 5, 2006 11:21 AM

I think Hirshman is conforming to the male-dominated world we (used to?) live in. I think she is trying to shape our culture to fit that pattern, as opposed to breaking the mold to be more accepting and supportive of women (and men) and families in general. I read her stuff and I think I'm reading about my parents' life and goals, definitely not people in my generation (I'm 34).

For example, I think she totally misses the boat on thinking that working 50-60+ hour weeks and being a slave to your job is something that ANYONE anymore really does or even should aspire to. I don't know a lot of men in their 20's and 30's (and into the 40's) who want to be married to their jobs or who are willing to sacrifice a deep and meaningful relationship with their children to catapult up the corporate ladder. A lot of the high powered dads I work with take paternity leaves of 1-2+ weeks when their new babies arrive and generally have significant parenting and/or household responsibilities. Even their cell phones start buzzing at 5pm asking when they're coming home for dinner. The expectation - on BOTH sides - is that they will be home for dinner or at least in time to tuck in the kiddies more days than not. "Working late" requires a BIG excuse and some advanced notice to the homefront, and is hardly delivered in a nonchalant "keep my dinner warm" sort of way of the previous generation.

In a nutshell, I think she's outdated and is completely out of touch with the younger generation's views about family and work/life balance, which, even though I would admit there is work to be done, are a lot closer together than they were in my parents' generation, where the dads worked like dogs and the mothers either tried to do the same while juggling a family or stayed home to tend the home fires. I see a heck of a lot more grey than black-and-white these days, with the younger generation.

Posted by: Bethesda | July 5, 2006 11:24 AM

1) Women need to work in order to influence social change, because stay-at-home moms have no power in the world (pps. 34 & 63)

That depends on what is meant by "social change." As others have pointed out, SAH parents have indeed been a powerful force in some areas, such as music labeling. I would add the efforts of groups like MADD, PFLAG, and the strong push for "Amber Alert" type systems to help recover missing children quickly--all of which have been substantially fueled by SAH parents, who have devoted enormous time, passion, and energy to these worthy social causes.

If Hirschman only means "economic and political equality," then she is probably right. But society is bigger than that.

2) If you want to be a mother, have only one child because continuing to work is easier with only one dependent (pps. 45, 62 & 63)

The statistics she cites support her point, to an extent (women are more likely to drop out of the workforce after a second child). But I think it is more complicated that a simple economic equation. What about the joys (and trials) of having siblings? A nation of "only children" might have unintended consequences.

3) Although large numbers of stay-at-home moms report they are happy with their choice, this doesn't mean their choice is the right one for society overall (pps. 16-25)

Hirschman seems to be frustrated by the fact that, after approximately 30-40 years of Title VII, large numbers of women in the workforce, equality still hasn't arrived. I would argue that it's a process, with a long timeline. It's better than it was, but there is still a long way to go.

It took law and society a long time to catch up with other major upheavals to the economic system. Industrialization and mass production--it took many, many decades before things that now seem perfectly rational (8 hour days/40hour weeks, workplace safety laws, basic product safety) became the norm. We continue to struggle with racial equality in education and the workplace, 50 years after Brown v. Bd. of Education. Why should we expect the huge influx of women into the workplace to have been assimilated any more quickly?

Posted by: Brian | July 5, 2006 11:24 AM

"What bothers me is that Hirshman is saying every couple should go through this complex process and come up with the same solution. Family situations are not one-size-fits-all."

Actually she is saying that if every family goes through this process and 95% of SAHP are women, then something is wrong. She isn't saying that everyone should come up with the same solution. In fact, she is calling into question why many do come up with the same solution.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 11:25 AM

Bethesda

Exactly how did dads work "like dogs"?

Posted by: June | July 5, 2006 11:30 AM

1) Women need to work in order to influence social change,
because stay-at-home moms have no power in the world.

Most working people, whether women or men, have little
or no power to influence social change in the real world.
My doing my job every day doesn't change the world. On
the other hand, a stay-at-home woman recently organized
our whole neighborhood to fight against and defeat a
proposed bus line that would have brought pollution
and congestion to our quiet suburb.

2) If you want to be a mother, have only one child
because continuing to work is easier with only one
dependent

This may be true, but since when are worthwhile goals
supposed to be "easier"? I know one mother of twelve
who is a labor and delivery nurse on the week-ends
and a teacher of water safety instructors during
the week. Once you have enough children so that
the older ones can help take care of their younger
brothers and sisters, you can delegate responsibility
at home and still pursue your career.

3) Although large numbers of stay-at-home moms
report they are happy with their choice,
this doesn't mean their choice is the
right one for society overall

Professor Hirshman bases her arguments, not on
a family-by-family balancing of equality with
such other values as freedom, love and choice,
but on the idea that justice demands nothing less
than equality of power, whether in a personal
relationship or in the relations of the genders
in society as a whole. This idea is the main point
of the book, "Justice, Gender and the Family," by
Professor Susan Moller Okin, who used to teach at
Brandeis, just as Professor Hirshman taught there.

If, as Professor Okin argues, entering a relationship
based on unequal power is bad for the one who does it
and bad for society as a whole, then how can Professor
Hirshman justify a law graduate who takes a job as
an associate in a big law firm, or as a clerk for a
Supreme Court justice, rather than starting her own
solo practice where there is no boss to exercise
power over her?

If marrying down and getting a stay-at-home husband
to take the burden of child care and housework off
her hands gives a woman an advantage in the cutthroat
competition of the workplace, then surely marrying
a stay-at-home wife gives a man a corresponding
advantage. With that advantage, he can earn enough
to support a wife who prefers to provide her own
child care. If stay-at-home fathers are OK, only
a slavish devotion to numerical equality of power
can explain Professor Hirshman's condemnation of
stay-at-home mothers.

Posted by: matt | July 5, 2006 11:35 AM

"I don't think that a man could get away with making the same comments about stay-at-home moms that Linda has."

No one can. We live in an atmosphere where no one may dare to suggest that there might possibly be any other calling for a woman than being a mommy.

Posted by: Lilybeth | July 5, 2006 11:40 AM

Bethesda,

I agree with you for the most but there are still loads of people in those all consuming jobs, regardless of their personal dreams for life balance. (big law firms, consulting, Investment banking, etc.). In the WashPost radio show, someone asked her about the younger generation where men wanted to take an active role in raising their kids and helping around the house. She agreed that that is what they said; she said she wanted to wait and see what choices were made once the kids actually arrived.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 11:41 AM

To add onto SS comments about volunteering -- As long as an organizations (public schools, the National Park service to name a few I've been a volunteer for)can *get by* with an unpaid labor force, they will continue to do so.

Unfortunately, we (hopefully) feel committed to our schools, parks, etc. and don't want to see them slide downward any further, even though they are supposed to be state and federally funded institutions. If all the volunteers for these organizations "quit" or went on strike, then perhaps the powers that be would see how necessary adequate funding is.

About Hirschman - I see her points, but don't necessarily agree with them all.

Tagging onto Ms. L's comments --

As my husband and I discuss having kids and whether to work or stay at home, it is a perfectly selfish decision for us. If I end up SAHM, it is because my job in the education field does not cover the cost of child care.

Academia often has great theories, but misses practical day to day living. Our decision-making process has absolutely nothing to do with progressing feminism or society as a whole. It is how can we best raise a kid and pay the bills?

Posted by: AZ | July 5, 2006 12:18 PM

Regardless of whether or not stay-at-home mothers are "happy," and regardless of whether or not their choices are the "right ones for society", BOTH sides need to consider this: stay-at-home mothers are depriving themselves of critical retirement savings OF THEIR OWN (and independent of their husbands' pensions/savings, if applicable). Demographics tell us that people are living longer than they were in previous generations, and women typically live longer than men. Add in the rising cost of healthcare, and this presents a serious challenge for women, in particular. By choosing not to work, women are not generating retirement savings of their own that they will surely need later in life (consider the gender makeup of most nursing homes or retirement communities). This is what we ought to be discussing -- it's more than just a matter of "happiness," it's a matter of survival over the long haul. One day that stay-at-home mother will grow old, and one day she will rely on retirement savings for her everyday health and well being. Assuming that women can live securely off their husbands' savings for the duration of their retirement is very risky, particularly in this day and age. Moreover, her children are likely the ones who will bear the burden when those savings are depleted. Perhaps we should not be so myopic in our discussion.

Posted by: Kim | July 5, 2006 12:18 PM

"In a nutshell, I think she's outdated and is completely out of touch with the younger generation's views about family and work/life balance"

Amen, Bethesda!

Anna Quindlin did a brilliant piece on our generation's desire for balance in Newsweek a while back.

Here's one of my other issues with Hirschman: She claims that moms who leave the workforce (by which she apparently means white-collar office jobs) hurt all women by making it harder for the women who do stay to get employers to accommodate them. So what about moms who don't have conventional office jobs? We are trying for our first child, and I want to stay at home but also continue to work on a freelance basis from my home office. So does that make me a traitor to all women too?

Oh, and one more thing. I remember Hirshman saying somewhere that full-time care of children is something that is beneath any normal, intelligent, fully functioning adult. To me, that sounds like an incredible insult to childcare workers. Or does work only have value if it is paid?

Posted by: Amy | July 5, 2006 12:27 PM

I suppose the problem with asking if "moms that stay at home can make social change" is it implies that everyone in the work force (male or female) is somehow engaged in meaningful, important work that influences the world for the better. By definition, anyone who leaves the house at 7 in the morning wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase is 'making social change'? Their choice is somehow innately morally superior to mine, to stay home with my special needs child, because they're "making social change"? How about the woman who diagnosed my cat's ringworm at the vets last week? Was her tending to my cat (for money) somehow innately morally superior to my tending to my child (for free)?

Posted by: Not Yo Mama | July 5, 2006 12:32 PM

Aren't LH's arguments directed specifically at upper-class, well-educated women who might be CEOs, Senators, or other kinds of decision-makers some day? I think we are missing the point when we make it sound as if she's telling average, work-a-day non-decision-makers that they are damaging society by opting out.

Posted by: curious new mom | July 5, 2006 12:32 PM

Regarding point #1, I agree that women must work to influence social change. I am a woman who works full time and volunteers in the community. Volunteers do tasks like stuff envelopes and bake cookies. The board of directors makes the decisions. Board members are business leaders who have been recruited from the business community. Ironically, almost all of the volunteers are women, whereas almost all of the board members are men. It seems to me that the community at large is happy to let SAHMs do volunteer work involving child-care and cookie-baking, but true influence is awarded to the business leaders.

Posted by: MS | July 5, 2006 12:33 PM

"Once you have enough children so that
the older ones can help take care of their younger
brothers and sisters, you can delegate responsibility
at home and still pursue your career."

Right on! I am one of those older siblings who were stuck watching my younger brothers & sisters while my mother pursued what-not. I hated her guts for years!!!
Parents, please don't have children to do YOUR housework and raise YOUR children!

Posted by: Marlo | July 5, 2006 12:35 PM

Kim, I agree about retirement. That's one point that Hirschmann and everyone else seems to miss.

Volunteering and raising children are valuable (coming from a non-mother who does volunteer) but they DO NOT generate an income and we live in a capitalist society. Women who don't work at a paying job are putting themselves and their children at risk in the event of divorce or their spouse dying or losing his job.

I had a wonderful SAHM who got dumped after 20 years. She got miniscule child support and alimony (standard practice in the late 1970s). It was a huge struggle for all of us to survive, get through college. She has finally retired but has a much much lower standard of living than my father. Whatever value I got from having a mother at home when I was younger was not worth the struggles she had to go through later on. I ended up providing money to help with baby brother while I was going through college dead broke myself to help her as she was right at poverty level then.

She wanted to work as a teacher while we were younger but there was absolutely no support from society at that time. Things have improved a lot:-) but it does bother me to see so many women who are not considering their own financial well-being and at least working part-time to keep up job skills. It's important not only for them but for the security of their children.

Posted by: kep | July 5, 2006 12:40 PM

We each obviously approach these questions through the prism of our personal experiences. My own include having a mother who was left financially high and dry after my father departed when she was 57 years old. That event taught me that I will never, under any circumstances, find myself at anyone's financial mercy. My mother returned to a profession (teaching) that is unique, I think, in its lack of barriers to reentry. I can't imagine anyone being able to return to investment banking or medicine or business after a hiatus of 18 years. I have practiced law for 20 years, and do so now less than full-time because I have 3 daughters. From where I stand, I view it as my responsibility to show them that I, as well as they, need to be able to be financially independent, since life often doesn't work out the way we plan. Odds are that my daugthers will work throughout their lives, and I want to show them how possible (although never easy) it is to combine family and work. I also want them to know that meaningful work enhances life. And finally, I was the lucky recipient of a world-class education that prepared me for my professional life. I know that generations of women worked and sacrificed and trail-blazed to give me these opportunities. I have many responsibilities as a mother, and I also have some as the beneficiary of these gifts, in order to assure that they remain in place for my daughters and their daughters.

Posted by: lifermom | July 5, 2006 12:50 PM

I'm glad to see the topic return to Linda's thesis again because I think it is worthy of discussion. I've thought about it a great deal since reading about it here.

I'm a SAHM who works part-time from home running my own business, and I've thought long and hard about whether Linda is right that my decision hurts other women.

I don't think it does. For one thing, I know that my decision is the best for my daughter, who is one (and a delight, I might add). For another, I find it personally fulfilling to be at home with her and getting to use my talents in service of work I see as meaningful. So, it works for us even though I miss working outside the home (I see this as a tradeoff I'm willing to accept in the interest of my family).

In regards to the third point, I've wondered since reading about Linda's book if the decision of families to have both partners work hurts families like mine who choose to do it (mostly) on one income? I think it's fair to ask the question both ways. Certainly in the DC area housing is almost non-affordable for a one-income couple. Would that be the case if more families opted for a SAH?

Finally, I strongly believe that we must consider what is best for the children as well as what is best for the parents. I'm not a fan of one size fits all: many options work. But, please Linda, don't just talk about what's best for women without thinking about what's best for our children.

Posted by: VAMom | July 5, 2006 12:51 PM

1) Women need to work in order to influence social change, because stay-at-home moms have no power in the world (pps. 34 & 63)

Women need to work in order for companies to change to address work-life balance (which will benefit us all). Men aren't demanding it. As long as women "drop out" when work gets too demanding (or men's wives drop out so they can keep meeting crazy employer demands), companies have no incentive to change; they can just replace those workers.

2) If you want to be a mother, have only one child because continuing to work is easier with only one dependent (pps. 45, 62 & 63)

She's right that it is easier to juggle work if you have one kid. I still think most people that can prefer to have at least 2 kids.

3) Although large numbers of stay-at-home moms report they are happy with their choice, this doesn't mean their choice is the right one for society overall (pps. 16-25)

That's also a fair statement. What's right for you might not be best for society, economically speaking. And, as others have pointed out, a lot of people say they want to stay at home because it's best for their family. To the extent that failing to promote change now will lead to problems for our spouses now and children down the road...I think Linda is right to call attention to it.

Posted by: Arlmom | July 5, 2006 12:55 PM

11:25 AM:
Yes, she is saying everyone should come up with the same solution-- women should "Get to Work." It's the title of her book.

This is a fascinating article about how the "Opt-out Revolution" is overinflated. In 1984, women with kids were 20.4 percentage points less likely to be in the work force than women without kids. In 2004 it was 9.2 percentage points. That's a huge change.
http://www.cepr.net/publications/opt_out_2005_11.pdf

Posted by: Ms L | July 5, 2006 12:57 PM

"Staying home," as they call it, is such a wonderful choice. I give up - I'm convinced. It sounds great. So let's all do it. Women, men, old and young, rich and poor. We'll just all stay home. How about that?

Posted by: Lilybeth | July 5, 2006 12:59 PM

Here are my comments:

Tenent 1 -- Mothers in general, not just SAHMs or WOHMs, have tremendous power to affect social change. They are helping to raise the next generation. Unless a person works directly for a cause as their vocation and avocation, I can't think of another way to have a greater impact.

Tenent 2 -- It is just silly to say that stopping at one child will make your work life easier. How many studies have we seen that indicate the "sandwich" generation will be taking care of both children and their parents? What are we supposed to do, kill off our elders so that caring for them doesn't impact our professional careers?

Tenent 3 -- There is a lot to be said for the contribution made by people who are happy with themselves and their choices, even if those choices aren't ones you'd agree with.

Posted by: MJE Mom | July 5, 2006 1:56 PM

FYI, all you brilliant volunteers/part-time English tutors, it's "tenet."

Posted by: FYI | July 5, 2006 2:08 PM

Here's another thing that bugs me about Hirshman.

I think she and her ilk completely undervalue the role of biology. Women care for babies. Women nuture. It is not easy to turn that primal urge off. Thousands (tens and even hundreds of thousands) of years of human evolution have created a woman with a brain and a body uniquely suited for and capable of having and raising children.

While I'm thrilled to read Ms. Hirshman thinks I should focus 24/7 on my career, I wonder... who SHOULD take care of my children while I toil on behalf of her outdated feminist values? You know who? Another woman, that's who, whether a daycare provider or a nanny or my mother-in-law. I think it is frankly CLASSIST that I, with my privilege*, am somehow needed in the workforce but be damned the poor serf who cares for my offspring.

*Privilege, as in, the privilege of having money and an education, which I obtained not just by virtue of the fact that I am an intelligent and hard-working woman, but by the fact that I came from a culture that supported my efforts, was educated in a way that suited my culture, admitted to institutions of higher learning, and able to come up with the $$$ to pay for it. If all the (btw, WHITE) upper class mommies Hirshman is so drawn to go back to their so-called power careers, who do you think is going to take care of their children?

I think her proposed solutions have inherent racist and classist flaws.

Posted by: Bethesda | July 5, 2006 2:12 PM

You know, the "sandwich generation" wouldn't be such a problem if the aging grannies (and, let's face it, there are more aging grannies than grandads!) had adequate incomes to be able to pay for the care that they need. The financial indpendence aspect of this discussion really is SO important.

I understand that folks who stay at home to raise kids are influenceing society, in the sense that they are (hopefully) turning out good kids, and maybe they're also doing great volunteer work on the side. But is that the same thing as having a female CEO who decides to offer more reasonable maternity and paternity leave? Or a senator who sponsors legislation on family-related issues? I think this is the issue LH is getting at, rather than whether kindergarten teachers can afford to take a couple years off.

And, finally, LH is arguing about what is better for all of us; most of our posts concern people's views on what is best for their individual families. It's a calssic individual good vs. collective good situation. In the grand ole USA, the collective good never wins over the individual good, does it?!

Posted by: curious new mom | July 5, 2006 2:15 PM

Marlo,
[Parents, please don't have children to do YOUR housework and raise YOUR children!]

I have 2 boys 3 and 9 years old. I don't think I'll have to make my wife mow the lawn for the next 15 years.

My oldest daughter walked the littler ones to Blockbuster so my wife and I could have "special" time together. (I'm working from home today) Both our daughters are pressing us to make another baby.

As for having only 1 kid to make this a better place for women, I think the best gift for loving parents to give their kid is another sibling to love.

Linda, simply put, has a serious case of tunnel vision when it comes to having men participate more with the childcare development so mommies can go off to feed the corporate monster. I seriously doubt she would ever drop her kid off at a daycare center where the men changed the diapers.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 5, 2006 2:17 PM

1) Women need to work in order to influence social change, because stay-at-home moms have no power in the world (pps. 34 & 63)

I don't agree that people NEED to work to influence social change but given our current society, it does seem the more likely way.

2) If you want to be a mother, have only one child because continuing to work is easier with only one dependent (pps. 45, 62 & 63)

Continuing to work may be easier with only one child (for economic reasons as well as others) but if working mothers are also supposed to stay in the workforce to enact changes to help the cause of work/life balance, having only one child may not give her an understanding of the needs of families with more than one. I'd think you'd need working mothers with various situations (i.e. more than one child, in two-parent homes, in single-parent homes, etc) to have a broader understanding of what kind of policies within workplaces would be necessary. I also think working fathers should be striving to make workplaces more family friendly.

3) Although large numbers of stay-at-home moms report they are happy with their choice, this doesn't mean their choice is the right one for society overall (pps. 16-25)

I don't think that it's wrong for society overall that a PARENT stays home with their child(ren), and especially not if it's just for a few years as opposed to 20+. The problem is the imbalance between the number of mothers vs fathers who do it. If there were more of a balance of who took care of the homefront, then employers might be less likely to make assumptions about an employee's potential based on their gender. And the need to attract employees of either gender with family friendly policies might be seen as worthy.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | July 5, 2006 2:22 PM

>>While I'm thrilled to read Ms. Hirshman thinks I should focus 24/7 on my career, I wonder... who SHOULD take care of my children while I toil on behalf of her outdated feminist values? You know who? Another woman, that's who, whether a daycare provider or a nanny or my mother-in-law. I think it is frankly CLASSIST that I, with my privilege*, am somehow needed in the workforce but be damned the poor serf who cares for my offspring.>>

Huh? My son's sitter is an illiterate Vietnamese peasant. Not being classist, it's what she is--between the war and poverty and being a girl she went to school for only 3 years, then immigrated here when she was 20. She has kids of her own. Taking care of my kid (and another family's) allows her to make some money doing something she can do given her limited education and English skills. (And she's good at it.) It allows me and the other parents to go put our Ivy League educations to work. How is that classist? It is what it is. I think it is stupid to think that anyone is better off keeping me at home changing diapers. She can do it, and is good at it, and makes money for her family. I do things I am good at and make money for my family. My son is happy to be with her during the day, and happy to be with us the other 2/3 of the time. I don't think anyone is being shortchanged here--her, me, or him.

Posted by: pareto optimal, anyone? | July 5, 2006 2:44 PM

1. At-home mothers CAN still influence social change - through their votes (remember all the courting of the Soccer Moms a few years back?) and through their wallets. However, it is true that at-home moms likely won't make it to Hirshman's "ruling class". But there is no reason at all for men NOT to work for social policies that benefit their wives and mothers, not to mention themselves as fathers. I think if Hirshman is thinking we can only get the agenda she wants through electing 51 woman Senators, she is going to miss a lot of other chances.

2. The one-child suggestion? Doesn't she have three daughters? That sort of social engineering is distasteful.

3. I'm an at-home mom, and I do see Hirshman's point here, as I've written elsewhere. But I don't see me or anyone I know sacrificing what's best for our children for the good of "society". I'll be happy to get back into the workforce when my kids are both in school.

http://momsquawk.wordpress.com/

2.

Posted by: MommaSteph | July 5, 2006 2:45 PM

The simple fact of the matter is that it's a choice that families make. It doesn't matter if the person at home from 6-11 has a penis or a vagina. No matter the genetalia (that's all that's really at discussion here), it's a valiant and noble effort to care for your children before they can go to school. It takes more strength to put a career on hold and work 18 hour days then it does to treat a child like a basket of laundry to be dropped off, processed, and picked up later in the day. Not to mention, the "children as laundry" situation results in the parent having a "not my fault" attitude about their own child's rearing when something happens later.

Posted by: Analyst | July 5, 2006 2:46 PM

I know a number of successful "career women" who made the decision (along with their husband, of course, so I should say "career couples") to have only one child. Each of these couples gave basically the same reason:
With one child they felt they could give the most to their child as well as their careers, and in turn that would benefit their child the most. There were other interesting factors. Most of the women were over age 35 when they had the one child, and because of being "older" mothers, they worried more about birth defects and that sort of thing. When they had one healthy child, they decided not to take a further risk. And in this age of over-population, most also felt that one child was "enough". Most of them had to deal with a lot of people saying it was "wrong" of them to have only one child and make it an "only" child, but I think that's a ridiculous argument and they did, too.

What I'm saying is that I've seen many educated, successful couples in the DC area make this decision and it seems to work well for them. They have a family and they have careers.

Posted by: Limit to one child | July 5, 2006 2:47 PM

Housework was woman's work, but one evening, Shirley arrived

home from work to find the children bathed, one load of clothes in the washer and another in the dryer. Dinner was on the stove, and the table set. She was astonished!

It turns out that Ralph had read an article that said wives who
worked full-time and had to do their own housework were too tired to have sex.

The night went well and the next day, she told her office friends
all about it. "We had a great dinner. Ralph even cleaned up. He
helped the kids do their homework, folded all the laundry and put everything away. I really enjoyed the evening." "But what about afterward?" asked her friends.

"Oh, that was perfect too. Ralph was too tired..."

God is good...

Posted by: lifeisgood | July 5, 2006 2:49 PM

"she should take a memo from this blog -- angry rants aren't taken as seriously as rational ones."

I have to say that sometimes the angry rants are your fault becasue you let people gang up on other people and call them names.

We saw how quick the webmaster removed leslie is a ----- from the blog, but if other people are called names, the names stay up on this blog for time and all eternity.

Posted by: hate to say this but...... | July 5, 2006 2:50 PM

Taking the three points one at a time...

1) Women need to work in order to influence social change, because stay-at-home moms have no power in the world (pps. 34 & 63)

Ms. Hirshman's thinking is very one dimensional; the only place there is "power" is working outside the home. That's absurd. Social change isn't just for the working women. I have six children that I home educate. If I raise my children as God fearing,loving citizens I have changed the world. That to me is real power. Not in the sense Linda Hirshman craves but the heritage is more long lasting.

I have had many opportunities to speak to many women on a variety of issues. I even managed to get the University of Michigan board of Regents to change their policiy on one aspect of homosexual marriage at the university. Not bad for a simpleton with no power.

And now I have a blog with the ability to reach parents around the world and I do. They are reading my "mommy blog" and a lot of others. They are listening and asking questions about how to make it work on one income. Women encouraging women to consider something higher than themselves and their career. Women who don't mind setting aside personal ambition to make their husband dinner and read a book to their children. What power! And I don't need to seek a publisher either.

2) If you want to be a mother, have only one child because continuing to work is easier with only one dependent (pps. 45, 62 & 63)

Do as I say, not as I do. Linda Hirshman has three daughters. Should she disown a few to make life a little more convenient. This argument is equally absurd. Decisions relating to family life shouldn't be based on what makes work easier. Her work centered approach to family decision making creates a very shallow home life.

3) Although large numbers of stay-at-home moms report they are happy with their choice, this doesn't mean their choice is the right one for society overall (pps. 16-25)

And the reverse is also true. And that's what Linda Hirshman fails to grasp. Her happiness with her choice of career over family isn't a mandate to do likewise or be "dropouts". It is Linda who seeks a one size fits all mandate for women.

Posted by: Spunky | July 5, 2006 2:52 PM

"Oh, that was perfect too. Ralph was too tired..."

That is so pathetic. Why do women consider jokes that basically hide excuses not to have sex with their husband funny? Is this why so many couples divorce? All this joke does is reinforce the stereotype that wives never want to have sex.

P.S. I'm a woman.

Posted by: Blah | July 5, 2006 2:52 PM

1) Women need to work in order to influence social change, because stay-at-home moms have no power in the world (pps. 34 & 63)

I think Hirshman's point was that women have to become part of the elite - CEOs, etc. To which I reply, unions did not get power by moving their people into the boardroom.

There are many ways to effect social change. Working is only one of them - and usually not that.

2) If you want to be a mother, have only one child because continuing to work is easier with only one dependent (pps. 45, 62 & 63)

Economically while they're small that may be true. But as they get older I think having a sibling may make it easier as they amuse each other and also it gives more hands sharing in the household labour (chores, etc.) Potentially, of course :) but consider how family farms used to work.

This points to one of the issues I have with her work, which is that she seems to freeze the choice at a particular stage - that a woman who stays home with young children will always be at home, for example - and not take the long view.

3) Although large numbers of stay-at-home moms report they are happy with their choice, this doesn't mean their choice is the right one for society overall (pps. 16-25)

That's true. But it's equally hard to "prove" that all women becoming career-driven would improve "society" overall. It might economically benefit those women. But would that truly improve society? Hard to say. It might just trade in a new set of problems (high unemployment, for example, as there would be more workers competing for existing jobs).

Posted by: Shandra | July 5, 2006 2:53 PM

And to continue, what's best for your kids? A lot of this discussion also centers around the selfish desires of the parents. What about my career? What am I going to do? How can I operate if I can't have a career? How about doing whatever you decide is best for your child(ren) and telling everyone else to pound sand. How about not being narrow minded enough to presume that the decision you make is the only right one? She's one in the same with the religious fundamentalists - just a different soapbox.

Posted by: Analyst | July 5, 2006 2:55 PM

"Decisions relating to family life shouldn't be based on what makes work easier."

But they should be based on the economic security of the family and the individuals in the family, which I think is Linda's first argument. She wants women to "Get to Work!" not only to influence society but also to support themselves and not wind up divorced at age 50 with no earning potential and no workplace experience or very outdated experience.

I'm not defending everything she says but she does have a point that couples don't think clearly enough about how many children they can realistically afford and how having several children will impact their earning potential and financial security.

Posted by: Mag | July 5, 2006 2:56 PM

With regards to #1, Every family is different, and I don't see anything wrong with one parent staying at home (Although I think the idea that that parent should be the mother for reasons of biology is ludicrous), when mothers choose to leave the workforce, it does have a subtle negative impact on society, because it reinforces the idea that women will just leave eventually when they have kids and so there is less reason to hire/promote/pay more to women. It shouldn't have this effect, but unfortunately, I've heard men express this very sentiment, and while legally they can't base decisions on this, I am absolutely sure it has an effect on wages and hiring practices, even if the person doing the discriminating is unaware of it on a concious level.

Posted by: mm | July 5, 2006 2:57 PM

"A lot of this discussion also centers around the selfish desires of the parents. What about my career? What am I going to do?"

Yes, once you have a child your life is over and everything you do must revolve around your child. You are no longer an individual human being.

I'm sorry, that sort of attitude is NOT good for children. Child-rearing is approximately 18 years of a person's life. What are we supposed to do with the other 60 years? Oh, yes, be grandparents.

Posted by: LC | July 5, 2006 2:59 PM

"Oh, that was perfect too. Ralph was too tired..."

That is so pathetic. Why do women consider jokes that basically hide excuses not to have sex with their husband funny? Is this why so many couples divorce? All this joke does is reinforce the stereotype that wives never want to have sex.

P.S. I'm a woman.

Posted by: Blah | July 5, 2006 02:52 PM

Pathetic perhaps. But quite a few men DO fail to connect with the detail that when women have to "do it all" because men aren't doing their share, women get tired. Forget excuses. You have to sleep sometime.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 3:01 PM

"What if even if combining the two salaries, the family comes out ahead by one partner staying at home?"

Do you also think you'll come out ahead by not having medical insurance, car insurance, fire insurance, etc.?

"Once you have enough children so that
the older ones can help take care of their younger
brothers and sisters, you can delegate responsibility
at home and still pursue your career."

Isn't that the same as putting your little kids in daycare, apart from paying the people doing the work nothing for it?

"Volunteering and raising children are valuable (coming from a non-mother who does volunteer) but they DO NOT generate an income."

Exactly. You can't sell children and buy food with the money, you can't trade children for food, and you can't eat children.

"3) Although large numbers of stay-at-home moms report they are happy with their choice, this doesn't mean their choice is the right one for society overall (pps. 16-25)

"That's also a fair statement. What's right for you might not be best for society, economically speaking."

This is especially true when both mother and father are stay-at-home parents who report they are happy with their choice...

"It is just silly to say that stopping at one child will make your work life easier. How many studies have we seen that indicate the "sandwich" generation will be taking care of both children and their parents? What are we supposed to do, kill off our elders so that caring for them doesn't impact our professional careers?"

It's not silly to say that stopping at one child will make your work life easier than stopping at two or three or eight children. If you think not having a second son or daughter is equivalent to killing off one's mother or father, do you also accuse your preteen daughters of murder when they stay virgins instead of getting pregnant?

"I think she and her ilk completely undervalue the role of biology. Women care for babies. Women nuture. It is not easy to turn that primal urge off."

Actually, you completely undervalue the role of biology. Women need food and shelter. Women die when we can't get those resources. There's more to instincts than reproduction, and men don't have a monopoly on survival instincts. It's even harder to turn *that* primal urge off, which is a big part of why so many people do want to earn a living.

Posted by: Maria | July 5, 2006 3:08 PM

Oh, I'm rising to the bait, even though I'm still in the post-Fourth haze. . .
Lots of great comments here, folks. Ms L, you summarize the situation perfectly. Also, I like the subsequent comment about the benefits of siblings; it's something that's worth more than any amount of money. Having many myself who are now my best friends, I'm so thankful that I wasn't an only child.
A few things I'd like to add:
-- LH's whole schtick is suffused with elitism. I think she IS aiming her message at the upper crust, and she herself has said that's appropriate because the women she concentrates on are -- as she puts it -- the most likely to be the corporate and political leaders of society. But I would say, 1.) Who says we need a ruling class? And even if we do, 2.) Who elected that bunch (you know, the type whose weddings are covered by the NYT) as our ruling class? If we have to have an elite, shouldn't that elite be chosen by intelligence or ability, and not by wealth and social station?
-- The argument that stay-at-home mothers do not effect social change is simply wrong. We all know zillions of examples to refute LH's argument, I'm sure. Here are some of mine: I know many stay-at-home mothers and former stay-at-home mothers who are extremely active in state and local politics. Some are elected officials. Right now, one of the leading gubernatorial candidates in my state is a mother of four who did a stay-at-home stint herself. Some of the most powerful and articulate state legislators I know have been or are currently stay-at-home moms. (It might be interesting to tally up the elected officials we know, at the local, state and national levels, who were stay-at-home moms at any time in their lives.)
On the purely economic front -- and purely non-judgmental front -- there are various pros and cons to stay-at-home motherhood that people consider when making their decisions. Of course, there's the general risk of having a single wage-earner and all that entails, and there's the opportunity costs and retirement insecurity. On the other hand, there are direct financial costs to having both parents work, too. And the tax code is pretty unkind to families where one parent earns substantially less than the other, making it questionable in some cases whether it's worthwhile to work for pay.
Not that I have any specific recommendations or solutions. . .

Posted by: latecomer | July 5, 2006 3:08 PM

As a frequent observer and occasional poster I am surprised by how animosity free this blog seems to be. Once you get past the bad spelling, people make cogent points.

Marlo-
I 100% agree. Many parents seem to "have it all" because they make the children pick up their slack. That's not parenting, that's punting.

I also think (and it makes me sad) that women are expected to be nicer than men and to not be angry or get heated on a topic.I don't think that anyone would (not that they shouldn't but WOULDN'T) ask or tell a man to "play nice."

And Hirshman's tenets seemed design to get people thinking. She is a philosopher after all and thinking is good.If everyone was happy with their choices and living harmonious lives, no one would be posting on this blog.

Posted by: Oh please | July 5, 2006 3:11 PM

There's nothing wrong with being an only child. Plenty of people as adults have no relationship with their siblings due to childhood situation. I know people who for various reasons would have preferred to be only children. My ex had a brother who tormented and bullied him, and the parents did nothing to stop it. Another friend had a severely autistic brother who needed constant care and thus she got ignored most of the time she was growing up. Yes, these are examples of bad parenting, but I'm tired of everyone saying that every child needs a sibling.

Posted by: Only children | July 5, 2006 3:14 PM

If you'd like my opinion on the matter, and from the looks of things here, that would be a probably not...

Social change is happening regardless. The change that is occuring is that feminism is dying out and that threatens a lot of women of the "self-empowering generation". Women who claim that there are not pay scales equal to their counterparts are threatened by women who choose to sacrifice earnings to raise their own children. Why?
How could a single female go-getter take away a higher paying position from the man who is supporting his wife and children? We will later scorn this man for leaving his wife and children for the power hungry female who wants sex and no responsibilities. Dammit, his wife and children deserve alimony and child support for this deadbeat dad!!! Maybe, this is why so many feminists are lawyers....


Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 3:14 PM

Several highly educated friends of mine, all in their mid thirties, ran headlong into child rearing as a means to escape careers they worked hard to build because they found them frustrating and stressful. I've also dropped off the traditional career-track to pursue freelance and independent work even though I don't yet have kids. Primarily because I found working in an office 9-5 to be a stuffy, dry, experience even though I work in a creative field.

Hirshman urges women to tough-it-out in challenging work environments. I disagree with her tactic even though I agree with her goal of making the work world a more woman-firendly place.

The modern work world and its attendant cultural expectations were created largely by and for men. Women are newcomers who've played by the rules in order to get ahaed. But the rules aren't ours. We didn't create them and those of us who crave flex-time and more time with friends and family are finding that they just don't fit.

The thing I found particularly frustrating about working in an office was the 40-80 work week. Even though it was possible for me to get my work done in about 20 - 30 hours I often spent much more time than that in the office out of a sense of obligation to put in face-time. During this period I was so tired and stressed that all I could do at the end of the day was collapse. Friendships with other women and my relationship with my husband suffered. All I had time for was work and I didn't feel like a whole person. However, my life has blossomed since I started freelancing and regained control over my time.

Here's what I'd love to see... More women attaining power in work-environments that mesh with the other parts of their lives (family, friends, hobbies, what have you). More women-owned businesses where flex-time is valued over face-time. More women writing books and making films as freelancers. Access to health-care that isn't linked to employment so women have more freedom to step in and out of the work-force as needed.

Women need to stop competing with men in a man's world. The woman of my mother's generation (the "Free to Be You and Me" baby boomers) proved brilliantly that women are capable workers. It's time for our generation to take things to the next level by creating family, woman and community friendly work environments. These changes can benefit men too, for the same reasons they benefit women.

Posted by: Friend | July 5, 2006 3:14 PM

"My son's sitter is an illiterate Vietnamese peasant."


OMG thank you for totally and completely proving my point.

********

I wonder if Ms. Hirshman values women who bag groceries, sweep floors, drive busses, and work in factories, or if it's just the rich Ivy Leaguers who should work while the "illiterate Vietnamese peasants" care for the children they leave behind in droves? She's so undone by the concept of a woman doing "unskilled" work, yet apparently believes that prostheletyzing about dead white men (e.g., Plato, per Hirshman's day job) is a critical skill in society today. LOL Whatever.

And last time I checked my history books, most social change comes about by the revolution of the oppressed, not by those most benefitting from the status quo.

Posted by: Bethesda | July 5, 2006 3:15 PM

My husband left his SAH wife for me, a powerful, successful working female who was willing to take on the responsibility of co-raising his three children, something his SAH wife had no interest in doing. And yeah, the sex is great, too!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 3:18 PM

TO crossroads,

My husband and I went back and forth after our first as to whether to have a second child. We decided yes we wanted to. I won't lie to you. It hasn't been easy. Our first is 4 1/2 years older than our second which made things a little easier. Its like going from one child to ten of them because you now have 2 to think about and get ready for school, daycare, etc -- its getting easier as the younger one gets older (he is now 3) but we are extremely glad we had baby #2 because he is a great little boy as is his older brother.
My advice to you though is you may have to give up activities such as outside volunteering -- I will confess, I am not a superwoman -- I cannot work full time, care for 2 children and a household (with my husband), and do lots of volunteering -- some people can do this but I cannot. But if you do like volunteering, find something that your kids can be involved in -- good family activity. But my life is fulfilling with two children -- We decided to stop at 2 because I think I would lose my sanity if I had 3 and worked full time (everyone has their individual limits in what they can handle. I do have friends that do this but their stress levels are higher than mine but they have more "help" than we do (professional housecleaner is the big thing we do not have). The interesting thing I discovered recently is that my youngest went to bed very early one night and the three of us had dinner -- there was clearly a void that he was not with us that evening. So be prepared for big changes but big rewards.....

Posted by: typical working mother | July 5, 2006 3:21 PM

Friend, I made a comment on this blog several days ago that I think, from my own observation, that many women decide it's financially better for them to stay home with their child because in truth they are sick of the workplace and want to opt out. As you mention, a lot of them are in their mid to upper 30s and they have worked since age 21 or younger. They are just worn out with the office politics and the "games" they are expected to play, the lack of advancement, the small raises, etc. It's a whole lot easier to say, "Hey, when we figured it all out, I was going to be 'paying to work' and missing all of Junior's 'firsts', so we decided it was best for me to quit my job and stay home for a year or two."

It happens all the time, and yes, it does then put these women off the career track and behind in earning potential. The only way to avoid this is to do as Friend suggests, and build better, more family-friendly workplaces.

Posted by: I agree | July 5, 2006 3:24 PM

This is a great discussion, I've really enjoyed reading all the thoughtful perspectives.

I totally agree with those who have questioned how LH's reasoning applies to parents who have chosen an option other than being a full-time wage earner and being a full-time SAHM, either by starting their own businesses, free lancing, working at home, etc. By creating these opportunities for themselves, these women and men make social change by expanding the number of acceptable options and by taking a stand that they don't want to spend their lives toiling for someone else. To me, that's just as valuable as a woman becoming part of the "powerful elite" in terms of creating opportunity for other women.

Like Shandra said, there are many ways to create change. We have the make the road by walking, and it doesn't have to lead to the corporate boardroom.

Posted by: Megan | July 5, 2006 3:24 PM

Re the reference to Anna Fels' comments -- "The pressure on young women who are facing motherhood for the first time and dealing with a new marriage and a career is just overwhelming" -- I think perhaps part of the problem is right here. If couples married and then waited a a few years to have their kids, then neither parent is struggling with a "new marriage." Furthermore, the two parents are, by then, two experienced adults who have also become an experienced couple; roles may be more easily negotiable between two people who know each other really well. And another benefit: each has made some progress career-wise and, presumably, gained the confidence to do some juggling.

Managing the day-to-day tasks of family life ought to be easier for two people who have had some practice negotiating life's hurdles together.

Posted by: KJ | July 5, 2006 3:24 PM

what is co-raising?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 3:25 PM

To the poster at 3:18pm

What is your point? I know someone who left his SAH wife for a powerful working woman and then left her for someone else, leaving a trail of broke hearts. There is always a pattern.....

Posted by: Typical working mother | July 5, 2006 3:29 PM

How would this work on the timeline, however? I know it's possible to have children up into your 40s, but most women still want to have at least one child before they are 30-32. We now discourage young people from getting married before they are at least 25-28, so if you marry at 28 and decide to put off having kids for 3-5 years, then you have your first at 31 or later. That's not "old" these days, but fertility does start to slow down, so there are more chances for inferility problems. Also, your 30s are the prime time for building a career, so having a new baby(ies) and trying to build a career in your early and mid-30s is difficult.

Posted by: KJ | July 5, 2006 3:30 PM

People have made a lot of good points on the "social change" issue, but I think it comes down to this: there are a lot of different ways to effect social change. From what I've absorbed, Hirschman only values two - being in a policy-making position and standing up for your requirements no matter what the position. All the other forms, such as volunteerism and the formation of one's own children, are secondary. Admittedly they're more indirect and less measurable, but they can be very powerful in their own way. Anyone who has a passion about a subject will find a way to do something about it, whether directly or indirectly. Some things need the direct approach, but there are other things that just don't respond to it. Ever tried getting an adult to stop being a racist? You get far better results teaching the next generation. While it might not change the world before your next paycheck, in the long run you've still made the world a better place.

Posted by: SEP | July 5, 2006 3:30 PM

Is it just me, or are women who focus only on raising kids passing the buck to their kids? If my big accomplishment is to raise children, then it is the kids' accomplishments that will validate my life choices. That seems unfair to the kids, doesn't it?

Posted by: passing the buck? | July 5, 2006 3:31 PM

"Co-raising" is raising children together. I didn't write that I'd take on the responsibility of raising his kids because it would sound like only I was doing the work.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 3:31 PM

Typical working mom, I just wanted to comment because a poster above made a big deal about men leaving SAHMs for powerful working females and thus became deadbeat dads. Sometimes the SAHM is the deadbeat and the powerful career woman steps in to parent the children and make a home for them.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 3:32 PM

Then that person shouldn't have made generalizations -- I missed the other post.

Posted by: Typical working mother | July 5, 2006 3:35 PM

I don't think Analyst was assuming that if a parent (of either sex) stays home that it means staying home for 18 years. I believe (and a lot of other people who have posted on other threads do too) that there is a HUGE difference between putting a 6 week old baby in daycare and a 3 year old in daycare. Choosing to stay home doesn't mean it has to be forever, and by assuming that, LC you missed Analyst's larger point.

I think what Analyst was trying to say is indeed something that has not been discussed much in this whole thread because we're all talking about ourselves - what is best for your children. Note I didn't say 'all' children, because yes, I believe in choice feminism and that what is good for one family and their children may not be for another. But I think all that Analyst was trying to point out is that if you start with 'what is best for the kids?' as your only objective, and if one and hopefully both parents are willing to sacrifice to ensure that you get there, then to hell with what Linda Hirshman OR Jerry Falwell thinks about your family's choice. Their opinions and anyone else's don't matter if your kids are happy.

Posted by: LC, you're missing the point | July 5, 2006 3:37 PM

Sorry, I responded to KJ's comments above about couples waiting a few years after marriage to have children and I accidentally signed myself "KJ". I'm the person who asked how the timeline would work.

Posted by: Not KJ | July 5, 2006 3:38 PM

It's a matter of terminology.

If you are at home for six months or a year with your infant, it's not really being a SAHM, it's "maternity leave". That is, unless you've quit your job to take this time off, and then you're "between jobs" -- if you PLAN to go back to work when the baby is 1 or 2 or to work part-time or start your own business.

I see SAHMs as women who quit work when the first child comes with no intention to return to work until the last child is at least in kindergarten.

Posted by: What is SAH? | July 5, 2006 3:41 PM

Am joining late, but have several comments on observations that appeared up-thread.

On LH's career choice: Someone mentioned that she had left law for the female-dominated field of teaching, but she became a university professor not an elementary school teacher. University-level teaching jobs are hard to get and even harder to keep and, based on my observations, most philosophy profs are men.

This isn't to defend her choice or to criticize either SAHMs or elementary school teachers---just to say that being a university faculty member is quite different from being an elementary school teacher. Not necessarily harder to do, but harder to get to that position.

I can see now that, given my loquaicousness, this message would be too long if I present all my fabulous observations in one, so on to the next. :-)

Posted by: THS | July 5, 2006 3:41 PM

To Bethesda | July 5, 2006 02:12 PM

Well Said!!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 3:41 PM

"My son's sitter is an illiterate Vietnamese peasant."

>>OMG thank you for totally and completely proving my point.>>

What exactly was your point? It sounded to me like you were saying that it somehow "wasn't fair" that the "elites" get to work outside the home while other women watch the kids. So smart women should stay home, because otherwise they are exploiting people? Yeah, that makes tons of sense.

I was arguing that, ecnoomically speaking, we are all better off if we divide things up according to skill sets and interests. My son's sitter is not going to be able to manipulate spreadsheets, create an econometric model, or develop an actuarial table--but I can. She came to America looking for opportunity and a better life for her kids. The money she makes watching my kid helps her do that. Saying she is Vietnamese and illiterate and a peasant is not a comment on her worth as a person--it was a comment on the value of her skill set. It's not racist or elitist to state the facts: she's not a native English speaker and she can't read or write because she was put to work in the rice fields at age nine for little to no pay. Taking care of kids is something she can do, is good at, likes doing, and helps me do my job. I don't see how paying her to do that is "damning" her. And there will also be plenty of people who want to stay home, and taking care of other people's kids allows them to do that and to continue contributing financially to their families (albeit without benefits, etc.)

What is your proposed "non-elitist" approach?

Posted by: Economist | July 5, 2006 3:43 PM

I want to use this forum to say a few works about the review of Ms. Steiner's book in The Atlantic and the subsequent exchange of letter to the editor on it.

Am I the only one amused by the irony of folks like Dee Dee Myers and Ms. Steiner duking it out in the pages of this affluent magazine about who is more sympathetic to mothers who can't even afford to stay at home to raise their children? Forgive me if I don't feel all that sorry for any of them.

Rather than cajoling us to feel sorry for the mother who drives around in her BMW X5 wondering, as she sips her Starbucks whatever, what her pupose is in life, how about we use all the energies and passions exhbited on this blog to actually do something so that EVERY MOTHER at least has the ability to not work if they so choose?

Posted by: Glover Prk | July 5, 2006 3:43 PM

It's funny that being a "housewife" in DC would be looked down on while being a house in the O.C. is an aspiration. I'm thinking of those women on the TV show "The Real Housewives of the O.C.". Here you are judged because you don't have a career. There if you work you might be judged because you have a husband who can't support the family in the accepted affluent style. Or you might be judged for going out to work and not "being there" for your kids.

Posted by: Perspective | July 5, 2006 3:44 PM

Oops, I meant "houseWIFE in O.C.".

Posted by: Perspective | July 5, 2006 3:44 PM

"The problem is the imbalance between the number of mothers vs fathers who do it. If there were more of a balance of who took care of the homefront..."

Rockville Mom, if by "take take of the homefront," you mean take care of the children, then you're doomed to disappointment. Women will always be more likely to stay at home with the kids than men. Even if every social pressure was somehow eliminated, the ratio of SAHMs to SAHDs would still be north of 70/30. Women are physiologically built to take care of children in a way that men are not. I say this as "the odd man out" who would like to stay home himself and raise my children. Certainly not every women wants to (or should) stay home with the children, but as a group more women than men do want to stay home with the kids and this will always be the case.

Posted by: Rockville Dad | July 5, 2006 3:45 PM

To KJ - "Managing the day-to-day tasks of family life ought to be easier for two people who have had some practice negotiating life's hurdles together."

This sounds great in theory, but somehow I must be doing something wrong. Married at 29, currently 10 years into my career, baby at age 32, marriage rock solid - survived two military deployments -- yet my husband and I feel we are anything BUT juggling it all well. I'm wondering if, the older we get, the more we realize the magnitude of the sacrifices we make in our attempts to "have it all."

Posted by: Renee | July 5, 2006 3:47 PM

"And last time I checked my history books, most social change comes about by the revolution of the oppressed, not by those most benefitting from the status quo."

Which revolutions did you have in mind? Revolution (and social change) was the job of the middle class/bourgeoisie) in the USSR, Nicaragua, and the PRC, for three examples off the top of my head. The truly oppressed don't have time for revolution. Revolt, yes, but individual revolts do not lead to lasting change. Revolution is done by those who are not making out as well as they would like, not by those who are totally screwed by the current system.

Back on topic, I believe that the personal is political--that the choices I make as an individual have some impact on society. That's more than just working, but being a professional woman is part of it.

Posted by: Historian | July 5, 2006 3:49 PM

On having older children take care of younger children: A limited amount of this may be good as a component of learning to be responsible generally and learning something about childcare in particular. And taking care of young kids can be fun for older kids.

But, as the oldest of six, I urge you not to lean on older children for help with the work of adults too much, whether that work is childcare, housework, home maintenance or whatever. Until I left for college, I was my mother's assistant. It made me proud to learn a new task--to iron clothes, for instance--but being responsible for the family ironing (this was well before kids wore jeans and T-shirts to school) was no fun.

It's great for kids to learn new skills from their parents and to be given age-appropriate levels of responsibility for household chores, but all kids need to be given time to be kids. This is probably less of an issue than it was when I was growing up because people have smaller families now, but, still, I think the point is worth making.

A related point: One way of helping kids learn to work and, at the same time, having time with kids is to work with them rather than to assign them tasks. Folding laundry may go faster if you do it w/ a kid, at least after the kid has learned to do it, and sharing task such as that give you time to be in a touch w/ a child in an ordinary day-to-day way. That's the kind of "being there" that kids remember.

Posted by: THS | July 5, 2006 3:51 PM

To Typical Working Mother - Thank you very much for sharing. I come from a family of five kids, and am a big believer in the value of sibling relationships. I even had a substantial part in raising my youngest siblings. I never imagined it would be so hard when my husband and I finally had our own.

Posted by: Crossroads | July 5, 2006 3:52 PM

Okay, I'm starting to get a little annoyed at the women-are-biologically-meant-for-childrearing argument (strangely, I was never taught that when I was earning my BS in biology). Other than actually bearing the child and breastfeeding, there is nothing a mother can do that a father cannot. And if you look at history, while there have been many approaches to childrearing in different societies, the most common is that both parents raise children. In our own culture, before the industrial revolution both parents stayed home, and both were involved with raising the children. The idea that women are better suited to raising children makes unfair assumptions about both sexes. (And I know that the animal kingdom doesn't have a lot of bearing on humans, but I'd just like to point out that male lions are the primary caretakers of cubs. If they can do it I'm sure men can.)

Posted by: mm | July 5, 2006 3:52 PM

"Hey June, your comment about the difference between men and women the other day made me laugh, which I like to do. My wife spent hours making a pie and pasta salad while I took a nap. When we got to the 4th of July party, she made me a plate and brought me beers while I hung out with the guys as we bashed politicians and bragged about our wives. Apparently, from the feedback, I have the best one...
And my wife is exactly the type of woman that LH would like to slap.
Posted by: Father of 4 | July 5, 2006 11:16 AM"

This made me puke.... if this is a serious post... what kind of person acts like this? Sounds like Father of 4's wife needs the nap, and a good divorce attorney. He can make his own plate of food. Reminds me of the old commercial " My wife, I think I'll keep her."
Bleecchhh! Aren't you all glad you have a good career and didn't have to have this to support you? LOL!!

Posted by: Glad I can support myself | July 5, 2006 3:54 PM

Dear Latecomer,

Your examples of SAHM who affect society raises very interesting points. I would argued that those women change society because they are gubenetorial candidates, not because they are SAHM. Once they threw their hat in the political arena, so to speak, they stopped being that typical SAHM which I think the argument is addressed towards.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 3:54 PM

To Crossroads,

I'm the oldest of four -- yes, it can be hard, but just set priorities especially when they are little. I have no idea how my mother got through the years with 4 under the age of 6 (I of course have fond memories of siblings but she may have had those moments of wanting to crawl in the closet just to have some alone time...)
It is hard but like I said, its worth it (well those temper tantrums in the grocery store after picking them up at daycare after a full day at work and commuting an hour are not fun).
Good luck and you'll make the right decision for you.
And by the way, Father of 4, your WIFE is lucky to have you!

Posted by: Typical working mother | July 5, 2006 3:59 PM

Rockville Mom, if by "take take of the homefront," you mean take care of the children, then you're doomed to disappointment. Women will always be more likely to stay at home with the kids than men. Even if every social pressure was somehow eliminated, the ratio of SAHMs to SAHDs would still be north of 70/30. Women are physiologically built to take care of children in a way that men are not. I say this as "the odd man out" who would like to stay home himself and raise my children. Certainly not every women wants to (or should) stay home with the children, but as a group more women than men do want to stay home with the kids and this will always be the case.

Posted by: Rockville Dad | July 5, 2006 03:45 PM

I think my main point is that the imbalance is so extreme now that even though some men may stay home with their children, it doesn't make employers think that they automatically will and therefore employers aren't (consciously or unconsciously) discriminating against men for being fathers. On the other hand, so many women do take time out for their children (whether for a few years or many) that many employers can get away with discriminating. But if it were more common (not necessarily 50/50 but more common) for either parent to stay home with the kids, I think it would be harder for employers to discriminate in terms of hiring, promoting, pay, whatever. And they might have to work harder at attracting/retaining working parents of either gender.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | July 5, 2006 4:00 PM

What is a "typical" SAHM? My mom was a SAH and she did tons of important volunteer work, but she was not the exception.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 4:03 PM

Most of what father of 4 says is satire, but oh my, yes i'm going to say it. I make the pasta salad and cake and I ask my husband and his friends if they want a beer or a pop. It doesn't make me any less of a person.

Posted by: Scarry | July 5, 2006 4:07 PM

To 'Glad I can support myself':

Joke or not, who the hell are you to judge anyone else's marriage? Is it possible that this makes the wife happy? Is it possible that the husband did several weeks of work around the house and perhaps earned a day of being waited upon?

You don;t know the answer to any of these questions and you don;t kow the first thing about anyone else's marriage.

To that end, try passing judgement on yourself before you pass judgement on anyone else!!!!

Posted by: Glover Park | July 5, 2006 4:10 PM

Why are questions about child-rearing so often posed in either/or terms? Do I work OR stay home? Should it be me OR my husband? Why can't it be both? Why not two parents working part time and raising their children together? Or two parents with flexible schedules doing the same?

Posted by: Friend | July 5, 2006 4:10 PM

Linda Hirshman is no better than the PTA-Nazi moms who feel they are superior parents because they stay at home. Assuming that my decisions about work, the number of children to have, etc are right for every other women is the height of arrogance and stupidity. I think us moms spend way too much time battling the extremists on both ends.

I've had several friends who have become pregnant and or had their first child recently and I tell them I will only give them one piece of advice: Don't listen to any advice that any of us give them. We like to pretend we know it all, but we are all just bumbling along, trying to do the best we can. In the end, we'll all raise pretty good kids who had their good moments and had their bad moments, and we'll have all done it a bit differently.

Posted by: Tired Mom | July 5, 2006 4:12 PM

"But if it were more common (not necessarily 50/50 but more common) for either parent to stay home with the kids, I think it would be harder for employers to discriminate in terms of hiring, promoting, pay, whatever. And they might have to work harder at attracting/retaining working parents of either gender.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | July 5, 2006 04:00 PM


The problem with this is that it is still an either/or proposition. Employers still have no incentive to take flexible creative approaches to work, because one parent can still be expected to work like crazy and the other one picks up on the home front.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 4:15 PM

Scarry, that IS scary! It makes you a beast of burden, a slave, a maid. Can't your man get YOU the food? Are YOU always the one steppin and fetchin'? As my old boyfriend used to say, "Is your leg broke?"
Being "less of a person" for waiting on someone hand and foot has nothing to do with it, it's about respect. Sounds like your husband has none for you, and he's got you buying into it - how convenient for him!

Posted by: Glad I can support myself | July 5, 2006 4:16 PM

On the question of the economic disadvantages of being a SAHM: Several people have mentioned this, but I want to emphasize this point, speaking particularly as the child of elderly parents.

Key point: My parents have six kids, some of whom are local and can provide direct help. The rest of us can support the local kids and provide respite. Most of us don't have six kids and won't have that kind of help. We will need to pay for it, and, to the extent that we take themselves out of the marketplace, our ability to do so may be reduced.

The details: My parents are 82 and 87. They were extraordinarily capable, self-reliant people. They achieved a lot, especially given the limited resources (in terms of economics and education) with which they began their life together. But, now they are old. My father is in a nursing home w/ Alzheimer's, but his disease is not so advanced that he no longer appreciates company, enjoys some time time on the nursing home pation, or a ride in the car. The staff cannot provide those things. Neither can they sit w/ my father to watch a baseball game, but my sister, who lives nearby, can. Baseball is complex in some ways, but it's simple enough for my father to follow and to enjoy, and he is more likely to watch and more likely to enjoy the experience if someone is there to watch with him.

My mother is in the assisted living portion of the facility where my father lives. She can do more things for herself, but still needs help that the staff can't provide. Some examples: help in buying clothes or other things that are needed and not available at the assisted living facility, help with paying bills and making financial decisions, and help in communicating with doctors (the staff will ensure that she gets to an appointment, but don't have the detailed knowledge to provide information about symptoms or to ask questions about the doctor's advice).

Taken together, none of these things is a big deal, but, taken together, they become one. The least we can do for our children is to try to minimize the amount of help we need from them in old age. The least we can do for ourselves is to ensure that we have the resources we need to make ourselves reasonably comfortable and get the care we need as we get older.

In the midst of a busy life taking care of young children, it's challenging to think ahead 40 or more years, but time passes, and the decisions we make now can have important consequences down the line.

Posted by: THS | July 5, 2006 4:16 PM

Glad, why are you making such a comment about Scarry's life, which you know nothing about? I also like to "serve" my husband occasionally. He sits down after spending all Sunday morning doing yardwork and he's exhausted. It feels great to hand him a cold beer and ask if he would like a sandwich. This is called "love" and "care".

On the other hand, sometimes I come home from work and take off my high-heeled shoes and put my feet into his lap. Without a word he takes them and massages my feet for as long as I want. Again, he is doing it because he loves me and cares for me.

Are you so selfish that you can't imagine doing a little something nice for the person you love?

Posted by: LC | July 5, 2006 4:21 PM

"But if it were more common (not necessarily 50/50 but more common) for either parent to stay home with the kids, I think it would be harder for employers to discriminate in terms of hiring, promoting, pay, whatever. And they might have to work harder at attracting/retaining working parents of either gender.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | July 5, 2006 04:00 PM


The problem with this is that it is still an either/or proposition. Employers still have no incentive to take flexible creative approaches to work, because one parent can still be expected to work like crazy and the other one picks up on the home front.


Posted by: | July 5, 2006 04:15 PM

Well, actually, I don't mean it as an either/or. I'm not saying one parent has to stay home. My point is more about it being harder to discriminate specifically against the working mothers (or at least less value in discriminating against mothers) if either parent might do it. There will always be couples where both parents work and others where only one will.

As an aside, in an ideal world, I'd prefer flexible work arrangements where both parents could work part-time. Kind of difficult to enact depending on how benefits such as health insurance are dealt with in the FT vs PT scenario.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | July 5, 2006 4:24 PM

hey honey, a marriage is a lot of work.

I didn't think I was smart enough to go to college he encouraged me to go , i'm working on my masters now.

I had pre-term labor, my husband ran around like a mad man getting me anything I wanted while I was flat on my back.

The kid gets sick he is right there with me, so if I get his plate of food or his beer so what. I can list these out forever and if I know my buddy father of 4, I can say his wife feels the same way I do. Give and take that's what I say.

Posted by: Scarry | July 5, 2006 4:24 PM

Take a deep breath, Glover Park. Did I hit too close to home? I'm not judging anyone's marriage, but his behavior. Do you really want to wait on someone hand and foot, do all the work while they loaf, then have them brag about you doing so, like you're some kind of maid? Yecch! Sounds like you do too much work that around your house and it's not appreciated nor is it reciprocal. Father of 4 is well known here for being a right wing conservative, traditional white male thinker. I doubt he's worked himself to the bone around the house. And why should he? Why work when someone is willing to do it? And it's not always men who do this, I know plenty of women who can't take out the trash, mow the lawn, paint a wall, hammer a nail, using that female incompetency defense. Both sicken me.
You sound judgmental to me - I didn't mention someone's marriage, just basic respect. Sounds like you need some.

Posted by: Glad I can support myself | July 5, 2006 4:27 PM

To the person who wrote:
"Employers still have no incentive to take flexible creative approaches to work, because one parent can still be expected to work like crazy and the other one picks up on the home front."

I agree, we're in an economic cycle where employers have the advantage (unlike the late 90's when flex-time and job-sharing were hot topics of national conversation).

But how about self-employment as an option? My husband and I are both self-employed. We both work from home. So when we have kids neither one of us will have to quit to stay home. Our issues will be different (making sure we don't both schedule meetings at the same time... finding extra support when needed etc...) But neither one of us will have to stop doing work we love to raise our kids.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 4:27 PM

Oh and there is a reason why you use the term "old boyfriend." I had to say that, sorry ahead of time

And the reason why most women can't get ahead isn't because of the glass ceiling or because of woman like Linda or Leslie for that matter, it's because of women like you and me who are arguing over who gets who food when we should be trying to find a solution to the problem at hand, which is raising kids who are productive while respecting the wishes of the women who raise them. Whether that is staying at home or working, until we stop pointing fingers and saying I'm better than you, my daughter will be on this blog arguing with yours about these issues in another 30 years.

Posted by: Scarry | July 5, 2006 4:31 PM

Oh, Glad, get real. Fatherof4 is most likely a guy in an office having some fun on a blog. I highly doubt he truly holds the opinions he posts. He's known for his comments, and most people have figured out that they are often satirical.

This is a BLOG. Don't take it so seriously.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 4:31 PM

every subsequent post proves that the writer is just baiting to bait. Her off-topic opinions are her own.

Posted by: Just ignore 'Glad I can support myself' | July 5, 2006 4:32 PM

"Sounds like your husband has none for you, and he's got you buying into it - how convenient for him!"

You are not judgemental! At least I admit it when I am. Come on.

Posted by: Scarry | July 5, 2006 4:34 PM

Someone wrote earlier that we shouldn't be focusing on what is best for women, but rather what is best for children. That sounds persausive at first glance, but it only holds water if children never grow up to be adults. It especially doesn't work if little girls grow up to be women.

What if your little girl wants to be a well-educated, high-powered, mover-and-shaker someday. Her opportunities rely on what women TODAY are doing. Are they working in cutting-edge fields? Are they challenging the still deeply-engrained perceptions that women lawyers, doctors, dentists, business leaders, etc. are somehow less competent, less aggressive, less formidable than their male counterparts? Are they demanding to be treated as equals and showing the world through their everyday work that they belong in the courtroom/lab/boardroom just as much as any man? Or are they getting college and graduate degrees, marrying men with high-earning potential, and leaving the workforce to stay at home, chaffeur their kids, cook, clean, and volunteer for their child's "teacher appreciation day"? Every woman who "drops out" - whether it's because she discovered the working world wasn't "fulfilling" or because she thinks it would be better for her family - is making it harder for her daughter to make the choice to work. There's no if, ands, or buts about it. To think otherwise is to try to rationalize your own choices. Nothing more.

I'm 36. Only two of my highly-educated, highly-intelligent women friends still works. All of the rest, one by one, have dropped out of medicine, the law, management, research, banking, teaching, accounting, and business. Some are blissfully happy. Others less so. But in the end, whether or not they're happy doesn't change the fact that anyone looking at my generation would be justified in believing that women tried to make it, but in the end just couldn't cut it. My friends confirm what many have believed for eons: women are not cut-out to succeed in the public arena, and their "natural God-given" skills center entirely around marriage and family. While it annoys me (especially when a new employer wondered aloud when I'd "get pregnant and decide to stay at home baking cookies") that my friends dropped out, it's their daughters who will really have to pay the price. Better hope they're pretty and "nice" so they can find young men with good-earning potential to marry someday.

Posted by: BIOTC | July 5, 2006 4:35 PM

LC, if you read my comment instead of flying off the handle, you'd see I'm talking about men that NEVER cook a meal, wash a dish, do a load of laundry, diaper a baby. My point, that you seem to miss is about men who NEVER lift a finger around the house, and their wives continue to wait on them hand and foot, ALL THE TIME, not men and women who are considerate and respectful of EACH OTHER. Whew!
And these right wing conservative men like it that way. Why would you brag about napping while your wife slaved in the kitchen? HE should be embarrassed, but in that crowd, it's a badge of honorI'll say it again, men like these are louts, and women who enable them are disrecting themselves

Posted by: Still glad I can support myself | July 5, 2006 4:36 PM

Late and off topic, but I hope matt from way earlier is still around...

How does a bus line increase congestion and pollution? Public transportation REDUCES the number of cars on the road. If this is what SAHM are campaigning against, I'm rather nervous.

Or "pollution" and "congestion" are just a nice way to say "I don't want those poor people riding through my neighborhood".

Posted by: Em | July 5, 2006 4:38 PM

BIOTC - Great post. Have you been able to discuss this topic with your friends or is it taboo?

Posted by: Friend | July 5, 2006 4:42 PM

>>>Oh and there is a reason why you use the term "old boyfriend."

Scarry is using personal attacks! Delete her, delete her! She's mean!

And, she's always ranting about being persecuted while some of you come to her defense....

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 4:44 PM

Still Glad, how many men do you know who are like that? I mean, really? Even in the heartland, where my family is from, I don't know a single man who doesn't make his contribution around the house and with the kids. You're talking about a stereotype from the last century. Why are you fighting a fight that has mostly been won? There aren't many Edith Bunkers left out there.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 4:45 PM

"Every woman who "drops out" - whether it's because she discovered the working world wasn't "fulfilling" or because she thinks it would be better for her family - is making it harder for her daughter to make the choice to work."

Hmm. So my mom "dropping out" from when I was born until I was 13 or so made it harder for me to choose to work.

Um, no. My mom "dropped out" and formed her own business that paid for our vacations while I grew up. From that I learned how to be a self-starter and how to be able to start things on your own. From her volunteering I learned that there's a place in life for things that are your advocation, not your vocation. I learned that work isn't everything.

My mom dropping out made who I am today - a successful career woman with my own business on the side, and who presses for flextime at my office so I can volunteer every month.

Work isn't everything. And when and if I have children, it still won't be everything - I'm not going to be a CEO or a policy maker because, quite frankly, I won't put in the 60+ hour weeks to do so. It's not worth it. I think this is a key point Hirschman misses - not every working woman WANTS to ascend to the top. Some of us are quite happy where we are.

Posted by: AG | July 5, 2006 4:46 PM

yeah, I started this one. You better watch yourself becasue in case you didn't notice, father of four is Leslie's favorite and I was just watching the conversation until "glad I can support myself started in on him." And, if you read my first post I was rather nice and only said that after she said my husband didn't respect me.

Why don't you sign your posts?

Posted by: Scarry | July 5, 2006 4:49 PM

In the interest of full-disclosure, I am a male, struggling to figure out how I can provide enough for my wife to be a stay at home mom, if she so chooses and if we ever get pregnant.

However, that doesn't give you the right to make judgements or assumptions about anyone other than yourself. How you define respect may be vastly different than the way someone else defines it. You'd be wise to keep that in mind.

You pass off 'Father of 4' as a narrow-minded conservative, but to be honest, in my experience, there is nothing more INtolerant that a liberal.

Posted by: Glover Park | July 5, 2006 4:49 PM

AG - It doesn't sound like your mom dropped out at all by starting her own business that contributed to family pot. This is exactly what I'm advocating for... More women using their gumption to create work situations that work for them, their values and their families.

Posted by: Friend | July 5, 2006 4:51 PM

LC,
You mis-interpreted, so let me be more clear. As a parent, as you go through life, many of your decisions are shaped by the question, "What impact will this important decision have on my child or my ability to raise my child how I see fit" or "how can I best leverage this situation to the benefit of my family". No one is asking anyone to be a slave to their children and it's important, especially for parents at home, to maintain their own identity and keep their wits sharp, lest they spiral into the eighth circle of Kid's Bob hell (that has meaning, go look it up). What I'm also saying is that it's not for anyone to judge the actions of another when they're doing what they think is best for their family.

Given all that, I hope other people do make bad choices and are selfish, as you suggest people should. In pure biological terms, it means that my genes and biological legacy will live longer and spread wider than theirs will. The hoards of mulletted grubby-footed soldiers that I have raised will lay waste to the single children of working parents. Their genetic material will be combined with my own or die a pathetic lonely death and only have the gold Timex for 30 years of service to count the moments until their demise.

Posted by: Analyst | July 5, 2006 4:51 PM

To "Glad I can support myself":

Just because Fatherof4's wife does things for him doesn't mean that he doesn't do nice things for her too. Giving up on his formal chair preference/comfort is one example from many weeks ago that comes to mind. In fact, having followed his posts since day 1 of this blog, he seems like a good husband and father to me. Likewise, Scarry doesn't deserve what you said about her. As LC said, loving and caring for each other is part of a healthy and successful marriage.

Here's a link to a recent study you might want to check out: "Altruistic Love Related to Happier Marriages."

http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/060209_love_altruism.html

I don't know you, but it seems like both you and your exboyfriend have trouble seeing the value in partners doing nice things for each other. This shouldn't make you "want to puke."

Posted by: Ingrid | July 5, 2006 4:53 PM

"Bad Behavior doesn't justify other bad behavior, unless I'm the one behaving badly."

-Scarry O'Reilly

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 4:54 PM

BIOTC, what you say makes a lot of sense and is scary. I know women the same age (mid 30s) who have also opted out for many reasons, with varying degrees of happiness. Mostly they are reinforcing the "work until you have babies" stereotype. However, I do know many working moms of that age who are struggling to stay in the workforce and climb the ladder. It seems the hardest time to continue working is when your kids are between age 3 and 10, the time you put them in preschool until they are old enough to understand that mommy works and to take have a bit of independent life of their own. These days, those ages correspond to the mother being roughly age 33 to 43, prime time for moving up in a career. But also a time she is likely to have one or two more kids and take time off, need flex time or extra cooperation from her workplace.

Sadly, I'm glad that I'm old enough now that potential employers won't suspect me of planning to have babies and quit work.

Posted by: Madeleine | July 5, 2006 4:54 PM

Friend -

Amen to that!

Posted by: AG | July 5, 2006 4:54 PM

AG, you may want to read the post a little more closely before knee-jerk posting.

Starting a business is not the same thing as quitting your job with no visible means of financial support (i.e., dropping out -- of the work force which by definition your mother did not do).

Honestly, I think some people are looking to see everything as an indictment of their personal experience. Shesh.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 4:54 PM

To Marlo, who says "Parents, please don't have children to do YOUR housework and raise YOUR children!" Man, I am SOOOO guilty here! I know I should probably do it all, but I have my children make their own beds, take out the trash once a week, and even toss their clothes in the hamper! Someone should call the police-I even make them vacuum once a week! In fact, they have to WIPE DOWN THE BATHROOM SINK each morning. All kidding aside, I am sure Marlo was overworked by her parents. Of the flip side, my mom usually did it all herself, without teaching us. Giving kids a role and responsibility is empowering for them. We had no housekeeping skills when we reached college. My kids will know how to keep a house when they have their own. If you know how, it is easy and quick.

Posted by: !!!!!! | July 5, 2006 4:55 PM

I have the quintessential mother for someone who was a SAHM, affected social change, returned to the work force, and is able to support herself afterwards. As a SAHM right out of college, she was president of the PTA, started a cub scout pack for the disadvantaged in the area, advocated for the public school systems, and did a lot of work for the church. This was in the '60s.

She went back to work in the '70s because we needed the money, not because she wanted to work. She became a powerhouse at a local bank and quit to be part-time receptionist at a brokerage firm. She went full time after I got into high school and rose in the ranks at the brokerage firm until she is now branch manager in a male dominated field. She specializes in socially concious investing. She is making far more than her ex-husband makes. She still doesn't like working.

In the last few years, she has also started a Boys and Girls Club and a self-sustaining child care center for disadvantaged families.

Whenever I hear about "loss of income" or some other complaint women make about not being accepted into the workforce after children, I hold her up as a shining example of what can be accomplished when you put your mind to something.

For SAHM/Ds, the best thing you can do is volunteer. It keeps your networking and business skills up to date. But it is also the best way to affect social change, because the places that need volunteers are the places that influence the youth of our nation. Let's influence them...one at a time.

Ms. Hirshman strikes me the same as Ms. Coulter. She'll say anything to get a reaction, regardless of whether it is valid.

Posted by: Working Dad | July 5, 2006 4:56 PM

"Scarry O'Reilly"

Now that's an Irish name if I ever saw one.

Posted by: Scarry | July 5, 2006 4:57 PM

No, she did drop out and rely solely on my dad's income for several years before starting her own business - it didn't start until I was in school. And she left a very good job with the government, where she could have been an influence, so I think it fits the situation. I haven't seen any "exceptions" in Hirschman's rhetoric about self-employed SAHM's. You, of course, are free to disagree.

Posted by: AG | July 5, 2006 4:57 PM

Working Dad,
The feminist zeitgeist that supported your mom's ascendency to a position of power starting in the 70's has passed.

Posted by: Friend | July 5, 2006 5:02 PM

Working Dad,
The feminist zeitgeist that supported your mom's ascendency to power has passed.

Posted by: Friend | July 5, 2006 5:03 PM

Good points about altruistic love. I was shocked when my best friend, who constantly fights with her husband over an "equal" division of the household chores and is often angry when he doesn't do "his share", decided that the best way to express her displeasure was to go on a "sex strike". She doesn't "count" the hours that he works each day or the other things that he does to support the family (she is not working right now) -- it's all a balance sheet. I find it very sad that her marriage has turned into this sort of situation and I see the erosion of respect between them.

Posted by: DC | July 5, 2006 5:03 PM

Working Dad,
The feminist zeitgeist that supported your mom's ascendency to power has passed.

Posted by: Friend | July 5, 2006 5:05 PM

BIOTC, I find your post very interesting. I cannot help but think of the most professionally successful female friend that I have; she was CEO of a non-profit by the age of 30! As CEO, she was on the brink of putting all kinds of maternity/paternity benefits into place, increased telecommuting options, etc. Then she got pregnant, decided she hated her job, and quit. She now talks about Baby #2, with no mention of returning to work. Is her baby better off for her decision? Maybe, immediately. But the employees who did not get those increased benefits are definitely not better off! I really have a hard time understanding her decision, although I observe that she does seem very happy, and her little one is a very happy healthy baby...

Posted by: on point | July 5, 2006 5:08 PM

Friend,

You asked me if I ever discuss the topic of their "dropping out" of the workforce with my SAHM friends. The answer is NO WAY! No subject I can think of could possibly be more taboo. Nope. When they call or write to tell me that Emma is eating vegetables other than potatoes now or McKensie's new play date is going well, I say, "wow, that's great!" And I do mean that new-kid-detail-dejour is good. But in the not-so-back-of-my-mind I'm also wondering, so this is how you want to spend your thirties and half of your forties? I would never mention it, though. Not if I want to keep my friends, that's for sure. Hence my resort to anonymous posts on blogs (smile). Maybe some of my friends are reading today and wondering if I'm talking about them. (wink)

Posted by: BIOTC | July 5, 2006 5:08 PM

"How does a bus line increase congestion and pollution?
Public transportation REDUCES the number of cars on the road.
If this is what SAHM are campaigning against, I'm rather nervous."
-- Posted by: Em | July 5, 2006 04:38 PM

It is a generalization to say that public transportation always
reduces the number of cars on the road. With increased retail
and office-building development in Owings Mills, and with the
refusal of the County to complete Owings Mills Boulevard
all the way to Liberty Road, traffic backs up for blocks
on McDonogh Road and Brenbrook Drive. I doubt that many
of the commuters and customers whose cars are idling right
in front of my home would switch to the bus.

Years ago, I grew up in an apartment building which had
not one, but two bus lines -- the #11 and the #38 -- stopping
out in front. I know what they smelled like, and I don't want
those buses mixed in with the cars in the blocks-long backup.

Em continues:

'Or "pollution" and "congestion" are just a nice way to say
"I don't want those poor people riding through my neighborhood".'

No. The people who wanted to say, "I don't want those poor
people riding through my neighborhood" came right out and
said so at the meeting. Randallstown is a predominantly
African-American suburb, many of whose residents feel our
suburb is being singled out for bus lines and group homes
because unlike such white areas as Ruxton or Roland Park,
we don't have the clout to stop them.

Posted by: matt | July 5, 2006 5:22 PM

Wow, On Point, that's quite a story, and then there is BIOTC's after it. I wonder, how will these women feel when they decide to return to work? Will they be disappointed if they don't step right back at the same level they left, and they have to start all over again? Will On Point's friend ever have the chance to be such a mover and shaker again? Will she regret giving up such a position if she one day has to work much harder (and face it, when you're over 40 it's no fun to work long days, especially if all your peers are further along than you) just to get near such a position again?

I can see that it would be much nicer to enjoy raising your kids while you're young and THEN make the big effort to climb the ladder when you can give it so much more energy and attention, but will potential employers give women who've been out 3-5 years or more that chance?

Posted by: DC | July 5, 2006 5:23 PM

Guys - please stop writing! I have become addicted to this blog as a complete dilletante in social anthropology and politics even though I have no kids and want none! :-) So when are we going to write about the childless/singles who pick up the slack at work while the folks with kids leave early for the school play or whatever while we could never leave early to go for a bike ride?

Posted by: Addicted | July 5, 2006 5:24 PM

Sorry, Addicted, that's been discussed many times before. Go back and read the comments on previous On Balance blogs.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 5:26 PM

My wife went on a "sex-strike" a couple of years ago. It ended pretty quick when I threatened to hire replacement workers.

Posted by: Union-buster | July 5, 2006 5:27 PM

BIOTC - I hear you. And frustratingly, my friends are the very women I want to be in conversation abou this with. (Hence the inappropriate amount of time I've spent reading this blog today.)

I'm able to discuss this topic (albeit gently) with a very few of my closer friends. The consensus seems to be that full-time work was/is overrated. Part-time or freelance work in one's field of choice is ideal (if you can get it).

Most of my friends who've chosen to stay home have kids in the infant to 3 year-old stage so the question of when and how to return to the working world has yet to be broached in a serious way. I'm very curious to see how things develop as the years go by.

Posted by: Friends | July 5, 2006 5:28 PM

My wife went on a "sex-strike" a couple of years ago. It ended pretty quick when I threatened to hire replacement workers.

That is sooooo funny. I just feel like i'd only be hurting myself if I did that.

Posted by: scarry | July 5, 2006 5:29 PM

Union-Buster:

You definitely win the award for today's best post!


Jolene

Posted by: THS | July 5, 2006 5:33 PM

One note about the stay-at-home-moms-turned-politician examples that I cited: it's true that once they become elected officials, they have outside-the-home jobs. But Linda Hirshman's argument is that women should never spend ANY time whatsoever being stay-at-home mothers. (For what it's worth, almost all the SAHMs I know of consider that phase of their life to be very temporary, until the kids are in elementary school or whatever. And also for what it's worth, I don't know what Linda says about stay-at-home dads!) When I cite the mom-of-four gubernatorial candidate, I'm referring to someone who did exit the paid work force for a few years, yet still managed to be professionally and politically successful.
As for the "illiterate Vietnamese peasant" exchange, I have to say, Bethesda, you rock! Who knows? Maybe this or other "peasants" run circles around the rest of us when it comes to intellect and hard work. Maybe they're smarter and harder-working than a lot of Ivy League graduates (especially those with the initials GWB, but that's another subject. . .) Sometimes, just being an immigrant can be evidence that a person has more gumption than most of us have.
On this subject of elitism, it seems to me like Linda Hirshman has spent her life in a bit of a Park Avenue cocoon. My guess is that she hasn't had much contact with people who are different from her, hence her dismissal of the great unwashed.

Posted by: latecomer | July 5, 2006 5:35 PM

matt,

Google maping your area... I know the white/African-American suburb problem - I live in Waldorf, the forgotten child of Charles Co (unincorporated, no sidewalks, street crossings, parks kids can actually walk to, etc). But I still think working against a bus line is not the best societal move (and we all love societal moves on this board). Zero emission buses or the like (similar to some in DC) could be an option. So could improving people's view of taking the bus so those in front of your house might ride. Talk it up, do it yourself. I vanpool and have recruited many to it (three vans go straight to my work now from Waldorf). My roommate takes the bus to the metro. We carpool to the park and ride. Talk it up and push for more alternatives other than just new roads.

Posted by: Em | July 5, 2006 5:35 PM

BIOTC -Exactly :) although I do think it affects the current generation, because employers are looking at us and thinking, 'how long until she takes the mommy track?' (btw, are you in academia by any chance? I've heard that exact same sentiment, announced by an elderly professor to a group of prospective undergrad researchers no less!)

Posted by: mm | July 5, 2006 5:37 PM

Hey, I'm a single woman, no kids. I want to quit work and stay at home. I have health problems and I'm just sick of the 9-5.

Only problem, I'd quickly have no roof and starve on the street. And my pride forbids it.

Retirement? I don't believe I'll ever retire. I'll work until I diiiiieeee, as long as somebody will employ me.

Marriage is a lot of give and take, but it is amazing in how much more financial stablity it creates for raising kids.

Part of it is the potential of two incomes. A lot of it is also having somebody to help out in an emergency so you can work and get things done without paying somebody a fortune in an emergency.

Whatever you decide, stay at home shouldn't stop people from getting back into the workplace and expanding skills.

The primary wage earner can get sick or his speciality could suddenly suck on the job market while your skills might be in better demand. It happened to a couple I knew. The STHM overnight became the primary wage earner while the husband was now STHD, watching the kids, and looking for work. After that, she continued working at least part time and they're doing well.

Through the rabies, there IS a good point, although I wouldn't breathe hellfire at STH spouses at all. Just eat my heart out with envy, maybe, that they can actually take that option.

But I'm looking for somebody to love, not a steady wallet.


Posted by: Crazy Godmother | July 5, 2006 5:39 PM

I'm a female in my mid-30s, observing the exact same phenomena: all of my well-educated professional friends are getting sick of the workplace and are running headlong into mommy-hood as a socially legitimate escape route. This bothers me intensely. I'm a firm believer in equality and in earning your own way. Newsflash: work can really suck. So why does the man get stuck bearing the entire load in the workplace? Wouldn't we all rather 'stay at home' given the chance? For what it's worth I was raised by an extremely spoiled SAHM who couldn't have made it 2 weeks in a working environment. Our family really suffered from her being sheltered from real life responsibilities.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 5:43 PM

gladICanSupportMyself, Just to let you know, I'm very attracted to gals like you because of their spirited way of expressing their opinion. Also, my wife is a great cook, however, she uses every pot, pan, and measuring spoon in the kitchen which takes my daughter and me a lot of time to clean up. I don't mind though, because my daughter is a hoot and dishwashing time is the time I get to talk with her. I don't try to take credit for helping out with the pie because my beer-guzzling friends might think I'm a sissy.

I got a slice this morning and it was great! Ha!

typicalWorkingMother, It's The 3rd kid that pushes you over the edge, but I'm sure you can handle it. If I told you all the conditions that I got married and had a child under, the posters on this blog would hammer me for being such a poor example of a parent, not to mention an idiot, but most of you know that already.

Scarry, you naughty girl. I mean, letting your democratic friends down in a shameful public display of serving men beer. Next thing, you'll start voting for republicans.

Leslie, I heard you talk on the WaPo radio, and if I had to guess by your voice, I estimate that you were in your mid 20's, but I know better.

And to prove to you all that I'm not completely sexist, I'll have my son fetch me my beer tonight while my wife is at a party.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 5, 2006 5:48 PM

"I think she and her ilk completely undervalue the role of biology. Women care for babies. Women nuture. It is not easy to turn that primal urge off. Thousands (tens and even hundreds of thousands) of years of human evolution have created a woman with a brain and a body uniquely suited for and capable of having and raising children."

Bethesda, that is so well said I had to repeat it.

Posted by: sindy | July 5, 2006 5:50 PM

Friend, keep saying it and maybe you'll believe it.

But, seriously, what do you think has replaced the feminist zeitgeist? Is it now the "glass ceiling, woe is me" zeitgeist?

The advancements my mother made in the workplace were of her own doing, not the feminist movement. She did not have to fight for her position in the bank, she made it. She saw the opportunity and sold it to the bank president. The branch manager, when she went full time, practically named her as his successor. It was based on her organizational and networking skills that she had built while a SAHM. She is now looking for a good replacement so that she can retire, but qualified candidates that would continue the culture and focus that she has built are not available. As she sees it, there is no customer orientation in the next generation. Maybe that should be a topic.

Posted by: Working Dad | July 5, 2006 5:51 PM

Here's my petty rant. What bugs me about SAHMs is the moral superiority argument that, as others have said above, in many cases is an excuse when the real reason is just a strong desire to get out of working.

I'm tired of the 9 to 5, too, and want to stay home with someone else paying the bills. Why do SAHMs get to do that and still be morally superior?

I think I am jealous.

Posted by: Hoosier | July 5, 2006 5:52 PM

See glad I can take care of myself-it's satire. Now tommorrow is a new day with new thoughts and I won't hold today against you, like some people do against me.

father of four-if my old man saw that Scarry O'Reilly comment he'd probably have a heart attack. And, of course I serve my man beer, i'm Irish for god's sake.

Posted by: scarry | July 5, 2006 5:52 PM

Everyone here, including LH, needs to go back and read the historical record. I recommend A History of Women to you. Women's work has embraced motherhood and more since the beginning. The notion that it is an 'either/or' proposition as to whether women should work and how many children they should have is ridiculous.

I am the oldest of 7 who helped raise her siblings because my SAHM was overwhelmed at having so many as quickly as she did, and she didn't intend to have that many. When she started selling Avon (the youngest was 6) her whole perspective - and outlook - changed, our economic environment improved, and we were better off on multiple levels. Of the 2, my dad would have been the better choice to SAH. She was a down in the dirt competitor, which he wasn't. All that said, as a SAHM she did community organizing and succeeded in getting the diocese to create a new parish in our community. When Avon made her a manager, she really went to town. As a family, all of us got a good look at the future options available to us and their potential impact. All of my sisters work. They have to because they are either divorced, single moms, or their husband's income is insufficient for the family to live on. They don't have a choice if they wish to survive.

The choices we make have to be right for us and our families. If we make choices to satisfy some perceived requirement to be considered 'good' wives and/or mothers, we are doomed.

As a working woman, I agree that the workplace is still dominated by the thinking of older Baby Boomers (particularly males) who still make up the majority of workers. Real change will come as we retire and get out of the way, but change is already occurring. Point of interest, the older Boomers are looking for more flexible employment options, which make them ideal allies for those families also looking for flexible employment options.

Posted by: Chicago | July 5, 2006 5:54 PM

--In other words, parents have to be parents even if they work or stay home.

That means working to keep shelter, food, clothing on kids and get them educated, and keep them safe and so on. I do think it is not right to penalize somebody who's been out of the workforce in a while.

However in some fields the stuff does change pretty quickly.

That's where the internship laws need to be badly rewritten.

If I had an income cushion I would jump at a chance to intern for the career I want. But I can't afford to volunteer-only or be paid a pittance for interning.

I'd like to see laws supporting "back to the workforce/career change" working internships where people take (or stay at) a job they can do for 30-35 hrs/week and then also devote 5-10 hours a week training on new skills and jobs, at the same company.

Not everybody can really afford to go back to school even with tuition reimbursement if they don't also get the time paid somehow.


For instance, to go back into a lab research position after being out of the field for a few years, I'd want to be hired for what my resume says I can do, but be in the lab and frankly within a month or two I'd have had a real refresher in my lab skills and learned the new doodads.

But not having those skills up-to-date makes me unemployable in that particular type of job despite my resume.

"Being out of the workforce" isn't confined to those who stay at home.

It also occurs to those who have had to take different jobs because the job they wanted was not available, and then just wound up staying a year or a few.

Posted by: Crazy Godmother | July 5, 2006 5:59 PM

'no customer orientation in the next generation. Maybe that should be a topic.'

Is it because the rude, unhelpful store workers are being raised by working moms who don't teach manners? JUST KIDDING!!

bad customer service would be a great topic, does it unbalance our lives?

Posted by: experienced mom | July 5, 2006 6:13 PM

Working Dad - sorry for the triple-post (glitchy internet connection).

Your mom (and my mom for that matter) entered the workforce when there was tremendous cultural support for them to do so. They had Gloria Steinem on their side, for goodness' sake. Phil Donahue too. These days we've got Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly driving the cultural conversation. Big diff.

I don't argue that your mom and mine worked hard for their achievements. They did. But they did so in a supportive environment when thousands of women were entering the workforce, not retreating from it as we're doing today.

Posted by: Friend | July 5, 2006 6:13 PM

I had a stay at home Mom and she was the rock that my family adhered to after my Father died. I fiend Intellectual-elitist women like this author something that I cannot fathom. A person that creates a judgmental spin out of her own need to glorify her place in life. There is a need to fashion truth in her own image that makes me cringe and look anew with appreciative eyes at my own aging mother.

Posted by: Annandale | July 5, 2006 6:22 PM

MM,

I'm in the law, not academia. But I'm not sure the field matters so much. When I worked in sales before I went to law school (even in the so-called "progressive" area of publishing) I was twice asked by male superiors when I was planning to get pregnant and quit (both comments came within weeks of my wedding). One wanted to know so he could recommend his friend for my position. He even had the gall to tell me that now I was married, I didn't need the income, whereas his friend has a stay-at-home-wife and two kids!!! I could have slapped him (especially since I was far more qualified than his friend). And he wasn't even that much older then me!

(Anyone who thinks women have achieved full equality in the workforce is living in la-la land.)

Posted by: BIOTC | July 5, 2006 6:25 PM

Hirshman is NOTHING like Coulter. Hirshman's theses are cogent, well thought out despite being provocative. Coulter is provocative but in a bad way--just nasty mean hurtful without much intelligence.

"We each obviously approach these questions through the prism of our personal experiences"

It's a shame that many of you cannot discuss these issues without bringing up your own situations to justify your arguments. Hirshman is not discussing anecdotes. It seems to me that if your situations were great, you wouldn't feel the need to defend them and could then focus on the issues Hirshman brings up. I don't agree with everything she says (e.g. the only having one child advice), but there is truth in just about everything she does say.

SS, Oh please and Maria are right on target with their comments. And BIOTC brings up an important issue that pains me--the dropping out of educated women. Many that I know are not happy with their "decision" (I don't consider it a free choice really). My closest friend is on Prozac, 2 other friends tell me all the time that they wish they had the courage to go back to work and it goes on. It has become society's expectation that women belong at home with the children. I think we have regressed. But I do have great sympathy for women who stay at home. You can volunteer up the wazoo, but in our society, unpaid labor is not valued. If it were, it would be compensated. I sit on 2 boards and as another writer above stated, it is the boards who wield the power of the community organizations. Helping out in your kid's classroom is nice, but it will not effect social change or help society in the long-run. If more women stayed in the work place, especially this generation (in their 20s and 30s), then the workplace would have to conform to the needs of the workers. It is far too easy for managers/businesses to write off women. One of my colleagues just the other day made a comment about a junior colleague probably not coming back after her second child so he wouldn't include her in a vital project. And this happens covertly to all women every day. I am a "boss" and my male superiors (I wish I had a better word for them :-) constantly complain about the women in my department taking maternity leave, breastfeeding, etc. I go to the mat for them and am criticized as "being too nice". Then I am disappointed when these women do quit (3 this year). They have effectively said good-bye to their careers. And I know the struggles with work and family. I am still fairly young (41) with two young children and I can't imagine bringing up children as a SAHM. What a poor example to my children that would be. And people can say that focusing on the children as a SAHM is a better example, but you would be wrong. The arguments are eloquently posed above.

Posted by: Working Mother | July 5, 2006 6:26 PM

Annandale,

LH is not saying that stay-at-home-parenting is without value, instead she is saying that when a woman removes herself from the public arena and out of positions in which she may have an opportunity to affect workplace and other social policies, she reduces the collective voice of women in public roles by one voice. May not seem like a lot, but when that woman is joined by a dozen of her friends and those friends are joined by a dozen of their friends, the impact is more appreciable.

It is not "intellectual elitism" to want to try to better oneself through education and/or work experience. It is not "intellectual elitism" to argue that women in the workforce, collectively, have greater social and political influence than one woman staying-at-home with her kids. LH is not denying anyone the right to be a SAHM, she's simply saying that one person's choice DOES have consequences. The drop-out trend among women in their thirties is just that - a trend - because women are making the same choice en masse. No one should be surprised in the future when people say women just can't hack it as professionals, businesswomen, politicians or scientists. My generation is giving their theory plenty of fodder.

Posted by: BIOTC | July 5, 2006 6:42 PM

BIOTC,

Great posts today. What's the answer though -- I, too, am lawyer (without kids however), and even I think on plenty of days that it's too much.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 6:53 PM

BIOTC,
Again, on target.

6:53 poster asks "What's the answer....?" There is no one right answer. Mentorship is a good start. Both life mentors and professional mentors. People slightly older who have "been there" can be very insightful. My mentors have taught me how to and when to say no. That's hard to do especially early in one's career. A supportive spouse and family are key too. If your husband is not supportive of your career and life choices, then it makes life hard. A partner must be willing to make the same level of sacrifices as you do (whether they actually do it or not). I suspect this is a top reason women "opt out" of their careers. Prioritizing is important as well. You can't do everything all at once and do it all well. And lastly, I get a lot of emotional support from my friends.

And it is too bad that women feel that their best choice is to SAH. If it was the best choice for children, more men would do it.

Posted by: Working Mother | July 5, 2006 7:17 PM

Hello, doesn't anyone value having three or four or more children? My spouse has to travel for work and it just makes financial and emotional sense for one of us to stay home while they are young. The peace of mind is priceless.

I expect the value will be proven in the next twenty years when, I hope, our children, are responsibly contributing to society. We are choosing to have children and it makes more sense while they are young to have one of us stay home instead of hiring someone else to take care of them.
I dropped out in my thirties. There really is a whole another world of unpaid workforce to which LH seems blind. We do these small things with great love.

I expect at some point to return to the paid workforce.

Posted by: Holding down the fort | July 5, 2006 7:30 PM

DC said: "I can see that it would be much nicer to enjoy raising your kids while you're young and THEN make the big effort to climb the ladder when you can give it so much more energy and attention, but will potential employers give women who've been out 3-5 years or more that chance?"

I too would like to know if it's possible to re-enter the workforce. A lot of posters seem to suggest that taking a few years off is an obvious solution, but in eight years in my relatively large department, we've never hired a SAHM returning to the workforce. I don't think there is a conspiracy against SAHMs; I just think that competition for good jobs is incredibly fierce and only resumes with recent experience make it to the top of the pile. My experience is anecdotal; I would like to know if it is representative. Maybe Leslie could make this the topic of the blog some day?

Posted by: MS | July 5, 2006 7:39 PM

How is it that you get to sit in judgement of others? You yourself said,"You can't do everything all at once and do it all well." One thing I realized after having a child was that I had only one chance to raise my child well, and by god I wanted to do it myself. When faced with the end of maternity leave I decided I couldn't leave her with someone who's name I barely knew. And so, for me, that meant taking five years off until she went to school. Does that make me bad, wrong, unresponsible? Please.....

Posted by: reply to working mother | July 5, 2006 7:39 PM

To the anonymous poster who asked "What's the answer though, I too am lawyer..."

Not sure if BIOTC is still posting today. But I'd love to hear from YOU! What do you think the answer is?

I work in a creative field where freelancing and contract work is the norm. So creating a flexible schedule is easy for me. And without consequences. Not sure how the law-field works though...

How about job sharing? Or part time work? Is there any way to change your work environment so it suits you? Or could be compatible with having a family if that's what your interested in?

Curious to hear your reply.

Posted by: Friend | July 5, 2006 7:40 PM

Great idea -- Leslie, please can we hear from women lawyers, doctors, scientists who took 5 years out while their children were small and then successfully re-entered the workforce.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 7:46 PM

"One thing I realized after having a child was that I had only one chance to raise my child well, and by god I wanted to do it myself"

What is it with this blog that people accuse others who express their opinion of "sitting in judgement of others". And again, you are using your personal situation as an argument against Hershman's assertions which is really a non-argument. And it is you who are judging really when you assert that the only way to raise a child well is to do it yourself. The fact remains that women as a whole do a disservice to ourselves when we "choose" to opt out of the workforce. Period. And as I said, I've gone to bat for women who are ambivalent about coming back from leave. I've advocated for part-time, flexibility, etc. When women opt out, then managment sees this as the only way and won't make accomodations for those of us who want careers. That is Hirshman's point. And I can be disappointed that talented, smart women believe that the only way to bring up a child is by staying home.

And I sincerly believe that if even a majority of men believed that women belonged in the workplace, there would be more options and fewer women would "choose" to stay at home. Making these accomodations where possible helps everyone, men and women.

Posted by: Working Mother | July 5, 2006 7:55 PM

Many posters seem to agree that this issue is really only for middle and upper middle class Americans. We all would like to make the choices that benefit us directly the most. And we should. Adam Smith, a famous economist, wrote something along those lines when he coined the term 'the invisible hand. "Smith makes the claim that, within the system of capitalism, an individual acting for his own good tends also to promote the good of his community" (wikipedia). See--I did remember something from econ 101!!! By desiring not to have a 9-5 but a more flexible job, I was impassioned to look for and then create it. So the woman who hired the illiterate Vietnamese child-care worker is, in fact, helping the community by not only doing her own job, but also creating a job for an unskilled worker who might otherwise be on welfare. Cheers!

Posted by: To working mother | July 5, 2006 8:07 PM

To Working Mother:

I find it someone ironic that you criticzed the use anecdotes to back up your position and then turned around and talked about your job, your position as a boss, your age, and your children in your arguments about why you agree with Hirshman.

I disagree with all three points that Hirshman is making, but I don't have anything else to say about the subject that hasn't already been said.

I have a question for Leslie:

"she's getting a lot of women -- and men -- talking about work, economic independence, power and choices. The heated discussions she generates are an unmitigated public good. Hallelujah!"

Why is the aftermath of what Hirshman is saying a "unmitigated public good" and the other discussions of this topic written off as "Mommy Wars", the "Why can't we all just get along" topic, the "We're all mothers and we shouldn't fight with each other" topic, or the "it's a personal choice and every family is different" topic?

Would you say the same thing about people who write books or articles promoting SAHPs because having both parents in the work force "isn't best for society", and the heated-yet-thoughtful discussions that follow? Or is your opinion on Hirshman influenced by the fact that you personally think that working is better for your family (and perhaps, ultimately, society?)

Posted by: momof4 | July 5, 2006 8:25 PM

"Leslie, please can we hear from women lawyers, doctors, scientists who took 5 years out while their children were small and then successfully re-entered the workforce."

I have a friend who re-entered the workforce after over 10 years as a SAHM. She had about 6 years professional experience before her first child was born. She is a civil engineer - almost three years ago she began working from home as a consultant for an ex-coworker who had opened his own business. A little over a year later, she found an administrative job (by choice, she did not want to work in engineering at that time), and remained there for about a year. About 9 months ago she went back to work as a civil engineer for the city, the same job she left 12 1/2 years previous. And last month she was hired in a supervisory position for the city (population about 50K), in charge of the four transportation-related departments and their managers.

Posted by: momof4 | July 5, 2006 8:32 PM

momof4
I was using my experience to substantiate the assertions about the hostile attitude toward mothers in the workplace. I was not using my life as anecdotal evidence that working is "better" as some of you are doing with regard to staying at home. If I did, I would go on and on about why I work and then say "aha, Hirshman is wrong because I'm contributing to society". I've done no such thing.

And studies have shown that overwhelmingly, it is very difficult for women to get back into the workplace after a several year hiatus. Just because your friend did it, doesn't mean that is the norm. Good for her, it worked out. But for most women, it's exceedingly difficult to get back into the workforce.

And I would think that the observations of someone in a position to hire others would be valuable to this discussion, but I see that it is not. Good luck to you.

Posted by: Working Mother | July 5, 2006 9:11 PM

Hirshman is proposing a country of only children...

I know most posters are off work and at home...but I found some earlier posts re: value (or not) of siblings to be interesting.

Food for thought: TIME magazine has an article about "HOW SIBLINGS MAKE YOU WHO YOU ARE":

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1209949,00.html

Posted by: ingrid | July 5, 2006 9:43 PM

"I was not using my life as anecdotal evidence that working is "better" as some of you are doing with regard to staying at home."

I hope you're not putting me in the "some of you" category, because I have never (I don't believe?) used anecdotal evidence as why I feel that having a caring SAHP is the best situation for young children. (And I add the word "caring" as an adjective not to suggest that WOHPs don't care about their children, but to distinguish from a SAHP who neglects their children.) I could try to use my children anecdotally to prove my point, but I realize that it doesn't prove anything.

"And studies have shown that overwhelmingly, it is very difficult for women to get back into the workplace after a several year hiatus. Just because your friend did it, doesn't mean that is the norm. Good for her, it worked out."

I'm fully aware of this, although I think the problem varies in severity in different areas of the country. I think it is far less of an issue where I live. But leaving that aside, I wasn't saying that "because my friend did it, everyone should be able to do it" - I was responding to a specific question (of Leslie, granted) to hear the stories of women who were successful re-entering the workforce after several years.

"And I would think that the observations of someone in a position to hire others would be valuable to this discussion, but I see that it is not. Good luck to you."

I'm not sure why you're getting snarky with me, since I never said that your observations weren't valuable or valid. I just thought it was interesting that you were chiding others for using their personal situations in their posts but then doing something very similar.


Posted by: momof4 | July 5, 2006 11:48 PM

To Glad I can support myself,

I do see your points although I think you are being a little harsh in generalizing all men as male chauvinist pigs -- I wondered if your own experiences with men have clouded your views (was your father a "traditional male" who expected your mother to wait on him?). Hey, my sister and brother in law hyphenated their names when they got married and her maiden name is the last one -- there's a progressive man for you!Yes, there are people out there who expect their spouses to take care of everything (and yes, I know of a SAHM who does nothing all day but garden and lives very nicely because of her husband's income -- she has not been in the workforce in 11 years but has not kept her skills updated and really does nothing around the house or volunteer -- I think she spends a couple of hours a week working in a store)
Father of 4 is very funny -- If you read other posts of his he seems to have a dry sense of humor and a very devoted father (the story about working with one of his kids to teach them how to ride a bike is lovely) and husband.
I guess my point is, don't be too angry about what people post -- yes, I admit, last night I came home, went to the grocery story, made dinner and cleaned up for my family -- but my husband had driven 9 hours back from vacation and never asked me once to share the driving so its the least I could do.
Leslie, please keeps these kinds of articles coming -- they provoke incredibly provocative debate!

Posted by: typical working mother | July 6, 2006 8:19 AM

I (a college student) just completed a year-long research project on the topic of work/family balance in which I surveyed students (both male and female) at an Ivy League university and found that even though the students were not faced with any work/family balance issues yet, it was a topic they thought frequently about (much more so for women than men, as expected) and that their expectations/hopes/fears for the future WERE having an impact on choices they were currently making (everything ranging from choosing a major or summer job to choosing a date).

Anyway, with regards to point #2, that having only one child makes the biggest difference, I found something different: if you want to be a "working mother" (what a term!), having a *son* is the most important factor. Boys' parents were less likely to take time off of work, and the duration spent home with the child was substantially lower than for girls. Just thought I'd share!

Posted by: Student | July 6, 2006 8:50 AM

Student - It's interesting that this is a topic people are discussing on campus. When I was a student in the early 90's the conversational focus was on feminist media-critique. Why do you think work/family balance is such a hot-topic right now?

Posted by: Friend | July 6, 2006 11:47 AM

Student, thanks for sharing, that's really interesting about the boy vs. girl and the time spent at home. What was your sample population for that finding?

Working Mother, if you are still reading today, I'm curious about your friends who would like to re-enter the workforce but don't have the courage - what are their fears? Is it the worry that they won't be able to do so at all, that they won't be able to regain their previous status, that they will be looked down on for not being a SAHM, something else entirely?

Also, on the question regarding reentry in fields like law, etc, it seems to me from my experience and from what I've read on this blog that the legal field has become much more accomodating to women in recent years. When I was a summer associate at a top firm near my law school they made a huge deal about their flexibility in working with women as a selling point for the firm. I think that because women now make up such a large proportion of graduates from law school, firms that want to attract the top student realize they can't afford to not pitch themselves to the women, or they may lose out on half of the people they want to hire. I suspect that professions that require specialized education are more likely to be accomodating because of this type of situation than professions that are accessible to a wider variety of backgrounds.

Posted by: Megan | July 6, 2006 11:52 AM

I am a single, 30 year old professional woman raised by a SAHM. I am a little annoyed at those who characterize women who chose to stay home as "wanting to get out of work". News flash, being a SAHM is not a vacation. My mother was the hardest working woman I knew. I know many working woman (my self included) who would go running screaming into the night after enduring one day of a typical SAHM routine. So please give these womwn a little credit for the hard work that they put in.

Posted by: Allie | July 6, 2006 12:12 PM

I also wanted to add, that there is a side of this that I don't think has been explored. As an African-american woman, I often find these debates concerning feminisim and working/vs not working centered around white middle class women and their experiences. Th fact of the matter is every woman in my family worked (grandmothers, aunts etc.) because they had too. They didn't have careers they had jobs, usually taking care of other peoples children. My parents worked hard and both had college degrees and were able to provide a middle class life for me. In the 80's when waves of women were running to the workforce my mother made the decision to step out. In my family that was a BIG DEAL. The fact that my mother actually had the choice to stay home with me as an African-American woman was huge. Instead of a step back in my family it was a sign that my mom and dad had arrived. My point is that often this discussion is looked through the prism of only one type of life experience. I can say for a fact that every sinlge one of my African-American girlfriends would LOVE to stay home with their kids when they get married (if we could ever find eligible Black men, but that's another blog!) and it wouldn't be seen by our community as step back but a step toward progress. Just another view point for what it's worth.

Posted by: Allie | July 6, 2006 12:26 PM

"Is it just me, or are women who focus only on raising kids passing the buck to their kids? If my big accomplishment is to raise children, then it is the kids' accomplishments that will validate my life choices. That seems unfair to the kids, doesn't it?"

I completely agree with this assessment! Moreover, the implicit assumption is that a mother only exist to further the accomplishments of her sons, since her daughters will presumably also put their desires for professional advancement aside once they themselves become mothers.

I'm a 28-year-old woman on the verge of starting my own family, and I can't help but face the transition with trepidation. I've spent my entire life trying to develop myself as a well-rounded individual-- striving academically and professionally, cultivating hobbies and interests, and traveling. I always assumed that I'd be able to continue this development, whether I worked or stayed at home. But so much of what I read from the current crop of stay-at-home advocates makes me feel like I'll be expected to function solely as an acolyte for the next generation. I'll be nothing but a vessel from the very moment I get pregnant. Any attempts to pursue my own agenda or develop my own interests and skills will demonstrate my selfishness and unwillingness to put family first. Doesn't it bother anyone that a woman's life as an individual is expected to unceremoniously cease once she hits her 20s or 30s? Do any stay-at-home moms who are proudly raising smart and ambitious daughters ever wrestle with these maddening contradictions?

Shouldn't everyone be allowed to strive for whole personhood throughout their lives? And can't whole personhood be compatible with loving your kids and raising them well?

I know the flamers on this board are going to accuse this post of being all about "me, me, me" and declare me unfit for motherhood, but alas... had to get this off my chest.


Posted by: Liz | July 6, 2006 12:34 PM

Could we just get over the idea that all "stay at home moms" are better moms than those who have their own, independent lives (independent of being moms)? Or that they devote more time and nurturing care to their children? I was raised by a stay at home mom, who wanted to be at home, and who was involved in every activity I or my brother ever did, president of the PTA, cookie baker extraordinaire, and guess what? It drove me crazy! I couldn't get one inch of space to myself. I couldn't be myself in my activities because she was always there supervising. I couldn't have anything that was MINE, not mom's. I know she meant well, but when my dad lost his job and she had to go to work, well, that was one of the best times of my young life. Suddenly, although I was still being taken care of, I had personal space. My dad wasn't about to spend 4 hours a night sewing costumes for the play I was in - and I liked it that way! Let someone else do it! And throughout all this excessive involvement, somehow I never felt that it was because she wanted to be with me, as an individual, it was that she wanted to be a MOM, and have absolute power through her Mom-ness and have everyone cluck about what a great homemaker she was. She had every bit the ambition working women or men have, but it was all directed towards domesticity. Argh.

It's no secret why I totally rebelled against everything my mom stands for (women should be in the home, having babies, "volunteering" instead of working, etc.,) and don't even want any kids myself. If I did decide to have them, you bet I would keep working, at the very least part-time, because I have such contempt for women who pretend to be submissive to men and domestic and happy all the time, and blah blah, when in fact they are total tyrants within their home-sphere, are passive-aggressive (because women can't be overtly aggressive, no no!)and generally make everyone miserable if they don't get their way. Nothing that 10 years of therapy can't cure I'm sure...

Posted by: raised by | July 6, 2006 12:57 PM

Liz,

Since I've had kids, I've put more thought into my goals. For me, it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. So raising my kids well, and giving them a great childhood is about the here and now, not what they go on to do as adults. Life is happening NOW, and its important to me that I take the time to enjoy it.

Caring for my kids does not make me less of an individual-- ignoring what I want to follow the path that makes everyone else more comfortable would.

Too many people in this world go through life mindlessy doing whatever society says is next.

Posted by: WiSAHM | July 6, 2006 1:07 PM

Thanks WiSAHM. I definitely think I could benefit from being a little less future-oriented and a little more "present" in my daily life. I'm really going to try to be mindful as I raise my kids.

It sounds like you really love being a mom! I tend to think that as long as we're conveying that to our kids, we're doing OK. =)

Posted by: Liz | July 6, 2006 1:31 PM

"I've spent my entire life trying to develop myself as a well-rounded individual-- striving academically and professionally, cultivating hobbies and interests, and traveling. I always assumed that I'd be able to continue this development, whether I worked or stayed at home. But so much of what I read from the current crop of stay-at-home advocates makes me feel like I'll be expected to function solely as an acolyte for the next generation."

Liz, I really sympathize with you on this. When I had my son, most of my "mommy friends" were SAHM who had an attitude similar to what you're describing - they were all about their kids, and thought they were better moms for being that way. But I was also able to find some SAHM who were not like that, and thoroughly enjoyed their company. We were able to talk about things other than kids, and had I not moved away and gone back to work, I think we would have found some very enjoyable pursuits for ourselves and our families.

It doesn't have to be all or nothing, and if you look enough I'm sure you will find other moms whose attitudes are more like your own. Being a mom is a fantastic, but and it doesn't have to destroy your sense of individuality (though I think for the first few months that's hard to see).

Posted by: Megan | July 6, 2006 1:42 PM

I'm a working mom in my late twenties, and my husband works full-time as well. Additionally, I'm in graduate school four nights a week. Our two-year old daughter loves her evenings with Daddy, and he also does all of the laundry and vacuuming. Our lives are a little chaotic, but I wouldn't change a thing. My father died was I was in high school, and if my mother hadn't had a career and her graduate degree, I shudder to think where we would have been without my father's substantial income. My mother, now in her fifties, owns her own home, has substantial retirement savings, and a network of friends and colleagues as well. My point is - you never know what happens in life, and to plan for one spouse or the other to always be there is not realistic. My mother has set a fantastic example for me, and I plan to do the same for my daughter.

Posted by: DC Student Working Mom | July 6, 2006 2:17 PM

Way back in the early part of these comments, a reader chided Leslie for her "Try Being Nice" advice. That was sexist, said the reader, because no one ever tells a man to "Try Being Nice."
Actually, I have to disagree. I work in politics. Good male candidates, just like good female candidates, know that it's important to be charming and nice. Right now I'm working for a veteran politician, a liberal in a conservative state who has been extremely successful in part because of his tremendous personal charm. He has managed to win support from people who admit they disagree with him on many issues but have concluded that they trust his judgment, his integrity and his motives -- and they just flat-out like him. This guy is a big adherent of the "Try Being Nice" strategy, and it works for him.
This isn't an election-only strategy, by the way. Charm and niceness are useful to anyone who is trying to govern effectively. You can persuade people to vote for you, support your policies, follow your leadership or agree with your argument without being charming or nice (example: Nixon), but lack of charm or niceness makes the task a lot more difficult.

Posted by: onlooker | July 6, 2006 3:07 PM

DC student working mom, you raise an important point. Life is uncertain. Bad things happen to good people. Parents should be prepared for all contingencies. That includes diversifying family income sources, or potential family income sources.
Beyond that economic advice, though, Linda Hirshman over-reaches, to put it kindly. It is arrogant for anyone to decide someone else's personal values. If one mother values being at home with the kids full-time more than pursuing a career, so be it. It's not Linda's business, or my business, to dictate other people's values.

Posted by: latecomer | July 6, 2006 3:18 PM

Glover Prk, why not drop the sexism and actually do something so that EVERY MOTHER AND FATHER at least has the ability to not work if they so choose?

Posted by: Maria | July 6, 2006 3:47 PM

"To KJ - 'Managing the day-to-day tasks of family life ought to be easier for two people who have had some practice negotiating life's hurdles together.'

"This sounds great in theory, but somehow I must be doing something wrong. Married at 29, currently 10 years into my career, baby at age 32, marriage rock solid - survived two military deployments -- yet my husband and I feel we are anything BUT juggling it all well."

I think KJ's point is that it would be even more difficult for you and your husband to juggle it all if you had your baby much sooner after your wedding.

Posted by: Maria | July 6, 2006 3:49 PM

"Hmm. So my mom 'dropping out' from when I was born until I was 13 or so made it harder for me to choose to work.

"Um, no. My mom 'dropped out' and formed her own business that paid for our vacations while I grew up."

Sounds like your mom actually did not drop out!

Posted by: Maria | July 6, 2006 3:56 PM

Thank you to whoever made the "tenant/tenet" correction. Phew.

1. Social Change

In her American Prospect article, Hirschman was scornful of women who took jobs based on how "meaningful" they were, without taking money into account. I agreed with her then, and I'm surprised she's morphed into "social change" (or perhaps that's just Leslie's take, as she's not all that accurate). Parents should work because an independent income stream is the only way they can assure financial security for themselves and their children. It's not a responsibility that you can turn over to someone else.

2. Limiting oneself to one isn't necessary, but spacing kids more than 3 years apart is a very good idea. Have kid #2 when kid #1 is off to kindergarten.

I also recommend having kids earlier. I became a parent at 25. In most careers, it's much easier to wrangle time off at the beginning of a career, rather than midstream. It's tough, but not impossible.

3. Best for society

Women who can't support themselves or their children cost society a huge amount of money. Even when they aren't sticking their hands out for government funds, taxpayers subsidize their choice. Unquestionably, stay at home moms are expensive, risky, and reap no meaningful societal benefits.

Posted by: Cal | July 6, 2006 3:57 PM

I surveyed 160 Princeton students (male and female) this spring for my independent work, and got the information about the boy/girl stay-at-home tendency by simply asking the students if their parents took time off and how long they were off.

RE: why it's a big issue now, I can only speak about Princeton -- it's sparked discussions there because the very original article starting the whole recent controversy - Lisa Belkin's "The Opt-Out Revolution" - was about Princeton grads, and Belkin herself is an alum. Then, the Sept. 05 NY Times article about focused on Ivy (specifically Yale) students again. However, sadly, the discussion seems to be limited to women on campus, and while my survey showed extremely high levels of concern about balance in the future (for BOTH males and females), it is not talked about nearly as much as you would expect given the high levels of concern expressed.

I think it's such a big topic for us as female Ivy League students because we're being told that we can do ANYTHING, but when we express a desire to be mothers, we are told we CAN'T do that.

Plus, honestly, I suspect that a lot of it simply has to do with burnout. These young women have been pushed so hard their entire lives, being told that they can be anything at all, that the possibilities are overwhelming and motherhood *seems* like an easy out. Also, the types of careers that students from places like Princeton are tracked into -- i-banking, for instance -- are burnout careers and are only meant to last for a few years, so that their burnout/time to leave that specific job generally coincides with the time that they would be having children anyway (for women, at least).

I welcome any more questions about my research! I covered a variety of issues dealing with the students' past, present, and future, and looked extensively at gender-role traditionalism (which I found did not play a large role in predicting what their intentions with regards to balance would be). Thanks!

Posted by: Student | July 6, 2006 4:25 PM

"One thing I realized after having a child was that I had only one chance to raise my child well, and by god I wanted to do it myself. When faced with the end of maternity leave I decided I couldn't leave her with someone who's name I barely knew."

This is not a unique realization. Most mothers feel this way. I just wish that ALL young women would realize this BEFORE they have the child and plan accordingly. You will most likely NOT want to leave your child in care when he/she is less than 2 years old. Plan for this before you get pregnant, before you get married, before you even enter the workforce.

Posted by: Tanger | July 6, 2006 5:10 PM

To the "student" -- I really appreciate your insights and the summary of your research, it's very interesting. Is there an article where we could read more about your findings? Thanks -- and keep up the good work! Also, just out of curiosity, have you found any similar research on women in other countries (that go to schools comparable to our Ivy League universities -- or maybe just women in the upper middle/upper classes)? It would be interesting to try and identify what pieces of this are "American" and, by extension, a byproduct of our history (social, political, economic, etc). It'd also be interesting to explore in light of those who say women are biologically wired to behave a certain way, regardless of their environment/context....

Posted by: Kim | July 6, 2006 5:20 PM

"I think it's such a big topic for us as female Ivy League students because we're being told that we can do ANYTHING, but when we express a desire to be mothers, we are told we CAN'T do that."

Isn't that what male students are told too? You'll probably tell your son that he can do ANYTHING, but how will you respond if he expresses his desire to be a father *instead of* (not along with) earning a salary or wage...?

Posted by: Maria | July 6, 2006 5:37 PM

That's right, Ivy Leaguer. Linda Hirschman thinks you should have the freedom to kill your unborn baby, but not the freedom to raise your living one. Is anybody else having trouble with that logic?

Posted by: Yo Mama | July 6, 2006 5:46 PM

I have a real problem with that, too, Yo Mama. When I went to a private all-women's college in the early '80s, I was given the message (loud, clear, and repeated endlessly) that I could be an do anything. That is, unless I wished to be a SAH mother. It was absolutely something reviled -- to think that any woman would want to stay home with her infant child! Horrors! When she could be a scientist or an astronaut or a computer programmer or a doctor or a great novelist or President of the U.S!

I never bought it. I never hated men. I never saw there "the patriarchy" had held me or my female relatives down. (I came from a matriarchal family on both sides, so I guess that helped.) I always intended to have a career, but to make sure I could stay home with my child (only wanted one) when he/she was very young. I never voiced that opinion because I know everyone would have argued with me and ridiculed me.

But now, 20 years later, I see from my college newsletter, that most of my classmates at some point left the workforce to be home with their children. Some have never returned. Some are having their first child now and planning to stay home. I'm sure most of us had decent work experiences, climbed a ladder to some point above entry level, and all that. But in the end, so many seem to have decided that child-rearing wasn't such a lowly occupation or capitulation to the patriarchy after all.

Posted by: Tanger | July 6, 2006 6:16 PM

The world has a shortage of quality people producing children and a surplus of useless people bringing more of the same into the world. The recipe of social decline is boiling over.

A better rule to live by is: good people should have more children. Useless and redundant people should have few or none.

Sell them lifestyle propaganda so they consume entertainment products and follow materialism instead of creating unnecessary children. They'll be occupied with glowing screens and chasing toys -- safely out of the way of those who live.

http://www.satanicusa.com/

Posted by: Common Sense | July 6, 2006 7:16 PM

Whoah, Tanger. It sounds like you're angry at having been "given the message (loud, clear, and repeated endlessly) that I could be an do anything."

Why are you angry about this?

This is a message I received too. And I don't remember ANYONE, EVER discouraging me from parenthood. It simply never came up. I guess parenting wasn't on my radar screen when I was in my late teens and early twenties. What was on my radar was getting a good education and preparing myself for the working world, which is why I attended college.

Women's issues have changed in the last 20 years. What seemed important to people then (ensuring women had equal access to all levels of the job market) may seem less imporant now because the world has changed.

I'm sorry you feel put-upon. Blessings...

Posted by: Friend | July 6, 2006 7:33 PM

Yo Mama, My daughter was a freshman this year in high school and took a child development course, thats what the title of the class was anyway. I thought it would be about a child walks at around 12 months..., lose their teeth at 4, babbles.., talks, has a vocabulary of x amount of words at y years... No way was it that. The first semester concentrated on contraception methods, STDs, aids,birth defects, a focus on inner city poverty, the wonderful benefits of abortion and how the practise is absolutely necessary to promote the advancement of women, and even included a guest speaker from Planned Parenthood.

That class, literally, made my daughter physically ill.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 6, 2006 9:41 PM

"...That class, literally, made my daughter physically ill."

Why, did she feel guilty about denying a baby a chance to live by not getting pregnant by now?

Posted by: Maria | July 6, 2006 9:51 PM

Maria, she came home crying because she couldn't understand why people could be so cruel.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 6, 2006 9:59 PM

Great comments here; have not time to read them all!

I'll add my little gripe about Ms. Hirshman. She seems to place the blame on elite women dropping out on nefarious outside forces: religion, Republicans, ect...

She seems blind to the fact that maybe it is an issue with the admissions policies of the upper crust universities. After all, it is Ms. Hirshman's peers that chose these women who dropped out and stayed home.

If I were the head of the admissions dept of an Ivy league university, I sure as hell would be taking a closer look at the young women admitted to my university. NOT with an eye to admitting LESS women, but DIFFERENT women. And I'd be beating the bushes to find the elite women who DID NOT drop out, to find out what makes them different from the ones who did.

Posted by: ALP | July 6, 2006 10:24 PM

even included a guest speaker from Planned Parenthood.

Fo4-public school? not fairfax county I hope! My 9th grade daughter had sex ed in pe, with the boys!, and I heard no mention of abortion or planned parenthood speakers. I will ask her in the am.

Posted by: experienced mom | July 6, 2006 11:05 PM

Linda Hirshman doesn't understand that just following men's conventional workplace roles is not progressive. I don't agree that if a man traditionally does something, it's automatically superior, as she apparently does. I'm a strong black feminist at-home mom who has found I do use my intelligence and education as I care for and teach my children. I've done both, and all of us fared better when I quit the old 9-5 trap. I don't call that freedom. I do some work at home as a free-lance writer, and here is a link to a column I recently wrote about Hirshman.

http://www.registerguard.com/news/2006/07/05/ed.col.whitfield.0705.p1.php?section=opinion

Posted by: Cynthia Whitfield | July 6, 2006 11:11 PM

As for the argument about at-home moms not having money later in their lives, the National Organization for Women is lobbying and working to get social security accounts for women -- because they, at least, agree that the unpaid work women do is valuable and important. I know my has been, and continues to be. The day-to-day quality of my kid's (and mine) life has improved. And my husband, a progressive public radio director, works no more than 40 hours a week, with four weeks off each year. Becoming a workaholic is not the way to go. And if everybody does this, employers have no incentive to enact family-friendly policies.

Posted by: Cynthia Whitfield | July 6, 2006 11:18 PM

Cynthia Whitfield is my new hero!!

Posted by: experienced mom | July 6, 2006 11:26 PM

As for the argument that at-home mothering is the wrong choice for society overall, I also disagree. I think society is enriched by women at home. Hirshman says employers are less likely to hire women if more women become at-home moms. I'm more worried that employers are less likely to be prompted to change the insatiable demands of workforce because more women don't insist on work-friendly options, including a year of paid or unpaid leave, as is normal in Europe. We could easily argue that employed moms are taking any opportunities for us to choose home, and that is bad for society. Instead, we need to see that we need both a culture that values at-home moms and a culture that provides the highest quality day care possible for those who'd rather delegate the care of their children. I need to do this work myself, and that's okay for me and for society.

Posted by: Cynthia Whitfield | July 6, 2006 11:28 PM

"Maria, she came home crying because she couldn't understand why people could be so cruel."

Can't understand why people could avoid childbirth and thinks it's cruel? Hmm...maybe she *is* going to live up to her own standards and give a baby a chance to live within 9 months...

Posted by: Maria | July 7, 2006 6:50 AM

Experienced Mom, Yes, Fairfax County, the city to be more specific. I believe that the FLE (Family Life Education) is run during the PE classes and offers the parents the option to "Opt Out". What my daughter took was an elective labeled "Child Development". I had to admit that I was a little shocked when I asked her what she was doing for homework and she had an assignment to "discuss 3 methods of birth control and decide what was best for her and her "partner""... It's the class where they hand out the mechanical baby that the other students like to sneak up on and whack just to make it cry.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 7, 2006 7:49 AM

F04 Yikes! Is Michele Brickner still on the school board? She would like to hear about this!

Posted by: experienced mom | July 7, 2006 7:57 AM

I called the daughter for validation/confirmation. The Planned Parenthood speaker brought in examples of condoms (both male and female), diaphram, and a "ceran-wrap" device that prevents oral STDs. I'm getting a little intimidated by my 14 year old, she actually does know more about sex than I do

You can talk to any school board member. They all know exactly what's going on, I believe they have an agenda.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 7, 2006 8:50 AM

"And I'd be beating the bushes to find the elite women who DID NOT drop out, to find out what makes them different from the ones who did."

I agree, but you have to figure that the elites know their demographics. Harvard men need Harvard women that they can marry to stay home.

If they did want to look for elites that didn't drop out, they should look at middle class applicants. A girl whose parents make less than (say) $150K who has worked hard enough to qualify for an elite school will almost certainly not be quitting. Unfortunately, that plays into the admissions game--a girl like that would be more likely to accept an elite public school because of the debt load the elite private university would give her.

In fact, that'd be an interesting comparison--dropout rates women who go to an elite private university vs. women who go to an elite public university.

As for Social Security accounts for women, I do hope that the family will be paying into those accounts. Surely NOW isn't suggesting that women get something from the government just by virtue of staying home. Otherwise, a whole bunch of welfare moms will be qualifying for Social Security.

And if the working parent is going to be paying into the stay at home's account, then it would be the functional equivalent of self-employment--pay up 15%, please. Then they'd have to decide how much the woman is worth.

So NOW's solution to stay at home momming is for the family to pay 15% of what they think the mother is worth? Or were they really expecting society to just fork over money to anyone with kids who quits their job?

Posted by: Cal | July 7, 2006 10:00 AM

"In fact, that'd be an interesting comparison--dropout rates women who go to an elite private university vs. women who go to an elite public university."
That's an interesting comment. It brings me back to one of the basic problems I have with Linda Hirshman -- she puts all her focus on a certain type of elite, and it's not necessarily the group with the most intelligence or ambition.
If you're really rich and you can afford to take a few years off from paid work, sure, you're more likely to do so. If you're like the rest of us, you have to keep on plugging away in the labor force. To me, the whole question about "dropping out" (not that being a SAHM is a vacation, as earlier noted; it's very, very hard work) is more about money than anything.

Posted by: latecomer | July 7, 2006 2:28 PM

"Unfortunately, that plays into the admissions game--a girl like that would be more likely to accept an elite public school because of the debt load the elite private university would give her."

What about the debt load an elite public university might give her? Public universities can be nearly as expensive as private ones for out-of-state students (for example, UCLA charges students from Boston a lot more than it charges students from San Diego). If none of the elite public universities are in her state then she'd have to be an out-of-state student, and pay the higher rate, to go attend one.

Posted by: Maria | July 8, 2006 1:48 AM

"What about the debt load an elite public university might give her?"

What about it? You surely don't think out of state public school tuition approaches that of a private school?

In any event, I feel sure that with effort, you can grasp the point--namely, girls with ambition and less money will be less likely to select or be selected by elite school, and will be more likely to consider costs in their decision. Hence, looking at the dropout rates of high-achieving women who took school costs into account might be illuminating.

Posted by: Cal | July 8, 2006 11:03 AM

"You can talk to any school board member. They all know exactly what's going on, I believe they have an agenda."

I suspect their agenda might be preventing unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmissable diseases. I would agree that actually promoting abortion would not be appropriate (although I am pro choice), but providing detailed and clear information about contraception and getting teenagers to think about it and not be embarrased or grossed out by it is really important. Father of 4, based on your posts on other blogs it sounds like you did your share of fooling around when you were a lad, don't you want your daughter to be able to protect herself should she make similar choices?

Posted by: Megan | July 8, 2006 11:37 AM

Megan, You can be rest assured that your values are well represented and taught in the Fairfax county Public Schools. I believe their next step is to teach students the benefits of and alternative homosexual lifestyle over that of a long outdated traditional family unit. If educators want to offer socially progressive courses like this, fine, I have no problem with it. I do, however, take umbridge with the fact that they disguised these social engineering platitudes under the heading of "Child Development".

Furthermore, my doughter didn't sign up for this class exclusively made up of females. she got bumped into it because there was no room in the sports medicine and journalism classes predominantly populated by males.

I also might want to point out that my daughter was totally disgusted by how the material in the course was presented to her, and as of right now strongly subscribes to the opposing pro-child viewpoint, but that's just her, and she is free to think and believe anything she wants.

Next, I'm going to type up the text for her babysitting flyer.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 9, 2006 7:13 AM

"Next, I'm going to type up the text for her babysitting flyer."

Interesting. My parents would never have typed up a babysitting flyer for me. That would be encouraging me to babysit for strangers, which they didn't allow me to do because they'd heard of other girls getting raped that way.

OTOH, this could increase the odds of another baby being born...

Posted by: Maria | July 9, 2006 10:09 AM

"based on your posts on other blogs it sounds like you did your share of fooling around when you were a lad, don't you want your daughter to be able to protect herself should she make similar choices?"

You'd be surprised at how many dads out there *don't* want their daughters to make the choices they're happy they made themselves. According to them, it's OK for a man to have sex with a woman outside marriage and it's not OK for a woman to have sex with a man outside marriage.

Posted by: Maria | July 9, 2006 10:12 AM

Father of 4, you never fail to make me smile, even when we're disagreeing! I'd be very surprised if the course is quite as aggressive as you describe, but I agree that a class like that should be totally elective, and having a student placed in it who didn't want to take it is not cool at all.

Out of curiosity, do you consider your daughter's "pro-child" viewpoint to be in opposition to education on contraception or just on abortion? I can't tell from the way you describe your daughter's reaction if she's disgusted with both or just one.

Posted by: Megan | July 9, 2006 9:47 PM

Maria, you seem to be taunting me for a response, but before I reply, let me tell you that you have a very melodic name. At this time I've got the tunes from "The Sound of Music" stuck in my head, which is making me happy.

On the babysitter flyer issue, which I completely agree wih you, could be unsafe especially if you post it in a public area. She only plans to pass it out door to door to those who we know have little kids or babies. Also, she did the "Pay me whatever you think" thing, and after reading the babysitting thread, I think she is being severely underpaid. The flyer issue should help that. Maybe I'll post the text of the flyer and submit it out for comments on the babysitting thread. Maybe it's not appropriate though...

I also completely agree with you that men shamelessly implement a double standard when it comes to sexual attitudes. I would strongly encourage any female, as you are a member of the superior sex, not to stoop to our level.

Megan, the female condom and the device that prevents STDS through oral sex totally grossed her out. For any female to subject herself ... Ding! Ding! By writing this, I just figured that the oral thing is for the males. Boy, I feel stupid now, not that I don't regularly feel stupid, I just feel stupider, which I'm not sure is a word.

As far as the abortion issue goes, my daughter made good friends with a girl that was already pregnant, and as what one would think to be a wise decision, took the Child Development class. As you can imagine, with all the hormones associated with pregnancy and having to sit through a class that demonizes teenage procreation, the slant that the abortion issue was presented to them sparked emotions of anger and resentment. i believe that the nurturing and compassionate side of my daughter, at some point, just simply overwhelmed her.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 10, 2006 5:17 AM

I think she and her ilk completely undervalue the role of biology. Women care for babies. Women nuture. It is not easy to turn that primal urge off. Thousands (tens and even hundreds of thousands) of years of human evolution have created a woman with a brain and a body uniquely suited for and capable of having and raising children.

I disagree with parts of this. Women bear children, yes. No other way to do it. However, studies of hunters and gatherers have shown that the raising of children was very much equitably shared among men and women in these cultures. And humans were hunters and gathers for tens of thousands of years before they became rooted in agrarian culture where women became the primary caregivers for children.

Posted by: Rockville | July 10, 2006 11:31 AM

I actually wrote to Linda Hirshman about her book and article. (Note, I did not read the book....I was responding to her article in the Post.) I think there HAS to be some satisfying middle ground here. I do not believe that being a SAHM is bad in any way. I just know it's not my preference, but that I also don't want my kids in daycare for 12+ hours a day. Below is an edited version of the e-mail I sent Linda Hirshman:

"An M.Ed. formerly of higher ed and currently unemployed, I am home with my two girls, ages 8 and 9, this summer. While I love my children more than anything and thoroughly enjoy spending time with them, I have felt unsupported in my attempts to manage work outside the home and family life. Daycare is an issue, and conservative attitudes in my state are even bigger issues. These conflicts, coupled with disastrous dynamics in private, postsecondary education, have landed me here, blogging and writing e-mail at 8:30 in the morning.

For your reading amusement, I am sending you part of a ranting e-mail I sent my husband, whom I also love dearly, but whom I felt (at the time) did not understand my acute need to work outside the home, at least part-time (which is almost impossible if you have to pay daycare).

'And I NEVER put a price on our girls. EVER. I would be a housewife the rest of my life if it meant their success, but I do not believe they need a housewife as a model for the rest of THEIR lives! I am a better mother because I work and teach them a WORK ETHIC! They need to see Mommy is a strong, smart, successful woman who EARNS her KEEP! I want them to know WOMEN WORK and women CAN do 'MEN STUFF' (like lawn care). Think about how much our eldest daughter wants you to show her how to cut the lawn. Think of how long I struggled for the RIGHT TO WORK. Now think about how that RIGHT has been taken away from me because people have the attitude that 'good moms stay home.' You know what? Good moms love their kids, take time off to share important moments, TEACH them, and do all the things GOOD DADS DO!
I have had a supervisor say to me.....AFTER she assigned me ridiculous work hours...that she was "CARINGLY" telling me not to work my hours because she thought I needed to spend time with my family. How DARE she tell me how to live my life, especially after SHE ASSIGNED ME THOSE HOURS! You know what that is all about, and SO DO I. And I don't buy it.

So, my love.......I am glad you want a wife and not a housewife because I did not go to college to 'major in marriage.' I went to school to contribute to society by using my talents. And hopefully, some day I will actually get PAID to do so.......'

Let me add that there are other dynamics that contributed to the e-mail segment above, but your article sums up a good amount of the angst I have had since giving birth (which, again let me be clear, I do NOT regret).

Thank you for your article."

Posted by: Katherine | July 10, 2006 3:44 PM

Father of 4, it sounds like your daughter is a very compassionate and caring girl (and she's lucky to have you as a dad). I can only imagine what it would be like to sit through a lecture like that while pregnant - I was studying the abortion cases in Con Law shortly after a doctor had (incorrectly) told us we could never have a child, and it was really hard. Can't imagine doing it while actually preggers!

Posted by: Megan | July 11, 2006 11:21 AM

What a yuppie idiot! Put your job ahead of your flesh and blood so that some ceo can make an extra 10million on his options? Please! Yes, my middle management drone position making widgets is sooo much more important than raising my child? What a moron!

Posted by: PATRICK | July 12, 2006 10:10 AM

GREAT thread everyone (I'm not the only one posting a week later, I see). BIOTC, very eloquently stated. Someone asked about examples of career women who took time out for children and reentered their field. As a scientist, I can state that I have never encountered such a person in academic research in biology or physics, at least on a tenure track. It would be possible if one were to take the non-tenure track or lab manager/technician jobs.

Student, I would also be very interested to read more about your research, if you're still following. Any chance of posting it on a website and letting us know (perhaps on this thread) where it is?

Posted by: luckymum | July 12, 2006 6:35 PM

Finding myself as a single mother, after staying home to raise my son for ten years, the transition is the most difficult and terrifying experience in my life.
I agree that every single woman should look around her and be realisitic when she agrees to marry and have children. IF you stay out of the workforce and find yourself needing to get back in when you are in your forties, and you do not have an updated degree, life will be very hard. And there is not much if any support for you.

If your child has difficulties in school that you must attend to, you will find yourself overwhelmed with mounting responsibilities and emotional drains. The educational institutions are hardly supportive of you either.

If you don't have good child support or a good settlement from your divorce....good luck. Not much of that will be coming your way either. So you will have to attend to your child's emotional and educational needs as well as financial, and your own security and future.
I see life as pretty harsh on women. To attack women for the choices and sacrfices they have made for their families is hardly the way to go. This afterall, regardless of the feminist movement, is what we have been trained to do. Children need so much. The house needs so much. It's way too hard to do it all.

What is needed is education in high school and college for women and men about the realities of life which include the struggles of marriage, financial responsibilties, having children, retirement funds, job security and all of that. Add on top the escalating cost of living and fuel prices. Did *anyone* have any idea how all this would affect her when she was twenty?? No way!

The daily grind of raising even one child (I only have one) is mind numbing, and demanding...why do we expect women to predict the future and then take the blame for all of society's problems, whether we stay home or work? How about creating a society that supports women and children? Children need someone to take care of them. The best person to do that is their mother (or father) but if she needs to work, then she has to find someone else to do so.

It's amazing that women still have to bear up under the weight of a mysoginist society, and that some of the worst mysoginists are women.

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Hewlett Packard PR127UA#ABA HP Compaq nc6120,Pentium-m $820
HP nc6400 Notebook PC $700
HP Pavilion HP DV5250us 15.4" Widescreen Laptop w/1.83 $750
Sony VAIO Pentium M 1.6GHz Centrino Wireless B+G $650
Sony VAIO VAIO SZ140P10 Notebook $1,050
Sony VAIO VGN-A690 17 Notebook PC $530
Sony VAIO Pentium M 2.26GHz Notebook PC (Open Box) $900
Sony VAIO S170 Intel Pentium M 1.5GHz, 13.3in WXGA, 40GB $800

(allphonesltd1@yahoo.co.uk)
(allphonesltd1999@hotmail.com)

Posted by: Tony Eric | August 31, 2006 6:39 AM

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