Seeking Imperfect Balance

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog. Every Tuesday "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life.

By Dawn Reeves

GUILTY.

That's how I feel right now, and a lot of the time. My 17-month-old son is at day care, I'm at home working -- one of the two days a week I work from home. At first, I thought I could have him with me on these days. But part-time day care is not available in his age group in our area, and besides, I still can't get much done when he is around. So, I intersperse my work with laundry, dusting, vacuuming, mopping, all the while feeling torn and guilty.

I miss my son. I'm not giving my job 100 percent. I'm trying to keep up with the housework -- a constant losing battle.

On days like this I want to quit my job and be a full-time mom. But by Sunday night, at the end of a weekend when my husband has to work and my son and I are alone together, I am eager to go back to the office Monday morning.

Sometimes, I get so involved in my work and my interactions with my co-workers I do not even think about my son for several hours. Then I remember his smile or laugh or the way he raises his hand in the air and yells "MINE" when he sees something that he wants. I gasp at the shock that I could have put him out of my mind even for a moment.

When I became a mom at 37, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. I never anticipated the isolation, loneliness or the sense of having lost control of so much, even the ability to move around my house or go to the bathroom when I needed to, as it seems I constantly had my colickly little guy at my breast. I could not truly anticipate the bone-crushing, soul-sucking exhaustion that would come with being on call for breastfeeding 24 hours a day. The day before I went back to work, when my son was three months old, I nearly had a panic attack. The postpartum depression magically lifted my first day back at the office.

Looking back, I feel guilty that I was so miserable and emotional then. It was all about me, when really it was all about this wonderful boy my husband and I had created. I couldn't get my head around that at the time.

Now I am longing to have another child before I am too old. I could handle an infant better this time. But my husband is iffy. We don't make enough money. I would want to stay home longer. Our house is not big enough. Without one of us taking an even more high-pressure job we can't afford to move up. We would need a second car but ditto on the money thing. Could I really handle two under 2-1/2?

These days, instead of seeking perfect balance, I try to balance my guilt, to dole out the stress evenly between my job, my son, my husband and my desire for a second child.

But today is Friday. I am eager to be a full-time mom, at least for the weekend.

Dawn Reeves lives in Alexandria with her husband and 17-month-old son. She works as a reporter for Inside EPA covering environmental policy.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  July 11, 2006; 6:50 AM ET  | Category:  Guest Blogs
Previous: Latest Guilt Trip for Mothers | Next: Your Job or Your Kid?


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Comments

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I don't think she is, but I hope the author is not say that post-partum depression can be cured by going back to work....

Balance works if it seems to work for the health and happiness of the whole family, IMHO. Guilt also has a magical way of going away if you just ignore the constant refrain by the about it and do what is best for YOUR family.

Posted by: lb | July 11, 2006 7:40 AM

I would feel guilty too if I were working from home and "intersperse my work with laundry, dusting, vacuuming, mopping"

You're stealing from your company. Laundry is one thing (1 minute to put in maching, 1 minute to take out and put into dryer, 1 minute to take out, fold when off the clock) but dusting, vacuuming, and mopping take time - time you are on the clock and being paid.

No wonder so many businesses fight the telework/flexiblilty movement. They know they aren't getting full time work from the people at home.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 7:49 AM

I guess I just dont get the guilt. I especially have difficulty understanding any benefit of dwelling on the guilt and then feeling guilty about feeling guilty.

When everything is going wrong and all is ahoo I try to hone in on doing the next little thing as best I can, and trusting that the long term decisions trends are solid.

Learning from mistakes, experience etc is all well and good, hyperventilating over decisons and outcomes that are in the past and cannot be changed are counter-productive and can destructive.

Guilt without faith seems to lead to panic.

I liked the title, imperfect balance. If I were to try for perfection - and then lose pefect balance I tend to think I would be more likely to fall off the balance beam.

Posted by: Fo3 | July 11, 2006 8:00 AM

on the topic of telework, compaines aren't getting their full days work from many of the people at work either, through phone conversations, gossip, smoke breaks, blog breaks, coffee breaks, etc. However, working from home is a privilage, so use the privilage well and just get your work done.

On the guilt thing, I think that it is immpossible to think about your children all the time, so that shouldn't make you feel bad. If he's in a good daycare, you shouldn't feel bad, he's loved by you and your husband ditto.

Now, i'm with you on the other baby thing-all the way. Although there is no easy way to escape that guilt and axiety!

Posted by: scarry | July 11, 2006 8:02 AM

Amen, Leslie. My daughter is three weeks old and I am 30. Like you, I never anticipated the bone-crushing, soul-sucking exhaustion -- and sheer pain -- that is breastfeeding. I feel so guilty that I am not enjoying this time, which everyone says is so wonderful. Now I try to tell myself each morning that I must find fulfillment in caring for my daughter and making my husband happy, not pleasing myself. Unless derived from service to them, joy feels like an impossible dream. I love my husband and my precious daughter but feel chained and trapped most of the time.

Posted by: Denkpaard | July 11, 2006 8:02 AM

Do what's best for you to be sane! After all, a happy mother makes for a happy kid, happy family. Try bottle feeding! Go back to work more! You have to do what works and not what everyone tells you to do. There's nothing wrong with working when you have young children. Do have your second baby; you wont have this window of opportunity for much longer, and you will have the rest of your life to regret it if you don't. My point is, ease up on the guilt, BALANCE more, and think big picture. You can't have perfection in all areas of your life, but you can have a nice life.

Posted by: babby | July 11, 2006 8:22 AM

I just want to chime in early to say that it's wonderful to see a guest blog from a normal mom without an agenda to sell a book or promote a Web site, etc. Leslie, please pick more moms like this on Tuesdays!

And, to the author, thanks for your honesty and sorry in advance for all the people who will say mean things about you here today.

You can only do the best you can do! Sounds like you are doing a fine job.

Posted by: VAMom | July 11, 2006 8:24 AM

here here Vamom!

Posted by: scarry | July 11, 2006 8:27 AM

Before everyone starts jumping all over the poster for combining telework and housework- there are many jobs where this is doable, and has no impact on the work product. If you have a job that has an easily defined work product (like, in her case, finished articles for her publication), it really doesn't matter whether you spend 8 hours at home working on it, or 4. My husband works at home every day and manages to get his job done and do housework and yardwork at the same time. (And his company has found him so indispensible that he's survived multiple rounds of layoffs! Ok I can brag.)

And for the poster- don't feel guilty about feeling relieved when Monday morning comes and you go back to work. Taking care of a little kid is hard! There are no breaks and you probably don't even get to use the bathroom by yourself. Just remind yourself that it's the stress you're feeling happy about taking a break from, not your child.

Posted by: randommom | July 11, 2006 8:40 AM

I just want to echo VAMom's sentiments all the way. People, stop being so petty about "stealing from your company." That's a topic for another blog if you really want to discuss that. How do you know she doesn't have that worked out with her company and they don't know what she's doing? Please stop judging people. This forum is not for us to pass judgment on others, but rather for us to share our experiences so we can learn from each other - from our mistakes and our successes and so in the future we will all have it a little easier. No one will have it easier if all we do is criticize and tear each other down.

Posted by: Not Yet a Mom | July 11, 2006 8:43 AM

Don't be a drama queen. You can put the baby down for two minutes if you need to pee. If he cries, he cries. Won't be the first time he cries, won't be the last.

Maybe you wouldn't be so miserable if you weren't martyring yourself at the foot of some unachievable, idealized image of motherhood that society has foisted on us. Lighten up on yourself. Your colicky baby isn't going to die if he screams for two minutes in the crib while you go to the bathroom.

Posted by: Judy | July 11, 2006 8:49 AM

I never thought I would feel the guilt I still feel, and my daughter will start first-grade in the fall. So many of us grew up in the era when it was a given that we would take our two or three months maternity leave, hire a nanny and head back to the office - no problem, our lives all neatly planned thanks to the women before us who made that choice possible. But then there are the variables we never counted on -- our untapped maternal desires and the "special needs" each child has on some level, whether they are serious medical problems or typical separation anxiety issues. I never planned on staying home and working from home. I never intended on giving up the title or the window office or the six figure salary I had worked so hard to achieve. But, unexpected attachment issues arose with our daughter and that meant I needed to be more available to her to help her attach to us. And while it was the right thing to do, I still struggle and wonder who's got my old title and enjoying that window office, basking in the professional accomplishment that those things mean. And I always feel the guilt for having those daydreams.

http://punditmom1.blogspot.com

Posted by: PunditMom | July 11, 2006 8:52 AM

For Denkpaard,

Learning to take care of a new baby is VERY VERY hard, and it's normal not to love every minute of caring for a tiny baby who gives nothing back. It will get better, breastfeeding will get more comfortable, and your baby will get some personality.

Until then, try to find a little time for something you like-- or at least a little time with empty arms. If things get bad, consider that you might have PPD.

As for today's poster, why all the guilt? Please cut yourself some slack, and try to enjoy what you have. If we dwell on it, I think every mother could consume herself with worry about making the wrong choices, but that's not good for anyone-- do your best and move on.

Posted by: WiSAHM | July 11, 2006 8:53 AM

To Denkpaard: Do no feel guilty. The reason you do is because breastfeeding and being a first time mom were presented to you as such wonderful things that you wonder why you don't feel that way. I was lucky that my sister told me the truth: breastfeeding really hurts initially, it is exhausting and the first few weeks with the baby are really hard because you give all of yourself and get nothing in return (babies don't usually smile until 5-6 weeks). We all go through this but with the passage of time romanticize the experience. My advice to you: hang in there, know that you are doing a great thing by breastfeeding, it will get easier and less exhausting. When your husband gets home, hand the baby over and take a nap or a long shower. Forgive yourself your feelings of loneliness and impatience. In about 3 more weeks, things will start getting much better.
To Dawn: about the guilt, let it go. Been there and done that. Except for 4 months of maternity leave each time, I have always been a working mom and I have had plenty of guilt trips. But you know what? Everything is turning out fine. We traveled extensively this summer and saw a lot of family and old friends who all commented as to how great our kids are, well behaved, likable, smart (and perfectly bilingual). I doubt that I could have done any better if I had stayed home and I am proud of the fact that my 9 year old daughter looks up to me as someone with an important job that helps people.

Posted by: Working mom of 2 | July 11, 2006 8:53 AM

Denkpaard -

Hi. They never tell you this in childbirth class, but nursing is really, really hard. It does become wonderful - once you learn the skills. Please get yourself some help with this - a local mom you trust, someone in your pediatricians office... Don't accept help from anyone who makes you feel like a failure or a loser. Good luck.

Back on topic:
1. You can always pay for full-time care and not use it every day. The money is "wasted" whether they have your child or not.
2. "Guilty" is what you should feel when pretending to work while doing a half-way job watching your kid at the same time. It is not what you should feel for failing to be a martyr, or for using good quality daycare.

Posted by: me | July 11, 2006 8:55 AM

This is for Denkpaard,Please call the La Leche League in your area they will help with information and even a home visit from a seasoned mother Breast feeding should not hurt,don't give up.Your baby will never need you as much as he does right now.Good luck ,you ard doing a wonderful thing.

Posted by: em | July 11, 2006 8:59 AM

why don't we re-title this blog

breast is best again, come on people, she gets it, she's a saint for breastfeeding, can we move on now.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 9:02 AM

Breastfeeding sucks (literally :)) the first few weeks. It DOES get better, really. I had a devil of a time with my very small daughter at first. I was determined however, and lo and behold we kept at it for two years. It really is a wonderful tool to have in your mommy box as they get a little older. Nothing calmed as well that. I joke that I wish I still had it when the fully articulated LOUD tantrums kick in.

Posted by: NC Mom | July 11, 2006 9:09 AM

Going Until I Live Tired
Glowering Under Insurmountable Looks Today
Grief Unsurpassed Impacts Life Terribly
Give Up Insults, Lies, Tears...
Goodness, Unselfishness, Interests,
Lightness, Trust
Grow Up In Love Too -
Grace Under Infectious Laughter Triumphs

Transition your guilt, life is too short.

Posted by: Fo3 | July 11, 2006 9:11 AM

After three years of being a stay-at-home mommy, I relunctantly started working just a few hours a week; we needed even that little of an income. A few months later, I added a few more hours--and I found I liked/needed to work. Now that summer is here--and work (education related) has dried up until fall--I am having a difficult time being all mommy all the time to an almost 4 year old. I never thought I'd *want* to work but being with DS all day is draining, both physically and emotionally. And I'm not the best mommy when I'm exhausted. Who is? I've really been in a funk since summer started. I hate to admit that I can't wait until fall when he's in school three days a week, and I'm working 20 hours a week. I feel so guilty. I thought I'd be the perfect SAHM forever; I didn't even last three years.

Posted by: Mommy2aQT | July 11, 2006 9:13 AM

It took me a while to understand that achieving balance takes work and organization. For example, if I don't want to stress about dinner every night, it helps if I make something for the freezer on the weekend when I have more time. I think that I hoped for the first few years of my son's life that balance would just happen and then I would be happy, but I had to really focus on HOW to make it happen. And then, any issues about guilt went away because everyone in my family was basically happy. And as far as the second child, I know that works for many families and that's great, but we have one child, and it is wonderful for us. Try to remember that you are trying to make the OPTIMAL choice...not the IDEAL one.

Posted by: Kris D | July 11, 2006 9:13 AM

Breastfeeding sucks (literally :)) the first few weeks. It DOES get better, really. I had a devil of a time with my very small daughter at first. I was determined however, and lo and behold we kept at it for two years. It really is a wonderful tool to have in your mommy box as they get a little older. Nothing calmed as well that. I joke that I wish I still had it when the fully articulated LOUD tantrums kicked in. There is an amazing amount of all sorts of guilt in being a parent. From sending a kid to camp because, dammit you need a breather too, even as a SAHM, to I can't believe I just said, "Don't mommy me!" exactly the same way it was said to me. The question is how much of it do you listen to or give relevance to?

Posted by: NC Mom | July 11, 2006 9:13 AM

Denkpaard - you're not alone. For many of us, motherhood doesn't become particularly "wonderful" til the baby is around four months old and things begin to settle a bit. Don't feel bad that you're not the picture of bliss. Can you find a breastfeeding clinic in your area for support?

Dawn, I hope you can work out the money/time/space issues. I can tell you that in my experience, psychologically, second-time motherhood is so much easier. As for the guilt, a waste of energy. If your child is thriving, why feel guilty for enjoying your job?

http://momsquawk.wordpress.com/

Posted by: MommaSteph | July 11, 2006 9:20 AM

I've just recently re-entered the workforce, and oh, I miss my kids. But I'm enjoying the stimulation and challenges at the office, and while I sometimes fantasize about quitting and being a SAHM again, I actually think I might be a better mom because I work -- a completely unexpected feeling. I literally cannot wait to get home to see my children every afternoon, and looking back, I think when I was at home full time, I sometimes felt like I would explode in their neediness if I didn't have some time to myself. Now that I'm working, I definitely spend more quality time with my kids. I never thought I would say this, but for me, working is helping me to achieve a balance I didn't have before.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | July 11, 2006 9:28 AM

Kudos to Working Mom X!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 9:33 AM

Denkpard,

ITA with all the others but you need to remember that the first 6 weeks are the hardest and once you get through that you still start to get rewarded. The baby will sleep longer, they will start smiling and develop personalities and start turning into little humans.

So you are halfway there and have much to look forward to after that. But the first 6 weeks really do bite!

Posted by: Another Working Mom | July 11, 2006 9:36 AM

"These days, instead of seeking perfect balance, I try to balance my guilt, to dole out the stress evenly between my job, my son, my husband and my desire for a second child."

No one is perfect - that's part of the human condition. The fact that we can't do everything right should not be a source of guilt. It's one of the natural limitations of life.

But, what if we aren't dealing with an unhealthy perfectionism. In that case, if we've gotten ourselves into a situation where we have a continuing sense of guilt about our lives, we need to re-evaluate how we're living.

Guilt can serve as a critical "dashboard warning light." We all need to be live in a way that we can feel good about what we're doing. Else, how will we feel at their end? And what else can we point to that will balance a life spent in a way that leaves us feeling guilty and unsatisfied?

I have no opinion about this individual's choices (and no desire to opine on them). We all make mistakes (running through the light instead of stopping; snapping at our spouse when we're tired and frustrated; goofing off when we should have been doing something else, etc.) - those are a natural part of life. We should do our best, and move on. But if we are living in a way that results in significant amounts of ongoing guilt, then we need to figure out what the problem is and fix it. (And if we do the re-evaluation, and decide that we are, in fact, happy with our choices and the way we're living our lives, then we need to work on our emotions.)

Posted by: Huh? | July 11, 2006 9:39 AM

I agree that second time motherhood is so much easier. You know what you're doing and you have the perspective gained from the first that none of the difficult times last long. You're also a lot easier on yourself and have far less guilt because you know that the 15 minutes the baby spends crying while you shower has no discernable effect on the child's development. I got so much more done on my 2nd maternity leave even with a 2 year old running around. I still can't figure out what I spent my time on the first time around. It's also not double the cost of the first -- you already have most of the equipment and clothes (you'd be suprised how many of her brother's clothes a girl can wear and still look like a girl) and if you breastfeed you get at least 4 months of free food until you need to buy stock in Gerber. I've also found that if you play it right, you can get your older child so enamored with the baby and vice versa that he will be happy to keep her entertained while you sneak into the kitchen to make dinner.

Posted by: Mom of 2 under 3 | July 11, 2006 9:46 AM

Well said, Huh!

I think it's important to question your assumptions of what's possible. Sometimes we are trapped by choices we don't realize we've made (like living in an extremely expensive area)

Posted by: WiSAHM | July 11, 2006 9:48 AM

Dawn works at home two days a week. That is two days she isn't in the car commuting! That is two days she isn't interrupted by co-workers talking about non-work subjects.

How much time does everyone here take away from work? Is everyone reading this blog at home, not getting paid to work AT work?

Perhaps Dawn is actually working for nine plus hours, but mixing in laundry loads, floor scrubbing and dusting during what would be conidered 'breaks' at (on-site) work. It only takes a minute to toss a load of laundry in the washer or dryer. It isn't like she has to go to a creek and beat it on a rock or washboard.

Posted by: Stacey | July 11, 2006 9:59 AM

"But if we are living in a way that results in significant amounts of ongoing guilt, then we need to figure out what the problem is and fix it."

Double dog ditto!!

I said this yesterday and I'll say it again today - I don't feel guilt about my parenting decisions, and I think that if I did, it would mean that I should re-evaluate the situation and probably change it.

I think sometimes we confuse other emotions with guilt. "I feel guilty about" is different than "I wish I had done this differently because I know more now".

There are things with my older two that I wish I had been able to do differently...I wish I had breastfed them longer, but my work schedule made it difficult - I wish I had been able to be a SAHM back then but in that marriage I was the sole or main wage earner - etc. But I don't feel *guilty* about those things, because I was doing the best I knew how at that point. And I made the choices - to marry and have children with a man who had low earning power, to give up on using my breast pump - myself, thinking that they were good choices. I don't feel guilty for doing something in my 20's that I later "learned" wasn't the best choice for me, just as I don't feel guilty about doing things when I was a teenager or a young child that I hadn't learned were unsafe or unwise. Or just like parents of previous generations shouldn't feel guilty for not using seatbelts or car seats for their children, because society hadn't yet learned the dangers of doing so.

In the case of the new mom with the 3 week old baby....there is no reason for someone who just gave birth 3 weeks ago to feel guilty - that's a different emotion your're feeling!!


Posted by: momof4 | July 11, 2006 10:08 AM

This was a good guest blog. I agree that it's good to have someone who isn't plugging a book....

Dawn, you're doing a great job!

Being a Mom is hard, it's nice to have something else to do.

Can't say about the only child thing. I have two. The second was both easier and harder. Gives me great respect for those with three children!

I found being a part-time employee that the important thing was to get my work done. If it gets done with a few trips to switch from washer to dryer then who cares?

Posted by: RoseG | July 11, 2006 10:09 AM

To Denkpard,

It really does get better in a few weeks. Right now it may feel like this is going to be your life forever. It is not, the baby will sleep more, will eat less often, you will get more sleep and have adult conversations again. Find a mom support group with some moms going through what you are, it can save you.

Posted by: Another DC Mom | July 11, 2006 10:23 AM

Imagine you REALLY liked being a lawyer. Then imagine that one day someone told you you should derive all your fulfillment from lawyering, nothing else.

Oh, and from this minute forward, people would be allowed to phone you in the middle of the night with law-related questions, stand outside the bathroom while you're peeing demanding that you answer their questions about tort reform RIGHT NOW! And they'd follow you into the shower and demand you talk about the law.

You would only be allowed to be friends with other lawyers, you'd get no vacations, no weekends off, and you wouldn't get paid! And when you told people what you did, they'd look bored and wander away.

And did I mention that from this moment on, you'd never again be allowed to leave the house without taking 50 pounds of law books with you, or hiring an expensive person to 'sit' them for you?

Now imagine that whenever you complained about it, people said "What's wrong with you? Why don't you LOVE being a lawyer? We all love being lawyers!"

Sounds kind of funny, doesn't it. The same could be said about motherhood.

Posted by: It's Like This | July 11, 2006 10:35 AM

To Denkpaard --

((hugs)) Hang in there. :) Breastfeeding is hard for the first baby, mostly because we are surrounded by so many women who haven't got a clue how to help a newborn nurse. It is very sad actually, to have lost this "mama wisdom".

1.) www.kellymom.com
This is a fabulous source of information about breastfeeding.

2.) http://www.drjacknewman.com/
Jack Newman (a famous physician who specializes in breastfeeding) has a terrific website with videos you can watch and helpful pointers to make sure baby is latching well, etc.

3.) www.mothering.com\discuss
These boards have teriffic forums on breastfeeding and problem solving.

4.) www.lalecheleague.com
Find a LLL group in your area. Take your baby with you even if it kills you and get some help. Nursing should not hurt. Your baby needs help with his latch.

5.) http://breastfeedingcenter.org
If by any chance you live in Washington D.C., this is a wonderful resource with the best lactation consultants (IBCLC). Pat Shelly is a dream come true - she'll come to your house and get you both on track.

Posted by: Bethesda | July 11, 2006 10:36 AM

Dawn, Ha! You're a sucker. Welcome to parenting! I wish you good luck, which means of coarse, mor kids.

But don't make raising a single child seem like hard labor because it's not. It's easy. If you convince yourself that it is, you may end up with a bad attitude and your perspective of your life may sour. All the diaper changing, bathing, cooking, cleaning... I can do all that stuf with both eyes closed, one hand tied behind my back, on a bum knee. Big deal! The challange is to do it with a smile.

(Actually, the one hand tied behind my back is sort of an exageration)

the colick will go away soon, I'm surprised it hasn't already after 17 months. but then, you get a 2 year old and I'm telling you, "You haven't seen nothing yet!".

I'm sure you're not the type of person that ever frowned at the mother who's child was having a tantrom at the grocery store. I'm just saying this for the childless parents-to be to remind them that what comes around, goes around, so try to offer a helping hand when you see a tired, wired, parent.

If you ever need help, you can just ask me. (I'm your neighbor). It looks like you're putting in a lot of effort, and that explains the exhaustion. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 11, 2006 10:38 AM

"I think it's important to question your assumptions of what's possible. Sometimes we are trapped by choices we don't realize we've made (like living in an extremely expensive area)."

Posted by: WiSAHM | July 11, 2006 09:48 AM

I dislike this argument. Well, you CHOSE to live there so too bad. You should move. Yes, this area is difficult to afford, but I grew up here. My entire family is here (parents, brother, aunts, uncles, tons of cousins.) I know that if we moved I could not work and stay home with my kids, we could afford nicer vacations, etc., but this is my home. I don't want to deprive my children of the wonderful relationship they have with their grandparents and extended family. I don't consider moving from the DC area to be a solution to people's problems, or a choice they've made that they could easily change. It's not that simple.

Posted by: Arlmom | July 11, 2006 10:41 AM

Merriam-Webster defines guilt as "feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy" - I think this particular definition applies. It's the feeling of inadequacy rather than true guilt (i.e. having committed an offense of conduct or law) that I think we're talking about here. In trying to balance the many obligations - self-imposed and life-generated - women translate feeling inadequate into feeling guilty about not doing things "well enough."

It seems that if I think too much about family obligations while at work, I criticize myself for not focusing on work. If I think too much about work when I'm at home, I criticize myself for not putting my family first (or "first enough"). There's always some elusive, unreachable standard against which we can measure our conduct. But, it's also possible to accept that we're doing the best we can do. Sometimes the work does get done, the house does get clean, the laundry does get folded, and a hot dinner is enjoyed by all. Sometimes not.

I agree that the best assistance is organization. I have a system for everything and a husband and children who have learned that systems do make life easier. My favorite household tool is my label maker. Each child has a hook for backpack and jacket. We are slaves to our routines. We have master grocery lists and everyone does write it down when they use the last of something. My biggest time saver is a second dryer. It makes doing laundry take half the time. I rely heavily on a family calendar and my husband I use the same calendar program so we can sync our schedules.

The idea of balance is great but it doesn't always happen on a given day. I tend to look at a week rather than a day. Did we get it all done this week? Each day may not be a perfect balance, but overall we're doing better than "adequate."

I don't feel guilty. I'm doing the best I can to work, raise three children, balance family, life, community service, career, and generally meeting each of our individual needs. My ongoing challenge is to spend some one-on-one time with each of my childen and my husband. One thing that works for us is that on each child's birth date each month, we have a special event - just mom and that child. My husband and I are trying to extend that to a monthly "date" on the day of our anniversary.

I try not to compare myself to some ideal against which I'll never quite measure up. I don't think it's guilt that gets us so much as it's an expectation of perfectionism. Adequate is okay. Better than adequate is good. Perfectionism is not possible. Every woman I know feels inadequate about something, translated into guilt. Let go of the guilt - we're all doing the best we can.

Posted by: SS | July 11, 2006 10:43 AM

Wow. I feel like this was written by me (except I don't get to telecommute). I know the incredible depression that comes from the anxiety and loneliness of the first few months of new motherhood AND I understand the relief from going back to work. Yes, my depression was relieved when I started back. I felt better but that only added to the guilt of separation. Work, however, is not an option for us, unless cardboard box is a housing option.

However, not only do I need to work, I love to work. I love my job. I love what I do and I am good at it. My parents are so proud of me for what I have achieved and I look forward to my son's future achievements. This is balance: finding what is good for my husband, our son, our life and me. (The emphasis on "our," not yours).

Dawn, ignore the negative and hurtful things these bitter, judgmental people are saying. If you love him and are doing your best to create a good life that supports you and your family, you are doing great. All the best and to each his own.

Posted by: EMH | July 11, 2006 10:46 AM

No matter if one is working in the home, outside the home or is a stay at home mom, there is guilt either way.

I feel guilty that my husband works as many hours as he does, I feel at times I should be contributing to the household although I do work one day a week.

Being around children all the time is soul draining, I love my kids, but this summer I put my five year old in part-time preschool three days a week....why because I like to do housework and grocery shopping in peace, sure I still have the baby with me, but it frees up my time with both kids once my oldest is home.

Do I feel guilty about bringing him to preschool, no because he loves going and it's better for him there then moping around the house missing his former school mates.

Do what is best for you and enjoy your life......and love your family like there is no tomorrow!

Posted by: Mom in Canada | July 11, 2006 10:50 AM

Great post. As another one from the area, I get tired of the you "choose" to live here stuff too. No, I stayed with my family.

Posted by: To Arlmom | July 11, 2006 11:01 AM

Your sentiments are so familiar, but let them go. Mothers/women need to give themselves a break. If you are doing your best in this moment, congratulate yourself and then take on the next moment. Enjoy work when you are working. Enjoy your baby and husband when you are with them. Enjoy the attachment and constant contact for now, when he's 11 he'll wipe off your kisses, when he's 15 he'll make you drop him off around the corner from the movie theater. Be realistic about what you "can" and "can't" afford. Why can't a second baby share a room with this baby? A bigger house will come later when you aren't paying the equivalent of college tuition for daycare. What housework really needs to be done? Do you really have to pick up all of the toys everyday? Does the kitchen need to be that clean if your mother in law isn't coming to dinner? Buy paper plates, buy more socks and underwear at Costco. Be thoughtful and make responsible plans, but recognize and let go of the constant internal dialogue that diminishes your awareness and enjoyment of every waking moment.

Posted by: ATTYMOM | July 11, 2006 11:08 AM

I too felt like this is me talking in the blog. I still have these guilt feelings and my daughter is 5. My DH wants another but last year I suffered a tubal pregnancy that burst and at 38 I really have doubts.

Also, on the subject "you chose to live there", I moved to a more expensive area because that is where my DH got a job not because of prestige (we're not even in a fancy neighborhood). We can't afford the crazy home prices here but we couldn't afford the more affordable house in a different cheaper state without a job to pay for it. Everyone has to do what they gotta do.

Posted by: Dlyn | July 11, 2006 11:13 AM

I understand the choose to live here comments becuase it's easy somteimes to forget that people were born and raised here. I don't think the poster really meant any offense by it though.

I actually only know two people who were born here, everyone else came from somewhere else and they don't want to leave either for the reasons you pointed out, which are really good ones. I'd be living in Northeast Ohio if me and my husband could find a job there.


Posted by: scarry | July 11, 2006 11:19 AM

I am asking because I really don't know and am not trying to be hostile but what is the point of working from home if your kid isn't there? Isn't the whole point of working from home is being able to spend more time wth your family?

Posted by: Oh please | July 11, 2006 11:19 AM

To "Oh please," my employer does not permit us to work at home with children present (without another caregiver) because caring for our children would prevent us from working. Telework is useful when we would eliminate a long commute or when we would shelter ourselves from other coworkers who would bother us when we need alone time to accomplish a project. We are also not allowed to care for elderly adults wile teleworking. Make sense? So, telework does give me more family time because I work 5 min from my kids' school and daycare versus 45 minutes from work. If I telework, I get an hour and a half more time with my kids once I factor in the parking and walking, not counting the dressing up time that isn't required.

Posted by: Momof2 | July 11, 2006 11:25 AM

You're missing my point. If you choose to live in DC because of benefits for you and your family, own that and feel good about it. If you're not happy, change something, don't just talk about what the area, society, etc... force you to do. Change might not be easy, but it beats spending your life being miserable (not that everyone in the DC metro area is miserable, but I sure was when I lived there). I'm not knocking the DC area specifically either, just suggesting that a change you haven't considered might be just what you need.

Posted by: WiSAHM | July 11, 2006 11:29 AM

"I think it's important to question your assumptions of what's possible. Sometimes we are trapped by choices we don't realize we've made (like living in an extremely expensive area)."

People seem to be reading this differently than I did. I thought WiSAHM was just pointing out that we all have choices and options that we sometimes don't realize we have even made. I, too, choose to live in this area because of family, career, etc.; the tradeoffs are expenses, commute, etc. I don't think WiSAHM was saying that choice is bad, just pointing out that it is a choice, and that all choices have tradeoffs.

Personally, I have been much happier since I started to look at all of these things as choices, because that reminds me that I have the power over my own life. We have been faced with a lot of things out of our control (job loss and moves, miscarriage, etc.). When I kept thinking of all the things that were happening "to" me, it was easy to get into a "why me?" pity-party. But when I started realizing that I had choices (i.e., when he lost his job and we had to move cross-country, I CHOSE to go with him), it helped remind me that I was living my priorities (i.e., I valued my marriage above all else), and gave me a sense of power and control in a hard time. It also reminds me that, when I'm not happy about something, it's up to me to figure out what to do about it.

That also helps with the guilt, btw. When I focus on the day-to-day events as resulting from conscious choices I have made, it reminds me of what my priorities are; by comparing that to how I am managing things on a day-to-day basis, it helps me realize that my choices are supporting our long-term goals, which then helps the guilt fade.

Posted by: Laura | July 11, 2006 11:33 AM

I'm leaving on a three-day busienss trip, and my daughter is staying with a friend. I kissed her good-bye 90 minutes ago and I'm already feeling guilty! I live in a state of perpetual guilt, or so it seems. It's good to know I'm not the only one...I feel less neurotic already : )

As for choosing to NOT live in the WDC area...there are several of us who have posted here that we built our careers in WDC then chose to live in a more affordable area. It was a better standard of living that brought me to Phoenix two years ago. WDC is a tough place to raise a child as a couple; it was exponentially difficult as a single mom.

I suspect others will be making that choice to leave as well (housing prices, two-hour commutes, 60-70-hour work weeks stink). Of course, it's a much more difficult choice to make if your roots are there. Conversely, I read an article that profiled a poor West Virginia community and the effects of welfare reform (i.e., the benefits are not lifetime anymore). A main point of the article: people are choosing to live in generational cycles of poverty because they do not want to leave their hometowns. Sometimes change is more frightening than a bad situation for some folks.

Posted by: single western mom | July 11, 2006 11:43 AM

Laura,

That was a nice post. Great way to look at things.

Posted by: Dlyn | July 11, 2006 11:45 AM

I lived in DC for nearly a decade. Then, I moved to another state, to a rural area, with a much cheaper cost of living. No, I could not find a job in the field I got my graduate degree. I had to take a $20K pay cut and switch careers. So did my husband. But, we now have kids and our lives are much less rushed. We have a huge yard. We know our neighbors.

We still struggle with "balance." I cannot afford "not" to work. But living in DC and working in my chosen field were "choices." They were not mandates forced upon me. When some people say they cannot find a job in a certain area, I'm convinced they mean a job in a specific field or for a specific salary, because I've been there.

I'll probably move back to a city once the kids are older or grown, but for now I'm "pretty sure" I've made the right choice. Come on, we're never "really sure" about our choices. We just do the best we can. That's what parenting and life is about! :)

Posted by: Momof2 | July 11, 2006 11:46 AM

"I guess I just dont get the guilt. I especially have difficulty understanding any benefit of dwelling on the guilt and then feeling guilty about feeling guilty. "

Well for one thing, have you noticed that dwelling on it gets people published?

When was the last time you saw an article about a parent who utterly enjoyed the vast majority of time spent parenting, who went back to work without a second of guilt, who enjoys both job and kid(s), and who thinks the whiners are a bunch of self-absorbed ninnies who don't have enough aggravation in life?

Hey. That's me! And I'm a single parent, too! But I'm figuring Leslie would not be interested in hearing from parents like that. Nor is anyone else. The modern zeitgeist is that parents must suffer, particularly women.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 11:59 AM

Am I reading the same blog as everyone else?

Mom in Canada said "No matter if one is working in the home, outside the home or is a stay at home mom, there is guilt either way."

Both yesterday and today, there have been many posters who have emphatically said that they don't feel guilty and that it's not a fact of life that you have to feel guilty.

EMH said: "Dawn, ignore the negative and hurtful things these bitter, judgmental people are saying."

Are you talking about posters on this blog? I don't think there have been any bitter, judgmental posts today...on the contrary, almost everyone has been supportive. There were a couple of posts early on that questioned the telecommuting and doing housework thing, but the tone today (so far!) seems very positive.


Posted by: momof4 | July 11, 2006 12:02 PM

"Nor is anyone else. "

I am!!

Posted by: momof4 | July 11, 2006 12:05 PM

I agree about today being positive. Who cares what people think about your work scheudle, they are probably just jealous they can't do it.

Posted by: scarry | July 11, 2006 12:09 PM

"Both yesterday and today, there have been many posters who have emphatically said that they don't feel guilty and that it's not a fact of life that you have to feel guilty."

But that's because they are BAD PARENTS.

Look, a large segment of suburban wives are either setting the stage for leaving work or justifying their existence to quit. They don't have farmwork anymore, and housework is optional. What are they going to do except pretend that motherhood is incredibly difficult and incredibly painful?

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 12:10 PM

"I dislike this argument."

Is it really the argument you dislike, or the tough choice that high cost areas place on people. It is, in fact, not impossible to move. I've done it (and, though I really, really didn't want to, it worked out well).

"Yes, this area is difficult to afford, but I grew up here. My entire family is here (parents, brother, aunts, uncles, tons of cousins.) . . . this is my home."

Fine - that may well be the right choice for you and your family. But please, don't throw up your hands and say "I didn't have a choice." There are people in this world who're trapped in situations from which they can't escape, but that doesn't apply to most (if any) of the people chatting on this blog. You made a choice.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 12:14 PM

"or justifying their existence to quit. "

Whoops. Justifying their decision to quit.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 12:14 PM

Thanks so much to everyone for the encouragement and great breastfeeding websites. Reading this blog in the lulls between colic storms is my main relaxation. I feel so relieved to know that not every new mom instantly dons a halo of bliss. That's why I can really relate to Dawn's guilt. How could I not completely enjoy something as miraculous as having a child? It's good to hear that things get better. I will hopefully get through the coming weeks with more patience.

To It's Like This: I really appreciated the lawyer analogy. That was the first time I have laughed out loud in two weeks.

Posted by: Denkpaard | July 11, 2006 12:15 PM

To SS: Allow me to back you up, despite the webster definition. Organization is the key to happiness, I SWEAR! Routines are the key to running the house. Calendars are sacred texts here. And as far as housework goes,if you just do a little bit every day, it never gets to be a crisis. I spend ten minutes puttering in my bedroom every night, and over the last three months have cleaned every drawer, basket, shelf and rack. I know some people hate to clean, but it is instant gratification, and you will love living in an orderly environment. And the less stuff you have, the less time maintaining it leaving more time for more important things. I went back to work when my daughter was 8 months old. It almost killed me, but if I didn't, I would have died.

There is NO ONE I want to spend 24/7 with, and that includes my sweet and funny kids, my wonderful husband and my best friend. There is nothing I want to do 24/7 either. Not sleep, eat, play, or work. I like to do all of them, and they are all important to me maintaining my balanced life. I may not like the way Linda Hirshman said it, but working is not a bad thing. For me, working part-time is one answer.

And to the breast-feeding mom--you can't really be stable until about 5 weeks. If you hang in there it really will get better. It is kind of like boot camp. After about 6 weeks life VASTLY improves!

Posted by: parttimer | July 11, 2006 12:18 PM

""Both yesterday and today, there have been many posters who have emphatically said that they don't feel guilty and that it's not a fact of life that you have to feel guilty."

But that's because they are BAD PARENTS."

What is this? If you don't feel guilty you're per se a bad parent? So, if they do feel guilty, then they are GOOD PARENTS? If so, what the heck do they have to feel guilty about? In your view, is it possible for ANYONE to be a good parent?

More to the point, you seem to be suggesting that it is wrong for a woman not to be employed outside the home. Where did that come from?

To everyone else, I've seen several people on this blog ask "where do SAHM's get the idea that they're choice is not valued, and that they're looked down on?" They get that idea from the comments of people like Cal.

Posted by: Huh? | July 11, 2006 12:20 PM

I think the BAD PARENTS comment may have been sarcastic.

But I don't get Cal's paragraph about suburban mothers. I didn't think she felt that way about SAHMs, but I could be wrong.
Maybe an explanation free of sarcasm would help?

Posted by: momof4 | July 11, 2006 12:26 PM

To Cal--I smell a troll! But anyone else, being at home with small children, especially three under five, can be pure hell. And another thing young man/woman/troll! It works out financially for my family to have me work part-time. My husband makes a pretty good salary, and if I made what I could if I worked full-time, we would actually be worse off in terms of taxed and disposable cash.

Here is a question. If you won the lottery, say 4 million dollars, which, after taxes and paid out yearly for 20 years is about 100K, what would you do? Moms and dads, please answer. My husband, who is fairly young (33) would sell our house, lock stock and barrel and we would live somewhere like Guatamala. He would play guitar and I would teach English, learn Spanish and set up a coffee shop. I have to have things to do. He likes to amuse himself. That all sounds good. I am going to go buy a lottery ticket!)

Posted by: part-timer | July 11, 2006 12:34 PM

It's Like This -- Your post about being a 24/7 lawyer was GREAT. So, so true! Great way to drive home how and why it is so hard to be a parent.

Posted by: Leslie | July 11, 2006 12:35 PM

I know this blog is not about the DC area, but I have to put my two cents in after reading what people have been writing about the cost of living in DC.

I grew up in Rockville. I recently got married to a man who grew up in Columbia. When we decided to buy a house, we realized that we could not afford to live anywhere near our families or our jobs (in Bethesda). And together we make six figures. Then we realized that if we ever wanted kids we could not afford to raise them the way we wanted to.

So we decided to move. We live in near Raleigh, NC, in a great three bedroom house with an acre of land in a great neighborhood. The hard part is that both of our families are still in the DC area. What's made it easier is that it's a 5 hour drive home. We make the drive once a month to see our family and friends, and our friends can easily take a weekend to visit us.

We might move back one day because we're Washingtonians at heart, but we knew that for this time in our lives, there were better options than DC.

Posted by: Meesh | July 11, 2006 12:36 PM

And another thing! I have no guilt about my kids. The brownie I just ate, yes. My kids, they could be a little better and have it a little better, but not much! O.K. I am leaving now.

Posted by: parttimer | July 11, 2006 12:37 PM

It always annoys me to hear people tell moms: "Don't feel guilty, you do what you can."

Sure, that's fine, coupled with a willingness to apologize to your child later on, should whatever you're trying to brush over cause a lasting problem (I'm not saying it WILL, just discussing this in broad terms).

But it seems to me that often other people are too quick to say, "Don't worry, be happy."

Children require sacrifice, and if we are to be good parents, then sometimes we have to sacrifice. That may mean we don't fulfill our own needs for a time.

Sometimes I think our society is too focused on "Yes, but what's best for ME?" I think if we don't do right by our child and we know it, then we shouldn't brush it off. We should feel badly, make it right, and move forward, wiser.

Posted by: Rebecca | July 11, 2006 12:39 PM

I think women need a Thesaurus. I don't think they're feeling "guilt". Guilt (per the dictionary) relates to feelings associated with committing an offense. Do you really feel guilty because you're not home with your child? Can we rediagnose? Do you feel ashamed because you think you're not doing a good job? Are you embarrassed that someone else is raising your kid? For the record, my 2 year old has been in daycare since he was 10 weeks old and I haven't spent one moment feeling guilty. He loves it. What do I feel? Overcommitted. Tired. Sad at the thought of the lost moments while he still "needs" me. What else do I feel? Joy at my contribution to society through my job at a non-profit. Pride at my professional choices knowing that those choices will be examined by my children. Elated with my success. But not guilt. I would feel guilty if he were in sub standard day care. But he's not. It's the best there is and he is truly loved and cared for by amazing teachers. What child suffers by being loved by mulitple adults? I reinforce at home what he learns at school. They reinforce the discipline that I try to instill. And all of it, with lots of love, care, and attention. Life is a balance -- isn't that what the column is about? Let's explore what we feel so that we're making the right choices for the right reasons and not always defaulting to guilt.

Posted by: momof1 | July 11, 2006 12:42 PM

Sad that so many women, like Dawn, have no idea what motherhood is like. It seems we perpetuate a mythological, idealized unattainable image of it, instead of honestly telling it like it is. We need to share our experiences and feelings with each other, and with the next generation of moms and dads, so that they can be better prepared and suffer less guilt. Just give yourself a break, Dawn, you're doing fine.

Posted by: Suzy | July 11, 2006 12:43 PM

"I think the BAD PARENTS comment may have been sarcastic. "

You think?

Of course it was sarcastic.

Suburban moms comment: At the higher income levels (lawyers, doctors, executives), affording the mother's departure from work is fairly easy. But move down into the mid-level professionals (management, computer programmers) and families take quite a cut in income when the mom quits.

So if the mom quits, it makes life easier if she's SUFFERING the AGONIES of leaving her precious kids with strangers. Once she's home, it's easier to justify if parenting is incredibly hard, ennervating, and non-stop.

There are moms (and dads) who quit work, cheerfully acknowledge it's a great luxury and aren't they lucky?, and have a ball hanging out with the kids because lord knows there's not all that much to do. Not many, though.

"They get that idea from the comments of people like Cal."

Indeed. SAHMs should never, ever get the impression they are anything more than a luxury item living a cushy life that someone else pays for, and they should usually be certain they are risking their own financial security as well as that of their children's. They certainly should not consider themselves to have value beyond their family. They should, ideally, get that impression from everyone if they are too silly to figure it out for themselves.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 12:43 PM

"Children require sacrifice, and if we are to be good parents, then sometimes we have to sacrifice. That may mean we don't fulfill our own needs for a time."

No ... children should be welcome additions to a family but NOT the center of it. Dr. Phil has studied children who grow up in that environment and many of them grow up feeling entitled, selfish and self-centered. Is that REALLY what you're trying to achieve?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 12:53 PM

I'm really sorry, but I just don't get it. Please explain this to me. Why does everything have to be a crisis all the time?

No one is tired. They are "suffering from bone-breaking, soul-crushing exhaustion." Geez, lighten up. Either take a nap or see a doctor.

No one goes to work. They "derive stimulation and challenge from a fulfilling career." I don't get it. I go to work. I work hard and do my job. They pay me. I come home to my family. If I didn't need the money, I wouldn't go anymore. End of story.

People have to "deal with the intense drudgery of housework." Again, lighten up. Doing laundry is not a big deal. Cooking dinner does not have to be a grand banquet. If you hate doing yardwork, live in a condo. All of those things can be out-sourced if they are too much trouble. And none of them (except dinner) need to be done every single day. Do a couple of things a day and if the towels don't get washed until tomorrow or the carpet doesn't get vacuumed this week, who cares?

And the guilt! Where does this come from? Do you really think that doting on your child 24-7 is the answer? Is that the goal? You'll make them nuts! Kids NEED to have time with other kids. They NEED to go to school. It's not like they are growing up institutionalized in a third world country because they spend four hours in day care four days a week. There is more than one way to raise a good kid and you do not have to answer to anyone other than yourself about the choices that are right for you, so stop stressing about it. If you can't, an excellent place to start would be to stop reading internet forums where all anyone tells you is that you are doing everything wrong.

It all comes down to choices. You choose your path and you walk it. If you aren't happy with the choices you have made, acknowledge that and make changes. Realize also that life is not a bed of roses and no one ever said it would be. Not everything will work out like you want it. Not every day will be a picnic. You won't leap from bed feeling great every day. Just deal with it and move on.

Choose to play the victim, though, and that is all you will ever be.

Posted by: Is it just me? | July 11, 2006 12:56 PM

"SAHMs should never, ever get the impression they are anything more than a luxury item living a cushy life that someone else pays for, and they should usually be certain they are risking their own financial security as well as that of their children's. They certainly should not consider themselves to have value beyond their family. They should, ideally, get that impression from everyone if they are too silly to figure it out for themselves."

Actually in the Millionaire Next Door there was a good analysis that a traditional housewife at home can be a real financial asset to a family. Another book that looks at the costs of work is Your Money or Your Life

Working has a lot of costs - not just childcare and commuting costs, but additional costs in one's food budget, opportunity costs of not having time to properly budget, expensive vacations to destress, expensive toys to amuse the kids, etc.

If you look at a family as an economic unit, it -may- be served well by people working differently at different times. Just because someone does childcare and housekeeping for a few years does not lay waste to all their financial plans forever, nor does it make them kept and useless. It may not.

Posted by: JJ | July 11, 2006 1:00 PM

Fine - that may well be the right choice for you and your family. But please, don't throw up your hands and say "I didn't have a choice." There are people in this world who're trapped in situations from which they can't escape, but that doesn't apply to most (if any) of the people chatting on this blog. You made a choice.


Posted by: | July 11, 2006 12:14 PM

Just to clarify my earlier post, I never said I didn't have a choice, I said it wasn't that simple. Obviously, I've weighed the options, and I choose to live in the DC area for many reasons. I just get annoyed when people suggest moving from this area will solve all sorts of problems. It may solve some money issues (like affordable housing), but quality of life is what's important to me, and I would be absolutely miserable anywhere else. Moving from DC is not an option for people like me who love being here, so I wish people would stop touting it as a great solution. It's not a choice I am willing to make.

Posted by: Arlmom | July 11, 2006 1:01 PM

Rebecca,

I think you missed part of the point of what some of us have been trying to say. Parenting is a tremendous responsibility, and should be taken very, very seriously. No one (I hope) is trying to imply otherwise. Kids, as you correctly point out, also require sacrifice (and as the parent of a college student, I can say that staying up late to comfort a child with the colic is the least of it).

On the other hand, millions of parents with no special training have succesfully raised generations of functional adults with nothing but love and concern. I would suggest that some parents worry about the wrong things - kids are more resiliant than we sometimes think, and not getting into the right preschool does not necessarily mean that your child is going to lose out as an adult.


We will make mistakes - our parents did too. Most of us turned out o.k. If we take the job seriously and do our best, our kids will turn out o.k. too. Recognizing that isn't quite the same thing as saying "don't worry, be happy."

I absolutely agree with you that parents can't be focused on "what's best for ME?"

My recommendation for parental guilt is a pretty simple process:

1) Ask "why do I feel guilty?"

2) If it's because I'm human and make mistakes, get tired, get cranky, and don't know everything, then I need to forgive myself

3) But if it's because there's something about the choices I'm making or the way I've arranged my life that I can't feel good about, I need to fix it

"I think if we don't do right by our child and we know it, then we shouldn't brush it off. We should feel badly, make it right, and move forward, wiser."

Amen to that.

What I really object to is the idea that some sort of unavoidable, free-floating sense of guilt is the natural state for a parent - regardless of how responsible a person is. If we're honest, we generally know if we're taking good care of our kids, or giving them the short end of the stick (and taking good care of them does not mean perfectionism, or indulging their every whim). If it's the short end of the stick, then guilt is an appropriate response - but not something we should accept and live with like bad weather.

Posted by: Huh? | July 11, 2006 1:02 PM

Cal:

""I think the BAD PARENTS comment may have been sarcastic. "

You think?

Of course it was sarcastic."

Don't treat me like I'm a fool by continuing with the sarcasm. I recognized that you were likely being sarcastic, but another poster did not....so obviously it wasn't completely apparent.

The rest of your post - well, I think it's bunk. And that's all I have time for. But I appreciate the fact that you at least were honest about how you felt rather than covering it up with confusing statements.

Posted by: momof4 | July 11, 2006 1:03 PM

I agree with the posters who said "guilt" is probably not the right word. I have never understood why anyone would feel "guilty" about not being able to do everything, or even about trying to maintain some semblance of your life when you have little kids. You should feel guilty about leaving a toddler strapped in a carseat in the car while you get your nails done. You should not feel guilty about working. Or puttting them in daycare. Or letting the laundry pile up. Or making your husband get up at 2 am to give the baby a bottle instead of you waking up to nurse them.

Even babies have to learn that mom cannot be there every second. The will learn--sometimes your tummy will be empty for a little while. Sometimes you have to sit in a bouncy seat instead of mommy's lap. Sometimes somebody else changes your diaper or holds you when you're napping. Don't feel guilty!

Plus, if you characterize your feelings as "guilt," it's an internal issue that no one can help with. If you admit that you are tired, or stressed, or whatever you are really feeling, you can focus on a SOLUTION--getting help, cutting back, or even just recognizing that being a mom (esp. a working mom) is HARD and sometimes you just have to get through it a day at a time.

Posted by: Anotherarlingtonmom | July 11, 2006 1:06 PM

I apologize for the completely off topic post. Leslie, it might be interesting at some point in the future to blog about managing work-life balance in addition to managing relationships with incredibly overbearing parents or in-laws. Managing those relationships is incredibly time consuming and stressful in itself--especially when you have so little time as a parent and employee.

Posted by: Jennifer | July 11, 2006 1:07 PM

When I have this strong urge to turn around and go home to spend the day with my family instead of going to work, I call it homesickness, not guilt.

I'm wondering if I'm the only one who has sex in the office on their telecommute day. Anybody else? Should I feel guilty about this? I don't, but I'm the type of guy that doesn't feel guilty about taking a nap at the office either.

They are going to fire me someday, but right now, I'm having a lot of fun!

OK, folks, carry on...

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 11, 2006 1:10 PM

Right on, JJ! I don't really get what the big deal is anyway, about people taking time off from work periodically during the course of their lifetimes. It seems that many of these bloggers have a "one size fits all" mentality about how adults should live their lives. If you can and want/need to, who cares if a person takes off to fulfill some other purpose.

There are many circumstances where people make the choice to not work or work PT for a while -- to care for their kids, their parents, their spouse -- life can throw many a curve ball. We're just trying to not get hit.

Posted by: chausti | July 11, 2006 1:10 PM

"Don't treat me like I'm a fool by continuing with the sarcasm. "

I wasn't treating you like a fool. I just thought you were being overly polite to the other person, because it *was* completely apparent.

And sarcasm has many purposes, so I can use it for some other purpose than treating you like a fool. Although if you continue to be huffy, I'm sure I'll end up with that objective.

You think it's bunk to suggest that women may have a vested interest in making parenting look harder than it is to justify quitting work? Hmm. Well, I won't be sarcastic. But I could be.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 1:11 PM

"Indeed. SAHMs should never, ever get the impression they are anything more than a luxury item living a cushy life that someone else pays for, and they should usually be certain they are risking their own financial security as well as that of their children's. They certainly should not consider themselves to have value beyond their family. They should, ideally, get that impression from everyone if they are too silly to figure it out for themselves."

Cal, I just gave up on you. I've been blessed to make enough money that we can afford for my wife to stay home with our kids. It is, indeed, a blessing, and we feel very fortunate. It hasn't been without some sacrifice, however - there have been many things we could not afford as a result. Neither one of us is asking for any sympathy over that - our kids, and my wife's time with them, are more important.

My wife is not a "luxury item," nor is she living a "cushy life." Frankly, life would be significantly cushier and more luxurious if we had the second income. Nor are you, Cal, paying for her staying home (we could maunder a bit about tax preferences, but we're in a middle income bracket where there really isn't much if any tax benefit from her being home).

I'm going to be very, very blunt. You are directly fueling the "mommy wars" - and doing it in a surprising irresponsible way. I strongly suspect you'd go ballistic if my wife or I were to challenge the choices you've made in the same way you're denegrating SAHM's. I fully recognize the financial and career pressures that lead many, if not most, moms to work outside the home. Had my income been less, my wife would have made the same decision (as she did before the birth of our first child). It is - to use your word - "silly" not to recognize, however, that there are arguably very good reasons for a couple to value having one parent at home. It may be an expensive option, and it may be an option that's not available to everyone - but it's not inherently self-indulgent nor socially irresponsible.

If you do choose to argue that staying at home to raise your own children is inherently self-indulgent or socially irresponsible, you're going to hurt and anger people. Don't be surprised when your own choices are challenged.

Posted by: I give up on you | July 11, 2006 1:16 PM

"Oh, and from this minute forward, people would be allowed to phone you in the middle of the night with law-related questions, stand outside the bathroom while you're peeing demanding that you answer their questions about tort reform RIGHT NOW! And they'd follow you into the shower and demand you talk about the law.

You would only be allowed to be friends with other lawyers, you'd get no vacations, no weekends off, and you wouldn't get paid! And when you told people what you did, they'd look bored and wander away."

EXACTLY why I don't have children and have never regretted it.

Posted by: Best decision I ever made | July 11, 2006 1:18 PM

I have also seen people who make their children the center of attention. My little brother in law was one. He and his mother did everything together. She discouraged him from forming friendships and being normal. She put him above everyone, even her marriage, unfortunalty two years ago she died. Now he is 22 and acts like a ten year old.

I agree with the poster who said they are additions to the family, not the center of the world.

Posted by: scarry | July 11, 2006 1:21 PM

"Don't treat me like I'm a fool by continuing with the sarcasm. "

I wasn't treating you like a fool. I just thought you were being overly polite to the other person, because it *was* completely apparent."

I gotta disagree with you, Cal - your post didn't make a heck of a lot of sense. You start out seeming to mock parents who say they aren't guilty, then mock SAHM's (and seem to conflate the two). A little humor can leaven a serious discussion - but too much will make it incoherent (and make it appear that you, yourself, aren't serious minded enough to have anything relevant to say).

Posted by: Disagree | July 11, 2006 1:24 PM

i give up on you has very good points. I don't even understand what cal's issue is or who she is so upset with or why?

Posted by: scarry | July 11, 2006 1:27 PM

Jennifer -- Like your idea about a column on how to deal with overbearing parents and in-laws. Long found that working, in itself, provides an unassailable excuse to "just say no" to overinvolvement from above.

Posted by: Leslie | July 11, 2006 1:33 PM

"My wife is not a "luxury item," "

Your wife isn't, but the fact that she stays at home certainly is. You apparently don't know what a luxury item is, though. A luxury item is something you don't need, but spend the money for anyway.

So when you say that you can "finally afford" to have her stay home, you are confirming my point. Your wife's unemployment is the functional equivalent of a BMW--a nonessential that your increased salary finally made possible. an unessential that you previously did without. You can dress it up with fancy words like "blessing", but that, like the talk about the difficulty of parenting, is propaganda designed to make stay at homes feel better about themselves.

"You are directly fueling the "mommy wars" - and doing it in a surprising irresponsible way. "

There's no "mommy war". There are responsible parents and irresponsible parents. Most stay at home moms are financially irresponsible.

But the best way to determine whether or not you are a responsible parent is to ask yourself the following questions:

1. Can I independently provide my children with the trappings I consider fundamental?

2. If not, am I doing everything I can to achieve that state?

If you answer "no" to either of those questions, you're not a responsible parent--regardless of your employment status.

Now, lots of moms take the risk and things work out okay. But it's still a risk, and it's not responsible.

And yes, stay at homes are costly to society as a whole. I posted about that in a previous thread.

While this is off-topic, I do think that the overabundance of needless angst in the author's post has much to do with the fact that women feel the need to justify staying at home.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 1:36 PM

Is It Just Me? -- you are not alone. I totally agree.

SS wrote "Every woman I know feels inadequate about something, translated into guilt." I'm a woman and I do not feel inadequate and I'm not suffering from feelings of guilt.

What does "guilt" feel like? I honestly don't know. Oh, I remember feeling guilty when the cashier at the Giant accidentally gave me back an extra $10. I felt so much guilt -- the impression that I was doing wrong -- that I went back to the store and returned the money to her.

I can't believe so many people are runnning around 24/7 feeling like, it seems, most everything they are doing is "wrong". What a sad way to live. Please, if you are having so many guilt feelings, get some meditation tapes or find some way to break these destructive thought patterns.

Posted by: No guilt here | July 11, 2006 1:39 PM

"Most stay at home moms are financially irresponsible. "

Is this really Linda Hirschman?

Posted by: What? | July 11, 2006 1:41 PM

"You start out seeming to mock parents who say they aren't guilty,"

Given that I felt no guilt in a previous post, that would be a very unlikely interpretation for anyone with a triple digit IQ.

As for the rest, I comment because I have something to say. Convincing, or even engaging, any of the regular commenters is at best a miniscule objective. Style lessons are really wasted on me.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 1:44 PM

Good lord. Skipping words right and left today--a much greater concern than engaging with commenters.

Given that I said I felt no guilt, etc.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 1:45 PM

I am asking because I really don't know and am not trying to be hostile but what is the point of working from home if your kid isn't there? Isn't the whole point of working from home is being able to spend more time wth your family?

Not necessarily. When you are working, you should be working and not spending time with your family. Working from home allows people to avoid long commutes, focus on things that require concentration without interruptions from coworkers, and occasionally does give flexibility to let the plumber in or do a load of laundry, but the point is to work, not spend time with family. I have a friend whose husband works at home full time, and he is up in his office from 7:00 am until noon, comes down for lunch, and is back in his office from 1:00 until 4:00 pm. He gets to spend more time with his family by having lunch with his wife and not having to commute, but his work is his priority during work hours.

Posted by: Rockville | July 11, 2006 1:46 PM

Cal, I'm a stay at home mother and yes, to your first question, I could independently provide my children with the trappings I consider fundamental. So how am I costing society? I pay taxes on my investment income just like everyone else. I contributed to Social Security for 15 years. Leaving the workplace freed up a job for someone else who really needed it. If you somehow think I am a cost to society, then I consider that I aided society in that way.

Posted by: A cost to society? | July 11, 2006 1:47 PM

I'm coming into this conversation late so I haven't read all of the above comments.

I did want to say that the first baby is the hardest. It is a shock to realize that this little think can be so needy! I was a medical resident with my first and I couldn't wait to go back to every fourth night call. I got more sleep! So the writer's and some of the poster's feelings are totally normal. It's sort of a deep dark secret in our society that most parents can't wait to get back to work. We don't express this that often because it's not PC and when we do, we do as Dawn did and do it in a coy, conflicted manner. No one can ever tell you or any other parent that you don't love your child as much as anyone else just because you crave to go back to work.

Many years ago, generations ago and in other cultures a woman had her mother, sisters, sisters-in-law, etc to help with the caring of the children. We live in a commuter society and so many of us are "isolated" from our families. No one should feel guilty for wanting to have breaks from their children. Please, it's better for them if you do.

With regard to the guilt and work thing--I absolutely feel none of that. And I wish more women didn't either. Then families could ask for what they need, assume that we'll get it and all of us can live happy albeit unbalanced lives. Work makes us feel useful and a contributor to society and the economy. Work is good. It is good for our children. The saddest thing for me to realize now is that my mother who is now 70, was valedictorian of her high school, dropped out of college, stayed at home and is now an unhappy person with regrets. I've actually heard her say that she regrets that her parents couldn't afford college. Being useful and wanting to be a contributor to society (beyond the procrating) is a normal feeling.

And this post is meant to be supportive of the writer and others on the blog. I don't need to be attacked for supporting working motherhood.

Posted by: Doctor&mother | July 11, 2006 1:47 PM

"There's no "mommy war". There are responsible parents and irresponsible parents. Most stay at home moms are financially irresponsible."

You have got to be out of your mind. Whether you label it a "mommy war" or not, you're starting a war when you make a blanket assertion that most SAHMs are irresponsible.

"So when you say that you can "finally afford" to have her stay home, you are confirming my point. Your wife's unemployment is the functional equivalent of a BMW--a nonessential that your increased salary finally made possible. an unessential that you previously did without. You can dress it up with fancy words like "blessing", but that, like the talk about the difficulty of parenting, is propaganda designed to make stay at homes feel better about themselves."

Please wake up and smell the coffee - I did not beat my breast over the difficulty of raising kids, nor claimed that my wife was some sort of martyr. And yes, my income level is a blessing (I really did luck into a better career than I deserve, based on my very limited efforts in school).

"A luxury item is something you don't need . . . " My wife and I made a very careful and conscious decision that her income was a luxury we could do without - because it was more valuable to us for her to be at home, raising our kids.

You have implicitly assumed that a wage income is valuable - and that working outside the home should be normative. But for some, it is not "necessary." (Many moms do, in fact, choose to forgo it.) Is it bad that some women find another use of their time more valuable? Would it be more responsible for my wife to take a salaried position, and then for us to spend her earnings on a) daycare; b) a larger house; and c) whatever we can afford with the remainder? If so, why?

I find it very telling that you said ". . .talk about the difficulty of parenting, is propaganda designed to make stay at homes feel better about themselves." Assuming they made that choice carefully and with the best interests of their families in mind, they have no reason to feel bad. Why would you assume otherwise? Do you really believe that SAHMs are wasting their time? (Are you willing to listen to what they may feel about the virtues of your choice?)

Posted by: I give up on you | July 11, 2006 1:49 PM

Cost, the main one would be social security. You will get paid based on your husband's contributions--or I should say, that's how SocSec is set up. If it werent' set up like that, one of the major expenses of stay at homing would disappear. The other major one is the deduction off of your taxes, but if you've got investments, you're producing income so the deduction is valid.

So based on your post, you're the classic example of a mom who earned her own luxury. Go you!


" I did not beat my breast over the difficulty of raising kids, nor claimed that my wife was some sort of martyr."

No. What you did was claim that she (or her decision to stay home) was not a luxury. You were in error. I trust you've seen the light.

"Assuming they made that choice carefully and with the best interests of their families in mind, they have no reason to feel bad."

Because all the available data shows that most of them did not make the choice carefully or in full consideration of the costs.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 1:54 PM

Doctor&mom, I'm sorry that your mother feels that way. My mother (who is also 70)graduated at the top of her class when she was 16. She couldn't be valedictorian because she had skipped two grades. In the fall her father handed her a $100 bill he couldn't really afford to give her. He told her to go to the local college and register. She would have been the first in her family to attend college.

That day she walked by the local Woolworth store and saw they were hiring. She thought about how much her family (two kids older and four younger than her) needed that $100 and she went in and got a job. After that she worked for Western Union and then for a bank. She gave her parents money. She loved her working years, but when she married she decided to be a SAHM.

When she was 48, she went to college and she got her associate's, then bachelor's, then master's degrees. She is now 70 and she would say that you make the choices that you make and try to be happy with them. She would say work AND education are good.

Posted by: GVA | July 11, 2006 1:57 PM

After a certain amount, no matter how much more you contribute to Social Security, you will not get "more" of a benefit. There is a cap. So once you have "paid in" so much, you have basically made your contribution and will get the max allowed benefit when you retire.

Posted by: SS info | July 11, 2006 2:00 PM

I'm on the run today, so haven't read any of the comments. But I wanted to take at least the time to tell Dawn that I loved her post. You did a great job of articulating the internal struggle that (I assume) so many parents feel. Thanks!

Posted by: NewSAHM | July 11, 2006 2:01 PM

ssinfo--I don't think you'd argue that most stay at home moms reach that maximum level, though.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 2:01 PM

cal - You stated "because all the available data shows that most of them did not make the choice carefully or in full consideration of the costs" - could you please provide one of these studies? Because based on the anedoctal evidence I have seen with my friends, on this blog and generally in the media, most SHAP (moms & dads) made the choice after serious consideration.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 2:05 PM

Cal, I have worked at jobs that paid well but not great and I hit the maximum SS contribution by the time I was 33. And I didn't start working until age 21. So your generalization that "most SAHMs reach that maximum level" is bunk. Many SAHMs have worked several years at good to excellent wages before they decide to SAH for a time. And many of them plan to and DO go back to work later.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 2:05 PM

Sorry, I meant to say that Cal said most SAHMs do NOT reach the maximum SS level. Which is just wrong.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 2:07 PM

Just a comment for those of you having issues with all the housework. Would recommend that you check out www.flylady.net. Granted, she is a traditionalist, but her directions for decluttering and setting up routines can work whether you do all the work yourself or distribute it amongst your family. You will definitely feel less overwhelmed if you conquer your clutter.

For those of you feeling guilty, try to let go. Everyone is resource challenged, just in different ways. My SIL is a wealthy SAHM and she feels depressed and lonely most of the time. On top of that, she feels guilty for having so much and not being happy about it.

Enjoy your children, no matter how much time you have with them each day. Like others have said, you are doing what you can with what you have.

Posted by: balance? | July 11, 2006 2:12 PM

" I hit the maximum SS contribution by the time I was 33."

You're confused. We're talking about benefits, not contributions.

"could you please provide one of these studies? "

There's no need for a study. While all divorces result in an income hit for both spouses, two-income families recover far more quickly than the non-working parent (who is almost always custodial) of a one-income family. Welfare recipients are almost exclusively non-working parents, including many who had previously been supported by a boyfriend or husband.

Neither of these statements would be true if most stay at homes carefully assessed the risk. But then, if most stay at homes assessed the risk, they wouldn't leave the work force.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 2:14 PM

"Looking back, I feel guilty that I was so miserable and emotional then. It was all about me, when really it was all about this wonderful boy my husband and I had created. I couldn't get my head around that at the time.

Now I am longing to have another child before I am too old. I could handle an infant better this time. But my husband is iffy. We don't make enough money. I would want to stay home longer. Our house is not big enough. Without one of us taking an even more high-pressure job we can't afford to move up. We would need a second car but ditto on the money thing. Could I really handle two under 2-1/2?"

I can't speak to the money issues, but it's precisely because of the first paragraph I copied over here that you would be able to handle two under 2 1/2. My daughter was 2 years and 4 months old when my son was born. I kept her in day care the first two weeks I was home on maternity leave because I didn't feel confident that I could handle both children. I was amazed at how much easier it was to care for just my son than it had been to care for just my duaghter, in part because of the perspective I had that "this too shall pass." It didn't bother me as much if he cried a bit, if I couldn't get to him on time, etc., and I appreciated everything so much more, in particular because I was virtually certain he would be my last. Having both at home, once I was brave enough to do so, at the same time was harder because their needs were so different, but I can honestly say that I was more relaxed the second time around and things went much more smoothly. Each child is different, yes, but there are still some basics you learn from the first that you can apply to the second.

I wouldn't not have a child because of the size of your house. If nothing else, the baby can stay in your room a few years. My brother-in-law will be doing that. They are having their fourth child. The oldest is 16, and they have a 3-bedroom house. I would also take as much time off as possible. The first six weeks can be so bad, you don't want to have to be returning to work just when your baby's getting really cute. I took 3 months off after my daughter and 5 months off after my son, and it makes a world of difference to stay home longer. Particularly when you consider that somewhere in there the baby should start sleeping through the night.

Good luck to the mother of the newborn. Don't give up yet - it's only been three weeks! It will get better, and eventually will be a lot of fun. I don't think I've majorly messed either of my kids up, despite the fact that one day when my daughter wouldn't stop crying (at about four or five weeks) I started shouting at her to shut the &(*! up. She seems to have gotten over it. Not so sure about the cat, who was staring at me at the time like I was a crazy woman . . . . being home alone with a crying baby, particularly in the winter when the days are short, can do that to you.

Indeed, as you can see from the name I chose for myself, I eventually got to the point, even the first time I was home, where I never wanted to go back. (My husband and I didn't plan things as well as some of the other posters here so I had to, however. We could have made lifestyle changes that enabled me to stay home if we'd both agreed, but they were too drastic for him to sign onto.) So don't give up hope. If the career-track person I once was, who felt put-upon by my baby the first month or so, could eventually fall for her to the point of wanting to be a full-time mommy, there's hope for everyone!

Posted by: SAHM wannabe | July 11, 2006 2:16 PM

"Most stay at home moms are financially irresponsible."

That's just not true. If you add up the costs of working they can be considerable - not just childcare but commuting/second car/insurance, work wardrobe/drycleaning, eating out/pre-prepared meals, etc.

And those are sort of basic expenses. There can also be costs like having to hire out home maintenance, medical costs due to stress and overtiredness, expensive vacations and camps and gizmos - because for /some/ people working means not having the energy to come up with a cheap vacation or play with the kids instead of signing them up for paid activities.

And an after-tax dollar saved is like $1.20 (depending on your income bracket) earned. So basically if either parent makes the costs of their work + 20%, it's entirely possible that it would be an even trade for them to stay home (assuming they don't then spend money on other things).

Of course their personality and long-term goals matter too; it's not just an economic decision.

But in some cases a family might end up with *more* money to put towards both partners' retirement savings, if one stays home.

That is one of the benefits of a family unit, economically - labour can be divided up in an efficient way that someone like a single parent just can't do.

All I'm saying really is that you really have to consider the actual costs and actual salary and also not assume that time off=downward spiral economically. Or even career wise, but that's a whole other topic.

Posted by: JJ | July 11, 2006 2:19 PM

JJ, daycare should be split between both parents, not just the one making less money. The parent who quits work is risking consequences that go well beyond the immediate expenses, and the other parent simply can't offset that risk.

Besides, any parent who doesn't make enough money to cover daycare is particularly irresponsible for quitting work.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 2:22 PM

"No. What you did was claim that she (or her decision to stay home) was not a luxury. You were in error. I trust you've seen the light."

I ABSOLUTELY claim that her lifestyle is not one of luxury.

We made a choice between two options: an additional income, and an at-home parent. "Luxury" is the wrong concept to apply here. Staying at home was not a necessity for her - and neither was the second income. The second income (and the things it could buy after paying for child-care and other work-related expenses) was the less valuable of the two "luxuries" to us. (And if you're going to continue to base your arguments on staying at home being a "luxury," you're going to have to explain why a second income and its related benefits is NOT a "luxury.")

With respect to SAHM's, you said ". . . all the available data shows that most of them did not make the choice carefully or in full consideration of the costs."

You're going to have to defend that one. I gather from your comments that the "costs" you believe were not given full consideration were primarily (if not solely) financial ones. Please understand - many if not most SAHM's would argue that they based their decisions on other, in their view more significant, costs and benefits to their families. You seem to be implying that those costs and benefits are not real - that there is no benefit to children from having a parent at home, and no cost to children of having both parents employed full time. That seems to me a very extreme position. Most people who have examined this issue seem to agree that there are costs and benefits on both sides, that have to be weighed carefully.

Do you really mean to say that it's a slam dunk decision - "the right choice is to work outside the home"?

And how in the world can you follow that up by saying with a straight face "there is no mommy war"?

Posted by: I give up on you | July 11, 2006 2:22 PM

"I ABSOLUTELY claim that her lifestyle is not one of luxury."

Sigh. Way to distort.

Pay attention. Focus hard. Move your lips while you read: your wife's unemployment is a luxury.

Full stop. That's what I said, and you've distorted it twice now.


"You seem to be implying that those costs and benefits are not real - that there is no benefit to children from having a parent at home, and no cost to children of having both parents employed full time. "

There is no documented benefit to children having a parent at home, and no documented cost to children whose parents are both employed.

There are fully documented costs and hardships to children whose parents can't support them financially, or who suffer a major change in lifestyle because their parents got divorced and their mother couldn't afford the same choices she made before.

However, given that you're still having trouble with the whole "luxury" issue, I can't say I'm sanguine about your ability to grasp this.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 2:27 PM

Open Question

Does anyone else really agree with Cal, that most, if not all, SAHM's are either self-indulgent or irresponsible? Or, to put it another way, that SAHM's have clearly and almost uniformly made the wrong choice?

That seems to me to be the essence of the putative "mommy war" - one side or the other stating or implying that mom's who've made the other choice (SAHM or WOTH) got it wrong, or made a "worse" decision.

My general impression is that we all have an unconcious bias towards assuming our own decisions (and what makes sense to us) are the best ones. But beyond that, I don't believe there's that much actual criticism or antagonism.

Am I wrong? If you really do believe that the SAHM route is inherently the incorrect choice (or, on the flip side, that the work outside the home route is the wrong one), please fess up. If that's the real issue, let's talk about it.

If it's not, let's ignore Cal and roll on.

Posted by: I give up on you | July 11, 2006 2:29 PM

Goodness. Is this your blog? I didn't realize that commenters could demand that everyone else (except me, of course) follow her orders.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 2:32 PM

Cal, are you a parent?

You stated: "A luxury item is something you don't need, but spend the money for anyway."

Who is to say they don't NEED the woman (wife/mother) to stay home? The other side of that arguement would be that daycare is a luxury because she doesn't NEED to work. They don't NEED a housekeeper, because the mom is home and during nap time, she can toss in a couple of loads of laundry. They don't need a cook, because, while junior is playing with blocks in the playpen, she can prepare dinner; they don't need a personal assistant because she and junior can run errands while chitchatting in the car, working on verbal skills and talking about the world around them as they are in the car.

Cal, are you at work as you type your diatribes? What a luxury, huh?

Posted by: Stacey | July 11, 2006 2:32 PM

My wife is a luxury item. That is why I married her.

If your wife/husband is no longer a luxury, you need to get busy more.

Posted by: Fo3 | July 11, 2006 2:35 PM

"Pay attention. Focus hard. Move your lips while you read: your wife's unemployment is a luxury."

Pay attention. Focus hard. Move your lips while you read: for us, the SECOND INCOME was a LUXURY we could do without.


""I ABSOLUTELY claim that her lifestyle is not one of luxury." Sigh. Way to distort . . . you've distorted it twice now."

That's not a distortion at all. What you said was "SAHMs should never, ever get the impression they are anything more than a luxury item living a cushy life that someone else pays for . . ." Granted, characterizing "luxury item living a cushy life" as "a life of luxury" was my interpretation, but honestly now, how else should I interpret it?

What are you trying to start here?

Posted by: I give up on you | July 11, 2006 2:38 PM

Cal is absolutely right that most SAHMs and their husbands do not make long-term financial arrangements for the SAHM and the children. 50% of marriages end in divorce. It may seem like a good idea to divide the labor with one at home and one at work and cut back on expenses and savings to give the children a parent at home, but what happens if the husband dies or finds someone more interesting outside of the home? Of course "it will never happen to you", but in fact it will happen to half of you. This is a really negative view, but it is reality. Ask any fmaily law attorney. If you stay at home, don't liquidate your 401(k) to make it work, make your husband put a maximum contribution into an IRA for you every year and make contributions to the kids college funds. Keep up with your profession as best you can and keep in touch with contacts. After a divorce, men's income goes up and women's goes down. I agree that society should provide support for "time out" of the work force, but right now it is hard, if not impossible, to regain your earning power in most professional fields after you have been gone for years.

Posted by: ATTYMOM | July 11, 2006 2:38 PM

Cal, please explain why a SAHM is not paying enough SS and would have to rely on her husband's if she worked many years before having kids and will work many years after. There is an amount that you pay in after which you will NOT receive a greater benefit. If a woman has worked many years before leaving the workplace, depending on her salary level, she may have paid in all that she needs to collect the maximum benefit when she is 65 or 67 or whatever age.

You're assuming that women who SAH with their kids never worked and never plan to. That's thinking from "Leave It to Beaver" era. Most have worked, and most will return to work.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 2:38 PM

I love it when the Troll takes over.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 2:40 PM

there are drawbacks to both points of view. working vs. staying home. However, I don't begrudge my best friend her right to stay home or her husband's ability to work seven days a week to proivde it. I only get truly annoyed when people spout that "their" way is better than the other.

Or when they make a choice and then whine about it like my sister in law does. Workigng works for me but Cal it doesn't have to work for everyone.

Posted by: scarry | July 11, 2006 2:41 PM

Judy = Awesome

Posted by: Analyst | July 11, 2006 2:41 PM

Cal,
You make some good points, but boy are you nasty. I think some of what you say is lost in the thicket of condescention.

I get it. When one parent stays at home, ie the mother, she is at risk of losing her lifestyle to divorce or whatnot and not being able to recover financially because she is not working and may not have the required skills and experience to fund her lifestyle herself.

This is a risk that people take. It is not financially irresponsible to take this risk if you feel you can ride tragedy out. We did it in my family. I work, and my husband stays at home and does the lion's share of child raising and housework. This allows me to pursue my career and devote myself to it in a way that would be impossible if I had to run home at 5:00 pm every evening. So is my husband risking my leaving him barefoot and penniless and unable to support the kids if I have a midlife crisis and find some cute younger man to run off with? I guess it's a risk. But he could go back to work at any time, albeit making less money than he used to. He still would not be in the poorhouse. Frankly, I can't imagine leaving him and our son in the cold like that. But yes, I guess my husband is at risk, at least theoretically. Would you say that an insurance company is financially irresponsible to sell life insurance because all people eventually die?

Posted by: Rockville | July 11, 2006 2:42 PM

"If you stay at home, don't liquidate your 401(k) to make it work, make your husband put a maximum contribution into an IRA for you every year and make contributions to the kids college funds. Keep up with your profession as best you can and keep in touch with contacts."

Good advice. Doesn't mean staying at home may not be the right choice for some.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 2:42 PM

"There are fully documented costs and hardships to children whose parents can't support them financially..."

And hardships to children whose parents can give them every LUXURY in the world but don't know a thing about raising children to become healthy independent adults. Most parents have difficulty supporting children financially, that's life. You keep bringing up the "if the parents divorce" scenario. Many parents do not divorce. You can't base every economic decision for your family on "well, in case we divorce".

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 2:46 PM

If you stay at home, don't liquidate your 401(k) to make it work, make your husband put a maximum contribution into an IRA for you every year and make contributions to the kids college funds. Keep up with your profession as best you can and keep in touch with contacts."

All good reasons for a good prenup or postnup that will address what the SAH parent will receive in the case of a divorce.

Posted by: Rockville | July 11, 2006 2:49 PM

"50% of marriages end in divorce." If so, then 50% of marriages remain intact.

Where did you get the 50% figure anyway? If you researched the latest figures, it's not correct. Also, the divorce rate factors in second and even third marriages, and many second and third marriages do not produce children.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 2:49 PM

Cal- you seem to base your philosophy on the risk of divorce - and the economic impact associated with that and the assumption that the economic impact for a stay at home mom is automatically poverty. Please provide the study. your assertion that everyone knows this is no different than those that disagree with you asserting that you are wrong.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 2:49 PM

"It is not financially irresponsible to take this risk if you feel you can ride tragedy out."

Sure it is.

Would you consider it irresponsible to not carry life insurance? Yet the odds of one parent dying are considerably less than that of getting divorced (although it's not 50%. Closer to 30%).

When you have kids, you accept the responsibility of providing for them. This responsibility is not gender dependent. Quitting the workforce dramatically reduces your capability to provide for your children in the event that you need to. The majority of Americans are simply not financially prepared to do so.

That doesn't mean you can't play the odds and win. But there's no question that for the most part, the decision is financially irresponsible.

Incidentally, I didn't choose for this to go off topic. I didn't start a diatribe about stay at homes, although I did answer the first question.

But I will try to return this to topicality by pointing out again that Dawn's really absurd level of angst is a common posture taken by mothers these days. They do it because they feel the need to justify (to their husbands, if no one else) their decision to stay home.

But this narcissistic self-absorption is not really guilt (as many have pointed out). The best thing that Dawn can do for herself and her kid is to get over herself.

But as long as stay at home moms are considered a "choice" as opposed to a luxury item that very few households can afford, women like Dawn are going to be playing up the guilt and the misery over what is really a wonderful experience.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 2:50 PM

"You can't base every economic decision for your family on "well, in case we divorce"."

Divorce is financially catastrophic to most families, just as, say, a house fire is financially catastrophic. You will notice that your mortgage lender requires you to insure your house so they don't have to eat that loss. Given that many, many, many more couples will divorce than will suffer a house fire, I don't have the slightest idea why they don't spend more time thinking about that eventuality.

Posted by: Lizzie | July 11, 2006 2:52 PM

Why does no one ever say that the HUSBAND may lose his lifestyle after a divorce and the wife (and kids, if they stay with her) will be just fine? Many women today (especially in the DC area) make more than their husbands and perhaps have more savings than the husband.

Posted by: M2 | July 11, 2006 2:53 PM

"But as long as stay at home moms are considered a "choice" as opposed to a luxury item that very few households can afford, women like Dawn are going to be playing up the guilt and the misery over what is really a wonderful experience."

Dawn works, I don't understand how any of your SAHM stuff applies to her?

Posted by: scarry | July 11, 2006 2:56 PM

"Why does no one ever say that the HUSBAND may lose his lifestyle after a divorce and the wife (and kids, if they stay with her) will be just fine?"

Because most men earn more than their wives, and far fewer men stay home with their kids than do women, of course.

Posted by: Lizzie | July 11, 2006 2:56 PM

"But as long as stay at home moms are considered a "choice" as opposed to a luxury item that very few households can afford"

Bizarre. Many, many households demonstrably can afford it. But clearly, in Cal's mind, they'd be better off with a second income and a BMW instead. Curious set of priorities. Unless what we're seeing here is someone who was burned by divorce, and has had their view of marriage and parenthood distorted as a result (which would be sad).

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 2:56 PM

When you have kids, you accept the responsibility of providing for them. This responsibility is not gender dependent. Quitting the workforce dramatically reduces your capability to provide for your children in the event that you need to. The majority of Americans are simply not financially prepared to do so.

Let's say that I accept your premise that it is financially irresponsible to stay at home because it reduces one parent's ability to provide for children (which I don't... but for the sake of argument, let's say I do. Even so, raising children is more than a financial thing, and I would argue that the financial part is not as important as some people would think. Raising good kids involves time. You need to make them feel loved, and you need to provide emotional support. You need to teach them to be empathic and independent and honest. Even people with meager financial resources manage to do this, and sometimes, it seems they do it better than the wealthy. So people make the decision that what kids need is time with parents verus money. And in the scheme of things, this kind of balancing calls for more responsible parenting.

Posted by: Rockville | July 11, 2006 2:57 PM

"And hardships to children whose parents can give them every LUXURY in the world but don't know a thing about raising children to become healthy independent adults. "

Not really. If stay at home parenting had optimal results, then welfare mom's kids would be going to college more than they go to jail.

Compare the children of a benign but largely hands off two-income couple and those of a low-income working class family who sacrifices mightily for the mother to stay at home, and it's hard to argue that love and constant care guarantee good results.

" you seem to base your philosophy on the risk of divorce - and the economic impact associated with that and the assumption that the economic impact for a stay at home mom is automatically poverty. "

I most certainly do not. I base my argument (not philosophy) on the lousy statistics that occur when mothers can't rely on the father's income. Divorce and welfare are the primary culprits, but not the exclusive ones. I certainly never said that poverty is automatic or even likely for all married couples.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 2:58 PM

"You need to make them feel loved, and you need to provide emotional support. You need to teach them to be empathic and independent and honest."

None of these are precluded by working.

Posted by: Lizzie | July 11, 2006 3:00 PM

" Many, many households demonstrably can afford it."

You seem confused about the difference between "many" and "most".

Scarry, I contended (with some sarcasm) early on that Dawn, like many suburban moms, is laying the groundwork in case she ever wants to quit her job.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 3:00 PM

You need to make them feel loved, and you need to provide emotional support. You need to teach them to be empathic and independent and honest."

None of these are precluded by working.

It can be. Two parents engrossed in their jobs just don't have adequate time for kids. There can be exceptions, but people in highly demanding jobs can't give one hundred percent to both jobs and kids, and kids deserve better.

Posted by: Rockville | July 11, 2006 3:03 PM

Shucks, no fun today.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 11, 2006 3:04 PM

"Compare the children of a benign but largely hands off two-income couple and those of a low-income working class family who sacrifices mightily for the mother to stay at home, and it's hard to argue that love and constant care guarantee good results."

O.k., let's. I know many, many latch-key kids who come home to an empty house, and spend hours waiting for someone to come home. These kids live in affluent Montgomery County, Maryland suburban neighborhoods, in big houses full of all sorts of expensive "stuff" bought with the incomes of two working parents. They are not, by and large, "thriving."

Don't sell parents short - they can make a difference. (Please don't understand me - I'm not arguing that every mom has to stay at home. I am arguing that Cal's little example is not a slam-dunk win for the "benign but largely hands off two-income couple" - whether you work or not, "hands off" is not a winning strategy for a parent.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 3:05 PM

After a divorce the lifestyle of the family usually drops however even a former SHAP has options and immediate poverty is not necessary, depending on assests, the skills that the SHAP has when he/she reenters the workforce, how much support the extended family can give (temporary housing, daycare, help with legal fees) how supportive the other parent is with the child(ren) (picking up expenses even if not required by the courts). Yes plan, be honest about the state of your marriage, but then do what is best for you

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 3:05 PM

I have been catching up on recent postings, and although this one and the Linda Hirschman postings attract some of the most mean-spirited posts, they do definetely raise important questions. I have a feeling if you are a child of an unfortunate divorce (or fortunate, if one of your parents was abusive, etc.) reading this blog, you may quietly be agreeing that folks should plan in the back of their minds for the "unthinkable." Divorce or any kind of loss of loved one is a kind of pain no one should have to endure, but I have a feeling maybe one person will be served by thinking about things or her future in a way she didn't before because of this blog. Tough day on here, but I think these are points that should be raised.

Posted by: Just a thought | July 11, 2006 3:06 PM

social security retirement benefits are calculated based on 35 years of earnings. All zero earnings years will be used to come up with average yearly earnings. So earning the social security maximum amount only yields maximum benefits if you do it long enough.

http://mwww.ba.ssa.gov/planners/faqs.htm

Check out the first 2 questions on the ss website.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 3:07 PM

"Two parents engrossed in their jobs just don't have adequate time for kids. There can be exceptions, but people in highly demanding jobs can't give one hundred percent to both jobs and kids, and kids deserve better."

Huh? The number of people who have these kinds of jobs, even in DC, is vanishingly small. And unless you're Donald Rumsfeld (actually, even if you're Donald Rumsfeld), you can certainly find another job that is substantively the same, with better hours. I know attorneys who have quit private firms and have gone to work for the government.

No one is saying that you have to go full-bore when you're raising small kids; just that fewer women can afford to quit work than actually do. I don't think it's uncommon for many people to dial back a bit when the kids are small.

Posted by: Lizzie | July 11, 2006 3:08 PM

father of 4,


Give us a realy funny rant.

Posted by: scarry | July 11, 2006 3:09 PM

This is a robust and important discussion (not too much fun FO4). We do need to think about what would happen in case of divorce or other tragedy when a parent gives up working. Which is why I like the idea of prenups and postnups, but that's another discussion.

Posted by: Rockville | July 11, 2006 3:10 PM

Regarding Breastfeeding-- it can be painful for even longer than 6 weeks -- it was bad for me for 3 months. i kept thinking it would surely go away on its own and that it would be irresponsibile of me to spend money on a breastfeeding consultant. Don't make my mistakes! Schedule a meeting with PAt. YEs, in time the latching resolved itself, but the tears I shed in the meanwhile . . . I can still remember that pain. I was totally unprepared for how bad it would be. Once it went away, it just an absolute joy though.

Good luck!

Posted by: Capitol Hill | July 11, 2006 3:10 PM

"I know many, many latch-key kids..."

I don't know if you're the same no-moniker as the first time, but if you are, you not only confuse "many" and "most" but also your own personal experience and solid data. Statistically, my assertion was a no-brainer.

"They are not, by and large, "thriving.""

I don't recall using the word thriving. Did I? Or are you not up to speed on the use of quotes?

In any event, here's what you seem to be saying:

In Montgomery County, children of two-income couples are more likely to become criminals, drop out of high school, never go to college, have children they can't support than the kids of a couple who graduated from high school, got married at 18, worked at the local grocery store until the mom got pregnant and stayed at home to raise three kids.

If that's not what you mean, then you need to re-evaluate your assertions.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 3:13 PM

"if you are, you not only confuse "many" and "most" but also your own personal experience and solid data. Statistically, my assertion was a no-brainer."

Then show the study or analysis that proves it. Otherwise, you're just using YOUR experience.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 3:18 PM

In Montgomery County, children of two-income couples are more likely to become criminals, drop out of high school, never go to college, have children they can't support than the kids of a couple who graduated from high school, got married at 18, worked at the local grocery store until the mom got pregnant and stayed at home to raise three kids.

And what you are saying is that children of parents who choose to work at McDonalds instead of accepting welfare (ignore the conundrum of how they will afford daycare on a McDonald salary) are more likely to stay out of jail, finish high school, go to college, have children they can support than the kids of a woman who received welfare to make ends meet.

Seems like a wash to me.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 3:18 PM

". . . you may quietly be agreeing that folks should plan in the back of their minds for the "unthinkable." Divorce or any kind of loss of loved one is a kind of pain no one should have to endure, but I have a feeling maybe one person will be served by thinking about things or her future . . ."

I don't think anyone here intended to suggest that a wife or husband not think about the financial consequences of the loss of a spouse due to death or divorce. (Some may feel that it's unhealthy to enter a marriage EXPECTING it to end in divorce, but that's another issue.) Those consequences are very real, and however unlikely the loss may seem in any given circumstance, can be devastating if they materialize.

Those considerations, among others, may meant that working is the best solution for a particular mother (or father). What I've reacted to (and I believe many others have reacted to) is the un-qualified assertion that "[m]ost stay at home moms are financially irresponsible." I would argue that most moms - working AND stay-at-home - are very responsible, and honestly trying to do the best they can for their families. For most, there are no easy answers. It's incorrect - and cruel - to make a blanket condemnation of most stay-at-home moms (just as it would be to make a blanket condemnation of most working moms).

So please, do continue to challenge us all to think about the choices we make. That's healthy. And thank you for doing it in a way that doesn't second guess the life choices of millions of women.

Posted by: I give up on you | July 11, 2006 3:24 PM

Um--I didn't make that last post attributed to me. Maybe someone thought they were addressing it.

"And what you are saying is that ....."

I most certainly am not. That's just loopy.

As for how a couple can afford daycare on a McDonald's salary, one answer is that they should work different shifts. Another is that they should wait and save even a small amount to offset the cost of daycare and increase their own earnings.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 3:24 PM

In my case, I am lucky I subscribed to Cal's point of view, but it was not luck. My mother married and divorced three times. At 42, she had two kids under five and a teenager. She had no real job skills. As such, I grew up in poverty.

I knew I would never walk that same road, nor would I condemn my child to a life of poverty. When my husband and I divorced, it was his lifestyle that took a drop (he has no sense of fiscal restraint). For my child and me, we are more financially secure now than we were when I was married.

However, I am the exception, not the rule. I've said it before: any woman who leaves the work force for an extended period of time (trust funds notwithstanding) is taking a risk, and her child(ren) will share the same fate.

Posted by: single western mom | July 11, 2006 3:26 PM

" What I've reacted to (and I believe many others have reacted to) is the un-qualified assertion that "[m]ost stay at home moms are financially irresponsible.""

I defined "financially irresponsible".

Do you think it is responsible to make choices that put your ability to provide for your children at substantial risk?

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 3:27 PM

Scarry, I don't think I can pull this one out of the mud. You might try asking Cal. I think the guy has talent, but he seems to want to use a negative context for his message.
So come on Cal, for the ladies,
chin up!
Real big smile!
say "Cheese".
Very good!
Hold it right there for the camera!

[Click ]

Now that wasn't so hard now, was it?

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 11, 2006 3:27 PM

I thought welfare was changed during the Clinton adminstration to encourage women to go back into the workforce.

Cal your credibility is dropping if you use arguements that are not reflective of current society.

Posted by: NoVAsinglemom | July 11, 2006 3:29 PM

Single western mom--there's a fair amount of research suggesting that women whose mothers suffered a setback after divorce have very different notions about financial responsibility.

It's not universal, obviously, or girls of welfare moms wouldn't be so prone to go on welfare themselves. My guess is that it's a middle class tendency--and, btw, I definitely fit the bill on that one.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 3:30 PM

"I thought welfare was changed during the Clinton adminstration to encourage women to go back into the workforce."

I'm not sure what your point is. Most welfare recipients are two years and out. A smaller group is long-term. But in both cases, the need to go on welfare was almost always due to the fact that they either never had or quit your job.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 3:32 PM

I don't want my message to be undone by the statistics. 50% is a rough estimate. Check out www.divorcereform.org/rates.html for an explanation of where the numbers come from and why its always disputed (the lowest current estimate is 38%, still scary). No one can decide for another family what is the right choice between hours for each parent at home or at work, but it is well documented that women and the children are the most common financial victims of divorce (less so today than 10-15 years ago, but still true and it will get worse with the new trend to stay at home longer) and men die earlier than women. (Yes it can happen to men, but more often it does not and as far as I can tell, men spend a lot less time worrying about work/family balance and quitting work altogether for years to stay home.) And for goodness sakes, I hope none of you are really depending on social security to support yourself. I think this discussion is right on point. The guest blog raised financial issues. The decision to stay at home has financial ramifications, even if it isn't made for financial reasons. The decision not to have another child this year because you "can't afford it" when you may not be able to conceive next year is financial as well as emotional. There are ways to mitigate the financial ramifications, but women too often find discussing or even thinking about these issues cold, heartless and inappropriate in a family setting. If the marriage is strong, it can withstand this type of discussion and consideration. If it can't, well, then you are the one who really needs this advice.

Posted by: ATTYMOM | July 11, 2006 3:32 PM

Making his/her points a bit stridently, but basically right. It is a luxury for an able-bodied adult to not work. And staying home full-time with a child is not the work it used to be. Until 2-3 generations ago, women did not work outside the home because there was so much to do at home. If you're not working in the garden and caring for the animals and sewing clothes and doing laundry by hand and cooking every meal from scratch and preserving food all day...yeah, being home with a baby and nothing else to do would probably drive you to distraction. I'm not surprised so many women feel "guilt," it would be hard to feel that you are accomplishing anything. Everyone needs to feel productive. It's not until very recently that anyone but the upper class had the option to not be productive, and to make baby-raising their sole focus. It's not natural.

Posted by: Cal is right | July 11, 2006 3:35 PM

I work from a home office (I'm self-employed, so if I intersperse my work with chores, no I'm not stealing from my employer, FYI to the second poster).
Like the author, I put my toddler in child care -- actually, a quite good Montessori school. I have lots of experience with this work-from-home thing, and here's the scoop: You can work with a baby at home -- not perfectly, but OK -- but a toddler needs much more stimulation. You cannot give proper attention to a toddler while working. It's just not possible. It's much better to have proper care for a toddler at a preschool or childcare center or from a babysitter (and more fun for the toddler, not to mention safer) than to have very imperfect care from a distracted mom. There's NO REASON TO FEEL GUILTY!!! (caps for emphasis) It's absolutely the right thing to do.
When my kids were babies, I took them with me to work meetings, in front carriers or in backpacks or in strollers. I took them on business trips, too. As babies, they met many politicians and business executives; nobody had a problem with the presence of a quiet baby. Many others, including the politicians, tote their babies around in the same way, so people in these parts are pretty used to seeing babies in all kinds of settings. Older kids, say 4 or 5 and up, can also go with you to work, to a certain extent. You have to be sure that they have plenty of diversions, such as coloring books, notebooks, puzzles, etc. And they will get bored at long meetings or events. But the toddler years are just generally the wrong time for kids to be dragged along while mommy is working -- though I can't really speak to the teen years, which may be even worse.

Posted by: one who knows | July 11, 2006 3:36 PM

Single Western Mom

"However, I am the exception, not the rule. I've said it before: any woman who leaves the work force for an extended period of time (trust funds notwithstanding) is taking a risk, and her child(ren) will share the same fate."

Of course, it is a risk. Anytime we depend on someone else we take a risk. There are times in life when it is worth it to take that sort of risk - and other times when it's pure foolishness. The ability to consistently distinguish between the two would be wisdom indeed. And sometimes bad stuff happens through no one's fault at all.

What can I say. My judgement is colored by my experience (I was blessed with loving, responsible parents, and am blessed with a loving, responsible wife). Yours is colored by your experiences. It may well be that, given your life situation, you have made the best possible choices. I would certainly not fault you for them.

I do think it can be reasonable for a parent to choose to stay home to raise children. That is, of course, dependent on financial ability (and, to your point, should perhaps be dependent at least in part on the stability of the marriage). It's also important for a parent to make prudent provision to provide for children if it appears that the marriage itself is threatened. I'd be hesitant to use that situation to establish the norm, though.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 3:39 PM

Cal, you assume that every family with a SAHM is making "nightly sacrifices" of the financial sort so that the mom can stay at home.

I know many families where there is no great sacrifice. For my cousins, staying at home enabled the wife to devote more time to her kids and home and support the husband's aspirations. After a couple of years, the husband was doing well enough that the wife's potential income (perhaps $50,000 per year gross, at max) would really have been for extras such as yet another car or island vacation. Both of my cousins worked until they were in their mid-30s, so being home with their kids was important to them and to their husbands. Once the kids were all over 14, the wives went back to work, but for one it was to have "something to do" and for the other, she went to work running her husband's office.

Posted by: Not always a huge $ sacrifice | July 11, 2006 3:41 PM

Ok we can all concede that after a divorce or death(if there was inadequate life insurance) a stay at home spouse is at risk for financial hardship - however it does not have to be poverty (OK your teenager may feel having to buy clothes at target not Abecrombie and Fitch is poverty but you bloggers know what I mean) The majority of SAHM/D who choose this life are middle class or better. If they plan (ie keep their retirement savings, be aware of the family's financial assets, even maintain some job skills, are already living within their means so there is some savings) they can weather a divorce or other hardship and in the long run the children will come out fine. I think the actual divorce is usually harder on the children then the financial issues.

Yes sometimes divorce/death or even job loss of the working spouse can result in true poverty however to make a blanket statement about most stay-at-home parents based on what happens to some is what I think is getting everyone upset

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | July 11, 2006 3:43 PM

"I'm not surprised so many women feel "guilt," it would be hard to feel that you are accomplishing anything. "

O.k. - we officially now have a "mommy war." "Cal is right" has declared that SAHM's are not "accomplishing anything," "not productive" and that it's "not natural."

It's now time for the rebuttal - do the SAHM's have any opinions to offer about those who've chosen to work?

Cal is right - how exactly did you think those comments would help?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 3:43 PM

Cal said: "...fair amount of research suggesting that..."

Post some. GEEZ! You never responded to the question as to whether or not YOU are a parent! You also failed to tell us if you are at work right now.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 3:44 PM

"Cal, you assume that every family with a SAHM is making "nightly sacrifices" of the financial sort so that the mom can stay at home. "

Another one with comprehension problems and quote issues. I never said any such thing. Quite the contrary, I'm arguing that the current finances are largely (but not entirely) irrelevant to the level of irresponsibility.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 3:44 PM

I just know these things; you have no right to question me.

I do have children. I have a wife that works and we have an equitable partnership. The fact that we have a pre-nup helps because she makes so much more money than I do. She was wise to protect herself because living with me cannot be easy. I judge everything she does. Most evenings, after work, she spends time with the kids while I sit in my La Z boy, scratch my butt, drink PBR and watch bass fishing. When I see one of the kids walk by (a rarity because they are usually with their mom because I scare them) I tell them to get me another beer!

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 3:47 PM

As for how a couple can afford daycare on a McDonald's salary, one answer is that they should work different shifts. Another is that they should wait and save even a small amount to offset the cost of daycare and increase their own earnings.

Are you kidding. Save even a small amount on a McDonald's salary? Impossible to even survive on a McDonald's salary, much less save on it. If your skills are at this level, you are better off on welfare than working.

Posted by: Rockville | July 11, 2006 3:49 PM

Hey, Cal - thanks for the honest post! I now have a very clear picture of you.

Posted by: Thanks! | July 11, 2006 3:50 PM

Have that second baby! Guilt, exhaustion, frustration, feelings of poverty, filling up a small house -- that's all part of parenting. The nicest thing you can do for that child of yours is to give him a brother or sister. Having that second one is even more of a leap of faith than having the first one -- you know what you're getting into this time. But the greatest gift you can give your son is a sibling -- even if they have to share you, even if they have to share a room.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | July 11, 2006 3:51 PM

"Do you think it is responsible to make choices that put your ability to provide for your children at substantial risk?"

Lots of people take this risk and it pays off. The people who max out their credit to open a business, for example. Yes, some fail and the family is put at risk, but often survives. The ones who succeed often end up being much more able to provide for their children financially.

It's great to be financially responsible, but now and again there are calculated risks that SHOULD be taken.

Posted by: To Cal | July 11, 2006 3:53 PM

Look, the happier SAHM's I know all do things outside the house and/or for pay, whether it's part-time work, volunteering, watching other people's kids, whatever. Or even a serious hobby, such as the theater. The ones who feel "guilty" about doing anything other than watching their kids are the ones who are unhappy. Correlation? People who know that kids are one part of your life, not the only part, and that there are many ways to be "productive" are happier and less likely to have negative feelings that many seem to call "guilt" but I would call "depression." You feed the baby...just have to feed him again in a few hours. Change a diaper...she'll just pee in it and need another change. There will be newly dirtied laundry tomorrow. The house will get messy again. Etc. etc. THAT part of being a full-time mom is not productive, it's boring, unfulfilling, and repetitive. (And the good parts of being a parent--watching them grow, teaching them, passing on values--you don't need to be a full-time SAHM to do all that.)

Posted by: Cal is right | July 11, 2006 3:54 PM

"they can weather a divorce or other hardship and in the long run the children will come out fine."

That's sadly untrue, as is your claim that most of the divorce issues kids face are emotional. Some of them are, absolutely. But the majority of problems are financial. Also, kids suffer a fair amount emotionally from the fact that they take a cut in standard of living.

Go talk to any group of divorced mothers, and see how often they state resentment that their exes won't fund one activity or another. They're the ones who can't afford it, but they'll commonly tell their kids "Daddy won't pay for it."

That's not to say that parents can't sometimes afford activities. But it goes back to my question: can you independently fund your child's life to the level you think sufficient?


"Post some. "

I didn't think it was important on that one, and I also said "research" as opposed to facts. The income hit that divorced non-workers take is a fact, not something argued about in research. I responded because I thought single western mom might find it interesting. Oh, gosh. I'm engaging. Ack!

As for your demand to know my parental status, I've stated it in this thread and in others. However, my argument has no bearing on my parental status.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 3:55 PM

Divorced Mom of 1 makes a good point. Divorce rarely "impoverishes" a family for the long term. There may be a couple of "rough" years while the finances are sorted out, but generally the parents and children adjust. Their standard of living may be somewhat lower, but rarely poverty level. The only family I know of that stayed at poverty level is one in which the mother refused to pursue free educational opportunities that would have helped increase her income. She impoverished herself by doing that and by choosing to have two more children out of wedlock. The divorce did not cause this situation, she chose it.

Posted by: Valerie | July 11, 2006 3:56 PM

" The people who max out their credit to open a business, for example."

You're saying that taking on debt puts your child at risk? Since when?

Taking on inordinate debt that you can't ever pay for, sure. That's a pretty good description of stay at hom parenting, in a way.

"Save even a small amount on a McDonald's salary"

It's almoost as likely as the likelihood of the mom going on welfare at some point.

Bottom line, we don't do much to support the working poor in this country. But until we do, having the dad work and the mom stay at home is a horrible way of resolving it. They are all making their situation far worse, and the stats bear this out for the most part.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 4:01 PM

Cal - your quote "the divorce issues kids face are emotional Some of them are, absolutely. But the majority of problems are financial. Also, kids suffer a fair amount emotionally from the fact that they take a cut in standard of living." Question for all the Children of divorce reading this blog which was worse the economic problems or the actual trauma of the divorce?

And just to reiterate my point a cut in the standard of living does not equal poverty.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | July 11, 2006 4:05 PM

"Taking on inordinate debt that you can't ever pay for, sure. That's a pretty good description of stay at hom parenting, in a way."

Once again, not every family is taking on debt by having a parent stay at home. Some simply can AFFORD it.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 4:05 PM

Bottom line, we don't do much to support the working poor in this country. But until we do, having the dad work and the mom stay at home is a horrible way of resolving it. They are all making their situation far worse, and the stats bear this out for the most part.

I concede that you are right on the fact that if you are the working poor, you cannot afford to quit your job to have kids. I would go further that you can't afford to have kids. How can you afford daycare on such a small salary. Even if you stagger shifts so that one parent is home, kids get sick. They have summer vacation and breaks. And the jobs for the working poor are not the most accommodating to families with kids. Too many absences and you will likely be fired. So the poor just shouldn't have kids.

I guess we should do more to help the working poor get by. But I also think we should not confuse a discussion about middle class people with a discussion about the working poor. Apples and oranges.

Posted by: Rockville | July 11, 2006 4:06 PM

". . . the majority of problems are financial. Also, kids suffer a fair amount emotionally from the fact that they take a cut in standard of living."

Interesting - Cal definitely seems to view the world through financial glasses. Money is important - it's a vital tool for surviving in our world. But in my mind, people are more important than things. That colors the way I see these questions. A second income for our household would be nice, but it's not the most important consideration (and never will be). Of course, if I were to lose my ability to earn an income, and our ability to support ourselves and our children were threatened, then the situation would be completely different.

Posted by: I give up on you | July 11, 2006 4:07 PM

"Some simply can AFFORD it."

It's not the "family" or the "household" that affords it; it's the individual who decides to stay home, and all too few of them can. The only one I know personally, as a matter of fact, has significant investments and family money of her own. If she and her husband divorced, she'd be fine.

A good metric to use is whether a given person would have no job if they weren't married. If they could afford to stay home single, then they can afford to stay home married.

Posted by: Lizzie | July 11, 2006 4:08 PM

Cal,

You comments have some merit but you just sound like such a pompous a-- when you say them that you immediately put people on the offensive. Everyone's life doesn't have to be like yours. State your argument differently and maybe you won't make people mad, unless of course, you want them to be mad.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 4:10 PM

I know all of this because I had the idea of staying at home, to take care of the house and kids. After they got taken away, because of headlice and chronic bruises, my wife decided to get a maid and sent me to work. Since I was not able to get along with anyone at work, I have changed jobs numerous times. I am glad that many fast food chains are actually franchises. That way, I have the opportunity to get a job at a new place, know the menu and try again. I am lucky that the owner of this McDs has numerous franchises so that he is not here most of the time and I can vent my life frustrations on a blog. Women don't know how easy they have it! Do they go home with grease in their hair? Do they have to deal with customers who complain that it is taking longer than 15 seconds to cook a hamburger? Do they have to unclog a toilet with their hands because the plunger is no where to be found?

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 4:10 PM

"Taking on inordinate debt that you can't ever pay for, sure. That's a pretty good description of stay at hom parenting, in a way."

Come on - where did this come from? Are you still talking about that "a large segment of suburban wives" from the post that began all this foolishness? Does some of the research you're citing really suggest that most stay-at-home parents take on an "inordinate debt" as a result?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 4:10 PM

Blank moniker, you keep using the plural. The problem occurs most often when the plural ceases to exist.


"And just to reiterate my point a cut in the standard of living does not equal poverty. "

That's twice you've rebutted an argument you've only imagined, then.

Recovery is far longer for divorced parents who spent a lot of time out of the work force. They also have far less retirement funds, as a rule, making it more likely their kids will have to suppor them some day.

But regardless, I never said a parent couldn't recover, or that it led to poverty. I merely said it was financially irresponsible to put your kids through it. The stats also show that recovery isn't as optimal as you like to paint it.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 4:11 PM

Who are we really talking about? The basic middle class? Because MANY upper-middle class families can well afford to have a parent (usually the wife) stay home with the kids for a few years. And depending on where you live, it's actually cheaper to have your spouse not work than to have two working parents, if you are truly lower class. If you each MUST have a car to get to work (at minimum wage jobs), and you can't afford two cars, then one parent stays at home while the other works.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 4:12 PM

A good metric to use is whether a given person would have no job if they weren't married. If they could afford to stay home single, then they can afford to stay home married.

That's ridiculous. Using that metric, only the very wealthy can afford to stay home. A better metric is whether the person who stays at home would be able to get a decent job that would support the family at least for basic needs if she/he had to go back to work. If the stay at home parent feels they can go back to work and support their family if the need arises, then they can afford to stay at home for a while also. In fact, most SAH parents do go back to work eventually. It is usually not all or nothing.

Posted by: Rockville | July 11, 2006 4:12 PM

"Does some of the research you're citing really suggest that most stay-at-home parents take on an "inordinate debt" as a result?"

Not in the same sense. Hence the phrase "in a way".

I think it's safe to say that you really aren't quite grasping the details yet, so perhaps you should stop and think for a bit. It becomes tedious correcting you all the time.

Unless there's more than one blank moniker.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 4:13 PM

"You comments have some merit but you just sound like such a pompous a--"

Who cares what she sounds like? If her arguments are valid, they're valid.

I think it's Leslie who believes that all women should be nice to one another when they debate policy issues. I, and evidently Cal, disagree.

Posted by: Lizzie | July 11, 2006 4:13 PM

"Using that metric, only the very wealthy can afford to stay home."

She shoots, she scores!

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 4:14 PM

I can somewhat see Cals point in the 01:36 PM post. A friend of mine stayed home. She and her husband 100% thought they were making the right choice to make their 2 kids lives better. He died suddenly in his late 30s - leaving 2 children under the age of 6. She couldn't support her children independently and went through tough times. Had she stayed working for those 6 years, she would have been better able to give them the live she wants to give them - including keeping their home.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 4:15 PM

"Using that metric, only the very wealthy can afford to stay home."

Generally - not always - that does tend to be the case.

"If the stay at home parent feels they can go back to work and support their family if the need arises, then they can afford to stay at home for a while also."

Who cares what they "feel?" What matters is what the market will bear. Most SAH parents - I don't say all - would be unable to find a job immediately after the working spouse lost theirs. Most of the SAH parents you refer to who go back to work after a while - I don't say all - ramp back up slowly, building up skills who have been allowed to slide. They have that luxury because the working spouse supports them. If the working spouse loses their job, or files for divorce, the SAH spouse doesn't get that luxury.

Posted by: Lizzie | July 11, 2006 4:16 PM

cal,

do you have any big mac coupons?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 4:17 PM

Using that metric, only the very wealthy can afford to stay home."

She shoots, she scores!

But the metric is wrong, so save your gratuitous sarcasm for an instance where you are right.

Posted by: Rockville | July 11, 2006 4:17 PM

..."the wives went back to work, but for one it was to have "something to do" and for the other, she went to work running her husband's office."

This quote is WHY I work. Without guilt. First, I am more than someone's wife and object to ever being defined as one of "the wives."
Second, I don't ever want to need "something to do." There is a huge difference between a job and a career. The presumption seems to be that if the husband can provide, then the wife doesn't have to work, shouldn't want to work, or at best, should work for "something to do" or "running the husband's office." AARGH. Just let the little woman have the illusion of a career after her "real" work raising the young-uns is done and she's bored? I don't think so. I'll take financial independence, professional fulfillment and advancement, a job where at the end of the day I've accomplished more than having had "something to do" and equal worth both in the workplace and at home. What kind of example is it for the young girls growing up today to perpetuate the idea that if they need "something to do" after being home, raising children, they can always run their husband's office. Are the boys growing up supposed to understand their duty is to provide for the wife and kids? Did we step backwards a few decades here?

Posted by: SS | July 11, 2006 4:18 PM

Why on earth do you care what Cal thinks? So what, Cal thinks it's more important for both parents to work. That's a perfectly legitimate point of view. So is the p.o.v. that it's better for one parent to stay home or work part-time or whatever. Why feel the need to convince Cal of your point of view? Who cares unless you're married to Cal! Now I think I understand why some of you feel so guilty. You're spending too much time worrying about what someone else -- even anonymous poster Cal -- thinks about your choices. Do what you think is right for your family, and if Cal calls you irresponsible, just know that you're not.

Posted by: Raia | July 11, 2006 4:19 PM

I never realized until today that I am "very wealthy" but according to you folks, I am. What a blessing!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 4:19 PM

My mom stayed home with us while my dad built his business. He died suddenly and left us a few million and a thriving business which my mom took over. Had she been working all those years, I wouldn't have enjoyed all the fun of having a stay-at-home mom. I would have been stuck in day care.

It doesn't always end badly. One example isn't the whole story.

Posted by: Claire | July 11, 2006 4:22 PM

Lizzie,

you said that "[a] good metric to use is whether a given person would have no job if they weren't married. If they could afford to stay home single, then they can afford to stay home married."

It makes sense to be aware of what would happen if misfortune struck your marriage - and to plan for how you would handle it. But you seem to be going a bit overboard here. Marriage and family have value (or we wouldn't put as much into them as we do). It can be worthwhile to risk some of your financial security (note that I didn't say "all") on raising kids and making a family work.

What does that look like? My sister is a professor of mathematics. She discontinued working when her first child was born. After staying at home with two kids, she's now returning to work. No, she's not making as much as she would have had she never quit - but she is working. Had her husband died, or they had divorced, she would have been well able to support herself (albeit, perhaps, at a somewhat reduced income level).

If she were single, could she afford to stay home and not work? No. Did she make an irrational decision? I don't think so (she's perhaps the single most rational and prudent person I've ever met).

My point? It's foolish to assume that misfortune will never strike, and that we will never have to fend for ourselves. That doesn't mean that stay at home parents are per se being foolish or irresponsible.

We should all think about our situations in a mature way, and weigh the risks we are - and are not - willing to take (and the potential consequences we're prepared to deal with). But just as with the stock market, to get anything of value out of life we must invest in it - and sometimes investments don't pan out. Don't be a blind speculator in life - but don't be so cautious that you metaphorically keep all your money stuffed under your mattress, either.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 4:23 PM

Rockville, the metric isn't wrong. A stay at home mom is, like a BMW, a luxury item for most families. Alas, most of them don't figure that out until it's too late. And most of the figuring out is done by the person who quit her job.

My sarcasm was due to the fact that you were expostulating about a possibility that you thought everyone would consider absurd, rather than the point I've been making all along.

And Raia, the reason there's so much energy is because I don't say it's important, but rather financially irresponsible. That's a whole different ballgame and falls primarily into objective territory rather than all those subjective definitions of "important".

Alas, as the resulting conversation demonstrates, everyone in the end comes around to agreeing that yes, they suppose it "could be" irresponsible, but they're sure that most women think about it first!


Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 4:24 PM

My mom was SAH until my parent's divorce. After that, she went back to work as a secretary, but also received child support. Sure, we weren't rich, but we were fine. And we learned to be frugal and make do with less. In the end, we kids got jobs even as teenagers and grew into responsible and professional adults. No tragedy there, and I consider my mother a model of responsibility and good motherhood. No millionaire could raise better children.

Posted by: Rockville | July 11, 2006 4:27 PM

"And most of the figuring out is done by the person who quit her job."

When does this happen? When the kids are in elementary school and the wife returns to work? The women I know who chose to stay home are ALL glad that they did so, and none of them has any reason to worry about the financial consequences. They have all returned to work within the past few years, most after an absence of on average 4 years, and NONE of the families are financially suffering. Could the families have had more money if the wives had worked? Yes, a certain amount. But all have said that the money was very little compared to their chance to spend time with their young children.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 4:28 PM

To the person using the example of the unexpected death - this is different than divorce. It is called life insurance. This is one of the items can be planned so that the risk associated with the other spouse being out of the workforce can be minimized. No-one defending the idea of being a SAHM/D has disagreed with the idea of planning.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | July 11, 2006 4:29 PM

Cal seems like someone who has been totally burned at some point in life and thinks that money is the key to security. There IS no security. So you take your chances and you make decisions that you think are best.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 4:32 PM

Question for you Cal:

I know a working couple where the mom has the high-salary job. The father has a basic job and makes far less. The mother was commuting a long way and not seeing enough of her kids, so she cut back her hours and STILL makes more than her husband. Who was more irresponsible -- the mother who cut back hours or the father who doesn't work harder to find a better job so he can contribute equally and the wife can find a lesser-paying job nearer their home?

Posted by: Chris | July 11, 2006 4:33 PM

"Who cares what she sounds like? If her arguments are valid, they're valid."

It matters. If you're so abrasive that you anger people, you'll never be able to get your point across. But more fundamentally, it demonstrates a lack of respect for the other people in the discussion - and an inability to understand or appreciate their concerns and insights.

Frankly, Cal comes across as completely unaware of and unconcerned about the considerations that might lead a parent to stay home - in fact, completely blind to half of the discussion. I am much more willing to take your point of view seriously if I believe that you understand the issues I'm looking at. It could be, that in addition to those, you know something else that I don't know. On the other hand, if you seem unaware of or ignore my issues, my natural inclination is to assume you're wrong, because you don't know or don't understand what I know.

Let's say you don't care if what you say persuades, educates or enlightens anyone who doesn't already agree with you. Then by all means - be as rude and abrasive as you like. But if you want to be part of a meaningful discussion, it's important to maintain a modicum of civility. Otherwise, anything of value will get lost in the shouting.

Posted by: Win Friends and Influence People | July 11, 2006 4:33 PM

"I just know these things; you have no right to question me."

And by the same logic, I just know you're wrong. Have fun at Mickey D's, mate.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 4:38 PM

That's right. I know it is easy to lose civility in a blog, and I regret that I have been guilty of that also. But it all depends on what you want out of the blog. If you are interested in sharing and learning, then you have to be civil. If your purpose is to just hear yourself talk (so to speak), then by all means be rude, but don't expect anyone to take you seriously or listen to you.

Posted by: Rockville | July 11, 2006 4:39 PM

"I can somewhat see Cals point in the 01:36 PM post. A friend of mine stayed home. She and her husband 100% thought they were making the right choice to make their 2 kids lives better. He died suddenly in his late 30s - leaving 2 children under the age of 6. She couldn't support her children independently and went through tough times. Had she stayed working for those 6 years, she would have been better able to give them the live she wants to give them - including keeping their home."

That is tragic - and could happen to any of us. There are other ways to make financial provision. For instance, I carry enough life insurance to pay off our mortgagage, get the kids through college, and allow my wife a couple of years to re-train before returning to work. Is it perfect? Probably not (and I suspect Cal will opine on it), but it's a workable solution - and she's comfortable with it. We've discussed the possibility of my death - and what she'd need to do financially - on several occassions (as well as the possibility of my disability).

These are serious issues. Have the conversations with your spouses. Just don't pre-judge what other adults should do with their lives and careers based on what's best for you.

Posted by: Huh? | July 11, 2006 4:40 PM

"It is called life insurance. This is one of the items can be planned so that the risk associated with the other spouse being out of the workforce can be minimized. "

You know what they call divorce insurance? A job.

Not that it's a perfect correlation, but it's a good place for most to start.

"The women I know who chose to stay home are ALL glad that they did so"

Find one who got divorced, whose husband lost his job for a long stretch of time, and tell me again how happy they are.

Not that it matters. It's still financially irresponsible. Doesn't matter if the risk pays off.

"Sure, we weren't rich, but we were fine. And we learned to be frugal and make do with less. "

Another one who confuses anecdotes for data. To say nothing of the fact that you are generally supporting my point: your mother's family took a hit because of her staying home. It's nice you weren't bothered by it, but it certainly was a major change in standards. (You also don't mention retirement.)

Parents should seek to reduce and eliminate these hits whenever possible. Obviously, we can't avoid them all. But quitting work and hurting your kids in a divorce because of that decision is easily avoidable.

So is it irresponsible? Yes. Is it often a choice that harms your childrern? Yes. Is it a choice that can be overcome? Sure. But given all the things we can't avoid, this one's a no-brainer.

Besides, when I began this conversation, everyone was aghast at my statement that it was financially irresponsible. Now many of you seem to be agreeing that it's financially irresponsible, but hey, the bad stuff can be overcome.

That's a pretty big shift from people who originally thought I was a troll. Now it seems obvious that it's a risk, but it can be overcome and hey, kids don't *need* things like music lessons and little league!

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 4:41 PM

"Alas, as the resulting conversation demonstrates, everyone in the end comes around to agreeing that yes, they suppose it "could be" irresponsible, but they're sure that most women think about it first!"

Sorry - that's not true. Most of us have said no such thing.

Posted by: I give up on you | July 11, 2006 4:41 PM

Cal,
You seem to rely so much on data, yet, you have provided none. Your opinions are not data.

Posted by: Rockville | July 11, 2006 4:44 PM

I work with the author, and can tell you that we're not a strict 9-5 company. Just because she's doing housework during "normal business hours" doesn't mean she isn't putting in a full day's work. She certainly isn't stealing from us. Our reporters work nutty hours, sometimes staying into the wee hours of the night to finish stories and publish our newsletters. I don't do the reporting myself, and I come in at 8:30am, and while probably the majority of people don't come in after 10am, they're here long after I'm gone.

I wonder if it will happen at some point that the usual 8-6 or 9-5 business "day" will change to something more fluid.

Posted by: Capsfan6 | July 11, 2006 4:44 PM

Cal,
Just because you might have one point does not mean you are not a troll. They are not mutually exclusive.

Posted by: Rockville | July 11, 2006 4:46 PM

to the poster who asked about which is worse for the kids in a divorce, the financial or emotional implications i would say that depends on the financial situation of the family. For me, who's parents were lower class it was emotionally and financially awful - for my friends, who's parents were mostly middle/upper middle class the emotional aspect was much worse and i didn't notice any real change in their financial situation. One final note, all these were situations where the non-custodial parent was still involved and paying child support and/or alimony.

Posted by: child of divorce | July 11, 2006 4:50 PM

"Who was more irresponsible -- the mother who cut back hours or the father who doesn't work harder to find a better job so he can contribute equally and the wife can find a lesser-paying job nearer their home?"

The irony is that no one would even *think* of the parent as being unfair if the genders were reversed.

But in any case, if the wife wants to take a lesser-paying job nearer to home, she should. As should the husband in the more usual situation.

What the lesser-earning spouse does as a result of that is entirely his or her choice. One spouse can't make the other one work.

" I am much more willing to take your point of view seriously if I believe that you understand the issues I'm looking at."

I'm not offering you a point of view, but facts. It's a fact that leaving the workforce is a major financial risk that is borne only by one person. I am not talkling about the cut in family income, btw.

As for the "issues that you're looking at", I assume that you, like all parents, want a financially secure, emotionally fulfilling life for your child.

BTW, the 3:47 post isn't mine either. I thougth it was obvious, but two people responded to it.

By and large, I haven't been abrasive. And believe me, I can be exceptionally abrasive.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 4:50 PM

"You know what they call divorce insurance? A job. "

Really? Is that the only option? How about:

- Going on a weekly date with your spouse (even if it's just leftovers on the back porch after the kids go to bed)

- Kissing your spouse when you leave the house each morning, and when you get back home in the evening

- Sex twice a week

- Never getting married in the first place

Planning is important, but it's not all about the money - and, like most other things of real value in life, marriage doesn't come without some degree of risk. Don't be a fool - but please don't be a coward either. Plan, make reasonable provision for the bad times, then go out and live your life (whatever Cal says).

Posted by: Huh? | July 11, 2006 4:51 PM

By and large, I haven't been abrasive. And believe me, I can be exceptionally abrasive.

If you really think you have not been abrasive, then you have no self-awareness. Just a fact. Sad, really.

Posted by: Rockville | July 11, 2006 4:53 PM

Look, it's irresponsible to have sex without birth control if you don't want kids. You may luck out and not get pregnant...but that doesn't make the action retroactively "responsible."

I also don't think Cal is arguing you have to work full time, or both spouses need to make an equal amount, or whatever. (Some replies seem to be pushing the argument to the extreme, when I don't think that "both parents have to work 60 hours a week or else" was exactly Cal's point.) But you're better off if either spouse can support the family.

There was an article in the Post recently about all of these families out in Herndon with SAHMs who, after they initially decide to stay home, change plans and have lots of kids...I also wonder if an arrangement that makes financial sense with one or two kids becomes problematic when there are more kids and it's harder for the SAHP to go back to work but riskier to continue relying on one salary...

Posted by: Still think Cal has a point | July 11, 2006 4:54 PM

"As for the "issues that you're looking at", I assume that you, like all parents, want a financially secure, emotionally fulfilling life for your child."

Of course. But "financially secure" and "emotionally fulfilling" are not the same thing. If I were forced to choose between the two, I'd choose "emotionally fulfilling" over "financially secure" any day - for myself, or for my children. Ya gotta get your priorities straight! (And guess what - money is NOT the most important thing in life)

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 4:54 PM

"you have provided none."

Which of the following statements do you require support for?

1. Leaving the workforce (and by that, I mean any income production, not just employment) is a major financial risk for most people.

2. Divorced parents who were employed during their marriage on average make a much quicker financial recovery than parents who weren't employed.

3. Unemployed parents are more likely to go on welfare than employed parents.

I don't think those statements require support, frankly. Which are you having trouble believing?

I give up on you--oh, now, you're just cranky because all the commenters ignored your mandate to ignore me. Don't be bitter.

Are you denying, then, that leaving the work force for unemployment constitutes a financial risk?

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 4:55 PM

Huh?--you seem to be confused about the difference between divorce prevention and divorce insurance.

Or does life insurance prevent you from dying?

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 4:57 PM

Sex three times a week, or I'll see you in court. It is in my pre-nup.

Posted by: Fo3 | July 11, 2006 4:57 PM

An article in Psychological Science called "Zeroing in on the Dark Side of the American Dream" looked at results from a study done on more than 12,000 people from their freshman year in college through their late 30s.

With the exception of adults making over $290,000, those who said financial success was important were less happy than those in their income groups who thought it wasn't important.

Posted by: Money isn't everything | July 11, 2006 4:59 PM

Cal, is your employer paying you to blog all day?

Before you ask, I'm self-employed, so I'm free do this as long as I want.

Posted by: Tom | July 11, 2006 5:01 PM

"If I were forced to choose between the two, I'd choose "emotionally fulfilling" over "financially secure" any day - for myself, or for my children."

Statistics disagree with you. But heck, even you disagree with you.

Suppose that you're married, staying home while your husband works. But your children would be far more emotionally fulfilled if your husband didn't work and your family relied on welfare and food stamps.

Should your husband quit his job?

If the answer is "no", then you really don't mean your passionate declaration about the importance of emotional fulfillment.

If your answer is "yes", then you mean it. But you're not all that terribly bright.

"Look, it's irresponsible to have sex without birth control if you don't want kids. You may luck out and not get pregnant...but that doesn't make the action retroactively "responsible." "

Yes! Thank you. A basic point that seems to have escaped many people. And you are also correct that I'm not saying parents should maximize their income--only that each parent should be able to provide for their family in the manner they consider suitable.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 5:02 PM

"By and large, I haven't been abrasive. And believe me, I can be exceptionally abrasive."

You can also be boring. This blog started off being interesting and yet the last, oh, 50 posts have been blather. Why does the Post bother?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 5:03 PM

Tom--if you're self-employed, why would you assume that everyone has an employer?

In fact, I'm self-employed, too, and should be getting back to posting advertisements so my users can buy and make me money. But I'm having too much fun. People at my forum have already hashed this debate to death, or they agree with me to start with. So I haven't taken this subject on in a while.

And I never would have asked, btw. I don't see why people are so bent on asking why someone has time to argue these things. If we all didn't have the time, think how barren this blog would be.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 5:05 PM

Still think Cal has a point:

Does he have a point? I don't know. Several people have noted that there are financial risks to be considered when a wife or a husband decides to stay home with the kids rather than work (full time or part time). I don't believe anyone has disagreed (or would disagree) with that.

I'm not sure where the unprotected sex issue came from. If you're suggesting that people need to think about the potential financial consequences of staying at home BEFORE something bad happens, I agree with you (and I suspect everyone else would, too). That doesn't mean that a responsible parent couldn't look at the possibility of losing a spouse's income through death, disability or divorce, look at the strength of their marriage, look at their assets, insurance and their reemployment prospects, and decide that staying home with the kids was the right choice for them.

The problem here is that Cal is asserting that most SAHM's are being financially irresponsible - not because they didn't think it through as thoroughly as Cal would like, but because they ended up staying home. Cal simply does not believe that decision can be justified - he's saying, in effect, that most SAHM's flat out made the wrong decision. (Pretty much throwing red meat to the animals. In my judgement, pretty dumb as well.)

Posted by: I give up on you | July 11, 2006 5:05 PM

"Why does the Post bother?"

Beats me. I've said before that comments on a blog are goofy.

But all those posts weren't made by me. I'm not diatribing, I'm conversing with a whole bunch of people who seem to want to argue about it.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 5:06 PM

"only that each parent should be able to provide for their family in the manner they consider suitable."

Cal, some parents consider it quite "suitable" to have one parent stay home.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 5:06 PM

I believe that a troll is a poster that thrives on creating controversy. The delivery of Cal's message is that of a troll, even if some valid points are raised.

That said, I agree that Cal has NOT persuaded many people who did not already agree with her position. Agreeing that there are potentail financial consequences to having a SAHP is not the same as stating that all SAHPs are financially irresponsible. Many have said they considered the risks and decided it was still the best decision for their family.

I would be interested to see any statistics regarding the number of middle class divorced families that have a spouse that endd up on welfare, as opposed to a lower standard of living. Cal, any actual references to facts to support any of your unequivocal statements of fact made here today?

I am a working mom that would love to stay home, I do not, however, feel any guilt about working. Right now it does not work for us, but I may go part-time or stay home in the future. I really do not doubt that I could, if the unthinkable happened, support my child, even if I took a few years out of the working world. I have a good job with family friendly hours and flexibiilty, so it is not unworkable and choosing to stay home would not be running away from an unworkable situation, it would be making a choice about what is best for my family. If I make it, it will not be an irresponsible choice, even if I would not be able to afford to stay home as a single parent.

Posted by: Another DC Mom | July 11, 2006 5:07 PM

"The problem here is that Cal is asserting that most SAHM's are being financially irresponsible - not because they didn't think it through as thoroughly as Cal would like, but because they ended up staying home. "

You really need to stop inventing my arguments and respond to the ones posted. I've said no such thing.

"Cal, some parents consider it quite "suitable" to have one parent stay home. "

You're like one of those SAT answers that uses the right word in the wrong context.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 5:08 PM

Ok, then, the parents consider that the manner in which they are providing for their children is "suitable".

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

Cal this morning:

"Hey. That's me! And I'm a single parent, too! But I'm figuring Leslie would not be interested in hearing from parents like that. Nor is anyone else. The modern zeitgeist is that parents must suffer, particularly women."

Cal this afternoon:

"I do have children. I have a wife that works and we have an equitable partnership."

????


Posted by: hmmm.... | July 11, 2006 5:10 PM

"That said, I agree that Cal has NOT persuaded many people who did not already agree with her position. "

I didn't say I'd persuaded anyone. I see a whole bunch of posts from people agreeing that stay at homing is a financial risk.

I wasn't trying to persuade anyone.

"I would be interested to see any statistics regarding the number of middle class divorced families that have a spouse that endd up on welfare, as opposed to a lower standard of living."

I made no such assertion, so why should I have to back it up? It's almost certainly untrue. I find "lower standard of living" sufficient irresponsibility.

Really, some of you have lamentable reading skills.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 5:10 PM

Sex three times a week, or I'll see you in court. It is in my pre-nup.

Better yet sex every day. That way, you'll be too tired to even think about cheating on each other.

Posted by: Rockville | July 11, 2006 5:12 PM

"Ok, then, the parents consider that the manner in which they are providing for their children is "suitable". "

Alas, still not quite right. Read it again.

Hmmm--read the last bit of the post I made at 4:50. Someone has posted twice pretending to be me.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 5:12 PM

"But heck, even you disagree with you.

Suppose that you're married, staying home while your husband works. But your children would be far more emotionally fulfilled if your husband didn't work and your family relied on welfare and food stamps.

Should your husband quit his job?

If the answer is "no", then you really don't mean your passionate declaration about the importance of emotional fulfillment.

If your answer is "yes", then you mean it. But you're not all that terribly bright."

Sophomoric. Only an idiot would seriously suggest the hypothetical that "your children would be far more emotionally fulfilled if your husband didn't work and your family relied on welfare and food stamps." Of course, if the children truly were "far more emotionally fulfilled" with a poor father on food stamps then they would be with a wealthy but abusive father, heck yeah, she should pick the poor man every time.

It's cool to be bright, articulate and snarky. Too bad that combination so often comes packaged in a fool.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 5:14 PM

Facinating commentary today.

Cal, you do provide some food for thought (interesting and good points I think)-- in an abrasive, taunting and frankly rude way...
I personally prefer to think of staying home as financial risk (to be weighed and mitigated if viewed to be too heavy) vs financial irresponsibility. Kind of in the same way a bank would review company risk portfolio before making a business decision.

Posted by: UP | July 11, 2006 5:23 PM

I'm brignt *and* a fool?

Many people dramatically declare that emotional fulfillment is more important than financial security, but they never really mean it.

What they mean is that once a certain financial level is achieved, they value emotional security more than any purely financial gains.

But alas, that's not what they say.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 5:24 PM

UP--probably. And most people wouldn't qualify, if there were an actual assessment.

BTW, I've been called a troll several times. People have openly and quite rudely (to say nothing of inaccurately) speculated on my past as their rationale for why I have my views, and told me I'm out of my mind, condescending, and a pompous ass.

I think I've gone so far as to tell someone they have poor reading skills.

I'm not complaining about the rudeness, but anyone who focuses on my behavior has got some serious tunnel vision problems.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 5:32 PM

Cal,
Cry me a river. If you want to dish it out, you gotta get ready to take it in. Plus, those who have called you a troll, condescending, and a pompous ass, are in fact correct. These are objective facts. Might you be autistic?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 5:43 PM

Again with the reading comprehension. Did you duck to miss the point?

The only thing I'm mildly objecting to are the various people saying that I'm rude. I could care less about the insults--which are extremely mild, due to the audience's limited capabilities.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 5:47 PM

But you are rude. Why do you object to being called rude when in fact you are rude? Don't you see it?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 5:51 PM

Cal, you say:
Again with the reading comprehension. Did you duck to miss the point?
The only thing I'm mildly objecting to are the various people saying that I'm rude.

But right before you say:
I'm not complaining about the rudeness...

So which is it? Perhaps you are the one who needs some help with reading comprehension as well as writing what you mean. You questioned earlier how you can be both bright and a fool, but I think you just answered your own question.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 5:55 PM

"So which is it? "

You're kidding, right? The two quotes make it quite clear.

I'm not complaining about anyone's rudeness. I am mildly objecting to complaints about my own rudeness as if I were the only one.

If you still don't understand the distinction, rest assured the fault lies within yourself.

Posted by: Cal | July 11, 2006 6:02 PM

The difference between your rudeness and other people's rudeness is that yours is unprovoked and thus much more egregious.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 6:21 PM

Cal,

Please stop posting so some new voices and opinions on other topics can be heard. Your monopolization of the board today has reduced the conversation to a dull, boring roar.

Although I'm sure this blog has done wonders for your ego, give some other folks a chance.

Need a Break from Cal

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 7:01 PM

"Your monopolization of the board today has reduced the conversation to a dull, boring roar."

She's hardly monopolized it, and I, for one, think what she has to say is interesting.

Don't fall for the idea that there's some kind of group consensus to be built here about who can post and who can't. Anyone can post, and they can post anything they want within the terms of use stipulated by the Post (which, by the way, were violated by whoever posted pretending to be Cal).

Posted by: Lizzie | July 11, 2006 7:35 PM

Hey Cal,
I can see why you're divorced. My sympathies for your Ex.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 7:39 PM

I do want to add one thing. Although I don't agree with all of Cal's arguments, a SAHM woman is a luxury if the kids are in school. I know women who stay at home so they can "do the housework and take care of their husbands" while their kids are in school. I work full time and have no problem getting the housework done, so it makes me think there can't be enough to do all day for 5 days a week.

Some days, I would love to stay home so I could volunteer more or pursue hobbies. But, I am part of a 2 person team and want to contribute too. Also, I want to remain independent and I am sorry no argument can be made that living as a SAHM you are still independent. Sorry, but it is reality.

I will mention that some SAHMs with kids in school talk about tennis club, getting nails done, etc. That really is a luxury. Nice if you can afford it, but a luxury to most.

Posted by: Thought | July 11, 2006 8:08 PM

Good grief! I finish dinner and come down to this! Can't you kids play nice just for one day?

Being at home with kids is so, so hard. I may be stoned for this, but I actually DO regret leaving my career and staying home. I loved the first 8 months, but then got a part-time job and went back to school. My husband had it made in the shade. I love my kids. I don't want to be with them all of the time. I would have been a better mother if I hadn't given up my identity for so long.

SAHM a luxury item? Well, yeah, actually.

Posted by: !!!!!! | July 11, 2006 8:31 PM

Single Western Mom -- It's late here on the East Coast but I'm hoping you are still reading in Arizona. What you said -- two hundred comments ago -- was crystal clear. Please post more to balance out Cal's craziness. Thank you.

Posted by: Leslie | July 11, 2006 8:46 PM

I don't think there is a way to convince someone who isn't willing to listen.

But I can say that I can think of a lot of ways to protect against financial devastation besides just continuing to work - eliminating debt, building up savings, upgrading skills, networking through volunteer work, etc. - even in the case of divorce or death.

Working is not an insurance policy. Having marketable skills and being well connected is a reasonable one, at least until that market sector blows up. Cash in the bank is even better. How you get there is individual.

Posted by: JJ | July 11, 2006 8:59 PM

Ok - I may take a lot of heat for this, but here goes. I stayed home on maternity leave for 4 months with each of my children who are 4 years apart. I did not think that it was hard. Breastfeeding was easy from the beginning with the first, a little harder with the second who wanted to feed a lot more, but it did not involve deep exhaustion - just more than average tiredness. I only breastfed for 10 weeks with each. Maybe that's why it was easier. I gave myself a break from having to be available 24/7. Dad was able to make bottles and feed as well as grandma, aunts, uncles, godparents etc.

When my oldest was born, we lived in an apartment - no lawn to mow or snow to shovel. It was smaller than a house, so less cleaning needed. Plus, I wasn't germ-phobic, so I only vacuumed once a week rather than once a day. I didn't worry too much about mopping floors until the babies were actually big enough to crawl on them. Also, didn't dust furniture regularly.

I work at a job that I mostly like, but it's not a job that I went to school for. In fact, I'm not college educated (part of being a child of divorce, and when mom was worried about keeping the house out of foreclosure, I knew that I had to get a job after high school - no money for college for me). However, I am 50 and old enough to have been able to get an entry level job at age 18 with a company that believed in training and promoting from within rather than relying strictly on educational background to see the potential in their employees.

Anyway, I digress. My job supports my life, but is not my life. I would quit work in a minute to stay home and not necessarily because I believe in the 'nobility' of SAHM - I would do it because I believe my life would be so much easier than having to handle a job, a house, and a family. I have plenty of friends and family to visit if I were to feel a need for adult companionship and conversation. I have enough interests to have a hobby, volunteer interests, or part time employment to balance out my life. The reason I don't is because I want to always be able to support my children. I don't want them to ever go through the tough financial times that I did as a child, nor do I want to go through what she did as a parent.

I know a SAHM of 3 kids who believes she has such a hard life being SAHM and planned to go back to work when the youngest was in school full time. Well, when the youngest was in half day kindergarten, she became pregnant again - supposedly a WHOOPS. I may have been the only person who thought it was intentional (consciously or subconsciously) so that she could continue to stay home.

Posted by: anon for now | July 11, 2006 10:32 PM

Did Cal finally fall asleep? Or maybe go off to talk to an actual person vs. typing comments on this blog all day? Good God, some people are long winded!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 10:50 PM

I sometimes get the feeling that the responders to this blog are highly educated, high performing perfectionist types. I think that explains why so many think it is so hard to stay at home. You are trying to get an "A" in everything you do and are relying too much on 'studies' and other people's opinions rather than your own instincts. "Breast is best" for at least a year even if you are sick, sore, exhausted, overwhelmed, and unhappy. The same for dealing with toddlers - can't go to the bathroom by yourself because someone might cry or scream. Must teach pre-school activities so the child gets a head start. Arts and crafts must be elaborate glitter, glue, feathers etc. Music lessons are important.

My advice is to chill out and enjoy the luxury (you got that one right Cal) of staying home. If the breast-feeding is problematic, give it up. Plop the kids in front of the TV for a while when you are doing a chore - it's really not necessary to hold them on your hip while cooking. Put them on the floor with toys next to you while you are folding laundry - it's ok to let them play by themselves without you playing with them. Let the older ones make chains from construction paper for the Xmas tree rather than fancy decorated ornaments. Give them a toy piano to play with. Lessons can start once they are in school. But if you want to do those things, fine, then let the house stay dirtier than you like. Don't try to do it all, all the time. No wonder you think it's hard to stay home.

Others have suggested that organization is good - it really is. So is simplification. Stop and smell the roses and enjoy the small pleasures of life.

And if you work, make the best of it. Do your best on the job, get lots of praise and job satisfaction, but leave it at the door at the end of the day. If you get absorbed in your work and don't think about your child, I think that reflects a level of comfort with yourself and your child's caretaker and does not make you a bad parent.

I personally never aspired to be a doctor, nurse, or lawyer because of the years of schooling required and because of the committment of time needed for those professions. I knew that I wanted a life with a balance of work, intellectual stimulation, family, personal time.

Posted by: anon for now | July 11, 2006 10:52 PM

Leslie, not everyone shares your conviction that women must express their point of view not through facts, not through logic, god knows not through sense or rigor, but through largely pointless anecdotes.

Sad that so many women find such allure in stories, rather than thought. Apparently, women just need to share their particular circumstances and all the problems in the world will be solved. Facts, compared to feeeeeeeeeeeelings, are such trivial things. If you don't feel it, it can't be real. It certainly can't be Truth.

Hence Single Western Mom, who pretty much agreed with me, wins your approval. Could it be because she "shared" her own personal circumstances, making it possible for her point to filter through that weird lens you have, whereas I was more interested in discussing abstracts? Of course! Without our stories, we can't be women!

I missed that day in Girl School, thank all that's holy.


By the way, I expect you to delete the comments made by someone pretending to be me at these times: 3:18, 3:47, and 4:10. The first may have been an accident, the second two certainly were not. You should have done so already, but perhaps you aren't quite as concerned about Post policy violations done to someone you think is crazy.

Posted by: Cal | July 12, 2006 2:08 AM

Off topic:

"(I really did luck into a better career than I deserve, based on my very limited efforts in school)."

Based on your school efforts, it may indeed be lucky that you got into your career. But, that doesn't mean that you don't deserve it. If you are good at what you do and work hard, then of course you deserve it.

Education is a good thing and very important, but too many people judge their own worth and the worth of others based only on the education. Work ethic, intelligence, ability to work with others, and other qualities also come into play when evaluating if someone "deserves" a job.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 12, 2006 6:55 AM

Wow I missed this today. Does Cal have a job or is Cal a professional blogger for a living? Or is Cal more than one person?

Posted by: typical working mother | July 12, 2006 8:00 AM

Now Cal is dictating to Leslie and the Post how this blog should be run. You don't own this blog Cal, and who the hell cares if someone who might also be named Cal posted at such and such times yesterday? None of us do.

It's a blog. It's not a nationally televised debate.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 12, 2006 9:22 AM

"Leslie, not everyone shares your conviction that women must express their point of view not through facts, not through logic, god knows not through sense or rigor, but through largely pointless anecdotes.

Sad that so many women find such allure in stories, rather than thought. Apparently, women just need to share their particular circumstances and all the problems in the world will be solved. Facts, compared to feeeeeeeeeeeelings, are such trivial things. If you don't feel it, it can't be real. It certainly can't be Truth."

Cal, without evidence to support them, your arguments/"facts" are merely assertions:

ASSERTION: a declaration that is made emphatically (as if no supporting evidence were necessary)

Repeatedly stressing the need for data and facts yet failing to provide any data or facts to support your own arguments does not achieve credibility.

Anecdotal evidence is better than ZERO evidence.

Posted by: MBA Mom | July 12, 2006 9:35 AM

Read the rules people. You are not allowed to post as other people. It's not that hard to think of a unique name. However, the only thing that ever gets deleted on here, is anything that is nasty about Leslie.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 12, 2006 9:57 AM

I feel lucky - able to work part-time at home to maintain income and professional involvement until my daughters went to high school. Now I'm working full time and looking at these grown-up young women. Their childhood is almost over and I'm so grateful to have been there for most of it.

Posted by: Kirsten | July 12, 2006 1:06 PM

To respond to a post from yesterday, I am a child of divorce. As to what was worse (the emotional or financial repercussions of divorce), the financial was worse. Hard to believe, but true. I was happy when my parents divorced because they fought all the time. There was never a quiet moment. So emotionally, it was a relief. Financially, my brother and I had to leave our private schools where all our friends were. We had to move from our house in the neighborhood where our friends were. Now, because of the cost of the divorce, my mom's credit is shot. She has no savings. I have to co-sign on things. We have no idea how she'll be able to retire. So, in a nutshell, PLEASE think about the possiblity of divorce if you are a SAHM. My dad left my mom for another woman--it could happen to you. Get a post-nup or something to ensure that you'll be able to raise your kids on your own.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 12, 2006 2:58 PM

I grew up in a small midwestern town and moved to Washington about 15 years ago to pursue a government career. I went back home recently and on a whim looked at house prices in my town (downstate Illinois).

I could sell my house in DC, pay off the mortgage, buy (for cash) a new house back home and still have enough to pay college tuition for my kids and not work for several years.

Wow....

My point isn't to gloat, but to point out sometimes there are options that seem so out there, so wild, so crazy that they might actually have something behind them that works. Don't think you have to spend the rest of your life here, in one of the most expensive and competitive cities in America, when there are many other places you can live (I mean really LIVE) your life in other states. Walk to a store, take the kids to a park, and just relax...

Posted by: Bob | July 12, 2006 3:55 PM

went through all the posts and particularly those by cal, who does have some persuading arguments, though i'm not entirely convinced yet. maybe because of cal's abrasion, also because cal hasn't yet been honest enough to share the background that colors cal's experience.

cal will probably call me autistic, inattentive or inept at reading or many more things (and maybe i am), but who is cal really? is cal a bitter husband who got sent to work by a higher-earning wife? what was that whole story with the headlice and bruising about? or is cal a super jerk who treats his wife and kids like crap, so much so that his own kids are scared of him? or is cal a single parent (to be noted, doesn't say mom or dad), burned by circumstance of life?

to have spent so much time on a blog being abrasive (at least this much cal seems to have admitted to, or again, i'm an inept reader) to so many people who so open-heartedly shared their own stories is just plain dishonest. either cal is a very insecure person who fears sharing his/her life, or is raking up people's feelings for the heck of it.

either way.

i started by saying cal does have some good points. in a life wrought with uncertainty, it makes sense to be at work. and yet, i cannot help but think forward as to my own situation. i'm now 32. i've been working since i was 21 (see, cal, i share my own experiences to give others a context to my opinions, kind of important in a civilized discussion). my husband and i hope to have a child by next year. my biggest concern is being able to handle a stressful career with the stresses of child-raising. many women feel that getting out of the house helps them maintain their sanity. my concern is being too stressed out by having to balance too much. i do feel that opting out of work for a few years will give my kids a more peaceful mother.

as for the money, my husband and i are probably in about the same situation 'give up on' and his wife are. the second income would be a luxury. if we tried to offset the costs of my working -- daycare, extra gas to commute, etc -- along with the cost of my going insane trying to balance the two, it works out a lot better if we do give up a second income for a while, cut costs a little and have a more peaceful me.

i'm not a supermom, and i'm not embarrassed to say so. and yet, i have to assert that i am not irresponsible. just a human being trying to do the best she can.

Posted by: not yet sahm | July 12, 2006 4:08 PM

"I could sell my house in DC, pay off the mortgage, buy (for cash) a new house back home and still have enough to pay college tuition for my kids and not work for several years."

Bob, I know what you mean. I could do much the same. I could take my money and live without a job for the rest of my life in many areas of this country. I could stroll in the park, walk to a store, and relax. (I do all those things here now.) But I'd be THERE, not HERE, which is definitely where I want to live. Those places offer me nothing of the sort of life I can have here. That's why I work, so I can continue living here in the way that I want to live.

On the other hand, I don't complain about my life here and I'm not stressed out because I realize I made this choice and I'm happy with it. I really LIVE here. I could probably also enjoy living in many other areas, but it wouldn't be the life I love here.

Posted by: It's a choice | July 13, 2006 11:05 AM

I think the most difficult part of divorce for many children is the endless wrangling between the divorced parents. The going back and forth to mom's or dad's place on weekends or school vacations. Never being able to call one place fully "home" because you're expected to think the other parent's home is also home and to go there when they want you, no matter how much it disrupts your life and your development.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 13, 2006 11:08 AM

11:08 poster:

I'm divorced from the father of my children. We don't wrangle; they live with me and they visit him. And the visiting is worked around their schedules first and his second. There are many many times when he would like to pick them up but they have other things going on which take precedence.

I'd say that the most difficult part of divorce is non-custodial parents who do not visit. My ex-husband doesn't pay his child support (and never has.) But the children still have him in their lives, which is far more important than a check. And even if they were being shuttled back and forth between two homes, that would certainly be better than if he wasn't interested in seeing them at all.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 13, 2006 3:45 PM

Here goes some more historical background for all you younger people:

When almost all the mommies stayed home, that WAS their "job". It was a LOT of work. There was no daycare center/TV/VCR/washer/dryer/ dishwaher/microwave/take-out food/second car/or many other modern helpers.

Then came all these things, making it possible for women to work TWO jobs: being a mom, plus a paid job. Daddies didn't really help yet. Some women stayed home either because they thought it was best for the kids or for themselves. Not all the stay-at-homes could really afford not working but they thought they were doing the right thing. Choice was a new thing.

Now, it is clearly a choice to stay home for many parents whose spouse earns enough to float the household boat. It is also clearly not by choice that many women have to work but, somehow, most of them manage to raise good kids anyway.

In our very comfortable, 4 bedroom colonial, kid-filled neighborhood, the only kids who got in trouble happened to live in houses with stay-at-home moms! There were also stay-at-homes who did a great job and there were working moms who did a great job.

Bottom line: Make your choice and then make it happen.

(This has all made ME feel a little guilty for not currently doing paid work although I am still plenty young enough and my own kids are adults! Wait! No, I don't feel guilty - because I essentially worked TWO full-time jobs for several years. And if we had to replace all the stuff I do at home with paid work, my salary would be all used up! I am currently happy working at home for no pay. When I am not, I'll find a job. Choice is good.

Posted by: granny | July 13, 2006 5:22 PM

I neglected to mention that mothers used to stay home mainly because there was no effective birth control so women could not "plan" alternative lives very easily!

Posted by: granny | July 15, 2006 3:10 PM

If the writer is still nursing, then she may still be suffering from postpartum depression depression. I nursed my second son until he was 20 month old. During that time I felt an almost constant bone-crushing guilt and feelings of inadequecy. I frequently found everything about my life, from work to kids and personal finances overwhelming. I did not really enjoy my home and family the way that I thought I should, and could not figure out what was wrong with me. I suffered from frequent sinus infections, and lack of sleep from my carpel tunnel syndrome which was agrevated by the extra fluid I was carrying around in my upper torso while nursing. Finally, I pulled my back out and had to go on pain killers and muscle relaxants. So my son, who was only nursing once a day at that point, quit cold-turkey. It was the most amazing thing, a couple of weeks later, it was like a veil was lifted. I could focus at work and felt a sense of peace which I had not felt since before I became pregnant with my second son. I started excercising by taking an hour for myself in the morning. I have no guilt about it, because I lost weight, feel great, and I had more energy to focus on my work and my family. I don't get sinus infections anymore, and I get a great night's rest, because the walking when I excercise redistributes the fluid away from my limbs. Everyone is happier now that I take time to take care of myself. My life is just as crazy and chaotic as ever with a six year old child who was diagnosed with PDDnos (under the autism umbrella), a firecracker 3 year old, a huge mortgage, aging parents, and a full-time job as a Graphic Designer. Post-partum depression is a very real illness, with both physical and psychological symtoms. I recommend that the writer seeks professional help if she cannot resolve her anxiety. Unfortunately Post-parum depression is often difficult to recognize in ourselves. It is only with time and distance that one realizes what was going on during that dark part of one's life which which should have been a time filled with joy and excitment. It is terrible to live in the shadows.

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