Flexibility for Those In Less-Than-Flexible Positions

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

My last couple of posts have focused on a minority of the workforce -- digital Bedouins such as myself whose job it is to sit behind a computer and think great thoughts. And a good number of readers, both in the comments and in e-mails to me, very politely noted that I have a pretty narrow-minded view of the work world and that the great majority of the country is tied to their job by something more than a Wi-Fi signal.

I'm not purposely ignoring the nurses and dentists and teachers and baristas and law clerks and on and on. I just believe that the fight for flexibility needs to start somewhere, and what better place than those workers whose work life consists of staring at a flickering screen, something that can be done anywhere at any time?

But asking about those who aren't solely computer-oriented people is a heckuva good question, and one without easy answers. The last month has been rich with tales of how difficult it can be to find balance when physical presence is required. A new study shows registered nurses have a hard time finding balance, with half claiming that work impacts their family time at least once a week, and another 41 percent feeling episodic interference.

The problem is straightforward. The solutions are not.

Last month, the Center for Economic and Policy Research put out a detailed report (PDF) on tag-team parenting, in which childcare responsibilities are shifted between parents working largely non-overlapping schedules. While the report suggests that the strategy works if the goal is to keep the kids in parental care as much as possible, it serves to limit the time parents can spend with each other -- a disaster in terms of family stability. The burdens of tag-team parenting are falling on the poorest Americans. Of course, the author, Heather Boushey, concludes that tag-team parenting isn't actually a balance solution. It's further evidence of the problem, she writes:

... even for families who 'choose' tag-team parenting, policymakers should be concerned. If working alternating schedules is the best way for families to provide care, then there may be something wrong with our system of childcare or our workplaces.

Can we change our workplaces? I think we can -- for some jobs -- slowly and steadily and creatively. The sister of one BusinessWeek reporter is thinking about changing the way the U.S. Forest Service works. And I recently had a reason to talk to a pediatrics group in Texas that uses cutting edge electronic medical records and phone service to allow a small army of nurses to take patient calls from home ... using those electronic records to dispense advice that is just as personalized as the advice they'd give in the office with physical charts.

Let me be clear: Nursing will never be a 100 percent work-from-home profession, but if we can see small changes (in favor of flexibility) there, there have got to be other opportunities. I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Can we use technology or creative scheduling to boost balance for those in less-than-flexible careers, or will there always be a class of workers for whom flexibility is a mirage?

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at rebeldad.com.

By Brian Reid |  September 21, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Flexibility
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I think there will always be some types of jobs that will not be flexible. Hence, there will always be jobs that have to be done on site. It is just the nature of the work. How can an elementary or secondary teacher be flexible? You can't hire a subsitute or have two teachers share the position. It would be disruptive to the consistency of the academic presentation. But the problem is jobs that could easily be done remotely are still not being done that way because of employers fear. And the weird assumption that face time matters more then the end product. I am not sure if tag team parenting is always bad. One of my close friends has done that for the past 5 years. She needed virtually no child care for her two young sons (3 and 5) while she and her husband maintained two full time professional careers. It is not what I would like to do. But they are both only children and seem to exist just fine with little couple time. I would not advocate it for most people but it seems to work well for them. The other real positive is the kids enjoy both parents as primary care givers. Rather then the one parent shouldering most of the responsibility. My brother and SIL has done that for 9 years. They just recently switched to one parent being a full time parent at home and one working full time out of the home. But that was mainly because one spouse got a large enough promotion to allow the other to stay at home full time. I think they had a wonderful marriage and they figured weekends were their family time. Families have to do some things just to get by. You just have to be aware of the extra effort put into to save the relationship. One of the things my brother and SIL did was to vacation every other year as just a couple. The opposite years, they went with the kids on a kid centered vacation. Now how many of us do that? Of course some of us do not have Grandmas waiting to take the kids for a week. But in reality must of us do not do that for other reasons. So I think it can work out. It just takes more well thought out plans.

Posted by: PsuedoName | September 21, 2006 7:21 AM

Ouch! Just got a mental picture of a global barista call-center, you wait on hold for a while, then speak with someone who digitally makes a latte, delivered to the store where you're waiting.

Far different from the days when I'm a bunny-slipper DBA. :-)

Posted by: Fract'l | September 21, 2006 7:57 AM

First poster: You can't hire a subsitute or have two teachers share the position.
---
I know of three sets of teachers in two local public schools who TEAM-TEACH and share one position, caring for one grade.

Works fine.

One pair has team-taught third grade for more than 12 years.

What makes this possible concerns one piece of yesterday's blog: benefits.

Both teachers in the 12-year pair do not take health benefits. They use their spouses' benefits. Never asked the other pairs as not socially close enough to quip, "How do you manage health insurance!?"

We have to think outside the box, in each case. The nurse home-call duty that Brian reports is one such example.

Problem is thorny and complex. But deserves our attention.

Tag-team parenting can work, especially when it is limited or occurs in shorter sequences. Meaning, gap years between infancy and elementary school. Or again during teen years since the afternoon/evening stretch poses risks for teens. They need subtle supervision.

Finally, chronically ill children often require tag team parenting, for years on end. Special needs children fit this picture also.

Posted by: College Parkian | September 21, 2006 8:02 AM

Funny you should write this. I was just telling my husband how I recently met a woman in our neighborhood who does the tag team two career dance. She and her husband are both nurses and they both work 2 24-hour shifts per week, so they still get three days a week together, occasionally with kids in school. She says it's exhausting but her husband is much more involved than he would otherwise be -- and they seem to have a really seamless parenting style. (If you call their house about an event when she's working, he doesn't say, "I'll have to have Suzie get back to you on that." Instead, he tends to know when the field trip is, what the kids need to bring, etc.)

We live in a military community -- and while I understand that there are people somewhere in the Pentagon watching the AWAC's fly over Baghdad, controlling them with a remote control device -- there are also an awful lot of dads and moms who are gone for six months at a time doing jobs that unfortunately can't be done from a computer terminal in their basements. And I don't think most of us would feel safe if community policing and other security jobs were done 'virtually'.

However, I didn't realize that the work from home moms were starting to increase so rapidly at my children's school until the principal recently gave a speech where she said: "We need volunteers to monitor various things -- entrances to the school, the cafeteria, the library, reading room, etc. This is a really great job for people who want to bring their laptops in and get some work done while still getting volunteer credit at school." It was cool that she had recognized the reality -- that many of us work, just not in the traditional 9-5 sense.

Posted by: Armchair Mom | September 21, 2006 8:11 AM

A lot of people I know back home vary their shifts. One of them works the day shift and the other works midnights or afternoons. If you are lucky enough to have the seniority to pick your shift! It's just part of life in many blue collar families. I really don't think that they think, gee I hope this isn't hurting my marriage. More than likely, they think I hope I can make the house and car payment and still have some money left over to send the kid on the field trip at school. A lot of families also rely on each other for child care. It's not uncommon for a kid to go through aunt, grandma, mom, dad, cousin in one day. My nephews and nieces all grew up this way with grandma dropping them at the bus stop and me picking them up. I really have no idea how to make blue collar jobs or even jobs like nursing more flexible.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 8:23 AM

Fract'l - your mental picture is already here, kinda. There are fast food restaurants already experimenting with drive thrus where you are actually giving your order to a call center employee, who in turn is relaying your order back to the restaurant. The future is now!

Posted by: ConantheLibrarian | September 21, 2006 8:24 AM

Most of the shift work jobs like Police, firefighters, factory workers, nurses, restaurant employees, retail or even postal employees do not have any much flexibility. Job sharing is limited.

As for the tag-team parenting - if it works - great - if not - why is it the employers or governments resposibility to provide child care? We are talking about chosen professions - no one is being forced to work any given job. I know people that do the tag-parenting well - and others that are divorced because of it - it all depends on the emphasis you put on your family time and marriage - just like every other family faces.

People can manage their own schedules - and if they can't they need to adjust their lives/jobs/time and not depend on the flexibility of job that has none.

Posted by: cmac | September 21, 2006 8:26 AM

The blue collar post was mine. Time to go get the caffeine!

Posted by: scarry | September 21, 2006 8:27 AM

Scarry - We do exactly what you outlined, working around a shift schedule of my husband's and using family/friends to meet the gaps. I don't work full time - that helps, but the emphasis has always been on the family and if my job ever got to be too much I suppose we would be eating beans and weenies every night, not taking vacations and cutting back on everything.

The shift workers/blue collar folks may worry about making the mortgage, but the non-family time will eventually catch up with them.

Posted by: cmac | September 21, 2006 8:37 AM

Thanks, ConantheLibrarian. Come to think of it, I order pizza online all the time.

Someone brought up health benefits. My company (megafinancial) started discouraging spouse health benefits last year. You have to prove s/he doesn't have benefits elsewhere (SAH, unemployed, WalMart, whatever) or else pay a stiff penalty + the monthly cost. Another cost-cutting move, probably the spousal cost will continue to rise.

Flexible time based on the assumption that you can get health coverage from your spouse's employer may get tougher. Usually my company is a little ahead of the curve on cost-cutting measures.

Posted by: Fract'l | September 21, 2006 8:45 AM

cmac,

You are exactly right on! Yes, my family had problems with money growing up, most people do, but the way that some white collar workers, no one in particular here, think about those poor blue collar people makes me and them cringe and laugh!

I've talked about this with some of my friends back home and they shake their heads and don't understand some of the white collar worries about child care because they have each other, famiy, or even the friendly neighbor who will get the kid. Their biggest worry is their job being shipped to China or India. Yes, they would like more vacation or a raise, but for the most part I don't hear about a bunch of childcare issues from them.

Now, they do complain about the heat in the summer, factories are HOT!

Posted by: scarry | September 21, 2006 8:47 AM

A couple of friends of mine who work with me have different working hours so they can avoid having to put their children in after-school daycare. The wife drops the children off at school, and the husband picks them up.

That means though that one works a shift that is about 2 hours off from the other one and they have to drive separate cars, even though they work about 75' away from each other in the same building!

Posted by: John | September 21, 2006 9:00 AM


Fract't (Best name, in my book) wrote: Another cost-cutting move, probably the spousal cost will continue to rise.
----
Shrewd observation, but perhaps a bellweather of less choice, less flexibility ahead. Sad and scary.

Another point on insurance portability referred to yesterday. Minors with pre-existing conditions are not covered by the portability act. That kicks in once you have your adult insurance with your first "professional" job.

If your life is rather typical, health-wise, U.S. medical/disability insurance looks o.k.

Poor health, especially early in life reveals how fractured health insurance is.

Not advocating national health, exactly. Just saying: balance is easier if you are middle-claas, flexible professional, and healthy.

Posted by: Colleg Parkian | September 21, 2006 9:05 AM

My husband and I were blessed with a baby boy in March. The problem was that he arrived 12 weeks early. Due to his health problems, our professional lives have been turned upside down. My husband left his position as a Graphic Designer to care for our son and freelance because the organization was unwilling to allow him to telecommute. I have left the company that I was with when it was crystal clear that their "understanding" was becoming time-limited. Ironically, the time that we worked from home was more productive than that spent at the office. We still have a long way to go with telecommuting and gaining credibility with employers.

Posted by: jrw158 | September 21, 2006 9:06 AM

Believe it or not, we have two teachers at my son's elementary school who do job share. I don't know the specifics, but I do know that it's working out fine for everyone.

Posted by: To PseudoName | September 21, 2006 9:06 AM

Wow, I can't believe elementary school teachers job share. I thought the point was to have one teacher really get to know the kid. Otherwise, why not just have a different teacher teach different subjects. Like they do in HS or middle school. I guess I am wrong. I have not been in a school for a really long time. So I have been corrected. I guess I was thinking back to my school years when your teacher was a really personal figure in your life. I wonder if the children become as attached to a job sharing teacher or do they become as attached in general. Times are a changing.

Posted by: PsuedoName | September 21, 2006 9:12 AM

Scarry - one thing may shifts workers have in their favor - outlined by a couple people already today - is that they work 10-12 hours shifts are "at work" only 3-4 days a week. While I completely sympathize with daycare issues, one of the reasons my husband and I stayed in this area was because of family. When both sets of grandparents retired they stayed in the area because of grandkids. Not too many people are willing to or able to do that anymore. Some have to move to follow the jobs, others do so for advancment, but the consequence is your family support is not right there. Your home town friends and family should consider themselves lucky.

Posted by: cmac | September 21, 2006 9:15 AM

The neat part about having two teachers who job share is the kids get the benefit of both teaching styles...kind of like our kids get the benefits of two parents, each with a different style.

Posted by: To: Pseudoname | September 21, 2006 9:18 AM

cmac, I tell them that all the time. It's hard to not have family around you, I know because I live away from mine. While I am blessed to have flexibility in my job, I miss having the security of grandma and aunts and uncles for the what ifs.

Posted by: scarry | September 21, 2006 9:21 AM

"I've talked about this with some of my friends back home and they shake their heads and don't understand some of the white collar worries about child care because they have each other, famiy, or even the friendly neighbor who will get the kid. Their biggest worry is their job being shipped to China or India. Yes, they would like more vacation or a raise, but for the most part I don't hear about a bunch of childcare issues from them."

Am I understanding your post correctly, that so-called blue collar workers don't have childcare problems?

I find that hard to believe. DH has a "blue" job whereas mine is "white", and we certainly found it hard to find good, affordable childcare in our area. All our family members and neighbors that we're friends with either work or are not in physical shape to run after a toddler all day (ie, elderly).

What's the blue-collar secret to making this so easy?

Posted by: to scarry | September 21, 2006 9:26 AM

To Psudoname...Wow, that was a really biting reply. If two teachers are tag teaming for AN ENTIRE SCHOOL YEAR, that is more than adequate to get to personally know students of a single class, unlike a teacher teaching several classes of children like they do in the higher grades (bad comparison is what I'm saying). They might even do a better job because they are able to focus more on their respective tasks. Attitudes like yours (Its different so ergo it is bad) is the greatest obsticle to flexability.

Posted by: Geez | September 21, 2006 9:31 AM

I love the news that teachers can share a classroom. This indeed does parallel two parents sharing equally in the raising of their children.

As for the ability of parents with front-line jobs to balance their lives and reduce outside childcare, working from home is definitely not an option for many (and many may not even want to isolate themselves at home). However, other flex options could work well. What about both parents reducing their hours to around 30 per week? I hope someday that corporate America realizes meaningful careers can happen in 30 hours per week. In many companies, this level of work still garners full health benefits. And if parents stagger their work days a bit, they can greatly reduce the number of days they need childcare without resorting to tag-team shifts. Two 30-hour/week salaries are usually more than one full time salary, and often more than one full time plus one much-more-part-time one. Both parents' careers are equally important - no spouse is marginalized - and kids get the benefit of lots of time with both parents. And the couple still has plenty of time together.

I know that this scenario won't work today for lots of jobs, but it isn't all that crazy as a goal. If more of us ask for this type of scenario, it will hopefully catch on. Fully involved, reduced-hours workers are loyal and hard-working.

Finally, I agree with a previous poster that it is important for people wanting this type of balance to seek it out by choosing the right career. Some careers are far harder to mesh with a 30-hour week, work from home, etc. We should be teaching our college and high-school students how to recognize a career with this flexibility. I'm just very lucky I ended up with one!

Posted by: equal | September 21, 2006 9:45 AM

to scarry,

The key to my post is my friends, not everyone. My friends vary their shifts and have family and friends who can help them. My friends don't understand a lot of the issues that white collar workers have with childcare because they all vary their shifts or have family member's help. They also find it funny that we are obsessed with balance.

And

I didn't say all blue collar people didn't have issues, I said my friends from my area where I grew up and my family. Don't take it personal because I didn't mean it that way. When my nephews and nieces were younger everyone in my family was on a different shift, sister, dad, brother in law on days, me on midnights, sister in law, brother, mom on afternoons. If you also read my post you would see that even if I was blue collar, I wouldn't have the option of family for help because I don't live near them, so again, if I offended you I am sorry.

Posted by: scarry | September 21, 2006 9:51 AM

Scarry, you're right...as usual! ;-)

Blue collar jobs like manufacturing, assembly, skilled trades, are difficult to build flex into. Information jobs like mine (defense industry analyst) means that as long as I have access to my cell phone, 'puter and Internet I could pretty much work from anywhere. I have done this before and in these fields it's encouraged. How to make it equitable across the work spectrum? I don't know, but if employees make it a priority things can change. Maybe an employer could offer 2nd shift or 3rd shift and help some folks...but as for the skilled trades, I don't know how you make that work.

Posted by: Dad of 2 | September 21, 2006 9:51 AM

"To Psudoname...Wow, that was a really biting reply. If two teachers are tag teaming for AN ENTIRE SCHOOL YEAR, that is more than adequate to get to personally know students of a single class, unlike a teacher teaching several classes of children like they do in the higher grades (bad comparison is what I'm saying). They might even do a better job because they are able to focus more on their respective tasks. Attitudes like yours (Its different so ergo it is bad) is the greatest obsticle to flexability."

It is a legitimate concern - not saying it can't work, but sometimes traditional ways are better. Your overreation only confirms that point.

Posted by: boi | September 21, 2006 9:51 AM

Pseudoname - In 3rd grade I had 2 teachers who job shared. One taught us in the morning, the other in the afternoon. We knew and loved both teachers. That was 25 years ago. I'm sure it's much more common now, but times haven't changed *that* much.

http://lawyermama.blogspot.com

Posted by: Lawyer Mama | September 21, 2006 9:52 AM

On teacher sharing - I can see both sides - why would anyone be offended that some parents are not to keen on the idea? I don't have any experience with it and am not sure if I would be too happy if my kid had 2 teachers, but who knows? I might be pleasantly surprised.

Posted by: cmac | September 21, 2006 10:04 AM

I grew up in a university town with an education school - we had one or two interns a year who shared responsibilities with teachers and often traded days - it's entirely possible to bond with multiple teachers, and I think it was a benefit to get used to multiple teaching methods and authority figures. Kids who go to gifted classes or speech classes or outside classes of whatever sort have dealt with multiple teachers for years. I don't see a problem, as long as the teachers can survive on the partial salary.

Posted by: SEP | September 21, 2006 10:05 AM

One of the drawbacks of having a lot of flexibility in a job is that it often means you are expected to be available all the time. This applies to jobs where all you need is a computer, email, and a cell phone or BlackBerry to work. It's great that some people can work from home that way, but it is a drawback that they often find themselves expected to respond to emails that come in at 10 o'clock at night. People who must be on site to work, like nurses, teachers, baristas, waiters, bus drivers, etc. can largely go home after their shift and leave their work at work. This is a benefit to some people, especiallly those who do not have children. I don't think it is possible to make all jobs flexible. Some inherently are not (although I do like the idea of job sharing for teachers). I do think that some shifts could be accomodated to suit individual people's needs, however. For example, with nurses, depending on the individual and his/her needs, some people could work shorter shifts for more days a week, and others longer shifts for less days a week. The hours would be the same on a weekly basis, the work would still get done. Perhaps the shifts themselves would not be flexible from one day to another for each individual, but they could be planned in a way that they fit particular individuals' specific needs.

Doing this would require employers to be more amenable to creative scheduling, and it would also make scheduling a more complex process. But if people were open to the possibilities, it could work.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 10:06 AM

Having only worked for a company where flexibility is an option for a year or so, I can understand the 'blue collar' difficulties better than some, since it wasn't that long ago that I was 'blue collar' (or at least pink collar). BTW, collar is definately the word for it - hourly jobs can be the most soul sucking existance possible, having to account for every instant (I worked for one employer, a call center, who would dock pay for signing on to phones 2 minutes late).

I know child care wasn't an issue for my parents when I was growing up - and we were as blue collar as it gets, dad was a diesel mechanic and mom worked at a grocery store. We had grandparents, neighbors mom trusted, and we knew how to take care of ourselves after school if mom was running late and we had to walk home alone or take the bus.

I think as white collar folks we get so wrapped up in the idea of 'good quailty child care' and forget that good quality may mean that our children are happy and safe - not that they're learning their alphabet by age 2. My parents took an hour or two a night when we were tiny and read to us - when I learned how to read (on my own for the most part, with some coaching from mom) at the age of 4, I read to myself. Remember Abraham Lincolin, Benjamin Franklin, Amelia Earhart, Socrates, Florence Nightengale, Shakespeare? None of them had Baby Einstein (heck, baby Einstein didn't have Baby Einstein) or Gymboree and they turned out just fine, didn't they? Love your kids. Spend time with them when you can. Have a happy marriage. Don't sweat the 'early enrichment' so much - the pressure on you and your kids isn't worth the marginal benefits.

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | September 21, 2006 10:07 AM

Dad of 2,

If I didn't know better, I'd think you liked me. :)

I agree with you and I by no means am portraying blue collar life as easy. Some parts of it are heartbreaking and heartwarming, like a whole plant full of people pitching in two days before Christmas to buy a new worker toys for his kids.

I wish they could have more flexibility, but I can tell you this, when the truck from GM is waiting on parts, the parts have to go or all of the workers face not having a job. It's called just in time inventory and it works pretty well, unless you are the ones building the cars!

My family just did it the best way we knew how and I have to say that except for a few hiccups every now and then, we raised some pretty good kids.

Posted by: scarry | September 21, 2006 10:07 AM

"Can we use technology or creative scheduling to boost balance for those in less-than-flexible careers, or will there always be a class of workers for whom flexibility is a mirage?"

Yes and Yes.
As others have pointed out, there definitely are some workers with absolutely no flexibility (eg. cashiers, janitorial, pharmacists, home health).
There are many jobs which can be partly flexible as you pointed out with nurses taking calls at home.

However, I must say that if you can do the job at home, someone can and will do it in India, China, Russia, etc. Accountant jobs are going offshore, as are programming, customer support, etc. The more technology allows one to work from home, the more likely that job will be offshored.

Flexibility is a two-edged sword.
Be careful of what you ask for!!

Posted by: WorkerBee | September 21, 2006 10:07 AM

I have a lot of friends who are teachers and it seems that schools' willingness to job-share varies greatly. One of my friends teaches upper level high school math and works 1/2 time. It seems to work out great - she's the dept. chair and has mentored other teachers and really been able to contribute to her school while still being home 1/2 the day with her 3 children. However, another friend reported that her school district won't let anyone job share (for fear that too many people would want to do it, since many of the teachers are parents) and that they've lost some good teachers because of that policy. I guess that with everything, it all depends on supply and demand as well as the flexibility and far-sightedness of management.

Posted by: notyetamom | September 21, 2006 10:07 AM

I agree that it is hard to work from home or find flexibility in some professions. Here's one. I am a scientist (organic chemist) who works in the lab about 10-12 hours a day. While my working hours are somewhat flexible, I still need to do about 95% of my work in my lab, the only work I can take home is reading or writing grants or papers. My husband is in the same situation, and while we dont have any children yet, we do have plans for a child in the future. I am concerned about how we will handle the situation when it arises.

I also agree with some of the posters that it is nice to have grandparents and family around. In fact, that is how I was raised even as my dad and my mother, who is a nurse, worked all through my childhood. Unfortunately my family is in another country halfway around the world and my husbands is in another state several hours away. Maybe we can have them move closer to us once we settle down. In any event, I'm glad this blog took up this issue and recognized that there are careers that do not wholly involve a "flickering screen".

Posted by: AN | September 21, 2006 10:10 AM

Fract'l--that post about spousal benefits is astounding. What about benefits for children? Are you supposed to split that?

In the elementary schools, you can bet that is going on, as it has been for over 30 years. When we were kids, we had different teachers for the specials--gym, art,foreign language,instumental/band, chorus, and reading/math groups, computers and library. That continues today where I teach. Grades K-5 have a main teacher, but at least twice a day leave the classroom for a special. A good administrator can make this work for the benefit of the children. The 'hawthorne effect' is another benefit--change something (anything) and the test scores go up. That is the logic behind middle school and high school schedules, but I think it actually is so the teachers get a break from the kids! Different set of kids every hour, different hormone levels, etc. One year I had a conversation with my students about 'knowing them' and them 'knowing me'. They thought that I knew them and they knew me! I spend a few hours a week with a class of a bunch of kids. I sometimes don't get to even speak to them all in one hour. I don't know a lot about them (unless I read it on their myspace page!). Personal stuff stays personal. All they know is that I am usually happy, freezing ( the a.c. is always too high and the heat never high enough), favor the color pink and love to do projects. That being said, I do pay attention and know them up to a point, but the really quiet ones can escape you. Anyway, there aren't that many schools that have fewer than 400 kids and are k-8, the recommended shape. The transition factor, several classes per grade and zero continuity all increase the liklihood of team-teaching, at least in the D.C. area. At least half of the teachers at my school are part-time. I don't think this is a bad thing, as the teachers are more rested and not as burned out with tons of paperwork, etc. In addition, we have a program that monitors them. It is pretty low tech, as it just consists of about 10 things that we keep in mind as we teach. If any of them appear to fit a particular student, (i.e.--student has a behavior change, sleeps in class, excessive talking, personality change, grade change, etc.), we share that info to see if it is us, them, temporary, normal, etc. Sometimes it is just the time of day (tired after lunch).

Posted by: parttimer | September 21, 2006 10:14 AM

"Fract'l--that post about spousal benefits is astounding. What about benefits for children? Are you supposed to split that?"

Right now they're not telling you to shift family members other than spouses. My guess is they'll leave the children alone because that would bring bad publicity.

Posted by: Fract'l | September 21, 2006 10:21 AM

To Rebecca in AR--could you please stop sounding so reasonable? My stock in Leapfrog may plummet! (I loved your post.)

As far as those soul sucking jobs go--hourly (low) pay, overseer managers, etc., it is a great way to motivate people to get an education! People do not usually make a career out of those jobs. I think it is a wonderful rite-of-passage for teens to work in the food service industry or a factory. One of my friends worked in a factory in Ohio making car rugs. She did that for two years, maybe less, then joined the AF, got a degree and is much better off. Unfortunately, I don't think her hands every fully recovered. They looked like they belonged to an 80 year old gardener.

Speaking of Leapfrog, I saw a commercial this morning advertising leapfrog video games for BABIES touting them as great imagination stimulators. The freaking SANDBOX is a better imagination stimulator than that junk. Very annoying.

Posted by: parttimer | September 21, 2006 10:24 AM

If both parents have their own coverage for health insurance, who gets the kids as "primary" depends on whose birthday comes first in the year. Not who is oldest, just whose birthday comes first.

It's totally random, and designed that way by the insurance companies so that the parents don't "punish" the more generous company by enrolling their kids in that one.

It's called the "birthday rule."

Posted by: Ms L | September 21, 2006 10:28 AM

Tag-team parenting, I hadn't heard that term before, but that's what we do.

My job could be done 90% from home, but my employer is backwards and inflexible. (When I set up a meeting to discuss more flexible hours, they kept me an hour late to reassure me that they were sensitive to my needs to go home on time! Yeah, right. Needless to say, nothing about my face-time changed, but at least I'm not bothered by feelings of "loyalty" or "gratitude" to my employer or anything troubling like that.)

My husband is a night manager at a local treats shop. It's not like he can serve customers from home, but as someone else pointed out - hey, at least there's no chance of his job getting offshored.

Then on weekends, we have to try to do all the things we can't do during the week, and it's always a dance between who has the kid and who's accomplishing what where. So we see each other about... never. Maybe two evenings a month.

But it does work. We couldn't afford daycare, or for only one of us to work. It's a tool, I guess, but I wouldn't recommend it as a "solution".

Posted by: CP | September 21, 2006 10:31 AM

I hate the birthday rule. My husband and I dealt with that the first year after our son was born. I preferred my plan to his, so as soon as open season started, we cancelled his insurance and switched to the family plan on mine.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 10:32 AM

I don't know much about schools. My DD is 2 years old. But her day care provider who has elementary school aged children at home says it is hard for younger children to move from one teacher to the next. Case in point, her 6 year old attends speech and goes to a special speech class in the morning and a regular class room in the afternoon. She said it is difficult for kids to move into two different arenas in such a short period of time. Each class has its own rules and their own way of doing things. I think when I was in school (70s and 80s), elementary school teachers had breaks when the kids went to gym or art or music. But those classes were not considered the core of their educational experience. And if you asked any of the teachers it took 15 minutes to get the kids to settle down and get used to the new teachers style and rules. I am not saying it is better or worse. I am actually surprised teachers are job sharing in elementary school. But like psuedoname I think it has been a while since I was in school too. I think it might be a rude awakening when my DD goes to school. But on another note, when elementary schools went to merging into mega schools, studies showed children's academic performance did go down compared to children of more personal/smaller schools. I think the jury might still be out on job sharing at the elementary school level. There hasn't been any large scale surveys (always the statistican) to know the effect it has on the kids ( who are the most important people in this decision).

Posted by: NewName2 | September 21, 2006 10:32 AM

Regarding all the posts about teacher job sharing: in my kid's elementary school, they change not only teachers, but actual classes as well. My 4th grader has a different teacher/classroom for math, and my 1st grader has a 'homeroom' teacher, and a separate teacher/classroom for each math and reading. This took me by surprise when we first entered the school system, but the kids have been doing well all these years. The reason they break up is to allow the kids to be grouped by skill level in math and reading. There are some accelerated programs and what-not that the kids are matched up to. These teachers aren't job sharing, though. But, I just thought I would mention that some schools have children changing teachers throughout the day.

Posted by: mo_co_mom | September 21, 2006 10:33 AM

My wife works a medical advice line as a registered nurse. If you ask me, nursing is a professions that has great flexibility as far as choosing work hours is concerned. She can work 4, 5, 6, 10, or 12 hour shifts, morning, evening, weekends. She can piece just about any reasonable schedual together. The company also pays more money per hour for evenings, might shifts, Sundays, holidays and non-benefitted employees even get paid more than full-time employees.

So we do the tag team thing, and it's very stressful. I leave for work around 6:00 am, get home at 5:30 pm, just to get briefed on the kids activities and who needs to be where and when before my wife walks out the door to go to her job.

This gets furthermore complicated because I don't drive. I can't wait until my 15 year old gets her driver's license so she can help out, but then I heard that it is unlawfull for 16 year olds to drive around their younger siblings. Oh well, another law to break.

Luckily, I make friends real easy, especially with the football moms, which are cooler than the soccer moms, but in general, most people are willing to help out with transportation. It's also nice that we have excellent public transportation and live within walking distance to most activities. I figure I pay for it in housing costs.

Then it's the bed time routine. On a good week, baby boy will get 2 baths, maybe.

Then my wife gets home after midnight and surveys the damage. Many times she wakes me up when she goes to bed and that's when my day starts... all over again.

My wife works every other weekend and most holidays, which means, If I'm not working, I'm taking care of kids. It's not easy, but it's a life. Hopefully, my wife and I have made enough friends that will help out if we ever decide to hit the panick button.

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 21, 2006 10:33 AM

Thanks, Ms L. I don't think they spelled that out for us. Interesting, I hadn't realized that by pushing spouses to use their own company's insurance, they would also lose some % of the children. Devious.

Posted by: Fract'l | September 21, 2006 10:34 AM

o.k.--how about this--you marry someone who works for your company! What then? That really just frosts my cupcakes. I am all for keeping an eye on the bottom line, but there is a point where you can overdose on that and suddenly those who can leave, do, and those who can't spend more time kvetching than working.

Posted by: to fract'l | September 21, 2006 10:35 AM

Our elementary school has team teachers as well. One "set" has been doing it for pretty much forever - we've had children there for 9 years and they were doing it prior to that. They've taught 1st grade, 4th grade, and this year they're teaching 2nd grade. My older daughter had team teachers in the 2nd grade when one was out on maternity leave during the first half of the year - and then when she came back she team taught with the woman who had taken her place whil she was gone.

But antedotes aside, I think one of the reasons PsuedoNames posts rubbed me a little wrong (about this subject only) is because she/he makes a huge assumption that if an elem. school aged child has two teachers, that she or he cannot get close to them. Whether or not you think that a team taught classroom would be best for your child, it's kind of silly to assume that they couldn't get close to both teachers. When you send your child to daycare, chances are they don't spend the entire day with just one person - and they get close to their caregivers there, don't they? How is this different?

I have middle and high school aged children, and it always surprises me when I go for open houses less than a month into school, and conferences a couple of months in, how well the teachers already know my children. They have 40 kids in each class and can see over 200 kids in a day, and they *still* know them. So obviously a teacher who spends 3-4 hours a day with your child in elementary school in a class of 25-30 every day will know them very well.

Posted by: momof4 | September 21, 2006 10:38 AM

My husband works for a small manufacturing company in a rural area (think lots of farming). The company offers good health coverage, and the president, white collar and blue collar workers all get the same deal. Many of the blue collar employees are women who work primarily for the health coverage. If they dropped health coverage, they'd likely lose many of their best employees.

So the trend isn't 100% towards removing benefits, at least in an area where people can make a decent living self-employed.

Posted by: yetanothersahm... | September 21, 2006 10:39 AM

I wish wish wish that we could use some of our tax money to enroll in a national health care system. As long as I am wishing, I would like to be three inches taller. The birthday rule. Ugh.

Posted by: oh vomit | September 21, 2006 10:40 AM

As a flexibility strategy expert who has developed creative, successful work+life partnerships between organizations and individuals for more than a decade, I can state for certain that no job is "inflexible," it's how you define flexibility (should include informal and formal flexibility), and how you define the ultimate goal. If the objective is "work-life balance," then no one will ever be satisfied because for too many people "balance" has become a noun--a nirvana destination that we will all somehow magically arrive at someday but never seem to achieve in the here and now.

The truth is that using flexibility to manage your work and life, especially in today's 24/7 reality, is a dynamic, everchanging process. This is why I think we need to think of the objective as work+life "fit," a process that results in a solution that reflects the very unique realities of your particular job and life. It won't look the same as anyone else, and it won't be the same forever--that "fit" will change as your realities change, and you will need to use different types of flexibility to achieve it. Check out my more detailed response to this posting on my Work+Life Fit Blog -- http://worklifefit.com/blog/2006/09/21/why-we-need-to-call-it-worklife-fit-flexibility/

Posted by: Cali Williams Yost | September 21, 2006 10:40 AM

"o.k.--how about this--you marry someone who works for your company! What then? That really just frosts my cupcakes. I am all for keeping an eye on the bottom line, but there is a point where you can overdose on that and suddenly those who can leave, do, and those who can't spend more time kvetching than working.
Posted by: to fract'l | September 21, 2006 10:35 AM"

Not a policy I had any hand in. I'm IT (and on vacation this morning, so can I kvetch? :-). They've made a lot of changes to the bottom line in the past few years. Bolstered profits but also disenchanted workers. I guess they're more interested in looking good than retaining people.

Posted by: Fract'l | September 21, 2006 10:45 AM

Tomomof4: my DD does go to day care. But she has the same two teachers in her class each day. It is the same rules. I think it is more like living with two different parents simultaneously. But that might be unique to my day care. I specifically wanted a day care that had low turn over. In fact, they have not had any turn over in the 2 years my daughter has attended. But I agree 2 is really different then a 6 year old.

Posted by: NewName2 | September 21, 2006 10:47 AM

Wow, FO4, that's a tough schedule. I marvel at your ability to do it with 4 kids.

My husband and I did the tag team thing when our son was a baby. I worked during the day, got home at 5:30, and he left for work when I got home. But we did have weekends together. Even so, I hated it. We both felt like single parents because during the week at least, we had no breaks and no time for each other. Luckily, after a couple of years, I made enough money so that he could cut his ours and just work one day a week (because he likes to) and go back to school part time. It is taking him forever to get his degree (he is almost done -- 3 more classes to go) but it has made our home life so much easier to have him at home in the evenings. I almost dread the idea of him finishing school and going back to work full time because it will likely upset our easy schedule. But if another baby comes, he will stay home full time for a couple of years more.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 10:50 AM

To RandomGuy: I thought a lot of people meet their future spouses at work. Where else would you meet them? I have heard school, work, and religious organizations are the top places people list for having met their spouse. I thought the rule was do not date your subordinate. Am I right about that?

Posted by: NewName2 | September 21, 2006 10:51 AM

>>>o.k.--how about this--you marry someone who works for your company!>>>

What about the old adage about not fishing off the company pier? Or dipping your pen in company ink. Or some other tired metaphor.

Anyway, point is, conventional wisdom is that you don't date people you work with. (I hate convention, by the way.)

Posted by: Random Guy | September 21, 2006 10:52 AM

I just needed to LOL @ myself...first of all, I typoed the word anecdote....then after I said "anecdotes aside", I offered another one!!

One other comment on this subject:

I understand the problem for those children who have difficulties transitioning. But they're not switching classrooms when they have team teachers...they stay put, and the teachers come to them. And the switch is done at lunchtime so there's already an obvious break.

That being said, I changed classes for leveled math and reading in elementary school over 30 years ago. My kids do it now for math in the 3rd-5th grade. It's not anything new at all.

Posted by: momof4 | September 21, 2006 10:53 AM

'it is unlawfull for 16 year olds to drive around their younger siblings'

actually I think the law in fairfax is that 16 and 17 year old drivers can have only one unrelated juvenile in the car, but they can drive as many siblings as fit in the vehicle. Please check with DMV, rather than taking my word for it, but I'm pretty sure about this.

Posted by: experienced mom | September 21, 2006 10:54 AM

To momof4: I had the same teacher for all the primary subjects 20 years ago. So I imagine it was different in different areas of the country. Why is it only being done for math? Why not the other subjects?

Posted by: NewName2 | September 21, 2006 10:55 AM

To College Parkian: Thanks for kicking off the team-teaching discussion. That is exactly the kind of creativity that we need to find solutions that can work for large numbers. I'm shocked -- in a good way -- that there are schools out there pushing those boundaries. The discussion about special needs is appropriate, too, and some of the finest folks I know have been forced into tag-teaming for that very reason.

To Armchair Mom: Inviting the nomads to work from school and volunteer? That's fantastic!

To cmac, who asked "why is it the employers or governments resposibility to provide child care?": You can argue that employers don't have a *responsibility* to provide care or flexibility, but there's a growing body of evidence that employers should have their own selfish motivation to do so. Balanced employees are happy and productive and easy-to-retain. Why go through the expense of a new hire when you can tweak the schedule of an already-trained employee without impacting their productivity?

To scarry: The flip side of being in DC, where jobs themselves are more likely to be digital and flexible, is that we're more likely to be transplants unable to tap into the wonderful world of grandparental care, which really does make the world go 'round for huge numbers of families. And I'm not sure childcare is solely a white-collar worry -- Arlie Hochschild's "Time Bind" does a nice job of laying out exactly what those worry are across a large industrial company.

To Fract'l: If anything keeps me up at night, it's health benefits. And after reading your comment, I'll toss and turn even more than usual tonight.

To jrw158: Sorry to hear your employers weren't progressive about flexibility. I wish I knew what it took to get it through to folks that some workers (like me!) are much more valuable working from home.

To Rockville: Yup, digital creep is a problem, but it's a problem that the employee -- and not their corporate overlord -- gets to decide how to handle.

To WorkerBee: Excellent point about the risks of do-from-anywhere jobs. On the flip side, I often wonder why, if I can do my work from almost any location, I'm living in DC when my property taxes alone here could pay the mortgage on a huge spread in, say, Omaha.

To parttimer: I've also noticed that adding kids to an account is far cheaper than adding spouses. Ear infections aside, it sounds like insurers have determined that kids are not huge users of the healthcare system.

To Father of 4: Wow.

Posted by: Brian Reid | September 21, 2006 10:58 AM

Brian's job is to sit around and think great thoughts?? Wow. Nice to be him.

Posted by: kgotthardt | September 21, 2006 10:58 AM

I recommend that you peruse the flylady website. That, combined with the menu-mailer (aka saving dinner) has freed up so much time in my life that I am thinking about working more! I do more in 30 minutes in hte morning than I used to get done all day. There are tools for kids as well, and my daughter has been using them also. She loves her bedroom and the fact that she can create and maintain order in her life. My kids are 10 and 12, and between the three of us each working about 20 minutes a day, sometimes less, we don't have any more household issues, and the weekends are left for fun. You do, however, need a dishwashe, washing machine and dryer, a crock pot, a vacuum for every floor and cleaning equipment in every bathroom. I should note that we all do different jobs every day (well, I do laundry every day). Garbage on Mondays (kids)vacuuming on Tuesdays (kids) dishwasher duty (kids-daily) setting table (kids-daily)cooking (me-=daily, with assisstance from interested parties sometimes) shopping (me) and dusting (once a week, usually me, but the younger one loves to dust, so I let her go at with the swiffer if she is around)watering the plants (me). We all take care of our own bathrooms, and I take care of the guest bath. Other benefit, I never have to tell me kids to clean their rooms, and their are no fights over chores.

Posted by: to Fo4 | September 21, 2006 10:59 AM

To kgotthardt: Thinking great thoughts is what I'd like to pretend I do all day. It's actually the excution of great thoughts that takes most of my time (and provides a constant reminder that my thoughts aren't as great as I imagine).

Posted by: Brian Reid | September 21, 2006 11:00 AM

I wanted to throw out another example of supposedly inflexible careers being flexible:
Cyberschools (e.g. k12 inc.) hire certified teachers as "supervising teachers". The supervising teacher needs to be available to take phone calls during the day, but their location doesn't matter.

They aren't doing exactly the same work they'd do in a classroom, but it would let someone put their teaching certificate to use in a flexible position.

Posted by: yetanothersahm... | September 21, 2006 11:02 AM

Fract't, your post about spouse health care benefits is shocking! God, companies haven't given real wage increases in years and now are strong-arming their way into reducing benefits.

I know everyone in this country is so opposed to nationalized health care but American business now must compete globally with foreign companies who have a nationalized health care.

Posted by: alex. mom | September 21, 2006 11:13 AM

But we are also competing, unfortunately, with overseas companies that provide no benefits, paltry salaries, and poor working conditions. Which is why it is so lucrative to ship certain jobs overseas.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 11:21 AM

Brian, I like it that you answer the posts. Yes, you are corect that some blue collar people worry about child care. I geuss I didn't see it much growing up because of the way my family operated and the way my friends pitched in. Everyone was welcome at our house and my family would help anyone who needed it.

Posted by: scarry | September 21, 2006 11:26 AM

That is really weird that your company did that. I am surprised people want to work for your company. The federal government is the opposite. I think you have to prove you have other health coverage (from a spouse or retired military) in order to not pick up their coverage for at least yourself. That is really scary.

Posted by: NewName2 | September 21, 2006 11:27 AM

Can someone explain what this health insurance "birthday rule" is exactly? I don't get it.

Posted by: Confused | September 21, 2006 11:27 AM

Confused, a full explanation is here--
http://www.businessplansinc.com/newsletter_do_you_know_the_birthday_rule.htm

They put it better than I did.

Posted by: Ms L | September 21, 2006 11:28 AM

(this was back when I was married) My company actually paid me when I didn't pick up their insurance. The monthly amount was less than they would have paid to insure me (good for them) it was more than it cost me to be on my husband's plan (good for me) The reason they asked you prove alternate insurance before you took the cash was they were aware that many people who don't have insurance don't take proper care of their health (usually because they can't afford to) and when your health is suffering your productivity usually suffers as well, not to mention I think they may actually have cared just because they were good people.

Unfortuneately the company got bought out and the new owners suspended this win-win program. A move backwards not forwards.

Posted by: Divorced Mom of 1 | September 21, 2006 11:30 AM

Megan, I thought taxes were higher in Canada. Don't they have mandatory national health care? I guess I don't understand why it is cheaper to have a plant in Canada then in the US.

Posted by: NewName2 | September 21, 2006 11:35 AM

The birthday rule means that your child gets the health insurance of the parent whose birthday falls closer to the child's birthday within the calendar year. For example, my child's birthday is in February. My husbands is in June and mine is in Decemeber. If my husband had his own coverage, my son would be covered by my husband's insurance because his birthday is closer to my husband's than to mine.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 11:36 AM

alex. mom, I remember seeing an article a while back about Toyota deciding to locate a plant in Canada instead of Louisiana (this was before Katrina) and the major reason was that they would save so much money by not having to pay for health care. And I believe that in all the hype about WalMart cutting benefits, the CEO has hinted that it would be better if the govt stepped in so that companies were all on even ground and couldn't make health benefits or the lack thereof a competitive advantage.

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 11:36 AM

On Canadian plants -
http://www.cbc.ca/cp/business/050630/b0630102.html

For work flexibility my sister in law is a teacher, but her job offers what they call a "4 over 5" - you get four years' salary over five years and the fifth is off. She and her husband did that in consecutive years to have two years off with their kids.

Posted by: Shandra | September 21, 2006 11:43 AM

http://www.businessplansinc.com/newsletter_do_you_know_the_birthday_rule.htm

Do You Know The Birthday Rule?

by Doug Griffith

The Birthday Rule is an informal procedure used in the health insurance industry to help determine which health plan is considered "primary", when children are listed as dependents on multiple health plans.

This scenario occurs often among divorced parents. The parents include their children on each other's insurance plan to maximize coverage and to ensure that the child will be covered when visiting the other parent.

The insurance plans need to coordinate benefits so that the claim is paid properly. To prevent overpayment one parent's plan is designated as the primary plan and the other as a secondary plan. The Birthday Rule determines which plan is primary. It states that the health plan of the parent whose birthday comes first in the calendar year will be considered the primary plan.

Exceptions to the rule include parents that share the same birthday, divorced or separated parents, active employees and different plan types.

When parents have the same birthday, the parent which has had their plan longer pays first.

Where the parents are either divorced or separated, the plan of the parent who has legal custody will be considered primary. If the parent with custody is remarried, the new spouse's plan would then be considered secondary. The plan of the parent without custody would pay any additional expenses not covered.

If one spouse is currently employed and has insurance and the other spouse has coverage through a former employer (COBRA), the plan of the currently employed spouse would be primary.

Group plans are considered primary over individual plans.

Note: These are generally accepted rules, not laws. Always read your policy to fully understand the procedures your plan has in place.

----------

So if I understand this right, it's kind of a non-issue for many people. Parents who are married and together are unlikely to have two plans that both cover the kids (since at least in my experience, even if a company will pick up the tab for the employee, you would still be paying extra for any additional coverage, whether spouse and/or children). So you could still decide which parent (if both working and eligible for health benefits) had the better insurance and go with that.

"My company (megafinancial) started discouraging spouse health benefits last year. You have to prove s/he doesn't have benefits elsewhere (SAH, unemployed, WalMart, whatever) or else pay a stiff penalty + the monthly cost. Another cost-cutting move, probably the spousal cost will continue to rise."

How much does this really matter? Do a lot of people have double insurance out there?

Posted by: Confused | September 21, 2006 11:43 AM

Thank you, Confused. Everyone please ignore my incorrect explanation. Sorry.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 11:48 AM

To confused: I think fract'l example is different then the birthday rule. What his company is saying is they want to discourage their employees taking family coverage (one plan for the whole family) for just the employee and sposue. So in fract'l's company, if he had a wife, he would need his own coverage and his wife would have to go get her own insurance just to cover herself. And then on top of it, if they have kids, they would need a family plan (either fract'ls or his spouses) as well as an individual coverage because the spouse would not be covered on the fract'l's insurance. The company saves money by discouraging their married employees from using their insurance. If the spouse (not working for fract'l's comapny) had offers for family coverage, clearly fract'l would drop his coverage all together and take his/her spouses. It is really horrible on the companies part. Fract'l said kids were not discouraged to join the insurance because it looks bad.

Posted by: NewName2 | September 21, 2006 11:49 AM

alex. mom, I remember seeing an article a while back about Toyota deciding to locate a plant in Canada instead of Louisiana (this was before Katrina) and the major reason was that they would save so much money by not having to pay for health care. And I believe that in all the hype about WalMart cutting benefits, the CEO has hinted that it would be better if the govt stepped in so that companies were all on even ground and couldn't make health benefits or the lack thereof a competitive advantage.

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 11:36 AM
-----------------------------------------
I am not surprised. Money talks. There was a great article in the Atlantic Monthly a couple of months ago about a labor union guy going after WalMart by backing local government bills (like in MA) to force companies to pay health insurance costs for workers instead of forcing local/state Medicaid to pick up the tab. WalMart is, of course, fighting bills like this. I think WalMart and other big employers might just start backing a nationalized health care plan because it makes better business sense (increases their profits). Our health care system is extremely expensive and our care is not that good for a developed country (look at infant mortality rates.. etc).

Posted by: alex. mom | September 21, 2006 11:51 AM

Many companies do not charge much for covering the employee, but charge quite a lot for a spouse or family. So a DINK couple would each want to have his or her coverage and not get a "family policy." This is quite common for two-income families.

Posted by: Ms L | September 21, 2006 11:54 AM

alex. mom, I remember seeing an article a while back about Toyota deciding to locate a plant in Canada instead of Louisiana (this was before Katrina) and the major reason was that they would save so much money by not having to pay for health care. And I believe that in all the hype about WalMart cutting benefits, the CEO has hinted that it would be better if the govt stepped in so that companies were all on even ground and couldn't make health benefits or the lack thereof a competitive advantage.

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 11:36 AM >>

I am not surprised. Money talks. There was a great article in the Atlantic Monthly a couple of months ago about a labor union guy going after WalMart by backing local government bills (like in MA) to force companies to pay health insurance costs for workers instead of forcing local/state Medicaid to pick up the tab. WalMart is, of course, fighting bills like this. I think WalMart and other big employers might just start backing a nationalized health care plan because it makes better business sense (increases their profits). Our health care system is extremely expensive and our care is not that good for a developed country (look at infant mortality rates.. etc).

Posted by: alex. mom | September 21, 2006 11:54 AM

Father of 4 - In reference to you exhaustive reply - I failed to note that I was speaking of the non-flexible (inflexible?) jobs when I remarked that Gov't and employers can not be held resposible for child care issues. A Police Department can only do so much to make jobs flexible - there are no virtual cops on the street - except in the movies of course.

Posted by: cmac | September 21, 2006 11:56 AM

NewName2, I don't really know the details of how it all shakes out, but this is from the link that Shandra posted (Thank you, Shandra!):
In addition to lower training costs, Canadian workers are also $4 to $5 cheaper to employ partly thanks to the taxpayer-funded health-care system in Canada, said federal Industry Minister David Emmerson.

I think that with the national system, the costs are spread across all taxpayers. Here, it is expected that the employer pick up a share of the employee's insurance directly, and from what I understand that is more expensive than the increased taxes. For example, my past employers have picked up anywhere between $300 and $500 a month for each individual's premium - if you go on COBRA and suddenly have to pay your entire premium instead of just your employee contribution, you'll know just how big a deal that is.

Is there someone out there who understands the national systems in Canada and other places better and can post something?

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 11:57 AM

"So in fract'l's company, if he had a wife, he would need his own coverage and his wife would have to go get her own insurance just to cover herself. And then on top of it, if they have kids, they would need a family plan (either fract'ls or his spouses) as well as an individual coverage because the spouse would not be covered on the fract'l's insurance."

Was Fract'l's company somehow requiring that the spouse use whatever insurance was available from his/her job? Or did the company just want to make sure they weren't paying as primary on the spouse when the spouse's own coverage should have been primary? Once you get into family policies (usually), the cost is the same if the family is two or ten and that would include the spouse. It sounds very strange to me that once kids were in the picture, one parent would have to be individual while everyone else would be on a family plan. In that scenario, it seems like it would be best (if having to pay another premium) to NOT be covered by your own employer and just go with the family plan.

Posted by: Confused | September 21, 2006 12:00 PM

I showed my husband the earlier posts on "submissive wives" and he is still shaking his head in wonder.

Posted by: June | September 21, 2006 12:02 PM

to Confused: I think Fract'l's company was forcing people to have spouses use coverage from their own employeer instead of piggy backing on to his insurance. I think the ultimate goal is that they pick up family coverage from the spouses. That eliminates Fract'l's company from supplying any health care. But I may be misunderstanding it. I don't think it had to do with double coverage; like in the birthday rule.

Posted by: NewName2 | September 21, 2006 12:07 PM

Megan, I get it now. It seems as if the health care cost and risk is spread out to the entire country. Therefore each employer pays less to cover each employee. The law of large numbers:) I always here Americans saying that Canada is a bad place to live. Sounds like a pretty nice place to live to me.

Posted by: NewName2 | September 21, 2006 12:12 PM

and in Canada, George Bush is not the president!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 12:16 PM

I wish individual US citizens and small businesses could buy into the Federal Employee health plan. It seems like it could be a decent stop gap measure between national health insurance and what we have now. Since health insurance is what keeps people tied to employers, figuring out a way for people to insure themselves and their families for a reasonable cost could transform our economy.

For anyone interested in who does and does not have health coverage, this fascinating study primarily looks at longevity, but does include data on both health coverage and who actually goes to the doctor:
http://www.globalhealth.harvard.edu/Murrayetal-EightAmericas-PLoSMedicine2006_000.pdf.pdf

Posted by: yetanothersahm... | September 21, 2006 12:20 PM

To Fo4 - With that schedule, how did you find the time with your wife to father four children?

Posted by: Sam | September 21, 2006 12:21 PM

That's funny, NewName2, a lot of people I know are always speaking wistfully of living in Canada, I just don't know enough about it (like most Americans, I think) to really know. But having changed jobs a ridiculous number of times for my age, I can attest to the fact that I despise our current system of health care and would much prefer a system that I pay into and that is not attached to my job. And in fact, we are currently insuring ourselves with an HSA plan, as it was similar in cost to what I would get through my insurer and the idea of it not being tied to my job was so appealing. I don't think they are the solution on a national basis bc they really only work out if you are healthy when you sign up (otherwise you get exclusionary riders that make the coverage not worth it) and I think the tax breaks are geared more towards those in higher incomes and the young (though I don't really understand that point very well), but it's what's working for us at the moment.

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 12:22 PM

My employer's health plan covers me completely, but if I wanted to add my wife to it (not necessary since her company covers her but for example) I have to pay several hundred dollars a month. However, if I wanted to add children only (no spouse) to my health coverage, the cost is actually LESS!

Yes, that is right; I could add half a dozen children to my health insurance, and they would cost LESS to cover than if I added my wife. In fact, there is no "spouse only" category in the health plan; if you want to add your spouse you have to take the 'family' coverage, which would include spouse AND children (whether you've got any or not).

They've just recently given us new options in our health care choices, but the original state healthcare plan still has the same silly categories (personal, w/children, and family). No "w/spouse only" category still.

Posted by: John | September 21, 2006 12:24 PM

oops... I meant to write "Since health insurance is one thing that keeps people tied to employers, instead of becoming independent contractors"

Posted by: yetanothersahm... | September 21, 2006 12:25 PM

Anecdote (no stats claimed!) about a flexible, creative police officer-mom.

Long ago (about 13 years) in a galazy far away (Hyattsvile in PG. County), a bike-riding police officer-mom rode her police bike kitted out with a nifty, child seat (Brand=Companion Carrier). She dropped her toddler off at a small pre-school and went off on her shift as a BIKE POLICE OFFICER.

She and her shift-working husband figured this all out, for two kids and lots of job responsibilities.

So, sequencing your career to coordinate child care in the tender years MIGHT be possible even in police work.

Do I advocate an entire police-force of bikerc--community police officers?

Not sure. Ask a police officer.

Just wanted to share the story.

Posted by: College Parkian | September 21, 2006 12:25 PM

What some of the people I talked to said about Canada is that it is a welfare state and they earn less on average then Americans. But I always wondered if less money meant lower standard of living. If everything is cheaper on average in Canada, then it really doesn't matter if they make less overall. Is it hard to emigrate to Canada? I always thought if this country goes down, I am going to Canada. Not sure it is that easy to walk over the border but it sounded like a good plan. :)

Posted by: NewName2 | September 21, 2006 12:29 PM

John, there was a similar structure with my employers' plan - it was so screwy. And none of the plans we've been on since having our son distinguish based on the number of children, you just make a huge jump with child number one and that's it. With my employers' plan, my employee contribution for just myself would have been $90/month, for my family (3 of us) it would have been $900/month.

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 12:33 PM

On the submissive wife issue. Do women really want husbands that don't have the confidence to make the tough decisions?

Just by observation, I've noticed that the leadership ability of a man is a very desirable trait for women. On the other hand, Margaret Thatcher, Hillery Clinton, and Ms. Rice, even though I respect their leadership skills, just don't do it for me, but that's just me.

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 21, 2006 12:33 PM

"On the submissive wife issue. Do women really want husbands that don't have the confidence to make the tough decisions?"

Of course not. But women can be pretty capable of making tough decisions too.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 12:34 PM

newname 2,

I'm not sure but I think I saw a program on TV abouthow easy it was to go and live in Canada. They were talking about it being a breeding ground for terrorism too for that reason.

However, I always wonder the same thing about going to another country. Thinking, will they let me in if the country gets any wackier and I don't have any rights anymore! Can I just get on an airplane and say hello, Ireland, Spain, or Canada, here I am! :)

Posted by: scarry | September 21, 2006 12:38 PM

Wow Megan, 900/month! I think for federal employees family coverage (spouse without children or spouse and unlimited # of kids) is only approximately 2.5 times the price of single coverage. I always thought they made it that way, to discourage couples without children from taking a family plan, rather then two single plans (given they both have options to employee sponsored insurance). But 10 times the amount seems excessive. Maybe they were covering all possible risks. Like every family will go out and have 7+ children (highly unlikely).

Posted by: NewName2 | September 21, 2006 12:38 PM

Father of 4, talk about totally missing the point! Of course my husband has that confidence, he also is self-assured enough to respect my equal confidence and ability.


NewName2, I think it was a combination of the insurer's system and my employer's contirubtion - they basically pay the same amount regardless of what plan you have, whereas a lot of other employers increase their contribution if you have a family plan. When we were on my husbands insurance, our family plan was about twice as much as his individual plan, because his employer picked up the balance of the increase.

But yeah, the 10x thing really shocked me.

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 12:39 PM

We tag team and I work a reduced schedule. We did the math and it works out for us rather than having to pay for babysitters, child care. It does affect your marriage, you don't spend as much time together, but if your marriage is strong to begin with, you'll be fine. Sleepy (sleep is the thing most affected) but fine.

Posted by: Fairfax | September 21, 2006 12:50 PM

To scarry: I just emailed my Canadian friend and asked her how one could legally emigrate to Canada. She said she didn't know but she would ask around. She did say that the entire health care system is funded through taxes. She pays nothing when she goes to the doctor or hospital. They do pay for the prescription drugs but she has employeer sponsored drug coverage (actually it is called blue cross blue sheild). She doesn't pay extra for the drug coverage but that is dependent on the type of job you have.

Posted by: NewName2 | September 21, 2006 12:56 PM

Whatever happened to Dadwannabe? I enjoyed his posts, even if I didn't always agree.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 12:58 PM

>>> Can I just get on an airplane and say hello, Ireland, Spain, or Canada, here I am! :) <<<

I have long harbored fantasies about moving abroad to live. A couple of years ago, my husband and I were invited to move to New Zealand for a couple of years (he would have been a visiting professor). The downside about living abroad is that it is very difficult for Americans to get jobs in foreign countries. I would not have been permitted to work in NZ. America has a fairly open employment laws compared to other countries. My sister-in-law lives in India and could not get a job (even with two Masters degrees). Foreign countries/companies are not that open to giving American's jobs when you live abroad.

Posted by: alex. mom | September 21, 2006 12:59 PM

This country would have to change a GREAT deal for me to bail out.

In the meantime, I'll stay here and duke it out.

I'll hold the door for anyone who wants to leave.

Posted by: Marlo | September 21, 2006 1:06 PM

Each health care system has its flaws. Canada has better health results than the US and lower per-capita costs. But they do do some rationing/means testing. So my 90-year-old grandma would not have been able to charge $100K to the system to have her hip replaced, like she can here under Medicare. They also have brain drain through docs that train there and then seek more lucrative jobs in the US.

Basically, the US provides excellent health care for a smaller proportion of the population, and pretty terrible health care for those who can't afford insurance (or can afford only very poor insurance). However, it's not really realistic to expect affordable national health insurance unless we're willing to make some rationing or cost-benefit tradeoffs.

Posted by: Health expert | September 21, 2006 1:08 PM

To Rebecca in AR: I had an econ professor in grad school who used childcare as an example to discuss the importance of trust in facilitating economic transactions. With a grandparent or family friend, trust is automatic-- we assume these people have the best interests of the child at heart. If we have to pay a provider for childcare, however, we start looking for certifications, early childhood development training, etc. because these things serve as a proxy for trust. I.e., "I don't know you, but your center is licensed and your caregivers have safety training and education degrees, so I'll trust that you can take care of my child."

It's an interesting point given how the early childhood education industry has built up as the population has become more mobile and less likely to live near family. But I agree that a two year old is happy and well-off with a loving care-giver who simply provides a warm and safe environment-- regardless of whether flashcards and Baby Einstein are involved.

Posted by: JKR | September 21, 2006 1:13 PM

This country would have to change a GREAT deal for me to bail out.

In the meantime, I'll stay here and duke it out.

I'll hold the door for anyone who wants to leave.

yep, good way to start another fight for no reason.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 1:15 PM

Father of 4, my experience is that the desire to have other be unquestioningly submissive is a sign of weakness, not strength. Strong people are not afraid to be questioned, to admit mistakes, or to compromise. Weak people cling to their beliefs regardless of what happens and don't like to be challenged because they are afraid of being wrong.

I'd take a truly strong man over a weak one who wants submission in order to stoke his ego every day of the week.

Posted by: nutmeg | September 21, 2006 1:22 PM

Some of the flexible arrangments people have described are really awesome-- I especially love the 4 over 5 plan, that gives you a year off every 4 years! It seems like many employers do the opposite and try to get you to cram 5 years worth of work into 4!

Can some of the people who've found more flexible arrangements (job sharing, lower hours, flexible shifts, work from home, etc.) talk about what kind of management support they received? My impression is that a good manager will come up with (or be open to) creative solutions to help motivate their teams and keep workers productive, happy and contributing; on the other hand, I've seen plenty of so-called managers who don't like to spend any time on management and are very formulaic about it-- and get very preturbed by anyone who disturbs their cookie-cutter minimalist approach. Any comments/experience with this? How have your managers reacted to the flexibility issue?

Posted by: JKR | September 21, 2006 1:25 PM

I don't know that I'd characterize split-shift parenting as a "disaster" for the parents. Absence can make the heart grow fonder. For my son's first two years, my husband worked nights so that he could be home in the day and I would be home at night. He dropped my son off at my work at 4 on his way to work. It was a great arrangement. Now my son's in preschool and my husband has a day job and life is so much more difficult. We have to figure out who will take off for doctor's appts, sick days, etc. When we worked split shifts, it was so much less stress on our marriage. We just made the time we had together more quality time.

Posted by: Meagan | September 21, 2006 1:29 PM

No - I'd rather marry a man that could spell the names of prominent people in the news and didn't think reading over the summer is detrimental to their children.

Posted by: To F04 | September 21, 2006 1:29 PM

Is the quest for flexibility related to other societal issues? When we were kids, we were "latch key" from 6th grade on and never came to any harm. In my state, it is not legal to allow a child to stay home alone until age 12. Our middle school tried to initiate half day early dismissal instead of full day in service days - and a small group of vocal parents went ballistic, complaining that their kids would be home unsupervised on one or two afternoons a month. I don't get it. Don't the kids need to learn responsibility in such small doses? The school did a full parent survey and 90% agreed with early dismissal. Of those who did not, only 2% volunteered to help devise supervised after school activities for the early release days!

I work a 40 hour week with no at-home option. I do think I'd jump at the 30 or 32 hour week option and/or one day of working at home if it were offered.

Posted by: SS | September 21, 2006 1:34 PM

>As far as those soul sucking jobs go--hourly (low) pay, overseer managers, etc., it is a great way to motivate people to get an education! People do not usually make a career out of those jobs. I think it is a wonderful rite-of-passage for teens to work in the food service industry or a factory. <<

How insulting!

Are you kidding me? There are literally millions of people in this country who are simply not candidates for higher education, either because of the cost or because they're just not academically-oriented people. You seem to think that the only people working in factories are teenagers or temps on their way to a "real" career. Get serious. These jobs you're sneering at are legitimate, respectable jobs.

My dad has worked in a manufacturing plant at an hourly wage all of his adult life. It is not a "rite of passage" for him, it's a responsible way to make a living. And his soul is just fine, thank you.

Posted by: to parttimer | September 21, 2006 1:46 PM

Re 12 and up home alone TOO much. Stakes are higher, now. Less social cohesiveness. I don't think children are likely to be kidnapped, although so many people do not let their children play outside or walk home from school thinking that this this is a significant risk.

But what is at stake is in basements and bedrooms.

For one, the viewing of porn both hard and soft on computers by "good" boys and girls (yes, pink children too) is a real problem.

Ask any therapist about the new risks posed by our culture.

Some of this is loneliness and boredom. Many tweens and teens don't want to go to "after care" programs. Not all kids are connected to afterschool activities. Many of these activities happen in the evening now, since we parents are now home (just barely) to start the driving between ballet and violin.

One friend calls the hours between 4 and 6, the Sex and Drugs and RocknRoll hours.

Now, most children manage this quite well.

But, parents and the network of caring adults need to create their presence even in the absence.

Make sense?

Posted by: College Parkian | September 21, 2006 1:52 PM

Fo4-- Yes, I want (and have) a man with the confidence to make tough decisions. I also want (and have) a man with the confidence to engage in joint decision making and to also let me make the tough decisions sometimes. Sure, no one wants a patsy; but who wants a dictator? My man is strong enough to be married to a strong woman-- we have a nice balance and know how to compromise.

By the way, re: your earlier comment about Hillary, Thatcher, et. al. I actually read an article once where a former British cabinet secretary described Thatcher as incredibly sexy-- believe it or not, the man said that power is incredibly attractive, and she was a very powerful woman, not just by virtue of her position, but due to the force of her character and overall persona. Apparently, some men do dig a strong woman.

Too bad there's not more of that going around: on the way to work this morning I saw a billboard with a well known young actress posed and made up to look like an emaciated, half-starved, half-high prostitute looking beseechingly into the camera for either another shot of heroine or possibly a ham sandwich... this was an ad for the sexy clothing chain, Bebe. The model looked like she could barely stand, totally weak, but this ad is ostensibly supposed to be uber-sexy. Personally, I'd rather see a billboard of, say, a pregnant Angelina Jolie sitting behind a desk in a power suit looking like she's about to kick some corporate a$$... but I guess I'm in the minority.

Posted by: JKR | September 21, 2006 2:00 PM

Fo4-- Yes, I want (and have) a man with the confidence to make tough decisions. I also want (and have) a man with the confidence to engage in joint decision making and to also let me make the tough decisions sometimes. Sure, no one wants a patsy; but who wants a dictator? My man is strong enough to be married to a strong woman-- we have a nice balance and know how to compromise.

By the way, re: your earlier comment about Hillary, Thatcher, et. al. I actually read an article once where a former British cabinet secretary described Thatcher as incredibly sexy-- believe it or not, the man said that power is incredibly attractive, and she was a very powerful woman, not just by virtue of her position, but due to the force of her character and overall persona. Apparently, some men do dig a strong woman.

Too bad there's not more of that going around: on the way to work this morning I saw a billboard with a well known young actress posed and made up to look like an emaciated, half-starved, half-high prostitute looking beseechingly into the camera for either another shot of heroine or possibly a ham sandwich... this was an ad for the sexy clothing chain, Bebe. The model looked like she could barely stand, totally weak, but this ad is ostensibly supposed to be uber-sexy. Personally, I'd rather see a billboard of, say, a pregnant Angelina Jolie sitting behind a desk in a power suit looking like she's about to kick some corporate a$$... but I guess I'm in the minority.

Posted by: JKR | September 21, 2006 2:00 PM

Sorry for the double post-- don't know how that happened...

Posted by: JKR | September 21, 2006 2:01 PM

I'd actually like to add that some manufacturing jobs don't pay that bad. GM and ford employees make good money and the plants are in a low cost of living areas mostly. I also agree that everyone can't go to college in this country and that there will always have to be jobs to sustain these people. And on that note, God save manufacturing because a country that can't or doesn't produce steel, clothing, materials, etc will be in a world of hurt if there is ever a another world war, but I guess some people don't get that in big business.

I also don't' think parttimer meant to offend you with the post. She's a teacher, talk about a hard, tiring job. Now I am getting off of my manufacturing soap box!

Posted by: scarry | September 21, 2006 2:04 PM

Except that Ford is busily cutting about half their manufacturing jobs in this country due to rising costs they can no longer afford. Like many other manufacturing jobs here, they are leaving for other countries where the costs of employment are so much lower.

Posted by: John | September 21, 2006 2:11 PM

I have always been wary of men who insist that their gender naturally means that they should be the leaders and decision-makers in their families. The fact that they claim that their male status affords them this right just means that they have no other rational claim to it.

There are plenty of men out there, thankfully, who value strong, smart, independent women. The fact that FO4 is not attracted to the likes of Hilary Clinton, Condoleeza Rice, or Margaret Thatcher says more about him that about them. (And maybe, it could just be sour grapes because they are sooo wayyyy out of his league.) Maybe some men aren't confident enough to have a strong, smart, powerful wife. Which is fine, because strong, smart, powerful women would not want those men anyway.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 2:12 PM

Not that anyone has said specifically that blue collar workers don't make a lot of money - I think most of us know that is not the case. My cousin has worked for Chrysler on the manufacturing line for about 10 years - he makes over a 100,000$ a year - lives in Cleveland where the cost of living is pretty low (of course it is still Cleveland - sorry to all you Clevelanders). My plumber and electrician drive nicer cars and live in bigger houses than I do - and neither went to college. There are 100's of examples of high paying blue collar workers - of course depending on where you live the definition of high paying is relative.

Posted by: cmac | September 21, 2006 2:20 PM

JKR, I think there are two qualities that go a long way in a manager in general, but particularly with regard to making flexible arrangments succeed: confidence and respect. My current boss and I negotiated a set up where I work from home 4 days and go to the office 1 day a week. He is an excellent boss and the arrangement has worked out really well. He gets me the information and feedback I need from him in a timely manner, is always open to suggestions and changes, and treats me well. So long as I work hard and do a good job, he's willing to give me what I need to make it work.

In another job, I proposed working from home 1 day a week, and although I got approval the whole arrangment was like pulling teeth. That boss, though wonderful in many ways, was very used to being catered to and really had very little respect for his employees. He didn't manage his time well so expected us to sit around with nothing to do until 6 or 6:30 in the evening when he would finally make time to meet with us. That made it hard to not have me in the office all the time, because he basically expected us to be there whenever he wanted to work on something, rather than scheduling anything ahead of time, working towards set deadlines etc. Also, I think he just felt that the setup was a threat to his authority.

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 2:22 PM

"I actually read an article once where a former British cabinet secretary described Thatcher as incredibly sexy-- believe it or not, the man said that power is incredibly attractive, and she was a very powerful woman, not just by virtue of her position, but due to the force of her character and overall persona."

Elizabeth I is an excellent example of a powerful, decisive woman who knew exactly how to leverage the idea of feminine dithering into one of the main pillars of her reign. If you read her ministers' letters, they're always moaning about how she just can't make up her mind. Yeah; just can't make up her mind like a fox.

Posted by: Lizzie | September 21, 2006 2:27 PM

Innovation and creativity are American hallmarks. Given the many remarkable inventions and technological advances people have come up with in this country, I've got to believe companies and employees and our government can solve this particular problem of how to build flexibility into inherently inflexbile jobs.

Simply put, it's not that big a problem, compared to inventing the telephone or the automobile or the computer.

The key is a collective cultural desire to make it possible to combine working and parenthood or whatever else floats one's boat. I see lots of progress -- but also a discouraging number of roadblocks and collective inertia.

Posted by: Leslie | September 21, 2006 2:34 PM

As far as those soul sucking jobs go--hourly (low) pay, overseer managers, etc., it is a great way to motivate people to get an education! People do not usually make a career out of those jobs. I think it is a wonderful rite-of-passage for teens to work in the food service industry or a factory. <<

I was actually replying to the person who was offended by this. I like Cleveland, but you probably already know that :)

John, I know what you are saying about the jobs leaving to go overseas and I have to say I blame the company and the unions. The unions don't want to compromise on benefits and pay until they absolutely have to. The company wants cheaper labor.

My father in law retired from GM and got mad when they instituted the new rules about benefits. He's mad because he has to pay a co-pay, I feel like telling him, welcome to the real world. I pay double what you do, but of course I can't because someone will pop me a good one back there for saying anything perceived as being anti-union, which I'm not. I just think they both need to compromise.

Posted by: scarry | September 21, 2006 2:37 PM

"No - I'd rather marry a man that could spell the names of prominent people in the news and didn't think reading over the summer is detrimental to their children."

Poor Fo4 is going to get hammered over that comment until NEXT summer. Let it go, folks!

Posted by: Dad of 2 | September 21, 2006 2:40 PM

Let it go? He asked a question. People are just answering it. :)

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 2:41 PM

It's the afternoon which means that it is about time for scarry's stalker to wake up. Everyone get ready to igonre him!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 2:42 PM

Poor Fo4 is going to get hammered over that comment until NEXT summer. Let it go, folks!

And rightly so. He should get hammered over it. Women are told to let it go too often. FO4 is sexist. Believing that women should be submissive to men is like saying that blacks should be submissive to to whites. Gender discrimination is not and should not be considered any less offensive than race discrimination or other kinds of discrimination. We have come so far in some respects, but some people think it is still okay to demean women. And we are supposed to laugh it off and pretend it did not happen. Gender discrimination is not acceptable. We need to start shouting this from the rooftops and stop giving passes to idiots who think it is funny. Women, as a class, have been more oppressed over the centuries than any other class of people (and unfortunately, we have been programmed to go along with it to make do). It is not okay to condone it or laugh about or shrug it off. It is offensive, and it is okay to call people on it.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 2:43 PM

>>> John, I know what you are saying about the jobs leaving to go overseas and I have to say I blame the company and the unions. The unions don't want to compromise on benefits and pay until they absolutely have to. The company wants cheaper labor. <<<

While I am hardly the pro-labor union person, I have to say the labor union isn't at fault here. The average American worker hasn't seen a pay increase in some time. Meanwhile, CEOs and shareholders are livin' large, as the kids say. Why should the average worker compromise when the CEO is making so much more? It seems to me that in corporate America, the rich are living off the backs of the workers. I don't think labor unions are to blame in this case.

Posted by: alex. mom | September 21, 2006 2:51 PM

Guys, I think there are two people posting named fo4. Because I think the one that had the kid that failed reading had a wife who was home schooling. So how could that be todays fo4. He says his wife works as a nurse at night. Unless, god forbid, she home schools, then works nights. When does she sleep? Now, I am really hoping this is a different fo4.

Posted by: NewName2 | September 21, 2006 2:51 PM

Yeah, plus, he asked the question continuing a conversation from yesterday - he obviously doesn't want to let it go so why should we?

Posted by: nutmeg | September 21, 2006 2:54 PM

Ever since I reached puberty, I've always treated females as the superior sex, and this I am passing on to my sons. I will also teach them that any abuse of authority intrinsically weakens the strength of the leadership.

I also think that any husband who rationalizes an absolute authority over a relationship by "Because I'm the man" is not only a tyrant, but would probably make a very poor husband.

I do have a question for Megan, or anyone else so elegant with words that can explain this to me:
Why is it that
1. We find it respectable for citizens to submit to authority as set by the laws of the community.
2. We find it respectable for students to submit to the authority of their teachers and behave accordingly.
3. We find it respectable for employees to submit to the authority of their bosses and try to achieve the goals as set by their reasonable expectations.
But,
when a woman who pledges her union whith the man she loves until separated by death and decides to let the tiebreakers go to him...
Why does this draw so much disrespect and hostility? I don't understand.

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 21, 2006 2:54 PM

alex. mom,

You are partly right. However, when my father in law retired he was making 70,000 a year in a low cost of living with full benefits and a pension. I see nothing wrong with the workers paying for some of their benefits like I do and paying into a 401K. I think the CEOs should also take a pay cut when they expect workers to take one. They cut a lot of salary jobs to at GM but I didn't hear my father in law complaining about that when we visited.

I agree that things need to be fair for everyone and I am against things being moved from the country because it affects my community and family, but the unions have to understand that they don't need huge raises every year and full paid benefits either. I think both sides have issues.

Posted by: scarry | September 21, 2006 2:54 PM

Right on, Rockville!

And G's Mom, that's really interesting about the stifling of entrepreneurs and the effect on the economy, I'd love to find more information on that.

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 2:56 PM

The thing I want most is to somehow separate benefits from full time employment. My company would let me go down to part time hours, but I'd lose access to the 401k, the health insurance, and the affordable disability and life insurance that they offer. I could manage on the reduced salary if that was the only cut, but I can't cover all those benefits I'd lose. My husband's employer doesn't offer any benefits at all, so we don't have any options there either.

Why should it be that only people who work for certain companies a certain number of hours per week get access to benefits?

I think I even read someplace that there is a trend of would-be entrepreneurs who are keeping their day jobs just for the benefits, instead of starting their own business, and that this is beginning to stifle overall national progress and economic development.

Posted by: G's Mom | September 21, 2006 2:57 PM

Tofo4: I have to ask, are you the same fo4, who had the kid who failed reading and homeschools? I am getting confused.

Posted by: NewName2 | September 21, 2006 2:58 PM

As others reading this blog point out from time to time, the vast majority of folks who read and comment here are white collar or upper income or part-time employed or all of the above. I hope this doesn't come as news flash, but the vast majority of working parents in this country have almost zero flexibility over their work hours because of the nature of their work. If you are a waitress, the only flexibility you might have is temporarily switching shifts with someone. If you work an assembly line, flexing is pretty hard. If you are in retail, see the waitress example. Team teaching is nothing new (I remember being team taught back in the '60's) but teachers make so damn little and school districts contracts are generally such that teaching elementary school part time to accommodate teaching parents is pretty rare.
As for those who say tough luck that your job isn't flexible, adjust your life to achieve flexibility, I would point out that nearly all of us work because we need the check, not out of some need for personal fulfillment (which would make for a more flexible attitude toward work.) Personal fulfillment is what hobbies and family are for.

Posted by: wihntr | September 21, 2006 3:01 PM

The average worker should compromise because she wants to keep her job.

Companies are answerable to stockholders for profits. If unions do not compromise reasonably (I think the example given was insurance co-pays which are common), the corporation will move jobs overseas when it makes financial sense to do so. It is not about fairness (the CEO gets paid a fortune, so I am entitled to a raise), it is about what the company's options are. Nobody can make a company be "fair" because the company does not owe it to anyone to keep a job available in the US when it can get that same job done at a lower price elsewhere.

By the way, I am a supporter of collective bargaining. I think everyone should be paid what they are worth and unions provide the negotiating ability to millions of workers.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 3:01 PM

Father of 4 asked:
1. We find it respectable for citizens to submit to authority as set by the laws of the community.
2. We find it respectable for students to submit to the authority of their teachers and behave accordingly.
3. We find it respectable for employees to submit to the authority of their bosses and try to achieve the goals as set by their reasonable expectations.
But,
when a woman who pledges her union whith the man she loves until separated by death and decides to let the tiebreakers go to him...
Why does this draw so much disrespect and hostility? I don't understand.

Because in the first example in a democracy we all should have a say in the laws. In the second example teachers are supposed to be more knowledgable. In the third example that is part of the deal - you pay me money I do what you say and again the manager the owner, etc is supposed to be more experienced or in the case of the owner more at risk.
The problem with the fourth example is that it assumes that men are superior. The discussion has not been in each marriage you need someone to be a tie breaker, but the examples are using religion to say it should be the man. The idea is that marriage should be an equal partnership.

Someday when your son gets married how are you going to feel if he says
" I pledged a union with the woman I love until separated by death and decided to let the tiebreakers go to her..."

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 3:08 PM

I'm a bigoted fool.

I have three daughters and whole heartedly believe they can accomplish whatever they want. My wife is a SAHM but is a hair stylist part time. She works weekends because I can take care of the kids.

We have both agreed that we are choosing a little less in the VLI category so she can be at home with the kids.

Almost daily she calls and tells me what new grand adventure our 7, 5, and 2 y.o. daughters are having. And it makes me mad. I would much rather be at home with my kids than dealing with my co-workers. But my wife refuses to go to the Paul Mitchell academy of hair design for further training so she can replace my income. She's evil I tell you. She loves to tell me how horrible she has it, but let me tell you, I'd switch with her in a minute to spend more time with my daughters.

And of course she has flexibility in her schedule. Meaning she does what she wants when she wants. My job, not very flexible in that regard.

So again, the grass is greener on the other side of the fence because of all the crap in their yard.

I think I'll call my wife and tell her she needs to quit eating bon-bons and have my slippers and dinner ready as soon as I get home. (That was a joke, laugh.)

Gee whiz some of you are so petty. Men included.

Posted by: Mr. EstrogenCentral | September 21, 2006 3:08 PM

FO4, I'll take a crack at it.

1. We find it respectable for citizens to submit to authority as set by the laws of the community.
Because the community (at least in a democracy) elects its leaders, who make the laws which represent the wishes of a majority of the community. And if the citizens don't like the laws, they can throw the bums out at the next election. People's voices are heard, and in a pluralistic society, many many interests are represented by the government. The system does not say, you blue eyed people make the laws and you brown eyed people obey them. Maybe not everyone is happy with the outcome of the laws at all times, but at least there is a chance for everyone to cast their vote and be heard, regardless of race, religion, and gender.

2. We find it respectable for students to submit to the authority of their teachers and behave accordingly.
Because authority figures, such as teachers and parents, are wiser than (students) through the virtue of their age, experience, and education.

3. We find it respectable for employees to submit to the authority of their bosses and try to achieve the goals as set by their reasonable expectations.
Because the employers are PAYING the employee for a particular service. If the employee does not like the job, he/she is free to get another one.

But,
when a woman who pledges her union whith the man she loves until separated by death and decides to let the tiebreakers go to him...
Why does this draw so much disrespect and hostility? I don't understand.

Because the idea that a women should defer to the man when there is a tie is inherently sexist. It suggests that somehow, the woman's decisionmaking ability is not as good as the man's, or that she is somehow inferior to the man. It gives the man arbitrary power over the woman. If you believe that men and woman are equals, there is no rational explanation for this arrangement other than sexism.

And I have a couple of questions for you, F04: If you believe that women are the superior sex, what gives you the right to wield even benevolent authority over your wife? If she is superior, why shouldn't she be the one to decide the tiebreakers?


Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 3:10 PM

"when a woman who pledges her union whith the man she loves until separated by death and decides to let the tiebreakers go to him...
Why does this draw so much disrespect and hostility? I don't understand"

This is inherently inequitable because the submission is based soley on the fact that one has a penis (usually) and the other person doesn't. Can't you see how ugly and degrading this is to both parties?

Posted by: June | September 21, 2006 3:10 PM

And to Father of 4 --

There's something about the word "submissive" that triggers a knee-jerk hysteria in people, who don't even try to understand what you really mean.

As far as I can tell you're talking about a husband having the confidence to make decisions for his family, in consultation with your wife. Which of course makes you a total jerk, right? ;-)

Posted by: G's Mom | September 21, 2006 3:13 PM

(As far as I can tell you're talking about a husband having the confidence to make decisions for his family, in consultation with your wife. Which of course makes you a total jerk, right? ;-)

Nope, he did not say that. He said that in a tie, the man gets to make the ultimate decision. Not the same thing.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 3:14 PM

"Someone brought up health benefits. My company (megafinancial) started discouraging spouse health benefits last year. You have to prove s/he doesn't have benefits elsewhere (SAH, unemployed, WalMart, whatever) or else pay a stiff penalty + the monthly cost. Another cost-cutting move, probably the spousal cost will continue to rise.

...Usually my company is a little ahead of the curve on cost-cutting measures."

And I thought this was the norm. My husband and I have worked in both government and private sector jobs in the past ten years and never known anything else.

It makes sense to me. I don't see anything wrong with companies not wanting to cover spouses who have access to health coverage through their own employer.

Posted by: MBA Mom | September 21, 2006 3:14 PM

F04 asks:"Why is it that
1. We find it respectable for citizens to submit to authority as set by the laws of the community.
2. We find it respectable for students to submit to the authority of their teachers and behave accordingly.
3. We find it respectable for employees to submit to the authority of their bosses and try to achieve the goals as set by their reasonable expectations.
But,
when a woman who pledges her union whith the man she loves until separated by death and decides to let the tiebreakers go to him...
Why does this draw so much disrespect and hostility? I don't understand."

This one is EASY. Because the "authority" in each of the examples you cited has had years of learning and ownership and developed characteristics that other people in society have decided should garner them the power to speak with authority. We don't give politicians, educators and bosses authority because of any inherent, inherited biological differences like the submissive culture of marriage is based on. The knee-jerk submission of one biological group to another, be it light skin - dark skin, male - female, etc. is inherently and by definition wrong because the 'authorities' in these groups didn't do anything to develop skills that make them more eligible to be tie breakers other than becoming members of the lucky sperm club. THAT'S WHY.

Posted by: Augh | September 21, 2006 3:23 PM

Wow, Father of 4, that's a whopper of a question, but I'll give it a go, hopefully I can do it justice.

In the example of a government and citizens, most theories of democratic governance that I'm familiar with center on the idea that we willingly give up some of our natural freedoms in order to reap the benefits of an ordered society. But the government's authority comes from us, and is in a sense only an extension of our own authority. So it is not so much that we are submitting to an outside person or entity, as we are agreeing to police our own actions through the goverment.

With schools and employers, it's harder to make the same analogy, but I would note that in each of those situations, you are giving up some of your freedom in order to gain something - you follow the teachers' rules in exchange for an education, you follow your employer's rules in exchange for money. Although students don't have a lot of choice in reality, in theory at least there's a voluntary exchange of power for something else. Also, the scope of the exchange is very limited.

A marriage, in my mind, is different from either of those. I did not get married in order to gain anything in particular from my husband, I got married because I want to share my life with him. ALthough of course, in doing so I've gained enormously in many ways, it's not an exchange where I give up my natural freedoms in order to get something from him.

When a woman says that she will submit to her husband, I think it takes on the quality of some sort of exchange of her fundamental, personal freedoms and power for something else, and to me, that degrades the marriage and the individuals involved. Even worse, such an agreement connotes old conceptions of marriage in which the woman had to submit to her husband's will because she had no independent legal authority of her own; a married woman did not have the same legal status of any man.

I think two people come to a marriage as equals and as loving partners, and there should be no need to have one agree to be submissive to the other - each should have in their hearts the desire to please, care for, and nurture the other, meaning that each will see the need to give in sometimes. Saying that it will always be one that submits to me shows some sort of lack of common respect between them. And in a marriage, of all places, that should not be the case.

That's the best I can do, I'm afraid - good thing it's a slow day at work!

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 3:23 PM

Get it now?

Posted by: To F04 | September 21, 2006 3:25 PM

I'm a little confused. Several people have posted truly excellent responses to the first three parts of Fatherof4s question -- you could hand those out as civics lessons or reprint them as op-eds. However, nobody seems to have answered his fourth point. The responses appear to assume that the question requires mandatory submission, an assumption that men are superior, etc. If it did this it would truly be insulting.

But what Fof4 actually asked was why people get so upset when a woman "decides" to let tiebreakers go to her husband. As I read it, this implies that the woman has a choice, has thought the matter through, and has determined that, for whatever reasons she finds good, that is her preferred resolution to particular issues in their relationship. It is a good question, but not one that can be answered by resort to gender stereotypes.

Posted by: lurker | September 21, 2006 3:28 PM

"Why is it that
1. We find it respectable for citizens to submit to authority as set by the laws of the community.
2. We find it respectable for students to submit to the authority of their teachers and behave accordingly.
3. We find it respectable for employees to submit to the authority of their bosses and try to achieve the goals as set by their reasonable expectations.
But,
when a woman who pledges her union whith the man she loves until separated by death and decides to let the tiebreakers go to him...
Why does this draw so much disrespect and hostility?"

Ummm, wow. Short answer is because in those examples, there is a clear acknowledgement by all involved that the laws of the community, teachers, and bosses are a legitimate "authority" over the citizens, students, and employees. Whereas when I married my husband, I agreed to a union of equals -- not to be submissive to a new authority figure (that whole "obey" thing just would never have worked for me).

Simply by phrasing the question as "submitting to authority," you are implying that the man, by mere virtue of his gender, holds a God-given "authority" over the woman, again by mere virtue of her gender. Whether that "authority" is exercised properly or improperly is absolutely beside the question -- it is the very presumption of an innate, gender-based authority that is abhorrent to quite a few people. In fact, it sounds very similar to the kinds of arguments that have historically been made to justify rampant gender discrimination in jobs, sports, schools, etc.

If you believe that God granted you that position of authority, and believe you hold a sacred responsibility to exercise that authority properly, then more power to you. I respect that belief, and hope you have found a wife who shares those beliefs. But to me, talking about being "submissive" to my husband implies that I am a second-class citizen who just needs to know and accept my "place" -- something I would never accept from someone I love and to whom I have committed myself.

In my family, we don't need one to be the "authority" (no matter how carefully that responsibility is exercised) and the other to "submit" (no matter how graciously). We both have the same goals for our family, so we cooperate, we negotiate, and if we get to one of those issues that is hugely sticky, then we defer to the person to whom it matters most. If he EVER so much as suggested that I should defer to him as the man of the house, well, after recovering from my fit of hysterical laughter, I would likely call the doctor to see if he was feeling well, because that's just not how we relate to each other.

Posted by: Laura | September 21, 2006 3:30 PM

father of 4,

You know I love ya, but I just can't agree with you on this one. HOwever, if people choose to live their life that way and neither party is being harmed, then what is it hurting.

Although I have a question for you. What about favorite daughter, what if she married someone who was not nice, but didn't feel she could stand up to him becuase of this rule? Not judging, just asking

Posted by: scarry | September 21, 2006 3:31 PM

Ok! Ok! You all have me pegged. I have no problem admitting that I'm sexist. I've mentioned it many times. Females are the superior sex! It's my story and I'm sticking with it!

It is not my intention to assert any male dominent attitude with gender roles on this board. However, I do like to hear from other married couples the way they go about handling their own personal conflicts. What the heck, it's anonymous.

NewName2, my daughter did fail her reading comprehension exams and she goes to public school, which I like to complain about. My brother and his wife homeschool and I think I might have posted something about this at one time.

And if anybody likes to rant and hammer me, please do. I make a good listener.

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 21, 2006 3:32 PM

'Submission' carries more emotional freight than say 'surrender.'

Iris Krasnow, femininst and mother and wife, writes about both motherhood (family) and marriage with a concept of surrender, rather than submission.

Krasnow's accent is on mutual and fair and "aware" surrender.

(She would be an interesting guest columnist but might bother or irritate working-out-of-home moms. So, balance the On Balance column with a working-mom author the next day.)

Anyway, surrender to life carries a broad lesson: so much is out of our control. Do your best. Manners help.

Personally? I like to take turns based on who feels more strongly or has better knowledge or even a "hunch" on the topic.

Posted by: College Parkian | September 21, 2006 3:34 PM

If she'd bother or irritate working out of home moms, I'm guessing she's a "feminist" just like Phyllis Schlafly is.

Posted by: To college parkian | September 21, 2006 3:35 PM

"each should have in their hearts the desire to please, care for, and nurture the other, meaning that each will see the need to give in sometimes. Saying that it will always be one that submits to me shows some sort of lack of common respect between them. "

Megan, I don't think Fo4, or anyone here, ever said that one spouse will *always* submit to the other. Just that in a tie-breaker situation, one person has to break the tie. It seems to me from his posts that Fo4 has a great deal of respect and affection for his wife.

I'd trust my husband to make the final call on a tough decision, and I'm no fool. I don't think that makes me not his equal, either.

Y'all need to relax a little bit!

Posted by: G's Mom again | September 21, 2006 3:39 PM

But what Fof4 actually asked was why people get so upset when a woman "decides" to let tiebreakers go to her husband. As I read it, this implies that the woman has a choice, has thought the matter through, and has determined that, for whatever reasons she finds good, that is her preferred resolution to particular issues in their relationship. It is a good question, but not one that can be answered by resort to gender stereotypes.

Yes it is. The assumption, given our sexist society, that women are freely and without pressure choosing to allow their husbands to be the tiebreakers is bs. If it weren't, then men would be allowing their wives to be the tiebreakers in the same proportions, which isn't happening. A woman who allows her husband to be the tie breaker is considered a good wife who knows her place. A man who does the same is a hen-pecked pansy. Given those societal dynamics, you cannot truly say that women make this decision because it is their free choice. They make it because a paternalistic society has made them think this is the right thing to do. They do it because they have been programmed to believe that men are superior. Thinking that women would do this freely does not take into account the history of our society. It is not a truly free choice, as much as people would like to frame it that way.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 3:43 PM

Right on, Rockville!

I would add to the excellent answers to Fo4's question this:

The first three situations you described involve social, political and/or economic interaction among large numbers of people. We defer to authority partially because of the implicit social contract that says, "Hey, want the benefits of organized society? Gotta follow some rules." Without a leader (or with everyone wanting to be chief) a town, school, or company could quickly fall into utter chaos.

In a personal relationship between two people, however, consensus is not an outlandish or unattainable goal. To the contrary, deferring consistently to one party creates an uneven power dynamic in what should fundamentally be an equal relationship.

Next time there is a tie and consensus is impossible, might I suggest a coin toss?

And I have a question for you: would it ever occur to you to tell your best male friend that you get final decision on all disagreements between you (e.g. where to go for a beer or a bite, where to take the kids on a playdate?)? If you do make all the decisions about where to go and what to do with friends, how do you justify it to them?

Posted by: JKR | September 21, 2006 3:47 PM

G's Mom, the tie breakers are the ones that matter - if the people agree, or one doesn't care much, then there's not an issue. It's the decisions where both partners have equally strong feelings that are hard to resolve, and therefore, saying you will always give in even if you feel equally strongly is a big deal.

I trust my husband too, and it would never occur to me to ask him to always let me break the ties, or to say that I will always let him break the ties. We have so much love and respect for each other, it's just not necessary. We make decisions together, and we take equal responsibility for those decisions. If I decide to go with his approach on something and it later doesn't work out, that's not something that I hold against him because it was a joint decision, and vice versa.

And frankly, I really disagree with your comment that "Y'all need to relax a little bit." Father of 4 asked a serious question in the spirit of learning from each other, and most of answered it in the same spirit. I see nothing wrong with that, in fact, days where we share our ideas on the fundamental meaning of marriage are some of the more interesting.

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 3:50 PM

Megan, I don't think Fo4, or anyone here, ever said that one spouse will *always* submit to the other. Just that in a tie-breaker situation, one person has to break the tie. It seems to me from his posts that Fo4 has a great deal of respect and affection for his wife.

You need to re-read what FO4 said:
"hen a woman who pledges her union whith the man she loves until separated by death and decides to let the tiebreakers go to him..."

I interpret that to mean that at the time of the vows, the woman decides to let her husband decide the tie-breakers. All of them. Not some of them. FO4, correct me if I'm wrong.

Yes, I'm sure he loves his wife. That is not the issue.

Posted by: to g's mom | September 21, 2006 3:52 PM

Maybe G's mom wasn't here yesterday. The whole debate started when talking of financial advisor Michelle Singletary, who says she submits to the authority of her husband (leaving some to wonder why one should take her advice when she would take his tie-breaker on all matters, including financial).

Posted by: Ms L | September 21, 2006 3:52 PM

Megan, I'm definitely interested in everyone's ideas. The thing is, these trigger words result in posts like anonymous:
"Given those societal dynamics, you cannot truly say that women make this decision because it is their free choice. They make it because a paternalistic society has made them think this is the right thing to do. They do it because they have been programmed to believe that men are superior."

Now, I have not been PROGRAMMED to do any such thing, thank you very much! That's just silly. How feeble-minded do you think us women are?

See, It's posts like that that I just can't take seriously at all, and make me think that if any of y'all here AGREE with that anon. poster, well I can't take y'all very seriously either. You're just trying to write the "correct" modern feminist thing to say.

I have a very happy, loving and mutually respectful partnership with my husband, and I don't think that's incompatible with one person being the leader on certain occasions. P.S., I am a feminist, too.

Posted by: G's Mom | September 21, 2006 3:53 PM

Ok, so while I was posting, a lot of others beat me to it. Lurker, you asked "why people get so upset when a woman 'decides' to let tiebreakers go to her husband." Personally, I don't care how one individual couple decides to run their lives -- if they sit down and decide that he chooses, she chooses, they alternate every other Wednesday, they flip a coin -- whatever, who cares?

Why "people get so upset" is that it is NOT just an individual couple figuring out what works for them. It is an entire religious movement that tells millions of believers that it is the woman's "place" to "submit," merely by virtue of her gender. So not just "Jane decided to let Jim have the final call," but "God says Jim decides."

Why do I get upset by this? I get upset at the resurrection of the age-old argument that God thinks I am a second-class citizen. I get upset because, as I said before, that is the very type of argument that has historically been used to keep women in the home, not voting, not owning property, etc. etc. etc.

Yes, in a single case, it is a private matter. But across millions of believers, it has very public ramifications. How do you think that view of gender roles translates to the workforce? How likely is a man to promote a woman if he believes that men are granted ultimate authority by God? How likely is a man to respect his female coworker's ideas and opinions when he believes that men are born to be the ultimate arbiters?

I do not need to be protected, patronized, revered, put on a pedestal, ground under the heel, treated as an idol or temptress. I need to be respected as an equal. I demand no more than that from my bosses and coworkers, and no less than that from my husband.

Posted by: Laura | September 21, 2006 3:54 PM

Iris Krasnow feminism equals or approximates Phyllis Schafley's feminism?

Not the same at all.

Laughing. Think Iris Krasnow would too.

Posted by: College Parkian | September 21, 2006 3:56 PM

Laura,

That was a really good post.

Posted by: scarry | September 21, 2006 4:00 PM

Ok, one more, it really is a slow day at work and I think this is pretty interesting (obviously).

someone (lurker?) wrote: " As I read it, this implies that the woman has a choice, has thought the matter through, and has determined that, for whatever reasons she finds good, that is her preferred resolution to particular issues in their relationship."

This reminded me of a case we read in Crim Law, where a man being tried for severely beating another man defended himself on the grounds that the victim consented to it, and in fact asked him to do it. The court didn't buy it, essentially holding that there are certain human dignities that we can never effectively give away. I realize that agreeing to be beaten is not the same as agreeing to let you husband break the ties. But my point is that the question of what the person chose is not always definitive and there are times when as a society we simply don't accept certain choices. Anway, that's a big tangeant, I'll try to get back to work now.

Oh, and I meant to say in my last post that I am absolutely sure that Father of 4 loves and respects his wife, for whoever raised that issue. I'm just saying the submission thing just doesn't make sense to me.

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 4:01 PM

"Now, I have not been PROGRAMMED to do any such thing, thank you very much! That's just silly."

Sure you have.

Posted by: To G. | September 21, 2006 4:02 PM

I'm the one who posted about women being programmed to think of themselves as inferior to men. Sorry forgot to sign.

I don't think that women are feeble-minded at all, but please do not underestimate the power of a society that throughout the centuries (millenia even) has oppressed women. Hell, we didn't even get to vote in this country until less than 100 years ago. How many women presidents have we had? How many women serve in Congress? We have been oppressed, and we have unwittingly participated in our own oppression because society had us believing that it is unladylike, not nice, or unmannerly to demand for equal treatment, or that somehow, we are not as smart as men (like in math and science, for example). I don't think many of us even realize the magnitude of the injustices women have endured. This does not mean that women are stupid, but it does mean that the society we are raised in has tremendous power to influence the perspective through which this reality is seen by women.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 4:02 PM

Laura, loved your post.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 4:07 PM

"It seems to me from his posts that Fo4 has a great deal of respect and affection for his wife."

If you have followed this blog from the very beginning, you may recall that Fo4 has made a lot of sarcastic remarks concerning his wife's weight, etc. on a public forum.
I don't call that respect and affection.
He's cleaned up his act a lot recently, but I'm don't know what that means.

Posted by: Irish on St. Patrick's Day | September 21, 2006 4:12 PM

To Rockville: The comment I was talking about for which Fo4 is going to be hammered until next summer has to do with his complaining about kids having to do homework over the summer. Sheesh!

Posted by: Dad of 2 | September 21, 2006 4:15 PM

To Rockville: The comment I was talking about for which Fo4 is going to be hammered until next summer has to do with his complaining about kids having to do homework over the summer. Sheesh!

Posted by: Dad of 2 | September 21, 2006 4:16 PM

Laura, I liked your post too, and that of most of the people who answered Fof4's questions (I was quoting him). But your post is an example of why I'm confused. I agree, on the macro scale, that any entire movement, religious or not, telling millions of people that a woman must submit is repugnant.

Perhaps I'm being too literal, but truly I read Fof4 as asking, in an individual case (not necessarily his own), why people are so hostile to the idea of a woman deciding to let her husband make tiebreaking decisions. I assume that "decide" implies free will and thought -- I know some of you think that's too big an assumption. While that certainly wouldn't be my decision, I am able to countenance the idea that another woman might make that decision, in individual circumstances.

Posted by: Lurker | September 21, 2006 4:17 PM

someone said the I word, great now he will come out for sure.

Posted by: oh no | September 21, 2006 4:23 PM

3:43, you are exactly right.

Women "choose" to submit because they've been programmed to do so.

The reason a bunch of us on the blog don't "chill out" or "calm down" on this issue is because it's BS! Frankly, there's a lot of joking about women on this blog. And, like Rockville said, we can only "let it go" so frequently.

This is the perfect opportunity because Fo4 actually wants feedback! So here it is:

Women who "choose" stereotypical gender roles in a marriage are (1) totally thrilled with being a subordinate to her husband (2) do it because they were never told that another way was better and do it because her husband or her family or the media are telling her what to do (3)or do it out of fear of her husband or family church or cult.

Posted by: Meesh | September 21, 2006 4:25 PM

Lurker, I think it's because seeing an individual make that decisions brings up all the question with how broadly that decision is made/imposed. I think especially today since yesterday that guy posted all those biblical quotes. If a woman brought it up without all that in the background, it might not trigger so much doubt about her choice though maybe it would, who knows

Posted by: nutmeg | September 21, 2006 4:29 PM

Fof4 doesn't seem like such a bad guy - reminds me a lot of my own dad, ironically.

I don't 'submit' to my partner (she's a woman too, so it's hard to say husband or wife in our relationship). However, she does tend to be the tiebreaker quite often - if only because she's pickier than I am. I voice strong opinions if I have them, but usually just let her get her way. This, too, allows me to put my foot down when it's really important, and keeps my vote heavier (easier for me to say "I get to decide this one" when I haven't made a bunch of other decisions).

Maybe this is the secret in relationships today - women can pretend to submit when we're really just being coy to give us an extra vote when we really care?

All this heterosexual wrangling makes me giggle sometimes. If the bit and pieces were the same, would you care so much which one made the decision?

Posted by: RebeccainAR | September 21, 2006 4:29 PM

I haven't paid much attention to the "surrendering wife" concept lately, but when it first was getting a lot of attention (5 years ago?), back when I watched daytime TV, it seemed like the women who were its biggest supporters had been acting as surrogate parents to their husbands. For these women, "surrendering" seemed to be more about letting/forcing their husbands to take an equal role.

I still don't like the idea of women surrendering to men being tied to Christianity.

Posted by: yetanothersahm... | September 21, 2006 4:36 PM

A few last words before I go on Paternal duty:

When I answer the phone and the guy on the other side says, "May I speak to the man of the house?", I automatically give the phone to my wife. Ha!

Has anybody ever answered the phone, "May I speak to the woman of the house?"

I can't tell you how many times I've said, "That's my wife's decision to make", even when I had a preference out of the choices.

Being the decision-maker is not always the position I want to be in. I said "NO" to pizza last night despite the hectic schedual, but it was the right decision to make. Let me tell you how popular I was with that one, but there is a reason that there's a roof over my family's head and food in the fridge.

I'm not buying the notion that men have kept women down throughout the ages just to maintain their control over society. The reason women have it so good in America is that fathers, just like me, have wanted the best for their daughters. I can't see this attitude ever going away. How best to do it, however, is debatable and changes as society progresses.

And finally, if you've been married for a few years, no matter if you're a man or woman, you've submitted to your spouse many hundreds of times, or you wouldn't be married. congradulate yourselves for your humility!

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 21, 2006 4:43 PM

Is the male equivalent of the "surrendering wife," the "hen pecked husband"??

Posted by: just wondering | September 21, 2006 4:43 PM

Rockville: No, really, I have NOT been programmed to be submissive to men. Trust me. I was raised by an amazing single mom, so if there's any thing I am sure about, it is how extraordinary women can be. All the historical forces world cannot make me think it is necessary to submit to men. You don't know me! Can I *choose* with free will how I want to live my married life and who breaks the ties? You better believe it.

Rebecca in AR: "All this heterosexual wrangling makes me giggle sometimes. If the bit and pieces were the same, would you care so much which one made the decision?" I love this point! I'm starting to think that somewhere underneath all this hyperventilating about submission is penis envy or vaginal inferiority complexes or something.

I'm a confident person, and I'm not threatened if my husband takes leadership on an issue. It doesn't diminish me in the least.

If y'all disagree, fine, but don't imply that I'm somehow brainwashed or ultra-religious or discriminated against. It's not true!

Posted by: G's Mom | September 21, 2006 4:46 PM

""All this heterosexual wrangling makes me giggle sometimes. If the bit and pieces were the same, would you care so much which one made the decision?"

RebeccainAr, this made me chuckle. But I will say I've had a good friend in a same-sex relationship that had a very distorted power dynamic, and bothered me as much as it does in a hetereosexual couple.

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 4:50 PM

To Fo4

"The reason women have it so good in America is that fathers, just like me, have wanted the best for their daughters."

NO,NO,NO. If this were true, women would have it a LOT better than they have now.

Posted by: Irisher | September 21, 2006 4:51 PM

"if you've been married for a few years, no matter if you're a man or woman, you've submitted to your spouse many hundreds of times"

Exactly, Father of 4! It goes both ways in a good marriage, so why the need for the agreement up front? That's what I think the vast majority of people who have responded are saying.

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 4:51 PM

My husband can buy any darn car he wants, but NO ONE is going to tell me to send my kids to an inferior school.

Posted by: Marlo | September 21, 2006 4:55 PM

about the submissive thing - someone explained this to me and it is actually not as bad as it sounds. The couple agreed that the husband would be the "leader" of the family and the wife would "submit". Since they both love and cherish each other and only want the best for each other, the marriage, and the kids, there is complete trust that the Leadership will not be misused.

All decisions are discussed, just like any other family I know. They each value the other's opinion, so they talk things through and compromise and come to agreement on most things. However, when they don't reach an agreement, the husband makes the decision based on their vows and prior agreement to have him be the tiebreaker. He has never been superior to his wife, a dictator, or demanding.

For example, middle school child could take a foreign language or (phys ed/music/art) in one year, but not both offerings. The husbnad wanted the foreign language, the wife wanted the phyz ed/music/art. After both presenting their arguments, neither was pursuaded to make another choice. Only then was it determined that the child would take the foreign language. The mother knew that it wasn't a bad alternative, just not her choice. Since they had agreed that their marriage would work this way, they both accepted this outcome and went on without extended arguing, hurt feelings, etc.

The leadership and submissiveness actually lead to more harmony in their relationship. There have been times when most of us continue to argue with spouse because we want our way (think it is best) when it really wouldn't be an awful thing to let the spouse have their way.

Other examples are decisions such as buying a new car or a used car, public school or private school. These decisions are discussed and only when agreement cannot be reached does the "submit" to the spouse kick in. And it is actually a rarity since most things can be worked out just as any other couple would.

Posted by: mj | September 21, 2006 07:51 AM


So, how does everyone else decide the tiebreakers? scream, fight, just do something anyway without agreement, flip a coin? It seems that everything everyone has said regarding making decisions is true for the family mentioned above (take turns giving in, etc) EXCEPT for absolute impasse tiebreakers - when all else has failed.

Posted by: from yesterdays blog | September 21, 2006 4:57 PM

"The reason women have it so good in America is that fathers, just like me, have wanted the best for their daughters."

FO4 - You disappoint me. What about all those mothers and grandmothers who fought for women's rights, equal pay, etc. Do you really discount them? Your sexism is showing.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 4:58 PM

To
"about the submissive thing - someone explained this to me and it is actually not as bad as it sounds."

Since you have lived this doctrine, you can't say for sure how bad it is.

Posted by: Elaine | September 21, 2006 4:59 PM

I also started remembering the old joke, which I'm sure you've all heard a hundred times, where the father tells his son that the secret to a happy marriage can be summed up in two words: "Yes, dear."

In this joke, the wife dominates and the man is submissive. Ok, now all you ladies start writing in about how this isn't the least bit funny, and you were outraged on behalf of men everywhere when you heard this joke, and so on because each spouse in the marriage should be EXACTLY EQUAL ALL THE TIME.

I went back and read a little bit of yesterdays blog and I think a lot of the people who today are insisting that their marriage is always equal are the same people who wrote in yesterday about how they divide their expenses by the man paying x percent and the woman paying y percent based on their respective salaries. I guess all that equality and togetherness doesn't extend to cash?

That's it, I'm done for the day. Hack away at me.

Posted by: G's Mom again | September 21, 2006 5:00 PM

So, how does everyone else decide the tiebreakers? scream, fight, just do something anyway without agreement, flip a coin? It seems that everything everyone has said regarding making decisions is true for the family mentioned above (take turns giving in, etc) EXCEPT for absolute impasse tiebreakers - when all else has failed.

Posted by: from yesterdays blog | September 21, 2006 04:57 PM

To be honest, in six years, we've never come to an impasse. We don't scream or fight. We tend to make big decisions slowly - talk, do some research, talk again, go over options. It gives up time to gauge where the other person is and how strongly they feel. We've always been able to agree, either by one of us deciding the other person either is right or has a stronger feeling, or by coming up with a compromise we both feel good about. Which I guess is why I don't understand the need to say upfront that one person gets to break a tie, and it sort of makes me wonder if having that agreement makes it more likely to happen.

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 5:00 PM

to elaine

"about the submissive thing - someone explained this to me and it is actually not as bad as it sounds."

Since you have lived this doctrine, you can't say for sure how bad it is.


And, since you haven't, neither can you.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 5:02 PM

Actually, G's Mom, that joke irritates me because its the stereotypes of the nagging wife and the husband who tunes her out, I think they're both awful stereotypes. And we have joint accounts for everything.

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 5:03 PM

You may be deluded into thinking that societal forces do not affect how you think of yourself in relation to men, but like it or not, you are a product of your society, and yes, you are affected by it.

Posted by: to g's mom | September 21, 2006 5:04 PM

So, G's Mom, everyone you disagree with takes themselves too seriously and needs to relax but you can profess over and over your opinions and its fine; you have never been affected by the society around you; and dividing expenses according to income is unequal for some unstated reason. And then you just run away thinking you're so much better than the rest of us. How nice to have had you join us today.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 5:09 PM

Bad example, the factory. I am not looking down on people who work in factories or anywhere else. I was thinking more like the 'sweat shop'--i.e. the kind you see on Law and Order, where the boss is inhuman and the people are all doing piece work, sweating and speaking another language, low pay and no benefits-- type place, not GM--I think 'plant' when I think of those. It seems the poor working conditions of the factory/sweat shop would move people to seek other avenues of employment. My b.i.l works in a ballbearing plant/factory, is an engineer, and loves it. It is not a hardship for him to go to work. And there is very little turnover, because the pay, hours and benefits are very good for that area. What he would not love is a job that never changes, grows, gives him a nickel per hour raise every year (that is what I got as a waitress when I was in high school). Very few of us get to work our passions in the marketplace. Education can mean many things--training, certifications, degrees. Or experience. It was the experience of being a waitress --rude customers, creepy men hitting on me (at 16!)--that compelled me to use that education--that experience--to look for something better that didn't leave me smelling like smoke. I used my work experience that showed I was dependable to move to a better job at 17. This was a telemarketing job (put the stones away, it was the 80's and I only did it for a month) that hired mainly women and did not allow smoking. It seemed better on paper. But another experience to move me on my way. You rarely see career McDonald cashiers. My brother worked for years in a dead-end job--little pay, no room for advancement, poor working conditions==soul sucking. Your dad probably got regular raises and health insurance. It took him over ten years to get to a place where he made more than a few dollars over minimum wage. If you get upin the morning and go to work, I respect you, especially as I personally know deadbeat college grads who won't take a job beneath their skills or education. Anyway, if I insulted anyone, I apologize. Go 'Skins?


And for the whole 'submissive' thread, I 'submit' that we 'surrender' it to the archives and let those who like to be a sub do it in the bedroom.

Posted by: parttimer | September 21, 2006 5:11 PM

The answer to Fatherof4's question should be a mute point. The women hold most of the cards in a marriage. I've learned to Never approach a men head-on, they are far too versed in this blatant head butting approach to decision making. The loudest and strongest often wins in a fair one-on-one fight. The right tactic to getting a man to agree to your point of view is to take a more indirect approach. This involves subtle manipulation of the data and working on hubby by dropping well placed hints and suggestions so that he eventually comes to the conclusion that the idea was his in the first place. Men are much better at accepting a solution when they think that they came up with it themselves. It reasserts their sense of male dominance while allowing women to truely direct the decision making process.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 5:12 PM

In this joke, the wife dominates and the man is submissive. Ok, now all you ladies start writing in about how this isn't the least bit funny, and you were outraged on behalf of men everywhere when you heard this joke, and so on because each spouse in the marriage should be EXACTLY EQUAL ALL THE TIME.

It is an annoying joke because it uses irony to demean women, which is supposed to be funny. The meaning of the joke, in case it escapes you, is that men who are submissive are ridiculous and women who are dominant are annoying. This is why the joke is funny. The context is that a man who has a dominant wife is somehow ridiculous, ie, the butt of the joke. Conversely, it says that in order for men and women not to be ridiculous, ie, funny, men should be dominant and women should know their place and be submissive. Get it?

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 5:17 PM

My husband and I have joint accounts for everything too, not that this makes us more or less equal.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 5:19 PM

"So, how does everyone else decide the tiebreakers?"

We do it my way!

Posted by: experienced mom | September 21, 2006 5:20 PM

Yes dear in my house means that I will try tobe home from happyhour by 9, but don't expect me--when he says it. I say it too, but can't remember why, except that it is always accompanied by an eye roll. I just want a peaceful life. And most of us here have kids, and know that in life you have choose your battles. Sometimes it really is just that .

Posted by: parttimer | September 21, 2006 5:21 PM

This whole submissive wife thing baffles me. I guess I have a strange relationship with my husband because we don't really disagree on much. We are on the same page with money issues, child rearing and in-laws. So what are couples arguing about in which the wife is told to submit? Who professes this is the way to go? I vaguely remember some men org. (Fire Keepers? Peace Keepes? something like that) years ago who would talk about it, but I thought the debate went away? Who talks about this? That Michelle Singley (sp?)? Who does she write for? Help me, I have no clue what y'all are talking about... I come from the world of Judith Butler types.

Posted by: alex. mom | September 21, 2006 5:22 PM

G's Mom, why so dismissive of people who try to be consistent in their values? Is it really so hard for you believe that some people are? Who knows what your deal is, but I care about a lot of things and I take them seriously and try to live my life accordingly. Seems like so do a lot of other people here, including father of 4.

Posted by: nutmeg | September 21, 2006 5:27 PM

The couple I know who agreed that the wife would 'submit' have one of the most loving, caring, respectful marriages I have ever seen. They very, very rarely invoke the tie-breaker rule (for example, the middle school schedule dilema - by the way, a schedule had to be submitted and they were out of time to continue discussing, researching, etc).

I think that they basically resolve their issues the same way you and your husband do.

Would it help to think in terms of deferring to the husband rather than submitting? even if everyone doesn't agree with this agreement, I don't understand why it is such a hot-button for the "zealous feminists" on this blog.

We don't believe that anyone should tell a woman to work or stay home, have kids or be childless - why do you care so much what people agree to in their marriage relationships if they are happy in their decisions?


By, the way - my husband and I do not have this arrangement either. I'm too stubborn and selfish and won't give in even when I should. My friends have more harmony in their marriage than I have in mine.

Posted by: to megan | September 21, 2006 5:29 PM

"So, how does everyone else decide the tiebreakers?"

When my son was born, we could not decide on a name. We were down to two names. My husband liked one and I the other. So we decided that the person who goes through 36 hours of labor and gets to push the baby out can pick the name.

When we bought a new car, my husband wanted one model and I another. They were both relatively comparable cars in terms of style and cost. So we decided that the person with the longer car commute could pick the car. I ride the metro so he won on that one.

It really is not so hard.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 5:30 PM

Would it help to think in terms of deferring to the husband rather than submitting?

Nope. It wouldn't help me. What's the difference?

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 5:35 PM

Rockville,

You and your husband did decide on a name and a car. You found a solution. There was no need for a tiebreaker.

It is only when there is no other solution that the "submission" agreement comes into play. And it is actually very rare.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 5:39 PM

Well actually, my husband and I share both our cars. We have one clunker (still runs okay) and one new car. Whoever is going on a long trip (ie beltway or further) gets the new car. Whoever is just running around the neighborhood gets the clunker. We find it a good way to economize. But it was never truly such a big deal to either of us.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 5:40 PM

What? A couple fights about what their child is taking in middle school?! At that point, the child should pick what s/he wants to take. My parents didn't care as long as I got good grades. Clearly, they need some therapy for micro-managing their children's life.

Another example above, wouldn't your husband want your child to go to a good school too? I don't know a single father who says, "ya know, I think I will send my kids to an inferior school."

As for the car example, couples argue about consumer purchases?! Most families have two cars today, right? If you are a two car family, who cares, you both get a what you want.

I doubt people actually live like this.

Posted by: alex. mom | September 21, 2006 5:41 PM


Whatever happened to Dadwannabe? I enjoyed his posts, even if I didn't always agree.

Posted by: | September 21, 2006 12:58 PM

Sorry folks. I'm still around...just lurking these days. I went on vacation at the end of last week and came back and haven't had much time to come up for air. I start reading the blog and only get through about a couple of dozen articles before things pile up. Since I like to read the whole (or most of the blog) before I reply in case someone has already said my point, I just haven't gotten to replying.

Unfortunately, life is going to be busy for the next couple of weeks. In addition to my day job and my once/week night job, I am in a theatrical production that opens in 4 weeks. Then to top it off, a local dinner theater in Baltimore called me up. They have a show that opens this weekend and someone had to drop out very unexpectedly at the last minute and with 3 days to go, they needed a filler. One of the directors that I've worked for in the past recommended me and even though I don't have the time, I agreed to do their first two weekends until they could find a more permanent replacement. So, I'm working two jobs and in two shows (one of which is a third job). *sigh* T-2 weeks and counting until I just go back to merely exhausted (okay, so all you parents out there can laugh at me and tell me that now I know what it's like to have more than one child :-) )

Posted by: DadWannaBe | September 21, 2006 5:43 PM

"I think that they basically resolve their issues the same way you and your husband do.

Would it help to think in terms of deferring to the husband rather than submitting?"

I do think that for the vast majority of cases, you're right - it doesn't sound like anyone's talking about a wife that never has a say in anything. I think the reason it hits a hot button is that it comes across as part of broader view, often religiously couched, that a woman's place is below the man's. Like someone (nutmeg?) said, the individual choices bring in overtones of the societal issues, and that makes them disturbing.

I live in an area that has a very vocal population of very conservative Christians, and the types of views the Joe L. posted yesterday are often espoused here. I personally just am tired of being told that because of my sex, I cannot do the same things as men, cannot have the same opportunities, and not suited for certain jobs, etc. To me, the idea that the wife has to be the one to submit is very tied to those types of conservatives and the overall idea that men are the superior sex, so that's why such an agreement arouses my suspicions.

I would find it equally bizarre and disturbing, though, if the man agreed to submit to the woman in a tie. I just think establishing a system of dominance is weird and jarring, even if it very rarely comes into play.

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 5:47 PM

It is only when there is no other solution that the "submission" agreement comes into play. And it is actually very rare.

What kind of situation are you talking about. There is always a solution. Or at least in the past 9 years, I have never come across a situation where I would need to resort the the tiebreaker. The need for it baffles me.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 5:47 PM

"What kind of situation are you talking about. There is always a solution"

That's kind of what I mean when I say having the agreement makes it more possible to happen - if they didn't have that agreement, they would just keep working on the issue until one or both compromised, and if it's a balanced relationship, probably it would not always be the same one who compromised.

It seems like that agreement basically allows one partner to decide that they've discussed it enough and this is how it should be. I guess that's what I don't get either.

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 5:49 PM

There is never a need for the tie breaker. Even if the solution is simply taking turns when all else fails. That is a solution that would eliminate the need for the tie breaker.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 5:50 PM

"Another example above, wouldn't your husband want your child to go to a good school too? I don't know a single father who says, "ya know, I think I will send my kids to an inferior school."

yes both parents want the child to go to a good school. the problem is that not everyone agrees about what is "good". some think private to avoid a certain "element" and others think that the diversity of all "elements" in a public school is better preparation for real life.

The same with middle school course selection. I don't know if you have school age children, but I know very few parents who just let their child take "what they want" especially when it comes to taking regular or advanced classes. Many people feel strongly that foreign language at an early age is a must and others think that high school is soon enough and physical education and the arts is more beneficial.

it is not fighting as much as discussing.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 5:51 PM

to megan - It is not a system of dominance. it is a recognition that you respect the partner enough to follow their lead, even if the decision wouldn't be the one you would make, because you have vowed to love each other and respect each other and will never cause harm to each other.

People do this all the time in their relationships - they just don't always make the public vow or say that they submit to their spouses.

My husband usually agrees with me because he wants me to be happy, not because I am dominant and controlling and he is submitting to me. I am spoiled and actually he defers to me much more than I defer to him. And no, he is not a wimp or hen-pecked - just more easy-going than I am.

also, the world is full of leaders and followers. If one spouse is a natural follower, it only makes sense that they agree to defer to the leader.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 5:53 PM

"There is never a need for the tie breaker. Even if the solution is simply taking turns when all else fails. That is a solution that would eliminate the need for the tie breaker."

If your solution is to take turns, great - it works for you. But, who keeps track of whose turn it is :)

If another couple's solution is to let one of the partner's be the tiebreaker, then great for them too.

I really don't care what individual couples decide works in their marriages.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 5:56 PM

"It is not a system of dominance. it is a recognition that you respect the partner enough to follow their lead, even if the decision wouldn't be the one you would make"

Ok, but why can't that go both ways? Take turns, flip a coin, etc. Why one always submitting and not the other? That's really what I'm asking, and I really am curious, I appreciate your responses a great deal.

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 5:57 PM

The same with middle school course selection. I don't know if you have school age children, but I know very few parents who just let their child take "what they want" especially when it comes to taking regular or advanced classes. Many people feel strongly that foreign language at an early age is a must and others think that high school is soon enough and physical education and the arts is more beneficial.

it is not fighting as much as discussing.

Posted by: | September 21, 2006 05:51 PM
_____

No school age children. I went to a bilingual preschool. My parents, honestly, didn't care what classes I took. I took AP classes on my own, they said oh good. When my son gets older, I will probably take the same line as my parents. My husband will as well. Our parents didn't interfer all that much with class selection and we are both "over achievers" with advanced degrees. Go figure..

Anyway, is this submissive wife thing so conservative christian thing? (It is what I am gathering.) it makes me wonder how much they differ from some of the radical muslim beliefs about women. It seems like all fundamentalist religions seems to have issues with women?

Posted by: alex. mom | September 21, 2006 5:57 PM

To 5:53 pm poster:

I would have no problem with the submissive spouse thing if both spouses were actually submitting to each other (ie, the marriage), as equals, but that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about the concept that the woman should submit to the authority of her husband because he is male. I am equally disturbed by the idea that one spouse should ALWAYS submit to the other on the basis of other facts, like who is the born leader, etc.) A marriage is a long time for one person to be deferring to the other. I can't help but think that the person who defers or submits over time would grow resentful, and the other spouse would become dictatorial. The power dynamics in such a relationship would always be skewed to the person in authority, and that is not balance.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 5:58 PM

It is not a system of dominance. it is a recognition that you respect the partner enough to follow their lead, even if the decision wouldn't be the one you would make"

Also, but if the woman is always the one who has to submit to the husband, what does that say about how much he respects his wife and is willing to follow her lead. Respect in a marriage should go both ways.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 6:02 PM

"When my son was born, we could not decide on a name. We were down to two names. My husband liked one and I the other. So we decided that the person who goes through 36 hours of labor and gets to push the baby out can pick the name."

"There is always a solution"

What if your husband said that he didn't agree with the reasoning about being in labor? What if he felt like the child is his as much as yours even though he didn't go through labor, so he has as much right to pick the name as you do?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 6:02 PM

Then we would probably go back to the old drawing board and start over, looking for names we both like.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 6:06 PM

'What if your husband said that he didn't agree with the reasoning about being in labor? What if he felt like the child is his as much as yours even though he didn't go through labor, so he has as much right to pick the name as you do?'

how about, doing what your spouse wants to make them happy?

Posted by: experienced mom | September 21, 2006 6:08 PM

"It seems like all fundamentalist religions seems to have issues with women?

Posted by: alex. mom | September 21, 2006 05:57 PM

alex. mom, you might enjoy reading "Skinny Legs and All" by Tom Robbins. It has some very interesting ideas about religion and femininity and power and so on, it's just a novel but its pretty interesting food for thought

Posted by: nutmeg | September 21, 2006 6:09 PM

Seriously, my husband and I have never come to a serious impasse where we even had to flip a coin. We can both sense when something is so important to the other person that it makes sense to back down. When we make our decisions, we both consider not only what is good for each of us individually, but also what is good for the marriage. There is a fair amount of give and take on both sides. Which is why I find the tie-breaker solution so utterly un-necessary.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 6:10 PM

Thanks, nutmeg. I will check it out.

Posted by: alex. mom | September 21, 2006 6:15 PM

When Hillary Clinton proposed a national healthcare plan she was denounced as the devil. Now, ten years later, everybody's wishing they had a national health plan....

Posted by: Funny.... | September 21, 2006 6:20 PM

There have been numerous times through American history we have debated nationalized health care. I think the time before the Clintons was Truman or Roosevelt. (My memory is not so good after child-bearing.) Americans freak out each time. But as more and more people lose insurance and then are buried in medical debt, they won't be freaking out... well except the rich, who have a "screw you if you are poor-i got mine" attitude.

Posted by: alex. mom | September 21, 2006 6:26 PM

I am curious if any of the self-employed people reading this have found a good way around the health insurance dilemma. Someone way up mentioned HSAs, which I confess I still don't quite understand. I've also heard that there are some state programs that freelancers can enroll in. But I don't know if it's bare-bones coverage, or good coverage. Anyone have any experience with this?

Posted by: 2Preschoolers | September 21, 2006 7:26 PM

"My 4th grader has a different teacher/classroom for math, and my 1st grader has a 'homeroom' teacher, and a separate teacher/classroom for each math and reading. This took me by surprise when we first entered the school system, but the kids have been doing well all these years. The reason they break up is to allow the kids to be grouped by skill level in math and reading."

That's what I got in elementary school too. If a kid's learning speed in math or reading changed in the middle of the school year the school even let that kid switch groups.

"we're more likely to be transplants unable to tap into the wonderful world of grandparental care"

Yeah, don't some people have to move to get work? It seems like there are a lot of workers who would be unemployed if they stayed in the towns or villages where they grew up.

"My dad has worked in a manufacturing plant at an hourly wage all of his adult life. It is not a "rite of passage" for him, it's a responsible way to make a living. And his soul is just fine, thank you."

Great points.

"Many tweens and teens don't want to go to 'after care' programs."

My elementary school had one of these. It was essentially a few extra hours of kindergarten every day after the regular school day ended, and parents could enroll kids in it up through 5th grade. It was pretty ridiculous. Of course 11-year-olds shouldn't be pressured to grow up too fast, but they also shouldn't have to sit through read-aloud storytime with a bunch of 6-year-olds (especially when they have PMS).

"Ever since I reached puberty, I've always treated females as the superior sex, and this I am passing on to my sons."

Um, isn't treating your kids as though their sex makes them inferior unfair no matter if they're girls or boys? If you get a kick out of submitting to your wife and both of you are cool with that then great, but what if one of your sons doesn't swing that way?

"Because the idea that a women should defer to the man when there is a tie is inherently sexist."

Doesn't that depend on *why* one says she should defer to him? "She should defer just because she's a woman" is inherently sexist and "she should defer because in this case she already told us that she wants to defer" is not.

Posted by: Maria | September 21, 2006 8:27 PM

Actually, I was the one who gave the X and Y example for our household finances and I haven't said anything about this whole submissive thing. So I think G Mom is getting her posters all mixed up. I am not sure why she thinks cash is different because I said we each have the same amount of discretionary spending (mad money). So again if X>Y
X-T>Y-T. Therefore person making X pays more bills then Y. But everyone gets the same amount of spending money (T). Why is that showing equality in the marriage? As far as the submission thing is concerned, I do not care to argue about that type of things. Clearly the people that believe in submitting to either spouse in all impasses will not change their opinion based on my belief. So Gmom, you got your posters mixed up.

Posted by: NewName2 | September 21, 2006 8:36 PM

I meant to say inequality in the marriage. I think by both people getting T spending money, that clearly shows equality.

Posted by: NewName2 | September 21, 2006 8:42 PM

"Women "choose" to submit because they've been programmed to do so."

Hey, way to grant women agency! Way to grant women the ability to choose the religious beliefs which are meaningful to them and abide by them!

"Programmed" is bullsh*t. My mom was raised in one of the most fundamentalist Christian religions in the country and was determined that my sister and I go to college. She even concurred in raising us Catholic, against the explicit wishes of her family. Has it ever occured to you that some women might undergo the same upbringing as my mom and choose of their own free will to continue in that environment?

I would make the crappiest submissive wife ever and I've got a good many philosophical problems with the entire concept. That doesn't mean that I think that anyone who would choose that is "programmed." God, how condescending can you possibly be?

Posted by: Lizzie | September 21, 2006 9:22 PM

Rockville, if I ever bump into you on the Metro, will you take me to Starbucks for a cup of coffee before work? I would really appreciate that.
I like your spunk!

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 21, 2006 9:56 PM

Rockville, and while I'm waiting up for my daughter to get home tonight,, I couldn't help but notice that you have clicked on the "Submit" button over 20 times today. but I won't hold that against you! :-)

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 21, 2006 10:09 PM

2preschoolers, I'm the one who mentioned the HSA - here's how it works.

You get a health plan that has a very high deductible and is an HSA qualified plan. The deductible has to be at least around $1800/year for an individual and I think around $2500 for a family, I can't remember exactly. Our deductible is a little over $3500 - so we pay all of our expenses out of pocket up to that amount. However, the monthly premiums are very low, and if you go over the deductible, the insurance picks up 100% of the bill (in network, covered expenses, of course) up to the policy limit ($2 million, which is common on most traditional plans as well).

In addition, you open a Health Savings Account, which is tax-deferred, and can deposit an amount each year that is equal to your deductible or the statutory limit, I think whichever is higher. You can pay all of your health expenses out of that account, and if you don't need it all one year, it rolls over for the next year with no penalty. When you reach retirement, you can withdraw from it without penalty I think for any purpose. Sorry this is full of "I thinks," in the end it was so much cheaper even without the tax benefits that I didn't end up clarifying all the tax stuff.

The plans vary in what they cover just like traditional plans. The main problem, as I mentioned earlier, is that because it's not a group plan the insurer can put an exclusionary rider on any pre-existing conditions, so it really only works if you are healthy when you sign up.

As for state plans, the two states that I have done research in both have a state plan of last resort. To qualify, you either have to show that you are below a certain income or that you have been rejected from private insurance. I don't know about the level of coverage.

Also, in some places there are small business associations that secure group coverage for their members, so that's another option for the self-employed.

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 11:42 PM

Rockville, if I ever bump into you on the Metro, will you take me to Starbucks for a cup of coffee before work? I would really appreciate that.
I like your spunk!

Sure. I like you too, even though you need help.

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 21, 2006 09:56 PM

Rockville, and while I'm waiting up for my daughter to get home tonight,, I couldn't help but notice that you have clicked on the "Submit" button over 20 times today. but I won't hold that against you! :-)

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 21, 2006 10:09 PM

I know. I found yesterday's blog particularly addictive. And it was a slow day.

Posted by: Rockville | September 22, 2006 8:52 AM

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