Breaking Down Parents' Time

Nice to witness the reality of parenting today reflected in the New York Times article yesterday, Married and Single Parents Spending More Time With Children. (Thank you to posters who pointed it out.) Along with photos showing happy, everyday moments between moms, dads and kids, the article summarizes University of Maryland sociologist Suzanne Bianchi's time diary data, Changing Rhythms of American Family Life, which was also discussed here in 40 Years of American Parenthood back in April.

Non-working and working mothers are spending at least as much time with their children today as they did 40 years ago, the article reports. From 1965 to 2000, the increases in time shared between parents and children increased dramatically. Married mothers (paid and unpaid) spend 22 percent more time with their children today vs. a generation ago. Married fathers have more than doubled the time they spend with their children. And single moms have increased time with their children by a mighty 57 percent.

For all working moms who whiz by stay-at-home moms at school drop-off, have never watched Desperate Housewives, and see your husband largely when he's asleep, the mad rush is not your imagination. You really are busier, spending nearly 20 hours a week more on paid and unpaid work vs. moms who don't have jobs. The article reports that the workweek for an employed mother averages 71 hours, almost equally divided between paid and unpaid work, compared with a workweek averaging 52 house for mothers not employed outside the home. Employed mothers have less free time, get less sleep, watch less television and spend less time with their husbands than mothers who are not employed.

The primary drivers behind the change in parenting styles? American families are smaller and parents more affluent today vs. 1965. All this adds up to more time and money spent on kids. A good thing? Despite our occasional bouts of overparenting -- definitely.

I'll end with a quote about today's dads that sure makes my day: "And the amount of child care and housework performed by fathers has sharply increased."

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  October 18, 2006; 6:30 AM ET  | Category:  Moms in the News
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And your point?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 7:18 AM

While it is awesome that parents are spending more time with their children, I wonder if the lack of personal and couple time will have a back lash. In the long run, I think it is unhealthy for us to have a lack of down time. Even if it is just because we work so much. It is important for the healthy growth of children and adults to have some free time for ourselves and for our relationships. But I am totally guilty of this. I find some days, my only down time is my metro commute.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 18, 2006 7:46 AM

I don't see much difference between the time I spend with my kids and the time I spent with my parents. I also don't think I work harder than my mother - who didn't have half the modern conveniences I do. My mom worked her butt off inside and outside the home and still spent tons of time with us, so I consider myself lucky that I have it so easy. I often wonder when my mother slept.

And to answer Leslie's question, it is a good thing to spend more time with your kids - but more money? Not really.

Posted by: cmac | October 18, 2006 7:58 AM

I found the study to be a little implausible. I mean, stay-at-home moms in the 50s spent only 10 hours on childcare? Who was watching the children the rest of the time? Obviously, they played outside a fair amount, but babies were presumably constantly supervised by their parents. I think it's because of the double-counting-- if I'm cooking dinner while talking to my daughter as she draws with crayons on the counter, this is presumably billed as "housework" not "childcare."

Posted by: Ms L | October 18, 2006 8:24 AM

I'm stuck on trying to figure out how a stay at home mother can possibly log 52 hours of work a week.

Posted by: Jayne | October 18, 2006 8:43 AM

If parents want to add up the hours they spend stuck in traffic with their kid strapped in the back enroute to yet another organized activity as they cuss at another careless maneuver by a cell phone toting, SUV driving idiot as quality time with their kids, It's no mystery to me why today's parents are reportably scoring substancially higher numbers in this particular area.

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 18, 2006 8:46 AM

always question statistics!

Posted by: experienced mom | October 18, 2006 8:47 AM

Leslie, why the assumption that stay at home moms watch Desperate Housewives? I've never looked at that garbage.

Posted by: experienced mom | October 18, 2006 8:49 AM

define 'time with children' please. Is that actively engaged in one on one communication, or in the same room/car, or in the same house doing different things?

Posted by: experienced mom | October 18, 2006 9:03 AM

This study is good news and bad news. The good news it that fathers are more involved than their own fathers - in both childraising and housework (but I think we all knew this, and we still have a long way to go to achieve equality between fathers and mothers). The bad news is that our lives are way out of balance, and we don't have any time to recharge and renew ourselves. Burnout doesn't lead to a happy life, a good parent, or a good worker. I, too, question the exact meaning of these high-level statistics, but think that the biggest message is about a cry for help in the balance department. It seems we might have traded balance for money - not a good deal in my opinion, and probably not the best thing to model for our children either.

Posted by: equal | October 18, 2006 9:10 AM

Finally!! Someone came out with an actual study that shows that working mothers work more hours than stay-at-home mothers.

Someone ought to send that to Dr. being a stay-at-home-mother-is-equlivalent-to-two-full-time-jobs Phil.

Posted by: momof4 | October 18, 2006 9:19 AM

Jayne...it is more like 70 to 80 hours. (People think because you're at home, you have no 'work' to do. Ha!) Just because there's no corporate check doesn't mean it's not work.

Posted by: LiT | October 18, 2006 9:22 AM

I can believe that SAHMs log in over 50 hours of work. However, the fact is that working mothers need to do the same things - we just have less time. So we cook less, outsource housework when we can, put pressure on our husbands to do their fair share while trying to spend as much time as we can with our kids. Result - we are one harried bunch!

Posted by: fabworkingmom | October 18, 2006 9:27 AM

Really, LiT? Can you specify what's being done that qualifies as "work" for 52 hours a week if an employed mother "only" works 71 hours a week. I'd love to hear how those 52 hours are filled with "work."

Posted by: Jayne | October 18, 2006 9:27 AM

'Leslie, why the assumption that stay at home moms watch Desperate Housewives? I've never looked at that garbage.'

How do you know it's garbage if you've never looked at it?

It's one of only 3 shows that I watch. It's hysterical and great escapism.

Posted by: to experienced mom | October 18, 2006 9:35 AM

Child care is work, in and of itself. 12 hour days (minimum..assuming all children are on the same schedule), seven days a week. No vacation, no Monday holiday bill.
Homes with children in them get messier (houses with children in daycare only get dusty) walls/furniture can take a beating, bathrooms...ha! don't even get me started with what can happen in there! General home maintenance is higher (both in more to do, and more expensive). Children can create an awful lot of work.
Then there's the teaching. Your children get some type of instruction in daycare, no? An art project or two each week? That happens here too.
Don't get why only is in quotes; will go back and re-read.

Posted by: LiT | October 18, 2006 9:37 AM

LiT, according to your theories, working mothers must work 112 hours a week (I alloted 8 hours a day for sleep, which is probably far too generous.) Hope you don't hurt yourself straining to call every moment spent with your child "work."

Posted by: Jayne | October 18, 2006 9:41 AM

There is something fundamentally disheartening about referring to time spent with your children as work.

Posted by: No Kids Yet | October 18, 2006 9:45 AM

"And the amount of child care and housework performed by fathers has sharply increased."

Really? What about the huge population of single-parent families? How about mentioning divorce rates in this study, or children born out of wedlock, where often, if not most times, the father is a complete no-show. Sure, fathers of white, upper-middle class families may be spending time with their families, but to call that a trend in America is erroneous.

It seems the survey is attempting to quantify something that cannot be measured in emperical data. People have asked: What does "time spent with kids mean?" it can't be measured in hours and data tables.

Posted by: handle | October 18, 2006 9:47 AM

Can we skip the "who does more" debate today? We all work hard at what we do and made the decisions we made in the best interests of our families. SAHM's work hard all day with their kids, that is a fact. But WOHM's still have to come home after a full day and do a good deal of work. Maybe that is not a full day's work, but it sure feels like it after 40+ hours out of home. They may have more resources to outsource some of that work, but there is a lot of time pressure. What really suffers is the time you can spend on yourself and on your relationship with your spouse; at least that is what I have seen with the couples in our circle of friends. SOme of my SAHM friends admit that not working takes some of that pressure off.

Posted by: Sunniday | October 18, 2006 9:47 AM

"Homes with children in them get messier (houses with children in daycare only get dusty)"

I wasn't aware that children spent 24 hrs a day, seven days a week in daycare - that must cost a fortune! :)

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 9:49 AM

Re: LiT's comments

It turns my stomach how a few SAHMs go on and on about how much "work" they have to do compared to working moms. Please. Do you think working moms don't also have to clean a messy house, care for children every moment that we're not in the office, cook dinner, pay the bills, do the laundry, etc.? When I get a vacation, I still have to care for the kids, cook, clean, etc. Who do you think does these things for working parents -- magic elves? Get over yourself already.

All responsible adults -- even those w/o children, remember! -- have to figure out a way to get their home clean, their bills paid, their clothes washed, and their meals cooked. Let's not pretend that just because you do these things as a SAHM you're in line for some kind of special award. You're not.

Posted by: Another Working Mom | October 18, 2006 9:50 AM

LiT-

This is exactly why we have the "Mommy Wars".

Taking your child to playgroup and socializing with your friends while you're there is not "work." Watching them play soccer, take swimming lessons, or do ballet while you read the paper or chat with other moms is not "work." Blogging or reading or watching television while they nap or watch Sesame Street or play is not "work."

I've been a SAHM for 6 1/2 years and I work soooooo much less volume-wise than I did for the 8 years I was a WOHP. And I do a ton of volunteer work - far more than any of my SAHM friends do. I'm not saying that it's not difficult work, but it just angers me when people perpetuate the myth that SAHM work more hours than a WOHP does, or that you actually *work* 70 hours a week.

Posted by: momof4 | October 18, 2006 9:53 AM

Have another cup of coffee Jayne. I'll bet your childcare provider considers it work -- hard work at that.

I'm not following your math...your kids stay up until 1am? We all have things that can only be done once the kids are asleep. And you're right -- eight hours of sleep is an ideal. If I slept that long, my family would think I had lapsed into a coma.

Jayne..if your envious of a SAHM's time at home, don't be. We are envious of your adult conversations, your clothes, your ability to go to the bathroom alone, the list goes on and on. But working outside the home is not an option for everyone.

Time for me to go toss myself onto the sofa and pop bon-bons. Have a great day all.

Posted by: LiT | October 18, 2006 9:54 AM

Those of you who take care of children should consider your time with them as mostly play with a little work.

Or you are doing it all wrong...

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 18, 2006 9:54 AM

LiT said "houses with children in daycare only get dusty"

You'd be amazed by the amount of mess a child in daycare all day can create in the hours after he/she gets home from school before bedtime.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | October 18, 2006 9:57 AM

SAHMs do work all the time. They constantly care for children, clean, chauffer, cook, and do all of the other household errands. Yes, working moms have to do that too and I'm sure it's difficult to strike a balance.

But working moms do hire out help quite a lot more than most SAHMs -- either by employing a cleaning person, eating out or take-away many nights a week, etc. If you hire out a cleaner to do the kitchen, floors, bathrooms, etc. and you and your family are really only in the house during the week to sleep and to eat that take-away dinner, then you really have a lot less cleaning to do than a SAHM who is in the house with kids all day every day. Kids are like Tazmanian devils -- they whip through each room leaving behind a path of toys, spills, and other "destruction". It's a losing battle trying to keep the house straight when you have three children home all day. So the argument that working parents have to clean "just as much" as SAH parents isn't exactly true.

It doesn't mean working parents are getting a free ride, because they are doing other things. It just underscores that you really can't compare the two situations. It's apples and oranges, and people who constantly gripe that the other side has it easier need to step back, accept your decision to either SAH or work, and try to enjoy the life that you do have.

I have always found that the "gripers" -- stay-at-home and working -- are the lucky ones who have the ability to make a choice to either live on one income or to have two incomes and enjoy a more comfortable life. Usually the ones who truly have no choice but to work are too busy working and caring for their families to navel gaze and ponder the hours someone else spends (or doesn't spend) working.

Posted by: Apples and oranges | October 18, 2006 10:00 AM

"We are envious of your adult conversations, your clothes, your ability to go to the bathroom alone, the list goes on and on. "

Ummmm....please don't speak for all of us. I have plenty of adult conversations with my husband, friends and acquaintances; I wear exactly what I want instead of a corporate "uniform", I go to the bathroom alone because my children know common courtesy.

SAHMs will never receive the respect we deserve because of SAH martyrs who insist on continuing to talk about things like working two full time jobs. Nobody respects a martyr.


Posted by: momof4 | October 18, 2006 10:00 AM

momof4 -

CLAP CLAP CLAP

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 10:02 AM

Puleez....I can't believe that anyone would even begin to think that SAHM work 50 hours a week. Give me a break. I think saying things like this only diminishes SAHMs. The fact remains that if you don't have a job outside the home, life is easier, more relaxed. And the messiest houses I've seen have been with SAHM so what are they doing with their time? After dropping the kids off at school, they're at starbucks, tennis, the gym, helping out at school or they go back to bed. Tough life.

What is needed is to stop pandering to the SAHM crowd and to talk about real issues that affect 70-80% of mothers---the ones who work outside the home. Coordinating work with children is exceedingly difficult, but worth the effort both for the health of the parents but the children as well. I'm thankful that my children know that they can be anything they want to in this world and that they are capable of supporting themselves one day--all because both parents have been that example.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 10:05 AM

How old are your kids? As a parent of younger kids (20 months and 4 years), I can see how the workload changes as the kids get older and I gain more experience.

What would be old hat to you could be overwhelming for someone just learning how to deal with more than one kid.

My second daughter brought me great joy and a seemingly neverending case of sciatica (and a huge ibuprofen habit). Having both made parenting seem more than twice as hard than having one child.

Now that I am better, and she is older, it all seems so much easier. (good thing since she is the stronger willed of the two.)

Posted by: question for momof4 | October 18, 2006 10:09 AM

I think it needs to be clarified that only the more affluent SAHPs have "help" be it a cleaning service or takeout - as the product of a single working household, I can assure you that the cleaning service was us kids and we hardly ever had take out - getting Chinese was a HUGE treat (which may explain why I feel the need to order about once a week now that I am an adult!)

Sorry-I realize that this blog is generally made up of the more "affluent", but I had to put that out there.

Posted by: Betty | October 18, 2006 10:10 AM

p.s. just to clarify - I am not making a judgment of the make up of the blog, just an observation is all.

Posted by: Betty | October 18, 2006 10:11 AM

Could someone please get Jayne some Valium or something? She really seems to be kind of angry and hostile . . .

Posted by: Armchair Mom | October 18, 2006 10:14 AM

I agree with "quesiton for momof4." The age of the kids makes a huge difference. By the time momof4 became a SAHM she had an 8-year-old (regardless of what the ages of the other kids were, having an 8-year-old around can be a big help).

Personally, I was a SAHM for 3 years and it was by far the hardest I've ever worked in my life. It not only depends on the ages of the kids, but the personalities of the kids and what kind of support system you have (or don't have).

Posted by: Ms L | October 18, 2006 10:14 AM

Apples and Oranges: I was going to use the term "whiners" on SAHM's and working moms that bicker about who does more. It is all na-nanny boo-booism. The working and SAH moms in my neighborhood actually support each other - trade favors with watching kids, driving to sports, etc. Are the women griping (on both sides) in the city? Do you have friends and neighbors on both sides of the aisle? If you go it alone without a network or husband to help it is much harder - is this the problem?

I think we all know women that SAH and have it easy or hard, same with working moms. It is not all or nothing for either - geez!

Posted by: CMAC | October 18, 2006 10:15 AM

To apples and oranges:

I know plenty of SAHMs who have help with housecleaning and get takeout. Just because someone is working it doesn't mean they can afford these extra things to make life easier and just because someone is a SAHM doesn't mean they can't afford help. Do you have statistics on how working mothers get this kind of help "quite a bit more" as you posted?

Posted by: Huh? | October 18, 2006 10:15 AM

Parents may want to consider re-reading Twain, or even playing the books on tape in long car rides to help improve the quality of life and the sharing of duties around the house.

Along similar line to Fo4, blurring the lines between work and play can make life a whole lot more enjoyable and the drudgery of laundry, folding laundry, clearing dishes, doing dishes, cooking vaccuuming, weeding, painting etc are always more amusing, although a tad less efficient when done by me and the troops.

For example, the evening ticket to television is only whilst folding laundry. DS happy to fold for the forbidden fruit of the "blue light" mid week." The three year old is a heckuva folder too!

Latex paint is easy to clean, and the kids will always remember THEY painted that wall, door whatever. Older DD hates folding, but good with a paintbrush and roller.

Use a little Tom Sawyer and you'll find alot of fences get whitewashed and more smiles than complaints in re breach of child labor laws at home.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Hi honey, I'm home!!!!!

Posted by: Fo3 | October 18, 2006 10:19 AM

>

Are you kidding me? Just to sleep and eat that "take-away dinner"? So that means bathrooms magically stay clean, floors don't accumulate dust, dirt, dog hair and crumbs, laundry whips itself into tidy folded piles, dishwashers don't need unloading, and somehow bedsheets get changed? Oh, and kids' toys never accumulate, art supplies never drip on the floor, and somehow there's always a fresh bath towel? And the recycling walks itself to the curb? Even with a twice-monthly cleaning lady, these daily activities MUST get done. You make it sound like a working mother and her kids live in a hotel where they're only there to sleep. I've got news for you: we do actually LIVE in our homes, even if we work and our kids are gone much of the day.

Posted by: amnesiac | October 18, 2006 10:19 AM

"But working moms do hire out help quite a lot more than most SAHMs -- either by employing a cleaning person, eating out or take-away many nights a week, etc. If you hire out a cleaner to do the kitchen, floors, bathrooms, etc. and you and your family are really only in the house during the week to sleep and to eat that take-away dinner, then you really have a lot less cleaning to do than a SAHM who is in the house with kids all day every day. "

Hey apples and oranges, can you tell me where to sign up for this lifestyle? And who will be paying for it? I'm a working mother, and I don't have a housecleaner, haven't ordered takeout in over a year, and my kids are home making a mess most of the day every day.

I'm sorry to have to say it, but you are an idiot in serious need of a reality check if you think the easy life you described is typical of working families.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 10:22 AM

to 10:09:

My children are 4, 6, 12, & 14. I was a WOHP until my 6 year old was born.

Yes, I have more experience than a parent who has a toddler and a baby. But so what? It didn't take me 5 years to learn how to parent/balance when I WOH - when I had far less time to get everything done - why should it take someone 5 years to learn how to parent/balance when they SAH from the beginning?

I'm not diminishing the effects of post partum depression, complications from pregnancy & childbirth, and the overwhelming responsibility of caring for a newborn. But that's not what we're talking about here, I don't think. We're talking talking about whether or not, in general, a SAH really "works" every second she's awake. I am fully immersed in the SAH world and I can tell you first hand that it's not even *close* to being true. Even for those who don't drop their kids off at school and go to Starbucks or the gym (which, btw, I have never done. When I go out for coffee or walking (my version of the gym) my youngest child comes with me....should I put that on my time card?)

As far as WOHPs having outside help - I agree that the vast majority of the people in this situation are affluent, although I do know a single middle class mom who considers her housekeeping service that comes once every two weeks her "luxury". Some women get their nails done, she gets her house cleaned. I know that I had absolutely no outside "help" when I worked - I carried my lunch to work, cleaned my own house, cooked from scratch just as much as I do now, etc.

Posted by: momof4 | October 18, 2006 10:23 AM

I totally agree with Fo4. I'm familiar with the idea that spending time with your kids is "work," and I really really hate it.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 18, 2006 10:25 AM

Ok so you all think that you change sheets, scrub the toilets, and clean toys all day long 7 days a week? Give me a break. You can do that in a few hours a week (unless you live in a 10,000 sq foot house with 20 bathrooms and then I'd assume you could afford a housekeeper). Quit complaining! My SAH friends freely admit their lives are pretty laid back compared to when they worked AND had to do the housework. It is my opinion that SAHM tend to be less ambitious, less industrious and I don't mean this in a bad way. Not everyone wants to have a career, not everyone wants to be CEO or president of the US. People do as much as they can tolerate and afford.

And if any of you think having babies and toddlers is hard, wait until the schoolage and teenage years when they start having tons of home work and activities to go to. The early years are the easiest.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 10:26 AM

"regardless of what the ages of the other kids were, having an 8-year-old around can be a big help"

Having an 8 year around when you have a newborn also means that you have to continue to do 8 year old stuff - take them to and from school, go to soccer practice and games, go to swimming lessons, help them with homework, go on field trips, go to school programs, help their teacher because she has 28 kids in her class..... - while caring for your newborn. The "assistance" of an 8 year old is FAR outweighed by the responsibility of having an 8 year old.

Posted by: momof4 | October 18, 2006 10:29 AM

Should I have said, "All work and no play makes Jacqueline a dull girl?"

Everybody take a step back from the cliff please.

The sun'll come out tomorrow, bet yer bottom dollar that tomorrow...

Posted by: Fo3 | October 18, 2006 10:29 AM

If the discussion is supposed to be about balance and how we spend our time, how about more responses along the lines of Father of 4 and Father of 3? How do you make your kids team players in your family and enhance your family time? Wouldn't that be more productive?

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | October 18, 2006 10:32 AM

I'm always kind of curious about seemingly disparaging comments made about SAHM "They're...at the gym...tough live" (from the unnamed 10:05 poster today, though I've seen comments like that many times on this chat) as if going to the gym is some sort of indulgence. Daily exercise isn't a luxury at all - not any more than taking a couple of minutes to brush your teeth or getting your yearly pap test!!! Obviously, some (a lot) of folks just don't have the financial option of not working, or working less hours, in order to spend more time exercising (or maybe would have to substitute walking outside rather than a gym membership)....but many people do have the options. The balance isn't just between work and family - personal health is in there too. If the family is so busy and stressed out that the parents (working or not) don't have time to exercise, I think that it's time for the family to take a really good hard look at their priorities and see what sacrifices that they can make in order to fit that in. I've seen the benefits of daily life long exercise, and I think that it's just as important as contributing money to a retirement account or paying off a mortgage.

Posted by: notyetamom | October 18, 2006 10:44 AM

Ms. L, I agree with your perspective. I found being a SAHM with an infant to be very draining, and comments like "After dropping the kids off at school, they're at starbucks" drive me nuts, because they totally ignore the fact that not all kids are in school. Being home alone with an infant was very difficult in certain ways.

Being a WOHM now, there are things about it that are much easier and things that are much harder. It's just different.

Situations vary, peoples' strengths vary, and kids vary. I figure the vast majority of us are working hard at whatever we do and doing the best we can, so why worry so much about how many hours some study says the other person works?

Posted by: Megan | October 18, 2006 10:48 AM

Right on, 10:26 am poster. As a single mom who works full time, commutes about 3 hours per day, parents my kids, and yes, does clean my house on top of it all, I look at my (married) stay-at-home mom friends' schedules and want to scream. They complain about having to go to Target to buy paper towels and nearly missing their tennis lessons -- this is no joke. They carpool on school dropoffs so they can stay in their bathrobes another hour some days -- again, no joke. They have weekly cleaning ladies and order their groceries to be delivered via PeaPod (we live in the NYC metro area...not sure if you have that near DC). What do they do all day? Well, before my marriage fell apart and I had to return to work, I used to get invited to their coffee klatches and idyllic picnics with the kids in the park. THAT'S what they do. And no, it is NOT work. Sorry, but cleaning up the breakfast dishes so you can get out the door to tennis or bellydancing lessons while the kids are at school (again, no joke about the bellydancing) isn't anything compared to the workload I shoulder at the end of my long day. Do I sound bitter? You bet. I just thank my lucky stars I'm a relatively lucky college-educated and white-collar single mom who can afford a biweekly cleaning lady to take the edge off. It's funny -- my SAHM friends chide me all the time--- "What do you mean, you've never seen 'Grey's Anatomy'? Why didn't you read this month's book club book...it was SO good!' and they have absolutely no clue. That study really finally confirmed it all for me. Oh, and by the way: I have been both SAHM and working mom. There is simply no way a SAHM mom does anywhere near the amount of work her working counterpart does. No contest.

Posted by: amnesiac | October 18, 2006 10:54 AM

I think part of the reason SAHMs are defensive about how much work they do is because their roles in society are not valued and suggesting that they spend most of their time getting coffee, playing tennis, etc., just demonstrates this perception. Being a SAHM is an important job... it may mean that you are less busy on average than a working mom, but I doubt it feels that way for the SAHM and we shouldn't belittle that. Being a mom is hard work and important work and if a SAHM is working 80 hours a week to take care of her family the way she thinks they need to be taken care of, why would anyone suggest she is untruthful? And whether you think of being with your child as work or not, it still counts as work... there are certainly people out there who love their professional careers and would probably do it whether they get paid or not (writers, scientists, etc.) and we don't try to tell them it isn't work.

Posted by: gradstudent | October 18, 2006 10:56 AM

Sorry for the change of subject but did you guys see the washpost article today about French families? Here are some excerpts...

Under French law, a woman can opt not to work or to work part time until her child is 3 years old -- and her full-time job will be guaranteed when she returns.

Barbeyrac catches the 5:09 p.m. train home, walks to the government-subsidized day-care center where her 2 1/2 -year-old twins have spent the day ($670 a month for both), then picks up Ines, 8, and Feh, 6, at the after-school program that ends at 6 p.m. ($75 a month for the two).

Maybe instead of arguing with each other abou this and that, you guys can start demanding more family friendly laws from the government ;)

Posted by: wow.... | October 18, 2006 11:03 AM

More excerpts from that washington post article.

"French society encourages mothers to work," Staub said. "The way work hours and vacation time are organized also helps families a lot. I have 36 days of paid holidays per year -- it's great to spend time with your children."

"In the summer, French families can send their children to generous summer camp programs. Government recreation centers in virtually every French village and urban neighborhood offer a full day of activities, including trips to museums, farms and swimming pools -- along with snacks and three-course lunch -- for fees ranging from about 65 cents to $12 a day, based on family income."


Posted by: wow.... | October 18, 2006 11:05 AM

"We all work hard at what we do and made the decisions we made in the best interests of our families."

Two huge, unsubstantiated assumptions!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 11:06 AM

To use a Desperate Housewives reference - Any SAHM who works as hard as you imply must be like Bree ;).

...in the 50's, families had multiple children. the babies were put in playpens with toys. the mothers didn't spend as much time interacting with the kids. As the kids got older, the older ones looked after the younger. They played outside without constant adult supervision. Houses generally were smaller - less to clean. Less modern conveniences created more more work in some areas, but less things create less in some ways. E.g., one stove to clean, not stove plus microwave plus GF grill, etc.

So, I agree that parents are now spending more time with their children than earlier generations. let's stop arguing about SAH vs WOH.

Posted by: to LiT | October 18, 2006 11:08 AM

"But working outside the home is not an option for everyone."

Now here's an interesting twist.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 11:09 AM

France (and some other European countries) is trying to increase its birth rate - the US doesn't have that problem

Posted by: fabworkingmom | October 18, 2006 11:10 AM

I read the article yesterday. While I am encouraged by the increase in fathers' time with the kids and housework, I couldn't help but notice that women still do the majority of both. In my opinion, there will not be balance until the fathers' column looks like the mothers' column. I hope that these numbers point to a continuing trend.

And as far as taking care of kids being work, I'll throw in my two cents.

I worked with children for several years. It was hard work, and I got paid dirt. I did all of the un-fun stuff (changed diapers, cleaned up vomit and worse, cooked food, and generally disinfected). I have no kids of my own, but I can imagine that even when they are your own kids, that's still un-fun, and it's still work. Playing with the kids is a different story.

My husband and I argue about whose turn it is to take the dogs to the park. Even though we love our dogs and the park is essentially play time, it is work in the sense that we have to make sure neither get into a fight, make sure they're not jumping on people, and be vigilant for "scooping" opportunities. We take them there because it socializes them, not because it's fun for us. In a perfect world, all the things your babies need would be loads of fun, but then again, in a perfect world, all they would need to grow would be kisses from us!

Posted by: Meesh | October 18, 2006 11:10 AM

No statistics, just observations over the past nine years. And in my observations, I have seen working moms eating out more (whether it's McDonald's drive-through or something else) and hiring cleaners more often. And the moms I know who work don't have as much cleaning to do because they aren't home nearly as much to make the mess. I'm not saying working parents live in "hotels", but I am saying that SAHMs of young children have more messes to deal with each day. If you work and your children are at home most of the day, then I have to assume they are old enough to stay home by themselves and old enough to clean up their own messes before you get home.

I know there are SAHMs who do hire out cleaning help and eat out quite a lot, but the "gripers'" problems with these women has nothing to do with the amount of work they do compared to WOH moms -- it's that they are, in general, more affluent. The gripers would find a way to complain about people more affluent than them -- whether they worked or not.

Posted by: Apples and oranges | October 18, 2006 11:11 AM

"there are certainly people out there who love their professional careers and would probably do it whether they get paid or not (writers, scientists, etc.) and we don't try to tell them it isn't work."

Maybe not, but frequently they themselves do not characterize it as work. They're very aware of how lucky they are to get paid for something they'd feel driven to do for free if necessary.

Stephen King is very up front about the fact that he's got a marketable obsession and that it would actually be more work and more difficult for him to refrain from writing.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 18, 2006 11:11 AM

Yeah, the only catch is you have to live in France :)

Posted by: to wow... | October 18, 2006 11:11 AM

This article describes the life of our family -- two working adults with two small children. And while I don't mind watching less TV and catching up with my reading on a Metro ride to and from work, what I really miss is the couple time. We literally have none. True, it's possible to juggle, multitask, stagger activities, and so on, but at what cost to a marriage.......

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 11:12 AM

I have been SAH and WOH parent. As much as I love my kids, it was harder for ME personally to cope when they were smaller and I was home all day. It was less stressful in some ways, i.e. no commute, no strict timetable, and harder in others: rarely could I focus on any one thing and finish it. That became a huge luxury. I also felt exhausted a large part of the time, because I was always 'on'. There were a few other issues that complicated things. I was also SO jealous of my husbands commute (an hour by metro) because he could read a book. The house was a never ending chore, it seemed. Sometimes I feel like I spent too much time with them. Now they are in school fulltime, I work part-time and am much more balanced. When I was a SAHM, I felt a lot like Hope on thirtysomething--that I was largely wasting my education (of course I wasn't, but I FELT that way), I wasn't earning money, having a career. I also was a rarity in my n ( and to be fair, it probably went both ways). We sacrificed some things to have me stay home fulltime--one car,no gym member ship-- you know the deal. It was a long time before I could eat out without calculating how much I could have made that meal for at home! I wish someone had told me (can't see the forest for the trees syndrome) that it was all temporary and that there would come a time when I could read a book guilt (and interruption) free, work a little and have some fulfillment that way. There were days I felt trapped and angry, but they were outnumbered by a wide margin by the days I felt blessed and happy. I confess, I didn't relate well to the woh moms at times, especially those who had babies (and choices). Working, for me at this time, is easier that staying home fulltime would be. Of course, this is not to compare my experience with anyone else's. I know lots of mom's who handle parenthood better than I did initially. But finally, to answer PWM's question, how do you make your kids team players and enhance family time? Housework. They have chores, 15 minutes a day. If they don't do their particular chore, it impacts them and the family. If they leave for school and the dishwasher isn't emptied, dishes (breakfast, after school snack) stack up. Dinner is harder to make because the kitchen is messier. That puts the cook in a grumpy mood, because now there is more work to be done before they start cooking! Also, a little maintainance now (15 min a day) is much easier to swallow than three hours Saturday morning. So they own it. Also, we do some of those 15 minute projects together--clean out and reorganize the game closet and the like. Then they don't feel overwhelmed and abandoned. We also eat dinner together every night. We have shared hobbies--scrapbooking, photography, sports and yes, video games. My husband and kids share this hobby. They talk about tricks for playing, trading in games, the next new game, etc. So they have conversations that are about things other than school and chores and get your elbows off the table.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 11:13 AM

Whoa, it's "Battle of the Martyrs" day at the blog.

FWIW, being able to choose to be a SAHM is a LUXURY (not just for me-- for my dh too, at least if I'll get my can off the sofa and deal with the laundry so he doesn't have to).

I've never been a WOHM, but I KNOW that most of the WOHMs I know work harder than I do, and their kids are great.

I'm glad I wasn't asked to participate in the childcare poll-- since my baby is going through a phase where he wants to be held every waking second, it would be hard for me quantify how much time I spend caring for him. Would it be`all the time I'm holding him, or just the time I'm actively doing something for him?

Have fun today-- I'm off to find my kitchen island under all the clutter.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 18, 2006 11:13 AM

to wow: The French economy is shrinking because everyone receives these great government perks but no one seems to be actually doing any work. Last year they raised the work week from 35 hours per week to 40 because of the lagging economy. France relies on tourism, but still shows disdain for those (particularly Americans) that support them.

Not sure what France leads the world in - wine exporting? Bad attitudes? I am not a big fan of relying on government handouts to support my family and lifestyle - good old fashion work is just fine with me - just don't tax me to death.

Posted by: cmac | October 18, 2006 11:15 AM

"Sorry-I realize that this blog is generally made up of the more "affluent", but I had to put that out there."

Betty --

Why apologize? This blog is for everyone, no matter their rung on the socioeconomic ladder. Just because the gripes and moans of the affluent take up so much space, that doesn't mean that you and I shouldn't be posting here.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 11:16 AM

"Even though we love our dogs and the park is essentially play time, it is work in the sense that we have to make sure neither get into a fight, make sure they're not jumping on people, and be vigilant for "scooping" opportunities."

We've got three, and love them desperately. Picking up dog crap isn't something I'd choose to do for fun, and it's not something I'd do for someone else's dog, but I don't mind doing it for mine. The not minding is what prevents it from being work. I love them and want to do things for them; I can only imagine that if one is a good parent, that love and desire is magnified a thousandfold. Which is why it makes me sad when people talk about how much work it is to be with their kids; if you honestly feel like it's work, then hire someone to watch them.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 18, 2006 11:16 AM

The gripers would find a way to complain about people more affluent than them -- whether they worked or not.


Seems to me the gripers will find a way to complain about other people, period. The people engaged in arguing on this board and in life over who works harder are essentially unable to not look at others with jealousy and criticism in their hearts. It seems we need an elementary school teacher to tell everyone to stay focused on what they are doing and not worry about what their neighbors are doing.

Posted by: sad | October 18, 2006 11:16 AM

Lizzie, it's good to hear from another Stephen King fan.

He's often asked if he takes days off. He usually lies and says that he takes days off, the truth is that he works pretty much every day, at least for a couple hours.

Maybe that's why I'm not writing the Great American Novel--too many vacations!

Posted by: Meesh | October 18, 2006 11:18 AM

"Could someone please get Jayne some Valium or something? She really seems to be kind of angry and hostile . . ."

Geez, talk about angry and hostile. Jayne hasn't said anything even remotely deserving of this comment.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 11:19 AM

Here is a trick that I find pretty effective especially when I'm kicking back in the Master's Chair sipping a beer and dreaming up another scheme on how I can get my annoying son to help out to improve my overwhelming and incredibly difficult life:

Me: In order to keep the roof I've labored so hard and so long for, I need a few chores done to keep it over our heads. Do you want the *hard* job, or do you prefer to whimp out and take the *easy* job.

Son: Ok, dad, this time I'll do the *hard* job if you give me a sip of your beer.

Me: Are you sure? It's real man's work and a real dirty job.

Son: I know, I know, I'll take out the trash.

Me: Make sure you get the trash out of the bathroom and remember it's trash day tomorrow, so it all goes out to the curb.

[Burp]

Shameless, I know, but anything to maintain family harmony.

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 18, 2006 11:20 AM

"Lizzie, it's good to hear from another Stephen King fan."

God, I love him so. My husband's brother went to school with Joe King, and there is a character named after my husband in one of his books. I remember reading the character's name and thinking, "Man, that's a dumb name. Where does he get these stupid names?" Ha ha. Joke's on me.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 18, 2006 11:21 AM

"...as if going to the gym is some sort of indulgence. Daily exercise isn't a luxury at all - not any more than taking a couple of minutes to brush your teeth or getting your yearly pap test!!!"

No, daily exercise isn't a luxury. But a gym membership is.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 11:24 AM

Oops, I forgot to mention that the "trick" is fooling the boy into thinking he has a choice in what his chore is. whether he chose the easy or hard job, he's will still end up taking out the trash. Everybody loves choices.

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 18, 2006 11:25 AM

11:13, I can definitely relate.

It seems to me that the question of whether you refer to spending time with your kids as "work" sort of misses the point. I don't, and never have, characterized it as "work" exactly, but it can be tiring and challenging in its own way for me and a lot of people. I think some people refer to it as work simply to indicate that it can be difficult and that it is what they are supposed to be doing all day, and so is in a sense their job. It doesn't mean that they don't enjoy it or value it or that they necessarily think its the same as working in a traditional paid job (though I realize that some do).

Posted by: Megan | October 18, 2006 11:25 AM

Ahh, to be immortalized in a Stephen King novel. I could die happy.

The way my husband stole me from another man was by showing me his collection of all of Stephen King's books in hardcover. The way to this woman's heart is through her, uh, eyes?

Posted by: Meesh | October 18, 2006 11:31 AM

"Geez, talk about angry and hostile. Jayne hasn't said anything even remotely deserving of this comment."

WHAT? She said SAHM's "turn her stomach". This blog is sooooooooo about WOHM's justifying their choices by putting SAHM's down. (There are a few SAHM's that soldier on and an even fewer # of SAHM defenders - like Fo4.) Some days the veneer is a little thicker than others, but on days like today you can see what's underneath. If Jayne was saying these harsh things about WOHM's the ENTIRE blog would be lambasting her. I'm out...

Posted by: incredulous | October 18, 2006 11:34 AM

"Sad," it seems like you might be lumping me with the "gripers." Absolutely. SURE I gripe. I definitely gripe. OK, so life is not fair, and sometimes marriages fail. And I do recognize that I am lucky --- my kids and I are healthy, we are not poor, etc. But yes, I do gripe, because I am sick and tired of SAHMs complaining about how hard they have it. It's not that hard, people! I don't view spending time with my kids as work, either. So why do the SAHMs act so miserable?

Posted by: amnesiac | October 18, 2006 11:34 AM

amnesiac, actually the thing that jumped out of your first post to me was that I don't understand why you call those people friends or continue to hang out with them. They obviously just make you bitter and don't seem to have any real empathy towards you. Maybe you should cut ties and get some friends whose situations are more like yours, then you can focus on the good things in your life and not be distracted by what the people you find so frustrating say and do.

Posted by: sad | October 18, 2006 11:39 AM

Fof4, mine does it for Dr. Pepper, but same deal - I love having a kid who can take out the trash for me! She whines a bit about also having to feed the dogs and cat, but when it's a choice betwen that and having to vaccum the house and fold the laundry, she's happy to be ouside hauling the trash can to the street. Can't wait for her to start volunteering to cook dinner, too - then maybe I'll finally get the house clean!

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | October 18, 2006 11:42 AM

Sad, funny you should say that. Over the past four years since my divorce I have indeed distanced myself from some people for that very reason. But going through a divorce and losing many things (a husband, a certain standard of living, a house) makes you not want to purposely lose other things, such as friends. It's too much loss all at once. So you hang onto friendships hoping things will work out. But as time goes by, you realize you are growing apart because yes, you are tired of that friend complaining about things when she obviously can't relate to what I am doing. I happen to live in a fairly affluent suburb of NYC, and was lucky enough to stay in it after my divorce (but only by going back to work and combining my income with the support I get from my ex). I did that so my kids could stay in the area in which they have grown up and so they can attend excellent public schools. The drawback is, of course, that I am in a social group made largely up of these very entitled SAHMs. I welcome reality checks that consist of working moms who know how hard it is. The irony is, of course, that we're all working too hard to get to know each other.

Posted by: amnesiac | October 18, 2006 11:45 AM

Why does this discussion have to be a spitting contest on who does the most work? Is the parent who "works" the most then crowned the best parent? Clearly, there are times during the day when a SAHP is off the clock, and the same goes for the WOHP. I am more interested in how they calculated these figures. Commuting time -- is that considered work? Driving the kids to school? Going to Target? I would vote that the Target visit with kids is definitely work! I enjoy cooking dinner so I spend more time at it the average person -- does that count as work or leisure?

Posted by: 1+2mom | October 18, 2006 11:45 AM

I've done both and I wouldn't say one is harder than the other. They are just hard in very different ways and I think this results in using your time in different ways. When I was WOH, I spent a lot less time cleaning the house. We did "triage" cleaning: dishwashing,laundry, really gross messes on the floor, and some basic routine hygeine stuff like toilets and bathtubs. Now I actually try to keep the place tidy, make the beds every day, and cook a real supper (with veggies!). "Triage Cleaning" freed up time for things like chasing my toddler around the house trying to get him dressed, fed, toothbrushed, lunch packed etc by 7:45 am every day. Now that I'm SAH, he gets dressed whenever, but he spends a lot more time doing things like painting, playdoh, etc, that generate mess that I then have to sweep or mop up. Now, we generate three times as many bags of trash per week as when I WOH.

I would say that there's less time to oneself when WOH, because you have to cram household work into the ends of the day, and because readying kids for daycare adds work that is absent when SAH. But I think the standards are different and thus time spent on housework is different. Maybe other WOH do more housework than I did when WOH, but I don't see how they could do as much as I do now that I am SAH. I think SAH have less control of their time, because it is dependent on their kids' needs. When you're home with kids, especially little ones, your potty break/lunch/cup of coffee or whatever, may have to wait until you've managed the cookie-tantrum, the no-tv-tantrum, the picking-up-little-brother-by-his-feet tantrum, the climbing-the-kitchen-counters-to-get-to-the-marshmallows tantrum, and the baby's exploding diaper; it may be an hour before you get to go potty! I think such scheduling problems add to SAH mom's feelings that they have no time. Little kids just need constant supervision. I also think managing small children is mentally very challenging: they are not built for cooperation and they need a lot of help to do basic tasks that older people take for granted. I think when SAH there's very little time to complete any train of thought, because except on rare occasions it tends to be broken into 5 minute intervals, and this produces a feeling of not having "time to oneself".
I hear my munchkins calling me! Bye!

Posted by: m | October 18, 2006 11:45 AM

It is so stupid to say that about Jayne. She didn't say anything hostile. If you don't agree, refute her argument, but don't say she is angry. That is the dumbest thing people do on this blog.

You are ANGRY! Good comeback!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 11:46 AM

Cooking is fun. cleaning up afterwards is work.

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 18, 2006 11:49 AM

very true, amnesiac, and I really sympathize with you on that point. I hope that things get better and you find some other WOH moms that you can find time to do things with.

Posted by: sad | October 18, 2006 11:50 AM

thanks, Sad. That's one reason I read this blog (up to now always as a lurker), even though I live in the NYC area and it's mainly read by people in the DC area. There are relatively few places to get intelligent, reasoned opinions/fellowship on this situation. Most of the divorce support groups I found consisted of older women with kids out of high school, not women in their 30s. So finding support was/is difficult. I am still the only divorced woman in my social circle. I guess that's good, but it is lonesome. Thank you for your kind comments.

Posted by: amnesiac | October 18, 2006 11:57 AM

"I welcome reality checks that consist of working moms who know how hard it is. The irony is, of course, that we're all working too hard to get to know each other."

Amnesiac, I can really sympathize on this point. I have some fantastic friends who are SAHM (not at all entitled like the people you describe), but as I have moved back to working I've found it difficult to relate, particularly because they are able to focus so much time on parenting and child development issues and research and follow a particular style of parenting and so on - things for us are a lot more haphazard in that regard and we just kind of take it as it comes. It's been a real pleasure to get to know some other families that are more like ours, and we're slowly finding ways to spend time together. One of the best things has been getting comfortable enough with a family on our street that we can just order takeout together or have them over for a very thrown-together dinner, with no need to clean up first or plan something special - it takes no extra time for us but provides a great outlet for the kids and the adults.

Posted by: Megan | October 18, 2006 11:59 AM

I've been thinking about the notion that SAH moms in the 60s spent the same amount of time with their children as working moms do today, and I can easily see how it's possible. First of all, once you're in school, that's a big chunk of your day, so whether mom works or not, you won't be spending those hours with her.

At that time our extended family all lived in driving distance, so you might get dropped off at Grandma's or Auntie's for the weekend quite often. I think that extended-family closeness was more common back then than it is now, so that might be another reason why parents today spend more time with their kids -- fewer options for getting rid of them! (I joke because I love, people. I love my kids, I promise.)

Also, I think back then there was not such a social stigma on letting your kids play unsupervised outside, compared to now. I remember hanging out all around the neighborhood with my friends from a very young age, with no one's mom in sight, even though many of them were SAH. Back then it was "go wherever you want, just be back by 6:00." Now, that's not so common. There's always someone's mother keeping an eye out the window and rules about how far away you can wander.

My own mother worked some of the time and stayed home some of the time. But I don't really recall any difference in the amount of time she spent with me. I spent most of my time either in school or with my friends instead.

Posted by: 2Preschoolers | October 18, 2006 12:02 PM

amnesiac, by the way, I hope that last post didn't sound like I was saying our situations are the same and you should do what we are doing, I can see that your situation has a lot of particular challenges that I'm not facing. Just that one bit jumped out as something we're working on too.

Posted by: Megan | October 18, 2006 12:05 PM

Megan, no, I didn't see it that way. I know what you're saying. My best friend is the one person who I knew pre-divorce who also now empathizes and who also works (granted, as a teacher in our town, so she's fortunate to get summers off and gets out of work at 3pm with a 5-minute commute, so she acknowledges that she has me beat with my 1.5-hour each-way commute). She and I do relate well to the craziness of it all -- of parenting, of working outside the home, etc. We have done the whole pizza night/let-the-kids-run-wild-in-the-basement thing on a few occasions, and it feels great. She understands my feelings about these things better than just about anyone. I think some of it comes from her background --- she went to an elite private college but grew up in a working-class family, and never attained that annoying sense of entitlement that so many people in our area somehow did. I'm not talking about super-rich people, either, by the way--- just upper middle-class people who ACT like they're on "Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous" half the time.

Posted by: amnesiac | October 18, 2006 12:18 PM

No two kids are the same, no two couples are the same, no two jobs are the same. Being a SAHP of two toddlers is different from being a SAHP of a high school student, which is different from being a SAHP of a special needs child.
Most of us are making decisions based on our own unique situation, not those of our neighbors.

Posted by: Pacifist | October 18, 2006 12:20 PM

Last night, a local (elderly,
unmarried, male, and child-free)
radio talk show host brought this
study to the fore. His angle was
that if parents are spending as much time or more than those in the 1950s, why are kids so deprived/underachieving at this time? Some callers thought it was the "helicopter parenting" that led us to believe kids aren't doing as well; kids in the 50s weren't hovered over/smothered by parents -- who today have more $$$ and may be trying to make-up
for time away from home by focusing on kids. Others said the media was at fault for focusing on this apparent underachieving/problem child phenom. One said kids were just as difficult in the 50s, but the media/parents didn't focus on it. A strong middle class at that time and everyone having a place and role and apparently knowing they should keep their place glossed over what eventually blew up in the 1960s. A lot has changed. The genie is out of the bottle. Women are not "knowing their place" and that has changed the dynamic -- of everything. Some on the right still wish everyone "knew their place" but we've already reached a new place in time and society. Witness, too, the other recent study on married people being a slight but distinct minority. The kicker on one story I read on that was "The Ozzie and Harriet era is dead."
Indeed, it is. In many ways.

Posted by: SF Mom | October 18, 2006 12:37 PM

Father of 4, I definitely agree! That's why I do the cooking and my husband does the dishes. He thinks he's getting off easy!

Posted by: Meesh | October 18, 2006 12:41 PM

Father og 4, I definitely agree! That's why I do the cooking and my husband does the dishes. He thinks he's getting off easy!

Posted by: Meesh | October 18, 2006 12:41 PM

A day in my life starting with getting to the metro station...

I leave the house to start my two mile walk to the metro (can't afford a gym and I'm short on time, so I fit exercise in where I can). Ride the metro to work and walk the 1/2 mile to my building.

My daughter calls me at 2:30ish to let me know she is on her way home (about a mile -- we live "too close" for the bus route.)
3:30, 4:00ish... I get a call, "Mom, I don't understand XYZ on homework."...spend a few minutes helping her and hang up. I'll get another call or two in the next 2 hours.

Take the metro home and get home around 7:00 (yes, I walk home from the metro too.) I walk in the door and immediately start to cook dinner as I am bombarded with, "Mom, can you check this?"

9:30 - If I am lucky, homework is done and she is getting to bed. If I haven't done so already, I get out of my work clothes. I clean the kitchen, tidy up around the house, catch up on the news, pick out something to wear the next day, and around midnight to 1:00, I go to bed.

My alarm goes off at 5:30 in the morning. She wakes up at 5:45. We finish up any homework that is left over from the night before. And check the work that is already done. As she is getting ready, I pack her lunch. 7:15 - I drop her off at school, come home to park the car and head out myself on my two mile treck.

Am I jealous of my SAHP friends? Absolutely. Do I hold grudges against them, nah. It gives me hope that one day maybe I will have the luxury of choosing to to stay at home. Do I think I work harder than them? Perhaps some of them...but not all of them... but it really depends on what they do with their time at home. I know that I want to be a SAHM, but I can't afford to (single mom, no support). I also know that I would be just as busy as I am now, if I was a SAHM -- if I wasn't working for an income, I would definately be vounteering my time - and my life would be just as hectic.

We all "work". That work can be defined as for income or not. Some of us are better at staying home and some are better working outside. It's a balance remember? You can't say that all WOHP work harder and all SAHP live in the lap of luxury. We all have to do what fits our own lives. Why begrudge the people who are lucky enough to have a choice to stay at home?

And as far as spending more time with our kids -- quality not quantity. A quote from the NYTimes article is, ""I cook less," Ms. Curtis said. "I exercise less. And I do a lot of multitasking. When my son is at soccer practice, I sit on the sidelines grading papers. I have no time for personal relaxation."" ...ummm, how is it considered spending time with your children when you are grading papers? Wouldn't that be the same as me taking personal phone calls while in a meeting? Well maybe not that extreme... I understand multitasking... but what happens when your kids makes the winning goal, but you only look up from grading papers in time to see the high fives? I commend her for doing two things at once, but in my eyes spending time means exclusively spending time with your child or children.

That being said, I think that if we really want to look at the "time spent" with our children, we have to look at alot more than just time. I don't consider cooking dinner while she practices her musical intrument "spending time with her." Talking at dinner, or when we can fit it in, a walk after dinner -- that is spending time with her.

So I agree with experienced mom at 8:47, always question statistics. The reports are only as good as how the data is framed.

Posted by: wannabe SAHM :) | October 18, 2006 12:44 PM

What a lot of bickering this morning! LOL! I will be the first to say that I probably work less than everyone. My house is a mess and I haven't cooked a meal in years. My husband does all the cooking. When the house is too messy, we just ignore it. We are swamped by junk mail and catalogs...perhaps we will turn into the Collyer brothers?! We thought about hiring someone to clean but we don't want him/her to tell everyone what slobs we are. I can't wait until the baby is big enough to start picking up after us. I do actually get stuff done at work in between posting to this blog.

Relax folks. Everyone is working and trying to do the best they can. Is there some grand prize that I am unaware of for working the most or having the cleanest house?!

(...and by dirty I don't mean CPS-is-coming-to-take-my-child-away kind of dirty! Just so ya know.)

Posted by: alex. mom | October 18, 2006 1:08 PM

Okay... everyone is probably going to jump on me for this, but I'm really interested in hearing people's opinions considering the comments today that staying home is a luxury. My mom was SAHM when I was growing up and I know that, at least when we were little (3 kids), they didn't have a lot money. But my mom has always maintained that "everyone can afford to be a SAHM." While this is obviously an overstatement and wouldn't apply to single parents, her point, and I think it is an interesting one, is that people can cut back to make it happen if they really want it... live in a smaller house or cheaper city, only buy used cars, take fewer vacations, etc. It seems that, at least for middle class familes, this may not be THAT inaccurate. What does everyone else think?

Posted by: gradstudent | October 18, 2006 1:13 PM

I find it interesting that the number of hours a SAHP works was challenged when the number of hours a WOHP wasn't.

I don't find either hard to believe, although I am kind of suspicious of the attempt to count the hours outside of "paid work" at all.

If I am playing with my son, I'm having fun and it's not necessarily "work" - BUT it is not like I can walk away from him (he's 14 months old) and go get my hair done instead. So is that work? I would pay a nanny for that time.

When I have a day where I am working for pay for a lot of hours, coming out of my office and playing with my son is a break. But on a day when my son is teething and I have to be on with him all day, working a few hours at night is a break.

It's very relative, what's "work" and what's not, if you take out the pay factor. /Especially/ when it comes to kids.

I sort of think it's comparing apples to oranges. To my mind they really are two different lifestyles, and working part-time from home is a weird mesh of the two.

However, having said that, a lot of people who have chosen to stay home or (as in my case) reduce their paid working hours do it because they find the pace of full-time work + childrearing to be too frantic for them. (And they are lucky enough to have the choice.) I know that's one reason I did, along with several other reasons.

So I don't think it's rocket science that work out of the home parents are busier.

Posted by: Shandra | October 18, 2006 1:18 PM

Homes with children in them get messier (houses with children in daycare only get dusty)

******************

If only that were true, my life would be a lot easier. I could just run a quick Swiffer over everything and then plop down to watch Desperate Housewives!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 1:21 PM

Hi. Newbie here.

In response to gradstudent's post, yes, I do believe that to be true for certain families. In fact, that is exactly how we live our lives. I'm not the type of woman who feels she needs everything new, shiny, or big. We'd be in debt up to our noses, and it's just not worth it.

Now, that does not mean I don't desire a new car or bigger house. Sure, who wouldn't? But being constantly strapped and stresed over the payments just wouldn't be worth it to me. I've seen marriages fail for this very reason, and it's not pretty. We're comfortable, and that's more important, in the grand scheme of things.

Posted by: Katie's Mom | October 18, 2006 1:22 PM

to grad student:

what your mother's theory fails to take into account is (1) the explosion in the cost of housing (2) the explosion in the cost of health care and (3) wage stagnation. It is simply not possible for many, many middle class people to live on one salary, no matter how much they cut back on lifestyle "extras." Yeah, if you're lucky enough to have bought a home 15 years ago, or if you're lucky enough to have an employer who gives you full health insurance at an affordable cost, you might be able to raise a family on one salary. But for others (like myself), it's just not possible. We don't have a McMansion -- we live in an apartment. We don't take lavish vacations or eat out in fancy restaurants. We have over $80,000 in debt from a medical problem three years ago that our crappy insurance didn't fully cover. We both have to work to get by. I am sure our situation is far from unique!

Posted by: to grad student | October 18, 2006 1:23 PM

"live in a smaller house or cheaper city, only buy used cars, take fewer vacations, etc."

Have less saved up for retirement, contribute less to the kids' college education, have less savings in case of disability or illness, be screwed if the breadwinner is laid off or fired, be screwed in the case of divorce... Yeah, it's possible.

Amy Dacyczyn went hardcore on saving money so she and her husband could both be home with the kids. One of the things she did was tell her kids that she'd only drive them to a friend's house once a month. Me, I think that if you want to stay at home and live out in the boonies of Maine, you've got something of an obligation to make sure that your kids' social life isn't drastically stunted as a result.

Could we afford for my husband to stay home when we have kids? Probably, if we cut way back, stopped putting money into savings, and stopped saving for retirement. I don't think it would be all that responsible to do so, though, and I disagree that a SAHM is a luxury for anyone except the SAHM herself.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 18, 2006 1:24 PM

gradstudent, I've said this in the past, but I think your question really comes down to what people think its acceptable to cut back on, and in that sense I think you're right.

I know families who go without health insurance, savings, college savings, etc and who rent cheap apartments in not-so-great neighborhoods with not-so-good schools in order to have a stay at home parent. They obviously decided it was that important and are making it work, and there seems to me to be very little luxury involved. But I think many people who say it's a luxury of the rich are people who would not consider it an option to live in the circumstances the families I mentioned live in. It's a question of what each family considers essential and what is negotiable, and that will vary a lot across different families.

Posted by: Megan | October 18, 2006 1:25 PM

did anyone else notice the different wording in the comment referred to at 1:21 -- "homes" with children in them v. "houses" with kids in daycare - am I reading too much into it, or is this in itself a value judgment

I hope that my "house" is still my "home" even though I have to work outside of it to pay the mortgage

please tell me I'm reading this wrong :)

Posted by: justhavetosay | October 18, 2006 1:25 PM

did you know that in terms of personal productivity the French are first ranked in the world?
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/29/opinion/29krugman.html?ex=1280289600&en=3c228241f02da3b6&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

and i know i would not mind more family friendly laws from our government (much touted "family values" anyone?) if they helped me lead a more balanced life.

as for the legendary french disdain of tourists, i happen to vacation there every year, and i have never experienced this proverbial disdain from french people. just another myth.

Posted by: to cmac | October 18, 2006 1:26 PM

"I know families who go without health insurance, savings, college savings, etc and who rent cheap apartments in not-so-great neighborhoods with not-so-good schools in order to have a stay at home parent. They obviously decided it was that important and are making it work, and there seems to me to be very little luxury involved."

I'm sorry, but making your kids go to a crap school and living without health insurance so you can have a SAH parent is the very definition of a pointless luxury. It's the same as an E-2 in the Army going out and buying an Escalade.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 18, 2006 1:30 PM

GradStudent:

I think that "what you can afford" is easy to say, but is actually not that simple to define. Living in a safe neighborhood with good schools is valuable. Having retirement savings so you don't need to depend on your kids in your old age is valuable. Having enough money in the bank that you can weather a few "bumps in the road" is valuable. Being a SAHM can interfere with all of these things.

We have decided that my being a SAHM is a high priority for us, but I would never presume to tell another family that they ought to be able to "afford" it.

As for whether or not its a luxury, I guess it depends who you're comparing yourself to. For me, being able to stay home with my kids and still have health insurance, pay the mortgage, and cover the other necessities without tons of stress is a luxury. When I say that, I don't intend to show-off, I intend to be aware of my blessings. Lots of people are getting by with a lot less (and that's without even looking beyond the US).

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 18, 2006 1:30 PM

Lizzie, I personally have a hard time relating to the decisions those families have made (though in fairness to them, I believe the schools are less of an issue because they are mostly planning on homeschooling, though I'm sure many would take issue with that as well). My point is simply that it is a matter of choices, but that many people (including myself) aren't willing to consider certain options that other people are.

Posted by: Megan | October 18, 2006 1:34 PM

While this is obviously an overstatement and wouldn't apply to single parents, her point, and I think it is an interesting one, is that people can cut back to make it happen if they really want it... live in a smaller house or cheaper city, only buy used cars, take fewer vacations, etc. It seems that, at least for middle class familes, this may not be THAT inaccurate. What does everyone else think?

Posted by: gradstudent | October 18, 2006 01:13 PM >>>>

I think many (not all, of course)dual income families could probably financially afford to have one stay home. However, I would argue that for many it isn't a question of short term finances, it is a long term question. The job market these days is so different from the 1950s. There are many more lay offs (esp. in the technology sector) and being a dual income family gives financial flexibility. It also better allows for long term financial planning (personal retirement; caring for aging, irresponsible baby boomer parents; children's education; etc).

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 1:36 PM

"did anyone else notice the different wording in the comment referred to at 1:21 -- "homes" with children in them v. "houses" with kids in daycare - am I reading too much into it, or is this in itself a value judgment

I hope that my "house" is still my "home" even though I have to work outside of it to pay the mortgage

please tell me I'm reading this wrong :)"

I noticed it, but I'm still reeling from the revelation that all I have to do is dust because my kids are in day care. I'm going to have SOOOO much more free time now!!! And to think, I've been cleaning up the apparently non-existent mess this whole time!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 1:47 PM

Does anyone feel that the kids' ages matter too? No matter how much I love my kids, when they were both under 1.5 I would classify my days as very hard work. Maybe others find it easier, but for me, it was fun--but hard work.

Now that they are both preschool age, my days are fairly easy and I don't really think of my time with them as work at all.

Posted by: Getting older | October 18, 2006 1:49 PM

amen 1:47 -- I'm am glad to know, though, that SAHMs can't keep their houses clean either

we really do have more in common than not

Posted by: justhavetosay | October 18, 2006 1:56 PM

amen 1:47 -- I'm am glad to know, though, that SAHMs can't keep their houses clean either

we really do have more in common than not

Posted by: justhavetosay | October 18, 2006 1:56 PM

The problem is that you don't need 2 professional salaries to get by and live a decent life (modest home, car, insurance, retirement, decent savings etc...) You probably need 1 1/4- 1 1/2. So when people have 2 professional incomes, they can afford a lot of the extras: nice vacations, summer camps, cable, etc... But on one salary, you can barely afford cable. So your sitting at home with nothing to do because you can't afford gas or the money to take your kid to gymboree. So what is worse? When SAH families see WOH families, they see all the little extras, and think of course they could afford to stay home. Yes, if they don't want adequate retirements, college savings, safety nets etc... So I am not sure what anyone thinks "afford to stay at home." Yes, most people (more than 50%) could eat, have some form of shelter, and a car and stay at home. I often wonder if a lot of the SAH families have college savings and retirement savings. When a $700 car repair puts them in a mind for a month or two, I would not define that as comfortable staying home. But this is American. Everyone is free to make their own choices.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 18, 2006 1:58 PM

I know families who go without health insurance, savings, college savings, etc and who rent cheap apartments in not-so-great neighborhoods with not-so-good schools in order to have a stay at home parent. >>>

When an emergency happens, like say bad car accident/serious illness/job loss, what do these people do? This seems very short sighted and a scary way to live.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 18, 2006 1:58 PM

Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful responses to my question. My husband and I don't have kids yet, so we haven't really had to think through what cutting back could really mean and I know my mom's theory is largely based on the fact that she is "old-school" and thinks it's better to have a SAHP. I don't really know what we will end up doing so the more information the better! Thanks!

Posted by: gradstudent | October 18, 2006 2:11 PM

"It also better allows for long term financial planning (personal retirement; caring for aging, irresponsible baby boomer parents; children's education; etc)."

Oh, please...not more baby boomer crap. My husband and I (baby boomers) worked for two retirements and a deferred comp. fund. Just because Madison Avenue caters to a large segment of the US population doesn't mean that we (the baby boomers) are all self serving. Mad Ave goes where the money is.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 2:13 PM

gradstudent - I think it depends a lot on housing and insurance costs, and also on what debt people are carrying, particularly in school.

I think your mother's generalization works less well now for a variety of reasons - increased housing and educational costs among them, but also what "basic needs" are.

When I was growing up we didn't have: a vcr (no rental charges), cable tv, anything but a basic phone, one car, and three pairs of shoes per child. But that was -normal-. Granted, the cost of some things (like shoes) has gone down in relative terms. But things are just plain different.

Posted by: Shandra | October 18, 2006 2:15 PM

WOW I can't believe what a pissing match this has become.

Gradstudent on your question.

If I lost my job tomorrow I wouldn't be destitute. However, My husband and I both have student loans, car payments, and other bills. I refuse to drive my kid around in a used car. I buy a new car every five years. I feel that new cars are safer, and in the next four years, I'll trade my car in for a hybrid. I am not going to live in a small cramped house in a bad neighborhood either. Also my income goes a lot further than just my door step. I have my parents to think of, my nephews and nieces, and some other organization that benefit from me working. Plus, I also have myself to think of, I know people say this and other people get upset, but if my husband got killed in an accident tomorrow, I'd still be able to take care of my family. I don't find any of the above selfish in the least and I fully understand as the daughter of working class parents that some people have to work and still can't afford the things I just described.

So to answer your question, no I don't think everyone wants to or can be a SAHM. Some things just aren't worth sacrificing so your children won't have to go to day care.

Posted by: scarry | October 18, 2006 2:21 PM

To incredulous, who wrote about me: "WHAT? She said SAHM's "turn her stomach".

I don't know what's wrong with your reading skills, but I said no such thing. Go project on someone else, ok?

Posted by: Jayne | October 18, 2006 2:26 PM

Maybe there's one more title to add to SAHM and WOHM. Sounds like some of the women who don't do paid work outside the home and have school-age children are essentially HOUSEWIVES.

A Housewife, in my mind, sees the older children off to school, cleans a bit (or supervises someone who cleans), volunteers, runs a couple of errands, meets a friend for lunch/coffee/tennis/whatever her pleasure, and is home when the kids get home from school.

That is different from a SAHM with young children who are with her all day while she changes diapers, feeds them 3 meals/2 snacks, entertains them, cleans the house when feasible, reads the kids books/takes them to enrichment programs/library/park and so on.

Posted by: Chausti | October 18, 2006 2:26 PM

Jayne,

I see nothing wrong with your comments. Ignore the other people. I don't understand what was so offensive with your posts today. :)

Posted by: scarry | October 18, 2006 2:33 PM

To gradstudent - as you move out of the womb of college and into real world you will see that life decisions are not always so black and white. So saying that everyone can make it happen if they really want is just too simplistic. No one can venture out into their lives with a definitive road map saying, "OK, when I'm 25 I will get my perfect job and at 28 I will marry my perfect mate and then we will put together our airtight budget so that by the time we have our perfect child by 31 I will be able to SAH without any significant impact to our perfect lives . . . " No, life comes at you in different ways and you have to make choices based on your situation right then. My husband and I decided that I could SAH after the birth of our 2nd child (and subsequent layoff 1 week after returning from maternity, but that's an issue for another time) but we sold our house in VA and moved to my home state of MI so that we could afford it. Now 2 1/2 years later we are back in VA and I am back to work because our move to MI was not the best future financial decision (job security, healthcare costs, educational opportunities, etc.) for us and our kids (plus I forgot how frickin' COLD it is up there! jk!). For my life, I wanted to SAH and was willing to sacrifice for it, but once we were into it my husband and I looked down the road and decided that our family would be better off financially and emotionally if both of us worked. That being said it super suk'd going to work today because my oldest has the flu and I had to go in while my husband stayed home with him - yep - I think I will be buying a lottery ticket tonight on my way home from work . . .

Posted by: FormerSAH | October 18, 2006 2:33 PM

"When an emergency happens, like say bad car accident/serious illness/job loss, what do these people do? This seems very short sighted and a scary way to live."

Alex. Mom, I'm not sure if this is rhetorical or if you're really asking me, but I'll answer anyway. I don't really know any of them well, but I do know that one of the husbands lost his job and they sold most of their belongings and moved in with the wife's parents (with three kids) and started looking for other income. I also think that most of the kids qualify for state-funded health insurance, but I don't know about the adults, so what they would do if one of the adults became seriously ill I do not know. I do think it's very insecure and I would find it enormously stressful. But they feel very strongly about their choices, as many of us do.


Posted by: Megan | October 18, 2006 2:38 PM

gradstudent - try living on one income now and banking the other. Then if one of you wants to stay home you will know that you can afford it and will also have a nest egg.

Posted by: mj | October 18, 2006 2:40 PM

"I think I will be buying a lottery ticket tonight on my way home from work"

Me too, me too!

Posted by: Megan | October 18, 2006 2:45 PM

That sounds like a good idea. We have the power ball in MO.

Posted by: scarry | October 18, 2006 2:48 PM

For the record, I'm not in the "womb of college." I'm getting my master's while working full time for a government contractor. I've been working full time for over five years. I understand the real world where my husband and I have a ridiculous mortgage for a small condo, student loans, car loans, bills, family obligations, etc. However, I think there are a lot things that people don't understand (i.e. having kids, etc.) until it actaully happens to them. Never having had to decide if I could afford to be a SAHM, I've never had a response to my mom's theory. This was simply an exercise in information gathering.

Posted by: gradstudent | October 18, 2006 2:51 PM

Right on, Scarry, CO does too. Chances of winning 1 in 147 million, here I come!

Posted by: Megan | October 18, 2006 2:51 PM

2:38 - boy, I bet the wife's parents just loved THAT, having daughter, hubby and kiddoes just turn up on their doorstep. See, that's another thing to think of when making that SAH vs. WOH choice - if something bad happens, are you going to burden your family? Is it fair to ask family members for largesse or houseroom? Yes, we have to take care of our own, but our own shouldn't take advantage of that.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 2:51 PM

With my winnings from the lottery I am going to create the "Institute for Working Moms Who Want to Stay Home" complete with conferences (in exotic spa locales only, of course) on "Would you Rather Scrape Playdoh Off the Carpet or Sit thru Another Inane Conference Call on 'Budgets'" My Institute would work diligently towards finding the answers to the questions posted to this blog . . . anyone want to join?!? or make a contribution so that I can go back to being a SAH?

Posted by: FormerSAH | October 18, 2006 2:57 PM

One friend of mine, (single mom) has very minimal health insurance she saves for her children. If she gets sick and stays home, she has no income, so she takes OTC medications and tries to stagger through her work shift. If her car stops working (16 years old), she gets it fixed best she can with what little emergency money she's got saved up. She walked six miles to the mechanic while pregnant when she had her car fixed last year rather than spend the money for a taxi.

There've been times she has had to decide which utility to have cut off for a month or more in order to pay more pressing bills like medication for her child. She is doing the best she can with what she has available, and hoping the worst doesn't happen to her.

Those of you complaining about the lack of "me time" you have in your busy and affluent days, or worry about how messy your house is, have no idea how bad it can actually be for those not as fortunate as you.

Posted by: John | October 18, 2006 2:59 PM

I hope it's not some selfish baby boomers'(parents')home to which they run.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 2:59 PM

2:51, I definitely see what you're saying. Though I would say that if the wife's parents were the source of her belief that it is that important to have SAHM, they may not see it as being taken advantage of. I don't know if that's true or not, but I think of trying to understand their choices in the same way I think of trying to understand the perspective of a very religious person - you have to look at it through their own internal logic, not yours. If her parents share the same values, then under their logic/perspective, what happened wasn't the result of bad planning or whatever, it just was a bad thing that happened. Anyway, I don't really know, like I said.

Posted by: Megan | October 18, 2006 3:02 PM

Gradstudent - MANY apologies for my assumption!! Glad to see that you are asking questions and surveying responses - adding kids to the mix of any life makes it exponentially more challenging . . . good luck to you in your choices . . .

Posted by: FormerSAH | October 18, 2006 3:07 PM

John,

If your friend was so hard up, why did she get pregnant last year?

Some things aren't luck or fortune.

Posted by: June | October 18, 2006 3:07 PM

Why do we even bother with whether or not staying home is a luxury? When did financial insufficiency become one of the "only" acceptable reasons for both parents to work? How about both parents like their jobs and want to continue them? Besides, what luxury means to one person means quite different to another - and I'm not talking about McMansion/Escalade/housekeeper vs. shack/bicycle/no housekeeper. People aren't very nuanced thinkers on this blog - once you start arguing about what luxury is, you can easily devolve into whether or not a 7 year old Honda is more of a luxury item than a 2 year old Hyundai Accent. Most people are just doing the best they can.

Posted by: I'm still confused | October 18, 2006 3:09 PM

"I'm still reeling from the revelation that all I have to do is dust because my kids are in day care."

You didn't know that all other working mothers are making sure their children only poop and pee in the toilets at daycare? And that they are having their laundry done at daycare? And sleeping in the sheets only at daycare? And eating all their meals at daycare so there are no dishes at home?

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

"When did financial insufficiency become one of the "only" acceptable reasons for both parents to work?"

Who said this? Gradstudent asked if more people can stay home than they think when they say staying home is a luxury. People are answering.

Maybe it's your reading skills that aren't very nuanced.

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

Hey John, I am with you on the keeping one's more affluent life in perspective, but in your anecdote I cannot help asking where is the father is this single mom's tlae of woe? Especially in light of the of the pregnant walk to the auto shop...

Life is a series of choices, no do overs, so in trying to make good choices: a responsible path would be to avoid killing one's-self over bad choices with the benefit of hindsight, but all the same striving to learn from mistakes.

In this case it saddens me to hear that irresponsibility affects the lives not only of the mother, but more than one child. Where is the father?

Posted by: Fo3 | October 18, 2006 3:15 PM

maybe she wasn't hard up until after she was already pregnant. people's fortunes do change. why not give someone the benefit of the doubt.

John, you sound like a good friend. Thanks for reminding me that I have it pretty good, even though I want that winning lottery ticket, too.

Posted by: to June | October 18, 2006 3:18 PM

chausti--that is an interesting definition of SAH v. Housewife. I like it!

The one thing to remember, Gradstudent, is that the early years are temporary (0-3). Quitting forever is very different than taking an 'extended maternity leave'. I became a teacher even before I became a mother, 1) for the flexibility and 2) I always wanted to be a teacher! I am fairly certain that I will be able to go back fulltime when the time is right, as long as I keep my credentials up.

On a side note, my cousin (much older) was married to a serviceman. The neighborhoods that they could afford were never fabulous, and neither were the schools. But she said that her kids got a great education because the teachers paid more attention to them since they were good students (did homework, listened, etc.). This was 15 years ago, and I wonder if she would do it now! Parttimer

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 3:20 PM

FormerSAH, count me in! Can I do a session at the conference on "Who would you rather humor: boss or toddler?"

Posted by: Megan | October 18, 2006 3:20 PM

John, while I understand the purpose of your posting, I have to agree with the others that have questioned the intelligence of getting pregnant as a single mom when so financially hard up. I only feel sorry for the child/children in the situation you described. Your friend had a choice, they don't, and she should have been more careful and/or made better life decisions.

Posted by: Jennifer | October 18, 2006 3:21 PM

Oh, please...not more baby boomer crap. My husband and I (baby boomers) worked for two retirements and a deferred comp. fund. Just because Madison Avenue caters to a large segment of the US population doesn't mean that we (the baby boomers) are all self serving. Mad Ave goes where the money is.


Posted by: | October 18, 2006 02:13 PM >>>

Would you like to adopt me? My parents and MIL are the financially irresponsible baby boomers I mentioned. I have also heard numerous new stories on the vast majority of boomers who did not plan for retirement. If you would like to adopt me, you will get an instant grandson too! :-)

Posted by: alex. mom | October 18, 2006 3:25 PM

I only feel sorry for the child/children in the situation you described. Your friend had a choice, they don't, and she should have been more careful and/or made better life decisions.

Posted by: Jennifer | October 18, 2006 03:21 PM >>>

Why? Their mom is working hard and trying to get out of her situation. I understand this is blog has an affluent readership but come on folks, there is no shame in being poor. There is shame in laziness, which clearly this woman is not.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 18, 2006 3:36 PM

In re-reading my post to John, just want to say I didn't intend for it to sound as harsh as it did.

Posted by: Jennifer | October 18, 2006 3:37 PM

to defend John's friend, sometimes a guy who seems like the most terrific, mature guy in the world freaks and flakes out when faced with fatherhood. Happened to someone I know, too. It's not always "her fault that she got herself knocked up"

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 3:41 PM

"vast majority of boomers who did not plan for retirement"

the vast majority of boomers did have a plan for retirement - it was a company pension that was taken away years after the boomers were loyal employees.

have a little sympathy. who knows what will happen to you in 20-25 years if everything you worked for is pulled out from under you.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 3:41 PM

Hi Alex. Mom. I understand your point, but I didn't say there was shame in being poor. I do think there is shame in bringing children into a bad homelife situation, and it sounded that way to me based on John's description. Obviously accidents happen, circumstances change, etc. but to use this woman's life as an example of how we shouldn't be aware of our "me-time" and dirty houses is an unfair statement. This blog is about work/life balance...and those are two elements (out of many) regarding that balance. I'm also not affluent and have experienced many hard-times myself...so to imply that's the justification for my statement is inaccurate. In fact, having gone through hard times has made me more aware of creating a stable home environment prior to having children.

Posted by: Jennifer | October 18, 2006 3:45 PM

have a little sympathy. who knows what will happen to you in 20-25 years if everything you worked for is pulled out from under you.

Posted by: | October 18, 2006 03:41 PM >>>

Jeez louise! I do have sympathy for them that's why my husband and I am going to be helping them out. We don't want them to have to live on cat food in their old age.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 18, 2006 3:46 PM

so true 3:41. This happened to my aunt in one of the steel mills in Ohio. She broke her back in that place and the big guys took all the money when the place went under. The union had to sue them, she got some of it back, but not nearly what she deserved. There are some greedy people in this country.

Posted by: scarry | October 18, 2006 3:48 PM

formerSAH - no problem and once I have kids I will be planning to join your institute!

Posted by: gradstudent | October 18, 2006 3:49 PM

John's friend had at least 1 child and a 15 year old car when she got pregnant last year.

No one is judging this woman for being poor. You can mess up in a lot of ways in life, but when we're talking about bringing human it's not fair to the children you already have to give birth to more children than you can afford.

We still don't know where the father(s) of these children are.

Posted by: DZ | October 18, 2006 3:50 PM

formerSAH - no problem and once I have kids I will be planning to join your institute!

Posted by: gradstudent | October 18, 2006 3:50 PM

I agree that people shouldn't have kids if they can't afford them, but maybe it was an accident. What, should she have had an abortion?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 3:51 PM

If the father in John's friend's case "freaked and flaked" on this hardworking, responsible already single mom may he burn in hell.

Nobody in America can claim not to know the lessons of Jerry Maguire and thus cannot be absolved.

Then again there is fool me once shame on...

Posted by: Freaks and Flakes | October 18, 2006 3:52 PM

Jeepers, John, you should have known better than to subject your friend's life to this crowd again (didn't we go through this once before?)

Posted by: Megan | October 18, 2006 3:56 PM

Who is Jerry Maguire?

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 18, 2006 3:57 PM

I would like to see a blog on pension fall out and how do you create balance when that happens.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 18, 2006 3:57 PM

>There are some greedy people in this country.


So true! CEOs take home millions every year, while freezing wages and cutting benefits for the employees who make their wealth possible. That pressure on the average worker is, imo, at the root of our increasing work-life imbalance problems. But how can we fight back? Pretty much all of our elected federal representatives are in that same club, rich and entitled.

It frustrates me, and makes the French solution mentioned above seem so much more attractive. I know in America it's supposed to be "everyone take care of yourself" but it's not a fair playing field when the ultra-rich just take more and more of the money and power for themselves. How can a middle class or working class person get any upward traction anymore? We can't all go to law school, now can we?

I would be willing to pay higher taxes if it went toward supporting a balanced and reduced-stress life for families with children, as in France... instead of lining the pockets of the politically-connected, super-rich.

Posted by: frustrated | October 18, 2006 3:59 PM

Obviously accidents happen, circumstances change, etc. but to use this woman's life as an example of how we shouldn't be aware of our "me-time" and dirty houses is an unfair statement. This blog is about work/life balance...and those are two elements (out of many) regarding that balance. I'm also not affluent and have experienced many hard-times myself...so to imply that's the justification for my statement is inaccurate. In fact, having gone through hard times has made me more aware of creating a stable home environment prior to having children.

Posted by: Jennifer | October 18, 2006 03:45 PM

AND

No one is judging this woman for being poor. You can mess up in a lot of ways in life, but when we're talking about bringing human it's not fair to the children you already have to give birth to more children than you can afford.

Posted by: DZ | October 18, 2006 03:50 PM

I think the implication of your arguments are that poor people shouldn't have children. What is your definition of stability? Is anything really that stable these days? How much should one make to have a child? Who is qualified to make this decision? This woman is clearly hard working. It sounds like she made a mistake in relationships, but who hasn't?! I certainly made different decisions than she has but based on the information in John's post, I would never say I am a better mother. She may have a stable home too; it is just one in need of more money.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 4:00 PM

Jennifer, I'm curious if you have already had children or not, and what level of financial stability you think is necessary before making that decision (not snarky, genuine question)

Posted by: curious | October 18, 2006 4:02 PM

To the 3:11 PM poster - have you heard of implicit meaning? For example, people's word choices mean and imply things beyond their immediate definition and interpretation? Kindof like on this blog, whenever it devolves into stay-at-home vs. work-at-home, a number of posters say it isn't their "choice" to stay home, that it is a "luxury" and sometimes both parents have to work. These comments are nearly always made in defensive response to someone saying work-out-of-home women or couples are selfish because they COULD have a stay at home parent if they: lived in a smaller house/drove one car/didn't vacation. I just don't think people need to be defensive about working outside of the home. Plenty of people do it for reasons besides financial necessity. Don't be petulant.

Posted by: I'm still confused | October 18, 2006 4:04 PM

Wow, the conversation has taken some interesting turns today ... Without getting defensive or judgmental, I want to say to gradstudent that I personally feel her mother was correct - if single parents can get by in this world, every family can "afford" to have a stay-at-home parent. However, I also agree with all of the posters who have said that financial considerations are not (and should not be) the only reason to work.

Posted by: TakomaMom | October 18, 2006 4:11 PM

Considering Pandora opened, clearly a mother AND a father are the base minimum required to have a child and as discussed in this blog their is no parenting license. Unprotected sex in an uncommitted relationship is not a responsible path to parenthood. I dont think you can argue with prospective parents that are trying to have a minum level of financial or other security before having kids. Nobody said that the poor shouldnt have children. Security comes in more forms than dollars.

Jerry Maguire was a Tom Cruise movie where the male lead falls in love with a single mom. Famous lines are, "You complete me." and "You had me from Hello."

Posted by: Fo3 | October 18, 2006 4:11 PM

"She may have a stable home too; it is just one in need of more money."


It's a pretty unstable home when the mother is deciding which utility to have cut off for a month or more. Her baby may not know what is going on, but her older children probably do.

Again, John, where are the father(s) of these children?

Posted by: DZ | October 18, 2006 4:13 PM

Well, my friend hardly wanted to "get pregnant"; she's not stupid. For whatever the reason (none which are my business, or anyone else's), her BC failed and she found herself pregnant. She was trying to break up with her BF when the pregnancy test came up positive, and she didn't want to tie herself to him financially by accepting any assistance from him.

I did tell her that she had friends who would gladly have given her a ride to her mechanic if she had just asked, and she agreed she had been stupid that day, but she said she had so much going on at that time her life she really wasn't thinking very clearly.

She is a very independent and determined woman and has had to make a lot of sacrifices to raise her daughters alone (fathers help but not very much), and I have an enormous amount of respect and admiration for her.

It's just that every time I hear some here complaining about how hard it is to find a good school or camp to put their child in, or how much they'd like to live in a more affluent home, I think of my friend and know she'd love to have the "problems" some of you have rather than the ones she has.

Posted by: John | October 18, 2006 4:13 PM

so man judgements so little time.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 4:14 PM

Re the comments about John's friend --

You all are acting like this woman is somehow an exception. Maybe in your pampered worlds and rarefied atmosphere. But in the real world, circumstances like hers are closer to the norm than to the exception.

Do you have any idea how many poor women with children there are in this country? And how many different reasons there are for how they got that way? Do you care?

The majority of them don't have cars at all, and their kids are as uninsured as they are.

John's friend is a good example of the silent majority of poor people who exist in this country but live well under the radar of affluent people like you. Just because you don't know anyone like her doesn't mean she's the exception.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 4:18 PM

John, I feel bad for your friend, but that kind of relativism just doesn't cut it for me. What, so I am supposed to feel like my problems are inconsequential just because this woman was careless about birth control? I am a single mom too, but I never got pregnant out of wedlock. I was married, had two kids, then got divorced. She has made irrresponsible choices (getting pregnant out of wedlock, refusing to take financial assistance from her kids' father). I have not (other than perhaps agreeing to marry someone who turned out to be a jerk). So why should I feel bad about myself and my problems over this? You are looking for us to have a kneejerk reaction of pity. But some of us are entitled to feel that we do have real problems even if we're not getting the utilities shut off or driving a 16-year-old car.

Posted by: amnesiac | October 18, 2006 4:26 PM

It is not always best or possible to have a mother and a father in the household: what about abuse, addiction, mental health issues that people cant see in the future when they get involved with someone? Should a mother stay with the father if these issues develop? Sometimes fathers die. Sometimes the father cant deal with the responsibility of fatherhood when the baby is born and bails, after saying that he will. It is so easy to say that someone shouldnt have had a child, but they cant turn around and give them back when circumstances change. What could happen in your life that might make you a single parent? What could happen in your life to wipe you out financially?

Posted by: jessker3 | October 18, 2006 4:29 PM

John - FWIW, I took your post the way you meant it.

I could comment on the many other nasty and judgmental comments of people who apparently think that money equals stablity and only people who are rich and make no mistakes should procreate, but I am rather speechless. I am simply disgusted.

Posted by: Betty | October 18, 2006 4:30 PM

What a lame thing to say. I am absolutely not from an affluent background. Many of the "affluent" bloggers you're referring to made many sacrifices, took out student loans, deferred instant gratification, etc. to have the "affluent" lifestyle the bloggers on this site have. This is an incredibly expensive area to live,...and there are so may people (including many that post on this site) that commute 3 hours a day and live in small houses far away just to get by...while working their tails off. What an incredibly lame and heavily generalized statement for you to make.

Posted by: Anonymous 4:18 Poster | October 18, 2006 4:30 PM

Scarry - I will have to disagree with you. You don't have to buy a new car to be safe, nor do you have to live in a big, uncrampped house to be happy.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 4:32 PM

What is sad to me is that so many of the people on here DON'T seem to have a "kneejerk reaction of pity". Instead, they basically sit in self-satisfaction thinking about how this woman brought her misery on herself and therefore must deserve it, while they are free to discount her problems because their own troubles are the result of "responsible" choices.

Posted by: W | October 18, 2006 4:33 PM

Oh no! Anon at 3:51 dropped the "A" bomb! Run for your lives!!

Seriously, while no should should be told that they can't have kids because they can't afford it, these people should use common sense. If you can barely afford to feed yourself, what makes you think that you can afford a kid? I'm not talking about John's friend. I'm talking about all the people out there who really should not be having children. If you're worried about your utilities being sut off, you shouldn't have kids until you're in a better position. It's called planning ahead.

Posted by: Meesh | October 18, 2006 4:34 PM

"these people," Meesh?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 4:39 PM

It can all be gone in an instant through no fault of your own. Man plans and the gods laugh. Then new decisions are made but from a different starting point.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 4:41 PM

Scarry - I will have to disagree with you. You don't have to buy a new car to be safe, nor do you have to live in a big, uncrampped house to be happy.

That's fine, you can disagree, I didn't say everyone had to do. That's the way I feel about my life. I wasn't saying it is a must for everyone. We travel 12 hours both ways back and forth from ohio about 6 times a year. I am not going to drive an old car to do it in. As far as the house goes the house that's a personal decision and I came from next to nothing, so I am not going to feel bad about having stuff now. :)

Posted by: scarry | October 18, 2006 4:42 PM

For a second, I thought you actually were my mother. She's still going after 60 years. While she was raising my two brothers and me, she worked constantly, like you -- I rarely saw her stop. Or sleep.

Part of the problem was that she never made my father help. Ironically he worked out of the house and could have done much more of what she had to come home and do, but he was 'old school' (you know, lazy, like many of us would be if we could get away with it).

There were times that she told me she wished she could have SAH, esp. when her career didn't go the way she wanted it to. Now that she could technically retire, though, she has no interest. My father's theory is that she'd rather be busy than happy. Whether that's her personality or whether after so many years it's become ingrained, I don't know.

The sad thing is that she doesn't seem to have passed her work ethic on to any of us kids. We grew up being taken care of. Even though we appreciate her now -- and as we got older, helped more -- none of us want that lifestyle, or anything like it, for ourselves.

I'd definitely rather be happy than busy. Do I really need to live in France for that?

Posted by: to wannabe SAH :) | October 18, 2006 4:46 PM

"Oh no! Anon at 3:51 dropped the "A" bomb! Run for your lives!!

Seriously, while no should should be told that they can't have kids because they can't afford it, these people should use common sense. If you can barely afford to feed yourself, what makes you think that you can afford a kid? I'm not talking about John's friend. I'm talking about all the people out there who really should not be having children. If you're worried about your utilities being sut off, you shouldn't have kids until you're in a better position. It's called planning ahead."
---------------

A lot of people in the DC area are living an affluent life style but could quickly find themselves in John's friend's position if one of them lost his/her job. My youngest sister has never been one to defer any want. She and her husband have a 4500 square foot house, two fairly new SUVs, an obscene number of toys for their two young sons, nice wardrobes and furniture, and little saved. You would think to look at them that they're responsible and stable, but if one lost a job or had to take a lesser paying job, they'd lose their house. Perhaps they'd have more assets to sell than John's friend, but their kids would have a rude awakening. There are a lot of people out there that bought the McMansion/SUV/European vacation dream on option ARMs and are going to be crying in their soup when the interest rate resets.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 4:48 PM

scarry, we get it, you were poor. It doesn't make you better than people who grew up middle class or upper class or whatever... we're allowed to make selfish decisions to without feeling bad.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 4:48 PM

The only form of birth control that is 100% effective is abstinence. All those who have been completely abstinent unless in a perfect marriage, you are excused. The rest of you, stop judging. Don't assume that because you used BC and never got pregnant, then BC must be foolproof. It is not.

I am tired of everyone judging John's friend here. Some of you have been lucky, I guess. Never had to deal with plans that went awry, partners that turned from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde, illness or disability that wrecked your finances, decisions that turned out poorly... how wonderful for you, but not everyone can be so "perfect." If John's friend is a kind and loving mother, then she deserves to have her children regardless of any mistakes or bad luck and I wish her the best of luck.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 4:52 PM

I didn't say you couldn't. I was replying to the person who said a new car and big house equal happiness. I didn't say I was better than anyone, although I am starting to wonder about you. Don't project how you feel on me. None of my posts were meant to offend your middle or upper middle class feelings.

Posted by: scarry | October 18, 2006 4:52 PM

defensive much? She didn't say anything about anyone but herself. shut up.

Posted by: to 4:48 | October 18, 2006 4:54 PM

and here we are again. Yes, clearly nobody on this board has ever made a bad decision and therefore can just sit and tell all those bad people they should have chosen more wisely. Perhaps, in order to avoid "carelessness with birth control" (also sometimes known as birth control failure)we should just have mandatory sterilization of all those people? I mean, hey, we've done it in the past, let's resurrect the practice.

John's indignant tone may have been grating (I mean, probably she would like to have John's problems too, but I would venture a guess he still feels like he can talk about them), but Jesus, people show some common decency and compassion.

Posted by: sad | October 18, 2006 4:56 PM

I am stunned that you all criticize the single mother as being irresponsible but have nothing to say really about the couple with the three children who moved in with the in-laws! In my world, the single mother struggling to get by is far more admirable (and self sufficient) than the couple unwilling to have both parents work to financially support the family.

And far more people make decisions on which bills to pay than you think. I actually would think this is more the norm. I read somewhere (NYT? maybe) that a household with an income of $166,000 a year is in the 95% percentile (Census stats.). Clearly, not all families are driving new cars every five years and wondering which cleaning service to hire.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 18, 2006 4:56 PM

if you read this blog regularly, you would see that 90% of scarry's posts mention she was poor, or working class, or had nothing growing up, etc. It is tiring and I wonder her reasons for feeling the need to mention it all the time.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 4:59 PM

I would say I feel sorry for her and say I know people like her but then someone would say: blah blah blah scarry blah blah.

By the way I get a good discount on cars, that's why I can buy one every 5 years. It's an earned privilage because my husband's old man worked on the line at GM.

Posted by: scarry | October 18, 2006 5:02 PM

Hey, I'm not using my friend's situation to bash everyone here. It's just that it seems to me that my life and many of my friends' lives are a lot closer to her situation than they are to many of the ones being complained about on this forum. By using her as an example I try and point out that not everyone has the lifestyle to worry about should they get a nanny or have a maid come in twice a month to clean the house.

I visit here to try and get different viewpoints on how to manage a balance between home and work, especially since my wife and I have (finally!) decided to start a family, and while I often appreciate the discussion, sometimes it just turns more than a little petty and self-absorbing.

I'll say this one more thing about my friend, and then not bring her up again; even though she struggles to make ends meet, she is the one of the most devoted and loving moms I have ever seen. Her girls are bright, energetic and intelligent, and she's taken great pains to keep their fathers involved in their lives (but not in her own), sometimes at the cost of her own wishes or preferences.

I'd trust this woman with my life or the life of my child (once I have one, that is...) : )

Posted by: John | October 18, 2006 5:02 PM

4:59, I don't wonder at all, I assume its because it was a major part of her history and affects her perspective on life. Sort of like other posters frequently reference whether they have kids, how many, and whether they work or stay at home - it's part of how they define themselves and so they qualify their statements with that explanation.

Posted by: sad | October 18, 2006 5:04 PM

I am gonna get it for being judgemental...

My first reaction was sympathy and John's heart is clearly in the right place:

"I think of my friend and know she'd love to have the "problems" some of you have rather than the ones she has."

BC failed... for the second time? Twice? Two deadbeat dads - wait maybe they are not deadbeat. Where is Single Mom's mom and dad? It takes a village, if you try and take on the world alone the risk failure is so high - fine if the failure come down on you - not fine if it comes down on children.

I admit that finding that the father was rebuffed makes me even more critical of this young ladies choices:

"She was trying to break up with her BF when the pregnancy test came up positive, and she didn't want to tie herself to him financially by accepting any assistance from him."

Didnt want the Father's help? WHAT! Children outside of Marriage is a problem people! Not a lifestyle choice when it affects kids. I am gonna get flamed but in this case independance has taken priority over the security of a two parent household for these kids:

"She is a very independent and determined woman and has had to make a lot of sacrifices to raise her daughters alone (fathers help but not very much), and I have an enormous amount of respect and admiration for her."

With the limited amount of information I will risk passing judgement. I see a selfish martyr who by ignoring societal norms of marriage - and risking an unhappy marriage - seems to have CHOSEN to go it alone. Not a balanced choice: IMHO.

Do you think she will counsel her kids to get married before having kids? Or should they choose independence, no "financial ties" and freedom from the risks of an unhappy marriage?

Posted by: Fo3 | October 18, 2006 5:09 PM

ignore that person. They have been quite for a while and just want to come back and start a fight with the people on the blog.


Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 5:11 PM

ignore that person. They have been quite for a while and just want to come back and start a fight with the people on the blog.


Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 5:12 PM

"With the limited amount of information I will risk passing judgement"

no kidding, how surprising...

Posted by: Anonymous | October 18, 2006 5:13 PM

It is so disappointing to see so many posts from self-serving, self-righteous individuals on this blog, instead of kind, thoughtful people committed to bettering the work-life situation for EVERYONE, regardless of who's choices were "good" and whose choices were "bad"

Posted by: W | October 18, 2006 5:14 PM

if you read this blog regularly, you would see that 90% of scarry's posts mention she was poor, or working class, or had nothing growing up, etc. It is tiring and I wonder her reasons for feeling the need to mention it all the time

Skip her posts. Why pick on her?

Posted by: here's an idea | October 18, 2006 5:28 PM

"I am stunned that you all criticize the single mother as being irresponsible but have nothing to say really about the couple with the three children who moved in with the in-laws!"

I judge that couple plenty.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 18, 2006 5:34 PM

My gas and electric bill increased $100 per month and gasoline prices increased drastically over the past year. These two expenses alone could take a shoestring budget over the edge and cause someone to have to juggle their bills.

Sometimes people are doing fine, even if they are struggling somewhat, but then s*** happens. Consider yourself fortunate if you can weather all the bumps in life easily.

Posted by: FWIW | October 18, 2006 5:34 PM

"I am stunned that you all criticize the single mother as being irresponsible but have nothing to say really about the couple with the three children who moved in with the in-laws!"

I judge that couple plenty.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 18, 2006 5:38 PM

FWIW, that's a much too civil comment for the blog today. I'm sorry, we'll have to have it removed. You would be welcome to repost if you change it to "consider yourself superior if you can weather..." Also, if you could please state which individuals you think are most inferior to you, that would greatly improve your chances of being allowed to remain on this blog.

Thank you for your conformance to this message.

The Blog Police

Posted by: blog police | October 18, 2006 5:40 PM

Excuse me, but what does
ANY OF THIS IDIOTIC CARPING
have to do with the way in
which today's parents spend
their time with their children
relative to the supposed golden
age of the 1950s-60s??
Isn't that today's topic????

Posted by: SF Mom | October 18, 2006 6:26 PM

Fo3,

I agree with her decision not to stay with any of her children's fathers. It's my opinion that having one devoted and happy parent is better for children than having two unhappy and constantly arguing ones. The dads still stay involved with her children, but not with her, and it appears to work for all concerned, especially my friend.

(and now I really mean it when I say I'm not talking about her life any more...)

Posted by: John | October 18, 2006 6:27 PM

Ok, I'll comment on what I know of how my parents and grandparents spent their time in the 50s. My Dad's father worked two jobs, while my paternal grandmother, a SAHM, essentially raised their kids on her own (but I can't imagine her complaining about this at all-- she was raised by a single mom in the tenements of the inner city). My Mom's mom went back to work as soon as their oldest was able to watch the other kids after school, but her Dad had a solid 40 hour work week.

I think the "idyllic 50s" image is of families where the parents are professionals. The highest educational level any of my grandparents achieved was the secretarial school my maternal grandmother attended (she would probably have been a WOHM exclusively if it were feasible). All in all, I expect their lives were fairly comparable to lots of families now, except they had better benefits, and didn't need to save as much for college (although they did send all their kids).

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 18, 2006 8:14 PM

To YetanotherSAHM--My dad grew up in a lower middle class family in the 40's and 50's (meaning they had the essentials, usually). There were 6 kids, and my grandmother took in sewing. When her husband died (he worked rather seasonally) leaving her with a 12 year old boy (surprise! You are 42 and pregnant!), she went to work full time as a cook. When I visit, I am always astonished that they raised 6 kids in that tiny two bedroom house. According to my dad, they very much depended on their 'victory garden' and the kids all got jobs a.s.a.p. He had a paper route at age ten. That may have been more to fulfill his quest for stuff that to help out the house. I know he must look at my family and life and think that I live on easy street. Considering I don't have 6 kids (and know people who do!), I am inclined to agree! But I don't think grandma spent ANY time with her kids that wasn't full of resentment. Last night, I walked with my kid to the nearby park, talked to some neighbors, held a baby, then went on a mile walk with her. Listening to her jokes, watching her dance along the sidewalk while she tells them--it is sweet alone time that my grandmother never had with her kids. If she had, I think she would have been less bitter.

Posted by: parttimer | October 19, 2006 9:05 AM

Having read several discussions, I find the tenor of this forum disappointing. Though there are interesting perspectives and engaging conversation threads, locating these within the pool of self-conscious, competitive, and at times, vitriolic commentary is a formidable challenge. On a forum wherein most posters are likely motivated by a common goal--the desire to do the best for their families--why must the conversation so often devolve into futile banter and qualitative value judgments? Even if we empirically prove that working mothers log more hours than stay-at-home mothers, truly where does this get us? It seems that this obsession with proving that one group works the "hardest" or the "most" runs counter to the purpose of this discussion--ostensibly to establish greater balance. Why not, then, use these varied experiences (in work situation, parenting styles, etc.) and perspectives as ideas for solutions rather than as fuel for criticism?

Posted by: Disappointed | October 19, 2006 11:55 AM

sorry...i spelled umbrage wrong...

Posted by: ccc | November 1, 2006 2:36 PM

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