Going Places on the Mommy Track

Ponder this:

"The old Mommy Track was a path where up-and-coming women found that having children effectively disqualified them for top positions. They either took themselves out of the running, settling for lower-level positions with more predictable hours and less responsibility, or their male bosses assumed that because these women had children, they wouldn't or couldn't give their all to the office.

Now, some employers in high-pressure professions such as law, medicine, accounting and finance -- that years ago may have fired women who became pregnant -- are finally giving working mothers what they've wanted for years: a shot at the top jobs but with flexible hours, part-time schedules or other concessions to their caregiving responsibilities.

They are increasingly willing to change the criteria for young mothers to reach top positions, giving them more time or the ability to leave for several years of child-raising and come back . Breast-feeding lounges, support groups, mentors and sabbaticals have become more commonplace as services for working mothers seeking to break the glass ceiling."

These are quotes from an article that ran in the Los Angeles Times last month, This Mommy Track May Go Somewhere. I am not sure that I agree that "employers are increasingly willing to change the criteria for mothers," based on women I talk to and hear from on this blog. Sure, some employers -- especially Fortune 500 companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Pepsi, Sara Lee, Deloitte & Touche and all the 100 Best Companies listed in this year's Working Mother survey. It's great that these companies, and the women who work for them, are trailblazing a new, results-oriented Mommy Track. But according to the Center for Work-Life Policy, one-third of professional women leave their jobs for a few years or forever to care for their families. One-third translates to millions of women. That's too many.

Another quote from the article. "'Years ago, the attitude of male executives was, "OK, let them compete in exactly the same way that men do," said Myra Strober, a Stanford University labor economist. "What's really changed is the appreciation that some sort of accommodation is required.'"

What do you think? Are women still expected to compete in exactly the same way men do? Is this good? Is this bad? Should moms change to accomodate their workplace -- or should work accomodate moms?

8 a.m. update: Leslie has posted a clarification of her thoughts in the comments.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  October 4, 2006; 6:00 AM ET  | Category:  Moms in the News
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In your comments you state:
"But according to the Center for Work-Life Policy, one-third of professional women leave their jobs for a few years or forever to care for their families. One-third translates to millions of women. That's too many."

I'm just curious as to your thinking on this. My wife is a professional woman [Master's Degree previously in white collar management position] that chose to leave her job to stay at home fulltime once our second [and eventually third] children were born. In our neighborhood [Howard County, MD] there are a fairly large number of professional women like her who have made similar choices. Most that I have talked with did not leave because of a lack of 'mommy track' or because of inflexible work conditions -- most left because they really did want to stay at home full time.

Of course businesses need to work to improve their ability to retain women interested in staying in the workforce either full or part time, but we shouldn't make the assumption that all women [or men] fall into that category.


Posted by: A Dad | October 4, 2006 6:20 AM

I'm all in support of the workplace becoming more flexible, but it really should be for parents, not just mothers. My husband contributes equally to the care and upbringing of our children. But when I was a stay at home mom, there was more flexibility in our lives. Now that, I"m back at work, we're just more stretched and stressed. My husband has taken up a lot of the at home responsibility that I used to do, but he can't take parental leave and as he's going up for tenure, the pressure is on him to produce now. It would be best for our family if both of us could alternatively focus on family or work, and not have to do everything all at once.

Posted by: Maggie | October 4, 2006 6:39 AM

i'd have to agree with "A Dad"'s comments regarding whether "most" women are leaving work due to inflexibility or choice--are there any studies or stats on this?

i'll preface my comments by saying i've only worked for nonprofits and uncle sam, but it seems like accommodations are becoming more widespread, but i would imagine women are still expected to compete like men when it comes to the top positions, especially those that require lots of hours and face time. it seems like some employers actually value the quality of the work done and are getting less rigid about work hours. some companies don't even like when their employees take vacation, so i can't imagine any maternity leave would be welcome. so maybe things are changing a little, but this article seemed a little overly optimistic on the topic. seems like there's a pretty wide disparity (on this blog as well as beyond) as to those who want to scale the corporate heights and those who want to make ends meet comfortably. i often feel like leslie's posts presuppose the notion that most women want highend careers or that they should want this if they don't. whether they do or not, i think putting a higher value on parenting and motherhood, i think having businesses put a higher value on parenting and motherhood is a good thing. our economic system kind of runs counter to parenting and family values, much less accommodating motherhood, don't you think?

Posted by: marc | October 4, 2006 6:43 AM

I think a number of my professional friends have left the job force because they wanted to be with their kids. But I do think the work force does need to be more family friendly to compete and to retain quality workers. Both men and women want more flexibility. I also think the jobs have become so demanding now. A 40 hour week work is a luxury rather then the norm. What American employers don't get is that US workers are less productive per hour then most industrialized nations. You really can get only so much quality work out of people. People spend more face time and they do get out more productivity as a whole but they probably could get the same amount of work done in less time. It is the face time that is killing the American worker and their families (with or with out children).

Posted by: foamgnome | October 4, 2006 6:50 AM

Yes, I totally agree with the points posted above -- that many women leave work truly because they want to be home with their kids 100% of the time. And I have no business judging that. Choice is good, for moms and dads and kids.

I didn't mean to sound as if "all women who leave work are a disappointment" or anything like that.

The point I meant to make (but maybe failed to do so) is that one-third of professional women sounded very high to me. I suspect that a lot of those women would combine part-time work with raising kids if the workplace were more flexible and accomodating.

What do you think? Is "one third" too high? Or is it about right to reflect the number of women who would leave work, no matter how accomodating and flexible their jobs became?

Posted by: Leslie | October 4, 2006 7:02 AM

"one-third of professional women leave their jobs for a few years or forever to care for their families. One-third translates to millions of women. That's too many."

Who are you to say that's too many? It doesn't even seem to cross your mind that maybe these women would RATHER be at home with focusing on their families than in high pressure careers. Personally, I left the white-collar workforce even before I started thinking about kids, because my husband's salary was enough to cover our expenses, and why work if you don't have to? Not every woman wants to be sitting in a board room.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 7:04 AM

Women compete just as men compete for positions, which is only fair. In my world of feminism, women get equality..meaning both the good and bad parts. If you "lower" the standards for women, there will always be a faction of people who see them as "less equal." While I think pregnancy leave should not be held against women since there is no male equivalent, child care leave should fall on both parents (if both are in the picture). This is something that women need to demand from their partners (assuming there is one) more than their workplace.

I think the workplace should accommodate everyone, not just women with children. Having a child is a choice, those who decide not to/cannot have children should not have to "pick up the slack" of those who do. Eventually, I think the demographics of this country will force corporations to be more flexible.

As for the women with advance degrees dropping out of the workforce, it is extremely disappointing and a complete waste of an advance degree. I know this is not a popular view and other posters will "take me to task" for saying it but I don't care. Sometimes the truth hurts. It makes me think that many of the women in graduate school are just really there to look for a husband.

On a related side note, there was a piece on Market Place/NPR this morning about the birth rate in France and the French Government's support of working moms. God, I wish the United States would provide more help to working moms and dads. I realize that France has a *slight* unemployment problem (a little sarcasm with your morning cup of coffee) but it is great that they recognize 80% of moms work in France and help them do so (according to NPR).

Posted by: alex. mom | October 4, 2006 7:10 AM

"What American employers don't get is that US workers are less productive per hour then most industrialized nations. You really can get only so much quality work out of people."

This is just not true. As BLS, and other countries measure productivity (both GDP per worker and GDP per hours worked) the US (as of 2004 data) leads France, Germany, Japan, the UK and the entire G7.

That written, the per hours worked data is not perfect - as it is super hard to be accurate and comparable across countries.

I'm generally against creating a special class of privileges for anyone group, so companies considering flex time options should provide them for everyone. If higher performing and paid jobs truly demand inflexible schedules then those jobs shouldn't be made available to people who can't fill them, male or female.

Posted by: Reality Check | October 4, 2006 7:13 AM

I think so many of us are afraid to ask for what we want! If you want to go part-time, come up with a plan that shows how it can be in your company's best interest (don't focus on how it'll be best for you, because that's a surefire loser), and GO FOR IT! What's the worst that can happen? You hear the word "No".

I know many, many women who are fantastic at what they do who have a lot more leverage than they think at work. If you are a star at work, you have a much greater chance of having your request accommodated. It's never too late to become a star performer.

Look, if you don't like your reality, then change it. And if you meet with failure, keep trying. As my father-in-law says, "Do something, even if it's wrong."

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 4, 2006 7:16 AM

WorkingMomX: I totally agree with you! Women need to have more confidence in the workplace. They need to negotiate salaries and benefits much better than they currently do. Too often they are settling for a situation when they could negotiate a much better one.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 4, 2006 7:27 AM

"and why work if you don't have to? Not every woman wants to be sitting in a board room."

Did I stumble into the 1950s? Get out the apron.

Posted by: ? | October 4, 2006 7:36 AM

>>Women compete just as men compete for positions, which is only fair.>>

Not fair if the men have stay-at-home spouses and the women don't. And many, many more men have SAH wives than women have SAH husbands. It's not exactly an even playing field. Most working women are, at best, splitting household/kid responsibilities with a spouse (and many are doing more than half). It is really hard for me to move up in my career because it requires more travel. Employer doesn't have any incentive to find ways to get around travel (e.g., teleconferencing, webconferencing) because there are plenty of people who will do it--singletons or people with SAH wives. Even though these options would help everyone (who likes living out of a suitcase?)

Posted by: Is it fair? | October 4, 2006 7:48 AM

the one-third figure sounds pretty high to me, and definitely given the opportunity, i think more fulltime at home moms would probably work part-time provided they could find the flexibility and balance to do so. that balance would have to come from either a partner who has the same flexibility (and willingness to make use of it) and/or viable childcare.

ditto on the speaking up idea. a former girlfriend of mine, used to ask for all sorts of things from her employer (from new lamps for her workspace to having every friday off so she could work on her artwork) and she got almost everything she asked for.

Posted by: marc | October 4, 2006 7:49 AM

Two thoughts:
1. We should refuse to post anymore on this blog until the STUPID TIMESTAMP IS FIXED.
2. Make all accomodations available to both sexes - e.g. equal parental leave, not just maternity leave, flexible scheduling (where possible) for men and women. Then women aren't shunted into trying to take care of home and work life just because their schedules are "flexible."

Posted by: The original just a thought | October 4, 2006 7:52 AM

>>Women compete just as men compete for positions, which is only fair.>>

Not fair if the men have stay-at-home spouses and the women don't. And many, many more men have SAH wives than women have SAH husbands. It's not exactly an even playing field. >>>>

What's that saying, Oh yes, Life isn't fair. Uh sorry, I disagree with you. First of all, not all men have SAHW anyway. I think most agree here that the majority of mom's work. Second, it isn't your employer's fault your husband is lazy and doesn't help around the house or with the kids. Women need to get husbands to help out more. Too many of my friends do all the housework, child care, cooking etc. and their husbands sit around on their butts and expect to be waited on. It is *your* responsibility to get hubby to help out.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 4, 2006 7:58 AM

It does suck to travel. However, if that's what the company wants then that's what you have to do. Do men with wives at home have an advantage over you? no. Your not working with their wives, you are working with them, so you can't count their personal lives when we are talking about work issues. Now, as a working women, you do have an advatage over their wives, it's called secruity.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 8:01 AM

"and why work if you don't have to? Not every woman wants to be sitting in a board room."

Because someday god forbid your spouse is not around, and you have to fend for yourself. Because staying at home doesn't build a retirement nest egg for you to live on when your only other option would be Social Security. Assuming that someone will always be around to take care of you financially is, to put it kindly, not wise.

Posted by: CallMeSkeptical | October 4, 2006 8:12 AM

Jane Fed, if you have that in writing or can produce a witness, I would sue.

Posted by: Unreal | October 4, 2006 8:14 AM

I have a working husband, a young son, and have been repeatedly denied opportunities by management to get into positions that involve travel, high profile assignments, and the like. This is despite the fact that my husband supports my goals, I'm a top ranked employee in my office, and I make a point to not let my childcare get in the way of office projects. My bosses have told me that they don't want me in a traveling position because I have a child. Could it be a coincidence that every single one of the men in my office has a stay at home wife? That they have no role models of women who can do it all--and want to do it all? I'd leave if I wasn't determined to make a difference, so I keep lobbying for the positions I want, where I want, etc. I hope it isn't a futile effort.

Posted by: Jane Fed | October 4, 2006 8:15 AM

I love parttime work that allows me to work while my kids are in school. I bet there are loads of sahp who would work that schedule if possible. Huge pool of untapped skills available at what would probably be very little money, relatively speaking. More sah's would also be less hesitant to work pt if there wasn't an hour commute each way. After the events of the day that must not be mentioned because someone might utter that annoying phrase 'now more than ever", I think many people want to be closer to their kids. IMHO.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 8:19 AM

"and why work if you don't have to? Not every woman wants to be sitting in a board room."

How about for the intellectual challenge, how about because you love the law or you feel good healing people (dr's, nurses, therapists, etc.) or you love to teach or because you want the independence that comes with not soley relying on someone else.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | October 4, 2006 8:25 AM

Leslie, I disagree with the basic premise that the Mommy Track now leads to a top-tier career path.

Rather, I think what has happened is that employers have created equality through making a "slower" track available to all. In other words, "Mommy Track" has become "Family Track", where males may participate, and it is less acceptable (or unacceptable) to be obvious in retarding the career growth of those on the track. Simultaneously, there are now more (gut feel, have no numbers to back this up) professional women who have children but do not "family track" themselves -- they get nannies, SAHDs, juggle as best they can with their spouse, etc. And this is becoming much more acceptable.

I'm probably what could be called a Jr. Exec and have worked for some diverse, progressive companies. There are plenty of women above me in the corporate structure here, and at previous companies. Most were and are (1) single, (2) parents of adult children, (3) gay with no children or (4) have very visible nannies.

Long story short (too late) I think you are giving credit to corporate america where it is not due. Rather than open up more opportunities to Mommies, it is just now more acceptable for Mommy & Daddy to choose to focus more on family while maintaining a stable professional career. There is less up-or-out.

Posted by: Proud Papa | October 4, 2006 8:29 AM

This is just not true. As BLS, and other countries measure productivity (both GDP per worker and GDP per hours worked) the US (as of 2004 data) leads France, Germany, Japan, the UK and the entire G7.

Can you provide a link? Because every paper I have read in the last three years has said US workers are less productive per hour. NOt paid hours but hours actually worked. Remember a good portion of US workers are salaried and it is not accurate to divide the GNP/40 hours. But I would love to see the BLS data if that is really true.

I have also read that on average the corporate workers spend about 2 hours/day doing non work related functions. Such as reading this blog, surfing the internet, talking to co workers. I am not saying there is anything wrong with that. But let's face it, if they offered us the option to finish work and leave when the work was done; regardless of how many hours it took us to finish, how many would sit around talking to friends at work? Not many. I am not implying that US workers are lazy. I am just saying given the option, we can get the same work done in a shorter period of time. It is the face time that is holding us all back.

Posted by: foamgome | October 4, 2006 8:43 AM

"As for the women with advance degrees dropping out of the workforce, it is extremely disappointing and a complete waste of an advance degree. I know this is not a popular view and other posters will "take me to task" for saying it but I don't care. Sometimes the truth hurts. It makes me think that many of the women in graduate school are just really there to look for a husband."

OK, here's your first being taken to task.

I don't have an advanced degree, but I do have about 2/3 of one. ;o) I worked on my MBA while working full time - I also had two children and a husband whom I supported financially. During the first year of this arrangement, I separated and divorced. During the second year of this arrangement, I remarried (my husband and I had known each other for 15 years, before anyone thinks I met him in graduate school.)

I am now a SAHM and and active volunteer in the schools and community. I often use some of the knowledge I gained in graduate school, because believe it or not, there are things going on in the schools other than bake sales and class parties. And when my youngest child is in 1st grade, I plan on returning to work part-time, perhaps in a different field, and my graduate school work will be at least somewhat beneficial at that time. Your "truth" hurts me not in the least, because my truth is what matters to me.

Posted by: momof4 | October 4, 2006 8:45 AM

I thought we were supposed to look for husbands in undergrad? My mistake, besides who is going to waste all that time and money looking for a husband in graduate school. Mom of 4 is right though, my, truth, your truth, her truth, they only really matter and are true for one person, you, me and her.

Now the comment about "why work when you don't have to" was troubling, but I suppose that's her truth as well and her choice.

Posted by: scarry | October 4, 2006 8:47 AM

I work in finance where the best jobs are all 24/7 kind of positions that are not compatible with raising a family. I took a mommy track kind of job and have watched the world of promotions and pay raises pass me by. I wish the culture were different and that I could do a great job in regular business hours but with fewer clients and lower pay but that just isn't the culture. A company can offer all the flexible options it wants but if you take one, you will get nowhere. Lots of women quit this line of work when they have kids because the available trade-offs are just not worth it.

To the person who says an advanced degree is a waste for women who quit, you might be right, but what woman knows that she is going to quit work after she has kids? When you are young and ambitious, you grab all the credentials you can get to succeed at the current goal which is advancing your career. Until you try to balance work and family, you just don't know what choices you are going to make.

Posted by: wall street mom | October 4, 2006 8:48 AM

Mom of 4: you may have gone to graduate school but you did not finish. There is a whole different argument as to whether one should confess to graduate school without finishing, but alas that's a different discussion. I would not count you in the group of women who dropped out.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 4, 2006 8:52 AM

"Is "one third" too high? Or is it about right to reflect the number of women who would leave work, no matter how accomodating and flexible their jobs became?"

I think it is about right. we all can look forward to a much longer lifespan than earlier generations, so if you want to take time out for a few years and raise some kids, why not? i plan to work until I'm 80, but I don't regret the 2 years I took off for my first child and look forward to doing the same with later children. Women with professional degrees are in great demand and can find jobs again after taking a break to raise kids-- my employer held my job and I'm sure that will become more common. if they hadn't, I would have quit and looked elsewhere when I was ready to go back. and employers shouldn't treat mother differently than anyone else-- everyone should be offered similar flexibility.


Posted by: Capitol Hill mom | October 4, 2006 8:53 AM

"Mom of 4: you may have gone to graduate school but you did not finish. There is a whole different argument as to whether one should confess to graduate school without finishing, but alas that's a different discussion. I would not count you in the group of women who dropped out."

Well, first of all - I have no problems confessing to going to graduate school without finishing. When YOU have worked full time, parented two children, supported a dead beat husband, taken 9-10 graduate credits a term, and gone through a divorced, then you can decide whether or not it's approrpriate to re-evaluate your priorities and what's important in life.

And second of all - are we only talking about women with graduate degrees? I have a bachelor's degree in accounting and worked for 15 years in my field before I became a full time SAHM. That's not dropping out? (I don't really care if you think I "dropped out" or not, but I just want clarification on what we're talking about here.)

Posted by: momof4 | October 4, 2006 8:54 AM

Leslie,

Would you define "professional women" please? Is it doctors, lawyers, accountants, executives? What about other positions that are non-management, such as claims processors (health, insurance), bookkeepers, software developers and analysts, hr personnel, etc - at large companies or government agencies, who work hard and conduct themselves in a professional manner. It seems to me that there are professional, technical, clerical, blue-collar (skilled and unskilled), and retail positions.

I put myself in the technical category and have a 40-hour-per-week schedule and would leave in a minute if my husband made enough to support us comfortably without a lot of sacrifices.

"and why work if you don't have to? Not every woman wants to be sitting in a board room."

I agree with those who have given reasons for working if you don't have to. I also agree with those who would rather not work if you don't have to. It is possible to have savings, all assets titled jointly, and skills to be able to re-enter the workforce in case you have to. It may not necessarily be an easy road to re-entry, and it may be to less than the ideal position, but it is possible to stay home and still be secure if you plan properly.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 8:54 AM

My guess is that most professional women are married to men with similar educational/professional backgrounds. Which puts them more financially able to afford to give it up.

Most of the families with regular, everyday kind of jobs cannot afford to live on one salary. If they could, I would imagine that there would be a lot more women who drop out of the workforce.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 8:55 AM

"If they could, I would imagine that there would be a lot more women who drop out of the workforce."

I imagine there would be a lot more men who also would if they could! :-) Else, why do so many people play the lottery?

Posted by: Fract'l | October 4, 2006 8:58 AM

could the anonymous posters please use some name. It makes it easier to follow the discussion and respond.

Thank you

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | October 4, 2006 8:59 AM

As a woman with an advanced degree, I do take exception to the comment by alex.mom about how women who earned advanced degrees but are not using them went to school to find a husband.

Seriously, are you kidding me? Why in the world would I put myself into HEAVY debt just to find a man?? And I only know of one couple that emerged from my grad school MBA class of over 200. The rest of us earned our degrees and went out and started working to provide ourselves with a better life and opportunities.

With the divorce rate growing and two 40-something year old father's who have died in the last six months in Alexandria that I know of, these women are able to sustain their families financially should something tragic happen.

Some of my fellow female grad students are indeed SAH Mom's. They all plan on returning to the workforce at some point but right now there aren't a lot of flexibile options for them. So they're holding tight, raising their kids and looking for opportunities to use their skills - like doing PR and accounting work for pre-schools and PTA's.

I agree that flexibility is hard to come by. And the answer more often than not is "no". I am finally able to have more flexibility but only because my boss had a baby last year and has completed turned around wtih her attitude about comp time and flexible hours.

But I"m still going to try to push the envelope because I agree that it something that we women have to demand and not expect to happen.

Posted by: MBA still working | October 4, 2006 9:09 AM

Leslie,

With respect to the question as to whether 1/3 is 'too many' -- a couple of quick thoughts:

(1) Professional women are more likely to have professional husbands and as a result are more likely to have the financial ability to take stay at home for some period of time.

(2) Professional women are more likely to have skills that enable them to take leadership positions in child-focused non-profit organizations (e.g., co-op preschools, PTA boards) -- thus providing many of the personal satisfaction/social benefits often mentioned in association with employment.

In my neighborhood there a fairly sizable number of professional women who fit into this category. As an example, I just returned home from 'International Walk to School Day' [hope others out there were able to participate] -- a collection of primarily professional women [some SAHMs, some part-time employed and some full-time employed] organized an incredible event at our elementary school that saw over 450 of the 500 elementary school children walk to school accompanied by the county executive, chief of police, state senator and other community leaders. The impact of these professional women on this community is amazing -- and I am very thankful for the number of professional SAHMs who view the organization and management of these types of activities as personally rewardig.

Posted by: A Dad | October 4, 2006 9:13 AM

>>Would you define "professional women" please? Is it doctors, lawyers, accountants, executives? What about other positions that are non-management, such as claims processors (health, insurance), bookkeepers, software developers and analysts, hr personnel, etc - at large companies or government agencies, who work hard and conduct themselves in a professional manner. It seems to me that there are professional, technical, clerical, blue-collar (skilled and unskilled), and retail positions.>>

Is it the difference between "exempt" and "non-exempt" jobs? I am "exempt," which means my employer can basically demand that I work any number of hours (until the work gets done) and I don't get overtime. A lot of these jobs are classified this way because you have management/client/decision-making responsibility. Seems like these are the harder ones to reduce or make more flexible.

If you're an non-management HR person or accountant or claims processor with a discrete set of responsibilities, seems like it would be easier to a) balance, because your job would be more predictable and b) leave and return to the workforce.

Posted by: Arlmom | October 4, 2006 9:14 AM

>>(2) Professional women are more likely to have skills that enable them to take leadership positions in child-focused non-profit organizations (e.g., co-op preschools, PTA boards) -- thus providing many of the personal satisfaction/social benefits often mentioned in association with employment.>>

That's great, so glad highly skilled women continue to have to give it away for free.

>>I am very thankful for the number of professional SAHMs who view the organization and management of these types of activities as personally rewardig.>>

Because you don't have to pay for the services they are providing for free!

If they are doing valuable work, why isn't it compensated? And why is it considered more acceptable to be a "SAHM" who is managing a non-profit or volunteer organization and not getting paid, or getting paid very little, than for a woman to manage a company and get paid a lot?

Posted by: To a dad | October 4, 2006 9:19 AM

Why would a women go to graduate school to meet a man? The rates of first time marriages actually drops as a women gets older. And extremely advanced degrees (Ph.Ds, post docs etc...), have lower marital rates for women. Sounds like a dumb strategy to me. I think a lot of men and women go to graduate school because they need the advanced degree to do what they want to do, they are unsure what they want to do, or since they have not met the certain someone, they will work to get the most out of their career. I also never understood why people have a problem with educated SAHPs. Would you rather the parent be uneducated? Why would it be a waste if you use your mind, your problem solving skills, your intellect to enrich your family, community, and yourselfs. I don't think formal education is a necessity to be a good parent. There are plenty of awesome parents with out formal educations. But I don't think it hurts parenting either.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 4, 2006 9:19 AM

Right on about the "Family Track" -- it's no longer a Mommy or Daddy Track. It's not a lowering of standards. It's just an accomodation for a certain period of someone's career. Life is long. We can always work really long hours again once our kids are grown (if we have any energy left by then).

Posted by: Leslie | October 4, 2006 9:20 AM

I am starting off in a professional career, and as a recently-married woman, I've been repeatedly given "hints" that having children now would really hurt my long-term chances of success. Taking a year or two off is possible, but entering back in on the same track and with the same potential for success is simply impossible - the top jobs in my field just don't go to people who took a break. That doesn't mean I won't end up making the choice for children, but clearly there are still consequences for women that don't apply to men. No one has warned my new husband about the dangers of having children.

So yes, I think 1/3 is too high. Most of my friends who are having kids and leaving work would much rather be working part-time and then increasing their workload as the babies get a little older. For a lot of us, though, we end up having to make a drastic choice - quit or forego children, that we would not have to make in a society where raising children was not penalized.

Posted by: not yet mom | October 4, 2006 9:20 AM

I think that it all depends on the tpe of field that you chose to work in that determines the type of flexibility allowable. I work in international development, and my career determines that I should be living abroad right now, or traveling overseas several times a year - in order to move ahead. Being a single mother this is difficult, so rather than staying on the more technical track I stayed in the same field just changing gears to a more domestic based financial managment position that does not require travel. I plan on doing this for a few years until I can get back on the agressive track I need to be on to grow my career.

Honestly, I never understood how people could totally drop out of the workforce for more than a couple years. We all need a contingency plan for the "what ifs" of life; divorce, widowhood, etc... it is tough to get back into the job force and w/o a decent salary history you will have a tough time raising a family if you had to do it alone. I guess I am to independent minded to think of totally banking my future on another person.

To anwers the orginal blog - no, women should not be judged differently than men in the work force, but we are valuable enough to demand the changes we need in order to raise children and manage our families.

Posted by: single mom | October 4, 2006 9:21 AM

"If they are doing valuable work, why isn't it compensated? And why is it considered more acceptable to be a "SAHM" who is managing a non-profit or volunteer organization and not getting paid, or getting paid very little, than for a woman to manage a company and get paid a lot?"

And herein lies the difference between you and me. In my world, compensation does not equal money. Compensation *can* be money, but it also can be knowing that I made a difference in someone's life.

Are you *seriously* suggesting that *all* work done in this world should be rewarded financially? What a sad world that would be if nobody ever did anything for anyone else unless they received a paycheck. :o(


Posted by: momof4 | October 4, 2006 9:27 AM

Mom of 4: I mistakenly thought we were discussing women with advanced degrees, but it was in a follow-up post not Leslie's original post. So yes, I am upset that women with undergraduate degrees drop out (wasteful) but often times I think many people in this country go to college because they are suppose to, not because they truly want to. If someone goes to graduate school, s/he is fully committing to higher learning, excepting poverty for 2-8 years and taking on a thesis/dissertation. Therefore, when someone drops out of the workforce after going through all of the nightmare things mentioned, it is a big deal, esp. if it is a woman in a science or engineering field. Women in under-represented fields need to stay in the workforce to be mentors and role models for other women. It also makes for a much better work environment to have diversity. I am often the only woman in meetings and offices.

With that said, I never said/thought that you had it easy with children, unhelpful husband and working full time in graduate school. It is difficult enough without kids, lame husband and working full time. I had the lame husband and divorced in the middle of graduate school. I only made around $12k as a GTA plus had all the bills from the divorce. There were many times I couldn't buy groceries to eat and worried about making rent. It wasn't easy but it isn't easy for anyone.

If women with college degrees want to drop out that's their choice. However, I don't agree with their decision. (In reality, I know they don't care if I agree with them or not! And that's cool with me. Just voicing my opinion...)

As for working when one doesn't financially need to... I work although my husband makes enough for us to live well. I work for all the reasons mentioned above and because....brace yourselves...I actually like waking up and going to my job! It is almost a SpongeBob Squarepants type of job satisfaction/love!

Posted by: alex. mom | October 4, 2006 9:29 AM

"Personally, I left the white-collar workforce even before I started thinking about kids, because my husband's salary was enough to cover our expenses, and why work if you don't have to?"

Really admirable. What, exactly, do you do with your time?

This is the kind of attitude that embarrasses women and perpetuates their second-class status.

Posted by: brooks | October 4, 2006 9:31 AM

the balance isn't necessarily easier, but it is different. Generally non-exempt make less money than salaried people, so are more limited in their daycare options. If there is a company-wide flextime policy, that's good, but negotiating with your boss for flexible arrangements tends to be impossible - The options must generally be available to all employees or none - the only exceptions seem to be for medical reasons.

Posted by: to arlmom | October 4, 2006 9:31 AM

Some of my fellow female grad students are indeed SAH Mom's. They all plan on returning to the workforce at some point but right now there aren't a lot of flexibile options for them. So they're holding tight, raising their kids and looking for opportunities to use their skills - like doing PR and accounting work for pre-schools and PTA's. >>>

You cannot drop out of the workforce and then jump back in when you are in a technical field (science and engineering). I am not saying it is impossible for everyone. I can only speak to my field, which is extremely difficult, if not impossible.

As for MRS. shopping in graduate school, I said it in a snarky tone because I cannot understand why someone would endure the thesis or dissertation process only to be a SAHP. This leads me to think that it is different outside of science and engineering fields.

Posted by: alex mom | October 4, 2006 9:36 AM

In response to why work if you to not have to, I just have to say - I LOVE to work! I like to feel like I am a contributing member of society and am trying to make the world a better place. I went to graduate school to better position myself in my career.

Though if I did have a husband and had the option to stay at home I'd probably get a PHD, or go to law school so that I can be even better position to make a difference at a higher level. It would be great to not be the primary bread winner and to just take a job because it was rewarding rather than worry about if it will pay the bill!

Posted by: single mom | October 4, 2006 9:37 AM

Well, I am one of those law school grads that met my husband in law school. Actually, there were a lot of us that ended up marrying each other from my class. However, I can assure you that NONE of us went to law school to find a husband. I find that statement extremely sexist. When I was applying to law school, a 60-something year old secretary at my father's office said to me, "Why are you making your father pay for law school? You just find yourself a nice husband to marry at that college of yours and settle down." It took all of my self-control not to tell her off right there. (I took loans out for law school AND, my mother worked, so why was it only my father that was paying, etc.) I suppose she just didn't know any better, but it still annoyed me. I haven't quit work to stay home with my son (yet, I am keeping the option open, if we can ever afford it) but I have "mommy tracked" myself into a job with little chance at advancement and normal hours so that I can be the mom that I want to be. So please, don't insult the thousands of women out there that happened to meet their husbands in graduate school. Could it be that when most people attend graduate school (twenties and thirties) is also the time most people get married??!!

Posted by: D's Mum | October 4, 2006 9:38 AM

-Really admirable. What, exactly, do you do with your time? -

Leaving the white-collar workforce doesn't mean that you sit around twiddling your thumbs or eating bon-bons while watching Oprah. There are many worthwhile pursuits in life other than white-collar professionalism.

I would venture to say that many, many, white-collar professionals (men and women) would leave their positions to do something else if money were no object. Not everyone loves what they do, and not everyone who does what they love is a professional worker.

Posted by: xyz | October 4, 2006 9:38 AM

"Why work if you don't have to?"

I find this an interesting question, especially since it seems to have rubbed many people the wrong way. I have a question for many of you-- suppose you inherited/won several million dollars, enough that you could live comfortably middle-class without needing to work for the rest of your life. Would you stay home? Continue to work in the exact same job? Persue some hobby, or work on a cause you feel passionate about?

I would be surprised to hear many people say they would keep the exact same job, hours, etc. but it seems to be what folks are implying. Anyone willing to answer my question?

Posted by: Ms L | October 4, 2006 9:41 AM

Alex.mom-- You're not usually a judgemental poster-- why do you care whether or not I am "wasting" my degree? Do you think there are a limited number of places available in graduate school? Honestly, I wasn't using my graduate work even when I was working, although the analytical skills I learned in graduate school still help me today.

I think the argument comes down to whether I got educated for myself or for society, and whether or not caring for my kids "counts" as a contribution to society.

Either way, I don't think its reasonable to expect me to work fulltime when it doesn't work well for my family and I can afford not to, just because I decided to go to grad school when I was 22 (or college when I was 18).

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 4, 2006 9:41 AM

Couple of points:

Professional women often marry professional men who can support them if they want to stay home. True.

But also true: a lot of professional women feel more pressure to stay home because their husbands are ambitious, hard-working and unwilling to make sacrifices for their children or their wives. Most women with graduate degrees who stay home do so because they feel "someone has to be home with my kids" and it's not going to be him. So their "choice" is not always such a true choice.

Second, what are professional men and women anyway? How should we define that? The easy way is "exempt" or manager level salary status -- ie, you are paid weekly or annually not hourly. But this is misleading. Many people with non-exempt status have advanced degrees and skills and "careers" vs. jobs. It's not so easy to separate people into nice neat categories. Good to keep in mind.

Provocative discussion today (and thankfully little sniping!)

Posted by: Leslie | October 4, 2006 9:41 AM

My husband and I are just reaching the point where we'd like to start a family, and I can tell you that the subject of how to successfully incorporate work and family into our lives keeps me up at night.

I look around, and I see how nearly impossible it is for anyone - male or female - to succeed in the typical American work environment and still be able to fully invest in a family. I am thrilled to hear that at least companies at the very top are working to make it easier for mothers to balance career and family. I think this is necessary for us to continue to foster a truly diverse work force, and I can only hope the changes begin to trickle down to smaller, less progressive companies like mine. (They haven't yet.) But I wonder if maybe we're not missing a larger discussion about our work culture and the kinds of expectations we place on American employees.

I'm a dedicated employee; I'm not trying to wiggle out of hard work. But the culture I've seen in my career thus far sends the following message: "You're only a good employee if you put your work above everything else in your life." For the most part (I know there are a few remarkable exceptions), we have a work culture that views family as a distraction for employees, and the more willing an employee is to place his or her work above family, the better. Our culture does not easily accommodate, much less encourage, a healthy balance of work and personal time. This has resulted in generations of increasingly overworked, overstressed, and guilt-ridden parents who desperately try to juggle career, family and all the other demands of life, usually to the detriment or complete sacrifice of at least one of those areas. Is there really no way to build a different kind of work culture that can be efficient and productive but also have the kind of flexibility that encourages a healthy balance with family and personal time?

I don't have the answer to that question, but I'd sure like to see discussion open up on the topic. I don't want to have to give up the fulfillment I find and the contribution I make in my career in order to be able to be fully committed to a family. But as things stand now, it seems that's likely what will be required of either myself or my husband.

Posted by: pondering family | October 4, 2006 9:42 AM

To Alex.mom

I knew a LOT of people in law school and graduate school who (1) had their tuition and living expenses fully funded by their parents and (2)and were not particularly committed to higher learning.

Posted by: Elaine | October 4, 2006 9:45 AM

I think if you ask women in these professions, you'd hear a lot of them say that while many employers offer more flexibility, in terms of career advancements they are only getting the appearance of flexibility.

Having said that, I talked to one career expert yesterday who predicts that as Gen Y takes over the marketplace, things will change more for women, since the Gen Y-ers won't put up with playing by the olde rules as many of us Baby Boomers have.

As for competing equally with men? That's OK with me, as long as the men also have the same responsibilities at home as the women. Or women have a stay-at-home spouse. Otherwise, the field will never be equal.

http://punditmom1.blogspot.com

Posted by: PunditMom | October 4, 2006 9:48 AM

So please, don't insult the thousands of women out there that happened to meet their husbands in graduate school.>>>

Uh, I am not insulting women who meet men in graduate school. I am insulting women who obtain advance degree, usually with student loans, only to drop out of the work force, not use their education and give their poor husbands the burden of paying that loan off.

Last time I checked knowing fourier transform (etc.) isn't a skill that translates well to the toddler set. If one of you could tell me how I wouldn't waste my education on raising a child, I would love to hear it. That would be a blast and fun debate! :-)

Posted by: alex. mom | October 4, 2006 9:49 AM

Leslie,

the reason i asked you to define professional is because you are refering to one-third of professional women dropping out. who exactly do you mean? i work with degreed non-exempt employees and i would say that less than 10% drop out.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 9:52 AM

Volunteer means giving back to your community. I live on the outskirts of the metro area in a small town in northern Virginia. The majority of the people in our community "donate" their time to at least one cause such as scout leader, fireman, boys and girls club, pta, coach, after school clubs etc. It is not realistic in an area such as ours for these positions to be paid. A paid little league coach translates to a much higher activity fee which means a lot of our kids would not get to play. A coach or a scout leader gets some "reward" other than money for giving back, even if it is that kid yelling "Hey Coach!" across the grocery aisle. Life is short and the kids I know don't care if you are a high powered exec pulling in the big bucks and doing nothing for free. Very few people respect that kind of person. My kids and the people in this community give a lot of respect to those that our helping out. I'm not trying to sound rude, but I think it is perhaps a community by community thing.

Posted by: Scout Leader | October 4, 2006 9:55 AM

pondering family: well said! That's been my and my husband's experience in several organizations. What I find ironic is that often the "big" ideas or creative solutions often come from people who aren't invested only in their work.

Posted by: Shandra | October 4, 2006 9:56 AM

If I won the lottery, I would either continue in my current job, or teach high school social studies. Even if I had children, I wouldn't stay home with them full time.

Also, Leslie's point about "someone has to stay home with my kids and it's not going to be him," is right on.

Posted by: Erin | October 4, 2006 9:57 AM

Leslie,

Regarding your comment:
"But also true: a lot of professional women feel more pressure to stay home because their husbands are ambitious, hard-working and unwilling to make sacrifices for their children or their wives. Most women with graduate degrees who stay home do so because they feel "someone has to be home with my kids" and it's not going to be him. So their "choice" is not always such a true choice."

So are you trying to argue that women with graduate degrees are wrong in their assumption that 'someone has to be home with the kids'?

Or are you trying to argue that they are right in their assumption, and you would prefer that the percentage of SAHMs was comparable to the percentage of SAHDs?


Posted by: A Dad | October 4, 2006 9:59 AM

To YetAnotherSAHM: Alex.mom-- You're not usually a judgemental poster-- why do you care whether or not I am "wasting" my degree? Do you think there are a limited number of places available in graduate school? Honestly, I wasn't using my graduate work even when I was working, although the analytical skills I learned in graduate school still help me today.

Thank you, I try not to be judgemental. Honestly, I only care if women in my field drop out because there are not many of us.

As I said before, I know SAHM don't care what I think, which is the way it should be. Everyone has different struggles and challenges in life, which entitles them to pick the path that works best for them. However, I was under the impression that the reason for a blog was to present an opinion to others, who may or may not agree with you so there is an open debate.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 4, 2006 10:00 AM

Last time I checked knowing fourier transform (etc.) isn't a skill that translates well to the toddler set. If one of you could tell me how I wouldn't waste my education on raising a child, I would love to hear it. That would be a blast and fun debate! :-)


OK, you definitely got me and probably most of us with the fourier transform. I had to look it up. What I can gather it is related to physics which is essentially mathematics. Well, what does that have to do with raising kids. Well any major in college or graduate school, essentially teaches people to think critically, analyze data or information, and draw reasonable conclusions. Can you use that knowledge when raising kids? Your darn right you can. I use my analytical skills every time I am observing my daughter's cognitive development. I also think learning to think is highly valuable in just about anything you do. How do you think inovation happens. People start thinking about how to improve or make a particular task more efficient. Sure, you are not going to discuss fourier transfer with a small child. I don't sit and discuss stochastic processes with my kid. But I sure do look at how she learns and the way information is absorbed. I think more people would be interested in raising kids, if they understood more about the cognitive development of humans. I personally think it is fascinating.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 4, 2006 10:03 AM

"Anyone willing to answer my question?"

Sure. You're making an apples-oranges comparison. If I suddenly won/inherited enough money to quit working for the rest of my life, I would have a variety of choices. However, having a husband who makes enough money so that I don't "have" to work now is a completely different thing.

First, unlike in the winning/inheriting scenario, this husband doesn't guarantee that I'll be "financially comfortable" for the rest of my life; death, divorce, bad investments, or change in husband's job circumstances are all threats to that comfort. Unless the money is in the bank, you're not set for life (and even then, there's risk).

Second, if I won or inherited, I'd feel that I had a legitimate claim on the money; not so if I have a husband who's earning it. What right have I to expect someone else to provide me with a living?

So, no, your hypothetical scenario really doesn't work.

Posted by: brooks | October 4, 2006 10:04 AM

Leslie, you said "Most women with graduate degrees who stay home do so because they feel "someone has to be home with my kids" and it's not going to be him. So their "choice" is not always such a true choice."

This is SUCH a generalization. I can't believe it's coming out of the mouth (via the keyboard) of a person who supposedly has so thoroughly delved into this topic. I am a SAHM because I want to be, as are most SAHMs I know. NOT because we feel forced to make the choice since hubby won't step up.

Un-freaking-believable.

Posted by: MomNC | October 4, 2006 10:04 AM

alex.mom, I hear you. I just finished my PhD in engineering (I'm female). I don't get the women that waste their degrees either (and yes, it is a waste to not use your degree). But I chalk it up to people not knowing what they want out of life, not having a drive or passion in work. That's why we went into science/engineering, right? It's different for us. And so much harder. They will never get it. They will never know what it is like to be the only women.

Posted by: PhDEng | October 4, 2006 10:06 AM

Jane Fed, I feel your pain. I was told a few months ago that I am no longer being considered for a promotion because it was clear that I am no longer a team player. My husband was a stay at home until our daughter turned 6 and he graduated from college. Now that he works they figure I can't work longer hours/travel anymore. Huh? I don't remember making that comment to anyone. I'm trying to come to terms with my new position here because I do love the work I do. It does suck, though.

Posted by: ChemEngTerp | October 4, 2006 10:06 AM

I am not sure if this is really behind Alex. Mom's comments... or it is just my own lense on these things.

I think the guilt surrounding not using a science/engineering grad. degree is a bit stronger than for law school, etc. (or undergrad for that matter) You are generally funded by tax-payers, companies, and schools - and you are funded for a specific reason - the country's need for scientists and engineers.

Furthermore these fields are still very low on women. If a large percent of women choose not to use to continue on, this would be a strong disincentive for phd advisors to spend the many hours and grant dollars required to train them.

Posted by: Defending Alex. Mom | October 4, 2006 10:12 AM

Mrs. L

I would probably still do some kind of work, start my own company, writer, etc. I would not live off my husband. I think that is what is rubbing people the wrong way. However, she has the right to do so if she wishes.

Posted by: Scarry | October 4, 2006 10:13 AM

"and why work if you don't have to? Not every woman wants to be sitting in a board room."

*sigh*

Posted by: Hello - this is the 21st Century calling | October 4, 2006 10:14 AM

"If one of you could tell me how I wouldn't waste my education on raising a child, I would love to hear it."

One of the most memorable quotes I had in graduate school [Mathematics] was a professor who said "the only education you are getting here is learning how to think, the rest of this stuff is just memorization and exercises."

One might argue that it would be difficult to consider one 'educated' without attempting to raise a child...

Posted by: A Dad | October 4, 2006 10:17 AM

Reading it now my comment sounds too harsh.

I think every woman needs to make the right choice for herself (& family).

BUT I think the decision feels different when you are in a field that can seem a few years behind with regard to gender equity. (Though for the record it was a small portion of foreign male grad students who seemed most surprised by the female presence in my dept.)

Posted by: Defending Alex. Mom | October 4, 2006 10:17 AM

"Taking a year or two off is possible, but entering back in on the same track and with the same potential for success is simply impossible - the top jobs in my field just don't go to people who took a break."

NotYetMom, it is NOT impossible to take a break and come back into a top job. I just did it. I took time off after 15 working years -- and I didn't do it to stay home with my kids because I don't have any. I did it because I wanted to take a break and enjoy a little leisure, family time, and travel. Sure, I was worried that I wouldn't make it back onto the ladder at the same level, but I decided I was a good worker with a good resume and I'd take the chance. So, just last week I was offered a job at a BIG salary increase from my last position. I did not have to start out lower in any way. And my degree and field of work is not that specialized or anything like that. I know that not everyone can do this, but I want to give my story to show that just because you take a year or two off, it's NOT impossible to come back and get back on the ladder at an even better title and salary.

Posted by: Gayle | October 4, 2006 10:17 AM

'If one of you could tell me how I wouldn't waste my education on raising a child, I would love to hear it.'

ok, imagine that hypothetical toddler at age 10, 13, 16, 18. I use my elite university BA every day in my SAHM role. Be it homework (algebra!), discussions of topics in the news, science, or human development and social interaction issues, I am always discussing what I learned in college with my children. They are all good students, and I do claim partial credit for their accomplisments as thoughtful, curious humans. And I have no doubt that I will be able to restart an interesting, lucrative career when I get a few of these children launched!

Posted by: experienced mom | October 4, 2006 10:24 AM

To those who think it is a waste for a woman to get a graduate degree and then become a stay at home mom, how can it POSSIBLY be seen as a negative for children to have well educated mothers, regardless of whether they work or not? Mother's education correlates strongly with both children's health and their eventual education level. I'm in grad school right now, will be finished in May. I'm already married and I did not meet my husband at grad school or undergrad, not that it would matter anyway. I work full time and my company is paying for school. In a few years we will probably start having children and I will probably stay home, at least for awhile or longer. This is actually PART of the reason I'm getting my master's... if I become a SAHM and something happens to my husband, or I become bored out of my mind, or if we CAN'T have children I will always have my MA in my pocket. Anyone who thinks education is a waste does not understand the point of education, it is not simply to get a job. I went to Mr. Jefferson's University (UVA) and there we call ourselves 1st years, 2nd years, etc, and not freshman, seniors..., because Thomas Jefferson thought that no one ever became a "senior" when it comes to education. There is always more to learn and discouraging people from learning, regardless of their family choices, is just silly.

Posted by: gradstudent | October 4, 2006 10:26 AM

" I don't get the women that waste their degrees either (and yes, it is a waste to not use your degree)."

To PhDEng:

Make sure you express your belief strongly to your management chain [especially those managers with PhDs who are doing full-time management and not using their degrees] -- they always appreciate such refreshing candor from young PhDs ;-)

Posted by: A Dad | October 4, 2006 10:29 AM

Mrs. L, if I won that lottery I'd go back to school for another degree and then go into teaching. Even if I don't win the lottery, I plan to do this when I'm near 50 and want to move out of the field I'm in now.

Posted by: T.L.M. | October 4, 2006 10:29 AM

To experienced mom:

You don't get it do you? Are any of your childern female? Example speaks much louder than words. How will they have and "interesting, lucrative career" when the only example you've shown them is that is it ok to stay at home.

I'm so scared that someone will say, why should we admit her to the graduate program, she's just going to have babies and stay home. Let's admit someone (man) that will use the degree.

Posted by: PhDEng | October 4, 2006 10:29 AM

pondering family, where do you live? From my experience, a lot of these concerns are more prevalent in East Coast cities. In other parts of the country, especially the West, folks "work to live" as opposed to "living to work." There's a big difference.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 10:30 AM

If my husband and I won the lottery, I would quit my job and look for a more fulfilling type of job. If my husband got a huge promotion where all of our expenses could be covered and we could live well, I would not quit my current job.

Posted by: Winning Lotto | October 4, 2006 10:31 AM

"You don't get it do you? Are any of your childern female? Example speaks much louder than words. How will they have and "interesting, lucrative career" when the only example you've shown them is that is it ok to stay at home."

How did we get so many college-educated women after the 1950's when it was the norm for women to be housewives/sahm?

Posted by: to PhDEng | October 4, 2006 10:32 AM

Why do so many of you assume that taking a few years off to be a SAHM means these women will never ever re-enter the workforce?

Posted by: JT | October 4, 2006 10:34 AM

Why do so many of you assume that taking a few years off to be a SAHM means these women will never ever re-enter the workforce?

Posted by: JT | October 4, 2006 10:35 AM

If my husband and I won the lottery, I would quit my job and look for a more fulfilling type of job. If my husband got a huge promotion where all of our expenses could be covered and we could live well, I would not quit my current job.

I think the difference is that I have worked at those jobs that pay very well but are completely soul sucking. I couldn't live out my dreams while he toiled away. (And for those who say that the higher earning spouses _enjoys_ that job: maybe that is the difference. My spouse and I know that work is important, but we enjoy life and want more time.

Posted by: Winning Lotto | October 4, 2006 10:37 AM

What's the quote about inculcating good virtues into your children? "It's better to live a life of faith than to talk about it...." or something along those lines. I think PhDEng has a point - kids learn things when it is demonstrated to them day in and day out. If you truly want to teach your daughters and sons that women can do anything and don't just live to serve their husbands & offspring (and I'm not saying you all do - some people find traditional gender roles exactly what they want to pass on to their kids), then you should work out of the home so they see you living your creed, not just saying it.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 10:38 AM

PhDEng, do you honestly believe that it sets a bad example for your children (you were sexist and just included daughters) if their mother stays at home with them for a few years until they start school? You're going to need to back up your argument.

Some anecdotal evidence to back up mine: I was the daughter (one of four) of a SAHM. My sisters and I all talked from the time we were in middle school about what we were going to be when we grew up. Our mother staying home had zero impact on our decisions to enter the workforce. I am a lawyer who will return to the workforce when my youngest starts first-grade. Only one of my sisters is a SAHM along with me, the other two both work (and have kids), one of them in an extremely high-powered executive position at a Fortune 100 company.

And FYI, my younger brother is a teacher. So now what happens to your theory?

Posted by: MomNC | October 4, 2006 10:39 AM

I agree 100% with pondering family. Making your job your #1 priority is essential to getting ahead in my industry and totally at odds with the corporate feel good policies offering flexibility. If you want a flexible job, or one that asks for less than total commitment, then clearly work is not your top priority and you are not A list material. The culture is a remnant of the era where women didn't work in these jobs and has outlived its usefulness. I hope the poster saying this next generation may be different is right but I have my doubts. If I knew what I know now, I would never have chosen a career in finance.

To make work and family balance you have to act based solely on your own values, even when they are at odds with those of your company. It's really hard to keep your ambition and ego in check and continue to put your family first when parenting obligations continually draw negative reperucussions at work. It is hard when your commitment to parenting is not supported by the culture in which you spend the majority of your waking hours. Pondering parenthood, if you are young and your work culture doesn't recognize that you can have a private life and value your work, change companies or industries before it's too late. I'm in my 40s and my kids are in their teens -- I can assure you, it doesn't get any easier just because the kids are older.


Posted by: wall street mom | October 4, 2006 10:39 AM

I am a statistician and was fully funded to go to undergraduate and graduate school. I feel absolutely no obligation to the university or college to work after I am done with my degree. I don't think they care either. I do work by the way. Do you think children live in a vacum? Do you think their only role models are their parents? Why should women in certain fields feel obligated to stay in the work force just because there are fewer of them in that particular field. The feminist movement was about giving women choices. And one of those choices is to stay at home. Maybe the child of a well educated SAHM or SAHD is learning despite the many professional opportunities my parent(s) had they choose to stay at home. They made parenting a career. Why is this not valid? I personally would continue to do some sort of work even if I won the lottery (no rich relatives in my family). I may do more charity then paid work but I would definitely not want to parent full time. But I see nothing wrong with women wanting to do this. Why do you assume that parenting full time is mindless work?

Posted by: foamgnome | October 4, 2006 10:39 AM

If the management jobs do not require any technical background, why aren't they given to the MBAs?

Posted by: To: A Dad | October 4, 2006 10:41 AM

Gradstudent, I like what you wrote! I got my MA before getting married even though I knew that I would stay home with my child(ren). Part of the reason I got a graduate degree was not just "to get a job" but to EDUCATE myself -- because I love to learn! I saw of course that I could earn more with the degree, but I don't think it was wasted. And it turns out that I don't have children. Was my education a waste? Well, I don't really use it that much in my daily work, but I'm sure glad I studied what I studied because I think it made me a more thoughtful person. It's silly to think that educating women who might take some time off from their careers is a "waste". Would you say the same thing if a man said he wanted to work for 20 years and then take 5 years off, and then try another field?

Posted by: Some people like to learn | October 4, 2006 10:42 AM

To everyone who says that women who stay at home are setting a bad example, the real people who are setting a bad example are the women who are picking at each other over the "mommy wars." My mom stayed at home and I went to college and I work. If my daughter grows up, goes to college and then feels that she wants to be a SAHM, she has the right to. Her choice is her choice and she shouldn't feel responsible for the rest of the women in this country. Every choice that I make doesn't have to be about the overall good of the feminist movement and women's issues, sometimes it really is about me and my family. I'm sure I'll get some heat, but really, when did experienced moms and others staying home hurt me--the answer is never!


Posted by: Scarry | October 4, 2006 10:44 AM

Slightly off topic - rather than discussing upward mobility of professional women who want to rise to the top, could we one day discuss the middle class and how they struggle to achieve balance -

http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/10/03/Dobbs.Oct4/index.html

Posted by: xyz | October 4, 2006 10:46 AM

To PhDEng - If the only example children follow is their parents how come so many of us Baby Boomer women have careers? In addition to yourself role models include the parents of friends, the people they meet (ex.their female pediatrician), your extended family, the neighbors, etc.
Yes there is still prejudice out there against women, we have even heard about it on the blog today about bosses who assume that once you are a mother you aren't as serious about your career, but to insist someone work because they have a degree is just as limiting as saying they can't get that degree because they have children.
Finally I know a lot of people in their 40's and 50's whose careers have nothing to do with or are only tangetially related to their degrees. Is this wasting thier degrees after all they aren't specifically using their education either?

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | October 4, 2006 10:47 AM

Why do so many of you assume that taking a few years off to be a SAHM means these women will never ever re-enter the workforce?>>>

JT, some careers are easier than others to drop out then re-enter from what other posters have stated. However, technology isn't one of these. And this goes for men too! You must constantly keep up with new technology and grow your skill set. It is a difficult task on it own, without kids and family obligations. (obligation always sounds so negative to me... how about family committments?)

Posted by: alex. mom | October 4, 2006 10:47 AM

'You don't get it do you? Are any of your childern female? Example speaks much louder than words. How will they have and "interesting, lucrative career" when the only example you've shown them is that is it ok to stay at home.'

you don't know me well enough to make a statement like that. I worked for 8 years after college, built up a real estate nest egg, and I am now reaping the benefits of my investments. I am teaching both of my daughters to pursue a career that interests them, and to position themselves to work part time if they want to step off the full time track. My daughters also see how many of my friends sucessfully manage full time careers.
Those of you who think everyone (male or female) must fall into the same place on the work/not work continuum are the ones who don't get it. And yes, that means you too, Leslie.

Posted by: experienced mom | October 4, 2006 10:49 AM

"If the management jobs do not require any technical background, why aren't they given to the MBAs?"

Sorry -- I think we're in agreement and in a poor attempt to be funny wasn't able to make my point.

As you note, the individuals in those management positions often do have the technical background. That said, it is not their technical training that they are generally needed for -- it is the higher level of understanding [at least with good managers] that they can bring to bear.

The exact same is true with educated men and women who stay at home with their children. I've personally had little need to use L'Hopital's Rule recently, but the same organized thought process that I obtained in graduate school and that my wife obtained in graduate school has been critical to the upbringing of our children.

I don't use all of my training -- I do use and constantly attempt to expand my education.

Posted by: A Dad | October 4, 2006 10:51 AM

From reading the messages above, one thing is clear to me: We need to teach our children that their choice of career field will have a huge impact on their ability to achieve work-life balance. My memory of college is that most everyone I knew either "followed their dream" OR chose a career they thought would pay the most money. Yet neither group ever seemed to think how their career choice would affect their actual life: Would they be able to live only in certain areas, would they work long hours or have flexibility? Basically, they picked a major and then graduated and got whatever job they could in those times (early '80s recession years).

Certainly we need to ask for more in the workplace, but we also need to be aware that our career choices can limit the type of lifestyle we may want to live.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 10:52 AM

I was a SAHM for 3 years, then my husband quit his (much higher paying, but longer hours and less flexible) job and I went back to work. He's going to be a SAHD for 3 years until our youngest is in school. This has been a great solution for us since the kids get to know both parents very well and neither of us has too long away from our careers.

Are we just taking turns sponging off each other? I always viewed us as a team.

Posted by: Ms L | October 4, 2006 10:53 AM

Parenting is not a career! You can not get a promotion. You don't get a raise when you kid turns out good. You don't get docked if your kid goes to jail. (won't get into the throught if this is the parent's fault or not, another issue). There is no best parent award, like a nobel prize for chemistry. (nor should there be) Parenting is essential and wonderful and is to be admired, but parenting is not a career.

Posted by: PhDEng | October 4, 2006 10:59 AM

Alex.mom,
You don't like me, apparently. I'm a mechanical engineer. I come from an engineering family (my Dad and brother are both engineers, my mom is a computer programmer), and I married an engineer too (we met in college, but that does NOT mean I went to school to find a husband-- that's classic flawed logic "Post hoc ergo propter hoc"). I know what fourier transforms are, they don't get used much in the real world (except when an oscilloscope does it for you), and they aren't hard. Why bring them up? My husband has worked diligantly to "stay technical" but most engineers are in management by their mid thirties. Is that "wasting their degree"?

I do know what it's like to be the only woman in the room (except the secretaries). I also know what it's like to get over it, and get to know the men as individuals, most of whom have working wives and daughters. When I graduated I had this idea that I needed a female mentor, but it turned out that I didn't really hit it off with my female superiors, and I did find a mentoring relationship with a couple male coworkers. Not everything needs to be about gender.

I would like it there were more SAHPs in my neighborhood. It would give my kids more kids to play with in the afternoon, and make it easier to schedule after school activities (instead of everything being after dinner when my kids are wiped). But I understand I don't get to plan other people's lives for my convenience.

How I use my education with my kids-- I point out math where I see it. My 5 year old has picked up fractions and multiplication this way. She knows why the tv doesn't work when it rains hard (we have a satellite dish). These are just a few examples of things that have come up over the last week.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 4, 2006 10:59 AM

Scarry

I thought your mother cleaned banks.

Posted by: June | October 4, 2006 11:01 AM

"Most women with graduate degrees who stay home do so because they feel "someone has to be home with my kids" and it's not going to be him. So their "choice" is not always such a true choice."

Complete BS!

I stayed home because I was goo-goo eyed crazy in love with my baby and the thought of leaving him with a nanny or other care-taker drove me crazy with jealousy. I really wanted to spend my days with him. Besides, breast-feeding was exhausting and he didn't sleep through the night until after a year old, so if I had gone back to work I would have been too sleepy to perform my very best.

Posted by: Capitol Hill mom | October 4, 2006 11:01 AM

No, yetanother, you were a mechanical engineer.

Posted by: PhDEng | October 4, 2006 11:09 AM

She did and does clean banks, but she didn't do that until I was a freshman in high school. That experince did help shape how I felt about education and work. I just don't think it is fair to tell people they are wasting their education by raising children and that they are setting a bad example by doing so. People set bad examples by beating each other, doing drugs, being a dead beat parent, not by choosing to stay home or working for that matter.

Posted by: scarry | October 4, 2006 11:13 AM

I only read a few of the above, but I don't agree with most of the posts.

I'm sure that 1/3 of "professional" or "educated" mothers take time off with their children. But I don't think it's because it's 100% that they only want to be with their kids--they may say that, but I don't think deep down they believe it. Sure there are some who want to only be at home and good for them. We are not talking about women who are not ambitious in the working world (don't slam me for this--if you don't want to work then you are not ambitious in the working world--deal with it). In my socioeconomic circle, I've encountered many women who have articulated, when being honest, that if there were more flexibility or their husbands worked less, they would like to go back to their professions or to pursue other interests. Many women I have spoken to, and I'm non-judgemental about this, articulate frequently that staying at home is difficult. It's not that they don't enjoy their kids, they do, but many of us want more. Women go to school not only to learn and develop skills, but to become prepared for the working world so I can't imagine most would say "I'm going to school to find a husband". I don't think I've ever met anyone who has said that (ok so one of my roommates in college declared that, but she is now a school teacher with 3 kids). We all dream of being something and I don't think the dream dies because we have kids.

With regard to my profession--I'm in medicine--women tend to not take time off. We invest too much time, money and effort to chuck it all. Many do decide to work part-time and this is being addressed by professional societies as it has been an issue with regard to the access to care issues (fewer than anticipated physician hours). But, I have not witnessed women in my profession advancing anywhere working part time so I disagree with Leslie's assertion that people can advance on the mommy track. Doesn't happen. In fact, women who work part time are dismissed from any leadership or decision making.

What I do think needs to happen and some have articulated it very nicely above, is that taking some time off as parents should become accepted and then the norm for all parents. Once males develop the mindset that family is as important as the workplace, then attitudes will change. Leadership of the professions and business need to take parental concerns seriously and frame the issues as "parental" instead of using the terms "mommy track" or any such gender specific jargon. I'm afraid that if we want these things sooner or later, they may need to be legislated (won't happen, politicians don't care about kids and families--only pay lip service--the elderly get most of their attention. They vote)

Posted by: working mother | October 4, 2006 11:14 AM


I strongly disagree with this wasting a degree insinuation as well.

I am also a science Ph.D. (physics), still working as a college professor. Also still "working" as a parent volunteer, who brings my experience and critical thinking skills to the kids in my childrens' world, by coming in to school and doing science demos, coaching multiple grades for math competitions, bringing classes/troops in for planetarium demos, etc. It's not so different from the teaching I do with undergrads, which I presume you *would* label using my degree/working in my field --- since academia is exactly the career path my Ph.D. targets. My parent volunteering is more like my profession than different. The technical level of course differs (though less than between teaching physics grad students and nonscientist undergrads). But the scientific approach, the socratic investigation, the worldview from which I teach kids to hold up and examine questions, that is 100% a testament to and reflection of my professional academic identity as a physicist. (Incidentally, it is also not much different from my parenting/volunteering that is not science-based, for example leading a Junior Great Books group through a very similar process of teaching/questioning/modeling critical thinking, just applied to literature.)

We don't leave our professional/academic identity behind when we act outside the workplace; on the contrary, we become ambassadors for it --- role models who expose our opportunities and ways of thinking and living to a broader group of people, which is even more important for kids who are getting first and few exposures. (As one teacher told me, just by being able to nip into my department's demo storeroom and bring in physical examples of all the "simple machines" her 3rd graders were studying, which she had no idea how to find, an easy visit by me radicalized the way her students were able to visualize and make tangible their learning about physics.)

And as rare as our numbers may be in working environments (trust me I know, I am well accustomed to being the only woman among physicists), our skills and resources in facilitating science exposures for kids are equally rare in the schools. Both of these activities are productive and valid, society-enriching payback and use of our degrees.
How an engineer mom divides this societal payback between paid employment and coaching, say, an elementary school Lego robotics challenge team, or writing "moment of science" blurbs for the school's morning announcements, just to mention a tiny fraction of what parents do to further science at our elementary school, is nothing to sniff at --- both are standing out there, doing good, furthering the professional cause, and persevering as role models who will bring more people - female and male - into science either as a way of life or at least a way of understanding.

Also, you might note that at least the NSF considers outreach activities like these part and parcel of being a professional scientist, since every research grant proposal must include an outreach component.

So you might take the scientist/engineer out of the workplace, but they'll still be a scientist/engineer, and they'll spread that outlook wherever they go. This is the old-fashioned view of what it actually means to be in a "profession", it is integral to who you are and you profess it.

Posted by: KB | October 4, 2006 11:17 AM

PhdEng...
I like the way you clearly addressed my points. Are these the skills they taught you in school?

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 4, 2006 11:18 AM

career: definition:
a field for or pursuit of consecutive progressive achievement especially in public, professional, or business life
4 : a profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling

This still applies to raising children full time. The definition does not state anything to due with payment, consequences of negative job performance. The progressive achievement could be viewed as the child's progress in academics, social awareness, community contribution etc... PhDeng, you have a pretty narrow view of career. Your view also does not take into account charity work. I know some people who devote as much time or more and have dealt with as large a budget in their charity work as most managers in business.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 4, 2006 11:19 AM

To YetAnotherSAHM,
You don't like me, apparently.>>>

WHAT?! Uh sorry, but I don't know you. I actually take offense to that statement. While I may not always agree with other people's decisions, I absolutely give everyone the benefit of the doubt that they are doing the best they can. Because quite frankly, that's what we are all trying to do! I have numerous friends who don't work and have advance degrees. My own mother dropped out of graduate school to raise us kids and because of her illness. I recognize it is a choice but if asked I would say *I feel* they made a mistake. But what I feel about another person's decisions is truly irrelevant now isn't it.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 4, 2006 11:20 AM

PhdEng

Why all the anger at yetanotherSAHM? I'm just asking. Why does it matter to you what she does? ALso, do our degrees and knowledge disapear when we stay home with our children or when we work in another job, or if we get laid off. Do our framed degrees go up in a ball of fire.

Posted by: Scarry | October 4, 2006 11:22 AM

When an employee male or female, asks boss for part-time or flexibility, the boss is going to think, "It's going to cost the company $$ and effort from all employees to accomodate this request. Right now I have 20 resumes from qualified men and women waiting to fill this position."
What do you think the boss will do? If you're a star employee, irreplaceable, you might have a shot. How many of you are irreplaceable?

We are competing in a global economy. Every day I read reports of companies hiring thousands in India, Philippines, South America. Large companies are tunnel-visioned with maximizing profits and raising the stock price. There are very few that will treat employees well at the expense of profits.

Posted by: WorkerBee | October 4, 2006 11:23 AM

Just a thought, I plan to go back to school when my kids are grown and I have more time on my hands to get an advanced degree in HIstory. I won't be doing it to advance my current career but for my own edification and because I really enjoy history.

Posted by: Addison | October 4, 2006 11:23 AM

I never really get why there is guilt, disappointment and condemnation for either the working or stay at home moms.
I have a friend who knew from the beginning that she did not want to work and and did exactly that. She was fortunate enough to fulfill her dreams. I too have fulfilled my dreams to be a professional. I love working and challenging my potential.
Both of us are happy and complete in our roles and would not wiilingly change it.
But isnt that what the liberation and freedom is about. It is about choice, kudos to being able to choose and live the way you want to.

Another of my friends wants to work but is "stuck at home" (her words not mine) because her husband wants her to take care of their kids.

If you dont want to work, DONT. and if you want to study and get advanced degrees and then leave a happy career its your choice and your hard work. to waste. Not everyone studies just cause they were working towards a great career, it might be cause they want to learn. In the end it is about being satisfied with what you have. And if you want to work thats your choice too.

Sometimes we point fingures because somewhere inside we doubt our selves and need a validation of our point of view and that comes from berating the ones that dont share our lives/ views etc. We really ought to think about our own motivations and reasons before we point fingures.

I agree with both " Why work when you dont have to?" as well as " I work because I want to" and there are people who just dont understand one over other and I am ok with that to. We are all entitled to our opinions, but once in a while stop judging and try to think that the other persons reasons, thinking and needs might be different from yours.

I also think its a little strange that we are forever fighting this SAH vs WO mom wars, where often we do have a choice but most men dont. They are expected to be able to suppport their families . Equality was never about everyone being the same or being treated exactly same. In my mind its about individuality and the needs. It is about not being prejudged based on sex, race age nationality etc. It is about being you and being treated as such. It is about being able to utilise your potential.

Lets all respect the other's choice as long as it does not harm anyone. and i use harm in a very narrow sense of the word.

Posted by: dg | October 4, 2006 11:27 AM

There is no best parent award, like a nobel prize for chemistry. (nor should there be)

Actually, there are mother of the year awards. There are probably father of the year awards too. I am just not aware of them.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 11:33 AM

"Personally, I left the white-collar workforce even before I started thinking about kids, because my husband's salary was enough to cover our expenses, and why work if you don't have to?"

In addition to all of the other excellent points raised by others, I think this is a fundamentally unfair and selfish way to think, assuming you don't have children. Even if your husband's salary is enough to cover your expenses, by not working you are trading the higher standard of living and greater financial security that your salary would bring for the ability to be a lady of leisure. Maybe your husband doesn't want to work either. If you have the ability to earn a salary, why should he work if he doesn't have to? Of course, if you have children such considerations of fairness frequently have to be disregarded for the best interest of the whole family, but I can't believe that a person without children could think that it was okay to not work and be supported by someone else.

Posted by: Charlottesville | October 4, 2006 11:35 AM

To KB: Thank you for your eloquent words. Makes me feel good to be in a science field today :)

Posted by: TakomaMom | October 4, 2006 11:39 AM

Practical comment about entering, exiting, reentering (remember the on- ramps last week?):

Many fields, especially technical and scientific, expand in knowledge-content and practical tools (software, lab technique, industrial process, etc).

Biz, Gov and the Non Profi worlds need updated skills faster than Masters programs can provide. Hence the growth in continuing education courses and certifications.

Certifications cluster together 3-5 classes, awarding "frame-ble" and resume-building paper that dcoument the new skills or knowledge.

I've known moms mostly and some dads, who teach in such programs as a part-time option. I've known many other workers, male and female, taking such courses.

And, many of the certification-takers are full time workers.

Posted by: College Parkian | October 4, 2006 11:41 AM

Workerbee posted: "When an employee male or female, asks boss for part-time or flexibility, the boss is going to think, "It's going to cost the company $$ and effort from all employees to accomodate this request..."

Sometimes it doesn't hurt to ask. I just had a remarkable experience--I've been working 4 days a week for years and have always been treated with some condescension by my company. This summer, I was recruitd by a competitor.

I immediately said, I'm flattered but you don't want me. I only work four days a week and I won't change that. The company (which happens to be on the 100 best list) said, no, we do. We have people who work three days a week.

Fast-forward, and I now work four days a week for what my old company would have paid me for five and my four day week is in my contract rather than a benefit that the company can yank at its discretion.

Posted by: nyc | October 4, 2006 11:43 AM

I guess I just don't understand why there should be two standards - one for people with kids and one for people without. Clearly, there should not be a glass ceiling that women cannot cross if they do their jobs as well as anyone else, but why do we have to make concessions and let people make partner who go home in the middle of the day to get a sick child or at 5 to take care of hte kids while everyone else stays at work?

I come from the standpoint that I have a chronic illness. Sometimes I don't do my job as well as the rest b/c I am ill - why should I get promoted over those that do more work and do their share?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 11:43 AM

I read a study a while ago which found that only 16% of mothers would work full time outside the home if they could do what ever they wanted. 51% said they would either work for pay from home or stay home without working. Given the conversation about not working if you don't have to, I wonder what the number of men who feel likewise are. At any rate, that's a huge dissonace between what women want and the options they have available to them. I am a stay at home mom with a degree and when I first started staying at home, my husband wasn't at all sure if this was a good idea. One of our regular conversations was him saying, "but you have a degree - why waste it staying home?" To which I would always reply, "so are you saying only the stupid or uneducated should be raising kids fulltime?" What made the whole conversation particularly ludicrous is that my previous job was managing accounts for the personalization of direct mail pieces. Yet no one ever said to me "why are you wasting your time working in corporate America when you could be spending your time devoted to shaping the character of human beings?" Because we all know that moving the cogs to get junk mail into your post boxes efficiantly is a much better use of a college graduate's time than caring for kids! I mean we all itch and moan about how screwed up kids are today and what a difficult environment they are being raised in, but then want to turn around and argue that only those who haven't demonstrated the intelligence or committment needed to obtain a degree should devoted fulltime to the task? Duh. The idea that SAH college grads are "wasting their education" is practically laughable on it's face. Studies have found that a very small number of college graduates actually use their degree anyways. And if you can't figure out how the thinking skills, determination, problem solving skills and such one should develop while getting a degree can be put to good use in caring for kids all day, well, it's probably best that you aren't one of the people responsible for caring for children full time.
BTW, for the record I do not think that education and intelligence are the same - I know many "uneducated" people who are very, very smart (like my hubby). Also, I am not saying every family must have a mom or dad at home - I know wonderful families where neither mom or dad was well suited for the task on a fulltime basis and their kids did wonderfully with happily working parents and high quality substitute care. I'm just saying that the idea that caring for kids fulltime is not particularly valuable or worthwhile, particularly if you have a degree, is ridiculous.

Posted by: rebeccat | October 4, 2006 11:45 AM

I'm so tired of hearing about mommy wars and the mommy career track. How about the daddy taking a more active part in parenting and sacrificing. I want to hear more about parenting issues, not just mommy issues. I am fortunate to have a husband who is 50/50 in raising our child. We both work full time decent jobs with decent salaries. Both of us decided to sacrifice the quick paced higher salaried jobs so we can both raise our daughter together.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 11:53 AM

If my wife ever makes partner/EVP, I am going to waste the hell out of my degree by becoming a SAHD. And not feel the least bit bad about it of give a good-garsh-darn what anyone has to say about it.

Yes, its a waste of the degree I bought/earned.

Sometimes I waste fast food too, when I buy it and then I'm full but haven't finished it all. Apparently my situation changed between when I bought the food, vs. staring at that last french fry. I reacted.

I must be a terrible person.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 11:59 AM

Predominantly to alex. mom and PhDEng:

Re: Wasting a degree - I need some clarification again. Is it only wasting your degree if you have a degree in science/engineering, or any degree? Because alex. mom said something about only being critical of those in her chosen field who "opt out." And if that isn't judgmental, I don't know what is.

I'm fully aware that there aren't as many women in science/engineering as men - both in the college classroom and in the workforce. But is the reason because girls and women aren't given the opportunities or encouragement to become scientists? (I disagree) Or because there simply are more boys and men interested in the sciences? (I agree) I'm sure I'll get some "how dare you say that, you anti-feminist bashing over that statement, but I honestly can't see that my daughters (or I, for that matter) get any different treatment than boys as far as encouragement to do whatever they want to do.

Why is it the job of science-educated women to provide you with female companionship in meetings? Why must a science-educated women continue in that field and someone who is educated in a different field not? What is to you if a woman chooses to spend her money and time getting a degree in engineering and then doesn't work as an engineer? If she moved on to something else - say finance, like my engineer sil - is she wasting her engineering degree? Or is it just if she opts out of the work force altogether?

There are a million examples of people who are trained and educated to do "something" but never use it. I studied piano for 10 years. Was it a waste of my time and my parents' money? - because I don't play professionally or even for the church choir anymore. Or has it enriched my life to be a pianist, even though I don't "use" it in a way that makes me money? What if I was a man - would that be different, since more women are church choir pianists than men - would I be wasting my non-traditional-gender training by not contining on with the piano? What about the kid who plays youth and high school basketball but then never picks up a ball after that - was it a waste of his time to do so? Or did he receive a benefit from playing? Would it be different if he was a girl? I have a minor in International Studies. Was that a waste of time to take those classes, since I've never "used" them in the real world? Should I have taken more business courses instead since that would help me with my career?

I think what people are really saying when they say "she's wasting her education" is "she's wasting all that money she spent on tuition." Well - I could say the same thing for a million things people "waste" money on each and every day. Lattes. Vacations. Nail salons. Gym memberships. SUVs. McMansions. Do those things enrich their lives? Sure. Do they have any lasting effects on their after the money is spent? Nope. The same exact thing can be said for an expensive education that isn't technically "put to use".

I don't believe education is *ever* "wasted", no matter whether you have a high school diploma, a PhD in engineering, or a bachelor's in Liberal Arts. To say so is to say that anything we learn in life but don't use again is a waste.


Posted by: momof4 | October 4, 2006 12:10 PM

On my third week of working full time after 16 years of part-time work- thank you Uncle Sam- with a HS freshman and HS senior, I saw two college tutions looming ahead. It's truy been the best of both worlds for me- able to spend time with my kids and have a more equitable marriage. I have to say I found most volunteer work at my kids school insipid. Why does anyone need to organize a walk to school day? What lasting impact could it possibly have?

Posted by: Chicago Mom | October 4, 2006 12:16 PM

Again, folks, it all comes down to competition, and you all are competing with each other to prove that you got the best life, the most toys, the greatest satisfaction, etc., etc.

Much as I was disgusted by the young lady who said, "Why work if you don't have to," I must say that she is the most honest poster here today. She may be vain, shallow, and lazy, but at least she's up front about it.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 12:24 PM

Its a long post, so I apologize, but i find it relevant to why we really do need women to stay in fields or be able to return to fields with flexibility. I also feel that men need to be able to have the same rightss to help family members (parents, siblings, partners, children, etc.) so that its not just about women. Perhaps Leslie can expand this into a topic of its own? How do we rolemodel for our children, especially when their interests are different than our own?

I don't know if anyone saw the article in the NYTimes http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/03/science/03comm.html?pagewanted=1&ei=5070&en=f33a5b0be7fce19b&ex=1160625600
Numbers Are Male, Said Pythagoras, and the Idea Persists by MARGARET WERTHEIM
Major points:
- report last month by the National Academy of Sciences documents widespread bias against women in science and engineering and recommends a sweeping overhaul of our institutions.
-Many university departments did not admit women at all until the early 20th century, and physics departments were often among the last to accept students and professors who were women.
-Not until 1945 did this [Royal Society in Britain] bastion of science admit a woman as a full member.
-Emmy Noether, who discovered that all physical conservation laws were associated with mathematical symmetries, was a contemporary to Einstein and helped work out some of the math of general relativity. She did so without a formal academic position and mostly without pay
-The Harvard University physics department did not give tenure to a woman until 1992.
-"At this point there seems to be an acceptance of women in science at relatively junior levels. But once we get to more senior levels, a kind of antagonism sets in."
-"And when you get the prizes, you're often treated even worse. Men can tolerate a woman in physics as long as she is in a subordinate position, but many cannot tolerate a woman above them."

Posted by: ljb | October 4, 2006 12:25 PM

From reading this blog for quite a while now, it's become clear to me that so many of you are starting from the assumption that women are mothers/wives first, and people second - maybe people-with-jobs second. (Oh, but motherhood is the most important job ever - don't worry, I didn't forget.)

You won't budge an inch. And people like me won't either. I think something is definitely lost to society, families, and individual children when so many women "choose" to give up their working lives and revert to pre-1960s roles. And they choose to start the movement back to a world where most all of the professionals and decision-makers and money-makers are men. And I don't think it's good that women are 'choosing' this - in fact, I think that makes it worse.

Given our entrenched, differing positions, I don't see how we can ever really have a dialogue or discussion.

So goodbye, good luck, and best wishes. Back to my life, and you back to yours.

Posted by: Opting Out of This Blog | October 4, 2006 12:28 PM

One might argue that it would be difficult to consider one 'educated' without attempting to raise a child...


Oh, please!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 12:33 PM

This probably will not satisfy you since I posted something similar above... but PhD work in science is in a slightly different arena in the guilty feelings dept.

The government/school is generally spending 50K per student when you add tuition, stipend, and supplies (more for the last part in some cases). It is a huge external investment for the goal of producing scientists & engineers.

Taking a job in an external field or walking away to stay at home (permanently - or at least not returning to science after) constitutes in some sense a failed investment.

Do I think this should be a primary factor when making an individual decision - no - feminism is about choices. Do I worry that if the # of women who opt out is much higher than men they will be viewed as a bad investment - YES. In addition to grant $ an advisor invests an amount of individual time that is not comparable at any other level of education...

Do I think you underestimate the remaining discrimination - YES! I appreciate those who trailblazed before me & I understand why they worry about ceding ground. (Note: This is not to say that I have not had great male mentors as well.)

Posted by: to momof4 | October 4, 2006 12:34 PM

Good riddance, opting out! If you're that set in your ways, reading a blog won't change you. Have a nice life.

Posted by: Thought | October 4, 2006 12:35 PM

I thought this blog was supposed to be about balancing work and family. Seems like it always ends up being taken over by people who have decided to give up working and become SAHMs (or I guess dads). How is that balancing? Isn't it deciding you CAN't balance?

Posted by: SJ | October 4, 2006 12:36 PM

I thought this blog was supposed to be about balancing work and family. Seems like it always ends up being taken over by people who have decided to give up working and become SAHMs (or I guess dads). How is that balancing? Isn't it deciding you CAN't balance?

Posted by: SJ | October 4, 2006 12:36 PM

Good point, SJ.

You're not really balancing anything if your only job is to stay at home with the kids.

Posted by: brooks | October 4, 2006 12:39 PM


momof4 --- I agreed with much of what you said but not this:

>I honestly can't see that my daughters (or I, for >that matter) get any different treatment than >boys as far as encouragement to do whatever they >want to do.

My oldest dd is only in 4th grade and already I've seen several instances of discouragement --- you have to look beyond just words to kids' experience. In just 1st grade she tried chess club afterschool, and it was so boy-dominated and boy-centered in its (dis)organization --- loud, rambunctious, bouncing around kids; the need to corner adults over and over again to get placed on the "ladder"; a need to be extremely aggressive to challenge kids within your nearest tiers on the ladder, pin them down to respond and push them to complete a game so you could be promoted on the ladder. She is reserved and quiet and did not function well in that environment, despite a strong aptitude and liking for chess, while the many boys loved it and thrived. She dropped it --- it wasn't worth it to her to be so uncomfortable when many other activities are available. But better, more even-tempered organization might have encouraged, rather than discouraged, her, and the girl/quiet-kid-discouraging ambiance had absolutely nothing to do with the intrinsic nature of chess.

She's since gone to an aeronautics day camp where she was nearly the only girl, which really stunned her. It was definitely offputting, though she continued because she enjoyed the content. It can be very undercutting and alienating, causing one to never feel quite comfortably at home, and making one second-guess herself, to be always a lone female in a male environment . . . to me it's a lot like the lurking nonbelonging/cognitive dissonance of interloping in a foreign culture . . . She's also on a Lego robotics team where again, girls are barely existent . . .

She's persisting, but she's definitely got the not-girl-oriented message, and is just pushing past it. Many girls don't.

I read a study back in my grad school years that examined the characteristics of women who persisted in science (to postdoc level). The most dominant characteristic (more than aptitude, interests, etc) was "obliviousness to social cues"! This was quite strong in the men, too --- after all, science is pretty broadly seen as geeky/hard/uninteresting in pop culture --- but was exceptionally pronounced in the women.

Of course, this is all pretty subtle but effective discouragement. There's plenty of the crass overt variety out there as well --- for girls who like science as much as for Dads who want to SAH, I'd bet!

KB

Posted by: KB | October 4, 2006 12:40 PM

I think that 1/3 of professional women leaving their jobs is too many if the reason they do so is balance is too hard to acheive in the corporate work environment. I am fortunate enough to work for a firm that has not only been flexible with my schedule while I had 3 children, but is now interested in advancing my career with them. Their flexibility has rewarded them with a great deal of loyalty from me.

Seminars have been held with the partners to discuss work/life balance, and there are many Senior Partners who balance life (small children at home) and work. We have outstanding women leaders that discuss setting boundaries how to stick with them, while still acheiving results in their professional life. I can leave at 4 to see my child's football game, but after the kids go to bed, I read all my new e-mails and answer them before I go to bed. There is a mutual trust. During our last seminar, it was very telling that one Senior Partner said her greatest regret was not taking the time to find a life outside of work.

In all fairness, these are people who have worked their way into high paying positions and are able to hire people to help with their balance issues. However, I am not in that position yet and I feel extremely comfortable setting and living by my priorities.

Furthermore, the dinner discussions I have with my kids about what I do and how I do it are great examples to them. I am a recruiter and we discuss what makes good leaders and how that affects a company and all the people within it.

Interestingly, most males in the firm have stay at home wives and rarely leave to attend family events. While the opportunity is there to create more balance, I see that most do not take advantage of it. That is something that gives me pause.

Posted by: Former NoVa mom | October 4, 2006 12:41 PM

I disagree, Brooks. Working from home, working part-time, taking a few years off to be a SAHM-- these are all seeking balance. Sometimes, as with Mary and Claude yesterday, it's work/life balance over the couple together. Each family has to find the right mix for themselves.

Posted by: Ms L | October 4, 2006 12:49 PM

"The most dominant characteristic (more than aptitude, interests, etc) was "obliviousness to social cues"!"

That's interesting, and it squares with many of the women engineers and scientists that I know.

I think it will always be more work for some people to push past the social messages than it is for others. My sister and I are lucky in that we blow right by a bunch of that stuff without noticing (or caring, if we do notice), but I do know people who angst quite a bit about that sort of thing. It's temperamental and there's really nothing to be done about it.

I don't think that "it's hard for me" is a reason not to do it, though. In order to be successful, most people have to do things that are hard for them - public speaking; salary negotiations; forcing themselves to work day after day after day after day on that damn dissertation even though they really want to set it on fire. Dealing with a "girls shouldn't do that" social message is no different from any of those things.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 4, 2006 12:51 PM

I kind of agree... but NSF grants goes to those doing science full-time + outreach. As an academic I would guess you use your education more *frequently* than SAHMs.

I agree that education is always valuable, etc.
I just feel that on the funded front, gov't & schools are looking for outcomes. Obviously it is not a binding agreement like with ROTC... but I still think for many of us it is a consideration.

Posted by: to KB | October 4, 2006 12:53 PM

In defense of Alex.Mom-

This is something that I have never understood and I am trying to be more understanding as I get older and have more female friends opting to stay home. But I just don't get it. I have a good friend from law school who is *excited* and looking forward to staying home and not working. But we come from different places - I worked and worked and worked and paid for all of my education and will be paying Sallie Mae for quite sometime. The idea of NOT using my degree just leaves me speechless. Her parents paid for both undergrad and law and all living expenses and her mom stayed home (I'm from a single parent household). So, maybe it's "easier" to "throw away" her degree in her situation.

Since reading this blog, I have been trying to understand where she is coming frm and even asked why she decided to go to law school if she never actually planned on having a career - her resposne was that you never know how your life is going to end up and she needed to make sure that she would have a job that she enjoyed if she never married and had kids - fair enough, but I still cannot shake, as much as I may want to, the idea that she wasted a lot of her time and parents money.

I feel guilty because I don't think that I will ever respect her decision, no matter how hard I try. Yes, there is something to be said for an educated parent, but my associate degree mother was fantastic - throwing away 5 or more years of education to me just doesn't make sense to me.

It can also hurt women like me in the workplace - no mentors, etc. Just thoughts....

Posted by: Betty | October 4, 2006 12:56 PM

you negotiate salaries as an adult

you deal with overt science discrimination as an adult

you need to push past "no girls in science" cues in elementary school

Posted by: to Lizzie | October 4, 2006 12:58 PM

"you need to push past "no girls in science" cues in elementary school"

Good point.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 4, 2006 12:59 PM

not to stir the pot unduly, but it seems to me that there is a fundamental problem with the second wave of feminists (I think "third wave" feminists are a bit better about this) and it is that they are profoundly mysogenistic. What is worth doing is what a man is doing. Period, amen, end of question. If men are getting promotions, awards, recognition in the public square, well gosh darn it - that's what women should be doing too! On the other hand, things which women traditionally do, well they are obviously "lesser" activities. I actually read an American Prospect article a while back by Judith Hirshfield which came right out and said, "If staying home is such an equal choice, why aren't more men doing it" (paraphrasing here). How is it that one can claim to advocate for women and their equality and then turn around and say, "the only things actually worth doing are the things men have decided are worth doing"? Isn't the definition of mysogeny a hatred for or hostility towards women and "womanly" things? Could someone please explain to me how second wave feminist's claims that unless women are out there persuing the same things men are, whether they want to be or not, they are making things worse or setting a bad example for their daughters aren't a reflection of hostility towards women and what many of them value? One need not be the same in order to be equal. I am very happy that all doors are now open to women and must give props to the feminists who worked for that. However, I think it's appalling that their women hating continuesn to be expressed and tolerated.
And what does it say about our value system that raising children is so easily dismissed since it doesn't provide money, awards and recognition. 50 cent will make recieve more money, awards and recognition in his lifetime than doctors working in clinics in 3rd world countries saving children's lives against all odd, so should we assume that he is engaged in the more worthwhile, fulfilling pursuit which sets the best example for kids? Is his life really being used in the best possible way? What does it say about our values that so called feminists would look down on my career as a fulltime mother, but wouldn't blink an eye if I spent the rest of my life finding better more effective ways to get junk mail to your door. I happen to think I'm setting an excellent example for my children - I am showing them that a life well lived does not need to be one filled with promotions, recognotion and money. I am showing them there is nothing more important than people and family and that I am willing to arrange my life to reflect this priority. I am showing them that I can be live a life of service to others without ever losing myself, but rather than this is the way which I have found to become more of who I am. I am showing them that I don't have to measure myself according to what men do. Now, I'm not saying a working mom can't teach her childrn wonderful things as well, but i really do find it appalling that women haters (ie some so called feminists) continue to dengrate my choices as less than. How very, very stupid.

Posted by: rebeccat | October 4, 2006 1:00 PM

"I thought this blog was supposed to be about balancing work and family. Seems like it always ends up being taken over by people who have decided to give up working and become SAHMs (or I guess dads). How is that balancing? Isn't it deciding you CAN't balance?"

Because they're the ones with all the free time!

Posted by: obvious | October 4, 2006 1:00 PM

i think it's pretty amusing that more than a few posters have considered being at home with the kids as "not working," or even as simply living off your husband/partner. maybe you all have some darn killer jobs, but for me personally, no job i have ever had compares to how hard it can be to be home with an infant or toddler. just because you don't get direct monetary compensation for something doesn't mean it's not work, nor that it's not valuable (only that it's not recognized by the economy as such). i think the world would be a terribly dull place if everyone knew what they wanted to do and be in the 20s, pursued a graduate degree, and stayed in the same field for their entire lives. my own mother stayed home with me and then started to go back to school to get her undergrad degree or some type of accounting certificate--i'd like to tell you how that turned out for her, but she died when i was 8. life is short: enjoy your children, enjoy your work; love & play hard.

Posted by: marc | October 4, 2006 1:01 PM

"Could someone please explain to me how second wave feminist's claims that unless women are out there persuing the same things men are, whether they want to be or not, they are making things worse or setting a bad example for their daughters aren't a reflection of hostility towards women and what many of them value?"

Their concern with women working had much to do with women being able to support themselves. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was entirely legal for companies to deliberately exclude women from positions that would have enabled them to support themselves and their kids.

I guess I don't see what's misogynistic about thinking that women should have just as many opportunities for financial self-support as men. And I know that they do now, but you're criticizing what Betty Friedan et al did 40 and 50 years ago.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 4, 2006 1:04 PM

Why should I work if I don't have to? I can pop out some babies and collect welfare.....

Posted by: June | October 4, 2006 1:06 PM

Betty (and others), how do you know that your law-school friend WON'T one day practice law? She might just choose to or she might need to. She's right in that we never know how our lives might change. Why be judgmental? Ok, maybe you had to work hard for your degree and she got it all paid for by her parents, who probably wouldn't have paid for it all if they thought it was a waste. Sorry, life isn't fair.

From what I've seen on here, most parents want to give their kids "a college education" and save money to do so. If you do that for your children, are you going to feel good when others who didn't get that free education are jealous of your kids -- when they perhaps choose to not work for a few years to raise their children? Will you feel like your money was wasted? Are you going to question your daughters closely to make sure that they will work every day until they retire just so their education isn't wasted?

Posted by: Gayle | October 4, 2006 1:09 PM

"But we come from different places - I worked and worked and worked and paid for all of my education and will be paying Sallie Mae for quite sometime. The idea of NOT using my degree just leaves me speechless. Her parents paid for both undergrad and law and all living expenses and her mom stayed home (I'm from a single parent household). So, maybe it's "easier" to "throw away" her degree in her situation."

This is a good point and might explain a lot.

For those of us who had to work to go to college (as an undergrad, I had three part-time jobs which, combined, came to 40 hours per week) or who watched our parents struggle to help us with our educations, that degree is valuable and often hard-won.

But for kids who got it all paid for by parents for whom it was no hardship, I guess it's easier to throw it all away since they didn't have to scrape to get it.

Different worlds.

Posted by: brooks | October 4, 2006 1:09 PM

Gayle - I am trying to not be judgmental and understand where she is coming from, but it is much easier said than done!

Posted by: Betty | October 4, 2006 1:15 PM

Momof4:

I'm totally with you on the "waste a degree" thing. I got a version of that when I went to college -- a lot of people thought my liberal arts education was a "waste," because I wasn't studying some specific trade or coming out with a degree that gave me a notable "skill" for the business world (you know, English being so unimportant and all). I think the concept that something has value only if it can be monetized, or only if it involves specific knowledge that can be applied to a defined situation, is rather silly and short-sighted.

That said, I do strongly disagree with your assessment that the shortage of women in the sciences isn't due at least in part to some significant prejudice and discrimination. A few weeks ago, this blog had a fairly in-depth discussion that included comments from a number of people telling their stories of isolation and discrimination. I have seen it myself -- from my college chemistry professor who gave me a B just because he didn't believe that a girl could do science, to my brother's and husband's engineering school stories (i.e., "she must have gotten in on a quota"), to the way my husband's co-workers sometimes talk about the few women in their department (i.e., attributing failings to her gender vs. the way they discuss similar issues with their male coworkers), to Larry Summers' comments that got him in so much hot water. (Yes, this is all anecdotal. But so is "it hasn't happened to me or my daughter.")

Would any of this stop a truly determined woman who was called to do this kind of work? Heck no. But when you're throwing barriers in the way of smart women that smart men don't face, that is discrimination, intentional or not. And if a woman is smart enough to make it in physics or electrical engineering, she is also smart enough to make it in some other field -- and at least some of those smart women are going to say, "you know, I love this, but I'm not going to put up with this sh*t for the rest of my career" and go do something else. Kind of like how I ended up a lawyer instead of a chemist. :-)

I don't believe anyone should stay in a job if they are called to be home with their children. But I can absolutely understand how the women who did stick it out in the sciences would get frustrated when another woman who made it all the way through the h*ll of grad school and into a science career decides to leave. Many women who made it that far had to fight innumerable stereotypes along the way, so when a coworker does something that fits the stereotype, it gives the old guard more ammunition to use against those who do stay ("Why hire/promote her? She's just going to get pregnant and quit").

I would hope the answer to that is to focus on the system that forces these difficult choices, not to further stereotype women who leave as traitors and those who stay as shrill harpies. And I think that is happening, but waaaaaay more slowly than in a lot of other areas.

Posted by: Laura | October 4, 2006 1:21 PM

The notion that not using an advanced degree for professional advancement is automatically a waste is one of the silliest, childish things I have ever seen (even for a blog).
Did it ever occur to alex.mom that people may ahve gotten the advanced degree becasue they enjoyed the education? Maybe they did a dissertation because they were intereted in the topic? Maybe they didn't see it as an investment in the future but as an end it itself? Grow up.

Posted by: aa | October 4, 2006 1:25 PM

Lizzie: I guess I don't see what's misogynistic about thinking that women should have just as many opportunities for financial self-support as men.

This is NOT AT ALL what I said. This isn't even tangentally related to what I said. This is such a grotesque misrepresentation of what I said, I can only assume for the sake of charity and good will, that you didn't actually read what I said. What I said was that it is mysogenistic to insist that the only worthwhile choices one can make are the ones men make. It is (as I state above) a great thing that women now have all doors open to them. What is not great is an ethos which holds only traditionally male choices and pursuits are being valuable and worthwhile. This hostility towards women's choices and desires is shameful and an unfortunate sullying of the idea of gender equality.

Posted by: rebeccat | October 4, 2006 1:25 PM

Betty, you and your friend come from different backgrounds. As I went off to college, I was told by my mother that in my father's (wealthy) family, women traditionally did not work outside the home, but were encouraged to go to college if they chose, and were encouraged to work if they chose. My mom showed me that there were examples in my family of different life choices for women. Most of them seemed valid, the ones who had never worked outside the home (some went to college and some didn't) seemed happy and fulfilled, and the one who never married and worked and traveled all her life also seemed happy and fulfilled. They all taught me that there is no one "correct" path.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 1:26 PM

Dear June:
I believe they've overhauled welfare and there are now work requirements. Indeed, you don't have to work if you don't want to, but that might just mean you don't have any food or shelter either. I believe the original poster who made that comment didn't have to work because her husband made enough money and she had the choice to do so. I'm sure there are gold diggers and leaches out there, but most of the married people I know actually consider themselves a team or partnership in which case if your goal is to live comfortably and you can do that with only one person working by their own choice, who cares what anybody else thinks. Is an engineer who works for lockheed martin creating long-range missiles the same role model as the engineer creating safer cars? What if that long-range missile pre-empts a nuclear attack one day... ? We're all free to be offended by the actions of others (and we're required to be outraged by guest bloggers), but mostly it doesn't do any good. How many people know what it's going to be like to have children before they have their own? One might have every intention of continuing work or staying home only to find they can't bear to leave the child or they can't stand being home. I think the issue is whether we are giving parents the opportunities to make these choices or whether they are being forced to choose between "wasting their degrees" or "neglecting their children" (I have heard that when two poles are set up, there is something in between them... ).

Posted by: Marc | October 4, 2006 1:27 PM

"I am showing them that a life well lived does not need to be one filled with promotions, recognotion and money."

You're making the sweeping assumption here that all feminists focus on tangible rewards as evidence of a "life well lived." As a nearly-50 feminist (not "second wave" but in the wake of the "first wave") with many friends in the same age group and circumstances, I can tell you that we weren't seeking "promotions, recognition, and money."

For us, finding work in our particular field of interest was the goal -- publishing, writing, teaching, design, social work, film/television, etc. It was about getting into jobs we wanted to do.

And it still is. None of my friends from college can boast a big salary, great notoriety, or frequent promotions, but we're doing what we want. Some of us have families; others don't. But we've never used the yardstick you're accusing feminists of wielding.

Remember, not everyone wants to be a lawyer, doctor, stockbroker, sales executive, or CPA. And those "professional" careers generally don't attract true feminists anyway.

Posted by: brooks | October 4, 2006 1:31 PM

"What I said was that it is mysogenistic to insist that the only worthwhile choices one can make are the ones men make."

You said that second-wave feminists only valued the choices that men made, i.e. the choice to go to work. I am telling you that they were actually agitating for women to be able to avail themselves of the same professional opportunities as men. You can say that this message is no longer relevent, and you'd be right, but that was their reason for "only valuing the choices men made:" because those choices were the only ones which would allow women to support themselves.

That said, to characterize late 1950s and early- to mid-1960s feminism as "misogynistic" is incredibly misguided, and I think that if you read what you characterize as second-wave feminist literature, you will see that it is not at all what you think it is. As a matter of fact, Ms. Magazine, the vanguard publication of the second wave, ran any number of articles on how SAHMing should be valued just as much as work outside the house.

Many third-wave feminists aren't actually reacting to second-wave feminists; they're reacting to a straw man that they've set up in order to have a hook to hang their argument on.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 4, 2006 1:32 PM

Betty, I do understand. Just keep in mind that you're both still young and you haven't lived your whole lives yet. Your friend may stay home for a few years and then decide to go to work because she's totally bored! You may get to a point when your loans are paid off and you have enough to quit a job and travel for a few months. And then people will judge YOU for doing so! The world keeps turning...

Posted by: Gayle | October 4, 2006 1:32 PM

btw, my parents contributed next to nothing to pay for my degree. I earned scholarships, worked multiple jobs and took out loans. I still don't view staying home to care for my kids fulltime to be a waste of my education in time or dollars spent. Altough, to be fair, I can see where if one worked through college with the specific motivation of purusing a particluar career and got over the difficult hurdles by telling yourself, "this is what I need to do in order to get to X", it could be very mentally jarring to think of their education in any other way. I think one must understand that while this mindset can be a powerful and useful motivating tool as one works their way through school (a very difficult task to be sure), it is not the only way to look at it. Nor is it neccessarily wise to hold too tightly to it once one enters the "real" world as it can end up limiting a person's views of what they can/should do. I viewed my degree as creating opportunities for me to do whatever I ended up wanting to do. I knew that if I didn't finish, I would be closing doors for myself that I wasn't prepared to cut off as future possibilites, so I persevered. It turns out that what I ended up wanting to do was stay home to raise the kids, but I'm very happy I have my degree. I think it's being put to good use and it's something I can use as a jumping off point for things I may want to pursue later.

Posted by: rebeccat | October 4, 2006 1:34 PM

Wow, "true feminists" don't want to study and practice law? That's sad, and scary, but I doubt it's true.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 1:35 PM

To Betty

I paid my way through law school, and still would have stayed at home after having children if I could have. The time goes by so quickly, I did not want to miss any of it. I don't know whether you have children yet (and I really don't want to get into another child/childless debate), but your perspective really does change when you have them. I would have "wasted" my degree in a heartbeat, even though I paid for it myself, had I had the opportunity to do so. Life is so short and the kids grow up so fast, I hated having someone else be a bigger part of their early years than I was.

For what it's worth, I remember having the same feelings about one of my friends who quit her job when she had children that you have about your friend. That was before I had kids of my own.

Posted by: Sam | October 4, 2006 1:37 PM

To Betty

I paid my way through law school, and still would have stayed at home after having children if I could have. The time goes by so quickly, I did not want to miss any of it. I don't know whether you have children yet (and I really don't want to get into another child/childless debate), but your perspective really does change when you have them. I would have "wasted" my degree in a heartbeat, even though I paid for it myself, had I had the opportunity to do so. Life is so short and the kids grow up so fast, I hated having someone else be a bigger part of their early years than I was.

For what it's worth, I remember having the same feelings about one of my friends who quit her job when she had children that you have about your friend. That was before I had kids of my own.

Posted by: Sam | October 4, 2006 1:38 PM

Hey Folks,

The point ought to be flexibility for everyone - not just moms - because everyone has flexibility needs and there is no need to create a special class with extra protection in the workplace. A workplace I still primarily a workplace, not a social laboratory, so performance, that is to say getting the work done, is Job One.

Raising children is important work, but let's not forget that men are also parents and should not be put into second place so that mommy trackers can feel satisfied. There need not be a pedestal. Two cents from Southern California - from a man who raised three children as a 50%-plus parent.

Posted by: JayoBlade | October 4, 2006 1:41 PM

Alex.mom-- I'm sorry I offended you. That wasn't my intent.

Going back to the "wasting degrees" topic. I think college degrees are going to be regularly "wasted" by both men and women as long as we expect 17 year olds to go from having very few choices in life to choosing their career. I was well aware in high school that I had no idea what I wanted to study in college, but I wasn't brave enough to tell my parents and friends I wanted to work for a couple years before college. Having gotten the wrong degree, I would much rather waste it, than waste my life by feeling over-committed to the wrong career.

For the record, I am the first to admit that as a SAHM I have not found balance between home and work. Its the best solution I've come up with so far, though.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 4, 2006 1:43 PM

Sam-we are totally on the same page.
To the poster that said true feminists do not go into the fields like law, medicine, CPA etc.. Where did you get that data?

Posted by: foamgnome | October 4, 2006 1:44 PM

As a lawyer who is also a HUGE feminist (at least I try to be!), I can say that Brooks's broad generalization is off the mark.

Now back to my billables... :)

Posted by: Betty | October 4, 2006 1:44 PM

Rebeccat - now THAT is a debate worth having. Even though I completely disagree with you, you've articulated the other side very well. I'm going to take a stab at responding, but reserve the right to clarify in future posts.

OK, I'm going to start at the beginning. I don't consider child rearing and the domestic sphere as instrinsically womanly or female. They are traditionally female, but not inherently. That said, I very much wonder why if staying home were so great, why don't men do it? I'm not denigrating staying at home BECAUSE it is womanly, but because I think many (not all) people who say staying at home is great would never do so themselves because. Staying home in and of itself is not enough for most people. Even in the conversations on this board, people say, "I don't JUST stay home, I volunteer/PTA/work at a school, etc."
There is an unfortunate reality of life that those who hold the money, hold the power, and most often, those holding the money all happen to have a Y chromosome. People bail from the workforce because the workforce doesn't accomodate their view of a work/life balance. They leave instead of changing it! Yes, I hear the argument of "why should my family suffer so I can 'fix' the workplace for other people or a cause?" You should stay to fix the workplace for your sons and daughters who want the same life balance - and you shouldn't have to do it by yourself - your husband should be working just as hard in his professional sphere of influence to make true work/life balance a possibility.

I just have a question about this: "I am showing them there is nothing more important than people and family and that I am willing to arrange my life to reflect this priority." If this is true, and I'm not tryin to trip you up here, I'm truly curious, what do you say when your kids ask if their dad doesn't think people and family is most important or important enough to rearrange his life? Hope you'll reply - I appreciated your original post.

Posted by: Erin | October 4, 2006 1:45 PM

"Wow, 'true feminists' don't want to study and practice law? That's sad, and scary, but I doubt it's true."

Not what I said. Professional careers don't tend to attract feminists nowadays because fields such as law, medicine, finance, and accounting are too lock-step and not much open to creativity. Female lawyers aren't blazing trails; they're following a career path established by male lawyers. And then, as we've seen from this blog, they throw it all away to stay home with kids. Not much feminist sensibility there.

Posted by: brooks | October 4, 2006 1:50 PM

"...one-third of professional women leave their jobs for a few years or forever to care for their families. One-third translates to millions of women. That's too many."

Why is this too many? Too many women have this choice? Too many women made a choice you don't like? Let's be clear. The above statement didn't say "millions of women left because they were FORCED out of the workforce". It just says they left. When you know the why, then you can pass your judgements.

Posted by: RUSerious? | October 4, 2006 1:51 PM

"...one-third of professional women leave their jobs for a few years or forever to care for their families. One-third translates to millions of women. That's too many."

Why is this too many? Too many women have this choice? Too many women made a choice you don't like? Let's be clear. The above statement didn't say "millions of women left because they were FORCED out of the workforce". It just says they left. When you know the why, then you can pass your judgements.

Posted by: RUSerious? | October 4, 2006 1:51 PM

"...one-third of professional women leave their jobs for a few years or forever to care for their families. One-third translates to millions of women. That's too many."

Why is this too many? Too many women have this choice? Too many women made a choice you don't like? Let's be clear. The above statement didn't say "millions of women left because they were FORCED out of the workforce". It just says they left. When you know the why, then you can pass your judgements.

Posted by: RUSerious? | October 4, 2006 1:51 PM

"...one-third of professional women leave their jobs for a few years or forever to care for their families. One-third translates to millions of women. That's too many."

Why is this too many? Too many women have this choice? Too many women made a choice you don't like? Let's be clear. The above statement didn't say "millions of women left because they were FORCED out of the workforce". It just says they left. When you know the why, then you can pass your judgements.

Posted by: RUSerious? | October 4, 2006 1:51 PM

brooks, actually, first wave feminists were women like susan b anthony and elizabeth cady stanton, whose values were very different than those of second wave femenists in the 60's and 70's. I am all for women being able to go into the workplace or where ever to persue their fulfillment. I have specifically praised what second wave feminists did to open doors for such things. However, it is impossible to deny that there is a fairly vocal contingent of second wave feminists who insist that the only way women can/should find fulfillment is to do what men do. (ie see Judith Hirshfield). Since the conversation has revolved around women who are educated "wasting" their degrees, it seems to me to be entirely fair and relevant to address and argue against that mysgonistic piece of the second wave feminist movement. Also, I speak of money, promotions and recognistion here because the lack of these things have all been given as reasons that staying home with kids is not as valuable as being a career woman in this discussion. I'm not saying all feminists feel this way (I don't!), but addressing some who do and have spoken here today.
Lizzie, I wish were only setting up straw men arguments, but one need only look at the work of some second wave feminists as well as some of the discussion which has taken place today to see people who not only want all spheres of life to be open to wome, but who are quite insistant that only those sphere outside of the home are worth persuing. Heck, in my opinion, the sub- heading of Judith Hirshman's American Prospect piece ("if staying home is really an equally valid choice, why don't more men make that choice?") expresses quite well the man worshipping mysogeny which still mars feminist's more noble purposes. It just isn't reality to pretend that this tendency isn't there and isn't alive and well today. Just look at some of the posts around here.

Posted by: rebeccat | October 4, 2006 1:52 PM

I have a lot of friends who live in Congressman Tom Reynolds' district. What is the D.C. scoop concerning Reynolds' future in the House?

They all need to go to jail. I hope he has to resign too.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 1:53 PM

"Remember, not everyone wants to be a lawyer, doctor, stockbroker, sales executive, or CPA. And those "professional" careers generally don't attract true feminists anyway."

Huh? Because "true" feminists refuse to work for The Man? What is this even supposed to mean?

Posted by: Lizzie | October 4, 2006 1:54 PM

I have a lot of friends who live in Congressman Tom Reynolds' district. What is the D.C. scoop concerning Reynolds' future in the House?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 1:55 PM

As a now-retired lawyer who was among the first women to practice in my area of law (and not woman and kiddy divorce quasi-social work legal ghettto ), if a woman doesn't want to put out the same effort and amount of work as everyone else competing for advancement, she can go to the end of the line.

Early in my career, when another woman lawyer who started the exact same day that I did was getting rid to disappear on maternity leave, the firm proposed dumping a large part of her caseload on me. I looked the senior male partner dead in the eye and told him to find another sucker. I wasn't doing her work so she could go off and play mommy, and return with exactly the same position and chance of advancement as me. She choose to get pregnant so it was her problem and I had no intention of making her work responsibilities mine as I had more than enough to do and she could do her own. If they insisted on my taking over her work in addition to my own, I expected to receive an additional amount of money equal to what she would have been paid for doing the work - and if that meant she didn't get paid while on maternity leave so they could compensate me for doing her work, so be it.

They backed off, permanently rearranged the caseload so that woman was given the non-deadline (and easier) work (that would not lead to adancement) to accomodate her mommy activities and the subject was dropped.

So why don't all of you who want mommy flexibility pay over part of your salasry and wages to your co-workers who have to pickup the slack?? That sounds fair enough.

Posted by: Ann | October 4, 2006 1:59 PM

Wait a second. Do you mean LINDA Hirschman?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 2:00 PM

ok, a last reply then I must hit the grading . . .

to lizzie wrote

>you negotiate salaries as an adult

>you deal with overt science discrimination as an >adult

>you need to push past "no girls in science" cues >in elementary school

Yes, of course, we live in an imperfect world and if we want something badly enough, we must push past obstacles, fair or not.

But if we stack the deck and impose more obstacles on some groups than others, for gratuitous reasons (unrelated to the pursuit involved), then we're setting up differential outcomes. If girls have more obstacles to push past, if they and not boys must trade off doing an activity for doing it in an alienating environment, then they will have a different cost-benefit calculus than the boys. Sure, they could persist, but among all the things they might do, is the benefit of persisting in this discouraged direction worth the extra cost? Some will decide yes, if they're strongly drawn to it; others will not -- they'll follow opportunities where they're more comfortable/ better-appreciated. (And more boys may well decide the extra costs of sticking with ballet aren't worth it, either . . .)

Just like, if we build our workplace on a model that presumes each worker has a helpmeet at home to tend all their domestic obligations, freeing them 24/7 for years on end to work compulsively, travel extensively, meet any schedule requests on any notice . . . that model will fit some people's lives, and not fit others. Those who fit the model face a cheaper tradeoff to persist and be rewarded. Those who don't --- working involved parents --- face a much steeper tradeoff, and while some will sacrifice and reconfigure their lives to persist anyway, a greater proportion of them will decide the benefits simply are not worth those extra costs. They will not persist --- or they will go elsewhere, to a different model, where they feel better-appreciated and better-rewarded.

The question is, how much is this model, which fit men with SAH wives decades ago, but poorly fits involved working moms and dads now --- how much is it a valid predictor of success, and how much just an ingrained but gratuitous habit? Does this filter - a life wholly centered in work - result in better workers (by whatever metric applies --- most effective teaching, most research insight developed, best writing, most widgets produced, cases settled happily, dollars accrued per unit cost)? Or is it poorly correlated to worker achievement, arbitrarily discouraging many whose contributions might have been greater than those who remained?

If we try to at least keep the filters salient and fair, we'll all have challenges enough, but less talent will be wasted and more opportunities explored . . .

Posted by: KB | October 4, 2006 2:04 PM

Wow - my head is spinning from this post.

In my line of work (I'm a former journalist-turned-SAHM, not by choice) I was expected to compete for jobs in the same way men were. Actually, there weren't that many married women who had my job, and when my daughter was born I was the first one (in recent memory) who was a mother. There were, of course, plenty of guys who were fathers but, ahem, it's different. They didn't have to ask for blinds for their office window so they could pump, or have to bring a pump with them when they finally, after 3 years, got sent on out-of-state travel.

It was also very clear in my workplace that it was all or nothing - there were no reduced hours, no part-time, no easing back into it. You were in or you were out. I loved my job, so I was definitely in, but I must say that now that I've been a SAHM for a year, I have a hard time seeing myself go back to that lifestyle while my daughter is young or if we have another child.

For the record, I only quit my job because we were moving overseas for my husband's job. It was a major adjustment, not working, for the first time in my adult life, but it hasn't been as bad or as difficult a change as I expected.

I still think workplaces would benefit from adjusting their way of thinking to better accommodate moms, either by being more welcoming after they take a break, or by offering more flexible work schedules. I'm actually considering a career change because I'm learning about some other options that have more flexibility as far as working part-time, telecommuting, or working on a project or contract basis.

What's so wrong with wanting to have your cake and eat it too? I was talking to someone recently about job possibilities in this new direction I'm thinking about and he said "well, how would you feel about working from home, because that's how we normally do it?" I just about fell off my chair.....!

Posted by: Now I'm a SAHM | October 4, 2006 2:04 PM

"...one-third of professional women leave their jobs for a few years or forever to care for their families. One-third translates to millions of women. That's too many."
Like others, I'm questioning this premise.
For one thing, how do you really define "professional" women? Is a bank teller not a professional woman while her supervisor is a professional woman? How exactly do you separate a "job" from a "profession"? Lots of gray here.
Seems like most mothers who work for paychecks do so because they have to -- same as fathers, for that matter. I suspect that the focus on "professional women" is more about women in rarified income levels than about the working masses (that focus is a pet peeve of mine, don't get me started!) and that the decision about taking time away from paid work -- whether to be with children full-time or to sail around the world or to study art in Italy or whatever -- has more to do with economic means and resources than anything.
And that leads to my other question -- what exactly is meant by the expression "leave their jobs"? Does that include maternity leave? Time off to recuperate from open-heart surgery? A break to go back to school? Qutting one's corporate job to start a risky new business? Going freelance? Going off to climb mountains? I'm guessing that there are "professional" men who take time off from their jobs for various reasons, too, including child care.
Seems like the definitions and assumptions are too squishy to draw useful conclusions.

Posted by: anon mom | October 4, 2006 2:14 PM

So why don't all of you who want mommy flexibility pay over part of your salasry and wages to your co-workers who have to pickup the slack??

Because not every job functions in the same way. No one does my job when I am away from the office and I don't preform anyone else's job while they are away (regardless of the reason for their absence). I think if you are going to ask for flexibility, you do need to be prepared to scale back some of your career climbing expectations. But I think what people are asking for is, when they are ready to give work 110%, they should not be penalized for having taking some time off. I don't think it is realistic to say, you deserve the same advancements at the same pace as someone who has done more work then you have. But having flexibility does not always mean less work is actually preformed. A great number of jobs can be done through telecommuting or other means. I knew when I went part time, I could kiss promotions for that time period. That is fine with me. I also took a cut in salary. But when my daughter is older and I wish to work full time, I should be able to have the opportunities to prove myself and again. Do you see the difference?

Posted by: foamgnome | October 4, 2006 2:18 PM

"You can say that this message is no longer relevent, and you'd be right, but that was their reason for "only valuing the choices men made:" because those choices were the only ones which would allow women to support themselves."

The message of the second wave is still relevant-- because working IS still the only way women can achieve economic independence. Society still makes it easiest for men in traditional marriages to succeed in business. Deciding to stay at home and reinforce traditional gender roles does nothing to change that dynamic.

The third wave's "choice feminism" is a giant red herring-- "I choose to be a SAHM", "I choose to be a stripper", "I choose to get breast implants for myself, not for anyone else." Yeah right. When your choices play into the dominant social paradigm, when they reinforce traditional images of women (as either the virtuous mother or the man-pleasing sexbot), when you trade power/independence for approval from men (and often from women wed to the traditionalist approach) for your choices, then you can call yourself a lot of things-- but a feminist you ain't.

And frankly, the above referenced quote is still relevant-- if staying at home is an equal choice, WHY AREN'T more men doing it? Couch it in gender neutral language all you want ("We decided someone should stay home and he just happens to make more money" (what a coincidence)) but in the end it's still the men who wind up with the money, the power, the options most of the time.

And please don't tell me about your stay at home husband-- yes, I know there are a few, but anyone who thinks that traditional gender roles don't dominate our society is delusional. It depresses me when girls today think they don't have to be feminists because "women can do anything they want now". Well, (a) no, as a group they can't-- all kinds of barriers still exist to women's advancement in business and politics, the few extraordinary women who manage to break through notwithstanding and (b) any advances in opportunities for women can be erased by a generation or two deciding not to exercise them.

Until 50% of Senators and Congress people are women, until 50% of corporate leadership positions are filled by women, until women get equal work for equal pay, feminism is still relevant. Just because a few women have broken down walls to get where they are doesn't mean we've suddenly achieved equality with men-- look AROUND for heaven's sake, not just at your own household or your own perception of your personal experience.

End rant.

Posted by: JKR | October 4, 2006 2:18 PM

Woohoo!!! :::clap,clap,CLAP

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 2:22 PM

But, I forgot to include, on this question:
"Should moms change to accomodate their workplace -- or should work accomodate moms?"
I say, of course, emphatically the latter! And work should accomodate dads. Ultimately, it's good business, as many employers have discovered. And it's the right thing to do, for the good of society and just simple morality. The question is how much, if any, of this accomodation should be mandatory. That's the rub.
I am in general very supportive of making society, including the workplace, more accomodating to parents and children, not for the sake of the worker-parents but for the good of their children. That's a simple conclusion to make. It's a lot more complicated to figure out how to do so.

Posted by: anon mom | October 4, 2006 2:24 PM

"Until 50% of Senators and Congress people are women, until 50% of corporate leadership positions are filled by women, until women get equal work for equal pay, feminism is still relevant. Just because a few women have broken down walls to get where they are doesn't mean we've suddenly achieved equality with men-- look AROUND for heaven's sake, not just at your own household or your own perception of your personal experience.

End rant."

JKR --

Great rant! :>)

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 2:24 PM

God JKR the whole world isn't out to get women, women like you hold other women down by brain washing them into thinking it's bad out there. All you SAHM go get a job or your not a femminist. That's a lovely attitude to have. Aren't they allowed to have a choice, you seem to want yours.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 2:30 PM

Not what I said. Professional careers don't tend to attract feminists nowadays because fields such as law, medicine, finance, and accounting are too lock-step and not much open to creativity. Female lawyers aren't blazing trails; they're following a career path established by male lawyers. And then, as we've seen from this blog, they throw it all away to stay home with kids. Not much feminist sensibility there.

BARF

you are so wrong!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 2:30 PM

I gotta get going, but just wanted to add a couple of things. I understand that in the not too distant past (was it last year?) biological differences were used to deny opportunities to women, so people are naturally and rightfully leary about discussions of biological gender differences. However, I also think it's silly to think that hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution would not result in gender differences beyond simple reproduction. Now, does that mean we should be limited by our biology? No, but we should not be surprised or assume it's an indication of problems when men and women tend to want or pursue different things. I don't have time to look it up now, but there is a Scandanavian country (Norway?) which has made gender sameness in parenting a goal and has implimented some very significant incentives to achieve their goal. For example they not only offer paid maternity leave and paid paternity leave, but offer additional benefits to families who take full advantage of both. The results have been a minimal increase in men taking substantial time off to care for their kids. Not only that, but studies have found that men were much more likely to find their time at home boring and unfulfilling and were very eager to return to work. Women, on the other hand were much more likely to enjoy their time at home and we unhappy about returning to work etc. Obviously this was not true of every individual, but it was a strong, general trend. The problem with some second wave feminists is that they view traditionally male pursuits as so superior that they can not seem to see that equality does not necessarily require sameness. Women are often not the same as men, but that hardly means they are less than. I think that if feminists were willing to embrace this simple idea rather than insist on adherance to a traditionally male model of success, we could come up with some real solutions to work-life issues. Also, we could look at what sort of policies are in place which make people who pursue success in non-traditionally male ways uneccessarily vulnerable and we have NO policies in place to support people who contribute to society and their own fulfillment by devoting themselves to childrearing, volunteering or other more traditionally female persuits. Of course, any changes should be structured to benefit anyone who makes these choices, not just women. But I think it's high time we begin valuing traditionally female activities as highly as we do traditionally male one.
As for my husband working AND valuing people more than other things, they know that there are different ways of caring for people. Sometimes you care by providing money needed to live, sometimes you provide by providing time, attention and direction. In our culture, it is our opinion, money is seen almost as a goal unto itself. Also, my husband cares very much for our kids, but he's not tempermentally suited to do this by being with them fulltime. It's a team approach to showing them that people and family are the most important things. It's also part of how we model to them that people can be different and do different things and still have equal worth.

Posted by: rebeccat | October 4, 2006 2:35 PM

Am I the only one picturing JKR screaming in a field "Come see the inequities inherent to the system -- Help, Help -- I'm being represessed."?

Posted by: Monty Python | October 4, 2006 2:36 PM

JKR -- you should definitely to a guest blog. If there is such a thing as a "rational" rant, you've nailed. We need more of that here.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | October 4, 2006 2:37 PM

Argh. Nevermind. I don't debate with people who buy into biological differences theories.
It's like trying to convince someone who is racist that there are not inherent biological differences between races.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 2:38 PM

I second that, rebeccat!

Posted by: 215 | October 4, 2006 2:39 PM

Yes, JKR do a guest blog so you can tell me how my husband, brothers, fathers and male cousins are all holding me down and how I am not a feminist because I may want to stay home and raise MY CHILD! Oh, throw in there how I won't be able to find a job and how I might have to take it up the rear if I do because all men view me as a sex pot.

Sorry that is my rant because all women are different and some people don't think that the white men are out to get us, well maybe you JKR, along with the men in black and the Martians.

Posted by: not signing it | October 4, 2006 2:43 PM

"Wait a second. Do you mean LINDA Hirschman?"

Yes! Sorry, I'm typing one handed while breast feeding and didn't bother double checking the name. my bad.

Posted by: rebeccat | October 4, 2006 2:44 PM

Men aren't free to make the choice to be a stay at home parent and be supported.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 2:44 PM

Equality for women shouldn't just be about how many women are working in what jobs. It is about attitude and younger men, those that are just starting families now and those that are just starting preschool now are MUCH more likely to be raised believing that women are equal and just as capable, whether or not women make up 50% of congress or not. Feminism should not be about making women feel they are abandoning the ideals of equality by making a personal choice to raise their kids... in fact, SAHMs, particularly the education one with GRAD DEGREES, should be considered JUST AS IMPORTANT as the CEOs congresswomen, etc, because they will be teaching their children about equality for ALL on a full time basis. If men are raised to beleive in gender equality, working moms and SAHMs will get the respect they need to make choices regarding their own lives that men have been so free to make for centuries.

Posted by: gradstudent | October 4, 2006 2:47 PM

Men aren't free to make the choice to be a stay at home parent and be supported

This is true can we add them to the list of people being held down by the man?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 2:50 PM

"I wasn't doing her work so she could go off and play mommy. . ."
Ann, your point about expecting to be rewarded at your law firm for the work you did is absolutely valid. But please, please, do not refer to motherhood as "playing mommy." It's a job, even if there's no paycheck involved. It's hard work, even if it is a labor of love. And once there is a baby or child in this world, somebody has to do it because babies and children can't raise themselves.
What your co-worker was doing when she went on maternity leave is, basically, taking on a different job.
I had hoped to not get into this tiresome mother-versus-childfree argument. But as long as you brought it up. . .the basic flaw in that argument is it seems to be all about the competing needs of adults. Forgotten in the debate is the needs of children.

Posted by: anon mom | October 4, 2006 2:51 PM

"Am I the only one picturing JKR screaming in a field 'Come see the inequities inherent to the system -- Help, Help -- I'm being represessed'?"

Yeah, you probably are.

And you're no Monty Python.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 2:51 PM

JKR:

I'm trying to follow your logic. Is it your point that not enough men are choosing to stay at home full time or is it that you don't believe any parent should stay at home full time with their children?

Posted by: Confused | October 4, 2006 2:52 PM

"I'm typing one handed while breast feeding and didn't bother double checking the name."

Why do we need to know this?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 2:53 PM

"I'm typing one handed while breast feeding and didn't bother double checking the name."

Why do we need to know this?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 2:54 PM

Hey, I thought you were pretty funny!

Posted by: to Monty Python. | October 4, 2006 2:54 PM

LOL, sorry, but I find the idea that I am a man with alternative plumbing both insulting and silly. The male brain is bathed in testosterone before birth. The idea that this has no effect goes far beyond credulity. The question is how we handle these differences. Whatever happened to the liberal ideal of valuing differences? So we can value biological differences when it comes to GLBT people but not when it comes to men and women? That seems like a rather illiberal POV!
OK, now I really gotta go.

Posted by: rebeccat | October 4, 2006 2:54 PM

"the basic flaw in that argument is it seems to be all about the competing needs of adults. Forgotten in the debate is the needs of children."

Oh Please, won't someone think of the children! Haha, it always seems to come back to that, doesn't it?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 2:56 PM

"I'm trying to follow your logic. Is it your point that not enough men are choosing to stay at home full time or is it that you don't believe any parent should stay at home full time with their children?"

I probably shouldn't answer for JKR, but here's how I read her rant. When as many fathers are SAHDs as mothers are SAHMs, things will be fair. When Congress is 50% men / 50% women, we'll really be equal. When one spouse is at home raising kids and the other spouse is running the company, and we have to ask for clarification about which is the husband and which is the wife, nobody is "oppressed" and "feminism" is no longer necessary. That's how I read it.

Posted by: Arlinigton Dad | October 4, 2006 2:57 PM

To anonomous poster from 2:50...Why aren't men free to choose to stay at home? So maybe it is out of the norm, but no one tells them they are sacrificing the cause of gender equality. A man can take a year off and travel or decide to work from home or only part time and have a less stress job with less promotional potential just cause he feels like it and that isn't called the "daddy track" and he isn't making it harder for other men to move through the ranks. Women should have the same choice without being berrated by feminists.

Posted by: gradstudent | October 4, 2006 2:58 PM

"Professional careers don't tend to attract feminists nowadays because fields such as law, medicine, finance, and accounting are too lock-step and not much open to creativity. Female lawyers aren't blazing trails; they're following a career path established by male lawyers. And then, as we've seen from this blog, they throw it all away to stay home with kids. Not much feminist sensibility there."

Umm, wow. Many younger feminists I know are specifically choosing law and medicine, because it gives them more power to choose their own path. The only thing lock-step about being a lawyer is if you buy into the bullhockey that big-firm life is all there is.

And following the men? Yeah, sure, right. At my firm, a number of women are pushing back against the standard career path as laid out by generations of men before -- we have telecommuting, part-time arrangements, contract arrangements, and the like (even some like me who made partner while part-time -- and yes, Ann, I do earn proportionately less for the privilege, thank you very much). Now even some of the men are taking advantage of that. The whole focus being let's NOT put our lawyers in a situation where they feel like they have to quit because they never see their families.

The nice thing about the law is that it can be about as close to a meritocracy as you can get -- if you're really, really smart and get results, some people will hire you regardless of race, creed, color, gender, politics, etc. So if your firm isn't sharp enough to see your merit and meet you halfway, you can always go out and do it yourself. I suspect that's one of the reasons law was one of the first professions women were able to enter en masse and establish themselves in -- there's nothing more powerful (and threatening) than being able to thumb your nose at the powers that be.

So I wonder, if my life and choice of career are not suitably "feminist," what is? If you actually study and earn an advanced degree and go succeed in a highly-respected profession (or, like me, become a lawyer :-)), that's just "following the men" (although I prefer to think of it as following my mother's generation who opened those doors for me). But then if you quit because the work world is molded by the presumption of a man working with a SAH wife, then you're selling out and "wasting" your degree.

I tend to get really PO'd when the right wing creates a no-win situation for feminists (e.g., the discussion the other day where if you accepted an engagement ring, you were hypocritical, but if you refused the traditional role, you were "usurping" your fiance's place). But I expect it from them. I don't expect it from my own side. So please, what WOULD be "good enough" to qualify as a feminist?

Posted by: Laura | October 4, 2006 3:02 PM

My legal career isn't blazing any trails for women, BUT for both sides of my family and my husband's family:

I am the first lawyer in the family.

I am the first person to go to graduate school in the family.

Posted by: June | October 4, 2006 3:02 PM

Jane Fed, I feel your pain. I was told a few months ago that I am no longer being considered for a promotion because it was clear that I am no longer a team player. My husband was a stay at home until our daughter turned 6 and he graduated from college. Now that he works they figure I can't work longer hours/travel anymore. Huh? I don't remember making that comment to anyone. I'm trying to come to terms with my new position here because I do love the work I do. It does suck, though.

Posted by: ChemEngTerp | October 4, 2006 10:06 AM

=====

And welcome to one aspect of equality. Men have faced this problem in years past. Upwardly mobile men had SAH wives for their children and all was well. When their wives opted to return to the work force, men often were talked to about their availability and commitment to their jobs if their wives were working, whether their wives were flexible, etc. I'm not supporting the institution or the practice, but just saying that corporate America rewards those people who prioritize their job. For better or for worse, they are at least promoting gender equality, but that is by putting pressure on working women to prioritize their job over their family. It's not balance, but equality.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | October 4, 2006 3:03 PM

I don't think Linda Hirschman is a second-wave feminist. The fact that she's of that age group doesn't mean that she subscribes to that ideology any more than Phyllis Schafly did.

"Female lawyers aren't blazing trails; they're following a career path established by male lawyers."

I didn't know that you had to blaze trails to be considered a feminist. There are awfully few actual feminists around, if that's the case; I don't see how being a firm's first female partner isn't considered trailblazing but being an art teacher is.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 4, 2006 3:05 PM

"I'm typing one handed while breast feeding and didn't bother double checking the name."

Why do we need to know this?

Give me a FREAKING break. What are you, some kind of juvenile-brained moron? Please, move on and get a LIFE.

Posted by: Oh PUL-EASE | October 4, 2006 3:05 PM

Arlington Dad:

But under that logic shouldn't we also be ranting against all of those women who decide to become school teachers [which is predominantly female] and all of those women who decide to become nurses? More women than men currently complete liberal arts degrees -- should we be discouraging this and trying to get more women to become plumbers and electricians?

Posted by: Confused | October 4, 2006 3:06 PM

"LOL, sorry, but I find the idea that I am a man with alternative plumbing both insulting and silly. The male brain is bathed in testosterone before birth. The idea that this has no effect goes far beyond credulity. The question is how we handle these differences. Whatever happened to the liberal ideal of valuing differences? So we can value biological differences when it comes to GLBT people but not when it comes to men and women? That seems like a rather illiberal POV!"
Glad you find it funny. I have no idea why you're pulling liberal/conservative into this, but...
No. I don't think you're a man with different plumbing. I just don't think biological differences mean much of anything other than the specific way we reproduce. If women were so intrinsically meant to bear and care for kids, then the birth rate wouldn't have plummeted to 2.1 as soon as the Pill became widely available in the U.S. If women were so biologically different from men in what we want, then we wouldn't have gone into the labor force in droves when it became truly possible and not looked down upon (well, by most people anyway), to constitute more than half the labor force. If we were so different from men, then why, every time sometime happens to let women into the "male sphere" do we flood the gates - more than 50% of people who vote in any election are women, women make up more than 50% of college attendees and graduates, we comprise more than 50% of the labor pool. If we were so different, wouldn't we still be bearing & nurturing from about age 18 - 50?
And, the reason why "we" value biological differences when it comes to sexual orientation is to marginalize the awful people who think being gay is something they CHOOSE. But being gay ONLY affects your sexual preference - it doesn't effect whether or not you should go to school, go into the workforce, what kind of work you should pursue, and whether or not you're going to stay home with kids. Why is the only response to your thought that biology is predestination: your view doesn't seem liberal. Who cares if it is liberal or not?

Posted by: Erin | October 4, 2006 3:06 PM

"But please, please, do not refer to motherhood as "playing mommy." It's a job, even if there's no paycheck involved. It's hard work, even if it is a labor of love....
What your co-worker was doing when she went on maternity leave is, basically, taking on a different job."

Oh, for crying out loud. Women have been having children for forever. It's not a job or a career.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 3:12 PM

Confused:

Or should we rant against the men who don't become teachers and nurses?

I see your point that women (oh wait, and men!) should be able to follow their passion -- that's a part of true equality. But JKR raises rome really valid points about equality not really exisiting.

Of course, do we all want the same thing?

Posted by: Arlington Dad | October 4, 2006 3:16 PM

". . . even some like me who made partner while part-time . . . . The nice thing about the law is that it can be about as close to a meritocracy as you can get -- if you're really, really smart and get results, some people will hire you regardless of race, creed, color, gender, politics, etc."

Ok, now we know you made partner while working part-time and that you're really, really smart.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 3:17 PM

Hey, it's Engineering day around here! :~) That sure doesn't happen too often.

As I have stated previously, I'm an Aero Engineer in the Space Program down here. I must say I haven't thought about L'Hopital's rule in ages! And Fourier transforms aren't thought about too much actively (perhaps outside of EEs). But thanks for throwing out terms I would have bet good money against having ever appeared in this forum... :~)

For me, the best point on the whole today came earlier in this simple quote:

===
"...where often we do have a choice but most men dont. They are expected to be able to suppport their families."
===

I'm pleased to see so many father's these days seem to be able to have the SAH option without censure, formal or otherwise, as evidenced by many men who write in this forum. I wish the echo chamber here made that reality as large as this forum seems to think it is, but I fear that the above quote is much closer to the truth today.

So I am once again brought back to my recurring main theme. Then when we give options and flexibility to all parents/families, so that men can also one day have the SAH/WOH bloody battles often seen here [exclusively] by women, then we will have made some progress.

BTW, in my imformal polling today most of the female engineers I work with very much dislike the NYT article, and resent the victimhood card being played supposedly on their behalf. To paraphrase they essentially said they are bright enough not to need the NYT's or anyone else's pity (or baldfaced attempts at affirmative action.) These seemed especially true among the younger ladies I spoke to. Any special meaning to be gleaned there, I wonder???

As for the use of the education, my daughter sure appreciates my help with math. :) I'm trying hard to make sure she doesn't fall into the math is too hard once she reaches her teenager years (when girls seem to fall back in math), and stays ahead of her grade level. Same with science. I'd say that's a bonus useful reason for a Mom or Dad to have done the Engineer degree route, eh?

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | October 4, 2006 3:17 PM

Arlington Dad:

"Of course, do we all want the same thing?"

Quick -- how many women out there have Gamecast up on ESPN right now to check out the division playoffs?

:-)

Posted by: Confused | October 4, 2006 3:19 PM

To anonymous 3:12 poster.

Just because women have been having children forever doesn't mean it's not a job or a career. At the very least it's a job. I work just as hard on the days I'm home as the days I'm in the office, just in a different way. And I also took offense at the phrase "playing mommy." The woman in question was BEING a mommy. Even if I agreed with the poster's point that she should not have to pick up the slack while her co-worker was on maternity leave without extra compensation, I wouldn't think it appropriate to put down the other woman for staying home and taking care of her child for a few months. Or for a number of years, for that matter.

Posted by: Sam | October 4, 2006 3:20 PM

Confused:

"Quick -- how many women out there have Gamecast up on ESPN right now to check out the division playoffs?"

Uh... more women than men because they are at home with the tv on?

Posted by: Arlington Dad | October 4, 2006 3:22 PM

"As for the use of the education, my daughter sure appreciates my help with math. :) I'm trying hard to make sure she doesn't fall into the math is too hard once she reaches her teenager years (when girls seem to fall back in math), and stays ahead of her grade level. Same with science. I'd say that's a bonus useful reason for a Mom or Dad to have done the Engineer degree route, eh?"

Are you saying that your Engineer degree is helpful for GRADE SCHOOL MATH?

Posted by: Irish on St. Patrick's Day | October 4, 2006 3:32 PM

Oh please, men have been being doctors, soldiers and farmers foever. It's not a job.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 3:33 PM

I think JKR missed the point a little, in my opinion. It's not about numerical equality (although I'm sure you were using the 50/50 thing to illustrate a point). Things will be right when people are judged on their abilities, not their race, color, ethnic basckground, sex, etc. A Congress split down the middle between men and women will not make it perfect. It's when the people with the right abilities and sense of justice are in office that'll it'll be perfect, which will be never. As a woman, I do not want to be chosen for a job over another applicant (male) simply because the office wants to have an equal number of men and women, unless the profession specifically needs a certain number of women for the job, for example female security workers at the airports who are needed to pat down female passengers during further screening measures, etc.

Posted by: 215 | October 4, 2006 3:33 PM

Laura -

"Many women who made it that far had to fight innumerable stereotypes along the way, so when a coworker does something that fits the stereotype, it gives the old guard more ammunition to use against those who do stay ("Why hire/promote her? She's just going to get pregnant and quit")."

OK - I can understand that frustration. But it goes far beyond frustration - we have women here (with advanced degrees in science) who are coming right out and saying "You are making a stupid choice. You are wasting your degree." They're taking the frustration out on the wrong set of people, and are being judgmental in doing so. It doesn't matter what the other woman's reason is for not continuing to work in science - because the other woman leaving is interfering with the life and career of the woman who stays....so the woman who stays is trying to dictate to the entire gender that they should do *exactly* what she is doing instead of following her own heart. It's the wrong way to fight the old guard.


Posted by: momof4 | October 4, 2006 3:35 PM

215 beat me to it. It is silly to say that when women reach numerical equality (balance of power) that things will be in any way more harmonic.

Use congress as an object lesson. When the senate is 50-50 or almost so, does that naturally breed cooperation? No, not necessarily. Other factors come into play. Both sides must still work together, not try to hammer each other.

Posted by: Random Guy | October 4, 2006 3:38 PM

To anonomous poster from 2:50...Why aren't men free to choose to stay at home? So maybe it is out of the norm, but no one tells them they are sacrificing the cause of gender equality. A man can take a year off and travel or decide to work from home or only part time and have a less stress job with less promotional potential just cause he feels like it and that isn't called the "daddy track" and he isn't making it harder for other men to move through the ranks. Women should have the same choice without being berrated by feminists.

Posted by: gradstudent | October 4, 2006 02:58 PM

=====

Despite the fact that we laud those fathers who are "more responsible" by being more participatory, we shouldn't assume that all things are equal. Much as our corporate and work environment is not entirely level for women, the home environment is not entirely level for men. Men do not always feel that they have an equal setting for being a SAHP. Warren Farrell has written an excellent book called "The Father and Child Reunion" which talks about issues of getting fathers more participatory in their children's upbringing. Just as women's fight for equality in the workplace was the major gender issue in the latter half of the 20th century, men's fight for equality in the home will be the major gender issue in the first half of the 21st century.

There are many areas where it is simpler for women to raise children. Fathers still are not accepted nearly as often in traditionally maternal roles as mothers are. For example, I've had friends including part-time SAHD's who are not allowed to volunteer in certain capacities unless a mother is there. Many men, whether they are fathers or not are viewed as "potential child abusers" and hence volunteerism in certain areas is discouraged unless supervised by a woman. Not fair, but it's there. Especially when the children are younger, many people question whether it is "safe" to leave children alone with men. It is harder for SAHD's to find cooperative playdates or shared care with SAHM's. Although we dislike the inequality, it is there. There are quite a number of SAHM's that would not share childcare swapping with a SAHD.

In child custody situations, women are far more likely to get whatever child custody arrangement they favor. A mother with a criminal record (including felony) and noted drug abuse issues still has a better chance of getting full custody with supervised visitation against a clean record father. The courts do are significantly biased in favor of women.

Much as we have to promote equal treatment of women in the workplace, we also have to work on changing societal mores to be more accepting of men as child caretakers and even SAHD's. Until these things happen, it is not as easy for a family to choose to have a SAHD as it is to have a SAHM if other things are equal. There are societal challenges that the family has to be willing to face and cope with and not all families want to be trailblazing unless they need to be (like cases where the mother makes a significantly higher salary).

As I've mentioned before, these are macro-socioeconomic changes that take decades and generations to change and not months or years. We'll get there, but all things are not equal for men to become SAHPs right now.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | October 4, 2006 3:38 PM

To confused:

Not interested in baseball, BUT my sister had my two nieces (ages 2 and 7) screaming "Defense" at the end of the fourth quarter of the Redskins game, so I'm not sure what your point is!

Posted by: Betty | October 4, 2006 3:41 PM

To confused:

Not interested in baseball, BUT my sister had my two nieces (ages 2 and 7) screaming "Defense" at the end of the fourth quarter of the Redskins game, after she called when we started to win to discuss the game, so I'm not sure what your point is!

Posted by: Betty | October 4, 2006 3:46 PM

""But also true: a lot of professional women feel more pressure to stay home because their husbands are ambitious, hard-working and unwilling to make sacrifices for their children or their wives. Most women with graduate degrees who stay home do so because they feel "someone has to be home with my kids" and it's not going to be him. So their "choice" is not always such a true choice.""

So true

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 3:47 PM

Betty:

My daughter (8) is watching the game now and giving me periodic updates -- but my guess is that there is a reason that ESPN assumes its market is primarily men.

Posted by: Confused | October 4, 2006 3:51 PM

Confused -- give us an update on the commercials -- I'm sure your theory that ESPN assumes its market is men will prove true!

Posted by: Arlington Dad | October 4, 2006 3:54 PM

To 2:44

One of our bosses has a SAH husband whom she supports financially, if you want to view it that way, emotionally, and every other way. Perhaps it's both ways. He's home for their teenage daughter. I doubt she's be a high-level manager if he weren't home to take care of the house and their daughter. By the way, he has a Ph.D.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 3:56 PM

No kidding! I was watching a game with said nieces a few weeks ago and was horrified that one of the commericals involved some really violent video game with guns and stealing cars - never noticed when I watched the games alone. I wanted to block their eyes!!

Think this means I'm getting old... :(

Posted by: Arlington Dad | October 4, 2006 3:56 PM

That last post was supposed to be addressed to Arlington Dad, not posted by him - sorry!

Posted by: Betty | October 4, 2006 4:02 PM

Oh, dear, we're in a world of hurt: my husband and I started dating the summer that we both decided to drop out of grad school. Of course, we *were* both pursuing "worthless" English PhDs, which our engineer fathers didn't approve of anyway. ;) And even though we both work in fields that don't involve English literature, we use what we learned every day.

Re: typing one-handed and breastfeeding: I hope I can remember how come March! Thanks for the laugh.

Posted by: niner | October 4, 2006 4:09 PM

" "and why work if you don't have to? Not every woman wants to be sitting in a board room." Did I stumble into the 1950s? Get out the apron. Posted by: ? | October 4, 2006 07:36 AM "

Sorry, I thought the women's movement was about CHOICE. Yes, that means choice to stay at home and take care of my family if that's what I want to do. Glad it makes you feel superior :P

Posted by: To Annoying ? Person | October 4, 2006 4:11 PM

DadWannaBe, I understand where you are coming from, but I'm finding it hard to feel as sorry for the SAHDs who are excluded by the SAHMs on the playground as I do for the mothers who permanently damage their careers by staying home for a few years.

Posted by: Charlottesville | October 4, 2006 4:12 PM

Oh, please. It is not a given that you will permanently damage your career if you stay home for a few years. Sorry, it's just not! I took time off and came back at a higher salary. I know others who managed to do the same. Stop telling women that they'll never get back on the ladder if the DARE to step off.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 4:16 PM

Thanks for the back-up Arlington Dad.

"I tend to get really PO'd when the right wing creates a no-win situation for feminists"

I agree-- but unfortunately, pretty much all the options available to the vast majority of women are rock/hard place choices. Sorry if I made it seem like there's only one "right kind" of feminist-- I just get very frustrated by the "all choices are perfectly valid because their our choices" argument. Personal choices do have bigger implications, and personal choices are also greatly influenced by social pressure (both the obvious kind and the type that's so subtle we hardly know it's there). We don't have a perfect meritocracy and personal choices are not made in a vacuum-- I think it's disingenuous to pretend otherwise. Feminism is about gaining equitable treatment for women; it's not about validating the old norms. Do I think it's tough to be feminist? Yes. Do I think it sucks that women have to think about the broader meanings and implications of their choices? Yes. I wish we lived in a world where you didn't have to think about all this stuff because it was completely embedded-- but it's not and it won't be if we don't keep on pushing for greater equality.

"To paraphrase they essentially said they are bright enough not to need the NYT's or anyone else's pity (or baldfaced attempts at affirmative action.) These seemed especially true among the younger ladies I spoke to."

I remember reading an article about Condi Rice where it pointed out that whenever she was confronted with racist comments or behavior in her life, she responded by asserting her personal superiority over the person in question, not by pointing out that racism was occurring or is wrong. (In the same article, Rice was quoted as saying something along the lines of 'my ancestors were always in the house, never the fields'. What was the purpose of pointing that out-- that they were such good slaves they never deserved whippings and hard labor like the rest?) This is a similar reaction to that which you describe, and it is a common feature of the backlack against feminism-- but saying, "I'm so extraordinary, I can overcome whatever discrimination exists by my merit alone" is an intensely myopic (and rather selfish) viewpoint. Just because one has figured out a way to solve (or deny) the problem for oneself doesn't mean that the problem doesn't exist.


"A Congress split down the middle between men and women will not make it perfect."

I didn't say it would make it perfect. And yes, it's not so much exact numerical equality that matters (I would take 49-51, at least at first :-), I was just making the point that we're a far cry from any semblance of equality now. If the current abysmal representation of women in Congress isn't convincing you, reading the zillions of articles out there about whether or not Hillary is electable should convince you that gender still matters tremendously when it comes to gaining access to power.

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

JKR, I understand what you are saying. I worked in a scientific publishing company and the women on the staff were routinely excluded from the "old boys' club" atmosphere. Several bright and hardworking female editors and writers left because they could not tolerate the sexism of the Ed in Chief, however, HR did nothing about it, despite exit interviews that said this was the primary reason the women left. Yet on another, parallel staff group in the same organization, women were in the majority leadership and management roles. Same organization, but one sexist boss made a huge difference.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 4:25 PM

"When the senate is 50-50 or almost so, does that naturally breed cooperation? No, not necessarily. Other factors come into play. Both sides must still work together, not try to hammer each other."

I'm not saying 50-50 male/female representation in Congerss would breed cooperation or perfection or anything-- politics probably wouldn't be that different at all. All I'm saying is that the day we have 50 Senators (or 250 female Fortune 500 CEOs) is the day it will be clear that gender truly does not matter in terms of career, power, wealth, etc. in this country.

I would never wish for or envision a world where the 50% of women in power are always in opposition to the men-- I wish for a world where 50% of women in power would be no big deal, par for the course, not an issue at all.

Wanting equality for women is not about bashing or hating men (I quite like men, in fact, especially my husband). I don't think women should have MORE power than men. But, of course, if we move to a world where 50% of powerful positions are occupied by women, that means that the entrenched social/political forces that keep men filling the majority of political and business leadership roles would have to back down. In order for more women to be in power, it means fewer men would have to be-- and that's the rub. That's why so many men regard feminists as man-hating and threatening. But if you are a man who cares about equity and fairness and living in a just society, who wants a world where your grandaughter truly has as much opportunity to do whatever she wants as your grandson without having to even give all this stuff a second thought, then you wouldn't think it's very fair that men still hold the reins most of the time.

Think about it-- men can be feminists, too, by the way.

Posted by: JKR | October 4, 2006 4:29 PM

"I very much wonder why if staying home were so great, why don't men do it?"

It's a personal thing-- I completely planned to go back to work as soon as my doctor gave the OK, but then I just know I'd be crazy jeolous of whomever I left him with and I just made a bunch of money in real estate and figured I deserved a break after working my ass off ever since I was 15-- when exactly was I going to do something that I really wanted to do?

Why don't more men do it? well, it is tough to have both parents stop working and if the woman, who gave birth and is exhausted with breastfeeding, etc, says "I want to stay home and we can afford it" then I think it is only logical that the father defers to the mother! I know my husband wants to be available after school, so may go down to working part time or early retirement when child is in high school-- and I'll happily support him then!

bottomline-- just because most men don't stay home and raise kids for a few years doesn't mean most women shouldn't-- do you what makes you happy-- ALL of you!

Posted by: Capitol Hill mom | October 4, 2006 4:29 PM

"do you what makes you happy-- ALL of you!"

Capitol Hill mom, you nailed it. We can all go home now. :)

Posted by: niner | October 4, 2006 4:39 PM

Charlottesville--I wasn't trying to make any comment about the difficulties of women in the work world, but make a comment on the flip side of the coin. Making it more equal for men to stay at home can only help women in the long run. When corporate America can see that a professional women has just as many options as a professional man, including the possibility that she would have a mate that would prioritize their family, then they can view women and men as equal commodities when determining work assignments. Currently corporate America views candidates differently because they have the outdated mentality that if anyone makes the sacrifices for the family, it will be the women. It's outdated and by working on male equality at home and in parenting, this can only help bolster female equality in the workplace.

As for women in the workplace, I think that your perception may be a little dated. Although taking time off can be detrimental in "tracked" professions including tenure-track, management track, partner track, I think that it is becoming a rapidly shrinking portion of the white collar workplace where it happens. In the vast majority of white collar office jobs including office management, accounting, programming, human resources, etc, it is becoming easier to get back on track after a break whether it is for parental break or other personal break. I work in the federal sector and we have quite a few people that come back into the workforce relatively parallel to when they left. I have seen women leave for two-three years of maternity leave and come back into management positions. We have many people here who have left and come back into technical fields after breaks. This includes people leaving to go back to school, people leaving to have children, people who have left to country to follow spouses stationed internationally, etc. We have a guy here who comes in to work for two months at a time approximately every 4-6 months because his wife is in the foreign service and she is stationed in the Far East. When he's in town, our company sets up a short term, contract and he works on it. When he is abroad, he's a SAHD. (As a matter of fact, I know four women in the foreign service of the State Dept and all of them, their husbands work as needed around their wives' duty postings) With a lot of technical staff, I've seen a lot of flexible schedules. In this office alone, we have several staff who work 4x10 weeks with Fridays off, some who work part-time, some who have fixed "telework" days that they work from home, etc. I know it varies (I think my agency is friendlier than my wife's agency is), but we are still progressing. And every year, I see more and more alternative work schedules being created. Although it is possible to lose gournd on a tracked career, I think we are advancing in decreasing this. As long as we keep moving in the right direction, I think we need to acknowledge that it is happening.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | October 4, 2006 4:44 PM

Teach me to try for humor (and about math, of all things).

Today has had some very interesting posts, and most of them came unufortunatly during the very long time it took me to finish compiling my previous post, going back and forth from work items today.

Rebeccat sure nailed some interesting and novel viewpoints for me, and offered some food for thought. Kudos...

To RJK, you made some points too. And as for my unscientific poll, I guess you would see some second vs. third generation (per the definitions floated today) viewpoints in action. There may still linger differences/inequities, but the younger eningeeering females here in my neck of the woods such don't seem motivated to spend much time on them, and seem repulsed to be considered victims. Whether you consider them blinded or naive, they seem to be moved past such arguments.

Does that attitude make the readers here *sigh*, or proud??

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | October 4, 2006 5:11 PM

"and why work if you don't have to? Not every woman wants to be sitting in a board room."

Because some of us aren't personally fulfilled sitting around the house and munching on bon-bons while hubby takes care of "the little woman." Some of us wish to be a little more productive, a little more independent, and even contribute a little more to the world. Have a bon-bon and think about it...

Posted by: dj | October 4, 2006 5:17 PM

Gee, I have worked for 32 years without a break other than 2 4-month maternity leaves and I will never reach the upper echelon.

Everyone has their own definition of success - I like my job and I am good at it, but I don't have any particular passion for it - or for any other career. Success to me is working no overtime, no travel, lots of vacation days, flexible schedules for time with my family and making enough money, along with my husband, that we can live comfortably. No fancy house, cars or vacations - just mid-range everything.

I've been reading about a woman executive at the top for Hewlett-Packard who seems to be in quite a pickle. No way I would trade my life for that.

For those who are driven and ambitious and capable, I say "go for it". Most of us are more interested in enjoying everyday life.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 5:25 PM

JKR, please write a guest blog! You are so articulate. Your posts today were spot on!

Posted by: alex. mom | October 4, 2006 5:53 PM

It occurs to me in reading the comments here - and even Leslie's observation that "too many" women are leaving the work force to stay home with children, that feminism loses a good deal of its appeal when it becomes the master, rather than the servant, of the feminist. Personally, I'd rather not trade oppressive patriarchy for oppressive sisterhood. Feminism should serve to provide opportunity, and what any woman chooses to do with it is her business. She owes no one but herself and her family and ultimately she's accountable to no one else. Saying we're not equal until women reach parity in every field and men reach parity in stay-at-home child-rearing is specious. We're equal when we have the opportunity to achieve the same things as any man while making the same sacrifices. Are we there yet? In my field, law, we probably are. Outside of it, I have no idea. But tinkering too much with this formula in the interest of "equality" means we're all going to lose a bit of freedom, either at home or in the workplace.

Posted by: MomWorksToo | October 4, 2006 6:06 PM

As a SAHM who aspires for women to be fully equal (thought that was the definition of feminism), I am tired of being told that the only way to be a feminist is to get a full-time job, put my kids in daycare 50 hours a week, and make sure I don't spend any of the money my husband makes.

I would find it enormously refreshing if, instead of that lecture, we could talk about how to minimize the financial risks of a SAHP (or perhaps a predominately SAHM with a small side job). My marriage is solid, and my husband isn't a jerk, but I have seen too many women gradually realize that they have no marketable skills, and their husband is borderline abusive, or cheating, or suddenly unable to work due to disability. They're feminists "worse case scenario".

I understand that the best insurance against becoming one of them would be to work full-time, but I value keeping my kids home right now, and I'm willing to accept some risk for it. I know some things I can do to keep myself somewhat marketable and reduce my financial vulnerability, but it would be refreshing if this were a topic SAHMs and feminists discussed in a more productive way.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 4, 2006 6:12 PM

"Oh, for crying out loud. Women have been having children for forever. It's not a job or a career."
Maybe it's not a career. Maybe it's not a job in the paycheck-earning sense. But it certainly is work. It's not play. Just because women have been doing it for millennia does not make it easy.
Anyone who says otherwise probably hasn't tried it.
And if you don't think it is work, how about this: You trade places for a week with some stay-at-home parent, a mother or father ;)
For what it's worth, I'm a work-outside-the-home mother, bearing most of the financial burden in our family. For each of my children, I was able to take much less than the standard 6-week maternity leave. Still, I have found that taking care of small children, though in many ways quite emotionally rewarding, is a hell of a lot harder than my "career" work, mentally and especially physically. Others have come to the same conclusion. I remember what my sister told me when she went back to her job after her maternity leave: She said she was thrilled to get back to the office because she needed the rest.

Posted by: anon mom | October 4, 2006 6:41 PM

Ha, I say to the quote from the LA Times. My sister and I both started jobs in the past couple of years in companies of about 30-40 people, and we were each the only non-secretary woman in our company. My company is a demanding start-up, hers a private equity firm. Where are all the women, I ask you? I have seen women interview and not take a job at my company because they felt it was incompatible with having a family. I know that if I have children and let it affect my work - ie, need accommodations - I will be judged accordingly, and as I wish to have children, this is troubling. My sister feels likewise - how can we compete in this oh-so-common scenario of being a minority woman trying to prove ourselves but ask for accommodations and flexible hours because of our genders?

Our jobs may not be above a glass ceiling exactly, but behind a glass partition.

Interestingly, in my company, the bias affects men as well. The men who are more family-oriented, who occasionally stay home with sick kids and who are not necessarily the primary wage-earner, do not hold power within the company. Those who take only a week off after having a new-born and reduce their hours not at all are far more successful. Many men have no families, but those that do make choices completely incompatible with "balance" and "accommodation."

Unfortunately, from where I sit, success depends on being as good or better than my peers and that seems unlikely if I have children and need accommodations. How can I compete with those who work 80 hour weeks when if I need flexible hours?

And I believe most of those _above_ the glass ceiling are ambitious and put work first, something that is unfortunately difficult for many women to do.

Posted by: Engineer | October 4, 2006 6:56 PM

I think the article is overly optimistic. Every time a newspaper writes about opportunities for moms to come back to work after time off, it presents celebrities and CEOs as proof that it can be done. But these people are the ones who have the pull to arrange special accomodations for themselves. Just because Meredith Vieira can do it doesn't mean the average mom can. I'm a SAHM scientist and one thing that hampers my ability to go back to work is that I no longer have access to original scientific journals because they all cost so much and there are so many of them. With each passing month my PhD is becoming more out of date and useless. So it doesn't really help me if Meredith Vieira can swing a nice deal for going back to work.

Posted by: m | October 5, 2006 7:28 AM

Wow, so much stuff (and I'm late coming back to read it).

Ann - I think that the issue with your company is why mgmt didn't have a reasonable plan beyond "give work to coworkers" for an employee's absence. This is one problem I have with a lot of organizations' work culture - they don't seem to see building a certain amount of flexibility into their staffing as important. A pregnant woman is probably going to give a very reasonable amount of notice (or her expanding abdomen likely will). That's enough time to get a replacement in. If coworkers are "picking up the slack" for a leave that's entirely foreseeable, that is the COMPANY'S slack, not the individual worker's.

(The 'sick kids, nanny quit, etc' is a bit different, I think. But for a leave - that's the company's problem.)

The other issue I have in the whole discussion of losing seniority, etc. is that there seems to be an assumption of fairness - that if someone puts in 15 years, they will be further ahead than someone that puts in 12. And therefore if someone takes 3 years off it is "not fair!!" if they come back in to a parallel or higher position.

Now I may work in a particularly volatile field or something but it seems to me that it often happens that someone coming into an organization as a hotshot gets more goodies than someone who's been slogging along the whole time.

Maybe they just happen to have the right contacts, or the right ideas, or the perfect background - or simply negotiated a better starting salary.

From that perspective, it's a bit ridiculous to argue about fairness. If someone is that good that three years after having kids her company will hire her back at a great salary - good for her.

This actually happened to me before I had a kid - I am in no way a hotshot but I do work hard and loved (most of) my job. Then I was asked to take a different position during some restructuring and I hated it (and to be honest, I did not work as hard and wasn't especially good at it).

I saved up enough money to float a job change and I handed in my resignation and explained that I was ready to move on and back into my original area.

A week later I was rehired into a position back in my previous area but senior to the job I'd had before. I honestly think that my confidence in quitting had a lot to do with the offer being made at that time.

Was it fair? Depends on your point of view. No, it wasn't - I had quit; I had not been doing a fabulous job in the interim position; I was not the obvious choice for promotion. But was it fair in that once I got into that role I worked my ass off? You bet.

Posted by: Shandra | October 5, 2006 10:22 PM

Whoops I got wordy and hit submit too early.

My point really is that it's not possible to keep things "fair" between people who take time off or choose to work part time and people who don't - on either side of the equation.

But I think it is possible to get out of the mentality that 60 hours a week every week for 40 years always makes for the best workers. I wonder if family friendly ultimately means staying open to letting people prove their value by measuring results rather than measuring hours.

Posted by: Shandra | October 5, 2006 10:23 PM

Just one comment that I don't think anyone had made - alexmom mentioned a feeling of obligation in the science/engineering fields. I graduated with a BA in mathematics from a small, liberal arts college where slightly more than half of the 25 or so math grads my year were female. Of those students, the vast majority, male and female (though more of the females) go directly into high school education. I think most "truly hard science" students wouldn't be at a liberal arts school in the first place. I was there for the intimate atmosphere, but still went on to my current graduate program in Operations Research. I'm doing a master's, but I can tell from talking with my old undergrad advisor that he's a little sad I'm not going on for the PhD. Though his personal response is based on his hopes for my success, I think the college as a whole wants to be able to claim its students completed higher degrees. Similarly, the university I attend now wants me to go into a field using my degree, because that goes into their rankings, not just how many females they give degrees to. I want to work using my degree because it is something that truly interests me, but there is the feeling of meeting the expectations and helping the schools (through their claims of alumni success) that have helped me.

It's been really interesting reading this, especially as a 23 year old, unmarried, childless student. I realize it's easy for me to say now that I want a great job and I'll be an awesome working mother someday, but who knows how the cards will turn out. Maybe in five years or so, part time opportunities will be better for new mothers.

One last thing - I think the wasting a degree issue, and the not working if you don't have to issue, are much more grating when the children are school age. Infants and toddlers are a full time job, but when you have 6 hours in the middle of the day to yourself, the people who do work are more likely to resent it. Just my opinion.

Posted by: gradstudent | October 7, 2006 12:13 AM

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