Do Men Want Moms to Quit?

I recently sat around the dinner table with several couples talking about how we all balanced work and family issues. One of the stay-at-home moms, an insightful former psychiatrist who'd studied at three internationally-known universities, talked about her decision to quit her psychiatric residency shortly before the birth of her first child.

"My boss and mentor -- an older woman who had supported me for years in my medical program -- was furious. She clearly felt betrayed." The mom shook her head sadly. Then she perked up. "But the men in my program were just great. They were much more supportive of my decision to stay home."

I didn't say anything because I didn't know her very well. But this is what I thought: Of course her boss felt betrayed. And I bet those men were supportive of this genius dropping out of the rat race of academia, a world often criticized for being notoriously competitive and family unfriendly.

When I was at Wharton business school 15 years ago, I remember a conversation with an older male student who'd worked in consulting for years before getting his MBA. I asked if the competitive landscape for men had intensified now that top consulting firms were hiring so many women right out of business school. He smiled before answering. "No, we don't worry about the women. They're all going to be gone in a few years, once they start having kids."

One reason I wrote Mommy Wars was because so many wonderful women had left the companies where I worked -- Leo Burnett, Johnson & Johnson, The Washington Post -- once they had kids. These women were my competitors, certainly -- but more important, they were my colleagues, my best friends in the working women tribe. I needed them at work, for comaraderie, for shared laughter, for advice. I also needed them to build the collective force necessary to advance women at work and to lobby for the support moms need to balance work and family, such as on-site day care and flexible career paths. My friends' decisions to stay home, while clearly right for them, was like poet John Donne's famous bell tolling for the moms still at work. We -- and our chances for overhauling the work environment to accommodate moms -- were diminished each time a talented, competitive woman left the work force.

What do you think? Let's try to get past the negative stereotypes (including my own): the sexist male colleague, the cold female boss who's even harder on women than men. Is my Wharton story outdated? Do men or women seem more supportive of women staying home with children? Is it possible for a co-worker or an employer to be truly empathetic about work/family decisions, without taking other people's choices personally? Is there an understandable desire -- for both men and women at work -- for work/family trends that benefit your gender, your choices?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  November 22, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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I think men are more supportive of women staying at home, because they know/think/believe it is benefiting their children.

My husband was very supportive of me choosing whether I wanted to work after my daughter was born, but he was thrilled with the prospect of me staying home with her once we moved overseas for his job. My mother (who stayed home with us kids while we were young but worked before and after that period) thought it was great that I continued working, but my father asked constantly when I was going to quit my job to stay home.

Our situation was different, since I quit to move overseas, but I think my boss (male, no kids) would have been supportive if I had decided to quit sooner. I think my male co-workers (also no kids) would have had a less positive reaction and thought I was "selling out" or something.

I knew two other women at work who had their first children around the same time as me and we all went back to work - it was a new trend since the other women who'd had children in the few years prior had all quit their jobs (we were all in a demanding environment in the news biz). We were a nice trio and were able to support one another but I think I would've been disappointed if one of them had quit - we all believed firmly that it was possible to be new moms and work at our jobs and do them well. One woman felt strongly that we needed to prove that it was possible - it was, but I could also understand why others had made other choices since it was difficult.

Posted by: Vienna mom | November 22, 2006 7:18 AM

If you want a happy marriage and family, the husband should be the breadwinner and the wife stay home with the kids. Its not possible for most couples today due to hi-cost of living, but thats to be lamented, not celebrated. Unless you are an advocate of divorce and broken families. Statistics clearly show that the more hours outside the home a woman works, the higher likelihood of divorce. The reverse is not true of men- long hours at the office has no impact on the likelihood of divorce for men.

Posted by: Observer | November 22, 2006 7:26 AM

I think the archtypes you identify are pretty accurate. The male coworkers who offer support knowing it means less competition, the steely woman boss who resents capable women who abandon their (professional) potential, etc. They're certainly well represented in my industry (big DC law firm). I know that there are expressed and unexpressed feelings of anxiety when a plum associate position is offered to a young woman who may very well leave before returning the investment made in her. Of course men leave too, but not at the same rate as women.

Don't get me wrong, though I understand the anxiety, I don't advocate giving any job to anyone other than the best candidate. Also, my wife works full time though she sometimes expresses the desire to be a stay at home mom for our four children.

Here's my personal opinion, there are women who pursue education and a professional career because they can and, to some extent, feel obligated to but really want to have children and stay at home. Then there's women who have a passion for their work and would continue to do so regardless (I think my wife falls into this category). Of course this is a continuum and most professional women aren't at the extreme ends but tend toward one side more than the other. Thus, our role as men (either in the capacity as husbands or coworkers) isn't to encourage either choice, but support women in fulfilling their true desire.

Posted by: An Dliodoir | November 22, 2006 7:37 AM

Is it possible that in general people are 'pro-family' and just want to support behavior that they see as such?

My neighbor is a SAHD that I like to think is strongly supported in his decision -- as is my uncle with an Engineering Master's who dropped back to part-time to be there in the morning and the afternoon for his kids.

I think my reaction to anyone making a decision in which they believe they are putting their families interest first [regardless of whether I necessarily agree with it] would typically be positive.

Posted by: A Dad | November 22, 2006 7:39 AM

Observer,
Your assertion that there is a direct corralation between the amount of hours a woman works and rates of divorce, and that the same does not hold true for men, is patently untrue. Your overly simplified view of the matter betrays a profound lack of understanding of the dynamics of marital relations.

Posted by: An Dliodoir | November 22, 2006 7:51 AM

My wife stayed at home for most of the time that that 4 kids were growing up. (Youngest is now 15) The older 3 children would never admit it then but were very happy that mom was home when they came home. She is working part time in her second career of lactation specialist. (Her first was school teacher.) The main theme she sees is that these young pregnant women seem to need her more as a mother figure than a health care specialist.

We have lived in the same house for 25 years and had to postpone some material desires to allow my wife to stay at home but that has never bothered me. --other than not getting my Ferrari!

On the other hand, my sister in law could never (and did never) stay home fulltime with her children. She needed to work outside the house.

I have seen many cases in the profession of women dropping completely out of a business career once they have children. For highly skilled professionals such as doctors (but not lawyers), it does irritate me a bit that the educational resources have not been used to the fullest advantage.

Posted by: A Husband of Many Years | November 22, 2006 8:00 AM

Last week with the "should 50+ women have kids?" debacle we showed that that some out there are ready to deny biology, but let's get real here. I say this being 9 months pregnant with a three year old and working part time. Men and women are different--neither is better or worse, but the fact is it isn't my husband who is up five times a night to pee!

Women who opt to stay with their kids may not be living up to Leslie or Betty Freidan's standards, but they are knowledgeable of their own desires. I fully understand the urge to stay home is on a moving scale (and mine has moved all over the place in the last three years); but implying that we're letting our "sisters" down by doing so is hogwash!

Posted by: PTJobFTMom | November 22, 2006 8:07 AM


"Statistics clearly show that the more hours outside the home a woman works, the higher likelihood of divorce. The reverse is not true of men- long hours at the office has no impact on the likelihood of divorce for men."
----
As a social scientist, I feel the need to weigh-in here. The above statement is true. There is a correlation between the hours a woman works outside the home and the likelihood of divorce. However, this does NOT mean that working outside the home CAUSES divorce (correlation does not equal causation!! Rule number 1 of science).

In fact, much research suggests that women who work more are simply more able to leave marriages in which they are unhappy, and that women who are in unhappy marriages are likely to increase the number of hours that they work (in preparation for a possible divorce). Recent research also indicates that the majority of men prefer to marry a woman who works and brings in an income.


Posted by: Social Scientist | November 22, 2006 8:12 AM

Several years ago a very good male friend said something to the effect that it is makes economic sense for women to receive lower pay and less consideration in hiring because a larger fraction of women are expected to leave.

Although I socked him one at the time, as an economist of the Friedman school I have since come to the realization that he is technically correct, as long as men and women are identical employees and women in fact do leave more frequently. It is easy to argue that these conditions are untrue, however, and to show that there are benefits from workplace gender diversity.

My only friends that have left the workforce to stay home had never really found a job that was fulfilling to them, so leaving was easy. All the others that have successful careers have continued to work after having children. Although if one of them left I would be disappointed, I would respect their decision. However, I do think it hurts other working women by increasing the perception that they, too, will leave, and therefore are worth a little less as employees.

Posted by: drmommy | November 22, 2006 8:24 AM

To Observer: Are you kidding me?

From my perspective balance means sharing responsibilities in all aspects of life. When I hear of a woman "opting out" of the workforce I think she is taking the path of least resistance. Sure it may be a bit more difficult financially but it is certainly easier than working out the details of childcare and schedules.

However, I'm a strong advocate for balance which means couples need to work together to solve family work/life balance. Can anything be better for a healthy couple than sharing childcare, breadwinning, housework, and recreation? Isn't this the path of balance and intimacy?

Posted by: equal_too | November 22, 2006 8:24 AM

To Observer
"If you want a happy marriage and family, the husband should be the breadwinner and the wife stay home with the kids."

1) Seems pretty risky to put the financial future of an entire family in one person's hands.

2) What if the wife is a better breadwinner?

3)Since 60% of married men cheat, how do you define a "happy marriage"?

Posted by: TT | November 22, 2006 8:30 AM

I would like to stay home for a few years to raise kids but my friends give me a hard time about that. My husband and I talked to a financial planner once, and he told me I was being old-fashioned. I know that women have worked really hard to get to where they are in the workforce today, though our society clearly has not worked out all the kinks by any means. I just feel that a woman should not be chastised for her choices. Working women who have come before me forged the way - and I certainly don't want things to go back to the way they were for women that wanted to be in the workforce in the 70s, for example. I don't want people thinking that I am anti-feminism because I want to be a SAHM, nor do I want anyone to think that a working mom is somehow a bad mother. People are different, financial situations are different. Is there really a right answer here?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 8:31 AM

I've worked at a hospital that had daycare and I thought it was a wonderful idea, we had babies around all the time.

I've also worked at an institution that sent around an employee questionaire asking about maternity leave, as a single guy I felt this to be unfair - no one was offering me time off.

I was happy to subsequently see a single woman expressing the same opinion, single people have domestic issues too, so I'd support some sort of general flexibility at work but I do not support programs focused only on women or married people.

I wonder how many highly competitive men and women in business environments would be willing to give as much flexibility to single co-workers as is given to women with babies? If I don't get support from my co-workers why should I support their needs?

I think your consulting friend was baiting you with his answer, he probably wanted to rant about annoying these issues can be.

Posted by: jerry | November 22, 2006 8:32 AM

It seems a little bit off the point to consider whether your male or female peers are more supportive.

Life choices like this are intensely personal. Your main responsiblity is for your own happiness. Many factors need to be weighed in this decision, how will it affect your children, spouse, and finances.

In the complex calculus required, these factors should dwarf what any of your peers might think of your decision. It's your right and responsiblity to choose. Whether they support it or not is immaterial.

Posted by: denizen | November 22, 2006 8:33 AM

I'll add that I notice you were in business school at the time you asked this consulting guy about competition from women he probably thought you were bainting him with your question, you surely know that B-school is horrendously competitive.

Posted by: jerry | November 22, 2006 8:36 AM

Interesting question - I would guess that in most competitive professional fields (high end lawyering/banking/surgery, etc.) that men wouldn't mind or would be pleased women left because there were fewer people to compete against. I'm not sure about middle management or blue collar jobs. I have also heard an errant comment or two (allegedly joking) from men saying "Don't tell my wife how much you enjoy working [after your child was born] - I won't have anyone to pick up my dry cleaning!"

With regard to Leslie's last question.[*puts on armor*], I don't have that much empathy for women who stay home full time - for the following reason. Especially in higher level industries, these women explicitly contribute to the "why promote/engage/include her, she's just going to leave to be a baby factory anyway" mindset that would make it hard for myself and my daughter if she so chooses, to succeed just as much as my husband or son could. I know this is very controversial, but I don't say it lightly, and obviously there are exceptions to people with children with disabilities, etc. The usual response I get to this is, "Well, I don't care what I do that affects you - why should I "sacrifice" my kids so that I can work at a job I don't like just for some b/s feminist ideal?" I don't think you should care - just don't be surprised or annoyed when I have the same attitude about workplace issues that could affect your life. And I'm not broadly aiming this at blue collar workers, etc. (apologies, I just don't have that much experience with them). But I have known women who have been Supreme Court clerks, highly trained physicians, etc., who have kids and stay home. I firmly believe that if you are blessed with that kind of intellectual gift, you should be using it at least part time to benefit someone else!

Posted by: The original just a thought | November 22, 2006 8:41 AM

Not only are the Wharton stories outdated, but the elitist stories of women that have "studied in 3 (did you get that? 3) international universities." Somehow when these women become mothers and want to stay home they are betraying their bosses, or even WORSE - their (gasp) colleagues? What about their kids? What about the next generation of genuises?

Just because these "genius" women dropped out of the rat race doesn't mean they aren't contributing to society. Some may pursue their careers in later years. I hope women, elite or not, are making decisions for themselves when they have children, not their dissappointed bosses, colleagues and all of women-kind. Whether women work or stay home it is their decision, no third parties need get involved. Emotional blackmail exists on both sides, I hope women choose to ignore it.

BTW: I studied at only 1 domestic university - does that make my decision to work or not to work any less important?

Posted by: cmac | November 22, 2006 8:44 AM

equal_too:

You wrote:"Can anything be better for a healthy couple than sharing childcare, breadwinning, housework, and recreation? Isn't this the path of balance and intimacy?"

I would submit that there are many ways a couple can achieve balance. My wife and I each have a number of individual strengths and weaknesses -- specializations if you will. We work together interdependently and are able to achieve much more than if we both felt the need to be equally responsible for each and every activity.

Posted by: A Dad | November 22, 2006 8:45 AM

I am a stay-at-home dad. My wife and I discussed it when we found out she was pregnant, and analyzed our careers. Hers was more successful, and she had better education, so the choice was clear. She went to work, and I stayed home.
The arrangement works for us and for many others like us.
I think its great for someone to stay home with their kids if they have the means. The cost of childcare negates a lot of the income I would have brought into the home, so it was more cost effective to stay home.

Posted by: Gunch | November 22, 2006 8:48 AM

Social Scientist - Watch out - Pittypat is going to be examining your post for any ethical or legal lapses.

Work probably doesn't cause divorce but working women in an unhappy marriages are finacially ABLE to leave, therefore they do. Non-working mothers may feel they have to stick it out due to economic reasons - particularly if thre are kids.

Posted by: cmac | November 22, 2006 8:50 AM

I said this somewhere before in one of these blogs, but as a young professional woman, yes, it irks me when women (who could be my support/mentor/friend) drop out to have kids (and I'm meaning they take years off, not a couple of months and then return).

However, I also don't see why we all have to "just get along" in this regard. You can make your choices, and I'm under no obligation to like or even support them.

All I can say for people (women and men) who decide to stay home or work is make your choices, but don't b*tch and whine about any consequences that come from that (e.g., the SAHM that can no longer find meaning ful employement, or the working dad who never sees his kids).

Posted by: ilc | November 22, 2006 8:50 AM

CMAC, if you studied at one domestic university and are blessed with an intellectual gift that not that many people have, then yes, it makes your decision to work more important.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 8:51 AM

The original just a thought:

You wrote:"But I have known women who have been Supreme Court clerks, highly trained physicians, etc., who have kids and stay home. I firmly believe that if you are blessed with that kind of intellectual gift, you should be using it at least part time to benefit someone else!"

My assumption is that the individuals in question likely believe they are using their skills to benefit someone else -- specifically their children.

I'm in an area where a sizable number of highly educated women either stay-at-home fulltime a number of years or move to a part-time position once they have children. I see the impact these professional women have on the quality of co-operative preschools and elementary schools. It is without a doubt a tremendous positive community asset.

It's certainly possible to argue relative importance and impact of these contributions to the ones that they could make in a professional environment -- but I submit that it is possible apply these same professional qualities and improve the world in ways other than moving up the corporate ladder.

Posted by: A Dad | November 22, 2006 8:53 AM

I feel compelled to mention that my mom didn't stay home to raise us. She fought relentlessly against discrimination to work in her field (engineering) where not a lot of women feel welcome. Because of her, more women have followed in her footsteps. I grew up just fine with her at work, and she now serves as my inspiration, support team, and career counselor. I can honestly say this would not be the case had she stayed home.

Posted by: ilc | November 22, 2006 8:55 AM

Sometimes what irks me about these discussions is that they ignore vast numbers of American moms who are unable to leave a job even if they wanted to. So many of these discussions are relevant to my life as a professional, but they also seem to ignore the fact that millions of American moms and dads earn significantly less and never even consider one or the other staying home with the kids.

Posted by: chicagomom | November 22, 2006 9:00 AM

TO:Posted by: | November 22, 2006 08:51 AM
"CMAC, if you studied at one domestic university and are blessed with an intellectual gift that not that many people have, then yes, it makes your decision to work more important."

I call BS on that. "Intellectual Gift?" Does that mean my obligations as a rare intellectual (example only - not calling myself an intellectual) are to society first, then my family? I don't think so. Do you know how many people I know that have succeeded in any given field - either by accident - or later in life (post kids, finished college in their 40's and 50's)? Many people don't realize/actualize their "intellectual gift" well into their later years.

Posted by: cmac | November 22, 2006 9:02 AM

I think there was more of an impact on women staying home with children in the past. Today companies downsize so routinely that your position cannot be counted on even if you sacrifice your family time for the good of the workplace and your career. This is true for men also. Those parents who don't have the financial need to work should certainly stay home with their young children if they're so inclined. As I see it, they have very little to lose in the workplace except stress. Those who need the money--oh well, we have to hope that we can find quality day care.

Posted by: hpmoyer | November 22, 2006 9:03 AM

To A Dad, thanks for replying. I see what you're saying with school/community involvement, but I think of it this way: do you need specialized training (legal/medical/etc) to be good at helping in a preschool or elementary school? Probably not. If you were an organized, motivated person, you could probably do almost as well. But there are legal jobs (part-time ones!) where this specialized training would be very helpful, if not necessary - for example, working on a few political asylum cases, or working as an attorney for the school (God knows schools need better legal representation than what they usually get!!). Or if you are a physician, working in an understaffed clinic or research center, etc. To me, it isn't a binary equation where women are either working full time in a job they hate or staying home full time and are super-fulfilled, but more that they have a gift that has the possibility of filling the need somewhere. Why not use it part-time?

Posted by: The original just a thought | November 22, 2006 9:04 AM

To cmac - no, if you are smarter than the average bear (trying to insert humor here), your obligations aren't "to society first and family second." I don't think the two can really be untangled, though. I am not saying abandon your family to go live in the wilderness and feed the poor. I'm saying that you should try and use your smarts in the way they were intended. I'm glad some people you know realized their "gift" later on in life - but there are plenty of people who figure out they are really, really lucky early on to use it for someone besides themselves and wiping their kids noses.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 9:09 AM

From my view, it is a public good that women who are unhappy in a marriage can leave. Women (and their kids) who are forced to stay in a bad situation (and individual wives get to define what constitues "bad") is destructive to our society.

Also, I haven't seen any statistics that prove women are more likely to leave work than men. Men leave jobs all the time -- for different jobs, for family reasons, or because they get fired.

But when looking at the rates of women leaving work, once again, consider WHY women leave. Often they would stay if their attempts to balance work and family were treated with more respect and support.

Posted by: Leslie | November 22, 2006 9:13 AM

I couldn't help but weigh in on this as we have been dealing with this for some time. My wife initially stayed home to be with out two boys and I worked long hours to support the family in the way that we thought was important; nice home, in a nice neighborhood, good school district, college fund, retirement etc.....

After some time my wife determined that she was not happy and went back to work part-time only to find that other workers/ friends that she had started with or at one time had seniority over had been promoted. She felt that she was not getting anywhere at work being part-time and went full time pursuing a position with the company that she coveted.

In the meantime I have cut back my work schedule substantially to support my wife and children only to find that she is not happy with the long work hours. For various reasons we do not have the ability, nor do I have the desire to "go back to the way it used to be."

Now, our stress comes from balancing child care, chores around the home, transportation to actities, doctors appointments and who is calling in with FMLA when one of our children is sick and cannot go to school. One thing that I have noticed in my increased role at home is that many women are very reluctant to go back to work and I have even heard the comment from more than one mother " my husband wants me to go back to work now that the kids are in school, I am going to have another baby."

The interesting dynamics here are that the breadwinner wants some pressure off them financially and the caregiver wants to enjoy some time home sans children. My opinion is that if it works for the family great but if it doesn't then it has to be a family decision. Another comment or concern I hear quite often from men is how badly they would be hurt financially and emotionally with a divorce. Financially, because 90% of the time Mom is the custodially parent and keeps the home with child support and or spousal maintanence. Emotionally because of the stresses of divorce coupled with the fact that they only see their children on a very limited basis versus every day.

My conclusion is that this is a complex issue and needs to be decided at the family level, not with blanket statements or societal pressures that state one way works for all. Now, lets talk about all of the children that are born out of wed-lock, lol.

Posted by: MM | November 22, 2006 9:14 AM

The original just a thought:

"To A Dad, thanks for replying."

My pleasure.

"To me, it isn't a binary equation where women are either working full time in a job they hate or staying home full time and are super-fulfilled, but more that they have a gift that has the possibility of filling the need somewhere. Why not use it part-time?"

Sorry, didn't mean to imply it was a binary equation. My wife is a SAHM who was president of our children's cooperative nursery school and is in charge of our elementary school's Science Fair. Our neighbor works part-time and is President of the PTA. Her best friend just went back to work this week after 8 years to be a full-time high school teacher. All have advanced degrees, and all are making a significant positive impact on the community, and I believe all would describe themselves as 'happy' with their decisions.

"do you need specialized training (legal/medical/etc) to be good at helping in a preschool or elementary school? Probably not. If you were an organized, motivated person, you could probably do almost as well."

I think this is probably the crux of our disagreement -- I've seen the difference that highly educated men and women providing this type of support can make and it is something I significantly value.

Posted by: A Dad | November 22, 2006 9:14 AM

First off, I think the story in the original post is BS. I've had many male bosses who were not happy when female employees left work to raise their kids, it's just a pain for the boss to have to replace you whether or not the boss is female, so I don't really think that the example of the female boss being angry at the employee for leaving is just about sisterhood.
As for the original just a thought's post. You say don't be surprised if you don't care about workplace issues that could affect the lif eof stay at home moms. Since they've dropped out of the workplace, what issues are those exactly. I would imagine that you would be supportive of issues to would allow more flexibility for moms, so that in the end they wouldn't leave and thus create that mindset that you don't like. I'm just curious as to what you are referring to.

Posted by: Chris | November 22, 2006 9:15 AM

What confuses me about the "dilemma" of highly educated women opting out is this: most highly educated women only have 1-2 kids. 1-2 kids only take at most 3-8 years of full-time mommy care (if that). So these mommy JDs, MDs, PhDs -- what are they going to do when jr. gets to first grade? Stay at home baking cookies? That seems improbable. Inevitably most, if not all, will go back to work at some capacity. If they're say 40-45 at that point, then they have a whole 2-3 decades left of work life.

So, this "dilemma" is not really about women dropping out and wasting their educational investments, but rather about encouraging workplaces to facilitate mothers' reentry and part-time work; and encouraging highly educated mothers to only have 1 child so they can return to the workforce as soon as possible.

Posted by: ms. esq. | November 22, 2006 9:15 AM

I'm a bit of a young one here (23, no husband, no kids) but I have a slightly different take on the question... How does the way you grew up affect your decision to work after you have childrem?

I cam from a family where both parents worked (my mother actually worked full time and was earning her bacholor degree for part of the time I was growing up) and I have every intention of staying in the workforce if/when I have children. My friend in college, however, had a mother who quit her job to take care of her children and she has every intention of leaving after the birth of her first child.

I was astonished when I heard this and had to bite my tounge to keep from saying "then why are you in college and starting a career if you know your dream is to quit?" However, I know my reaction comes from not just my feminist/stubornly independent side, but also from the fact that I was raised by a working mom and turned out fine. I support my friend in her decisions but I am still horribly on the fence when it comes to the working mother issue as a whole. My parents did wonderfully with me and my brother, why do others believe they have to stay home to be good parents?

Posted by: Youngin | November 22, 2006 9:15 AM

Since dropping out of the work force to raise children is such a sin, do you propose that women (girls) go straight from high school (why wait that long?) to being barefoot and pregnant so as not to distress potential mentors and co-workers? What would happen to the divorce rate then? And what kind of role model would a mother with no education and no accomplishments be for her children? That would teach the next generation that indeed women are not good for anything but popping out babies, and we would be right back where we started.

Posted by: lawgirl | November 22, 2006 9:19 AM

To A Dad: I'm not proposing every activity is split down the middle BUT equal investment in careers by two competent people leads to balance. I'd propose both partners work flex/compressed/or reduced hours to achieve this.

Posted by: equal_too | November 22, 2006 9:22 AM

Don't people have an ethical obligation to consider the impact that their "personal" decisions have on other people's lives? I think its inappropriate for people to argue that their personal family decisions can not be judged by other people.

If a woman chooses to stay home with her children, she is affecting the way that women in general are viewed in the workplace. Bosses may be less inclined to give a job to women of childbearing age, may see women as less productive workers, may promote them less frequently, etc. I believe that a woman (and men too!) is ethically bound to consider how this impacts the lives of women who want to or need to work for a living.

Does this mean that I think a woman shouldn't stay at home? No, not necessarily. But, she should be able to defend her position for why her decision is a good and ethical one. Why do the benefits of her staying at home with her family outweigh the costs to society/other women? Is it "fair" that she be asked to weigh these issues into her decision-making? No. It sucks. But that doesn't relieve one of the ethical duty.

Posted by: Social Scientist | November 22, 2006 9:28 AM

I think that it should be 100% up to the woman; providing her partner and her can live on one salary. Too many times in this country men and other women try and make decisions for us. It is great that as a woman I have a choice as to career, career and family, or staying at home with my family; and I appreciate what women of previous generations have done to give me that choice. But bottom line, it would not have been worth it to me, were it not my choice and when I am ready to have a family, I will do what will make me and my family the happiest. It is selfish for other women to hold that against me. What we want out of life may be very different, and I am not judging you, so you do not get to judge me.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 9:28 AM

To A Dad - thanks again for the reply, I think we just have to agree to disagree on this one. Although I am happy to hear one of them went into teaching! We need all the motivated, intelligent teachers we can get.

Chris - I am in favor of flexibility (and paid time off) for both sexes. I think this flexibility is more possible in white collar jobs where you can unplug your [networked] laptop and it goes anywhere with you. In fact, I advocated implicitly for this flexibility when I was responding to A Dad as to how women with specialized training can utilize their skills - part time. I just think the ideal of public service is rather underappreciated these days. Not that everyone needs to be a politician (God help us!), but that we have gifts that can help other folks. For example, if you have more money than most, you can donate it, put it to good use, etc. Also, my thoughts on this aren't limited to women - my husband is a lawyer, and I am constantly advocating for him to take on more pro-bono cases so his training and intellectual gifts are spent on people besides corporations.

Posted by: The original just a thought | November 22, 2006 9:30 AM

Youngin:

You wrote:"My parents did wonderfully with me and my brother, why do others believe they have to stay home to be good parents?"

I think you may be asking the wrong question.

My mother stayed home my first couple of years, went to work part-time for a couple of years, and then worked full-time [well going to graduate school at various times] -- and I like to think [regardless of what others who know me may say] that I turned out ok as well.

The question really should be 'How do I structure my life best for myself and for my family'?

I would argue that going to college and education in general is more than training for a career -- and that it is not wasted simply because one does not choose a career.

My wife and I both thought in our early 20's that we knew exactly how we would move forward in our life -- and that plan lasted all through graduate schools right up until the moment our first son was born. My wife took off a couple of months, and then went back part-time while I took off a couple of months. She stayed part-time, we worked crazy schedules to minimize day care [even though we had a fantastic day care situation with a mutual friend], and then when we were expecting our daughter we changed our plans and she decided to stay at home fulltime.

That was 10 years ago -- and I would say that we are both very happy with the decision. It's worked out well for us - but as with any personal decision, your mileage may vary.

Posted by: A Dad | November 22, 2006 9:33 AM

Do not bother subscribing to the Washington Post if you live in Lexington Park, MD.

I have not had a paper delivered for the last two weeks, the delivery subcontractor does not acknowledge or return phone calls, and neither does the Washington Post.

Don't waste your money paying for a product not delivered.

Posted by: Don't Bother | November 22, 2006 9:34 AM

I completely agree with social scientist.

To anon at 9:28

If I work and you stay at home, I am paying taxes that pays for both of our police, garbage collection, etc. You are not paying for these services.

If your decision to drop out and stay at home puts downward pressure on my salary, we both suffer. But me more.

So I DO get to judge you. Your decision cost me money.

Posted by: drmommy | November 22, 2006 9:34 AM

Why would any intelligent, educated, professional woman drop out of the work force and waste their time just to change diapers, push strollers, and join the neighborhood gossip group? Inferior women are much more suited for that role, so I can easily understand the disappointment, or possible fear of it happening to them, expressed by professional classed working women on this issue.

Us men don't care. We just want everybody to be happy. Also, I don't know of any man that is threatened by women in the work place. few are competitive, and for those who are, haven't figured out that it is much easier to get ahead by working with men instead of against them. As always the case, there are exceptions.

Posted by: Super Dad | November 22, 2006 9:35 AM

I tend to be like everyone else, and enjoy the oppurtunity to be a social scientist with a topic like this. However, my observation is that the real movers-and- shakers, whether male or female, do not let children or peers get in their way. The remainder of this conversation is for the rest of us mid-packers, killing a slack day before the holiday, as we prepare for another year of striving.

Posted by: WorkerBeeJohn | November 22, 2006 9:35 AM

I don't think men want women to stay home--at least not in my family. My father fully supports my being a working mom. Although his mother stayed home while her 4 children were young, my mother worked full time. I know he would support me if I decided to stay home, but he certainly is happy I am working now. My husband supports my working too. His mother was a doctor, so he grew up with a working mom. I think it depends on what you consider "normal."

Posted by: D's mum | November 22, 2006 9:37 AM

To Stacey G:
"We -- and our chances for overhauling the work environment to accomodate moms -- were diminished each time a talented, competitive women left the work force."

accommodate (two m's)
woman--singular, women--plural.

I really think the Post ought to do a better job of proofreading its output.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 9:39 AM

equal_too:

"I'm not proposing every activity is split down the middle BUT equal investment in careers by two competent people leads to balance. I'd propose both partners work flex/compressed/or reduced hours to achieve this."

It can lead to balance -- but it may not.

In my case, specialization has lead to an interdependent balance as a couple. As a result, together we are much more successful than we would be if you just summed our individual abilities.

If you both have a deep respect for the contributions that each makes to the marriage than balance can be achieved in a variety of ways -- one size does not fit all.

Posted by: A Dad | November 22, 2006 9:41 AM

"We -- and our chances for overhauling the work environment"

What an arrogant concept. The self-righteousness apparent in all of this mommy wars clap trap is astounding.

Posted by: Double 0 Zero | November 22, 2006 9:43 AM

Super Dad asked:
Why would any intelligent, educated, professional woman drop out of the work force and waste their time just to change diapers, push strollers, and join the neighborhood gossip group?

Wow. You really have no clue. First of all, being a mother to small children and working full time is EXHAUSTING. (Especially if you are still breastfeeding.) Many women get no support at work and although they may be intelligent, educated and professional, a lot don't even like their jobs. Not to mention the fact that stay at home moms don't just change diapers, push strollers and gossip. They also interact with their children, spend quality time with them, etc. If all you see in your children is changing diapers and pushing strollers, I doubt you are a "super dad."

Posted by: D's mum | November 22, 2006 9:46 AM

To Anon at 9:28

"It is selfish for other women to hold that against me. What we want out of life may be very different, and I am not judging you, so you do not get to judge me."
--
Is it not selfish for you to make decisions without considering whether they would negatively impact people outside of your immediate family? Do we not have a responsibility to consider the interests of people other than a spouse and/or children?

There are all kinds of personal decisions that we feel free to criticize or judge people for. If you smoke around me, I have the right to complain that your smoke may harm me. If you are my neighbor and let your yard grow over with weeds, I have the right to be upset that you are harming my property values. None of this means that I have the right to make you stop smoking or make you mow your lawn. But, I have the right to question you.

Why should personal decisions on family matters be different? If they affect other people, those other people have the right to question them (although not the right to take away your choice).

Posted by: Social Scientist | November 22, 2006 9:47 AM

The original just a thought:

"thanks again for the reply, I think we just have to agree to disagree on this one."

Again, a pleausre.

"Although I am happy to hear one of them went into teaching! We need all the motivated, intelligent teachers we can get."

One might say that all of them 'went into teaching' -- just in different ways :-)

[As an aside, she had been a teacher but stopped to stay at home full-time. Now that her children are in elementary school, she's returned to the profession. It turns out a solid education -- Master's from Harvard -- helps with re-entering the workforce even after 8 years of absence.]

Posted by: A Dad | November 22, 2006 9:48 AM

There are pros and cons either way. I was able to stay at home with my baby for his first 18 mos. This was very important to both me and my husband. Eventually, I had to return to work to support my family when my husband lost his job. My skills were more marketable than his. One important thing to remember is that a woman who stays out of the work force for years makes herself and her children vulnerable should her husband die, get sick, leave, get fired etc...When my husband and I eventually divorced my economic situation actually improved because I didn't have to support him anymore.

Posted by: Melt | November 22, 2006 9:49 AM

Wowzers! My wife is a doctor. She spent 4yrs in college, 4yrs med school, 4yrs residency, and over $100K. She worked full-time for 2 yrs then we had kids. She cut back to 30hrs, 20, then finally quit when we had the 3rd child. Now she works as a "float" or a temp doctor.

I guess this means she let down the working woman tribe, put back their cause a few years, betrayed her kind, disappointed her "mentors", let fall the flag of women's equality, is a failure in other women's eyes? She didn't sign up for any of those causes. She didn't join any women's movement. She's very happy in her decision to cut back and ultimately stay home. The 3 kids are the greatest beneficiaries of her decision, and family life is much happier. It's a sacrifice of income but an invaluable gain in family and relationships.

Everyone has their own reasons for making these decisions. What works for me might not work for you, and what works for you might not work for me. Withold your judgement for you do not walk in my shoes, nor do you share my worldview. Our family has found that wife working even part-time is not a workable solution with 3 kids. We have chosen the SAHM route, if maybe for a few years, we'll see. It works for us so I would ask that you respect our decision and withold your condescension.

And I will add that being the type of doctor she is, there's no such thing as working-from-home. Work means face time in the office with patients every 20 mins. The only work-from-home happens when she is on call and has to answer phones through the night.

Posted by: TinkyWinky | November 22, 2006 9:50 AM

I should also add, I think working moms (and dads) should also consider how their decisions to work and raise children affect the world around them...

Posted by: Social Scientist | November 22, 2006 9:52 AM

How great! I come from a family of teachers, so I'm always happy to hear that they've got another good "convert" - even if she's re-converting after being home with kids. Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by: The original just a thought | November 22, 2006 9:54 AM

Super Dad //Us men don't care. We just want everybody to be happy. Also, I don't know of any man that is threatened by women in the work place. few are competitive, and for those who are, haven't figured out that it is much easier to get ahead by working with men instead of against them. As always the case, there are exceptions. //

Well put, I second that comment. In my work experience, I've never been "competitive" with another colleague. We all just focus on the task at hand and work together to get the job done. At performance reviews, we are graded on our individual efforts, accomplishments, and ability to work together as a team. No one toots their own horn. Well, actually there are one or two, but they usually become executives in no time. :)
Then they don't do any work after that. :) :)

Posted by: Mr.Honda | November 22, 2006 9:55 AM

I hope someday that we won't be discussing men's reactions to women leaving the workplace to raise children. Someday, my heart's desire is that we are instead discussing co-worker's reactions to parents leaving the workplace (or reducing hours/flexing work) to raise children. I think we're ready to shift our thinking away from childraising being the ultimate responsibility of the mom (except in single-mom situations, or lesbian parents of course) and put this equally in the laps of both parents.

When parents learn they are expecting, I hope that standard practice will be for them to lay both careers on the table and come up with the best option rather than default to marginalizing or ending the woman's career.

I agree with equal_too...but then again I'd better. Hi, honey!

Posted by: equal | November 22, 2006 9:56 AM

Tinky Winky - your wife "sign[ed] up for any of those causes" and joined the women's movement the second she entered medical school where women weren't allowed for the most part until 50 years ago.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 9:58 AM

A Dad: Just as one size doesn't fit all in creating balance, there are different scales of success. Specialization may lead to more money as one person shoots for the stars while the other takes care of the home. However, multiple careers offers more diversity of income and the potential for each parent to spend more time with the kids. I'd suggest you would appreciate your partner's contribution to the family more if you had the kids alone an equivalent amount of time.

Posted by: equal_too | November 22, 2006 9:58 AM

Social Scientist:

You wrote:"Does this mean that I think a woman shouldn't stay at home? No, not necessarily. But, she should be able to defend her position for why her decision is a good and ethical one. Why do the benefits of her staying at home with her family outweigh the costs to society/other women? Is it "fair" that she be asked to weigh these issues into her decision-making? No. It sucks. But that doesn't relieve one of the ethical duty."

To follow this line of reasoning, women are strongly under-represented in many blue-collar professions [construction work, electricians, plumbers]. When intelligent, hard-working women choose to attend college and not enter these blue-collar professions they further enhance the stereotype that women are not suited for these positions. So, should we be recommending that less women enter college?

Just trying to see where you are going with this...

Posted by: A Dad | November 22, 2006 10:02 AM

Speaking as someone who is currently doing double-duty while I cover for a fellow employee out on maternity leave for 8 MONTHS, I fully support women leaving the workforce to have kids. If my fellow employee did in this case, someone else would have been hired to her position, instead of management accomodating her extraordinarily long leave of absence by dumping her work on the likes of me. My predicament is made worse by the fact that, since the mom-to-be was consistently out of the office at doctor visits before she took leave, the projects that she has left me are behind schedule and in bad shape.

In general, as a single person wihout kids, I'm fed up with the fact that I am consistently asked to pick up the slack for people who have to leave early to pick little Johnny up from band camp, and who have a fail-safe excuse to NEVER put in the overtime that we single folks are expected/required to work. I know your kids are important things in the world to you, but they aren't the most important thing in the world to everyone else. If you can't figure out how to satisfactorily perform as a mommy and an employee at the same time, pick the most important role (clearly mommy), and get the hell out of the way so the rest of us can get some work done!

Posted by: put upon | November 22, 2006 10:03 AM

I think it totally depends on the person. I've heard of just as many men who want their wives to work as those who don't want their wives to work. And frankly - the former is far more controlling than the latter.

And until I started reading on this blog, I hadn't even heard of the concept of my staying home hurting other women or of my ethical responsibility to stay in the work force - so that idea obviously can't be attributed to gender, since I have come into contact with a lot of women who certainly don't feel that way in my life.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 10:03 AM

equal_to:

"However, multiple careers offers more diversity of income and the potential for each parent to spend more time with the kids. I'd suggest you would appreciate your partner's contribution to the family more if you had the kids alone an equivalent amount of time."


Again, yes and no.

In our case, specialization has certainly lead to a significant increase in income -- but it has also lead to a situation in which I can work from the home and spend considerable time with my children.

I certainly appreciate my wife's contributions - we are a team and there is no way either of us would be successful without the other. But we also have different strengths, and we use them to the benefit of both of us -- and to the benefit of our family.

I'm not suggesting our approach is 'the right way' -- I'm just trying to indicate that every couple needs to establish their own way and one size does not fit all.


Posted by: A Dad | November 22, 2006 10:09 AM

To A Dad:
Interesting question....
If we are concerned that women are under-represented in the traditional trade occupations (and some may argue that we should be -- these are good paying jobs for those without college educations), then perhaps we should be encouraging more women to go into them. I'm not sure we should be doing this by telling women not to go to college. Women are still also under-represented among most of the occupations that require the highest levels of education.

But, almost 50% of all young women do not even start college. I would argue that we should focus there -- instead of just encouraging high-school educated young men to take up these trades, we should also be encouraging our high-school educated young women to do so.

Posted by: Social Scientist | November 22, 2006 10:11 AM

Stacey seems to be having a hard time lately. Give her a break! She's been through a lot lately, has 2 kids to take care of, and is probably nervous and stressed about having to host the Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.

I'm disappointed that she canned Jokester though!

Posted by: Super Dad | November 22, 2006 10:12 AM

Denizen -- Choice is good. No right or wrong choices in my opinion, as long as you have choices.

I need to work for many reasons. But I have cut back on my work (both in terms of hours, income and ambition) since I've had kids. Not working at all isn't right for me -- but it clearly is for many women, no matter what financial planners or other women or men say about it. It is a personal choice and those of us who truly have choices are lucky.

Posted by: Leslie | November 22, 2006 10:15 AM

put upon - I agree, and posted similarly above, nice to see your comments. Married peole have many advantages that singles don't and then proceed to demand more, IMO.

Posted by: jerry | November 22, 2006 10:17 AM

This is an interesting question. I have two cousins about 6 years older than me. Both got married when they were around 26 years old. One cousin started her familly and had three kids. Her husband had a good mangement job in a grocery store national headquarters. He wanted her to stay home "for the kids" because that's the way he was raised and he felt it was best. She agreed. Now the two oldest are out of high school and her husband is a very successful and wealthy businessman. He started his own business about 7 years ago. His wife began working part-time in the school system, teaching challenged kids, and that provided the family with insurance. I would say that they are very happy with the decision they made. My cousin was never a career woman, and she likes the work she does now.

My other cousin got married and continued working for several years. Her husband decided to go to law school using a small inheritance from his grandmother. Other than that, my cousin supported them financially during his school years. When he got his degree and a job, they started their family. She quit work, with his encouragement, to be with their two kids and he built his law practice, eventually going out on his own. Again, he has become very successful and wealthy, after not working for perhaps 12 years, she now manages his law office.

Both of these couples are in their late 40s and see themselves as "partners". Plenty of people here will say, "those rich husbands could divorce the wives and leave them with nothing" but I don't see it happening. These couples had the same views of marriage, family, partnership, etc. To me, they seem to have made pretty good lives for themselves.

Posted by: Joyce | November 22, 2006 10:20 AM

To DrMommy, who's point is that a stay at home mom should return to the workplace to share the tax burden with working DrMommy. DrMommy feels she is unfairly subsidizing the stay at home mom.

Should everyone work 80 hours weeks, so that the freeloading 40 hour weekers aren't getting a free ride at the expense of 80 hour weekers? Should the person who chooses a less demanding and lower paying profession to devote energies to outside interests choose the more demanding profession in the interest of tax fairness? I think you have to answer yes to these questions if you believe the answer is yes for stay at home moms. And then you're really debating a socio/economic philosophy that extends far beyond the question of work or stay at home moms.

Posted by: Etin | November 22, 2006 10:23 AM

To: A Dad

To follow up on Leslie's point, your wife may be happy as a SAHM now. But she won't be so happy with the decision if you aren't around to provide for her and your family.

She may be the best darn diaper changer or playdate arranger or PTA rep on the block, but that does not pay very well outside of the home.

Posted by: drmommy | November 22, 2006 10:24 AM

I think people are trained to see discrimination these days and you are making money writing a column on it. Women don't have to sign up for the draft and they benefit from affirmative action and being able to start 8a companies, which white males cannot do. I would stop whining about what you don't have and realize that you are lucky to have what you do have. Other people can work just as hard and be discriminated against (white males) and it's just too damn bad.

Posted by: Falls Church | November 22, 2006 10:27 AM

I think it's a waste of resources for women to have lots of kids and stay at home for a long time after getting elite educations, and I am a little creeped out by smart women obsessed with strollers. But there's absolutely no need for them to defend their choice to stay home or consider the hypothetical harms staying home does to the "cause." The idea that women ought to think of others rather than prioritizing their own careers is *exactly* the reason that women fall behind in the workplace. Women should make the work/non-work choices that suit them and their immediate families, period.

Posted by: ms. esq | November 22, 2006 10:30 AM

to etin:

My main point is about her putting downward pressure on the salaries of working women.

If her decision to work more/less/not were to impact both genders equally, then your argument would hold. But it does not.

Posted by: drmommy | November 22, 2006 10:32 AM

to Put Upon:

Why don't you talk to your supervisor about your unfair workload? If your higher-ups are unresponsive to the unfair situation, why don't you look for another job with a better environment?

You'd rather just whine and enjoy feeling like a victim, wouldn't you? It's always someone else's fault that you're unhappy -- those darn parents, that awful boss. Why don't you TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN LIFE and make some changes? If you're such a great, productive worker, it should be no problem to find another position with a more tenable workload.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 10:32 AM

The decision to raise a family is a responsibility that should be well considered prior to the birth of a child. Me and my husband talked and planned that one of us would stay home with the kids. We decided that the best situation for the kids would be for my husband to stay home and I would work. Many factors went into this including: who is the better teacher for kids? who had more patience? and yes of course who should stay working because of the financial responsibilities.

My husband an attorney was the one to stay home with the kids. So money was NOT the deciding factor.

I fortunately have taken a career path that was flexible and that ultimately led me to a serious of jobs with the ability to work from home. So for me working from home full time and knowing my husband was there with the kids was the GREATEST arrangement!

And I don't expect my husband to return to the work force until the kids are in college. Our priority is the children and to make sure they grow into happy and healthy children as they transition into adulthood and to ALWAYS be there for them.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 10:33 AM

I think my husband and I have solved this issue in an interesting way - I wonder if more couples will be adopting it. We are both attorneys (we met and married in law school) and we decided that we would have kids immediately. So now we are expecting our first at age 27. I am staying home until our kids are preschool age and THEN I will start my career. I figure I should still be under 40. My logic was that it's a lot easier to be a lawyer at 42 than to get pregnant and have a baby. Why fight nature? At that time, if he wants to, my husband might pull back some into a less competitive or demanding job so HE will be the one more available. I am not worried abou the current inequality in our earning because I certainly could support myself or my entire family if need be. I know when I do enter the work force I will be a better employee for not having to worry about my biological clock, or having co-workers or bosses wonder whether I'd turn up pregnant at any time - by then I'll have my tubes tied for sure!

Happy Thanksgiving to all - let's keep it civil here today, whaddaya say?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 10:34 AM

drmommy: She may be the best darn diaper changer or playdate arranger or PTA rep on the block, but that does not pay very well outside of the home.


That's true, but not everything is about pay. "A Dad" probably makes enough for them to have a decent living. I'm guessing that they have decent life insurance too. They've chosen to forego her income so she can take care of the children and the household and contribute in other ways to society. That is great. We've done the same and it's been great as well.

I respect "A Dad" and his family for the choices they have made, and they are as vital a contributor to society as any full-time working mom, if not more so.

Posted by: TinkyWinky | November 22, 2006 10:34 AM

DrMommy, how many times does the scenario that you mention above -- the father and breadwinner passing away unexpectedly -- actually happen? Often there is a savings account and insurance in case that DOES happen, and it can tide over a family while the mother finds work. I have to say, I'd rather make my decisions about how I want to live, and save and be well insured, rather than always be thinking "he could DIE tomorrow and we'd be lost!" If a family takes this possibility into account, then in the unlikely event it happens, the fact that there was some foresight can help them through the crisis.

There are always what-ifs. Life can't be planned perfectly. It seems to me that happiness lies in making your choices and doing your best to make them work and be happy with them.

Posted by: Joyce | November 22, 2006 10:35 AM

To Jerry "Married peole have many advantages that singles don't and then proceed to demand more, IMO."

My coworker took 6 months of leave because of cancer. Should I resent cancer patients getting leave simply because I don't have cancer?

Some people are so obsessed with what's *fair* that they lose sight of what's just, sensible and right for the overall good of society.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 10:35 AM

And my post to a dad goes both ways - a SAHD is also in trouble if the money maker stops providing.

Posted by: drmommy | November 22, 2006 10:36 AM

Wow! Some of the posts on this blog truly astound me. The idea that a woman who wants to and can afford to stay home with kids shouldn't because it might negatively impact other women who stay in the workforce and society's good is more important than her own is something I've never even considered - it's just too bizarre! (I note that no one seems to be asserting that a father who stays home full time is negatively impacting other men in the work force, and I don't know why - maybe it's just too rare.)

I firmly believe that the choice is up to the family in question. We all make choices in our lives that impact society in one way or another, but we get to make them. I'm an engineer; I happen to think that there are way too many lawyers. I'd like to see all law schools close down for a few years to get rid of the glut. But when my niece and nephew (they're not siblings) both tell me they want to go to law school, that's their choice and I don't get to over rule it.

(It's true that I get to have an opinion, but heck, I have opinions on lots of things that don't have any impact on what happens. I once heard it said that opinions are like certain body parts - we all have them, they mostly stink and they shouldn't be shared in polite society.:-)

In our own case, I honestly didn't want my wife to quit and stay home, but after our fourth child was born she did. She was working for the Federal Government as an Intelligence Analyst; doing work she hated for an organization she didn't trust and for a boss (female, FWIW) she truly despised - and after daycare, commuting and other work-related expenses were factored in, bringing home a grand total of $3.50 an hour! There was no way to get her to stay.

The bottom line is this: it's up to the individuals in question, and while others certainly can't be stopped from having opinions, they should keep them to themselves.

In response to Leslie's original question - do men want women to quit? In my line of business, no: we don't have enough skilled network engineers as it is; it hurts to lose one. But if that's what they want to do, more power to them.

Posted by: Another Dad | November 22, 2006 10:36 AM

tinkywinky - and if 'a dad' leaves her? I deliberately did not say how she ended up alone.

Posted by: drmommy | November 22, 2006 10:37 AM

~Women~

Women can multi-task
Woman are supportive
Woman are flexible
Women are open-minded
Women are caring
Women are loving
Women are honest
Women can be a better "dad"
Women a fighters

Women can walk in a skirt, on 4 inch stilettos, chew gum and still work it baby!

WOMEN ROCK!


Posted by: TWO KIDS-9FINCHES-ONE DOG -and a big baby (husband) | November 22, 2006 10:38 AM

I still think women, not men, are our own worst enemy. We had one of our state legislators, Democrat Kyrtsen Sinema, stir up a controversy centered on comments she made in an interview with lifestyle magazine 944: "I'm worried that we are regressing. For instance, this supposed New Feminism. These women who act like staying at home, leeching off their husbands or boyfriends, and just cashing the checks is some sort of feminism because they're choosing to live that life."

Nice, huh? Stay-at-home moms are leeches. And that's from one of our state legislators.

Posted by: single western mom | November 22, 2006 10:39 AM

For the record, I only said that I feel I can judge the decision to for a woman to sah because it negatively impacts me. Not that someone else should not be able to make this decision as some posters have mistakenly interpreted. Both the decision to leave and my decision to judge are equally our within our rights.

Posted by: drmommy | November 22, 2006 10:40 AM

Bring back the Jokester! The jokes were funny and sure made a nice break when these boards turned nasty.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 10:40 AM

For the record, I like it when I get to take over projects of my co-workers, for whatever reason. It gives me the opportunity to expand my experiences and gives me a chance to meet other people. I do what I can, and if the work doesn't get done, the earth spins around, and the work waits for the next day. Accepting work is a sure-fire recipe for success, and that is probably why I get paid a decent salary.

I have little respect for those childless workers that feel put upon by having to do so much work that they feel the need to take time out to whine about it on a blog. If you think you're not getting compensated enough for your work, demand a raise. If you get one, great! If you don't, you will find out how much your work is really worth.

Posted by: Super Dad | November 22, 2006 10:41 AM

"Here's my personal opinion, there are women who pursue education and a professional career because they can and, to some extent, feel obligated to but really want to have children and stay at home. Then there's women who have a passion for their work and would continue to do so regardless (I think my wife falls into this category). Of course this is a continuum and most professional women aren't at the extreme ends but tend toward one side more than the other. Thus, our role as men (either in the capacity as husbands or coworkers) isn't to encourage either choice, but support women in fulfilling their true desire.

Posted by: An Dliodoir | November 22, 2006 07:37 AM"

Hooray for this comment! Women are individuals, and they should make the choices that work for their families. Although I would add that I also agree wholeheartedly with MM that it must be a family decision; therefore, it can't just be about the woman's desire, but about what will work for the family as a whole - the man's desire should count too.

Although I can understand the sense of disappointment, I think those that blame SAHM's for making things harder for working women are misplacing their ire. It is the managers and bosses who wrongly rely on a stereotype rather than an individual's abilities to make decisions that deserve the wrath in this case. There are a million ways a potential employee of either sex can turn out to be a bad bet: they could quit to raise kids, they could be slackers, they could leave to work for a competitor, they could play fantasy sports all day, they could embezzle millions, and on and on. Every employee is a risk, man or woman, and any employer who doesn't recognize that is probably making poor decisions.

Posted by: Megan | November 22, 2006 10:43 AM

"I know when I do enter the work force I will be a better employee for not having to worry about my biological clock, or having co-workers or bosses wonder whether I'd turn up pregnant at any time - by then I'll have my tubes tied for sure!"

Are you planning to list "tubes tied" on your resume or bring it up during job interviews? Perhaps it's better that you don't ever practice law.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 10:45 AM

To Dr. Mommy:
tinkywinky - and if 'a dad' leaves her? I deliberately did not say how she ended up alone.

I've never been divorced, but I know a number of people who have (brother, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, several friends) and I've never seen one where either partner was left destitute (okay, except after paying the lawyer bills). And if you look at what happened in the divorce case of former MD Governor Glendenning, who dumped his wife of 19 years for his chief of staff, you'll see what often happens in cases like this. Bluntly, he got taken to the cleaners in the divorce (quite well deserved in my opinion).


It all comes down to proper planning.

If you don't have life insurance and/or disability insurance, then yes you're running a risk of financial hardship, but that's true with one working parent or two.

If you haven't planned for what happens when one spouse "leaves", then you're running the risk of financial hardship, but that's true with one working parent or two.

(In both cases, it's probably a lower risk with two parties working than one, but it depends on each spouse's ability to maintain a lifestyle on one income plus supplemental cash, whether insurance or alimony/child support.)

Posted by: Another Dad | November 22, 2006 10:46 AM

To youngin,

I completely understand your dilemma - I have a similar friend from law school and it's hard not to be judgmental and amazed, but as you get older, you will try to just realize that you are different and thus make decisions in a different way. We now laugh about how I asked her flat out why she bothered to go to law school and how she's excited to have kids and be a SAHM. I think we're both trying to respect the differences between us, while realizing that we probably will never fully understand them.

Posted by: Betty | November 22, 2006 10:48 AM

To: Posted by: | November 22, 2006 10:34 AM

Your solution is the standard "woman stays home while Man continues his career". Why not try something unique like both working part time since you both have equivalent careers. It would also allow your husband more time with the kids. Of course, you'd have to deal more concretely with your husband's opinions of how the home is run. Can you LET GO of owning the homefront?

Posted by: equal_too | November 22, 2006 10:50 AM

Re: Jokester. Stacey took down Jokester's comments yesterday b/c content on this blog is supposed to relate somehow to work/family. I agree that despite the lameness of some of the jokes they provided a light touch that is good for the discussion. So Jokester -- can you try to make your jokes SOMEHOW relate to work/family balance or lack thereof?

Posted by: Leslie | November 22, 2006 10:51 AM

Really, what are these Mommy JDs who are so happy to SAH after finishing their 200K educations going to do all day when jr. is at school? I am truly befuddled by this question and would appreciate enlightenment.

Posted by: ms. esq | November 22, 2006 10:53 AM

drmommy // tinkywinky - and if 'a dad' leaves her? I deliberately did not say how she ended up alone.//

I can only speak for myself. I go into marriage fully committed, 'till death do us part. Call me naive, but to this woman I give my life. Forever. And it is mutual.
We said a vow to each other before friends, family, God. We don't go into marriage with a plan for divorce. We don't have a secret personal divorce safety net. You might call it poor planning, naive, irresponsible, whatever. I call it marriage.

Posted by: TinkyWinky | November 22, 2006 10:53 AM

"For the record, I only said that I feel I can judge the decision to for a woman to sah because it negatively impacts me. Not that someone else should not be able to make this decision as some posters have mistakenly interpreted."

--
I agree here with drmommy. I firmly agree that choice is a good thing. I would never advocate that all women must work, or that the good of society should necessarily outweigh the good of the individual or family. In fact, there are many cases where I would argue that staying at home to raise children is the right thing to do.

But, I DO think its important for women AND men to really think about how their actions affect the larger world, and to recognize that just because something is "personal" doesn't mean that there are no public consequences to it.

I'm tired of people simply saying, "its my choice, mind your own *!@! business". In my opinion, this is unethical and irresponsible. An ethical, responsible adult should think through their actions, be aware of how they are impacting other people, and be able to justify those actions given the ways in which they impact other people.

Posted by: Social Scientist | November 22, 2006 10:54 AM

BIGGER PICTURE

Parents- down the road we are wondering:

* Why our kids are bringing GUNS to school?

* Why are they doing drugs?

* Why are they dropping out of school?

* Why do they have psychological problems so young?

* Why are having un- protected sex?

* why are they so lazy?

* Why are they so over weight /obese?

* Why are they suffering from anorexia?

* Why are they having babies at age 15?

Where was dad and mom when I needed u the most...hummm!

IT ALL COMES BACK TO GROUND ZERO !

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 10:57 AM

Posted by: | November 22, 2006 10:34 AM --

The babies first work second does sound like a good idea, except for that it might have been wiser to get your foot in the door at a big firm first. It's going to be harder on you to have NO legal work history at all when you start looking in 5/6 years. You won't have established any professional relationships.

Posted by: ms. esq | November 22, 2006 10:58 AM


Many years ago, in a college _History of Mathematics_ class, I recall reading E.T. Bell's _Men of Mathematics_ (yes, among its biographies it did contain one woman) . . . I enjoyed the biographies and many of the intellects featured were true Renaissance men, contributing to multiple fields before academic specialization was required --- so many of their accomplishments were well-known to me, as a physicist.

However, E.T. Bell was a real math chauvinist. He would chronicle these men's intellectual history and contributions to mathematics, then throw in a comment like, "Then, regrettably, X was diverted by more prosaic questions for the next 2 decades. The world of mathematics will be forever deprived of the contributions he might have made . . ." Often, the 'diversions' he didn't deign to describe were seminal contributions to physics, biology, other fields . . . accomplishments we still exult in today. Often more foundational - and bringing enlightenment to more people - than some highly narrow and technical question E.T. Bell might have preferred to see addressed.

There will always be those who see contributions only along a very narrow and constrained, externally defined, track as valid, and all else as a waste of time and potential. But we bring the sum of our insights and skills and intellectual approach to every challenge we take on, and we can *choose* the beneficiaries of our efforts. Relying on the marketplace as ultimate arbiter of how to best channel our talents seems really perverse . . . It may be necessary from a financial point of view, but is hardly a moral arbiter of what is a worthwhile use of our talents.

And even as some moms may leave the narrowly defined track of their profession of origin, they may do it greater service by carrying it out into the wider world, integrating an appreciation of it into their children's schools and the wider community. Just because nobody will pay for a 'job' does not mean it has no value!

Posted by: KB | November 22, 2006 10:58 AM

"Me and my husband talked and planned that one of us would stay home with the kids."

My husband and I!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 11:00 AM

I know everyone will get that the "all comes back to ground zero" post makes no sense, but I can't resist. Dropping out of school, laziness (which I'll categorize as doing poorly in school), overweight and having babies at age 15 are all correlated with lower income households, not households where two educated parents want to work and do so successfully. They have their own problems, I just submit you are using bad examples to make your point.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 11:00 AM

This is a worthwhile discussion topic, but one that is deserving of more rigorous analysis than the anecdotal evidence offered by the author.

For example, I am male, have an MBA and consulting work experience; is the author's former classmate supposed to represent my views? I hope not.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 11:01 AM

I know I'll get attacked for this, but too bad, I'm entitled to my beliefs. A woman leaving a career for "family" is a failure and in some cases, her workplace is a failure too.

I'm not saying family is not important and women with careers love and value their families as much as the SAHM. A woman who works provides material things a family needs and wants (health insurance, retirement funds, college funds, etc) AND is an amazing example to her children. Women who stay at home do carpool.

And I think employers and mentors have every right to be disappointed in women who "opt out". I was an employer and had some women employees with children and was frequently disappointed by them. And this is/was a career with much flexibility and ability to "balance". These women are and were failures in my opinion. It was just so much easier to not even try.

And yes, there are many men in many fields who not only are happy that women "opt out", but also just assume that they do. It's amazing at how blantant employers can be during the interview process too. I've been asked more than once if I was married, had children and if so what I planned to do for childcare. Clearly illegal.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 11:01 AM

This blog seems to be really repetitive. No matter what the question, the answers seem to degenerate into the same people making the same points as they did yesterday and the day before.

Anyway. Getting back to the original question.

I know some men who feel relief when a talented woman quits. As in: one less person he has to compete with. Earlier in my career I worked with a guy who was resentful when a female colleague who he felt was just average in qualifications got a plum job (he felt she was favored over more qualified males because she was a woman. I'm sure he'd have been happy if she'd quit and that job opened up again. I didn't necessarily disagree with him on the specifics (I thought she was pretty average too) but he wouldn't have gotten the job if she didn't so it all seemed sort of moot to me, as in "Why are you wasting your time worrying about this when you should be improving your CV!")

But then I'm sure other men feel differently, whether for altruistic or self-interested reasons. As in: if the workplace systematically ousts women, they might oust my wife and then my family's income would decrease.

And I'm sure that if the situation were reversed that some women would feel relieved if they could reduce the competitive pressure from men thus allowing themselves to get plum jobs.

I originally thought the blog question was "do men want their WIVES to quit work?"

Posted by: m | November 22, 2006 11:02 AM

I question the self-awareness of any woman who would judge her female colleague for taking time off to devote to her family. If a female employee is really that bothered to see another woman doing what makes her happy then maybe she needs to take a good look at what's driving her. Is she really "doing it all" because of her earnest devotion to bettering the universe for womenkind? Or is it really just all about trying to prove her own value in the world (and the decision another woman makes to devalue work for family puts that strategy for being valued into question?). The same argument hold true for the SAHMs who judge working women so harshly, nobody likes their value system being thrown into questions by somebody else's different strategy. I find that very few people (even the activists I know) are really pursuing any of their life goals for a truly altruistic reason, there's always something in it for them. One of the big revelations of adulthood is that we are all basically doing what we do for our own selfish reasons; the female CEO and the mother of five are both the same, trying to leave their mark on the world and not be forgotten. So, I would argue that trying to guilt woment into pursuing careers for the sake of the sisterhood is a big waste of time, and that making work more attractive and manageable for mothers is the one realistic solution. Whenever you see a woman "drop out" for motherhood then be reminded and motivated by that rather than wasting your time being so judgmental.

Posted by: rumicat | November 22, 2006 11:02 AM

Why so nasty, DrMommy? Are you bitter that you can't stay home with your kids?

"If I work and you stay at home, I am paying taxes that pays for both of our police, garbage collection, etc. You are not paying for these services."

I don't work -- I live off my saved and invested income. I've payed plenty of taxes in my lifetime.

I'm tired of people like this woman assuming that any woman who quits work for a short time to take care of her kids is 1) never going back to work again, and 2) not contributing her share to the tax pool. Puh-lease.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 11:05 AM

The most interesting assumption with this debate is that it assumes that women are either formally employed or sitting around on their tushes eating bonbons. Personally, I have made money in a few ways while at home with my kids, and expect to do more of that once they're all out of diapers. Meanwhile I volunteer for things working moms don't have time for (I'm not knocking them-- working fulltime with kids is TOUGH, my mom did it).

If we could figure out how to hang on to health benefits, I'd prefer that both my husband and I work as consultants so we can have as much power over our own lives as possible.

As for the whole "feminist" argument: if your goal is to make feminism as small a movement as possible, please continue to attack all women who make decisions to which you can't relate. Childcare is MUCH MUCH more than making sure kids are alive at the end of the day. In response to the idea that childcare is "beneath" intelligent women, children benefit from having intelligent care providers. When children benefit, society benefits. Children are not some lesser life form that suddenly becomes human at some point in their teens.

DrMommy-- you don't like that we pay less tax than you believe we would if I worked? Certainly there a bigger tax loopholes for you to be upset about?

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM... | November 22, 2006 11:05 AM

Working mothers have ALWAYS existed, whether on farms or in factories or other industries. My friend, born in 1898, worked when her child was young because it was needed, just as two incomes are often needed today. It isn't an issue of working or not, it is career or child.

So-called SAHMs were a glitch phenomenon. From the end of WWII until the mid-70s, the middle class had the security to allow a culture to develop of the gray flannel clad commuter and his little wifey, a path that seemed to only truly serve men well. What is new and to what we are still, after seventy-five years or so, adapting is the concept of 'career' women. Mrs. Robinson had mother's little helper in a bottle but today's career women who had dropped back to the mommy track take all that drive and use it to force her community into contortions over children (has there ever been a more childcentric culture??!!) Instead of hitting the Valley of the Dolls (Seconal and Valium), she lobs vitamins and Ritalin down her children.

I'm with the poster who said pick a path, quit whining and get on with it already! No sympathy for any path should be do - you CHOSE the path. That is the TRUE gain for modern women: we can CHOOSE to stay home and drive the school system nuts and develop master schedules for school pageants or we can CHOOSE to stay in the office and order the angel wings online during lunch. CHOICE we got. Now we have to learn to live with it.

Posted by: patinpa | November 22, 2006 11:05 AM

I like the idea of staying home with kids, it seems a hell of a lot easier than having to go to work every day. (And I don't buy that it's more exhausting to be a SAHM than to be a working mom who has all the same familial responsibilities in addition to a 40 hour/week paid position.)

However, one reason I will ultimately not "opt out of the work force" is that I'm too independent, educated, and hard-working for that. I can't imagine relying exclusively on my husband to provide, it seems to me that a power imbalance would be inevitable (if unspoken). My principles dictate that I'd need to be financially solvent and not resenting my husband (or god forbid, my children) for not letting me achieve my full potential.

I just wonder if I can do it all.

Posted by: not a mom | November 22, 2006 11:07 AM

My sister went back to work after both kids. She was angry because she felt everyone was watching her and waiting until she quit her job to stay home with them, which she would never do. She said that was because so many others had quit after they had kids. She had her first only 3 years after Clinton signed the FMLA bill, but she apparently didn't appreciate that.
She says that in no uncertain terms she is NOT a feminist. No way no how.

Many people asked me after I stayed home with #1 if I really liked being home and my answer was: my *husband* likes that I'm home - he doesn't ever have to go to the supermarket, the drugstore, or do any more errands, he has me around to do it.

Now that I am back to work after nearly four years (and two kids) off, I am really enjoying. I'd love it if my husband quit his job, so he'd have more flexibility (he'd probably start his own business) but things are good right now.

I think it's a very personal decision to go back to work or not, but as someone said, maybe it's only a few years. Of course, if you own the business and have made an investment in someone, then you don't want your employee to leave, no matter what. But people leave jobs all the time, and you can't guarantee that anyone - with our without children - will stay at your company.

Posted by: atlmom | November 22, 2006 11:09 AM

To putupon: um, tell your boss you need help and hire a temp or two. If not, find a new job - they are certainly not treating you correctly if you have to do two people's jobs for 8 months. Unless you just want to complain to us and not to someone who can actually help you. Then, okay, we'll listen.

Posted by: atlmom | November 22, 2006 11:11 AM

I know everyone will get that the "all comes back to ground zero" post makes no sense, but I can't resist. Dropping out of school, laziness (which I'll categorize as doing poorly in school), overweight and having babies at age 15 are all correlated with lower income households, not households where two educated parents want to work and do so successfully. They have their own problems, I just submit you are using bad examples to make your point


So are you saying that the rest of these do pertain to- households where two educated parents work and do so successfully.

* Why our kids are bringing GUNS to school?

* Why are they doing drugs?

* Why do they have psychological problems so young?

* Why are having un- protected sex?

Why are they suffering from anorexia?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 11:12 AM

I don't understand posts like BIGGER PICTURE's. "Where was dad and mom when I needed u the most...hummm!" I think he/she is trying to say that kids develop drug habits, get pregnant, have psychological problems, etc. because mom and dad work.

As a teenager 20 years ago, I had a drinking problem, used drugs, an overactive sex life, and I was bulemic. My parents were active in the church, responsible people, and my mother stayed at home instead of working. They were "there" for me, but I had problems anyway. They were not perfect parents, but not awful either and I do not blame them for my problems.

I'm just saying that if anyone here thinks that as long as you do all the "right" things as far as where/if you work, where you live, what kind of school you send your kids to, you are guaranteed to have trouble-free teenagers, forget it! Just do the best you can and hope for the best. Work, don't work, whatever you want. It is not going to be a deal-breaker for your kids' mental health.

Posted by: GettingOldMyself | November 22, 2006 11:12 AM

No, I did not explicitly or implicitly say that. I would still argue that bringing guns to school is a red state/lower income issue. All teenagers do drugs and have forever and will forever. I think they have psychological problems because they have been made the center of the universe by their work or stay at home parents from the second they get kicked out of the womb and that tends to screw those little "bundles of id" up. Unprotected sex is also nation wide and I'd argue that anorexia isn't a problem I'd worry about. There are way more fat kids raised on Cheetos and Applebees than kids who are too skinny.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 11:15 AM

I spent nearly 10K on my college degree back in the 80's (in-state tuition). I have worked full time only two years since I graduated. I worked full time the rest of the time with the exception of one year. None of the women I work with (teachers) feel betrayed, abandoned or put upon because I work part-time. One of them is very grateful because I pick up her kids from their half day school and take care of them until 4. I also have every Friday off due to scheduling issues (not mine!). When my kids are old enough I will go back full time, but until then, they will see me when they get off the bus and walk in the house, we will all eat dinner together, and the house will run somewhat smoothly. While I do not make as much money as my husband, if he were to have a break down and not be able to work, I would go back to full time in a heart beat. All that being said, having small kids is so very tiring. My first kid just did not want to sleep. If I had taken off just my standard 6 weeks of leave I would not be here today as I would have jumped off of a cliff. Sleep deprivation is torture. But freedom in this country means freedom. So if you feel that I don't bring in enough money to pay taxes that you can judge me, go ahead. It has absolutely no effect. While I did not submit the 'bigger picture' post, I tend to agree with it. For our family, having one of us at home with the kids after school and before school is more important than the possible money I might make working longer hours.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 11:17 AM

I have to say, I was taken aback by Leslie's reaction to the first anecdote, about the psych resident who decided to stay home. The men in the program were bad people because they SUPPORTED her decision? Would Leslie truly have been pleased if they had opposed it? I suspect that she may well have criticized them for arrogance in thinking that their views should trump this woman's personal choice. Should they have refused to offer any opinion? Then Leslie might well have criticized them for aloofness, for assuming that child care decisions are for women only and don't affect them.

So, help me out here. If a woman I work with tells me that she has decided to stay home with her child, what's the proper way to react? Obvoiusly, gloating like those B-school guys is obnoxious, but how do I indicate that I'm happy for her without her thinking that I'm glad she's gone?

Posted by: Tom T. | November 22, 2006 11:19 AM

To the failure poster:

I don't want to argue your general point with you, because there's no way either of us will change the other's mind.

However - I would like to know why you choose the word "failure". It seems to me that something I very mindfully chose to do - something that my husband and I planned to do from even before we were married - something that I did after years of being on the other side (being a full time working mother) - something that required financial planning before it happened - is about as far from "failing" as I can get. If I had thrown my hands up and said "I can't handle this working mom thing anymore! I'm going to take the easy way out and stay home", yes, that might be considered failing. But the vast majority of SAHMs are not in that position - so how is it "failing?"

Despite what you think of us and our contribution to society, feminism, et al - I would really like to know why SAHMs are "failing."

Posted by: momof4 | November 22, 2006 11:19 AM

My goodness, I'm feeling an urge to rant. Of course I'm not surprised that "Super Dad" wouldn't have "respect" for singles, he has so much respect for himself.

And mysterious "l" (what is that character anyway) figures I must be jealous of someone with cancer, not there's a rational argument.

I'd say the two of you are perfect examples of how married people proceed to bend society to their own benefit. For bullies like you the interests of all employees really isn't an issue in this discussion, is it?

That's why people like me, and "put upon," are complaining.

Interesting that you also turn to attack my salary and job, neither of which you have the first clue about -- more cheap tactics employed the most self-interested poseurs among us here.

Posted by: jerry | November 22, 2006 11:20 AM

So, in the original post, Ms. Steiner assumes that the men in her acquaintance's residency program were supportive because they wanted to eliminate the competition? That's a lovely assumption.

The problem in any medical residency, though, is that when one resident quits, the remaining residents have to cover her call and her inpatient responsibilities. (This happened to me repeatedly as a resident when two colleagues left my program.) The men supported her knowing that they would have to work harder when she left. I would not be so quick to ascribe evil motives to them. Nice try, though.

Posted by: rcm | November 22, 2006 11:21 AM

"I'm glad some people you know realized their "gift" later on in life - but there are plenty of people who figure out they are really, really lucky early on to use it for someone besides themselves and wiping their kids noses.

Posted by: | November 22, 2006 09:09 AM"

Now I know where you are coming from. Women that stay home are just snot wipers to you. Impossible to believe that even the smartest women would WANT to stay home and raise their children. Are you a Wharton school graduate?

Posted by: cmac | November 22, 2006 11:22 AM

TinkyWinky said
"I can only speak for myself. I go into marriage fully committed, 'till death do us part. Call me naive, but to this woman I give my life. Forever. And it is mutual.
We said a vow to each other before friends, family, God. We don't go into marriage with a plan for divorce. We don't have a secret personal divorce safety net. You might call it poor planning, naive, irresponsible, whatever. I call it marriage."


Oooh, I am fawning. Your wife is so lucky!

It's always to nice to know that there are some who are "old school". These days we hear too often people planning for their wedding and their divorce at the same time.

Posted by: Sarah | November 22, 2006 11:23 AM

No, I did not explicitly or implicitly say that. I would still argue that bringing guns to school is a red state/lower income issue. All teenagers do drugs and have forever and will forever. I think they have psychological problems because they have been made the center of the universe by their work or stay at home parents from the second they get kicked out of the womb and that tends to screw those little "bundles of id" up. Unprotected sex is also nation wide and I'd argue that anorexia isn't a problem I'd worry about. There are way more fat kids raised on Cheetos and Applebees than kids who are too skinny.

I hope you are not just visiting the Washington Post website for today... I hope that you watch the news every day and are aware of everything going on around- your world.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 11:23 AM

Is every one on here a lawyer?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 11:25 AM

To cmac - it is impossible for me to believe that the smartest women want to stay home and raise their kids. But I guess there some who do - I just think they are wasting one of their blessings.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 11:25 AM

It really is about doing what is best for your family and situation. Our responsibility to society when we raise children is to raise the very best human beings that we can because they become the society that all of us have to live in. I believe that this is more important than just working because you don't want to let others down. It really is about choices and we all must make them and live with them.

I also think we are a little sensitive about this whole support thing. I guess I just don't expect the whole world to agree with all of my choices, so I tend to consider the immediate people that it will affect. If I lived my life to please the masses, I would be insane!

Also, what better mother to raise children than one who is highly educated? Not that uneducated mothers can't teach their children anything, but I believe that children benefit from daily contact with people who can stretch them intellectually and who have experiences to share with them. Children are precious gifts and should be treated as such.

Please do what is best for your children, whether it be staying at home or working!

Posted by: bjeaneen | November 22, 2006 11:25 AM

I think Ms. Steiner has way too much of an "us versus them" thing going on. It also turns the whole feminism thing on its head: men are actually more supportive of women having a real choice about how they lead their lives than are other women.

What message should a stay-at-home mom take from this little parable? Can they listen with a straight face if Leslie ever tries to say "yeah, I respect your choice?"

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 11:25 AM

Of course choices are choice, but much of this is just propaganda to justify puttting women to work in extra jobs. Many "super women" are just being used.

Like the rest of us.

Posted by: Gary Masters | November 22, 2006 11:25 AM

I don't see any concern on your part for the children. You need their mothers at work so you can be happy about being there? Should we be outsourcing the daily care and affection that babies need? Are they really worth so little?

Posted by: Jonathan Lash | November 22, 2006 11:25 AM

Should we be outsourcing the daily care and affection that babies need? Are they really worth so little?


So you're a stay-at-home dad, or you're definitely going to be a SAHD when you do have children? That's great! I'd hate for you to devalue your child by going out to earn a living.

Posted by: to Jonathan Lash | November 22, 2006 11:29 AM

"So, help me out here. If a woman I work with tells me that she has decided to stay home with her child, what's the proper way to react? Obvoiusly, gloating like those B-school guys is obnoxious, but how do I indicate that I'm happy for her without her thinking that I'm glad she's gone?"

Do you really think they were gloating? Leslie's perspective on this seems to have been pretty jaundiced to allow her to interpret her colleague's choice as some sort of betrayal. I strongly suspect that these guys were just doing the polite "you're happy so we're happy for you" thing (we all know it, and do it for retirements, babies, engagements, weddings, and job changes), and Leslie got her nose out of joint.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 11:30 AM

I am a wife of 15 years and the mom of two children--one 14, one 11.

My experience has been that the dialogue of work/family balance is an ongoing one. I have worked the entire lives of my children (up until 2 years ago as a bookstore manager/ buyer and since then in publishing). Each stage, each new surprise has led to a re-balancing.

While the first child was an infant, Dad went to school fulltime and then took over childcare duties while I worked. Then part-time day-care. When bedrest was necessary had to re-balance. Then when husband needed major knee surgery (on both knees) right after the second was born, had to rely on just my income. Then 7 years later when a downturn in the tech market meant six-months without work, my job became primary.

We have had no daycare, part-time daycare, private school, public school, latch-key (this past year), telecommuting, flexible scheduling, business travel, help from my sister staying with us, no help when medical problems cropped up.

When we started our lives together I had just graduated from law school. When I was in school I realized that this particular career path was not going to serve my idea of family well--so I chose a field where I loved what I did and made a career there. It was once again a case of finding the right balance.

This all being said--it has been very hard. I did not have paid maternity leave and so I had to return way too quickly. My female boss was horrible and even acted illegally with statements about how inconvenient it was for me to be a mother and how my job was at risk by taking all of 4 weeks off. She called herself a feminist but was clearly not happy with my choices. Travelling was difficult on my family when the children were younger. Quality daycare is ridiculously expensive. Traffic in DC robs hours from families time together.

I think our society should work together to make it easier to achieve balance. This 'Mommy War' over Staying-at-Home versus evil Working-Mothers seems like a way to mask the true challenges that all families face. We need healthy families to grow healthy children--who despite the jingoistic ring--are literally our society's future.

Lay off the divisive rhetoric everyone, realize that people need to make choices that serve their families needs. No decision no matter how well planned will serve as the answer to all of life's surprises--let's cut each other some slack.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Posted by: Montclair, VA | November 22, 2006 11:31 AM

"Is there an understandable desire -- for both men and women at work -- for work/family trends that benefit your gender, your choices?"

The women who frequent this blog sure seem to want other women to make the choices they personally think "support the home team," so to speak. Is this an understandable desire? No - men don't do this to each other, and it's completely contradictory to all the rhetoric about wanting women to have "more choices."

Honestly, if you think it's bad for women to stay home and raise their children, then fess up and say so. But don't then be a hypocrit and claim to celebrate "choice."

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 11:34 AM

Tinkywinky - very interesting name.

You and your wife made the decision to stay home - and this is great. She is a highly educated woman and I trust her judgement - as should others. People claim that she owes society or all of womankind a "debt" and continue to work - that is complete bunk. If/when she decides to go back to work, whether it be a doctor or trash collector (going to an extreme here), I hope she and your family remain happy. Raising happy children and good citizens is fantastic in my book.

Posted by: cmac | November 22, 2006 11:34 AM

Leslie - a suggestion: minimize the use of elite references. It polarizes your readers, and is really irrelevant to the mass of people seeking balance. That group of women with whom you went to school may be smart and motivated and worked hard to earn their degrees, but the pressures on them as they pursued their educational dreams is completely different from the majority of women and men who are working while they are going to school and are incurring huge amounts of debt to reach their goals. That's not a complaint, simply a reality. I really doubt that the woman you wrote about who attended "three elite international universities" and pursued an MD focusing on psychiatry would have dropped out of a residency if she were facing the prospects of paying back over $100K in loans to go through med school. If she did have to worry about that, she would have timed her pregnancy better. She is, after all, a physician. Socioeconomically, she is in another sphere, and can make those decisions without putting her (new) family at financial risk of default for a generation. Good for her, but I would not consider her a model of anything other than a rather spoiled young woman.

That said, I don't have any problem with intelligent women going to elite schools to pursue degrees. Where I draw the line is their decision to go to professional school - competitive, hard driving, tough environments where the GOAL is professional training to be in a particular kind of workforce. Medical school is for people who want to be doctors. Not for people who say they trained to be doctors but chose something else. It is tough and rigorous. If someone doesn't plan on being a doctor or have a plan for having it all (at least part time), then why go through that? For the joy of the hunt? It may not be the same for lawyers and MBAs, where the barriers to entry aren't quite as high, but in fields where there is such a hue and cry for the diversity, reaching out to underrepresented groups, etc., why fill the best PROFESSIONAL school slots with people who are ambivalent at best about actually pursuing the profession?

I know, I know. These women will say "I didn't know until I had my child..." etc. Fair enough, but then don't whine and complain about wanting it all and the get upset if your peers and bosses get annoyed that perhaps you were just enjoying the thrill of the hunt (the degree) rather than the next tough stage of putting it to use (the job).

Posted by: Mom of 1 | November 22, 2006 11:35 AM

My church teaches that the man is the natural head of the household and wives should submit to the will of their husbands.

My husband prefers that I stay home with our 2 children until they attend college; so my legal career has been put on hold.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 11:38 AM

The word you should have used in describing the other sex is fathers, thats what we are.Women get married for one reason, the financial security provided by the man. You paint yourselves up from an early age for no other purpose than to get married.You have children because it solidifies the marriage and makes women legitmate in the eyes of society and provides a lucerative bundle of benifits when you get divorced.With cloning just around the corner men will no longer have to subject themselves to the suicidal role of marriage and all of the problems you women constantly complain about will disappear.

Posted by: mcewen | November 22, 2006 11:38 AM

Leslie's an advocate for working women and improving benefits to allow women to work more. She can't stand not working and has said herself that her kids have caused her burnout. she's also very smart, ambitious, talented and has some feminist leanings.
If you know her perspective, you can understand why this blog is somewhat anti-SAHM, anti-men and always very divisive.

I wonder what the blog would look like if it was championed by a SAHM and had a more SAHM-bent. Or a working dad, or a SAHD? Just wondering....

And how about removing "entries that are unsigned", editor Stacey Garfinkle?
There are also a lot of personal attacks today.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | November 22, 2006 11:38 AM

The general assumption that "women will leave their jobs in a few years to have kids" hurts those of us who aren't having kids and are not leaving.

Posted by: anon | November 22, 2006 11:39 AM

it is not sexist to note the numbers - many bwomen do leave work due to having babies and wanting to stay with them. i recruit for an organization of about 3000 people and we hire women at about a rate of 3-2 over men because we have to maintain a balance over time. women are more likley to leave, emen more likely to stay. the numbers bear it out.

Posted by: john | November 22, 2006 11:40 AM

I thought the whole point of the feminist movement was about choice and not being ashamed of being a woman - this seems to have been lost somewhere and morphed into the idea that it is better to take on male stereotypes... pity...
Perhaps because children and families are such a drain on society - as seems evident by this blog - we should all stop having them and dedicate our lives to work. Apparently there is nothing else in life worth having, working for, or sacrificing for...

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 11:41 AM

"Is every one on here a lawyer?"

1. Everyone is one word
2. Not all the posters are lawyers, just the ones whose lives are defined by what they do and feel the need to brag about it

Posted by: jigga | November 22, 2006 11:45 AM

"To cmac - it is impossible for me to believe that the smartest women want to stay home and raise their kids. But I guess there some who do - I just think they are wasting one of their blessings.

Posted by: | November 22, 2006 11:25 AM"

Actually you just don't respect people's judgment, decisions and raising chilren in general. Sounds like it is your way or the highway. Are you "childless by choice" back as an anonymous poster?

Posted by: cmac | November 22, 2006 11:45 AM

Some rambling thoughts, but here goes--
I have read that raising kids is the single most important economic activity most people will perform. Why should mothers get maternity leave, and not single people? Because mothers are directly contributing to society by having kids. I don't think that either mothers or fathers who decide to stay home for a couple or a few years when they have kids are avoiding their duty to society, even if they have advanced degrees. Many women I know who did stay home have been a tremendous asset to their communities and families.

I am now in graduate school abroad (not yet a mother, although probably in the next few years). One couple whom we are friendly with have two kids, and the mother, who was the breadwinner while her husband works on his Ph.D., just quit her job and is now pursuing her Ph.D. as well. The area where we live is very friendly, with many students, and many find some kind of flexible arrangement for the first couple of years of their children's lives, adjusting their schedules, which is possible when you are a student. One couple whom we are close with came for a postdoc year from South America. They have a small child. Her profession is a speech therapist, not a profession that is easy to pursue in another language. She took a year off from work, her husband had a great opportunity here, and she was the life of our community. Now they have returned to South America and she is entering a master's program. I do have one friend, possibly the smartest student in our institute, a woman from Africa, who "should" continue to Ph.D. and into academia. She is just so talented. But I think she doesn't want to because she is single and is worried about ending up alone and childless if she continues on the academic track. I feel sad about that but it is her decision. I try to encourage her the same way that I would encourage anyone whose brilliance is so evident.

Before I came here I worked for a nonprofit where the female boss was very upset when one of the women working there quit during her third pregnancy. Our male boss was unconcerned. I think women probably are more likely to feel an emotional stake in another women's decision than men are because we see ourselves in their shoes. Men start from the assumption that they can't know what it is like in a woman's situation. Later, the same female boss supported two women working part-time as they rose in the ranks. One had children and the other didn't. The female boss did have kids, and had stayed home for some of the time when they were young, and then tried a more flexible schedule before returning full time. Working part time doesn't always mean a stagnant career, if you are focused and smart.

I was recently at a party here, and some people made an annoying generalization about the US. They took it for granted that it is better for one parent to stay home, and said that in the US, both people work, and it is because Americans are greedy and want luxury goods. I disagree with them, but at least they point out that your actions in staying home with kids or not have multiple effects on society. If you are doing it to buy more stuff, that also has an effect on society. Using the tv as a babysitter also has an effect on society...

Posted by: lizvi | November 22, 2006 11:46 AM

I have a major problem with the fact that the cost of living prevents either one or the other parents from staying home. However, this problem is not likely to be solved.

Women in the workplace is nothing new for me. I was born and grew up years after the feminist revolution, so when I hear some women reflexively railing against the system that keeps them down, I don't really get it. I understand that salary discrepancies are still an issue, but I also believe that issue is improving.
I grew up in a family in which my mother stayed at home until I was about 12. I know that during much of the day, while my sisters and I were at school, she was extremely bored. However, my dad was out of the job at 12, and my mom returned to her job as a teacher. Dad then became the "stay at home mom." Dad had different job offers that would've required moving the family, however it would've significantly improved our family's income. My dad felt that it was in the best interest of all of us to have one parent or the other at home if for no other reason that there may be something one of us kids needed from them.. so he bit the bullet and stayed home.
I think this benefited me and my sisters tremendously and I only recently realized what a sacrifice this was for him. I don't believe that it wouldn't be an equal sacrifice for women, but i think somebody ought to stay home. It's a tragedy that most american people live in areas where they rarely see there neighbors-- the workplace has become the social atmosphere for most of us-- staying can mean social isolation, boredom, and depression.
I am a fairly progressive person, but I think that there is something to be said for genetic predisposition. Women are traditionally the caretakers because it makes the most sense. They carry the children, give birth to them, and nurse them. So it is obvious that a mother should be with the child in the earliest years. However, beyond that, I think either parent could be the primary caregiver, as long as there is at least one of them available.
This ought not to be about ego, there is something far more important on the line.

Posted by: atwork | November 22, 2006 11:49 AM

I happen to be very fortunate to work in a flexible work environment where there is actually a man who cut back his own work hours to support his wife's career and take care of their kids.

Perhaps if we weren't so judgemental and hard-headed about gender roles in our society we could work out compromises that benefit everyone.

The person who should perform each task should be the most qualified in terms of time and talent. Whether or not that works out to be the previously accepted roles is not important.

Posted by: Sharon | November 22, 2006 11:50 AM


So, Mom of 1, how do you rationalize M.D./Ph.D programs? Programs redirecting M.D.s into public health/health administration? into medical research? Is it better that all M.D.'s practice, or that some work at the interface where society administers or extends medicine rationally?

Many here seem so focused on following a narrow track, whether that track fits them - or their patients - or not.

Practicing M.D.s do seem to have some severe balance issues. We had a pediatric practice on campus here for years, that I used and really liked, made up of 2 part-time women pediatricians who alternated days. They were very thoughtful and responsive and interacted well with well-educated specialists (and well-educated parents, for that matter). The university closed their practice despite much protest from the faculty - who loved the on-campus practice. The reason: covering malpractice premiums for doctors who practice part-time was prohibitively expensive. So now we have only specialists and adult doctors on campus . . .

Posted by: KB | November 22, 2006 11:51 AM

KB //The reason: covering malpractice premiums for doctors who practice part-time was prohibitively expensive//

We have lawyers to thank for that.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 11:56 AM

I think the main problem is not with someone else's decisions, but with the discussion surrounding the decisions. I have never heard of anyone asking a new father, "So, are you going to stay at home?" but I get asked already (not even pregnant!) about whether I will. My mom asks, my mother-in-law asks. I'VE gotten the "But you can't put a baby in daycare!" speech, but my husband has not. Until everyone (society, bosses, co-workers, friends, family, government) realizes that, if there are two parents around, there should be TWO PARENTS (in deed, not just word). I think it's fine if a woman works or doesn't, but the discussion shouldn't be, "Will SHE work or not" it should be surrounded by questions like, can we afford for one of us not to work? What are our values in regards to working/not working? Why? What works in our situation that will also help the child? I think it's a personal opinion, and while I agree that what one woman does could have some effect on society, I think women should open the conversation, and push for equality in the conversation. My husband knows I will not stay at home under any circumstances, but that is my decision. I think if the discussion is two-sided about TWO PARENTS, that could change things.

Posted by: Not yet a mom | November 22, 2006 11:57 AM

"So, help me out here. If a woman I work with tells me that she has decided to stay home with her child, what's the proper way to react? Obvoiusly, gloating like those B-school guys is obnoxious, but how do I indicate that I'm happy for her without her thinking that I'm glad she's gone?

Posted by: Tom T. | November 22, 2006 11:19 AM

Tom T., just be sincere and I'm sure the woman will know that you are. Although I have no doubt there are plenty of jerks like the MBA in Leslie's story, I think most of us know that there are lot more decent people who are genuinely happy when someone pursues their desires. And I think most of us are pretty good at telling the difference, too ;)

Posted by: Megan | November 22, 2006 11:57 AM

I don't think cost of living keeps people in the workplace (generally speaking)

I think affording the lifestyle they want (generally speaking) keeps them in the workplace. It's stay at home and go without some luxury, or work and have more money for stuff. And don't flame me cause you know i'm not talking about couples who are struggling to get by.

Posted by: cost of living | November 22, 2006 11:59 AM

My mother worked my whole life, I have a 4 year degree and I can't wait to stay home with my kids. CAN'T WAIT!

Posted by: Lou | November 22, 2006 12:00 PM

I still consider women, who are educated, especially those in the "professions" to be failures if they preplan to departure and plan financially like crazy. I am entitled to believe that it is better for children and our society to have women in the workforce. Further it is a failure of our society and business not to figure out how women can have their careers and kids too. It is the failure of their husbands as well to not support their careers--to not fully participate in child rearing and household duties.

And why doesn't society hold working mothers up as excellent examples? Because out society is a reactionary sexist society that wants women at home barefoot and pregnant serving their man's needs while the father is off at perhaps intellectually stimulating tasks unencumbered by childrearing or household responsibilities. We need more women in power to dispel this pseudoidyllic belief system.

And boo on any religion that advocates for women staying at home and men working. I find organized religion to be harmful to society overall and that post proves it.

Posted by: To Mom of 4 | November 22, 2006 12:03 PM

"we have lawyers to thank for that"

Actually it's the malpractice insurance that is high. I'm sure if you were one of the people who had the wrong limb amputated, as sometimes happens, you might feel differently towards lawyers.

Posted by: atwork | November 22, 2006 12:03 PM

Here's an interesting question in light of all these opinions: What do we think of a woman who pursues a career as a Nanny?

Posted by: Etin | November 22, 2006 12:03 PM

To the question, "Do Men Want Moms to Quit?"

answer: No, .... but women do.

Posted by: Answer | November 22, 2006 12:04 PM

Am I wierd or what: I want my wife working (we have two school-age kids) because if she didn't we couldn't pay the bills. Folks, please wake up! The vast majority of parents-- including women-- work not primarily for self-fulfillmet or some other psycho-babble non-sense. They work because they HAVE to. If you got bills and you got kids you just hunker down and find a way to make it work and quit whining about your terrible lot in life. Move on!

Posted by: wihntr | November 22, 2006 12:04 PM

HI KB -- Thx for helping me make my point. The examples you gave are of women pursuing those difficult-to-earn degrees and then USING them in some creative way. That's fine with me. I surely want someone with the appropriate qualifications making public health decisions -- male or female. If it's part time, fine. If it's using their specialty in some useful way, that's great. All the better.


Posted by: Mom of 1 | November 22, 2006 12:05 PM

I put a lot of effort into getting certified and finding a job in my profession. I'm in IT. It's hard enough to stay current with a job much less after leaving the work force. The notion of dropping out after I spent several years getting in never crossed my mind.

I like what I do and I am not sorry that I didn't stay home with my children full time instead of working.

Everybody is entitled to their own choices, but I have to wonder how the Resident who dropped out intends to pay off her medical school?

Posted by: RoseG | November 22, 2006 12:08 PM

"Actually it's the malpractice insurance that is high. I'm sure if you were one of the people who had the wrong limb amputated, as sometimes happens, you might feel differently towards lawyers."

More than 70% of lawsuits against doctors are frivilous or are because of "bad outcomes" not related to malpractice. In fact, most people who suffered a real malpractice incident don't sue. Lawyers are opportunists, money-grubbing, slanderous jerks who suck the life out of society. Not all lawyers, just most. Just look at these large class action lawsuits against companies that have broken the law and ripped of customers. Customers don't get compensated, the lawyers just become rich.

And malpractice suits and the fear of them drive up costs in the medical system both directly and indirectly. These cases should not be decided by people who do not understand medicine. But lawyers want to keep it this way just to become richer and richer.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 12:11 PM

I have read all of the posted comments and could not prevent myself from weighing in - so many of these comments have bothered me - where to start?

I am a middle class mother of 2 who has NEVER had the choice of staying home. I have ALWAYS had to work AT LEAST full time (I have pursued a degree and also worked part-time to make ends meet when my husband was laid off). Reality dictates that the MAJORITY of the working class does not have this option. We need better workplace rules that protect BOTH parents who are faced with choices between work and their kids. I worked 7 years on the night shift full time to avoid the unaffordable cost of daycare - I feel my children benefited greatly. My husband was with them at night while I was at work - he developed a very close relationship with our children that our friends (who had stay-at-home family and could both work days) did not have with their own kids. If you have kids - they are your responsibility first, before anything else - you Must find a way to make it work for your kids. When our youngest daughter was sick on and off for 2 weeks - she had to be picked up from school, I had just taken my first day-time position in 7 years (for much more pay), and could not leave work for the 3rd time in 2wks. My husband had just started a new job a few months before - he called work to explain and picked our daughter up (she was 8 years-old, too young to stay home alone, especially sick). He was fired the next day. There have been more times than I can count that we have been forced to choose - have begged our sick kids to try to stick out the day in school. The guilt is never-ending ,at home and at work. There is NEVER any understanding or support at work for the majority of us - just a "you do what you feel you must" attitude that adds to the stress and fear for our security at work.

Now - for those of you who comment about you being affected by someone else's decision to stay home - PLEASE. That is rediculous - the kids are the most important factor and they benefit from someone being home. Why don't you use your energy trying to make a difference for all those parents who don't have the option of flex-time work hours? If mothers (and fathers) are to be punished with substandard pay and no job security because their responsibility to their kids prevents working full-time in the short-term (or occasional days off due to illness) - well then there really is no option is there?

Posted by: MiddleClassMom | November 22, 2006 12:12 PM

One way around this debate is for one parent to postpone career until after kids. I worked part time while raising three children. Not so much for the money because childcare offset that, but because it allowed me to keep up with my profession, let the kids get used to being away from Mom, etc. It was a win-win. I realize that this scenario isn't possible for everyone, but the way we worked it out was that, when the kids were older and in school, my husband got them off to school in the morning to allow me to go in early, work full time and still get off in time to greet them after school. This eventually led to me pursuing my PhD. Now I am 50 with kids in college and have a successful career.

Posted by: Ellen | November 22, 2006 12:13 PM

It must be nice to have the financial ability to ponder questions of this magnitude. Poor mothers have been working for years because of economic constraints--and for the most part, because of rampant sexism that refuses to fully die because of issues like this, they make less money doing it. Meanwhile, those with the least resources pay through the nose for competent child care.

A true debate of this nature cannot take place until maternity and paternity leave is universal and women have reached employment equality with men. Until the social structure is rearranged to permit women to truly make a free "choice" as men are able to do, this debate is meaningless.

Posted by: Another social scientist | November 22, 2006 12:15 PM

Every day, this blog asks the exact same question: "Can all the parents in a home work and still raise good kids and have a rewarding life?"

Obviously, the answer is "yes", but only for some folks. Who are they? How did they do it all? What few regrets do they have? We need the truth and the instructions from people who have already raised their families successfully.

That's the blog or book I'd like to see!

Posted by: granny | November 22, 2006 12:17 PM

I am a male, and in management. Since this posting is anonymous, I can state that I have been VERY supportive of women in the workplace. However, women either DO leave, at pregnancy, or work various semblances of part-time while in the workplace, running home to take care of sick kids, or coming and leaving work at specified times for bringing the kids to and from child care, or having the "soccer mom" responsibility.

We need to change the dynamic of both the workplace and of public perception of who has responsibility for home life. Not only do some men not participate as fully as they should, the workplace expectations reinforce that perception of responsibility and retain the stereotype by rewarding men who shirk their responsibility, and disciplining women who take on the responsibility either by desire or default.

I am not providing a solution to the problem. I wish I had one.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 12:17 PM

The problem is that the USA government does not help working mothers. Look at Europe, France where mothers get paid for up to 1 year sometimes to stay home. That is what is missing in America. Your govt is not taking care of the people.

Posted by: Thierry | November 22, 2006 12:22 PM

My husband supported my decision to leave my government job to stay home with our daughter. I don't contribute as much financially to the family as I used to but I am definitely contributing. A daycare would charge $1000 per month and a cleaning lady would charge $300 per month. Our family saves at least $16,000 because I do this work. The reduction in stress is priceless.

Posted by: denkpaard | November 22, 2006 12:24 PM

a dose of reality from the middle class mom. I am thankful that I have a professional white collar job BUT don't think that these types of pressures are only applicable to lower paid jobs. In fact, I think that this hoopla about major companies trying to lure stay at home mothers is just media hype. I was fired from a well paid job when I came back from my second maternity and in my current position a senior manager (a woman with a grown daughter)is trying to kill teleworking. I know that we discussed ad nauseum flex time and family friendly work environment on this blog but all I see are a few very specific situations that people have been able to negotiate for themselves. And on the question that Leslie had asked -- I don't think that men necessarily want women to quit. My husband certainly does not want to be the only bread winner.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 12:25 PM

Do you even know what "ethical" means? From the way you're using it, apparently not . . .

Posted by: to Social Scientist | November 22, 2006 12:36 PM

Personally speaking, to answer the blog, my husband does not want me to quit my job. He knows that I worked hard to put myself through law school and would never ask me to give up something I enjoy doing. That being said, I am fortunate enough to work at a job that is flexible and will allow me (when the time comes) to meet my kids at the bus stop. We are fortunate that I am able to spend plenty of quality time with the children - much more then he is able to because of his job demands. I choose to work not because of my "material wants and needs" but because I enjoy it; I am able to spend more time with my children then most working mothers; and because we have a wonderful daycare provider who loves those children like her own. Why is it a bad thing for children to realize that more people then just mommy and daddy love them? My mom, who was a stay-at-home with 4 kids, greatly encourage her daughters to get an education and be independent. Choice is great! Be happy with whatever choice you make as there are many people (both men and women) out there who don't have a choice.

Posted by: KH | November 22, 2006 12:37 PM

Do we track what every single man does with his education? Is every educated man expected to go into his "chosen field" and stay there forever?

"In fact, most people who suffered a real malpractice incident don't sue." That's because they are DEAD.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 12:38 PM

For an interesting perspective on why women "opt out" of the work force to stay home with their children, take a look at the article at this site:
http://www.uchastings.edu/site_files/WLL/OptOutPushedOut.pdf

Posted by: lawyermom | November 22, 2006 12:42 PM

"Tom T., just be sincere and I'm sure the woman will know that you are. Although I have no doubt there are plenty of jerks like the MBA in Leslie's story, I think most of us know that there are lot more decent people who are genuinely happy when someone pursues their desires. And I think most of us are pretty good at telling the difference, too ;)"

Wonderful sentiments. Guys like Tom T. and I don't worry so much about how the mom will react - we worry about how the Leslie's of the world who may be standing around will react. (I can't tell you how glad I am that she's not in my workplace, or anywhere in my life, for that matter - life's to short to make everything about gender politics.)

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 12:42 PM

First off, where is Father of 4? I miss his unique view (pun intended).

Second, why is Stacey removing the Jokester's posts while leaving up all of the posts criticizing grammar, spelling, punctuation?

Laughter helps work/life balance. But all of the negativity of the grammar police does not.

Posted by: regina philange | November 22, 2006 12:50 PM

Re MD/PhD

OK, that's government money paying for an MD. It would be a MAJOR waste to not use that tax-payer financed education. I have a tax-payer financed PhD, and you bet I'm still in the system. I'm also 8 months pregnant and going back to work after 12 weeks. I love my job. I'm sure I'll love my kid, too. My husband is changing his work situation to make sure the kid is only in daycare 3 days a week. Does my husband want me working? You bet. Why? Well, I make more money and I want to be working. I truly believe being a full-time mother would kill me. I need grown-up time. And 3 days of daycare is not going to destroy this child. If anything, it will be a good thing. Ideally, I'd love both my husband and I to work 4 days/week, with the child in daycare 3 days, and one day a week of concentrated mommy or daddy time. That sounds like a beautifully balanced life.

Posted by: Amanda | November 22, 2006 12:54 PM

To "To Social Scientist"

Yes, I do know what "ethical" means. Ethics are socially accepted principles of what is right and wrong. Thus, someone who is ethical lives or behaves in accordance with socially accepted standards of what is right and wrong.

I believe that most people in our society would agree that it is wrong to unnecessarily harm or burden other people. I am arguing that it is, therefore, ethical (right, good) to stop for a moment to reflect on how your actions might affect other people...to weigh whether or not you think your actions would cause unnecessary harm or burden to others, and to weigh the pros and cons.

I'm not saying everyone will or should come up with the same answer once they've done this. I'm simply saying that it is right and good for people to THINK about the consequences of their actions for others.

Posted by: Social Scientist | November 22, 2006 12:59 PM

somebody earlier posted that it's "clearly illegal" to ask someone in an interview about whether they are married or have children. In fact, it's not prohibited by federal law, and is still legal to ask in several states. NPR just did a story on this last night, in fact.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6520840

This is obviously something the people posting here should be very concerned about.

Posted by: ... | November 22, 2006 1:03 PM

re: put upon | November 22, 2006 10:03 AM

the sound you hear is loud clapping from government employees here on day before thanksgiving because "you don't have family to worry about"

Posted by: to Put Upon | November 22, 2006 1:07 PM

Heh. My hubby has admitted on several occasions that he wouldn't mind it if I made more than him, especially to the point that would allow him to quit and focus on his music full time.

I would like to get to that point. I figure since we're not having kids, why not? We'll see. I'd go batty if I didn't have a job. As much of a homebody I tend to be, I wouldn't want to be home all the time. For one, my house wouldn't be cleaner at all. I know I'd have the mindset that I could do it whenever if I had no other commitments. With a job, I'm regimented enough to know that I have to get this done on such-and-such a day because of time constraints with work.

Being imbalanced can swing the pendulum to the other side. I know some people who have way too much time on their hands. Aside from that, I think being bored and not having a schedule of some shape or form can lead to depression and a lack of self-confidence.

Posted by: RaiseYourOwnKids | November 22, 2006 1:09 PM

Amanda -- Go for it. I hope you find the balance you're planning for. Pls check in once in a while and let this blog know how you're doing.

Posted by: Mom of 1 | November 22, 2006 1:11 PM

"My church teaches that the man is the natural head of the household and wives should submit to the will of their husbands.

My husband prefers that I stay home with our 2 children until they attend college; so my legal career has been put on hold."

GAG!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 1:11 PM

The problem isn't that women work, the problem is that men do NOTHING at home except eat, watch tv, take a dump, and sleep. All the men who like to claim how manly they are and how they are the breadwinner of the family are always fat, out of shape, and the poorest excuse for a man I've ever seen.

Posted by: Fred | November 22, 2006 1:15 PM

to lawyermom - GREAT link you posted - haven't read it all yet (it's long) but it addresses a lot of the topics that have come up on this blog repeatedly - thanks!

Posted by: TakomaMom | November 22, 2006 1:19 PM

"My church teaches that the man is the natural head of the household and wives should submit to the will of their husbands."

And what cult would this be?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 1:20 PM

To: 09:39 AM: Thanks for pointing out the errors. I've fixed them.

Super Dad: You're right. I took a vacation day today to cook.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | November 22, 2006 1:25 PM

My guess is that the post about the woman quitting her legal career to take care of the two kids because her church teachers her to submit to the will of her husband was not sincere. It was a joke or intended to make fun of past posts.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 1:26 PM

Social Scientist wrote:
"But, I DO think its important for women AND men to really think about how their actions affect the larger world, and to recognize that just because something is 'personal' doesn't mean that there are no public consequences
to it.

"I'm tired of people simply saying, 'it's my choice, mind your own *!@! business'. In my opinion, this is unethical and irresponsible. An ethical,
responsible adult should think through their actions, be aware of how they are
impacting other people, and be able to justify those actions given the ways in which they impact other people."

When we were evicted from our apartment
for having too many children, a friend
of ours rented us the house he and his
family had just moved out of, while we
looked for another house in the neighborhood.

What we found was that the good houses
in the neighborhood were priced 'way out
of our range. We found that we, as a
one-earner family, were competing against
two-earner families who could easily
outbid us. One house, three doors down,
went to a two-earner family of Treasury
agents. We wound up buying the house
we were living in, and over the years,
fixing it up.

Now, here's my question for Social
Scientist: When a couple decides to have
dual incomes, should they consider what
is best for themselves and any children
they may have? Or should they "be aware
of how they are impacting other people,
and be able to justify those actions
given the ways in which they impact
other people"? Is it fair for a
double-income couple with only one child
to be able to outbid a family of five
for a decent-sized, decent-condition
house?

My answer is, "You bet it's fair!"
This is America, where we make our own
opportunities. If two incomes give a
couple an advantage in the housing market,
they have every right to press that
advantage and bid as high as they can
afford for a house, without worrying about
the "impact" of their choice on one-earner
families.

And if a couple decides that having the
children raised and the house kept and
the errands run by a full-time, stay-
at-home mother gives the father a
competitive advantage at work over
fellow-workers who, for one reason
or another, cannot have a stay-at-home
wife, there is no reason for them
not to press their advantage and
avail themselves of the opportunity,
without having to worry about the "impact"
of their choice on envious outsiders.

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | November 22, 2006 1:27 PM

"When I was at Wharton...", "...studied at three (count 'em, yep THREE) internationally-known (not just here in the U.S., the Brits actually know about these great institutions of learning as well) universities.."

What is it with this incessant need to name drop? Is it a feeling of inadequacy? Is a person that only went to a locally known med school that leaves practice for family life any less a tragic/heroic figure?

Posted by: Commoner | November 22, 2006 1:28 PM

"My church teaches that the man is the natural head of the household and wives should submit to the will of their husbands."

And what cult would this be?

Um, christianity?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 1:29 PM

"My church teaches that the man is the natural head of the household and wives should submit to the will of their husbands."

And what cult would this be?

Um, christianity?


Yes, because women are inferior beings and need to submit to everything the man says and does!
Gag me.
I submit to no one!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 1:33 PM

Matt in Aberdeen,

I feel sorry for you and others that hold a similar personal philosophy. Most of all I feel sorry for your kids. Social Scientist is correct that people should consider others when acting. It's called being a good person and not a selfish little pr*ck.

Posted by: Commoner | November 22, 2006 1:33 PM

I have a simple plan to fulfill all the needs of women in terms of career and family.

1. Don't get married--quite obvious from this blog that husbands don't do what they are suppose to do and male bosses don't "get it"

2. Contract out your baby making and rearing functions. Some other less fortunate and educated woman can have the kids and you have visitation rights

So,

3. You can have your fulfilling career without the troubles of (1) and (2).

Posted by: The Proper View | November 22, 2006 1:33 PM

maybe there is some part of the men who want to remove a female competitor. But don't forget many of these men may be fathers, and would prefer to see their children raised by a parent and not a caregiver. My wife works part time, and we are happy with that. But it pains both of us every day she is at work, even though we have a wonderful caregiver. a lot of women no longer buy into the feminist paragon of the 60s and 70s that motherhood is a prison.

Posted by: Dan | November 22, 2006 1:37 PM

The Proper View = The husband of woman who had to quit her legal career?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 1:39 PM

Dan,

You said, "My wife works part time, and we are happy with that. But it pains both of us every day she is at work, even though we have a wonderful caregiver."

What about you staying at home to heal your "pain."

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 1:41 PM

Actually I believe Matt was only pointing out the reversal of your arguments. It can't only go one way. If parents are to consider the effect of their decisions not to work on the greater good, the same goes for others who push up real estate prices, expectation to work more hours, etc. It is a two way street whether you like it or not.

Posted by: to commoner and social scientist | November 22, 2006 1:43 PM

Actually I believe Matt was only pointing out the reversal of your arguments. It can't only go one way. If parents are to consider the effect of their decisions not to work on the greater good, the same goes for others who push up real estate prices, expectation to work more hours, etc. It is a two way street whether you like it or not.

Posted by: to commoner and social scientist | November 22, 2006 1:43 PM

In my experience, men who supported women leaving the workplace to stay home with family also supported women leaving the workplace to pursue another job which was (pick one) 'better', in another city, in a different field. They also supported women leaving the job to further their educations as well as those leaving the job for retirement. And those who left on early retirement were considered to be lucky, not disappointing to their gender.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 1:44 PM

It's sad to see so little progress on this issue. As one who fought for women's rights of equity in the workplace, it seems we are moving backward. Of course parents should be able to step back from careers to raise children. No one in their right minds should question it. But as long as it is 98 percent mothers making that choice, women will never have equity in the workplace or in the rest of civil life. Why are we still making this only a "mothers" issue? Why are young women not insisting that the fathers take their turn on the "Mommy Track?" This choice, as our society now presents it, puts women at a disadvantage through career life. It also strengthens the male competitors of women at work by giving them that wonderful "wife" to support their career aspirations. Of course, men would prefer to see their children raised by a caring mother, so they can devote themselves more fully to their careers. Then the men can have it all. It is a great advantage for them. Employers have to recognize that hiring young women is a risk anyway. Health insurance costs more than twice what it costs for a young male. Then the pregnancy leave allows women to take the time off, and decide *after* the benefits are given not to return to work. It puts employers in a bind big time--particularly small businesses. I think for a lot of young women, this decision is only partly about children. It is also a chance to catch a breather from the competitive world. But while it may be great for the dads and the kids, it isn't great for the women. Turning the tradition into a "parents" obligation and not a "mothers" obligation would go a long way to erasing the disadvantage. it's only going to happen if the women insist on it though.

Posted by: A female boss | November 22, 2006 1:54 PM

A lady I worked with (a lawyer don't you know) announced she was quiting work to stay home with her new daughter. I didn't feel betrayed, just envious. By the way this lady's family was very interesting. She was black, her husband was white and they adopted a Chinese baby. Pretty cool. I'd never seen that before. Reminded me of that version of Cinderella with Brandy, Whitney Houston and Whoopie Goldberg. That was cute. Anyone seen it. I don't think any either the Queen or the evil Step-mother had a job.

Posted by: Melt | November 22, 2006 1:55 PM

to thierry:
It's not the *government* who pays the women, it's the other people who are working, who pay taxes, that the govt just redistributes. They don't take money out of thin air, someone has to send a check to the govt. Perhaps that's what you think their role is, but I certainly don't. And no, I don't think mandating a company to pay that is a good idea either.
But I think we have differing views of society.
No one has an obligation to 'do' something with their degree. They had an obligation to do well in their classes, to pay their tuition, to pay back loans, etc. Of course, it's an investment in an individual, but it is the same as when people have been trained by a company and leave for another job. Not great, but it happens, and that's that.

Posted by: atlmom | November 22, 2006 1:56 PM

Actually, my male boss was quite upset when I wanted to leave to stay home with my first born. My female boss (I had a dual reporting relationship) told me "I would never fault a woman for wanting to stay at home with the kids."

Posted by: WorkingMomX | November 22, 2006 2:01 PM

A female boss:
"Why are young women not insisting that the fathers take their turn on the "Mommy Track?" ... Of course, men would prefer to see their children raised by a caring mother,"

I believe you have answered your own question. I'd bet if you took a survery of 1000 college men and asked if they preferred to marry:
a) college-educated woman who's willing to stay home and raise the kids
b) college-educated woman who insists on father taking turns on the mommy track
...with everything else being equal....
a majority would pick a).

Posted by: Mr.Honda | November 22, 2006 2:11 PM

I think Mr. Honda is right. I just asked my husband whether he thinks men in general would rather that their wives stayed home (if it were not a financial necessity to have two incomes) and he said "yes".

Posted by: WorkingMomX | November 22, 2006 2:14 PM

Americans should be more agreeable to helping mothers go to work. This will be paying for maternity leave, guaranteeing their job security, providing subsidized childcare, encouraging more people to be childcare providers with subsidizing their pay. Then you will find more women in the workplace. There should be laws for the private sector, just like FMLA. You must expand it to provide for maternity pay and childcare. If it means more taxes, then you have to do it, but I think you just need to use the existing tax money better, not waste it. This is for the common good. Americans are very selfish. They just think about getting more for themselves.

Posted by: Thierry | November 22, 2006 2:15 PM

More power to women - or men - who want to stay home (I think it takes a really special man to want that - if you've got one - keep 'im!). A parent at home is definitely a plus for kids, though working part time when they are in school is equivalent.

I love being with my baby daughter, but I would lose my mind if I took care of her 24/7. So I work and my daughter goes to an excellent day care where they love her and my husband and I split baby duties and it works well.

I've not seen the numbers, but I doubt that women working fosters divorce. Maybe families where women work are more likely to have financial difficulties (thus the woman works) and that increases divorce... or maybe women who work are more likely to demand to be an equal partnetr in the relationship, which might make some Neandrethals seek divorce, but I doubt it's the actual working that causes trouble. Would be interested in the numbers.

Posted by: Anaxamander | November 22, 2006 2:17 PM

"My church teaches that the man is the natural head of the household and wives should submit to the will of their husbands.

My husband prefers that I stay home with our 2 children until they attend college; so my legal career has been put on hold."

Great. Have fun when he trades you in for a younger model in 10 years. Or when he gets laid off. Or when he gets sick. At least you'll still be able to go to church. That is, if you can walk there.

Posted by: Silver Spring | November 22, 2006 2:20 PM

"Actually I believe Matt was only pointing out the reversal of your arguments. It can't only go one way. If parents are to consider the effect of their decisions not to work on the greater good, the same goes for others who push up real estate prices, expectation to work more hours, etc. It is a two way street whether you like it or not."
--
Yes, and he was right. It is a two-way street. And Matt pointed out some good arguments as to how the rise in dual-career couples might be negatively impacting other people. Something to think about...

Posted by: Social Scientist | November 22, 2006 2:22 PM

"These days we hear too often people planning for their wedding and their divorce at the same time."

"Is every one on here a lawyer?"

Two different posters, but similar theme. After all, wasn't it a lawyer who came up with the idea of the "prenup"?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 2:25 PM

Prenups go WAY back in history before formal legal training.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 2:26 PM

As a medical student and the child of 2 doctors (yes my mother too - finished medical school as one of only 10 women in a class of 130), I have to disagree with the posters who are saying that women with advanced degrees have no responsibility to give back to society by practicing their profession. The cost of educating a physician is huge - one figure I read estimated $200000 of taxpayer dollars in addition to the $100000-200000 that we pay in med school tuition. While taking time off to stay home with young children is certainly a valid choice, choosing to opt out of the workforce for extended periods of time when children are older is a waste of resources. My mother volunteered at a free clinic on a limited basis for 5 years when my two brothers and I were little, then worked her way back up from 2 to 3 to 4 days a week (although 4 days a week for a family physician can be up to 50 hours including paperwork). I hope to follow a similar path of working part time then ramping back up, as do most women in my med school class. Given today's reality of physician shortages, taking more time off than that is a waste of a valuable place in a medical school class that could be given to a full-time worker.

Posted by: queenm | November 22, 2006 2:32 PM

"My church teaches that the man is the natural head of the household and wives should submit to the will of their husbands.

"My husband prefers that I stay home with our 2 children until they attend college; so my legal career has been put on hold."

Good God, that's so sad.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 2:32 PM

yeah, way back to the first snake.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 2:32 PM

"yeah, way back to the first snake."

The first prenups were negotiated thousands of years ago by the parents of the bride and groom. No lawyers, no snakes: just folks looking out for their kids.

P.S. Do you get enough sex? You seem real cranky for no reason.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 2:37 PM

My only real comment is, was not the point of the civil rights movement and gender equality to level the playing field between men and women? If so, I can't help but wonder: is locking yourself into a career and looking down at people who choose to raise kids at home antithetical to the point of that movement? Is it not simply moving from an external constraint (expectations of a patriarchal society) to an internal one?

For sure, the latter more closely resembles a woman's right to choose her path, but if one becomes dogmatic the limit themselves and, potentially, create a new, intra-gender set of external expectations.

There is absolutely no shame in being a woman or a man who chooses to stay at home to raise their kids. Nor vice versa. There is, however, no good reason to ignore what you want to do in order to satisfy some societal expectation about what role your gender should be playing.

Posted by: Eric | November 22, 2006 2:38 PM

Lots of good questions raised here. Several things I'm pondering:

- How much are women really opting out, outside the rarefied circles of upper management on the coasts? Most of the women I know work because they *have* to. And most don't have the kind of hotsy-totsy jobs we hear the opt-outers dropping out of. Could this be a regional or specific job market thing? Is the career world different in, say, the Midwest versus the East Coast?

- Eighty-hour-a-week jobs with constant travel aren't family friendly to anyone, male or female. I echo the many other posters who wonder whether women would be dropping out of the workforce if jobs were more family-and-life friendly.

- The competition factor that Leslie mentioned in her original post. Do people feel compelled to indenture themselves to a company and work like galley slaves because there are too many boomers, not enough jobs? Will this change as the Boomers retire and/or die and smaller generations take their place? I surmise this might be the real underlying problem here. Not women, men, SAHM's or dropping out. Rather, a glut of talent makes companies think, "Muahaha. I own you. Don't like it? You can walk. You are replaceable."

- Our culture of easy divorce makes it risky to drop out of the workforce and stay home with the kids, even though that often *is* a good option for families. I say this even though I'm a flaming liberal but...maybe we really ought to rethink about how easy and acceptable it is to get a divorce in our culture. Or at least the acceptability of leaving a former spouse and especially kids high and dry afterwards.

My $.02 - more like $2, but there you go.

Posted by: Flyonthewall | November 22, 2006 2:38 PM

"Women get married for one reason, the financial security provided by the man."

Tell that to all the married women out there who are working because they want to, whether or not they have kids. Tell that to all the women out there making more money than their husbands.

Tell that to all of us who married for love and companionship after providing extremely well for ourselves for years -- and who continue to work because we wouldn't have it any other way.

mcewen, you're an idiot.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 2:38 PM

A female boss wrote:
"Of course parents should be able to step back from careers to raise children. No one in their right minds should question it. But as long as it is 98 percent mothers making that choice, women will never have equity in the workplace or in the rest of civil life."

If there are a hundred workers in the workplace, 50 men
and 50 women, and 48 of those women would rather be
at home caring for their children -- is that "equity"? And
if there are 48 men staying home who would rather be
out in the workplace -- is that "equity"? Maybe "boss"
should have written, "equality," instead of "equity." Or
maybe she thinks they are synonymous. The Random
House College Dictionary defines "equity" as "fairness"
and "impartiality." Is it fair, for the sake of a Procrustean
devotion to equality, to restrict people's free choices?
Is that "equity"?

"Why are we still making this only a "mothers" issue? Why are young women not insisting that the fathers take their turn on the "Mommy Track?" This choice, as our society now presents it, puts women at a disadvantage through career life. It also strengthens the male competitors of women at work by giving them that wonderful "wife" to support their career aspirations. Of course, men would prefer to see their children raised by a caring mother, so they can devote themselves more fully to their careers. Then the men can have it all. It is a great advantage for them."

Yes, it is a great advantage for a man to have a wonderful wife
at home to care for his children and support his career
aspirations. That's male privilege. And there are plenty
of stay-at-home wives and mothers who will say that
being supported by a working husband gives them the
ability to devote their time to their children. That's female
privilege. When your husband is outside on the driveway,
scraping the ice off the windshield so that he can drive
forty miles to work in the cold and dark, and you are
inside the warm house, you can appreciate your
female privilege.

I can't help wondering how much of the anti-SAHM side
of the "mommy wars" is motivated by sheer envy and
resentment of the male privilege that a stay-at-home wife
willingly, happily, lovingly provides her husband. Certainly
such noteworthy books as Professor Susan Moller Okin's
"Justice, Gender and the Family" and Rhona Mahoney's
"Kidding Ourselves" contain envious passages scattered
among the philosophical, legal and economic arguments.

"Then the men can have it all."

No, not even male privilege means that men can have it all.
They don't get to stay inside in the winter. All too often,
they miss their children's first steps, first words. No one
can "have it all."

"It is a great advantage for them."

For "them" only? What about for those whom they serve?
Consider a policeman protecting his neighborhood six days
a week while his wife cares for their children. The whole
neighborhood benefits from those six days of protection.
If he stays home three days a week to care for his children,
the neighborhood gets less protection from him. The same
goes for the truck driver who brings to the city the food you eat
and the clothes you wear. The world would have fewer Matisse
paintings to enjoy if Matisse had not been able to devote
himself to his painting while Amelie looked after the home.

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | November 22, 2006 2:38 PM

When my son was a baby I couldn't face the idea of putting him in daycare. The thought of putting a six week old in daycare for up to 10 hours each day seemed like a horrible idea. I was lucky I didn't have to but many of the women I knew didn't have a choice. Over the years I've been forced to re-examine my views. I've known many smart, happy, well adjusted kids who had been in daycare since early infancy. Working in the legal field (I'm not a lawyer, just a paralegal), I've also seen many women left in financial dire straights when their marriages failed because they couldn't support themselves. There are no easy choices. We have to weigh all our options, do a risk/benifit analysis and do our best.

Posted by: Melt | November 22, 2006 2:40 PM

As a working mom and divorce mediator, I would like to add my two cents to the discussion. First, speaking as a parent, most families do NOT have a choice as to whether or not Mom or Dad works outside the home. Both parents must work, period. Second, all women should not be penalized in the workplace because some women choose to give up their careers to stay at home with the kids. Not all women are mothers and many moms who do work outside the home need to have access to fair and equality workplace employment standards in order to provide for themselves and their kids.

I was a working single-woman for many years before I became a single-working mom, and I did not think it was unfair that my company offered certain benefits to new parents, which I could not use. My company also offered tuition reimbursement. At that time I had no family obligations and was able to dedicate much of my free time to pursue a Master's degree (100% reimbursed). I'm sure that was a benefit some working parents could not utilized because they didn't have the free time to continue their education. If we are a nation that truly supports family values then we need to be a society that offers more flexible working conditions and lifestyle options for all employees, (singled, married, with- or without kids).

My last point I would like to make is a word of caution to non-working moms. As a divorce mediator, I see so many women financially hurt by their decision to leave the workplace in order to be a stay-at-home parent. They never thought they would get a divorce, but the reality is 60 percent of us will. Women who give up their careers also give up their future potential earning power, not be mention potential retirement income (although many states have created better laws that incorporate breadwinner's retirement as part of the marriage pie). If you choose to leave the work world you should make precautions: open a Roth IRA in your name only, take an active role in making the family's finance decisions, and educate yourself about your husband's work benefits, especially concerning pension and retirement plans. I have seen what happens to women who do not do these things--it's very sad because they are not in a strong position to support themselves financially. From my personal and professional experience I think women get the short-end of the stick no matter what we "decide" to do: work or not to work. The bottom line is that we need to support each other and demand better laws that protect us in the workplace and out of the workplace.

Posted by: workingmom2 | November 22, 2006 2:43 PM

Matt

How do mothers "devote their time to their children"?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 2:43 PM

Could it be that male co-workers are supportive of women who choose to stay at home with their childre because they would want to do the same if they could? Many men I know would be stay at home dads if the option existed. But in today's society, in most cases it doesn't. This is a choice most men don't have.

Posted by: Working Dad | November 22, 2006 2:44 PM

"Women get married for one reason, the financial security provided by the man."

HAHAHA! Was that comment made seriously!?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 2:46 PM

"women are more likley to leave, emen more likely to stay. the numbers bear it out."

Yes, john, but the numbers don't interpret circumstances or uncover cause and effect.

Many women in the past fifteen or so years have become adept at using jobs as steppingstones in their careers. (Taking a leaf out of the guys' manual!) It's a time-honored way of advancing up the ladder, and it's quite likely that women are doing it even more than men nowadays in an effort to make up for lost time.

That's just one example of a reason other than "leaving to have kids" why women may be leaving their jobs more often than men nowadays. There are many others, as well. The point, though, is that your numbers only show a trend; they don't explain it.

Posted by: pittypat | November 22, 2006 2:46 PM

"Wonderful sentiments. Guys like Tom T. and I don't worry so much about how the mom will react - we worry about how the Leslie's of the world who may be standing around will react. (I can't tell you how glad I am that she's not in my workplace, or anywhere in my life, for that matter - life's to short to make everything about gender politics.)"

Posted by: | November 22, 2006 12:42 PM

Nameless, I wouldn't be so quick to lump yourself in with good guys given how quick you are to dismiss and belittle Leslie. Like I said, there are jerks and good guys both (though I think there are more of the latter), and sometimes it IS about sexism. I've had two of the more senior men in my office comment on the flexible, mother-friendly nature of my position. One was clearly very sincere and supportive, and one was clearly condescending and demeaning. The difference was obvious to me and it probalby would have been to anyone nearby. Fortunately, the condescending jerk who obviously assumed I was an ambitionless bimbo has had to change his tune a bit since we've worked together on some things (I know, I know, that's arrogant, but it really is satisfying to see someone who treated you like garbage have to try to take it back).

Posted by: Megan | November 22, 2006 2:47 PM

My wife had a great career and decided to stay home when she got pregnant and I was at graduate school. We have two kids now. She has been at home for eight years.

I think it has been great for the kids and she loves it. And has no desire to go back to work. But it has taken a while to build a financial foundation as I have ended up paying off her student loans, having long commute, working long hours, etc. to make ends meet.

I would like to have a more balanced lifestyle for myself. That would mean a job that likely pays less with shorter commute. But that would also mean we would seriously downsize or she would have to go back to work.

Selfish?

Posted by: LongCommuteDad | November 22, 2006 2:47 PM

"[Being a stay at home dad] is a choice most men don't have."

How so?

Posted by: Eric | November 22, 2006 2:49 PM

To LongCommuteDad

What do you and your wife talk about? What will you and your wife talk about when the kids fly the coop?

8 years is a long time to be away from the adult world....

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 2:51 PM

"I'm also 8 months pregnant and going back to work after 12 weeks. I love my job. I'm sure I'll love my kid, too."

Sorry that's BS, I do not believe you are really pregnant. When you are that far along (I am too, so I know!), "loving your kid" isn't some nebulous thing in the future - it's what is happening every day as you prepare the nursery, feel the baby kick, go to Dr's appointments, have the 10 millionth person tell you that you look huge, and yes, even when you look down at your swollen ankles.

You are just way too matter-of-fact, and referring to love that will happen in the future convinces me that you are full of it.

Posted by: Calling Amanda's Bluff | November 22, 2006 2:51 PM

Matt in aberdeen, you put it nicely with the male-privilege, female-privilege concept. My wife enjoys staying at home with the 3 kids. She still floats as a doctor about 1 day a week. She "enjoys the privilege" of being free from work hassles and picking what assignments she wants to do. I enjoy the privilege of not worrying about daycare, homelife and rest easy knowing that everything at home is in safe hands.

Posted by: TinkyWinky | November 22, 2006 2:52 PM

Interesting stat - a business and econ professor at Univ. of Illinois found, after tracking couples for yars - that women often go to work shortly before divorcing their husbands if they are planning it. I guess they want to establish themselves before striking out on their own. That would definitely skew the numbers and make it look like women working might cause divorce, when it isn't the case.

Also - long hours increased divorce rates whether it was the man or the woman working them. There was some suggestion that working long hours can be a way to avoid spending time together in an already troubled marriage.

Posted by: Anaxamander | November 22, 2006 2:54 PM

"Consider a policeman protecting his neighborhood six days
a week while his wife cares for their children. The whole
neighborhood benefits from those six days of protection.
If he stays home three days a week to care for his children,
the neighborhood gets less protection from him. The same
goes for the truck driver who brings to the city the food you eat
and the clothes you wear. The world would have fewer Matisse
paintings to enjoy if Matisse had not been able to devote
himself to his painting while Amelie looked after the home"

But what could the wife of the policeman be contributing in those three days - maybe she is a police officer as well and the net benefit to society is equal. And if the truck drivers wife is an emt she could be saving lives and who knows what Amelie's talents were - the world didn't have a chance to find out because society at the time insisted that she stay home.

Yes men with SAH wives may be able to contribute more- but so can women with SAH husbands. The point is it shouldn't be male or female privledge but what works best for the couple and I have a hard time believing that women's talent, contributions to society and skills that should translate into earning potential should be assumed to be less than their husbands.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 2:57 PM

To "male in management," posting at 12:17 --

Wow. What an enlightened perspective. You hit each of the critical points squarely, showing you understand the problems, but you admitted you don't have a solution.

This is the kind of thoughtfulness that could really help in a professional setting -- and on this blog!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 3:01 PM

To those who say women want financial security... I make more than my husband and have since we met. I was looking for a friend and partner for marriage, and I found one. Those who want a mommy/servant for a wife or a master/provider for a husband have my pity. There's so much more you could have in a relationship of equals.

Is it difficult figuring out what to do when we disagree, since neither of us has the "last word" in our marriage? Sure. But compromise is a great thing. We make deals with each other.

And my husband loves spending mornings with our daughter before he drops her off at day care. He goes to work later, and I go to work early so I can pick her up early, so she only spends about 7 hours a day there.

Posted by: Anaxamander | November 22, 2006 3:04 PM

workingmom2:// They never thought they would get a divorce, but the reality is 60 percent of us will. //

Divorce doesn't just happen to you. It's not like having a tree fall on your house because of a hurricane. You have a significant role in determining how your marriage is going to be. A marriage that slowly crumbles and deteriorates over the years can result in divorce. It's up to each person to work at the relationship to strengthen commitment, respect and nurture the love for each other. There's no 100% divorce-proof marriage because it's a union between two human beings. But there's plenty we can do that will go a long way to reducing the number of divorces in this country.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | November 22, 2006 3:09 PM

LongCommuteDad- How is you wanting to be as satisfied as your wife in any way selfish? She has no "desire" to work, but she built up all the student loan debt that you then have to pay off. Where's the equality there? Why don't you get to do you what YOU want? I have a REALLY hard time with this concept. I have no bigger right to be happy than my husband does.

Posted by: Amanda | November 22, 2006 3:09 PM

"But what could the wife of the policeman be contributing in those three days - maybe she is a police officer as well and the net benefit to society is equal. And if the truck drivers wife is an emt she could be saving lives and who knows what Amelie's talents were - the world didn't have a chance to find out because society at the time insisted that she stay home."

These are good arguments.

"Yes men with SAH wives may be able to contribute more- but so can women with SAH husbands. The point is it shouldn't be male or female privledge but what works best for the couple and I have a hard time believing that women's talent, contributions to society and skills that should translate into earning potential should be assumed to be less than their husbands."

Absolutely. But the decision as to "what works best
for the couple" and the assessment of relative "earning
potential" is for the couple themselves to decide,
not for some social-policy dreamer striving for
an equal distribution of men and women at home
and across all occupational fields.

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | November 22, 2006 3:10 PM

Mr. Honda

Since 60% of married men cheat, how can the divorce rate be reduced?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 3:13 PM

I would love to stay at home and raise my kids. I took a higher paying job so that my husband could finish his degree in time for him to get a full time job teaching while I stayed home with the kids. Well, he purposefully flunked student teaching and since we've moved here, hasn't bothered to look for a job (he keeps saying he doesn't know how). He tells people that he is a stay at home dad!! I NEVER agreed to that!!

I feel betrayed b/c it has been my life long dream to take off at least the first 5 years of my children's life to help them develope. I'll never get those years with my children back. B/c my job required me to move and his two F's caused him to be expelled, he'll have to start over with a new teacher certification program....taking yet another two years. I've been footing the bill our entire marriage and I think it is high time I get out and find a real man who WANTS to support his family and let his wife stay at home. Yes, as soon as I give birth to our second child and recover from my c-section, I am divorcing the lazy a$$ SOB to find a real man.......

How is this relevant to the discussion? B/c all SAHMz seem to have something that I lack right now, and that is a CHOICE to work or not. I could have had that choice too, if my husband had kept his end of the bargain.

Do you know how hard it is to go to work and only get to see your kids for one hour each day b/c you have to work such long hours? Do you know how hurtful it is that my children won't hug me b/c they think I am a stranger? And I WANT to stay home!! I am angry and resentful and I want out of this marriage so that I can be happy and pursue my dreams. I am sure it will be hard at first, being a single mom to two kids and I'll still have to work, but the suffering involved won't last forever and at least I'll have a chance to find what I want in life.

Posted by: tlawrenceva | November 22, 2006 3:15 PM

The work environment is VERY competitive for both men and women. But for women, it is especially so.

As a 50 yr old female scientist, programmer, M.S. Computer Science and mother of a teenage daughter, I have worked in both the private and public sector and currently work in academia. I find it very disappointing when women with advanced college education (Masters, doctorate, lawyers) drop out of the workforce and do not return.

The loss of representation in the workforce and especially science and engineering fields means fewer choices for you. Fewer female doctors for you, for your daughters to choose from.

As a petite female, I wonder if there would have been better car passenger air bags if more women engineers were working in the auto industry (ever see the face of a woman when a car passenger air bag has been deployed into her face?)

Posted by: Noelle | November 22, 2006 3:19 PM

Calling My Bluff- That's hilarious! I haven't met this kid yet. I don't even know the gender. I haven't seen it's sweet little face. 8 months and 20 pounds, and it still doesn't seem real, regardless of the shower and the very yellow room across from ours and the endless baby talk. It took me time to love my favorite niece and my husband, so how is this different? I think it's weird that YOU can so helplessly love someone you haven't met. To each his own. That said, I can say with absolute conviction, if the dog could talk, he'd tell you how good it is to have me for a mom. (Oh, and I had to learn to love him, too.)

Posted by: Amanda | November 22, 2006 3:20 PM

LongCommuteDad - I'm with Amanda - your needs and wants are as important as your wife's. I've never understood it when men or women say that the choice to SAH rests with the woman only. For men who are happy with that arrangement - great! But there are also men who feel enormous stress about the financial burdens and risks, and who want to be involved dads and spend more time with their kids and less at work. Their needs should be given equal consideration.

My husband stayed in a job he didn't especially like while I went through lawschool and we had our son. Now it's my turn to bring in enough income to allow him to pursue his dream of starting his own business. When his biz is up and running, I'll probably look for something that is more what I want to do. I think that's what marriage is about - supporting each other and making each other's dreams possible, and it has to go both ways.

Posted by: Megan | November 22, 2006 3:21 PM

To tlawrenceva |

I think that the biggest regret in life that a lot of women have is choosing the wrong man for a husband and father of their children. There are far, far better men out there................

Good luck in your new life without the layabout!

Posted by: DZ | November 22, 2006 3:22 PM

"In fact, most people who suffered a real malpractice incident don't sue." That's because they are DEAD."

That's just stupid and untrue. Most "malpractice" there is not lasting harm to the patient. Also, not everyone thinks immediately of $ just because they are injured and some do not have access to attorneys. Get you facts straight.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 3:25 PM

"Nameless, I wouldn't be so quick to lump yourself in with good guys given how quick you are to dismiss and belittle Leslie. Like I said, there are jerks and good guys both (though I think there are more of the latter), and sometimes it IS about sexism."

I never said that I was all that good. I don't have any particular axe to grind about working women, however - and I'm just as sincere when I say nice things to the woman who's decided to stay one with her kids as I am when I say nice things to the young man who's just gotten engaged, or the old-timer who's just decided to retire.

Sometimes we're just happy for people when something happens in their life that they're excited about. That's not sexism, not one little bit - not if you turn it upside down, inside out, and paint it purple.

And people who assume it is, or worry about how simple human courtesy effects some sociopolitical cause, are the ones that make me (and many other men) worry about whether what we say will be taken wrong.

It's a pain in the butt to have to be constantly second guessing how you express yourself in the most innocent interactions, and it makes the people who're trying to advance a cause seem unsympathetic & unlikeable, and their cause seem unreasonable and unappealing.

I don't like being around people who do, say and think the things Leslie reports doing, saying and thinking. She has my full respect as a person - but I don't like that sort of foolishness, and when people act that way, it does in fact lower my opinion of them.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 3:26 PM

I am so fortunate to be married to a man who truly believes that his wife's ambition is equal to his. We moved for a job opportunity for me (got some strange comments and looks) and I've done the same for him. There is no way that he would let me "opt out". We are brining up our kids together and share responsibility for kid related "emergencies" (call from the school nurse, etc). I realize that we are very fortunate to be professionals in positions where we can have some latitude when necessary. We don't abuse it and we are both considered excellent and productive employees. It really is a shame that women think they they have to be the one to "opt out". Society has a long way to go for equality between the sexes.

Posted by: mm | November 22, 2006 3:28 PM

queenm- I've actually had a conversation with both male and female MDs about women leaving medicine. Since most women end up in internal medicine and most men end up in surgery, and since a large chunk of women spend all the time, effort, and money getting the MD only to leave medicine, there ends up being a huge shortage of internists. I understant that going into medicine these women don't think they'll leave when they have kids, but facts say they do. What a shame for all those wait-listed people dying for the chance to be pediatricians and oncologists and OBs, being passed over for people who are trained and choose not to use the degree. Then again, maybe they return when the kids go to school.

Posted by: Amanda | November 22, 2006 3:29 PM

Noelle regarding airbags not suitable for women. As an engineer, I will say that we design for the mean. Adults typically range in weight from 100 to 250 lbs, and in height from 5ft to 6ft. So if we can only put 1 airbag in the car, what's the optimum height-weight? It's around 170lbs and 5ft 6. Every design has its compromises. Early airbags had its drawbacks but now we have pressure-sensitive airbags that adjust its deployment force according to driver weight. The technology allows us to design more effective restraints.

The implication that male engineers designed airbags to suit men, with no regard for women, is absolutely false.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | November 22, 2006 3:29 PM

"Interesting stat - a business and econ professor at Univ. of Illinois found, after tracking couples for yars - that women often go to work shortly before divorcing their husbands if they are planning it. I guess they want to establish themselves before striking out on their own. That would definitely skew the numbers and make it look like women working might cause divorce, when it isn't the case."

Soooooooo . . . how should husbands take it when their wives say, "Honey, I think I'd like to go back to work?"

Did these researchers study the opposite - how many women who decided to go back to work, and were not planning divorce at the time, subsequently did in fact divorce?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 3:30 PM

With regard to prospective employers not being allowed to ask about marital status and family issues:

I believe that Title VII states that women cannot be discriminated against based on these issues. If a prospective employer asks women applicants about their marital status and whether or not she wants children and then doesn't hire her, she has a viable suit. Title VII is a federal law and the EEOC is a federal agency that investigates and litigates these issues. Some states have more stringent laws, but I don't think State laws can supercede Federal law.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 3:32 PM

//I believe that Title VII states that women cannot be discriminated against based on these issues. If a prospective employer asks women applicants about their marital status and whether or not she wants children and then doesn't hire her, she has a viable suit//

How many women do you think actually file a suit under this law? you know how hard it is to prove hiring discrimination solely based on marital status/wanting to have children?
Oh, that's why we need all these lawyers.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 3:36 PM

tlawrenceva --

You make it sound as though you believe that your husband OWES you a stay-at-home life because it's what you've always wanted.

That's a nice fantasy, I guess, but do you really believe that you're entitled to this life you always imagined you have with your children? And that your husband should provide it for you?

I can see how you would be disappointed, but you also sound like a spoiled child.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 3:37 PM

Mr. Honda--

I agree with you that we as a society need to do more to strengthen our relationships with each other. I have a master's degree in conflict resolution and as a divorce mediator it's so surprising to me to see how many people lack basic skills in this area. Marriages would be much stronger if these skills could be perfected. But, by the time folks reach me at the mediation table they have already established bad communication habits.

What I sometimes see is that the mother who has sacrificed her career doesn't get "credit" for the work she has contributed to the "well-being" of the family, which is now disintegrating into divorce. I use the term "credit" as what the husband and the law are willing to acknowledge as her contribution to the marriage. I think many women--and men, too--don't think about the "what ifs" when they choose to become a single-income family. I would like to encourage folks to think about the what ifs. And, if a couple can develop good communication skills they could talk about these things AND stay married.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 3:38 PM

"Since most women end up in internal medicine and most men end up in surgery"

Amanda, I think you need to check your facts. I'm sure the AAMC website has data about medical students and what specialties they choose (many choose derm, radiology, peds, etc). The reason there is a shortage of internists is that their match doesn't fill. Fewer people want to be internists because the pay sucks and the hours grueling.

I know very few female doctors who don't work. Some work part-time, but most work full time. It is because of the long arduous process of becoming a physician that we don't leave when we have children. Also, many of us earn enough to have nannies. I personally think it is despicable for women to leave medicine altogether for a long length of time because they have children. The costs to society are too great and it demonstrates a total lack of dedication that is demanded in our field. There are specialties where life balance works even when working full time---radiology, ER, etc.

Posted by: To Amanda | November 22, 2006 3:39 PM

Megan, thank you for the 11:57 comment. I appreciate it. I'm just trying not to sound "well-meaning but clueless," and I think you're right; it's generally easy to tell when someone is being sincere and when they're not.

Posted by: Tom T. | November 22, 2006 3:39 PM

Diverging from the blog itself and commenting just on the postings, I think a lot of these postings (but not all, e.g., The Original Just a Thought) miss a fundamental point in this debate of working women "betraying" those they leave behind. I believe that many of the articles that have dealt with this topic in the last few years and bemoaned this point refer not to the myriad teachers, nurses, store clerks, blue collar or white collar 'administrative' types. Rather, these articles (and some of the posters on this blog) are betrayed by the loss of the very cream of the crop, top echelon of women professionals that our society has to offer.

These are the women who disappoint us when they leave the workforce because these are the women who will advance the cause of all women, whether they want that burden or not.

So frankly--and I'll say it out loud because many others just tiptoe around this point--I and many others could care less if female elementary school teachers who graduated from University of Maryland decide to stay home and raise their kids instead of working. (Even though elementary school teaching is valuable and college education is important, yada yada.)

But it really bothers me when I see or hear about Harvard (or other top-10, 20 school) graduates who go on to top law schools, med schools, business schools or PhD programs, then decide to give it all up to stay home with kiddies. Because these women are the future--these are the future CEOs, general counsels, top surgeons, university professors, etc. They will shape policy and the future of the world--they, and not the vast majority of crappy undergrad graduates average women employees. I don't think any of the intellectuals that truly think about this stuff give a hoot whether these average women stay home.

But show them the SAHM who should have been the future female Hewlett Packard CEO or the law firm partner who could argue before the Supreme Court or the surgeon that breaks the glass ceiling--and they'll be devastated.

Anyway, all this said, I'm sure I'll get attacked for having the audacity to utter the fact that there's a difference between cream of the crop and "the rest." But that's how we judge our high schools, our colleges, our law and med schools, our employers, and that's how we should judge those who have a greater responsibility of making contributions to the "greater good" of society.

Posted by: Cream of the Crop | November 22, 2006 3:41 PM

"if a couple can develop good communication skills they could talk about these things AND stay married."

Yeah, my fiancee and I have been together for almost 10 years and it took a LONG time for us to develop good communication skills. It's unbelievably difficult. Ironically, I had to really push her to open up and discuss her issues with me early on. But now we talk about any and everything you can imagine, and have frequently discussed whether the relationship was working or falling apart. This kind of open dialog is integral to a successful relationship, yet so many people are unwilling or unable to engage in it.

Posted by: Eric | November 22, 2006 3:45 PM

Bravo Cream of the Crop. I totally agree!! Thanks for having the guts to articulate this.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 3:46 PM

"I believe that Title VII states that women cannot be discriminated against based on these issues."

This made me curious, since I thought that you couldn't discriminate based on marital status for men or women. But from a quick visit to the EEOC website it looks like there is no general federal regulation prohibiting discrimination based on marital status for private employers (there is for the federal govt). Title VII and the other regs enforced by EEOC cover race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, pregnancy and disability from what I can see. Any civil rights lawyers who can weigh in?

Posted by: Megan | November 22, 2006 3:47 PM

//I believe that Title VII states that women cannot be discriminated against based on these issues. If a prospective employer asks women applicants about their marital status and whether or not she wants children and then doesn't hire her, she has a viable suit//

"How many women do you think actually file a suit under this law? you know how hard it is to prove hiring discrimination solely based on marital status/wanting to have children?"

I am the living proof of this post. I was asked this in a job interview. You can't really say that this is an illegal question and still get a job. So, I had to lie.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 3:48 PM


So many posters are so dismissive of the contributions of those who've made other choices.

I work full-time and volunteer in multiple roles at my kids' public school. So many here seem to view moms who SAH as retreating into a cocoon apart from the world. The SAH moms I know do not. They carry a disproportionate share of our communal burden, contributing extensive time and resources and expertise to making, for example, my kids' school an enriching place. It is due largely to their efforts (though many woh parents like me also rise to the occasion, and contribute as much as we can find time to) that our school has a safe new playground, that my kids have an art teacher, that the kids enjoy computers and accelerated reader programs and science fairs. All of these were organized and funded by parents, mostly committed SAH moms. Our society takes all this hidden work for granted, and fails to fund minimal requirements for public schooling, leaving parents to scrap for the rest. Unfair, but we should be grateful to those whose life choices let them prioritize making those commitments of time and energy that pick up the slack for all of us.

Paid work is hardly the only venue to deploy one's talents for social benefit. Many of us have quite narrow and technical career paths, isolated in their impact. Becoming parents enlarges our social kinship and connects us to a wider world. It exposes us to opportunities to share the unique gifts of our profession or educational background more broadly.

I know M.D.s who no longer practice, but volunteer 1 day per week at clinics or foster medically hard-to-place children. There are more ways to deploy one's training than any narrow prescription can imagine, and we're all enriched by encouraging a proliferation of work/volunteer full-time/part-time career reentry options. For example, if careers blending research and medical practice, or teaching and medical practice are viable, why shouldn't part-time medical practice be just as viable an option? Diversity of options enhances the possibility that some options will work for individual situations.

Posted by: KB | November 22, 2006 3:49 PM

"I personally think it is despicable for women to leave medicine altogether for a long length of time because they have children."

"So frankly . . . I and many others could care less if female elementary school teachers who graduated from University of Maryland decide to stay home and raise their kids instead of working. (Even though elementary school teaching is valuable and college education is important, yada yada.)"


"But it really bothers me when I see or hear about Harvard (or other top-10, 20 school) graduates who go on to top law schools, med schools, business schools or PhD programs, then decide to give it all up to stay home with kiddies."

"I don't think any of the intellectuals that truly think about this stuff give a hoot whether these average women stay home."

So, "Cream of the Crop," is it fair to characterize you as an elitist? And that you really don't have much interest in the daily lives and struggles of the average woman?

Do you think this is a fair representation of "feminism?"

Why should the average woman have much interest in your cause? It doesn't sound like you're doing (or even trying to do) a heck of a lot for her.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 3:50 PM

"The implication that male engineers designed airbags to suit men, with no regard for women, is absolutely false."

Mr. Honda --

Why would it be so surprising that safety devices are designed around male bodies?

Medical researchers today are just beginning to learn how extensively women have been negatively affected by decades of research that used men as subjects and then expanded results to apply to women, as well.

Among other oversights, researchers now agree that thousands of women have died needlessly from heart attacks because the "signs and symptoms" people are told to watch for are those specific to men. Turns out that women can -- and usually do -- have a whole different set of symptoms.

In the same vein, pharmaceutical research has focused on male responses to experimental drugs while not doing parallel studies on women. The result? Dosages recommended and prescribed have frequently been too high for women and have left them impaired in many ways.

These are just a couple of examples, but the point is that it has been standard operating procedure until only recently to do R&D of any kind based on male subjects. Yes, things are changing. But the likelihood is that air bags were designed without the average woman as part of the model.

Posted by: pittypat | November 22, 2006 3:50 PM

I find this stuff about "betrayal" quite disturbing, especially when it's parsed out to say that women with undergrad degrees aren't as fit to "carry the mantle" and light the way to the future as women with grad degrees and beyond. This sentiment implies that women have inherited more than just "breadwinner" aspect of the traditional male role in society.

The point about human equality is the freedom to pursue happiness in whatever way any human sees fit for his or herself. Period. IMO, such an attitude not only turns its back on women who CHOOSE to stay home and raise their kids, it subverts the gender equality movement by adopting the very discriminatory behaviors it once fought to eliminate

Posted by: Eric | November 22, 2006 3:53 PM

I find this stuff about "betrayal" quite disturbing, especially when it's parsed out to say that women with undergrad degrees aren't as fit to "carry the mantle" and light the way to the future as women with grad degrees and beyond. This sentiment implies that women have inherited more than just "breadwinner" aspect of the traditional male role in society.

The point about human equality is the freedom to pursue happiness in whatever way any human sees fit for his or herself. Period. IMO, such an attitude not only turns its back on women who CHOOSE to stay home and raise their kids, it subverts the gender equality movement by adopting the very discriminatory behaviors it once fought to e

Posted by: Eric | November 22, 2006 3:53 PM

Uh, pittypat - do you think it's possible that Mr. Honda might actually know how air bags were designed, and what the model included?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 3:53 PM

I agree with everything you said. However, in my personal experience, I found that working for a career driven woman is hell. Whether this woman is also a mother or not is irrelevant. Her career is her priority and the child rearing is left to a combination of relatives, husband, or a really expensive caregiver. In fact, again in my personal experience, these women have been a lot less understanding when there is suddenly a family emergency or just a general desire for a balance. If I can add to your post it is the women on the mommy track that we want to cultivate and promote. Or men on a daddy track. Equal opportunity. Finally, out of curiousity, how many working mother work for the future Speaker to be, Nancy Pelosi? Don't get me wrong, I am happy with the election results, but I don't think that the office of the speaker keeps the hours compatible with a working parent schedule. Which is too bad, because only that's the people who can do something about this.

Posted by: to cream of the crop | November 22, 2006 3:55 PM

"Our society takes all this hidden work for granted"

Then do something to get your volunteer work recognized by society.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 3:55 PM

it's equally possible that there's more than one design/designer and that things have changed since the first design.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 3:56 PM

to Amanda, don't let that other person's comments hurt your feelings. I can't say that I really "loved" my son before he was born. I certainly cared about him and felt invested in his well being, but I can't say that I really loved him until after he was born and yes, then the love came pretty quickly, but my first emotion after his birth, relief.

Posted by: Melt | November 22, 2006 4:00 PM

pittypat- If you go to the science section of the New York Times, you'll find an article on health disparities from the past week or 2. Interestingly, you'll notice that even with all the research focused on men, they still get sick more and die younger than women. Meanwhile, the Women's Health Initiative has done wonders in the past 20 years to correct for ignoring women's health. It seems that more research money need to be focused on men. Funny, huh?

Posted by: Amanda | November 22, 2006 4:01 PM

To Cream of the Crop, you have courage to post that!

I have faith that the cream-of-the-crop woman who chooses to stay home will be a wonderful influence on the kids, the school and the community. That sphere will benefit greatly from her presence.

I would not want a world where the best and the brightest are restricted to only working in their chosen profession.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | November 22, 2006 4:02 PM

Air bag systems have evolved significantly over the last decade or so, to include such things as airbags that can adjust the force of deployment based on the weight of the person in the seat, side airbags, and side-curtain air bags.

It isn't your mother's death trap any more


;-)

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 4:02 PM

"So, "Cream of the Crop," is it fair to characterize you as an elitist? And that you really don't have much interest in the daily lives and struggles of the average woman?"

No, I don't think it's really fair to say that. I don't believe that my post implied that I am indifferent to the plight or daily struggles of the "average woman." I merely said that the "average woman" is NOT the woman who we as a society should be--or, frankly, are--concerned about when we talk about a brain drain among female professionals.

I absolutely stand behind what I said--but not because I am elitist or hate the average female employee or even because I don't recognize her contributions, but rather, because her contributions are fundamentally different than that of the professional, cream of the crop top graduate, as I said before.

And Eric, spare me the Declaration of Independence stuff--obviously everyone makes his or her own choices, but the bottom line is, some people's choices matter more to society than others' choices do.

Posted by: Cream of the Crop | November 22, 2006 4:05 PM

Thank god - finally a voice of reason coming from workingmom2.

While all the philosophical, gender and societal arguments provide interesting debate fodder, the reality of life will hit you when faced with a divorce or the death of a spouse. I've watched way too many highly educated women give up the financial reigns in an effort to lead some kind of 1950s throw-back lifestyle (which never existed in the first place), and are then shocked and amazed at how unprepared they are when they are single again. Single with kids to support.

Ladies, whether you want to admit it or not, you are selling out when you drop out. The entire system needs to be overhauled to encourage flexibility for both women AND men, but if you don't stay in the fight to help change it, it will always be this way. Why, in the 21st century, in the richest country in the world, are women still dealing with this situation?

Enough with the arguments of "it is my choice". It is only your choice when you are financially independent, and don't need to rely on the monetary contributions of your spouse. If you can absorb the cost of your spouse being out of the picture and be OK, then you have a true choice. Anything else means you are living off of the kindness and obligation of others. Don't forget the rules of the game. If you want to play a 1950s housewife role, then don't be upset when your spouse fulfills his own stereotypical gender role and leaves you for the secretary. If you make yourself less than an equal, you will be treated as such. I know plenty of men who would love to take a few years off, too, and I watch them struggle just as much as women to be a responsible parent and help their wives take care of the children, even when the woman is a stay at home mom. On the flip side, I also still see too many men who hold all of the household economic power, and use that to their advantage.

Posted by: Reality Bites | November 22, 2006 4:06 PM

"They will shape policy and the future of the world--they, and not the vast majority of crappy undergrad graduates average women employees."

Wrong, you elitist sh**.

It's the elementary school teachers who are shaping the future of the world. That's right. The ones who work with what is supposedly "our most valuable asset" -- our children -- at the point in their lives when they're most readily influenced and likely to develop aspirations.

Yeah, teachers. The ones who are paid miserly salaries and expected to launch the lives of all those little girls and boys who will become the CEOs, top surgeons, Supreme Court Justices, blah, blah, blah.

Sweetie, you don't become the cream of anybody's crop unless you've gotten a solid foundation in learning and interacting -- and I've yet to see kids learn those skills from surgeons, lawyers, dentists, judges, CEOs, politicians, or even ivory-tower academics.

Those "crappy undergrad graduates average women" [sic] are the ones who make the world go 'round.

Posted by: Not a teacher | November 22, 2006 4:06 PM

"I would not want a world where the best and the brightest are restricted to only working in their chosen profession."

And where is it written that a "chosen profession" has to be limited to paid employment? Or something other than caring for your own kids? Are our priorities really so out of whack that we only value something if: a) it pays a lot of money; or b) it provides a high degree of recognition and prestige?

That's not healthy.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 4:06 PM

I believe you Amanda!!!

I "loved" both my children in extremely practical ways before they were born - a combined 16 weeks of strict bedrest, 9 of which were in the hospital, several on very heavy medication. Even while I was enduring discomfort for their sake and while I worried a great deal about them, the idea of having a child was surreal both times. The *feelings* of love took a while to develop after they were born.

Good news - the feelings are strong enough to take your breath away after a little while.

I was discouraged during the pregnancy and newborn phases because I didn't *feel* the overwhelming sense of love that others spoke of. Doesn't sound like you are discouraged, which is great. You can still be a great mom and do the right thing for your kids while you're waiting for the feelings to blossom.

Posted by: becky | November 22, 2006 4:08 PM

pittypat: "Why would it be so surprising that safety devices are designed around male bodies?
Medical researchers today are just beginning to learn how extensively women have been negatively affected by decades of research that used men...//

The original poster Noelle was referring to airbags. This I know for a fact having worked in the industry for over 10 years. Airbags save lives and the early push was for airbags to be in all vehicles ASAP. One cannot predict if the driver is a 100lb 4ft11 woman or a 280lb 6ft5 man. The early airbags were tuned for the mean. If there was no airbag, the driver would be more severely injured. Like I said, the advanced air bag systems adapt to a driver's weight and are thus "gentler". There is no male-bias in safety devices in the auto industry. We know that half the drivers are women. And they don't drive as well as men. :) :)

I cannot speak to the other areas of medical research, etc. That will be pure conjecture on my part.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | November 22, 2006 4:11 PM

"I absolutely stand behind what I said--but not because I am elitist or hate the average female employee or even because I don't recognize her contributions, but rather, because her contributions are fundamentally different than that of the professional, cream of the crop top graduate, as I said before."

Maybe not - I'll take your word for it - but you sure as heck sound like an elitist. Elitism doesn't require that you "hate" the average woman (or man) - it simply means that you place a disproportionate degree of interest, concern and value on those you consider to be superior.

"[S]ome people's choices matter more to society than others' choices do" sounds an awful lot like "some animals are more equal than others."

This, if nothing else, not a good way to win adherents and influence other women.


Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 4:12 PM

I'm loving the posts from becky, Amanda and melt about pre-birth love. I was the same way - I was very invested in my pregnancy and excited and so on, but it was really hard to connect the idea of my child with the being living in my belly - pregnancy is surreal and childbirth profound. I guess for some of us it takes a while to wrap our minds around it all.

Posted by: Megan | November 22, 2006 4:14 PM

"And Eric, spare me the Declaration of Independence stuff--obviously everyone makes his or her own choices, but the bottom line is, some people's choices matter more to society than others' choices do."

Uh, this isn't about "all people are created equal," this is about my opinion that people with your attitude are the ones betraying the future of minority-human empowerment, not a Harvard-educated woman who CHOOSES to stay home.

You may not think you're elitist, but you are. Even your name betrays that. And I can't think of a better word to characterize this sentiment:

"I...could care less if female elementary school teachers who graduated from University of Maryland decide to stay home and raise their kids instead of working...

But it really bothers me when I see or hear about Harvard...graduates who go on to top law schools, med schools, business schools or PhD programs, then decide to give it all up to stay home with kiddies. Because these women are the future."

Women who make brave choices in the face of strong social pressures are the future. So, imo, the Harvard professional who stays home, despite the obviously mounting pressure from other women to not stay home, are the ones who carry the mantle of empowerment more so than the one who ignores her desires and becomes CEO because of some outside pressure.

Posted by: Eric | November 22, 2006 4:16 PM

"I absolutely stand behind what I said--but not because I am elitist or hate the average female employee or even because I don't recognize her contributions, but rather, because her contributions are fundamentally different than that of the professional, cream of the crop top graduate, as I said before."

Gee, Cream, you could have fooled me.

Referring to sub-"Cream" women as "the vast majority of crappy undergrad graduates average women employees" sounds an awful lot like elitism to me.

And you say you don't "hate" these women?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 4:16 PM

Well, I'm going to take my non-cream of the crop, no degree having, lowly white collar job working self home to get an early start on my Thanksgiving dinner. I may not be contributing much to society at large but I still get to occupy the planet with folks like Cream of the Crop. Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Posted by: Melt | November 22, 2006 4:21 PM

With regard to title VII and marriage status---

No, it doesn't protect you if you are discriminated against because you are or are not married. Where this question becomes a problem is when it is only asked of women and then used as a basis for not hiring women. Responsible employers have HR policies that ensure that these personal, non-relevant questions are not asked.

If an employer needs to know if someone can travel a lot, then that employer needs to ask "are you able to travel 50% of the time" rather than ask if she is married or has children.

And one of the posters above is right. The laws against discrimination are not enforced as much as they should be. It takes 2-3 years to fully investigate and adjudicate complaints. There is plenty of discrimination going on in the workplace and most is not reported. That which is reported is gotten away with and the few who get justice are chastised as "trouble-makers" moreover it could take years to get this justice.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 4:22 PM

Since when is a Harvard graduate cream of the crop?

There's Mr. Leung my 10th grade advanced math teacher who inspired in me a lifelong love of math. He graduated from a state school. There's Jeremy the electrician/handyman who could fix anything electrical and mechanical in the house.

The only Harvard guy I recall is Jeff Skilling, who at his Harvard Business School interview was asked "Are you smart?" and replied, "I'm f@cking smart".
He graduated in the top 5% and is now serving time for federal prison. Thousands of people lost most of their retirement money because they believed this huckster.

Posted by: CreamOfTheCrap | November 22, 2006 4:24 PM

Hey, folks, let's not forget that our illustrious president graduated from both Yale AND Harvard.

Now there's a guy we can really look to as a "Cream of the Crop" professional. The most powerful man in the world. The Decider. The fellow who's gotten nearly 3,000 Americans killed in Iraq.

Truth be told, the U.S. would be a lot better off if he'd dropped out when the twins were born and Laura had continued working!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 4:25 PM

Just an interesting side note: did you know that researchers concluded that menopause had no adverse effects after they extensively studied this life stage in... wait for it... men...

Posted by: newbie | November 22, 2006 4:26 PM

"Hey, folks, let's not forget that our illustrious president graduated from both Yale AND Harvard."

And Kerry, who held himself out as the intellectual, while conveniently forgetting that his academic record was on a par with . . . wait, let me remember . . . oh yeah, that "W" guy.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 4:29 PM

"Just an interesting side note: did you know that researchers concluded that menopause had no adverse effects after they extensively studied this life stage in... wait for it... men..."

Which is pure foolishness - my wife's menopause is making my life MISERABLE

;-)

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 4:29 PM

"Women who make brave choices in the face of strong social pressures are the future. So, imo, the Harvard professional who stays home, despite the obviously mounting pressure from other women to not stay home, are the ones who carry the mantle of empowerment more so than the one who ignores her desires and becomes CEO because of some outside pressure."

I don't agree with that! That's a lot of malarky. Although "cream of the crop" stated her argument inelegantly, the jist of her comments is still valid. The more intelligent, ambitious, and talented women who are fortunate enough to get into a "name" college, are assumed to be the future LEADERS (as opposed to saying they are our future. All women are our future). And yes there are talented women who go to "non-name" schools who succeed as leaders. You can parse this any way you want but "staying home" with the children baking brownies, going to PTA meetings, whatever, does not pose a great advantage to our society. And these women are not major contributors to the greater good no matter how many husbands say so (I can see the husbands of these women laughing with glee at how they've duped their talented wives into this). I consider it a brain drain.

Moreover it is elitist of those women or those who advocate for these women who can "afford" financially to stay at home to say that they enrich their kid's school. Poorer school districts don't have parents who have the time to hold bake sales and cut construction paper turkeys for their kid's classes. So how do we address that?

The whole argument becomes ridiculous when the extremists are out.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 4:31 PM

Hey cream of the crop, on this Thanksgiving day, try to give thanks for all the "other little people" ok? Like maybe your parents and family? (I'm guessing not all of them are Harvard grads).

The doctors that took care of your family members might not have been Harvard grads too, but they're just regular folks from some state school.

The policeman that keeps your streets safe is doing a lot of good for society too.

All men are created equal.

Posted by: CreamOfTheCrap | November 22, 2006 4:31 PM

newbie --

Don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Did you know that there's been renewed research interest in "andropause"? Yeah, we're back to studying the guys again.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 4:32 PM

Although I admit a lot of the comments today made my blood pressure rise, this is the kind of discussion I love...so many different and smart opinions.

The comments I abhor the most are the ones trashing daycare as "outsourcing" care for infants. All three of my kids were in excellent daycare starting at around 3 months old. They were lavished with TLC not just by me and my husband but by the dozen daycare employees. They learned early that people can be trusted as loving, affectionate and responsive. Good daycare is a godsend, and babies get MORE TLC at daycare than they could ever get at home in a 1:1 situation.

No more entries until Monday (we're taking tomorrow and Friday off). Happy Turkey Day, everyone.

Posted by: Leslie | November 22, 2006 4:37 PM

"You can parse this any way you want but "staying home" with the children baking brownies, going to PTA meetings, whatever, does not pose a great advantage to our society. And these women are not major contributors to the greater good no matter how many husbands say so (I can see the husbands of these women laughing with glee at how they've duped their talented wives into this). I consider it a brain drain. "

At last, some honesty.

"Cream" and 4:31 do not, in fact, respect the choices of SAHM, nor believe that htey are making a valuable contribution to society.

It would appear that 4:31, at least, is a conspiracy theorist also, and believes that the husbands of SAHMs have somehow "duped" them into doing something foolish.

I do agree with 4:31 that "The whole argument becomes ridiculous when the extremists are out." Unfortunately, it would seem that she's an extremist.

Elitism is, by it's very nature, the tendency to place greater value and importance on the persons and activities of a relatively small number of "elite" - however you might define them.

The funny thing is that if the top 20,000 men and women in the country - however Cream and 4:31 might want to define them - were to die of the bird flu during the upcoming flu season, the nation would adjust and move on.

It is all of us, together, making our individual day to day choices and getting our work done that, in the end, create a vibrant and living society. Someone - anyone - is elitist when they forget that.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 4:39 PM

Leslie, "babies get MORE TLC at daycare than they could ever get at home in a 1:1 situation."

That's shocking! I think it must only be true in Leslie's household, or Leslie's daycare.

Posted by: Wow! | November 22, 2006 4:40 PM

To all the elitists there, please look up the roll of Medal of Honor recipients.
http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/moh1.htm

These are ordinary folks who have done extraordinary deeds. They did not go to Harvard, weren't the best and the brightest, but they performed the ultimate sacrifice, one that few Harvard folks would ever do, - give their lives for their fellow men. Their contribution to society cost them the ultimate price.

Posted by: CreamOfTheCrap | November 22, 2006 4:43 PM

Selfish? Hardly. More like -- selfless. Sounds as though your wife really happy. But are you? Happiness for both of you is the real balance.

Posted by: to LongCommuteDad | November 22, 2006 4:46 PM

I'm a high school science teacher, and in my profession turnover is high. Single men move on, single women move on; and married men and women move on. Fortunately some stay because the learning curve is steep, and those of us remaining have to carry to load for awhile. We are glad when the weaker colleagues leave and sorry when the good ones go -- for any reason. The reason they leave isn't as significant as the fallout on those that remain behind.

Society suffers when people get stuck in their stereotypes. Are men suppportive? Are women supportive? The answer is "it depends on many things..."

Is the turnover truly greater for women of child-bearing age? I doubt it. My guess is that young singles are the mobile ones. I'd have to see the stats before I made any unreasonable assumptions. That's the real issue here...dangerous assumptions...

Posted by: lechatelier | November 22, 2006 4:50 PM

"You can parse this any way you want but "staying home" with the children baking brownies, going to PTA meetings, whatever, does not pose a great advantage to our society. And these women are not major contributors to the greater good no matter how many husbands say so (I can see the husbands of these women laughing with glee at how they've duped their talented wives into this). I consider it a brain drain."

The woman who gets involved with the PTA may someday be on the Board of Education and then get elected to County government in some capacity and then later State government, federal government, etc.

People involved in the PTA may be among the best and first to advocate for better after-school programs for the children of both working and non-working parents. Many PTA members really work hard for the best for all students, not just their own, even though the PTA-Nazis get the most attention :).

So the thought of a SAHM PTA mom reaching the level of politics to effect a great advantage to our society may seem a stretch to some, but I'm sure that the "cream of the crop" among the SAHM's could do it.

Posted by: bottom of the barrel | November 22, 2006 4:54 PM

To "Wow!" I don't know. Infants usually have a caregiver:child ratio of 1:4. There are usually 8 to 12 infants and the corresponding 2 to 3 caregivers. Imagine this situation in a home - pretty good attention! Daycaregivers aren't trying to do the laundry and clean the house and run errands and cook dinner, etc. My daughter gets great care at her day care!

Posted by: Anaxamander | November 22, 2006 4:57 PM

Hmm, I don't get this conversation. People do, or should do, what they want to do. And then, they deal with those consequences. This whole argument is futile. Are you people going to legislate whether women should work or not? Obviously that is out of the question. Let's argue about something "actionable," as Secretary Rice might say.

Due to the sheer volume of misspelled words and poor grammar on this blog, I have a hard time believing many of you have a college education at all. People who have so much time to rant about something for which there can be no enforced solutions are either bored stay-at-home-and-not-have-to-work Moms or those like me who aren't getting much work done today.

Posted by: Ryan | November 22, 2006 5:02 PM

"So the thought of a SAHM PTA mom reaching the level of politics to effect a great advantage to our society may seem a stretch to some, but I'm sure that the "cream of the crop" among the SAHM's could do it."

It's a rarity that this happens. Most of the PTA moms I know are decidedly unambitious and are happy to live off of their husbands. Nice try

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 5:10 PM

But, most of the SAHM's are not the cream of the crop either.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 5:14 PM

Leslie,

I have to work Friday. It seems that you have much more balance than I do. Why do you whine?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 5:16 PM


Anonymous 4:31 wrote

>Moreover it is elitist of those women or >those who advocate for these women who can >"afford" financially to stay at home to say >that they enrich their kid's school. Poorer >school districts don't have parents who have >the time to hold bake sales and cut >construction paper turkeys for their kid's >classes. So how do we address that?

You know, I have argued this very point. I believe society should be more fully funding schools for all, so that parents aren't left supplementing to attain a minimal standard. Because the parents who are able to boost the level to an acceptable one are exactly those whose resources - time, money, access to power - put their kids at lowest risk. Underfunding schools perpetuates class inequalities, deprives many kids, and wastes great reservoirs of human potential. However, my beliefs don't seem likely to prevail --- though I would happily put my WOH tax money behind them --- at least not in the red state where I reside. I'm left with the reality that schools are underfunded. My kids don't live in the hypothetical fantasy world I might prefer. They live in a real world, where I appreciate the extensive efforts of others whose sacrifice enriches their lives. Just because I'd prefer an alternative reality doesn't mean I should deny and demean those who make our actual reality a better one.

And if you think parent volunteers are only contributing frills like bake sales and construction paper turkeys, I'd say you're the one living a life of blissful, self-indulgent unawareness. It galls me that kids at most other public schools in my county have no art classes, poorly stocked libraries, dilapidated playgrounds that cause kids injury, etc.

So yes, the best public schools benefit disproportionately from involved parents. Though they also impact the wider world --- through book drives for sister schools, canned good and sock drives, UNICEF fundraisers, etc. Yes, a society-wide commitment to all schools would be better. Exactly what is elitist about acknowledging any of this? And exactly how does denying it and claiming everyone should work only for pay and abstain from volunteering help?

Posted by: KB | November 22, 2006 5:17 PM

""Cream" and 4:31 do not, in fact, respect the choices of SAHM, nor believe that htey are making a valuable contribution to society."
"It would appear that 4:31, at least, is a conspiracy theorist also, and believes that the husbands of SAHMs have somehow "duped" them into doing something foolish."
"Unfortunately, it would seem that she's an extremist."
Elitism is, by it's very nature, the tendency to place greater value and importance on the persons and activities of a relatively small number of "elite"

Not an elitist and not an extremist. I love how people resort to insults when they don't have anything intelligent to say.

It is a waste for talented women to give up their careers. I don't care where they get their degrees. Not every family can afford a Harvard education and many less recongized schools offer great scholarships. And I might have been flip about how husbands "dupe" their wives, but I speak from experience. Most of my male colleagues have said at one time or another that they'd never marry a woman who wanted a career (or wouldn't stay at home). Not all men are "pigs" like that, but most do have this expectation and it's disgusting.

I have far more admiration for the women in in everyday jobs---the teachers, the nurses and the factory workers. Most of those do not have a choice, but I find these women to be the best mothers and shining examples for society. They contribute to keeping our country going and this "elitist" appreciates every one of them. You can keep the stay at home brownie baking waste products.

Posted by: 4:29 | November 22, 2006 5:21 PM

For all of the people who can't seem to balance their lives, I have two words for you: NANCY PELOSI.


Posted by: two words | November 22, 2006 5:23 PM

reply to: mcewen you're an idiot.
Lets see 50% to 60% of married couples divorce so love must be a fleeting and short term emotion.Same can be said for gays.The divorce laws in this country are financially totally stacked against men, never met a man who would disagree with that, go to wallmart any day of the week and see why women spend 80% of the consumer dollar, also note how many of them weigh 350 lbs. plus. It costs a lot of money to get yourself inn that condition and they don't work. Duh. Men die on average 10+ years before women,why because men sacrifice themselves so that women can have the good life.

Posted by: mcewen | November 22, 2006 5:26 PM

mcewen's a troll. Don't feed him.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 5:35 PM

"Most of my male colleagues have said at one time or another that they'd never marry a woman who wanted a career (or wouldn't stay at home). Not all men are "pigs" like that, but most do have this expectation and it's disgusting."

If a man or woman has career aspirations that would require many hours then somehow taking care of the home and children must be addressed. This can be accomplished by having a stay-at-home spouse, hired help, or splitting the home/child duties with a working spouse, or some combination of the above. If a career-minded person knows that they are not interested in spending non-work hours doing household chores and errands, then the should choose having a stay-at-home spouse or hired help. If someone prefers the lifestyle of having a stay-at-home spouse, that does not automatically make them a "pig".

Many females here have stated the preference that their husbands stay at home. Does this mean that they are "pigs".

I would love to have live-in help, especially a cook. Does that make me lazy because I would rather have someone else take care of things that I would rather not do myself? I can't afford it, so I actually do it myself.

As long as these men/women make this known early in the dating game and restrict their relationships to those who agree with the lifestyle, I see nothing wrong with this. The problem would be in marrying someone who is also interested in a career for themselves, and then expecting the spouse to give up their ambitions.

Posted by: huh? | November 22, 2006 5:35 PM

-- Since 60% of married men cheat, how can the divorce rate be reduced?

Make it as difficult to get married as it is to get divorced?

Require pre-marital counseling before issuing a marriage license.

Address the reasons why there is so much cheating. Is there something that can be done for the relationship to prevent cheating in the first place?

Learn how to get beyond the cheating and work on the marriage rather than getting a divorce.

Realize that 'cheating' is not the only reason for a divorce and work on the other reasons.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 5:42 PM

"Many females here have stated the preference that their husbands stay at home. Does this mean that they are "pigs".
I would love to have live-in help, especially a cook. Does that make me lazy because I would rather have someone else take care of things that I would rather not do myself? I can't afford it, so I actually do it myself."

Well, yes it does mean they are "pigs". How about I say selfish. They are putting their needs above their partner and that is never good. I've know men to say that they would never let their wives not work, but they are few and far between so if most want women who stay at home, then really what they are saying is that women should not be in the workplace and exist only to serve men. Pathetic.

With regard to wanting a chef---sure hire one. If you hate to cook and afford it, it doesn't make your lazy. It's when you can't afford it and let your kids starve that you're lazy.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 5:44 PM

A few thoughts:

1. Kids are fun. Not all the time, to be sure, but they add an element of whimsy and excitement to the most elementary things. I would hope that the person who makes a choice to stay home is doing so partially because they want to encourage their children to be children - something that often only comes when parents foster it. Which is why I would stay home if I could.

2. This is all assuming that parent a)working, and parent b) stay at home, are good parents. If you sit your child in front the TV or let them play video games all day--whether you are there or not--you are not a good parent. If you take the time to read with them, learn with them, and play with them, love the, then even if it is only an hour a day you are a good parent.

3. To stay home with your children is a personal choice, one that should not nor cannot be judged by ANYONE. There is no right answer and anyone who pretends to have one is foolish.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 5:46 PM

Well, yes it does mean they are "pigs". How about I say selfish. They are putting their needs above their partner and that is never good.

If they look for a partner who wants to stay home and they have the same vision of family lifestyle, they are not putting their needs above their partner. This is also true of someone who wants to live in the country and hates cities so looks for a partner who also wants to live in the country rather than a city. It's called compatibility.

I think that anyone who tries to force a lifestyle on an unwilling partner is a pig. Someone who knows what they want and looks for a partner who wants the same is smart. Maybe clear expectations ahead of time would help the high divorce rate.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2006 5:53 PM

Hey Cream of the Crop,

Next time you need a policeman, nurse, day care provider, make sure that you check their credentials! You would not be satified with someone with a crappy degree from a state school.

Posted by: Fred | November 22, 2006 6:05 PM

Very late to the party (actually, to about 2 weeks worth of the party, given my belated "summer" vacation). Interesting combo of posts by LongCommuteDad and tlawrenceva -- a man in the traditional role who is questioning some of the downsides, and a woman in the reverse position who resents that her husband will NOT take on that role.

I echo the thought that the important thing is to find a compromise that meets the needs of BOTH parties -- regardless of whether the roles fit stereotypes or preconceived expectations. I think it is unfair for either party simply to expect that his or her husband or wife will work/stay home, without considering and evaluating whether and how that will affect the other person's needs and goals. And even if you agree to do something, but ultimately find that it isn't working like you thought, it's ok to change your mind.

But above all else, TALK about it. If your wife loves you, she will not want you to simply trudge on through life feeling beaten down and unfulfilled by your responsibilities. If your husband loves you, he will not want you to feel so overwhelmed and resentful about carrying the entire financial burden that you'd rather leave than deal with him any more.

I've always WOH; always have, always will, even though I don't "have" to. Far from resenting it, my husband just last week told me that that was the biggest single gift I had given him, because he didn't have to bear the entire weight of supporting the family on his shoulders, and he always knew he could walk into work on any given day and quit if he just couldn't take it any more. It makes me happy to know that my working makes his life a little easier and happier.

Of course, should also say that we were really clear on this long before we got married -- we both knew what we wanted before we had kids, so we were able to plan a life that gives each of us enough of what we need to be satisfied. If either working or staying home is really important to you, then the most important thing is to find someone who shares the same goal, and figure that out beforehand (as much as you can ever predict what life will throw at you) -- I know other guys who very much WANT to be the sole breadwinner, so living with me wouldn't have worked for them (and vice-versa).

Posted by: Laura | November 22, 2006 6:10 PM

When I was in the library one day working on my dissertation, a fellow grad student out of the blue asked me why I was working on a phd? When I seemed startled by the question, he clarified, "Well, you know, women don't need to work. Or you could teach in a school (k-12). I just mumbled that my interest is in our subject and that is taught in universities.
Only a few years later, he dropped out of his university job. I have just retired after a satisfying 37 years in a field I never tired of.

Posted by: Michele Shover | November 22, 2006 6:18 PM

When my daughter was born we decided that she could stay at home with child. Decision was right one for us because wife was not happy with her job, financials benefits of her working were small once you factored in day care and other costs associated with her working.

Daughter is now 12 and still has Mom at home to help guide her through homework and currently they are each others best friend.

Once wife decides what career she would prefer to have then she is welcome to return to workplace.

For other couples decision can or should be different, if wife had enjoyed her job I would have encouraged her to keep working.

Posted by: Brian | November 22, 2006 7:14 PM

Since when did working outside the home somehow validate our feminism? Since when did working inside the home reflect that we would willingly adhere to the prosaic 1940's and lay our womanly rights at the feet of our children? What a ridiculous notion. Men and women alike recognize that we women do not shed our collective efforts to maintain our equality when we don "at-home" clothes rather than a power suit.

The reality is, is that staying at home will corral a variety of supporters and nay-sayers regardless of the sex of the individual. To stereotype a group of people based on one or two people's experience, would be, well, sexist, right? Unfortunately, insecure women are often the ones raising the panicked feminist-marked red flags attempting to establish that our needs be met in the workplace else we lose the right to work, vote, think, feel, belong, or whatever.

Why must all women remain in the workforce- so that they may be a crutch for other women who cannot make it alone along side men? How sad to say, with all the strides women have made in the last century, that one woman may be now fearful of working in a predominantly male environment because others have "bailed ship". Have we not learned anything? Are we not capable of that kind of environment?

Regarding my children and my decision to stay at home, I determined that it was preposterous to think that any "other" woman (specifically day care) could raise my child better than I can. I intend to remain in my "place" should I be proved otherwise. Barring significant financial issues, which I happen to be in and continue to remain at home, I also refuse to validate anyone that says otherwise, including working mothers.

Furthermore, the decision that women in this article made about staying at home with their children, was probably not about you and the impact that decision would have on furthering the feminist agenda of women to come. It was probably about their children and their relationship with their children: how more feminist can you get when a woman can make a choice as to what she would prefer to do? Why would a true-blue feminist be anything but happy for that woman (hint: fear)?

Forget the statistics. No one makes decisions of staying at home based on the chances of the marriage ending in a divorce. Think instead about the quality of life. To be a frantic work-a-holic, bus driver, errands runner, housekeeper, bill payer, rule-enforcer, diaper changer, events coordinator, and homework-helper leaves little time to be a nurturer, a caretaker, a teacher and a lover. Presently, as a stay-at-home mother, I am able to be all the above, but am not required to squeeze 40 hours a week in between the necessary tasks. And I still go to bed at a decent hour. To not be functional in the relationships around you because you are exhausted for decades at a time is a disservice to your children and your husband, who at one time was your best friend. At least, isn't that why you married him?

And, let's face it; I'm under no illusions of the inequity of the workload. The workload continues to be unequal, whether we are stay-at-home moms or working mothers. But, frankly, I'm not worried about my workload, because I can handle it. What I can't handle is not knowing what my kids are doing, not being able to enforce rules because I'm at work while their at home alone, and raising children who were raised by the rotating staff at the nearest day care center. I choose to be a feminist at home making my mark on my children, not sacrificing my children at the altar of the work-place.

Posted by: 29-Year Old Stay-At-Home | November 22, 2006 7:42 PM

"Since dropping out of the work force to raise children is such a sin, do you propose that women (girls) go straight from high school (why wait that long?) to being barefoot and pregnant so as not to distress potential mentors and co-workers? What would happen to the divorce rate then?"

Easy, it would be even lower and some people would use that correlation to promote child marriage:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3168638.stm

"...His main rival, scrap metal merchant King Florin Cioaba, is in deep trouble with the Romanian authorities after forcing his daughter Ana-Maria, whose age is reported as either 12 or 14, to go through with a marriage which friends claim she rejected...

"...Romania is under substantial pressure from the European Union to eliminate child marriages.

"But Cioaba's faction is determined to preserve the centuries-old tradition, which it believes preserves higher moral standards and acts as a bulwark against divorce."

"One important thing to remember is that a woman who stays out of the work force for years makes herself and her children vulnerable should her husband die, get sick, leave, get fired etc."

Exactly - and it's just as risky for househusbands as it is for housewives.

"Really, what are these Mommy JDs who are so happy to SAH after finishing their 200K educations going to do all day when jr. is at school?"

I dunno, good off on the web? Training for the courtroom could make them especially good in flame wars. ;)

As for the "BIGGER PICTURE" post, some girls are raised by SAHMs and still end up subliterate pregnant 15-year-olds (but some people think that doesn't count because those girls had all that unprotected underage sex within marriage).

"Women get married for one reason, the financial security provided by the man."

Even the lesbians marrying each other in Massachusetts?

"You paint yourselves up from an early age for no other purpose than to get married."

Nah. Some people (including some girls and women) paint over birthmarks with thick foundation for the purpose of not getting bullied at school, not getting rejected at job interviews, etc.

"No, not even male privilege means that men can have it all. They don't get to stay inside in the winter."

Hey, some of them do. Not every man in America lives in a climate where winter means lots of snow shoveling. ;)

Also, Social Scientist's points at 8:12 and 10:11, and Matt in Aberdeen's at 01:27, are great.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! :)

Posted by: Maria | November 22, 2006 8:01 PM

I remember when the airbag thing first came up several years ago because of some short people being killed by airbags. A guy in charge of making up the airbag regulations, back when it was illegal to disable your factory-installed airbag, said that airbags were designed to save someone who was not wearing a seatbelt. If the person was wearing a seatbelt then the benefit of an airbag was greatly reduced. Therefore, in deciding whether to enforce airbag use, a cost-benefit decision was made between saving the lives of tall people who were not wearing seatbelts versus sacrificing the lives of short people who were wearing seatbelts. There are more tall people than short people, and tall people have a greater tendency to not wear their seatbelts (because tall people are mostly male, and males tend to use seatbelts less frequently than females), therefore, by the numbers, more lives were saved by enforcing airbag use, even though it lead to the deaths of short people who would have survived those crashes had airbags not been involved. Since women tend to be on the short end of the spectrum, the people killed by airbags in general were short women.

Posted by: m | November 22, 2006 11:02 PM

To stay home, not to stay home: each a unique choice suited to each unique family uniquely.

What bothers me is how since my wedding I'm now watched like a hawk for every extra pound gained, every choice of tea over wine...so many comments and questions that are frankly over the line and nobody's business. I shudder to think about what projects/promotions I'll be passed over for because my employer assumes I'll eventually leave. What can I do but continue to put in my best effort as always?

Posted by: DinkGrrrl | November 22, 2006 11:52 PM

To 29 Year Old SAHM -- You raise a point worth responding to, "Since when did working outside the home somehow validate our feminism?"

I agree totally that you can feel great about yourself, totally empowered, if you stay home, especially if you were lucky or wise enough to marry a caring, enlightened, supportive spouse. But what's tricky is that our country doesn't offer reliable financial support and legal protection for women who don't work. We live in a capitalist country that overvalues (to the exclusion of other attributes) individuals' financial earning power. And we live in a country where employers discriminate against moms, especially those who've been out of work for a long time.

So I think it is wise, if one chooses to stay home with kids for an extended period of time, to make sure you (and your kids) are protected economically in case of divorce, abandonment, or your spouse's illness/death. A post nuptial agreement, property in your name, or an irrevocable trust for you and your children could do that.

Posted by: Leslie | November 23, 2006 8:37 AM

"Good daycare is a godsend, and babies get MORE TLC at daycare than they could ever get at home in a 1:1 situation"

Leslie - I have heard of all kinds of justifications for sending kids to daycare, some reasonable, but yours sounds weird. Daycare is a necessity for a lot of women, but I doubt most women think that by sending their kids to daycare they are getting superior TLC. Maybe your kids are getting more attention? Obviously there are more people at daycare - but that doesn't translate to more TLC.

Posted by: cmac | November 23, 2006 10:29 AM

I don't think men can win this one.

In my experience *lots* of men truly support women's choices - theoretically - and a *few* men actually invest in making them happen by their actions.

My bosses were not supportive of me working part time, so I quit and went freelance. Now they've hired me back part time. They weren't motived to "help women" but they were motivated to keep things running smoothly. Neither decision was influenced by sexism or a desire for equality.


Posted by: Shandra | November 23, 2006 1:35 PM

The most obvious fallacy I see in the notion that a woman (or a man, but this little tangent has been about women) who chooses to stay at home does less for the greater good than, say, a "COTC woman," (it's hilarious that such a concept is even being used, imo) is this:

A woman (or a man) who CHOOSES to stay home to raise their kids is taking a very active, front-line role in what kind of person their child turns out to be. It's clear to me how the sum total of all the efforts of all the men and women who do this is a net positive for the "greater good."

Now, to be clear, if my fiancee and I have kids someday, I would never suggest to her that she should stay home, nor would she suggest that I should. I'm not trying to argue that a woman (or a man) needs to stay home to raise the kids. I think day care is a perfectly viable alternative. The right caregiver can provide all of the necessary direction, teach the kids to respect an authority other than their parents, help them learn to interact with other kids, etc.

Finally, if finding elitism totally absurd makes me an extremist, so be it.

Posted by: Eric | November 23, 2006 2:00 PM

Good parents, whether they work outside the home or not, take a front-line, active role in how their kids are raised and educated. You don't have to be home 100% of the time to do that. And for the most part, kids go to school after age five. So it's important to figure out, early on, that it is relatively straightforward to be involved in your children's lives even when you need to (or want to) work.

Posted by: Leslie | November 23, 2006 9:17 PM

I don't mean to imply that parents who aren't represented at home all day aren't taking an active role in their kids lives, but imo there is a difference between the role a stay at home parent plays and the role a working parent plays. I don't have an opinion about which is better, and even if I did, I couldn't begin to mount a well-supported argument for it.

But there's a big difference between an upbringing that is spent primarily in the home and one that has built-in, non-parental "social" time for 7 - 10 hours, 5 days a week.

I do acknowledge that it's unfair to say that parents who have kids in daycare aren't on the "front lines."

Posted by: Eric | November 23, 2006 10:32 PM

But after a while, I was a horrible mom at home. It was draining and I was doing my kids no favor at all being with them - my oldest was prospering in his preschool, and I knew that if he was there more hours a week, he would do great. I chose the best day care I could find (at a huge price) and got a great nanny for the baby, and went back to work.
I know that every minute with my kids is precious - and it is. But when I was home with them, it was not - and I didn't want them to hate me or for me to be resentful of them.
Taking the time to find the best situation for your children (even if it is a daycare/preschool situation - I was lucky, because my son was able to go full time where he was part time in the same classroom with the same children, so it was less of a transition for him) is doing the best for them. Finding the best for them is the best thing for them, whether it is you or someone else.

Posted by: atlmom | November 24, 2006 8:51 AM

Many men are threatened my strong women or women who might best them in the workplace. So of course they will be more supportive of women in traditional roles who will not threaten them.

When I was running a business when my kids were young -- and I did so out of economic necessity, i.e. they would not have food if I didn't do it -- I was very envious of women who could opt out. There is also strength in numbers and the more women who leave, the harder it is on the ones who stay.

Posted by: Suzy | November 24, 2006 3:47 PM

gag me. It's always something with her. Who cares if people stay home or work.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 24, 2006 9:05 PM

Leslie, you are pathetic. I've called you on this several times, but you still insist on doing it. You are arrogant and snobby and love to lord your "pedigree" over everyone. Was it absolutely necessary to mention that you were at Wharton? Could "business school" have sufficed?

Really, when are you going to stop showing off and trying to make yourself sound better than everyone else? It's pathetic and disgusting and, ultimately, unnecessary for the success of this blog, except to turn off the everyday working moms and dads who DIDN'T go to an elite university in the East (as you mentioned to us once).

Posted by: Ryan | November 25, 2006 8:04 PM

To tlaurenceva

It may be too late for you to see this, but I'll give it a shot.

Think carefully before you leave your husband. You could end up spending LESS time with your children.

I resented my husband's not agreeing for me to stay home so much that I considered leaving him. Specifically, I considered quitting my job despite the fact he hadn't signed onto that so we'd have no choice but to downsize (find a house we could afford on one salary - I didn't know I'd want to stay home until my oldest was born so we were in a single family home we couldn't afford on one salary.) But I was afraid doing that would eventually lead to divorce. Which would mean my seeing even LESS of my children than I do now, whereas, ironically, if I were a SAHM I'd probably get full custody. Because we both worked, joint custody was the best I could hope for, so I'd completely miss them every other weekend.

See, since you work and your husband stays home, he actually has a much better likelihood of getting custody. The last thing I think you want is to be paying him child support while he gets to be with the kids almost as much as before, and you see them only every other weekend.

So I suggest trying to deal and maybe find a way to cut back on your hours. Even if your husband's not a great husband, the kids must be very attached to him at this point, and you wouldn't want to turn their lives upside down by trying to cut him out of the picture either.

Good luck!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 26, 2006 1:37 PM

So you wrote a book slamming stay-at-home moms because you were mad that you had fewer female co-workers to gossip with?

Lovely.

Very befitting of your Wharton education.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 27, 2006 11:01 AM

I hope you all read the Sunday Times Magazine piece entitled "What it Take to Make a Student." It has a lot to do with parenting and emphasizes the importance of parental attitudes and behavior of a child's development, IQ, and success in life. It is, in many ways, an argument for parenting early on as a full-time job.

If you don't feel like reading through 10 pages online, I summarized some of the key points at:

http://woodstock.typepad.com

Posted by: Woodstock | November 27, 2006 12:01 PM

Just to be clear, I think that the results of the study mentioned in my previous post do not necessarily imply that mothers should quit their jobs, only that SOMEONE needs to be present and interacting with children in the first four years of their lives. It could be the mother, it could be the father, or it could be a great daycare center where they actually engage with the kids instead of just feeding them and keeping them quiet. It needs to be up to families to figure out that balance (maybe it can be accomplished with one parent employed full-time and the other employed part-time) but they absolutely need to be educated in child development so they know the trade-offs of those decisions.


Posted by: Woodstock | November 27, 2006 12:06 PM

Maybe the boss in this story was concerned that other people, especially men, would see her protégé as the feminist version of an Uncle Tom. It's possible that opponents of feminism would misuse the woman's decision to justify their claim that motherhood is the only role for women.

As a man, I believe that men and women should be supportive of women's (and men's) choices regarding work and family, no matter what they choose. Steiner asks, "Is it possible for a co-worker or an employer to be truly empathetic about work/family decisions, without taking other people's choices personally?" Not only is it possible, I believe this is necessary. Only an individual can decide what is best his or her own life. A person's life choices are no one else's business. I suspect that most people who take others' choices personally have control issues.

Posted by: Tonio | November 27, 2006 12:53 PM

"If you want to play a 1950s housewife role, then don't be upset when your spouse fulfills his own stereotypical gender role and leaves you for the secretary."

Exactly how many men left their wives for their secretary in the 1950s anyway? Most couples I know who were married in the '50s are still married today or are now deceased. The time I most remember divorce and men leaving wives for secretaries was in the '60s and '70s -- the time when women were going into the workplace in larger numbers and breaking out of traditional roles.

Posted by: Ellen | November 27, 2006 2:03 PM

What bugs me is every person on here who says "oh it's awful and such a waste when a woman who's gone to a top 10 school and gotten a big degree then stays home to be with her children." Know why this irritates the hell out of me? Because not every MAN who follows that same path then becomes some great businessman or LEADER or somehow makes a huge contribution to society. Plenty of men graduate from Harvard Law School and then don't practice law for the rest of their lives. Why can't women choose to get an education and then perhaps make another career or lifestyle choice later in their lives? Get over this "if one woman leaves all women are let down" bunk unless you apply it to men also.

Posted by: Jammin' Jane | November 27, 2006 2:10 PM

Ellen, surely men were seducing their secretaries long before the 1960s. I suspect that many 1950s wives stayed with their philandering husbands because they felt they didn't deserve better. If women's liberation did raise the divorce rate, maybe that's because women were wising up and refusing to put up with husbands who didn't respect them. Or else the husbands were uncomfortable with wives who had minds of their own.

My point is that 1950s marriages were generally not egalitarian relationships, partly because of roles imposed by society. The stay-at-home role is not necessarily a subservient one, but it often was before women's liberation. It shouldn't matter in a marriage which partner works and which stays at home, or if both work, as long as one partner doesn't hold all the decision-making power.

Posted by: Tonio | November 27, 2006 2:46 PM

"Who cares if people stay home or work."

People who support the people who don't work, by chipping in for their food stamps via higher taxes...

"Ellen, surely men were seducing their secretaries long before the 1960s. I suspect that many 1950s wives stayed with their philandering husbands because they felt they didn't deserve better."

...or for their STD medications via higher insurance costs?

Posted by: Maria | November 27, 2006 6:02 PM

"or for their STD medications via higher insurance costs"

You would have a valid point if this conversation was about the social costs of promiscuity and adultery. But I reject the notion that husbands are tempted to cheat when their wives work outside the home.

Posted by: Tonio | November 27, 2006 10:18 PM

Maria, you're not paying for my food stamps. I don't work because I earned enough that I don't have to. I chose THIS path when I was 21 and decided I wanted to be a SAHM when I had my child. It took planning and effort, but nobody is subsidizing me.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 1:54 PM

Hi,

I am newly married with no kids and just moved w/ my husband overseas for his job in Europe. I have a JD and when I first arrived here and started doing some informational interviews with law firms, one of the first things people asked me was did I have kids, and if not, when was I planning on having them. The purpose of course was to decide if I was someone they should help look for a job in this city, and thus extend thier own network, or would I, after a few years, do what is expected in Europe and leave the workforce to have kids, while the employer is forced to keep the women's position open for 3 years. So while working women here have good benefits if they become pregnant and take maternity leave, the high costs of these benefits force employers to think long and hard before hiring younger professional women of child bearing age. The key piece of advice I recieved from these "informational" interviews was come back to us in 4 years when you have two kids and a nanny and then we can see what kind of networking help we can give you. As Newsweek said last year.... many of Europe's social benefits kill working women's opportunities w/ kindness. So while many of you may complain... and this the situation in Europe is better.... its really only better for the women who do not want to work.

Posted by: Overseas Perspective | November 29, 2006 3:07 PM

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