More New Moms Staying Home

Last Thursday, Sue Shellenbarger's Work & Family column for the Wall Street Journal, More New Mothers Are Staying Home Even When It Causes Financial Pain, recapped 2004 data from a cross-sectional historical study of mothers' work-force participation (cut by moms' education levels, ethnicity and husbands' incomes) analyzed by Emy Sok and Sharon Cohany at the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data will be included in the February 2007 Monthly Labor Review (look under Publications on the BLS Web site).

Here's what Shellenbarger found:

* The trend of moms staying home is more widespread than articles like the New York Times Opt-Out Revolution suggest, with women at all income levels taking job breaks.
* More mothers of infants (less than 12 months old) are staying home (48 percent in 2004 vs. 41 percent in 1997) than mothers of older children.
* Well-educated mothers with bachelor's degrees and above, and women with husbands in the top 20 percent of earners, have shown the biggest dip in employment.

Shellenbarger listed the following six reasons women drop out of the work force after childbirth:

1) Desire to nurture babies in their first years
2) Poor quality of available child care
3) High cost of acceptable child care
4) Lack of extended maternity leave
5) Lack of flexible return-to-work options
6) Decision to switch to a more family-friendly career

Her observations -- and the BLS statistics -- fit with what I've seen in myself, friends and colleagues since I became a mom a decade ago. My mantra is "choice is good." I'm thrilled whenever I see evidence that more moms are choosing to exit and re-enter the workforce and to find more family-friendly work.

What bothers me are reasons 2 through 5: lack of quality, affordable child care, lack of maternity leave, and a dearth of flexible schedules once you return to work. Moms need more of all three to find true balance of work and family. Good child care and flexible schedules are straightforward, actionable solutions that our government and more companies should proactively support.

And, of course, you all already know the other part that twists me like a pretzel: Although choice is good, I find it ironic, slightly depressing, and totally understandable that moms who've invested the most in their work and education -- moms with the widest range of choices in their lives -- are the ones choosing most often to not work.

What about you? Does your situation confirm -- or rebuke -- these findings? Have you stayed home for an extended time because of kids? Were you able to return to work easily -- to the same job or a different, more kid-friendly position or company? If you are home, which of the six reasons apply to you? Why or why not?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  December 6, 2006; 8:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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I stayed home for a while. Coming back into the work force was incredibly difficult. Experience had to be within the last year...and they wanted paid experience, not volunteer. PhD didn't matter, number of supervisees didn't matter, experience in different countries didn't matter...the only thing was 'what have you done lately'

very demoralizing. If I had to do that time over again, I wouldn't have stayed home.

Posted by: dotted | December 6, 2006 8:17 AM

I stayed home for three months after my daughter was born. When I wasn't loving and caring for her, I was bored out of my mind.

I realized I wasn't cut out to stay home and ran back to my old job.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 8:28 AM

Why not concentrate on the number one reason - Desire to nurture babies in their first year? Seems pretty common sensical to me.

Also - how was this data collected? Did women get to choose their top 3 reasons out of list of 10? Were the remaining choices something like:

I stayed home after the birth of my child because I like soap operas.

I stayed home because I can't fit into my stylish clothes anymore.

I stayed home because, well, gosh darn it - because it makes me feel good!

Also, like previous discussions - women don't owe society, corporate America, Wall Street, even the Wharton Business School anything after they have a baby - it is a personal choice and should be respected.

Posted by: cmac | December 6, 2006 8:29 AM

cmac,
I agree..it is a personal choice and needs to be respected. However, what I see is people feeling they *have* to stay home is order to be a good mother regardless of good daycare availability, whatever. It is the societal pressure to stay home that is the issue. All of a sudden, choice seems to be going away. That is what is wrong.

Posted by: dotted | December 6, 2006 8:35 AM

Nurturing a child during the first 12 months is a great reason to carve out time from your life temporarily...but WHY do we think that only the mother can do this? What about the father too? I know, these are women's labor statistics, but you get my point!

If both parents could reduce their hours, they'd approximate the same amount of time with their baby together as a stay-at-home parent does and neither would have a gap in his/her resume. If women can make changes at work to fit in their new role as parent, so can men.

Posted by: equal | December 6, 2006 8:44 AM

I stayed home because I had lost one child at one week old when he was a preemie and the second one was a preemie. Our daughter is a beautiful five year old not, but that kind of experience makes one realize how precious your children are and I didn't personally want to miss a minute of it.

That said, I was fortunate to be in an economic position to act on that choice. Four years later, I went back to work full time in a totally different career.

Posted by: SC Mom | December 6, 2006 8:45 AM

At times it seems that being a working mom is a kind of torture where you're torn between two equally compelling, mutually exclusive responsibilities, work and kids.

Flexibility, supportive maternity leaves, and the ability to leave and re-enter the workforce easily make it far easier to be with your children when they need you most (and you need them most) and then return to work when you need the income, health insurance, benefits or stimulation work provides.

The reason I have cut back on work is 1). Easily the most important factor -- love for my children and a magnetic desire to have quantity (as well as quality)time with them.

Before having kids, I never could have understood how strong maternal love can be.

But without greater flexibility and support from employers, government and our society overall, too many women who feel VERY strongly about 1) and 5) have no choices once they become moms because of the lack of good, affordable childcare and the small number of flexible, family friendly jobs available.

Posted by: Leslie | December 6, 2006 8:45 AM

I stayed home and pretended I was working on my Ph.D. dissertation for the first six months with both of my children. For the next year with each of them, I did work on my dissertation, part-time, and did a little consulting. After that, I did more consulting and recently went back to work full-time when my youngest was 2.75.

I was very lucky to have understanding interviewers and a strong network in my field, and, while I didn't find the part-time work I was looking for, did find a flexible schedule and an overall helpful employer.

#1 was definitely the reason I stayed out of the workforce for as long as I did, although the other reasons all counted too.

Posted by: whattodo | December 6, 2006 8:50 AM

I stayed home and pretended I was working on my Ph.D. dissertation for the first six months with both of my children. For the next year with each of them, I did work on my dissertation, part-time, and did a little consulting. After that, I did more consulting and recently went back to work full-time when my youngest was 2.75.

I was very lucky to have understanding interviewers and a strong network in my field, and, while I didn't find the part-time work I was looking for, did find a flexible schedule and an overall helpful employer.

#1 was definitely the reason I stayed out of the workforce for as long as I did, although the other reasons all counted too.

Posted by: whattodo | December 6, 2006 8:50 AM

I'm a stay-at-home work-from-home Mom and wouldn't have it any other way. I'm lucky that my skillset/training allows me to do that. Balance is an issue because most of my working hours come during what would otherwise be precious freetime (8-11 pm M-F and weekends), but it's what works for now.

I spent the last 2 days working outside the home teaching a course (my husband spent one day with our 20-month old and she spent the other day with a sitter). It was nice to get out, of course, but I came home exhausted and missing her and our time together.

So, for me, it's a total quality of life thing. I want to be the primary caretaker of our daughter, and I have the ability to do it, so I do. It doesn't surprise me that other women would make the same choice given the option. It's a nice option to have.

Posted by: VAMom | December 6, 2006 8:51 AM

Slightly off-topic, but this comes up over and over. ~Affordable daycare~ The allowable adult:child under 24 months ratio in MD is 1:3 at centers and 1:2 at family care. Assuming a 50 week work year and $300/week/child (which seems about average in the DC area), the MOST a center employee can make a year is $45K, and the MOST a family care employee can make a year is $30K. And this covers ZERO overhead. This is hardly a comfortable salary in our area. Yet, we want it cheaper. How? How can we make this cheaper? Obviously, company-sponsored centers would be a great benefit, but ultimately that can end up taking a bite out of the salaries of childless employees. That smacks of unfairness to me. Any other possibilities?

Posted by: atb | December 6, 2006 8:51 AM

Hi. I stayed home for 5 months after my daughter was born (now 19 months) because we had waited so long for her arrival that I just couldn't bear the thought of returning to employment so quickly. Also, I had negotiated a part time schedule upon my return to work and continue that schedule today. We are expecting child number 2 and I am planning again for a 5 month leave and to continue my 24 hour/week schedule. What bothers me is that more women (and men, too) don't have this option - employers really are losing out by not offering more flexibility for new moms/dads who want to work but at a reduced rate. I would love to see a study of the productivity rates of part time parents - anecdotally, I know for me and my other part time working parent friends, it is pretty impressive. Workload does not necessarily decrease as the hours do, but our drive keeps us going because we want that time at home with our kids. Again, I'm so sorry that employers are not allowing for more flexibility.

Posted by: part timer | December 6, 2006 8:55 AM

I work full-time without a choice to stay at home. I love stay at home moms with a lot of education and who are superior workers. They are now volunteers at our public elementary school. They give so much and ask for so little in return. They are also volunteering at our church. I can't say enough of how much I appreciate their hard work. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I don't know how our community could get along without them!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 8:56 AM

I work full time out of the home as a lawyer in a DC law firm. I spent four years in college and three years in law school thinking that I did not want children. Then I had an epiphany. I dont know what it was. I don't know why, but I wanted a child with all of my being. After careful consideration, we became parents. I stayed home for three months and as a previous poster said, I was bored. I wanted back in the office. My family was not very supportive -- they told me I was wrong and said very hateful things about me working. I eventually went to see a therapist about this issue. I am finally feeling comfortable in my skin and seeing how good of a decision I am making for me and my family. I am finally starting to be happy with my decisions -- I let the baggage from my family go. It feels really good and my kids -- well they are amazing and they are doing amazing.

Posted by: Marie | December 6, 2006 9:01 AM

I've often wondered about the long-term financial impact of a spouse taking significant time to stay at home. I suspect that in addition to the reduced income while one spouse is at home, there is a long term loss as the spouse has to play salary "catch-up" while re-entering the workforce. In addition, there is an loss within the 401K/IRA/other savings vehicles due to the reduced ability to invest [plus the loss of compound interest on what would have been invested]. With the decreasing availability of defined benefit plans, such as pensions, I assume that the long term cost may be rather high.

Obviously, there are very tangible benefits of staying at home that may be worth the cost. I would love to see anything that really breaks down the long term costs in a neutral manner. Too often these type of items are more focused on creating a controversial sound bite than detailed analysis.

Posted by: Open Thought | December 6, 2006 9:09 AM

I've always been the primary breadwinner in my home, so basically my dh was a SAHD for a number of years. Due to his depression and sleep problems, our dd would sometimes go to a home daycare anyway, and then she went to preschool (which she loved).

Now that she is older my dh has started working a lot more, since having only one wage earner (at least at my salary level) is peanuts for this this area. So we are now trying to catch up a little financially.

Posted by: librarianmom | December 6, 2006 9:14 AM

I am slightly depressed too by the women who can afford quality child care opting out or not demanding more from their partners.

I don't think things will ever change for the average working mom (the HUGE majority of women) until more women are in positions of power. Clearly, the ones who went to Ivies and got high powered jobs are the women who can get a high heeled foot in the door. No, they don't have an obligation to the rest of us. But it would be nice if there were a lot more female executives making the decisions about maternity leave, flexible work schedules and what constitutes a family.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg is over 60 and she's all by herself. Yet women make up more than half of the countries population. We need to support and encourage more women to be in positions of power so we can stop talking about the changes we want to see in theh workplace and start demanding them.

Posted by: DC Fem | December 6, 2006 9:18 AM

Marie -

As long as you are fine with what you are doing, that is all that matters. A lot of moms think they are better moms because they DO work.

What happens after a baby comes is always situational - there can't be any hard and fast rules because everyone's situation is different. Some moms must return to work because of health benefit issues. Until health care is not tied our jobs, there will always be the necessity for a certain percentage of moms to return to work based on this issue alone.

I think that each person needs to evaluate their own financial, benefit, career-drive, etc., situation and find what works to fit that situation.

It is ridiculous for there to be any thought whatsoever that highly educated women owe society their return to work after having a child. These women paid for their education like anyone else and can do what they want with it. Instead - we might want to consider all of the things that these moms can be teaching their kids because they are so highly educated - someone IS benefiting from that education.

There is a flip side to consider - sometimes one needs to consider the actual cost of working (car, clothes, gas, day-care, lunch, etc.), and see if they are actually making money in the long run by that parent returning to work. I am not saying that it doesn't make sense, but that one needs to consider just how much one is actually putting in the bank after all of these expenses.

Just a thought.

Posted by: wamc | December 6, 2006 9:18 AM

atb, you are so right. What child-care workers deserve to make is often in conflict with what parents can or will pay. I don't know what the answer is! I do know that cost of child care is a huge reason I haven't returned to work. Yes, #1 is a compelling reason, and I also have the luxury of a career that allows me to keep my hand in the workforce, keeping my resume somewhat fresh during this time. My field can pay nicely, but it can also pay horribly. I have experience, yet not enough to make the big salary, so I often look to jobs that pay in the $45,000-50,000 range. So far, none of those jobs look exciting enough to return to work for, especially given the reality of what I'd really be taking home after taxes and childcare. I can't imagine what families on the lower end of the income scale do for childcare if they don't have willing family to help out.

Posted by: writing mommy | December 6, 2006 9:19 AM

I went to school for 6 years and have a Masters degree. I worked for about 7 years before having my DD. The first year of her life I worked a 40 hr week job with alternative Fridays off. Then after her first year, when the survey left the field, I went to working 4 9 hour days. My life improved an awful lot. I earn 90% leave, 90% time in service and 90% pay. I get full benefits but that is actually irrelevant to our situation because DH works for the government too. Now they ended our survey and in January I start at a new survey. I am going to campaign for the 40 hour week with alternative Fridays off. My DD is going to preschool 5 days a week now, so it is less taxing on our family. I only have to go full time, when the survey is in field (9 months out of every 3 year cycle). Then I will go back to the 4 9 hour day schedule. The wrinkle comes when DD #2 comes. We are currently in the process of adopting our second daughter. At that point, I will probably continue to work full time with both girls in full time day care/preschool till the younger daughter hits kindergarten. At that point, my day care costs are cut in half for both girls. Then I hope to work 5 days a week 7 hour days. I would leave the office at 2:30 and my girls would be picked up right after school. I will probably pay for after school care because I would not want to risk being late due to train delays etc... But that is the general plan. Again, I think of other options besides SAH or WOH full time. There are certainly options even with in the WOH full time. There are 40 hour a week jobs and their are 50-60 hour a week jobs. I think educated people have more choices to work in situations that fit their lifestyle. Contrary to what a lot of posters think, I know that I Mommy tracked myself. And frankly I assume I won't get promoted when I am working part time. I know I get the crappier assignments sometimes. It doesn't matter to me. I love being with my girls and that is all that matters. I am a little confused on why people think that first year is so important. I had amazing day care the first year. One adult to two children ratio. They were so loving and knowledgable. Frankly, I think they did a better job then I could have done. I think it is more important to be home with them after school in the school years then the first year of school. I am more concerned about being home after school then that first year. You have less day care options after age 12 then for infant care. I think a lot of the after school care ends at 5 th grade. If you ask me, 6 th grade is too young for most kids to be left a lone. Also, the kids get involved in activities, play dates, and other outside obligations. I would rather be home to hear about how 3 rd grade went then to be their the first year. My DD was so loved and taken care of in day care that first year. And in reality the first 6 months, she could have cared less because she had not developed stranger anxiety.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 6, 2006 9:22 AM

atb,

The infant-care giver ratio is 1:2 for home centers, as you say. But, that does not mean he/she cannot care for children over 24 months in addition to the infants. The limit for licensed care givers is 6 including her/his own.

Posted by: AnotherRockvilleMom | December 6, 2006 9:22 AM

atb,

The infant-care giver ratio is 1:2 for home centers, as you say. But, that does not mean he/she cannot care for children over 24 months in addition to the infants. The limit for licensed care givers is 6 including her/his own.

Posted by: AnotherRockvilleMom | December 6, 2006 9:23 AM

We're planning on a baby next year. When we do, we're planning on my wife staying home while the baby's small. We're not sure at this point how long we'll do this--depends on circumstances.

We're planning on this because we think it's better for our family to have someone home for a while, and because we can afford it. It's also a good time for my wife to think about what she'd like to do next professionally since she'd like to change focus.

Posted by: The grain of salt in the pepper jar | December 6, 2006 9:23 AM

My wife and I are fortunate that, thanks to an inheritance from her mom, my wife will be able to stay home with our child for as long as she wants without a drop in our income level. Health insurance and daycare costs were our biggest concerns previously. She's not decided how long she will stay out of work but it may be several years.

Her work skills are also of the type that allows her to do contract work from home for engineering firms, which she plans to do as well to stay in touch with her current career choice.

Posted by: John | December 6, 2006 9:26 AM

To Open Thought:

I agree with you about wanting more information on the financial effects of staying home. There are researchers who cover this topic, but I'm not that familiar with recent findings.

Anecdotally, I can tell you that as a stay-at-home mother for 10 years (after having worked for a decade after college), I know my 401(k) and retirement have suffered. (I was fired from my job and then was pregnant soon after, so I simply never returned to work, out of a desire to stay home and the lack of affordable care).

At the same time, however, I saved early in my career, so even though I haven't saved much for the past few years, other than in my own IRA, my nest-egg keeps growing.

What really threw me for a loop recently, however, is that my husband lost his job, after having switched careers. He has a new job, but at a third of the salary of his best-paying job. Ouch!

Our retirement accounts look good, but our cash flow stinks right now, and that's the problem. You need money to live today, too.

Posted by: Kate | December 6, 2006 9:27 AM

I think it's a personal decision. If you want to stay home with your children fine, if you want to work fine. It's all about what is best for your particular situation. I have to agree with Cmac, women don't owe Wall Street anything. What really irks me (and I will probably get yelled at for this big time) is when women make each other feel guilty about the decision they made. I don't think it's right that a working mom should make a stay at home mom feel bad because she chose to stay home and raise her kids. And I don't think it's right for a stay at home mom to tell a working mom she's a bad mother because she chose to work and raise her kids. We're all women, we all face some of the same challenges and we should be each others biggest fan club and support group no matter what the decision was in regards to raising kids.

Posted by: Melissa | December 6, 2006 9:28 AM

I felt pretty luck, staying home with my first born until she was 7 months old, then went back full time. My husband changed jobs (and states), so I stayed home from when my daughter was 18 months until last year - she had just turned 10. While at home, I had 2 more children, and I volunteered for a lot of things, boards, Girl Scouts, religious education, PTA. So when my husband lost his job last year, I started looking to get back into the work force after being home for 8 years. Amazingly, I had 2 offers within a month of applying. When asked about my time off, the men with whom I interviewed were accepting of raising my children and volunteering.

I think getting back into the workforce was a lot easier than I expected, and since it was urgent for our family, I was eager to start back a little earlier than planned (I was going to stay home one more year before going back to work to start saving for the kids college fund), but I also think it depends on what industry you work for.

P.S. My husband switched careers and is now a teacher, so it works out well for child care purposes and schedules, and now I'm the main breadwinner.

Posted by: pamsdds | December 6, 2006 9:28 AM

How much of the difference between 1997 and 2004 do you think is due to the differences in economy? Wasn't 1997 in the middle of the whole dot.com thing when companies were willing to bend over backwards in terms of flexible work schedules, salaries, and other benefits to get employees? Despite our current low unemployment level I am finding the current market to be very employee unfriendly. This could be connected to the lack of flexibility in the workplace that is keeping mothers from working in greater amounts than in 1997. It may have just been more lucrative and more inviting for women who had a choice to work or stay at home in 1997.

Posted by: dai | December 6, 2006 9:31 AM

I think the pay at day cares depends on the day care. In some day care centers, the workers get health benefits. Some have stricter education requirements that will boost pay. In our day care, they are salaried employees with generous holidays (more then the federal government). Several 1/2 days, usually before major holidays, and 2 weeks paid vacation. I think they have generous sick leave. They don't have health benefits, unemployment or paid maternity. They are allowed to have two of their children in day care for free (that is a boost of nearly 30K/year tax free benefit). Most of the workers were middle to elder grand mother types (early 50s) or young mothers with one or two small children. There has been only one worker who left permanently to be a SAHM. That worker was married to a well paid professional and she could afford to SAH. I know my DD teacher used to be a teacher for the Fairfax public school system. She quit to work in the day care while her kids need full time care. She also brings her DD, for free, their for after school care. So I am not sure they are all under paid drastically. I think teacher's pay sucks. They NEED and DESERVE a raise. It is almost criminal that my daughter's teacher quit teaching in the public school system to work with 1-2 year olds, just so she can pay for day care.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 6, 2006 9:32 AM

We have a pretty broad consensus in this country that public education is vitally important. We believe all children should be educated, both to give them a fair chance in being successful and to help our country in the long term. And we're willing to spend taxpayer dollars on public education, which ensures that teachers are paid a decent (not luxurious, but livable) wage.

The same logic that motivates social spending for public education from K to 12 should also motivate social spending for high-quality child-care for preschoolers. The early childhood years are vital in brain development and school readiness. Head Start is one of the most successful government programs in history--producing real results and making a difference in children's lives. Let's expand public education to encompass preschoolers, toddlers, the works. Let's give all kids a shot at high-quality child care, and see how much of a difference this makes in their lives. And think, too, of how much of a difference this could make in the lives of parents. Parents wouldn't have to make the tradeoff between child care expenses and work expenses. It would be easier for women to reenter the workforce--and would thus save them from the very real loss in salary that Open Thought identified. Is this an expensive proposition? Obviously. But that's not the real question. The real question is whether it's more expensive than our current system. Given the long-term social costs of inadequate early childhood care--and the reality that most parents must work to make ends meet--I think there's a powerful economic case to be made that public preschool would be a very wise social investment.

Posted by: to atb | December 6, 2006 9:35 AM

I wanted to stay at home primarily for reason number one. As a social worker I had been paid (not a lot) to take care of people for years. So I stopped getting paid to take care of people and to took care of my own kids for free.

Since, I have always been able to do some kind of part-time work there has not been a financial hit. I have maintained retirement savings through an IRA and we have insurance in case of calamity.

And overall I feel so much less stress than my friends who are doing the power career and the devoted mommy at the same time. These women are fabulous, dynamic and exhausted. I give them lots of credit but would never trade places. And when they see me covered in glitter, realize I never eat a meal without kids and see the size of our house they would not trade places either. And that's the point do what works for you. We need all the examples for our sons and daughters.

Posted by: Raising One of Each | December 6, 2006 9:35 AM

I completely agree with wamc. I think it is ridiculous and very closed minded to say "I find it ironic, slightly depressing, and totally understandable that moms who've invested the most in their work and education -- moms with the widest range of choices in their lives -- are the ones choosing most often to not work." Why should that be depressing? Women who gain an education should not be expected to work. They don't owe anyone anything. Why can't someone get an education for their own personal benefit? People from every walk of life go gain an education for many different reasons. Yes, maybe you think it is a waste of money/time/education, but that is from your point of view. Maybe that individual gained everything they wanted from their education without having to work full time. I don't think they should have to work to feel that their degree/education was worth it. An education has a great value in a family. I have always believed that if you educate a woman, you educate an entire family.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 9:37 AM

Until health care is not tied our jobs, there will always be the necessity for a certain percentage of moms to return to work based on this issue alone.


Amen to that! I *wish* I could go part-time, but I lose my insurance if I do. My spouse has been trying to get a job with benefits, but these days in his field it's practically impossible. They just don't offer it to anyone. We've priced it out trying to buy our own coverage, and we can't afford it. So because of this one stupid issue, health insurance, we're stuck.

Posted by: I Have No Choice | December 6, 2006 9:38 AM

Many moms stay home for the first years of a child's life, not forever. So they are not wasting their education or work potential. They are putting it on hold for a few years, choosing to invest their efforts in their own child(ren). That is a good thing.

Choice 1) is mutually exclusive from choices 2)-5). That is, if you solve 2)-5), women might still not return to work in droves, simply because they value choice 1) so very highly. That is something to keep in mind too.

Overall, I think it is good that more moms are staying home and providing their infants such excellent care. It is good for society in general.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | December 6, 2006 9:46 AM

I think the key is that women should have a real choice of staying home or going back to work. Of course if they stay home for reason #1, that's great. But if they would like to go back to work and cannot for all the other reasons, that's not so great. The point is not that educated women owe society anything, but rather that because it is a loss to society that they don't work, it is especially sad if they feel forced to stay home full time.

Posted by: Choices | December 6, 2006 9:47 AM

Why do you all keep saying that poor quality child care? I think my DD day care is awesome. Better then I could provide for her. Her preschool is also awesome. I am sure there are some bad day cares out there. But lots of money doesn't always equal wonderful care and low cost doesn't necessarily mean poor care too.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 6, 2006 9:48 AM

Atb, I'm so glad you brought this up, because I think that the cost and availability of infant care is a major factor affecting whether new moms return to work. Infant care is not only more expensive than care for older children (because staff ratios have to be higher), it is also harder to find, because "day care economics" means that a center can make more money just teaching 3 and 4 year olds (fewer teachers for more kids) than it can if it also accepts infants.

You'd think that the market would take care of the problem- if demand for infant care is high, then the price should rise and more infant care should become available- but prices can only go up so high before parents can't afford care.

Posted by: randommom | December 6, 2006 9:48 AM

It's fantastic that you have great child care. Lots of people do. But they are, nevertheless, the exception, rather than the rule, which is why this is an issue.

Posted by: to foamgnome | December 6, 2006 9:52 AM

I hate to bring this up - but this is a very valid reason for many women. I know a couple, including my sister, who have to be stay at home moms for this reason. They have husbands who have very demanding jobs and they have to stay at home if they chose to have children. My brother-in-law is a pilot and there is no possible way for my sister to work while her husband is out of the house 4 days each week. She tried to return to work part time for her sanity once, but the stress was a killer.

I also know some friends whose husbands are power players and they have to host social gatherings at their homes, so the wives have to keep immaculate homes. Also, the wives need to do most of the children's activities because the husbands are too busy with work.

This is a real issue that was not included on that list.

Posted by: Anon | December 6, 2006 9:53 AM

I like contributing to the financial well-being of my family and really enjoy my work. I feel that my husband's income is somewhat irrelevant to my decision to work or stay at home. If he made a million dollars a year, I would still want to work.

Posted by: alex. mom | December 6, 2006 9:54 AM

foamgnome-
Good morning to you. At 9:22, you wrote about the issue of pre-teens/no daycare vs. infant day care. This is a real issue. Little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems. It is more effective to stay home later than earlier, imho. I should clarify. I didn't stay home when any of my children were babies. I stayed home when the pre-teen/early teen years. I love cuddling babies, but I do believe there are lots of cuddling to go around for babies. Their father was equally around at all times. However, pre-teens are a different matter. There is no daycare at that age. There are sports teams, but someone has to take him, watch his practices, games, show support, be around to just talk, make sure he doesn't make big mistakes, etc. I acknowledge this worked for the kids, though maybe not best for me personally.

Posted by: dotted | December 6, 2006 9:56 AM

foamgnome ,

I agree with you about the day care issue. My daughter has always had good care.

The one time she didn't, I took her out of there pronto. She was always in the suburbs of VA and there were plenty of day care centers to choose from. I think that you really have to take the time to find a good center, and you are right, cost is not always the main reason to choose a center.

Posted by: scarry | December 6, 2006 9:56 AM

'I feel that my husband's income is somewhat irrelevant to my decision to work or stay at home.'

My husband's income is complete relevant to my decision to work or stay home. We can't afford to live on his income alone. There are those who will say that we just have to be willing to sacrifice enough, but living close to the poverty level is too much sacrifice for our family.

Posted by: xyz | December 6, 2006 9:57 AM

I've always been type A career minded woman. I went to an Ivy league to get my MBA and then had my baby just as I was graduating - boy did motherhood change me! I went from having disdain for SAHMs to envying them. But at the same time I felt that I would be doing a disservice to myself and my family who I had plunged into debt by getting the hefty MBA loans if I left the workforce. So four years later I'm still chugging away full time even though I would much rather be part-time but part-time is virtually non-existent for someone in my position. Thankfully my husband and I both took time off work to be with my baby for his first year. But it is becoming even more important to me as he gets older to spend more afternoons with him going over what he learnt in school and instilling our values in him so my desire to reduce my work hours has actually grown as he has gotten older. What to do what to do?

Posted by: fabworkingmom | December 6, 2006 9:57 AM

I, and virtually every one of the SAHMs I know, stay home solely because of #1. A handful have done so because of #6 - stay home for a year or two or three, then go back to a more family-friendly job than what they had pre-kids.

Posted by: momof4 | December 6, 2006 9:58 AM

I have to agree with Anon. My husband is that much of a power player, but he has a very demanding job and can't be counted on to take the kids to school, daycare, dentist appointments or whatever. I'm a teacher, so I have an early schedule, but a very inflexible one (can't reschedule HS classes), so I'll probably quit again after this year. I just can't make it work when the kids get strep or colds.
He was more helpful before, but life changes and careers change. So now it's deciding who gets the short stick. I think for now it's me (I like working). Hope I can pick up some more flexible tutoring next year - then I won't be shorted either.

Posted by: inBoston | December 6, 2006 10:00 AM

I do admit to agreeing with Leslie re: feeling depressed about those staying home with degrees. Though I agree because it would have been just these woman rising up into positions of power who could have then turned around and helped the rest of womankind. The depression is not on the personal choice, but rather, on the fact that with different choices, we could be much further ahead than we are today (instead of apparently returning to the early 60s).

Posted by: dotted | December 6, 2006 10:00 AM

Oops - my husband *isn't* that much of a power player.

Posted by: inBoston | December 6, 2006 10:00 AM

I think that if 2-5 were adequately addressed in our society, then many more women would choose to have careers. Of course there will always be women who are married to wealthy men who will choose to opt out, but since most mothers have to work for economic reasons (as well as for health insurance), there really isn't much impetus to change the corporate culture of "your on your own".

I don't really think that this culture will change significantly as women ascend to powerful positions. It's hard to change the culture and there is too much "I did it so you can do it too" of a mindset among many women in leadership positions. What it will take is a hit to the pocketbook so to speak. Enough mothers need to leave the workforce to create holes such that businesses take notice and need to address this issue because it affects their bottom line, not because it's the right thing to do. Pathetic.

And I have great sympathy for families who feel that a parent has to stay at home because good childcare is out of their reach. I have zero for the highly educated with enough resources to afford the best care. And I disagree that we do not owe anything to society. What a selfish attitude. As members of society, we do have an obligation to the community, to be productive members and to work for the greater good.

Posted by: anon mom | December 6, 2006 10:04 AM

I know a woman friend who works in a law office and is expecting soon. There are a number of other new mothers in her office, and she has watched as these other women have had to make decisions everyday about what comes first - the child or the job. The demands of the job make the decision inevitable, and it tears these gals apart because they want a career, but they really want to be moms too. My friend has decided to leave when the baby comes because she has decided, largely from watching what the other gals go through day after day, that she deserves better than this, and her child needs better than this. At some point, she will probably downshift into a government job that offers a more sane work schedule and will allow her to have a life as a mom.

Posted by: helen | December 6, 2006 10:07 AM

I was a SAHM for almost 3 years and it was for the first reason. It was the hardest (lonely, boring at times, money tight at times), but the BEST thing I have ever done.

My husband's job was also a factor, as he is gone often and it was just more stable for both her and me to stay home. I wouldn't change those years for any amount of money, adult interaction, etc. There's nothing like the bond my daughter and I share- the experiences we had together, the fun. She really got to see me as a great fun person, not just a Mommy who gets her dressed, fed,a nd to bed (which is how I feel now)

I chose to stay home when most thought I was crazy- I was ambitious and driven, well educated and just getting started in my career (I was 24 when i got pregnant, so was pretty "young" in DC terms to start a family). People just didn't understand, but it was something I knew I had to do.

I went back to work because we really do need to begin building savings. It was a financial hardship for me to stay home for so long- 3 years is a long time to not have any emergency savings, etc..

The cost of care- ugh. You don't even want to know what we pay for my daughter's school, not to mention what we had to do to get her IN school in the first place...you'd think it was the Ivy League!

But, honestly, I LOVE my daughter's school. If she hadn't gotten into to this one, I probably would have stayed home until she was in K. My daughter's happiness is just not worth a bad daycare situation. It's tough to look at that tuition check each month, but I don't mind paying for it- the most important thing is that her teachers are HAPPY. They are raising other people's kids- they deserve what they get paid and SO MUCH MORE. Why are people willing to shell out 25K for lower school tuition, but not 1200/month for infant and toddler care?

That makes me wonder, though...What would people think of "stay at home mom tax credits"???

Posted by: SAHMbacktowork | December 6, 2006 10:08 AM

Dai, above, made a very good point. The market in 1997 was much more employee-friendly as employees were at a premium. In 2004 we had just started crawling out of that "jobless recovery" (aka: worst job market since the Depression - really! I talked to people who said that it was far worse even than the Reagan recession of 1980) and employees were a dime a dozen, so why treat them well when there's an endless supply? Why offer new moms or anyon else flextime?

Just as an observer, there are a lot of factors going into the decision whether to SAH or not. Many are individual, others are societal. If a mom wants to stay home because she loves her baby and wants to spend as much time with him as possible - good. If she feels forced to because of lack of decent daycare and flexible work options - that's something that ought to be fixed.

Posted by: Flyonthewall | December 6, 2006 10:11 AM

Hi all: This might not be directly relevant to this discussion, but I would like to weigh in as one who's spent most of her life in another country (India). I think its actually far easier for the women that Leslie talks about (the ones who can afford quality child care) to work fulltime in India than in America. Obviously that covers a small percentage of women but it might explain the difference in this segment.

Here are some crude observations:

1. Lots of outsourcing with little social stigma: Almost every 2 income urban family has a 24-hour maid (who is actually semi-literate at best) who they leave the young child with. Once the child is 3 years old, s/he goes to fulltime school which is much less demanding of parents than here. No volunteering/bake sales and PTA meetings are after 8 in the night. I have known families to leave their kids with grandparents during the week and pick them up on weekends (obviously not a permanent arrangement). Overall, there's just much much less social questioning on "lasting damage to children" as a result of all this outsourcing.

2. Accomodating employers: after working with a firm for 5-6 years you have accumulated enough brand equity to take a day or two off without being fired/demoted. That said, there are no other concessions to working parents so they end up working the same insane hours as any others.

3. Ability to stay in small apartments close to their place of work: In Bombay where many couples are dual income a family of four (plus live-in maid) will stay in an 800-900 sq ft apartment. 5 of us (plus maid) grew up in an 900 sq ft apartment. People care more about staying close to work and being able to go home for an hour or two in an emergency than having larger houses since privacy is not that great a concern in India. It makes it easier that good schools are uniformly distributed through the city. In any case, the school bus takes you where ever you have to go and children can travel for half-an-hour to 45 minutes each day. (More affluent families might hire chauffeurs).

I understand some of these changes might be impossible here and that many more people can take advantage of these services in India because of the low (even exploitative wages) for all sorts of household help. I also appreciate (a) the discussion on balance that exists in America (b) the role of stay-at-home dads here.

That said, I thought this might be a good perspective.

n!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 10:12 AM

Helen,
Stories like your friend's kill me. Women feel they alone are the primary caregivers. As long as they feel that way, their choice is made regardless of reasons 1-5. Women are setting themselves up to not really having a choice.

Posted by: dotted | December 6, 2006 10:12 AM

Has any studies supported that there is a large number of "bad" day care centers/situations? I don't remember them saying this was a wide scale problem. Or do people assume the few highly publicized cases represents the norm. There are always, unfortunately, tragic child abuse cases every year. That certainly doesn't imply that all parents or even the majority of their parents abuse their children. Why do we assume that with day care centers? Certainly, we should have ways to monitor day cares and offer assistance when needed. But to make a blanket statment like poor child care seems unfounded. Anon- I think what you are forgetting is that SAHP are making a contribution as a productive member of society. I don't think productivity is limited to receiving a pay check. Hi dotted, good morning to you too.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 6, 2006 10:13 AM

"Nurturing a child during the first 12 months is a great reason to carve out time from your life temporarily...but WHY do we think that only the mother can do this? What about the father too? I know, these are women's labor statistics, but you get my point!

If both parents could reduce their hours, they'd approximate the same amount of time with their baby together as a stay-at-home parent does and neither would have a gap in his/her resume. If women can make changes at work to fit in their new role as parent, so can men."

"We" don't only think women can do this. But obviously, there are many, many women who WANT to stay home with their children. I know it's hard for the WE MUST HAVE ABSOLUTE EQUALITY faction to understand this.

The #1 reason that more women are staying home is a desire to nurture their young children. It's not "I stay home part time and my husband does too so we can be completely equal in every single way." MORE women want to be the full time caregiver of their children than who want to split that duty down the middle with their men. It's not a threat on feminism, it's not a return to barefoot and in the kitchen timees. It's just a reflection on what more women want.

Posted by: to equal | December 6, 2006 10:17 AM

inBoston,

I was thinking about a similar problem today and I related to your post. There was a AP news yesterday about post-partum depression and it ended with *There may be people who say, My mother raised eight children and she never needed to have mental health care, and others will say, Finally somebody has noticed just how stressful this is and what people go through*

It is always a difficult to choose between work and SAH, but more so if the partner is not supportive. Men have been expecting women to do the grunt work with child rearing and if women won't, who will. Demanding something from your partner that they are not willing to give (like some people have suggested on this board), makes for a very unhappy relationship.

Posted by: AnotherRockvilleMom | December 6, 2006 10:17 AM

First I agree that the biggest shame about this issue is the women on one side of the issue criticizing the women on the other side of the issue. Each person needs to make the decision based on their family, heart, and needs.

That said, I worked for several years professionally before having children. Once I had children, I was blessed to be able to stay at home with them for eight years until the youngest one was back in school full-time. I never thought that I'd want to stay home, but I quickly changed my mind. During my time as a full time stay at home mom, I did LOTS of volunteer work.

Upon returning to the work force, I found that people were very accepting of the choice that I made to stay home. However, I think that it did take a few years for my salary to get up to speed. Now, several years later, I am at the top end of the pay scale for my profession. In addition, I have always been an advocate for, requested, and been able to have a very flexible full-time schedule with benefits that allowed me to still be there in the morning and home as my children get home from school. And, as dotted said, it is almost more critical when your children are pre-teens and teens.

Don't be afraid to ask for what you need! If you are able to give your best in the workplace, others will realize your value and be willing to work with you to keep you.

Posted by: blessedmom | December 6, 2006 10:20 AM

Something else that might be contributing to the decision of more women to stay home: According to sociologist Steven Martin (no, not the comedian) divorce rates among the college-educated have been dropping like a stone since the late 1980's. Attitudes to divorce amongst this group have been growing more negative, too. If divorce is less of an option, more women might feel secure in SAH'ing until the kid(s) go to kindergarten.

While I have no kids and therefore no dog in this fight, I see the issue not so much as "educated women letting down the side by SAH'ing" as "why is the concept of career track in the US so rigid?" Why is work so demanding? Family is important too.

Posted by: Flyonthewall | December 6, 2006 10:21 AM

Issues 2 and 3 are a large part of why relocated to an area with a lower COL, but equal job opportunities (for us) than DC. Our quality of childcare has been excellent, although it took a couple of tries to match each situation with the specific needs of each of our kids (one's more social and fits in anywhere; the other is more introverted and is fearful and insecure in large- center environments). We have paid between $115 (04 - 05) to $160 (05 - today) per week. We couldn't pay our bills on either one of our incomes in DC and we also were not satisfied with the infant-age childcare options, in our price range, available to us there. Certainly, others in different neighborhoods, or with older children, or in different industries, or with different financial commitments, make it work just fine in DC and I am glad for them.

We loved DC; however, we realized that we needed to put all options on the table. Once, we added relocation into the mix of possible options, all the pieces that had been troubling us fell into place. I suspect that there are a significant percentage of couples who don't fully think through their respective childcare/career choices before getting pregnant and then they want the world to change, without any sacrifices on their part, to provide their preferred solution.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 10:29 AM

To people who are upset about Leslie saying: "I find it ironic, slightly depressing, and totally understandable that moms who've invested the most in their work and education -- moms with the widest range of choices in their lives -- are the ones choosing most often to not work."

This is not about attacking women for their choices. This is about a desire to make things better for women in the workplace, and by extension their children and families. One way to do well by your kids is to raise them well (either as a SAHM or a working mom), but another way to do well by your kids is to help change things for the better in the society that we live in. Unfortunately, if too few women choose this path, it will not happen, and that IS a reason to be depressed. Maybe women are not obligated to do anything for anybody but themselves, but they should anyway.

Posted by: Think Big | December 6, 2006 10:32 AM

Thanks to the commenters who have noted that their husbands do (or do not) play a role in the child care calculus. One of my abiding frustrations with both quantitative analyses of stay-at-home parents (like the Census stats) as well as qualitative looks (books, articles, etc.) is that, somehow, the dad's role in all of this is ignored. I'd love to know how important -- or unimportant -- the men are in all of this. I suspect most family arrangements are not made in a vacuum by a single member of the family.

Posted by: Brian Reid | December 6, 2006 10:32 AM

to anon 10:29

Thinking way ahead is the ONLY way to approach having kids in DC. Infant daycare waiting lists are 12-24 months, so as soon as you're pregnant, you have to get on as many lists as possible. Assume it will cost $15K/yr for infant care. Can you afford that? Consider a dependent care FSA for at least a bit more of a child tax break. Be EXTREMELY smart with your budget, and try living on $1250 less per month to experience what having a kid in daycare will cost you. And those are just the practical concerns. Once you've done all of this, relocating can seem like a pretty amazing idea. Every now and then, when we start to freak out, I say, "we can always can this experiment and go back to Birmingham." Just that option is enough to make breathing easier.

Posted by: atb | December 6, 2006 10:39 AM

I stayed home for three months after DD was born, and have been back at work full time ever since. (I also started back at law school at night 2 weeks after having DD). I am the first one to say to just about anyone who will listen that there is NO WAY I could have kept up my schedule without my wonderful husband playing a huge part in it. My husband picks up DD from daycare when I have class (usually 3-4 nights a week), he cooks dinner, does the laundry, and tucks her in at night when I have class. I hate the nights when I don't get to tuck her in, but I'll be done in May. My husband's job (in an IT-related field) allows him to get a lot of work done from home, so he's just as likely to stay home wtih her if she's sick or take her to a doctor's appointment as I am. I would venture to say that he's done more "childcare" duties than I have her first 2 years of life, and that's perfectly fine. She loves both Mommy and Daddy, she's not particularly clingy with either one of us, and we both know what to do when something's wrong. Both of us make good salaries (he makes more than me right now, but I'll make more than him within 2 years). We like the fact that we can live comfortably, save for retirement and college, etc., and it all works for us.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 10:41 AM

Dotted,
cmac,
I agree..it is a personal choice and needs to be respected. However, what I see is people feeling they *have* to return to work in order to be a good woman regardless of good daycare availability, whatever. It is the societal pressure to return to work that is the issue. All of a sudden, choice seems to be going away. That is what is wrong.

Posted by: cmac | December 6, 2006 10:44 AM

Brian
You are right - I too would think that most decisions like this are not made in a vacuum. In my case my husband and I both had to work together to make the decisions and then to make life work. We both chose to deal with tighter finances when I was at home. As I shifted back into full time work, we shared the family load and now that my sons are all teens, and I actually work farther away, my husband is the most involved parent (coaching sports, carpools, awards ceremonies at school, etc.) There is no way that this would have worked without both of us.

Another thing for everyone to remember is that your children play a HUGE role in how successful you are. We have always instilled in our kids from the time that they were toddlers that they were an important part of keeping our family running smoothly. They need to have responsibilities too. This is often overlooked by many families who do make decisions "in a vacuum".

Posted by: blessedmom | December 6, 2006 10:45 AM

"I also know some friends whose husbands are power players and they have to host social gatherings at their homes, so the wives have to keep immaculate homes. "

If you fall for this guff, I have some property in Florida to sell...

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 10:46 AM

To Brian- I think men are left out of the equation because it is the general perception that women still do the majority of child care. I said perception because I am not sure this is really the reality. It is hard to get hard and fast data on the actual reality. My DH does do a lot and the work he does invaluable to the running of our household. He gets DD dressed, washed, teeth brushed and delivers her to day care. I , on the other hand, rush home after work pick DD up. Make dinner, bathe her, play with her and get all her day care and preschool bags packed for the next day. I lay out all her outfits each day. In the morning, I put her snack bag in her day care back pack with ice pack, check her notebook for preschool. Fill out any paper work needed. I also lay out her coat, hats, mittens and shoes right at the door. I can't depend that he will figure out she needs a hat or gloves. I also do all her laundry, as well as all the families laundry minus DH personal clothes. I also do all the grocery shopping, meal planning, bill paying, and cooking (sometimes DH does cook-rarely and not so well). DH shovels snow (about 3 weeks a year), some yard work (we have a regular lawn service), take out the garbage twice a week, and small home repair. We call in professionals for all the really difficult home repair work. He does love to play with DD and watches her when I need him too. So I think a lot of why men are left out of the equation is that a lot of men (not all) are simply doing less housework/child care then their female counterparts. It is a sense a disservice to great dads/husbands but it is the reality. I couldn't work if DH didn't do his share but he doesn't even come close to 50%. That is OK. It has worked for us. Some of the child care work, I just prefer. Like shopping and choosing her clothes. Some I do because it would be utterly painful to get him to do on a timely basis. Some things he is just completely inept (cooking). But some things would be nice if he took more of an interest in. A typical example is that DD went on a field trip yesterday. DH asked how preschool was today. I said, she didn't go to school today, they went to tiny tots theater show. DH, "really, I didn't know she was going to that?" I said, " do you ever look at her school notebook and flyers?" DHm "you didn't tell me to do that." You see what I mean. I love him and lord knows he is a good husband and father. But Mr. Mom he is not.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 6, 2006 10:46 AM

I totally agree and second "Think Big's" statement. I have no problem with those who want to stay at home. Why should I - it is not my life/decision. However, there is a down-side on a bigger picture. That is not attacking the personal choice but it is an effect thereof.

Women don't "owe" anything. That doesn't mean it wouldn't be nice if more chose to stay in the work force to effect change. (Of course that assumes flexibility, etc. that many don't have.)

Those are just my feelings on it.

Posted by: JS | December 6, 2006 10:48 AM

Great discussion.

Hi Foamgnome -- want to echo that good daycare is good daycare, no matter what the price! some really costly centers (and nannies) are awful and vice-versa. All three of my kids went to excellent daycare ranging in cost from $200-300 per week starting when they were about 12 weeks old. I wanted to kiss the daycare center floor every day. They loved my kids and the providers had so much infant expertise that they really helped me become a better mom quickly.

Marie -- your story shows that PASSIONATELY loving your kid(s) and wanting (or needing) to work are not mutually exclusive. there are lots and lots of wonderful moms who work outside the home because of financial need or simple desire to work. stay-at-home moms do not have a corner on loving their children and there is no proof that they SAHMs are universally superior parents (and I'm not saying SAHMs have a superiority complex -- just that our culture sometimes makes working moms feel guilty about "neglecting" our kids). part of being a good mom is providing for your kids, and taking care of yourself!

ATB - your points could be an entire blog discussion and should be. your analysis raises excellent questions. there is an inherent tension between what parents can pay for childcare and what childcare providers need to charge. one partial solution is for the federal gov't to allow a larger tax break for dependent care, to offer tax incentives for childcare providers and for companies who offer onsite care. this would spread the financial "burden" of good childcare across our society, which seems fair since our entire society benefits from well-cared for children.

Posted by: Leslie | December 6, 2006 10:53 AM

Foamgnome -- I think we are married to the same man :) How funny.

Posted by: Marie | December 6, 2006 10:54 AM

cmac,
You retyped my comments differently from what I originally wrote. I'm trying to figure out if your changes mean something...if so, please clarify because I don't get it. Educate me!

Posted by: dotted | December 6, 2006 10:55 AM

I am mostly home with our 7-month-old. I work about 20 hours/week, during which he shares a nanny. It's an expensive option but I am happy with the care he gets, and know of no daycare centers that accept part-timers. I work mostly because we need the money, although the intellectual stimulation is also nice. Also, in my field (semi-IT), a gap in the resume would disqualify me for most jobs later on. Even with my pay, I know we are not saving enough for retirement and college (we have another child in elementary school). This is a big worry.

Despite the financial strain, we plan for one of us to continue working only part-time until the 2nd child enters preK or K. (With our first child, my husband stayed home the first year, and then went back full-time while I switched to part-time.) For our family, having 2 full-time working parents isn't the best option right now: we feel we'd be too tired to enjoy our family, and we fret about having our weekends entirely filled with errands instead of quality family time. We feel quite lucky to be able to choose our preferred lifestyle, and do not cast aspersions on others for whom different choices are preferable.

Posted by: dc mom | December 6, 2006 10:56 AM


In situations where both parents make approximately the same amount, and, both would like to stay home, how does the decision end up getting made that the wife often is the one to stay at home? I still don't see these decisions being made in a gender-neutral fashion most of the time -- based entirely on the preferences of the parents involved and not on societal pressure that says, if the dad takes time off, he's an oddball, but if the mom takes time off, she's a Good Mother. I don't mean this to be snarky, I'd like to know what's going on in the real world with other couples approaching this decision.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 10:56 AM

"I think men are left out of the equation because it is the general perception that women still do the majority of child care. "

Hmm. When we're able to pull this baby thing off, I hope that my providing the sole income for the family will count for something. Thankfully, my wife and I agree that it's an important contribution.

I agree with the general perception that in male-female relationships the woman will do most of the childcare, but if the way that household responsibilities are divided is to have one member make money as their main job and one member make family as their main job, then it's not fair to say that the making money part (or the making family part) doesn't count.

Posted by: The grain of salt in the pepper jar | December 6, 2006 10:56 AM

I'm confused about society/culture
"making" women feel guilty.

No one can "make" you feel guilty about anything. Otherwise, the prisons wouldn't be so full. Can't women tell others to MYOB anymore?

Posted by: DZ | December 6, 2006 10:59 AM

I read this article just now. I'm not sure if this has already been posted, but this article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette talks about a study showing the benefits to the EMPLOYER on supporting parents with older kids (and their attendent non-day care availabiltiy).

http://post-gazette.com/pg/06340/743788-28.stm

Posted by: dotted | December 6, 2006 11:01 AM

To grain of salt: I should have clarified in two WOH families. DH and I both work. I work 36 hours a week and DH works 50-60. Funny thing is, I still bring in slightly more then 50% of the hhld income. Yes, clearly when one parent stays at home and one works out of the home. Clearly the majority of housework and child care should fall on the SAHP.

Posted by: foamgnomen | December 6, 2006 11:01 AM

To: to equal: You seem a little defensive. If you are staying home for number 1. wouldn't a more intimate and meaningful bond between your child(ren) and your husband be high on your list of priorities? I don't think the "everything equal" crowd wants equality for the sake of equality. It might be more sane for the adults and possibly better for the kids. Just a thought...

Posted by: equal_too | December 6, 2006 11:01 AM

How do you propose to improve the quality and price of day care? When you improve quality, price goes up. When you improve price, quality goes down. That's how pretty much everything works. You can't buy a decent suit for $200 and you can't get decent child care for peanuts.

Should the government get more involved? How would that work? The main arenas where the government still fixes prices and service are in utilities, and I'm sure everyone is very satisfied with the service they get when the power goes out.

Posted by: jess | December 6, 2006 11:03 AM

"Maybe women are not obligated to do anything for anybody but themselves, but they should anyway."

Thank you for saying this, Think Big. I keep reading these posts that say new women should make this decision based solely on what they think is right for them. What's wrong with saying that women should consider the bigger societal picture? We may not *want* to be responsible for shaping the future of women and mothers in our society, but that's what each of us is doing through the choices we make. I'm not saying that this should be the deciding factor in the stay-home/go-work decision, but it's naive to refuse to consider it. If our choices are shaping society for future mothers, the least we can do is take responsibility for the choices we make, and not hide behind "I only need to think about what's right for me!"

Posted by: anonforthis | December 6, 2006 11:06 AM

Jess,
"Should the government get more involved? How would that work?"

It's called the public school system.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 11:08 AM

Echoing comments from 10:29 and 10:39 - we had our first child in Alexandria this September and moved to Texas 10 days later...there is simply no way for middle class working professionals in government, each with a master's degree, with a household income of close to $150k a year(our situation) to afford a mortgage AND childcare in the DC metro area. The payment on a $500k house, plus the 2 hr+ round trip commute required to get that house outside the Beltway, plus $1250/month for infant childcare, if you can even get into a center, was just too much for us. We planned ahead! We got on 6 childcare wait lists 2 weeks after we found out we were expecting and STILL would have had to find another care situation because we still weren't anywhere near getting her a slot after my maternity leave. What's worse, we toured terrible centers, FEDERAL centers, that made me cry. I know there are several great ones in the city but we saw one that was honestly like a Russian orphanage. We weren't willing to risk home care, given the stories this past year in the Post of the 1 year old boy killed by the husband of his in-home provider in Prince William, and the sentencing of the in-home provider who took 4 TylenolPM and let her 10 month old charge suffocate in a comforter on the floor in Alexandria...until a house in the DC metro is within reach for a 2 income household without a $2500+ mortgage, until childcare that meets even the basic needs of infants is available when your baby is 3 months old and you've been on a waiting list almost a year, more and people who want a family will just have to leave like we did. And it's broken our heart to do it, we loved DC like no other place either of us grew up in. It's the best city in the world, it's just a shame that it's impossible to raise children there on what would have been great salaries in almost any other housing market in the country.

Posted by: Left for Texas | December 6, 2006 11:08 AM

I can't picture the public school system taking up wide scale preschool any time soon. We still have 1/2 day kindergarten in Fairfax and early dissimal on Mondays. They can't even keep the older kids in school full time.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 6, 2006 11:09 AM

"I think men are left out of the equation because it is the general perception that women still do the majority of child care. "


to the Grain of Salt in the pepper jar: I agree with you that, in a single-income family where the guy is providing the single-income, his contribution should be valued equally by both parents and society.

The perception issue comment to which you responded primarily is directed at families in which both parents work outside the home. Many women employees/parents bear, or take on, a disproportionate responsibility for covering sick days, parent-teacher conferences, after-school activities, etc. As a result, many of the snarkier-anti-parent-employee participants in yesterday's blog believe that, since women with children often bear a disproportionate responsibility for childcare and, as a result, are not as responsible employees.


In my experience, men are not left out of the equation amongst working couples 35 - 50. Maybe it's an urban thing. Maybe it's different among less educated couples. Maybe it's just my perception. I don't know any women who made this decision in a vacuum. I also think women have significantly more real choice then men do about the level and nature of their participation in child-rearing. I don't see this conversation today reflecting any more enlightened views of the options than if it had occured 15 years ago. It's still all about whether "women" can/should/must do x, y, or z, and not whether a "parent" can/should/must do x, y, or z.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 6, 2006 11:10 AM

>

I think the market DOES take care of the problem in its own way: the price can't rise any more because the market can't bear it, therefore the demand decreases as more women succumb to the high prices and stay home instead.

I don't see a market solution that could help. It's true as someone pointed out earlier that infant care is not very profitable for day care providers, partly because of state-mandated staff:child ratios. We discovered by discreet questioning that despite our child's $1400 monthly tuition, which at a 1:3 ratio adds up to about $48000 income for the center, that each provider only made $16000 per year. They only have a HS ed. but even those with bachelor's or more only made $19000 per year. Yet the center still lost money on its infant program (it profited due to the older child programs which have more favorable ratios). I think the low profitability of infant programs is why they are so hard to find.

How can this be solved? One solution is government subsidies. Personally I don't favor this because it forces SAHM moms, singles, and other childless people to subsidize working couples with kids. I think one should remember that ultimately those kids will outgrow daycare but hteiir parents will still have their jobs, so in the long run even high cost infant daycare is a winnign situation for the parent. It's really a cash flow problem for them.

Another solution is to relax rules for the care of infants so that the market could supply more services at the current cost. I don't know that many parents would go for that, however much they complain about how expensive daycare is.

A third solution is to provide more ways for informal family- and friend-care to work, by allowing parents to claim the same childcare deduction if they're paying auntie josie to watch the kids as if they're paying a center, thus allowing higher pay for Josie. This might induce more SAHM auntie Josies to dive into the childcare business thus providing a higher supply.

A fourth solution is to allow "daycare spending" accounts that allow parents to save tax-deferred or tax-free for daycare and spread the costs out so that cash-flow is improved.

I also came from a place like India where many people had fulltime live-in "maids". Usually these were young or old unmarried women who didn't have a lot of marketable skills. They got room and board, watched your kids as needed (not providing education, but mostly in the sense of having an adult around to make sure they didn't blow up the house), and generally did housekeeping and cooking, and the cost was low because you supplied a place to live and food. THis freed up mom's non-WOH time to spend having fun with the kids and helping them grow intellectually instead of cleaning the house and cooking dinner.

Posted by: m | December 6, 2006 11:11 AM

"Also, like previous discussions - women don't owe society, corporate America, Wall Street, even the Wharton Business School anything after they have a baby - it is a personal choice and should be respected."

Not even the women who borrowed tuition money from society, corporate America, Wall Street, even the Wharton Business School and who haven't paid off those loans before having a baby?

Could student loan payments be another factor in the decision for people who have kids within a few years of graduation?

"Obviously, there are very tangible benefits of staying at home that may be worth the cost. I would love to see anything that really breaks down the long term costs in a neutral manner."

How close are these?

"Cost of being a stay-at-home mom: $1 million"

http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/CollegeAndFamily/RaiseKids/CostOfBeingAStayAtHomeMom.aspx?page=allp

"Can you afford a stay-at-home husband?"

http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/CollegeandFamily/P55979.asp

"However, pre-teens are a different matter. There is no daycare at that age."

Wasn't there a thread a while ago in which someone said she's been a daycarer for kids age 5-12? Of course, daycare programs may not be suitable for preteens even if they're technically available for preteens. When I was in 5th grade my elementary school had an "extended day" program in a kindergarten format 5 afternoons a week and chess club 1 or 2 afternoons a week. One of my friends was put in "extended day" and she was really, really cranky about it (I don't remember if it was because she wanted to be in chess club or because she had PMS).

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 11:11 AM

"Although choice is good, I find it ironic, slightly depressing, and totally understandable that moms who've invested the most in their work and education -- moms with the widest range of choices in their lives -- are the ones choosing most often to not work."

Might this be because these are often precisely the women who have been pushing (and pushed) so hard to get into the "top" schools, to graduate with a zillion honors, to get into prestigious grad schools, to graduate with silk-stocking jobs awaiting them, and then to make their mark on their profession as soon as inhumanly possible?

I think these women may just be tired, fed up, and a little resentful of all that pushing they had to do for so many years -- and which they did in great part to please or satisfy parental expectations. They just want to lay down the load and focus on pleasing the one person who counts -- the baby.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 11:12 AM

Many men find it difficult to be nurturing because of the way they are raised in this culture. Little boys are taught to be tough, don't cry, don't act like a girl, be a man, etc. It goes back to the earliest days of the human race and basic survival skills in a tough world. Several of my male relatives have recently adopted babies and are raising them in households without a mother/female presence. It is astounding to hear about their experiences, especially how peaceful child-rearing has made them. Johan Galtung believes the world would be a more peaceful place if men took a more active role raising children. So do I. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johan_Galtung

Posted by: thw2001 | December 6, 2006 11:12 AM

"In situations where both parents make approximately the same amount, and, both would like to stay home, how does the decision end up getting made that the wife often is the one to stay at home?"

In our household, it's because I'm the one who can produce milk. I'm sure my husband will be a great father but I don't expect him to lactate.

In Canada, they don't call staying home with an infant who is less than a year old "opting out"; they call it "maternity leave." Yes, they get a full year of maternity leave (which, by the way, is one reason Canadians achieve much higher extended breastfeeding rates than Americans). We are planning to use our savings for me to take a one-year leave of absence from my Ph.D program when our first child is born this spring, and I have been calling it my "Canadian maternity leave."

Posted by: Rebecca | December 6, 2006 11:14 AM

Although I (somewhat) agree with those who say we need to honor each other's personal choices... I'm curious to find out what the collective impact of women choosing to staying home will be five or ten years down the road. Will women's choices increase as a result of more of us staying home? Or decrease? What about opportunities for women to advance in their careers access to higher education? Will they increase or decrease?

I know it's trendy for new moms to choose to stay home with their kids right now. And I fully understand the reasons for this trend (please add "desire to escape soul-sucking office environment" to Leslie's list above). However there WILL be a backlash. I wonder what it'll look like.

Posted by: Friend | December 6, 2006 11:14 AM

Let's not forget, though, that boys need fathers to teach them how to be men, and girls need fathers to teach them how to avoid the boys who were never taught to be men.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 11:19 AM

I think an obvious reason that the mom more often ends up staying home these days when children are infants is that (it seems anyway) more and more families are opting for exclusive breast feeding in the early months. Mom's got the goods, it's just simpler, and a in a lot of jobs, pumping is not feasible/welcomed.

Posted by: VA | December 6, 2006 11:20 AM

and speaking of honesty (sorry, still stuck on yesterday's topic), it's more than annoying to hear women exit a horrific job/job environment and attribute their departure to new or impending motherhood, when what's really going on is they hated their jobs and motherhood provided a convenient exit strategy that doesn't hurt anyone's feelings. If they're leaving the employer because they truly want to be a SAHM, that's great. However, I have seen a great many job departures attributed to new motherhood that are 90% about how much the woman hated her job. Full-time motherhood becomes an excuse for essentially a career change. All the men in the office look at each and knowingly nod, though, with a look that says, "there goes another woman exiting the workforce, just like the last 6." That's why it matters when women stay home. There's a lot of dishonesty going on that perpetuates old stereotypes about the career commitment of women.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 11:22 AM

Some possible outcomes of more women choosing not to work after having children:

1. Improved academic performance by children due to mom being home to oversee schoolwork;
2. Less drug and alcohol abuse because mom is home to watch kids after school;
3. Fewer teen pregnancies, see #2 above;
4. Fewer women with children in the workplace.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 11:26 AM

The reasons stated why women are opting out are appalling to me. Except for number #1 on the list, the stated reasons women opt out have more to do with bad situations not under their control--job inflexibility, lack of good quality care, etc.--than anything positive women themselves control AND want. I would hardly call that reflective of real choice, which always implies to me desirable alternatives, not alternatives that make only one course seem reasonable. No wonder working moms (and I am one) and stay at home moms can be conflicted about their so-called choices in this regard.

Posted by: Valerie Jablow | December 6, 2006 11:26 AM

I had family in the area, and while I paid them what they asked (a pittance), I KNEW I was getting more than my money's worth.

I have friends who are SAHM's, and the only advice I have ever offered to them was the following:

Have your husband/SO fully fund your IRA each year. Not to do so is the height of hypocrisy given how many SAY "It's the most important job in the world!" but aren't willing to shell out a measly $5K/year or so to help guarantee a retirement that doesn't involve a cardboard box and cat food.

I only took 2 months of maternity leave with child one (that left me with some leave), and 3 months with child 2 (I decided that would help ease the transition of kid 1 into kindergarten that first week). I was thrilled to get back to work. I love my kids and my job. I'm lucky enough to handle both.

Posted by: Ghada | December 6, 2006 11:27 AM

Not even the women who borrowed tuition money from society, corporate America, Wall Street, even the Wharton Business School and who haven't paid off those loans before having a baby?

They have to pay it back whether they stay home or not. What is your point?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 11:27 AM

"Let's not forget, though, that boys need fathers to teach them how to be men, and girls need fathers to teach them how to avoid the boys who were never taught to be men."

Children need parents who treat each other with love and respect in order to learn how to do likewise. There's a lot of different kinds of "men"--some of which I would want my son to be like and some not.

Thanks for clarifying, people. Yes, if both parents have jobs (as we expect to be when the kids are older) then responsibility gets divided. It's not just one person's job.

Posted by: The grain of salt in the pepper jar | December 6, 2006 11:28 AM

"Head Start is one of the most successful government programs in history--producing real results and making a difference in children's lives."

Hardly. Head Start is generally viewed as one of the biggest failures in contemporary policy.

As to whether educated women have an obligation to feminism to work, I'll take the unpopular opinion and say yes. Every time a woman MBA or MD or PhD drops out of the workforce, it gives more support to that glass ceiling. Why promote a promising female rising star if she's just going to leave in a few years anyway? Sure, educated women are going to stay home anyway, but it's a choice that doesn't benefit society in a macro sense.

Do what's best for your family but don't think there's not a cumulative effect.

Posted by: Contrarian | December 6, 2006 11:30 AM

to the anon 11:26 poster: them's some big assumptions. I'll call you on the easiest one. Just because a woman isn't employed doesn't mean she's in the house twiddling her thumbs between the hours of 2:30 and 8. A great deal of drug abuse, teen pregnancy, non-homework-completion goes on in households with a SAH parent because parents don't always see what's going on right in front of them. The parent might be at the gym, running an ebay business out of her home, be cooking, be taking a class at a local community college. your unsupported conclusions are not borne out in the real world.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 11:31 AM

Point is, someone needs to teach kids "survival skills," even if they no longer involve hunting and gathering. Too many kids have no idea how to cope with stress and change.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 11:33 AM

"women don't owe society, corporate America, Wall Street, even the Wharton Business School anything after they have a baby - it is a personal choice and should be respected"

The reason those women were effective working members of society, coporate America, Wall Street and/or the Wharton Business school in the first place is the struggles of the women who came before them. And as participating members of society, we all have a responsibility to consider the type of society we want to shape. As such, women should be obligated to consider what their choices cost society in general and women in particular.

"They just want to lay down the load and focus on pleasing the one person who counts -- the baby."

The baby may be the one person who counts the most, but the baby is certainly not the only person who counts.

Posted by: anonforthis | December 6, 2006 11:34 AM

All I know is my mom was never home after school and I was always in trouble. My two best friends had stay at home moms, and they coudn't get into it if they tried.

Doesn't get much more "real world" than that.

Plus, there's no point in women being unemployed if they aren't going to watch the kids. That's called being worthless, much like my mother-in-law, whose kids are grown and she still stays home all day surfing the Internet and contributes nothing to society. Again, that's the "real world."

Posted by: anon | December 6, 2006 11:37 AM

"Some possible outcomes of more women choosing not to work after having children:

"1. Improved academic performance by children due to mom being home to oversee schoolwork"
My mom worked 50 hour weeks and I ended up at an Ivy League (with nary a student loan either, due to the dual income). What's your basis for this assumption?

"2. Less drug and alcohol abuse because mom is home to watch kids after school"
Kids will always find a way to exercise their curiosity, even if mom is smothering. Actually, especially if mom is smothering.

"3. Fewer teen pregnancies, see #2 above"
Promoting the safety of your children--because, again, were you ever a teenager?--has everything to do with good parenting and nothing to do with whether a mom works. Please clarify what you mean.

"4. Fewer women with children in the workplace."
I'll give you this incredibly "duh" point.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 11:37 AM

My mom stayed at home -- I got in plenty of trouble. Some of my friends with Working parents did not. Now, the opposite was true as well. That is what makes generalizations worthless.

Posted by: Lisa | December 6, 2006 11:39 AM

So, only women who are willing (regardless of their ability to do so) to not SAH with children or who don't want children should gain an advanced education? Those who do want to SAH should set their sights lower even though they may contribute something amazing at a later date? Wow. Isn't working for the greater good about more than just work. Isn't raising children contributing to the greater good? This line of "reasoning" is completely illogical to me.

Posted by: confused | December 6, 2006 11:40 AM

Slightly off-topic alert: going through college, I saw lots of young women getting their MRS degrees. Work hard, get degree, then...get married and stay home? It baffled me. It's such a waste of tuition money, scholarships, loan money and admissions awards that could be awarded to students who would actually USE their degrees. Want to stay at home? Fine, stay at home. But don't waste others' money and time and facilities to find yourself a wealthy husband!

It's one thing to take some time off from work when your kids are young, a year-long sabbatical or whatnot. But it really bugs me when a girl's sole purpose in college is to find a husband to keep her comfortable for the rest of her days. Sorry about the off-topic; it's a pet peeve of mine that relates only slightly to the subject at hand.

Posted by: Mona | December 6, 2006 11:40 AM

What about breastfeeding? That's the only reason I like taking significant time off after the baby is born. Pumping is such a pain and such an elephant in the room at work that I put off returning to work as much as possible in the first year, even though I am truly balanced when I have work and home life.

Posted by: Carrie | December 6, 2006 11:41 AM

Shouldn't you SAHMs be breastfeeding or "nurturing" your children instead of blogging?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 11:42 AM

This is an interesting discussion to me as I'm about 4 months away from my first child and trying to figure out what to do.

Like many of the women who have posted, I worry about being bored if I don't work at all. But spending 3 hours a day and $1000 per month just to commute, while working ok now, isn't going to be tenable once the baby arrives. Add in day care costs and I can forget about my job being worthwhile at all.

However, I am worried about being out of the workforce for a number of years. The very first poster is right. Employers care about what you've done lately. I'm 30 years old and in a management position at one of the largest associations in the nation. I make a good salary. I could go very far if I wanted to. But since we can't afford to have my husband quit work and part-time isn't an option for him, something has to go. It's become clear to me in considering all my options that it's really not possible to have everything.

Fortune or Forbes once published a story about female CEOs a few years ago. Of the Top 50 CEOs, virtually all of them had husbands who had put their careers second to their wives, picking up most of the family-related duties. It's just a fact that to be really successful you need support, whether you are a man or a woman. Right now our society says its not ok for men to play that support role, even though we give lip service to wanting women in positions of power.

So since we can't have the child come first and work come first for both of us, I will be working part-time from home, and trying to consult part-time. I'm very lucky that my employer has this flexibility. But my boss said something when I broached this to her - "I wouldn't do this for just anyone." You have to prove that you are worth the hassle for everyone else to work around. I think that's perfectly fine.

I think more men would like to be more involved but the fact is they just can't be right now in our culture. My husband would love to stay home with our kids. He's in a terrible government job that he hates. He loves children. Staying at home full time to nurture our kids and watch their development sounds like heaven to him. He's more bored at work than he would be at home. But when considering how we should arrange child care, a couple of things came into our decision. For one, I have more flexibility than he does and have a desire to give up my commute anyway. But the more important factor is that I can take a year or two away, perhaps just keeping one foot in the workplace, and have very little stigma attached to that. If he did the same thing, employers would wonder if he was a lazy slacker who couldn't get a job. Until there is real equality in the way we view men's and women's roles at home as well as in the workforce, we won't have real options for raising families and working.

Posted by: new mom to be | December 6, 2006 11:44 AM

Mona,

If your daughter THINKS that her only purpose in college is to find a husband, don't you think she's still better off getting that education as a survival skill for later? How is society better if a whole bunch of women don't go to at least undergrad, then have no education to put on their resume if they either don't marry, or he leaves, or he dies, or the industry in which he's employed collapses or whatever. Life happens. We should always encourage 18 year olds to give themselves future options and be prepared for more than one outcome. Shouldn't we? I'm asking.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 6, 2006 11:44 AM

When we're talking SAH, how long are we talking here? A year? 18 years? It seems like there's more value in some timeframes than other.

Posted by: not a mom | December 6, 2006 11:45 AM

Shouldn't you be _____ instead of blogging? Snarky much!

Posted by: to anon 1142 | December 6, 2006 11:45 AM

Not many women in my line of work returned to the job as new mother's - most found it too stressful and overwhelming. That said, I didn't think it was that bad and was glad to go back to work when my 3 months of maternity leave were up (2.5 months were paid as well).

When my daughter was one I did become a stay at home mom since we had moved overseas - the test will come in a year and a half when we move home and I start job hunting.

But the first year of her life, I felt like we had access to very high quality (albeit high cost) child care, and we were truly grateful for it. I felt very lucky to get the amount of maternity leave (and the amount paid) that I did, although I had no flexibility as far as my schedule - I was either in or out, and I chose to be in.

Posted by: Vienna mom | December 6, 2006 11:46 AM

"Isn't working for the greater good about more than just work. Isn't raising children contributing to the greater good?"

Well, yes, but it doesn't require an advanced degree, so, if you get an advanced degree and then your only contribution to the greater good is raising your kids, what's the point of getting the advanced degree?

Posted by: JS | December 6, 2006 11:48 AM

"It's such a waste of tuition money, scholarships, loan money and admissions awards that could be awarded to students who would actually USE their degrees."

Do you have any idea how shortsighted and ridiculous that comment is? Perhaps you need a refresher history course to see what phenomenal contributions have been made by women who were stay at home moms. Who do you think makes up the largest portion of the volunteer workforce in this country? How did some of the world's greatest thinkers, business people, etc. become the person that was able to make a positive difference in this world? It's one sided thinking like this that is the biggest problem for ALL women!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 11:49 AM

To Mona:

This is even more outrageous. I am about to graduate law school, and even in professional school there are girls looking for husbands. They must have missed the boat in undergrad.

Posted by: lawgirl | December 6, 2006 11:50 AM

"Well, yes, but it doesn't require an advanced degree, so, if you get an advanced degree and then your only contribution to the greater good is raising your kids, what's the point of getting the advanced degree?"

We hear this comment a lot on this blog, and it baffles me. First, let's be honest about whether our current jobs truly require that Masters in Greek Civilization or a generic MBAs. In many instances we got those advanced degrees because we could, because it gave us a leg-up in a competitive job market, because it was darned easier than working for those 2 - 3 years. Second, while raising kids doesn't "require" any threshold amound of knowledge and education and while there are plenty of highly-educated, lousy parents out there, parents with advanced degrees just might do a pretty good job of home-schooling, teaching organizational schools, teaching a love of learning and curiousity about the world around us. Don't misunderstand me -- plenty of less educated parents do a phenomenal job of these things -- but I'm tired of hearing that advanced degrees are unnecessary or not utilized in the parenting arena.

Posted by: to JS | December 6, 2006 11:53 AM


Wow, we've had a good troll-free discussion so far.

Of course moms have personal inclinations that draw them toward the SAH or WOH end of the spectrum, but in my experience most moms who regard their work as careers, not just jobs, are pulled toward *both* work and involved parenting. The ongoing decisions of how to balance the 2 demands over time is situational, a great observation made earlier.

I think many people typecast women with strong accomplishment and work commitment as 'work-oriented' and expect work to remain an unquestioned first focus once kids arrive. In truth, such women are often just intense, conscie ntious, and devoted to *whatever* commitments they take on. Just as they engage in their work and take it to heart, so too they engage with their children and their responsibility to nurture them, to manage their health and physical needs, to manage their enriching day-to-day life experiences, to mentor, love and support them. This role is more intense and primal then work, partly because it involves person-to-person love, and partly because this overall nurturing/ guiding/ managing responsibility falls uniquely on parents: if they let it drop, no one else tends to it. Loving educators and caregivers fill a niche in meeting defined childcare or enrichment needs, but they're not responsible for, and don't attend to, the totality of the child --- the way all elements of her day-to-day life come together to foster the child's individual and changing personality and interests. Nor do they monitor all the subtle changes and quirks that suggest a medical or emotional issue's emerging, or an altered schedule would better meet her emerging needs. (This is not a knock on caregivers as we've had wonderful loving ones, and caregivers of very young children can be more immersed and holistic, and more attuned to these issues. But still they are not the last rung of the safety net as parents are; they provide good and loving care in the time kids are with them, but they don't set its overall context, or monitor an dmanage every issue prerequisite to sustain a flourishing child over the long run. Your child's health, happiness, and development is an existential imperative to a parent; caregivers and medical providers care, too, and they responsibly tend your children, but they go off the clock and turn off the responsibility, while you carry continuity of responsibility and abiding attention to your child's needs, always. )

So, since parents are their children's only safety net, and only continuous steward throughout the full days and nights, and long years of childhood, balancing children's care with any work needed or wanted is an imperative. And most parents, in my experience, do seek an ever-shifting balance.

What I'd like to see is a firmer acknowledgment that the choice and the balance is situational, as noted earlier; and work on making the situational context as neutral as possible, supportive of parents to make whatever choices their family personalities and needs nudge them toward, without tossing in externalities that tilt the scale one way or another. Good and affordable schools, childcare, and aftercare is one issue, as is logistical coordination and support of enrichment activities for older kids. Absence of these, which can assure a parent that their child is thriving as they implement their chosen balance of work and family, can bias parents to eliminate work they might have preferred. Flexible structuring of work including creating part-time and full-time-yet-not-lifestoppingly-insane avenues for parents to remain engaged in work at evolving levels of participation is another issue --- it biases parents toward making all-or-nothing choices either way, while more balanced and incrementally evolving options might better meet their families' needs. Decoupling health benefits from particular employers, and particular models of full-time work, is another. This again biases toward all-or-nothing choices, often against a family's desired choice of balance. I would so much rather see health-insurance-eligibility portable and totally decoupled from one's particular choice of employer and work schedule --- say all households covered with one level of employment tax subsidy if aggregate work by all adults reaches some level deemable as one full-time job; and a lower subsidy or specific single-parent exception if aggregate adult work meets some lower part-time threshold (perhaps loosely like Social Security credits work, perhaps some other way; the important thing would be to cut the quirky situational strings that tie families' healthcare eligibility specifically to mom's or dad's employer only, on exceedingly narrow all-or-nothing terms). Flexible ways to enable part-time work, to distribute a family's retirement contributions between WOH and SAH spouses, and to broaden healthcare eligibility could mitigate many SAH-associated risks as well. All of these external realities become inputs that distort the decisions about ongoing balance a particular family, with their own constellation of issues, might have freely chosen.

So I'd like to see an end to the distortions that impose their own 'situationality' onto people's decisions. I wholeheartedly support parents' freely made decisions anywhere on the spectrum; socially, I would be content with whatever mix of decisions emerged, so long as our social and ultimately governmental infrastrucure created a context neutral and supportive to all choices, partly by assuring good care options available to all kids (sliding subsidy of some sort is a reasonable societal provision), and partly just by revamping some of the weird structural obstacles that have evolved tying all sorts of important issues to the simple question of who one happens to work for, for how many hours.

Posted by: KB | December 6, 2006 11:56 AM

Why do so many SAHPs use disposable diapers?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 12:00 PM

I have two kids under the age of three and am fortunate to have the luxury to telecommute. But, as the breadwinner of my family I feel intense pressure to provide financially AND be supermom. Other working & nonworking moms say that they are jealous of my arrangement--to work from home, make six figures and have a nanny/babysitter.

The bottom line is that I'm just as tired as everyone else and I still feel like I'm not doing a good enough job as a mom or employee. My childcare is very expensive but why work from home if you a going to put your child in a daycare? So home or not, you can only TRY to reassure yourself that you're making the right decision. I think that lack of affordable childcare and flexible work schedules are a BIG part of many decisions to stay home. And if I could afford it, I probably would stay home, too.

Posted by: Alexandria Mom | December 6, 2006 12:03 PM

I wish I could have stayed at home, but I had no choice. It was back to work after 3 weeks off for me. I am a single mom. I did have daycare (a reliable family member who charged next-to-nothing) but I had to work or else rent wouldn't get paid, etc. I was not about to go on welfare either.

Posted by: single mama | December 6, 2006 12:03 PM

"Who do you think makes up the largest portion of the volunteer workforce in this country? How did some of the world's greatest thinkers, business people, etc. become the person that was able to make a positive difference in this world? It's one sided thinking like this that is the biggest problem for ALL women!"

Does it take a PhD to volunteer at your kids' school? Okay, fine. You tell me some of the wonderful things non-working women can do with their degrees as stay-at-home moms that contribute to society, and I will believe you. As long as they are relevant. Getting a doctorate in engineering probably can't help you coach the swimming team.

lawgirl, that doesn't really surprise me, I'm sad to say. I'm applying to law school now, and I'm not exactly looking forward to a male-dominated profession. I'm sure, being a pretty, thin, looks-younger-than-she-is woman, I'll get patted on the head more than I can stand. :-(

By the way, thanks for all the feedback, whether you agree or not. I'm always up for some good insight. Especially when I plan on having kids and don't want to have to eat my own words later on!

Posted by: Mona | December 6, 2006 12:03 PM

I stayed home with my two birth-daughters until the youngest was 4 -- 7 years altogether, and then went back to work to a better career than I had had before. I stayed home because I wanted to be with them, not because I felt I had no other option. I went back when my husband felt the burden of earning the income crushing. That's balance.

However, I find the idea that education is wasted on SAHMs appalling. It took all my intelligence, research skills, verbal and aural skills and commitment to the long-term goal to be the best mother I knew how, just as much as was required to be a college student and a prised employee. And now that my girls are 20 and 18, it still takes the same qualities to be the best mother to them that I can be.

Posted by: Grimm | December 6, 2006 12:05 PM

"ONLY (my emphasis) contribution to the greater good is raising your kids"??? wow - seriously disturbing.
Maybe child rearing doesn't require an advanced degree but that doesn't mean it isn't an invaluable resource for doing so. For instance, woman obtains her degree and decides to SAH. Two years later, her partner is maimed, killed, etc but she has the ability to support her family because she has a degree. It may be difficult to re-start but not necessarily impossible. Or mom has a degree in a chemisty and she is able to assist to her teenager with a school assignment. Small? Yes. Important? Yes. Or mom has a nursing degree and her child or child's friend has an accident at the playground and she is able to address the situation and avoid a tragedy.
Is a degree required - no but definitely valuable to the huge daunting task of raising kids.

Posted by: confused | December 6, 2006 12:06 PM

A friend and I were discussing the benefits of arranging more time at home as our kids entered the teen years. I had a stay at home mom and she had a working mom. Her comments were about how she would have friends over to drink while mom was at work and how she feared the same for her kids. My comments were about how I would hang out and drink at my friend's houses where mom worked. The conclusion my stay at home mom had know idea what I was doing and her working mo had know idea what was happening in her own home. Our conclusion work, don't work but know your kids. Surprise them at home or at the friends. Vary the schedule etc. We were both good kids, never in trouble, went off to good colleges etc.

Posted by: Whacky Teenagers | December 6, 2006 12:06 PM

Someone mentioned length of time as a SAHM as a factor in how one is viewed. I wholeheartedly agree.

There seems to be a huge distinction on the playground amongst the "sabattical" moms and the "true" SAHMs.

The vast majority of moms are of the sabattical variety, with most I've encountered taking 1-5 years off.

I have, in fact, only met a handful of moms that plan to stay home forever.

So, no, those advanced degrees will not go to waste. Nor would they go to waste at home. Being smart, creative, and ambitious are important and positive traits that all parents should have.

And I will reiterate that parenting happy independent children that won't place a burden on society in the future is the most important CONTRIBUTION 99% of us will do in life.

Posted by: SAHMbacktowork | December 6, 2006 12:08 PM

2. Less drug and alcohol abuse because mom is home to watch kids after school;


Comments like these are hilarious. My friends and I indulged in sick amounts of dope and other drugs with Mom baking cookies upstairs. Her presence just added to to sense of excitement at being naughty.

Posted by: Smokin in the basement | December 6, 2006 12:08 PM

forgot to add...my son is 4 now and goes to a center @$180/week. I only make $17.50/hour...40 hour workweeks... which is just over the threshhold for fairfax county childcare assistance. My rent is $1100 for our spartan 1 bedroom apartment. Do the math on how much I actually take home. :) I would switch to another private person for cheaper, but after 3 bad experiences with in-home providers (taking excessive sick days leaving me no choice but to miss work, etc) I'd rather pay the center to know someone will be there from 6 am-6pm.

Don't worry I am going back to school to increase my income...online classes at NOVA which thankfully are paid for through grants and scholarships. If I could have done it any differently, I would not have changed a thing...we struggle but survive. :)

Posted by: single mama | December 6, 2006 12:09 PM

"I find it ironic, slightly depressing, and totally understandable that moms who've invested the most in their work and education -- moms with the widest range of choices in their lives -- are the ones choosing most often to not work."

I went to college, and have taken other classes, so that I have choices and options in my life.

Posted by: k | December 6, 2006 12:10 PM

"I'm sure, being a pretty, thin, looks-younger-than-she-is woman, I'll get patted on the head more than I can stand."

Mona,

Are you being ironic here, or are you just vain?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 12:12 PM

The post from India was interesting, particularly about the lack of guilt over leaving daytime childcare duties to a maid.

My DH was also raised outside the US, primarily by various housekeepers with minimal education and no formal childcare training, but he didn't suffer because of it. He's smart, stable, loves his parents, has no attachment disorders, or any of that nonsense.

And yet here we are supposed to self-flagellate for "outsourcing" our children to even the most qualified daycare providers!

Posted by: Call me M | December 6, 2006 12:13 PM

Many are missing the point that highly-educated men and women can contribute greatly to society by not limiting themselves to being employed in their field of expertise.

SAHMs are the pillars of the volunteer force in your local schools. Thank goodness many have the discipline and sharp mind brought about by years of college education.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | December 6, 2006 12:16 PM

"What about breastfeeding? That's the only reason I like taking significant time off after the baby is born. Pumping is such a pain and such an elephant in the room at work that I put off returning to work as much as possible in the first year"

Carrie,

I pumped at work. You may have found it a pain and impractical, but I did not. It was an option, I availed myself of it, the kids were (and are) fine. The first born is 13 now.

Posted by: Ghada | December 6, 2006 12:19 PM

What I find laughable is the idea that working women in positions of power will advocate for more flexibility and better child care for other women. HA HA HA. Since when do women take care of and look out for each other?

In my work experience, the women in power act pretty much the same as the men except the women are more threatened by up and coming young women. There is so little mentoring - most of my professional developement has been guided by awesome men who took an interest in me - not the women. Additionally, these powerful women are no better than the powerful men in the parenting department. They have no sympathy for parents because they have nannies and they never see their kids.

Women helping women get ahead through more flexibility and better child care after they clawed their way to the top! HA I'll believe it when I see it.

Maybe we should be asking the SAHMs to talk to their power player husbands to make changes or try ourselves to raise sons who will respect women and daughters who will respect other women.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 12:23 PM

To Mona:

Congrats on choosing to go to law school. I hope you will be pleasantly surprised at the lack of head-patting. I am young and attractive, but have had no problems excelling at school or at work. Numerous attorneys have taken an interest in my professional development, but not in a condescending way. I am going to work for a firm where there are a lot of woman attorneys, many of whom are partners. Many of them have children and successfully balance work and family.

Posted by: lawgirl | December 6, 2006 12:23 PM

Mr. Honda

The volunteer force in my kid's school is tiny. I'm not really sure what they do beyond planning self-serving social events.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 12:25 PM

To 12:12, I'm not ashamed to say I am an attractive woman. Why should I be?

Vain? I don't know. I do clean up well, but I'm not what most people would call high-maintenance, though I suppose I will have to be when I start to practice.

It is always ironic, however, that we still judge each other at face value instead of on the quality of our work.

Now, did you have an issue with the real topic of my post?

Posted by: Mona | December 6, 2006 12:25 PM

Bravo! Good to hear that more moms are choosing to stay home to raise their children, even if for a few years. This is good for society. We are moving in the right direction. The children will benefit the most!

Posted by: Thierry | December 6, 2006 12:26 PM

lawgirl: Thank you so much for encouraging words! Here I was expecting the worst. A friend of a friend of mine is a tort/IP lawyer and is having a mixer with a bunch of his colleagues. I'm going to get into their heads and try to gauge the after-hours atmosphere (I'm sure it will be entertaining). I'm a scientist working in academia; I am envisioning a huge culture shock when I start working in an IP firm.

I'm glad to hear that even a male-dominated workforce is progressive. That's a relief; thanks so much for your response.

Posted by: Mona | December 6, 2006 12:30 PM

I agree that women shouldn't feel that they owe it to society to return to work if that is not the right choice for them. However, I think the problem is that in many professions, such as the law, women opt out of working when they have kids and this leaves a huge vacuum. Many law firms have absolutely no work/life balance precisely because there are not enough high powered female attorneys advocating for greater flexibility. Additionally, most of the partners at law firms are males and interestingly many of the male partners have stay at home wives so they are not as sympathetic to the needs of the associates because they essentially have a life manager (their wives) to take care of their day to day obligations outside of work. I'm not sure what the solution is but I know that once I have children it will be impossible for me to remain at a firm in the current environment if I ever wanted to see my kids.

Posted by: DC Attorney | December 6, 2006 12:31 PM

"Why do so many SAHPs use disposable diapers?"

You are adding nothing. go away.

Posted by: VA | December 6, 2006 12:31 PM

I know people have pointed this out already, but I think the main reason it is the mother that opts to stay home and "nurture" her child in the first few years because she is the one who produces the child's food. HELLO! A father can't exactly breastfeed a baby. There is much more pressure now to breastfeed than before. Also, they say you should breastfeed for at least a year.

In my situation, I returned to work after a 3 month maternity leave. My husband doesn't make enough for us to live in this area (only $75K per year) if we ever hope to stop renting and actually buy a house. So, I guess I work so that one day we can afford a house. After that point, I don't know I might consider staying home. Although I went to law school, I don't really like my govt job. I'm glad it has relatively flexible hours and that I can run home or take off work with absolutely no notice (the culture here is very family friendly) but the job itself is boring and I definitely see it as just a paycheck. I also think it would be easier for me to quit in a few years b/c by then my husband will have moved over from govt atty to private practice and his salary will most likely double, so we won't need my paycheck as much anymore. I also agree with other posters that I think it might be more beneficial for children to have a stay at home parent when they are school age as opposed to years 1-3.

So ideally, if everything works out the way I hope it will, I will quit working when my oldest reaches kindergarten so that I can be home when he comes home from school. I certainly don't feel as though I owe society to keep working just b/c I have an advanced degree. I earned that degree and I am still paying for it. I think everyone should do whatever works for them.

Posted by: m | December 6, 2006 12:34 PM

"Many law firms have absolutely no work/life balance precisely because there are not enough high powered female attorneys advocating for greater flexibility."

I'm loathe to turn this into the attorney mom blog, but must respond to this comment. Law firms provide a service just like janitorial companies and consulting firms. The problem isn't the dearth of "high powered female attorneys". The problem is the dearth of "high powered female client decision-makers". The deadlines are driven on the client-side and the nicest, most understanding partner in the world can't manage expectations if the client insists it must have a product on a certain day. The client is well-aware that the deadline imposes unrealistic expectations on the attorneys. Some client's care. Others don't. Change the gender and sensitivities of the client-side decision-maker and you might see a difference.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 12:36 PM

According to most autodidactics the point of getting an education is to be educated. An educated person is a better citizen according to many of this country's founders, they didn't say anything about being a better worker.

Posted by: New Poster | December 6, 2006 12:38 PM

I've heard some large law firms, and corporations as well, have started offering "concierge" service to coordinate employees' services such as dry cleaning, housekeeping, appointments, reservations, etc. I would be a big supporter of this, as I don't have children and have enough trouble going to school, working, and trying to manage a household. I can't imagine throwing children into the mix. I guess that's why I read this blog, to see how other people do it.

Posted by: lawgirl | December 6, 2006 12:38 PM

2 comments:

Am I the only one who sees the college fund as WAY down the priorities list? Retirement, sure. Paying for your kid's college is great, but hardly necessary.

As far as getting a degree and staying home. You still have to pay you student loans back, it's incredible for your brain, and, Lord forbid something happen, you have that all-important degree.

Posted by: atb | December 6, 2006 12:39 PM

I've always wondered: what would be an appopriate amount to pay for childcare so that both parents can work? Everyone complains that it is so expensive, but it is never good enough, yet for various reasons moms and dads can't/don't want to do it themselves. What is the real value? How can value be determined objectively? Can value be determined objectively? Where are the economists when we need them?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 12:39 PM

to m,
'they say you should breastfeed for at least a year' There is no should or should not. This notion of choice superiority feeds insecurities. It sends up taking choices away from everyone else. One does what one can.

By the way, I did breastfeed and I pumped at work. As soon as they were fed cereals, they weren't interested in breastfeeding anymore.

Posted by: dotted | December 6, 2006 12:39 PM

Mona,

You replied - "Does it take a PhD to volunteer at your kids' school? Okay, fine. You tell me some of the wonderful things non-working women can do with their degrees as stay-at-home moms that contribute to society, and I will believe you."

Here are just a few:
1. women who are medically trained who volunteer their time to provide medical services here and around the world to those without access to decent care.

2. women who are medically trained who volunteer countless hours at blood drives around the country to keep our blood supply refreshed.

3. Women with engineering, architecture, and business degrees who volunteered their time to design, market, fund raise, and physically build a large park/playground in a city that had nothing like that for the children of the city.

4. Women who hold degrees who spend countless hours volunteering with literacy training.

5. Educated women who serve as volunteer court advocates for children who are involved in many types of legal proceedings.

The volunteer system of this nation is not limited to just those who graciously and thankfully volunteer their time in the schools and sports organizations of this country.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 12:40 PM

Okay, I admit it - I quit to be a SAHM but really, I hated my job (at a big downtown law firm). I really did. I was "part-time" which was really full-time by the standards of most people, and even though we have good child care in the form of my mother-in-law . . . after four years there, I just couldn't stand one more day after our second child was born. My firm was supposedly family friendly. Ha. A woman has zero chance of making partner there unless she is putting in crazy hours, whether she has kids or not. Zero.

Ironically, I ended up working again much sooner than expected, when I stumbled into a new position in an entirely different legal area, but one which is truly part-time. I make less than a third what I used to make, but it's enough to pay my student loans (yeah, I AM paying them) and fund my IRA.

You don't have to be a SAHM to nurse your children - my older child nursed until just shy of four, and I returned to work "part-time" when she was only 10 weeks old - but it sure makes it easier.

And honestly, in response to the earlier post about not being able to make it in this area on two incomes totaling $150K, with a $2500 mortgage - that makes no sense to me. We are making it now on significantly less per year - about 2/3 that income, living inside the beltway, with just a little lower mortgage payment (2100+), two kids at home and one more on the way. I'd love to hear more people opine on this topic. Yes, there is NO DOUBT it's expensive to live here, but I just can't believe you can't live on $150K. I am very open to being set straight on this, though.

Posted by: another lawyer | December 6, 2006 12:41 PM

Poster Thierry said it is good for mothers to stay home.

Let us take this premise to the extreme - what if every mother decided to leave the workforce? The corporate world would be left with men and singles, become even more ultracompetitive and obsessed with face time and the female movement will be set back decades. Young girls who want to have kids when they grow up will be demotivated to aim for the stars when they know they'll end up being home full time tending to their kids and other young girls will be turned off the idea of having kids.

On the other hand, what if every mother worked. By and large the preponderance of mothers in the workforce would lead to an increase in flexible work arrangements and they would then become commonplace. Young girls will view their moms as role models who can be both good moms and have great careers, young boys will learn to respect women and not automatically assume that when they grow up their wives will attend their every need in the home, marriages will become more equal because both husbands and wives will share providing finances and performing household duties.

Which scenario do you prefer?

Posted by: fabworkingmom | December 6, 2006 12:42 PM

atb,
I completely agree re: college fund. Retirement is first. College fund is not. With two through college and two more to go, I've learned how to work that FAFSA. Don't save for college, save for retirement. You don't get loans for retirement.

Posted by: dotted | December 6, 2006 12:42 PM


If the best & brightest young professionals turned into SAHMs; would this force employers to be more family friendly? Perhaps with every SAHM decision, workforce flexibility is moved forward as an issue.

Maybe the "moms who've invested the most in their work and education" are kamikaze-ing their careers to the benefit of their daughter's careers.

Posted by: Question | December 6, 2006 12:48 PM

to anon at 12:40,

Hey I did some of those volunteer activities you mentioned...and guess what? It meant less than nothing when I tried to go back to work. It was 'do you know this johnny-come-lately software package that doesn't do anything differently from the one I designed in the first plase.'

Posted by: dotted | December 6, 2006 12:50 PM

I have a 9 week old and can't wait to go back to work (in 3 weeks) -- not only for the intellectual stimulation but also the adult interaction. If I stayed home any longer, I would seriously be living in the bell jar. Plus, I found other new mothers extremely annoying and sanctimonious.

Posted by: Nancy1 | December 6, 2006 12:50 PM

When someone writes that they "can't" live on less than $150k, it means they personally can't live on less. There is no magic, universally acceptable figure for how much a family "needs" to live well. Different people have different needs, and it's not our business to judge others on this.

We have a very small apartment and that's fine with us, but I know that other families would go insane in such close quarters. I would never presume to tell any family that just because we can make do with 750 sq. feet, that they should be happy with that too.

One thing I think we can all agree on is that the cost of housing relative to wages is, generally speaking, way out of whack. It really limits options for a lot of families.

Posted by: MYOB | December 6, 2006 12:57 PM

dotted -

That's a shame that people weren't willing to look at the life experience opportunities that you had. I was able to communicate the skill sets from these and other experiences to re-enter the work force after and eight year absence and be hired for a much higher level job than the one I left eight years earlier.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 12:57 PM

Mona, my degree isn't relevant to my _job_. Does that mean that it was a waste of time?

Education is not wasted. It may not be actively used to make money at some point of your life, but it's not wasted. I've made it a priority to learn anything that I could, because IME it almost inevitably comes in handy sooner or later. For example, my degree in history is totally irrelevant to my work, but my knowledge of world history and current affairs endears me to my European co-workers, who like it that we can talk about the same news and that I know their countries' history. That helped me get my job.

As for being patted on the head, in some fields (mine, and I'm betting law, too) that depends partially on how you present yourself. I'm also considered an attractive woman, but since I present myself as a smart woman that's what my (almost exclusively male) co-workers respond to.

Posted by: The grain of salt in the pepper jar | December 6, 2006 12:58 PM

Understandably, most of the comments on this blog are from folks who are currently in the middle of the 'balancing act' that fills the early - to - mid parenting years. I thought you might like a perspective from one who has been there, done that, and even lived to tell about it.

I returned to my government job for 3 years after my first child was born, but the ache of leaving him grew more intense, not less as the time wore on, and when we began discussing a second child, I told my husband that I needed to stay home. The original plan was for one more baby and a 5 year hiatus; the reality turned out to be two more babies and a 12 year break. I went back to school when my youngest entered kindergarten, but although I was a newly minted summa cum laude MBA, re-entering the workforce was horrible - simply could not even get interviews in the Northern Virginia private sector firms I had hoped to target. I wound up taking a government job at a grade level below what I had been at when I left.

That's the bad news. The good news is that my abilities and work ethic were recognized at my new agency. I was promoted three times in two years, and am now a respected senior analyst at decent, though hardly overwhelming, salary. I can't say it was the career of my dreams, but there were some intrinsic satisfactions, a lot of interesting travel, and it enabled me to accomplish my main goal, allowing all of my children to graduate from college with without the need for part time work or incurring debt.

Bottom line - there is a clear cost to an extended work absence, and in today's economic enviroment, I doubt I could in good conscience recommend a 12 year gap. But as has been noted previously on this blog, all roads in life are toll roads. I don't think its possible or useful to try to make a judgement on whether the toll is 'worth it' - in the end, it is what it is, and you will have to make the best choice you can every day to live with integrity at the destination you have reached via the road you have chosen or that life has laid you on. What I would want to say, though, is that the 'toll' I paid did bring the an incredibly precious benefit that I fear too many of the folks that post on this blog seem missing - the benefit of being able to simply revel in the joy of the presence and being of my family, without worrying about goals, deadlines, or limits. I often tell people I have a hard time remembering what I did all day every day during my 12 years at home, but then all my kids come home at one time and I remember! I know you don't have to be a SAHM to have these kinds of experiences, and the fact that I needed to quit work in order to make it happen says more about my "all or nothing" personality type than it does about the issue of work/life balance. But whatever decisions you folks who are now fighting the 'mommy wars' make, I hope you will find a way to declare frequent 'truces' from the planning, running, doing, and balancing. They are part of all our lives, but for me at least, they could not be what life was about.

Whew - long post! I don't know whether this will exceed the blog's limits, but it covers a lot of thoughts that I have been having for a while, and today is one of my few opportunities to post - (at home with a laid up hubby). Let me end up by recommending a song that we used as a background for a montage of childhood pictures at my daughter's recent wedding, and that really 'says it all' for me. It's called 'Love of My Life', from the soundtrack of a movie called 'This is My Life'. The story line is that a single mom who has had a long time ambition to be a stand-up comedian has a chance for her big break, but her daughters become resentful that her new career means she spends less time with them. In the song, the mom explains that she does love a lot of other things -standing ovations, falling into bed - but tells her daughter to "get it through your head" that "from the moment I first saw you, the second that you were born, I knew that you were the love of my life, the great love of my life." In the end, that is what your kids need to know from you - no matter what you decisions are about working, staying at home, trying to juggle, or drawing back for a little while or a long time, please be sure that they do know it. That is the one choice I can guarantee you will not regret.

Posted by: mommywarvet | December 6, 2006 12:58 PM

I met and fell in love with my husband in law school. I'm sure because of this people will say I just went to law school for an MRS degree b/c I "missed the boat" as lawgirl put it in undergrad. I think you're just jealous you didn't find a mate in school. Are either one of you married? Why you think I would put myself $60,000 in debt and go through a very grueling, stressful curriculum just to find a husband is beyond my comprehension. Maybe women attending college and graduate school find their husbands there because 1) they have similar interests and a lot in common and 2) most people fall in love in their 20s and get married then. It's our culture. No one goes to college and/or law school just to find a husband. Ever stop to think that maybe they are there for the EDUCATION?!! The fact that they find their soulmate there is just icing on the cake. Jealous much?

Posted by: to lawgirl and Mona | December 6, 2006 12:59 PM

Women have it so good, only a woman and ring up 60,000 in debt and then say to hell with it I'm staying home and be praised for this decision. If a man were to do the same thing and let the female love of his life pay the bills he would be a dead beat loser. As a man I understand and appreciate this, but here is what I don't get. Why do women seemingly all hate each other and think everyone is out to get them? And why do they take any and all comments at personal attacks. This is really a question for the ages for men, please explain.

Posted by: Andre | December 6, 2006 1:05 PM

I also don't understand the women in debt who stay at home. Or rather, I understand it as taking advantage of a supportive husband. Why should it be up to the man to pay off your loans AND provide for the whole family? Talk about entitlement...

Posted by: Contrarian | December 6, 2006 1:10 PM

hmmm, Andre. Have you never heard of the fine tradition of women working to put their husbands through grad school/MBA/Law school whatever school only to have the newly-minted and credentialed grad ditch her for a younger, more educated model? Despite your protestations of understanding and appreciation, you don't seem to appreciate the nuances of grown-up folks' choices either on the personal level, or at the policy level.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 6, 2006 1:11 PM

Maybe I should clarify that I do in fact work. I just resent it when people say that people go to law school just for an MRS degree. I don't believe it.

Posted by: To Andre | December 6, 2006 1:11 PM

We really are our own worse enemy. Whether to work or stay at home is such a personal issue, wrought with sacrifices on either end. At the end of the day, we are all just trying to do what is best for our families and that will be different for each person. What I find depressing is the lack of unity between working moms and stay at home moms. As a full time working mom I NEED stay at home moms to be on my side once my son is old enough to go on playdates after-school. And as a full time working mom, I'd like to be in a power position someday to help stay at home moms get back into the work force at the level (and salary) they deserve. I just don't know why we keep feeling like we need to validate what works best for our own families by denigrating those who choose a different path.

Posted by: to everybody | December 6, 2006 1:13 PM

to everybody -

Here Here. Why do some people not realize that they don't really make themselves or their choices look any more favorable by tearing down others?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 1:16 PM

12:40--all good points. I can see where there would be advantages. However, I also agree with dotted's post at 12:50.

12:59--I think you missed the point AND the boat. Our posts were regarding women who SOLELY went to college to meet a man. One girl I went to college with had her "life plan" made out at age 20: get married at such-and-such age, have children at such-and-such age, etc etc...no mention anywhere of a job or career. We are talking about women like that, not women who go to school to get an education and just happen to fall in love. I personally have nothing against love; I'm in love myself with the man of my dreams, who just so happens to want me to have the career of my dreams. I can't speak for lawgirl, but I'm here in search of balance just the same as everyone else. I don't think you understood. I don't have anything against falling in love or getting married. I just don't understand why women go to college when they have absolutely no plans or desire to use their education.

And please, no BS about us being jealous. Just because some of us aspire for more than just marriage does not mean we are incapable of having relationships of our own. My love life is perfectly healthy, but thank you for your concern.

Posted by: Mona | December 6, 2006 1:16 PM

to to Lawgirl and Mona:

I am happily married. I went to undergrad to get an education and I went to lawschool for the same purpose. I am not jealous of you or anyone, and hope everyone finds love in their life.

The reason the practice of going to law school solely to find a mate is ridiculous is precisely because it costs so much! But people do it anyway! I know girls who will owe over $80,000 in student loans who do not want to practice or use their law degree in any fashion. I'm not even sure they like the law. To them I would recommend a dating service, not a J.D.

Posted by: lawgirl | December 6, 2006 1:17 PM

This discussion is irking me, largely because of the fact that so many women completely ignore the "what ifs" of life. I am fortunate to have been raised by a mother who has her master's (my father died when I was in high school) and a great career. My grandmothers were also the breadwinners (father's mother has a master's and was an elementary school principal, she has survived THREE husbands; mother's mother had her Ph.D. and didn't give birth until age 42).

For me, having an advanced degree and a career was just a given. It was never NOT an option. Because I've seen first-hand what can happen when the father dies (or is in some way out of the picture) and I'm not willing to leave things to chance myself. And I think women, particularly those with advanced degrees, who give up their careers entirely are doing themselves a great disservice.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 1:19 PM

"Women have it so good, only a woman and ring up 60,000 in debt and then say to hell with it I'm staying home and be praised for this decision."

Not only the above, women have totally hoodwinked men into the Bling shakedown. Men are such suckers!!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 1:19 PM

This is slightly off-topic, but I am interested in how many other women out there are like me -- making significantly more money than their husbands and/or having the more stable job. I have 2 under 2 and a job that I love. I have been able to shift my schedule to get home early enough to have some time with the kids, feed them, and get them to bed, and I am able to generally do my extra work at home. But, it's sobering to realize that I couldn't really stay home if I wanted to. My goal is to build enough respect in my job now so that I can work fewer hours and be home more when my kids get to school age. We have a wonderful nanny now, which gives me great peace of mind, but I want to be the one guiding them as they face more difficult issues in life.

Posted by: DC Prosecutor | December 6, 2006 1:20 PM

I fully appreciate taking advantage of and abusing another persons generosity. As I said I get that, but when has a man been praised for dropping the debt on his wife? A good friend of mines father did just that but everyone hates the dad and the mother got a 10x return on her money in the divorce. The point is that a woman will be complemented for this bahavior. Sticking the husband with the bills by choosing not to sumbit to evil greedy corporate America. I love women and all your double standards. But look how mad all the women are on this thread, why can't you just do what you do an not worry what everyone thinks?

Posted by: Andre | December 6, 2006 1:25 PM

Back in the olden days women went to college so they could make better dinner-table conversation when their husbands came home from work.

High society women went to college, but never with the intent to have careers. They wanted to be educated and interesting, mostly for the benefit of their future spouses and children.

Posted by: mona lisa | December 6, 2006 1:25 PM

I was fortunate -- I found a wonderful (and affordable) home care situation for my daughter and returned to work after the standard 12 week maternity leave. My daughter is 8 now and we still visit the wonderful couple who helped us take care of her for those first three years. They have become an additional set of grandparents.

I grew to value this woman's opinions and expertise about child care while my daughter was at her house. She has been a licensed child care provider for more than 20 years. She promised to love my daughter and give her a stable environment while she was at her home and to work as a team with us during those early years. Together, we made sure she learned a good diet, to get along with the other children, and potty-training. We cried together when it was time for her to go to preschool. I'm not sure I would have made it through those first years without her. One piece of advice my husband and I really took to heart was when she was easing my guilt about returning to work. Her advice to us was to save our money so that one of us could be home during the middle school years. She believes children need their parents even more during those years, and we have taken that advice to heart. We've both been working and saving and I hope to "go home" in about 2 1/2 years. I'm hoping to use some of that time to return to school myself and earn an advanced degree. With luck, I can plan my class schedule around my daughter's school schedule and be there when she's home. Maybe we can work together on our homework! Hopefully, that degree will help me re-enter the workforce, as I'll be in my late 40s by the time high school rolls around.

Posted by: Vegas Mom | December 6, 2006 1:29 PM

I believe my post at 1:19 p.m. directly contradicts your gross assumptions about women from previous generations - see: both of my grandmothers who went to college in the 30s and 40s, went on to get post-graduate educations and were the breadwinners of their families. And if "back in the olden days" all women went to college to make better dinner table conversation, we wouldn't have had women senators or women CEOs (who are in their 60s and 70s) by now.

Posted by: to: mona lisa | December 6, 2006 1:29 PM

To the earlier poster who said women should pay off their student loans then have children:
If I did that I wouldn't be having kids till I was 82, which would make children a mute point.
Think ... then speak.

Posted by: Melissa | December 6, 2006 1:37 PM

"'Head Start is one of the most successful government programs in history--producing real results and making a difference in children's lives.'

Hardly. Head Start is generally viewed as one of the biggest failures in contemporary policy."

I don't get this. Viewed by whom?? By the current administration, who has done everything possible to try to kill it? Sure. But what's the objective basis for identifying it as any kind of failure, much less "one of the biggest failures in contemporary policy"?

I have not studied this, so my knowledge is limited. But there was an interesting article, I think in the NYTimes, about a year or two ago, reporting fairly extensively on a study that had followed up on Head Start kids a couple of decades later, vs. other kids of similar race and socioeconomic backgrounds who had not been selected for the progams. The study found that the Head Start kids were far more likely to be employed and far less likely to have been in jail. I believe (though not sure) that the study's authors compared the social costs vs benefits of the two groups (i.e., cost of jail vs. benefits from taxes from steady jobs) and determined that Head Start ultimately paid for itself many times over.

Like I said, I'm not an expert, so I would welcome info about other actual data that exists on this issue. But from the little that I know, I'm not seeing anything that resembles massive failure.

Oh, and as to the 12:59 comment that "No one goes to college and/or law school just to find a husband," let me just say: hahahahaha!!! I think it depends on where you are. I don't know many folks from up here who have that attitude. But I had the honor and privilege of going to law school in the great state of Texas, and I was absolutely floored by the women I met who not only were seeking their Mrs. degree, but who were absolutely up-front that that was the reason they were there. Some, not all, not even most -- but more than 1 or 2. The cost didn't phase them, because in most cases, Daddy was footing the bill. And for the few who were stuck paying their own way through, they just figured that, since they were at a law school, their future husbands would make enough money so they'd never have to worry about that. Argh.

Posted by: Laura | December 6, 2006 1:43 PM


I'm learning a lot about quirks of the DC area in this blog.

I'm surprised how low the childcare costs are that you all quote. We used a daycare during one year when we were on sabbatical in the Boston area (otherwise we've used an in-(our)-home sitter, in-home sitter + preschool, shared in-home sitter + preschool, then finally school and aftercare . . .) In our year in a very-good-schools very-close-in town --- less than 3 miles to Harvard Square --- we paid: for the 2yo in full-time daycare, $1950 per month (would have been cheaper, had she been 3 and up). This was a good, but not top-tier-you'd-be-lucky-to-get-in daycare, just a few minutes' walk from our home (our daughter liked to ride her bike-with-training wheels there, then we'd walk it back home and head out for a less than 3 mile commute in). It was also on the low end for cost, of the daycares we searched. We paid rent in a great school district, for a 3 bedroom apartment in a duplex with yard, $1900 (which was more than the mortgage we were paying and still pay on our larger 3br single family house, larger yard, also great school district, in Atlanta - but we've had it 10 years and housing costs have about doubled in that time). For the oldest's kindergarten extended day (they only had morning kindergarten) and aftercare, another $450/month --- this was an in-school but astonishingly great program.

I would have thought DC would be comparable/more expensive than the Boston area . . . don't know why not . . .

Your commutes sound just insane, though. Here in Atlanta while there are some huge family-oriented outlying towns with 1 hour commutes, it's a common but not a necessary lifestyle. We're both within 3 miles of our workplace --- before, when we worked on the same campus, we were both within 1 mile, so walkable to work. It makes such a huge difference to not yield large chunks of the day to commuting/carpooling, and to be able to pop in for intermittent kid pickups, deliveries, forgotten items during the day. It is what makes our full lives work . . . not to mention how soul-killing rush hour commutes are, which I notice everytime some odd errand forces me to experience more than 20 minutes of rush hour traffic . . . I always thought of long commutes to exurbs, with cheaper housing, as a sacrifice husbands made in order to afford good schools, good house, *and* a SAH spouse --- not as an option compatible with dual income parenting. And I consider a 1 hour commute (each way) an almost unthinkable sacrifice: it's unpleasant and nerve-jangling, *and* it's time lost from being with the family . . . in the breastpumping years, you'd have to add another pumping session just to cover the commute, wow.

So just as comparative reference point: our kids' school starts at 8. We're down to one car til we can find time to buy a second - the backup car failed 1.5 years ago and we've only really wanted to replace it in the last few months, since we no longer work in the same place. Typical morning: all leave home in car at 7:45 - 7:50 am, drop kids at school, double back to drop off DH at his work, then to my work (passing school again), usually arriving at my office about 8:20. Typical end of day: one or both of us pick up kids at aftercare --- it's an 8 minute walk from his office, then 20 more minute walk home for him, or a 15 minute drive for me (traffic worse at that time), then 5-10 minute drive home, though usually we're heading straight to an activity, not home . . . Often he'll walk to the aftercare and I'll pick everyone up there . . .

Our whole life wouldn't work if we had to budget more than 20 minutes for any of the driving legs . . .

I'd be curious about others' day-to-day locales, it's been eye-opening . . .

Posted by: KB | December 6, 2006 1:47 PM

Laura,

According to a 1985 report on the first analysis of HeadStart research by the Department of Health and Human Services: "In the long run, cognitive and socioemotional test scores of former Head Start students do not remain superior to those of disadvantaged children who did not attend Head Start." HeadStart has been generally acknowledged to be a very, very expensive program which has repeatedly scaled-down its goals and still has been unable to show educational gains.

In 1997, a GAO study concluded that, "The body of research on current Head Start is insufficient to draw conclusions about the impact of the national program."

I hazard a guess that these reports, along with a myriad of others, might be the ones upon which the earlier poster based his/her conclusion.

Holding a poor opinion of HeadStart's effectiveness not only has basis in objective fact, but should not, in and of itself, consign a thoughtful person to the Bush-worshipping, far-right-wing camp.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 6, 2006 1:55 PM

OK, this is not a judgement on any one particular persons lifestyle. But one can certainly live on 150K in the DC area. The median income for the wealthiest county ( I think is currently Loudon) boosts a total hhld income in the low 90s. I imagine quite a lot of them have children. So at least 1/2 the population of the wealthiest county can live on significantly less then 150K. As far as, how people go about justifying their lifestyle as needs is up to the individual. One does not NEED a 500K house. You can rent and save for a long time for a modest town house (although I think they are approaching the 450-500K) mark. One does not need to have the fanciest of day cares either. Some people choose wonderful affordable home care. Not all home care is bad and I would seriously research day care situations before making such a blanket statement. I do even think people can live on less then 90K and still fall within the middle class lifestyle. But most of us choose not to do that. I fall into the boat of choosing to live a higher lifestyle then what one income could afford. I am not just working to pay the month to month bills. One income in our family would do that. I work to provide a comfortable retirement, college savings, emergency funds, private lessons, summer camps, and all the other niceties that goes along with two professional incomes. Yes, we could choose to live on one income in DC. But there would not be a lot of security. Especially if something happened to the worker of the family. Also, college fund would be almost nonexistent. Retirement would be split in half. Emergency fund would be tight. I am not working for luxurious vacations or endless shopping sprees. We do have more disposable cash then a lot of one income families or lower paid two income families. But I would trade that in a heart beat to SAH. It is the long term security that I can't give up. Also DH wants me to work.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 6, 2006 1:55 PM

To the couple of posts refering to Child-care and issues for working-mothers in India, my 2-cents -- My husband and I often talk of moving to India and my biggest concern is the non-existence of good day-cares/after-school care for our son. We are Indians and moved to the US. There are a lot of material comforts here which are lacking in India, and there are ways and means to get over them. But how do I overcome the issue of good day-care/after-school care? Semi-iliterate maid is not an option - it is not in ANY way comparable to the fantastic after-school care that he gets here.

And also, it is way, way tougher for a woman in India to re-enter the work-force after taking a few years off -- the competition for every job is way too high. Working hours are way more insane in India. To get ahead, in pretty much every field, requires 10-12 hours of work each day. On the other hand, you can get plenty of house-hold help, which means that you could spend all that time with your kids and have more time for a better social-life - no need to do laundry or clean the house or do yard-work (how I yearn for this).

Posted by: TwinCitiesLurker | December 6, 2006 1:56 PM


On the commute issue --- it must really impact how involved working parents can be in their kids' schools, too. DH pops in 1 morning per week to give a 20 minute science demo in my youngest's first grade class, could he do that if it cost him 2 hours, instead of under 20 minutes, in roundtrip travel time? I lead a twice-monthly 4th grade junior great books discussion during the kids' lunch break; again, I zoom out of a lecture here, plan and copy materials, and zoom over to the school, and could never fit it in with longer travel times. . . We both have some involvement with just-afterschool activities, leading practice sessions for the Lego robotics team, for the math tournament, etc --- again often ducking out quickly to make it. It's great for the school, because they have so many parents involved who are college faculty and bring that experience to the kids. We have strong volunteer commitments from both WOH and SAH parents. Those of you in bedroom communities with long commutes --- does that mean the whole burden of parental volunteering in the schools in falling on SAHs? Do you have to take of a whole morning just to go in to read to your child's class when it's your turn?

Posted by: KB | December 6, 2006 2:01 PM

Commute story

DD and I leave the house every morning at 7:28 am, walk across the street and board the same bus. She has a school bus pass, my bus pass is paid for by my employer. She gets off the bus first, walks a block with her friends, and arrives at school. I alight from the same bus about 5 minutes later in front of my building (total travel time = 15 minutes).

My DD's high school is on a college campus, so she has plenty of after school things to do (including AP classes). Sometimes we meet on my return bus ride home; often she comes to my office and does homework before we go home together.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 2:01 PM

I just wondered if the study attempted to break down the stay at home mothers by race. As an African-American mother of one I would appreciate to see how many mothers of color are staying at home.

Thanks!

Posted by: AC | December 6, 2006 2:01 PM

These conversations are always interesting.

My mom was a WOHM in the 70s, and I can assure you thinga are a lot better now than they were then. I don't understand why taking a few years off to spend some extra time with your kids while they are changing so fast gets blown out of proportion. Now, it is taken as a given that once children are in school, both parents will work.

Second, I reject the idea that women who stay at home for a few years would have been CEO if only they'd gone back when their baby was 6 weeks old. I presume it is the least ambitious woman who opt out and the most ambitious women stay.

As for the whole degree discussion, the only woman I know who actually went to college to find a man to support her was (and is) a seriously screwed up individual. She graduated with no job skills (didn't even know how to use a word processor) and no prospects, romantic or otherwise. Ten years later, her life is still a mess. Her parents did her a grave disservice, she is very much an adult child.

I do know a man who went back to grad school, in part for a better pool of prospective mates. He wasn't looking to sponge off anyone, and did plan to use the degree. It didn't work out for him either, unfortunately-- he's a good guy.

As for the issue of women taking on tons of school debt and then shrugging and deciding to be SAHMs, I think those women are selfish and would probably be mistreating their spouses in another way if they didn't have kids. However most SAHMs become SAHMs because both partners agree it's the best choice for their family.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | December 6, 2006 2:01 PM

"Those of you in bedroom communities with long commutes --- does that mean the whole burden of parental volunteering in the schools in falling on SAHs? Do you have to take of a whole morning just to go in to read to your child's class when it's your turn?"

For us, it means that we don't put in face-time at school any more than we put in face-time at work. We think long and hard about the nature and volume of our school volunteering because it, in fact, does mean that one or the other of us takes the whole morning off if we read to the class. That means we get home later at night or have to bring work home. Essentially, we do the things that really matter to either the school or our children, and leave the other stuff to other parents. BTW, I see a lot of made-up volunteer opportunities in our school (doesn't need to get done by anyone, and neither administrators, teachers or kids care whether it gets done) these days that seem designed to give some SAH parents a purpose in life. Thanks, really, we have enought to do.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 2:07 PM

"Do you have to take of a whole morning just to go in to read to your child's class when it's your turn?"

Why would anyone do this? Can't the teacher read to the class? I don't wanna read to the class.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 2:07 PM

I was intrigued by Brian Reid's comments about how these studies never seem to take into account the role of the man. Awhile ago, I wondered if the following question wouldn't provide a nice (quantifiable) indicator of how household resonsibilites really break down.
1. How many of the male readers here have ever opened and dealt with the contents of the Tuesday Envelope? (I'm referring to that stack of papers your kid brings home once a week containing all the news from school, as well as the various forms to be filled out, items to be brought in from home, events to be marked on the calendar and so forth.)
2. How many male readers didn't know what a Tuesday envelope is?

I was reminded of this during that whole Linda Hirschmann rant last year when she suggested that women had to stop being the indispensable one who was the only one who knew where certain items were kept, whether or not they were out of milk, etc. etc. etc.

I've often wondered if the parenting climate in america might change if women simply refused to stop dealing with The Tuesday Envelope. (It just takes up so much disc space in my brain keeping track of all the minutia.)

Posted by: Armchair Mom | December 6, 2006 2:11 PM

"They have to pay it back whether they stay home or not. What is your point?"

I guess my point was that maybe some of them do still owe outsiders something?

"All I know is my mom was never home after school and I was always in trouble. My two best friends had stay at home moms, and they coudn't get into it if they tried."

...and I knew a lady who had a stay-at-home mom but still didn't finish school and still became a pregnant teenager (well, by the time she got pregnant she was living with her stay-at-home mother-in-law instead of her stay-at-home mother). Anyway, her daughter and granddaughter did avoid teen pregnancy.

"We should always encourage 18 year olds to give themselves future options and be prepared for more than one outcome."

I agree.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 2:11 PM

I was intrigued by Brian Reid's comments about how these studies never seem to take into account the role of the man. Awhile ago, I wondered if the following question wouldn't provide a nice (quantifiable) indicator of how household resonsibilites really break down.
1. How many of the male readers here have ever opened and dealt with the contents of the Tuesday Envelope? (I'm referring to that stack of papers your kid brings home once a week containing all the news from school, as well as the various forms to be filled out, items to be brought in from home, events to be marked on the calendar and so forth.)
2. How many male readers didn't know what a Tuesday envelope is?

I was reminded of this during that whole Linda Hirschmann rant last year when she suggested that women had to stop being the indispensable one who was the only one who knew where certain items were kept, whether or not they were out of milk, etc. etc. etc.

I've often wondered if the parenting climate in america might change if women simply refused to stop dealing with The Tuesday Envelope. (It just takes up so much disc space in my brain keeping track of all the minutia.)

Posted by: Armchair Mom | December 6, 2006 2:12 PM

I was intrigued by Brian Reid's comments about how these studies never seem to take into account the role of the man. Awhile ago, I wondered if the following question wouldn't provide a nice (quantifiable) indicator of how household resonsibilites really break down.
1. How many of the male readers here have ever opened and dealt with the contents of the Tuesday Envelope? (I'm referring to that stack of papers your kid brings home once a week containing all the news from school, as well as the various forms to be filled out, items to be brought in from home, events to be marked on the calendar and so forth.)
2. How many male readers didn't know what a Tuesday envelope is?

I was reminded of this during that whole Linda Hirschmann rant last year when she suggested that women had to stop being the indispensable one who was the only one who knew where certain items were kept, whether or not they were out of milk, etc. etc. etc.

I've often wondered if the parenting climate in america might change if women simply refused to stop dealing with The Tuesday Envelope. (It just takes up so much disc space in my brain keeping track of all the minutia.)

Posted by: Armchair Mom | December 6, 2006 2:12 PM

OpenThought makes good points way back at the beginning regarding income loss and such, but it's all too general. Some mothers return to work and have little trouble "catching up" their salaries. I was lucky -- after two years not working, I got a big salary increase when I returned. Had I stayed in my previous job, I doubt I'd be where I am today. It was something of a risk, not knowing what the job market would be when I was ready to return to work, but we could afford for me to stay home and I'm so glad that I did.

It really is different for every family, and things can change over time. There's no guarantee that, if a mom or dad chooses not to stay home for some period, their employment will continue. People get laid off all the time. If you can afford to do what you want to do, why not?

Posted by: Jamie | December 6, 2006 2:13 PM

"I am interested in how many other women out there are like me -- making significantly more money than their husbands and/or having the more stable job."

This would be me. My husband teaches public school and I outearn him by a factor of way. He is working right now to get a job teaching at a two-year college, which will give him more flexibility when we have kids. It's a given that he will provide them with most of their day-to-day care.

I feel no guilt or conflict about this whatsoever. My lifetime income potential is astronomically greater than his and I'm lucky to be doing so well in an industry that will pay enough for me to support a family. I love my field.

The WSJ ran a small piece not too long ago about women who rise to the top of their coorporations. They were unanimous in saying that the sacrifices were worth it; one woman said that there are plenty of women who work just as hard as she does but who don't have anywhere near the say in company policy that she does. They said that they derived a great deal of pride from being able to provide for their families and that the rewards of highly-compensated leadership enormous. They also said that it was critical to work for a company they loved - no one would want to make those sacrifices for a company they were ambivalent about.

Posted by: Lizzie | December 6, 2006 2:15 PM

Who said you have to take off time for breastfeeding? I took off 7 week of maternity leave and breastfed for 3.5 years. Planning was key, and pumping during maternity leave and then on weekends lessened the frequency of breaks at work. I actually had an oversupply during the year I pumped. (I actually learned my lesson from my first baby - when I thought you didn't have to pump until you started back to work. Had to supplement formula with that one.)

Posted by: Anon again | December 6, 2006 2:20 PM

I am due in six months and plan to go back to work after my three month leave because:
1. We have too much student loan debt to pay off to only live on one salary.
2. I have two masters degrees and want to continue to advance in my career that I've worked hard for up to this point and am deathly afraid that if I took real time off (years), I would never get back to where I am going at this point.
3. To own a house, two operational cars, and have money to live on after all the bills are paid, requires two incomes in this area and while that is an unfortunate scenario, that's our reality.

Posted by: Laura | December 6, 2006 2:20 PM

Armchair mom: SAHMs and working fathers usually have their responsibilities partitioned out. Mom handles the household stuff, dad handles the work stuff. It's not dad's requirement to keep up with the minutia of the Tuesday envelope, just as it is not mom's responsibility to keep up with the minutia of dad's workplace happenings. Some things dad leaves to mom to handle and the opposite is true. Nothing wrong with that. Just like at every workplace, each employee has their own set of responsibilities.

Posted by: Thierry | December 6, 2006 2:21 PM

Don't love anything that can't love you back.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 2:23 PM

"Don't love anything that can't love you back."

hate to give up the inflatable doll.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 2:24 PM

Thierry, in the scenario Armchair Mom laid out, the parents were not labeled as SAHM and Working Dad. I originally read it as both parents working.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 2:25 PM

I have to admit that Jokester's jokes are funny today!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 2:26 PM

I know a couple of relationships where the man married the woman because she had the high earning job and he didn't want to deal with all his debts on his own. One guy was divorced and had run up debt figuring he'd never marry again. Of course, he then started worrying about not being able to afford the lifestyle he wanted and also growing older. It's not just women who use men fiancially.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 2:27 PM

"Don't love anything that can't love you back."

So true. Too bad Beethoven wasted all that time on music, and that Rembrandt wasted all that time on meaningless painting, and that Salk wasted all that time on meaningless science.

Posted by: Lizzie | December 6, 2006 2:28 PM

ah, Lizzie. A girl after my own heart.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 2:29 PM

Reference infant ratios in daycare: it's related to fire codes -- the provider has to be able to get all the kids out of the building and infants are not as mobile as toddlers and older kids.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 2:35 PM

Why does everyone complain about the high cost of childcare, and no one complains about the high cost of college? Especially considering that so many can't afford the childcare they'd like because they have to pay off student loans while saving for their kids' college funds?

Just wondering.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | December 6, 2006 2:36 PM

"Don't love anything that can't love you back."

true love does not expect anything in return.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 2:37 PM

MommyWarVet, that was an awesome post! I love it.

"What I would want to say, though, is that the 'toll' I paid did bring the an incredibly precious benefit that I fear too many of the folks that post on this blog seem missing - the benefit of being able to simply revel in the joy of the presence and being of my family, without worrying about goals, deadlines, or limits."
You sum up my feelings almost exactly but you also do it beautifully.

I think you may be right, however, that today a woman should probably not take a 12-year break from the work world. But I do think it's possible to take time off here and there, both men and women, and do just fine in your career without any huge damage to your earning power, saving power, etc. The thing is, we can't plan our lives. We can make only plans, and hope that things go according to plan. Some people who save and work hard for years lose all their money, others do the best they can, wing it, and everything works out ok. I'm for choosing the life path that works for you and doing what you want when you can. We're only here for so long, and your children are only with you for so many years.

Posted by: Elise | December 6, 2006 2:40 PM

Reading these posts is very interesting.

Our 11 month old son was an unplanned baby. I never thought of being a mom, let alone a SAHM but I knew when I was expecting that I could/would not make a final decision until after he was born. I stayed home until he was 6 mos and then went back to my old job.

Both of us work in IT and have alternative work schedules (4-10 hr days). I work Tuesday-Friday and husband works Monday-Thursday. We each take care of baby on our day off and have a babysitter that comes 3 days a week. My husband's job allows him to work from home 90% of the time so even on days when we have a sitter, he spends lunch time and an occasional break with the baby.

This arrangement has made it possible for us to spend a lot more time with our son than we ever thought imaginable and has made me a more productive employee. That being said, if the flexible work schedule was NOT an option, I think I would strongly consider being a SAHM and do consulting work on the side.

I am curious to know how common this type of arrangement is in our area. I worked for my employer for 7 years before I had a baby so I was well established within the medium sized company.

We consider ourselves very fortunate and are grateful to have these options available to us. Anyone else in a similar situation?

Posted by: Monica | December 6, 2006 2:43 PM


Tuesday packets --- Ours come on Thursday :-) DH and I triage them together, while waiting for the girls to finish their gymnastics class. We each take one girl's packet, read and cull, then switch. We each keep all events on our calendars (we even share an online personal one on google).

We're equal opportunity on most of the psychic responsibility stuff --- foods are largely his domain, clothes and meds mine . . .

Face time volunteering --- I feel the same way, and only volunteer for high-impact, visible-to-my-kids activities. But it doesn't cost me so much travel time, which would really excalate the cost! My SAH SIL instead volunteers for tons of behind-the-scenes invisible stuff, at first because she had a younger child at home she couldn't drag along into class time. So she makes copies for teachers, prepares materials, helps stuff those 'Tuesday folders', etc. I was telling her that with her youngest in school now she could be more discriminating in her volunteering, volunteer in ways that her kids appreciate and see . . . She said that she prefers to do loads and loads of grunt work and stay well-appreciated by the school administration, because that way she knows that whenever she has some issue she needs addressed for her girls (teacher assignment, etc), they value her and go out of their way to meet her requests.

And admittedly the schools wouldn't work so well for the kids without someone volunteering to make copies, help with library paperwork, set up school webpages, stuff parental envelopes, man the book sales, run the fundraisers, write the grant proposals, write the announcements, collect the UNICEF boxes and other donations, etc. The schools are way understaffed/overscheduled to handle these things. More of it requires grunt work than facetime with the kids. But we give what we can, which is money and facetime.

Posted by: KB | December 6, 2006 2:43 PM

Who are the "outsiders," and why do women who took out student loans owe them anything?

Posted by: scarry | December 6, 2006 2:44 PM

"Don't love anything that can't love you back."

true love does not expect anything in return.

Clearly, true love never co-authored a child and then sat around after a day of work at his/her full-time job, and watched the OTHER co-author run around like a crazed weasel after THAT person had come home from his/her full-time job.

I expect the other participant in the child-making process to get involved and stay involved with child-rearing. Otherwise, he (my husband in this scenario) may find himself "downsized". He's already demonstrated himself to be superfluous.

And yes, I outearn him.


Posted by: guest | December 6, 2006 2:47 PM

Posted by:to lawgirl and Mona - shut up, you filthy filthy cee.

Posted by: dc | December 6, 2006 2:53 PM

Leslie, would you please do a blog that generates more discussion about staying at home when children are younger (infant-preschool) versus when they are older (middle-high school), etc. I am interested in seeing what people have to say on that subject. Thanks!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | December 6, 2006 2:55 PM

To WorkingMomX and Leslie:

Ditto. I have an 11 year old boy and find that he really needs to have me around right after school -- to talk, unwind, ask questions. Socially, its a tough age. I'd like to hear how other parents deal with it -- both working and stay at homes.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 3:05 PM

What's a cee?

Posted by: hey dc | December 6, 2006 3:05 PM

"What's a cee?"

3rd letter of the alfabet

Posted by: Teacher | December 6, 2006 3:08 PM

"Why does everyone complain about the high cost of childcare, and no one complains about the high cost of college?"

Don't even get me started on the high cost of college! Another blog for another day...

Posted by: lawgirl | December 6, 2006 3:09 PM

"I also don't understand the women in debt who stay at home. Or rather, I understand it as taking advantage of a supportive husband. Why should it be up to the man to pay off your loans AND provide for the whole family? Talk about entitlement..."

You don't understand because it is not a choice you would make. There are many people, male or female, who would gladly accept the role of financial provider if their partner was willing to take care of the home front. Just as there are many who prefer that both work similar hours and take care of the home front together. As long as it is a joint decision, I see nothing wrong with it. Of course, if anyone decides to give up paid employment while they have financial obligations without the agreement of their partner, I would think they were despicable.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 3:12 PM

entitlement is when i stay home with my 5 po kids, smoke a pack and a joint, watch springer and expect the govt to pay for it.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 3:14 PM


I ditto the call for a whole blog day about staying home at that non-traditional time: middle/high school. I believe there may be lurkers out there with stories about how they did it, what works, what doesn't work, etc. Similarly there are scads of women who decide to go back to school when their kids reach middle school. This time is just a much of a life branching point as childbirth itself.

I do realize, however, there are tons of folks here who can't conceive of elementary school, much less adolesence, dating and middle/high school.

Posted by: dotted | December 6, 2006 3:16 PM

Head Start? :)

There are 10th graders TODAY in public schools that can read to the level of Dr.Seuss.

Posted by: Teacher | December 6, 2006 3:18 PM

Monica,
After my daughter was born I went down to 30 hour-a-week schedule, working 4-7.5 hour days. After my second child I went down to 20 hours-2 days in the office and several hours from home the rest of the week. It's worked out well for us. I'm lucky to have this arrangement, if I wanted a full-time job I'd need to go elsewhere as this position really is only part-time.

However, I will be leaving the work force for quite some time next year to homeschool. I'm not sure what I'll do when I return to full-time employment or when that will be, but it probably won't be in my current field.

Posted by: New Poster | December 6, 2006 3:22 PM

"African-american SAHM's"

I wish I was one...I am AA and could not....see my posts at 12:09 and 12:12 +/- a minute :)

Posted by: single mama | December 6, 2006 3:25 PM

Head Start? :)

There are 10th graders TODAY in public schools that (WHO) can read to the level of Dr.Seuss.


Posted by: Teacher | December 6, 2006 03:18 PM

What does that say about teachers?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 3:31 PM

Didn't Sandra Day o'Connor and Madeline Albright stay at home for some period when their children were little and then go on to great things? People act like all of the choices are forever. I think that while choosing to stay home when the kids are little may be closing a door, but it isn't locking it.

Posted by: moxiemom | December 6, 2006 3:32 PM

I have a preschooler but am also very interested in whether experienced parents think it's better to dial down while the kids are under 3 or in middle school/high school.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | December 6, 2006 3:35 PM

As I continue to read I am surprised at the number of moms and very few dads that are commenting on this post.

As my above situation states, I am probably in the minority but since it took two of us to make our son, it will take two of us to raise him - equally.

That being said, this is no different than a marriage. We choose do things equally and it is not a source of conflict or argument. Some days it a 90/10 split some days it's a 10/90 split but in the end we support each other and our son equally whenever necessary.

I realize that as with marriages, how families choose to raise their children differs from family to family and it's no one's place to judge. As long as all parties involved are happy with the arrangements it should not be an issue.

It would be nice to hear from some more fathers (SAHD and working dads) to see if they have strong options either way.

Posted by: Monica | December 6, 2006 3:46 PM

Responding to the mom-and-dad-can-take-turns-with-the-right-schedule comment that was early in...that daycare option has one of the highest rates of divorce, meaning if one parent is on the day shift, and one on the evening/night shift, the marriage suffers because the parents lose "together" time, and intimacy can suffer, and many lean on others. The couple I'm thinking of, ex-husband-rejoining-the-dating-pool had to be educated on if he wanted to be married again, that his female Best Friend may be expected to lose her title, which was spoken ONLY by him, not her (the friendship could stay) to anyone he might think to attract to marry (with the intention of "happily ever after") because Next Wife is expected to become his best female friend. Likewise, the formerly married wife had enough of a relationship with the piano tuner (her best friend, she worked the evening shift) that the piano tuner's wife accused her of being unfaithful. It was an emotional affair. Bad boundaries all around. So sometimes having the same schedule in common helps in other areas, too. Sue Shellenberger did an article comparing 3 styles of daycare, and the couples that used them. She did report a different-shift success story, that beat the odds and spoke of extraordinary commitment, so all is not lost, there are just hazards that are not immediately apparant!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 3:50 PM

strong "options" or strong opinions", Monica>

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 3:51 PM

What works for us is full-time SAHM. She is in charge of the household and the kids, while I just try to hold on to my job and make the $$$ to support them. Simple, really. We are happy with this choice and the sacrifices that come with it. We are solidly middle class.

Posted by: Thierry | December 6, 2006 3:52 PM

http://www.nd.edu/~frswrite/mcpartlin/1999/Fisher.shtml

Here is an interesting article critiquing Head start. It certainly does not say that Head start was the biggest failure or that it has been extremely effective. One thing to note, this study fails to state that preschool in general,public or private, is not a significant factor in academic success. Children who do not attend preschool in general, perform similar to their peers who did attend preschool. Again, short term exposure with out repetition is not gnerally effective.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 6, 2006 4:12 PM

I wish I had the option of staying home with our daughter. Unfortunately, we are a dual-income household and that is the way it has to be to pay the mortgage. I feel strongly that the pendulum has turned too far the other way. In my experience many women do not have the choice to stay home because our husband's do not earn in the upper 20% income bracket, even though they make very good salaries. Housing prices (even for a modest home) and other expenses have gone through the roof. I have a master's degree, and oh what I wouldn't give to be able to be a stay-at-home-mom.

Posted by: nakata | December 6, 2006 4:14 PM

It's presumptuous, lawgirl, to claim you know why anyone goes to law school. And really, a waste of time. People go for all manner of reasons that don't lead to practicing law. It's not affectionately known as liberal arts finishing school for nothing.

And, come on - you know what's involved in getting through 1L year, right? It's not the kind of thing one can just skate through and get grades that are decent enough to avoid being asked to leave. No one puts in that kind of work and goes through the stress of law school finals just for the sake of meeting a husband.

Posted by: pastryqueen | December 6, 2006 4:25 PM

"Didn't Sandra Day o'Connor and Madeline Albright stay at home for some period when their children were little and then go on to great things? People act like all of the choices are forever. I think that while choosing to stay home when the kids are little may be closing a door, but it isn't locking it."

Leslie, have you considered doing a blog on the length of the SAH period? There's a difference between SAH for one year versus eighteen.

Posted by: not a mom | December 6, 2006 4:27 PM

Nakata - I'm right there with you. I make more than my husband and all of our benefits are through my job. Our combined household income is around $100k. Hardly poverty stricken, but clearly nowhere near enough for either of us to be able to stay home on one income in this area with a mortgage and student loans to pay off, etc. The whole concept of choice is alien to me. I have no choices, other than choosing to be a parent or not. I'm just thankful that I do have a degree and that we both do have decent enough jobs that at least we can live a middle class existence in DC! Many people do not have this!

Posted by: TS | December 6, 2006 4:28 PM

"The whole concept of choice is alien to me."

For the sake of argument, do you really have no choices? or is it just that the choices you have won't work for your family, which is different?

Certainly you may have considered and rejected relocating to a cheaper area, or adjusting your housing expectations and living in a townhome rather than a free-standing home, or moving in with family members. My point is that it gives you a feeling of control over your life to say, I have choices and of the choices I have, this is the only one that meets our collective family needs. The alternative is to take on the mantle of powerless victim of circumstances, and I doubt that's how you view yourself.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 4:34 PM

It's presumptuous, lawgirl, to claim you know why anyone goes to law school. And really, a waste of time. People go for all manner of reasons that don't lead to practicing law. It's not affectionately known as liberal arts finishing school for nothing.

And, come on - you know what's involved in getting through 1L year, right? It's not the kind of thing one can just skate through and get grades that are decent enough to avoid being asked to leave. No one puts in that kind of work and goes through the stress of law school finals just for the sake of meeting a husband.

Posted by: pastryqueen | December 6, 2006 04:25 PM

Amen to that pastryqueen! Thank you! You said it better than I could have.

Posted by: m | December 6, 2006 4:38 PM

Actually, I do live in a townhome, precisely because it's cheaper than a single family. We thought about relocating but can not find jobs in our fields (intel and policy anlysis) outside of this area. Salary and health insurance are the primary reasons I must work. I'm not willing to live without health insurance (I was raised without it), so I'm not sure if that is a choice or not. But basically, we cannot live on my husband's salary. He was lucky enough to have found a job he loves, but unfortunately it does not pay enough to even fully support himself and his school loans, much less me and the baby on the way. I don't see myself as a powerless victim, but I also do not see myself as having any choice in regards to working. I did choose to marry someone with lower income potential and also I chose to have a child, so these have are my choices and I must sacrifice for them. I'm not sorry for that, it's just reality. Working is not something I have any flexibility with.

Posted by: TS | December 6, 2006 4:41 PM

I know this might sound stupid, but I'm coming at this from a completely different perspective: the childs. My mom stayed home with me till I was five. Then she worked parttime until I was eight and then went to work fulltime. When I was fourteen she took a year off and started her own business, which was at-home throughout highschool.

here the thing: I don't really remember or think about the time she was home with me a young child. I LOVED the time she was home when i was teenager. I loved that she was there to pick me up from the bus and take me to stuff. It meant a lot to me then and because I'm closer to it, it means a lot to me now.

Everyone makes a big deal that you should be home with a child at the "beginning" of childhood. I would suggest that the "end" of childhood is just as important, if not more so.

This is from someone who has no kids, has a law degree, is married, and when asked when they'll have kids, sometimes says "never" because it seems to difficult for me to decide, and right now I love my career too much (among other reasons).

Posted by: BB | December 6, 2006 4:46 PM

"It's presumptuous, lawgirl, to claim you know why anyone goes to law school....No one puts in that kind of work and goes through the stress of law school finals just for the sake of meeting a husband."

It's just as presumptuous to claim you know why other people do NOT go to law school. Why in one paragraph would you say that she could not possibly know anyone else's motives, and in the next paragraph proclaim yourself that you know no one could ever have a specific motive?

Posted by: Mona | December 6, 2006 5:05 PM

It is so very sad that the discussion is once again mostly about mothers' choices. It helps if mothers are around after school, mothers at home ensure kid stays out of trouble, etc. Where are the fathers in all this? I for one may very well never have kids because my guy is simply not someone I can count on to step in and shoulder his half of the burden. Here we are in 2006 and that's the men we are dealing with (sure--I CHOSE HIM, but he is hardly alone!). Please, moms, do the next generation of women a huge favor and stop treating your son like little princes to be served hand and foot!

Posted by: having kids together | December 6, 2006 5:06 PM

to having kids together: unlike 35 years ago, there are plenty of great guys out there who not only want to parent, but would be offended if you suggested differently. You want moms to raise those kinds of guys so you can, what, continue to reject them? I'm not trying to be snarky, but sheesh.

Those guys who are fully participating in parenting and all sort of household tasks as well as managing their jobs/careers may have precious little time left to participate in this blog.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 6, 2006 5:10 PM

I find it of concern that it now takes two earners to create the same standard of living that used to be created with only one earner.

Call it capitalism's dirty trick on feminism.

The family is stressed. I think that sometimes we are living lives that are a mile long and an inch deep. Too busy...too rushed.

The term "primary caregiver" can sometimes be a joke, as kids in daycare are so often raised by committee.

The irony is that while day care is highly expensive, I don't believe day care workers are paid very well.

And sadly, the quality day care issue is not something that the government can legislate into existence. There are great oversight and licensing programs for day care -- make no mistake. But the fact is that the market prevails (another capitalist joke on feminism).

If you are priveleged, you can afford a nanny for one-to-one child interaction. If not, who knows?

I totally agree with choice. As I prepare to marry and look forward to raising a family, I am preparing to get some to spend some time out of the labor market -- but not before getting professional credentials that will make it easier for me to re-enter the labor force.

I don't feel pressured to take this approach.

Posted by: N in Indiana | December 6, 2006 5:13 PM

Please, moms, do the next generation of women a huge favor and stop treating your son like little princes to be served hand and foot!

So, let me get this straight. You are blaming your mother-in-law for your husband's lack of being able to shoulder half the burden?! It's his mother's fault?! Please. Make him stand up and take some personal responsibility for this. And while I think this just may be your excuse for not having kids (which is O.K.), do not lump your man in with the rest. I married someone that is willing to go above and beyond, and that's one of the reasons I love him so much.

Posted by: here we go again... | December 6, 2006 5:15 PM

Mona~

Perhaps my phrasing could have been better. It's not presumptuous to speak from experience (which I do) and say that the amount of work and stress inherent to law school makes the likelihood that someone would go solely for the purpose of finding a mate very, very low. Add the cost and, well, we're talking about an exorbitant amount of elbowgrease and dollars supposedly spent on seeking an outcome that has nothing to do with the process.

But you know what? Don't listen to me. Go to law school next year. Do your reading, get called on in class, outline, take your exams, and look at your tuition bill. Then ask yourself if it makes any sense that someone would go through all of that to find a husband. It's not like college, where coasting through can be really easy - the curve handles that quite nicely. You'll see what I mean.

Posted by: pastryqueen | December 6, 2006 5:15 PM

So glad to hear there are guys out there willing to help. But here's the thing: here we are discussing WOMEN's choices. So obviously my guy is not the exception, but the societal norm. And while I do my best trying to get him to understand socks do not magically wash themselves, pair up, and walk back to the drawer, I do think the way you are treated at home has a lot to do with how you deal with your partner/household.
I mean, the comments about the "Tuesday envelope" earlier say something, don't they? Even people whose husbands take the kid to school say they lay out the outfit! Apologies to Father of Four, but he is the only one who could possibly be justified in getting that kind of help. What--men don't know that underwear goes on first? that shoes must match? What is wrong with them? Or is it that is it oh so much easier not to learn?

Posted by: having kids together | December 6, 2006 5:21 PM

Average DC area salary: $65,000
Income taxes: $12,000
Daycare: $12,000
Commute, Drycleaning and Meals out: $5,000

Stressed out mom, walking-around-on eggshells-husband, and outsourced parenting can all be yours for just $38,000 per year! Plus, if you act now, we'll throw in an extra vacation or two and some luxury items!

Posted by: CPS | December 6, 2006 5:23 PM

"What does that say about teachers?"

Not a lot. But it says something about how little our society values them and the work they do.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 5:24 PM

I don't know what your major was in college, pastryqueen, but in mine, it was impossible to coast through. I was certainly not a liberal arts/polysci/whatever it is that's supposedly really easy major. And I look at what remains of my tuition bills every single month. I fought tooth and nail for my college education, and when I get my law degree will be well over 200K in debt. You don't need to tell me how hard it is, or how hard it is going to be. I know that from experience. But there's no doubt in my mind that some women go to college and probably professional school (it's my understanding that this occurs more in business school than any other) in search of their MRS degree. I agree it's unlikely. But it's still a shame when it does happen, because that's a slot that could potentially be filled by a smart, hard-working, but otherwise underprivileged person who would put his or her career to good use.

And again, I should point out that I am NOT referring to women who take a year off here or there--only women whose sole purpose in life is to marry well.

Posted by: Mona | December 6, 2006 5:26 PM

just read the post by CPS and tell me we are beyond sexism. Of course, mom is stressed out and husband is walking on eggshells (instead, mom should be waiting for husband with newspaper, pipe and slippers).

Posted by: having kids together | December 6, 2006 5:26 PM

"I do realize, however, there are tons of folks here who can't conceive of elementary school, much less adolesence, dating and middle/high school."

Dotted --

I think that mothers who feel they need to be at home for their teenagers are really overinvolved with their kids. Kind of vicarious reexperiencing -- and maybe perfecting? -- of the teen years.

For god's sake, let 'em breathe a little.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 5:29 PM

TO CPS:

You're nuts if you think a salary of $65k in this area buys you "extra" (much less one) vacations and luxury items. It pays for the roof over your head, not much more.

And I'm glad that the parents of all the kids who go to school outside of the home can appreciate that they have "outsourced" their parenting. Is there some kind of special clause that parenting is only done before kids go to school?

Posted by: TS | December 6, 2006 5:29 PM

to anon at 5:29,

Just thought I'd pop in for a second and there you are!

Actually I'm not overinvolved at all. Most people would say I'm rather standoffish. That was rather presumptious for you to say that. The overinvolved middle/high school parent: That would be the parent who volunteers at the school all day because she wants to know who her kids talk to between classes. That would be the parent who talks about her kids nonstop.

That would not be me. I don't even remember to bring a camera to orchestra concerts, swim meets, or tennis matches! I do know their teachers but because of a fact I realized a while ago...it is the grades he earns in their classes that will determine which college and how much aid. I want to know those people who have such an impact.

Posted by: dotted | December 6, 2006 5:35 PM

"People go for all manner of reasons that don't lead to practicing law."

That's very true. And, for some, it can be a huge disappointment.

Many years ago, I applied, was accepted into, and entered the law program at UofMD night school. Then, one of the very first things we were taught in Torts class -- and I quote -- was "Always sue the deepest pocket."

I got the hell out of there fast.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 5:37 PM

I'm sure you have a coherent argument in there somewhere, but basing your assumption that the majority of guys are looking for a woman to pick up after them and handle all of the childcare on (a) YOUR choice of such a guy, (b) the topic of today's blog, and (c) an isolated blogger's sexism is absurd. Go find yourself a responsible guy who wants to parent. There are many to choose from, but you'd have to stop whining and drawing spurious conclusions from unrelated, anecdotal evidence.

Meanwhile, speaking of sexism, you've managed to insult all the great dads who frequent this blog with no basis whatsoever. Grow up.

Posted by: to having kids together | December 6, 2006 5:38 PM

"So, let me get this straight. You are blaming your mother-in-law for your husband's lack of being able to shoulder half the burden?! It's his mother's fault?! Please. Make him stand up and take some personal responsibility for this. And while I think this just may be your excuse for not having kids (which is O.K.), do not lump your man in with the rest. I married someone that is willing to go above and beyond, and that's one of the reasons I love him so much."

Bully for you. But if there weren't an awful lot of guys like the "little prince," then the show "Everybody Loves Raymond" would have been on for -- what, 9 seasons?

Women identified with that show because so many of them married guys whose mother's turned them into little princes.

And I say this as someone who found one of the good ones!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 5:43 PM

"because that's a slot that could potentially be filled by a smart, hard-working, but otherwise underprivileged person who would put his or her career to good use."

Hooboy. So part of the criteria for whether someone "should" be in a professional program is whether they'll put their career to good use? And whether or not they are underprivileged? How...odd. It seems like it's asking an awful lot of people to make sure their intentions are entirely in line with some sort of external notion of appropriateness before entering a professional program, right?

My comment about college being an easier place had nothing to do with your major. I'm simply pointing out that it's possible to select a path of minimal resistance in college if one goes there primarily to seek a spouse. That level of selection and choice just isn't really there in a law program.

Posted by: pastryqueen | December 6, 2006 5:47 PM

"I was certainly not a liberal arts/polysci/whatever it is that's supposedly really easy major."

'Scuse me, sweetie, but nobody has to write more than the lit majors. Scads more. Followed by philosophy and history majors. Liberal Arts doesn't mean "easy."

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 5:53 PM

"I'm simply pointing out that it's possible to select a path of minimal resistance in college if one goes there primarily to seek a spouse.That level of selection and choice just isn't really there in a law program."

At the risk of boring all but the lawyers, and offending everyone who went to a 4th tier school, all in one fell swoop, I disagree. The path of least resistance for those on the JD MRS track is to choose a 4th tier law program, take all writing seminars, and not worrying about their class rank. It worked for some at my first tier school and I can only imagine the nature of the coasting for some at lower tier-schools. If you don't think there are any princesses enrolled at American University whose primary goal is to meet and marry a D.C. lawyer, and promptly quit the profession, you're kidding yourself.

Posted by: to pastryqueen | December 6, 2006 5:54 PM

I meant to offend no one; the men on this blog are undoubtedly involved with their families (otherwise they would not be here). They are not the issue.

Show of hands: how many of your sons make their own bed/do laundry/wash up after dinner/know how to cook two dishes?

Daughters?

I thought so.

The point is, so long as the stereotypes are subtly passed on, we will keep agonizing about "women's choices"; women will continue to do the vast majority of housework and childcare (there are statistics about this); and most fathers will be able to have families "scot-free."

Disclaimer: I KNOW many of you will say you treat your son and daughter equally. Great! Good for you! Muah! But do your relatives/friends/acquaintances do the same?

Posted by: having kids together | December 6, 2006 5:57 PM

No, dotted, "overinvolved" moms are the ones who have to be at home because "he/she wants to talk to me about everything when he/she gets home." I'm not talking about hovering over them at school; I'm referring to highjacking them as "friends."

These are the same moms who see their kids -- particularly their daughters -- as an extension of themselves.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 6:03 PM

To 5:53, note the word "supposedly." I am not one to assert that one major is harder than another, but this is common opinion among some people. Hence "supposedly." All I know is that my recombinant DNA lab was harder than any philosophy class I ever took, and yet probably easier than the most elementary physics or engineering class--for me, anyway.

And the only person who calls me "sweetie" is my boyfriend.

Posted by: Mona | December 6, 2006 6:04 PM

to having kids together at 5:57
Here is my hand up:

my boys and girl (plus their dad) all know how to:
make their bed
clean their room
use the vacuum
deep clean the rugs
clean a bathroom
clean up after the dog
cook a decent meal (tho it will likely be spaghetti, chili, chicken tacos..or my personal favorite: sushi)

Posted by: dotted | December 6, 2006 6:05 PM

And not to beat this into the ground or anything, but when the pre-law advisor says "Your major was harder than most law school applicants'"...what am I supposed to think?

Posted by: Mona | December 6, 2006 6:07 PM

Mona,

What philosophy did you take? Intro?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 6:07 PM

What does that say about teachers?"

Not a lot. But it says something about how little our society values them and the work they do.

Yes, it is societies fault that teachers can't teach children how to read. Three months off in the summer and around 50,000 a year is really a tough job. Poor teachers, cry me a river.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 6:07 PM

6:07, I took several. I forget the numbers, but they did reach into the 300 level, and my language classes went into the 400s. I still read philosophical texts, including sacred texts to religions to which I do not belong. I'm not trying to prove anything or become Lao Tzu; it's simply a pursued interest for me.

Posted by: Mona | December 6, 2006 6:09 PM

Way to late to get into this discussion, but anyway...

Just wanted to say that I'm a Dad who does the "Tuesday envelope" thing. I also do the PTO thing, and the volunteer-at-the-school thing. It just turns out that I'm more interested in this kind of thing than my wife (who is a SAHM).

OTOH, my wife goes over schoolwork with the kid when he first gets home.

Whatever works.

Posted by: spunky | December 6, 2006 6:10 PM

dotted:
Great! Good for you! Muah!

Now for your relatives/friends/acquaintances?

(I think people on this blog--men and women--tend to be a pretty enlightened bunch. We can count on you to raise your little guys and women as equals. In the name of future partners, I thank you. But as for the rest of the people out there... )

Posted by: having kids together | December 6, 2006 6:10 PM

to anon at 6:03
My teenager and preteen are boys. I'm not, and have never been, their friend. I'm their mother. There is a major difference. By the way, there are also two in their mid 20s...it worked for them too.

One thing so absurd about your comment. Reliving teenagerhood would require a sex change...and that is not something I'm interested in at all! Besides, I hated being a teenager.

Posted by: dotted | December 6, 2006 6:11 PM

"cmac,
You retyped my comments differently from what I originally wrote. I'm trying to figure out if your changes mean something...if so, please clarify because I don't get it. Educate me!

Posted by: dotted | December 6, 2006 10:55 AM"

Dotted - I haven't been on the blog since this morning so I didn't retype anything. I can't possibly read all 266 posts - but someone did post to me and you agreeing up near the top somewhere! Maybve that was it?

Regardless, I sawy a post about "helping women in the workplace" by going back to work after a baby. Sorry - that is silly - those women can take care of themselves - I am sure of it!

Posted by: cmac | December 6, 2006 6:12 PM

Mona,

Well, let's see. We now know that you're pretty, thin, look-younger-than-you-are, and took the hardest undergrad major possible (confirmed by your pre-law advisor -- God, perhaps?).

What else would you like us all to know about Magnificent Mona?

Perhaps you should have considered a music major. You sure do like to toot that horn of yours.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 6:13 PM

To the parent who asked about moving back to India: you will NOT get as good after-school care or even daycare the way you get in America. I really think daycare in America is fantastic but perhaps this is because my reference point is India (which seems perfectly adequate to me).

In India, you will have (at best) a semi-educated girl/woman who will look after your baby. There are (last I checked) not many reliable high-quality daycares (the way there are in America) even in cities like Bombay. However, you CAN get very reliable 24 hour childcare - a very nice girl or woman with little education but who will look after your child with a great deal of affection.

You will also get the option of living very close to work - many of my friends have taken this option and walk home during thier lunch hours or for an hour in the evening.

Further, as you rightly point out, you will get all sorts of labour help for just about every domestic chore you can think of - right down to getting your clothes ironed. That means you or your spouse never have to do your own cooking, cleaning, laundry, gardening etc. You can focus on working outside the home and nurturing your child.

As for the long hours at work, I agree - they seem even more brutal in India than in America. And yet, as I also wrote there are plenty of built-in flexibilities.

In short, were I working in India, I would have a child in a heartbeat. Here? I'm not so sure.

n!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 6:21 PM

Wow, 6:13, all that writing did you a world of good, didn't it? Did you miss the part where I said I do not necessarily share the opinions of others on toughness of major? Did you miss the part where I said that my hard class was easier than even the easiest physics or engineering classes? Did I ever say I had the hardest major? Because all I see that I wrote is that supposedly some majors are harder than others, and this was brought to my attention by a legal professional, and I certainly hope you don't expect me to apologize for being youthful and attractive. (Again, all of the above are matters of opinion.)

You may think I'm full of myself, and that's okay with me. Luckily I don't need validation from anonymous posters who read things into my posts that I do not say.

Posted by: Mona | December 6, 2006 6:23 PM

Didn't read all those posts. Just wanted to comment -- stay-at-home motherhood isn't necessarily a career-killer.
Alaska's new governor, Sarah Palin, is the mother of four school-aged children and spent some of her earlier years as a stay-at-home mom. Now she's chief executive of a state. And it's no figurehead job; Alaska's constitution established a very strong-governor form of government.
(Wow, what would Linda Hirshman say?)

Posted by: alaskan | December 6, 2006 6:36 PM

If India is so great, why are you in America?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 6:38 PM

Thanks cmac...I was mightily confused. I appreciate the clarification. Have a great evening!

The blog day about teenagers/babyhood was held back in April. But maybe it can be revisited? Or is it too soon? Life's inflection points are always interesting.

Posted by: dotted | December 6, 2006 6:51 PM

To pastryqueen:

I know very well the demands of law school. But I'm not being presumptuous in saying girls/women go to find husbands. I know a couple personally who did exactly that. In fact one married a guy she'd known a month in her third year because she was "running out of time" and didn't want to try to find a job. I wouldn't make something like that up! Don't shoot the messenger!

Posted by: lawgirl | December 6, 2006 7:07 PM

It should go without saying that I am not vouching for the J.D./MRS degree. I'll freely admit those who put themselves through that type of ordeal solely to find a mate have serious issues. I'm just pointing out that it happens, however tangential that may be to this thread.

Posted by: lawgirl | December 6, 2006 7:09 PM

Hmm, what a timely topic!

I stayed home for a year following the birth of each of our children (3 years in between them). I am well educated (HBS etc.) and am a Principal in a major consulting firm, where I enjoyed a large salary (even at my part-time status post-kids) and significant benefits.

But a week ago, my husband just made partner and with it a significant raise, and since I'd really rather be home with my kids full-time instead of only 2 days a week as I have been doing, I resigned this morning.

So yes, I am pretty much the poster child for this new study.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 11:13 PM

"If India is so great, why are you in America?"

Was that in reply to my post? If so, well, I was afraid that question would be asked. I have to say, its a fair question. Did I sound like I was gushing and India was perfect? Well, its not. India has its own problems, America has its own. On specifically the child-rearing (maybe infant rearing) front, I personally think its easier to raise children in India though that could well be because I'm more familiar with that country than with America. I was also just pointing out differences between the two countries on child-rearing.

But as for me personally and why I stay here, when my husband and I tot up the costs and benefits (of which children are a small and as yet unexplored part), it still makes sense for us to be here right now. Thats why we stay.

n!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 11:44 PM

"Who are the 'outsiders,' and why do women who took out student loans owe them anything?"

People outside these women's families who loaned them the money in the first place, that's who.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 7, 2006 12:09 AM

"Who are the 'outsiders,' and why do women who took out student loans owe them anything?"

What if they're people outside these women's families who loaned them the money in the first place?

"'Scuse me, sweetie, but nobody has to write more than the lit majors. Scads more. Followed by philosophy and history majors. Liberal Arts doesn't mean 'easy.'"

Good point. Also, often when a university has a College of Liberal Arts, that's where its biology, chemistry, and physics departments are. I know a few people who have a really, really difficult time with this concept.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 7, 2006 12:27 AM

Mona:

"Getting a doctorate in engineering probably can't help you coach the swimming team."

Actually...you're wrong about that. Last summer my kids' swim team hosted a clinic on "the science and engineering of swimming" that was taught by a swimming dad who is also a professor of engineering at the local university.

You have some mighty strong feelings on this subject for someone who a) appears to be very young and b) doesn't have children. Come back and see me in 20 years when you have 2 or 3 children who have gone through years of school and extracurricular activies and your law degree. Maybe you'll feel differently.

Posted by: momof4 | December 7, 2006 10:23 AM

Women with the advanced degrees and high powered jobs probably don't choose to be SAH moms because of a lack of daycare options. Flexible hours, maybe. My degree isn't advanced and my work wasn't high-powered. I was somewhere in the middle of that.

One of my reasons for leaving, and I think this fits for that group, is it is very difficult to be really good at both a high powered job AND being a mother. Flexible hours and part-time work doesn't cut it for all jobs. Long stresful hours at work take a toll on both family and mother.

I know I grew impatient with all the working parents (moms & dads) who thought it was OK to do mediocre work because "family always comes first". Because I actually cared about the quality of the work we did, my family suffered more than theirs.

I support the women who make the choice to pick one or the other and do it really, really well.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 7, 2006 11:52 AM

"I support the women who make the choice to pick one or the other and do it really, really well."

I hope that you also support men who make that choice (especially the parenting choice). I really don't think it's an either-or proposition, actually, but hate when it's all about the women. Sigh.

Posted by: VaMom2 | December 7, 2006 11:57 AM

Work hours for both men and women have unnecessarily sprawled to fill up evenings and weekends -- so even if you want to work when your kids are young, and you're willing to be gone from them 40 hours a week, you can't count on making it home for the family dinner or for the weekend soccer game. That's why, I think, that we're seeing educated, professional women drop out of the work force in the greatest numbers: their hours are more unpredictable and out-of-control than non-professional workers. If there was a fulfilling 9-5 job available to parents with advanced degrees, I think more of them would remain at work. But instead, it seems like the choices are a professional job with out-of-control hours, or a stultifying job that won't let you use the professional skills you've trained so hard to acquire -- so you may as well just stay home.

Posted by: Jennifer | December 7, 2006 12:37 PM

"Who are the 'outsiders,' and why do women who took out student loans owe them anything?"

People outside these women's families who loaned them the money in the first place, that's who.

Still didn't anwer the question? Do you mean tax payers, God, the mafia? Who are you talking about and why is it gender specific?

Posted by: scarry | December 7, 2006 3:34 PM

Momof4, you're absolutely right. I am relatively young (immature for my age) and have no children. I'm here hoping to preempt any balance issues I might come across when/if I do end up having children, and I've found the majority of posters to be extremely knowledgeable and helpful. I'm sure my opinions will change as I grow older (whether I have children or not, change is inevitable), and I'm sure there are certain situations in which an advanced degree might help a child in an extracurricular situation. But do you really think that is the norm? Just curious. It may be; it may not be.

None of this detracts from my original point, though: there are women who go to college for the sole purpose of finding a husband, and who have no plans of actually working after marrying. I know several, other posters have known some too. It may not be the majority of women (thankfully) but it does happen, and it's a shame.

Posted by: Mona | December 7, 2006 4:53 PM

Forgive me if someone mentioned this already, but one reason I never see listed is "had children later in life." It seems to me most of the former-professional SAHMs I know put 10 or 15 years into their careers before they had kids and decided the marginal benefit of putting more years into an already mature career was outweighed by the desire to be more involved in their children's lives. Just a thought.

Posted by: Mom Works Too | December 7, 2006 6:04 PM

I'm late to this one but my experience matches some of the points in the post and comments:

- I work part time from home. I got into this area of work in part because it did offer that kind of flexibility, although less stability.

- Part of the reason for stepping down to part time work has been what I would call "un-crazying" our family and my husband's job is very demanding. He also is not a bit helper around the house. The second bites my feminist soul sometimes. The decision to step back part time was a mixed one for me except...

- The other part is my belief (for us! not judging other people!) that my son does best at this age (15 mos) when he has more or less one-on-one care (although this includes following me around while I clean, etc. :)). Because I believe this I put my time where my beliefs were.

- I have good savings already, both retirement and slush fund

- I'm not hugely worried about going back full time whenever that becomes appropriate, because I've kept my hand in.

Posted by: Shandra | December 7, 2006 8:46 PM

This is late, but a big giant YEAH THAT to this post:

"One of my reasons for leaving, and I think this fits for that group, is it is very difficult to be really good at both a high powered job AND being a mother." [Posted by Anonymous at 11:52PM]

This is precisely why I resigned yesterday (I posted earlier at 11:13PM). Maybe in some careers, but in my career as a management consultant for a high-powered firm, I was tired of doing a mediocre job with both family and work, or worse yet, doing one extremely well and totally dropping the ball with the other.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 7, 2006 9:05 PM

N from India, I really appreciate your perspective. Thanks for telling us how it is elsewhere and ignore the "if it's so great there..." crap, which you gave a reasonable answer to anyway.

Posted by: LindaJ | December 8, 2006 5:07 PM

I made the choice to stay at home for the first year with my first child due to not having good care choices, good maternity leave and no discussion of returning with more flexibility. And a baby with her first week of life in the NICU. I could not tell how she would respond to day care or the health issues that are often associated with child care settings.

We then decided to have number 2. The two are 17 months apart. I never could have imagined the amount of work!

Or how bored I might get not using my skills and education.

About then good care options became available to us when the 2nd was 9 months old and at the same time a flexible position was offered to me working for the government.

So I made the choice to jump back in. I found the more flexible situation boring and really wanted to go back to my pre leave position.

The project had ended and I found no way back into the company. I feel like the company and I both lost out in that situation. They paid for my MBA and trained me very well but no one was willing to look out for a way for me to come back after just 2.5 years. I have noticed some companies keeping leaves open for upto five years, Which I think is wonderful.

But the recruiting effort to get people back or placement effort however you want to term it is just as important.

Companies are draining their talent and not looking for an easy way to get ROI on a past investment in people.

So what has ended up happening is we now have the most wonderful in home care giver. But I don't have a truly rewarding and challenging position. I feel like I look like the 20 something job hopper who doesn't know what they want. But I do know what I want just can't find a way to get back to it!

Any rentry tips? pointers?

Posted by: ArlingtonMom | December 11, 2006 2:05 PM

Girls realize this - infants- small beings small problems - work now -
because when your little princess or prince become teenagers those are the years that you must be in the house.
Do not for one second beleive they are just coming home having a snack - calling you and getting there homework done- think back to when you were a teenager. Stuff happens - good bad naughty dangerous etc etc etc - I was never worried about my child in the daycare years- now I am home to great my middle schooler off the bus and will continue until my little prince leaves for college and will be truely left to his own devices.
Things to think about

Posted by: Edra | December 12, 2006 1:00 PM

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