Upsetting the Stay-at-Home Mommies

Yesterday's Washington Post Outlook section carried a smart article called The Mommy War Machine that argued that much of the so-called "mommy wars" between working and at-home moms doesn't exist except in the media and among writers trying to promote their books. I don't disagree that media stories often oversimplify and sensationalize the problems facing American mothers -- but I also cannot deny that I see lots of evidence that women experience a "mommy war" driven by guilt, tension and understandable jealousy on both sides. There's another, even more debilitating war inside moms' heads as we struggle to come to peace with our choices, or lack of choices, about how we combine work and raising kids. This inner mommy war too often spills out in public disparagement of moms who've made different choices.

Last Wednesday's New York Times' Mommy Books: More Buzz Than Buyers quoted Leslie Bennetts defending her book The Feminine Mistake. Her words struck me as so puzzlingly condescending to at-home moms I had to check out Bennetts' original essay on The Huffington Post. Here's what I found:

"Among full-time homemakers, this overdeveloped capacity for denial is often accompanied by a highly combative sense of indignation about views that challenge their own. In recent years, stay-at-home moms have gone on the offensive, demanding that their choices be respected and attacking those who question them...[p]ublications catering primarily to stay-at-home mothers are terrified of offending them, and any coverage has to be tailored to accommodate their sensitivities, real or imagined. 'We don't want to upset the stay-at-home mommies,' one editor told me in a patronizing tone of voice that suggested the conspiratorial whisper of adults who are trying not to wake the cranky children."

Whoa. A longtime Vanity Fair writer, Bennetts' credibility lies in her ability to be an objective observer and reporter. She expects her choice to work to be respected, yet she sounds surprised that stay-at-home moms expect their choices to be respected as well. Her disparagement of at-home moms -- calling them "mommies" and comparing them to cranky children -- suggests how very personal this "war" has become. Could Bennetts be experiencing just a tad of "highly combative indignation" herself? Is her inner mommy war driving her to put down stay-at-home moms?

What do you think? Is the Mommy War a fiction made up by the media or does it truly exist? Why, at times, is it so hard for some working moms to respect stay-at-home moms' choices -- and vice versa?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  April 30, 2007; 7:15 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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First!

Posted by: Bryn Mawr | April 30, 2007 7:51 AM

I just don't even see why we need to care. If I don't respect some other woman's decision, where is it written that I have to TRY? This is what I don't get from all this mommy war crap. And no time was it dictated to myself or others that we all had to be best buddies and totally respect and appreciate their choices. No. And we could save ourselves a lot of time and effort if we just live our lives and to hell with what others think (including worrying about hurting others' feelings because you don't respect their decision).

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 8:07 AM

I think the entire "mommy war" concept is totally overblown. I work part time and have feet in both worlds. I so rarely in my day to day world hear critism of either side. I do not find the stay at home parents I interact with while volunteering at school and girl scouts feeling smug or supieor. And I do not find my colleagues at work spending any time at all complaining about stay at home moms. In fact many love their stay at home friends ability to help them out.

In my personal life I have friends that do both and lots trying to carve out the part time niche. I do not hear any animosity between the side or even view them differently. We are all people making the choices that are best for us and our families.

Posted by: Raising One of Each | April 30, 2007 8:11 AM

Just bring the Medical Examiner. Forget about the crash cart, this topic can't be revived.

Posted by: What I think | April 30, 2007 8:11 AM

It seems to me that she was quoting someone else as opposed to calling stay at homes "mommies". Are you just trying to make a mountain out of a molehill thereby proving yesterday's article correct? Seems strange coming from you, someone who has promoted the concept of "mommy wars" Give it a rest.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 8:13 AM

I don't find it overblown at all. I am beyond thrilled it is finally being discussed instead of forcing us to live with our own desperate guilt and jealousy.

As a mother of 3 who has at various points been a partner in my firm, off on maternity leave, home full-time with the kids, and working part-time and who has thus been a part of the working mother world as well as the at home mother world (as well as that very strange world of being part-time and being both and neither at the same time)... I can say that this war is very real, especially within each of us.

Posted by: Turtle Park Mom | April 30, 2007 8:16 AM

By default aren't all articles written about the mommmy wars written, edited, published etc. by working people. I just wonder if we ever really see the views of the stay-at-home moms.

Posted by: Another Point | April 30, 2007 8:16 AM

Another Point: I agree 100% that b/c working moms hold the pens and microphones in this debate, we hear more from their viewpoints. Not fair, and not good.

Also agree with Turtle Park Mom -- for most women, there is some truth to the Mommy Wars, and it is very healthy to get the debate out in the open (and out of our heads).

But there's also truth that some moms don't experience the negative tension and guilt and jealousy. This doesn't mean there's no Mommy War. It just means these particular moms don't experience it. Those of us who do have a mommy war raging in our heads have something to learn from moms who never experienced it, or have figured out how to put it to rest.

Lastly, i agree we've debated this topic A LOT on On Balance. However, the subject has been in the news so much lately that I think we need to stay current and dig into it again in light of all the recent tv and media coverage on the "mistake" stay-at-home moms supposedly make by stepping out of work for a few years.

Posted by: Leslie | April 30, 2007 8:29 AM

The Mommy Wars is only "very real" because we allow it to be that way. I could not care less if someone chooses to stay at home, work, or a combo of both. People do what is right for them. Each choice has its own advantages and disadvantages.


Where the problems come in to play is when someone attacks another person's choices in a desperate attempt to validate their own choices. Or, when someone PERCEIVES that their choices are being attacked.

I for the life of me cannot understand why anyone cares what your neighbor or friend is doing. Or why they care if they disagree with your choice to stay home, go to work, etc.

Posted by: JS | April 30, 2007 8:30 AM

I think Bennett is much more indignant and self-righteous than the moms I meet in everyday life. I get the impression that us "younger" moms (late 20's, early 30's) aren't as concerned about this topic these days. Most of us realize that the choices we make are personal and it's stupid to make judgments about someone's family situation. I think Bennett needs to start thinking outside her box and learn that what a woman needs and desires can vary, not just among women but also during a woman's life. So yes, I think authors and the media make this topic a bigger deal than it needs to be...or maybe it's just a big deal to a select audience of mothers.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 8:31 AM

I do think that this is a topic that's inflated somewhat in the media. IRL, I don't think I've ever heard these things discussed at all, and have not noticed tension between the working moms and SAH moms I know.

I'll admit that I let Leslie Bennett's nastiness piss me off (and yes, she really is that condescending in her articles and interviews and, presumably, her book). But generally, I tend not to care what other people think of my choices. I suspect I'm not in any way unique in this.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 8:35 AM

yawn...

Posted by: jj | April 30, 2007 8:36 AM

I have an aunt who's on the front lines on of the mommy wars and seems to find joy in stirring up trouble on both sides. In the period of 1.5 hours at a recent family gathering, my aunt criticized my sister for being a working mom and my cousin for being a stay at home mom. I am not a mom so watching this from the sidelines I think, whoa, you can't win so no point in fighting--just be the best mom you can be. And how come she didn't make any comments to the dads? And why didn't the dads, who were present, stick up for the wives more? Maybe the dad's just didn't smell the snark in her comments. Maybe it's not SAHM vs. WOHM but rather just criticism of moms in general.

My sister, the WOHM, didn't react to my aunts comments. She just let it go. My cousin, the SAHM, became upset and left the room. Was there more guilt on my cousin's side or did my aunt hit a nerve? I hope not, they are both good moms. Whenever this mommy war stuff comes up, images of them both come up in my head and I think look at them, they show that either type of mom will do. I wish I had spoken up at the time and said that.....

Posted by: dogma | April 30, 2007 8:42 AM

I agree with NewSAHM. The nastiness and condescension on Bennetts' part are fueling the war. Who really believes that any woman making the choice to stay at home or work is doing so without doing their own cost/benefit analysis? Does Bennetts think that SAHM's (who she believes should be in the work force) are that frivolous and casual in their choices?

If you assume that the SAHM is incapable of evaluating their situaion and making a rational choice, why would you want them to work in your organization anyway? What a drag they would be on everyone else's efforts.

It's insulting for her to state that women whose choices are different from hers are living in denial. It's telling that she needs to characterize the choices of others in such a public way. She doesn't deserve the press she's receiving for this book.

Posted by: HappyMom | April 30, 2007 8:48 AM

Don't kid yourselves. The mommy war is very much alive both within us and our communities. I too have been in the weird inbetween world of part-time work and stay at home mom, but am currently working full time. Still trying to strike a balance...

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 8:49 AM

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/29/AR2007042901555.html?hpid=topnews

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 8:49 AM

Staying at home or going to work or a combination of both are decisions predicated on many factors. To narrow these discussions to a stay-at- home moms vs working moms serves no one, least of all the children...

And, I for one, abhor the use of the word "wars" because it implies that someone is/will win.

Posted by: Silver Spring Mom | April 30, 2007 8:52 AM

Sure, the "mommy wars" are real- but I think we make too big a deal out of them. After all, what is comes down to is just two groups of people (those sahms and wohms who participate) saying nasty things about each other. Why do we have to act like that's a big news story?

I think that many journalists are just lazy and prefer to cover bickering rather than doing serious investigative work and analysis. I mean, you might actually have to crunch numbers, or read dry reports, or something. The horrors! Much easier to just find a few women who have strong opinions and quote them, or pick out a few inflammatory quotes from a serious author's work, or decide that three of your friends doing something is a "trend"...

Posted by: randommom | April 30, 2007 8:53 AM

Actually, we do hear a lot from the stay-at-home moms - go to the discussion boards on Baby Center, iVillage Parenting, or any of the other popular baby/parenting sites, and there are hundreds of pages of SAHMs as well as working moms, not necessarily going at it, but saying in a million different ways their views about how and why being a SAHM is best. Just because these women aren't full-time freelance writers doesn't mean their views don't get heard.

I read Leslie Bennetts book, and I don't get the impression she is trying to bash SAHMs in any way. She is trying to rescue and save them from danger of financial disaster. It seems to me her exasperated tone comes from how people keep trying to change the question: No one wants to debate the real issue of whether leaving work is financially dangerous. Instead the debate keeps getting twisted to one of "are people's choices getting respected?"

It seems that people hear her say: "By being a SAHM you are taking a financial risk" and they interpret it as "you've made a bad choice and are dumb." But she's only saying the one thing, not the other.

I'd love to hear some real debate though about the financial risk issue. I told a friend about Bennett's arguments and said the arguments had me pretty convinced that I shouldn't leave my job to stay at home when my first baby is born in a few months, even though I'd been waffling. The friend (a working gal with no kids) played devil's advocate and said Bennetts was probably exaggerating the financial risks of divorce, and long-term disability insurance as well as life insurance could cover me in the case that my husband died or was injured and couldn't work.

I wish more people would talk about those real and scary issues and stop griping about respect and choices who was more snippy at whom!

Posted by: Groggie | April 30, 2007 8:56 AM

I have done both the SAHM and WOHM roles; I have always felt that everyone's situation is different. Some occupational fields can tolerate a few years "off ramp" and some cannot. I have known creative SAHMs and one who derided daycare but was constantly calling sitters so she could go out without her kids. This person also had a substantial trust fund. I have known WOHMs who were great moms and others who thought they had to take every job on the rung involving lots of business travel,then wondered why their kids were messed up. Most of us are doing our best and somewhere in-between all of the extremes. We should all just try to get along, and stop buying these books or paying attention to these writers with nothing better to write about.

Posted by: BothSidesNow | April 30, 2007 8:57 AM

The war in Iraq pales in comparison to the epic mommy war being fought everyday in the streets and homes of suburbia...

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 8:58 AM

"Could Bennetts be experiencing just a tad of 'highly combative indignation' herself?"

I think most anyone who is combative on the issue is conflicted (though that doesn't mean those who are conflicted are necessarily combative). Many of us do what we do, and don't really much care what anyone thinks. I'd rather feel that peace than sell all the books in the world.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 8:59 AM

Why are you wasting space on this subject? Those of us who are Moms, stay-at-home or not, would rather spend our precious-few minutes of free time reading something interesting.

Posted by: Lynn King | April 30, 2007 9:03 AM

There are a couple of things which have thrown fuel on the mommy war fire in the past few years.

First, the stay home mommy message dovetails nicely with that of right wing christian conservatives, and ends up being promoted by them to advance the rightists' autocratic male dominated world view. I support the choices of women, but I recoil at their lifestyle being advanced by people whose ultimate aim is to take away choices.

Second, stay at home moms are expressing themselves and defending their choices on line a lot more than the average working mom. I think computers and internet networking have made life a lot better for moms at home longing to feel connected and intellectually stimulated, but it has also brought parenting issues and conflicts a lot more air time.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 9:08 AM

I am not a mom, but I've endured a lot of scrutiny over my decisions in life, and find that as long as I am confident I did the right thing for myself (any my husband when he entered the picture), I could not care less what others say. If others don't respect my choices, fine, but I don't expect them to walk on tiptoes for my benefit.

I have to believe that any "indignation" is the result of insecurity. After all, if a woman knows she's doing the right thing for herself, why waste valuable time and energy trying to convince everyone else she's right, too?

These news articles about women hurting their careers by leaving the workforce are not an attack on SAHMs. They simply state the obvious: that women often set their careers back by taking off for long periods, and place themselves at risk financially in the event of divorce or death. This isn't always the case, but more often than not, it probably is. Nowhere in these stories did I see an attack on SAHMs. If they weigh the benefits risks and make an informed decision, then they've done the right thing.

Posted by: lawgirl | April 30, 2007 9:08 AM

Groggy said:
"I read Leslie Bennetts book, and I don't get the impression she is trying to bash SAHMs in any way. She is trying to rescue and save them from danger of financial disaster."

What incredible condescension. Infantilizing adults (who need "rescue"!!) because they've made a quite common and personal decision based on their own needs, financial situation and relationship (things unknown to you or Bennetts) is the height of arrogance. Shame on her and shame on you.

Posted by: Fran | April 30, 2007 9:09 AM

I vote "fiction".

Posted by: Ryan | April 30, 2007 9:11 AM

That we keep revisiting a variant of this topic on a weekly/bi-monthly basis indicates to me that: a) there is no shortage of opinions pro, con, and on the fence about the stay at home / work outside of the home debate; and, b) this issue will NEVER be resolved to the satisfaction of participants referenced above. Perhaps the greatest disservice we do to ourselves in perpetually rehashing this argument is that we ignore the bigger problem of the precarious financial position of MANY families and individuals in this, the wealthiest nation in the world.

Posted by: rosie04 | April 30, 2007 9:13 AM

Like so many "wars," this one seems to be fed almost exclusively by people who see life through ideological lenses. There's an intellectual strain that developed in the 20th century that is well summed up by the phrase "everything is political." In that view, what I choose to buy is a political statement, the clothes I wear are a political statement, where I live is a political statement - and all the choices I make in my personal life become statement about gender politics.

Don't misunderstand me - it is important to make prudent, responsible choices, and to care about the effect your choices have on the people in your life. But there's a difference between thinking about practical consequences for your family, and intentionally making a "statement."

If you read the posts on this blog carefully, the ones that are most heated tend to come from people who are focused on what their choices "say," the "statement" they make, the "cause" of this or that group of people, a "movement" or one or more words ending in "ism" - rather than on specific needs of a child, spouse, or themselves.

I'm increasingly convinced that there's nothing sadder than seeing people purely through political or ideological eyes - I can't imagine being married to someone who couldn't step outside that and view me as a friend and lover. Politics is important, and ideology can be important - but they can blind us if that's all we ever look at.

Fortunately, most men and women are more concerned about building good lives for themselves and their families than they are about fighting ideological battles. That's why, while you can find plenty of writers to maintain a war of words, most women have no interest in signing up for either side.

Posted by: Demos | April 30, 2007 9:13 AM

Groggie,

I have not read Bennetts' book, so I bow to your superior knowledge of its tone. There's no debating, though, that she misses few chances in interviews to lob bombs at SAHMs. I blogged about a few of them here, if you're interested: http://paranoidmama.blogspot.com/2007/04/update.html

As far as the financial risks of being a SAHP, I agree that they exist, I just think that Bennetts' one-size-fits-all solution is far too narrow. From what I've read, her only advice is that women never quit working in the first place, or that they return to the workforce immediately, or else they face doooooom!

There are ways to protect oneself from financial ruin while also taking some time to be home for a while. Would-be parents can wait a few years and build up a substantial savings account before having kids, to guard against unexpected unemployment and to build a nest egg for retirement. Good life insurance can cover the financial hit of one spouse dying. Disability insurance can help with unexpected medical leave.

The point is, there are options out there. Bennetts, at least in her interviews and articles, seems not to be interested in these things. Her demeanor suggests that she has an agenda to push (women should never stay at home), and that the "but I'm only trying to help!" is an excuse to let her fling insults with impunity.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 9:13 AM

The closest I can come to on this topic is my sis-in-law who stays home with the 2 nephews because it is more important to her and my brother that she not work outside the home, even though they need the money.

Posted by: sparky | April 30, 2007 9:15 AM

I have to agree that it's actually a much-broader topic. I have seen moms whose work situations are identical and instead they war over who raises their children better or whose child is more developed. Some of this has to do with the individual's own maturity and confidence and often parents want their children's successes to be a direct reflection of their parenting skills or their value as a person. Certain issues bring out competition and divisiveness more than others and I think parenting is one of them. Comparing yourself to others is often how we measure ourselves; unfortunately, it's a bit too easy to make yourself feel better or less guilty by judging others or looking for their faults. I don't think this is limited to parenting (think full-timers vs. part-timers at work; long-time career builders vs. newly drafted star worker, handyman dad vs. not-so-handyman dad, etc., etc.).

I think "war" is definitely a trumped up term used to sell books and draw readers. People die in wars. I might call this The Cycle of Human Pettiness Magnified by Motherhood.

It's not just moms either--while I'm good at keeping my mouth shut, I certainly find myself questioning the way others parent their children or beginning to make some sort of value judgment when someone's child seems to have expensive clothes but lacks basic necessities, etc., etc.

Choosing (for those who have the luxury) to stay home with your children or going back to work is a deeply personal decision that leaves a lot of folks feeling uncertain. You look for things to validate your decision and ya don't take kindly to things that question or judge it.

Posted by: marc | April 30, 2007 9:16 AM

I spent the weekend moving...
Fred, just saw your post- will do when I can get into my email account (cable company will transfer service sometime this week). :)

I will never look at spinach (or grapes) the same way...

Anyway, I think the mommy war is as real as everyone makes it. If someone is resenting your choices, or judging them for you, that is their problem and life goes on. Generally, so long as a person's choice is not infringing on your own rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that is their business. We can throw out opinions on the merits of staying home or going to work for all eternity- but they are always subjective and can never be anything but. I do think it is overly critical to label a choice to stay home as a mistake.

Posted by: Chris | April 30, 2007 9:17 AM

I moved out to the Midwest 2 1/2 years ago, and the Mommy Wars don't really seem to exist here.

We live on what is considered a decidedly upper-middle class neighborhood (makes us giggle - we bought the house for less than we sold our NoVa condo). We have quite a few SAHM's, but most of them are former professionals, some of whom got laid off, some who chose to stay at home.

But we also have quite a few working Moms as well. Some accountants, one lawyer, a dentist, a few nurses. And you know what? We all play nicely together...well, as much as neighbors will ;). Not a lick of Mommy War in sight, though a few folks do grumble about other people's lawns...though now that I think about it, it's the men who do that sort of grumbling!

Though I will say it took a while for many women (not just my neighbors) to get used to me out here. They all thought since I moved here from DC and have a trace of a NYC accent (and talk as quickly as any NYC resident), they thought I'd "look down" on them in general because I was a "Big City Girl" (they've realized they were mistaken and I didn't take it personally).

That makes me think that some of this is based on "Big City" issues. Because out here....people eat dinner with their families, even when they're busy. My neighbors on either side are lawyers in the same practice - they both come home and have dinner, spend some time with family, and head back in or finish up work at home.

People also leave work early to go play golf or go fishing when the weather is nice. Your commute is as long as you want it to be - there's little difference in the price of the same house inside the city limits or outside of it. And there seems to be adequate child care; I've never heard a Mom complain about not being able to get into a facility out here.

Maybe when life isn't so hectic because things aren't so spread out (going to "the other side of town" takes 10 minutes around here - 15 if you hit the lights wrong), then these hyped-up arguments mean less. Then again, the Golden Rule does seem to actually work out here in the Midwest, and that might also have something to do with it as well. Live and let live, and do unto others. It's nice :D

Posted by: Chasmosaur | April 30, 2007 9:17 AM

"These news articles about women hurting their careers by leaving the workforce are not an attack on SAHMs."

Sorry - there's more to it than that. Bennetts comes right out and says that SAHMs are making a foolish mistake, they are unjustifiably wasting their time and talents, and they shouldn't do it.

How do you spin that as anything other than an attack? She's basically called all SAHMs "slackers!"

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 9:18 AM

For me, the only place the "Mommy Wars" exists is inside myself. I occasionally question the decisions I've made, but I'm pretty good about realizing that (a) my children are pretty sturdy and resilient little creatures who will survive any decision I make regarding at home/at work opportunities, (b) my career and professional expectations are pretty sturdy and resilient, and (c) I don't really care what other people think of me or my choices. I like this blog because it's fascinating and enriching to learn about other points of view, but when it comes down to it, the only perspectives I care about are mine and my husband's, my childrens', and to a lesser extent, my parents'.

I don't like dealing with extremists of almost any kind. That's one thing this blog has driven home for me! The Linda Hirschmanns (or Leslie Bennetts) of the world turn me right off, because I don't have the time or energy (and I refuse to spend my money) on someone who is so absolutely certain that her way is the only right way for everyone, regardless of their situation.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 30, 2007 9:19 AM

I do think women have a lot of inner angst about the choices they made. But I don't think in person, people say a lot to one another about the mommy wars. I really don't think outside of cyber space people are not that rude. Most people are fairly busy and their interactions with other people is sort of fleeting. I do find people on line talk rather nasty to one another. But I don't think friends cut each other up to shreds. This constant fueling of the mommy wars is mostly on line and in the media. But we have also learned on line and on blogs, people say all sorts of things they would not dare to say in person.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 30, 2007 9:19 AM

"What incredible condescension. Infantilizing adults (who need "rescue"!!) because they've made a quite common and personal decision based on their own needs, financial situation and relationship (things unknown to you or Bennetts) is the height of arrogance. Shame on her and shame on you."

Fran, you can leave me out of it, I'm not trying to rescue anyone, I'm just saying I think that's how Leslie Bennetts sees herself. And I think she's frustrated by the fact that she perceives some women as blindly endangering themselves and then reacting furiously when she (again as she sees it) tries to pull the wool off their eyes.

Poor Leslie Bennetts, she didn't realize before writing her book that the world is divided into two main types of people: Ostriches with their heads in the sand and the thinking types. The thinking types will always be happy to read books like hers, but will always need books like that less than the ostriches. And the ostriches will always peck at anyone who so much as mentions sand ...

Posted by: Groggie" | April 30, 2007 9:19 AM

This is like everything else, in that there are small groups of loud people on both sides who have very definite ideas about women and what their priorities ought to be, and these views are not up for debate or any compromise. That's why it's so personal. That's why people like Bennetts resemble the very thing they despise, and there are stay-at-homers who do likewise. They can't see just how much they are walking contradictions, and neither can their enablers in the press who do their part to make matters worse.

Posted by: Helen | April 30, 2007 9:20 AM

I live in a Maryland suburb and I can tell you that the mommy wars are alive and well--and this is in REAL life! Not some media fueled frenzy.

In our neighborhood, we have the stay at home moms. They're the ones who are up at the elementary school ALL THE TIME. They're the ones who aren't participating in community sports...they have their children in special coached sports right after school--something working moms couldn't possibly do. They also have Pampered Chef and Southern Living Parties in the middle of the day when their kids are in school. And they're up at the pool all day every day during the summer...until us working moms show up at the end of the day. Then, they go home and make dinner for their families. These women are for the most part SKINNY...they all work out at 5:00am at Fitness First...and they're very cliquey.

There's also a little "war" among the stay at home moms themselves. The ones who are volunteering at school wonder what the stay at home moms who aren't volunteering could possibly be doing with their time.

The working moms (of which I am one) often feel a need to compete with these moms--not sure if the stay at home moms are competing with us, though. I know someone who jumped through HUGE hoops to put her children in swim team even though she works...just so her kids could have the same benefits as the stay at home moms do. And someone else who's involved in our Girl Scout troop always tries to outdo the sata at home moms in how well she does everything--saying, "see...those stay at home moms don't have us beat."

But I do often wonder...are the stay at home moms less STRESSED than the working moms like me who are ragging ourselves out to DO IT ALL!!!!!! I envy the fact that they can read a book in the middle of the afternoon when their kids are in school, rather than working all day...then trying to do it all in the evening. When you work and you're a mom, you have very little time for yourself!

Posted by: It's Alive and Well in the Suburbs | April 30, 2007 9:20 AM

I briefly was a member of a local Mom's club when my daughter was very little. Since I worked full-time (my dh was a SAHD), I could not attend the playgroups or other functions held in the daytime, although my dh sometimes did. They did have their meetings at night.

There was definitely an elitism with many of the SAHMs and I definitely felt looked down on by some of them. This was not true of all of them by any means, but that in addition to the under-the-surface anti-Semitism at the time made me not feel very welcome. What is ironic now is that a member of my temple is now that club's President so I guess things have changed a bit there.

Posted by: librarianmom | April 30, 2007 9:22 AM

Dogma:
I have been a SAHM and a WOHM, and I received more c**p the years that I didn't work; basically, WOHMs were generally rude and condescending. That was almost 20 years ago (I was home between 1988 and 1999), and I thought attitudes would have evolved by now, and mothers would respect each other's choices. I think it's possible your cousin reacted strongly because SAHMs are probably still treated like uneducated lazy idiots by a small segment of WOHMs (it seems like there too many Leslie Bennets in the world) and she probably is in the unfortunate situation of being in contact with a vocal segment of that population.

On the other hand, my sister, who did not spend any time as a SAHM, feels like the non-working moms she meets in her children's school community are snarky and rude, so it certainly seems to go both ways.

I see working or not working as a personal (as in none of my business) choice. Some moms need to work; some love their careers and figure out how to make it all happen; some only plan to not work for a few years; some have the money and desire to not work at all.

I might have opinions, but I don't feel the need to share them with people who have made different choices, and I absolutely respect whatever choices another mom has made. When a parent comes in for a conference, I can't imagine criticizing that parent for working, or not working, or going back to work!

Instead of criticizing each other for our choices, we should be working to narrow the gender wage gap, create family-friendly and more flexible workplaces, alleviate societal ills like limited access to health care...whatever YOU believe will improve society as a whole.

Free period is over, back to class...

Posted by: educmom | April 30, 2007 9:25 AM

Tripe like this convinces me Woody Allen was a woman in drag.

Posted by: Unkle Cracker | April 30, 2007 9:26 AM

I agree with you that when you work there is very little time left to yourself. So, war, or no war...there are times I think it would be so nice to have the "luxury" of being a stay at home mom. Not that they don't work at home...but they're doing one job, not two!

Posted by: TO: It's Alive and Well in the Suburbs | April 30, 2007 9:27 AM

"It seems to me her exasperated tone comes from how people keep trying to change the question: No one wants to debate the real issue of whether leaving work is financially dangerous."

This is one thing that exasperates many stay-at-home moms (and the families that love them) - why is financial security the only (or even most important) question? We have to be able to support our families and ourselves. But aren't there some other equally important questions?
- What's best for my marriage?
- What's best for my kids?
- What do I really, really enjoy doing?

We've spent years, as a society, trying to teach men that an inordinate focus on financial success and security leads to an unbalanced life. You know what - that's right! That's why we have men who aren't as focused on the corporate treadmill; men who're willing to be stay at home dads; men who'll turn down the promotion if it requires traveling five nights a week, or moving the family across the country.

Who wins if we turn women into 1950's era men?

Posted by: Demos | April 30, 2007 9:29 AM

As a Working Daddy I want to say that I am extremely sick of this discussion and think it's long long past its expiration date. There have been no additions to the debate. I talk to men about this at work all the time , those whose wives got minor league bachelors degrees stay at home for 2-3 years and then complain bitterly that they aren't offered jobs at decent salaries. Get over yourself, you let your skills get rusty and you're now entry level again- we know a woman who did that and bragged that she knew how to use email like everyone else, but when I mentioned using mind-mapping software or building a company-wide wiki she blanked. My supervisor's wife is a surgeon, my wife is a PhD biologist, my friend's wife is a CFO w/ an MBA, another friend's wife is an Army Major, another friend's wife is a published author, several women I know runs their own non-profits, and I know at least 4 women who are serious surgical, cardiac, intensive care, etc nurses at Bethesda Naval Hospital and other high-profile locations and let's not even talk about all the DC Lawyers. If anyone expects these women to stop working they are throwing away all the effort they put into bettering this country. If they don't use their education to better society to the fullest extent then the part of the education they don't use is wasted and should have gone to someone else- remember getting into college is competitive. Why take up a place in med school or law school or B School that someone else wanted and was rejected for if you aren't going to use it?

Posted by: DCer | April 30, 2007 9:31 AM

I've always been a working mom, and we had a stay at home mom who used to live across the street from us. Our kids were close in age, and she always felt superior to me because she was home. She would give me "pop quizzes" about how many teeth my son had...etc. She was more on top of these details than I was...probably because she didn't have anything else to do. She also told me she advanced into solid foods quicker because she was feeding her little precious son ALL his meals and snacks...while daycare was taking care of my son. She always was always doing things MORE...BETTER...ETC than I was. I was soooooo glad when she moved away!

Posted by: The War on Our Street | April 30, 2007 9:31 AM

Find the comment about pools and SAHM kind of funny. Our pool run by the HOA doesn't open till 3PM during the week. When I asked why, they said it wasn't worth opening earlier because so many parents worked. Also at my daughter's preschool Holiday party, I was the only parent there. I wondered where all the SAHPs were. I assumed maybe they all worked. I worked too but happen to have the day off. I don't see any real volunteerism at my daughter's preschool but that maybe because it is public preschool for delayed children. Even the stay at home parents do not get very involved. I am one of the only parents that is involved in the preschool. It isn't much because I work four days a week but I try to help out when I can. I see more volunteerism in the elementary school then the preschool. I read a lot about what the PTA is doing in their Tuesday flyers.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 30, 2007 9:32 AM

Sorry for posting a third time, but also wanted to point out something else that seems neglected in the discussion so far ... everyone keeps saying, It's a personal choice, it concerns only me. But one of the really interesting counterpoints in Leslie Bennetts book is that it's not just a personal choice. The idea is that if a person is financially dependent and becomes unemployable (or minimally unemployable) due to years out of the job force, they can end up becoming a burden on others ... e.g. kids having to support their parents, or even society as a whole if the person ends up on public assistance. And it does happen, even to stay-at-home parents who formerly felt wealthy and secure.

Again, that's LB's argument as I understand it, not necessarily what I'd argue if I were the one writing books ...

Posted by: Groggie | April 30, 2007 9:32 AM

This is one thing that exasperates many stay-at-home moms (and the families that love them) - why is financial security the only (or even most important) question?
----------
Says someone who has no friends who went bankrupt, became homeless, and moved their entire family into Mom's basement. Pooh-poohing is a sin.

Posted by: DCer | April 30, 2007 9:33 AM

ALive and Well --

I can say that, for me at least, I have a ton less stress as a SAHM than I did when I was working. While I can't quite sit and read a book (DD is 17 months old, so not in school yet, but no longer napping), I do have the option of spending sunny days in the park with her and fully intend to spend lots of time at the pool. I don't have to cram all of the necessities of life (grocery shopping, errands, cleaning, cooking) into the margins of my day. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't nice.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 9:33 AM

That was my post about the pools...that's very interesting that yours has hours based on the working moms, not the stay at home moms. At our pool, the stay at home moms have their kids in swim team in the morning...they pack a HUGE lunch, and hang out at the pool for the rest of the day. The ones that I talk to feel good that they're giving their kids the "carefree summers' of our own childhood.

That's also interesting that you're one of the only volunteers...and you work :)

Posted by: TO: Foamgnome | April 30, 2007 9:37 AM

ALive and Well --

I can say that, for me at least, I have a ton less stress as a SAHM than I did when I was working. While I can't quite sit and read a book (DD is 17 months old, so not in school yet, but no longer napping), I do have the option of spending sunny days in the park with her and fully intend to spend lots of time at the pool. I don't have to cram all of the necessities of life (grocery shopping, errands, cleaning, cooking) into the margins of my day. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't nice.


Posted by: NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 09:33 AM

That was my post...and I do think it would be nice to have the time you have. This weekend I was juggling attending the T-ball game, helping my son finish his science fair project, etc. And then squeezing in the grocery shopping, laundry, etc. It's EXHAUSTING!!!!!!!! What I wouldn't give to be able to spread out the chores during the week!

Posted by: TO NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 9:40 AM

I have a new idea topic -- how about the fact that insurance companies charge more to insure women than men. There was an interesting editorial by Eleanor Smeal and the anniversary of the ERA in last week's Post, which argued that the ERA is still necessary and relevant(including to stop gender discrimination by insurance companies).

I'm a working mother and work in large part for health insurance coverage (much more expensive at my husband's work).

Posted by: Just Saying | April 30, 2007 9:40 AM

The "mommy wars" is nothing more than the same cattiness and classism applied to a different little detail of the "best lifestyle." It's the continuing crap that we as women do to ourselves to keep ourselves running in circles. There is no reality to the "war" at all.

I work. A ton. I have three kids, one autistic and one with ADD. I tell you, people are going to find a reason to judge me and feel superior regardless of whether I work or stay at home. I've decided not to take the bait when I can possibly avoid it. I think that more women would be well-advised to do the same.

Posted by: bad mommy | April 30, 2007 9:44 AM

If it makes you feel any better, there are many, many weeks when I still end up cramming all of the laundry and housecleaning into the weekend because DD's being a barnacle and won't let me out of her sight during the week. :-)

I have a lot of respect for working moms (and anticipate being one myself once I'm done having babies). That stress to get everything done is the one thing I dread about going back to work.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 9:44 AM

That was my post about the pools...that's very interesting that yours has hours based on the working moms, not the stay at home moms. At our pool, the stay at home moms have their kids in swim team in the morning...they pack a HUGE lunch, and hang out at the pool for the rest of the day. The ones that I talk to feel good that they're giving their kids the "carefree summers' of our own childhood.

That's also interesting that you're one of the only volunteers...and you work :)

Posted by: TO: Foamgnome | April 30, 2007 09:37 AM

I thought the pool thing was strange too. But it might be just an excuse to cut hours. But my guess is they saw that it wasn't being used before 3PM and decided if cuts needed to be made, it will be there.

I am still shocked that there is not more preschool volunteerism. But it is also a preschool for delayed children. I think that probably factors in. These parents are dealing with a huge emotional obstacle and might feel they have nothing to offer the professionals. She is going to an award ceremony with the whole school. So I will check out how many parents attend. I also wonder if public school makes a difference. It is in an area that is middle class but I would imagine if you can afford private preschool, you probably also can afford help, which would make it easier to volunteer.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 30, 2007 9:46 AM

I think the mommy-wars are real, and I have tried to avoid them by "copping out." I have one child and both my husband & I work, but at work I avoid conversations about staying at home/working/etc and since having a child, didn't seek out new "mommy" friends - I basically stuck with the women I have been friends with since college & beyond. I don't limit my child's interaction with other people, obviously, I just don't want to dip my toe in any pool (no pun intended) that's going to cause unnecessary angst. So, I guess, in the short term, at least, "copping out" of the mommy wars is how I deal with it.

Posted by: Copped out | April 30, 2007 9:48 AM

I have a new idea topic -- how about the fact that insurance companies charge more to insure women than men. There was an interesting editorial by Eleanor Smeal and the anniversary of the ERA in last week's Post, which argued that the ERA is still necessary and relevant(including to stop gender discrimination by insurance companies).

I'm a working mother and work in large part for health insurance coverage (much more expensive at my husband's work).

Posted by: Just Saying | April 30, 2007 09:40 AM

Could that be because it is more expensive to treat women due to pregnancy. My friend is an insurance agent and she says if you drop pregancy coverage, the price drops way down.

Posted by: adoptee | April 30, 2007 9:49 AM

Thanks for letting me know it's not all bliss ;)

In my ideal world, I would work part-time...honestly, I think I'd go nuts if I was home all the time. But alas, the world isn't "ideal." If you want my opinion...I wouldn't go back unless you really need the money.


Posted by: TO: NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 9:52 AM

"I have a new idea topic -- how about the fact that insurance companies charge more to insure women than men."

Obviously, you are not talking about auto insurance, especially for ages 16-25.

20 year old daughter with multiple speeding tickets still pays less insurance than 18 year old son with clean driving record. They have comparable vehicles.

Posted by: anon | April 30, 2007 9:53 AM

"This is one thing that exasperates many stay-at-home moms (and the families that love them) - why is financial security the only (or even most important) question?"

Gee, I've always been really worried about what exasperates SAHMs!!!!!!

Because you can't buy insurance for everything!

Spouses get can sick or injured (mentallly or otherwise), not enough to collect benefits/insurance, but just enough to keep them unemployed or underemployed for the rest of their lives.

Spouses hide assets under the radar and take off.

Then the SAHM can explain to her children why they are living in poverty.

Cause, yeah, poverty is a really BIG question!! And it sucks the most for the weak & helpless - kids and old people.

What an airhead!!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 9:53 AM

I think the Mommy wars idea is absurdly amplified (if not wholly created) by the media. And the sad thing is that these books that come out are not constructive. They only heighten tension and anger between SAHMs and working moms, where none might otherwise exist. Truth be told, I think most people don't give a crap if someone chooses to stay at home or not. And everybody justifies in their own mind whatever decision they made. These books make women think there is a debate/war going on about working versus staying home. I was watching this show "What about Bryan" with my wife. And the stereotypicaly depiction as stay at home moms as rude condescending women judging our working mom hero seemed absurd. "Desperate House Wives" had the same depiction a couple of seasons ago. Maybe I wasn't paying attention, but in recent years this seems to have become a very common plot device. And it just seems so contrived to me.

Posted by: Cliff | April 30, 2007 9:54 AM

I'm a single mom. My ex-husband left me for another woman. Being a working mom is not a personal choice, its a necessity. I'm sure its like that for the majority of woman.

Posted by: SingleMom in Bethesda | April 30, 2007 9:54 AM

I can't wait for the day we talk about the "Daddy Wars"!

Posted by: Feminist Mom | April 30, 2007 9:55 AM

"This is one thing that exasperates many stay-at-home moms (and the families that love them) - why is financial security the only (or even most important) question?"

It is certainly not the most important question - me personally, I'd say love and family are more important than finances in a heartbeat. But finances are still way up there - e.g. you're not doing your kids any favors if you end up having to support them all by yourself and not being able to.

I feel like I would really, really, really like being a SAHM indefinitely, 50s style, the whole nine yards. But "doing what you really love" isn't always the right thing to do, it seems to me. I can imagine there are plenty of working people out there - parents or not, sole breadwinners or not - who would really love to just play the guitar all day instead of going to work. Does this mean they should sacrifice a secure livlihood and even impoverish a family to do it?

I like the whole concept of Leslie Morgan Steiner's column "on balance", because it seems like in life most people have to balalnce doing what they really love and their spirital and family values with doing what they need to and working and achieving in a worldly way. I don't think women need to turn into 1950s style men, but I would also say that we need to pull our weight in the world and recognize that our decisions affect more than just ourselves, and make our decisions with the fullest information at our disposal and in all thoughtfulness - not just out of our hearts but our heads too!

Posted by: Groggie | April 30, 2007 9:55 AM

Spinach is green, killer weed too
I'm scarred for life now, how about you?
And I think to myself what a godawful blog

I see posts leaning left and posts to the right
Some post all day, some post at night
And I think to myself, what a godawful blog

Some people having children, some people asking why
Someone said feces, now watch the insults fly
I see trolls trading barbs, sayin' what I should do
Now I'm always saying, "STFU"

I see statistics flyin', I watch them grow
How Blog Stats does it, we'll never know
And I think to myself, what a godawful blog
Yes, I think to myself, what a godawful blog...

Oh blah

Posted by: Chris | April 30, 2007 9:55 AM

NewSAHM, you are so right about less stress when you are at home full time. I was a SAHM for 4 years and returned to work about a year ago, and life is quite hectic now. Happy, but hectic. I do wonder from time to time if the fact that our (my family's) quality of life is better when I don't work is worth quitting, but I pull a Scarlet O'Hara -- I'll think about that tomorrow.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 30, 2007 9:56 AM

I think becoming a parent brings out a lot of self doubt in a lot of people. I've seen very confident and competent people question every decision that they make when it comes to the things they are doing (or not doing) for their kids. I think this phenomenon drives the so-called "mommy wars" because once you convince yourself the choice you have made is right, you have also convinced yourself that the other choices are wrong.

But, not all mommies are in this war. I have friends who SAH and who WOH, we have get togethers and conversations about all sorts of things, not just our children. We all love our children and we benefit greatly from the various perspectives each mom brings to the group.

Posted by: MOMto3 | April 30, 2007 9:57 AM

Is it overblown by the media? Definitely! Heck, imo, Oprah has made millions off this so-called "war", championing those oh-so-important topics to those mothers who are free at 3pm to watch and believe such trash.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 9:57 AM

"Says someone who has no friends who went bankrupt, became homeless, and moved their entire family into Mom's basement. Pooh-poohing is a sin."

DCer,

cute snark - but totally divorced from reality. My wife and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this fall. We have two kids, own our own home on a 1/3rd acre lot, and have sent our older child to college this year.

My wife worked before our first child was born - she quit, in part because she was doing social work in rather dangerous low-income neighborhoods. (I was relatively comfortable with the job until one evening when we saw a story on the evening news about a woman who had talked her lover into killing her husband with an axe, and then stuffed the body into a closet - it turns out my wife had tried to sign the woman up to work with her in her home a couple of weeks before.)

Her staying home required some changes in our life. I bought a house almost as old as I am, and took a 90 minute commute, to make it affordable. We keep our cars on average for 13-15 years.

Yes, I'm insured. If I die, she'll eventually have to go back to work. But, she'll be able to pay off the mortgage and spend some time retraining. (She's insured also - if she'd died a few years ago, I'd have needed to pay for child care.)

DCer, gratuitiously insulting people you know nothing about is a sin also.

Posted by: Demos | April 30, 2007 10:02 AM

"I can't wait for the day we talk about the "Daddy Wars"!"

Feminist Mom, it's not going to happen. Men don't judge each other over this kind of stuff.

Posted by: Older Dad | April 30, 2007 10:04 AM

I do know that when I was a sahm my wohm sister kept trying to tell me to go back to work- that she *knew* I couldn't *possibly* be happy, that I wanted to go back to work, etc. When I went back to work, she was all smug as in, see, I knew I was right. My other sahm sister felt we were bonding when I was sahm and I'm not really sure what she thinks about my working (I think she partially thinks how much more wonderful her(abusive) dh is since she doesn't *have* to work). But the decision was only partially based on money.

I do understand bennetts point about what happens in case the sahp has to get a job (divorce death). But I also think that certain things can be planned for-i know plenty of marraiges where it seems likely people will get divorced-when I've spoken to some who have been, they say they knew something wasn't right all along but they ignored it. But- the person you marry who has certain values will have certain values always( like my bil who loves money above all else). There is some truth to her thoughts, but even if one is scared, there are ways tocounter that-insurance, savings in one name, etc, rather than changing what you do (ie go back to work when you do not want to) and doing it because you are scared.

Posted by: atlmom | April 30, 2007 10:06 AM

I was a SAHM for the first three years of DD life. I enjoyed it except for the SAHMs in the neighborhood. I grew tired of listening to neighborhood gossip, interior home design, and other girlie topics. When I had enough and thought that DD was ready for more pre-school time, I called my former employer and was re-hired as a part-time employee. I haven't regretted my decision one bit. My DD is now 11. I am financially secure knowing that I will have a pension, SS, and a healthy 401k when I retire in about 6 years. My husband is on the track to retire at the same time. Both of us will be in our mid-50's, with DD in college. I still work part-time and sure, it wasn't all fun and games, but I DO NOT miss talking about drapery fabrics!

Posted by: Part timer | April 30, 2007 10:08 AM

"I DO NOT miss talking about drapery fabrics!"

I'm a fulltime working mom and I would love to be home talking about drapery fabrics!!!! At least, give me a year or two...and I'll let you know if I tire of it then.

Posted by: TO Partimer | April 30, 2007 10:10 AM

The friend (a working gal with no kids) played devil's advocate and said Bennetts was probably exaggerating the financial risks of divorce, and long-term disability insurance as well as life insurance could cover me in the case that my husband died or was injured and couldn't work.

No, Bennetts is not exaggerating. It IS a risk, but if you are aware of it you can plan accordingly!

That's what brains are for, of course.

If taking a few months off isn't the end of your career, do it. If it will guarantee your family living in grandmom's basement, then don't.

If you can, at least take the 8 weeks. 12 if you can swing it.

Personally, I simply never wanted to be viewed as a dependent, so I never left the paid work force longer than my leave would cover post-partum. But that may not be best for you and your family.

Good luck!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 10:12 AM

Groggie,

I never said that women shouldn't work - many have to, and for others it's the smartest, most prudent choice. Just like all men don't have to work - for some, being a stay-at-home dad is the best choice.

But I do think we need to recognize that there are more considerations involved than the financial - and that in some circumstances this means one parent may rationally choose to stay home with the kids, just as in other circumstances a parent may choose not to accept the best-paying or most prestigious job.

I would have a lot more respect for Ms. Bennetts' point of view if she wrote about building the best, most fullfilling life for yourself and your family, rather than maximizing your financial security. I don't disagree with her because it doesn't fit some view I have of the role of women - I don't think her approach makes sense for men, either.

Posted by: Demos | April 30, 2007 10:13 AM

Boo--I am now considered an OLDER mom because I am on my late 30's! Dang. The kids are 10 and 13, so I guess it works out. I have worked out of my house for several years, albeit part time. I LOOK like a SAHM. In the summer, however, I get up early to work. I was one of the swim team moms and HATED it. Chasmasaur, that was a funny post. Things ARE different in the midwest. People talk to each other for one, and the word 'commute' is relatively unknown. Whenever we go back to visit relatives, we look at real estate and get excited--we could live in a fab house with no mortgage! But we love it here on the East Coast. We actually do take advantage of many of the opportunities. It is also much more diverse. The percentage of minorities in my school as a child was less than one percent. Even ten years ago when I was there the student body was largely white. I like that my kids can grow up in a fairly diverse area.

As far as I am concerned, the one mommy war is the one we have with ourselves. I am the one whose opinion counts. If my neighbor thinks I am lazy/uncaring if I don't work/work, that is her or his burden, not mine. I take ownership of my decisions. What is validating to me, besides the fact that these are MY choices, is the fact that my family--husband and two kids--is emotionally, physically and socially healthy. Bad mommy--it sounds like you understand completely.

Posted by: anon | April 30, 2007 10:16 AM

To bad mommy @ 9:44 am

>>>>I work. A ton. I have three kids, one autistic and one with ADD. I tell you, people are going to find a reason to judge me and feel superior regardless of whether I work or stay at home. I've decided not to take the bait when I can possibly avoid it. I think that more women would be well-advised to do the same.<<<<

Good for you! And I hope you get the support you need from friends, family and work.

I agree with you. This is not in your league, but an example, I hope, to those who stress over the smaller issues.

We're having a Kentucky Derby party this weekend (out here in Wisconsin, a rarity). I decided to make it a block party, and was surprised at the outcome - about half my neighbors can actually come.

Since yard work is just starting here, our yard is a little rough (we had a retaining wall put late last summer so the baby grass didn't take well in a few places before the snow started to fly). My husband is angsting, but I told him that the neighbors will understand we waited to patch holes until AFTER everyone was tromping all over our yard. They will appreciate not having to dodge baby-grass patches.

And for those neighbors with perfect yards who don't appreciate it? Well, we're being good neighbors for giving them something to feel superior about and to have some party conversation all built in ;)

The way I see it, if our hospitality, free food and free booze doesn't earn their goodwill, then scr*w 'em. Real friends understand. Same for the whole Mommy Wars thing. The people who actually matter will understand (or can be made to understand). Scr*w the rest of 'em.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | April 30, 2007 10:17 AM

I do not see that it is "infantalizing" adults to say "hey, have you thought about this risk in staying home or working (or whatever)." I think everyone should have full information before making a decision like this, wherever possible. That's just my opinion.

You can argue her tone was offensive, and I don't know as I haven't read the book. But, the fact is, many women do NOT think about the LONG TERM financial impacts in deciding to stay home. Why is it infantalizing to provide some food for thought? I'm constantly learning things that I don't know and that's ok with me.

So, I don't think the premise of her book is offensive. Her tone? Like, I say, I dont' know.

Posted by: JS | April 30, 2007 10:17 AM

"exaggerating the financial risks of divorce, and long-term disability insurance as well as life insurance could cover me in the case that my husband died or was injured and couldn't work."

No, because your husband could commit suicide and you might not be able to collect the life insurance.

Or, your husband could be be injured, but not enough to collect benefits, but enough to keep him from finding a decent job.

The people who understand risk are the ones who have had their lives collapse because of depending on one person for financial survival.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 10:19 AM

I think financial security isn't the most important thing to most people, until or unless they don't have it. That is why I must give Bennett her due. Every woman needs to be able to paddle for herself.

I never felt their were "wars", just that there were time issues that separated working from non-working Moms. I think the war aspect of it is what the media harps on because it makes good copy.

In my little circle the son of the stay-at-home Mom dropped out of school after several stints in a juvie place and is finding himself traveling around in a merry-bus. The son of the working Mom is going for his MBA. Don't know who is happier or better off. Kids have a way of being themselves despite their parents. The things we do as parents don't always make so much difference. Lucky for both kids they have roofs to return to.

Posted by: RoseG | April 30, 2007 10:19 AM

Well, here is the mommy war again. My sister in law is a SAHM. She has kids aged 12-5. The youngest is almost 6 and was kept out of kindergarten because she didn't want to get a job (her words). My brother in law is about to get laid off and she still isn't looking for a job. Mind you he works two other jobs and is about ready to die from the stress, but she really doesn't care. I see her like 4 times a year and she always has something snarky to say to me, I could say stuff back, but why bother. My kid is healthy and happy and I don't worry about money, so living well is really the best revenge.

The only other war I have is with the SAHM who park in front of my house and block my drive way while waiting for the bus. Once a week, I get in my car and make them move, just because they shouldn't be blocking the road. That is the extent of my mommy war.

Posted by: scarry | April 30, 2007 10:19 AM

All things being equal and operating under the assumption that there is a choice...

Its hard for us to respect each others choices because, in order to survive our own individual choice (staying at home vs. working), we have to be invested in it. To be invested in our own choices, we have to believe that we are making the RIGHT choice, convincing ourselves of the reasons that make that choice RIGHT. The choice we didn't make is, therefore, by definition is the WRONG choice.

Posted by: Fridays Off | April 30, 2007 10:19 AM

To anon @ 10:16 AM

Yeah, we do miss the cultural diversity thing. Our little town is 97% Caucasian. Blows my NYC/DC raised mind.

We figure if/once we have a child, there will be many trips into the nearby bigger cities or back East to visit family. Because if one more person responds to my excitement over a new Tapas restaurant opening up to "topless? why would you want to eat at a topless joint?" I may have to just go home and weep for a few hours...

Posted by: Chasmosaur | April 30, 2007 10:21 AM

"I do not see that it is "infantalizing" adults to say "hey, have you thought about this risk in staying home or working (or whatever)." I think everyone should have full information before making a decision like this, wherever possible. That's just my opinion."

But that's not what she said. She said, categorically, that it's a mistake and women should not do it. Not "have you thought about it," or "everyone should be aware of," or "it's important to consider," or "it is often difficult to," or "in most circumstances," but that it's a mistake, a waste of women's lives, and that they shouldn't do it.

Is the tone of that offensive? Yes. The substance is arrogant, condescending and obnoxious also. And, in my opinion, just plain wrong. No one solution (work full time, work part-time, stay home) fits for all moms.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 10:23 AM

"The people who understand risk are the ones who have had their lives collapse because of depending on one person for financial survival."

It's tragic whenever someone is ruined. But "financial survival" doesn't mean that both parents have to both work non-stop through their entire adult lives. Is it the best way to die with the most money in the bank? Sure - but who cares? Just because I'm home doesn't mean I will never be able to work again. It may reduce my future earnings potential - but that's fine. If we're talking about paying the bills if my spouse gets sick or dies, I can do it. It may require scaling back a bit - but that's not the same thing as having our lives "collapse" (unless we're messed up enough to think that an upper-middle class suburban lifestyle that keeps up with the Jones' is necessary for a meaningful life).

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 10:29 AM

Is it just me, or are people too defensive? Has PC caught on so much that people think that nothing should offend them--that being offended infringes on their rights or something? I have lots of opinions. Some of them can be offensive. I keep my mouth shut on the really bad ones, but am I really not allowed to say that staying at home is not the smartest financial move? An educated writer can't have that opinion and back it up with fact out of the fear that she'll offend SAHMs?

People offend me; I offend people. The key (which it seems that most people on this board have figured out) is to grow a thick skin and be comfortable with your choices.

Some people don't think they are risking their family's finances by staying at home. Some people do. Some people like sky diving and driving without seat belts. Some people would much rather avoid the inherent risks of those actions.

My opinion is that women should always be ready to support themselves if the worst should happen. I don't think kids need a parent with them 24/7. I think that the only way to get rid of the gender gap is for women to be have an equal showing in the workforce.

But who cares what I think?

Posted by: Meesh | April 30, 2007 10:29 AM

I'm amazed that with all this talk about financial security only coming with working- no one has mentioned that in the DC area, and other urban/suburban areas like it, the costs of a second spouse working can actually easily eclipse any income generated. Adding together the cost of child care for one child, commuting costs, work clothes, lunches out and other incidentals, a spouse making less than a median income for the area can easily just be breaking even and actually just working so that someone else can raise your child. Sure, you're contributing to the company and some people just really like to work, so its still a personal choice- but to say that a second income automatically equals a secure financial future for yourself and your family is just silly! Sure, some people in this area can make enough to clear the costs but the gain is small and only incrementally increases. Add two or more children to the child care costs.... In the end it has to be a decision based on considering a wide variety of issues. I currently make enough to clear child care costs and come out slightly ahead, but to me, I don't want to. It's far more important to me to stay at home with my children. I have a friend though who loves her job. She has reliable child care and good for her! She'd be miserable without her job- so I applaud her for finding a way to keep it. As for this "you're at financial risk by taking the time away"- sure I could get divorced but I think I know my situation better than you- and I see no indication of it. Its wrong to patronize these women and assume they don't know enough about their family, marriage and situation in life to realize what type of a risk this is. I see just as much risk in handing my child to someone else to bring up 80% of their waking hours. Its choosing which risks you're comfortable with and what you can afford and all of these "do it my way" types should just mind their own families and businesses!

Posted by: anon | April 30, 2007 10:29 AM

To newsahm. I am definitely less stressed since I went back to work. Dh helps out more and there's more money and so it makes things *so* mich less stressful. It took almost four years for me to get that stressed out, but it did happen and I'm *so* happy to be back to work.

Posted by: atlmom | April 30, 2007 10:31 AM

Why is there such a focus on financial saving versus marriage saving? It's like a pre-nup - always assuming for the worst - I must get a job in case my husband turns out to be a cheater, liar, sloth, etc etc. Shouldn't those concerns have come to mind before having kids? If you want to work because you want to work, then work. If you want to work bc you want to live large, than work. If you have to work because that is how things are, then work. If you want to stay home, and can, then stay home. I choose to stay home because it is what is best for me and my husband and our kids. And because we are fortunate enough that I can. I work pt from home to make a little extra to help things out, but my first priority is my marriage, my second my kids. Planning in case the person with whom I've had the kids and whom I love turns out to be someone else... well that seems like you are preparing for the inevitable and pre-supposing it will happen. I'm not dumb, or blind, I know that the worse can happen, but I am going to put every bit of my energy into helping it NOT to happen, rather than helping it TO happen.

Posted by: wondering | April 30, 2007 10:33 AM

Are Dad's who are in the car 3 hours a day and in the office at least 8 hours a day happy? I loved staying at home with my daughter, but I'd rather put her in at least part time daycare to take some of that strain off my husband. It turns out he works PT, I work FT, and the baby is in daycare PT, so we're happy. I'm not in the car 3 hours a day, a nice bonus, though I'd rather work PT. I just think we forget about the dad's happiness.

We think about moving from here all the time so we can both work less than FT. We're committing to 2 more years before we head south.

Rather than be angry with or ugly to SAHMs, I'm just envious. We should all be so lucky to be able to make that choice. I'm sure there are plenty of reasons to like or dislike SAHMs beyond their work status.

Posted by: atb | April 30, 2007 10:34 AM

I agree that the decision to have a parent stay at home is a personal family decision. I also agree that the decision to stay at home should involve more then just money. But I do wonder (and not passive aggressive) if professional women factor in all the financial benefits of working. People often site the cost of day care, commuting, work incidentals versus their salary. But what you often don't hear or hear (depending on who is making the argument)the financial benefit or loss of retirement. Granted at a minimum wage or low wage job this may be irrelevant. But in a lot of professional jobs, you are also looking at loss or gain in SS income, retirment 401K matching, and pension (if appropriate). My guess in order for it to be cost effective to work, you need to make at least twice as much as child care plus retirement benefits. For professional people, that difference is often 3 or 4 times the cost of child care plus retirement benefits. When you think about losing a million dollars or more in retirement benefits, is it still profitable to quit? Of course for so people, the money is of no importance based on values or spouses income. It is just something to think about when you are making those calculations.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 30, 2007 10:37 AM

The thing that always strikes me about these discussions is that while the "criticism" of the SAHMs focuses on the impact on THEM (reduced salary later, difficulty entering the job market, other financial implications), the criticisms of the working-outside-home moms focuses on how terrible it is for the children. I think the latter type of criticism is much more judgmental and accusatory than the former. If the SAHMs were truly so concerned about the children of the working moms, they would be more than willing to do whatever they could to help. (Posted by a parent with a grown child)

Posted by: anon | April 30, 2007 10:37 AM

Fridays Off (10:19 a.m.) is on the money in that the real issue most moms struggle with is convincing themselves that the decision they have made, at whatever point in time, is the 'right' one, given the endless messages from all sectors that no no matter what or how much moms do, it is never going to be 'right' or 'enough'. However, no matter what my personal opinion is, I have always tried diligently to keep it a personal opinion and to take people as they come, and treat them fairly and honestly. My problem, however, both as a SAHM and a WOHM, has been folks who seem to think that the 'rightness' of their choices means that they have can demand assisitance from someone who has made the other, 'not right" choice. When I was a SAHM, I resented WOHM moms who felt I had no right to say no when they tried to dump their kids on me during snow days; as a WOHM, I resent co-workers who leave me holding the bag while they are constantly absent for one child related crisis after another.

Posted by: mommy war vet | April 30, 2007 10:39 AM

"If we're talking about paying the bills if my spouse gets sick or dies, I can do it"

Really? Who would take care of your spouse and kids if your spouse couldn't while you were at work? How would you pay for that care? How would you would pay for your medical coverage if your spouse lost theirs?

Must be nice to be so confident about the future.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 10:40 AM

The Mommy Wars are internal. Even in the suburbs ;o) - nobody can make you feel bad about your decision if you're at peace with it yourself.

NewSAHM - I agree completely with your posts about stress levels. It's not so much that the chores are spread out (I had an extremely busy weekend with kid stuff and did laundry and grocery shopping yesterday), but that the down time is spread out. I don't feel like I have to wait all week for the weekend so I can de-stress and relax like I did when I was working

Posted by: momof4 | April 30, 2007 10:41 AM

1. Savings in wife's name? What would the husband think about such planning for divorce, especially if the wife doesn't bring income?
2. Missing 5 years of work: compound interest makes it irrevocable. Skills deteriorate. Employers take advantage of your weak bargaining position. Might end up being a burden on your adult kids or on society.
3. Part time work is the worst: have to prove youself every day, and end up working more than full-time employees.
4. Kids on the bus to your kid: "your mom is fat". Your own kid when she comes home: "what did you do all day?"
5. Forget all of the above if you have at least $2 mln wisely invested in your name at 10% annual return. If your money works, you don't have to.

Posted by: Don't stay at home if you don't have a trust fund | April 30, 2007 10:43 AM

There are some seriously scared people out there! We CAN'T be prepared for every possilbe horrible scenario! If you lived like that, you couldn't get in a car, because that's likely the biggest danger in your life. All you can do is be as smart as possible. And sometimes you'll come up short and have to get creative. Life's scary, but oh what a ride.

Posted by: atb | April 30, 2007 10:43 AM

I'm in the midst of reading The Feminine Mistake and I do find the tone shrill and
I'm so far (about 1/3 in) really really disappointed in it.

So far it presents some macro-stats - women's participation in the workforce declining slightly; okay but I believe MEN'S participation has too because of higher unemployment rates PLUS, hello, the baby boomers starting to get towards retirement ages.

And then it has interviews with people where she describes the SAHMs in really nasty ways. I've been trying to figure out why she doesn't comment on the working women she interviewed's wardrobes, when she talks about the SAHMs clothes, etc. Can I say again that I am brutally disappointed?

I'm still waiting for the analysis in between. I'm not finding much of any, except that SAHMs are self-deluded and part-time working moms (like me) only just slightly less so. And I am a thinking person and very interested in this and fairly open to looking at why the pressure to stay home was on me, as the woman/lesser earner and what I should do about it going forward.

I do think there is a huge internal war, for me. I mommy-tracked myself at work and I am sometimes quite glad I did because our family has gained. But I do sometimes feel that all the time to sniff the roses now, as wonderful as it is - and it is - may haunt me later. I'm prepared to deal with that, and have planned financially, but I still am HUNGRY to look at it from different perspectives. ESPECIALLY as I think about whether I want to have another child or what.

But the Mommy Wars in the media hasn't helped really because it totally doesn't reflect the people I know or me. It lacks in complexity: SAHM-good, or SAHM-bad and not something like "here's the good, here's the bad, here are the risks, and here are the benefits."

Anyways this was very timely!

Posted by: Shandra | April 30, 2007 10:45 AM

The word "media" appeared in 861 posts by 446 different contributors of this blog.

Our top 10 concerned with outside sources listed below:

9 Emily
9 WorkingMomX
10 pATRICK
11 Father of 4
11 Leslie
12 cmac
13 foamgnome
13 Laura
13 Megan
14 KB
15 Megan's Neighbor

I've become hideously boring.

Posted by: Blog Stats | April 30, 2007 10:47 AM

"If the SAHMs were truly so concerned about the children of the working moms, they would be more than willing to do whatever they could to help."

Since I'm one of the people who thinks that children should be at the top of the list of considerations for whether to SAH or not - not being snarky but simply a curious/honest question - what are we supposed to do to help? Do you mean doing things like offering to pick up their kids from school/activities? Or provide childcare? Or go scrub their toilets because we have more time to do it?

Posted by: momof4 | April 30, 2007 10:47 AM

I am reading Bennett's book now and I think she is 100% on the mark and don't find her tone to be condescending in the least. Then again, I am the embodiment of the exact point she's trying to make; raised by a stay-home mom to find a husband to support me, I did just that and gave up my career to stay home with my kids for eight years, only to now end up divorced and having to scramble to re-establish myself in the workplace and earn enough to support myself and my kids. Even though I was married for almost 14 years, worked while my husband took his sweet time earning his PhD for 10 years without earning more than $13,000 a year during that whole time, and shouldered almost all child-rearing and domestic responsibilities, my ex walked away with the house, the paid-off car, and his six-figure salary. Meanwhile, I make about 30% of what he makes, got the car with five years of payments left, and am renting a townhouse I can barely afford--while starting back at the bottom rung of the career ladder.

Bennett's tone may be harsh, but I believe it has to be to get women who are firmly entrenched in their belief that they can always count on their husbands to support them and their kids to at least be aware of the realities that they may well encounter-- such as divorce--that could drastically affect their lives. I know if I had read this book a few years ago when I was doing what I thought was best for my kids and my family by staying home full-time I would have scoffed and been enraged at her seeming to slam the notion of raising one's kids instead of sticking them in daycare, but ultimately, in the end she was right. I don't know that I would have done anything differently, but I think this is an issue that every woman should give careful consideration to when weighing the pros and cons of walking away from a career to be home with her kids.

Posted by: Maggie | April 30, 2007 10:47 AM

Do you say "shame on you" to all the other self-help or advice book writers? "Shame" on someone for writing a healthy eating, or personal finance, or find your inner happiness book? Do you say "shame" to writers who try to debunk conventional wisdom and offer different perspectives?

Given the discusson on this blog about post-nuptual agreements and on the costs of childcare vs working, it was pretty obvious that most of us aren't financially savvy and didn't know about all the different ways to look at the issue.

Someone raising those points shouldn't be shamed. And if you're that senstive to someone's "tone" I don't know how you manage to read the web, watch TV, or walk down the streets!

********
Groggy said:
"I read Leslie Bennetts book, and I don't get the impression she is trying to bash SAHMs in any way. She is trying to rescue and save them from danger of financial disaster."

What incredible condescension. Infantilizing adults (who need "rescue"!!) because they've made a quite common and personal decision based on their own needs, financial situation and relationship (things unknown to you or Bennetts) is the height of arrogance. Shame on her and shame on you.

Posted by: Fran | April 30, 2007 09:09 AM

Posted by: to Fran | April 30, 2007 10:49 AM

What a luxury it is to debate this issue while millions of people worldwide figure out how they will survive another day. I'd like to raise two issues equally as confounding as the mommy wars: People who work out in jeans and people who refuse to use their blinkers on their cars.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 30, 2007 10:52 AM

" I keep my mouth shut on the really bad ones, but am I really not allowed to say that staying at home is not the smartest financial move? An educated writer can't have that opinion and back it up with fact out of the fear that she'll offend SAHMs? "

Meesh,
Of course you have that right (and I suspect you could do it as well or better than Ms. Bennetts). The difference is that you (I believe) would be very unlikely to say that staying home with the kids is always a mistake, and that women simply shouldn't do it. You'd also be more effective - my wife picked up Ms. Bennetts book at a Borders a couple of days ago, and by the time she'd read the the inside of the dust cover, she was completely furious with her. That book is unlikely to reach many women who don't already agree with Ms. Bennetts.

On the other hand, my wife handles most of our finances, and is very concerned about things like college savings, retirement savings, life insurance, and what would happen were I to get sick or die. A book about smart financial choices for women would definitely interest her. Talking about when it make sense to go back to work, and how, would interest her.

The problem with red meat is that red meat for some is almost always a red flag for others.

Posted by: Older Dad | April 30, 2007 10:53 AM

Oh I also wanted to say that I did find some of the financial analysis okay (not great) in the book - but I did find the idea that:

job = security

was way overblown. Unless that was matched with a) savings and b) continuous education.

Maybe it's just having gone through the dot com bust and then the 9/11 travel industry collapse, but people who have worked hard and kept their skills current still end up at financial risk in some sectors. The auto industry (and some related advertising, since auto advertising is huge) is going through this now.

I worked for a social service agency that did employment counselling and I can say anecdotally that sometimes people who are at middle management levels - the jobs Bennetts would have women aspire to - in almost any field are often much more at risk than lesser-paid part timers who aggressively continue to develop their skills.

Because the part timers often know how to get work, and keep on top of that, where the managers sometimes are too busy managing to do that and end up in total shock when they are downsized and find the actual networking and searching extremely hard to do.

For our family living on one income (first saving the other, and now not entirely needing it) has been way smarter than getting into a two-income-requiring mortgage, etc., even when it meant a fixer-upper and moving up the property ladder gradually. Soooooo I guess I have to say that although I agree that a gap is a financial risk, the idea that a job definitively negates that risk is really anathema to me.

All of these complexities are things that I would like to see discussed in terms of work and life balance, rather than diatribes on denial.

Posted by: Shandra | April 30, 2007 10:54 AM

I worked all the years before I had kids and for the entire time my son was in elementary school. When my son was young I mostly worked part-time. I paid for daycare, parking, clothes, etc. Because I was part-time the benefits weren't that huge. My time was being invested in short-term profits that went to pay for family expenses.

While I worked in the public sector, my husband worked in the private sector. The truth is that he could pull in a bonus that was worth more than my entire year's salary. The decision for me to stay home went hand-in-hand with him taking on more responsibility at work and bringing home more money. We also made that decision after we'd put enough money aside to create a cushion during difficult times.

Financially, our family is better of with me investing my time directly to my family. That's not the case with lots of people but it is our reality.

Posted by: soccermom | April 30, 2007 10:56 AM

Can I ask a question? WRT the "mommy wars," particularly as viewed through this blog, working vs. staying at home debate often devolves to the "it's my choice - isn't that what the feminist movement was all about, choice?" tangent. If it is truly a "choice," then why would stat at home women feel entitled to ask their husbands to fully fund their 401K/IRAs, etc.? Because it seems like women who use this argument of choosing to stay home say it makes their lives better, it's what they want to do, etc. - so why should the husband feel the need to set up a bank account for her?

Posted by: question | April 30, 2007 10:57 AM

I'm sure I'm not the only person who was smart about marriage and kids. I would be utterly and completely blindsided if I found out my husband was anything but committed to me and our child. We've got insurance to handle the other eventualities. People who get divorced always come out with I-should-have-known-better stories that generally tell of their spouse's selfishness, greediness, pettiness, etc. My husband isn't perfect and neither am I, but I'm quite confident there is no cancer knawing away at my marriage. How many of us go to weddings placing bets on how long it will last, and praying they don't bring kids into their mess? Maybe they don't have dads like me, but there was no way I was going to enter into that kind of marriage without hearing an earful from my family.

Posted by: atb | April 30, 2007 10:58 AM

"These women are for the most part SKINNY...they all work out at 5:00am at Fitness First...and they're very cliquey. "

So true....

I am a working mom who lives in Bethesda, MD. One thing I would also add is that these SAHMs are wealthy.

I did not read Leslie Bennett's book, but I read her recent online interview in the Post and also the links which Leslie Steiner had provided as part of this blog. IMHO, from a very narrow PRACTICAL perspective, she is 100% right, BUT from emotional perspective (and this is from somebody who went back to work after a "generous" 3.5 months maternity leave) she ignores our emotional well-being. It was extremely hard for me to leave my babies in somebody else's care, even the best care. I felt horrible about it and torn and emotional. But I did what Bennetts prescribed, did not waste my education or my career, and went back to work. Even being a very involved mother on evenings and weekends did not compensate for missing their first words or steps or any other funny moments they had shared with a caregiver and not me.

Now, a few years later, when my kids are in preschool, I feel better about my decision to stay in the workforce. I like being a 50% contributor to our family's finances and I also like having an identity other than being somebody's else mother. PLEASE DON'T GANG UP ON THIS, THIS IS JUST HOW I FEEL ABOUT MYSELF, NO JUDGEMENT PASSED ON OTHERS.

Final comments: I think the major drawback of Bennetts book and Hirshman's book is they completely ignore the kind of work environment they are sending the working mothers into. Bennetts and Hirshman would have been better off by trying to change corporate American attitude that if you leave at 5 pm you are lacking a committment to the job. Or maybe it's a just a Washington DC/NYC attidute judging from the comments........

Posted by: my 2 cents | April 30, 2007 10:58 AM

"I'd like to raise two issues equally as confounding as the mommy wars: People who work out in jeans and people who refuse to use their blinkers on their cars."

Moxiemom, while I have not encountered the former, the latter truly is confounding! What is it with people not using their turn signal? It is a courtesy, that sadly, is not common. Also, please put down the cell phone before turning or sliding across three lanes of traffic. But if you give me a heads up by signaling, I can at least dodge...

Posted by: Chris | April 30, 2007 10:58 AM

I another question for eveyone is this:
Why does it matter who works and who stays home? It doesn't affect me in the least if my sister in law doesn't work. It doesn't affect her that I do. I geuss I just don't know what the big deal is.

Posted by: scarry | April 30, 2007 10:59 AM

That's exactly the attitude that will give SAHMs a bad rep -- nobody is asking you to scrub toilets, that's not the issue! The fact is that when SAHMs criticize moms who work outside the home, it's some variant of "how awful for your kids!" When moms who work outside the home criticize SAHMs, it's some variant of "aren't you worried about the finances?" It's much nastier to allege that someone's choices are hurting her kids than to allege that someone's choices are hurting her bank account.

And yes, perhaps you could offer to pick up someone's kids, invite them over after school, etc. Not that you have any obligation to, but if you're really so concerned about a working mom's choices having a bad impact on her children, I would think that you would be willing to take action in the children's interest.

Posted by: momof4 | April 30, 2007 10:59 AM

"Really? Who would take care of your spouse and kids if your spouse couldn't while you were at work? How would you pay for that care? How would you would pay for your medical coverage if your spouse lost theirs? Must be nice to be so confident about the future."

Get off it. Who would take care of the kids had I chosen to have a child but not to get married? Plenty of women do that. Tough, not so smart - but they manage.

Besides, you ask "So confident?" I say "So Prepared." We have life insurance, disability insurance, long-term care insurance, a 401(k) with the equivalent of two-and-a-half year's of my husband's annual income in it, and about twice that in other savings and investments.

Not everyone who stays at home is a fool (and not everyone who goes to work is a female Solomon).

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 11:00 AM

Yet more "us vs. them"...yawn is right.

Posted by: JBK111 | April 30, 2007 11:01 AM

Sorry, the last post by "momof4" was intended to be a response to "momof4"'s earlier post.

Posted by: anon | April 30, 2007 11:01 AM

""I can't wait for the day we talk about the "Daddy Wars"!"
Feminist Mom, it's not going to happen. Men don't judge each other over this kind of stuff."

That's right! Men judge each other on their hair or lack of hair, their income, their cars, their lawns, their gadgets, their wives, their homes, and their portfolios!

Smugness aside, judgement comes from judgemental people, regardless of gender. I know lots of women who do not judge each other (I don't know that I'd be friends with ones who did). I also know men who constantly compare their stocks and brag about their boats.

Being catty and judgemental is not restricted to women.

That being said, the day that men are judged by their ability to raise a child is the day that men will have Daddy Wars.

To the people like "wondering," planning for possible negative events does not magically make the events occur. If you equate women working outside the home and sending kids to daycare with marital suicide, then of course being a SAHM is best for you. In reality, marriages are secure with two working spouses and kids can thrive in day care. Your way can be best for you, but saying that the other way is will lead to divorce is, well, stupid.

Posted by: Meesh | April 30, 2007 11:02 AM

disclaimer: I've never wagered at a wedding where I thought it was doomed to fail. I have talked long and hard with friends who have decided to marry "poorly," though.

Posted by: atb | April 30, 2007 11:05 AM

I confess that I haven't read the book -- but I have a question for anyone who has.
If the main reason women should ALWAYS work full-time so that they'll always have enough money to pay for health insurance, then does this mean that only AMERICAN women should always have to work full-time (since in other countries, health care and college educations are provided by the government)? Does she think all the European women should have to work full-time, too? Or just the Americans? Because if it's just the Americans, then I for one can think of another solution . .

Posted by: Armchair Mom | April 30, 2007 11:06 AM

"And yes, perhaps you could offer to pick up someone's kids, invite them over after school, etc. Not that you have any obligation to, but if you're really so concerned about a working mom's choices having a bad impact on her children, I would think that you would be willing to take action in the children's interest."

Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. Don't complain about it, either. But how does any of this really change the discussion? My kids have always come home to a parent, while many of their friends' have been latchkey kids. I've been able to supervise them, make sure the homework's done, watch what they're getting into on the internet, transport them to drama, school clubs, sports, teach them to garden, teach them to cook, etc.

Are the other women bad moms because they work? No. But is it unreasonable for me to say that some of the things I've done have been good for my kids?

No.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 11:07 AM

Question-- it is in the best interst for the husband to do this if it is in the best interest of the family in general to do this. PResuming that the husband and wife are in a partnership, they will decide what works best for their family and make decisions accordingly. this isn't always the case-- I'm sure sometimes the husband insists that the wife stay at home and sometimes the wife insists that she stay at home, but I'd venture that the majority of the time, in this country at least, it is a decision that both parties agree to. My husband didn't do any of that stuff while I was a stay at home mom because I had plenty of my own money to draw off of, but i could see how if that weren't the case, my husband would have shared the money he was earning with me -- because that is the right thing to do-- both parties are making sacrifices and doing what is best for the family unit, not just what is best for them as an individual.

Now perhaps women don't say "I am doing this because it is what is best for my family" and instead say "I am doing what is best for me", even though both are probably true because they are less likely to be considered judgmental of other peoples choices AND less likely to be considered mere pawns of their husband's desires by spinning it as something they are doing just for themselves. I've used both methods of describing my choice-- just depends on the circumstances.

Posted by: Jen | April 30, 2007 11:08 AM

To newsahm: I also meant to say: but everyone is different. And I do imagine being a sahm again, then the reality hits.

Posted by: atlmom | April 30, 2007 11:08 AM

"If it is truly a "choice," then why would stat at home women feel entitled to ask their husbands to fully fund their 401K/IRAs, etc.? Because it seems like women who use this argument of choosing to stay home say it makes their lives better, it's what they want to do, etc. - so why should the husband feel the need to set up a bank account for her?"

Well we do these things because our income is FAMILY income. We did it when we were both working full time but I was earning less; then we bought my husband an expensive motorcycle he couldn't afford just on his income. Yeesh.

Posted by: Shandra | April 30, 2007 11:08 AM

question writes- "If it is truly a "choice," then why would stat at home women feel entitled to ask their husbands to fully fund their 401K/IRAs, etc.? Because it seems like women who use this argument of choosing to stay home say it makes their lives better, it's what they want to do, etc. - so why should the husband feel the need to set up a bank account for her?"

The answer- maybe because they're a family! Families are a unit and they take care of each member. The spouse who works is providing money for everyone, the stay at home spouse is providing the home environment and raising the children. Why wouldn't the "husband" set up something to preserve this? Feminism is about valuing not that women should work but that women should have the CHOICE to work. Where did we go so far astray as to try to take that choice away? I don't think anyone here could really believe that choosing to have a parent stay at home was an issue decided by only one person. I feel sorry for people who have become so jaded as to feel that every family is a time bomb awaiting destruction. If the family makes a decision to have a stay at home parent, everyone in the family works to make that situation safe and planned for. If the family chooses to have two working parents, the family plans accordingly and makes sure people can pick up the children and be home if they need to be. Why WOULDN'T the husband do what's best for the family would be my question.

Posted by: anon | April 30, 2007 11:09 AM

Meesh, I was responding to the book, which predicates its whole argument on the fact that women must work because the worst is likely to happen and they should be prepared. I did not say that "the other way will lead to divorce" nor did I "equate women working outside the home and sending kids to daycare with marital suicide", what I said is why is there not more discussion on marriage saving than financial saving. Bennetts argument is that finances are king - nowhere does she discuss how working (or any) women, or couples, could work to make sure their marriage works, regardless of who does or does not work outside the home. She focuses on the seeming inevitability of divorce/cheating/marriage-gone-wrong. I think I made it clear in my message that I think choice is optimal for everyone, but I "wonder" why there is so much talk on the potential negatives and so little on how to make what is already work.

Posted by: Wondering | April 30, 2007 11:10 AM

As today's official Leslie Bennett's spokeswoman (ha), I'd like to say that she also addresses the argument made by an anonymous poster above about how the expense of daycare makes it not worth it to work. The thing is, even if you're not coming out ahead in the preschool years, not only are you putting money into retirement but you also keep your job (hello!) and keep advancing.

Me for example - I'm due w/a baby in August, and about to get promoted to GS-9 in my government job (c. $45K a year), due to finishing a masters degree. If I take three years out of the job market, I have no guarantee that I'll be able to get back into federal government work, and a private sector entry-level job I could get after a three-year hiatus would probably be in the $35K to $40K range.

But, if I hang on to my job, within three years I'll could be a GS-12 making $65K a year or something like that, and I'm assured of the good government benefits that go with that particular job.

So even if I'm paying $1700 a month for infant daycare (like my coworker who just had a baby) and netting $2500 a month, which works out to me making $5 an hour, it still seems like there are huge advantages to staying in my job.

And it's not about luxuries either. What if I leave my job, and after three years as I'm starting to look for a new job, my husband suddenly becomes disabled and can't work any more? I'm then trying to support three people on maybe as little as $35K a year. My husband and I have been good savers and have socked away about $150,000 between us in savings and home equity, apart from our retirement accounts.

But if neither of has a job, how long is $150,000 going to last? Maybe three years, max - and that means slim living in the DC area.

And what about the person who only has a bachelor's degree in a humanities subject (my story if weren't getting a masters), has been out of the job market for five years, and has three pre-school aged kids? She might luck out and get a $40K a year job, and she's bringing home maybe a little over $2000 a month, and she's probably paying $1500 a month for daycare for three kids. Even if she and her spouse (assuming the spouse is still there) having a good chunk of savings to fall back on them, they will burn through them pretty quickly.

The math is pretty scary!!

Posted by: Groggie | April 30, 2007 11:11 AM

"Feminism is about valuing not that women should work but that women should have the CHOICE to work."

But only if the man can make the same choice.

Posted by: atb | April 30, 2007 11:12 AM

To scarry re: "Why does it matter who works and who stays home? It doesn't affect me in the least if my sister in law doesn't work. It doesn't affect her that I do. I geuss I just don't know what the big deal is." I can highlight some meta-impacts of the decision of women (particularly well-educated women) to stay at home (* please note this is not to say women should be driven into the workforce! I'm just noting some of the widespread effects of stay at home motherhood. I am sure corresponding reasons/effects exist for working moms)
1. If you and your sister do not work, it could contribute to a long term effect of the prospects of your daughters going into the workforce and having to deal with the mentality of why train/put significant resources into your professional development if you're just going to leave, anyway?
2. If women leave the workforce in significant numbers, it could contribute to the decrease in people remaining in the workforce to try and make the environment better for balance of all stripes because, for example, men or women with stay at home spouses have little incentive to change their professional environment if they have SAHPs to take care of "everything else."
3. It could confuse your offspring because, as all parents know, kids learn much more from watching their parents actions than their words (i.e. "do as I say, not what I do," with regards to - "you can be anything you want! You can work and have a family! I couldn't do it...but you can.....")
Someone is inevitably going to play a cute semantic game with this posting and say "Yes, all of these things COULD happen, but I don't live my life and the life of my family for some social cause." I just wanted to point out that staying home DOES have a meta-effect on the workplace, and particularly women's long-term prospects. I think the most productive work/staying home debates focus on comparing and contrasting these effects (of which I'm sure there are for working, too) - instead of saying "What does MY staying at home/working to do anyone else?" Each decision carries with it impacts that include your own family and expand beyond it, and those are the kinds of conversations we should focus on.

Posted by: Answer | April 30, 2007 11:13 AM

"Feminism is about valuing not that women should work but that women should have the CHOICE to work"

You are correct, but.....

This is just my opinion and I am sure that someone is going to disagree, but I don't get this feeling from a lot of feminists that I know or I see on the news. That is why I can't and won't label myself a feminist. I can't stand the all or nothing mentality of doing it for the greater good that some of these women have. The greater good can wait until after I raise my children because honestly, they are the only people I am responsible for.

If a bunch of women opt out I don't see how it affects me. I will keep plugging along and doing my thing at work and at home. What other women do does not affect what I do. Some feminists can't see that.

Posted by: scarry | April 30, 2007 11:14 AM

"Are the other women bad moms because they work? No. But is it unreasonable for me to say that some of the things I've done have been good for my kids?"

You're missing the point, and reversing the allegation -- the problem is SAHMs alleging that what working moms do is BAD for their kids. Get the difference? Can't you pat yourself on the back w/o lashing out at someone else?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 11:15 AM

to atb
"But only if the man can make the same choice."

I agree wholeheartedly. I'm should have mentioned that either parent's decision to stay home would lead to the same family choices. I was responding to the "husband funding the wife" thread and didn't open the discussion further. Dad's should get the choice too!

Posted by: anon | April 30, 2007 11:17 AM

"That's right! Men judge each other on their hair or lack of hair, their income, their cars, their lawns, their gadgets, their wives, their homes, and their portfolios!"

There's more to it than that. Men are competitive, but in different ways than women. We tend to socialize differently, and to care less about other men's choices.

So sure, we may go all macho about how much we make, how big our backyard grill is, how fast our car is, or how much we can bench press - but married men don't tend to think that bachelors are somehow implying that they made the wrong choice. Men who retire early don't think that men who keep on working are looking down on them. Dads don't wage war with non-dads. Corporate executives don't second-guess their career choices because the adventure guides made a different choice.

I think we're either by nature, or by nurture, marginally less cliquish.

Posted by: Older Dad | April 30, 2007 11:17 AM

"But only if the man can make the same choice."

They do. Why do we think it's so enlightened when a man stays at home, but regressive when a woman stays home. Just because it's playing against type?

That's dumb.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 11:19 AM

I have just noticed that people have strong opinions about this topic : ) Calling it a war is clearly poetic license. I notice from comments on this board is that people make the decision to work, stay home, freelance, or some variation of all of this, based on their realities, not on idealism. However, I'm grateful for the media attention this receives, and particularly grateful for the books by Hirshman and Bennet. I think it's helpful to peer through the window at this debate before having kids. Hirshman's writing made me think about motivations behind assuming that I would "take some time off" after having kids. It made me consider more of the financial picture behind that potential decision. It made me decide that it is not more or less ethical to stay at work when/if our kids are born. They made me much more vocal with my now husband about my own goals and ambitions.

My husband is a researcher in an engineering field, and dreams of an academic career. He expects an offer to start a postdoc in the US in November. This will be a 2 year period. That means 2 moves for us in two years, an international one back to the US, and then hopefully a domestic one after the postdoc term. Going along with this, and the fact that I went to grad school in a non-professional field, are bad for my financial health were we to divorce or were he to die. Regardless of any potential time off or children. On the other hand, maybe there will be other benefits from my non-professional degree, I've learned another language or two while getting it, and I had a pretty much entry level job before I came here to start my degree, so I imagine that I could fairly easily get right back to where I was before our marriage... Plus I love my husband, we have now talked very openly about how I can also pursue a career, and that right now his career will be the priority but that after 4 years or so we may switch off.

Posted by: desertgirl | April 30, 2007 11:20 AM

How about an alternate topic - "mommies" versus "non-mommies." In my workplace, nearly all women have small children - the glue that binds social relationships in our workplace - leaving those without children (whether it's a choice or not) on "the outs."

Posted by: nonmommy | April 30, 2007 11:23 AM

Okay, I really have to get to work.

"Wondering," gotcha. When you wrote "...but I am going to put every bit of my energy into helping it NOT to happen, rather than helping it TO happen" I thought that you meant staying at home was ensuring that divorce wouldn't happen while working was helping divorce happen. My bad. I think people talk about the potential negatives because we have no idea how to prevent them! I would love to have a conversation about how to keep my husband from leaving me when I'm old and fat. If only there were definites.

"Older Dad," great points. I see your point about Bennet alienating her intended audience. I guess I hadn't realized before I posted that she essentially said that staying at home was always the wrong choice. Obviously, that kind of stance will only inflame the debate instead of helping to inform.

Posted by: Meesh | April 30, 2007 11:23 AM

If this point has already been made, forgive me for chiming in late...but Bennetts was obviously not expressing *her* opinion about SAHMs (calling them "mommies" and speaking as if to cranky children); she was quoting and paraphrasing the rather snotty opinions of an editor. What a character says is not necessarily what a writer believes. That's a basic analytical skill-point, Ms. Steiner, and you ought to know better.

Posted by: meheath | April 30, 2007 11:25 AM

"You're missing the point, and reversing the allegation -- the problem is SAHMs alleging that what working moms do is BAD for their kids. Get the difference? Can't you pat yourself on the back w/o lashing out at someone else?"

First, I didn't make any allegations whatsoever - I just said that I do help, and that I think what I do with my kids has been good for them.

Second, the whole point of the post today is the "allegation" that staying at home is, yes, "BAD".

As you put it, "Get the difference?" Ms. Bennetts and her compatriots are publishing books saying that I have made the wrong choice, that I'm wasting my life, and that women simply should not do what I'm doing.

How the heck can you turn that into an attack on working women. Can't we stay at home moms defend our choices without being accused of "lashing out at someone else?"

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 11:26 AM

Just more liberal elitistism. They know what's best for people and those who disagree are just not enlightened or smart enough to realize that they know best. The term "Mommies" is very patronizing. This reminds me of an article questioning whether women who may plan to be SAHM should be admitted to top universities. This type of snarky paternalism drives me up a wall. Who elected them to arbitrate what is approporiate for other women?

Posted by: pATRICK | April 30, 2007 11:27 AM

"That's exactly the attitude that will give SAHMs a bad rep -- nobody is asking you to scrub toilets, that's not the issue! The fact is that when SAHMs criticize moms who work outside the home, it's some variant of "how awful for your kids!" When moms who work outside the home criticize SAHMs, it's some variant of "aren't you worried about the finances?" It's much nastier to allege that someone's choices are hurting her kids than to allege that someone's choices are hurting her bank account. And yes, perhaps you could offer to pick up someone's kids, invite them over after school, etc. Not that you have any obligation to, but if you're really so concerned about a working mom's choices having a bad impact on her children, I would think that you would be willing to take action in the children's interest."

Ummm....sheesh....like I said, I was just curious as to what exactly you were suggesting when you said "help."

For the record, I was a full time working mom for 8 years and have been a SAHM for
7 years. I know both sides of the fence.

I'm not sure how questioning "but what about the kids" is worse and more judgmental than "you idiot, your husband is going to leave you destitute", but that's your opinion and you're entitled to it.

And finally, I do regularly help friends who need help with their children - both those who work and those who don't. But to say that I have some sort of moral duty to do that just because of my opinion that if at all possible it's best for a child to have a parent at home with them is kind of one-sided. Perhaps those who think that women who choose to be SAHMs are making a stupid financial choice should offer to fund their 401(k)'s and to pay their electric bill when their husbands leave them.


Posted by: momof4 | April 30, 2007 11:27 AM

The only Mommy War I care anything about is my personal battle between working and/or staying at home. If you want to work, fine. If you want to stay home, fine. The only Mommy War that affects me is MY CHOICE.

Posted by: Mom | April 30, 2007 11:27 AM

But, the fact is, many women do NOT think about the LONG TERM financial impacts in deciding to stay home.

Actually, many PEOPLE do not think long-term. If you take a look at this site (www.choosetosave.org), it's pretty scary how many people must be counting on the lottery, or working until they die, or for their kids and grandkids to feed them, or SOMETHING. I'm not certain why it appears to be so difficult to plan to grow old and possibly not be able to get out and work.

If you can unearth the link, they have a little questionnaire about your financial planning "type".


Posted by: Maryland Mother | April 30, 2007 11:27 AM

To MOMto3:

" I think becoming a parent brings out a lot of self doubt in a lot of people. I've seen very confident and competent people question every decision that they make when it comes to the things they are doing (or not doing) for their kids. I think this phenomenon drives the so-called "mommy wars" because once you convince yourself the choice you have made is right, you have also convinced yourself that the other choices are wrong."

I think you are absolutely right that this inner self-doubt is what fuels the mommy wars, at least for me personally. I never expected to be insecure about decisions I make about various aspects of parenting, as I have always been a self-assured and competent person. I have to always remind myself that I am making the right choices for family and for myself, and to tune out some of the negative messages we hear around us. I really think it is more of an internal "war", not so much between SAHM's and WOHM's.

Posted by: MD mom | April 30, 2007 11:29 AM

"I'm increasingly convinced that there's nothing sadder than seeing people purely through political or ideological eyes - I can't imagine being married to someone who couldn't step outside that and view me as a friend and lover. Politics is important, and ideology can be important - but they can blind us if that's all we ever look at."


Posted by: Demos | April 30, 2007 09:13 AM

Huh??? I don't think the SAHM's and working moms are contemplating matrimony with one another.

Topic suggestion - article in yesterday's Post that women college grads are already earning less than their male peers almost right out of school, though on average they had gotten better grades. Apparently being of the male persuasion still trumps smarts and effort in the working world.

And there's a tie-in here to Bennett's central idea in The Feminine Mistake about the precarious nature of women's financial stability. I sure would not want to ever be completely dependent on my husband's earnings (never know when you might find yourself flying solo) and I want to be treated as an equal to my male colleagues in the office.

"I've been rich and I've been poor. Rich is better." Who was it who said that?

Posted by: fedworkertoo | April 30, 2007 11:30 AM

Some folks keep pointing to all the plans they've made to protect themselves but none of these include the health component. (I'm thinking the 11am comment in particular)It's great to have a fully-stocked 401k, disability insurance, etc. But none of these provide your health insurance if you don't have it through a job. If your husband doesn't have insurance after a disability, with GREAT private AND social security disability insurance, you will need a job to get it. You won't be able to insure him otherwise and disability insurance will not cover that. I know - my husband's on disability, and except for the rare fact that he qualifies for Medicare, he would only have health insurance because I work.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 11:31 AM

The 'war' idea seems to be built on the idea that you're either one or the other, WOHM or SAHM, FOREVER. I plan on going back to work once 2nd child is a year old, and I'm totally prepared that the 7+years I did spend working will not just pick right back up where I left off, there are sacrifices and most people accept that when they decide to stay at home. But I'm not locked into the SAHM camp, for god's sake. I too wonder what women whose kids are in school do all day. To me, the difference between staying home with an infant, or a toddler and an infant, as I plan to once the 2nd one arrives, and THEN going back to work, and being a SAHM to kids in elementary school or higher is QUITE LARGE.
Maybe that's another skirmish in the 'mommy wars' - SAHMs of babies vs SAHMs of older kids!

All the authors in the world can tell me I'm an idiot for doing what I'm doing, and I couldn't care less - daycare or a nanny is not taking care of my kids when they're this small, period. I am. It's the decision my husband and I have made and we're happy with it. I'm excited about going back to work in a few years and hope to possibly switch fields, again with the understanding I'll be starting over, obviously. I think being a working mom is truly the hardest job in the world, and that's a big reason why I'm at home right now. WE decided it was better for OUR family to make the sacrifice for a few years and keep our sanity, and take on the 2 working parent situation when we don't have 2 in diapers.

Posted by: new SAHM in TX | April 30, 2007 11:31 AM

But, the fact is, many women do NOT think about the LONG TERM financial impacts in deciding to stay home.

Actually, many PEOPLE do not think long-term. If you take a look at this site (www.choosetosave.org), it's pretty scary how many people must be counting on the lottery, or working until they die, or for their kids and grandkids to feed them, or SOMETHING. I'm not certain why it appears to be so difficult to plan to grow old and possibly not be able to get out and work.

If you can unearth the link, they have a little questionnaire about your financial planning "type".


Posted by: Maryland Mother | April 30, 2007 11:27 AM
A lot of men and women do not think long term about money. But for every person squandering their current earnings, there is probably some one who can not choose to save because they can barely live on what they have now. It is a very sad world we live in.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 30, 2007 11:32 AM

How interesting that we never hear men having this conflict, even though there is a growing number of SAHFs (according to the Census). All women should stay focused on changing public policy to benefit ALL women instead of turning their guns toward each other.

Posted by: mochamom | April 30, 2007 11:33 AM

As self appointed contrarian I will raise another divisive issue people who put weed killer on their lawns and the dandilion loving neighbor who doesn't. Have at it.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 30, 2007 11:36 AM

Meesh: One of the 'jobs' columnists at wapo just wrote an article about how the wage gap exists right our of college. Now people who study this are thinking that women don't negotiate salary like men do-they are not taught those skills or are seen as not 'feminine' enough or something.

Atb: I completely agree with you. I was too young and stupid but I feel like I should have said more to my sister years ago and now they have 3 (!) Kidsm. *sigh* and the rest of the fam is sort of ignoring it too. And she is so unhappy.

Posted by: atlmom | April 30, 2007 11:37 AM

We just all want to feel good about our own decisions!

Having been both a stay-at-home mom and a working mom, I can honestly say I totally respect BOTH lifestyles. One was NOT better than the other for me or my family.

(Well, in an ideal "do-over" life I would lean toward the idea of part-time or very flexible work for one spouse or the other during all the family-raising years - that would have made life easier in so many little ways.)

We just did what worked best at the time. There is no one correct answer on this test,folks.

Posted by: boomerette | April 30, 2007 11:38 AM

"How interesting that we never hear men having this conflict, even though there is a growing number of SAHFs (according to the Census)."

It's because my next door neighbor, who's a stay at home dad, is a skilled craftsman who builds beautiful things by hand. He's built a workshop in the back yard, and works out of it. He takes his kids white water rafting. What's not to like?

And how does his choice - which is based on his skills, background, and the needs of his family - say anything about my choices? I've spent decades in Dilbert Land, and likely made more money than this guy. So what? He and his wife are building a good life - so am I and Mrs. Older Dad.

Men - at least those of a certain age - just don't look at things the way women seem to.

Posted by: Older Dad | April 30, 2007 11:42 AM

people who put weed killer on their lawns and the dandilion loving neighbor who doesn't.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 30, 2007 11:36 AM

VI topic but there's another angle to consider -- How 'bout person* who detests weed killer and pulls dandelions by hand and the dandelion loving neighbor who doesn't?

*I think I may be a lonely only here.

Posted by: greenisbetter | April 30, 2007 11:43 AM

One person wrote:

"Why is there such a focus on financial saving versus marriage saving? It's like a pre-nup - always assuming for the worst - I must get a job in case my husband turns out to be a cheater, liar, sloth, etc etc. ... Planning in case the person with whom I've had the kids and whom I love turns out to be someone else... well that seems like you are preparing for the inevitable and pre-supposing it will happen. I'm not dumb, or blind, I know that the worse can happen, but I am going to put every bit of my energy into helping it NOT to happen, rather than helping it TO happen."

I think that if someone for some reason wants a divorce, all the work and effort in the world you put into it is not going to help. By contrast, there are those who will stay in a marriage no matter what their spouse does (e.g. work incessantly to the neglect of children, or refuse to work despite dire financial straits). The trouble is, no matter how carefully you choose the person you marry, there is still the chance that they WILL turn into someone else.

Making sure that you are financially prepared in case it does happen to you doesn't mean you have to neglect or jeopardize your marriage or even that you don't have faith in your marriage. Sure, it would be tragic if you became a working mom to improve your financial security and then your husband ended up divorcing you and using the excuse that you worked too much and didn't trust him to provide for you. That would suck.

But the point I wanted to make was, the husband who would divorce you for working too much would probably also divorce you for being a boring stay-at-home mom and making him work long hours to support you. Whether a marriage sticks has more to do with unpredictable and unknowable depths of character on both parts than with whether the wife works or not.

Given that those depths ARE unpredictable and unknowable, no matter how much faith and love you have, it probably is wisest to prepare for the possibility of being cast into the abyss, so to speak.

Posted by: Groggie | April 30, 2007 11:44 AM

As always, I can only speak for myself, but I'd never, ever claim that someone who works is harming their kids by doing so. As the product of a SAHM that was both abusively controlling and neglectful, I know better. I'd have been far better off in daycare.

On the other hand, I don' think that the statement by a SAHM that she's "doing what's best for her kids" is necessarily an indictment of working moms. Maybe all she means is that she, personally, is a better mother when parenting is her primary focus. I presume that working moms that have a choice in the matter are also doing what they perceive is best for their kids.

As far as whether women who choose to SAH should expect their husbands to fund 401(k)s for them, I would assume that the husband has had a part in deciding whether or not she'd stay at home. It just stands to reason that if the couple makes the choice together, then they should bear the costs of that choice together, too.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 11:46 AM

As the husband of a working mother, I can say that this is something that we talk about in our household. We live in an affluent area where my wife's employment puts her in the very small minority. Everyday we see the little cliques at the pool, the kid's school, and in the neighborhood. My wife is treated as if she is a leper because she works. What is really interesting though is how many of the SAHM's focus only on the stay at home part of the equation. Many of their kids don't go to the aquarium, the zoo, fishing at the local pond, participate in sports or other activities, etc. The moms are at home all right...all the time. I know many of their husbands come home to a messy house unless the cleaning lady just left and dine on fine cuisine from Stoffers or another box. Cleaning and cooking is just too much to squeeze in between Starbucks and the gym. Of course, at the pool, we hear about how busy they are and how they are misunderstood and not appreciated. I always say that many of the stay at home moms do the work force a favor by not being in it. In a few years, our kids will be in college and we will be able to pay their tuition for them and keep them from starting their lives deep in debt. The SAHM's and their husbands will probably have to sell their houses to pay for their retirement and will have kids with a load of college debt that they will pay into their 30's. I haven't read Leslie Bennett's book but I am betting she is right on the economics of all of this.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 11:47 AM

I love dandilions. They are the only weed I will allow to grow- excepting Dill Weed, which is a tasty herb... in fact dandilions can be used in tea, so beyond being fun to blow, they are functional as well. Grass on the other hand, seems over-rated (not to mention costly and time consuming). Ideally I will someday have a groundcover that will be ok to walk on, and not require as much maintenance as grass.

Posted by: Chris | April 30, 2007 11:47 AM

Pulling weeds is self defeating. Better living through chemicals. ;)

Posted by: pATRICK | April 30, 2007 11:50 AM

"Altmom," I think I agree with the people saying that women are not taught to ask for raises. In general, girls are discouraged from being assertive and are taught instead to please authority figures. (Of course, this does not apply to all women.) Women in managment positions should help their female employees by showing how to be assertive and to get what they're worth.

To the person who brought up mommies vs. nonmommies, we have a different dynamic in our office. We are mostly younger women and tend to exclude the dads and moms through our choices of activities outside of the office (happy hour, evening baseball games). In the office, we all talk about their kids and we all talk about our dogs :) An equal number of parents and nonparents have commented on the pictures of my dogs on my desk. I guess I lucked out in terms of coworkers!

Posted by: Meesh | April 30, 2007 11:52 AM

"Me for example - I'm due w/a baby in August, and about to get promoted to GS-9 in my government job (c. $45K a year), due to finishing a masters degree. If I take three years out of the job market, I have no guarantee that I'll be able to get back into federal government work, and a private sector entry-level job I could get after a three-year hiatus would probably be in the $35K to $40K range.

But, if I hang on to my job, within three years I'll could be a GS-12 making $65K a year or something like that, and I'm assured of the good government benefits that go with that particular job"

This is a nice example, but... Just as everyone says that there is no guarantee that your spouse won't get sick, die, or leave, there is also no guarantee that your career will follow the upward mobility path that you expect/hope for.

My example - 20 years ago, 30 people hired into GS - 5/7/9/10 career ladder position. Since that time, some resigned, some retired, some advanced to GS-12, some advanced to GS-13, one advanced to GS-14/15. Some took 8 years to advance from GS-5 to GS-12 and have been there ever since, some took 15 years to get there. This group consisted of both men and women.

Careers have potentials, but not guarantees, just as marriages do not have guarantees.

I have a question for the person who spent 8 years at home, and is now struggling financially. I am serious, not trying to be snarky - Even with your current difficulties, are you glad that you had that time (that you can't get back) with your children? As tough as things are now, do you think you would have been happy working during those 8 years? I hope that your situation improves and that you can look back on this time as a rough patch in an otherwise good life.

Posted by: anon for this | April 30, 2007 11:52 AM

This is not about dandelions, people. Focus!!!

Posted by: boomerette | April 30, 2007 11:53 AM

"Huh??? I don't think the SAHM's and working moms are contemplating matrimony with one another. "

Well, at least not as far as I'm aware.

My point is that my wife has worked, and stayed home, depending on where we were in our lives (and in our children's lives). The choice has always been hers - and I'm cool with it either way.

But she's made her decisions based on what our expenses were, how old the kids were, how it affected the amount of time we could spend together, etc. - not to set an example (one way or the other) to other women, women yet to come, to do her bit to change societal expectations or revolutionize the workplace, or to avoid letting down the feminist cause.

I'm a real bottom-up kind of guy. I believe the healthiest, most workable societies develop as millions of people, day by day, make the best individual decisions for themselves, their families, and their neighborhoods.

What will be the best approach for the modern two-parent family to take 15 or 20 years from now? I don't know - and I suspect no one else does either. I also suspect that there won't be a single right answer.

I'm pretty sure we'll get it wrong if we base our answer on ideology or politics rather than the day-to-day needs of parents, children and spouses.

Posted by: Demos | April 30, 2007 11:54 AM

Men - at least those of a certain age - just don't look at things the way women seem to.

Posted by: Older Dad | April 30, 2007 11:42 AM

Based on your multiple posts, Older Dad, your ax to grind for today is that men are competitive but not on the SAH / WOH decision. That's your anecdotal experience. Great.

My working husband, however, has had the opposite experience -- on multiple occasions, three colleague with SAH spouses expressed what a shame it is that my husband's wife works - because as a result, my husband picks up his own laundry from the dry cleaners and we alternate staying home with our children when they are sick. That pity, in our experience and occurring in three different mid-sized cities, sends a pretty strong message of competitive judgment. BTW, my husband is in the IT industry as well.

My anecdotal evidence happens to be the opposite if yours - that men ARE just as competitive about having a stay-at-home spouse, because on average if means they are making sufficient income to afford that choice, as they are about the quality of their surroundsound home movie theatre, or the cost of their latest vehicle. YMMV, it appears.

Posted by: from beautiful downtown somewhere else | April 30, 2007 11:55 AM

"It just stands to reason that if the couple makes the choice together, then they should bear the costs of that choice together, too."

This is an excellent rule. If you decide to work, then you'd better work out the child care, child taxi service, and school involvement also. If you decide to stay home, you'd better keep your financial house in order.

We should all provide the routine neighborly support - but neither side should expect the other to "pick up the slack" on a regular basis.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 11:59 AM

"The problem with red meat is that red meat for some is almost always a red flag for others."

Wow, great line. This whole "mommy war" frustrates me, because it seems like the further out on the edges people are, the louder they are, and the more attention they get. Whereas most people are somewhere in the middle and just looking for solutions.

I applaud anything that provides more facts. I remember a few years ago, there was a lot of media attention paid to the argument that going to work might actually cost women more than the salaries they would earn, once you figure in clothing, commuting, lunches out, etc. I thought that was an interesting analysis, which could be useful for people to consider while making their deceisions. Now we seem to be getting the other side of that -- i.e., that quitting work might have more long-term costs that people might not think of. I think that's also an interesting analysis, with useful information for people to consider while making their decisions.

But the problem is, it seems like a lot of the useful information is pushed by folks on either side who have an agenda to run. A LOT of the earlier articles seemed to have this tone of WOHMs being bad -- and now this new stuff seems to have the tone that SAHMs are stupid. It's too bad when useful information that might help people make more informed choices gets lost in the shouting.

I also somewhat disagree with the comment that people who question others' choices must be insecure about their own. Quite a few of those types are 100% convinced that they're right -- I've run into any number of sanctimonious prigs who think that they know what's best for my life. In my own experience, because I chose to work, those tend to be the preachers on the religious right, who love nothing more to castigate me and women like me for those "wrong" choices. But I fully believe it runs the other way, too. And running into people like that makes me want to yell and attack in response, too -- not because I am insecure in my own choices, but because they are patronizing and condescending and refusing to accord me the status of an equal.

I think it's more personality type than anything else. Some people believe that it takes all types, that people are different, and that any variety of different approaches can succeed. Other people believe that one particular way is best -- they just KNOW that they are right, which in their black and white world by definition means that therefore any other choice must be wrong. This latter type seems to be the ones on the furthest edges of this argument, screaming the loudest (and therefore getting the most attention).

Posted by: Laura | April 30, 2007 12:01 PM

Pulling weeds is self defeating. Better living through chemicals. ;)

Posted by: pATRICK | April 30, 2007 11:50 AM

Au contraire. The bending, the stretching, the sun and air all do the body good. You do though need to add twice yearly applications of corn gluten to the regimen. You will have a pretty (if not perfect) and chemical free lawn within 2-3 years that will no longer need much weeding, and then you can do your bending and stretching and get your sun and air some other way. :-)))

Posted by: greenisbetter. | April 30, 2007 12:01 PM

Speaking of stirring things up- on worldnetdaily they have an article in the headlines about public schools teaching that homosexuality is good- to children as young as kindergarten age.

I think when the time comes we will homeschool if possible.

How is it the schools can take so much out to teach for a standard test, yet find room for this?

I will never forget breezing through my graduation test and moving to another state (with a lower standard) and being told I had to take their test too. Well, I got 100% and felt no pride in doing so. On the test was the question: which of these things is least like the others?
a. circle
b. square
c. rectangle
d. triangle
Granted this was the easiest question, but the rest were nearly as bad.
There were people taking this test for the 3rd time.

Later, in college, I was shocked to see people struggle to write a simple sentence... and now public schools are going to be teaching this? How does this PC agenda get pushed, and why do people allow it to hurt their children's education/futures?

Posted by: Chris | April 30, 2007 12:02 PM

"Cleaning and cooking is just too much to squeeze in between Starbucks and the gym"

Ha! Ha!

The SAHMs do seem to need cleaning women, sitters, and other services a LOT more than WOHMs.

They also tend look like fright night hags in the morning at the school drop off.

Yikes, no wonder men cheat!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 12:04 PM

This is not about dandelions, people. Focus!!!

Posted by: boomerette | April 30, 2007 11:53 AM


Let's all remember to stop and smell the roses.

Posted by: greenisbetter | April 30, 2007 12:04 PM

"If they don't use their education to better society to the fullest extent then the part of the education they don't use is wasted and should have gone to someone else- remember getting into college is competitive. Why take up a place in med school or law school or B School that someone else wanted and was rejected for if you aren't going to use it?"

Posted by: DCer | April 30, 2007 09:31 AM

The outside of the gate to the University reads, "Enter to grow in wisdom." After the student has received her education and prepares to leave the University, she reads the inside of the gate: "Depart, to serve better thy country and thy kind."

Presumably, her education has equipped her to decide how best to serve her country and humankind. Maybe she wants to do it in the public area. Maybe she wants to do it by making a home for a husband who will serve our country and humankind in the public area. Maybe she wants to do it by raising children who will go out and make a better society.

I would not second-guess her choice. Nor would I dream of saying to an applicant, "You don't deserve an education here unless you are going to use it the way *I* think is best."

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | April 30, 2007 12:12 PM

I (heart) dandelions!

Posted by: SheGeek | April 30, 2007 12:13 PM

Class break!
I have to add my 2 cents on the money issue:
I can't find it now, but one poster commented that people who get divorced 'know' there was something wrong all along. That's so true, and denial is very strong in that situation. My STBX (soon-to-be-ex) is an alcoholic. I just got out of the fog of denial in the last year thanks to Al-Anon, but for a long time I didn't want to believe that things were not right. I had always intended to work again when the youngest was past third grade, but I think I subconciously KNEW I would have to anyway. I have friends who have similar situations (one alcoholism, one psychological abuse). They went to work to prepare for leaving their husbands.

As for careers that allow time off without completely derailing the career: teaching! I think it's the only profession in which the resume gap created by SAHM time is praised. You don't get rich, but you do reasonably well with a master's in a public system. There's no prestige, either, and you work your tail off during the school year (I grade papers/plan lessons an average of 20 hours a week outside school, and I'm not at all unusual). It's not for everyone, I know, but it's worth considering.

Posted by: educmom | April 30, 2007 12:15 PM

"Cleaning and cooking is just too much to squeeze in between Starbucks and the gym"

Ha! Ha!

The SAHMs do seem to need cleaning women, sitters, and other services a LOT more than WOHMs.

They also tend look like fright night hags in the morning at the school drop off.

Yikes, no wonder men cheat!


Posted by: | April 30, 2007 12:04 PM

It's people like this poster who perpetuate the Mommy Wars. Reading between the lines, I'd say this person is either jealous or deranged. At a minimum, very angry and in need of counseling.

Also, I just wanted to weigh in on a few important issues that have been raised:

chemicals vs. dandelions/weeds -- weeds every time

working out in jeans -- WHAT???

turn signal -- every time, even when no one's around . . .

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 30, 2007 12:15 PM

I (heart) dandelions!

Posted by: SheGeek | April 30, 2007 12:13 PM

I am not of the same heart and mind, but you are certainly not alone ...

"What is a weed? A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." -- Emerson

Posted by: greenisbetter | April 30, 2007 12:17 PM

Why take up a place in med school or law school or B School that someone else wanted and was rejected for if you aren't going to use it?"

I have never known anyone who was rejected from their state school. So saying that a SAHM took their place is silly. Even if she did, who cares, when she applied she was better than the rest of the applicants. What she chooses to do with her education is her choice. Wait, isn't choice a tenant of feminism?

Posted by: scarry | April 30, 2007 12:19 PM

I agree with Laura about applauding anything that provides more facts. I have to say - until I read Bennetts book, I was basically trying to convince my husband that me being a SAHM as long as possible would be the best thing for us all. I really was exactly one of the people Bennetts' book was aimed at - because honestly I was all too eager to overlook the financial risks and blithely assume that I'd have no problem getting back into the workforce when and if I wanted to, and of course I didn't even want to think about what could happen in the case of a divorce - I just got married a year and a half ago!

But having read the book, it has really helped me to think through the financial implications more carefully and realistically. While I can see that staying in my job is not the only option that could work (and it wouldn't be what I'd do in an ideal world ... if I'd been working for longer, if I had more savings, if my husband were more interested in me staying at home, if I had a convenient trust fund ...) I've weighed the pros and cons and decided that in my current situation it's what I need to do for now.

I am really am grateful for the articles, books, and discussions because they really have helped me think, including thinking about things that were difficult for me to really come to terms with because of the emotional side of it - even if people are saying it's boring or they'd rather talk about dandelions!

Posted by: Groggie | April 30, 2007 12:20 PM

"I think it's the only profession in which the resume gap created by SAHM time is praised. You don't get rich, but you do reasonably well with a master's in a public system."

Actually one of the women interviewed in Bennets book is a SAHM/teacher who wasn't able to find full-time work when she wanted to go back. That surprised me and also sort of made me question the book a bit; how hard were people trying to get back in the game? Had they kept their credentials up?

Posted by: Shandra | April 30, 2007 12:20 PM

Gosh, today's topic makes me want a cigarette soooooooo much!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 12:21 PM

"What is a weed? A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." -- Emerson


Oh, wow! I think there's some relevance here to the "other" topic --

Perhaps those SAHMs and working moms who are at war, that is, viewing each other as weeds, could use this thought for some additional perspective.

moxiemom - and you brought dandelions into the the conversation to be contrarian,

Posted by: greenisbetter | April 30, 2007 12:26 PM

A lot of men and women do not think long term about money. But for every person squandering their current earnings, there is probably some one who can not choose to save because they can barely live on what they have now. It is a very sad world we live in.

Hi FoamGnome,

I agree. I have friends and family in this category. But with one person in particular I wonder if this person really WANTS to get out of debt. And now that this person has been fired, again, I worry about the kids who are uninsured, again!

But that is one person out of a few dozen--it's still difficult to witness. I bite my tongue a lot. Perhaps my opinion or advice will be asked for, eventually. Or not. In the meantime, I try and encourage the kids to save up their allowances. I even gave them each stock certificates to their favourite stores for Christmas. I hope that the idea sticks. I do know they thought that was really cool! It was neat to see them framing the certificates.

Posted by: Maryland Mother | April 30, 2007 12:26 PM

VI topic but there's another angle to consider -- How 'bout person* who detests weed killer and pulls dandelions by hand and the dandelion loving neighbor who doesn't?

*I think I may be a lonely only here.

Posted by: greenisbetter | April 30, 2007 11:43 AM

And already, my thinking has been expanded! I had not considered you, middle dweler. My daughter LOOOVEs dandilions -me not so much. Corn gluten - where do I get that. I had a neighbor who did milky spores a couple of years ago for the beetles but I had not heard about this. Do tell. I try to be "green" but I really like a lawn and my roses take a lot of chemicals - if there's something I can do better - fill me in.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 12:27 PM

That was me at 12:27 - sorry

Posted by: moxiemom | April 30, 2007 12:29 PM

Today's topic about weeds, and the previous days' topic about smoking, makes me want to, uh, smoke weed?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 12:29 PM

I couldn't get through all the remarks, but aren't we missing one thing -- just because some women/men stay at home now, doesn't mean they're going to stay at home forever! Yes, some moms stay home for several years, others go back after two or three. The latter is hardly making a "career" out of being a SAH parent, and many find ways to keep their hands in their career, either via part-time work, volunteering or writing. I agree that financial security is a huge issue. My cousin has been out of the workforce for 12 years and is going through a messy divorce -- so yeah, there are very real scenarios where leaving the workforce can be a problem, if you do it for a very long time. But as MANY people have pointed out, deciding to stay home for most parents is not a decision taken lightly, or without consideration for the financial or career repercussions. For one, not all of us made a lot of money pre-baby, so factoring in all the costs that come along with working, including child care, commuting, eating lunch out, etc., etc., sometimes staying at home and skipping that extra $500 a month after taxes seems like the better deal for the short term. In my case, I freelance, so I make some money, keep my hand in and my resume fresh and work very, very part time. I love it. I don't feel judged by any other parents. I and my husband also feel that this works great for now, for a lot of reasons that have to do with keeping our lives less busy and stressed. It's not something that will work forever, but we don't plan on doing this forever -- and I think that's true for a lot of stay at home parents.

Posted by: writing mommy | April 30, 2007 12:33 PM

chemicals vs. dandelions/weeds -- weeds every time. Not in our Homeowners Association, You will get reported and it might be by me... Absolutely nothing worse than people who will keep up their property.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 30, 2007 12:34 PM

To the people who have read the Bennetts book -- I would be interested to know what data is in there about returning to the work force. In her articles, etc., Bennetts seems to be claiming that many women who plan on returning to work find that they cannot do so, a claim I have a hard time swallowing. Does she provide stats to back this point up? If so, and if you can remember them, would you mind sharing?

I can see where someone who'd been out of the workforce for a few years would have a tough time picking up where they left off and would probably take a cut in pay and presige. But I find it very, very difficult to understand how they'd have trouble getting any job at all.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 12:35 PM

Actually, I meant NOT keep up their property...

Posted by: pATRICK | April 30, 2007 12:35 PM

Do you people seriously talk about each other's lawns and dandelions?

In my house live 2 WOH parents, 2 children in school with daily homework and additional extra-curricular activities, and 2 pets. We're lucky the lawn gets mowed fairly regularly - forget about extra lawn care. We'd rather spend our limited free time with family and friends than manicuring the perfect lawn :).

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 12:38 PM

"Actually, I meant NOT keep up their property"

Sooo, the chemicals trump the environment in your house??

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 12:38 PM

"Actually, I meant NOT keep up their property"

Sooo, the chemicals trump the environment in your house??

Those "chemicals' have been exhaustively studied, used, have prescribed rates of applications etc. You seem like one of those knee jerkers who reflexively shouts environment. I bet you buy $3 apples that were raised "organically". A complete waste of money, but it sounds good at the protest rally...

Posted by: pATRICK | April 30, 2007 12:43 PM

"Do you people seriously talk about each other's lawns and dandelions?"

Yep, there is endless gossip about the tiniest snippet of news concerning the neighbors (even the ones that moved 10 years ago).

No wonder there are so many key parties in the 'burbs.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 12:43 PM

oooooh 12:29 - than I could be the stoner, gym going, Starbucks drinking, crappy looking SAHM with a bag of Doritos and blissfully happy of course. Oh, and I think we drink and watch Oprah all day, not sure though, too drunk and now stoned to remember. Where did I put those children??? Here's another topic - neighborhood speeders? I'm not talking about the teens - that's expected. I'm talking about the grown ups. The dad in the sports car at 6:15 burning through the hood or the SAHM in the minivan mowing down kids and mailboxes to get to karate on time. Any tips on thwarting these lawbreakers?

Posted by: moxiemom | April 30, 2007 12:44 PM

"Whether a marriage sticks has more to do with unpredictable and unknowable depths of character on both parts than with whether the wife works or not."

A marriage is unlikely to stand or fall based on whether or not someone has a job. But let's not kid ourselves - most marriages that fail do so for a reason. Many times it's selfishness or immaturity. But it can also be neglect, lack of commitment or lack of effort.

There's been a lot of work put into studying why marriages fail, and how to strengthen them. Some is academic - much more is practical (and most of it is, ultimately, common sense).

I don't ever want to imply that if your spouse leaves you it must have been "your fault." But we shouldn't sit around wondering if our marriages are going to fail as if it were some sort of unpredictable natural disaster against which we can take no precautions.

If we haven't thought about how our marriages are doing, we should. We need to think about our marriages, just like we think about our careers. Like anything truly worthwhile, marriage requires some effort (not "work," because it shouldn't be a burden - but regular care and feeding).

Can bad things still happen? Sure. But it's like staying in shape physically - you can dramatically improve the odds.

Posted by: Older Dad | April 30, 2007 12:46 PM

New SAHM -- I am also curious about Bennetts' research on returning to work. Her statements do not reflect my own experience or the experiences of almost every woman I know who's returned to work. After a four year hiatus, it took me all of 9 weeks to find full time work in my field at a salary that was completely reasonable given the area I'm living in now, and exceptional given that I wasn't working for four years. The women I know who've had problems returning had unreasonable expectations. I realize this is anectodal, but still . . .

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 30, 2007 12:46 PM

To pATRICK - It's possible to have a few dandelions in a generally well-tended yard. We do, and we live in an area where they enforce standards for such things. I'm sure you'd consider our yard "messy", though, since we don't cut our grass to 1/4 inch and turn our shrubs into meatballs.

Mommy wars are nothing compared to garden wars!

Posted by: SheGeek | April 30, 2007 12:48 PM

I'm one of those people who'd let their front yard go natural if I could. Spending all that effort (and money) on getting the grass looking just oh-so-right is a waste of resources, and only benefits the neighbors next to it.

If it were up to me I'd turn it all into a flower and vegetable garden!

BTW, milky spores are to get rid of grubworms in the ground. I put it on my yard years ago and no more grubworms!

Posted by: John L | April 30, 2007 12:49 PM

"The dad in the sports car at 6:15 burning through the hood or the SAHM in the minivan mowing down kids and mailboxes to get to karate on time. Any tips on thwarting these lawbreakers?"

Mowing down the kids too stupid to stay out of way the is called thinning the herd.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 12:51 PM

"To pATRICK - It's possible to have a few dandelions in a generally well-tended yard. We do, and we live in an area where they enforce standards for such things. I'm sure you'd consider our yard "messy", though, since we don't cut our grass to 1/4 inch and turn our shrubs into meatballs.

Mommy wars are nothing compared to garden wars!'

No actually, I have no problem with that. The Problem is those whose yards get 6 inches in height, filled with weeds that are too lazy to do it or too cheap to hire someone. One of my definitions of a good neighbor is someone who mows regulary, the bar is pretty low..

Posted by: pATRICK | April 30, 2007 12:51 PM

"I agree with Laura about applauding anything that provides more facts. I have to say - until I read Bennetts book, I was basically trying to convince my husband that me being a SAHM as long as possible would be the best thing for us all. I really was exactly one of the people Bennetts' book was aimed at - because honestly I was all too eager to overlook the financial risks and blithely assume that I'd have no problem getting back into the workforce when and if I wanted to, and of course I didn't even want to think about what could happen in the case of a divorce - I just got married a year and a half ago!"


Groggie:

The financial advantages can cut both ways -- which is one of the reasons that there are a fairly high number of SAHM/SAHDs.

My wife and I had both assumed that she would continue to work [at least part-time] after our children were born. She has a Master's degree and had a good federal job.

After our first child, she went back to work part-time. When we were expecting our 2nd child, we decided that her staying home full-time made the most financial sense.

Why? By staying home full-time, she took over the management of the house -- which allowed me to focus more on career and getting a 2nd Master's. As a team, we were able to accomplish more than we could have done individually -- and our family income grew significantly.

Now, 12 years later, we have an upper income lifestyle and she can choose to focus her attention on the activities she wants [she's started charitable organizations, run co-op preschools, and the like] without the need to bring in income.

Your mileage may vary, but there is a reason that so many high-level executives [both male and female] have SAH spouses [or no children].

Posted by: A Dad | April 30, 2007 12:52 PM

moxiemom,

RE: speeders in the neighborhood

It's all about changing the way the road looks to the driver. If there's a persistant problem with speeding in the neighborhood, it's probably because to the driver the road looks like it was designed to be driven at a higher speed than it should.

If the road is wide, straight, has little to no onstreet parking on it, there's lots of sight distance at the intersections, etc, then to a driver he sees "it is OK to drive fast".

What you want to do is change that perception. Putting in speed tables, speed humps, narrowing the road by restriping it, adding islands at the intersections, or just allowing onstreet parking can often help slow traffic down. If you can provide more specific information on the streets I may be able to suggest more options to try.

Posted by: John L | April 30, 2007 12:55 PM

On speeders- When I lived in suburbia there were tons of speeders who would cut through our child-packed neighborhood. Evidently if enough call the cops they send someone to wait and catch them...

Personally, I've been tempted to get a paintball gun, but that would probably just escalate things and I would wind up in hot water. ;-P

Posted by: Chris | April 30, 2007 12:57 PM

Of course there's no such thing as Mommy Wars! What weapons are being used? Who's dying? Where is the map with offensive positions staked out? Are there shortages on toilet paper in the stores? No.

I work. Last I checked, no one was trying to put a gun to my head to make me stay home. When I was a SAHM, I didn't barricade the door against the evil hord of women in suits and pumps carrying shoulder-mounted missile launchers. Someone said they have a war in their heads. If it's in your head, it's not a war. It's a mental illness or psychological crisis. Choosing whether to work is no different than any other career choice. No matter what you choose, there are insecure people who try to make you question your choices. Law school or medical school? Corporate job or the Peace Corps? Serve the almighty dollar or serve your country? The media is selling books trying to say there's a war. But, there just isn't.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 12:59 PM

"The Feminine Mistake" author IS probably trying to help women but her chat was a tough one to read. She was condescending--plain and simple.

I told my husband about it (no kids but I am not working right now). I am worried--what if I dont get a good job. We moved for his job and are in a rural area with little opportunity.

Husband reminded me that his mother was out of the workforce for twenty years. She has been back for about twelve years. She told him recently what she makes and I was pleasantly surprised.

Also--let's set the record straight on "old school" day care. I can not comment on modern daycare since I am in my mid thirties. I was in daycare in the '70's and early '80's. Miserable. I have no good memories of that experience. We dont want kids but if we did--I could just not feel good about day care. I know why my mom did it--and I am glad she did since she is very successful but that was a terrible experience.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 12:59 PM

John L

"If you can provide more specific information on the streets I may be able to suggest more options to try."

Don't bother, John. It's called Natural Selection; Survival of the Fittest.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 12:59 PM

Haven't had time to read all the posts, but am wondering if anyone noticed what yesterday's reported about Leslie's efforts to make her Mommy Wars book more balanced and less inflammatory?

"Book publishers can impose this false division as well. Take Leslie Morgan Steiner's 2006 book of essays by mothers, a volume she edited explicitly to bridge misunderstandings between mothers at home and those at work. Her own essays were titled 'Our Inner Catfight' and 'Ending the Mommy Wars.' And yet, over her objections, Random House titled the book 'Mommy Wars: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families.' Can you say 'inflammatory'?

"Steiner, a Washington Post blogger and magazine executive, now says she accepts that the title (if not the subtitle) worked to get the book into the hands of those who most needed to read it. 'In a market where 200,000 books are published a year, and 70,000 alone are pitched to the top three TV morning shows,' she says, that hot-button title got her on television and snagged nationwide reviews."

Posted by: catlady | April 30, 2007 12:59 PM

Actually don't have much grass- doesn't do that well in shade. What we do have often looks scraggly and we have to re-seed a lot.

Anyone see the front page Post article about threats aimed at female bloggers? Hope we can all agree that people shouldn't be doing those things!

Over & out.

Posted by: SheGeek | April 30, 2007 1:00 PM

"The dad in the sports car at 6:15 burning through the hood or the SAHM in the minivan mowing down kids and mailboxes to get to karate on time. Any tips on thwarting these lawbreakers?"

Mowing down the kids too stupid to stay out of way the is called thinning the herd.


Posted by: | April 30, 2007 12:51 PM

Yes! An irreverent thinker amongst those who take themselves and their every opinion too seriously.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 1:00 PM

"Whether a marriage sticks has more to do with unpredictable and unknowable depths of character on both parts than with whether the wife works or not."

I believe that my marriage has survived because neither of us is willing to have joint custody or visitation rights to our children. We both want our children to live with us full-time. Since leaving is not an option for either of us, it helps us work out our problems rather than making a new life for ourselves without the other. Of course, if there is infidelity, illegal activities, or abuse involved, our philosophy goes out the window.

Also, we both work full time and together are barely middle-class. Neither of us can afford to leave :).

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 1:00 PM

Shandra,

I think you would be right to question the book. Once you have become a certified teacher, it's not exceptionally difficult to return to the profession, and taking time to be at home with a family does not work against you per se.

It's true that you have to maintain your credentials (your state certification) in order to continue teaching. Generally, you need a certain number of credits every few years to stay certified. I'm being deliberately vague, because all states are different.

The teacher interviewed in the book may have taught in one of the areas in which there is no shortage of teachers (like secondary English). Without knowing the details, I imagine she could retrain in another area (such as reading specialist) and be employable. She may have to teach in a less-desirable system or a less-desirable school in her local system. Also, it's very difficult to find part-time positions in regular classroom teaching.

And to those of you who only view education as valuable if it helps you earn more money: shame! shame! on you!!! Whatever happened to learning for its own sake!?!?

Weeds...in my grass if they're green, but NOT in my impatiens beds!

Posted by: educmom | April 30, 2007 1:01 PM

Older Dad,

I agree that it's important also to put effort into keeping a marriage healthy (and I don't buy the argument that a marriage shouldn't be "work" or effortful). But rather than saying divorce is like a natural disaster that you can't be prepared for, I'm saying (in agreement with Leslie Bennett) that we *should* be taking precautions in case, in spite of all our best efforts and intentions it *does* fail.

I just don't think that women taking responsibility for their financial preparedness is (or should be) a valid excuse for anyone to divorce them. If a husband is stressed or feels neglected because his wife needs to work, and would prefer that she just rely on him, then he should be working with her on something like a post nuptial agreement or just making sure she has an adequate nest egg under her name so that she can feel more safe about taking time off work to devote to the family. Otherwise, she may be taking on an unfair amount of risk. Not that that hasn't been the way of the world up till now ...

Posted by: Groggie | April 30, 2007 1:01 PM

John L. thanks for the ideas. I don't know how much of that we could reasonably do. I know that speed humps were discussed. I am going to call my councilman who lives in this neighborhood about it though! Are you a traffic expert?

Chris, agreed, I was going to borrow some of those spikes I see on Cops from the state police. Thought that would be fun!

Posted by: moxiemom | April 30, 2007 1:02 PM

moxiemom- We always ask the police to come sit at corners where there are chronic problem speeders. As long as they are there randomly, it helps.

I always use my blinker.

Our yard is more weed than grass, but it's cut and I have a nice herb garden. Of course, we've also had a stove on our front porch from a renovation a year ago, so our Alabama roots show.

Our neighbor picks all the weeds in his beautiful yard by hand. He's retired and very zen. We live in Takoma Park. They also plant flowers in a tree stump from a bad tree they had to sadly cut down 2 years ago. I love our view, but poor them! They do like our baby and dog, though.

Posted by: atb | April 30, 2007 1:02 PM

moxiemom,

I design highways for a living, but have done some traffic calming work as well on some of my projects at the request of local landowners concerned over speeding traffic.

Calling the police won't help in the long term; they'll sit out there for a day or two, write some tickets, then go elsewhere. The speeders will then go back to their old ways.

You need to change the way the road looks to them; make it look narrow and confining (short sight distances, sharp curves, narrow lanes, etc) and they'll slow down. Even planting trees/bushes at intersections so they can't see oncoming cars can help; if they can't see them coming, most drivers slow down so they can react in time. Painted pedestrian crossings at intersections help remind motorists that others use the road too.

Roundabouts (or even islands in the middle of the intersection) can slow traffic down too, but can get pricy.

Posted by: John L | April 30, 2007 1:14 PM

I've discussed this book with quite a few friends, and I think part of the reason that many of the women I know are not afraid of the financial repercussions of staying home is because they come from relatively wealthy families, so even if their husbands did leave them or die, they would hardly be out on the street. When I first moved to DC, I was SHOCKED at the number of 20-somethings I knew whose parents bought them cars, houses (in cash), paid for their expensive grad schools, and even had trust funds. It's not really surprising that some of these people have never really thought about the possibility of not being financially secure.

I'm not saying this is right or wrong....I'm just giving an explanation for why some women are not as concerned about opting out of the workforce. Unfortunately, I don't have a trust fund, but I wish I did!

Posted by: notamom | April 30, 2007 1:19 PM

Re: Neighborhood Speeders

"Roundabouts (or even islands in the middle of the intersection) can slow traffic down too, but can get pricy."

Less costly and much more effective are guns.
Blast away the offenders, they never ever repeat. Kick some a$s!! Case closed.

Posted by: Scrappy | April 30, 2007 1:22 PM

"I believe that my marriage has survived because neither of us is willing to have joint custody or visitation rights to our children. We both want our children to live with us full-time. Since leaving is not an option for either of us, it helps us work out our problems rather than making a new life for ourselves without the other. "

Ahhh....true love.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 1:26 PM

In my HOA, they have moveable speed bumps. So you don't know where they will end up. Hopefully slowing down traffic. I still see lots of speeding and hear more swearing.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 30, 2007 1:27 PM

It is sad that people just don't respect the laws and other people- making people have to spend money landscaping to discourage speeders, or worst case, lose a friend or family member to such blatant disrespect. It's sad to think of all the deaths that could be easily prevented if only people would just obey the law and be considerate of the well-being of others. Oh well... Humanity, thou art selectively humane.

Posted by: Chris | April 30, 2007 1:28 PM

Hi FoamGnome,

I agree. I have friends and family in this category. But with one person in particular I wonder if this person really WANTS to get out of debt. And now that this person has been fired, again, I worry about the kids who are uninsured, again!

But that is one person out of a few dozen--it's still difficult to witness. I bite my tongue a lot. Perhaps my opinion or advice will be asked for, eventually. Or not. In the meantime, I try and encourage the kids to save up their allowances. I even gave them each stock certificates to their favourite stores for Christmas. I hope that the idea sticks. I do know they thought that was really cool! It was neat to see them framing the certificates.

Posted by: Maryland Mother | April 30, 2007 12:26 PM
Sometimes all you can do is silently watch the train wreck. We all have a relative or a friend or a colleague who are financial disasters. It is sad but we really can't do anything about it. Unless they directly ask for your advice, keep your mouth shut. And usually the people who need the help the most, refuse to ask for advice from anyone.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 30, 2007 1:31 PM

"I believe that my marriage has survived because neither of us is willing to have joint custody or visitation rights to our children. "

Wow! That'll spur some hot sex!

Is the divorce planned for the moment the kids have flown the coop?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 1:32 PM

moxiemom,

I was standing in one of my neighbors yard's and another neighbor almost hit me. There are kids all over the sub division and there are no sidewalks. I don't know what some people are thinking.

I go 20 miles an hour and some idiot always gets on my butt.

Posted by: scarry | April 30, 2007 1:33 PM

Another option are the little plastic 2-d kids holding flags. They look absolutely retarded, but when placed close enough to the road they get people to slam on brakes. They are designed to look like they are ready to run into the street- and despite being yellow or green seem to work.

Posted by: Chris | April 30, 2007 1:33 PM

foamgnome

"And usually the people who need the help the most, refuse to ask for advice from anyone."

And sometimes they waste your time pretending to seek your advice when their real intent is to put the bite on you.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 1:36 PM

Poster says "Second, the whole point of the post today is the "allegation" that staying at home is, yes, "BAD".

As you put it, "Get the difference?" Ms. Bennetts and her compatriots are publishing books saying that I have made the wrong choice, that I'm wasting my life, and that women simply should not do what I'm doing."

You still don't get it -- it's one thing to say you've made the wrong choice and you're wasting YOUR (emphasis) life. It's another, and much more aggressively nasty, thing to say you've made the wrong choice and you're screwing up YOUR KID'S life. The former is akin to saying someone shouldn't work at a law firm but should instead provide more value to the community by providing legal services to those who can't afford it. The latter is attacking someone's parenting. I can't imagine why you don't see the difference!

Posted by: anon | April 30, 2007 1:38 PM

To 1:26: True love IS exactly what 1:00 wrote about WRT "work[ing] out our problems rather than making a new life for ourselves without the other."

Too many couples assume that all situations they'll encounter will magically resolve themselves in the face of their grand passion -- and then give up too easily rather than put in the effort it sometimes takes to handle life's serious challenges. In fact, it usually takes a lot of hard work and (sometimes) sacrifice to resolve major crises that can arise in life -- including those that occur through no fault of either partner, or in spite of the best planning to mitigate problems beforehand.

And that's when love really becomes true.

Posted by: catlady | April 30, 2007 1:39 PM

One of my friends is a police officer, he says nothing pisses them off more than seeing someone who speeds hit a child. " I was late, the store was closing etc." He says those lame excuses are pathetic when you are transporting a child to emergency.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 30, 2007 1:41 PM

Cultural Tidbit of the Day

Posted by: Fred | April 30, 2007 1:42 PM

Boy, there is a lot of self-righteous blather in these comments.

Posted by: anon | April 30, 2007 1:43 PM

"Just more liberal elitistism. They know what's best for people and those who disagree are just not enlightened or smart enough to realize that they know best. The term "Mommies" is very patronizing. This reminds me of an article questioning whether women who may plan to be SAHM should be admitted to top universities. This type of snarky paternalism drives me up a wall. Who elected them to arbitrate what is approporiate for other women?"

Posted by: pATRICK | April 30, 2007 11:27 AM

It's not just liberal elitists who missionize. According to a Web site, the following "is con­sid­ered one of the fin­est mis­sion­ary hymns in the Eng­lish language:

From Greenland's Icy Mountains

"From Greenland's icy mountains, from India's coral strand;
Where Afric's sunny fountains roll down their golden sand:
From many an ancient river, from many a palmy plain,
They call us to deliver their land from error's chain.

"What though the spicy breezes blow soft o'er Ceylon's isle;
Though every prospect pleases, and only man is vile?
In vain with lavish kindness the gifts of God are strown;
The heathen in his blindness bows down to wood and stone.

"Shall we, whose souls are lighted with wisdom from on high,
Shall we to those benighted the lamp of life deny?
Salvation! O salvation! The joyful sound proclaim,
Till earth's remotest nation has learned Messiah's Name.

"Waft, waft, ye winds, His story, and you, ye waters, roll
Till, like a sea of glory, it spreads from pole to pole:
Till o'er our ransomed nature the Lamb for sinners slain,
Redeemer, King, Creator, in bliss returns to reign."
-- Reginald Heber, 1819

In the context of the "Mommy wars," those who are so all-fired sure that they know what is best for mothers constitute those "whose souls are lighted with wisdom from on high." According to those who equate Working Outside the Home with child neglect, WOHM's are "those benighted." According to the Hirshmans and Bennettses who make fun of mothers who stay home -- especially well-educated, elite mothers -- SAHM's are "those benighted."

It's not ordinary mothers, SAHM's or WOHM's, who condescend in this way, who believe that anyone not following their advice is a "heathen in [her] blindness" who "bows down to wood and stone." No. It is a small knot of elitists who, as pATRICK says, think that they know best.

When the missionaries knock on our door to witness to us, we send them away with a polite, "No, thank you."

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | April 30, 2007 1:43 PM

Scarry


Why take up a place in med school or law school or B School that someone else wanted and was rejected for if you aren't going to use it?"

"I have never known anyone who was rejected from their state school."

How many lawyers and doctors do you know who attended state schools?

"who cares, when she applied she was better than the rest of the applicants."

How do you know? A lot of professional school have affirmative action.

Again, how many lawyers and doctors do you know that you can speak about their education with such certainty?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 1:44 PM

I also get annoyed when people with three car garages park on of their cars on the street. It makes it hard to see if a kid is coming from that direction and it impedes traffic.

Posted by: scarry | April 30, 2007 1:45 PM

"I believe that my marriage has survived because neither of us is willing to have joint custody or visitation rights to our children. We both want our children to live with us full-time. Since leaving is not an option for either of us, it helps us work out our problems rather than making a new life for ourselves without the other. "

Wow, that is very sad. Really, I feel bad for you, your spouse, and your children, to be stuck in this situation. I can't imagine describing my marriage this way!

Posted by: anon | April 30, 2007 1:53 PM

How about the parent who stands in the middle of the street conducting traffic while her kids ride their bicycles in the neighborhood? Kids need to learn the rules of the road to be safe and should stay on the sidewalk. Mommy isn't always going to be there.

Also, on the way to work, I see mothers walking 2-wide with their strollers in the STREET holding up traffic. We have side walks in our neighborhood but they want to be able to talk to each other side-by-side. This teaches kids that the street is a safe place to walk. No wonder why there are so many accidents.

I'm not saying that speeding isn't a problem...but, kids need to stay on the sidewalk.

Also, I find that some of the worst speeding offenders are the moms in their minivans taking their kids to activities while talking on the phone...another nice example for the kids.

Posted by: Me Again | April 30, 2007 1:55 PM

I think the whole "mommy war" thing is completely overblown. I have kids and work full time. I have friends who stay home full time; friends who work part time; friends who stayed home for 4 - 6 years and then went back to work. We're all more concerned about how our kids are doing (will they ever potty train? what will kindergarten be like? will I ever get 8 hours of sleep (in a row) again?) to get hung up on this mostly overblown, media inflamed, "fight."

Posted by: Cat | April 30, 2007 1:55 PM

The financial consequences and hardships of divorce are real. Most women think they will live happily ever after, though statistics show otherwise. Even as a working professional, I have struggled after my divorce 5 years ago to raise children in the very overpriced Washington region. It's hard but I am lucky because I can support myself and the kids. I would never put myself in a position of dependency. Financial independence is the foundation of all independence for women.

Posted by: MontgomeryMom | April 30, 2007 1:59 PM

"Since leaving is not an option for either of us, it helps us work out our problems rather than making a new life for ourselves without the other. "

Pathetic to the nth degree.

Is this how your spouse decribes your marriage?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 2:00 PM

"I think part of the reason that many of the women I know are not afraid of the financial repercussions of staying home is because they come from relatively wealthy families, so even if their husbands did leave them or die, they would hardly be out on the street."

Notamom, I agree, with a twist -- I don't know that it's so much the comfort of knowing you can run home to mom, as it is just not really knowing and understanding what it's like to struggle. I see it in my own household -- my husband grew up much better off than I did, and he just has this innate confidence that there will always be enough money for whatever we need. Whereas I grew up poor, and believe there will NEVER be enough. :-) To him, hard work = success -- duh! That's what he experienced in his own life, and in the life of his family and friends. To me, life is much more uncertain -- not working hard = failure, but working hard by itself isn't enough.

And the thing is, no matter how much my husband loves me and tries to understand, he's always going to think I'm a little weird for being so fixated on saving $10 here or there. He never had to use a calculator at the grocery store to make sure he didn't exceed his food stamps; he didn't have to buy used shoes at the thrift store -- he can't even conceive of actually having to do that, so he can't know what it feels like on a day-to-day basis. And since that's just not even within the realm of possibility to him, he also can't really understand why I am so fixated on doing whatever it takes to not ever go back there. Which includes always being able to support myself. Not because I don't trust him -- because I don't trust God/fate/karma. After all, it put me there once -- why in the world would I presume it wouldn't put me back there again???

I suspect that's where some of this discussion comes from as well. It seems like some of the most vocal proponents of women working have been on the other end of it -- ie, they always assumed their husbands would be there to take care of them, then were dumped after 25 years of marriage; or planned to take a few years off after having kids, then couldn't get a reasonable job, etc. For them, a lot of the risks that other people talked about suddenly became very real to them, in a very scary way. So now they want to prosyletize other women, to let them know those risks are real, and they really can and do happen, and it's bad and scary when you have to face it -- in the hope that by giving that warning, they can make it more "real" and so help other women to take steps to protect themselves while they have the opportunity.

So when the response to that is "oh, that won't happen to me," I suspect they get very frustrated, because that's exactly what they said many years before. It's the same reason I get annoyed when my husband gives me some general reassurance that we'll always be ok. Because that answer, by itself, tells me that he still doesn't get it, that his world is the same as it was when he was 16, and bad things never happened to good people.

Posted by: Laura | April 30, 2007 2:00 PM

"By staying home full-time, she took over the management of the house -- which allowed me to focus more on career and getting a 2nd Master's. As a team, we were able to accomplish more than we could have done individually -- and our family income grew significantly.

"Now, 12 years later, we have an upper income lifestyle and she can choose to focus her attention on the activities she wants [she's started charitable organizations, run co-op preschools, and the like] without the need to bring in income.

"Your mileage may vary, but there is a reason that so many high-level executives [both male and female] have SAH spouses [or no children]."

Posted by: A Dad | April 30, 2007 12:52 PM

Here is a couple who are obviously in it for life -- like my parents and my wife's parents were in it for life, and like me and my wife are in it for life (following our parents' example).

But suppose Alice and Bob make the same decision that "A Dad" and his wife have made. And suppose that after a number of years, Alice notices that she has grown; indeed, she has outgrown Bob. Her marriage is no longer a growthful experience. She is no longer fulfilled; indeed, she wonders if she ever was fulfilled in the marriage. Or maybe she meets another guy, someone who cannot support her as well as Bob has supported her. Or maybe she just doesn't love Bob any more.

Being financially dependent on the man you love makes it more difficult to do the wrong thing, viz., to dump him as soon as you no longer love him. Libertines believe that everyone is entitled to maximum self-fulfillment. Abandoning the paid workplace in order to care for home, husband and children may be dangerous to your self-fulfillment.

There's also the argument that it's not "fair" for "A Dad" to have a wife who freed him from "management of the house" so that he could get more education and advance in his career. Why is it unfair? Because not everyone is eligible to have a wife. ENVY declares that if Alice can't have a stay-at-home wife, Bob shouldn't be allowed to have one, either.

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | April 30, 2007 2:00 PM

All good points me again. I actualy know someone who ran over a child and killed her. Her parents parked across the street from grandma's house and the little girl ran around the minni van and ran staight into this person car. They were going 35 miles per hour and it happened so fast they didn't even know they hit her. I agree that parent's have to be smart with thier kids safety too.

Posted by: scarry | April 30, 2007 2:01 PM

True catlady. It is so amazing to me when ppl say: oh, but we are *in love* as if that will magically make their debt go away or make someone not be a liar or make someone get a job they can keep. People are people and love helps to get things thru, but it is not the only thing. Same values and goals. That is at least as important.

Posted by: atlmom | April 30, 2007 2:01 PM

And to those of you who only view education as valuable if it helps you earn more money: shame! shame! on you!!! Whatever happened to learning for its own sake!?!? - educamom

Learning for its own sake is for people who don't have to work to support themselves when they grow up. Or for people who get the CHOICE to work or not.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 2:01 PM

And sometimes they waste your time pretending to seek your advice when their real intent is to put the bite on you.


Posted by: | April 30, 2007 01:36 PM

You've met this person, clearly! But the word is "usually", not "sometimes" in my/our case. I hope the kids don't fall into the same trap.

Posted by: Maryland Mother | April 30, 2007 2:02 PM

I should clarify, I have been asked for money and I have said "no" regularly. Here's hoping that the message gets through.

Posted by: MdMother | April 30, 2007 2:05 PM

"I just don't think that women taking responsibility for their financial preparedness is (or should be) a valid excuse for anyone to divorce them. "

Of course not - and I don't think anyone is saying that. And no one is saying that we shouldn't all - men and women - try to make prudent financial decisions.

But both men and women can place such emphasis on money and careers that it harms their marriages and their relationships with their children. My highest goal in life is not to be absolutely self-reliant. I'm not sure it's possible, and even if it were, I don't think it would be good for me.

Does that mean that I, or anyone else, should completely ignore financial realities? No. But money is not the only thing we should think about, and it is not always foolish for a man or a woman to accept some additional financial risk in order to improve other aspects of their lives.

Posted by: Older Dad | April 30, 2007 2:05 PM

Learning for its own sake is for people who don't have to work to support themselves when they grow up. Or for people who get the CHOICE to work or not.

either way it is none of your business.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 2:08 PM

But suppose Alice and Bob make the same decision that "A Dad" and his wife have made. And suppose that after a number of years, Alice notices that she has grown; indeed, she has outgrown Bob"

OR on the flip side, Bob realizes that his frumpy stay at home wife doesn't help his career and his executive friends now have beautiful trophy wives. Alice needs to always understand that anything can happen. Usually these high powered execs are egomaniacs and honor is not high on the priority list. Jack Welch comes to mind.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 30, 2007 2:09 PM

"You still don't get it -- it's one thing to say you've made the wrong choice and you're wasting YOUR (emphasis) life. It's another, and much more aggressively nasty, thing to say you've made the wrong choice and you're screwing up YOUR KID'S life. The former is akin to saying someone shouldn't work at a law firm but should instead provide more value to the community by providing legal services to those who can't afford it. The latter is attacking someone's parenting. I can't imagine why you don't see the difference!"

No, I don't get it. I didn't say that you're screwing up your life, your spouse's life, your kids' lives or even the health of your housecat. Leslie didn't suggest - and neither do any of the books or articles under discussion.

If you want to continue this discussion, please quote the statements that I made (or that Leslie made in her post) that you interpret as accusing you of "screwing up" your kid's lives.

Otherwise, we're left having to assume that your merely expressing your own internal insecurities.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 2:10 PM

Laura

"that his world is the same as it was when he was 16, and bad things never happened to good people."

Same deal with my DH.

He has never really been hungry or cold or in want in his life.

He has never broken a sweat at work.

And he can't understand why everyone else didn't grow up with the same as he.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 2:11 PM

All good points me again. I actualy know someone who ran over a child and killed her. Her parents parked across the street from grandma's house and the little girl ran around the minni van and ran staight into this person car. They were going 35 miles per hour and it happened so fast they didn't even know they hit her. I agree that parent's have to be smart with thier kids safety too. "

Two thoughts here: isn't 35mph pretty fast on a residential street and two, how does your friend cope. The self loathing would eat me up. (not implying guilt on your friend by the way)

Posted by: pATRICK | April 30, 2007 2:13 PM

Anon at 2:01 wrote: "Learning for its own sake is for people who don't have to work to support themselves when they grow up."

Education is its own reward, as the things we learn for the joy of it (ought to) enhance our lives and our family's and friends'. Whereas, professional training is what prepares us for better employment opportunities than we would probably have otherwise.

How many of us have known (or been among) those who double-majored or had a major and minor in school so we could enjoy the best of both worlds?

If we're really lucky in life, sooner or later we might get to work in an area that's also our passion. Or maybe our profession will turn out to be our passion. Not everyone's so lucky, of course.

Posted by: catlady | April 30, 2007 2:18 PM

Two thoughts here: isn't 35mph pretty fast on a residential street and two, how does your friend cope. The self loathing would eat me up. (not implying guilt on your friend by the way)

It wasn't a residential street it was a road in Ohio and the speed limit was 45. The person thinks about her a lot and gets very upset when people do not watch their kids. She was 7 years old and her mother was in to big of a hurry to drive her up her grandparent's drive way. She got out of the car and, like I say about people parking on the street, stepped out from the back of the minivan right into his car.

I actually don't know how her mother copes. I would never forgive myself. The person had a cell phone way back when they first came out and he called the cops, told them not to move her and did the best he could to keep her mother calm. The cops came and gave him a breathalyzer, I think it was a matter of protocol and then he sat in the car and told them what happened. The police said that it wasn't his fault and there was nothing he could have done. The little girl died that night at the hospital.

Posted by: scarry | April 30, 2007 2:26 PM

"Or maybe our profession will turn out to be our passion. Not everyone's so lucky, of course. "

Duh, ya think?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 2:27 PM

Laura- I think the two of you attack the issue the same way but with different language. You know you can count on you dh knows he can count on himself. You both have the confidence in yourselves to know how to make it work no matter what it takes. You just approach things differently (and probably infuriate each other in the process).

Posted by: atlmom | April 30, 2007 2:27 PM

Today's topic about weeds, and the previous days' topic about smoking, makes me want to, uh, smoke weed?

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 12:29 PM


Just in from my walk -- come on over and we can smoke it in my garden.


"When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, There is always the garden."-- Minnie Aumonier

Ha, ha. This weary old blog might just have the positive effect of converting a few bloggers to gardeners. I know, I should just not tune in. And I no longer do on a regular basis. Sometimes a slow day and a bit of curiosity get the better of me. Of course, this only has the perverse effect of breathing more life into the blog since it feeds on and lives off of clicks.


moxiemom - re. corn gluten

Controlling weeds in an environmentally sound way can be a challenge in your garden and lawn. Corn gluten meal is a natural product that can safely inhibit germination of grass and weed seeds.

In 1985, Dr. Nick Christians, of Iowa State University (ISU), accidentally discovered that corn gluten had preemergence herbicide activity. The control plot of a turf fungal study showed thin seeded grass stands when pure corn gluten was used. Further study by Dr. Christians and his graduate students lead to 4 patents on corn gluten and its active components over the last 15 years. Currently over 20 companies are licensed by ISU to sell corn gluten as a natural herbicide (US Patent 5,030,268; Re 34,594).

Corn gluten is a by-product of wet milling process to make cornstarch. It is an animal feed for cattle, poultry, other livestock, fish and some dog foods. It also contains naturally occurring substances, which inhibit the growth of seed's tiny feeder roots by causing a break down in the cell wall. The seedlings struggle to get enough moisture, which causes them to die before they ever have a change to take hold. When used as directed, corn gluten acts as a preemergent natural herbicide that will not harm beneficial insects, soil organisms, pond or stream life. It is also safe around pets and children.

This is from www.uwex.edu. The other benefit is that the corn gluten breaks down into nitrogen to fertilize the lawn. Needs to be applied in March (just as the crocuses begin to bloom) and again in early August. Ask about it at the garden center.

Posted by: greenisbetter | April 30, 2007 2:29 PM

"And he can't understand why everyone else didn't grow up with the same as he."

Let me provide some insight from the other side. I grew up absolutely dead center middle-class. My wife grew up dirt poor. As a result, we do tend to view money differently - and we have different talents.

My wife can pinch a penny until it screams. I, on the other hand, have no patience for some things (like washing Saran wrap out and re-using it later).

But my wife's family never really managed money, because they never had any. The closest they ever came to a loan was lay-away (I'm dating us here). My family had a mortgage, car loans, bank accounts, etc. My parents discussed all of these issues - does it make sense to repair the car, or would it make more sense to buy a new one? What about paying for college? Do we need a bigger house?

As a result, I came to marriage much better equiped to deal with large financial decisions (can we afford to buy a house, or would we be better off saving up longer - how big a house can we afford to buy, etc.)

We all have life lessons to draw on - and they are all different. Bad stuff can happen. We can underestimate our risks - but we can overestimate them also.

Posted by: Older Dad | April 30, 2007 2:30 PM

To 2:27: Or, you can just stay wallow in self-pity all your life, repelling others with your bitterness.

Posted by: catlady | April 30, 2007 2:33 PM

I think a lot of the Mommy Wars debate could be solved if more companies would offer flexible work environments ... telecommuting, part-time, job-share, etc. I was fortunate when my daughter was born because I got to work from home two days per week for 8 months. Unfortunately, my company changed their policy in January of this year and I had to go back into the office every day, which meant my daughter had to go to daycare every day.

Posted by: Gabby | April 30, 2007 2:34 PM

And he can't understand why everyone else didn't grow up with the same as he."

Let me provide some insight from the other side. I grew up absolutely dead center middle-class. My wife grew up dirt poor. As a result, we do tend to view money differently - and we have different talents.

My wife can pinch a penny until it screams. I, on the other hand, have no patience for some things (like washing Saran wrap out and re-using it later).

But my wife's family never really managed money, because they never had any. The closest they ever came to a loan was lay-away (I'm dating us here). My family had a mortgage, car loans, bank accounts, etc. My parents discussed all of these issues - does it make sense to repair the car, or would it make more sense to buy a new one? What about paying for college? Do we need a bigger house?

As a result, I came to marriage much better equiped to deal with large financial decisions (can we afford to buy a house, or would we be better off saving up longer - how big a house can we afford to buy, etc.)

We all have life lessons to draw on - and they are all different. Bad stuff can happen. We can underestimate our risks - but we can overestimate them also.

Posted by: Older Dad | April 30, 2007 02:30 PM
This sounds just like me and DH. I grew up middle class and he grew up poor. I knew all about investing, interest rates, and the stock market. DH is very concerned about the small stuff. He always worries about being unemployed and having enough money. We sort of split the difference. I do all the long range financial planning and he clips coupons.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 30, 2007 2:34 PM

Older Dad, I'm really enjoying your posts! I appreciate your advice.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 30, 2007 2:35 PM

Learning for its own sake is for people who don't have to work to support themselves when they grow up. Or for people who get the CHOICE to work or not.

either way it is none of your business.

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 02:08 PM

You are so very wrong, 2:08, it IS our business when collective choices impact collective option. The actions of each family, when aggregated, shape public policy and impact us all. Decisions to stay at home or have both spouses work have implications outside of your very own personal marriage. On a personal level, there's no reason to let the opinions of others change your conclusions about what's right for you, but it's disengenuous at best to rant that it's nobody's business what choices other parents make.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 2:36 PM

"I, on the other hand, have no patience for some things (like washing Saran wrap out and re-using it later)."

How about washing the dental floss and hanging it to dry and reuse? And this in a house with just one bathroom, so there it was, hanging for all the visitors to see!

Posted by: anon for this post | April 30, 2007 2:38 PM

Fedworker,
That was said by Lori on The REal Housewives of Orange County.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 30, 2007 2:39 PM

I, on the other hand, have no patience for some things (like washing Saran wrap out and re-using it later)."

How about washing the dental floss and hanging it to dry and reuse? And this in a house with just one bathroom, so there it was, hanging for all the visitors to see!

Posted by: anon for this post | April 30, 2007 02:38 PM
I once dated a physician who washed out the paper dixie cups. I asked him if that defeats the purpose of them being disposable. He did not reply.

Posted by: adoptee | April 30, 2007 2:40 PM

"On a personal level, there's no reason to let the opinions of others change your conclusions about what's right for you, but it's disengenuous at best to rant that it's nobody's business what choices other parents make.'

By the way, the meeting of the Stalinist Communist Party has changed to wednesday. Any questions call your local commissar.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 30, 2007 2:42 PM

I, on the other hand, have no patience for some things (like washing Saran wrap out and re-using it later)."

How about washing the dental floss and hanging it to dry and reuse? And this in a house with just one bathroom, so there it was, hanging for all the visitors to see!

Posted by: anon for this post | April 30, 2007 02:38 PM
I once dated a physician who washed out the paper dixie cups. I asked him if that defeats the purpose of them being disposable. He did not reply.

Posted by: adoptee | April 30, 2007 02:40 PM


He didn't reply something about it helping to build immunities?

These "ideas" do, of course, benefit the environment.

Posted by: greenisbetter | April 30, 2007 2:43 PM

--"I believe that my marriage has survived because neither of us is willing to have joint custody or visitation rights to our children. We both want our children to live with us full-time. Since leaving is not an option for either of us, it helps us work out our problems rather than making a new life for ourselves without the other. "

Wow, that is very sad. Really, I feel bad for you, your spouse, and your children, to be stuck in this situation. I can't imagine describing my marriage this way!---

OK - I guess I didn't word this clearly. I know many couples who have split up for reasons such as "he/she doesn't understand me or he/she doesn't meet my needs or he/she doesn't do enough around the house or works too long". There is plenty of love in our marriage, but we have also had some bumps. We know people who have had the same bumps and divorced because of it. We choose to work out any problems. If we didn't have children, we may have chosen to split up rather than work it out.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 2:44 PM

Matt in Aberdeen wrote:

"Being financially dependent on the man you love makes it more difficult to do the wrong thing, viz., to dump him as soon as you no longer love him."

Being financially dependent makes it more difficult to do the right thing also, e.g. when women who don't leave marriages where the husband is cheating or abusive. Being financially dependent makes it more difficult to make choices, period, whether those choices are right or wrong. You wouldn't put yourself in such a position of dependency and powerlessness, would you? So why would you advocate it for women???

Posted by: Groggie | April 30, 2007 2:46 PM

atlmom -- I think you're right. I would just edit that to say that I learned I can "only" count on myself, but that even that wouldn't necessarily be enough. It's made for an interesting 10+ yrs together so far!

Older Dad, I think you're right on, too -- I definitely overestimated the risk of poverty for a long time, and that limited my world too much. But that's where that karma/God/fate issue comes in again: only 2 yrs into marriage, we needed to move cross-country for his job. I learned very quickly that NO amount of money was worth the horrible treatment at my new job ("aha!" moment no. 1: money can't buy dignity and self-respect). Then I faced my worst fear to telecommute VERY part time, which left my husband as both my emotional support and the vast majority of our financial support. And I learned that I CAN count on him through thick and thin.

He also taught me that sometimes, it's ok to loosen up and enjoy life a bit -- the world won't fall off its axis if you spring for lunch out once in a while. And luckily, my husband was smart enough to realize that maybe he should take a small page out of my book on saving, instead of buying ALL of the latest cool toys (just most of them). :-)

Posted by: Laura | April 30, 2007 2:49 PM

"You are so very wrong, 2:08, it IS our business when collective choices impact collective option. The actions of each family, when aggregated, shape public policy and impact us all. Decisions to stay at home or have both spouses work have implications outside of your very own personal marriage."

This is a very good example of what I meant about people viewing things through ideological or political lenses. 2:36 PM is essentially saying that what most of us consider very personal decisions are fair game for others to discuss and evaluate - not for how much sense they make in your family's particular situation - but based on how they line up with up with some sort of desired public policy.

That's crazy - we should judge public policy based on how well it works in the lives of individual people, rather than judging people's personal lives based on whether or not they advance some sort of ideology or public policy position.

Posted by: Demos | April 30, 2007 2:52 PM

2:36 wrote: "Decisions to stay at home or have both spouses work have implications outside of your very own personal marriage."

How about some non-frivolous examples? You view would only apply if one is overly concerned about superficial image or keeping up with the figurative Joneses.

Posted by: catlady | April 30, 2007 2:52 PM

pATRICK

"By the way, the meeting of the Stalinist Communist Party has changed to wednesday. Any questions call your local commissar."


Thank you, Comrade. I will bring the vodka.

Posted by: Ninotchka | April 30, 2007 2:52 PM

On a personal level, there's no reason to let the opinions of others change your conclusions about what's right for you, but it's disengenuous at best to rant that it's nobody's business what choices other parents make.'

By the way, the meeting of the Stalinist Communist Party has changed to wednesday. Any questions call your local commissar.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 30, 2007 02:42 PM

pATRICK, I know you have knee-jerk tendencies, but what is Communist about acknowledging that collective choices shape public policy? Individuals' collective choices entirely drive, and are the only reason for our current larger public discussions about immigration policy, health care, national security or anything else, as a country. The above submitter whom you quote didn't label any choice as good or bad, so why the unhelpful labeling by you of a comment blissfully absent controversy?

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 30, 2007 2:52 PM

pATRICK

"By the way, the meeting of the Stalinist Communist Party has changed to wednesday. Any questions call your local commissar."


Thank you, Comrade. I will bring the vodka.

Posted by: Ninotchka | April 30, 2007 02:52 PM


Very funny :-)

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 2:54 PM

2:36 wrote: "Decisions to stay at home or have both spouses work have implications outside of your very own personal marriage."

How about some non-frivolous examples? You view would only apply if one is overly concerned about superficial image or keeping up with the figurative Joneses.

Posted by: catlady | April 30, 2007 02:52 PM

One example: some consider that the federal government should incentivize the creation of more affordable daycare options. Whether or not that such an incentive is a good idea, it is irrelevant unless significant numbers of families need such daycare. The numbers of families that make certain choices drive whether the politicians think that certain topics are important to address.

I have no idea whether that was the original commenter's point. It is merely what I thought when I read it. I see the initial comment as much less politically charged than several of you.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 30, 2007 3:01 PM

I don't want to speak for pATRICK, but one problem I see with judging people's lives based on public policy is that it ultimately leads to a form of centralized, authoritarian control of people's lives. We pick the public policy collectively, and that's what determines whether my family's personal choices are "good" or "bad" - not whether or not they work for us.

We can debate which political system this most resembles, but central planning hasn't worked especially well as a way of organizing either economies or political systems.

And I sure as heck want the central planners to stay out of my wife's decision about whether to go to work or stay home with the kids (you can call that "democratic," "libertarian" or just plain ornery - your choice).

Posted by: Demos | April 30, 2007 3:04 PM

Matt wrote "Being financially dependent on the man you love makes it more difficult to do the wrong thing, viz., to dump him as soon as you no longer love him. " But Matt the man doesn't have the same controls - he can dump her as soon as he no longer loves her - this is what is called an unequal partnership - it is harder for her to leave than for him!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:04 PM

This is a very good example of what I meant about people viewing things through ideological or political lenses. 2:36 PM is essentially saying that what most of us consider very personal decisions are fair game for others to discuss and evaluate - not for how much sense they make in your family's particular situation - but based on how they line up with up with some sort of desired public policy.

That's crazy - we should judge public policy based on how well it works in the lives of individual people, rather than judging people's personal lives based on whether or not they advance some sort of ideology or public policy position.

Posted by: Demos | April 30, 2007 02:52 PM

Speaking of viewing a comment through your ideological lens . . . Pot, meet Kettle.

How can we judge whether public policy is working in the lives of individual people, unless we acknowledge the different choices people are making and why? It's not about judging, it's about listening.

Posted by: Anon for this | April 30, 2007 3:06 PM

"One example: some consider that the federal government should incentivize the creation of more affordable daycare options. Whether or not that such an incentive is a good idea, it is irrelevant unless significant numbers of families need such daycare. The numbers of families that make certain choices drive whether the politicians think that certain topics are important to address. "

Megan's Neighbor,

you're absolutely right - people will tend to support politically what they need for the lives they are leading right now.

What I object to is the suggestion that a particular person made the "wrong" choice because, regardless of how much sense it made for their family, it didn't help bring pressure on politicians to support a particular public policy or otherwise support a particular movement.

That's just wrong - people are more important than politics. If we forget that, we lose our humanity (and any hope of rising above partisan bickering).

Posted by: Demos | April 30, 2007 3:08 PM

To Megan's Neighbor: Interesting point -- I never thought of it that way. My interpretation was that 2:36 was implying (assuming e.g., that my choices were legal and I wasn't being a drain on the government) that my decisions in life are the business of other people than my immediate family.

Posted by: catlady | April 30, 2007 3:09 PM

"Speaking of viewing a comment through your ideological lens . . . Pot, meet Kettle. "

What political lens? Libertarian? I may be guilty of harboring libertarian leanings. But that's not what drives my comments. It's much simpler. My wife, my kids, my parents, etc. are much more important to me than any political party, election result or particular piece of legislation.

I am absolutely convinced that if making a political statement becomes more important to you than your spouse or your kids, then your priorities are completely screwed up.

Posted by: Demos | April 30, 2007 3:13 PM

I also get annoyed when people with three car garages park on of their cars on the street. It makes it hard to see if a kid is coming from that direction and it impedes traffic.

Posted by: scarry | April 30, 2007 01:45 PM

Me too! Or when they park on the street directly at the end of your drive so you have to be super careful when you back out! What drives me crazy in our neighborhood is that most houses have 2/3 car garages and a shed and still they park their cars in the drive because the garage is filled with plastic crap for their kids. I can't understand why you would have $80K worth of cars sitting out in the weather while $2K worth of kids junk takes up the garage. Geeze, my dad would drive over my bike if I left it in the driveway at the end of hte day. I cannot imagine him taking the time to scrape off his car in the winter so my junk could stay inside.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 30, 2007 3:13 PM

Yep moximom it is so annoying. I asked at the HOA if people were allowed to park their cars on the road and the president said as long as they moved them at night. Yeah right. These are big trucks and SUVs too.

Posted by: scarry | April 30, 2007 3:17 PM

pATRICK

"By the way, the meeting of the Stalinist Communist Party has changed to wednesday. Any questions call your local commissar."


Thank you, Comrade. I will bring the vodka.

Posted by: Ninotchka | April 30, 2007 02:52 PM

Only if you bring a brand of vodka that is considered a VLI!

Posted by: Dmitri | April 30, 2007 3:17 PM

"No, I don't get it. I didn't say that you're screwing up your life, your spouse's life, your kids' lives or even the health of your housecat. Leslie didn't suggest - and neither do any of the books or articles under discussion."

I guess I was not nearly clear enough. I'm not talking about your statement that you are making the choice you believe is best for your kids -- I'm talking about statements some (not all) SAHMs (and some of their spouses) make along these lines -- that if you're not a SAHM, you're jeopardizing your kids' mental/physical/emotional health. Please try to understand the difference -- there are plenty of statements like that on the posts above!

Posted by: anon | April 30, 2007 3:17 PM

scarry

"I also get annoyed when people with three car garages park on of their cars on the street. It makes it hard to see if a kid is coming from that direction and it impedes traffic."

Is it illegal to park in the street? If not, mind your own business.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:19 PM

Learning for its own sake is for people who don't have to work to support themselves when they grow up. Or for people who get the CHOICE to work or not.

either way it is none of your business.

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 02:08 PM

Where did I say it was? It doesn't affect me one way or another.

The problem I have is that when we get studies listing college grads and earnings, the people who got a comp sci degree are lumped in with the people who have an (insert degree not relevant to the working world). Then we go on to blame somebody because the second person makes less money right out of college even though they had better grades.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:19 PM

"We know people who have had the same bumps and divorced because of it. We choose to work out any problems. If we didn't have children, we may have chosen to split up rather than work it out."

So you're together because of the kids? Sorry, this is still a pretty sad statement about a marriage.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:19 PM

""Being financially dependent on the man you love makes it more difficult to do the wrong thing, viz., to dump him as soon as you no longer love him. "

So just keep 'em barefoot and pregnant, and you never have to worry about them leaving.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:21 PM

Is it illegal to park in the street? If not, mind your own business.


Hey it is my business when it affects whether or not I can get out of my driveway or if I can see to get down the street. You are probably someone who parks in others way, so it doesn't bother you. THat is until there is an emergency and the person can't get out so they take a baseball bat to your car or you.

Posted by: scarry | April 30, 2007 3:22 PM

So you're together because of the kids? Sorry, this is still a pretty sad statement about a marriage.

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 03:19 PM


Would you rather they divorce?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:24 PM

Okay. Two people in different neighborhoods are arguing over where to park...this blog has officially "Jumped the Shark"

Posted by: Jumped the Shark | April 30, 2007 3:26 PM

"I'm not talking about your statement that you are making the choice you believe is best for your kids -- I'm talking about statements some (not all) SAHMs (and some of their spouses) make along these lines -- that if you're not a SAHM, you're jeopardizing your kids' mental/physical/emotional health. Please try to understand the difference -- there are plenty of statements like that on the posts above!"

So why vent on me? All you're doing is attacking stay-at-home moms.

And why don't you quote a few of the statements? This particular blog today has been remarkably free of "working moms threaten the welfare of their kids" statements while being chock full of statements suggesting that stay-at-home moms are irresponsibly risking imminant financial ruin for themselves and their children.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:28 PM

To anon at 3:21 (and another time that I'm not going to bother to look up) --

I think the poster is just trying to say that the presence of children in their marriage gives them extra incentive to work through the tough times instead of moving on immediately.

I'm pretty sure she didn't mean that she's living in a loveless marriage for the sake of the children.

Posted by: Vegas Mom | April 30, 2007 3:28 PM

scarry- how 'come you didn't respond to when I posted about how personal choice affects others? I posted at 1113 am.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:28 PM

"So you're together because of the kids? Sorry, this is still a pretty sad statement about a marriage.

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 03:19 PM


"Would you rather they divorce?"

They will eventually.
Sounds like the husband will bail ASAP.
The wife sounds pretty cold and calculating. Almost like the marriage is a business deal.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:29 PM

So you're together because of the kids? Sorry, this is still a pretty sad statement about a marriage.

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 03:19 PM


Would you rather they divorce?

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 03:24 PM

I don't love you, only the financial security that you provide to our economic unit at this time.

If I could afford it, I'd be quit of you.

I'm going for custody of the kids, too. Don't fight it, or I'll break you.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:31 PM

I'm pretty sure she didn't mean that she's living in a loveless marriage for the sake of the children.

Posted by: Vegas Mom | April 30, 2007 03:28 PM

Don't assume. Plenty of spouses do it, and we have "pay the mortgage" sex too. I'm counting the days until I can pull the plug on this misery.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:33 PM

Almost like the marriage is a business deal.

No, marriage is about love. Divorce is about money (it's a business deal gone bad).

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:34 PM

"I think the poster is just trying to say that the presence of children in their marriage gives them extra incentive to work through the tough times instead of moving on immediately."

Do people without the presence of kids always move on immediately?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:35 PM

Vegas Mom wrote: "I'm pretty sure she didn't mean that she's living in a loveless marriage for the sake of the children."

This was my take, too. I understood her to mean that she felt her marriage was worth the effort to work at (sorry 'bout that dangling preposition, MN!). Sometimes life hands us unexpected major challenges that are neither partner's fault -- as Vegas Mom so effectively recounted in her personal blog a few weeks ago -- yet we still have the choice of staying and dealing with the problem, or giving up too easily and running away from it. I think the original poster was saying that, if the problem can be solved or reasonably managed, then it's worth staying together.

Posted by: catlady | April 30, 2007 3:36 PM

Do people without the presence of kids always move on immediately?

No, but people with children always want to jump in and say that they are always more thoughtful, more mature, more caring and committed than anybody else could ever possibly be!

Then they wonder why their single and/or married friends without children don't seem to enjoy hanging out with them as much as they used to. They assume it's because their friends are "too shallow".

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:38 PM

"Do people without the presence of kids always move on immediately?

No, but people with children always want to jump in and say that they are always more thoughtful, more mature, more caring and committed than anybody else could ever possibly be!"

And a lot of women divorce when they feel like they are single moms and carrying the lion's share.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:40 PM

Since Fred never posted an actual Cultural Tidbit of the Day, I'll take the liberty of noting that the concept of the love-match marriage is comparative recent. One reason Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" was considered progressive -- although it seems so backwards and sexist now -- was that the two principals were contemplating a relationship they'd chosen themselves, rather than one arranged by their parents.

Posted by: catlady | April 30, 2007 3:43 PM

"No, but people with children always want to jump in and say that they are always more thoughtful, more mature, more caring and committed than anybody else could ever possibly be!"

Right the martyr act gets very annoying pretty quick.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:43 PM

Do people without the presence of kids always move on immediately?

No, but people with children always want to jump in and say that they are always more thoughtful, more mature, more caring and committed than anybody else could ever possibly be!

Then they wonder why their single and/or married friends without children don't seem to enjoy hanging out with them as much as they used to. They assume it's because their friends are "too shallow".

And let's not forget those parents who abuse their co-workers by leaving them hanging with work details while rushing off to ferry the kid(s) to their after-school activities.

Faugh!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:43 PM

"So you're together because of the kids? Sorry, this is still a pretty sad statement about a marriage.

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 03:19 PM


"Would you rather they divorce?"

They will eventually.
Sounds like the husband will bail ASAP.
The wife sounds pretty cold and calculating. Almost like the marriage is a business deal.

I'm the wife. We've been married 21 years. There were two times when we seriously considered separating, but chose to work through our problems instead - yes, because of the children. The children were the reason we were committed to making our marriage work through those two difficult times. Without them, we would have separated in a heartbeat. We did work things through, and we do have a good marriage. Personally, I am quite comfortable with the idea that we stayed together through 2 tough years since we had 19 good years already and many more to come.

Vegas Mom said it best at 3:28.

Amazing how people filter statements through their own life experiences and feel that their experiences apply to everyone else.

Posted by: the wife | April 30, 2007 3:43 PM

"I don't love you, only the financial security that you provide to our economic unit at this time. If I could afford it, I'd be quit of you."

Then I don't want you either - and you've just turned yourself into a live-in prostitute.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:45 PM


Well, I didn't like how you implied that because you think that I wouldn't know any doctors or lawyers that somehow my point about a woman who got into college ahead of someone else and didn't want to work afterwards was less valid than your point. I also didn't mention anything about affirmative action and find it odd that you would bring that up as if the only way women can beat out men is by that program.

I stand by my opinion that if a woman wants to go to school and chooses to stay home afterwards to take care of her children that is her choice. I don't think her personal choice affects you or me. I mean I don't know about you, but I have student loans that I have to pay whether I work or not. Like I posted earlier, the collective good of feminism has to get in line behind my family.

I mean how many universities are there out there? If everyone you apply to turns you down then maybe there is something wrong with you. Well, not you personally, but the collective you. Maybe you weren't meant to be a doctor or a lawyer. Maybe you were meant to go to a crappy state school like the rest of us and maybe after Mrs. Smith puts her kids in kindergarten she will come back and save your life or discover a cure for cancer? I just don't understand how people really think that what I or what my friend Mrs. Smith does affects them personally.

Posted by: scarry | April 30, 2007 3:46 PM

Groggie, you are really a sane voice in this blog. I haven't posted in many months and read only occasionally now, but I have to say that you really hit the nail on the head with Bennetts' book. I am amazed at how the majority of the criticism of her thesis comes from the "ostriches" as you put it that refuse to read it, criticize it and probably need to hear this viewpoint the most. I too have vacillated between staying home for a period and continuing to work, and this book gives all the reasons why it would be a huge, huge risk to stay at home, even for a few years, given the massive financial downfalls.

And to all those that want to pooh-pooh Bennetts' bottom line, this book was thoroughly researched and many of the most interesting interviews come from stay at home moms themselves. This isn't some dream bad ending she's thought up for stay-at-home women. This is reality that she's simply documented. It's really interesting reading if you actually pick up the book rather than relying on a two-sentence summary provided in Leslie's (our Leslie's) blog.

And there's another point Bennetts raises about even women who don't consider themselves SAHMs, but only do it for a brief time (a few years) who have real issues getting back into the workplace into any job, not just a great high-level job. Some of these people are Harvard-educated grads, at Bennetts puts it. These are serious issues to consider when weighing one's "choices," as so many people here put it.

Related, Bennetts asks the question of whether it's a "choice" or whether it's simply a result of the raw deal women are getting at work. And if it's the latter, then these women need to stick around and change it-or ride out the rough years-so they can be around for all of the financial (and other) rewards that come from the workplace when their children no longer need them 24/7.

And DCer, I agree with you, too, on your point, that why waste the MBA/med/law school education if you're going to get it. I made a similar point (and was called an "elitist") many months ago and was absolutely slammed. I believe that many people on this blog, probably the same ones to bury their heads in the sand as to the value of an "elite" education, have also buried their heads as to the reality that opting out of the workplace has serious, serious risks. Why am I not surprised?

Posted by: cream of the crop | April 30, 2007 3:47 PM

3:35 --

No, people without kids DON'T always move on immediately, and I don't think I implied that.

Most marriages go through tough times, when you struggle to stay together. What keeps a couple together through those times and on to a "happy ending," so to speak, can be a variety of things. For example:

1. Children, and your desire that they grow up with both parents.
2. Religious convictions about divorce/marriage.
3. Monetary -- Can't afford to live on one income.
4. Memories of good times past.
5. Good old fashioned hard-headedness.
6. Fear of change.
7. Spouse is making good-faith effort to change/work on marriage relationship
8. We are in counseling and making progress, but things are still tough.
9. All of the above
10. None of the above (insert your reason here).

I'm not sure the reason matters. And the presence or absence of children is immaterial to most of these reasons.

The point is, it's what kept you together during a rough patch in your marriage, said rough patch is RESOLVED, and the marriage is now satisfactory to both parties.

I guess I'm in the minority, but that's what I read into the post about being unwilling to divorce because of the children.

Posted by: Vegas Mom | April 30, 2007 3:47 PM

"I don't love you, only the financial security that you provide to our economic unit at this time. If I could afford it, I'd be quit of you."

Then I don't want you either - and you've just turned yourself into a live-in prostitute.

Or gigolo (if you wish to separate the men who earn less than their wives). Is gigolo the correct term? Or is it strictly prostitute?

What's the difference between a concubine and a prostitute; concubine vs. wife? Is there a male equivalent (yet)?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:48 PM

A few of the last posts brought up the other issue for financial indepedence, not what will happen if he leaves you, but giving you the option to leave him. Extreme example - When I used to volunteer with an abused person's program I lost count of the number of women who were afraid to leave because they couldn't support themselves. Actually it is one of the actions of an abuser, to make the abusee dependant on him for everything. Now before the flaming starts, no that doesn't mean because a man wants you to stay home and he will support you he is a potential abuser. Actually some of the best marriages and nicest men I know (as much as anyone can know from the outside) have SAHM's, but if you are concerned about yourself or a friend this is another reason to maintain or encourage someone to maintain a career.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | April 30, 2007 3:50 PM

Scarry, re: "Like I posted earlier, the collective good of feminism has to get in line behind my family." Good thing no one thought about that 40 years ago when they were fighting for equal footing in higher education - which you have clearly taken advantage of since you have loans - or the workplace or voting (why should I go out campaigning for the right to vote? I've got kids to raise!)......

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:52 PM

Most marriages go through tough times, when you struggle to stay together. What keeps a couple together through those times and on to a "happy ending," so to speak, can be a variety of things.

Blah-blah-blah.

I can think of 5 good times in 22 years. I'm just praying for death. I don't care whose comes first, at this point.

Do you use the word "soulmate" to describe your marriage too?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:52 PM

"So why vent on me? All you're doing is attacking stay-at-home moms."

I'm sorry you see it that way, but I really don't have the energy to continue arguing with someone who either intentionally or inadvertently keeps missing the point. Good day.

Posted by: anon | April 30, 2007 3:54 PM

"I can think of 5 good times in 22 years. I'm just praying for death. I don't care whose comes first, at this point."

Wow. I'm sorry it has been so awful for you. I sincerely hope you find some peace in your life soon.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:55 PM

"Financial independence is the foundation of all independence for women." Amen.

RE: the lawn and weeds, my husband and I spent the entire weekend mulching the back yard. We are so sore today that we'll probably be in bed by 8:30 tonight.

Thanks for corn gluten tip. We had a lawn service, but I hate using the chemicals. We don't have a problem with weeds, but we need fertilizer for the grass (fescue in the South = bad idea). Does anyone have suggestions for earth-friendly fertilizer? All the "green" stuff I found is actually made out of chicken parts. Organic--yes, "green"--no.

Posted by: Meesh | April 30, 2007 3:56 PM

We will watch for you on the evening news, 3:52.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:57 PM

Almost like the marriage is a business deal.

No, marriage is about love. Divorce is about money (it's a business deal gone bad).

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 03:34 PM

DING DING DING DING DINGGGGGGGG!

Ladies and Gentlemen, We have a WINNER for the most judgmental post of the day. In a class all her or his own, its Holier Than Thou Married (or Never Married) Person at 3:34.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:59 PM

"...And DCer, I agree with you, too, on your point, that why waste the MBA/med/law school education if you're going to get it. I made a similar point (and was called an "elitist") many months ago and was absolutely slammed."

You were not slammed for saying that women who have attained high levels of education should choose to remain in the paid work force.

You were slammed for discounting the value of all the other working women who attended public and other private colleges/universities. You basically said that if a "crappy undergrad graduates average women employees" left the workforce, it would be no loss to society.

If you do not see the insult that you posted, you are truly a snob.

Posted by: Fred | April 30, 2007 4:01 PM

Meesh-fescue is better than the alternative: invasive bermuda grass. ooooh yuuuucccck.

Don't fertilize fescue after May. I believe NC State has a website (google it) with green lawn care alternatives.

Posted by: dotted | April 30, 2007 4:02 PM

Yes 3:52 feminism also gave women choices but I guess those choices have to be okayed by people like you.

You don't know what I do in my personal life, but one thing I will not be is a bill board for why women should work and not stay home. SAHM also have the right to take advantage of all the things you listed.

Posted by: scarry | April 30, 2007 4:04 PM

Like I posted earlier, the collective good of feminism has to get in line behind my family." Good thing no one thought about that 40 years ago when they were fighting for equal footing in higher education - which you have clearly taken advantage of since you have loans - or the workplace or voting (why should I go out campaigning for the right to vote? I've got kids to raise!)......

None of these women raised kids?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:05 PM

Yes 3:52 feminism also gave women choices but I guess those choices have to be okayed by people like you.

You don't know what I do in my personal life, but one thing I will not be is a bill board for why women should work and not stay home. SAHM also have the right to take advantage of all the things you listed.

Posted by: scarry | April 30, 2007 04:04 PM

it's amazing to watch certain somewhat younger women spout vitriol about feminism while they take full advantage of the world it has shaped.

Blog Stats, how many times has scarry used "right" or "entitled"?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:06 PM

"What's the difference between a concubine and a prostitute; concubine vs. wife?"

It's technical. Essentially, a concubine is a secondary wife. The relationship is one that legally/socially recognized, but the concubine has less status and fewer legal protections than a full wife. So, for instance, it may be easier to dispose of a concubine and the children may not have full inheritance rights. Concubines were often slaves, or of lower social class than a wife, while wives were typically free women of comparable social status to the husband.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:10 PM

Fred, well, there are two interrelated points here:
1. my initial point (back in 2006 I believe) was that women who go to these "elite" institutions are not just doing themselves a disservice by staying home, they are doing -society- a disservice because these are the very leaders who can make a real change in the workplace environment. I still firmly believe this.
2. today's point is somewhat related, but not quite the same, and that is that women who get these "elite" graduate educations should not waste them by staying home.
3. But of course today's main point was just that, aside from the above, the biggest reason to keep working (according to Bennetts)-and this affects ALL women-not just the "elite" grads-is to create financial stability for oneself and one's children just in case the unthinkable happens and your husband (a) leaves (even though, judging from some of today's posters, it could -never- happen to them), (b) becomes disabled or (c) dies.

Posted by: cream of the crop | April 30, 2007 4:10 PM

So SAHM don't have the same rights because they aren't like you and I am using "vitriol" because I disagree that they shouldn't be looked upon as a drain to society and that they are, yes, entitled to the same rights as women who work, which are going to college, choosing which career path to take, etc. I suppose I am also using vitriol when I say I am not a feminist because I can't stand the whole one sided approach to women's rights?

Wow, I see I have a real problem.

Posted by: scarry | April 30, 2007 4:11 PM

And DCer, I agree with you, too, on your point, that why waste the MBA/med/law school education if you're going to get it. I made a similar point (and was called an "elitist") many months ago and was absolutely slammed. I believe that many people on this blog, probably the same ones to bury their heads in the sand as to the value of an "elite" education, have also buried their heads as to the reality that opting out of the workplace has serious, serious risks. Why am I not surprised?

Posted by: cream of the crop | April 30, 2007 03:47 PM

Once again, anyone who disagrees with cream of the crop is not permitted to have thoughtfully reached an alternative conclusion. She and Bennett would no doubt be fast friends.

Cream of the Crop, Allow me to refresh your memory of the post with which many of us disagreed. You essentially stated that the personal choices -- to exit or not to exit - of women who graduate from state schools is irrelevant, but there is a negative impact when "elite" women (defined by you as women who matriculated from elite institutions) exit the workforce. Your political point did not draw fire as much as your condescending attitude.

Snobbery is not an endearing characteristic and does a disservice to those several elite institutions from which you obtained your multitude of degrees.

Signed,

Juris Doctorate

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 30, 2007 4:17 PM

Wow, I see I have a real problem.


Posted by: scarry | April 30, 2007 04:11 PM

That's the first step to getting help.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:20 PM

"I'm sorry you see it that way"

Then help me see it otherwise. I understand that you feel attacked by someone (I do wish, though, that you'd give us at least a couple of quotes from today to illustrate what, specifically, set you off).

Leslie started with a post talking about "The Feminine Mistake" and you responded to the discussion by defining the "problem" as "SAHMs alleging that what working moms do is BAD for their kids."

How the heck do you define that as anything but an attack? The discussion today had NOTHING to do with any claim that it was bad to be a working mom, but rather, whether it is ever a reasonable choice to stay home.

But for you, everything is somehow about how "BAD" other moms think you are for working.

No wonder you don't have the "energy" to talk about this - you're too wrapped up brooding over your imagined slights.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:21 PM


Matt wrote "Being financially dependent on the man you love makes it more difficult to do the wrong thing, viz., to dump him as soon as you no longer love him. " But Matt the man doesn't have the same controls - he can dump her as soon as he no longer loves her - this is what is called an unequal partnership - it is harder for her to leave than for him!

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 03:04 PM

Let him try it. Under the "standard" American divorce, he'll get to see his children every other weekend. He won't be able to live in his house, but he'll still have to pay the mortgage. He'll also be socked with child support. State constitutional prohibitions against imprisonment for unpaid debt do not apply to unpaid child support.

This is assuming that the cad who dumps his wife is at least a law-abiding cad who will take his deserved medicine like a man. Alternatively, he can run, and see his mug shot among the 82 "deadbeat parents" whose pictures appeared in last weekend's "Baltimore Examiner" as being WANTED by the Harford County Sheriff's Department for non-payment of child support.

There are plenty of forces keeping men in marriages where they are not "fulfilled," after they no longer love their wives, but it would cost them too much to leave. Too bad, Mac: you promised, now keep your promise. You won't get any sympathy from me.

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | April 30, 2007 4:23 PM

Wow, I see I have a real problem.


Posted by: scarry | April 30, 2007 04:11 PM

That's the first step to getting help.

That is a good rebuttal. Really. Not.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:24 PM

Anon at 3:52:

Wow. I feel for you. Please, please see a counselor or therapist, so you can get guidance on how to make the best decision for yourself, to ensure your future happiness (you CAN be happy -- trust me). Let me insert a shameless plug for Al-Anon if the problem is some type of addiction. They saved my sanity, and probably my life.

**Learning for its own sake is for people who don't have to work to support themselves when they grow up. Or for people who get the CHOICE to work or not.**

Well, I have to work to support myself! I originally earned a degree in English, which was learning for its own sake in my case (the teaching courses and the masters came later). My dad made me contribute to my tuition even then, and all the rest has been on me.
My parents always said school (especialy college) is not where you learn how to work -- it's where you learn to THINK. If you can think critically, and you know how to learn, you will succeed in almost any field. Even at the elementary level, I impart that lesson to my students.

I am enjoying the thread on the collective/societal influences on our individual decisions, and vice versa. Some interesting points have been made, and were well-supported. You are all thinking critically on the topic and each comment has added to the discussion.

Sorry, thought I was still at work...but the thread really IS good!

Posted by: educmom | April 30, 2007 4:33 PM

Megan's Neighbor,

As I replied to Fred above, my larger point (condescending in your view or not) was that when these elite women grads leave the workforce they are letting the entire society of women down because these are the women we would-and should-rely upon to give back, to really step up and make a positive change in the workplace. When they go to the elite schools and then drop out of the workforce (Bennetts actually cited a ridiculously sad statistic on MBA women grads v. male grads, something like only 33 percent of Harvard MBA grad women with children were full-time in the workforce while it was 90-something percent of men-don't jump on me if I am off on that) this is a disservice to society. And it is this way-for elite women alone (although, as with all general rules, there are no doubt exceptions) because these are the very women who are in the best positions to break through the glass ceiling and achieve real change in the workplace overall. =

This is an entirely separate matter, however, than today's point (as I also said above) which relates to ALL women as a personal matter-which is that their "choice" to opt out has serious risks that Bennett has very thoroughly documented. Whether you disagree or not, I don't care-but your comment that basically says "you and Bennetts are both elitist snobs--you'd be fast friends" is just silly and out of place.

By the way, how do you know that I'm not a state school grad who simply looks at the world (particularly the Washington world) in a realistic light??

Posted by: cream of the crop | April 30, 2007 4:35 PM

"How the heck do you define that as anything but an attack? The discussion today had NOTHING to do with any claim that it was bad to be a working mom, but rather, whether it is ever a reasonable choice to stay home. "

Sigh. you must have gone to one of those crappy state schools, if you're this far off the mark. Open your mind a little.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:35 PM

What's a waste? My little sister is better educated than I am (not so little any more, but hey, I'm still her big brother).

She's worked full time, part time, and stayed at home, depending on what her family needed at the time. Has she "wasted" her advanced degree? I don't think so.

She's accomplished a lot, and our whole family is proud of her. She's also a great mom (and sister, and wife . . .). She's built a great life, and it's affected lots of people around her.

There is no one, single "brass ring" in this life. We don't "win" by dieing with the most toys, most money, or most academic degrees.

I've made more money than my sister has, because I went into business rather than academia. Does that mean that I've "won?" Of course not (the only reason I went to work rather than grad school was that I had someone I wanted to marry when I graduated from college, and didn't want to start our our life together starving in student housing).

Conventional "success" is not the only important thing in life, or even the most important. Just because someone doesn't use an educational experience the way we expect does not mean that it was wasted.

Posted by: Older Dad | April 30, 2007 4:35 PM

Do you recognize the notion of an elite state university? Or do you consider that an oxymoron?

Posted by: To cream of the crop | April 30, 2007 4:36 PM

"Sigh. you must have gone to one of those crappy state schools, if you're this far off the mark. Open your mind a little."

Yep, one that stressed the need to document claims, present evidence, and cite sources rather than focusing on "deconstructing" texts to make them say what we want.

Here's a deal. I'll open my mind if you'll just quote whatever the heck it was that directly set you off.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:38 PM

I've made more money than my sister has, because I went into business rather than academia.

Posted by: Older Dad | April 30, 2007 04:35 PM

So its YOUR fault women only make 77 cents on the dollar. ;)

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:38 PM

I really don't understand the point of this debate. People have different personalities, different needs, different financial situations, differeing family size, etc, etc, etc. What is good for one family may not be good for another. Some women need to work to feel good about themselves, others need to stay at home to be content, others just need the money. Generally I think this whole mommy war thing is just beating a dead horse.... There's more than one good book out there, more than one beautiful view, more than one good place to live, more than one idea of a good life and more than one way to do a good job being a parent. I know some people hate uncertainty and desperately need things to be set out in black and white, unfortunately some things are just a little too complicated for that.

Posted by: rumicat | April 30, 2007 4:39 PM

Conventional "success" is not the only important thing in life, or even the most important. Just because someone doesn't use an educational experience the way we expect does not mean that it was wasted.

I agree with you older dad. I also don't know where all these opting out women are because where I work is chalk full of women and, yes, they hold management titles too.

Posted by: scarry | April 30, 2007 4:40 PM

"when these elite women grads leave the workforce they are letting the entire society of women down because these are the women we would-and should-rely upon to give back, to really step up and make a positive change in the workplace"

Huh? Why should we rely on them any more than on anyone else? Just because they went to [fill in the blank university]? Sorry, but it's ridiculous to think "the entire society of women" is dependent on the probably less than one percent who graduated from whatever schools you happen to think are "elite." And the fact that you don't realize this is snobbery is pathetic. But I do agree that you're not the only one who thinks like this -- one of my colleagues barely spoke to me until she heard that my daughter was admitted to an Ivy League college, after which she decided we should be pals!

Posted by: anon | April 30, 2007 4:41 PM

"I'll open my mind if you'll just quote whatever the heck it was that directly set you off."

The problem is that you appear to be too narrow-minded to understand the broader context of the debate. Some people just can't see the big picture, but can only focus on one little thing at a time. Do some research, and then perhaps you'll be worth debating.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:43 PM

It might be useful to step back and ask ourselves what's truly "elite?" The smartest? Best educated? Highest earning? Most recognized?

Most conscientious? Most ethical? Hardest working? Most courageous? Least selfish?

What do we truly honor and aspire to? Excellence is not found only at the most exclusive schools and in the highest paid professions.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:44 PM

The problem is that you appear to be too narrow-minded to understand the broader context of the debate. Some people just can't see the big picture, but can only focus on one little thing at a time. Do some research, and then perhaps you'll be worth debating.


You two are getting on my nerves.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:44 PM

Huh? Why should we rely on them any more than on anyone else?

Posted by: anon | April 30, 2007 04:41 PM

Because change often comes from within. And one of the ways to get "in" is to graduate from the elite schools and work your way up like those in power now have.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:45 PM

It's 'chock full' not 'chalk full'.

Posted by: to scarry | April 30, 2007 4:46 PM

Do you recognize the notion of an elite state university? Or do you consider that an oxymoron?

Posted by: To cream of the crop | April 30, 2007 04:36 PM

Was this a serious question? Of course I recognize that there are elite state schools. Just as there are "crappy" private schools.

Regardless, isn't this way off topic? I did not bring up my old post to rehash this debate, only to point out that the thinking on this blog tends to be very determined to ignore certain realities. It reminds me of today's politicans, who seem very reluctant to display their intellectual credentials lest good ole boys in Texas think they're too "smart."

Posted by: cream of the crop | April 30, 2007 4:46 PM

Because change often comes from within. And one of the ways to get "in" is to graduate from the elite schools and work your way up like those in power now have.

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 04:45 PM


Like Bush? My, he really had to struggle to work his way up the ladder.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:47 PM

It's 'chock full' not 'chalk full'.

ooops sorry, but I think you got my point.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:49 PM

It might be useful to step back and ask ourselves what's truly "elite?" The smartest? Best educated? Highest earning? Most recognized?

Most conscientious? Most ethical? Hardest working? Most courageous? Least selfish?

What do we truly honor and aspire to? Excellence is not found only at the most exclusive schools and in the highest paid professions.

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 04:44 PM

This and $1.95 will get you a cup of coffee.

We are not talking about excellence, we are talking about power, which often has very little to do with excellence. If you want to change the world, you need the power to bring about change.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:51 PM

Because change often comes from within. And one of the ways to get "in" is to graduate from the elite schools and work your way up like those in power now have.

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 04:45 PM


Like Bush? My, he really had to struggle to work his way up the ladder.

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 04:47 PM

Um, I think you are missing the point of the 4:45 post, which is so on the mark of what I keep saying that I could have written it (although I cannot take credit for someone else's post). The point is that Bush WAS on the "inside"-regardless of how he got there-and these schools, whether you, Fred or Megan's Neighbor like it or not, are -generally- the ticket "in" to where change can actually be made. If it weren't, rankings like US News -would not exist.- !!

Posted by: cream of the crop | April 30, 2007 4:51 PM

Do you recognize the notion of an elite state university? Or do you consider that an oxymoron?

Posted by: To cream of the crop | April 30, 2007 04:36 PM

Was this a serious question? Of course I recognize that there are elite state schools.


Johns Hopkins looks down its nose at Maryland, Duke at UNC, Rice at Texas, Tulane at LSU, Chicago and Northwestern at Illinois, Stanford at Berkeley, USC at UCLA, Penn at Penn State and Pitt, etc.

So, yes, it was a serious question.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:52 PM

I think cream of the crop had a point about women from elite univ opting out.

Many people seem to agree with the idea that men in power aren't changing the corporate structure - you know, men working ridiculous hours, SAH wife to handle the home front so the man's career can advance. "If women were in charge things would be different." Well, the way for women to be in charge is to reach the top ranks. Women from elite schools are more likely to be candidates for the top positions. If they opt out, what women will be available to reach the upper echelons and make changes? Most of us agree that 40-hour work weeks for all is the preferred model as opposed to 80-hour weeks that require either the spouse to stay home or all child/house duties be contracted out.

I don't think that there is intentional disrespect to CSS graduates. Realistically, the Harvard grad is more likely to become CEO than the CSS grad. And then once she is there, maybe changes will be put in place.

Posted by: amused | April 30, 2007 4:54 PM

Like Bush? My, he really had to struggle to work his way up the ladder.

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 04:47 PM

I said, one of the ways. Another is to be born into it. But he did go to Yale?

Being born into it makes the ladder very short. ;)

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:54 PM

If you want to change the world, you need the power to bring about change.

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 04:51 PM


Signor Macchiavelli, you forgot to sign your name.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:55 PM

3. But of course today's main point was just that, aside from the above, the biggest reason to keep working (according to Bennetts)-and this affects ALL women-not just the "elite" grads-is to create financial stability for oneself and one's children just in case the unthinkable happens and your husband (a) leaves (even though, judging from some of today's posters, it could -never- happen to them), (b) becomes disabled or (c) dies.

Why even bother to get married? You are saying that obviously, men are the problem.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:56 PM

If women were in charge things would be different."

How do you know? Some of the worst bosses are women.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 4:59 PM

Why even bother to get married? You are saying that obviously, men are the problem.


Posted by: | April 30, 2007 04:56 PM

No, generally I think people like you - posters who post just to antagonize - are the problem, but usually I don't waste my time adding back my 2 cents. Which is why it took me, what, six months to post something here again!

Posted by: cream of the crop | April 30, 2007 5:01 PM

Most of us agree that 40-hour work weeks for all is the preferred model as opposed to 80-hour weeks that require either the spouse to stay home or all child/house duties be contracted out.

Posted by: amused | April 30, 2007 04:54 PM

If this were true, it would be reality. The truth is, not all people are parents, some people like the money that comes with working long hours.

We live in a competitive capitalistic society, if I (generic I) can make my bottom line better by working my workers harder, why shouldn't I? My stockholders (YOU) want it that way. So do my customers (also YOU). If I don't, someone else will.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 5:01 PM

Strike! Strike! Strike!

Posted by: To 5:01 | April 30, 2007 5:03 PM

Why even bother to get married? You are saying that obviously, men are the problem.


Posted by: | April 30, 2007 04:56 PM

Aren't we always? Thew thing is, we are usually the solution, too. ;)

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 5:03 PM

Many people seem to agree with the idea that men in power aren't changing the corporate structure - you know, men working ridiculous hours, SAH wife to handle the home front so the man's career can advance.

I don't know where you work but our CEO, a male has made many positive changes for all the people who work for him. The two women before him, not so much. All women are not going to say, "you go girl" take that extra day to take care of that sick baby. Just like all men don't have a stepford wife at home while he makes working mom's lives miserable.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 5:04 PM

About what Matt said:
"Let him try it. Under the "standard" American divorce, he'll get to see his children every other weekend. He won't be able to live in his house, but he'll still have to pay the mortgage. He'll also be socked with child support. State constitutional prohibitions against imprisonment for unpaid debt do not apply to unpaid child support"

If the penalty for a financially independent man who wants to leave his marriage is so draconian, imagine what it must be for a financially dependent woman? The fact of the matter is that men leave their marriages despite the child support obligations and limited visitation schedule. If they were working before, they at least have the means to work and make a living for themselves. Women who divorce end up poorer after divorce than their husbands. They may or may not get child support, despite the enforcement laws. Or it can be unreliable. And even worse, the disparity in power that is the consequence of financial dependence can cause one partner (usually the money earning husband) to have his cake and eat it too. So in some cases, men do stay married, but treat their wives poorly, have affairs, and generally live the lives they want while their dependent wives just put up with it for fear of finanicial ruin. I don't buy the argument that it is as costly for financially independent men to divorce as it is for dependent women. It may have some costs, but the costs of their dependent wives are just greater, no matter which way you slice it. The scale will not come out even on that one.

Plus, I can't help noticing that by the tone of your posts, you seem to regard women as some kind of commodity to which men are entitled, and to which women should submit. Frankly, I find your comments pretty creepy.

Posted by: Emily | April 30, 2007 5:04 PM

"I don't know where you work but our CEO, a male has made many positive changes for all the people who work for him."

I'm glad to hear this. Maybe things are changing. I wonder how old your CEO is. Do the younger men, who are more likely to have spouses with their own career ambitions, tend to be more worker friendly? I hate to say 'family friendly', because all workers, IMO, are entitled to have a personal life outside of work.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 5:08 PM

I think the Mommy Wars exist. I have been both, and one thing I hated about my SAHM time was the catty, nasty comments I heard from other SAHMs about WOHMs when they assumed that they were among like-minded mothers (e.g., other SAHMs). I remember one playgroup in particular, where once the door closed the entire time was spent complaining about their awful lazy husbands (who generally worked very long, hard hours with long commutes to support the family) and those WOHMs who abandoned their kids to daycare. I quit after about three meetings; I didn't want my kid exposed to such negativity and nastiness.

I haven't heard that level of nastiness from the WOHMs I work with, but honestly we're so busy that we don't have time to notice what other people are doing.

I am sure that some of the SAHMs of my neighborhood think I've abandoned my family in going back to work, but having spent a fair amount of time with them when I was SAHM, I think very, very little of their opinions.

I was surprised at the level of nastiness I heard, that's for sure. I wasn't expecting that when I decided to stay home, and I really didn't want my children to learn that level of judgment of other people was acceptable.

Posted by: done both | April 30, 2007 5:14 PM

Women who divorce end up poorer after divorce than their husbands.

Posted by: Emily | April 30, 2007 05:04 PM

Of course they do, they were most likely poorer than their husbands when they got married.

If you don't think losing your kids and paying the ex-wife for the privilege isn't a deterrent, you are obviously a woman who has never had to ponder that possiblity.

When a woman gets divorced she can always get a job and will eventually be OK. What can a man to do? Get new kids? (Wait, some men do that don't they)

Plus, I can't help noticing that by the tone of your posts, you seem to regard women as some kind of commodity to which men are entitled, and to which women should submit. Frankly, I find your comments pretty creepy.

Posted by: Emily | April 30, 2007 05:04 PM

I'm with you there.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 5:15 PM

Most SAHMs are unhappy.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 5:19 PM

The CEO is in his 50s has a grown child and has put telework, more vacation, and an employee leave donation plan into affect.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 5:20 PM

Most SAHMs are unhappy.

Posted by: Fisherman | April 30, 2007 5:21 PM

The CEO is in his 50s has a grown child and has put telework, more vacation, and an employee leave donation plan into affect.

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 05:20 PM


Would that there were more of his ilk.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 5:24 PM

The CEO is in his 50s has a grown child and has put telework, more vacation, and an employee leave donation plan into affect.

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 05:20 PM

Let's see how it works out, if the profitability goes down, you can let us know how the new CEO is.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 5:24 PM

The CEO is in his 50s has a grown child and has put telework, more vacation, and an employee leave donation plan into affect.

Either my theory about younger CEO's is full of holes, or your guy is the exception. Either way, it's good to see what this man has done.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 5:27 PM

"The problem is that you appear to be too narrow-minded to understand the broader context of the debate. Some people just can't see the big picture, but can only focus on one little thing at a time. Do some research, and then perhaps you'll be worth debating."

You're dodging. You said earlier that there were multiple instances above of SAHMs accusing working moms of harming their children. That isn't true, and you know it. You can blow "big picture" air all you want - but when asked to put up or shut up, you couldn't produce.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 5:28 PM

The CEO is in his 50s has a grown child and has put telework, more vacation, and an employee leave donation plan into affect.

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 05:20 PM

Let's see how it works out, if the profitability goes down, you can let us know how the new CEO is.

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 05:24 PM


If his employees are happier, they may well be MORE productive.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 5:30 PM

An unhappy one at 5:28

Posted by: Fisherman | April 30, 2007 5:30 PM

"We are not talking about excellence, we are talking about power, which often has very little to do with excellence. If you want to change the world, you need the power to bring about change."

If all you care about is power, that's all you're going to get.

I want more out of life than that.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 5:34 PM

This blog contributes to the "media" hype of this topic. Leslie is just as condescending towards stay at home mothers about her choice to work with children; let's not forget this.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 5:36 PM

I'll admit it. I resent the hell out of the fact that college-educated women are dropping out of the workforce like flies. Not only are the rest of us left holding the bag when the FMLA-mandated maternity leave is up and Mommy Dearest decides she doesn't want to come back after all. Other women of childbearing age are silently discriminated against because our so-called peers decide to chuck it and managers - rightly, it turns out - figure that women are a bad investment in the workplace.

One wonders how SAHMs are going to feel once their self-indulgent choices result in their daughters' inability to land a career-track professional position.

Posted by: Childfree | April 30, 2007 5:37 PM

"If women were in charge things would be different."

Really? Just how warm and fuzzy is Hillary? And what about Pelosi - do we really think women today are powerless?

I won't even ask about Margaret Thatcher - you probably consider her a man because you didn't agree with her politics.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 5:37 PM

"And what about the person who only has a bachelor's degree in a humanities subject (my story if weren't getting a masters), has been out of the job market for five years, and has three pre-school aged kids? She might luck out and get a $40K a year job, and she's bringing home maybe a little over $2000 a month, and she's probably paying $1500 a month for daycare for three kids. Even if she and her spouse (assuming the spouse is still there) having a good chunk of savings to fall back on them, they will burn through them pretty quickly."

Then don't have children! Do the math up front and make a responsible choice!

Posted by: do the math | April 30, 2007 5:38 PM

Wait a moment, let me see here. Some people say WOHMs are self-indulgent, and now you claim SAHMs are self-indulgent as well. So the real message is that everything is the mother's fault? Let's hear it for original sin.

Posted by: To Childfree | April 30, 2007 5:40 PM

"And it is this way-for elite women alone (although, as with all general rules, there are no doubt exceptions) because these are the very women who are in the best positions to break through the glass ceiling and achieve real change in the workplace overall." --cream of the crop

"Women from elite schools are more likely to be candidates for the top positions. If they opt out, what women will be available to reach the upper echelons and make changes?" --amused
_______________________

I think it may be the exception that women from "elite" or Ivy League universities who become CEOs will be the ones to effect sweeping changes regarding work-life balance. These women are likely to have the financial resources to overcome the practical difficulties of ensuring quality care for any children they might have long before they reach the upper echelons of management. They are likely to marry and have children later and, I suspect, marry partners with similar educational backgrounds and high salaries. While they may sympathize with working women with fewer resources, they probably are not in a position to truly empathize.

If an Ivy League graduate does achieve a management position at the highest level and puts in place balance-friendly policies, it most likely would be in a large company. In my past experience, those policies are applied (or not) in meaningful ways to the majority of working women by middle managers. So perhaps it is more important that "less-than-elite" women who have worked their way through the ranks while struggling with issues like child-care, elder-care, etc. are the ones not to opt out. It may be that the "less-than-elite" can have a greater impact because of greater numbers.

That said, when I was working in the corporate world, work-life balance policies were relatively new. I hope that companies are doing more to ensure that these policies are applied accross the board. At that time, middle managers didn't seem to feel compelled to buy in.

As far as Bennetts's message goes, my response to her assertion that staying at home carries great risks is, "No s--t, Sherlock!" I haven't seen her in interviews nor read her book, but from a few newspaper articles, I can see why her tone turns people off. I think that, to some degree, she is posturing in order to gain notoriety/publicity.

Someone else today called for some practical solutions to staying marketable while taking shorter amounts of time off while children are small. I second the call for strategies that would allow for some on- and off-ramping as the needs of my family change.

Posted by: Marian | April 30, 2007 5:41 PM

Nancy Pelosi stayed home for years with her 5 kids, then entered politics after the last was in school. Cream of the Crop, do you think Pelosi failed to fulfill her full potential because she stayed home for years? Or is it a moot point because her college wasn't elite enough for you, or because she failed to run for President?

Posted by: Re Pelosi | April 30, 2007 5:43 PM

Being single and childless I've not really cared about the so-called "mommy wars". I have friends who stay at home and friends who work, their situation is what works for them, but a couple of weeks ago, I'm watching CNN about a report that the pay gap between men and women has grown wider instead of getting closer, or god forbid become equal. One of the reasons given for this disparity is that most employers figure women coming into the work force out of college will eventually quit to become stay at home mothers. Now, if this is true, it means that those of us who chose to continue in the workforce after having children or those of us, like myself who chose not to have children are being penalized for a small percentage of women who do chose to stay home. Until things change, it won't matter because all of us will suffer.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 5:46 PM

"Wait a moment, let me see here. Some people say WOHMs are self-indulgent, and now you claim SAHMs are self-indulgent as well. So the real message is that everything is the mother's fault? Let's hear it for original sin."

Personal self-indulgence, whether it's in the form of working outside the home to afford a luxury car or opting out of the workforce to be a homemaker, doesn't really register on my radar.

I find it self-indulgent to make decisions for your family with no thought to the social ramifications of your actions. Well educated women are wasting their educations (much of which is funded by taxpayers) and depriving the workforce of an important influence. They're also making it harder for other women to get ahead.

On the other hand, you have the women who would be working low-income, unskilled jobs if they weren't at home. One of the results of poor financial planning is that unprepared SAHMs and their children end up on public assistance. Have you ever checked out Mothering.com's discussion boards? They're loaded with frighteningly ignorant SAHMs who would rather live off welfare than get a job.

It's that kind of self-indulgence, and the effect it has on society, that chaps my hide.

Posted by: Childfree | April 30, 2007 5:56 PM

What if my family paid for my education? Am I then allowed to do with it whatever my family and I agree to?

Posted by: To Childfree | April 30, 2007 6:01 PM

To be perfectly honest, I have not had a lot of experience with the mommy wars. To me, it is much more of a press and media thing than a real life experience. Most of the women that I am friends with work. Some by necessity, some because they want to. I know that there are SAHMs out there, I see them at Congressional shopping and having lunch during weekdays, but I don't really know them, nor do I know what they are thinking of me. And it really does not concern me. They do their thing, and I do mine.

I also don't think their opting out has impacted my work life. There are plenty of working mothers in my office, and my office has adjusted very well to this reality. Do I think it's financially dumb to be a SAHM? Not necessarily. It depends on the situation of each woman. I know plenty of people who work who make equally dumb financial decisions and live completely beyond their means and on the brink of bankruptcy in the event of a layoff or other job loss.

I do think it is good that information on the hazards of staying at home are out there. That way, women can plan and perhaps compensate for these hazards in other ways, even if they choose to stay at home. But I don't feel any need to tell any other women what to do. Not my life, not my choice.

Posted by: Emily | April 30, 2007 6:02 PM

By the way, how do you know that I'm not a state school grad who simply looks at the world (particularly the Washington world) in a realistic light??

Posted by: cream of the crop | April 30, 2007 04:35 PM

I do not know and do not care which school you attended, COTC. It is not relevant.

I do know that merely labeling your opinions as "realistic" and, conversely, suggesting that anyone who disagrees is not being realistic has no credibility. You can wrap your thoughts in whatever package you like. Reality remains unchanged and, in this instance, the reality is that your insecurities detract from the public policy argument you might make persuasively if you could escape your intellectual arrogance.

5:37 makes your point in a way that eliminates the elitist tripe on which you rely so heavily. Taking her approach might be a useful way for you to persuade others to your viewpoint -- that is your goal. Is it not?

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 30, 2007 6:03 PM

One wonders how SAHMs are going to feel once their self-indulgent choices result in their daughters' inability to land a career-track professional position.

Posted by: Childfree | April 30, 2007 05:37 PM


Non sequitur.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 6:08 PM

Also, FYI, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (with a current approval rating in the 80s) was, in the past, a stay-at-home mother. She is now the youngest Alaska governor ever, as well as being the first female governor. Would Childfree and others of her ilk consider Sarah Palin to be self-indulgent, to have wasted her education, to be a bad example for other women? Hey, maybe she could have been elected governor at 40 instead of at 42 if she hadn't stayed home with her kids for a while!

Posted by: To Re Pelosi | April 30, 2007 6:09 PM

Childfree,

what do you care most about? Other women and their families? Or your political and ideological goals.

You don't understand why anyone would find personal self-indulgence to be undesirable, but find it quite objectionable when another woman does her best for her family, but does it in a way that doesn't further your particular social causes.

That really "chaps my hide."

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 6:10 PM

"One wonders how SAHMs are going to feel once their self-indulgent choices result in their daughters' inability to land a career-track professional position."

This is a ridiculous argument. My mom was a SAHM mother. Never worked again after she had children. And that in no way hindered me from becoming a working mother. In some ways, her being at home may have spurred me to be financially independent, because I saw how often she had to put herself on the back burner for the sake of her family. While I appreciate and respect her sacrifices, I never felt that I wanted that kind of life for myself. On the other hand, she raised 4 children who are now self-supporting, responsible, decent people. I would say that is quite a contribution to society. In some ways, probably more of a contribution than I ever think I will make by working. But I work to support my family, my work is not an end in itself. I think that my contribution will be to raise children who will grow up to be decent citizens. Working while I do that makes life more palatable for me than staying at home. But working is still second to family (for me at least).

Posted by: Emily | April 30, 2007 6:13 PM

"But I work to support my family, my work is not an end in itself."

Emily, thank you - I think that's the best way for all of us to put these things in their proper perspective.

Posted by: Older Dad | April 30, 2007 6:17 PM

One person's belief in "quality of life" is another's "personal self-indulgence." It's not all about working oneself to death.

The person who dies with the most toys is still just as dead.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 6:17 PM

More Jobs Than People In Fairfax
Study Predicts Future Shortage of Workers

By Kim Hart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 30, 2007; Page D01

Over the next 25 years, the number of new jobs in Fairfax County will far exceed the supply of qualified workers to fill them, according to a projection released last week.
__________________________

Ultimately, conditions like those in the article intro above will influence the working conditions and flexibility available to working mothers (and, indeed, all employees). When employers are forced to provide flexible arrangements because it will be the only way to recruit and retain people, they will. Then mothers will have better incentive not to "chuck it."

Posted by: Marian | April 30, 2007 6:19 PM

"what do you care most about? Other women and their families? Or your political and ideological goals."

I care about women having the opportunity to succeed at every level in society. By dropping out (Palin went into public service while her children were still at home, so the poster who mentioned her is either ill-informed or deliberately dissembling) women are reinforcing the stereotype that we're bad bets for promotions and other job opportunities.

If you believe the old feminist saw, "the personal is political", then you need to take responsibility for how your actions affect the world around you. The women that I and Bennetts refer to, the well-educated young professionals, are doing a huge disservice to themselves and all women by leaving the workforce in droves.

Posted by: Childfree | April 30, 2007 6:20 PM

The point of working, for most of us, is to make a living. It's to make money to pay the mortgage or rent, to feed our families and so forth. It's not to advance any particular social cause. Our families are more important than vague social causes, at least for most people. Actual human beings come before any political agenda. The idea that anybody is obligated to work for pay to make some strangers happy, or obligated to not work for pay to make some different strangers happy, is ludicrious.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 6:20 PM

"One of the reasons given for this disparity is that most employers figure women coming into the work force out of college will eventually quit to become stay at home mothers."

The logic behind this excuse is terribly faulty (I'm not arguing whether people actually use the excuse, I'm just syaing it's a silly one). What does a person's potential to stay at the company forever have to do with the salary they should make while they're there? If I'm at work, doing the same job as the guy in the next cubicle, with the same qualifications and experience, I darn well better be being paid the same.

Moreover, in today's world, no employer should expect any worker, male or female, to stay with the company forever. These days, it seems like few workers stay in one place for more than a couple of years, let alone for decades. It should make no difference why an employee is leaving the company, and the fact that an employee won't be there forever shouldn't even be an issue in determining salary.

Finally, to blame women who leave their jobs for the dunder-headed excuses their employers give for discrimination is just silly. It's the people doing the discriminating that are wrong.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 6:21 PM

One of the reasons that I have always wanted children is that I like having family around. I love spending holidays with my parents and siblings and cousins and uncles and aunts and friends. I like seeing kids milling around with their parents in tow. Right now, my parents host most of the holiday shin digs, or even if they don't host, the events seem to revolve around them. I want that for myself someday. Someday, I want to be a senior citizen with my kids and grandkids around me. I know it's no guarantee, but in my family, it works that way and has for the last few generations. I remember when this stuff revolved around my grandmother. I figure if I raise my kids right, they will want to spend time with me when I am old, just like I want to spend time with my parents. To me, getting through midnight feedings and dirty diapers is just a step that I need to take towards that goal.

Posted by: Emily | April 30, 2007 6:23 PM

"If you believe the old feminist saw, "the personal is political", then you need to take responsibility for how your actions affect the world around you. The women that I and Bennetts refer to, the well-educated young professionals, are doing a huge disservice to themselves and all women by leaving the workforce in droves."

What about the women (many of whom have posted here) who fully intended to return to their high-powered, society changing careers but then, when they have their child, change into lionesses protecting their cubs and decide to stay home? How dare you say they are doing society a disservice by choosing to be a mother.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 30, 2007 6:28 PM

Megan's Neighbor,

Why does it always come down to "insecurity" when someone espouses a view that actually dares to suggest that it's ok to rank schools and that some are clearly "elite" and some are not. Or some jobs are more valued than others. (Or, to put it in kid terms, "your kid does not belong on the varsity team if he stinks at the sport!")

I say my view is "realistic" because one need only look around to see that "top grads" are filling "top positions" in high proportion relative to their small numbers.

You, in response, tell me that this is my own "insecurity" coming to bear. So I guess all I can say in response to that is so long as the above "reality" remains, "insecure" snobs (apparently, like me) can be assured of our futures.

Posted by: cream of the crop | April 30, 2007 6:30 PM

What about the women (many of whom have posted here) who fully intended to return to their high-powered, society changing careers but then, when they have their child, change into lionesses protecting their cubs and decide to stay home? How dare you say they are doing society a disservice by choosing to be a mother.

KLB I'll speak up on Childfree's behalf and say I absolutely would "dare" say it. They are doing a disservice to society. See above for all the reasons why.

Posted by: cream of the crop | April 30, 2007 6:33 PM

"If you believe the old feminist saw, "the personal is political", then you need to take responsibility for how your actions affect the world around you. The women that I and Bennetts refer to, the well-educated young professionals, are doing a huge disservice to themselves and all women by leaving the workforce in droves."

If you want to recruit women to work, you need to find an argument that is more convincing than that one. Mothers tend to have priorities that are a lot more real than intangible ideological goals that have nothing to do with the reality of their lives. If you offer them a workplace that is flexible and family friendly, you might find some women who would rather work than stay at home. But if you insist that for ideological reasons, women have to twist themselves into blind knots in order to fit into workplaces that do not conform to their needs, you will find that many mothers will turn their backs on you. Children and family are remarkably strong incentives that often trump the most reasonable financial and ideological arguments. Women used to regularly die in childbirth, but somehow, were still not dissuaded from wanting children. If you talk about risk, then you have to admit that women are willing to take enormous risks for their children, and there is no argument, political or financial, that is ever going to change that. The only way to get women into the workplace is to make the workplace accomodating to women. You can argue ideologically all you want, but you are wasting your breath if you don't somehow provide when with some practical incentive to work and balance family at the same time.

Posted by: Emily | April 30, 2007 6:34 PM

"What does a person's potential to stay at the company forever have to do with the salary they should make while they're there?"

Outside of the government, X job generally does not earn Y compensation.

In order to recover the costs of the initial training and ramp-up phase, longevity matters. I can pay you more if you will remain. If I estimate that your longevity is 3 - 5 years, your services are worth less to me and I will have less time to recover my training investment.


Compensation offers and promotions are made with an eye to present needs, retention, and the competition for trained employees in the industry. Smart managers understand they may have to invest more, in order to prevent a competitor from taking good, trained employees, in an employee who is likely to stick with them past the training phase and on to the point where his or her efficiency begins to pay off for the employer. To rephrase, it may not make sense or be cost-effective for an employer to invest 6 months of ramp-up time in training an employee who will leave in 3 - 5 years, if one could select another employer who is less likely to leave, even if that other employee comes with a higher price tag. Similarly, it's not worth wasting a promotion on a person who will leave in 3 - 5 years if two candidates are similarly qualified and the other candidate is more likely to progress with the employer.

Posted by: anon for today | April 30, 2007 6:35 PM

Emily, what you say is absolutely right-we DO need to provide women "with some practical incentive to work and balance family at the same time"-but how can we do that when educated young professional women are exiting en masse without staying and fighting the good fight specifically FOR the purpose of getting a better work-life balance in the workplace, in every workplace? These women at the top are the ones that need to start the fight (as they have been doing for decades just to get their foot in the door). Are we just going to say, ok, this is a man's world, I can't hack it so I'm going to go home? If that's the solution, the problem will -never- be solved.

Posted by: cream of the crop | April 30, 2007 6:37 PM

Sarah Palin was a stay-at-home mother. She has talked quite often about that period of her life, and how she is thankful that she was able to stay home full-time. I've known her for several years. I know her kids and her husband. She stayed at home after her son was born. Later, she and her husband started a small snowmobile-supply business.
It's true that she started her political career in Wasilla while her kids were young -- and her kids, in fact, are still pretty young (her youngest is in kindergarten). But at the time, she considered her profession to be more or less full-time motherhood. Being a member of the Wasilla city council is considered part-time, non-professional duty, civic duty that citizens perform while being emmployed elsewhere. In other words, council members have day jobs. While others' day jobs were for pay, Sarah's day job was taking care of her kids.
Same thing, by the way, with state Rep. Mary Nelson of Bethel. Alaska legislators are considered citizen legislators, with real jobs outside of state service. Mary's "real" non-legislative job is being a mother. That's never stopped her from being taken seriously as a voice of rural Alaska, of the Yupik people and of the next generation of Alaska leaders.

Posted by: to Childfree | April 30, 2007 6:37 PM

"These women at the top are the ones that need to start the fight (as they have been doing for decades just to get their foot in the door)."

You are assuming that the women on the top, by virtue of being women, are necessarily the ones who will fight for more family friendly policies. I don't think that really happens, even with the women who have not opted out. I have seen plenty of high up female managers (as well as men) who had no patience for mothers who worked and needed some flexibility. And I have seen plenty of managers who were dads with working wives who were quite understanding of the needs of working mothers. I don't think this fight has to be fought by elite women. I frankly don't have much faith that they will fight the fight, even if they do stay in the workforce. I believe this struggle has to come from the grass roots.

Posted by: Emily | April 30, 2007 6:43 PM

"Why does it always come down to "insecurity" when someone espouses a view that actually dares to suggest that it's ok to rank schools and that some are clearly "elite" and some are not. Or some jobs are more valued than others. (Or, to put it in kid terms, "your kid does not belong on the varsity team if he stinks at the sport!")

I say my view is "realistic" because one need only look around to see that "top grads" are filling "top positions" in high proportion relative to their small numbers."


Cut the hysteria, Cream of the Crop. Leaders show leadership, in part, by the academic achievements. It is unbecoming and counterproductive. If you deem having a viewpoint to be "daring", join the great unwashed masses.

Being first in your class at any school ranked in the top 100 is more highly correlated with leadership performance post-graduation than merely being admitted to an elite school and performing in the bottom 20%.

Consider the following article appearing in Knowledge at Wharton, online

http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=1121

Posted by: Rebecca | April 30, 2007 6:45 PM

Thank you Emily! My point exactly, just because someone is a woman does not mean that they will be more family oriented.

Childfree why don't you worry about your career and not about what the SAHM are doing. Where are all the women going? I see lots of women going to work everyday. Maybe they aren't elite, but they are working. Geez, if it was up to you people women would have no choice at all.

Posted by: scarry | April 30, 2007 6:48 PM

"The logic behind this excuse is terribly faulty (I'm not arguing whether people actually use the excuse, I'm just syaing it's a silly one). What does a person's potential to stay at the company forever have to do with the salary they should make while they're there?"

It has to do with promotions and raises. If you don't expect someone to stay, you won' promote them and their salaries will be less.


"If I'm at work, doing the same job as the guy in the next cubicle, with the same qualifications and experience, I darn well better be being paid the same."

But nobody does the "same" job as the next person at high levels. There are always differences in quality and quantity of work. As a result there will always be differences in pay. Isn't that the point of merit increases?

"Moreover, in today's world, no employer should expect any worker, male or female, to stay with the company forever. These days, it seems like few workers stay in one place for more than a couple of years, let alone for decades. It should make no difference why an employee is leaving the company, and the fact that an employee won't be there forever shouldn't even be an issue in determining salary."

Of course it makes a difference why the employee is leaving. If the reason for leaving is job related, they can always counter the offer or keep the person happy so they never get the offer in the first place. This is true for men and women.

But when it comes to parenthood, it is different for women. Women physically give birth, which results in maternity leave (employer paying for no work beibg done). Women are also far more likely not to return because they are expected to take care of the children (right or wrong, that's the way it is). When a man has a child (you know what I mean), he is more likely to work harder because he is expected to support his family (right or wrong, thats the way it is).


"Finally, to blame women who leave their jobs for the dunder-headed excuses their employers give for discrimination is just silly. It's the people doing the discriminating that are wrong."

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 06:21 PM


I'm not blaming women, this is just the natural consequence of many more women than men leaving the workforce to SAH. It is not a dunder-headed excuse, it is a rational one based on the facts as the employer experiences them.

If you knew one person out of 10 men and 10 women were a pedophile and you had to leave you kid with one of them, would you choose, a man or a woman?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 6:56 PM

Cream of the Crop

To your points of today,

1. "...they are doing -society- a disservice ..." I don't think that I entirely disagree with you but this has the scent of Noblesse Oblige. This concept when employed by white European males had a definite stench.

2. "...elite" graduate educations should not waste them by staying home." I do not view staying home to raise children as a waste. As many have pointed out here today, should not true feminism allow a choice? Or is feminism all about the corporate and political world?

3. "But of course today's main point...is to create financial stability for oneself and one's children..." I totally agree with you on this. But in the economic unit of a family, this financial stability can be created by a careful financial and legal structure. Having both spouses work is not necessarily the only means to achieve this goal. The family as an economic unit should be cognizance of and employ wills, POA's, 401k and IRA contributions, long and short term insurance and other legal and financial means appropiate to the family's situation.

Posted by: Fred | April 30, 2007 6:57 PM

You know, those rankings of colleges and universities are fraught with pitfalls. Sometimes the schools actually (gasp!) lie, or at least exaggerate on their self-supplied data. And part of it is self-perpetuating stereotype (along the lines of how prestigious do you think other schools are?). I'm not saying Podunk state teachers' college is mecessarily as good as or better than an Ivy, but the arbitrary rankings are only that, arbitrary.

Posted by: To cream of the crop | April 30, 2007 7:01 PM

Don't you just love it when some ignorant troll calls you a liar? Like that's enough to trump information.

Posted by: To "to Childfree" | April 30, 2007 7:04 PM

If COTC focused her argument on women who have proven leadership ability rather than focusing on schools, at least for the purposes of discussion, her argument might achieve coherence. She would have to knock that large chip of her elitist shoulder first, though.

If we accept, for the purposes of argument COTC's primary mantra, that we should be concerned when female leaders drop out of the workforce, then whose departure should concern us more:

1. Susan, who is smart as indicated by her admission to Yale, but achieved the lowest GPA possible while there (a 3.4), was secretary of the Women's Law School Organization (it met once per year and her duties were to take the minutes), and spent her summers traveling and lounging at the family pool.

2. Dana, who was number 1 in her class at Texas Tech, started a new non-profit, held several "meaty" leadership positions in campus organizations, and spent her summers on Wall Street diligently learning the business of finance.

Speaking only for myself, the U.S. is not going to have missed a great leader if Susan works for a grand total of one year and then disappears back to her Connecticut life. Dana's choices might or might not have a societal impact. None of this is to suggest that Dana or Susan, IMHO, should make any choice other than the one that makes them happy and meets the needs of their respective families.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 30, 2007 7:26 PM

Cream of the Crop.

"I believe that many people on this blog, probably the same ones to bury their heads in the sand as to the value of an "elite" education, have also buried their heads as to the reality that opting out of the workplace has serious, serious risks. Why am I not surprised?"

Maybe some people make a conscious decision to opt out of the (paid) workplace or decide to "down grade" to a job which does not have a high rate of return in monetary value. As a family economic unit, the partners decide to give up some economic opportunity for the betterment of society. This is the choice that Frieda and I have made. We are fortunate enough in that I can support the family while she can pursue her vocation which is in line with her avocation.She has better the lives of hundreds of women. She had clients who say, you helped my mom and my aunt, they told me to see you. My point being is that a woman CEO is not the only one who can change the life of scores of women for the better.

Posted by: Fred | April 30, 2007 7:29 PM

I know its late, but I can't help myself trying to get people to look briefly away from this dead, dead horse.

Ladies - Archie or Reggie (is there a Jughead lurker?)

gentlemen - Betty or Veronica?

Discuss

Posted by: moxiemom | April 30, 2007 7:30 PM

"To rephrase, it may not make sense or be cost-effective for an employer to invest 6 months of ramp-up time in training an employee who will leave in 3 - 5 years, if one could select another employer who is less likely to leave, even if that other employee comes with a higher price tag."

Understood, but my point is that almost nobody these days stays at a job past five years, so penalizing women for the chance that they might leave for parenthood is silly and wrong-headed.

For example (and I know that personal anecdotes don't necessarily reflect the real world), I was one of 12 first-year associates at my firm the year I started working. By the time I left 4 years later, I was one of only three of that original class still with the firm (and the only one who left in part to raise kids). Throughout the firm, the story was the same -- very few people actually stayed on board to become partners, and the vast majority left for reasons other than parenthood. And it's not like I worked for some horrible place. This was a good firm paying good money.

Anyway, the point is, longevity is simply not the rule anymore, and to discriminate against all women because some might end up leaving when they have kids is silly.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 7:35 PM

Archie

No discussion.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 7:36 PM

We are fortunate enough in that I can support the family while she can pursue her vocation which is in line with her avocation.

Posted by Fred.

I understand your point and I agree with it, but do you really think your ability to support your family is only good fortune?

Of course, luck has something to do with it, but the reality is you probably worked hard all you life and made employment decisions based on the fact that you, as the man of family, thought would keep you employed and allow you to support your family (not just youself or yourself and your children) whether or not your wife worked.

(Broad generalization alert)All of the discussion on this topic seem to be based on the fact that women don't feel the same responsibility for the monetary support of the family. To them, the primary responsibility is the physical care of their family. It can be seen when women say "they don't have to work". This is the opposite of men. A man would never think this unless he were rich.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 7:45 PM

CTOC,

Your quote (without comment) from last November

"So frankly--and I'll say it out loud because many others just tiptoe around this point--I and many others could care less if female elementary school teachers who graduated from University of Maryland decide to stay home and raise their kids instead of working. (Even though elementary school teaching is valuable and college education is important, yada yada.)"

Posted by: Fred | April 30, 2007 7:47 PM

Anyway, the point is, longevity is simply not the rule anymore, and to discriminate against all women because some might end up leaving when they have kids is silly.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 07:35 PM

But, all things being equal, when given the choice between two equally qualified candidates, it makes sense statistically to choose the man or the woman who is out of her childbearing years. It is just one less risk.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 7:51 PM

to newSAHM:

If you knew one person out of 10 men and 10 women were a pedophile and you had to leave you kid with one of them, would you choose, one of the men or one of the women?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 7:53 PM

No, it's not "one less risk." It's discrimination. And it's illegal.

Heck, I could say that it's "less risk" to hire an athiest over a religious person, because the atheist won't need any time off for religious observances. Or I could say it's ok to require a complete medical history and genetic testing on any potential hires, to weed out anyone who is currently or could someday become sick and miss work. Doesn't make it ok.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 7:59 PM

As for the pedophile question, I'll overlook for the moment that now you're comparing women to criminals and say I'd do background checks on all of them, then hire the one that clicked best with me and my kid.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 8:01 PM

In my work I study the how individuals in the US invest and save (rather how they don't do enough and boy will it get ugly in about 10 years) so I see the numbers on the poor financial condition of divorced and widowed women. So while the tone may be objectionable, Bennett's point is valid.

I've concluded that the SAHM vs WOHM is analagous to religion - so many considerations that can't be justified by rational arguments come into play that its impossible to have a civil conversation because everyone is so defensive.

Posted by: drmommy | April 30, 2007 8:07 PM

As for the pedophile question, I'll overlook for the moment that now you're comparing women to criminals.

Pretty big leap there, analogies not your strong point? (We all know the men are the pedophiles)

If you weren't given the luxury of backround checks or time, what would you do?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 8:28 PM

(Broad generalization alert)All of the discussion on this topic seem to be based on the fact that women don't feel the same responsibility for the monetary support of the family. To them, the primary responsibility is the physical care of their family. It can be seen when women say "they don't have to work". This is the opposite of men. A man would never think this unless he were rich.

Posted by: | April 30, 2007 07:45 PM

BwaHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! My primary responsibility is the monetary support of my family - the same as it is for many lawyers, and many cleaning ladies, maids, teachers, doctors, ministers and other jobs in which women work. Yes, there are women -- and men (think of all those dot-com billionaires still living off the stock options) -- who think in terms of whether they have to work. It's a privilege, unconnected to gender, to be able to consider not working.

Lift your knuckles off the floor slowly now and try standing upright for a change.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 30, 2007 8:29 PM

"Since Fred never posted an actual Cultural Tidbit of the Day..."

Perhaps today's CTOTD was intended to be a respite, however brief, from smoking bloggers vs. the non smoking ones, the SAHM vs. the outside workers, etc.

Maybe a CTOTD was indeed the sounds of silence?

Posted by: Fred | April 30, 2007 8:35 PM

It's a privilege, unconnected to gender, to be able to consider not working.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 30, 2007 08:29 PM

Then why do so many of the posts by women above mention CHOICE. Ask any man you know if he realistically think he has (or ever will) this choice.

Call me a knuckle dragger but as a population, how many men are SAHD? How many women are SAHM? Do you think this would be the case if all things were equal.

Whether I agree that this is the way it should be (I don't) isn't the point. But to ignore the fact that this entire discussion of staying home only mentions dads once seems to suggest you are wrong.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 8:37 PM

It's a privilege, unconnected to gender, to be able to consider not working.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 30, 2007 08:29 PM

You and I may believe that, but the rest of the world doesn't.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 8:41 PM

I'm ok on analogies, you're the one who seems confused.

You apparently think it's ok to discriminate against women in the workforce because they're more likely than men to stay home with kids.

You seem also to be trying to get me to say that I'd discriminate against men because they're more likely to be pedophiles.

Therefore, in your construct, women=pedophiles.

And how many times are you going to change your question to try to get the answer you want? How 'bout I make it easy for you? If I were choosing between a man and a woman and the man was a known pedophile, I'd choose the woman. Satisfied?

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 8:44 PM

No kidding. Thing is, as much as I like her and respect her as a person, I didn't even vote for Sarah. I was a Tony Knowles supporter, as I have been for all his previous campaigns. But everyone -- including us Knowles voters -- has to admit that Sarah's political rise has been astonishing, and that she's been an astonishingly successful politician. And she's had, indeed, been an example for Alaska women, a comeback to those who say you can't have kids (Sarah has four) and take significant time away from the workplace without damaging your career prospects.
And another thing: Since when is becoming a stay-at-home mother the equivalent of "dropping out" of society? Whether they receive paychecks or not, mothers are voters, community volunteers, activists, consumers, athletes and so forth -- full participants in society. The Unabomber? Yeah, he could be considered a drop-out, maybe. But I don't see how that label should apply to stay-at-home mothers. And I say this as a mother who has never, personally, had the financial option of not working for pay.

Posted by: to childfree | April 30, 2007 8:59 PM

You apparently think it's ok to discriminate against women in the workforce because they're more likely than men to stay home with kids. - NewSAHM

No, I don't, never said I did. Read the actual words (I think I chose them carefully enough that I didn't say that, but I am not a lawyer). Just said that those people who do have a statistically valid justification for doing so.

You know you would choose the woman (so would I), that is why you won't answer.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 9:00 PM

anon at 8:37,

"Then why do so many of the posts by women above mention CHOICE. "

Because that's the entire point of the debate teed up by Ms. Bennets' book.

"Ask any man you know if he realistically think he has (or ever will) this choice."

I am not going to base an argument about gender on the anecdotal evidence resulting from my stopping a random person on the street. I trust that's not how you evaluate the world either.

"Call me a knuckle dragger but as a population, how many men are SAHD?"

I have no idea, and the answer won't impact whether you are a knuckle dragger. Knuckle-dragger status is determined by your initial statement that "women don't feel the same responsibility". At best, if you've noticed some sort of trend, it's limited to the upper class and upper middle class. The poor and lower middle class don't have the luxury of sitting around pondering what they "feel" about working to support themselves. Whether the percentage of SAHDs is 4% or 18%, it won't validate or invalidate the opinions you've expressed about what women "feel".

"How many women are SAHM?"

Again, whether the percentage is 4% or 18%, it won't valide or invalidate your assumptions.


"Do you think this would be the case if all things were equal." I have no idea, but I know that talking about how men "feel" and women "feel" is not a very useful way of discussing this topic.

"Whether I agree that this is the way it should be (I don't) isn't the point. But to ignore the fact that this entire discussion of staying home only mentions dads once seems to suggest you are wrong."

If you determine "right" and "wrong" by the nature of the comments on this blog today, or on any given day, I fear for you. Couples and families decide what is best for them. Do they do it based on societal norms? Probably. Will those norms change? I do not know and I am not suggesting they should or should not.

It is not helpful, though, to approach a fairly complex topic by first assigning each gender into buckets labeled "I feel X", at least not if you hope to understand the many forces in play.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 30, 2007 9:05 PM

I'm ok on analogies, you're the one who seems confused.

You apparently think it's ok to discriminate against women in the workforce because they're more likely than men to stay home with kids.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 08:44 PM

Initially, you said it was silly to discriminate against women, and several of us took the time to point out why it's not silly. No one has said it's okay. But it's far from silly based on the behavior of many women in the workforce.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 9:08 PM

I did answer your question. You just didn't like my answer.

I don't discriminate against entire genders (or races, or religions) based on stereotypes and on what might, possibly, maybe happen.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 9:12 PM

I did answer your question. You just didn't like my answer.

I don't discriminate against entire genders (or races, or religions) based on stereotypes and on what might, possibly, maybe happen.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 09:12 PM

Goody for you. Neither do I, but to do so is not silly simply because you have decided that employers should not care about longevity. You are not Queen.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 9:17 PM

Fred, I'm shocked, SHOCKED that you didn't appreciate my Cultural Tidbit of the Day more And here I thought I was just helpin' out the Culture team...

Posted by: catlady | April 30, 2007 9:56 PM

Catlady,

I did not say that I did not like it. Actually I did appreciate it.

Fred

Posted by: Fred | April 30, 2007 10:19 PM

Posted by: catlady | April 30, 2007 11:01 PM

purr

Posted by: catlady | April 30, 2007 11:02 PM

Fred,
Did COTC really post that?!?! Who the @%&@# teaches her kids?!?! I hope it's not me, although it probably is -- I have LOTS of parents like her. I considered law school once a long time ago and I got as far as taking the LSATs; scored in the 88th %ile (not great, but the logical reaoning section was TOUGH). I dropped that on a parent who was a lawyer, and finally got respect out of her. Apparently, she thought I was dumb just because I work with children.
I didn't go to Maryland (too big), but Loyola for undergrad and Towson for grad school. BTW, we had a student from Hopkins take a class at Towson as a guest student while I was there, and she was not as sharp, knowledgeable or well-prepared as the TU students. I am the daughter of a Hopkins grad and this is a somewhat painful admission for me.
As for COTC, someone snatch that Burberry-plaid satchel out of her grubby little mitts, hop on a ladder, smack her across her upturned little nose and knock her off her high horse!
Ahhh, I feel better now...

Posted by: educmom | April 30, 2007 11:05 PM

In a word, yes.

Read all about it here!


http://blog.washingtonpost.com/onbalance/2006/11/are_men_more_supportive_of_sta.html

Posted by: Fred | April 30, 2007 11:15 PM

Maybe the reason why women are so mad is because we get screwed regardles of the decisions we make. Work? you are betraying feminism, your own identity, and your long term security. Not work? you are sacrificing your children to the evils of alternative childcare for your own selfish, materialistic desires.

And these ridiculous arguments fail to recognize that a. most mothers do NOT have a full choice in working/not working (lack of quality/affordable childcare, lack of maternity leave, lack of healthcare coverage, shrinking incomes and rising housing costs, hard core bias against women returning to work after any time off, the continued legality of employment discrimination against mothers, etc etc etc), and b. mothers are (financially,. socially, physically) bearing nearly the full weight of raising the next generation, are complaining about the load, and we are given platitudes about how marvelous raising kids is these days.

So we snip at each other because it is the only socially sanctioned anger we are allowed to feel or express. It doesn't matter WHAT we do, someone, somewhere is telling us that not only are we screwing up, we are also screwing up our kids.

The fact is, we are all getting royally screwed, and we should be mad as hell about it.

Posted by: WAHMoftwoboys | May 1, 2007 12:09 AM

Just popping back this morning.

Groggie - I'm glad the book was eye opening for you. I still found it insulting.

I have considered all the things that Bennetts is saying, which is one reason I've kept working part time and continue to network & upgrade my skills. And I do agree that women are not socialized to put their own personal financial goals first and that this MAY be an issue.

However I still disagree with her on some of her fundamental points and I find her way of approaching it biased. She constantly described the homes and clothing of the SAHMs and characterized them as having particular emotional states; if she had also described the emotional states and clothing and homes of the working women that would have been interesting, but she didn't.

Her presentation was very slanted. And I think it was overblowing the Mommy Wars.

I am not saying she's wrong, but I didn't find her particularly RIGHT either, because I couldn't cut through her bias to get at the meat... well I didn't find much meat other than "I liked the working women I interviewed, I felt sorry for the divorced women I interviewed who were stupid in the past, and I found the stupid women who are SAHMs now sad and creepy" and "the financial costs are greater than most people think about."

I also find any argument that stands on "well if you don't agree you're just in denial" to be kind of hard to swallow. As I said I agree with some points but I don't agree with others and that doesn't de facto mean I'm in denial.

Posted by: Shandra | May 1, 2007 8:05 AM

I loved this post! One quick question, if you are still around, are you including men in the "all" within your last sentence? I think you are (applauds furiously), but I wanted to double-check.

"Maybe the reason why women are so mad is because we get screwed regardles of the decisions we make. Work? you are betraying feminism, your own identity, and your long term security. Not work? you are sacrificing your children to the evils of alternative childcare for your own selfish, materialistic desires.

And these ridiculous arguments fail to recognize that a. most mothers do NOT have a full choice in working/not working (lack of quality/affordable childcare, lack of maternity leave, lack of healthcare coverage, shrinking incomes and rising housing costs, hard core bias against women returning to work after any time off, the continued legality of employment discrimination against mothers, etc etc etc), and b. mothers are (financially,. socially, physically) bearing nearly the full weight of raising the next generation, are complaining about the load, and we are given platitudes about how marvelous raising kids is these days.

So we snip at each other because it is the only socially sanctioned anger we are allowed to feel or express. It doesn't matter WHAT we do, someone, somewhere is telling us that not only are we screwing up, we are also screwing up our kids.

The fact is, we are all getting royally screwed, and we should be mad as hell about it."

Posted by: WAHMoftwoboys |

Posted by: Maryland Mother | May 1, 2007 8:53 AM

Cream of the Crop: Thanks for calling me a sane voice. I try. :)

Just wanted to chime in on the discussion about whether SAHM moms are letting society at large down, and if so whether it makes a difference what their education was.

Actually, I knew so many kids when I was younger whose parents were just awful and really messed them up, that I came away from it thinking as an adult that a good parent is a rare and important thing and makes an enormous contribution to society just by producing psychologically healthy kids. I don't think any accomplishment for the betterment of society can make up for ruining a kid's life, i.e. raising a kid who hates himself and doesn't know how to be happy. That goes for dads as well as moms. Not writing a great work of literature, not building a successful company, not curing cancer.

I'm sure there are those who'll disagree, but if we grant the point that good parents make an incredibly important contribution to society, of course it still doesn't mean that one has to be either a SAH or WOH parent specifically in order to be a good parent.

As for the elitism issue:
Those with elite degrees (and I definitely acknowledge that some degrees are and some aren't) may not always be the smartest or the most hard-working, but they are statistically speaking the wealthist in terms of their family background. The richest women are those most likely to have the genuine financial choice of whether to stay home rather than work.

It may not *look* good when these women take advantage of their chance to drop out of the paid workforce, especially as their stories seem to be the most publicized. But in *substance* I don't think it's necessarily as great a loss to society for them to drop out as it is if regular average hard-working women drop out of the workforce due to the workplace being hostile to arrangements that allow them to combine the values of paid work and dedication to good parenting.

Posted by: Groggie | May 1, 2007 9:43 AM

"If you believe the old feminist saw, "the personal is political", then you need to take responsibility for how your actions affect the world around you."

I don't. The political all too often poisons the personal.

Sacrifice your family on the altar of feminist politics if you want, but if so, I feel sorry for your husband and kids.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 1, 2007 10:33 AM

I agree with the previous comment.
It's one thing to try to be a socially responsible citizen. That is laudable.
It's another thing to place feminism or any other -ism above the real live human beings you are supposed to love. That is fanatical, and ultimately, harmful all around.

Posted by: anonymous | May 1, 2007 3:22 PM

"Since when is becoming a stay-at-home mother the equivalent of "dropping out" of society? Whether they receive paychecks or not, mothers are voters, community volunteers, activists, consumers, athletes and so forth -- full participants in society."
Amen to that. There are many ways to participate in and build a society. An income-generating job is just one way.

Posted by: anonymous | May 1, 2007 9:09 PM

I'm going to come at this from a different point of view than many people who consider this issue. I wholeheartedly agree with Ms. Bennett, perhaps because my mother was the one with the steady income when I was growing up and my father was the one who had several failed business ventures. We would've been up the creek if she hadn't been.

Divorce, death and layoffs are the things most people consider. However, I want to present a perspective most people never think of. My organization awards college scholarships to students who have had parents killed or permanently and totally disabled as the result of a work-related injury. Suddenly one income you were counting on to help support your children is gone or greatly reduced.

How many of us think our spouse may suffocate in a paper mill under a huge roll of wet paper? What about a mining accident or being crushed by pipes that roll off a stack? How many think their spouse may lose every finger but their thumbs in an industrial accident? Then there are many people killed in motor vehicle accidents on the job or disabled from a back injury. None of us expects this to happen to us and the majority of families cannot bounce back financially when it happens to them. I see it every year.

We have helped nearly 40 students graduate from college. More often than not, it was our help that made all the difference when combined with other aid. The payoff is hearing a father's pride and gratefulness for helping one of his daughters become a surgical nurse and the other become a teacher. The caution is to not become dependent on one income alone.

Posted by: Scholarship Giver | May 1, 2007 10:49 PM

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