View from the Front Lines

Welcome to the "On Balance" guest blog. Every Tuesday, "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Writers need to use their full names. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life.


By Peggy Drexler

I've never liked the term: working mother. It says that I am some kind of sub-category; not a full member of the club. Maybe I'll feel better about it the day I hear someone called a "working father."

The label combines a bit of praise for a super-human effort with a whiff of disapproval for the fact that balancing work and family means someone is getting short-changed.

I was on the front lines of that conflict for many years. Then one day, I simply declared a truce.

We've been at this whole women and work thing for several decades now. Impressive degrees, upward-trajectory jobs and cracks in the glass ceiling say that on a lot of levels, the promise of female economic emancipation is coming along quite nicely.

We have been to the mountaintop. So, why are so many troubled by the view?

Working mother discontent is clear in the recent Pew study that found 60 percent of mothers would rather have part-time jobs. You hear it in the furious debate that has raged since New York Times' Lisa Belkin first wrote about the "opt-out revolution" in 2003. "Why," she asked, "don't women run the world? Maybe they don't want to."

Almost five years later, we're still trying to figure ourselves out.

The position on the right: Women are leaving work to do what God and nature intended. This whole career thing was a feminist fabrication all along.

On the left: Female executives are being pushed out by heartless, clueless, corporations that value productivity over parenting. A bit farther to the left is the argument that the longings of motherhood are simply programmed in like code during upbringing -- mothers aren't born; they're socialized. The real barrier is not the glass ceiling of a corporation. It's the front door of the home.

Here is my contribution to the body of anecdotal evidence. Feel free to put me on a chart.

Since my earliest days, I wanted success as a researcher. I wanted to be in all the best journals. I wanted to discover great things and write books about what I learned.

I never even thought about being a mother. But then early in my 30s, it was all I thought about. Unlike today, that was the age when most women reached their go/no-go decision on having children. This was not a conscious choice. It was an emotional -- even physical -- need. Every tick of my biological clock sounded like a rifle shot.

We had a son. And much later in life, adopted a baby girl. And that whole world-class research thing? It's still here, and as insistent and time-consuming as ever.

What made my emotional struggle especially difficult was that my life wasn't. My husband did quite well quite early. Basically, I didn't have to do much I didn't want to. So stretching ligaments to embrace both work and domesticity, I know, must leave many without my options asking: "Woman -- are you nuts?"

Maybe. But I'm not alone. High-achieving, goal-oriented women usually don't look for husbands who can take care of them. They want husbands who can team up with them. Those kinds of men tend to have careers that afford choices.

Compared to the past, these are somewhat enlightened times for men and households. They know what a washing machine does, that clothes will never crawl to the hamper no matter how long you leave them on the floor, and that the bristly end of the broom is the one that pushes the dust around. Importantly, new studies show they are spending more time with their children than ever before.

But studies also show that homes still run on woman-power.

In my years as a gender scholar at Stanford, doing extensive face-to-face research, I muscled equipment and materials up steep and countless steps of homes in San Francisco for hours of conversations.

And I remember, like so many other women, coming home to a parallel universe, with a whole different set of deadlines, demands and responsibilities. I loved that world. But I would ask my husband -- quite often, quite loudly, and occasionally profanely -- why does everything always fall to me?

In response, I would hear (all together now) "I do more than any husband I know."

And I always wondered: Why are you measuring yourself against people who don't live here? And how do you even know? Do you guys sit around and talk about these things? Does washing the most dishes that week earn the same alpha points as being the longest off the tee?"

I was an unwilling conscript in the mommy wars. But I found a way out.

I accepted the fact that motherhood was not the choice. Work was. And if I wanted that choice, I would have to embrace the chaos -- I would have to be the chaos -- even if that meant occasionally showing up to lecture medical students wearing two different shoes.

My moment of enlightenment happened at the end of a very bad day.

We were away from home, getting ready for visiting-day at my daughter's summer camp. There were athletic feats to applaud and crafts to compare to the great works of civilization.

Suddenly, my husband doubled over in pain.

We decided to travel the hour back to San Francisco so he could see his own doctor. They said they would do some tests, and everything would be fine. I should be with my daughter.

So, it was back to camp. I was almost there, when I got a call that my husband was not so fine after all. He had a very angry appendix, and was about to go to surgery. He wanted me there when he was wheeled in.

So virtually within site of the cabins, I headed back toward a comforted husband, and away from a very angry daughter.

In a perfect juncture of teenage logic and virtuoso ability to play the harp strings of a mother's emotions, she sobbed: "How can you go back to the hospital when you know how upset I am that Dad is in the hospital?"

My grown son piled on, angry that nobody (me) had called him earlier. And when I got home, our yellow lab, Stuart, had expressed his displeasure at being left alone so long with lethal efficiency.

By 1 a.m., my husband and his appendix had said their good-byes to each other; my daughter's tears had stopped; my son reassured; all evidence of Stuart's anxieties had been scrubbed clean. As for me, I was making my way through the pile of paperwork I had intended to start early in the evening of the previous day.

I was frazzled. I was tired. I was irritated. I was relieved my family was okay. I was content in the way you are when your choices are your own, and they take you to a place you accept and understand.

No book, no research, no trend line was going to tell me anything I didn't already know. I work. I'm a mother. And on this day from hell, I was exactly where I needed -- and wanted -- to be.

Peggy Drexler, Ph.D., is the author of Raising Boys Without Men. She is on the faculty of Weill Medical College of Cornell University and is a former Stanford University Gender Scholar. She is currently working on a new book about fathers and daughters. She lives with her family in New York City. This essay appeared in a slightly different form on Huffington Post.

Update: last Tuesday's Guest Blog included information about a free D.C. screening of Dan Habib's documentary about inclusion, "Including Samuel," at the Avalon Theatre in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Nov. 15th. An additional 5:30 p.m. showing has been added because the 8 p.m. screening is full. There is no charge for the film screening, but reservations are required. To read more about Dan Habib, his wife Betsy McNamara and Samuel, read A Disability in the Family in today's Health section.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  November 13, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Guest Blogs
Previous: Can Scandal Help a Woman's Career? | Next: Kids Come Second?


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First

Posted by: dennis5 | November 13, 2007 7:58 AM

"But studies also show that homes still run on woman-power."

I would argue that's because that's how most women want it. As much as they say they want their husbands to be equals at home, most women want to be in charge and "run" the household.

Posted by: dennis5 | November 13, 2007 8:02 AM

Wow, I have to say I REALLY liked this. There are days that chaos rules in my house but I am learning as well that sometimes I just need to breathe in and breathe out, and enjoy the rush. Life is not a dress rehearsal.

Posted by: tuckerjules | November 13, 2007 8:03 AM

Wow. That was incredibly long. Definitely longer than 300 words.

Anyway, I think that the prevailing opinion is dennis's. Women must want to run the house becaue they always seem to be doing it. Convenient rationale for the guys, huh? In my house, that's total BS. I bet that in any house where the partners are equally educated and equally careered that is total BS. My husband can run the house as well as I can, and that's something we strived for. It's really quite simple if both people are on board. In relationships where the woman earns less or nothing, I can see her wanting control of the house so she feels she is contributing.

On days like the author described (like last Sunday when my husband and I had a huge arguement about finances, the furnace broke, and the chores were piled high), I just think to my self that everything will be better tomorrow and to just do the best I can.

Posted by: Meesh | November 13, 2007 8:22 AM

I've never liked the term: working mother. It says that I am some kind of sub-category; not a full member of the club. Maybe I'll feel better about it the day I hear someone called a "working father."

------------------

Have you ever heard a dad called "Mr. Mom"? Do you use that term? If you do....then you can't have it both ways. Men get the same feeling they are not a full member of a different club if they choose to stay home so let's remember it works both ways.

Posted by: laurenshirt | November 13, 2007 8:36 AM

"Wow. That was incredibly long."

And incredibly dull.

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 13, 2007 8:40 AM

1,194 words according to the Microsoft word-counting tool.

Took a long time to get there, but I think that the author reached the correct conclusion - if you're doing what you want to be doing, then you should be happy.

"Inconveniences" will happen to us all - I so did not want to have to drive to a really bad neighborhood in Baltimore after midnight Sunday night to meet up with an 18-year old daughter and her friends after their car broke down heading home from a concert, after having spent all afternoon trying to get some work done and winding up overcooking a roast in the process. But it's all part of the j-o-b.

Re: not liking the term "working mother." There are lots of terms I don't like, but I tend not to get wound up about them. It's not worth the effort. To paraphrase Dennis Green, I am exactly who I think I am.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 13, 2007 8:52 AM

I liked this a lot too--very well written.

Interesting that, based on this study (which I haven't read), people seem to think that working part-time is the magic solution to the issue of work/family balance. I actually found--and have heard the same from others who work part-time--that in some ways working part-time is harder than working full-time.

When I worked part-time, I ostensibly had the perfect balance: I could work but it didn't interfere with my kids' lives because I worked only when they were in school. That's all fine until there's a day off of school, or one of the kids is sick--and of course summer break; there goes the delicate balance. Because I worked around my kids' schedule I didn't need childcare--I was able to be home when the bus came ever day. But then what do you do when it's a non-school day? In my situation, my husband at that time saw himself as the main breadwinner (which he of course was) and that my job was not as important as his and therefore it wasn't right for him to have to take off from his "real" job to cover me having to go to my not as real part-time job.

So I had to scramble to figure out piecemeal childcare--try finding a sitter on a random weekday when you don't already have a relationship established with one. Or even if you do know someone it's more than likely that she (or he) needs a full-time job and isn't able to just ditch that job on the odd occasion that your kid has a day off.

A casualty of working part-time is not earning as much time off as a full-time employee; where my ex-husband had weeks and weeks of annual leave accrued I had virtually none, so unless he was willing to take some of that leave in the summer (he wasn't) I was left to string together 10 weeks of childcare that correlated with my part-time schedule. Of course the whole point of my working part-time was to be with my kids so the last thing I wanted was to be paying for someone else to be with them during the hours that I was able to be there myself. And of course financially summer meant that I wasn't even making enough to cover the expense of camp so, from a money standpoint at least, I would have been better off taking the summers off. Of course, usually not an option unless you're self employed and can do without the income for those months.

Add to that the fact that many employers feel like they're doing you a favor by "letting" you work part-time so you darn well better be able to work the already limited hours you've committed to. You just keep your fingers crossed and hope that your kids only get sick on days that you're not scheduled to work. I got a lot of "why can't you take care of that on the days you don't work?"--yes, even if it was a sick kid we were talking about.

At any rate, in many ways working part-time does have its advantages, but I personally found it more stressful than the full-time job I have now.

Posted by: maggielmcg | November 13, 2007 8:55 AM

True, mleifer. Cause even if the kids are in school - it's something like 8-2:30 or 3. So you're supposed to do everything in that time frame - work 5-6 hours, plus the laundry and the housekeeping and the grocery shopping and all the other shopping, waiting for the plumber, etc. And then when the kids are out of school - you're supposed to take them to their activities and be with them. And probably your partner/ husband expects you to take care of everything since he's the one working a 'real' job.

When i went back to work full time, my stress level definitely dropped a whole bunch. I wasn't expected to take care of everything *and* do it perfectly (since I was just 'home with the kids', ya know). Of course, some of those expectations and stresses were of my own making, but that's the way it goes.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 9:05 AM

I accepted the fact that motherhood was not the choice. Work was.

Enjoyed the piece and didn't mind the length at all, but I'm struck by the comment above. Work is not a choice for me! My kids and I will end up homeless if I don't work and earn a decent living. And while having the kids was a choice once, it was a choice I made when I expected to stay married and that's not the case now. But the kids are here (and wonderful at that) but so are their needs. It doesn't feel like much of a choice day-to-day!
The choice in my life comes from choosing to do my best while accepting my limitations and it's a continually frustrating process since my standards/desires are greater than my energy! Like many Moms, it's self-care that suffers.

Posted by: anne.saunders | November 13, 2007 9:08 AM

Seriously, does anyone here use the term Mr. Mom? I'm fairly sure that this gender studies PhD does not use that term. I get her problem with 'working mother' vs 'working father'. We're all just looking for ways to describe what we do and who we are in the fewest words.

I'm guilty of 'running the household,' but my husband is guilty of 'keeping the finances.' Oh, wait. That's what we agreed on. We're each capable of doing the other's job, but we prefer it this way.

atlmom- I made bread! It was dense and turned out like a combo of bread and biscuit, but I did it. It was a little cool in the kitchen, so it didn't rise especially well. I'm going to try every weekend until I get it right. The Houston Chronicle had an article by a guy looking to make the perfect bread. His recipe is so easy, but it takes away the fun of really handling the dough. I'll try it next.

Posted by: atb2 | November 13, 2007 9:08 AM

atb2: that's awesome! I'm so proud of you! I love the bread machine - but really, we used to make pizza dough (before it got too difficult with the kids - we'll do it again soonish) - and that rises, needs to be kneaded, etc, and was SO easy as well.

And, I think, practicing gets it to be better - and you get to learn how your oven works, and how your temperatures work, and how your kitchen works, etc. And mostly, people enjoy eating your 'mistakes.'

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 9:13 AM

"Anyway, I think that the prevailing opinion is dennis's. Women must want to run the house becaue they always seem to be doing it. Convenient rationale for the guys, huh? In my house, that's total BS. I bet that in any house where the partners are equally educated and equally careered that is total BS. My husband can run the house as well as I can, and that's something we strived for. It's really quite simple if both people are on board. In relationships where the woman earns less or nothing, I can see her wanting control of the house so she feels she is contributing. "

I'm just speaking from my experiences. I've heard an awful lot of women talk about how they want their husbands to be equal partners around the house, and then in the next breath they complain about how their husbands don't do things "the right way". They don't clean well enough, they don't dress the kids in perfectly coordinated outfits, the don't cook the right way, etc.

Yes, there are plenty of couples who do share the responsibilities equally. Again, in my experience, they are in the minority. Most women I know want to be in charge of the household. They don't want to do all the work, but they want to make the decisions about how things are done.

Posted by: dennis5 | November 13, 2007 9:17 AM

mleifer, serious question and I'm not trying to be snarky, but what did your husband do with all that leave?

It's a serious question - DW and I both used to be Feds. After being there 15 years, I was at the point where I got 26 days of leave a year. You can carry 30 days (240 hours, really) of leave forward from year to year; the rest has to be used, donated, or forfeited, unless you get special permission which, at least in my organization, was rarely if ever granted.

Since DW was the type who, even before kids, used every bit of her leave every year, and I rarely if ever used any, we got to the situation like the one you mentioned - I had tons of leave, she had none. In our marriage, there was never a possibility that I was going to take a vacation (out of town) without her, so if I took leave, 9 times out of 10 all I did was stay home and do stuff around the house and/or take care of the kids, anyway. So it just made sense that, if one of us had to stay home for some reason, it was usually me. Sounds like your husband either didn't have the use-or-lose leave constraint, or there was something else going on.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 13, 2007 9:25 AM

We've all heard the term "Mr Mom", but has anybody ever heard the term "Ms. Dad"?

Not that there's any meaning to this post, just saying...

Posted by: DandyLion | November 13, 2007 9:27 AM

Ah, the search for the perfect loaf of bread! A worthy endeavor as is the quest for the perfect tomato. I hope that we never find either, this would end our delicious journey!

Posted by: Fred | November 13, 2007 9:30 AM

DandyLion asked: "[H]as anybody ever heard the term 'Ms. Dad'?"

Not that exact phrase, but the phenomenon of single/divorced/widowed mothers is so widespread that it's long been common to say of that she has to be both a mother and father to her child(ren).

Posted by: mehitabel | November 13, 2007 9:32 AM

Trust me, there are worse labels than "working mom." If I could live only being called a "working mother," then I'd have a lot more faith in the goodness of humanity.

And I'm speaking not just for myself, but for my mom, the original "working mother" in my life who worked herself so hard that she got sick, and now I'm taking care of her.

Maybe your friends and neighbors judge you for being a "working mother" but to your kids, you (or will be) the hero and the role model, especially if you're a single mom who works and takes care of the home.

Posted by: Strawberry23 | November 13, 2007 9:38 AM

They don't want to do all the work, but they want to make the decisions about how things are done.

________________________

My mother always said "If you never want you husband to do _________ again, criticize the way he does it". I took that to heart. I'm just happy the dishwasher is unloaded. I'll put the cups in the right place later - or not.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | November 13, 2007 9:39 AM

I have just reduced my schedule to 4 days from 5 because I was finding that a lot of stuff just wasn't getting done around my house/cars, etc, and I was spending too much mental energy thinking about those things during working hours.

Having that extra time has thus far made a big difference in my stress level - enabling me to a)rid myself of some of the backlog of chores, errands, repairs, etc and b) spend more relaxed, fun time with the kids on the weekends. (I hope to actually take some time for myself once the backlog is cleared.)

Before you ask, where's your spouse? He is a clergyperson with long and unusual hours. He is often not home in the evenings and has to work parts of most weekends. BUT, his schedule is flexible enough that he is usually the one who waits for the plumber or other repair person during the week. He's not much for chores, but neither am I - we have a cleaning person, yard people, etc. We're not rich, but in our case these aren't luxuries, they're necessities. My husband is not going to spend his one day off cutting the grass - and I am not a housekeeper.

BTW, yes, I did take a pay cut when I cut my hours, but so far, it's worth it. And I do find I am more productive when I am at work.

Posted by: lorenw507 | November 13, 2007 9:47 AM

moxiemom: BWAAHH! So true. DW was raised in a house where there was one right way to do each thing, and anything else was wrong and must be redone. DW spent much of the first couple years of our marriage trying to train me to do things the "(insert-her-family's-surname-here) way" She quickly found it was counterproductive.

Stubborn? Me? I'll deny that I'm stubborn. I'm tenacious. I'll tenaciously cling to the notion that I'm tenacious, and deny any allegation of stubbornness. (To paraphrase Linus van Pelt.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 13, 2007 9:47 AM

Army Brat,

You are not stubborn, you are simply a man of tradition.

Posted by: Fred | November 13, 2007 9:51 AM

Right on moxiemom. I have become more relaxed over the years about how things get done.

Except the laundry. The au pair is STILL putting colors and whites together, so the whites look like crap. I get SO PISSED at DH when he doesn't listen - cause then he says: oh, just do it yourself. And I think that's a copout - he does it poorly, then blames me for wanting my clothes to look semi nice - then he gets out of the chore entirely.
Other stuff, who cares all that much.

Oh, and the roomba is the BEST INVENTION EVER. It didn't save time in the beginning - cause we'd sit and watch it, but now we set it for when we leave, and it's all done by when we get back. I LOVE IT.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 9:52 AM

"Wow. That was incredibly long."

And incredibly dull.

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 13, 2007 08:40 AM

AHHHHHHHHHHH! IT BURNS! THE HORROR!!
I agree on something Chitty wrote.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 13, 2007 9:58 AM

Oh, and the roomba is the BEST INVENTION EVER. It didn't save time in the beginning - cause we'd sit and watch it, but now we set it for when we leave, and it's all done by when we get back. I LOVE IT.

REALLY? What does it do about shoes on the floor and other random kid debris like that? I've always been skeptical of it. Tell me more. Anyone have experience with the one that mops?

Posted by: moxiemom1 | November 13, 2007 10:02 AM

DH has been wanting the one that mops, but it's not so practical for us, given the layout of our kitchen.

I pick up some stuff off the floor (it doesn't do so great with some of our rugs), and pick up cars and whatever, and find tiny toys in it sometimes, but overall, I don't really pick up too too much, it sometimes depends on how lazy I am and how much time I have. But really, looking at all that stuff on the floor is icky. I have someone come in and clean every 2 weeks, but it's NOT ENOUGH given all the stuff on the floors (we have a dog that sheds a bunch). So it's GREAT for people who definitely don't have time/energy to vacuum.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 10:08 AM

atlmom - is the au pair or your husband the one doing the laundry badly? It's not clear from your message. If it's the au pair, and she's doing the laundry as part of her agreement, then you need to train her better.
He's your husband, not mine, but if he's like many of us guys, then he just really doesn't care what his clothes look like as long as they don't have any embarrassing stains or holes. (And holes in socks which are hidden by shoes don't qualify as 'embarrassing'. :-) So it's not a 'copout' because he's not hiding his unhappiness just to avoid the work; he just really doesn't care. There's a difference.

(True story: when my brother got married, he and his wife lived with my parents. SIL did the laundry for my brother and herself. He was working as a mechanic at a Ford dealership while going to college. She put his greasy mechanic uniforms in the same loads with all of her blouses, slacks, etc. then complained that my mother's washing machine was ruining all of her clothes. It took my mother a long time to teach her that she really did have to separate things to wash them, and greasy mechanic uniforms get washed in a load by themselves.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 13, 2007 10:08 AM

army: they both do the laundry - yes, the au pair needs to listen better and concentrate better and be shown better, etc.

You are SO RIGHT about DH. He has this one shirt where the collar is all worn through - it is SO ready to be given away - yet he INSISTS that it's his favorite shirt and he can still wear it. It's embarrassing. For him, he doesn't care, which makes it that much more embarrassing. I haven't made him change since he seems to only wear it to work, but I'm not sure I'd like to be seen around town with him in that.
The WORST part is that everything that happens is ALWAYS THE WIFE'S FAULT. So if he's going around looking like that, whoever and their friend would say things like: can't she get him to dress better?? I know my in laws do that ALL THE TIME.

Or if the kids are unkempt, then it's always mom's fault. If the kids are just dressed, the dad's done a great job.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 10:11 AM

ArmyBrat--not a snarky question at all. Welcome to the world of being married to someone with serious OCD and a bevy of other mental issues! I'm not being hateful or bitter when I say this--he did/does have OCD and even with medication he was utterly unable to be logical--even though he has a NO stress, NO deadline job he was absolutely obsessive about being there. Not actually doing work, mind you...it was/is not a matter of ambition, just the obsessive need to physically be at work.

And yes it drove me crazy and ultimately was one of the things that led me to decide that I couldn't stay married to him. It's one thing if it would have jeopardized his job in any way, or if he had a deadline or some other actual thing making it so he HAD to be at work those times, but in reality he was just irrational.

Oh, and the times he would agree to take off--for instance we'd have a schedule where he'd be supposed to take off one week and I'd take off another, thereby taking care of 2 out of 10 weeks of summer, his week would come and he'd suddenly tell me he hadn't put in for the leave after all (this after MONTHS of advance notice and frequent reminders, because of course I was the one who orchestrated all childcare) so could he drop them at my office at noon or take them to my mother's, etc.

Even though we're no longer married it continues to be an issue because we have 50/50 custody and he still pulls the same stuff. Last winter there was a huge ice storm and the government closed--yet he still called to ask if I could take the kids early so he could go into work--at 5 pm no less!! I had a brand new job at the time and do not work for the government, but that didn't matter to him. Not to mention summers--he has now been in the same job for almost 8 years (or is it 9?) and has maybe taken two weeks a few of those years but mostly he doesn't take any leave because as long as he "shows his face" at the office at some point during a day he doesn't have to take leave.

I am getting better, however, about putting it back on him; ok, he doesn't want to take off--it's his responsibility to figure out childcare for those weeks that he could take but won't. That then feeds into the whole concept of giving in and letting the other parent do something even if it's not the way you would do it. I can either take on all the stress of picking up the slack for him or just leave it in his hands and let him take care of it, even if it makes me cringe to know that he'll leave it for the last possible second then try to cobble something together.

But I digress...this is probably way more information than necessary!

Posted by: maggielmcg | November 13, 2007 10:13 AM

"I accepted the fact that motherhood was not the choice. Work was."

When you get down to it, though, isn't it all a choice?

Posted by: JS1978 | November 13, 2007 10:17 AM

In our marriage, It's my job to get the boys dirty, and my wife's job to get them clean.

We've achieved perfect balance!

Posted by: DandyLion | November 13, 2007 10:18 AM

Sadly, roomba will not work for us. There is a lip separating the living and family rooms from the kitchen and dining room. The bedrooms are upstairs. What I wouldn't give for the pet hair to be swept up with no effort every day. We did just have the conversation this weekend about how much money a month we'd be willing to spend on someone cleaning. We may just end up with a once a month clean. Is it even worth it? We'd still have to clean all the other weekends, what with the pet hair, cooking, and bathroom use.

Posted by: atb2 | November 13, 2007 10:20 AM

Oh, and I LOVE my Roomba!! The only thing that does suck about it is that it does get stuck under stuff or get tangled up in a cord or something so you come home expecting to find clean floors and it turns out that probably 5 minutes after you left it got stuck and never got any further.

I would love to get the one that mops, although I wonder how it does on wood floors. Then again, I take that back--in my former life when I did all the chores I would have loved it; now I have a husband who washes the floors ;)

Posted by: maggielmcg | November 13, 2007 10:21 AM

atb: it comes with something that will create a virtual wall. We put that up since we have a fairly open floor plan. So we clean one room at a time.
Sometimes DH puts it upstairs to get all the rooms at once, sometimes we do room by room.
So you could set it for one room, let it recharge, the next room, let it recharge, the bedrooms, etc.
I used the swiffer before we got the roomba. That works REALLY WELL too - it acts as a broom, also, and so I swiffed, then I swept up what the swiffer wouldn't. We use the swiffer 'mop' too, it works well. But I definitely love having someone come in and clean. Otherwise, we'd never have anything resembling clean. When the kids are older, we'll see how it goes -they'll be able to clean, too!

Good luck, whatever you choose to do.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 10:24 AM

"Oh, and I LOVE my Roomba!!"

Could my cat go for a ride on the Roomba!

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 13, 2007 10:29 AM

I guess so chitty, but my dog runs away from it. The 2 YO too - he keeps telling himself that it won't hurt him, since that's what we keep telling him. It's adorable.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 10:35 AM

somebody please send me a picture of a roomba, with or without cat riding it. no idea what you are talking about but it sounds like i need one.

Posted by: leslie4 | November 13, 2007 10:49 AM

wpni hates it when i use wikipedia as a source but here goes:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roomba

there is a really cool photo. my cats would love this. think it could double as a kid toy too.

Posted by: leslie4 | November 13, 2007 10:50 AM

I accepted the fact that motherhood was not the choice. Work was."

As a single mother receiving no child support, work is not a choice, not a hobby, not a move toward self-actualization. It's what keeps my daughter and me from being homeless.

I like the issues raised by Dr. Drexler's post, but she is coming from an upper middle class point of view. For many of us, working is not a "choice." I would be probably be interested in her research if it take socio-economic indicators into account (as it likely does). But as this was her personal point of view, I understand that she writes from the view she knows best: the socio-economic caste to which she belongs.

And if she ever authors "Raising Girls Without Men," I'll buy it.

Posted by: pepperjade | November 13, 2007 10:52 AM

The WORST part is that everything that happens is ALWAYS THE WIFE'S FAULT. So if he's going around looking like that, whoever and their friend would say things like: can't she get him to dress better??

That is a womanly statement, I assure you no man ever thinks that. Men could care less

Posted by: pATRICK | November 13, 2007 10:54 AM

I third that about work not being a "choice" if you're a single mom--there is a big difference btwn not "having" to work and having to work. I was a SAHM for 8 years and never "had" to work during that time; now, even though I'm remarried, my kids are not my husband's responsibility and it's on me to support them beyond the $350 a month I get for child support. There's a big difference between knowing that if you decide you hate your job or just want a break you can "opt out" and go back to being home full time and having to just suck it up when your job isn't ideal because you have no choice but to work.

Posted by: maggielmcg | November 13, 2007 11:02 AM

I third that about work not being a "choice" if you're a single mom--there is a big difference btwn not "having" to work and having to work. I was a SAHM for 8 years and never "had" to work during that time; now, even though I'm remarried, my kids are not my husband's responsibility and it's on me to support them beyond the $350 a month I get for child support. There's a big difference between knowing that if you decide you hate your job or just want a break you can "opt out" and go back to being home full time and having to just suck it up when your job isn't ideal because you have no choice but to work.

Posted by: maggielmcg | November 13, 2007 11:02 AM

I appreciate Drexler's honesty about her struggles. Her husband's comment about doing more than all the other husbands is classic. I would say the younger generation of men are better about this stuff than the boys of the baby boom. Maybe the end result of the feminist movement will be a generation of men who know how to change diapers and identify a bundt pan rather than a legion of female CEOs. Hey it's progress, evolution takes time. The female CEO dream may have to wait until the vast majority of men out there have decided that holding their children, being a good husband, friend, and neighbor, and enjoying a little homemade pound cake on Sunday afternoon beats having a big paycheck which is financed by having a cell phone permanently stuck to your ear.

The one thing about the blog that I find worrisome, and I think it ties into the whole "opt out" thing that has taken hold of many college educated women of my generation, is that absence of joy in the author's voice. When I communicate with older successful women I find myself admiring them but also wondering, where did her happiness go? I think this is why women opt out, not only is it hard to do it all, when the roles model you are presented with are perpetually irritated, humorless, and on edge, in spite of their accomplishments, they just don't serve as much of a source of inspiration. I end up looking to back to my grandmother, or some eccentric, high-spirited high school teacher I had for my inspiration rather than the award-winning, but severely cranky, female example in my field. I think we put the cart before the horse. We expect joy from achievement, but really the joy should come first. If we had faith that the achievements would follow then we might be on our way to balance.

Posted by: pinkoleander | November 13, 2007 11:07 AM

"As a single mother receiving no child support, work is not a choice, not a hobby, not a move toward self-actualization. It's what keeps my daughter and me from being homeless."

Hear, hear! Since I was 16, work has never been a choice. I don't have the slightest idea what I might do differently in my life without economic pressures, but I do find this "choice" perspective to be over-expressed in proportion to the number of women who can relate to it.

"The WORST part is that everything that happens is ALWAYS THE WIFE'S FAULT. So if he's going around looking like that, whoever and their friend would say things like: can't she get him to dress better??"

"That is a womanly statement, I assure you no man ever thinks that. Men could care less."

Posted by: pATRICK | November 13, 2007 10:54 AM

Make that "men and most women". I'm not concerned about ring around the collar and grown folks know that my husband makes his own sartorial choices. I doubt there are more than 2 out of every 100 women who evaluate our daughter's hair on the playground and determine that her mother is deficient, or look at my spouse's worn out favorite shirts and somehow find me responsible. I can't imagine being concerned about the occasional dinosaur competing with Donna Reed for '50s perfection. This is very old-lady thinking and doesn't represent the average woman in the slightest.

Posted by: MN | November 13, 2007 11:07 AM

atlmom: "It's embarrassing. For him, he doesn't care, which makes it that much more embarrassing."

I'm going to have to agree with pATRICK on this one. Not a single man that I work with or know of would remotely care what your husband looks like in his favorite shirt. None of us would pass judgment on you or blame you for anything. If anybody would do that, it's another woman. You don't get the criticism from your "in-laws" - you might get it from your MIL, but your FIL doesn't see anything wrong with it.

So why is it "embarrassing" for you? It's not your job to dress him; he's a big boy.

I have this same discussion with my wife all the time. If I pack the night before leaving on a business trip, she tries to go through my bag, pulling out shirts to iron or replacing clothes I've picked with clothes she considers more suitable. She does this despite the fact that none of the people I'm going to see has ever met her, and none of them likely will ever meet her.

I've learned not to pack ahead of time; it's just easier for everybody that way. (It's my tradition - thanks, Fred.)

(And before anybody thinks I'm a total and complete geek, yes I can dress nicely for meetings with lawyers, for funerals, weddings, and other unhappy occasions. Since I used to travel to Hong Kong on business a lot, I have a number of hand-tailored suits, shirts, etc that I had made there. I can look really spiffy if I have to. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 13, 2007 11:10 AM

"If I pack the night before leaving on a business trip, she tries to go through my bag, pulling out shirts to iron or replacing clothes I've picked with clothes she considers more suitable."

1. Your wife isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer.

2. Your wife has too much time on her hands.

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 13, 2007 11:16 AM

Well, guys, when you're out with your DWs and they look great - doesn't that make you feel good? That she spiffed up for you? That you can tell everyone there that *she's* with *you*?

So it wouldn't be the same if she didn't brush her hair and she wore sweats somewhere? I would like for DH to have some pride in his appearance (and trust me, I am NO FASHION MAVEN - most of the time it's: hey - take me as I am).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 11:18 AM

and, for the record, my DH can pack however he'd like for a business trip. I find it slightly amusing that he has to wait til the very last minute, and do all the laundry in the house before he can pack anything.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 11:23 AM

chitty, you're about one egg short of an omelet.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 13, 2007 11:30 AM


atlmom: "Well, guys, when you're out with your DWs and they look great - doesn't that make you feel good? That she spiffed up for you? That you can tell everyone there that *she's* with *you*?"

Yes, but it depends on the context. Where are we going/what are we doing?

If we're just running to Home Depot or Lowe's to pick up more mulch for the plant beds, then I'd honestly prefer that she be in jeans or sweats with her hair in a ponytail, because it's appropriate for the environment.

On the other hand, if we're out for a big night on the town, then yes I'm flattered that she's dressed up and made up nicely and I'm thrilled to have such a wonderful person on my arm. But those are the times when I'll also be dressed up, hoping to complement her.

(Not my favorite source, but Ashton Kutcher recently said a man should dress up to complement his wife, not to compete with/outshine her.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 13, 2007 11:38 AM

"We have been to the mountaintop. So, why are so many troubled by the view?"

I think it's because we have a romantic view of everything, jobs, marriage, children. And when we finally have all that, we think...this is it?

We're a society of seekers who can't be happy, despite what it took to get there. We always want more. And we'll instill this into the future generations, who will be just as ruthless, if not more so, to seek the elusive happiness and balance we all seek.

Posted by: JS1978 | November 13, 2007 11:57 AM

The WORST part is that everything that happens is ALWAYS THE WIFE'S FAULT. So if he's going around looking like that, whoever and their friend would say things like: can't she get him to dress better??
_____________________________________
In fairness, I think it would be safe to say that if a family is struggling financially, people look at it as the husband's fault or responsibility to correct. This is the case, even when both spouses work.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | November 13, 2007 12:19 PM

My wife threw out my favorite pair of sweats. She said my package stuck out too far and it made me look gay.

Posted by: GutlessCoward | November 13, 2007 12:24 PM

"My wife threw out my favorite pair of sweats. She said my package stuck out too far and it made me look gay."

Actually, you looked like a closeted gay...

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 13, 2007 12:27 PM

My wife threw out my favorite pair of sweats. She said my package stuck out too far and it made me look gay.

Posted by: GutlessCoward | November 13, 2007 12:24 PM

i think the hole in crotch did you in.......

Posted by: pATRICK | November 13, 2007 12:29 PM

When I communicate with older successful women I find myself admiring them but also wondering, where did her happiness go? I think this is why women opt out, not only is it hard to do it all, when the roles model you are presented with are perpetually irritated, humorless, and on edge, in spite of their accomplishments, they just don't serve as much of a source of inspiration.
Posted by: pinkoleander | November 13, 2007 11:07 AM

I remember growing up and vowing to be a parent like the relaxed and funny Dads I saw, not the tense and angry Moms. And here I am, my own worst nightmare sometimes!! Balance is so much harder than I ever imagined. (Of course I'm coming off an evening of fighting with elder DD over homework, so my view is a little negative at the moment. Help, I need my positive attitude back!)

Posted by: anne.saunders | November 13, 2007 12:38 PM

I think a lot of moms in the thick of childraising look and sound angry, wiped out, stressed and generally torn between too many priorities. Motherhood is really tough, especially if you have more than one kid, under age 18. But if you ask about their kids -- or what being a mom means to them -- their faces totally change and you can see how much joy is there. Longterm motherhood is kind of one of those don't judge a book by its cover experiences. And I also find if you go back to those moms a few years later they look really happy and well-rested again (once their kids have grown).

Posted by: leslie4 | November 13, 2007 1:00 PM

I completely agree with the first posters- women will stop being the ones running the home when they choose to change the expectations and train their partners towards that.

And I also agree that the partner will be judged on the appearance of the other partner- and women more so due to expectations of dress and fashion know-how. I have no problems with my partner keeping his ratty old things, but then he has sense enough to know those are what you wear to the gym and doing hard labor- not what you wear to social events.

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | November 13, 2007 1:14 PM

Is it just me, or does it seem like the fun has gone out of these DH/DW relationships? I feel like too many of the posters on this blog are seeing their significant other as an opponent in an elaborate game of chess. Where is the fun, the passion? How about finding a balance between work, family and finding time for intimacy in your relationship? Is quality time with the spouse the first thing to go when the demands of work, family and community get in the way? What are some ways that you make time for each other? Schedule date nights, text-messages, etc... what works for you?

Posted by: denise | November 13, 2007 1:22 PM

"I completely agree with the first posters- women will stop being the ones running the home when they choose to change the expectations and train their partners towards that."

Men, here's your warning. Run like hell from any woman who wants to "train" her partners toward HER changed expectations. Life is just too blessed short to be controlled by someone who wants to control how you dress and b***h at you that you don't load the dishwasher her way. There are plenty of other women in the world who want a partner, not a co-maid. You dressed yourself before we met. Keep on keeping on.

Posted by: MN | November 13, 2007 1:23 PM

Is it just me, or does it seem like the fun has gone out of these DH/DW relationships? I feel like too many of the posters on this blog are seeing their significant other as an opponent in an elaborate game of chess. Where is the fun, the passion? How about finding a balance between work, family and finding time for intimacy in your relationship? Is quality time with the spouse the first thing to go when the demands of work, family and community get in the way? What are some ways that you make time for each other? Schedule date nights, text-messages, etc... what works for you?

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

Denise, you sound un-married and children-free.

Posted by: StickyNote | November 13, 2007 1:28 PM

dennis- Write a guest blog about keeping your marriage spicy and, after skewering you, we'll tell you all about how we di it. The majority of our lives are the business of getting through the day. We rarely talk about the fun stuff, because that's the easy part.

Posted by: atb2 | November 13, 2007 1:30 PM

Aaagh! Please don't refer to "working fathers". I'll have to find a new moniker.

I used to do all the laundry in the house, but DW decided that she knows where the stains on DS's clothes are better than I. Now, my socks have never been in such disarray and I constantly run out of underwear. She also thinks I take too long to fold but then complains about wrinkles when she does the folding.

DW also blames appliances when things don't work the way she expects them to work. The stove runs hot, so she wants a new stove instead of adjusting for the temperature. The dryer doesn't finish the job in one cycle so we must need a new dryer when she has the heat setting on low for the cold-water colored cottons. The dishes still have caked on food after running through the pot-scrubber cycle. (Well, OK, we do need a new dishwasher.) And the VCR/DVD machine doesn't work right because it doesn't realize that she doesn't have the correct tape/DVD in so it records on the wrong one.

But, you know what? She really knows how to raise DS and keeps him safe, happy, and healthy. I wouldn't trade that for the world, 'cause I know I wouldn't do half the job she does.

Posted by: WorkingDad | November 13, 2007 1:34 PM

moxie: So true. And I'll always be looked at as the golddigger, no matter how much I earn. *sigh*

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 1:34 PM

yes, I do yell at the computer when it doesn't do what I want, even if I hit different keys. It just can't read my mind - piece of cr**

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 1:36 PM

denise - nah, it's just that it's more "fun" to whine about our partners' foibles on these blogs than to discuss/brag about the good stuff. I don't know why; it just seems to happen that way.

But keeping intimacy alive in the relationship is an important thing to do, and the challenges tend to change as the kids get older.

For example, the teenagers will tell you that if you both decide you're "tired" and go to bed at 8:30 pm, they're setting off the smoke detector and calling the fire department.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 13, 2007 1:48 PM

"DW also blames appliances when things don't work the way she expects them to work."

Wait - there's a problem with this behavior?

Posted by: MN | November 13, 2007 1:49 PM

Is it just me, or does it seem like the fun has gone out of these DH/DW relationships? I feel like too many of the posters on this blog are seeing their significant other as an opponent in an elaborate game of chess. Where is the fun, the passion? How about finding a balance between work, family and finding time for intimacy in your relationship? Is quality time with the spouse the first thing to go when the demands of work, family and community get in the way? What are some ways that you make time for each other? Schedule date nights, text-messages, etc... what works for you?

Posted by: denise | November 13, 2007 01:22 PM

Is this real, or is Chrissy back to play a cruel joke on us, LOL?

If it's real, you can find all those topics discussed during a month of Oprah's. Here you find the grunt-level view of marriages after a few years, a few kids, a couple of job changes. Real comments from real people. For the most part, LOL. Like a good marriage, the only mandatory requirement is a sense of humor not that you view your world with rose-colored glasses.

Posted by: MN | November 13, 2007 1:54 PM

I remember growing up and vowing to be a parent like the relaxed and funny Dads I saw, not the tense and angry Moms

This is a great point. Too many women I see, view motherhood as some grim task to be completed to perfection or otherwise they are total failures. I think it is definitely a combination of innate conflicts in women combined with the catty competetiveness of women as a group. Men don't view perfection as the minimum low bar to be jumped over.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 13, 2007 1:58 PM

"DW also blames appliances when things don't work the way she expects them to work."

Wait - there's a problem with this behavior?

Posted by: MN | November 13, 2007 01:49 PM


MN: you can always make me laugh...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 1:58 PM

"DW also blames appliances when things don't work the way she expects them to work."

Well, as long as the appliances don't talk back, it's all good.

Posted by: mehitabel | November 13, 2007 2:00 PM

oh, pATRICK. I NEVER wanted to be a mom growing up. To inflict that sort of pain? To create a family - that would create a bunch of miserable beings? No, thank you.

It wasn't until I was in a relationship - married, happy, etc - that I wanted to create a family. I thought - hey, this sounds like a good idea. And I see how people in our family help each other, support each other, love each other. But growing up? Nah, I didn't need any more of that misery to be a part of my life.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 2:00 PM

"Men don't view perfection as the minimum low bar to be jumped over."

I know a lot of men who have vowed to be "different" fathers than than fathers were. I know several men who have vowed to be "different" husbands than their fathers were. They haven't always succeeded.

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 13, 2007 2:02 PM

mleifer, sorry to pick on you, but here I go with another naive question:

"now, even though I'm remarried, my kids are not my husband's responsibility and it's on me to support them beyond the $350 a month I get for child support."

Wait - is this really a common behavior among men? Or is this something you wanted?

The main reason my brother's a single father is that when his ex-wife remarried her new husband wanted nothing to do with these two daughters that weren't "his". So she elected to give full custody to my brother. I always regarded the new husband as a total jerk.

I mean, I'm fortunate to have been married to the same woman for more than 20 years, and plan on staying married to her until we croak. But I also always figured that if I remarried somebody with children (or had originally married somebody with children), the children would at least partially become my responsibility. It's like, you know, a "package deal" or something - if I didn't want it, I wouldn't marry the mother.

Do many men really go into a marriage with the view that "we'll work together, but those kids are your problem"?

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 13, 2007 2:09 PM

MN: you can always make me laugh...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 01:58 PM

then my purpose is served, atlmom, LOL!

Posted by: MN | November 13, 2007 2:18 PM

armybrat: i was kinda thinking the same thing. It's weird to me, I would never think they are only *my* problem if I were to ever remarry.
Kinda like - sharing everything, whether it's lottery winnings or student loans.

Just my thoughts.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 2:18 PM

*smile*, MN

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 2:19 PM

It is not only men who are like that. I know a female who married a man who had two kids from a previous marriage. And she is very resentful of the child support or emotional support that he extends to his older children. The strange thing is she has two kids with this man. She seems to think only their shared kids matter. It seems weird that you couldn't jump to say, what if he divorced me? How would I want our shared children to be treated by their father or stepmother? But emotions take over and there is no reason. I wouldn't marry a man who did not want to be a huge part of my kid's lives as well.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 13, 2007 2:23 PM

Foamgnome: i hear ya. No question about it.
They are part of my life. Always will be. If someone can't accept that, then, whatever.
*shrug* different people are different.

My friend had a dad who definitely treated her and her brother as if they were second in his life - and his third kid - he had with wife no. 2 - was his life. It was sad to watch her grow up that way, where her dad canceled weekends with her and her brother, etc. But people seem to be able to do that.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 2:26 PM

I have a friend whose husband has a child from a previous marriage. She hates the fact that her husband has to pay child support and she resents the child. Yet she tells me how to go after my ex for not paying child support.

Posted by: sharonw | November 13, 2007 2:34 PM

Posted by: foamgnome | November 13, 2007 02:23 PM


I agree with you but some people are funny about blood relatives vs. non blood. Not saying it is right just observing

Posted by: pATRICK | November 13, 2007 2:36 PM

pATRICK: The problem is I think these people are more generous to strangers, neighbors, friends then to their spouse's children. They just seem to resent their responsibility and love to their other children. It seems to be threatening to them.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 13, 2007 2:38 PM

yeah, sharon, it's AMAZING what people see when they want to see it - or don't. Like, what's so wrong about nurturing another human being in this world?

I have a friend who doesn't even like to mention that her DH was married before her. It's something she is obviously upset about. He doesn't have kids from that marriage, but she doesn't think anyone should ever make mistakes, so she thinks he made one and it kills her. It's strange to me. Sometimes things don't work out.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 2:38 PM

you got it, foamgnome.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 2:41 PM

I have a step son who moved in with us when he was a rebellious 16 year old. I finally gave an ultimatum when he turned 24 and still didn't have a job, go to school etc. My DH said if I kicked him out he would have to go with him. I guess blood is thicker than water.

Posted by: sharonw | November 13, 2007 3:05 PM

sharonw

"My DH said if I kicked him out he would have to go with him"

I feel the same way about my cats.

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 13, 2007 3:25 PM

sharon: I mighta just left at that point. I mean - at 24 a kid should have a job and pay rent or leave.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 3:28 PM

And I also find if you go back to those moms a few years later they look really happy and well-rested again (once their kids have grown).

Posted by: leslie4 | November 13, 2007 01:00 PM

That really made me laugh. Yes, I will definitely be one of those Moms who loves motherhood -- once my children have left home!

Posted by: anne.saunders | November 13, 2007 3:38 PM

sharon: I mighta just left at that point. I mean - at 24 a kid should have a job and pay rent or leave.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 03:28 PM

DOUBLE STANDARD ALERT! I wonder what the response would have been if the man wanted to kick out the woman's son and issued an ultimatum. Then HE would have been an insensitive jerk, unresponsive to woman's needs etc.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 13, 2007 3:39 PM

"I finally gave an ultimatum when he turned 24 and still didn't have a job, go to school etc. My DH said if I kicked him out he would have to go with him."

Sharon, I haven't walked in your shoes, so excuse me if this is a naive question. Is that sort of ultimatum yours, or any one person's in the household, to give? Isn't that a joint decision between you and your spouse? I would be offended if you spoke for both of us, without my buy-in, to my adult child, my mom, my siblings or anyone. 'Splain, please.

Posted by: MN | November 13, 2007 3:40 PM

DOUBLE STANDARD ALERT!
Posted by: pATRICK | November 13, 2007 03:39 PM

pATRICK, I hereby invite you to kick either of my daughters out of my home at age 24 if they're not in school and/or working and contributing rent. This is called doing a mom a favor.

Posted by: anne.saunders | November 13, 2007 3:43 PM

"pATRICK, I hereby invite you to kick either of my daughters out of my home at age 24 if they're not in school and/or working and contributing rent. This is called doing a mom a favor."

If you mess with my cats, YOU ARE A DEAD MAN.

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 13, 2007 3:46 PM

"I would be offended if you spoke for both of us, without my buy-in, to my adult child, my mom, my siblings or anyone. 'Splain, please."

Damn woman you are on roll, two great posts in two days.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 13, 2007 3:47 PM

No way, pATRICK. I agree with MN, though, that it should be a joint decision. If they're not doing something at *18* then they get kicked out. I.e., if they are pursuing an education, they get to stay, but if they're not, they better be working and paying rent.

My DH is ALREADY (they are 2 and 5) figuring out how much we're going to get for the house and wanting to move into some nice little town home -he's figuring where we might want to retire - when the youngest is 18. We've discussed the whole - what is going to happen to the kids at 18 thing, actually.

I'm sure it's a little more difficult if you actually have an 18 YO who isn't doing anything in your house, though...LOL

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 3:51 PM

Thanks, pATRICK, LOL.

My ultimatum would have been delivered to my husband, not the 24 year old, and it would sound like this, "Honey, I love you, but I don't think we're doing Fred any favors supporting him at this age. If you aren't comfortable saying something to him but agree with me, I will talk to him. If you disagree with me, and if he's not out of here by Christmas, I will be." I'm not fond of ultimatums, per se, but if you're going to deliver one, you better have the authority to implement it. That's why the best ultimatums involve you following through on something you can control -- like your own behavior.

Posted by: MN | November 13, 2007 3:52 PM

ArmyBrat--I guess it's kind of a weird situation--I never thought that much about it until you said that. I think it's because when I was married for the first time (14 years) I made myself totally dependant on him and therefore kept myself trapped in a horrible situation. I didn't work and didn't want to work; I wanted to be home with my kids, and I never really thought twice about it. Of course I should have thought twice about it and realized it was a BAD idea for several reasons--financial, intellectual, mental, etc.

I guess I'm overcompensating now because I am adamant about not ever being in the same situation again where I have to depend on someone else for money. My new husband is wonderful and supportive and considers my kids his own, so this is not something he's putting on me--it's me. I love him and plan on having this marriage last until we both die, hand in hand, at age 100, but god forbid something happen, I don't ever want to be in the position I put myself in last time--totally helpless and unable to support myself or my kids. It's also a pride thing for me--the fact that I can do this--to me it's been no small feat that I was able to wangle my way back into the job market mostly on my own terms and am able to support myself and my kids.

Posted by: maggielmcg | November 13, 2007 3:56 PM

I am not in favor of lazy 24 year olds lounging around. I just think that when you deliver an ultimatum such as him or me when that him is blood and you're not, you may be in for a nasty surprise for an answer. Blood IS thicker than water.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 13, 2007 3:59 PM

pATRICK: of course, but would you want to live with a man who won't stand up to his son and doesn't think your point of view is valid?

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 4:01 PM

I remember growing up and vowing to be a parent like the relaxed and funny Dads I saw, not the tense and angry Moms. And here I am, my own worst nightmare sometimes!! Balance is so much harder than I ever imagined. (Of course I'm coming off an evening of fighting with elder DD over homework, so my view is a little negative at the moment. Help, I need my positive attitude back!)

Posted by: anne.saunders | November 13, 2007 12:38 PM

Anne, we all just do the best that we can. It's much more work than I thought it would be and my expectations were just never in line with reality, in spite of my best efforts to be prepared. I'm trying to change my expectations, and learn to find enjoyment in my new role as perpetual motion machine. Busy does not necessarily mean unhappy, I mean how many depressed hummingbirds do you meet? My happy aunt always said when things were going down the tubes, with a big smile on her, "Ah, just go with the flow." I always thought that meant to sit back and take it easy, which I absolutely cannot do right now. Now, I think she was just meant to rest your troubled mind, even if your feet have to stay moving. So when I start feeling stressed I try to let the thoughts flow away and fill my head with something that I find beautiful or inspiring. Sometimes I succeed.

Posted by: pinkoleander | November 13, 2007 4:11 PM

Thanks for that pinkoleander. I worry too much about smashing on the rocks as I'm thrown downstream but if I relax, I notice the current just takes me past most of them!

Posted by: anne.saunders | November 13, 2007 4:17 PM

Wow. I don't think I would kick my kid out at 18. I would certainly impose some boundaries and set some requirements-- like going to school or having a job. But if for some reason, my kid was not hacking it, I would probably not put them out immediately. I would try to figure out what the problem was, and help the kid through it. Maybe it would be by requiring therapy, or housework, or volunteer work -- I guess it depends on the situation. I think it is a little cruel to turn a kid out of the house at 18, just because it is legally when you become an adult. I don't think most people are really ready to be on their own at 18.

Posted by: Emily | November 13, 2007 4:18 PM

Anne, it's wierd how that relaxation thing works. Same for me, just hard to remember sometimes when the fight or flight thing kicks in.

Posted by: pinkoleander | November 13, 2007 4:21 PM

Emily: I think you're referring to my post, and I said that the kid has to be doing something. So I completely agree with you. But if they're just sitting on the couch and playing video games - and nothing works to get them to get a job or go to school or something, then yes, I would kick them out.

My parents were very clear to us that we were all going to college (okay, well, my mom was). We all had the option to live at home after college (and when the jobs pay $20k and your apt rent would be just south of $2k, you don't have much of a choice). But we all had to get jobs, and help with the rent/mortgage/etc. No freeloaders there....

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 4:23 PM

My husband was kicked out the house at 18 for drinking. There were rules. He broke them. He learned very fast how to get a job and pay rent. He says it's one of the best things his parents did for him. 18 year olds are not children.

Posted by: atb2 | November 13, 2007 4:23 PM

In my defense I talked to his dad from the age of his son turning 18 that he should help him do something with his life. All those years went by and he did nothing. I put my foot down when he starting taking cold medicine to get high. He is working now and going to community college. So I guess it worked.

Posted by: sharonw | November 13, 2007 4:23 PM

No need to defend yourself, sharonw. I think 24 is a lot different than 18. And I agree that kids need to be taught to be responsible. I just think that 18 is a pretty arbitrary age. And I think that there are myriad reasons why some kids may never be completely independent, and that while freeloading is one of them, that it is not necessarily the only one.

I have friends whose daughter is mentally ill. It comes and goes. Sometimes, she is ok. Sometimes not. She can't seem to hold a job for long, and I fear that if not for her parents, she would be homeless. So they let her live at home and take care of her, through good times, when she can work, and bad times, when she can't. I don't think they will ever force her to independence, and in their place, I probably wouldn't either.

Also, I think people tend to go through a hard adjustment right as they enter college or leave colllege, and that parents owe their kids a little bit of leeway, especially if the kid has previously shown herself to be responsible. It is one thing to raise a freeloader. It is another to help a young adult through a tough transition. So with the caveat that I am not advocating for parents to indulge freeloaders, I also think that parents need to see their kids as individuals with individuals needs, and adjust accordingly, rather than as relying on age as the meter that indicates true adulthood.

Posted by: Emily | November 13, 2007 4:33 PM

I think that 18 is NOT an adult and I would never kick my son or daughter out at that age. 24 is different but 18 is too young. This isn't 1950. Having said that, i also would not allow a 24 year old to move back in. Especially out of college, go live in a400 sq ft apartment with a roommate but you're not living here.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 13, 2007 4:34 PM

For once, I agree with Patrick. Except that depending on the circumstances, I might let my 24 year old move back home, at least temporarily. I figure that when it comes to my family at least (including parents, spouse, brothers, and children), if I have a roof over my head, no matter how cramped or inconvenient, in times of crisis, they will also have a roof over their heads. Maybe not indefintelly, but at least until they can get themselves together.

Posted by: Emily | November 13, 2007 4:40 PM

For once, I agree with Patrick

LOL, i was thinking the same thing about your previous post Emily

Posted by: pATRICK | November 13, 2007 4:44 PM

"Especially out of college, go live in a400 sq ft apartment with a roommate but you're not living here."

I'm guessing you've never seen Single White Female.

Meh. I lived at home for less than a year after graduating. Once you move away from home, you really don't want to move back anyway. But the market somemtimes doesn't allow fresh grads that chance. So the few months to work and save money was nice. Of course, I was good kid and still did my chores while living there. Without being asked.

Posted by: JS1978 | November 13, 2007 4:49 PM

If I have a roof over my head, my kids have a roof over their head. I wouldn't make it extremely pleasant, and it would depend on circumstances, but I would allow them to come home - I would suspect they wouldn't want to, but I would always want to give them that option.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 13, 2007 4:55 PM

Well, I have been on my own and economically independent since I was 18.

Posted by: Fred | November 13, 2007 4:57 PM

I moved back home for a little while after college too. I appreciate that it was free, but man, it was miserable to have to follow the parental rules and be treated like a teenager again. That alone should be plenty of incentive for any kid that craves autonomy to move out as fast as possible. After my first marriage ended, my mother lobbied hard for me to move back home for a while. I think she thought I needed nurturing. I resisted, got my own place, and even though it meant eating ramen and peanut butter and jelly for a while, I was glad to be on my own. There is nothing like knowing that you can fend for yourself.

Posted by: Emily | November 13, 2007 4:58 PM

I realize that this is different from what many people meant, but just a cautionary note on the "kicking the kid out of the house at 18" bit.

My younger brother was 18 and in his freshman year in college. His girlfriend turned 18, shortly after she graduated from high school. Her parents were very, very strict about that - if you're 18, and out of high school, you're out of their house. They literally kicked her out.

The short version is that my brother and his girlfriend got married (and no, she wasn't pregnant, unless that first pregnancy lasted the 7 years until the first daughter was born). She had no place to go - she was working as a bank teller; can't afford a place to live on that salary. She didn't want to join the service, which was her father's suggestion.

My brother asked if his girlfriend could live with our family; my parents said absolutely not. However, my brother then figured that if the two of them were married, my parents would never refuse her - she'd be family. And he was right - they got married and moved into our parents' house.

Talk about a wrong reason to get married - to give an 18-year old a place to stay. I'm shocked that the marriage lasted 14 years (and produced two daughters) but not shocked that it eventually broke up acrimoniously.

So make sure before you kick a kid out that he/she has some viable option.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 13, 2007 4:59 PM

What ever happened to kids wanting to move out and get their own place ASAP? Doesn't anyone else recall when there would've been nothing more humiliating than having to move back in with the 'rents? It at least used to be considered a sign of having failed as an adult.

Posted by: mehitabel | November 13, 2007 5:00 PM

"Especially out of college, go live in a400 sq ft apartment with a roommate but you're not living here."

I'm guessing you've never seen Single White Female."

YEP, saw it AND lived in a 400sq ft apartment with a roommate too. It's called pride and independence.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 13, 2007 5:02 PM

Also, I think people tend to go through a hard adjustment right as they enter college or leave colllege, and that parents owe their kids a little bit of leeway, especially if the kid has previously shown herself to be responsible. It is one thing to raise a freeloader. It is another to help a young adult through a tough transition. So with the caveat that I am not advocating for parents to indulge freeloaders, I also think that parents need to see their kids as individuals with individuals needs, and adjust accordingly, rather than as relying on age as the meter that indicates true adulthood.

Posted by: Emily | November 13, 2007 04:33 PM

Emily, Every post of yours on this topic has been spot-on.

For those who say, kick 'em out at 18 and they should never come back, let me offer a reason for you to consider having an open door policy: it offers a way out of bad relationships. Particularly for girls in their low 20s, if they get into a relationship with a boyfriend and become financially dependent - maybe they sign a one-year lease that depends on him picking up 70% of the rent, or maybe he is making her car payments, etc. - they may not have the resources to get out on their own without the knowledge that they can go home for a short time and get on their feet financially. What constitutes a "short time" is up to each family. At the risk of revealing TMI, I can think of at least one relationship I would have ended earlier if I could have gone "home" for a couple of months.

For us, home definitely is the place that, as Wolfe said, "if you have to go there, they have to take you in." Should there be expectations tied to that open-ended offer? Sure. I can't imagine not making the open-ended offer, though. YMMV.

Posted by: MN | November 13, 2007 5:03 PM

Now if push came to shove I would relent, but it had better be necessary. Too easy to have no rent, mom do your clothes, eat free etc. like a rot that sets in.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 13, 2007 5:05 PM

"Now if push came to shove I would relent, but it had better be necessary. Too easy to have no rent, mom do your clothes, eat free etc. like a rot that sets in."

Well, my mom stopped doing my laundry when I was 12, and by then, I was doing dishes, housework, and regularly babysitting of the little boys, so to me, living at home did not mean a cushy life. Now eating ramen and peanut butter and jelly while I watched tv on the couch -- that was cushy.

Posted by: Emily | November 13, 2007 5:10 PM

One possible option is what a friend of mine is doing. His daughter didn't like college after her freshman year (despite excellent grades); she moved back home and is working while taking classes at a community college. The parents are charging a nominal rent - a couple hundred bucks a month, I think - and are secretly planning to give it all back to her if she decides what she wants to do and goes back to college full time, or gets a full-time job that pays well enough to get out on her own.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 13, 2007 5:12 PM

Emily way too many parents let kids back. Those kids want to live in the nicer home with the big screen tv, nice furniture good meals and for free. Many parents especially moms are more willing to have the kids back too. Empty nest syndrome

Posted by: pATRICK | November 13, 2007 5:14 PM

What ever happened to kids wanting to move out and get their own place ASAP? Doesn't anyone else recall when there would've been nothing more humiliating than having to move back in with the 'rents? It at least used to be considered a sign of having failed as an adult.

Posted by: mehitabel | November 13, 2007 05:00 PM

I recall that back in the day people tended to get married at a young age in order to get out of the house. I'm not sold on advocating that as a solution. Most kids don't want to move back home. The issue of kids wanting to live in a house with flat-screens is much bigger for kids who never move out, attend a local community college, and whose parents have no house rules, e.g., permit substance abuse, opposite sex sleepovers, etc..

OTOH, sometimes, it shows greater maturity for a young adult to admit to his parents that he is at the end of his rope, move back home and get his s**t back together than it does to keep up the front, by means of credit card debt or whatever, that his life choices have worked out. I've known kids who were laid off and were too embarrassed to admit to their parents that they weren't solvent. The hole they dug with pride was significantly worse than it would have been if they could have gone home without the 'told you so's'. This is not a one size fits all topic.

Posted by: MN | November 13, 2007 5:22 PM

I want to clear something up. I gave the ultimatum to his dad, his son didn't know about this and that's when he said he would move out with his son. His some up until now had literally not left the house since he graduated high school. He played computer games all day. My son is 19 and in his second year of college. I expect that he will need to come home for a little while to live after college and I welcome it.

Posted by: sharonw | November 13, 2007 5:46 PM

Thanks for the additional info, Sharon. You needed no defense, but this makes sense. What did his dad ultimately do?

Posted by: MN | November 13, 2007 6:40 PM

He finally put pressure on his son to get a job. So his son signed up to take courses at a community college and finally got a job. His son seems happier now.

Posted by: sharonw | November 13, 2007 7:07 PM

I haven't been by in awhile... a working mom who doesn't get pc time as much anymore. I was just pleased you mentioned your dog! As a first time dog owner, on top of being a mom, working mom, wife, daughter (my mom lives with us), housekeeper, driver and small business owner, I did not realize the time that I was going to have to give up to the dog. It is like having another child (we live in the city!).

We all just need to keep on keeping on! Thanks for the great piece. I so much enjoyed it.

Sweet Dreams! Maureen

Posted by: maureen | November 14, 2007 8:13 PM

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