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Moving Women Forward

Last Sunday, the Vatican -- in one of its more confounding moments -- declared the washing machine as the most important 20th century invention to liberate Western women.

"The debate is heated. Some say the pill, some say abortion rights and some the right to work outside the home. Some, however, dare to go further: the washing machine," says the article printed in l'Osservatore Romano, the semi-official Vatican newspaper, to mark International Women's Day.

Well, if mere gadgets like a washer had the most liberalizing effects on us, take a look at mom of three Hanna Rosin's piece in the April Atlantic on the case against breast-feeding:

"The debate about breast-feeding takes place without any reference to its actual context in women’s lives. Breast-feeding exclusively is not like taking a prenatal vitamin. It is a serious time commitment that pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way. Let’s say a baby feeds seven times a day and then a couple more times at night. That’s nine times for about a half hour each, which adds up to more than half of a working day, every day, for at least six months. This is why, when people say that breast-feeding is 'free,' I want to hit them with a two-by-four. It’s only free if a woman’s time is worth nothing."

Rosin wrote that paragraph after noting how science has overblown the benefits of breast-feeding in comparison to formula and wonders if breast-feeding is an instrument that keeps women from attaining the same high reaching levels as men. It's an interesting question, particularly in the week following President Barack Obama's creation of a new White House Council on Women and Girls.

In creating this committee to deal with our nation's prevailing gender inequality, Obama said:

"I've seen Michelle, the rock of the Obama family, juggling work and parenting with more skill and grace than anybody that I know. But I also saw how it tore at her at times, how sometimes when she was with the girls she was worrying about work and when she was at work she was worrying about the girls. It's a feeling that I share everyday. ...
I think we need to take a hard look at where we're falling short and who we're leaving out, and what that means for the prosperity and the vitality of our nation.
And I want to be very clear: These issues are not just women's issues. When women make less than men for the same work, it hurts families who find themselves with less income and have to work harder just to get by.
When a job doesn't offer family leave, that also hurts men who want to help care for a new baby or an ailing parent. When there's no affordable child care, that hurts children who wind up in second-rate care, or spending afternoons alone in front of the television set.
And when any of our citizens cannot fulfill their potential because of factors that have nothing to do with their talent, their character, their work ethic, that says something about the state of our democracy. It says something about whether we're honoring those words put on paper more than two centuries ago; whether we're doing our part, like generations before us, to breathe new life into them in our time. "

Where are we falling short in meeting the needs of women and of families? How do we elevate women to equality? Does it begin with breast-feeding? What are the potential down sides to such a societal shift?


Sunday's Washington Post magazine explored womens' role in politics. Washington Post Magazine contributor Vanessa Gezari and Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers' Eagleton Institute of Politics will be live to talk about the article at noon today.

By Stacey Garfinkle |  March 16, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Work/Life Balance
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Comments


This post is loaded with "us vs them" arguments, pro-anti breastfeeders, pro-anti Catholics, pro-anti Obama. Not a good way to start a week.

Not sure if this post was written to coincide with the article in the WashPost magazine "Leading the Way" on women entering politics and the disparity in elected office, but I didn't find it informative or helpful either. The article was a rehash of old stories set in modern times. Made me scratch my head and wonder why I needed to read another story on how women struggle to balance it all and are ambivalent on entering politics.

FWIW, I am happy to have all the modern conveniences like a washing machine. I am happy birth control is available to women that want it. I am not excited about the White House Council on Women and Girls and think it will do nothing to impact women's equality.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | March 16, 2009 8:01 AM | Report abuse

cheekymonkey: Thanks for your thoughts. To clarify, I wrote this before knowing about or reading the Post magazine story on Sunday. What do you think will impact women's equality?

Posted by: StaceyGarfinkle | March 16, 2009 8:10 AM | Report abuse

"What do you think will impact women's equality?

Not asking for special consideration because they are women for starters.

Posted by: jackdmom | March 16, 2009 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Well, ok, not that the Vatican is the leading edge of feminist thought. But they're actually on to something. We simply have no idea how much time was necessary to simply take care of a house 100 years ago.

I was struck by this while watching "Victorian House" a few years ago -- one of those PBS series where they put people into roles from another time and way of life. I couldn't believe that "washing day" was a full, 14-hr day, involving 3 or 4 people -- just for that one task. Then, of course, cooking took hours, and mending, and scrubbing the house to clean off all of the coal dust and soot. Despite being a middle-class family with a couple of servants, the wife was still working 14-hr days just trying to keep the house going. She couldn't have gone out to work if she wanted to, because running the home was a more than full-time job.

Reminds me of when I was talking to my Granny about how so many bungalows and cape cods have hardwood floors covered with carpet, and I asked, almost rhetorically, "why would someone cover up those gorgeous hardwood floors with ugly carpet?" She gave me that look, and said, "because keeping those 'gorgeous hardwood floors' up meant 4 hours a week on your hands and knees with the mop and bucket and beeswax. I was thrilled when I could just run a vacuum cleaner over the carpet." Oh.

Personally, I'd probably put birth control up at the top of the list (thank you, Margaret Sanger). But don't underestimate the power of seemingly insignificant things like washing machines and vacuum cleaners, either.

Posted by: laura33 | March 16, 2009 8:16 AM | Report abuse

I have a question, not vatican or washing machine related (sorry). The other day I was in the waiting room of a doctor's office (NOT a pediatrician) waiting for a relative. The appointment was going to take awhile, so I brought some office work with me and started working on my computer. Also in the waiting room were a mom and darling little 3-year-old Jimmy (who was great - no tantrums, no crying), waiting on daddy. The problem was that mom decided to read to Jimmy (LOUDLY). While presumably she was keeping him occupied, the result was that no one else in the room (including me) could concentrate on anything, whether they were trying to do some work or just read a book. My question is this -- would it have been okay to ask her to keep it down so that I could concentrate on my own stuff, or would I have risked one of those "you don't have kids so you wouldn't understand" looks? As it was I suffered in silence, got absolutely nothing done that I had planned on, but learned a lot about Curious George. Suggestions for next time, anyone?

Posted by: beachy1 | March 16, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

I believe that women will gain equality by continuing to try to influence corporate culture from the inside, and by pressing for legislation/policy changes whenever those would be useful and effective. We can keep making strides towards workplaces that understand that their workers are happier (and arguably better workers) when they are able to have healthy family lives, too. I think we've come a fair distance towards that goal, even if there remains a lot of work to do. The mere fact that we're discussing these issues so much is an indication of how far things have come.

Unfortunately, I do feel like there's been a shift in the last ten years or so away from life/work balance, and it affects both men and women. I remember so clearly a meeting at my old firm at which the partner in charge of associate relations told us that our firm was no longer a "lifestyle firm" and that we'd be expected to act accordingly. And, on an even more micro level, my DH is still scrambling a month later to deal with the work that piled up when he took his measly 5 days of paternity leave. I know my view is extremely narrow right now, it seems like these days, companies expect work to be the most important thing to their employees, and that their increasing intrusions onto family time are simply to be expected and accommodated.

Posted by: newsahm | March 16, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse

I actually liked this post and appreciate that Stacey Garfinkle and Hanna Rosin were willing to put forward thoughtful arguments and opinions about a sensitive subject that often ignites controversy. Whether or not you agree with the points made, it is high time that more people (women and men) were willing to express differing views on the subject of women's equality in the workforce and at home.

In my own personal opinion, advancing women's equality is not just about modern gadgets or scientific breakthroughs. First and foremost, it must be about enabling and empowering MEN to share the load. This means that men should receive time off to help with the arrival of a newborn or new addition to a family. They should also be able to balance their own workloads such that they can contribute EQUALLY to covering child care, doctor's appointments, household chores, unexpected sick days or snow days AND be able to advance a successful career that contributes to overall household income. I think we need to be having frank conversations amongst ourselves and with our partners on this subject and quite simply, we need to shift our own expectations of the roles men and women play in BOTH the work place and in the home. I say this because even in a seemingly "progressive" area such as DC, I see far too many situations where dual career relationships take a heavy toll on the woman - she does more to raise the children and to manage the household and both SHE and the overall COMMUNITY accept the situation for what it is, with maybe some protest but with little real action or commitment to changing it. In some cases, this is true even when the woman is the primary breadwinner.

In my view, men and women need to start candidly discussing roles, responsibilities and dividing the work (at work and at home) more equally. And men need to start being more vocal and advocating for work/life balance within their own careers (as women must continue to do). That is the first real step to advancing women's equality.

Posted by: stephs98 | March 16, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Did Hanna Rosen never hear of a breastpump??

I've breastfeed 3, including a set of twins. They don't nurse 7 times a day for 30 minutes except during the newborn phase. Just for fun, I added up the amount of time I spend breastfeeding my 2, on average, and it works out to about 2-2.5 hours total for 2 infants.

As for the washing machine, the Vatican may be on to something. As Laura33 says, those household chores used to take forever. For example, in the days before permanent press clothes, my grandmother used to spend an entire day every week on the ironing. I don't even know where my iron is.

Posted by: floof | March 16, 2009 8:45 AM | Report abuse

"How do we elevate women to equality?"

That's just like asking how can we elevate oranges to the status of apples. To address women's issues by comparing them to men and drawing conclusions is pointless. I mean, can we finally declare equality between the sexes when as many women die for their country in battle as do men? Rediculus!

And way to go, Stacey, for pulling an article out of context (written by a woman BTW), and using it to trash the Catholic church. If you really wanted to help women achieve their full potential, you might want to consider scrapping your wornout, poor journalistic techniques of inciting prvokative discussion in favor of presenting the facts and issues in a meaningful way.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | March 16, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Suggestions for next time, anyone?

Posted by: beachy1 | March 16, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse


They're called headphones. As cheap as $9.99 for Chinese quality at WalMart. Check it out. Watch your productivity skyrocket.

Posted by: 06902 | March 16, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

stephs has a good point too. I just had a long conversation a week or two ago about one of our fantastic associates who is going to be up for partner this year, and who is trying to figure out if that's what she wants, because she also wants a family. At the end of our conversation, she said, "well, I'm going to be the one making the compromises, because my husband's firm won't let him."

As a practical matter, she's right. But that's the fundamental problem here: his lack of choice limits her choices, too. When it's a given that dad is going to work 60 hrs a week, then the only choices left for mom are to have no kids (not acceptable to her), have a kid who you see right before bedtime and on those weekends when you don't have to work (not acceptable to her), or cut back significantly on your own schedule (only option left).

At the same time, I think some men have more flexibility than they think they do. My husband works at an extremely old-line, conservative company; management pretty much consists of old white guys with stay-at-home wives who pretty much think Dick Cheney is maybe a little too liberal. If he made a big deal about formally requesting accommodations so he could spend time with his family, he'd get laughed out the door and toss his career. So he just never bothered to ask. If he has to take a kid to the doctor, he does it and doesn't make a big deal about it. He takes it as his right to live the life he wants and have the job he wants -- and because he does great work, always meets his deadlines, and consistently achieves his "targets," his bosses think he's great. There's no way I could have both my career and two kids without him assuming that he needs to pick up half the load and figuring out how to make that work. Yay honey. :-)

Posted by: laura33 | March 16, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

"What do you think will impact women's equality?

Posted by: StaceyGarfinkle | March 16, 2009 8:10 AM | Report abuse"

I think we've come a long way, baby, to coin a phrase. The opportunities and open doors my daughter will experience are larger than mine, as mine are larger than my mothers, etc.

I propose the real question is will there ever be true "equality" between the sexes? My answer is no, we have to accept our differences and continue to push for opportunities. I can appreciate the struggles of women of past generations without becoming enraged, but tend to look forward not backward.

Society is changing, from my experience men are taking a more active role in raising their families and sharing the workload at home. Sadly, I think the disinegration of the family unit has much to do with the problems associated with childcare, education and path to success for our children - whether they be boys or girls. This is a huge issue that needs to be explored on it's own, but I think how to tackle the problem of children having children, those with no support system and pulling people out of poverty is the larger issue. When these problems are addressed properly and not demagogued we will see women (men, children, everyone) thrive like they never have, benefitting all of society.

Apologies for the tangent.

BTW, I agree with Laura, if you want to know how "hard" housekeeping was in eras past, ask your grandparents.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | March 16, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Advice for Beachy:

You should say, "Jimmy is so cute, but can I ask you to keep it down just a little?"

The trick is that The compliment prevents the request from appearing rude. Moms just *LOVE* getting compliments about their kids. Makes their day!

Stacey, on 2nd thought to my previous post, I changed my mind. Please try to keep your topics as provokitive as possible as most of them, when presented with your writing style, are pretty darned boring.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | March 16, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Equality of opportunity does not mean (or necessarily lead to) equality of outcome.

Posted by: anonthistime | March 16, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

"And way to go, Stacey, for pulling an article out of context (written by a woman BTW), and using it to trash the Catholic church."

Grab another cup of coffee, Whacky. The quote from l'Osservatore Romano leads the story and is teed up as the conversation starter.

The Vatican's point is well taken.

Posted by: anonfornow | March 16, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Some babies do take 30 minutes to breastfeed. My son took 45, my daughter took less than ten.

And while it's true the feed more frequently when they are brand-newborns, every so often they go through a growth spurt and up their frequency, which is exhausting--feeding every hour or even more.

It's darn difficult to plan and accomplish anything at this very labor intensive time.

Posted by: Annapolis1 | March 16, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Laura, don't mean to be snarky or snide, but didn't your promising young associate know ahead of time what the situation was going to be? And didn't she AND her husband accept that?

I've always made sure that any job I looked at has conditions that meet the lifestyle DW and I have agreed on. If it's "60 hours a week forever, and physically in the office from 7 am to 7 pm Monday through Friday" I'm not interested. I understand that for other people that's fine, but not for us.

I prefer jobs like your husband's. Sure, sometimes I have to travel; sometimes I have to be in meetings with people at specific times. And sometimes deadlines and crises require 60, 80 or even 100 hour weeks. But by and large, I'm a professional. If my work is done on time, on budget, at top quality, and the customer is really happy, there's no problem if I go watch my daughter's softball game, or take a kid to the doctor, or want to vary my hours. And my management understands and accepts that, because they do the same things.

It fits what DW and I both want and have agreed to as being right for us. I guess I really don't understand couples who say "he won't compromise" or "she won't adjust" on issues like raising kids.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | March 16, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Oh for god's sake, the article does not trash the catholic church. It is the conversation starter. Get a grip.

Regarding equality, I think we've come a long way. But, we still have a long way to go. I'm a (in my 30's) woman who just provided training to a group of almost exclusively male audience recently. The training pertained to discrimination/harassment, etc. and was in a blue collar environment. You would not BELIEVE the comments people made during this presentation about women/women's roles when we started discussing sexual harassment. At first I thought the guy(s) were being the class clown. But, as it went on and as I saw it in the succeeding sessions given, it became clear that this was no comedic routine. They were deadly serious!

In sum, we should celebrate the gains made while realizing the job is not done with regard to gender equality.

Posted by: liledjen4901 | March 16, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Laura33 is making my exact point - I will grant that in many situations, there aren't always these kinds of choices to consider and therefore flexibility just isn't an option. Men and women who work in the service sector are likely to be faced with limited options in the way of benefits, flexibility, time off, etc. And these economic times can make things even scarier (being pregnant with my second, I've visited a number of parenting sites where women in particular are expressing concern over being let go from their jobs once on maternity leave).

BUT - for many families where mom and dad both have professional careers and where both are in stable situations, I truly believe there is a lot more that can be done to manage expectations and create better work/life boundaries for both men and women. But it only happens if everyone is making the same push, in the same direction.

I totally understand and respect Laura33's husband's situation and need to create flexibility "quietly" (way to go!) And hopefully there are times when he has an opportunity to support other dads or moms in doing what he does (to serve as an equal partner in the family).

But I just think of so many other instances where I feel frustrated on multiple levels. In my last job, for a company of 55+ that claimed to be "family friendly," I was one of three relatively new parents on staff - one other mom and one dad. I found it ironic that my "dad" coworker would proclaim things like "I have no respect for women who don't work" and yet, he was always the one to be out on business travel or to leave late in the day to go home, well after his kids had been fed their dinner. His wife also worked full time and yet clearly handled the majority of child rearing. And this guy was a self-proclaimed "progressive Democrat."

I was also surprised recently to be talking to other moms at the park whose jaws dropped when it came up that my husband and I would like to have three children eventually. Their next immediate response was "oh, but you have a great husband who is so involved." And that comment made me very proud and very grateful, because my husband is an equal partner in all that we do as a family. But it also made me feel frustrated - regardless of how many kids people want, why aren't more working couples sharing an equal lode of the "work" that comes with having a home and kids???

Posted by: stephs98 | March 16, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

1) NO child takes that long to nurse. The lactation consultant told me that 10 minutes on each side is MORE than enough - more than that, and well, they are just sucking. So that's (at MOST) 20 minutes - she said 5 min per side was usually enough.

2) Laura - that's the way I think things should go. just do your job, they don't like it - they can fire you, etc...

3) Did anyone else read over the weekend about how the (catholic) doctors who performed an abortion in Brazil were not going to be excommmunicated...it was for a 9 YO girl who was pregnant with twins. I thought: wow - how big of them.

4) The world moves S-l-o-w-l-y. Think how far we've come in just the last 50 years. But look where we are. Yes, there's a long way to go - re: laura's comments. But my Dh and I are in the midst of a large family change - i.e., me going back to work and he staying home. Yes it's great that I can keep taking time off and then still be able to go back to work easily. He's taking a little time to get used to the idea, but it seems like it will go well...we'll see...!

Posted by: atlmom1234 | March 16, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

"This is why, when people say that breast-feeding is 'free,' I want to hit them with a two-by-four. It’s only free if a woman’s time is worth nothing."

... worth "nothing?" What a sanctimonious witch of a snob. Spending time with your kids and giving them your antibodies and easy-to-digest food and bonding is worth nothing to you - I can only hope and pray that this shrew's kids feel the same way about her when she is old and in need. Then again, what man would want a self-absorbed hag like her to be the mother of his kids?

Posted by: Pantoufle | March 16, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Yakkety yakkety yak. You women are always whining about your condition. Get up off your a$$e$ and do something constructive. Actions speak louder than words as the saying goes.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | March 16, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

stephs: I really hate that comment: oh, *you're* Dh is so wonderful.

Someone once said to me: oh, you're so LUCKY cause you're husband does XYZ...and I said: not luck at all. If that wasn't the person he was - I wasn't going to marry him. It wasn't like it was an arranged marriage - why would I marry someone who wouldn't be the person I wouldn't want to be with? It's absurd (ya know, this was one of those discussions where the wives were dissing their husbands...yes there's tons of things that I wish would be different - but I don't typically dis my DH - I praise him, cause he's great).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | March 16, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

My thoughts on the washer -- I"m afraid I've resorted to explaining to my husband a couple of times that none of those household appliances actually have a slot where you're required to insert your boobs to make them work. The dishwasher runs equally well if run by a man, ditto for the washer, etc. etc. etc.

The problem with the Vatican's stance here is that they're still assuming that there's some inherent physical connection between women and housework when in fact there isn't. If two people get married and choose to purchase and live in a house, then they should both be responsible for the upkeep of the house. If both members of the family choose to wear clothing, then both should be required to take equal turns on the washer. If you both use silverware and plates then you can both run the dishwasher. It's that simple. What's so hard about that?

The idea that women have been 'liberated' from the house makes me uncomfortable because it implies that women share some visceral connection with the house that men do not. That's simply not true.

Posted by: Justsaying4 | March 16, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

"The problem with the Vatican's stance here is that they're still assuming that there's some inherent physical connection between women and housework when in fact there isn't."

Actually, their "stance" is historical. There was indeed in most western societies a historical physical connection. The washing machine, in part, helped towards dismantling that connection. The assertion is not that the machine is currently responsible for maintaining liberation, but that its invention was a notable contributor.

Posted by: 06902 | March 16, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Altmom, point well taken. I'm right with you in that I wouldn't have married him if I had ever had any reservations about him being an equal partner in every way.

And I should have added - as grateful as I am for my husband and all that he does, I know that he is just as grateful to me for all that I do. It's about mutual respect and appreciation for each person's efforts.

One last point I've been thinking about...I b'fed our daughter for almost the entire first year of her life. I liked doing it for a number of reasons, but when I was nursing, it was a "matter of fact" that my husband would cover a lot more of the housework, cooking, etc. So my point is - there are ways to find a little more balance between moms and dads even when b'feeding is the routine.

Posted by: stephs98 | March 16, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

AB -- reasonable question. Don't know their details, but I can hypothesize a few reasons. (a) What I wanted at 25 was very different than what I wanted at 30. (b) When you're far away from something, it's easy to think "oh, it'll work out" -- especially when you're young and life hasn't taught you otherwise yet. :-) When you get a little more experience, and it gets down to decision time, it's easy to have that "oh" moment." (c) Her husband actually moved down from NY to DC to be with her. So he may have had to take an imperfect job to get the perfect location. (d) His employer is one of those big firms who heavily advertise their "family friendly" policies. Easy not to notice until you get there that that really means a nice little mommy-track for women only.

Pantoufle -- excellent job missing the point. She didn't say breastfeeding was worthless, just that it's not "free." This is fundamental economic analysis: everything has an opportunity cost. Example: in my job, I bill by the hour. When I was pumping twice a day, that took maybe a half-hour or so away from my work. So my choice was either short my firm a couple hundred bucks a day, or make it up by going home a little later and missing that time with my family. Either way you cut it, that's a cost -- and it's part of the reason that I stopped breastfeeding after 6 months. (And, hmmm, it's still a cost today, because that's when I started reading these darn blogs!!)

Posted by: laura33 | March 16, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I guess I'll be politically incorrect here and say that I agree with Ms. Rosin. I think the amount of time and energy it takes to breastfeed is underated and the benefits greatly overstated. If you are working full time and commuting your looking at at least three breastpumping sessions a day, at 30 minutes each (ladies and gentlemen there set up and clean up involved). That's an hour and a half. If you have ever used one of these gadgets you know eating lunch at the same time is not an option, so do a quick 30 minute lunch at your desk. Two hours a day when you at work but not working. The real truth is that working and caring for kids is draining, and do we really need to be guilting busy new moms into dragging their own personal drainage equipment around with them unless the benefits are going to be truly lifechanging to their offspring? I'm not going to say that breastfeeding isn't beneficial, but my understanding is that the benefits are greatest for people in places where the water supply is tainted and breastfeeding prevents associated gastrointestinal illness. It not known to do much in terms of preventing colds and ear infections, which are the real problems here in the US. If you think you need to do it for bonding sake, then go for it. But don't let the culture guilt you into thinking you'll do irreparable harm to your child's health if you opt out, cause it just aint so.

Posted by: pinkoleander | March 16, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

So then comes along Alexander Graham Bell who invents the telephone and POOF! There goes All the time saved by the washing machine. About 100 years after that, Al Gore comes by and invents the internet. and POOF! There goes another chunk of household (as well as corporate) production down the techno rabbit hole. What a time suck!

Other inventions that suck: vacuum cleaner and breast pump. Hahaha!

of course, the biggest invention in history that will save on baby time has not been invented as far as I know. Whoever comes up with it first will be a multi billionaire for sure. It's called the "Baby Box", the automatic diaper changer.

Think about it, just put the baby in the box and go about your business. Five minutes later, poof, your baby has been wiped, washed, powdered and packaged. Yep, even a dude could change a diaper! No excuses! Once on the commercial market, there will be one in every home that has a baby, one in every public restroom. It will literally revolutionalize the way adults think about babies.

I don't think the day is too far off though. Last I checked, those automatic vacuum cleaners are becoming quite popular. Anybody have one of those things?

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | March 16, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Very well put stephs98. I completely agree. This is an issue that needs to be recognized and addressed by society as a whole. Unfortunately, while we discuss gender inequality here in the Washington Post, there are many people and places who refuse to accept that it exists to any real degree.

Posted by: dc4women | March 16, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Stephs98: "They should also be able to balance their own workloads such that they can contribute EQUALLY to covering child care, doctor's appointments, household chores, unexpected sick days or snow days AND be able to advance a successful career that contributes to overall household income."

Of course it is possible that a distinct division of labor (however UNEQUAL) does indeed contribute to overall household income. If I exceed at sales, but am "enabled" to care for children (cutting into my sales day), while my partner is a lousy salesperson, but is "enabled" to work whilst the kiddos recieve poor care from me - I hardly see how that enriches the household (if that indeed is the measure of equality, or the ultimate goal in any career).

Posted by: 06902 | March 16, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

"Unfortunately, while we discuss gender inequality here in the Washington Post, there are many people and places who refuse to accept that it exists to any real degree.

Posted by: dc4women | March 16, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse"

I don't think anyone has suggested gender inequity doesn't exsit, but to some it is everything, to others it is not.


Posted by: cheekymonkey | March 16, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

As it was I suffered in silence, got absolutely nothing done that I had planned on, but learned a lot about Curious George. Suggestions for next time, anyone?


OK - I'll bite. You were in a doctor's office, where presumably people are free to have conversations and talk. If you were looking for silence, you should have gone to the library. I think you were right to hold your tongue. I think that for next time, you should just manage your expectations and understand that there is no requirement that waiting rooms be hushed places where people work.

Posted by: emily8 | March 16, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Babies do take time. As a working mother who had to go back to work at six weeks, and breastfed each of her children past a year, I offer this perspective.

Breastfeeding takes time, but for me, it was some of the richest hours I shared with my babies. And it was a really good introduction to the truth about mothering: a lot of things work out best when the child comes first. My mother said that all the overwhelming effort one puts into a young child pays off in an easier-to-raise older child. I think this is often true.

One more thought. My babies sometimes got formula. A lot of things get easier if you take the absolute out of them.


Posted by: LKM1 | March 16, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

My mother said that all the overwhelming effort one puts into a young child pays off in an easier-to-raise older child.

Posted by: LKM1 | March 16, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

A myth.


Posted by: jezebel3 | March 16, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

I will agree that modern appliances, including the washer, dryer, dishwasher, vacuum cleaner, etc., (not to mention the birth control pill) have greatly contributed to the ability of women to get out of the house and into the workforce. Back when these things were first invented, keeping house was considered a woman's job, and it was, as Laura mentioned, a full time job. But as these modern gadgets have become more widely used, women have been able to venture out to other kinds of paying work, and the result has been that now, both men and women have more options. Things are not perfect, but they are better.

Breastfeeding is as limiting as childbearing I guess, in the sense that only women can actually do it, and it does take time. But does it really mean that doing these things reduces women to housetrapped drudges who are not capable of working outside the home? As a mother of two who has breastfed 2 kids, each for more than a year, I can say that thanks to modern gadgets, breastfeeding is no longer as limiting as it once was. I began working 6 weeks after both of my children were born. With a combination of a breastpump, laptop, and a supportivie husband, I was able to work and breastfeed easily. My daughter exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of her life. I no longer pump, but she still nurses in the evenings, night, and morning (and weekends). I can occasionally work at home and run the washer, answer emails, and dye my hair at the same time.

So in my opinion, technology rocks (except when it doesn't -- which is blog of course).

Posted by: emily8 | March 16, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I meant to say, at the end, "which is ANOTHER blog, of course."

Posted by: emily8 | March 16, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Exactly how hard did Hanna Rosin look to find working mother's who combine breastfeeding and sucessfully working a full time job? I know TONS of women, including myself, who manage to breastfeed (exclusively to boot...ohhh!)and return to work after a 12 month leave, many combining the two tasks for up to a year or more. Breastfeeding IS a serious time commitment(um, duh) and personally there is a long list of things I'd rather do. But she really thinks it "pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way"? Give me a break.

Posted by: iansmom1 | March 16, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Right on Emily!

isn't it fairly simple? Where there's a will there's a way.

if budding partner in the law firm wants to hire a nanny to stay home with the baby, she can still do the 80 hour weeks. if husband won't help out and raising her own child is more important than that, her career is going to suffer.

in my experience, it is almost impossible for both mom and dad to be upwardly mobile in their careers while being part of raising a child. one career has to suffer.

personally, i find it strange that so many people whine about the situation they find themselves in regarding the sharing of household duties or the raising of the children. did you and your partner not talk before you got married/have children or did someone pull the old bait-and-switch? if it's the latter then dtmfa. if it's the former, quit complaining.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | March 16, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Urgh, I meant to say "12 week" leave. Was typing fast since I'm on my lunch break from my "meaningless" job! :-)

Posted by: iansmom1 | March 16, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

interestingidea1234, I disagree about having to sacrifice career advancement to be involved in raising your children. My director takes time off for child-related things (dr. appointments, school events, etc.) and it didn't stop him from getting promoted to the position. A friend of mine (female) is solidly on a partner track at her law firm and is the primary caregiver for her kids. It's just a matter of finding the right company and job situation, which I think we all agree is much easier said than done.

I do agree completely about the people who complain about their household situations (usually wives complaining about husbands). Either they knew what they were getting or didn't bother to find out, in which case its their own fault. Or their spouse changed after the fact, in which case I'd be wondering what else they lied about and you have much bigger issues.

Posted by: dennis5 | March 16, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

"I just had a long conversation a week or two ago about one of our fantastic associates who is going to be up for partner this year, and who is trying to figure out if that's what she wants, because she also wants a family. At the end of our conversation, she said, 'well, I'm going to be the one making the compromises, because my husband's firm won't let him.'"

This is exactly why I won't marry a lawyer. (Never say never, but still...) That, and the ridiculous amount of high school-level drama and egotism at my law school makes 99% of the law students completely unattractive. My patent litigation professor (a born litigator and probable genius) has managed to make it work, but she got her JD at 25 and I'd venture to say was a modest millionaire by 30. She's retired and teaches exclusively now, and is in her early 40s with three boys. Her husband is likely similarly successful, although not a litigator. I'm 30 and only in my second year, and swamped with student loans. I've met other attorneys who met their spouses in law school, but by and large, the idea of dating, let alone marrying, any of my classmates makes my stomach turn.

Posted by: Monagatuna | March 16, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

I hear you dennis - if you are smart/good enough at your job to do the juggle, you can keep your career moving up.

for the past month i've been the primary caregiver for our family and i know i've got about 4 more weeks of goodwill before my bosses no longer see me as someone who does whatever it takes to get the job done. my family will always come first and they know that.

i'm not going to get fired or demoted, but i will absolutely be seen differently.

and this is exactly my point: I am making this choice. I have a ton of options that would allow me to work as much as i need to. but i don't want some random nanny to come over when my daughter is sick and has to stay home. i'll work from home that day and deal with being less productive. and i want to see my daughter every night before she goes to bed. so at times, i can't stay for the 6pm meeting.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | March 16, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

mona: my friend married a lawyer. She quit when she had the first child. They even offered for her to work for the same salary for 3 days a week (no benefits) and she said no. So they are paying off two student loans, and one of them is working. You never know how it's going to turn out.

Interesting: My DH does stuff like that all the time. Friday when his boss wanted to meet with him at something like 4:30 he said: no. (for various reasons we won't get into). He's pretty much basically, "i'll do my job, leave me alone, you don't like it, well, do what you have to do - wrt raises/bonuses/firing/promotions. It's worked out pretty well so far...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | March 16, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

"But they're actually on to something. We simply have no idea how much time was necessary to simply take care of a house 100 years ago."

Well, ok, but isn't the underlying issue the idea that however much time is necessary, it should be spent by a woman and not a man? Washing machines are great, but even better would be accepting that women and men are equal partners regardless of how many hours it takes to do the laundry.

Posted by: LizaBean | March 16, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

The discussion here is almost, if not more, interesting than the column.

To the woman disturbed by Curious George - of course you can ask to pipe down - it is all in how it's done, just like everything. I think those 'you don't understand cause you don't have kids' looks are more in play in circumstances where a parent has been through every tool in his/her diaper bag and a kid just won't cooperate. Usually it is someplace where said parent will be mortified because of the 'can't you control your kid' looks as a petulant two-year old decides the five books you brought are not what he wanted. Kids are not operated by remote control, and sometimes we have to live with them, just like we do with grown-ups whose behaviour we sometimes disapprove up but tolerate.
That said, having lived in countries with no washing machience, there may be someething to the vatican's observation. The pill is great and all, but there IS and always has been another option. (Even if it is not our favorite. This assumes a woman has the chance/choice to abstain in the first place.) Here's my point, extractors suck and washing machienes are wonderful.
As a working woman who breastfed for 4 months, I find the other topic a little offensive. Saying breastfeeding is free if a woman's time is worth nothing. What an attitude to take. Let's bypass the health issues and all, and say that this is an 'investment'. Rather than sacrifice, consider this a down-payment on a child with the potential for a bond with his parent, and an investment in your relationship with said child. Finacial products mature, so do parent-child relationships. We don't say that because interest rates are low they're worthless - it depends on your perspective.
I'm expecting my second, and will have less down time, but will pump as required to put in that down payment on that relationship, and the documented benefits. You don't complain about the cost of a flu-shot, because it's prevention. Breast-feeding, or investing any time in your child, is preventative as well as restorative.

Posted by: Soujourner | March 16, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Breast-feeding, or investing any time in your child, is preventative as well as restorative.

Posted by: Soujourner | March 16, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse


Another myth.

Posted by: jezebel3 | March 16, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Soujourner, the woman's point in the breastfeeding article was that there's really no scientific proof that it IS an investment. She's basically arguing that while the magazines in the doctor's waiting room claim that BF'ing offers immunization benefits, IQ benefits, etc. she's saying that the science either doesn't support it, OR that there's a statistically significant but MINOR correlation between the factors 'having been breastfeed and getting fewer ear infections'. Her point is that in order to get this insurance against getting allergies or being obese or being slow to learn how to read for the child, we're willing to give up MONTHS of a woman's time for a very small, very minor gain which may not actually even be there at all. Her point is more about the way we let heavyhanded science dictate how women should raise children -- and she makes this point that just as in the 1950's the (white, male) experts "knew" that formula was healthier and better for children, now the (white, male) experts "know" that breastfeeding is better, but that ultimately they're the ones who decide how to calculate the costs and benefits -- which may look very different to the participants in the study than they do to the outside observers. It's similar to the way white, male, Western anthropologists have historically gone in to study tribal cultures, bringing along all their own cultural baggage and lenses through which to interpret the native's behavior. It's about viewpoint and perspective and who's allowed to have one.

Posted by: Justsaying4 | March 16, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

"I find the other topic a little offensive. Saying breastfeeding is free if a woman's time is worth nothing. What an attitude to take. Let's bypass the health issues and all, and say that this is an 'investment'. Rather than sacrifice, consider this a down-payment on a child with the potential for a bond with his parent, and an investment in your relationship with said child. Finacial products mature, so do parent-child relationships. We don't say that because interest rates are low they're worthless - it depends on your perspective."

Soujouner, I think you've missed Rosin's point. She's not saying that breastfeeding is worthless or that a mother's time is worthless. She simply takes issue with the people who tout that breastfeeding is "free" as one of it's benefits (as opposed to formula, which costs an arm and a leg). That statement implies that there is no cost associated with nursing, and she believes that to be false. And the rest of the article notes that the much-touted health benefits of nursing are largely unproven.

With that framework, Rosin sees no reason why women should be pressured into nursing (or judged for formula-feeding) if they feel that the drawbacks associated with nursing outweigh its benefits. I tend to agree with her, and don't see any reason why the "investment" you describe cannot be made by a parent holding a bottle of formula. One does not need functioning breasts to bond with a child.

Posted by: newsahm | March 16, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

1) I think we have come a long way from when women could buy a house or get access to credit in our own names. Really...that was not so long ago!

2) I think we still very much exist in a world where women deal with social expections even apart from working-mom quandries that are, at best, unfair. Recently I've seen some co-workers dealing with being criticized for being too aggressive if they participate, and OTOH for lacking confidence if they spend time trying to "play nice." So I feel like old-fashioned attitudes are still alive and well.

3) Hmmm...the loud reading of Curious George in the office waiting room. I think it would be OK to say politely, "I would really appreciate it if you could read a little more quietly. The noise is just bothering me."

It is possible the parent didn't realize how loudly he/she was talking. But, I also think that kids just make a certain amount of noise. For example, I try but I simply CAN'T always get my 4 year old to use "indoor voices" when inside...particualy after a long, long, wait. So...I think if you expected total silence, or near-silent behavior from the child, so that you could work in a waiting room...then it is you that is unreasonable. And probably something of an ogre.

Posted by: michelleg1 | March 16, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Ack- typo, I meant "when women could NOT buy a house..."

Posted by: michelleg1 | March 16, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

What I think may be overlooked is that a happy successful child is the result of many factors. To try to correlate a single factor to 'better" anything is probably foolish. I've always been of the mind that time with my kids is generally a good use of my time and good for them, regardless of whether the activity is breastfeeding, playing or helping with homework. I think we need to remember to look at the whole child and the whole journey and make the best choices we can from that perspective.

I like for my husband to spend time with the children, because it is good for the children because they love him and he loves them. I don't keep track of what he does and doesn't do and neither does he. When he's been working or away a lot, he does more of the "work" with the kids without me asking. When he needs time to himself or needs to travel, I do it all. I think it is important to talk about things before you get married and make choices collectively. I think there is a lot of danger in keeping score and trying to make sure it is all "equal" - sounds like a recipe for resentment if you ask me.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | March 16, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I am sick and tired of hearing how poor and pathetic women are and how heroic it is for them to work. Come on now. Women make the same choices as men.

1)Women choose to stay home with the kids, something no one should be doing since the 1950s any way because you can't afford it.

2) Women choose to divorce, break up and take the kids, which puts them in a economic disadvantage. If the guy is making more money, then shouldn't he keep the kids and the house? Who said it was okay for the person with little or no income to get the majority of the family and property?

3) Women choose not to go to school or not to apply for high paying jobs? Why? I don't know.

4) Affirmative Action is clearly in Women's favor, especially white women. One need only look at the number of middle management and Executives in the private sector, and you will see plenty of white female faces along with the white male faces. For whatever reason is a stygma for AA to be attributed to blacks?

5) While many laws try to be gender neutral when it comes to Child Custody, Child support and Spousal Support, clearly all of the statistics show women win these cases the supermajority of the time (ie over 66%).

It is funny that when ever a man brings up these issues of inequality or overexaggeration of inequality, he is denounced as hating women, having been burnt by a woman or having some kind of sexual confusion.

The fact that we have to have a Woman's Day, Council on Women, Women's Committees in nearly every level of government, only further complicates the real issue: that in order for women to move forward, men have to be stepped on.

Clearly countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and even Iran tend to make many men in America, jealous when those countries don't have these problems and probably won't for the next century or more.

Posted by: wlockhar | March 16, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

wlockhar

Clean up the spelling and grammar in your post. It's gibberish.

Posted by: jezebel3 | March 16, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Clearly countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and even Iran tend to make many men in America, jealous when those countries don't have these problems and probably won't for the next century or more.

Aah, yes, Saudi Arabia, where the men are men and the women are thrown in jail if they try to drive a car or expose an ankle. It must be wonderful to be a man there, with absolutely no contact or competition with women in a professional setting. Why, oh why can't the US be more like that?

Thanks for the belly laugh.

Posted by: newsahm | March 16, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

OMG. McEwen's back and now his handle is "wlockhar".

Everyone, grab your brains and your humor and RUN FOR THE HILLS!!!!

Posted by: anonfornow | March 16, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

OMG. It is McEwen. Yikes. Next thing you know, CBC will make an entry as well.

Posted by: emily8 | March 16, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Hanna Rosin managed to reduce breastfeeding to a Chore on par with vacuuming the living-room. Um..you have to feed the child somehow. I loved breastfeeding my children, especially after coming home from work - it was a time of reconnecting with my child after a long separation.

As for what liberated women in the 20th century - I totally agree with the washing machine. I lived for a year doing my wash with a washer board and then hanging my clothes out to dry. I very very quickly stopped wearing jeans (it took about 1/2 hour to wash a pair of jeans, another 15-30 minutes to rinse and then a few hours to dry, if it wasn't raining).

I think people have to stop thinking in terms of zero-sum - if one side "wins" the other side "loses" - and decide what the society really wants. What does it mean or how does society look like when women are "equal" to men?

I can see having women earn the same amount of money as men, and ensuring that women are involved in the decision-making process in both the corporate and political worlds. But picking breastfeeding (or any other lifestyle choices) to hold women down just doesn't make sense to me.

Posted by: slackermom | March 16, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

our schools and our kids are a mess because too many of you egalitarian no-nuts are abdicating your responsibilities as mothers. you simply can't have it all and expect your kids to have what they need...just ask Sarah Palin. Their daughter lacked proper moral training/instruction...from both mom and dad (mostly dad). Stay home while kiddles are young...raise you own children! As L. Schlessinger says...don't wanna raise 'em, don't HAVE 'em. sorry...

Posted by: ramvt84 | March 16, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

"Wow. Hanna Rosin managed to reduce breastfeeding to a Chore on par with vacuuming the living-room. Um..you have to feed the child somehow. I loved breastfeeding my children, especially after coming home from work - it was a time of reconnecting with my child after a long separation."

But that's her point! To you, nursing is an enjoyable bonding experience. To her, it had become a chore. Yet when she mentioned the idea of weaning to her friends and to other moms, she claims she was judged a bad mother. And in the absence of compelling proof that breast really is best, that kind of judgment is wrong. Rosin isn't saying that nobody should nurse, just that those who choose not to nurse should be allowed to make that choice without receiving judgment and indignation from their peers..

Posted by: newsahm | March 16, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

The people who are saying that there is something to the washing machine idea are letting the completely ingrained sexism of our socety cloud their thinking.

We only see the washing machine as liberating women who used to spend all day on chores because we are taking it for granted that it was a woman's job to take care of all household chores. Lessening those chores does not lead to equality, getting rid of the idea in the first place it is the woman's job to wash the clothes is what is needed. And perhaps the fact that, as we are pointing out, it was actually inventions freeing up women's time and burdens that allowed them to work outside the home and secure more rights and not an actual change in our thinking and in society, is why we still live in such a sexist society. Maybe we haven't really made progress on equality, just on technology.

Posted by: EAR0614 | March 16, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

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