More grist for the mill here. Please read, return, and report.
P.S.–I never wash my floors either.
Fascinating. I especially appreciated the discussion of Sweden as I lived there for 5 years. I thought it was incredibly ironic that women would leave their own children to care for someone else’s kids. And I would say that the observations matched what I experienced there.
Great read. I\’m probably speaking too soon, but it strikes me as that rarer-than-unicorns piece–taking up the topic of mommy wars while being balanced enough not to piss off either side.
\”you can have it allâ€”if you run your house like a man.\”
The above is basically my secret too. Our house is trashed, all the time. And I don\’t mean that in an affected, fishing-for-compliments, disingenuous self-deprecation kind of way. I mean our house TRASHED. But pretty soon I\’ll have finished school with a minimum of daycare. Whatcha gonna do.
It all made sense to me up to the point where she disparaged people like Dilbert and Dwight Shrute and made teh funny about brain-numbing paper pushing and interminable department meetings. Have a care, Ms. Loh. That’s my life you’re talking about.
basically, it sucks to be male.
Kudos for this link and post!
Linda Hirshman. I got a jolt of her a little bit back when I happened to see a her on a bit on the Today Show. I was holding my newborn. She argued that SAHM were primarily unfulfilled and essentially underachievers in part based on her research “reading blogs by SAHM!” She also pointedly attacked women with higher degrees who were opting to be home instead of working–not doing their duty to feminism and society.
In that short segment, my blood was boiling. I am happy for women who have a passion and drive for whatever work they choose, but I don’t particularly enjoy having my choice (to leave the path of German scholar) thrown in my face at 7 am as if I had chosen an inconsequential “un-adult” work. (It’s been awhile, but I remember getting the impression that she was telling degreed women that they needed to grow up and go back to work.)
Her brand of feminist emancipation seems to be very class driven. Women with graduate diplomas should have no qualms about hiring other women to do their grunt work–you know the cleaning and raising the kids part. Whose work has more value? Bothersome.
One thing was for sure, I did not respond to her call to arms. If anything, it gave me that “Hey, I really think what I’m doing here at this house with these little people is exactly what I should be doing!”
Then I’ll just echo the words of the late Pres. Hunter
“Thank you for making our lives so much better because of who you are, because you are there.”
That’s him speaking to the sisters. And Pres Hinckley’s “To the women of our lives”
What about this post?
Hirshman seems to have as a premise that it is every person’s (at least every woman’s) to “change the world”. She seems to ignore that for 99.99999% of the world’s population, that’s just not a reality — outside of family and whatever humble job or other means of sustenance one has.
I’ve had an interesting work history, but I’ve seldom been under the illusion that the work I do is anywhere near as important as the time I spend with my wife and my children. My work is what I do to provide for those I love; it is just a means to an end. I try to keep it interesting and, when possible, meaningful, but it’s just a job. ..bruce..
Speaking of welfare states and Sweden. Another thing that is a bit frustrating to me is how the state of Georgia chooses to support families with preschool education. There is a Pre-K program (funded by the lottery) that seems like a grand opportunity for families. Free preschool, you say? Great! The program is fully funded and available to anyone regardless of income level with a set of outcomes and curriculum to make it shining bright. With two caveats. First you must agree to send your pre-kindergarten age child (age four) to school every day for a full six hours. Second, you have to find a school that has an opening. Availability is a huge issue leading to people camping out at certain schools for a ridiculous number of hours even days. And six hours a day five days a week. Many states still have half day or half week kindergarten!
This is a super thing for women pursuing careers. For a SAHM looking for a few days of preschool enrichment and peer interaction a week for the four year old, not so much. There is no option of sending your child for a few hours or keeping the child home for your own purposes or field trips. By choosing this FREE program, you essentially let the state decide how best to utilize the time of your four year old.
So free, but not always fitting.
The thing is, women outside the church have an average of fewer than two children. The time they are little goes by so quickly, why would you want to fill up those few precious years with a lot of distractions? It’s such a short period of time and then they will be gone and you can return to your career.
I think it is important for moms to have a “life plan” (as Friedan advocates). But gosh, childhood goes by so fast, I am glad I was there with my little ones.
I’m sure the Harvard grad will find other things to do, even things that Hirscman might approve, once her bike riding days are past.
My only major quibble with this article is it ignores the financial vulnerability SAH parents are frequently in. Certainly the second income might only just cover childcare and taxes, but quitting altogether has long term consequences in future employability, lost seniority, etc etc. And should a marriage dissolve for whatever reason (death, divorce, whatever) most at home parents would be plunged into severe financial hardship. Also, such people are more likely to put up with abusive relationships because of their financial vulnerability.
There are ways to mitigate the effects of long absences from employment, but most of those are restricted to the upper classes, and require foresight that many people don’t have. Maintaining a 9-5 job is not the only route to long term financial security, but for the vast majority of people it is currently the most effective one.
It’s distressing that this needs to be such an either/or issue. Both sides seem to have turned this into a culture war topic, minimizing the possible flexibility available to women, men and families.
Having said that, considering the Scandinavian example:
Of the families I know here, none of them made the decision for both parents to work out of economic necessity. The decision was either to maintain a certain ‘luxury’ lifestyle (annual foreign holidays, etc.) or to maintain the career or sanity of the parents. Admittedly, most of the people I know are comfortably middle-class, but she seems to be talking in this article about comfortably middle-class families — minimum wage families anywhere will find the need for all employable hands to be working.
My dad answered the two-careers-don’t-gain-much-benefit problem by getting his college degree and finally earning as much as my stepmom. For about a year they said they were actually losing money by having him go to work. My mom’s working part-time as a lawyer now (after homeschooling us, which was after working full-time as a teacher) in part to enable my stepfather to transition into a semi-retirement as a lawyer himself. I think people have to be willing to ignore pre-packaged solutions and figure out what works for them.
Oh.. and I don’t know how high up on the economic scale government workers would be, but even in the behind-the-times midwest state I live in, city workers can “retire” and work up to 480 hours a year, or work part-time (after a year, they qualify for medical benefits) and come back later and have that time count for seniority purposes. We have a couple of moms that I do payroll for on that sort of system — one works about eight hours a week (basically, filling in on Saturdays) and another works about fifteen hours a week, but sometimes as much as twenty-four. It’s not the flex time or job sharing I read about in fantastical NY Times articles, but it’s pretty useful for them — and it lets them put something more substantial than the usual housework codewords on their resumes. The 480-hour workers are generally construction inspectors, some of whom retired years ago and come back and work every summer.
It’s TACK. Not TACT.
For you desert rats, it’s a sailing term. Look it up.
Tact has nothing to do with it (same as with this comment).
Apologizing in advance . . .
I know this is a bit off topic, but since my wife and I moved to the US, we have been trying to find out where other female mormon doctors are. My wife is a doctor and in Europe (portugal) there were female LDS doctors. We live in the south, and cant seem to find out if there are more. Anyone know of any.
I’d forgotten all about the “Whore of Mensa” story. Now it sort of reminds me of Bloggernacle navel-gazing.
In other words, SAHM is more enjoyable than selling insurance or working in IT? Duh.
There are ways to mitigate the effects of long absences from employment, but most of those are restricted to the upper classes, and require foresight that many people donâ€™t have. Maintaining a 9-5 job is not the only route to long term financial security, but for the vast majority of people it is currently the most effective one.
I am not sure that a lot of 9 to 5 jobs are going to really provide the long-term flexibility and supportability, unless they are backed by a solid education. If they are, then often there are ways to keep some toe in the puddle and keep some skills enough to be employable while still being at home. I have been out of the workplace for 10 years but have an active resume and network and have never had to leave my kids in day care. I think we need to be sure not to assume that the only way to stay employable is to be employed, because in many fields, there are creative ways one could keep the saw sharp.
But the bottom line key is education, and being smart about what education to choose. Education, as Pres. Hinckley would talk about, provides options. It increases our choices, our range of agency, if you will, whether male or female, SAH or working.
I think Starfoxy’s point is VERY pertinent and one I wish RS and YW discussed more. The truth is, there are so many ways to structure your life if you are informed about it (although some lucky people bump into the perfect set up). And of course, it just has to work for you and your family.
quinn–any major city. I know lots, but also live in an area with a large teaching hospital.
“I think we need to be sure not to assume that the only way to stay employable is to be employed, because in many fields, there are creative ways one could keep the saw sharp.”
Just to clarify, I don’t think I said this. I said that mitigating the effects of long absences requires foresight. Lots of people don’t have that foresight, and their mentors aren’t helping them to plan for it. It wasn’t until well after my first child was born that I realized that the mere possession of a college degree is not the safety net I had been led to believe. I think we could do a better job of advising YW to plan ahead not just by getting an education, but in selecting flexible fields, networking, maintaining certifications, freelancing, telecommuting etc.
Just to clarify, I don’t think I made that assumption. I said that mitigating the effects of long workplace absences requires foresight. Lots of people don’t have that foresight, and their mentors aren’t helping them to plan for it. It wasn’t until well after my first child was born that I realized that the mere possession of any college degree is not the safety net I had been led to believe. I think we could do a better job of advising YW to plan ahead not just by getting an education, but in selecting flexible fields, networking, maintaining certifications, freelancing, telecommuting etc.
I realize you didn’t say that…I responded to you but then generalized my comments a bit more. Sorry for the confusion.
in selecting flexible fields, networking, maintaining certifications, freelancing, telecommuting etc.
I know in my field I work hard to get the students I work with to think about these kinds of things. Women need to be prepared, and that means lots of foresight and recognition that life doesn’t always turn out how you want it to. The way this will happen is for more of us to have that in mind when we talk to them. We can encourage the ideal that prophets teach about gender roles, but then also help them think hard about the counsel that prophets give about education and why it is given.
This was a very interesting article. Thanks Julie, for bringing to my attention. I thought that the author did a good job of summarizing others’ support and criticism of working women, and the ideals of feminism. But yet I was confused at the point she was trying to get across. What was it?
Yes, many working women spend a large portion of their income on child care. So her answer? Work at home, it works for me. Here I am writing this fascinating article in my sweatpants. I am using the TV and videos as a nanny (much cheaper than a real one) and I don’t do any housework.
Is it possible that her children would actually be better off with a real nanny? One who would take them to a park or museum, or stay at home and read or play games? I realize that for a lot of women, working at home is an option that is successful for them and their children. I just don’t think Ms. Loh’s take on the situation I would want my daughters emulating.
A more important message, and one which she brings up, but does not ultimately address, is the fact that rampant consumerism is often what drives women into the work force. In my experience, this is particularly true for the “middle-class” in the US. One salary just isn’t enough to provide new cars for mom and dad, cable TV, cell phones for the whole family, x-box, and dinner out 4-5 nights per week.
Well, another thing is concern about children’s education. I think a lot of families feel it necessary to have two incomes in order to be able to pay for their children’s college costs (and then their own retirement). College is a lot more expensive than it used to be and it’s no longer possible for most kids to earn their own way through–it wasn’t even possible when I was in college (to my mom’s annoyance!). Many parents want their kids to have impressive resumes that will get them into impressive universities, and that all costs a lot of money. And retirement is more precarious as well–people don’t assume they’ll get SS money, and they worry about the possibility of needing long-term care.
So I don’t think it’s all “rampant consumerism”–though I am unconvinced of the value of a big-name university for an undergrad degree, a whole lot of parents place a lot of importance on it.
When Hirschman’s “Get to Work” was published, I happened to see it in the bookstore. My mom was there too, and we had quite a time over it. It was one of those things that you ought to be outraged about, only she’s so angry and over-the-top you can only laugh and deplore. I always sort of wonder how her two kids feel about her assertion that a career woman should never have a second child, if she insists on having any children at all.
Isn’t that “need” for an education at a big-name, private university just another form of consumerism? My experience, as limited as it is to what I witness of those around me, is that couples with second incomes aren’t saving any more towards education and retirement than the folks I know who live within their means, on budget, with a singe income.
As an aside, I used to think that about college costs as well, that two incomes was going to be needed to pay for my kid’s college expenses. And then I went to a seminar, done at my daughter’s junior high by a local CPA, dealing with college costs. While college is expensive, there is a lot of financial aid and grants available, and that often that second income will put you out of the range to qualify for some of them.
He gave an example of a local kid who got accepted to Yale, but her father was convinced he couldn’t afford it, and wanted his daughter to go to a local state university, Eastern Washington. After all the numbers were crunched, taking into account federal and school grants, tuition waivers, and university funded work programs, it was going to be cheaper for this student to go to Yale.
Additionally, as you are probably aware, Harvard and Stanford recently dropped all tuition costs for children from families with incomes below a certain level ($100K for Stanford, $60K for Harvard — and $60K at Stanford also gets room and board free). I realize that not all kids are going to go to those schools, but I think we will see more schools adopt these policies as time goes on.
A more important message, and one which she brings up, but does not ultimately address, is the fact that rampant consumerism is often what drives women into the work force.
Maybe it isn’t given a huge amount of consideration because the author dismissed it as having more to do with judgmental stereotype than fact? In my experience (we’re counting that as proof?), mothers go to the workforce either for survival, or to keep their skills current, for personal fulfillment, or other reasons. A side effect of this is more disposable income, sometimes leading to unfortunate over-consumerism, with the mentality of “if we can, why not?”. I guess I can’t really see into people’s hearts, but I don’t know many people for whom this is the primary motivating factor. Then again, maybe that’s because I’m in academia, where nobody is in it for the money! :-)
As far as frequently eating out or getting take out, maybe they are trying to streamline their lives and spend more time with kids?
Is it possible that her children would actually be better off with a real nanny?
For a long time, I tried juggling doing my schoolwork at home, because I felt that (especially at church) there was a horrible stigma associated with having kids in someone else’s care. Ultimately I came to this conclusion–they would be WAY better off with an attentive nanny or quality preschool than constantly being told to be quiet for a minute while mommy finishes writing this. Now I’m angry at myself that I let other people’s uncharitable, uniformed judgment color my thinking for as long as I did. The damage done to kids in that situation might be something for people to consider before allowing their words or actions to contribute to an atmosphere where new moms feel that pressure/stigma to avoid childcare, even when it is the better choice.
Kari, I never really know what Loh is trying to say, but I have fun watching her say it! I got more of a ‘darned if you do and darned if you don’t’ vibe from the article (hence the title of my post) and not so much that she was offering herself as a solution, especially since a good chunk of the article was critical of those who think/write/talk for a living thinking that they are the norm.
To add to what dangermom said, I think some second-career couples are funding the house that they need to buy in order to live in a neighborhood that has decent schools, which has expensive houses, because there are so many other two-income families. (Rinse and repeat.) Health care costs are also a huge issue and motivator for a second income. And, of course, as more women work, being home with a child becomes more difficult because it is more isolating. Which is a long way to say that there is a lot going on here and no easy answers.
sister blah 2, I do think that the normalization of so many things such as cell phones/DSL/cable, second cars, lessons/teams/activities for kids, etc., does create an environment where people think that they “need” a second income to pay for all of these things that now look like necessities (not to mention the dishwashers and A/Cs that Loh notes), while our great-grandmothers who washed diapers by hand and didn’t even dream of a second car (if they had a first!) are rolling over in their graves, or at least rolling their eyes at us.
“they would be WAY better off with an attentive nanny or quality preschool than constantly being told to be quiet for a minute while mommy finishes writing this. Now Iâ€™m angry at myself that I let other peopleâ€™s uncharitable, uniformed judgment color my thinking for as long as I did”
amen, sister blah! As a work-at-home mom without a nanny, this has always been a tricky issue for me, and I think your quote here is very true.