The Political is Personal

January 19, 2009 | 43 comments
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This post is Janet’s fault.

In a (probably futile, given what’s a comin’) effort not to offend, I’m going to call the two parties involved SIFs (single income families) and DIFs (dual income families).

Here is why it is better for SIFs if the people who have a choice choose to be SIFs instead of DIFs:

(1) All other things being equal, SIFs cannot compete financially with DIFs. That means that the more DIFs there are, the crummier homes (and, therefore, schools) the SIFs end up in.

(2) The life of the primary caregiving parent in a SIF is easier if there are more SIFs. If you are the only SIF on your block and you send the kids out to play at 4pm, there will be no one to play with and no other eyes monitoring them. If everyone on your street is a SIF, there are playmates and other adults on guard. The problem is much worse for the 2-4 year old set, for whom there are very few playmates from DIF families available during the day. I have heard many SIFs complain that they feel that they have to send their kids to preschool or the child will have no one to interact with. This is yet another expense that is harder for the SIF.

(3) It isn’t just the kids. Being the only adult on your street at 10am stinks. There is more support (of both the emotional/social kind and the ‘I have a doctor’s appointment, can you watch my kids for an hour?’ kind) when there are more SIFs.

(4) It can be a problem at church, too. If everyone on the Enrichment Cmte. is a SIF, the work tends to be divided more evenly than if you have 4 DIFs and one SIF because, hey, she’s home all day . . . she should do it!

(5) Most any group will operate at a norm of time and financial obligations that are comfortable for the majority. If you are the only SIF in your extended family, you will be the only party poopers who ixnay the reunion trip to Hawaii because you can’t afford it. If you are the only SIF in your daughter’s Girl Scout Troop, you will be the only one who cannot afford the trip to the capitol. Etc. And etc.

In your comments, please remember that the premise of this post is people with the choice to be a SIF or a DIF. Situations without that choice are not relevant to this particular discussion.

Also, this isn’t my condemnation of DIFs as evil. If you feel inspired to be a DIF, more power to you. I have no argument with you or your decision and, if you are so inspired, what I outlined above should have no bearing on your decision. The purpose of this post is to dispute the idea that we make our choices in a bubble, without affecting one another. In fact, being a SIF in a world full of DIFs is a much different experience than being a SIF in a world full of SIFs.

However, there is one way in which it is much better to be a SIF in a world full of DIFs: it is clearer to others and, more importantly, to yourself that you have made a choice.

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43 Responses to The Political is Personal

  1. Marc Bohn on January 19, 2009 at 12:21 am

    Hasn’t been an issue in any ward I’ve ever been in. Plenty of SIFs to go around. This post illustrates why being a DIF can be a tough row though, even if a couple feels like it is the right choice for them.

  2. m&m on January 19, 2009 at 12:41 am

    I have sometimes called SAHM in my area who helped me so much (especially in those early years when I had three little ones and my health problems started) my stay-at-home sisters…women whose own kids were in school but who were around and provided an irreplaceable service for me and other moms like me. I think of them often as I am now in the mode of having children who are a little older. I hope to be able to pay it forward a little.

    Interesting post.

  3. jks on January 19, 2009 at 12:48 am

    If there are more SIF at your husband’s job, the company might actually cover part of the family’s health insurance rather than passing on the full cost to the employee. Since most employees who are actually married have a working spouse, they don’t “need” the benefit so they don’t care if the company drops it.

  4. Kaimi on January 19, 2009 at 12:57 am

    Julie,

    Isn’t this post just, in essence, a demonstration of how groups are most efficient when everyone is the same? Any individual differences make the group less efficient as a group, and thus less useful to different individuals in the group.

    For instance, non-SAHM’s could raise the same concern. “As a grad student, I like to meet together with other women for book group. However, some women in the ward are SAHM’s and they don’t have time to read Reading Lolita in Tehran with our group. This makes our group less happy, and leads to less benefit for me as an individual. Therefore, women should reconsider their decision to be a SAHM — or at least, recognize the burden this puts on the rest of us.”

    Non-lawyers could adapt your #1: “All other things being equal, non-lawyers cannot compete financially with lawyers. That means that the more lawyers there are, the crummier homes (and, therefore, schools) the non-lawyers end up in.”

    Or how about adapting your #3: “Being the only Sunstone reader on your street stinks. There is more support (discussion, book group, etc) when there are more Sunstone readers.”

    And so forth.

    It’s true. Communities would be most efficient if everyone in them had uniform income, education, number of children, reading habits, and so forth.

    Generally, though, we tend to think that the values of individuality override that concern (except in unusual cases, such as vaccination).

  5. Christy on January 19, 2009 at 1:04 am

    These are all valid points. As a member of a SIF, I have experienced all of these situations. In regards to point #4, though, we “at homers” often make that assumption ourselves – that we should do everything because we don’t have to work 8 hours a day.

  6. Frank McIntyre on January 19, 2009 at 1:23 am

    “Isn’t this post just, in essence, a demonstration of how groups are most efficient when everyone is the same?”

    This is an example of a case where that is true — it’s called complementarity in economics — when the marginal benefit of an action rises as more people do it. But there are plenty of cases where everyone being the same is worse. For example, free trade is largely based on the notion that we can leverage differences to our advantage.

    “Generally, though, we tend to think that the values of individuality override that concern”

    To the extent that because of our concern for individual choice we don’t make laws about things, I’m with you. But Julie is not calling for that, she’s pointing out an externality imposed by our choices. As Marc points out, I think you get similar effects running the other direction, though probably not as extreme (for example, the DIFs may not, on average, be as hurt by the disappearance of a neighborhood social unit since they have a larger work social unit to compensate).

    In any case, it does pique my interest as to how housing values would be different if 10% more families were single income. The schools thing, on the other hand, means little to me because I think the effect is likely small on the lifetime outcomes of the kids.

  7. Jane on January 19, 2009 at 1:31 am

    I’m part of an SIF, and it is political when there’s the Child Care Tax Credit that cannot be applied to payments made to the mother of the children. So no only does she not earn an income, a tax credit (even more valuable than a tax deduction) is not available to her family, if they were to take a hint from the money people who say a sahm is worth 100k+ a year (and “pay” her out of the husband’s salary).

    (See Penelope Trunk for great stuff on how much a sah spouse is worth, monetarily http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2008/04/10/advice-from-the-top-marry-a-stay-at-home-spouse-or-buy-the-equivalent/)

    I don’t see why SIF is more of a “choice”? Isn’t that only true in communities where most are DIF?

    One thing I thought of with this post is — the fear that some Downs Syndrome parents have that their children will have a harder time in the world as the number of Downs kids drops drastically. Services will decrease, opportunities for socialization, empathy and understanding, etc.

  8. Zack on January 19, 2009 at 1:37 am

    “(1) All other things being equal, SIFs cannot compete financially with DIFs. That means that the more DIFs there are, the crummier homes (and, therefore, schools) the SIFs end up in.”

    This is some of the most terrible logic I have ever seen.

  9. queuno on January 19, 2009 at 1:43 am

    It’s true. Communities would be most efficient if everyone in them had uniform income, education, number of children, reading habits, and so forth.

    So Mormon wards in middle-class to upper-middle-class neighborhoods are pretty darn efficient?

  10. MikeInWeHo on January 19, 2009 at 2:21 am

    What do you mean by an “efficient” community, Kaimi? Just more affluent?

  11. d33p on January 19, 2009 at 4:33 am

    “(1) All other things being equal, SIFs cannot compete financially with DIFs. That means that the more DIFs there are, the crummier homes (and, therefore, schools) the SIFs end up in.”
    “This is some of the most terrible logic I have ever seen.”

    I actually agree with the original comment. In Australia at least I’ve read that dual income families have had a large impact on house affordability. The more cashed-up DIFs drive up prices (at least in our limited-supply housing market). Home prices in our middle-income area have tripled in the last 6 years, with increases much higher elsewhere in this capital city. As a result, the home that I could easily afford to buy on a single income 6 years ago, is now just barely in reach of a DIF.

    The result is that SIFs now have to choose much ‘crummier’ areas and homes to live in.

  12. SilverRain on January 19, 2009 at 7:20 am

    It also means that employers can get away with paying proportionally less because many families will have backup incomes. At my job, for example, there is hardly an employee who doesn’t either work two jobs or has a spouse who works. In the end, your per-hour pay drops.

  13. MAC on January 19, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Communities would be most efficient if everyone in them had uniform income, education, number of children, reading habits, and so forth.

    Been in expat communities like that. Fathers all go to work in the same office at the same time, kids all go to same school, everyone does their shopping on the same day and socializes at the same place in the same way. It isn’t efficient at all, it is crowded, literally and figuratively.

    You could make the argument about countries where there is high cultural pressure to conform, ex. Korea, are more efficient. But contrast that to an inner city housing project full of socio-economically similar people (uniform income = 0, education = poor, number of children – 4+, reading habits = TV) that seems efficient at one thing, perpetuating failure.

  14. Naismith on January 19, 2009 at 9:52 am

    While I applaud your bravery in taking this on, there are some disconnects in the logic.

    First, I don’t think the primary split is along income lines. In my current ward, most of the families are DIF. However, the mom is employed in a very flexible way: a nurse who works occasional nights, an occupational therapist who only works one morning while her husband watches the kids, a lawyer who works during her child’s naptime. So the real split is not whose income is what, but who is mostly home during the day.

    I also disagree that SIF can’t compete. I did the math and we were much better off financially, both short- and long-term, with me at home while our kids were little. Check out Linda Kelly’s book TWO INCOMES AND STILL BROKE for an explanation of how this works. As a job candidate, I’ve been in a much stronger position and able to negotiate a higher salary because they know that I don’t need the job and would be perfectly happy not being employed for a while if it came to that. Not fair, but true. My husband also has a higher salary because of the support I have given to him during his career-building years.

  15. z on January 19, 2009 at 10:15 am

    It cuts both ways, Julie. It can be difficult for working women to be in a professional atmosphere with few other women, and I think the professional world is diminished by their absence. It’s difficult to compete professionally with men whose wives take care of everything for them. We are less of a democracy due to women’s abstention from political office, and a different society due to their abstention from the professional sphere. And it’s a real pain to be expected to bail out women who run into financial trouble when their marriage ends because they’ve abandoned all hope of earning capacity. I think these concerns are at least as significant as your issues.

    Most importantly, nobody owes it to any other woman to be a SAHM. I completely understand that demographic trends affect us all, and that it’s difficult to feel like a minority, but isn’t that what LDS are called sometimes to do, to be outliers and abnormal and countercultural?

  16. Julie M. Smith on January 19, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Zack, it really isn’t that complicated. In a world full of SIFs, household income is X. There is a direct relationship between that number and what people can afford to pay for houses. In a world full of DIFs, household income is X times 2, and now everyone can spend twice as much on a house. If I’m a SIF, I’d much rather everyone else be SIFs since a world full of DIFs drives up home prices and prices me out of the market. While I wouldn’t kvetch too much about being priced out of the plasma TV market (which is much more elastic, in any case), homes aren’t just a luxury item but concern physical safety if I’m priced into an unsafe neighborhood; family quality, if my husband has a long commute time; and school quality, which doesn’t bother Frank but causes a huge amount of anxiety for parents, regardless of ultimate outcomes.

    z, I completely agree that there there are some advantages for DIFs if most other people are DIFs. Of course, there are advantages to being the only DIF in terms of buying power, getting someone to pick up your sick kid in the middle of the day, and getting someone to do the lion’s share of the work on church callings, etc.

    Naismith, I think the key term in your post is “while our kids were little.” In a world where most people don’t have as many kids as you did, the numbers crunch quite differently.

  17. Adam Greenwood on January 19, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    This is some of the most terrible logic I have ever seen.

    Bad things are often both logical and terrible.

  18. bbell on January 19, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    I agree with Julie on the home price issue. Its true that in order for LDS SAHM families to live in the better school districts in most of the country the Dad has to make more than the average wage earner. 2 incomes and 1-2 kids is a recipe for more disposable income and higher housing costs as these families compete for housing in good school districts. For example. I have some non-member friends in my subdivision where both Mom and Dad are School teachers. Their household income is 120K plus.

  19. CatherineWO on January 19, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Julie,
    There is a book you would find very interesting, _The Two-Income Trap_ by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi. It’s all about this very topic.

  20. Sterling on January 19, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    #16: Congress will soon pass or has just passed a law that will forbid employers from paying different wages to men and women who perform the same job. An unintended consequence of the law is that employers will likely be protected from discrimination suits filed by employees who argue that those with dependents should be paid more than those without dependents. That “breadwinner” argument prevailed for much of the twentieth century, but has largely fallen by the wayside.

    I am not sure you can simply attribute DIFs in the Church to inspiration. There are significant economic pull factors. The census numbers I have seen strongly suggest that Mormon mothers are employed outside of the home at the same rate as non-Mormon mothers.

    I think it is a mistake to assume that disposable income in DIFs is automatically double that found in SIFs. Childcare is one major expense that quickly casts doubt on your argument. The amount spent on eating out will also likely increase in DIFs.

  21. Adam Greenwood on January 19, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Sterling,
    Julie never argued that DIFs “automatically double” the disposable income of SIFs. For her argument to be true, it need only be the case that DIFs have something financially that SIFs do not, whether it be some additional disposable income, greater ability to get house loans, etc.

  22. Paul S on January 19, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Another consequence of more DIFs is the reduction of family safety nets. In the 40s and 50s, for instance, when the husband lost his job, got sick or disabled, etc., the mother could enter the work force and bring much needed financial relief to the family. As more families have become DIFs they have also become “highly leveraged” in that when tragedy strikes for one of the wage earners there is not another candidate in the family to send into the work force. Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law bankruptcy expert, has argued that this is part of the explanation for the rising bankruptcy rates in the U.S.

  23. z on January 19, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    I think the solution is for families to have two incomes, but live on one and save the other. That way they would have a safety net without women’s professional ambitions being stifled like they used to be. And the second income would then be greater because of years of experience in the workforce. The real problem is people living above their means and not saving enough, and bad schools that force families into bidding wars. If schools were not of such disparate quality, people wouldn’t be competing in the same way.

    Julie, what is it that you want here? If it’s just a little sympathy for your life being a little less convenient, a little less cozy, a little less external validation of your choices, fine. We’re all human for wanting those sorts of things. But if you don’t want to help out with childcare, church projects, etc., here’s a suggestion– just say no. I thought some people stayed home so that they *could* be heavily involved in church and volunteer projects, but if that’s not true of you, just say no! And if it’s just unhappiness that people don’t want to live the way you do, value the things you do, etc., well, then, wah.

  24. lyn on January 19, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    Ugh. I don’t usually comment here – so sorry to barge in. Basically, what I am hearing from the post is: “if you have a choice, be a SIF with me so I can: buy a nicer house, have friends to hang out with, don’t have to be the party pooper on vacations and don’t have to bear the brunt of the (often) extraneous church busy work” Kind of sounds like having cake and eating it, too. In full disclosure, I am a DIF. Working 3 days/week (one of those from home) to double our family income? Kind of a no-brainer (and probably more of having MY cake and snarfing it all down)

  25. Dalene on January 19, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Interesting discussion–thanks for bringing it up. We’ve been both SIF and DIF and both by choice (meaning I chose to be an SAHM even though we couldn’t really afford it and now I’m choosing to work outside the home now that my kids are in school–sadly, we’re not much better off now than we were then–as the kids get older they also get more expensive). Fortunately I haven’t witnessed much unfair division of labor when it comes to callings–because that would probably really tick me off. I’ve seen people be just as understanding with my work schedule as they’ve been with someone else’s new baby or whatever. And I’ve been both the mom who picks up someone else’s kid and the one who calls her friend to pick up her kid. Personally I find diversity is an advantage. I’ve seen the workload my SIL has as RS president in a ward full of young families–mostly SAHMs–and I suspect the work load may be more equally divided in my ward full of retirees, DIFs and SIFs.

    Paul S–I find your comment regarding safety nets interesting as well and am intrigued in Ms. Warren’s argument.

  26. Ben H on January 19, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Kaimi says,
    It’s true. Communities would be most efficient if everyone in them had uniform income, education, number of children, reading habits, and so forth.

    Generally, though, we tend to think that the values of individuality override that concern (except in unusual cases, such as vaccination).

    Kaimi, this kind of knee-jerk disregard for the values of community is what is destroying this country and the whole globalizing world. Julie, if I read her correctly, is directly challenging this very American assumption. Julie is articulating, in a certain very important sphere of our lives, how many things are lost when we assume that the things we buy with money (as autonomous individuals do) are worth more than the things we can’t/don’t. A great many of these things are precisely values of communities and non-market relationships. And on the whole, the things we can’t buy with money, and the non-market relationships, are more valuable than anything we can buy, or any market-based relationship. When we forget that, we impoverish ourselves, we impoverish those around us, especially those who are trying to preserve what is most valuable, and we risk making those community goods impossible to realize for any of us.

  27. Janet on January 19, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Holy Hiyaiai, Julie, I’ve been invoked! Not sure that’s ever happened.

    As it happens, your post may spur one over at FMH should I ever (ahem) finish the dissertation chapter I’m working on but am unsure why I’m bothering with since I am, out of choice, a SAHM. Cognitive dissonance, a lot.

    My post would be titled “motherhood is kicking my arse” because, frankly, the loneliness thereof is doing exactly that and for the reasons you outline above. Intriguing that I called you to explicate an argument I had with a psychologist just last week, when I announced that despite my abhorrence at many aspects of 1952, being a SAHM would’ve been far less lonely if all the other women on the street could hang out on the porch and watch the kids play street tag (a vision which probably belongs only in the collective imagination and not the actual history of our country, but still).

    Thanks for the post. I agree with much of it.

    (Postscript: Here’s my proposal for those DIFs or the SIFs which make quite perky incomes yet have extended family which cannot afford the mythological vacation: pay for it, for everyone. Seriously.)

  28. Janet on January 19, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    (said dissertation chapter currently precludes the reading of comments lest anyone get all mad that I have ignored them. Hey, it happens. And my email box cannot take it this day.)

  29. Jeremiah J. on January 19, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    I really like all of Julie’s observations, but then I realize that z at #22 has some good ones on the other side. The claim “Some good would exist if more people did X” indeed has to take into account what good would be lost if they were to forgo doing what they’re doing now by “choice”.

    Kaimi: “It’s true. Communities would be most efficient if everyone in them had uniform income, education, number of children, reading habits, and so forth.

    “Generally, though, we tend to think that the values of individuality override that concern (except in unusual cases, such as vaccination).”

    It seems you’re generalizing Julie’s argument into a straw man. She’s not arguing for maximal conformity (few if any people would, espcially on grounds of efficiency). She’s hoping for some critical mass of SIFs such that they can create relationships of mutual support and share church burdens more equitably.

    The “values of individuality” themselves require social goods not brought into being by particular individuals on their own. Freedom of religion, freedom to read what you want, freedom to assemble, etc. require that other people are doing things (the same things) with you or (specific other things) for you. An atomized individualism where no two people are doing similar things together offers few substantive options.

    #19: “…be protected from discrimination suits filed by employees who argue that those with dependents should be paid more than those without dependents.”

    If this is true, I must have been sorely misinformed about anti-discrimination law. My understanding was that it was already illegal to discriminate in favor of a breadwinner and against a single worker, and I’ve never heard of an employee suing because he’s a breadwinner who didn’t get the raise. Lawyerly explanation, please.

  30. Julie M. Smith on January 19, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    z asks, “Julie, what is it that you want here?”

    The post is an objection to the idea that your choices don’t affect mine. SIFs affect DIFs and vice versa, in some positive ways and in some negative ways. That’s all it is. I’m happy beyond belief in my current life set-up, so this isn’t a personal complaint. (To be fair, I would have made the ‘I’m lonely’ complaint as a young SAHM, but now I have the opposite problem.)

  31. ZD Eve on January 19, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    “My post would be titled “motherhood is kicking my arse” because, frankly, the loneliness thereof is doing exactly that”

    Me too, Janet. Oh how I wish you lived down the street from me.

  32. Alison Moore Smith on January 20, 2009 at 1:30 am

    Julie, as is often the case, you verbalize so well something that’s buzzed around in my head, unarticulated. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

    When we lived in Boca Raton, we lived in a nice, foofy, gated community. I got raised eyebrows when I (or one my kids) swept our own porch. And when we went to the playground, the park, or just roller bladed around the lake we saw lots of neighbor kids–all hanging out with their non-English speaking nannies. I hardly ever saw moms actually with their kids. A number of them didn’t work, but had serious mahjong going on.

    I completely understand that demographic trends affect us all, and that it’s difficult to feel like a minority, but isn’t that what LDS are called sometimes to do, to be outliers and abnormal and countercultural?

    Last I heard more than 50% of LDS women with children at home worked outside the home. Has that changed?

    In the ward we just moved to, most of the moms with kids actually stay at home AND we are geographically close. I haven’t been in a ward like that in my adult life. I’m rather looking forward to the community.

  33. queuno on January 20, 2009 at 1:31 am

    Just to follow up on the comments about how employers may prefer DIFs …

    This is going to come off awkward and maybe I won’t explain it correctly, but in my experience, many big consulting firms (particularly IT) prefer the SIF with the SAHM or SAHD. Because the hours and the travel can become so chaotic, management actually prefers it when there’s a parent (either mother or father) home all the time so that they don’t have to negotiate project work around someone’s spouse being out of town…

    At least that’s my experience. SIFs with a parent who can deal with the family life (and thus free up the employee) are in high-demand. If you can figure out how to glean that from an interview without running afoul of HR.

  34. queuno on January 20, 2009 at 1:53 am

    Last I heard more than 50% of LDS women with children at home worked outside the home. Has that changed?

    When I was a stake employment specialist in the early oughts, that statistic was valid. In some stakes in my area of the world, the percentage approached 70-80%…

    There is a problem with the definition in certain LDS contexts, though. No one has a problem with the SAHM who runs a business out of the house, right? (As long as it isn’t MLM…)

  35. Kaimi on January 20, 2009 at 2:00 am

    Ben writes:

    Kaimi, this kind of knee-jerk disregard for the values of community is what is destroying this country and the whole globalizing world. Julie, if I read her correctly, is directly challenging this very American assumption. Julie is articulating, in a certain very important sphere of our lives, how many things are lost when we assume that the things we buy with money (as autonomous individuals do) are worth more than the things we can’t/don’t. A great many of these things are precisely values of communities and non-market relationships. And on the whole, the things we can’t buy with money, and the non-market relationships, are more valuable than anything we can buy, or any market-based relationship. When we forget that, we impoverish ourselves, we impoverish those around us, especially those who are trying to preserve what is most valuable, and we risk making those community goods impossible to realize for any of us.

    I understand the idea here, Ben. Certainly an excess of selfish individualism can impoverish communities, in a way that eventually results in a loss for most everyone.

    But let’s be real about what’s going on. Julie’s implied argument isn’t just an argument in favor of group standardization. It’s also an argument that the group standard should be the one that *she* is currently living, and that *others* should be the ones to change in order to increase group homogeneity.

    It’s one thing to say, “the world would be more efficient overall if everyone spoke the same language.” All well and good. It’s another for an English speaker to say, “in order to increase global efficiency, everyone in the world should speak English.” That’s a movement both to standardize, and to place the costs of standardization on someone else. Why is it that arguments for greater standardization inevitably involve telling *others* that they ought to change? Why should the others be the ones who are told to change? You’ve suggested that individualism is selfish. But let’s be honest — there’s also something profoundly selfish about saying, “other people need to change and become more like me so that my own life will be easier.”

    Note that Julie’s concerns resolve perfectly well — every single one of them – if we simply tell all of the SIF’s to become DIF’s.

  36. m&m on January 20, 2009 at 2:31 am

    being a SAHM would’ve been far less lonely if all the other women on the street could hang out on the porch and watch the kids play street tag

    Janet, I wish you lived closer. I hate to say it, but my little culdesac life is pretty close to this idyllic picture.

    But let’s be honest — there’s also something profoundly selfish about saying, “other people need to change and become more like me so that my own life will be easier.”

    I actually read this differently, more broadly. I see this as an exploration of making decisions for the common good, not a personal complaint from Julie per se. How often do we really think about how our decisions affect those around us? I suspect more often than not, it doesn’t happen much. I think most of us figure out what works for our own lives and families and needs, if not hopes and dreams and wants.

    In the end, I doubt given the way our system works right now, any of of our individual choices would make much of a difference in the long run, but if everyone approached decisions with this kind of logic in mind…. It’s interesting to think about.

    Also, I find this post interesting in light of the things we are taught in the Church about the ideal of a mother being at home with the kiddos (although I may be reading more into or onto it than she would want by bringing that up). (And I will insert that in many fields, one can keep a resume active without bringing in income. I’ve been doing it for nearly 8 years.)

    As I read this post again today, I also couldn’t help thinking about the concept of consecration. Although I realize there is much I don’t understand about it, I see an awful lot of this kind of idea of the common good trumping personal gain in that doctrine as well. I’m not sure in our world, were that spiritual law instituted, it would require all families to be SIFs (another interesting thing to muse, imo), but I think it would reduce the differentials we see in lifestyle, etc. based on income.

  37. Frank McIntyre on January 20, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Kaimi,

    “Julie’s implied argument”

    “Reading between the lines” and “implied arguments”: The King and Queen of misinterpretation.

  38. Kaimi on January 20, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Really, Frank? If I’m actually misinterpreting Julie’s argument (or Ben’s follow-up), please explain how. If you can’t, I’ll expect more unsubstantiated insinuations from you.

    Julie said at FMH:

    “There are real, negative consequences for women who want to, for example, be SAHMs when few other women are making that choice and so I think it is disingenuous to do a “for each her own” approach.”

    This post is a direct follow-up to that comment (Julie says so, right at the start).

    So, this post is an explanation (and a perfectly good one) of how others’ individualism potentially harms Julie as a SAHM, and how those others ought to take into account that harm in deciding whether or not to be SAHMs.

  39. Kaimi on January 20, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    As a follow-up to Julie’s list — which is indeed very useful, and highlights the ways that choosing DIF harms those who choose to be SIFs — here is a quick list of some reasons why it is better for DIFs if the people who have a choice choose to be DIFs instead of SIFs:

    (1) As more women enter the workplace, employers are more likely to implement family-friendly workplace measures. On-site childcare, part-time schedules, and the like. These have increased dramatically as more women have entered the workforce and have demanded them.

    (2) Adding women in the workplace does wonders for fighting sexism and discrimination. Despite decades of antidiscrimination law, women are still minorities in top positions in many businesses. What would happen if all of those SAHMs went to work? (Remember, this is Julie we’re talking about. She would be the hiring partner at a law firm.)

    (3) Adding women to the workplace will remedy numerical imbalances that send sexist messages, even if not intended. At the AALS conference, I talked with Kif Augustin-Adams. Do you know how many LDS women are law professors? There are eight at BYU (including two brand-new hires). Outside of BYU, there are four, as I recall — it was less than six. There are easily three dozen male LDS law professors. What kind of message does that send women?

    (4) Sending women to the workplace will give female mentors and role models for more junior women. At my law firm (and just about every law firm in the country) the vast majority of senior partners, mentors, role models, were men. Not out of overt malice or sexism, but there just aren’t as many women attorneys with the experience and background.

    (5) Creating a critical mass of women in the workplace helps fight the culture in which certain male-dominated events are seen as normal or required networking devices. Everything from golf-course meetings to team trips to the strip club (yes, that still happens, a lot) are the product of male-dominated work environments where the men make up the networking opportunities. With just one woman on the team, it’s easy to still have the after-work drinks at the strip club; she can either come along, or miss out on the informal networking that is crucial to many jobs. With a critical mass of women, workplace culture has to adapt.

    Thus, there are real, negative consequences for women who choose not to be SAHM’s, when other women do not join them. Women who choose to be SAHM’s should not view their decision in a vacuum, but should recognize that they are harming others (mostly women) through their choices.

  40. Frank McIntyre on January 20, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Your comment 37 is a spot on summary of Julie’s post; pointing out that there are externalities and people don’t live in a bubble when they make this decision.

    _Your_ prior comments have been more expansive in arguing against “group standards” and group homogeneity. You want to know why people always want _their_ behavior to be the standard and others to “bear the costs” of adopting that standard. Can we agree that this is going a ways beyond Julie’s actual post — which was mostly just a list of externalities?

    Your 38, for example, is a much better response.

  41. Maren on January 20, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    To add to 38
    1-If there were more DIF then playdates/group activities would be planned also on weekends so that the children of DIF would not be left out of every play group. (This happens, all the time. My daughter is 2. All the other 2 year olds in Nursery know each other because they have play dates during the day. When I am at work and she is at Grandma’s. So she is quite left out in nursery)
    2-If there were more DIF Enrichment meetings would not be focused on SAH type topics, and may focus on things like balancing work and family life, which would be beneficial to the DIF’s.
    3-If there were more DIF then sisters might not feel like they should complain that their VT can’t visit during the day because she (gasp!) works, and could they please be reassigned (yes, true)

    I could go on. I am also so frustrated by a lot of SIF in my neighborhood who assume that my lack of a second child is due to my pure obssession with my career, and fail to realize it is due to health.

    So, my point is that both sides suffer. People are different. Life goes on. You have a lot of blessings as a SIF. I have a lot of blessings as a DIF. Why can’t we coexist peacefully? Why must I change to fit your needs? Yes, parts of it are hard and uncomfortable. Well, the grass is not that much greener on this side. We all have struggles, that is life.

  42. Ben H on January 20, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Kaimi, to suggest that Julie wants others to be SAHMs merely for selfish reasons is (a) rather uncharitable and (b) ignores a context that you and I both know quite well: LDS church leaders have clearly and repeatedly urged LDS women to stay home with their children if possible. This is a call to service, a call to give up some things that might be nice for us as individuals for the sake of some deeper values, including but not limited to personally caring for our children. It is perverse and insulting to suggest that Julie is being selfish in expressing interest in a little more support for her choice to be a SAHM, when she has chosen to be a SAHM so that she can devote more energy to her family.

  43. Julie M. Smith on January 20, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    Just a friendly reminder that I said this in the original post: “Also, this isn’t my condemnation of DIFs as evil. If you feel inspired to be a DIF, more power to you. I have no argument with you or your decision and, if you are so inspired, what I outlined above should have no bearing on your decision.”

    I am not–repeat: am not–trying to suggest that DIFs should become SIFs to make my life easier. I am simply saying that we shouldn’t pretend that our decisions do not affect each other, for clearly they do. (Kaimi is correct to point out that I’m not making life easier for some DIFs somewhere.) There are opportunity costs in all decisions and this post was merely an objection to some of the sentiments on the FMH thread that implied that we can do what we want without it mattering to other people what our choices are.

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