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March 18, 2013 12:29 PM   Subscribe


 
Confused by why this is positioned as a new concept, but good.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:30 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


For some reason it's only just occurred to me, maybe because a "low six-figure income" is described as "upper middle class," that this whole conversation is so, so shaped by class. Even being able to participate in it in the first place is a function of class.
posted by liketitanic at 12:34 PM on March 18, 2013 [80 favorites]


Poor and working class women have always worked.
posted by The Whelk at 12:35 PM on March 18, 2013 [62 favorites]


Where is this mythical world where people can actually stay home from work?
posted by IvoShandor at 12:36 PM on March 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


So last summer, when her husband, Alvin, a management consultant, took a new position requiring more travel, she made a decision. They would live off his low-six-figure income, and she would quit her job running a program for at-risk kids in a public school to stay home full time.

Oh, the horrors of a low six-figure income.
posted by King Bee at 12:37 PM on March 18, 2013 [89 favorites]


NYMagazine often reports interesting phenomena, but I've never thought "Hey, that describes me and my friends".
posted by benito.strauss at 12:39 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The maternal instinct is a real thing, Kelly argues: Girls play with dolls from childhood, so “women are raised from the get-go to raise children successfully. When we are moms, we have a better toolbox.” Women, she believes, are conditioned to be more patient with children, to be better multitaskers, to be more tolerant of the quotidian grind of playdates and temper tantrums; “women,” she says, “keep it together better than guys do.”

I have not yet fully RTFA, but this throws up like a billion red flags for me. Yes, women are socialized to be better caretakers, and yes, women should be able to be stay-at-home mothers and respected for it if they damn well feel like it, but, um, taking advantage of that without going, "Hey, maybe this is fucked up and puts an undue burden on women in terms of an equal division of child-rearing and deprives men of the opportunity to be a stay-at-home dad" seems to be missing the point. Like, a LOT. Her personal choices are fine, but she's couching it in language that is broadly applied to genders and, therefore, highly political.

Also Nthing the class thing. Christ. Low six-figures. There is no such thing as low six-figures to someone who's never made even half of that.
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:39 PM on March 18, 2013 [80 favorites]


How nice for her that she can do what she wants. However, if she (the subject of the piece) thinks that women are universally better at taking care of children because they've been trained to do that since birth, and doesn't see that as...a situation with some problems, then I probably don't want her on my team at work.

However, I will also allow for the possibility that she, too, read that description with horror.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:40 PM on March 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


Where is this mythical world where people can actually stay home from work?

I'm a stay-at-home dad. We're privileged, though, because my wife makes decent money (nowhere near six figures) as a speech therapist. That said, I'll probably need to work nights and weekends again soon.
posted by drezdn at 12:43 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The three adults working full-time in my household don't even cumulatively net a "low six-figure income." Give me a lower-medium five-figure income and I would be all too happy to stay home with my cat to teach him valuable jumping tricks.

Meanwhile, my hunt for a non-sucky job continues forever, and my dartboard fodder made of Rich Smug Marrieds (or rather the journalists who love them) grows.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:44 PM on March 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


The Atlantic's rebuttal of this article, and of the backlash to the article, is the best thing I've read all day. In short: different lifestyles work for different people; being a woman vs. a man has nothing to do with it.
posted by capricorn at 12:49 PM on March 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


Another great response: Why the Opt-Out Story Won't Die
posted by lunasol at 12:50 PM on March 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


What a waste of her education, experience, opportunities, and privileges. But hey, why put that towards helping kids who need it when you could be "spoiling" your husband via massage. Ugh.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:55 PM on March 18, 2013 [16 favorites]


Where is this mythical world where people can actually stay home from work?

My wife stays home, and man is it tough to get by. Dual-income households make it possible to pay a mortgage, and also afford status symbols like a slightly nicer car and nicer home furnishings. I don't care about that stuff.

I do care about my inability to finance my retirement at the moment, but hopefully that will change.

Still, I think the woman in the article is doing the right thing, if it is what she wants to do and she gets fulfillment out of it.

Our kids are happy, so I guess that is an important thing to consider.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:55 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


that women are, broadly speaking, better at that job than men

Nope
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:56 PM on March 18, 2013 [18 favorites]


I love this, from the Atlantic rebuttal that capricorn linked above.

"The truth is, most of us probably want something in between. Most of us probably want a balance. Most people probably do not reflect the extremes on either side. And yet what we see in writing tends to be the extremes. The extremes make us mad, they allow us to judge, they make us compare ourselves and feel bad when we don't measure up. They are a high-form of trolling. We have not gotten to a place where women are simply O.K. being women, without having to compare ourselves to someone or someone else's expectations and standards, whether those be about when we marry, whether we marry, whether we have children and when we do, how dedicated to our careers we are, what kind of moms we're being, how we're failing at having it all, and on and on."
posted by editrixx at 12:56 PM on March 18, 2013 [22 favorites]


Can I ask, could we hurry up and get our race wars and gender wars wrapped up and sorted? Because there's a class war going on here that really needs our full attention.
posted by mhoye at 12:57 PM on March 18, 2013 [62 favorites]


For some reason it's only just occurred to me, maybe because a "low six-figure income" is described as "upper middle class," that this whole conversation is so, so shaped by class.

Bingo.

The maternal instinct is a real thing, Kelly argues: Girls play with dolls from childhood, so “women are raised from the get-go to raise children successfully. When we are moms, we have a better toolbox.”

Okay, yeah, I had dolls and I played house. But that was becuase people kept giving them to me because they assumed "she's a girl, therefore she wants dolls." In reality, I was more into animals. The maternal instinct isn't universal.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:59 PM on March 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Oh, the horrors of a low six-figure income.

Quite the example of how the omission of a hyphen can change the meaning of a phrase. But point taken.
posted by Bare Ruined Choirs at 12:59 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, I feel like there should be some room to discuss biological functions of pregnancy, childbirth, hormones, lactation and nurturing children.

I say there is a role for that because literally if you want to tell me my son's father has the right to take half of my custody when I have a newborn nursing infant that I just birthed myself I'm going to fight you because I think you're a jerk. Birthing rights are not necessarily gendered in that personally I believe transmen deserve the same protection for time with children they create and birth and nurse with their own body.

It's a different process than just turning to spend time with the baby and I believe that all pregnant, birthing, bonding, and nursing people deserve the right to spend a few years with their children.

(Yes that makes me either a socialist or a traditionalist in that I think either the government or the sperm contribute should probably help facilitate the provision of goods for this time to happen.)

No most women don't *feel like* they can stay home but I can remember being pregnant, earning ten dollars per hour and knowing I literally would have to put my child in full time day care at 6 weeks as a single mom with no other options.

I feel like the conversation about "can't" stay at home is very loaded because many people who I've talked to have said they "can't" stay at home more because of pressure to earn MORE than because they literally can't provide nurturing and essentials to their child if they stayed home and relied on a partners income.

The discussion of gender here is problematic, as is the clear assumption of upper class experience, but I also think the lash back of "Well we can't use gendered terms" really limits discussions about what rights people who birth children should have in terms of spending time caregiving and bonding with the child they created. Of course that bond isn't special to everyone who births a child and sometimes the non-birthing parent is more bonded and a better caregiver. But I think first dibs should go to the person whose hormones have been in a state of flux for nine months, literally risked their well being and taxed their physical health to bring forth a new person, and has the lactation device and hormonal waves of bonding urges to care for their newborn. It's not a gender thing, it's an I've been through childbirth twice, lost one child to this culture that think maternal infant bonding is a worthless process, and feel like those of you who defined for me and my children that our bond was worthless hurt me. Real people lose time with their children/mothers when we stamp our feet about how worthless bonding after birth is and I don't think we have sufficient evidence to assume it's as worthless as people currently claim it is.
posted by xarnop at 12:59 PM on March 18, 2013 [14 favorites]


Can I ask, could we hurry up and get our race wars and gender wars wrapped up and sorted? Because there's a class war going on here that really needs our full attention.

Indeed. The workers at Foxconn are coming after our "Oh gosh, I can't afford gas for my car" asses.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:01 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Imho, children should be raised by their grandparents, as already happens in poor families. If we do not choose this, the economics of scale dictate that eventually humanity shall turn to the state and corporations to raise them. A maternal instinct makes a lovely video game, but it's not a terribly efficient way to spend your twenties and thirties.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:01 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


My siblings and I were raised by our parents, who both worked. Just because you work doesn't mean you aren't raising your child. Sheesh.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:02 PM on March 18, 2013 [20 favorites]


Yes, children USED to often be raised by grandparents, but the modern economy has the working poor and working class working well past the time their grandchildren are young.
posted by readery at 1:04 PM on March 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


The maternal instinct isn't universal.

Neither is being born with two eyes, opposable thumbs, or twenty-three chromosome pairs. That doesn't mean that they aren't the norm that have been selected for by millions of years of evolution.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:06 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


In lunasol's link, a Buzzfeed article is calling another website out for pot-stirring and trying to generate controversy for pageviews.

Kettle, answer your phone. It's Pot.
posted by jbickers at 1:06 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


And I stayed home with kids when my kids were little as my now ex has a union job that allowed us that luxury. It did make it very difficult for me to get a decent position later after key years away from the workforce. I don't think I'd make the same choice again.
posted by readery at 1:08 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Neither is being born with two eyes, opposable thumbs, or twenty-three chromosome pairs.

Those are pretty damn near universal. Much more so than the sexist idea that a mother will bond with her child better than Dad.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:08 PM on March 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


The maternal instinct is a real thing, Kelly argues: Girls play with dolls from childhood, so “women are raised from the get-go to raise children successfully. When we are moms, we have a better toolbox.” Women, she believes, are conditioned to be more patient with children, to be better multitaskers, to be more tolerant of the quotidian grind of playdates and temper tantrums; “women,” she says, “keep it together better than guys do.”

Hey, I played with Ninja Turtles. You want training to deal with a temper tantrum? Try it when the doll has NUNCHUCKS.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:08 PM on March 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


You know, a lot of this conflict (homemaker mom vs. business lady mom) would evaporate if we allowed highly educated women to pick up careers after a few years out of the office for childrearing. If companies would stop acting like women with 5-year resume gaps were radioactive, women wouldn't have to commit to not working with such gusto.

As it is, women have to decide that they are going to offramp to SAHM-dom (where they have extreme difficulty getting back on career track) or gutting out working through the years when their children are little. (Yes, there are definitely women who are gleeful to hand the baby off to day care. Good for them! That's not how most women I know feel, though. I hear mostly agonizing about missing the baby.)

Rather than telling women to lean in, we should be pushing companies to hire moms. Acting like a woman who takes time off to be her kids' primary caretaker is forever after unemployable when it comes to high-status, high-responsibility jobs? That's sexism. We should endeavor to fix that.
posted by purpleclover at 1:08 PM on March 18, 2013 [53 favorites]


I'm glad this is working out for her but even with a husband with a nice salary it seems like a risky life strategy. I've known quite a few women who went that route and then their husband either ran off or dropped dead leaving the wife with no income or career to fall back on.
posted by octothorpe at 1:09 PM on March 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


The maternal instinct is a real thing, Kelly argues: Girls play with dolls from childhood[...]

The point I'm getting from this is that it's definitely possible to get both an undergrad and masters in social work and apparently never run across the concept of social construction of gender. Because otherwise... really? Come on.

The article mentions peripherally, but fails to discuss, a perfectly rational if slightly depressing rationale for the same division of labor: if a woman makes 77% of what a man would make for the same job, a heterosexual couple with equivalent educational background and interest in working vs parenting would do well (to the tune of 23%) to have the woman stay home. You don't have to come up with any weird evo-bio justifications there; you don't even have to like it. I suspect that drives a lot more couples into a "traditional" role than questionable neo-feminism, although of course that only even applies to couples where having one partner stay home full-time is an option to begin with.

Strangely, the most honest assessment of staying-home-with-the-kids in the whole article comes from an UWS ex-wealth-advisor with a husband in finance: "She feels it’s a privilege to manage her children’s lives". No shit. Who would have thought that having someone with (probably) seven years of higher education, whose opportunity cost of salary alone is in the hundreds of dollars an hour, micromanage diaper changes and story hour would be a luxury?
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:10 PM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


How about the kid runs her own life and makes her own decisions when she grows up? The "we just want you to be happy (as long as that happiness is based on something we approve of)" tendency in parenting seems to be getting worse.
posted by thelonius at 1:13 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


> The maternal instinct isn't universal.

Neither is being born with two eyes, opposable thumbs, or twenty-three chromosome pairs. That doesn't mean that they aren't the norm that have been selected for by millions of years of evolution.


In the first place, there's a difference between something being "the norm" and something being "universal".

In the second place, just as we wouldn't pressure someone who was born with only one eye to pursue something that required stereoscopic vision, we shouldn't pressure someone without a parenting instinct to make parenting their goal in life.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:14 PM on March 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


‘Have a career that you can walk away from at the drop of a hat.’ 

She'd tell her daughter that? But not, presumably, her son?

Great. Thanks, article-mama. Thanks for trying to keep it so that my daughter grows up in a world in which she'd be a sexual minority in STEM careers. Thanks for that. Tell you what, when my daughter is trying to support my wife and me in our dotage with a, I dunno, poetry degree, I'll have her sue you for lost wages.
posted by gurple at 1:16 PM on March 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


If anyone, regardless of gender, leaves their career for 8 years, yes, they should be 8 years behind, and those who didn't leave the profession should be given preference. There's nothing wrong with that.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:17 PM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


The part of the article I thought most interesting was the discussion of how much lip service is given to equality of domestic roles in a marriage and yet how little of those ideals are realized. It's page 4.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:20 PM on March 18, 2013


Why should any company hire anyone currently unemployed or over thirty, purpleclover? Ain't so hard finding energetic young cheap labor, usually you need not even hire lobbyists.

There is no way to address the "restart the career" problem except by making workers more in-demand and decreasing unemployment. Afaik, the only one way to do that is reducing the work week. If we dropped to a 30 hour work week then everyone would find jobs much more quickly and easily.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:21 PM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


If anyone, regardless of gender, leaves their career for 8 years, yes, they should be 8 years behind, and those who didn't leave the profession should be given preference. There's nothing wrong with that.

I can't speak to how it is in other fields, and it's a tiny violin, I know, but in the big-firm legal world, if you walk away from your lawyer-job to raise a family for even a year or two, it is really, really, really hard to get hired again by a big law firm. Like. Ever.

Even if you're willing to come back at your old seniority or lower, because if you really wanted/deserved/whatever to work at a big firm, you would have leaned in. Or something.
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:24 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


If anyone, regardless of gender, leaves their career for 8 years, yes, they should be 8 years behind, and those who didn't leave the profession should be given preference. There's nothing wrong with that.

Someone who leaves their career for 8 years is more than 8 years behind - it's often impossible to get any job at all after 8 years outside the work force.

On top of that, payed caretaking is not seen as the same thing as unemployment - why volunteer caretaking?
posted by muddgirl at 1:24 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


If we dropped to a 30 hour work week then everyone would find jobs much more quickly and easily.

France has an unemployment rate above 10 percent, which suggests limiting the work week is note quite the panacea you make it out to be.
posted by Area Man at 1:25 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


If anyone, regardless of gender, leaves their career for 8 years, yes, they should be 8 years behind, and those who didn't leave the profession should be given preference. There's nothing wrong with that.

Not sure what precipitated this (and if it's something directly referred to in the article that I missed, I'll kowtow a few places), but I'm not sure this is precisely the issue. I think the complaint is that all too often, women are sort of compelled to be the one to leave their career for 8 years more often than men are, because of some sort of cultural perception that "well, of course the woman's the one to leave her career and take care of the kids." And that itself isn't always fair.

I absolutely agree that someone leaving their career for 8 years should take the "fallback" in stride, but I also don't think it's fair that it overwhelmingly is the women who end up doing that. And I also don't think it's fair that when it's the man who does it, that everyone looks at him funny and cracks all sorts of "Mr. Mom" jokes and assumes he's a slacker or whatever.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:25 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


we shouldn't pressure someone without a parenting instinct to make parenting their goal in life.

And we shouldn't pressure someone with a parenting instinct to work 80 hours a week and put their kids in day care.
posted by Melismata at 1:28 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


And we shouldn't pressure someone with a parenting instinct to work 80 hours a week and put their kids in day care.

Well, yeah.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:28 PM on March 18, 2013


we shouldn't pressure someone without a parenting instinct to make parenting their goal in life.

I agree and have not said otherwise. In fact, I am all for those without the parenting instinct not having children.

Tell you what, when my daughter is trying to support my wife and me in our dotage with a, I dunno, poetry degree, I'll have her sue you for lost wages.

IAAL. A poetry major cannot pay our rates. Sorry, dad.

how much lip service is given to equality of domestic roles in a marriage and yet how little of those ideals are realized.

Why would it be realized? Have you ever been inside an abode that is all-male? You might have noticed that the floors probably are not freshly mopped and the beds not neatly made. This is because men generally are comfortable with a bit more slack in terms of domestic tidiness. When married cohabitation happens, the issue of "equal domestic roles" is only going to arise when the neatnik decides to make her neatness preference the non-neatnik's problem. "Why are you the one who always has to make the bed? Because you are the only one who cares whether or not it is made at all."
posted by Tanizaki at 1:31 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


jeffburdges: Why should any company hire anyone currently unemployed or over thirty, purpleclover? Ain't so hard finding energetic young cheap labor, usually you need not even hire lobbyists.

I think about this problem quite a lot, and I actually don't have a good answer. Hell, if I were starting a company now, all my employees would be doing "internships." For academic credit.

It's a totally solid question.
posted by purpleclover at 1:31 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I didn't like the article mostly because it suggests women should be allowed to be full-time mothers without regrets due to the fact that they are biologically programmed to be nurturers and mothers. This line of reasoning opens up the gates to things like biology = identity = desires/personality = role in society, which is restricting and incorrect.

Go to work or be a housewife. I don't care, but don't justify it with stuff like, "Since girls play with dolls, they are meant to grow up and be mothers so I'm only doing what is natural by choosing to be full-time parent." Women can be anything they want because they can, not because their sex dictates they should assume certain roles.
posted by cyml at 1:32 PM on March 18, 2013 [27 favorites]


which is restricting and incorrect.

And super heteronormative.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:33 PM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Guys. I think we're out of jobs.
posted by The Whelk at 1:33 PM on March 18, 2013


This is really good. I feel like I finally woke up to being able to manage my life when my dad admitted last year that he didn't get his first full-time job until he was 41. Why did he wait so long? Because the last thing parents want is for their children to be fearful. I had one career in journalism and then another in fundraising and now I've become a dad, staying home a few days a week and working a few days a week. I don't think it's revolutionary, I am just enjoying what time I get with the family I love.
posted by parmanparman at 1:34 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


it seems like a risky life strategy.

On average six out of ten marriages end in divorce. With odds like that, this is not only a risky life strategy, it is positively insane.

if a woman makes 77% of what a man would make for the same job, a heterosexual couple with equivalent educational background and interest in working vs parenting would do well (to the tune of 23%) to have the woman stay home.

If a woman makes 77% of what a man would make for the "same" job, greedy capitalist companies would never hire men. Women make 77% of what men make because so many take time out to raise children, care for them when they are sick, to look after elderly parents, and run a household. The mantra of "equal pay for equal work" ignores the fact work is not equal. You can't check out of the workforce in the most productive years of your life and expect this to have no impact on your earning potential down the road.

If more men would take time outs from their career to raise their children and do "women's" work at home, differences in pay and opportunity would disappear with equality of work.

The solution to all this feminist handwringing is not make women more like men, but to encourage modern men to be more like retro women.
posted by three blind mice at 1:34 PM on March 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


I wish that the conversation around work versus staying at home was more attentive to the forms of work that used to occur within the home, and the forms of work that are available now to ostensibly SAHparents. I think children benefit by witnessing and being involved in economic activity; it's part of their education. Work used to be much more integrated into the home, rather than representing an outflow of energy from the home; with technology there are many options to return to that state of affairs. Obviously, the ability to create the ideal work-at-home situation is itself an expression of privilege, but if we have that discussion, maybe the idea of creating humane and integrated working conditions will expand beyond the reach of the few.
posted by decathexis at 1:34 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is because men generally are comfortable with a bit more slack in terms of domestic tidiness. When married cohabitation happens, the issue of "equal domestic roles" is only going to arise when the neatnik decides to make her neatness preference the non-neatnik's problem.

Ha ha ha. It is the exact opposite in my world, but, whatever. I guess there's another area in which my biological programming was riddled with bugs.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:36 PM on March 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


biology = identity...is incorrect

Just so we're clear, if someone identifies as straight, it would be incorrect to say that is a matter of biology, yes?
posted by Tanizaki at 1:38 PM on March 18, 2013


If a woman makes 77% of what a man would make for the "same" job, greedy capitalist companies would never hire men.... You can't check out of the workforce in the most productive years of your life and expect this to have no impact on your earning potential down the road.

Those are both true statements. It's also a true statement that, once you correct for time taken out of careers, there's still a 5-7% pay gap between men and women. That is the amount more that, on average, greedy US capitalist companies are willing to pay men for the same job.
posted by gurple at 1:39 PM on March 18, 2013 [20 favorites]


I think this is such a weird issue because most of the mom's I know earn close to minimum wage and would love to stay at home but it's just so much not possible. So there's this weird issue where mom's who want to stay at home and CAN afford to have to defend their choice (and they DO get a lot of pushback and shaming)... and mom's who struggle financially to make that choice and do it anyway get EVEN MORE shaming for daring to prioritize time with their children over exhausting themselves working shitloads of hours in a job they hate like fuck all.

Meanwhile there's another faction of women who REALLY REALLY like being career women and don't like staying at home with the baby and are excited to put the child in day care and also get judged for not wanting to stay at home more and for liking their career. I DO know some women who feel like they will go insane if they have to stay locked up in the house with kids and there is no way I personally think this is a good set up for either kids or mama.

I just feel like there are so many lower income women who absolutely would love to stay at home and really since feminism SHOULD BE ABOUT EMPOWERING WOMEN TO ACTUALIZE THEIR DREAMS that this is a relevant problem of feminism as well though I don't see it talked about as often as the career mom who is worried about being judged for working.

But I only hang out at liberal and feminist oriented places so I don't get exposed to whatever conservative jargon that is a push back against. All I see is that the feminist and liberal spaces have devoted a lot more time to talking about great it is for women to be STEM careers and forgo motherhood, or choose career over time at home with kids and yes their is often an implied sense that this a better and more important thing for people to do.

I just feel like we're saying "women are as good as men because women can do male careers"

When it should just be WOMEN ARE AS GOOD AS MEN. Period. Whether they stay at home and care for family, whether they are mothers, whether they are architects or journalists or firefighters or mathematicians. I just don't like this assumption that ablism defines whether women are as good as men to begin with.
posted by xarnop at 1:40 PM on March 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


> we shouldn't pressure someone without a parenting instinct to make parenting their goal in life.

I agree and have not said otherwise. In fact, I am all for those without the parenting instinct not having children.


Then....can you explain why, when I pointed out that "the maternal instinct isn't universal", that you retorted, "well, yeah, but neither is having opposable thumbs"? If you support people who don't have the maternal instinct choosing not to become mothers, then what was your objection to someone remarking that "not all women have a maternal instinct"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:40 PM on March 18, 2013


Also Nthing the class thing. Christ. Low six-figures. There is no such thing as low six-figures to someone who's never made even half of that

I wish we could have these conversations without class-shaming. Low six figures could mean, say, 106,000, which lets this family afford, what, a moderately sized 2 bedroom apt in Brooklyn? It doesn't have to make them Rich McRichyRich.

What a waste of her education, experience, opportunities, and privileges. But hey, why put that towards helping kids who need it when you could be "spoiling" your husband via massage. Ugh


I think this part is the part that makes me really sympathize with her. Why is her choice to raise kids a "waste"? Why should she be obligated to work for other people when she can be happier at home? Why can't she make her own life choices about being around her kids without trying to shame her for them?
posted by corb at 1:41 PM on March 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


What a waste of her education, experience, opportunities, and privileges.

"Waste"? Why?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:44 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wish we could have these conversations without class-shaming. Low six figures could mean, say, 106,000, which lets this family afford, what, a moderately sized 2 bedroom apt in Brooklyn? It doesn't have to make them Rich McRichyRich.

I think you can make a case that people making double the average household income for Brooklyn are rich. It's a hard term to define.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:44 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wish we could have these conversations without class-shaming. Low six figures could mean, say, 106,000, which lets this family afford, what, a moderately sized 2 bedroom apt in Brooklyn? It doesn't have to make them Rich McRichyRich.

It doesn't make them middle-class, either. Americans routinely misstate their class status toward the lower end of the spectrum.
posted by liketitanic at 1:45 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think you can make a case that people making double the average household income for Brooklyn are rich.

Compared to what? The national average? Maybe. But their lifestyle is probably similar to those who are making $40,000 in Little Rock.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:46 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wish we could have these conversations without class-shaming.

"Class-shaming"? That's a thing, now?

So, rich people are like fat people, I guess? If we make them feel shame about who they are, then they'll just become richer and richer in a horrible spiral of shame and wealth?
posted by gurple at 1:46 PM on March 18, 2013 [37 favorites]


Compared to what?

The average household in Brooklyn.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:47 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


While I think it's important to point out that the family here makes probably double the median American household income, on the other hand I don't think that should somehow make their experience less legitimate. Alvin Makino is a visible minority who comes from a pretty marginal part of the United States - Hawaii - so it's not like he's banking on intergenerational privilege in order to get that six-figure income. More likely, he worked his ass off, and is being rewarded for that.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:47 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The average household in Brooklyn.

The average household /where/ in Brooklyn? Brooklyn, a former- city of approximately 4 million, has strong differences from neighborhood to neighborhood. The average household in Park Slope, for example, is very different than the average household in Brownsville.
posted by corb at 1:49 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It doesn't make their experience less legitimate, but it also doesn't make them middle-class. I don't have a problem with the bro having money. I have a problem with people who are not middle-class calling themselves middle-class because it makes the term a virtually useless distinction.
posted by liketitanic at 1:49 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The average household /where/ in Brooklyn? Brooklyn, a former- city of approximately 4 million, has strong differences from neighborhood to neighborhood. The average household in Park Slope, for example, is very different than the average household in Brownsville.

Well, you brought up our hypothetical Brooklynites. Where do you want them to live? A rich neighborhood or a poor one?
posted by Drinky Die at 1:50 PM on March 18, 2013


$106,000 in Park Slope = not rich. Probably just getting by with 2 kids.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:51 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


A six-figure income (dual-income) is pretty common where I live, in Victoria British Columbia. You need it to afford a mortgage where the median house price (3 bedroom) is CDN $650,000, and $1M homes are not unusual. If I make $60,000 a year and my wife makes 75% of that ($45,000), that's six figures. Hardly an upper-class life, either.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:54 PM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


I believe the Makinos live in northern New Jersey, where housing costs are similar to where I live. Presumably Alvin commutes to New York, where salaries are typically higher than the American median, to account for higher COL.

I would argue they're middle class.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:56 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


It doesn't make their experience less legitimate, but it also doesn't make them middle-class.

Remember when Upper Class used to mean the group of people who were property/business owners who could live a rather nice lifestyle without actually having to *work* for a living?

I guess if 106k means you're no longer in the middle class, I wonder what the distinction is between someone who has to work to pay rent and feed themselves and, say, Paris Hilton?
posted by chimaera at 1:56 PM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


$106,000 in Park Slope = not rich. Probably just getting by with 2 kids.

See, this is why I pointed out the definition is hard to nail down. I see that as rich, because they could move to a poorer neighborhood if they desired. The choice they made to live in Park Slope instead is one available to rich people. They could spend all their money on any number of unnecessary choices and end up struggling.

Or, some people define rich as being free of concern over money entirely which never made much sense to me. Anyone can spend all their money if they want to.

If your city is full of a majority of people who survive just fine on fractions of what you make, it seems rich is a reasonable charecterization, though I recognize the legitimacy of disagreements there.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:58 PM on March 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


I would argue they're middle class.

I would argue that they are not, and neither are you. And that's not an insult.

More than half of the respondents in Pew surveys routinely describe themselves as "middle class." In 2008, a third of Americans earning more than $150,000 a year (the top decile of American household incomes) self-identified to Pew as "middle-class."

Something has to be wrong here. This Atlantic piece suggests that a reasonable definition might be "the sixty percent of Americans with household incomes from $28,636 to $79,040 a year." I'm not thrilled with that, but I'll take it over $100,000 a year as middle-class.

I think the danger in the misidentification is that it totally skews these conversations about work, home, and family life, obscuring the fact that the people who set the terms of debate don't actually have a whole lot in common with the people they claim to identify with. It also ignores cultural capital as crucially important--that one's earnings might fluctuate even while one's expectations and class status don't.
posted by liketitanic at 1:58 PM on March 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


I guess if 106k means you're no longer in the middle class, I wonder what the distinction is between someone who has to work to pay rent and feed themselves and, say, Paris Hilton?

You can say "Super Rich" and "Rich" just like you can say "Lower Middle Class" and "Upper Middle Class".
posted by Drinky Die at 2:00 PM on March 18, 2013


This society fetishizes these highpaying and/or "important" careers. There are some however who feel that life is more than handing over our waking hours to a company. Raising children and making a home IS work, and it is worth that isn't brainless, if done right. It is management at a pretty darn important level.


We get all wrapped around the axle because no one wants to be pigeonholed because of their sex, and that is all well and good. I will settle for people acknowledging that it is GOOD if children can have lots of time and attention from their non-totally worn out parents, time to go to museums or be read to, not just time in the car to and from a daycare that may or may not be optimal. And daycare is NOT the same as being at home. It has drawbacks as well as advantages.

Life is worth living well. Our society would rather it be lived at breakneck speed, exhausted, in a cluttered house eating too much processed food while the years slip by in a stressed haze.

I think we all deserve better than that.

(Also, let me remind folks that historically, all a family's work kinda was based out of the home. Women were producers, even if they were producing from home while caring for children. There is something to be said for being able to do that.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:01 PM on March 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


$106,000 in Park Slope = not rich. Probably just getting by with 2 kids.

How exactly are you defining "just getting by" in this case? Taking the subway instead of a car? Forgoing the fancy-expensive-elementary school so that you can afford prep high school later on? The point is, even having the choice to make sacrifices to live on one parent's low-six-figure-income in New York (and TFA says it's actually New Jersey, so...) is a choice that a majority of Americans are never going to have. Trying to have a conversation while ignoring that is going to make it really hard to have a conversation that matters to most people.
posted by kagredon at 2:01 PM on March 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


Drinky Die, you make a good point, but I bet parents who make $106,000 who live in Park Slope don't think of their safe neighborhood as an unnecessary expense.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:01 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


These articles make my eyes glaze over. It's the same shit over and over again, somebody should make a Bingo card.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:02 PM on March 18, 2013 [28 favorites]


Yeah, being able to make the choice to stay home is great if you're able to afford it. My wife and I would love for one of us to be able to stay at home with our kids when we start having them -- at least until they're old enough to start school -- but I really doubt that we'll be able to afford to do so.

On the other hand, the cost of child care is starting to get to the point where it might actually be cheaper for one parent to stay home, since so much of his or her income would be going to directly to daycare costs if s/he continues to work.

All of this is in a Canadian context, though, and so YMMV. Not sure how normal the situation described in the FPP is south of the border, but the comments are leading me to suspect that the answer is: "not very."
posted by asnider at 2:02 PM on March 18, 2013


Drinky Die, you make a good point, but I bet parents who make $106,000 who live in Park Slope don't think of their safe neighborhood as an unnecessary expense.

I can understand why they would think that. This "Who is rich?" conversation is a notorious derail so I'm just gonna leave off it now.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:03 PM on March 18, 2013


$106,000 in Park Slope = not rich. Probably just getting by with 2 kids.

By this logic $1million on Fifth Ave = not rich. If you start defining class by assuming someone lives in a wealthy neighborhood (and unless you're an old-timer hanging on, Park Slope is a wealthy neighborhood) and can barely afford it, then you've rendered the entire discussion meaningless. If you're making $106K and squeaking by in Park Slope, that doesn't mean you're middle class. It means maybe you should move.
posted by Mavri at 2:04 PM on March 18, 2013 [36 favorites]


Most people I know making in the low 100s live in 3-4 bedroom houses and have 1-2 cars. Their kids go to public school. While they are much more privileged than those with less income, they don't have the trappings of wealth or the economic security usually associated with the term rich. One layoff or accident could lose them everything and they aren't sure how they will afford to send the kids to college. I think of these people as upper middle class.
posted by Area Man at 2:06 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


My wife and I would love for one of us to be able to stay at home with our kids when we start having them -- at least until they're old enough to start school -- but I really doubt that we'll be able to afford to do so.

As a serious question, how much of what you cannot afford is lifestyle? Would you not be able to meet material needs on one salary at all, or could you perhaps afford it in a less-nice neighborhood?
posted by Tanizaki at 2:07 PM on March 18, 2013


Would you not be able to meet material needs on one salary at all, or could you perhaps afford it in a less-nice neighborhood?

But doesn't that depend on what you value? If you want to be able to afford a safe neighborhood with good schools, that's lifestyle, sure, but it's necessity for YOU and your family.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:10 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


France's 35 hour work week supposedly gained them 350,000 jobs between 1998 and 2002 :   "En cherchant un équilibre entre baisse de la durée du travail, modération salariale, gains de productivité et aide de l’État, le processus de RTT a conduit, selon les estimations, à un rapide enrichissement de la croissance en emplois de près de 350,000 postes sur la période 1998-2002, et ceci, sans déséquilibre financier apparent pour les entreprises." (pdf)

France's unemployment rate declined from 8.6% to 7.5% from 2003 to 2008. I believe U.S. unemployment fell 6.2% to 4.8% during the same period, so somewhat more, but also Bush tweaked the numbers. So presumably the 35 hour work week caused little problem.

At present, the U.S. has an unemployment rate of almost 8% while France's rate is 10.6%. Italy has an 11.1% unemployment rate. Spain has 26% unemployment. So France is doing alright amongst countries with similar state debt issues.

Youth unemployment is really the issue though : France has 26% youth unemployment, while the U.S. has only 16% youth unemployment, but arguably the U.S. problem is worse because unemployed youth cannot afford school. Italy has 36% youth unemployment. Spain has 55% youth unemployment. So France is doing much better here.

I'd expect France's 35 hour work week has played some role in protecting the country, but simply not adopting the numerous right-wing employment reforms that Italy adopted under by Berlusconi might be the larger factor.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:11 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


For Rebecca Woolf, maternal ambition led to the creation of her website, Girl’s Gone Child, in 2005, when she was 23 and had just given birth to her son Archer. She has since had three more children (a girl, Fable, and twins named Reverie and Boheme), and every day she posts staged photos of her kids that make her family life look like one big, wholesome-but-funky romp.
Sounds like a pretty cool lady that I bet is fun to hang out with, whose family branding is unlikely to get old or backfire at all, and will surely withstand the test of time.
posted by Sokka shot first at 2:12 PM on March 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


Sokka shot first makes a good point. The backlash against blog mommies who boast about their at home families is HUGE and enormous.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:14 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


People are mixing up income sheet and balance statement. People who are living on 106K in a place with a high cost of living, where a big chunk of their income goes to pay for housing, should not be included in a group of people with people who are not dependent upon a paycheck to keep a roof over their heads. Do I need to remind you all of this?

I'm tired of this being portrayed as a women's issue. Parenting is not women's issue. It's everyone's issue. As long as we keep framing this as about the "choices" women make, we are not going to make progress. The United States is in a shameful position where one political party trumpets "family values" and the other one trumpets "women's issues!" and yet we have minimal parental leave, a wildly inadequate minimum wage, and seriously inadequate childcare issues.
posted by ambrosia at 2:15 PM on March 18, 2013 [17 favorites]


" The backlash against blog mommies who boast about their at home families is HUGE and enormous."

I've noticed this, and I don't personally believe in blogging about your own kids extensively (personally!) but is the hatred about the blogging part or about the fact that some people are really happy hanging out with their kids? What is the hatred about? I don't read much from either the mommy blogger or the disliking of mommy blogger crowds but I get wafts of both here and there. Is it about the stay at home mom in general or the blogging?
posted by xarnop at 2:19 PM on March 18, 2013


As a serious question, how much of what you cannot afford is lifestyle?

As I mentioned above, I work while my wife stays home. Dental insurance is tough. RRSP contributions are impossible. Paying an $1800-$2500 mortgage is impossible. We have one car (paid for) and no debt, which helps. We travel to Japan once a year. My MIL pays for my wife and kids's tickets. I pay for my ticket. In Japan, I work remotely, and the COL is actually cheaper than living in Canada.

However, no telephone (just 2 cell phones with no data plan). No cable television, just broadband internet.

We rent, so don't have to worry about home repairs, but we also live in kind of a gross neighbourhood, and I would like to move.

I had a government job with extended medical and dental, and a pension plan, plus paid vacations. I got laid off in 2009 after government revenues plummeted following the start of the recession.

I work freelance now and make more (on paper) than I did in government, but no dental coverage. Or pension contributions.

Our kids seem to be happy though.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:21 PM on March 18, 2013


My grandmother and mother pulled this off--back when a factory foreman or a someone with a white collar job obtainable with just a high school education could support a family of multiple children and a stay at home parent (it still didn't pay for college funds, or visits to the doctor unless you were bleeding, broken, or coughing up pieces of lung, which in some cases had long term health consequences). The "barrier to entry" (so to speak) is unbelievably high now. Please let me know how I might snag a man making 6 figures (or the regional equivalent--cost of living is lower in Iowa compared to Brooklyn, but so are wages, and high paying jobs, folks) to support me (who will never become disabled, require a career change, die, or divorce me) so that I too may have the choice to be a housewife who still feels comfortable that my children can go to any doctor or dentist they need to, and a good-enough college, much less music lessons, trips to see out of town family, etc. (And God forbid you have a child with any special needs at all, especially if you can't afford to be near a decent public school system.) Seems more like a privilege for the increasingly few, than a choice, at this point. (Fourth wave feminism?)
posted by availablelight at 2:25 PM on March 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


The average price of a condo in my city (Toronto) is about $350 000 (cbc). Putting an $100 000 income here suggests that that's about as much as a person with a "low six-figure" income can borrow in any practical scenario.
posted by sfred at 2:26 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, you brought up our hypothetical Brooklynites. Where do you want them to live? A rich neighborhood or a poor one?

Well, let's see. Owning a house is generally taken as a fairly low and reasonable middle-class indicator. If you need to make 40X your rent in order to get a place, I'd say it's reasonable to assume someone must make 40X their mortgage + utilities + property taxes + mandatory insurance in order to be fiscally responsible. That's 2650, a house eats up around 400 a month in utilities that a landlord would ordinarily pay for, leaving us with 2250. We're assuming 2 kids - let's suppose a boy and a girl, which means you need 3 bedrooms.

To the Zillow, Batman! Well, looks like there's plenty of houses in Crown Heights, Brownsville, Bed-Stuy, and other high-crime areas where no one in their right mind would voluntarily move with kids. Let's look at the median, some areas not known for being rich. How about Bensonhurst or Dyker Heights? Oh, zero houses or condos in that area for that price range. There's one, count it, one house in Bay Ridge.

So yeah - you can be making that and still in the middle-class. If you are not able to buy a home in a safe - not even nice, but safe - neighborhood, you are absolutely middle class.

It's easy to shame, to say "Well I don't make that, so you are obviously rich as hell." But that is completely unfair to families that do have tough times on those levels.
posted by corb at 2:26 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't read much from either the mommy blogger or the disliking of mommy blogger crowds but I get wafts of both here and there. Is it about the stay at home mom in general or the blogging?

I find the branding of children to get pageviews, ad-buys and free merchandise distasteful. It also tends to ruin blogs- no one can be candid because they've got keep it clean enough to get sponsors, so it's all sunshine-and-roses. Some of the worst offenders give up writing entirely; it's post after post of "here's all the picture I posted on instagram this week!" Yawn city. Makes me yearn for the days before digital cameras when having a blog audience meant you knew how to write. Now it's all cute kids in funny hats.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:28 PM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]




Feminism has fizzled, its promise only half-fulfilled. This is the revelation of the moment, hashed and rehashed on blogs and talk shows, a cause of grief for some, fury for others.

Essentialist drivel trotted out by someone who didn't have the journalistic bones to make a more cogent argument. Stopped RTFA here.
posted by Sophie1 at 2:28 PM on March 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


I would argue that they are not, and neither are you. And that's not an insult.

Ah, I should say that example of dual-income household for Victoria BC that I quoted above is not me, since my wife does not work. We don't make that combined income, but most of my peers do.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:29 PM on March 18, 2013


they don't have the trappings of wealth or the economic security usually associated with the term rich.

Argh, okay, one more post. I think what we see as trappings of wealth should change over time as economic reality changes. It used to be that having one parent stay home was a sign of a family being middle class. If most people in the middle can't afford it anymore, it is now a trapping of wealth. It used to be that middle class families could afford to send their kids to college, now it is only accomplished with an insane amount of debt. If you can afford it without that, it's a trapping of wealth. It used to be a medical emergency would not annihilate the average person financially. The average person has lost out on some things that used to be available to them. Just because your middle class parents did it, doesn't mean it's still middle class today. Our average household is in some ways poorer than it used to be. (and in others more rich, of course)

People who are living on 106K in a place with a high cost of living, where a big chunk of their income goes to pay for housing, should not be included in a group of people with people who are not dependent upon a paycheck to keep a roof over their heads.

Expensive neighborhoods are generally expensive for a reason, they are nice places to live. You get returns for that money like living in a cultural and economic center of the world with all the benefits that brings. Average people can't afford to buy as many of those benefits. There are many significant categorical differences between the 106k in Brooklyn households and the households living on 50k there too, so why feel any more comfortable stuffing them together in one class than the 106k and the 300k? As I said, it's hard to define and arbitrary.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:30 PM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


That women are, broadly speaking

However, I enjoyed this sentence fragment.
posted by srboisvert at 2:31 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


It used to be that having one parent stay home was a sign of a family being middle class. If most people in the middle can't afford it anymore, it is now a trapping of wealth. It used to be that middle class families could afford to send their kids to college, now it is only accomplished with an insane amount of debt. If you can afford it without that, it's a trapping of wealth.

I think that often the difference is what the middle class is, precisely. Is it simply a state between the upper and lower classes? Or is it supposed to symbolize "the average" person/American?

I would argue that it is less that economics have shifted and now these things are trappings of wealth, and more that economics have shifted such that more families are actually low/working-class families. So the majority of families tend to be lower-class or working-class families - thus bringing down the "National Average." But it doesn't bring down what it is to be middle class - which is to be comfortably off, but still depending on salaries to make it, such that you would not be able to do so without said salaries.
posted by corb at 2:34 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can tell where a societies' priorities are in cases like this. Want to make stay at home parents more common? Want people to marry sonner and have kids younger? Support a system that makes that possible to the greatest number of people- mat/pat leave, living wages, daycare,non insane insurance costs and a public education system that doesn't Balkanize neighborhoods.

Why is this kind of thing uncommon? Because people can't afford it. That's pretty much the extent that class comes into the question, but it's a big one.
posted by The Whelk at 2:35 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


We can grasp the social reproductive dimension of the post-1973 crisis in various phenomena in the U.S., but none stands out more sharply than the disappearance of the one-paycheck working-class family, of which millions existed ca. 1960. The recognition that most of those single paychecks in 1960 were earned by “white men” should not divert attention today, when two or more paychecks are required to maintain a working-class household, from a terrible rollback. Without for a moment denying the importance of the “feminization of the work force”, the fact remains that millions of women entered the the U.S. work force after 1960 because they HAD to. Even at the individual level, the average work week has crept up from ca. 39 hours in 1970 to about 43 now. The minimum wage in the U.S. in 1973 was $3.25 per hour; today it is $6.15, and it would have to be raised to $18 to recover the purchasing power of the 1973 level. More broadly, real wages plateaud in 1965-1973 and have stayed flat or fallen (mainly fallen) for at least 80% of the population since...
Social Reproduction for Beginners: Bringing the Real World Back In
posted by Abiezer at 2:42 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am a stay-at-home-mom of twins. My husband and I agreed that it was important for one of us to stay at home with them until they go to school, and the only reason it was me is that his income is twice what mine was. We make financial sacrifices, but I appreciate that it is a luxury to even have had the option. My kids start kindergarten next year and I am already having nightmares about being able to find a job in my field with stagnating skills, over 40, etc. Was it worth it? I think so, and I hope so, even though it has (and continues to) kick my ass in ways my career never did.
posted by candyland at 2:50 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I love menopause. Even the night sweats. Yup.
posted by infini at 2:50 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Argh, okay, one more post. I think what we see as trappings of wealth should change over time as economic reality changes.

The problem with this view is that the real rich people are still out there. Our thinking about class in the U.S. will become even more confused if we can't tell the difference between people "wealthy" enough to live like blue collar workers from the 1960s and the folks at the country club.
posted by Area Man at 2:51 PM on March 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


I can't speak to how it is in other fields, and it's a tiny violin, I know, but in the big-firm legal world, if you walk away from your lawyer-job to raise a family for even a year or two, it is really, really, really hard to get hired again by a big law firm. Like. Ever.

Even if you're willing to come back at your old seniority or lower, because if you really wanted/deserved/whatever to work at a big firm, you would have leaned in. Or something.


I think this also points to a not-so-great trend, this idea that in order to really be great at your job, you need to never have any other demand on your time and energy. It's true that some people are going to put more value on their capital-C Career and want to commit more of their personal/emotional resources to it than others, and I think that's commendable and that it's natural to reward that with greater responsibility and compensation. But this idea that one is lazy or uncommitted because of taking leave or wanting more flexible hours or telecommuting, whether it's because you have young kids or because you're caring for an ill relative, or even just to work through temporary physical or mental issues of your own...I mean, those are things that come up in the lives of the most talented or hard-working people, and it seems wrong--both in the moral sense and in the "man that seems like it'll come back to bite you, too" sense--to demand that they sacrifice those responsibilities.
posted by kagredon at 2:58 PM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Fuck being a housewife. I would like to be idle. I want to live in a socialist utopia where robots do all the cooking, cleaning, and food-raising, leaving me and everyone else more time to travel, make art, and do whatever the fuck we want.

Housework is drudgery, full stop. There is pride to be had in doing it well, but that's a pleasure I would gladly give up in exchange for never having to do it ever again.

Just because Marie Antoinette played at being a shepherdess doesn't mean sheep herding was an awesome job.
posted by emjaybee at 3:00 PM on March 18, 2013 [39 favorites]


We live in an area where one parent can provide for everyone with a normal job, and that's what we do. I definitely see us as richer than people with double incomes, and certainly happier those who live in expensive areas of the world.
posted by michaelh at 3:02 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would argue that they are not, and neither are you. And that's not an insult.

Maybe not from you, but it's fairly clear that for others the labels "rich" or "upper middle class" are intended to be an insult. Hence the reference to "class shaming." But it's never a surprise when people draw conclusions about others by fitting them into certain boxes.
posted by pardonyou? at 3:03 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've always internalized Middle Class as being a very broad classification where the qualifiers
were roughly some mix of homeownership, health insurance, educational opportunities, and community supported through salaried positions and small businesses that were reasonably stable.
Within the Middle Class, further distinctions between Lower, Middle, and Upper Middle Class defined some mix of luxury, lifestyle, and opportunity.

Upper Class has always been defined in my mind by possessing investments and wealth that support a very comfortable lifestyle without the necessity of labor.
posted by bastionofsanity at 3:03 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


emjaybee: "that's a pleasure I would gladly give up in exchange for never having to do it ever again."

If only you had a job, you could pay for a housekeeper.
posted by boo_radley at 3:06 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want to live in a socialist utopia where robots do all the cooking, cleaning, and food-raising....

It might work if robots took the jobs of executives, leaving workers with employment that shared the wealth.
posted by Brian B. at 3:06 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Imho, children should be raised by their grandparents, as already happens in poor ffamilies

My mother comes from an abusive family so thank god she disagrees with you. Because I didn't come from an abusive family as a consequence and that meant I got to make all kinds of life choices she didn't. I'm very lucky in that I have the life I specifically chose for myself (PhD, no kids, somewhat risky career) and I'm not at all conflicted about it. I have my parents to thank for that and fuck my grandparents for the damage they've done.
posted by shelleycat at 3:10 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Drinky Die, you make a good point, but I bet parents who make $106,000 who live in Park Slope don't think of their safe neighborhood as an unnecessary expense.

That doesn't make their perception not warped. I mean, surely there are plenty of less expensive safe neighbourhoods in Brooklyn they could choose to live in. If this were Chicago we were talking about, I would assume racism is a driving factor of their perception of safety. I'm guessing that's not so much the case in New York, but I doubt a conclusion that Park Slope is the only safe neighbourhood is not a rational one.
posted by hoyland at 3:14 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I doubt a conclusion that Park Slope is the only safe neighbourhood is not a rational one.

Maybe - but can you think of a safe neighborhood in Brooklyn where a family making 106,000 could afford to buy a house with room for their kids?
posted by corb at 3:18 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


After reading bastionofsanity's post about New York I was interested in the income breakdown in Toronto. Page 5 here (pdf) provides an income breakdown for downtown Toronto neighbourhoods. Also, have a look at the table on p. 6 that provides a list of occupational statuses. I don't think stay-at-home Moms or Dads are being caught here. As you can see here, an individual of $100 000 or more is pretty rare in Ontario, but probably more common in Toronto, and certainly more common in some of the neighbourhoods being captured in the City of Toronto report I linked before. From StatsCan you can select Toronto (unfortunately it looks like I can't link searches through the data) and it looks like incomes over $50 000 represent roughly the top quartile of the population and over $100 000 about 7% of the population (with income, these figures leave out those with no reportable income).

So, in Toronto having a family income of $100 000 isn't that unusual. Having an individual income of $100 000 certainly puts you into a position of privilege. From my earlier post, it seems reasonable to think that you probably would want a family income of $100 000 to bring up kids in relatively desirable downtown neighbourhoods. This suggests that only a very small percentage of Toronto parents can choose to have one partner stay home unless they are willing to make significant financial compromises to do so.
posted by sfred at 3:19 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Imho, children should be raised by their grandparents, as already happens in poor ffamilies

Dunno, my grandma is 87 and still goes to work (though I'm not sure how much she really gets done) because it's something that makes her happy. The idea that she should have given it up 28 years ago to raise me doesn't seem all that much fairer than expecting my mom to stay home and do it.
posted by naoko at 3:37 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think this part is the part that makes me really sympathize with her. Why is her choice to raise kids a "waste"?

Because she could have done it on a high school degree, but instead she got a pricey education and took a few years at a job that could have been filled by someone who was serious about it.

Why should she be obligated to work for other people when she can be happier at home?

No one said she was obligated, just that it's a waste for her not to.

Why can't she make her own life choices about being around her kids without trying to shame her for them?

Because she's bragging about how wonderful her choices are in a national audience news magazine.

Anything else?
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:40 PM on March 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm really tired of the argument that people who choose to live in expensive cities and consequently live a middle-class lifestyle even though they're earning upper-class money (because they can't afford an upper-class lifestyle in the expensive city) aren't upper class.

Of course they're upper class. They're just upper-class and spending their money on location rather than other things. You live in Brooklyn? Congrats, you and your family have access to New York City, which has Practically All Of The Best Stuff. You could have chosen to live in Des Moines or something, and it would've sucked, but you sure would've saved a lot of money. But you didn't! You chose New York! Good for you.
posted by mightygodking at 3:46 PM on March 18, 2013 [28 favorites]


Because she could have done it on a high school degree, but instead she got a pricey education and took a few years at a job that could have been filled by someone who was serious about it.

I'm glad my homemaker mom was a prize winning graduate in Hindi Literature with a minor in child psychology. Her education made a huge difference to the way we all sat down to do homework together until my science and math was beyond her. There's research out there on maternal educational levels and their children's development. Singapore offers tax breaks to graduate moms to encourage them to have more kids.

Oh wait, this thread's about America.
posted by infini at 3:48 PM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think this part is the part that makes me really sympathize with her. Why is her choice to raise kids a "waste"?

Because she could have done it on a high school degree, but instead she got a pricey education and took a few years at a job that could have been filled by someone who was serious about it.

Why should she be obligated to work for other people when she can be happier at home?

No one said she was obligated, just that it's a waste for her not to.


So, would it be acceptable if she'd stayed on her job after having her kids, but cut back her hours some? What about if she found that her job, while undeniably important, was making her deeply unhappy and wound up leaving not by having kids, but by switching to a lower stress field (as people in social service jobs often do?) Would it be "better" if she'd always intended to be a SAHM, and then a few years in felt restless and wanted to pursue a career, or does she now have to stay at home because fuck her, she made a choice once and she is bound by it now and forever?

Really, how perfectly optimized does a woman's life trajectory have to be before she's allowed to follow it without judgement?
posted by kagredon at 3:52 PM on March 18, 2013 [16 favorites]


which has Practically All Of The Best Stuff

Including the jobs that pay enough to live in Park Slope.

Put another way, you can probably get a somewhat similar job in Des Moines, for less money. But it also costs less money to live there. At the end of the day, the couple in Des Moines may have more disposable income, a larger living space, and more money to travel. But they have less access to culture, "All Of The Best Stuff" etc. Who is richer?

I agree with bastionofsanity, you're not truly "Upper Class" if you still have to show up to a job every day. Wealthy lawyers who work 70 hour weeks may make obscene amounts of money but at the end of the day, they're tired.
posted by cell divide at 3:54 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was raised by a stay-at-home mom, and it has left me pretty conflicted in how I stand about the issue. I think, in our current economic conditions, there are few occasions when it is actually a "choice", rather than something forced by necessity. My mother "chose" to be a stay-at-home mom, but really she just made a lot less money than my dad, so it made sense. I feel like a lot of stay-at-home moms have to retroactively justify these arrangements, just as most people have to retroactively justify their life decisions based on limited options.

Staying at home only made my mother very bitter and unhappy, and it has pained me deeply to see her struggling with little success to get back into the workforce after I left for college. I can see the way she is trying to live vicariously through me, her constant iterations that I should pursue my education, I should travel, get the most out of life, and her constant warnings that I should never, ever have children (I don't want children, so I suppose that works out). It makes me feel so guilty because I feel like her sacrifice was so needless, so unnecessary. When I was a kid I was always jealous of the other kids who had two working parents, always resentful of the fact that my mother was perpetually lurking around the house. I honestly think that she would have been able to raise me just as competently had she been a working parent.

On the other hand, labor in the US has become so alienating and inhumane that of course many would rather stay home than work some horrible shift at Walmart. I think if we want to create the choice, a real choice, for women (or men) to stay at home, rather than it being a "choice", then we need to completely re-configure what it means to work - the very idea of stay-at-home parent only makes sense because "work life" and "home life" are so starkly divided in the first place.
posted by adso at 3:55 PM on March 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


I always thought of the "middle class" as the class between the proletariat and the wealthy - and that the definition of wealthy was "someone who could live off what they owned, rather than from their labor." Shopkeepers, farmers, professionals made up the middle class. I think the term "bourgeoisie" is still used that way, and the family living on $106,000 in Park Slope pretty much defines "bourgeois."

Somehow, in the US at least, the term came to mean "in the middle of the income distribution." I think this change in definition played in to the mythos that the US didn't need class conflict because the working class could live the life of the bourgeoisie - an idea which is no longer so popular.
posted by mr vino at 3:56 PM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


> Because she could have done it on a high school degree, but instead she got a pricey education and took a few years at a job that could have been filled by someone who was serious about it

Really? You think I -- and yes, I'm taking your comment personally -- wasted my time by going to college and graduate school, and working in an office after graduate school, because I'm not currently working for pay?

You're implying the only purpose of education is constant paid employment.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:00 PM on March 18, 2013 [19 favorites]


Paul Fussell's Class is still the best read on the whole topic of class in America.

Anyway, Fussell defines nine levels of American society (and, by the way, these are his descriptions and not mine - it won't do to get upset with me!):

Top Out of Sight - Billionaires and multi-millionaires. The people so wealthy they can afford exclusive levels of privacy. We never hear about them because they don't want us to.

Upper Class - Millionaires, inherited wealth. Those who don't have to work. They refer to tuxes as "dinner jackets."

Upper Middle - Wealthy surgeons and lawyers, etc. Professionals who couldn't be described as middle class.

Middle Class - The great American majority, sort of.

High Proletarian (or "prole") - Skilled workers but manual labor. Electricians, plumbers, etc. Probably not familiar with the term "proletarian."

Middle Prole - Unskilled manual labor. Waitresses, painters.

Low Prole - Non-skilled of a lower level than mid prole. I suspect these people ask "Would you like fries with that, sir?" as a career.

Destitute - Working and non-working poor.

Bottom Out of Sight - Street people, the most destitute in society. "Out of sight" because they have no voice, influence or voter impact. (They don't vote.)

Fussell is quick to point out that class in America is not decided exclusively upon finances; it is also a matter of taste, what one does with one's recreational time, what one reads, what colleges (if any) one has attended and how well one speaks.

He describes the anxiety associated with maintaining or bettering one's position in society, and identifies the phenomenon of some members of the upper class descending in class ranks - apparently for kicks.

posted by infini at 4:02 PM on March 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


[Folks maybe let's not do the ironic "I am going to say fuck you to you in the voice of some asshole, who is clearly not me" thing here? Be decent to each other.]
posted by jessamyn at 4:06 PM on March 18, 2013


Why should any company hire anyone currently unemployed or over thirty, purpleclover? Ain't so hard finding energetic young cheap labor, usually you need not even hire lobbyists.

I think about this problem quite a lot, and I actually don't have a good answer. Hell, if I were starting a company now, all my employees would be doing "internships." For academic credit.


If all you need is a warm body? Sure. If experience and motivation matter? Not so much.

I wouldn't want to swap out my doctor for random, unpaid interns. I don't want to fly in an aircraft designed and built by unpaid interns. I don't want to use an operating system designed and developed by interns.
posted by Foosnark at 4:12 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The discussion on what constitutes Middle Class in America is of great interest to me, but let's talk about "Retro" for a minute as in Retro-Housewife. It's like the 80's never happened. You remember the 80's right? When we were all trying to out-Martha Stewart each other? When we were baking our own bread and organizing our ribbon collection and making our own Christmas decorations and designing our own jewelry and growing our own herbs and learning calligraphy and making our own wrapping paper and rag-rolling our walls and designing our kids Easter Baskets and making our own mosaic stepping stones? I didn't just imagine that time, did I?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:16 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Maybe - but can you think of a safe neighborhood in Brooklyn where a family making 106,000 could afford to buy a house with room for their kids?

Brighton Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst/Bath Beach, Gravesend, Kensington, certain parts of Flatbush, certain parts of that Greenwood/Sunset Park/Windsor Terrace amalgam that everyone markets under a different name.
posted by griphus at 4:18 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


You cannot BUY for that price in any of those neighborhoods. You could rent.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:21 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Are we talking detached private house and buying outright? Or co-ops/condos and a mortgage?
posted by griphus at 4:22 PM on March 18, 2013


Really? You think I -- and yes, I'm taking your comment personally -- wasted my time by going to college and graduate school, and working in an office after graduate school, because I'm not currently working for pay?

Maybe! Or maybe you got a lot of personal fulfillment out of it, which is great, but not necessarily something I personally find worth the resources that we (yes, we as a society) pour into the educational system. Sorry.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:23 PM on March 18, 2013


I'm really tired of the argument that people who choose to live in expensive cities and consequently live a middle-class lifestyle even though they're earning upper-class money (because they can't afford an upper-class lifestyle in the expensive city) aren't upper class.

Well, to be fair, $106k doesn't seem like all that much money after you've spent it all on choices you've made.

Oh, um, wait.
posted by mhoye at 4:23 PM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


My grandmother and mother pulled this off--back when a factory foreman or a someone with a white collar job obtainable with just a high school education could support a family of multiple children and a stay at home parent (it still didn't pay for college funds, or visits to the doctor unless you were bleeding, broken, or coughing up pieces of lung, which in some cases had long term health consequences). The "barrier to entry" (so to speak) is unbelievably high now.

And yet taxes are at an all-time low.

Go figure.
posted by mhoye at 4:25 PM on March 18, 2013


You cannot BUY for that price in any of those neighborhoods. You could rent.

Move to upstate New York and commute into the city. It worked for Don Draper. We have plenty of beautiful old houses waiting to be snatched up.

I probably wasted everyone's resources on grad school. Mostly my own. Sorry, I was 22 and didn't know any better!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:31 PM on March 18, 2013


Because she could have done it on a high school degree, but instead she got a pricey education and took a few years at a job that could have been filled by someone who was serious about it.

Congratulations, you have just justified sexists everywhere who don't want to pay women who eventually want to have babies "real" wages. Because, you know, they're not serious about their job, will eventually leave for childrearing, and god knows the only reason for having a job is total devotion to the company. Wait, what?

I mean, are you seriously arguing that people who choose to stay at home to rear their children should stay uneducated or be shamed for ever wanting more?

Move to upstate New York and commute into the city. It worked for Don Draper. We have plenty of beautiful old houses waiting to be snatched up.

I suspect most people would view a three hour (or worse) commute as unsustainable, and rightly so.
posted by corb at 4:33 PM on March 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


> Or maybe you got a lot of personal fulfillment out of it, which is great, but not necessarily something I personally find worth the resources that we (yes, we as a society) pour into the educational system

Or maybe not only did I get personal fulfillment, but I'm also a productive member of society despite not currently being paid for the work I do.

But let's get this straight. In order for me not to have wasted society's resources, I should have gone to high school (taking home ec, I guess, not college prep), graduated, had my kids immediately, and raised them on the income brought in my my partner who somehow is making enough money to support us despite being a teenager too?

But by having a career for a few years before becoming a full-time mom, I took a job away from someone who deserved it. Someone who -- let's face it -- probably would be a man.

Oh my god, what year is this?
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:34 PM on March 18, 2013 [18 favorites]


Seems easy enough to see lower, lower-middle, middle, upper-middle and upper class as referring to quintiles, in which case it is very straightforward who is what. You are in the lower class until $18.5k per year, lower-middle is 18.5 to 34K, middle class is 34k to 55k, upper middle class is 55k to 88k, and yes, you're upper class if you break $88,000 per year within a household.

Regardless of how much better you can imagine things might be or how much richer your friends are, you are officially in the top class of american earners if the population is divided equally into five sections.
posted by mdn at 4:35 PM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Even the people at Davos get fussy when they arrive in limos and others arrive in helicopters.

I mean Solidarity is an important idea and far beyond this puff peice, but the alienation of the upper classes from the rest of America ( so they don't consider themselves upper, or privileged) is a part of that.

I'd like everyone to be able to make the choices they want to make and have the freedom to do so.
posted by The Whelk at 4:41 PM on March 18, 2013


Stagnating wages plus spiraling, out-of-control medical bills and college tuition rates plus increasingly poor performance by major appliances (which have to be replaced every 10 years instead of 20) and small electronics (such as toasters and hair dryers and coffee makers which have to be replaced every year instead of every 5 years) plus more expensive maintenance on newer model cars plus new homes being built larger but more shoddily which means more repairs and higher heating/cooling bills. And that's just off the top of my head. You notice I don't even mention cell phones and computers and MP3 players and eBooks.

I was raised middle class by middle class parents and have lived the middle class lifestyle all these years. In the past 10 years or so I've been watching it evaporate. Case in point: my husband and I are coming to realize that owning a pet (or 3) has become a luxury we might need to forgo. The vet bills have skyrocketed just like human medical bills and between that and the monthly flea and tick control and the "good" food-- we can no longer just adopt cats and dogs without thinking.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:44 PM on March 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


And yes, demographics and article appeal, New York magazine is the NYC area upper middle class and asperational readers talking to itself and so this is conversation it wants to have, because it gets the target demographic they want talking and clicking.
posted by The Whelk at 4:45 PM on March 18, 2013


I suspect most people would view a three hour (or worse) commute as unsustainable, and rightly so.

Your conception of upstate is way off. It's an hour forty to grand central from Poughkeepsie, last stop on the Hudson line, and there are many lovely and affordable communities on the line or right next to it. You can get houses like this in Ossining, which is where the fictional Drapers lived, an hour outside of the city.

I understand that many city dwellers find the idea of living upstate unsustainable, but financially it's a really sensible choice for people living on one income.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:54 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or maybe not only did I get personal fulfillment, but I'm also a productive member of society despite not currently being paid for the work I do.

And you would have been just as productive without the degree. Unless you're stating that childcare for one's own children requires a graduate degree? I have cared for children for most of my adult life (including substantial time caring for my own child as a SAHM), it doesn't require that level of education.

And no, I'm not saying a man should have taken your job. What I am saying is that you're contributing less to society than you could be. I feel that you have an obligation to more than yourself and your family, as a member of and a product of a society that helped you get that education.

I know that feminism is supposed to be CHOICE, CHOICE, CHOICE, LIVE YOUR DREAMS but I wouldn't tell a man going into investment banking that any choice is the best choice as long as he's choosing it for himself, and I won't say that to a woman either. Again, sorry. I really don't like making this personal and had no intention to, but nor am I going to tell you that everything you do is amazing and perfect because you're a woman.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:57 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


And that is why we see so many articles in which stay at home moms defensively justify their choices. They are attacked and belittled, frequently by other women.
posted by Area Man at 5:05 PM on March 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


I made the damn bingo cards. Favorite and pull 'em out for next week's installment of "Let's Judge How Other Mothers Live!"
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:05 PM on March 18, 2013 [33 favorites]


And no, I'm not saying a man should have taken your job. What I am saying is that you're contributing less to society than you could be. I feel that you have an obligation to more than yourself and your family, as a member of and a product of a society that helped you get that education.

Wait. Are you saying that caring for and raising children isn't valuable for society?

Come on - I know you, and I'm pretty sure you don't really think that, but can't you see how it sounds like you are?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:09 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


After reading bastionofsanity's post about New York I was interested in the income breakdown in Toronto. Page 5 here (pdf) provides an income breakdown for downtown Toronto neighbourhoods. Also, have a look at the table on p. 6 that provides a list of occupational statuses. I don't think stay-at-home Moms or Dads are being caught here. As you can see here, an individual of $100 000 or more is pretty rare in Ontario, but probably more common in Toronto, and certainly more common in some of the neighbourhoods being captured in the City of Toronto report I linked before. From StatsCan you can select Toronto (unfortunately it looks like I can't link searches through the data) and it looks like incomes over $50 000 represent roughly the top quartile of the population and over $100 000 about 7% of the population (with income, these figures leave out those with no reportable income).

I did a similar thing when I was insurance analyst. Basically, I learned that people made horrifically unreasonable decisions about car purchases based on their income. The majority of those people driving the fancy cars are mostly on their way to bankruptcy or a lifetime of struggling with debt. Those are the Joneses that people are trying to keep up with.
posted by srboisvert at 5:10 PM on March 18, 2013


> you would have been just as productive without the degree

No. That's just not true. I can use my skills in all kinds of settings, not just when someone is paying me.

Oh, fuck it. I give up.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:10 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was raised by a mom who did not have a paid job for most of my childhood.

I would venture that she contributed a lot more to my community than many of my friends' moms with paid jobs. She sat on multiple local boards, including the school board, ran local organizations as a volunteer, registered people to vote, and put a huge amount of time and energy into our community. To say that because she wasn't getting paid that it wasn't contributing is really missing the point. I think she did put that fancy Ivy League education of hers to good use, and I think that you're falling into the laziest of stereotypes when you say that people who aren't working paid cash jobs are contributing less than they could be.
posted by gingerbeer at 5:11 PM on March 18, 2013 [18 favorites]


Your conception of upstate is way off. It's an hour forty to grand central from Poughkeepsie, last stop on the Hudson line, and there are many lovely and affordable communities on the line or right next to it.

Yes, by train - but how expensive is that train? A look at the MTA page reveals it would cost 486$ a month, which kind of cancels out the benefit of the cheaper housebuying.
posted by corb at 5:21 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sure there are plenty of guys who wouldn't mind sitting at home playing video games with their kids while their wives are off making six figure incomes. There are obviously lots of really rich people who just live off their trust funds and do nothing.

It's not a universal human desire to work all day at a boring job. Most people do it because A) they don't have a choice or B) They value money and status more then leisure.
I say there is a role for that because literally if you want to tell me my son's father has the right to take half of my custody when I have a newborn nursing infant that I just birthed myself I'm going to fight you because I think you're a jerk.
This might surprise you, but the father might feel the same way. In fact, often times both parents feel strongly attached to their kids!
Imho, children should be raised by their grandparents, as already happens in poor families. If we do not choose this, the economics of scale dictate that eventually humanity shall turn to the state and corporations to raise them. A maternal instinct makes a lovely video game, but it's not a terribly efficient way to spend your twenties and thirties.
Or, you could have your children in your teen years, so that by the time you're in your thirties your kids are already in your teens and out of your hair.
Yes, children USED to often be raised by grandparents, but the modern economy has the working poor and working class working well past the time their grandchildren are young.
Well, if the economy stays bad I think what you'll see is larger households comprised of extended families that can't afford to live on their own. I think that's probably good for the kids, though as they have more adults around them to provide attention and care. It's not just mom, dad, and grandparents but also all your unemployed aunts and uncles.
France has an unemployment rate above 10 percent, which suggests limiting the work week is note quite the panacea you make it out to be.
The UK has an unemployment rate of 7.8%. Italy has an unemployment rate of 11.1%. Ireland has an unemployment rate 14.6% Portugal has an unemployment rate of 16.3% Spain has an unemployment rate of 26.6%.
Given the state of most of it's neighbors, France is actually doing pretty well - and it could well be the result of limiting the work week.
Most people I know making in the low 100s live in 3-4 bedroom houses and have 1-2 cars. Their kids go to public school. While they are much more privileged than those with less income
So? There are people who make millions of dollars a year who live in regular houses and drive regular cars.
Well, let's see. Owning a house is generally taken as a fairly low and reasonable middle-class indicator. If you need to make 40X your rent in order to get a place, I'd say it's reasonable to assume someone must make 40X their mortgage + utilities + property taxes + mandatory insurance in order to be fiscally responsible.
That's insane. If you make a million dollars a year, and you spend $750k/year on a mortgage, you're not being fiscally irresponsible.
To the Zillow, Batman! Well, looks like there's plenty of houses in Crown Heights, Brownsville, Bed-Stuy, and other high-crime areas where no one in their right mind would voluntarily move with kids. Let's look at the median, some areas not known for being rich. How about Bensonhurst or Dyker Heights? Oh, zero houses or condos in that area for that price range. There's one, count it, one house in Bay Ridge.
B) You're comparing the cost of rent and/or in NYC to owning a house in the suburbs somewhere? Just because you need to own a house in Alexandria, Virginia to be middle class doesn't mean you need to own a condo.
So yeah - you can be making that and still in the middle-class. If you are not able to buy a home in a safe - not even nice, but safe - neighborhood, you are absolutely middle class.
Again, New York is not like other places. There is nothing un-middle-class about renting in NYC.
It's easy to shame, to say "Well I don't make that, so you are obviously rich as hell." But that is completely unfair to families that do have tough times on those levels.
If "tough times" is defined as unable to afford property in NYC then I don't think you're going to find a lot of sympathy. Apparently 69% of the population rent Does that mean NYC is 69% less-then-middle-class?
___
That said, I think there is some confusion about what "middle class" should mean. I don't think it's that strange to put people making $100k a year in the "middle class" bracket.

If you look at median household income in 1970, it was about $8,500 a year - that's about $49,000 a year in today's dollars. But the median individual income was $6,670 (for a man).

That means that if median income in the US had kept pace with inflation a median, two income family today would be bringing home about $77,802

Clearly the people in the story have comfortable lives. But "Middle Class" is supposed to mean comfortable and relatively free from financial struggles. That's what it always meant in the past.

The thing is, now so many people who would be middle class are struggling, because wages have stagnated for decades in real terms, middle class seems to be getting re-defined into what used to be called "working class", because people who went to college don't want to think of themselves as being on-par with factory workers.

Really, how perfectly optimized does a woman's life trajectory have to be before she's allowed to follow it without judgement?
Maybe skip the part where she brags about how much better her life is then other women's in NYMag?

Put another way, you can probably get a somewhat similar job in Des Moines, for less money.
There are plenty of people making "low six figures" in Des Moines. The median household income
I agree with bastionofsanity, you're not truly "Upper Class" if you still have to show up to a job every day. Wealthy lawyers who work 70 hour weeks may make obscene amounts of money but at the end of the day, they're tired.
If someone plays WoW for 70 hours a week they'll probably be tired too. Rich lawyers don't work 70 hours a week because they have too, they do it because it's what they enjoy spending their time doing.
Yes, by train - but how expensive is that train? A look at the MTA page reveals it would cost 486$ a month, which kind of cancels out the benefit of the cheaper housebuying.
Get a Tesla and charge at a supercharger station and it's free. Except for the $100k you paid for the car, but whatever.
posted by delmoi at 5:32 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


> And no, I'm not saying a man should have taken your job. What I am saying is that you're contributing less to society than you could be. I feel that you have an obligation to more than yourself and your family, as a member of and a product of a society that helped you get that education.

You think that "we" as a society have paid more for corpse's education than she did? You think that superficial details like the combination of "highest degree earned" and "works outside home, yes or no" are enough to make you or anyone a valid judge of her contributions to society?

Is this how we want the world to work? Lives are measured by "what the fuck have you done to contribute to society to justify wasting everyone's time, food, energy, space by your existence?" Objective deliverables only, people. Answers will be judged by a jury of people who don't give a damn.
posted by desuetude at 5:37 PM on March 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


Yes, by train - but how expensive is that train? A look at the MTA page reveals it would cost 486$ a month, which kind of cancels out the benefit of the cheaper housebuying.

Not . . . when buying houses in Park Slope means throwing down what looks like minimally 4x the cost--and usually much more? I can't even find a real house listing for under $150,000 in Park Slope, and there's tons in that price range up here.

I understand that commuting is a pain in the ass and takes up time and money, and that suburban areas don't offer the same cultural benefits. But being in a position to choose those things is still a position of privilege, particularly given the cost of real estate in NYC.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:40 PM on March 18, 2013


I fear that the discussions of comparative housing costs in various parts of the country is getting us somewhat far afield from the main thrust of the conversation - to wit, that there is some debate about whether a person who consciously chooses to stay at home with their kids is or is not "wasting" her life or betraying feminism or whatever.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:44 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I mean, I know that there are people who don't have a choice and that indeed does affect the question, but that's precisely why the internal squabbles about "you're wasting your education" and "why not just move to the suburbs" are tangential to the "can we make a society in which everyone really and truly can do what they choose to do, and where class and sex and race aren't restricting factors".

I mean, I'm wasting the education I have too, but that's not because of raising kids, it's because this society pays people in the arts diddley-shit and I need to make more than the average unemployment insurance check per week in order to make ends meet, so I have a day job.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:47 PM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


She sat on multiple local boards, including the school board, ran local organizations as a volunteer, registered people to vote, and put a huge amount of time and energy into our community...I think that you're falling into the laziest of stereotypes when you say that people who aren't working paid cash jobs are contributing less than they could be.

I'm hesitant to wade into this because I think we've all been around this block many times before. But I wanted to respond to this. First, it's true. Generations of women who were "overeducated and underemployed," as a rather sharp saying goes, did indeed do all this work. They managed nonprofits, gave volunteer time, served in offices and on boards - out the wazoo.

One of the problems with that, though, is that now many of the fields and organizations in which they worked are experiencing a financial and long-term sustainability crash because they were built on a model of unpaid labor which is drying up and disappearing, and because new, business-model-driven demands for efficacy, accountability, and consistency have created a demand for professionalization in many of these roles. Or the work just doesn't get done. There's been such a chronic undervaluing of women's work that only now that it is no longer available in such abundance are the nonprofits and charitable organizations that relied on it finally reckoning with the true cost of the services they provide. And it's breaking the bank. We can't fundraise that much.

Women, frankly, built most of America's nonprofit and community organizations through their donations of time and talent. THey didn't get the recognition, but they underwrote - with an amount of time away from the family often more than equivalent to a paying job - the costs of operating those organizations. Now, we're finding the models on which these organizations run simply don't work, and can't any more. We really have only the tiniest educated leisure class of women who can choose to volunteer to get out of the house and use their talents. We can't replace their time, energy and talent - and even if we could, it would no longer be skilled enough or available enough for the demands of our professionalized organizations. This is one of the main reasons the nonprofit wage structure has been driven down - it's a pink ghetto, making up for the fact that volunteers once did our jobs.

Our society got addicted to unpaid and under-rewarded professional women's labor, and it's proving harder to get off than heroin.
posted by Miko at 5:54 PM on March 18, 2013 [51 favorites]


I understand that it seems tangential, EC, but the reason I brought it up was essentially because of the Mad Men connotations. The suburbs exist in part because they're where baby boomers moved after the wars, because they were affordable, safe places to raise children. And they remain largely so. If you're going to buy in to the "retro" model of housewifery, it seems odd to me to reject other aspects like the very notion of moving out of the city when you have kids (there's a reason it's a cliche). Now, there might be good reasons for rejecting that that (among them, that division of household labor is more equitable and dad wants to spend more time with kids instead of commuting), but universal healthcare and flextime and shorter work weeks, which would help here, too, don't really make it any less true that it's easier for a family to live on a low six figure salary upstate (or, say, in Iowa) than it is in Brooklyn.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:58 PM on March 18, 2013


"And no, I'm not saying a man should have taken your job. What I am saying is that you're contributing less to society than you could be. I feel that you have an obligation to more than yourself and your family, as a member of and a product of a society that helped you get that education."

I was so not getting into this thread but WHAT IS THIS I DON'T EVEN. Are you remotely aware that American schools are still operating on the assumption of a critical mass of stay-at-home parents (mostly mothers) who serve as room mothers, field trip chaperones, math tutors, reading buddies, visiting art docents, fundraiser staffers, and all kinds of other tasks that occur during the regular school day when most adults are at work? That school budgets still act like the unpaid, volunteer labor of at-home mothers is going to make up the gap between what we budget for educational labor and what level of labor is actually necessary? Working parents do a lot, too, but schools depend on stay-at-home and out-of-work parents (and retired grandparents) to pick up the manpower slack that budget constraints make unavoidable. Stay-at-home parents, as a group, are contributing a hugely disproportionate share to the education of other people's children, if education is your concern. Stay-at-home parents are also overrepresented in children's extracurriculars, neighborhood associations, and most volunteer activities that have a high hour commitment like community gardens. They add value to the community and fill community needs that are otherwise ignored in the current economy.

I do take what you're saying personally because I looked at my stay-at-home mother status and the skills that would be getting limited use during my children's early years, and decided to devote 20-30 hours a week of unpaid, highly-skilled labor to serving on my district's school board, in addition to other time and effort I devote to my community (fundraising for a children's museum, serving on the agricultural extension board, working with early readers, being a project adviser for some Girl Scouts, serving several other community organizations). You say "waste of education and skills that society paid for." I say "ensuring YOUR child can get an appropriate education because someone has to put in this half-time, unpaid, highly-skilled labor." In what way, exactly, am I failing to adequately serve society?

And, on preview, like everything Miko just said.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:59 PM on March 18, 2013 [30 favorites]


Our society got addicted to unpaid and under-rewarded professional women's labor, and it's proving harder to get off than heroin.

So it's trying to quit...heroine(s)?

I'll show myself out
posted by kagredon at 6:01 PM on March 18, 2013 [14 favorites]


If you're going to buy in to the "retro" model of housewifery, it seems odd to me to reject other aspects like the very notion of moving out of the city when you have kids (there's a reason it's a cliche).

Oh, I get where you're coming from, gotcha. I think, though, that that point runs the risk of getting a bit caught up in the whole "but if you just lived your life according to this panacea that I'm prescribing for you it'd all be keen" habit that some people can develop in these conversations.

And, it actually does also beg the good question of "well, why should someone have to choose between living in an urban setting and living in an affordable location? Why can't they have both? Why can't we work towards everyone being able to have both? (frankly, even if I did have kids, I wouldn't want to move to the suburbs no matter what my economic status. I grew up in rural suburbia and fled to New York as soon as I could, and I'd rather spit tacks than move back.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:04 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


schools depend on stay-at-home and out-of-work parents (and retired grandparents) to pick up the manpower slack that budget constraints make unavoidable

And this is really unsustainable, and creates a situation of severe inequality, because for every district that can still (barely) function this way, you have many economically pressured districts that simply do not have these free labor resources from parents and grandparents to draw on. That resource gap is a key issue in school performance and one rarely addressed in our discussions of educational inequality while we harangue teachers about merit pay and debate vouchers.

We aren't paying for the true cost of education, and wherever school structures depend on volunteer time, that school is taking advantage of a concrete resource, a form of wealth, not all schools can access. But it's the other way around - we don't let people volunteer because of "budget constraints." The budgets are there because we've become dependent, for generations, on free women's labor. It's like a Southern plantation owner in 1866 talking about the "budget constraints" that prevent him from paying the going wage for cotton picking. We got a bargain for a long time - we're still trying to get a bargain - the bargain's disappearing - and women pick up the pieces on both sides of that equation.

That's before we even get into the unequal impacts of "education foundations," also primarily SAH-female-run.
posted by Miko at 6:10 PM on March 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


"because for every district that can still (barely) function this way, you have many economically pressured districts that simply do not have these free labor resources from parents and grandparents to draw on. "

FYI, I'm in a high-poverty large urban district where around 77% of the student body is below the poverty line; in some individual schools, it's 99%. We STILL depend on unpaid parental and grandparental labor. There just isn't anything else, and we don't have the money to work around the labor gap. Wealthy districts with a high proportion of one-income, two-parent families can afford to hire more staff anyway. Poor districts like mine get volunteers or we get nothing. Stay-at-home and unemployed parents are a critical lifeline.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:21 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Chill out folks and don't make this personal.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:33 PM on March 18, 2013


We STILL depend on unpaid parental and grandparental labor.

But you probably get many fewer volunteers than you might in a wealthier district, and fewer certainly than you'd need to provide full coverage and support and do a thorough job, because presumably more people have to work during the day. What's the turnout like at PTA meetings and Parent-Teacher night? You might be heartbroken to see how much more robust the volunteering is at more affluent schools who you might think need it less.
posted by Miko at 6:34 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


What I am saying is that you're contributing less to society than you could be.

Aahh, now, are you going to go ahead and have those TPS reports for us this afternoon?
posted by KokuRyu at 6:35 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


"You might be heartbroken to see how much more robust the volunteering is at more affluent schools who you might think need it less."

I'm well-aware.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:35 PM on March 18, 2013


So that's what I mean; it's an issue. By getting schools, school budgets, and community taxation hooked on the idea that women would, forever, be available to support a public service like education through their unpaid labor, we've left schools much less able to meet the needs of their students, and students in communities much less able to draw on unpaid labor simply go without needed school support services.

So yes, unpaid/volunteer women's labor did and does contribute greatly to systems that can readily find application for that labor. But it helped to create, and now helps perpetuate, a system in which institutions are dependent on a quality and quantity of labor no longer being provided now that you either need to pay (relatively) fair wages for it, or go without. And the public's expectation continues to be that schools (or public hospitals, or parks and rec programs, or town committees, or historical societies, or arts centers or museums) are already costing too much money.

This is quite a bind we've created for ourselves.
posted by Miko at 6:43 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seems easy enough to see lower, lower-middle, middle, upper-middle and upper class as referring to quintiles, in which case it is very straightforward who is what. You are in the lower class until $18.5k per year, lower-middle is 18.5 to 34K, middle class is 34k to 55k, upper middle class is 55k to 88k, and yes, you're upper class if you break $88,000 per year within a household.
"Class" is a concept that transcends income. Income has a large part of it, but it's not the only thing.
posted by kdar at 6:51 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's true. There's no single, clear definition for "midlle class" in America. Most Americans, by far the majority, consider themselves middle class, and if they were really the statistical middle, that couldn't be true. It's income, education, aspirations, habits and preferences, geography, and to no small extent self-perception. It's not actually that useful to talk about problems in terms of "middle class," "lower class," etc, because those terms are definitely not specific enough to characterize people's lifestyles.
posted by Miko at 7:01 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hey now, I think the pile-on on the young rope-rider is uncalled for, even if the message was a bit unclear. You all are leaving out the context of the second part of that paragraph:

"And no, I'm not saying a man should have taken your job. What I am saying is that you're contributing less to society than you could be. I feel that you have an obligation to more than yourself and your family, as a member of and a product of a society that helped you get that education."

Those who are upset and saying they put in "half-time, unpaid, highly-skilled labor" to benefit the community absolutely are contributing to society in extremely valuable ways, in my view.

I am a staunch feminist, happen to be female, and I believe in women choosing what they want out of life, including the career/reproductive realms. But I get where the young rope-rider is coming from. In general, I believe that - for women AND men - the more you've benefited from society (e.g. going to top undergrads / grad schools on the taxpayers' dime), the more it behooves you to consider doing things that benefit not just yourself and your own family (essentially extensions of yourself) but also the greater community. This can be done a number of ways, through un-paid or paid labor - getting paid isn't the point. In fact the jobs that a large swath of ivy league grads - women and men - choose don't really aim to benefit greater society (e.g. i-banking). I've learned over the years that my view is something of a minority view, but holy cow when I was an undergrad and first read the classic 2003 NYT piece when it came out, I was so disappointed in how some of the people in the article were flaunting their lack of responsibility.

Anyway, has anything changed since 2003? This isn't helping my grad student depression all that much...
posted by nemutdero at 7:06 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


She believes that every household needs one primary caretaker, that women are, broadly speaking, better at that job than men...

I had to stop reading because, really, I don't have the time for this kind of nonsense. But I read the rest of the article, anyway, because I was waiting for it to dissolve into parody and have a good laugh. I was disappointed.

I don't really understand the point of these articles because the "wife stays home and raises the kids" paradigm is not really where things are headed right now. With the decreasing value of real wages over time, increasing health care and education costs, as well as the new reality of a roller coaster job market, there is no way that the two income family is going to do anything but increase in prevalence.

I also really, really don't understand telling someone telling their daughter to ‘Have a career that you can walk away from at the drop of a hat.’  I think about all the lucrative jobs in STEM fields that require skills that go stale faster than a loaf of bread. It's so hard to leave and come back due to the relentless march of technology. And yet, these are the kinds of jobs that I would want my own daughter to have because I want her to be able to support herself even if she finds the perfect guy, because you never know. There will always be sickness, divorce, industry upheaval and death.

Something is going to have to change in the near future if this pace is going to be sustainable for families with two working parents. The solution might be more flexible workplaces, but that is more likely to be limited to people working in the few fields that demand premium perks.

The reality is that men will likely end up doing more and women with high standards will relax them some. Either that, or there are going to be a lot more fights about laundry. Probably both.

I am a working mother, a.k.a "Woman having it all". And yet I don't really carry any "Mommy Guilt". I think 50% of being happy with my efforts is that I'm a child of a working mother and know that I'm doing my best, and the other 50% is having a partner who also does his best and pulls his weight (and then some at times).

There are plenty of people who think that I'm doing my daughter a disservice by enrolling her in all-day preschool, then fine, I don't live up to their parenting standards. It's very likely that my husband is the one who would be saying home instead, so blame him for wanting to have a career outside of the house.
posted by Alison at 7:12 PM on March 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


She was not only socialized from a young age on the skills to take care of children and make a home, she was also taught from a young age that work is optional so long as she has kids. She was working a job that, while noble, was hard work and didn't pay nearly as much as the job her husband has chosen to work. So when the opportunity arose for her to give up that job for the hard but unpaid work of raising children, she took it.

The problem I personally have with all of this is that it will be very hard for women and men to ever become equals in the workplace and at home as long as all young women of a certain class are raised with the understanding that it is fully ok and socially sanctioned that they can stay home whenever if they have kids, that they always have an out for a job that isn't great, and that furthermore it might not be worth pursuing hard, less glamorous but well-paying careers because you might always want to stay home and raise your kids. Why is it hard to get girls into breadwinning but relatively unglamorous careers like computing? Many reasons but a huge one is that it is hard work to put into schooling and early career, and if you don't weigh "monetarily supporting a family" as part of the equation of choosing your future career, it's unclear why you would go through all the trouble.

I will be happier with this "choice" to stay home when we become a society that emphasizes equally to men and women the importance of jobs that can support a family AND the option to stay home. Until we have that kind of social blindness to gender it is very hard for me to take seriously the claims that this is just what anyone wants to do. I absolutely believe any individual person who says this, and I support individuals in their freedom to decide their own lives, but let's be real. A series of influences led this woman into a career that may have been rewarding but was certainly far from remunerative. It is not a shock that she has made this choice, it is a natural outcome of the way we raise girls and it will continue to happen until that changes. I'm not holding my breath, but at least we're making some progress on giving men the option to "opt-out" as well, so perhaps we'll back into it that way.
posted by ch1x0r at 7:15 PM on March 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


To the Zillow, Batman! Well, looks like there's plenty of houses in Crown Heights, Brownsville, Bed-Stuy, and other high-crime areas where no one in their right mind would voluntarily move with kids

This thread is funny. Anyone here ever been outside of park slope?
posted by Ad hominem at 7:17 PM on March 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


Reading all this and meditating on time, women's time (something I have to think about a lot in my line of work, which historically was very female volunteer dependent), I've been looking around and came across the work of this scholar, Marilyn Waring. Her book If Women Counted, summarized in this movie Who's Counting, is about this very question of how women's work is accounted for in traditional economic terms (or not). We know that it's underrepresented and not paid for in cash. But she has a bigger thing to posit here: that all of traditional economics that focuses on market production for cash is a product of patriarchal structures, and centrally, that time - time to do unpaid work - is really a kind of wealth. It's a currency.

Which means that stepping entirely away from our definitions of wealth, class, affluence as an idea about how much cash you have or how much consumer choice you have, but how much time you are able to generate in your household, is a very provocative one. And it means that many voluntary SAH parents are, in fact, quite rich, in this kind of currency. And it means that communities that have a lot of unpaid time available to their schools and other institutions are also rich in this kind of currency. And it oddly means that some very impoverished communities where paid work is scarce can also be rich in this kind of currency even as they lack every other kind.

IF we sorted out households and communities by available time instead of available cash, I feel sure we would see some interesting and sometimes surprising correlations on markers of community health. And family health. So, no matter what, it's true that people who can stay at home have a kind of wealth unavailable to those who can't, and that helps them translate the paid work they labor to support into wage-earning work. This first, support-system wealth actually creates the other kind of wealth by enabling a wage earner to not spend as much time time on unpaid forms of labor.

That's confused a bit, though, by recognizing that one of the things cash can buy is the time of others - the professionals and service workers that replace unpaid labor no longer available. That turns upaid labor into market jobs. It's possible for two parents with wage-earning jobs to trade their cash for formerly unpaid labor - house cleaning, dry cleaning, baby sitting, transportation, errands, of course, but also the many services formerly provided by voluntarism, paid through taxation and charitable donation.
posted by Miko at 7:24 PM on March 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


The maternal instinct is a real thing, Kelly argues: Girls play with dolls from childhood, so “women are raised from the get-go to raise children successfully. When we are moms, we have a better toolbox.

nthing the call of BULLSHIT.

I literally stopped reading at that point. What on Earth?
posted by mrgrimm at 7:32 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I literally stopped reading at that point. What on Earth?"

I read the whole article because I knew people were going to be talking to me about it (in my real life) but I cringed the whole way through. I consider myself a feminist at-home parent but oh so much cringing. I had to struggle to finish.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:43 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The problem with middle-class in 2013 is that you have to be rich to be middle-class.
posted by chortly at 8:04 PM on March 18, 2013 [20 favorites]


I didn't like the article mostly because it suggests women should be allowed to be full-time mothers without regrets due to the fact that they are biologically programmed to be nurturers and mothers. This line of reasoning opens up the gates to things like biology = identity = desires/personality = role in society, which is restricting and incorrect.

Damn right. That is a slippery slope that I'd rather the world not go down, especially since I fail at all the woman stereotype nurturer stuff.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:17 PM on March 18, 2013


"Class" is a concept that transcends income. Income has a large part of it, but it's not the only thing.

sure, but it results in a vague collection of definitions, with everyone basically thinking of themselves as normal, which is to say somewhere near middle class. The fact that the common terms (lower-middle, middle, upper-middle, with lower & upper implied though rarely claimed) map pretty neatly onto an actual set of very specific numbers just seems convenient.

At least it should remind people that just because they don't know how anyone could live on less than (whatever) does not mean there aren't a lot of people managing to do it...
posted by mdn at 9:10 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


She believes that every household needs one primary caretaker...

This implies a lot about what she thinks a "household" should look like.

“women,” she says, “keep it together better than guys do.”

My guess is she has no idea. How many male primary caregivers does she know? Probably none. There aren't really very many of us.

...she is now able to be there for her kids no matter what...

No matter what, unless something difficult happens, like someone gets sick or her husband loses his job.

“But I also want to say, ‘Have a career that you can walk away from at the drop of a hat.’ ”

Which says, "find someone to support you," which isn't strictly anti-feminist, but it's... something.

Generally speaking, mothers instinctively want to devote themselves to home more than fathers do.

This is unfair to both mothers and fathers. Maybe this has been studied, but the article sure doesn't mention it, and we're socialized to let the men go talk about sports while women watch the kids. Socialization is not instinct.

“All [men],” she says, “agree that no matter what the gender revolution prescribes, it is still paramount for men to earn a living and support their families, which also implies taking a backseat as caregiver.”

All is pretty definitive, no? Almost everyone thinks they should support their families, in whatever way they view "support". I don't think this implies anything about "taking a back seat as caregiver".

As a romantic college student, a man may imagine he will request an extended paternity leave, but it’s very likely that he won’t. The average amount of time a man takes off after the birth of a child is five days.

As a college student, he probably hoped he'd get a job that would let him do that. Many won't. I happen to work at a place that *does*, and every man here I know who's had a child has been gone for at least three weeks afterward.

Last year, sociologists at the University of Washington found that the less cooking, cleaning, and laundry a married man does, the more frequently he gets laid.

If you're married and have kids you have may have all of the hour between 8 and 9PM free to spend with your spouse. Or wash dishes. Your call.

“So many women want to control their husbands’ parenting,” says Barbara Kass, a therapist with a private practice in Brooklyn. “ ‘Oh, do you have the this? Did you do the that? Don’t forget that she needs this. And make sure she naps.’ Sexism is internalized.”

Fuck, I get this from people I barely know. "Oh, remember to put sunscreen on her!" Jesus christ, she's my kid. Does she look sunburned? no? Maybe that's because I put sunscreen on her!


Signed,
A low-six-figure-income single father.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:24 PM on March 18, 2013 [14 favorites]


The marriage penalty is a big incentive for moms in upper income households to stay at home. Because her first dollar of income is at her husband's top rate and she doesn't benefit from his OASDI max, she'll pay well over half her gross back in taxes in a high state tax state and have to finance the costs of childcare and commute from the net. EASY for her to gross $60k and net ZERO. Why bother?
posted by MattD at 9:56 PM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


People who make $106K a year don't generally say they make "low six figures." They say they "made around $100K last year." What "low six figures" means is that they are bringing in $250K or $300K on a regular basis. This is especially true in the context of an article like this one, where interviewee and author both are trying to play down just how far over on the financial bell curve the subject is. After all, a story about people in the 98th percentile for income is pretty hard to pitch as being "representative."

In order to have "a career that you can walk away from at the drop of a hat" a woman first has to establish herself in another sort of career, the only career option that the vast majority of women in Western society had from earliest history well into the 20th century, i.e., marriage to a good provider. The only problem with this career is that it's based on a relationship that by its very nature tends to an imbalance of power between the partners.
posted by La Cieca at 11:16 PM on March 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


The marriage penalty is a big incentive for moms in upper income households to stay at home. Because her first dollar of income is at her husband's top rate and she doesn't benefit from his OASDI max, she'll pay well over half her gross back in taxes in a high state tax state and have to finance the costs of childcare and commute from the net. EASY for her to gross $60k and net ZERO. Why bother?

This, a thousand times this. If we want the lower earning person to be able to continue earning and have it be economically effective, we need to stop taxing them at ridiculously high rates because they're part of a household.
posted by corb at 3:20 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm really tired of the argument that people who choose to live in expensive cities and consequently live a middle-class lifestyle even though they're earning upper-class money (because they can't afford an upper-class lifestyle in the expensive city) aren't upper class.

Of course they're upper class. They're just upper-class and spending their money on location rather than other things. You live in Brooklyn? Congrats, you and your family have access to New York City, which has Practically All Of The Best Stuff. You could have chosen to live in Des Moines or something, and it would've sucked, but you sure would've saved a lot of money. But you didn't! You chose New York! Good for you.


This is nonsense. First of all, wages are tied to land rents everywhere in the world, they didn't just 'choose' to live there from an unconstrained set of options. Also the couple in the article live in New Jersey, precisely because that's some of the cheapest real-estate within commuting distance of the city.

If they made low six-figures from investments, that would make them upper class. For one thing, it would make it possible to live somewhere with a very low cost of living.

Not only that, but while definitions of middle class vary a great deal over time and place, the definition of an economic upper class is quite simple. Do they receive an income sufficient to live on from passive investments rather than from their labour (however skilled and well-compensated)? I'll accept that people who work but have enough wealth that they could support themselves comfortably if they stopped (CEOs of most publicly listed companies) are in this category but not a well paid lawyer of consultant.

One of my friends has an investment income that is less than my salary income but it's enough for him to live in the country and spend a few months a year travelling. He's part of the economic upper class and I am not.

[social class of course is not quite the same as economic class, but that's another can of worms]
posted by atrazine at 3:34 AM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not only that, but while definitions of middle class vary a great deal over time and place, the definition of an economic upper class is quite simple

I don't think this is as foregone a conclusion as you think it is, in large part because of the can of worms you name.
posted by liketitanic at 4:43 AM on March 19, 2013


The problem with middle-class in 2013 is that you have to be rich to be middle-class.

ZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by liketitanic at 4:44 AM on March 19, 2013


Because her first dollar of income is at her husband's top rate...Why bother?

This is a really weird way to look at it. First of all, if you're filing jointly, it's no longer "her" income. Your total income as a household is being taxed. And your total income as a household starts being taxed (after the usual abundant deductions, of course) at its appropriate bracket. That's like saying if just the "husband" in this traditional scenario got offered a job which doubled his salary, he wouldn't have any incentive to take it because he'd "just lose" well over half the increase.

There are good reasons for this tax structure, and it applies the other way 'round too, when you have a household (like mine) where the woman out-earns the man. Do you think I think that means my husband should tell me "I have no incentive to work!" No it does not mean that.

The short answer to "why bother?" might well be that you have a career that uses your talents, gives you satisfaction, helps you build a much more secure retirement (plenty of tax incentive for that!), allows you to meet and socialize with people you would not meet in your neighborhood, prods you to exceed your own expectations of yourself, and interests you. It may also qualify you for better health insurance (sometimes offering a choice between two competing plans) and other benefits.

When people bring up this "why bother" scenario, it puzzles me. I suppose those are people that can't conceive of working for any other reason than to bring home a cash income. We're not all like that. Many people like their work and the opportunities it affords them, and have goals that are not satisfied through family support and hobbies.
posted by Miko at 5:40 AM on March 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


There's also opportunity cost to being out the workforce which bites back on the other end, when the kids are independent and you try to return to work. Your lifetime wages (and retirement contributions) may end up much lower than they'd otherwise have been had you been earning wages all along and progressed up the salary ladder. It makes financial sense to maximize earnings even though that opportunity comes with a greater tax burden, but not if you only look at it narrowly and in the short term.
posted by Miko at 5:48 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Our society got addicted to unpaid and under-rewarded professional women's labor, and it's proving harder to get off than heroin.


Boy Miko, you hit the nail on the head. Our local elementary school where I work as a volunteer had two paid assistants to the school librarian. Both positions were cut. Now she has several volunteers to do the work-- in fact recently she was out on medical leave and the volunteers ran the library. I'm afraid that that the administration will decide they can get away with not paying anyone because the job will get done, sort of.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:50 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, the comments from Miko and Eyebrows McGee are so timely. Our school district in Minneapolis is having to cut $25 million out of its budget. For the local elementary school that my kids attend, that will work out to a $300,000 cut. We won't lose teachers, but we will lose other people who work in the school and it is stay-at-home moms and dads (we do have some of those in our neighborhood) who will be expected to pick up the slack. That isn't me imagining things, that's pretty much the explicit plan that is in place. An e-mail from the School Board member who is taking the lead on the budget issues indicated that in formulating the budget cuts they are working to determine what work can be done by volunteers.

I can't really blame the school board or the principal. They have to fund the schools using the money that comes in from the property tax levy and our state government. Running a deficit and eating into the reserves will only cause problems down the line. I do blame the Republican legislators who balanced the budget by "borrowing" money from the schools while pretending they hadn't cut education funding. (If you have a projected state government deficit, you balance the budget by cutting spending, increasing taxes or fees, or some combination of the two. The Minnesota Republicans who tried to pretend otherwise are a bunch of hucksters who richly deserved their most recent election losses.)

The end result, however, is that the stay-at-home parents I know will probably be doing more lunch room monitoring, tutoring, library work, etc. Those people deserve respect for that work. Volunteering isn't just something frivolous done by society ladies to stave off boredom.

As for the former social work worker who quit her job to stay at home for the kids, I think it is worth noting that lots of people doing front line social work burn out. If she is "wasting" her MSW by no longer doing social work, so are plenty of other former social workers. We as a society put social workers into really tough situations. When some of them quit and do other things, I'm sympathetic. I don't believe blaming individual social workers really helps anything.
posted by Area Man at 6:34 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Where is this mythical world where people can actually stay home from work?

I fully agree. When my son was an infant, I was looking for mom & me play groups. They were all during work hours.

Farmer's Markets near my house---all during work hours.

Exercise classes at the park district, which is less than a block away---all during working hours.

WTF?

I will say a lot of new women I meet, they stay home. Again, WTF?

Working is the main reason why I only stuck with having one child. I'm taking care of a full time job, chores at home, a toddler, and my ailing dad. When the hell do I have time for an infant to boot? No thanks.
posted by stormpooper at 6:34 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Are you remotely aware that American schools are still operating on the assumption of a critical mass of stay-at-home parents (mostly mothers) who serve as room mothers, field trip chaperones, math tutors, reading buddies, visiting art docents, fundraiser staffers, and all kinds of other tasks that occur during the regular school day when most adults are at work?...Stay-at-home parents, as a group, are contributing a hugely disproportionate share to the education of other people's children, if education is your concern.

But why do schools make this assumption? Because women are staying at home. If all women had paying jobs, if the men in power had wives who worked outside the home, I think there's a good chance that we'd somehow find money in the budget for these positions, and maybe even for year-round school. On an individual level, maybe you're "contributing a disproportionate share to the education" of children of dual-career families like mine; on a societal level, it's more complicated.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 7:07 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


But why do schools make this assumption? Because women are staying at home.

Not as often as they used to.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:33 AM on March 19, 2013


EASY for her to gross $60k and net ZERO. Why bother?

Without discussing the appropriateness of the US tax structure, or the weird idea that the man's income is the real income and so all the taxes should come out of hers, one might decide to continue to work -- even if it means the total take-home of both partners, after all the work expenses are included, is the same as it would be if one of them stayed home -- because it increases your retirement accounts, allows you to earn more in the future than you would had you taken 5 years off (even assuming we pretend that people can take 5 years off and then easily find a job again, they are 5 years behind in salary increases). It doesn't mean it's necessarily the right choice, but there are a number of reasons to decide to work even though daycare is expensive.
posted by jeather at 7:34 AM on March 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


On the one hand, I absolutely agree that individual women should be able to decide, for themselves and their own families, whether or not to stay at home with their children. I agree that we shouldn't shame women for those decisions. I agree that our society, as it stands, depends on vast oceans of unpaid, under-appreciated stay-at-home-parent labor, and I agree that the salary attached to a person's work isn't the ultimate measure of that work's value.

But the difficult thing, here, is that I also agree that well-educated, professional women who leave their lobs behind to be mothers are making life much, much harder for women who don't want to go down that road.

When a woman shows every sign of long-term dedication to her education and her career, and then opts to leave behind her professional life as soon as she becomes a parent, it's just...completely inevitable that her decision will help shape the general perception that women will abandon their jobs when they have children. When women decide not to return from their maternity leave, that reinforces assumptions people make about whether or not they should REALLY bother holding women's jobs for them while they're gone. It hurts women's chances of advancement, particularly if they're married and even more particularly if they're pregnant. We leave our jobs because our husbands are paid twice what we are, but that decisions helps to justify our bosses' decision to pay us less to begin with -- because why bother spending resources on someone who isn't going to be a long-term investment?

I mean, I'm not saying anything new here. This stuff is talked about over and over in threads like this one.

It's shitty and unfair and awfully misogynist that the decisions of individual women are used as a bludgeon against their peers.

But I have watched so many individual women, who all feel that they're just doing what's right for them personally, leave their careers behind and step out of their industries while their husbands go on to bigger and better things. I know so many working, successful fathers in comics and animation and next to no women -- nearly all of my women colleagues are childless. Those who have had kids have quietly disappeared, and this TERRIFIES me. So much so that I was pointedly introduced to a complete stranger at a con this past spring, just to show me that there was ONE LADY there who was both a professional comics artist and a parent.

So seriously, I get it. I get why people are so angry and hurt in this thread. I get why we need to be careful not to shame each other. But I also think it's absurd to act as if our personal decisions are made in a vacuum and affect only ourselves and our families.

I don't want anyone to feel ashamed or hurt or singled-out. I just want us all to own our participation in this shitty, difficult system we all have to live and work within.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:43 AM on March 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


I do think it is wasteful for parents (of any sex) to quit jobs to take care of kids. It might make sense if families had 6+ kids, but for an adult to drop an entire career for one or two kids, for five to ten years? That is such a loss to society, and for what? We don't have evidence that kids do better with a full time parent than at day care and school, and there is no reason to think that each and every person who happens to have kids will be a skilled and effective full time caregiver for their child at every age. Sure, *you* may be. But parents in general aren't licensed or trained, while day-cares are.

It makes so much more sense to me to have professional childcare provided by trained, skilled professionals, for whom this is their career. I would love to see income-based childcare costs (comparable though not identical to the $7 per day daycare in Quebec). Not for an outrageous number of hours per week, but for 35-40 hours per week, which is what the American work week would be in a sane world. Then all parents could work (in their own fields) and all parents could parent.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:49 AM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


People who make $106K a year don't generally say they make "low six figures." They say they "made around $100K last year." What "low six figures" means is that they are bringing in $250K or $300K on a regular basis.

This is ridiculous. People who make $106k don't "generally" say anything in particular about how much they make. Anyone who says they make "low six figures" might make $101k or they might make $250k, but they're a lot more likely to make about $100k than $200k, and a lot more likely to make $200k than $400k, simply because the number of people making those higher salaries gets really small, really fast.

I said I had a "low-six-figure-income" in my last comment, but I guess I was lying since my six-figure salary starts with a "1".
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 7:59 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


It makes so much more sense to me to have professional childcare provided by trained, skilled professionals, for whom this is their career....


salamandrous

When you put it like that...a dedicated hooker would probably do a better job on my husband than I can:)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:24 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hey now, I think the pile-on on the young rope-rider is uncalled for, even if the message was a bit unclear. You all are leaving out the context of the second part of that paragraph:

"And no, I'm not saying a man should have taken your job. What I am saying is that you're contributing less to society than you could be. I feel that you have an obligation to more than yourself and your family, as a member of and a product of a society that helped you get that education."


That paragraph is pretty plainly contemptuous of anyone who's not pulling their own weight. I think that's a horribly offensive thing to say, and I think it deserves to be called out just like it was.
posted by disconnect at 8:28 AM on March 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


As a serious question, how much of what you cannot afford is lifestyle? Would you not be able to meet material needs on one salary at all, or could you perhaps afford it in a less-nice neighborhood?

Some of it is lifestyle, sure. But we already live in a not-super-great neighbourhood and, if we ever want a larger home (ideal, though not strictly necessary, once we start having kids), we'd likely need to move into a worse neighbourhood to afford it.

But, many of the arguments being made in the comments here are that it's becoming difficult, if not impossible, for middle class people to have one parent stay at home. We could certainly survive on a single salary (we mostly already do, with the second going mostly into savings), but it would be tough to do once there are kids in the mix and we'd likely have to give up our middle class lifestyle in order to do it which, I think, kind of proves the point people are making.
posted by asnider at 9:36 AM on March 19, 2013


low-six-figure income

A low-six-figure income is different from a low six-figure income.
posted by ersatz at 9:57 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree that the definitions of middle-class and upper-middle class are screwed up. As graduate students, my fiance and I take home $60000 a year. That's actually a solidly middle-class household income, but it sure doesn't feel like it to me. We're comfortable, but I can't imagine having children or saving for a house or retirement or college funds on that kind of income (though we do manage to save a fair chunk each year). I guess that in itself is reflective of my upper middle class upbringing and privilege.

Next year my fiance has found a job that starts at $70000 a year and it has occurred to me that I could just stay at home and have a kid and our income would not change (though our cost of living would). Of course, I'm not going to do that, precisely because I consider my career an investment that will pay off in the long run, daycare costs be damned. But I do find it scary that it seems so hard, even from my relatively privileged position, to balance all of this. I hit the jackpot with my fiance in terms of this whole work-life balance thing, in the sense that he is fully committed to both having children and to making my career a success and has pledged his willingness to equally share in whatever work sacrifices are required down the road. Right now, he more than pulls his weight around the house. I just hope we both manage to find workplaces that allow us to do this -- it seems everything is so black-and-white these days -- either you commit completely to work or you drop out completely and stay at home.

We need balance, both for men and women. The ideal situation where there would be room for men and women to make the choices that work best for their family in an environment that actually allows all those choices, whether working mom and SAHD or the reverse or both working. Until that day comes all of our choices will necessarily be imperfect ones.
posted by peacheater at 10:04 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


We don't have evidence that kids do better with a full time parent than at day care and school, and there is no reason to think that each and every person who happens to have kids will be a skilled and effective full time caregiver for their child at every age.

Except that's just not true. Evidence has shown that the number of unique words, for example, that a child hears, the more likely they are to perform better on intelligence tests. It has also shown that the smaller the size of an educating environment, the better the child performs.

So if you're a well-educated woman who doesn't make enough to pay another well-educated woman to stay at home with your child full-time, it is actually fiscally more sound and more beneficial for your child to stay home with your kid, rather than put your kid in a group environment with less-well-educated women who use fewer unique words.

Is that a choice everyone can make? No, due to economics, it is not. But let's not pretend like there's just no reason to think that kids do better with well educated parents looking after them than they do in romper room.
posted by corb at 1:39 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


So if you're a well-educated woman who doesn't make enough to pay another well-educated woman to stay at home with your child full-time, it is actually fiscally more sound and more beneficial for your child to stay home with your kid, rather than put your kid in a group environment with less-well-educated women who use fewer unique words.

This doesn't follow. If you're a well-educated woman who talks to herself a lot and your only child care options are illiterate people (who therefore can't read to your kids) who never talk, then, yes, it does follow. But that isn't the only child care option.

Can we distinguish education level of the parents from socio-economic status of the parents? I mean, my dad's level of education is totally irrelevant to my upbringing in anything but an economic sense. My mother's education is probably highly relevant, but because my mother very closely associates social mobility and choice in life with education because that's how it worked for her. (Funnily enough, my mother is not from the US.)
posted by hoyland at 2:06 PM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Evidence has shown that the number of unique words, for example, that a child hears, the more likely they are to perform better on intelligence tests.
What does this have to do with a stay at home parent vs. daycare or preschool?

It has also shown that the smaller the size of an educating environment, the better the child performs.
Sure when we're talking about classroom sizes. That can't be extended indefinitely. Show me the study that says it's better to homeschool your kids rather than send them to school, for example.

Also, I was a child with two full time working parents throughout my childhood. It hasn't hindered me or hampered me in any way -- if anything it's opened my eyes to possibilities for women's lives that I might not have had had my mother stayed at home with me. I wouldn't trade the experience of growing up with two working parents for anything.
posted by peacheater at 2:06 PM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Except that's just not true. Evidence has shown that the number of unique words, for example, that a child hears, the more likely they are to perform better on intelligence tests. It has also shown that the smaller the size of an educating environment, the better the child performs.

Whoa whoa whoa, assumption train! I began my career as a child educator, with a degree in K-8 education, and spent several years as a K-1-2 teacher and then more as a child educator in alternative settings. I was just about to call out the same thing you called out, because of its accuracy.

Your claims have nothing to do with the setting. The effects can be had in a home or outside of a home. The very idea of one or two children being the sole focus of an adult's attention all day long is a total historical anomaly, and the idea that it is normal is a 20th century illusion. In preindustrial economies, that did not happen even though the mother may have "stayed home" with her children, because she spent the vast bulk of her time engaging in household production and economy, not in child instruction and interaction.

This piece references the HighScope Perry Study and the
Carolina Abecedarian Study:
those who were enrolled in a quality preschool program were more likely to graduate high school, own homes, stay married longer, and have higher incomes later in life.
participants, at age 30, had significantly more education than those in a control group and were four-times more likely to have earned a college degree. Participants in the early education group also were more likely to be employed, less likely to have used public-assistance, and not have children as young as those in the control group.
This one, a Chicago study:
At age 28, the adults who received preschool educations years before had significantly higher job prestige, earnings and socioeconomic status. In addition to boosting the life-course prospects of the children who received preschool education, the program also saves society money. It costs around $8,000 to send a child to preschool for a half day during the school year, but the estimated benefits in terms of increased productivity and reduced cost to the criminal justice system put the savings at just over $80,000, a ten-fold return on investment.
This one, an Oklahoma study:
The authors found test impacts of 3.00 points (0.79 of the standard deviation for the control group) for the Letter-Word Identification score, 1.86 points (0.64 of the standard deviation of the control group) for the Spelling score, and 1.94 points (0.38 of the standard deviation of the control group) for the Applied Problems score. Hispanic, Black, White, and Native American children all benefit from the program, as do children in diverse income brackets, as measured by school lunch eligibility status. The authors conclude that Oklahoma's universal pre-K program has succeeded in enhancing the school readiness of a diverse group of children.
The number of unique words is a predictor of academic success. But where will you hear more unique words? From the vocabulary of a single individual? Or from the vocabularies of your own family plus individuals outside your family, often from other kinds of communities and backgrounds? Most kids hear and use far more words in a school environment than are ever used at home. Most kids in preschool and school encounter more literature, more music, and more theatre than they will at home. Many "educating environments" are in fact very small, with quite low child-teacher ratios, and even where they are not they use small-grouping strategies so that children recieve plenty of direct attention and group practice.

For the vast majority of American children, preschool is a marked improvement over the experiences they would otherwise have at home.

We have to evaluate, also, what we are training and educating a child for? A life in which one individual will always be responsible for cultivating him or her and seeing to his or her needs? Or a life lived among, with and for others, demanding the skills of interacting with many kinds of people, different from oneself in many dimensions. Kids grow up and go to school, camp, jobs, college, careers. They have always, in the past, been raised by villages, families, extended families, neighbors, and shared institutions, and we should not fret that it's any different today. The anomaly is having a single adult spending a great deal of time with a single child, as a de facto full-time aide. It's not especially healthy for children to be in en environment of such intense limitation, and it doesn't maximize their cognitive skills.

Finally, I guarantee you that as a lifelong educator, I am not "less well educated" than most people, including you.
posted by Miko at 2:07 PM on March 19, 2013 [6 favorites]




Ethan said he is having a hard time coming up with common phrases that a wife might say to her husband.

Oh honey I could come up with a few choice ones!

Har de har /Phyllis Diller
posted by Miko at 3:34 PM on March 19, 2013


gofundme.com : Hollaback Street Harassment Comic Book
amptoons.com : The Male Privilege Checklist
posted by jeffburdges at 3:51 PM on March 19, 2013


We don't have evidence that kids do better with a full time parent than at day care and school, and there is no reason to think that each and every person who happens to have kids will be a skilled and effective full time caregiver for their child at every age.

I totally have to agree on this, at least based on my limited experience. I haven't observed any differences in life success (whatever that means) between my friends/classmates/relatives of my age group based on working parent arrangements. I also don't think it necessarily fosters a better child-parent relationship. In fact, quite a few people I know who were raised by stay-at-home moms have a moderate-to-seriously messed up relationship to their mothers as adults which I think at least partly stems from this intense proximity from an early age. Most of my conflict with my mother (as well as my issues with privacy), though we generally get along well, has stemmed from her always being around 'mothering' when I wished she had some other overt goal in life other than her 'job' as my mother. The assumption that having a stay-at-home parent is superior I think just feeds into the narcissistic youth-oriented culture that assumes that parents have to wait on their kids hand and foot or else they are failures.

Ironically, parenting is probably taken a lot more seriously now that both parents are typically in the workforce. The whole idea of 'parenting' as it is conceived of today is a wholly 21st century invention, and I don't think even the 50's housewife would have recognized much of what makes up the 'cult of domesticity' and 'helicopter parenting' of many of today's stay-at-home moms. I don't have a problem with stay-at-home parenting as such - I also don't want to make it sound like it will mess up your kids. It won't, but it's not even close to a guarantee that it won't simply have a neutral or even a negative impact on their lives.

My point is that I think a lot of the ideologies used to justify it as the 'better' option frames it so that it's understood that if a woman chooses to stay at home, it's because she's choosing to be a 'better' mother - that she would be a worse parent if she isn't staying home with her kid. That might be true if both parents are working crazy hours, but otherwise I think it's patently not the case, and places undue pressure for women to make the 'family-oriented' choice. It's a false dichotomy.
posted by adso at 9:09 PM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm a feminist housewife, too, I guess. I'm privileged to be the stay at home mom to our four year old daughter. My husband is currently the sole wage owner, and he too makes a "low-six-figure" income for the family. I am a feminist housewife although I used to be a lawyer at a big firm, and used to make a "low-six-figure" income all by myself, and will probably never work at a big firm again because those hours would wreck my family, and may never even find legal work again after such a prolonged hiatus in this market.

I guess I just came here to comment, in general, that I do not know what the fuck I am doing. I'm a terrible cook, my husband is unimpressed with my attempts at housecleaning, according to you guys maybe my daughter would not have been speech delayed two years ago if she had been in day care instead of home with me, and I worry all the time about what other problems I may unknowingly be causing her and why she isn't happier at preschool seven hours a week.

Most days my husband gets less than an hour a day with my daughter, and I see what he misses, and I'm glad that one of us doesn't have to miss most of her wakeful life, and I'm glad it's me. In another year she will be in kindergarten and we will surrender her for eight hours a day to buses and teachers, and I will get back out in the job market, and I will have thousands of memories and pictures from her toddlerhood that I would have missed if I hadn't quit my job.

The young rope rider, I respect your post history here, and I often agree with you, and I choose to not be offended by your judgment that moms like me should be giving more back. From a financial standpoint alone, what I did was hugely stupid. For a decade of my life I made six figures and I may never make that much again after this break. Fifty percent of marriages fail, and if mine ever does I would be so much worse off financially. Maybe you are right, and I repeat, after all, that btw I do not know what the fuck I am doing. I made a choice, and I didn't know how it would turn out, and I still don't, really, even now that my expected time at home is mostly up.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:17 PM on March 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think the move to all-day kindergarten is misguided. We should never fool ourselves that it's about the kids. It's state-sponsored childcare, like much of elementary school. I also have a real problem with the idea that schools are often better for kids than parents. If you can't educate your kid, or care for them, don't have kids. It's an awesome responsibility.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:17 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you can't educate your kid, or care for them, don't have kids.

Same with doctors! We shouldn't have them. If you can't cure your kids' illnesss, don't have kids! Same with dentists. If you can't fill your kids' teeth and scrape plaque, you shouldn't have kids! You should be able to provide ALL services to your kids, because why wouldn't you have the same depth of knowledge as a professional of any kind, in any field, given all the free time you have to study up.
posted by Miko at 6:05 AM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you can't educate your kid, or care for them, don't have kids. It's an awesome responsibility.

If you're not trolling here, make it much more clear that you are not trolling.
posted by jessamyn at 7:10 AM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you're not trolling here, make it much more clear that you are not trolling.

I fear for the priorities of some if the sentiment of "don't have kids if you cannot care for them" requires a disclaimer that it is not a troll.

KokuRyu can defend himself, but I join in his comment also on the score of education. When my son asks me why condensation forms on a cold glass or my daughter asks me where a rainbow comes from, I don't say, "Derp! I don't know, so go ask your assigned government employee tomorrow". KokuRyu's comments were about elementary school, and I do not think it is pushing back the frontiers of trolling to suggest that an adult, parent or not, should not be stumped by anything that would appear in an elementary school curriculum. To this point, I have taken over much of my children's science and math education because what currently passes is pitiful.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:52 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do not think it is pushing back the frontiers of trolling to suggest that an adult, parent or not, should not be stumped by anything that would appear in an elementary school curriculum.

Have you ever seen an episode of the show "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader"? Actually, have you ever tried playing along with an episode of the show?

In theory adults should not be stumped by grade-school level questions. But in practice - we tend to draw blanks on things that haven't needed to be part of our immediate recall in daily life.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:24 AM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


When my son asks me why condensation forms on a cold glass or my daughter asks me where a rainbow comes from, I don't say, "Derp! I don't know, so go ask your assigned government employee tomorrow".
What percentage of the population do you think knows why water condenses on cold surfaces? Hopefully they'd look it up with their kid, but I think you'd be surprised about the general state of scientific education.

Anyway Koku wasn't saying people in general should have the intellectual capacity to teach their kids a kindergarten curriculum - which I'm sure most people could. Rather he seemed to be saying that if you didn't make enough money for one of the parents to stay home and teach them they shouldn't reproduce. I'm certain there are plenty of smart couples who would like to spend more time with their kids but actually don't have a choice about how much time they spend at work. Let alone a choice to make 'low six figures' while just one of them works.
posted by delmoi at 8:25 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Have you ever seen an episode of the show "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader"? Actually, have you ever tried playing along with an episode of the show?

No, although I understand the "you might be a redneck" guy hosts it. Perhaps you can tell me about what I am missing out on.

In theory adults should not be stumped by grade-school level questions. But in practice - we tend to draw blanks on things that haven't needed to be part of our immediate recall in daily life.

This is called "projection".
posted by Tanizaki at 9:15 AM on March 20, 2013


Perhaps you can tell me about what I am missing out on.

*blink*

Humility, for starters...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:18 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've seen that show, and it is based on memorization of facts that it would take an average adult no time at all to LOOK UP.

Irrelevant to this conversation, in my opinion.l
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:31 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Irrelevant to this conversation, in my opinion.

Actually, the fact that the average adult can look up things is kind of my point; it seems Tanazaki expects the average adult to have this information ever-present in their heads as a requirement for parenthood.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:32 AM on March 20, 2013


Actually, the fact that the average adult can look up things is kind of my point; it seems Tanazaki expects the average adult to have this information ever-present in their heads as a requirement for parenthood.

If you would have read my original comment, I said, "an adult, parent or not". So, whether one is a parent or a spinster, I think the information should be in your head. If you have forgotten the information, you may as well have never known it in the first place.

Why should you try to learn as much as possible? Because you never know when you will need the information and when you do, you might not be able to look it up.Case in point. While the other resort guests stared at rapidly receding waters and said, "golly!", a 10-year-old remembered her geography lesson and was able to have the resort warn that everyone should clear from the beach. She saves many lives because she didn't ignore a fact that she could "look up one day" if she needed it. What you won't know won't hurt you - it will kill you.

I am curious to know what grade-school curricula you have let slip into oblivion without distress. Where the sun goes at night? The rain cycle? Are children small or just far away?
posted by Tanizaki at 10:06 AM on March 20, 2013


I am curious to know what grade-school curricula you have let slip into oblivion without distress. Where the sun goes at night? The rain cycle? Are children small or just far away?

Tanizaki, while you're accusing people of not having retained knowledge they were taught in grade school, I would reflect upon the fact that Kindergarten children are also often taught manners as well, and how well you've retained those particular lessons.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:14 AM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Tanizaki, while you're accusing people of not having retained knowledge they were taught in grade school, I would reflect upon the fact that Kindergarten children are also often taught manners as well, and how well you've retained those particular lessons.

I have not accused anyone of anything because no such accusation is required. You admitted that you "draw blanks" on grade-school knowledge. I am curious to know what that information is in your case. Surely you had examples in mind when you made your comment.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:23 AM on March 20, 2013


Nah, I'll just say nice talking to you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:26 AM on March 20, 2013


Thankfully, most of the information presented on the fifthgrader show is stuff that bears little to no importance in daily life. I did happen to remember what it means when the tide goes way way way out, so I guess I was smart enough to homeschool my kids when I did it.

By the way, Tanizaki, I don't know if you have grade school children at present. I do have a grandson in kindergarden, and I do remember when my own were in public school (I only homeschooled for four years) and quite a lot of what they teach is maddeningly confusing and ridiculous (for example, we went from Saxon math in home school which was awesome and explained concepts quite clearly to some modern gobbletygook in the school that I couldn't puzzle out at all-and I am no idiot. Even the teacher hated the book she had to use. )

But this is neither here nor there. What I hope we can all discuss is how this society really does poop on good family life and it really does poop on what it takes to have even a decent family life because the adults are so worn out having to earn money to keep everyone fed, clothed, shod, and sheltered.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:25 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anyway Koku wasn't saying people in general should have the intellectual capacity to teach their kids a kindergarten curriculum - which I'm sure most people could.

Most adults (not all) have the intellectual capacity to understand kindergarten's academic curriculum themselves. Whether they have the skills, knowledge, research-supported strategies and intellectual capacity to understand how to design and implement experiences that will best impart that curriculum to children in such a way that the children truly master it is another matter entirely.

And, frankly, few parents are as capable at that as they imagine they are. Mostly, they feel like they're doing an excellent job, but in reality, taking the broad comparitive perspective, they are settling for quite a mediocre result.

Also, the idea that the process of teaching is the process of answering concrete questions was considered archaic by the 60s, and certainly not what a 21st century education needs to provide. Education is not the process of memorizing answers to questions. The expression of that idea is the first sign that you are not dealing with a skilled professional educator.

I recognize that many individual educators may fall below your expectations in specific curriculum areas. Politics has a little to do with that, I might add. But the idea that a parent will always be better than an average educator, let alone the best educators, is highly questionable at all academic levels, for all subjects, and is certainly untrue for many children in very challenging homes.
posted by Miko at 1:33 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought this started out as a discussion of daycare versus parentcare (someone was claiming that all adults should work full time and all childcare during the work week should be handled by trained professionals), but we seemed to have slipped into a discussion of homeschooling.

I believe one can support the notion of having children receive their formal education in school while also believing that there is some value to having a parent present during many or most of the non-school hours. I've known many fine daycare providers and recognize that the socialization with other kids, exposure to germs, and daycare educational curriculum can be of value. However, there also some advantages to having parent-provided care. I like the degree of control that my wife and I have regarding the messages and values that are passed on to our children and I also think there are times when our greater knowledge of our kids and attention to their needs and wants provides some advantages. I also just have this nagging feeling that raising childre is too important to be left to much in the hands of the professionals.
posted by Area Man at 1:54 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


In many cases, it's too important to be left in the hands of parents.

I know that sounds really flip. But we need to recognize how much of these assertions are based on the presumption of what you could call "optimized families" being in place.

Not all families are optimized.
posted by Miko at 2:03 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


By the way, Tanizaki, I don't know if you have grade school children at present. I do have a grandson in kindergarden, and I do remember when my own were in public school (I only homeschooled for four years) and quite a lot of what they teach is maddeningly confusing and ridiculous (for example, we went from Saxon math in home school which was awesome and explained concepts quite clearly to some modern gobbletygook in the school that I couldn't puzzle out at all-and I am no idiot. Even the teacher hated the book she had to use. )

I have one in grade school and one who will enter grade school in the fall. I am not familiar with Saxon math. We use Japanese math textbooks at home to supplement the public school curriculum. The difference between, say, 2nd math work in the Japanese text and the American text is embarrassing.

Also, the idea that the process of teaching is the process of answering concrete questions was considered archaic by the 60s, and certainly not what a 21st century education needs to provide. Education is not the process of memorizing answers to questions. The expression of that idea is the first sign that you are not dealing with a skilled professional educator.

I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. How does an elementary school math class work under this opposition to "concrete answers"? The test says "3x4=?" and one student writes "12" and the other writes "34" and concrete answers are oh-so-archaic so can't we all be brothers? The fact is that concrete questions exist and concrete facts matter. Of all possible ideas that human beings can imagine, almost all are false. The earth isn't 12 years old, Japan didn't win WWII, and the sun isn't made of frozen orange juice. People need to know the answers that are true.

Please do not complain about memorization. Memorization is actually quite important. I have memorized the spellings of the words that I write so i du not rite lik this. It is commonly argued that schooling stamps creativity out of students, but this view is ludicrous. Memorization is actually essential to creativity. MacGyver sure was creative to plug an acid leak with chocolate, right? The only reason he was able to be creative was because he knew how the acid would react with the sugars in the chocolate. Memorization doesn't need to be rote. If the student chooses to make it rote, that is his choice and no one else's.

But the idea that a parent will always be better than an average educator, let alone the best educators, is highly questionable at all academic levels, for all subjects, and is certainly untrue for many children in very challenging homes.


If the parents are delivering such mediocre results, an explanation is required for why home-schooled students outperform their public school cohorts (who have the benefit of skilled professional educators!) in every academic measure.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:05 PM on March 20, 2013


How does an elementary school math class work under this opposition to "concrete answers"?

A great example. It begins by arranging conditions so that children can discover and fundamentally construct a concept of number that consorts with our cultural approach to numbering systems and operations. They experiment and solve problems using manipulatives and challenges. They are presented with problems (such as measuring the square footage of a space without a ruler, or replicating an object on a different scale) and work to try and test various kinds of operations to solve those problems in order to learn what kinds of operations apply to what kinds of problems, without depending on a prepared page in a workbook as a crutch. I would spend more time giving you examples, but I am leaving now, so I will just offer you the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics as a place to start getting familiar with the entire professional discussion around the teaching of mathematics.

The "skill-and-drill" component of memorizing "math facts" continues to be very important if only because we don't need to reconstruct our understanding of 12 x 9 each time we do that operation - you won't get a "memorization is not important" argument from me, as I've always been a proponent of using memorization across all disciplines. But it is not enough because memorization is not understanding, and it is not math. It is a useful but very limited tool, and if student thinking stops there they go off the well-known 'cliff' which means that children stop taking math electives or majoring in math at the higher levels, because they simply do not understand math - and they never really did.

Children who are taught using a contemporary mathematics approach (see Jump Math, for instance) have a far better and more intuitive, flexible understanding of the foundations of mathematical thinking than their parents do and those who have the benefit of being exposed to skilled math teaching are the ones who will go on to be capable engineers, designers, scientists, statisticians.

The fact that you have to ask "What is math other than a bunch of concrete facts?" indicates that you aren't equipped to teach math as a discipline, and mathematicians would most likely agree with me. You may be able to teach arithmetic, but that's about it.

explanation is required for why home-schooled students outperform their public school cohorts

They're not a matched sample, that's why. Schools have to take everyone. Homeschoolers are already a cherrypicked group, not a random sample. The best educated students from professionally-led education systems are better educated than all homeschool students. Show me the best results from any study of homeschooling outcomes, and I'll pick you an equal proportion of students from within the traditional education system that would equal them at the least, and likely blow them out of the water on certain individual measures.

I've taught a lot of homeschooled students in my museum education career. Let me just say, as someone with the opportunity to compare student performance across thousands of students per year, the experience feel significantly short if impressing me with the superiority of its outcomes.
posted by Miko at 2:25 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I know that sounds really flip. But we need to recognize how much of these assertions are based on the presumption of what you could call "optimized families" being in place.

Not all families are optimized.


Fair enough and I support expanding government subsidized pre-k and preschool programs, but there are also families that are well-equiped to care for their own children and that's not accounted for by those who try to shame stay at home parents and claim that all parents must work away from the home and have their children cared for by daycare providers.
posted by Area Man at 2:33 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even people who have a job spend time with their kids. I don't think anyone's saying "don't spend time with your kids."

I'm not talking about income only, as well. Families have stresses. They have mental illnesses. They may be caregivers for other people, sibs with disabilities or parents in decline. They may have noisy or unhappy homes. The adults may be tired. Or inattentive, immature, poorly trained, poorly raised themselves. Some people honestly, legitimately, don't really enjoy being around little kids all day long - even their own - and are able to be happier, healthier, and devote more attention to their kids when they get some form of respite from them. It should be OK to say that and make choices based on that, or any of these other things, even if you're rich.

It's true that a lot of people have great families and I hope they feel 100% free to do whatever they would like to do just because they'd like to do it. But I also know a whole lot of children, and former children, whose hours outside their homes were among their happiest, safest, and most conducive to their development.
posted by Miko at 2:38 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


It begins by arranging conditions...

"Arranging conditions" is great, but at the end of the day, the space only has one square footage. That square footage is a concrete answer and actually matters for things like commercial leases or buying floor covering for your living room. When the delivery man shows up with less wood than you need, I am sure you will enjoy his explanation about how concrete answers are archaic.

The fact that you have to ask "What is math other than a bunch of concrete facts?" indicates that you aren't equipped to teach math as a discipline.

The fact that you attribute to me statements that I did not make indicates that you are not equipped to participate in the discussion.

They're not a matched sample, that's why. Schools have to take everyone. Homeschoolers are already a cherrypicked group, not a random sample.

Why do homeschoolers outperform on college admissions tests as well? Both groups are equally "cherrypicked" groups of aspiring college students. Of course, if the underlying premises of the "they have to take everyone" objection is that some students are dumber than others, I would agree with that fact. Do you then say that home-schoolers are a pre-selected group of smarter kinds? In other words, the parents of dumb kids don't do as much home schooling?

I read the NY Times article you linked. Mighton is out of touch with reality when he says, “Almost every kid — and I mean virtually every kid — can learn math at a very high level, to the point where they could do university level math courses.” It would be comical if it were not so sad.

I've taught a lot of homeschooled students in my museum education career.

The fact that you tell me a personal anecdote as if it proves something indicates that you are not equipped to discuss matters where statistics matter.

Please show me your data that will "blow them out of the water".
posted by Tanizaki at 2:42 PM on March 20, 2013


[Friendly reminder, at the point at which you're demanding data from other people it may be time to consider you may be making this thread about you and not the topic of the thread. Please consider taking side conversations to MeMail, and be decent to each other. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 2:53 PM on March 20, 2013


The fact that you attribute to me statements that I did not make indicates that you are not equipped to participate in the discussion.

Well, you wrote this:

How does an elementary school math class work under this opposition to "concrete answers"? The test says "3x4=?" and one student writes "12" and the other writes "34" and concrete answers are oh-so-archaic so can't we all be brothers?

so my response is a fair summary of your meaning.

Why do homeschoolers outperform on college admissions tests as well?

If we selected matching randomized samples of students taking college admissions tests, the students with formal education would likely outperform the homeschoolers. Because "all students who apply to college" is still not a matched sample for "all homeschoolers."

parents of dumb kids don't do as much home schooling?

Parents of homeschoolers homeschool for a lot of different reasons. I don't call any kids dumb, but I recognize that there are many factors, cognitive and environmental, that create academic challenge for students. Public schools provide them all an education. The homeschool population differs significantly from the school population in that it's whiter, more religious, and more economically secure. Not everyone can choose to homeschool, and not everyone would want to homeschool. We find that homeschooling really clusters among segments of the population, not across the population. And some of the factors that distinguish elements of the population from one another are also correlated with chances of academic success. You can't just pick "one from here, one from there," and get apples to apples.

The fact that you tell me a personal anecdote as if it proves something

I can't say it proves anything in and of itself. You're right that it's not scientific; it's just my observation. As a professional educator, who has seen thousands of students a year in my career, the homeschool groups I've worked with did not stand out for their intellect, fund of information, or ability to focus in the same ways that, say, many of the Montessori or Waldorf groups, traditional private schools, or good public schools did. There was a variance in each grouping, and the variance for formal school is much wider, but the best groups from formal schools did definitely exceed in all the areas I could observe the best groups from homeschooling groups. It's just my impression, happy to admit it. But if the difference were so marked and so standard, I would expect, given the wide frame of reference my work has given me, to have seen it hold up.
posted by Miko at 3:02 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think people obsess about "proper" parenting way too much. Unless you seriously fuck it up, chances are they will turn out OK.
posted by delmoi at 3:02 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]



I recognize that many individual educators may fall below your expectations in specific curriculum areas. Politics has a little to do with that, I might add. But the idea that a parent will always be better than an average educator, let alone the best educators, is highly questionable at all academic levels, for all subjects, and is certainly untrue for many children in very challenging homes.
posted by Miko at 1:33 PM on March 20 [+] [!]


Before we leave this discussion let me point out that for those of us in suboptimal school districts, an engaged parent IS better than what is usually available in the public school. Having volunteered in those schools, I saw with my own eyes what even a skilled teacher was up against, let us just say.

A great example. It begins by arranging conditions so that children can discover and fundamentally construct a concept of number that consorts with our cultural approach to numbering systems and operations. They experiment and solve problems using manipulatives and challenges. They are presented with problems (such as measuring the square footage of a space without a ruler, or replicating an object on a different scale) and work to try and test various kinds of operations to solve those problems in order to learn what kinds of operations apply to what kinds of problems, without depending on a prepared page in a workbook as a crutch. I would spend more time giving you examples, but I am leaving now, so I will just offer you the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics as a place to start getting familiar with the entire professional discussion around the teaching of mathematics.

I understand why they do this but I am convinced this is wasted on elementary aged students, and to a certain extent middle school students.

I was in school when they switched over to what they called the "new math" and it was not great at that point. What you have now is kids doing what the teacher says to do, not really understanding WHY they are doing it, and in the meantime losing what they need as far as rote math skills. So many students not only don't get the concepts (which I agree, they should have) but they don't have the ability to do basic math. I would argue that if they had those basics down it would be much easier to grasp the concepts behind them, and the slightly older brains could grok it better. So, wasted time all around for most.


I won't say that homeschooling is always better, and I won't say public or private school is always better. So much depends on the particular parents, the particular school district, the particular child. I know that my son had classmates at USAFA that had been homeschooled k-12, and I also know families that probably would do better not to homeschool. I do think it would be great to have a rested parent to oversee schoolwork whether or not it is done in the home.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:12 PM on March 20, 2013


I was in school when they switched over to what they called the "new math" and it was not great at that point. W

That's not what's used today and most people acknowledge it wasn't managed effectively. It's not helpful in thinking about today's math curricula, because it was an entirely different approach.

So, wasted time all around for most.

I just can't agree with you. The same basic arithmetical operations we all learned are still being taught. Students are actually learning more math, and earlier, than they learned when you were a student. Most of the time, my parents' biggest complaint was not that their kids couldn't understand the math, but that they couldn't understand their kids' math! And they often can't. A well educated kid with a good math curriculum today has a better feel for what we used to call "borrowing," in subtraction, than most adults do, for instance. They really understand what they are doing when they do the notation, which is reclassifying individual items within a base-ten grouping system. One interesting experiment in this is to give an adult a random three-digit subtraction problem, have them do it, and then ask how they got the answer. Do the same with a kid who has a good math program. The results can be really interesting.

It's hard to speak in generalities, and I don't want to dig into all the research, but it's too far a reach to call a contemporary math curriculum taught in a good school by a good teacher a failure. If a teacher isn't teaching "basic math concepts," you have a bigger problem than the theoretical approach, because basic math concepts are included in every contemporary math curriculum approach.

All in all, it's hard to have such a jelly-based conversation about schooling, and it was all the result of a derail anyway. I received radically critical teacher training, taught in an interesting school setting, and spent most of the rest of my career to a recent point doing a lot of K-12 educational design and delivery. It's hard to engage in a decent discussion about the topic that stays so general, references so little research, takes a particular rather than a comprehensive view, and so quickly activates personal feelings and assumptions. I don't really care if people want to homeschool their kids (nobody really cares, which is why there's actually so little serious research on it). It definitely has not conclusively been shown that it's any better, and given the stellar performance of the nation's top graduates of secondary formal learning programs, I seriously doubt it could beat them. But it's really niether here nor there. There are some bad teachers and schools, just as there some bad doctors and hospitals, and some bad lawyers and firms, and some bad financiers and banks, and some bad builders and buildings. And there are some very bad parents, and also many parents who overestimate themselves and their kids. Saying such a general thing doesn't provide us with anything useful to say about education or parenting, so we end up having a flabby discussion about, basically, nothing concrete.

I came in only to stand up against the contemptuous assumptions about professional educators, as a group, that were being tossed out. There's no need for that.

I basically agree with delmoi. We tend to overestimate the power we have to raise children to a specific outcome. Parents worry too much over it, and part of the worry comes from the false belief that there is an abundance of control available through parenting choices. At best, there's only influence. Most choices are OK given the basics are present: good health care, a safe home, enough food, a sense of security and stability, love. ONce you have that, the rest is gravy, no matter how many hours mom or dad works - as evidenced by the existence of fulfilled, happy, capable, successful, and good people from every kind of home and background.
posted by Miko at 4:12 PM on March 20, 2013


I thought this started out as a discussion of daycare versus parentcare (someone was claiming that all adults should work full time and all childcare during the work week should be handled by trained professionals), but we seemed to have slipped into a discussion of homeschooling.

Here's why. Apparently it's the only way to be a responsible parent, in the eyes of some.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:37 PM on March 20, 2013


"So many students not only don't get the concepts (which I agree, they should have) but they don't have the ability to do basic math. I would argue that if they had those basics down it would be much easier to grasp the concepts behind them, and the slightly older brains could grok it better. So, wasted time all around for most."

"New Math" isn't what we're doing anymore, though. Even my impoverished urban district starts kids on algebra in fifth grade now. That's not the accelerated curriculum; that's the standard. Math is really, really different than it was 30 years ago, and kids learn a lot more of it.

Here's one tiny, simple, evidence-based thing, that parents freak out about and come to school board meetings to complain about. When kids get drill worksheets (which they do plenty of!), they now get worksheets that say "3 x 4 = ?" BUT ALSO say "? = 3 x 4." This is a common, common convention in many Asian countries where drilling math facts is considered quite important, but in the U.S. it's seen as interfering in the drilling of math facts by screwing around with format to no purpose. Well, it turns out that if you only ever see 3x4=?, it trains your brain to do ONLY straight-ahead arithmetic and makes the transition to algebra, where the "x" can be anywhere in the problem, much more difficult for students. For them algebra isn't an extension of math they're already doing, but an entirely new discipline. Whereas if you give them some "? = 3 x 4" here and there (and even sometimes some 3 x ? = 12!), they transition to algebra much more fluently and easily, and even very simple changes like this have enabled schools to start bringing algebra down into lower and lower grade levels until kids are doing what used to be high school algebra in fifth grade. It's a MISTAKE to teach only arithmetic to elementary school students; it makes it HARDER for them to learn more advanced math when they are ONLY exposed to arithmetic.

Anyway, learning "traditional" math isn't the end of the world; I learned it the traditional way and I made it through college calculus and it was fine, and kids who learn it that way today will do fine. But we know more efficient and effective ways to teach math now, and I go sit in (to learn about the district curriculum) with these third-graders who are doing things I didn't do until high school (and I was in a high-honors track, and kicked the crap out of the SAT and the SAT II, including a perfect math score on one of the math subject tests, whatever they were back then), and they are GETTING it, and I learned mind-blowing things about triangle geometry that I had honestly not put together before because I was memorizing the how, but we didn't really go into the why. And they were engaged and having fun, and they didn't see math as dry or dull, they thought it was really INTERESTING, and they have higher homework compliance on the drill-type stuff because the kids can see how it'll be useful when they want to do the funner parts of math, or because they at least trust their teacher that it'll help with the fun parts.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:27 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


They're not a matched sample, that's why. Schools have to take everyone. Homeschoolers are already a cherrypicked group, not a random sample. The best educated students from professionally-led education systems are better educated than all homeschool students.

The thing is, Miko, I don't think anyone would say that home care and homeschooling is always better in all circumstances. But there are many cases where what the parent can provide will be better than what the daycare or school can provide, for a lot of reasons, many of them economic.

Because the best schools cost money - significant amounts of it. If I were to choose to put my daughter into the best elementary school that I think would take her, it would cost more than many people's private school college tuition. Her daycare /did/ cost more than local college tuition.

Right now she goes to a decent private school, but not the best, because I can't afford it. But if my choices were between sending her to the local public school, or homeschool, I would take the income hit and find a way to homeschool. Because the local public school is not acceptable - in part because they DO have to take everyone. They have to take severely behaviorally disturbed kids and violent kids and kids who are just not very bright. And current models of teaching say that they can't separate out the gifted kids, because even if the gifted kids do better from such separation, the other children do worse, and they care about the failing ones more.

And if my choice had been between keeping her home or sending her to a lower quality daycare, where the people did not speak with educated language or tones and used few unique words, I would have kept her home.

Not everyone can be the best educated student from a professionally-led education system. People have to make tough choices.
posted by corb at 5:10 AM on March 21, 2013


The thing is, Miko, I don't think anyone would say that home care and homeschooling is always better in all circumstances. But there are many cases where what the parent can provide will be better than what the daycare or school can provide, for a lot of reasons, many of them economic.

I don't think anyone is disputing that - the debate rather seems to be about whether or not someone should have children in the first place if they are not prepared to also homeschool them. You're correct that sometimes people can choose to do that, but personally, I think it's folly to expect people to do that as a condition of becoming parents.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:24 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Make your comments without insulting other people. If you need to have a personal conversation, you have email and MeMail. Those are your options, being obnoxious in this thread is not.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:08 AM on March 21, 2013


I don't think anyone is disputing that - the debate rather seems to be about whether or not someone should have children in the first place if they are not prepared to also homeschool them.

Actually, I've seen two extreme positions in this thread: (1) all parents should have full-time jobs and put their children in daycare, and (2) every parent should be prepared to homeschool their children. So, everyone is all worked up.

Stay at home, work full time, it doesn't matter. Either way the mom will be told that she's doing it wrong and harming society and her child. Lots of people will start with "of course, I believe every mom should be able to decide whether it makes sense for them to stay home or go back to work" and then go on to explain that one of those choices is actually horrible. The idea that the correctness of the choice for a given parent might depend on their career situation, family structure and support, financial status, and apptitude for childcare seems lost on some people.
posted by Area Man at 7:40 AM on March 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


Off of this specific topic and more generally about the article, I really thought that Miller got it wrong re Rebecca Woolf and her blog Girls Gone Child. Sure, the pictures she posts of her toddler twins are cute, but Woolf posts about the seamy underbelly of motherhood fairly frequently (eg, unexpected pregnancy, procrastination over supposed idyllic parental moments like kids birthday parties, etc). She is also one of the few parent bloggers to be candid about the help she hires to watch the kid while she is working on the blog/business. So to me representing her as a pusher of a "glossy and idealized" version of "mythical feminine perfection" misses the whole point of the blog. That seems like something someone would say after visiting the site and scrolling through the pictures, maybe, but not someone who had read through a week's worth of archives. And it's a shame, because I really enjoy the writing on the blog.

Area Man: I totally agree with you.
posted by onlyconnect at 7:51 AM on March 21, 2013


If you can't educate your kid, or care for them, don't have kids.
... I join in his comment also on the score of education. When my son asks me why condensation forms on a cold glass or my daughter asks me where a rainbow comes from, I don't say, "Derp! I don't know, so go ask your assigned government employee tomorrow".


This is pretty rough on people who don't have much formal education (or whose English is limited, even if they have extensive educations in another language). My dad's mom was forced to drop out of school in the eighth grade (by her parents, who sent her to work). She couldn't have taught her kids as well as the public schools they attended, even if she and her husband hadn't both needed to work to keep food on the table. Yet my dad went on to become a professor of English, and taught thousands of students over the course of his career.

It's not always a matter of saying "Derp!" - if you don't read English very well, even if you know that the answer is probably on the internet or in the reference books at the library, you may not know how to find it or be able to interpret it for your kid if you do know.
posted by gingerest at 11:45 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is pretty rough on people who don't have much formal education (or whose English is limited, even if they have extensive educations in another language)...It's not always a matter of saying "Derp!" - if you don't read English very well, even if you know that the answer is probably on the internet or in the reference books at the library, you may not know how to find it or be able to interpret it for your kid if you do know.

I am the first generation of my family to speak English natively and do not speak English at home. So, if you want to make the argument that a parent's English ability is somehow relevant to understanding a grade-school curriculum or conducting an internet search, you have definitely chosen the wrong person.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:52 PM on March 22, 2013


Tani, why are you assuming gingerest was talking about you specifically?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:14 PM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Tani, why are you assuming gingerest was talking about you specifically?

Because 80% of the text that gingerest quoted before commenting upon it was text that I wrote. Thus, it was a safe bet that it was directed towards something I wrote.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:55 PM on March 22, 2013


Because 80% of the text that gingerest quoted before commenting upon it was text that I wrote.

So....no chance that gingerest could have been trying to defend non-English speaking families to you?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:11 PM on March 22, 2013


So....no chance that gingerest could have been trying to defend non-English speaking families to you?

That she was doing such was the predicate of my comment.
posted by Tanizaki at 5:49 AM on March 23, 2013


I was defending people with low English literacy and low computer literacy, yes. Not from you. I just don't agree with the argument that a parent who doesn't have enough formal education to provide curriculum support is a necessarily worse parent. If you're not making that argument, fine.
I think your point is that a person who's highly educated in another language can explain an English grade-school curriculum to a child. Sure. But you are clearly highly literate in English, so your case is not pertinent.
I can make myself understood in French, and I can still read even highly technical matter in that language. I couldn't help a kid with her science or history homework in French because I haven't written in it in 25 years, but would that make me an unfit parent in a Francophone country?
And what of people who are illiterate in English? They are not unfit parents.
posted by gingerest at 9:51 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I spend a lot of time around research about the value of early childhood education, and it seems quite important. Education level of the mother is relevant to outcomes in the child.

On the other hand, I went to one of the shittiest rural public schools I have ever seen (and I've also spent ample research time working on data from underfunded schools), and went on to get into an Ivy and do very well at university with much personal attention from my professors. I studied literature, but also took a very heavy-duty math curriculum (math minor) that I picked up easily once I'd gone through a basic course in abstract math principles. Did my early education hold me back? Yeah, kind of-- I would've probably jumped right into math if I'd gone to a better high school, and socially things were unusual to me at first, because I was used to "people [who] did not speak with educated language or tones and used few unique words." But overall I was the steward of my own aptitudes and turned out fine.

Anecdata, but I do wonder sometimes how much we worry about language development and math performance, when the real fruits of a privileged, educated upbringing are things like not being stressed by money and hunger, not developing acute antisocial behavior as a response to stressors, and not feeling artificially held back by class markers like appearance and dialect or use of casual slang. Not to mention instincts about persistence and achieving goals. Being taught the right way is important, but as someone with natural ability who grew up in an uneducated environment with not much effective special attention, the biggest setbacks I've had were due mostly to class shame and guilt and poor stress/emotional management. Curiosity and reading taught me and my friends most of the things we missed out on in public school.

(Which, y'know, even in this thread there seems to be some kind of idea that texting "u wanna go to the mall this wkend" is truly a sign of brain rot in our children, but here I am, an Ivy graduate and copy editing intern who IMed in that precise fashion from elementary school all the way to junior high, so I dunno. We pay lip service to ideas like, "AAVE is only a setback because people will perceive you as stupid," but I'm not convinced that this and other platitudes don't simply mask the idea that we don't believe intelligence can coexist with non-standard English use in a child's brain.)

Oh, and yeah, math. The biggest setback I had math-wise was being taught only in terms of memorized facts and not in terms of strategies or problem solving or fundamental principles about algebra or abstraction or systems. That stuff is a fundamental part of math success. But I'm very tired and off-topic now.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:26 PM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Retro Husband (a response to the article in the OP).
posted by Kitty Stardust at 11:07 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe the degree of intelligence necessary for someone to have a child should be an understanding that if they are not competent to teach them at home, they send them to professsionals. STANDARD MET. Whew, glad we got that knocked out.
posted by corb at 6:22 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


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