What's a working mother to do?
June 15, 2001 9:52 AM   Subscribe

What's a working mother to do? Funny...I have started wondering about this myself-and of course I read this at work...
posted by bunnyfire (25 comments total)
If his father had custody, why are they blaming his mother for being 'across the country'. Why is it always the mother's fault when a kid goes wrong?

Who is checking on statistic like 'how many children under the age of 6 have fathers who work outside the home?" Who is wondering what role working fathers have in the development of their children?
posted by kristin at 10:07 AM on June 15, 2001

If all new parents would commit to the idea of financial sacrifice (meaning getting by on one income) during at least the pre-school years, this planet would be a whole lot better. Of course, actively developing your child's imagination and curiosity should be a no-brainer as well. Is this really too much too ask of people? The 3 big evils in society today are consumerism, bad parenting and school systems that do nothing more than teach people how to be employees.
posted by davebush at 10:42 AM on June 15, 2001

> What's a working mother to do?

Either locate a househusband or go be a housewife. Marry wisely so you don't have to get divorced (your parents can help you pick.) Until you have married wisely and have either nailed down a househusband or committed yourself to being a housewife, don't have babies.
posted by jfuller at 10:59 AM on June 15, 2001

how many children under the age of 6 have fathers who work outside the home

Nearly all of them. Men don't have the choices that women do when it comes to whether or not to work. Men are expected to provide financial support for themselves and their families - period. Women have a choice - home with the kids, or off to work.

I'd like to stay home with my kid some days. I do most of the house cleaning as well (laundry excepted, due to an ill-advised bleach incident early on in my marriage). And I go to work downtown every day, ekeing out an living at the behest of a gang of corporate thugs. Those are my responsibilities, and I accept them.

How many husbands do you know that have made the choice - or are even allowed the choice - of giving up work and staying at home to raise the kids?
posted by UncleFes at 11:29 AM on June 15, 2001

I know two.
posted by lileks at 11:54 AM on June 15, 2001

Get out.
posted by UncleFes at 12:06 PM on June 15, 2001

I've lived my whole life and met ONE, and the reason he did was because his heart is so bad that he is prohibited from working in his trade (construction), and he felt like a heel for not doing what he felt was his duty to his family.
posted by UncleFes at 12:08 PM on June 15, 2001

Really: one was a writer who just stayed home with three, count them three, kids under 6, and the other is a musician who stays home with the kids and works at night. In both cases, the wives worked full-time office jobs.

Part of their super-secret recipe: medium-sized houses in cheap burbs, and bulk shopping.
posted by lileks at 12:11 PM on June 15, 2001

I agree with UncleFes that most men don't ever consider the idea that they will be able to anything but the breadwinner for their family.

I think this idea is being adopted by more and more men and women as the norm for women, too. in some cases it's a financial necessity, and in some cases it's a financial "necessity". and in some cases, women have careers that are very important to them.

it's also true that I've met relatively few people who *love* their jobs, so it seems to me that a lot of this working is due to perceived economic need, or perceived expectation.

I think the article gets in wrong by pointing to working mothers as the problem; I think the problem addressed here could be solved by a stay-at-home parent of either sex.

lileks: I know two. you know, this is the initial promise of feminism, a world in which people of both sexes could live in equality, doing the work for which they were best suited. unfortunately, the whole movement got sucked into the current climate of hypermaterialism, and it became all about the workplace. - rcb
posted by rebeccablood at 12:14 PM on June 15, 2001

this latest killer was one more unsupervised, motherless boy

So, if we take the three most prolific school shooters of recent memory and arbitarily knock out Harris and Klebold, then *EVERY ONE LEFT* is a child of divorce.

If we don't knock out the Columbine killers, then children of two parent families are *TWICE* as likely to be psychotic mass murderers than children of divorced parents.

boys who spent all their spare time in dark corners of the internet,

Oddly enough, if one searches for the
dark corners of the internet one gets back 45,100 links to stuff about Cthulu.
posted by swell at 12:20 PM on June 15, 2001

This is a long, interesting, and I think, well-balanced article. I think it is not helpful to simplify people's choices into "Do this, or do that". Modern family life is complex and varied.

I grew up in a middle-class household as the oldest of three children. My father worked full-time, and my mother stayed home until the youngest child was in elementary school. Working at a job where she reviews the financial records of various public officials, my mother occassionally notes that large number of individuals with huge debts and little or no savings. Many of these people make significant incomes. So they are not handling their finances well, and they have morgaged their future for a big house or expensive cars, etc.

The point here is that this is really a discussion of one's priorities. Some people have to work a lot, to support their families. Other people choose to work more than what is necessary to reach any reasonable standard of living. See "American Beauty".

A large number of middle class people could work less and live on a lot less income. They choose not to do this in order to enjoy a higher standard of living. I am not saying this is black and white, right or wrong. But it should be recognized that people have priorities underlying their work and life choices that clearly impact the children they are raising.

On another note, I am suprised that the article suggests that parents aren't interested in varied employment options. I think one of the best things companies could do to allow parents more time with their kids is to offer alternative work schedules, hours, benefits, etc. I think a significant number of workers would love the option of a 4-day, 32-hour work week, for example.
posted by 4midori at 12:21 PM on June 15, 2001

unfortunately, the whole movement got sucked into the current climate of hypermaterialism

That's part of it, certainly. But I also think that women got sold a bill of goods by feminists. Women were told that, since men had it all, women could (and should) have it all too. But men have never gotten it all - no one gets it all. Every choice involved the sacrifice of other options. It's a little laughable that families who have two working parents (and mine is one of those) are still willing to believe that their kids will be just as well looked after.

At the same time, we shouldn't forget that, despite the media screamfest over school shootings, there is a lot less violence in schools today then there was two decades ago. And there is a lot less violent crime today then there was two decades ago, too. Kids today are smarter, less likely to take drugs, less likely to get pregnant, more likely to have a job and typically headed to college in greater numbers than my generation (all we wanted to do was smoke bongs in the back of the bus). They're good kids, and they get a bad rap from baby-boomer tongue-wagging.
posted by UncleFes at 12:25 PM on June 15, 2001

it's funny what "sacrifices" men have to make though. men are many times more likely to accept traveling posts and relocation than women are, for example, and this is one of the complicities that maintain the 30% difference in pay between men and women (currently it is argued that only 10% is genuinely sexist). yet many wives and, though less likely, serious girlfriends pack up and move with their man when the time happens.

no man has it "all"; nor does a woman. but women don't have what men DO, which is i think the point to key upon. and might i add that women who work outside the home are less likely to be depressed (in spite of higher stress levels) and that kids of working moms are often in better social situations since they are forced to hang out with their peers?
posted by moz at 12:38 PM on June 15, 2001

men are many times more likely to accept traveling posts and relocation than women are

Yes, and often it is because we realize all too well that to NOT accept such posts is to court career disaster. If our primary responsibility to the family is financial, then the choice to take a travelling position is not much of a choice.

but women don't have what men DO

Like what?
posted by UncleFes at 1:04 PM on June 15, 2001

It's as though the world has forgotten that this is a person, a small human being that has been brought into the world and needs nuturing, care and constant attention in order to grow up. Parents today, by and large, pop 'em out and send them off to caretakers to be raised (be it a nanny, after school program or the television) - and I find that totally offensive. It explains perfectly why children are such ill behaved monsters. Huge sacrifices need to be made well beyond getting pregnant and paying the hospital bill. I don't care how, but you find a way for both parents to stay home and raise the kid. If you're going to have a child then you had better take complete responsibility for its welfare.
posted by gsh at 1:36 PM on June 15, 2001

fes: like that extra 10% salary?
posted by moz at 1:40 PM on June 15, 2001

and if you DO do that the finished product is SO much nicer to be around!
posted by bunnyfire at 1:41 PM on June 15, 2001

Having a child brings with it more responsibility than most people realize. You grow up, marry and have kids. That was the way your parents did it, so that is the way you should do it. Okay, fine, but times and ideas have changed from the "Father Knows Best" kind of life. You have a child, a small human being that is dependent upon you for everything, food, shelter and nuture. It is hard in these times give all these. Food and shelter can be acquired by money, to have money you need a job or win the lottery. Nuture requies time. Time it seems so many people just don't have or don't take. Two career households are the most common ones these days. When a child comes along one career gets put on the back burner. Which? Generally the womans. I know of three familys just in my little area that have done this. All are doctors both husband and wife. One couple has two kids, one four and one six. In one case one of the wives no longer works at all and the other two are very limited. These women have made a great concession to have children. They do not want them to be latchkey kids. I do not say they are right. But these ar the kinds of decisions that have to be made by families in order to try to raise children that are good and wel rounded, the kind of kids you can be proud of, the kind of kids that say please and thank you, the kind of kids that go by the nursing home on the way home from school to talk to the little people sitting out on the porch just because they want to.
posted by bjgeiger at 1:47 PM on June 15, 2001

so moz: you're saying that no one has it all, but that men are more generously compensated for their worktime?

I will just add to the conversation the fact that almost no men have to contemplate having a family as an either/or situation; women who intend to stay home with their children know that for the next 10-20 years, everything else will either be on hold or take a lower priority. even if you really, really want to have children, that can be hard to face.

generally, men don't have to choose between a profession they love and having a family; they can have both.

here's another example of where an extended family could be put to good use. mom might even be able to work, if grandma or auntie was available and willing to babysit. - rcb
posted by rebeccablood at 1:52 PM on June 15, 2001

fes: like that extra 10% salary?

I dunno yet, they keep taking it out in taxes :)

I always wondered about that, though - figure it this way: If women make 90% of every buck a man makes, wouldn't it make sense for every HR department in the nation to fire all the men, hire all women replacements and cut their payroll by 10% overnight? Any VP of HR that cut payroll 10 points without cutting staff would get a HUGE bonus.

I think that maybe there are other factors than sex that force that number down, if it's true at all.
posted by UncleFes at 1:56 PM on June 15, 2001

(for one thing, I think men are more comfortable asking for a high salary than many women are; you have the most negotiating power when they've offered you the job and before you've accepted - more than you ever will again. if you come in higher then, you'll stay in front. even in yearly reviews, I think women are less likely than men to ask for a hefty raise. )
posted by rebeccablood at 2:05 PM on June 15, 2001

rebecca: yes, i am saying that women earn on broad average 70% of what men do; and, controlling for various factors such as career choice, prestige of college, and so on, women earn 90% of what men do. i sold back my book from psychology of gender sadly, so i can't add much more than what i have off the top of my head.

your idea of the extended family was very much in existence prior to WW2.
posted by moz at 2:06 PM on June 15, 2001

(not that it isn't now, but it was much more prevalent i should say)
posted by moz at 2:07 PM on June 15, 2001

I think the resulting child is also heavily dependent on the single parent (mother or father). My own mother was a single mom by no choice of her own, and successfully raised me to the point that I'm only a slightly irrational hysteric. But seriously, I never wanted for anything - and we were certainly not raking in the dough. She worked on the weekends at times, but she and I also did (and still do) millions of things as a family (which I think people tend to forget to do - 2 parents or not).
posted by owillis at 2:10 PM on June 15, 2001

no men have to contemplate having a family as an either/or situation

If their wife has access to a ob-gyn, they do. It takes two, you know. In fact, a woman has nearly sole custody over the final decision to start a family; she can stop one, or start one, without any, ahem, input, from her husband.

You're right, the decision as a man isn't "do I or don't I"; but as typical financial sponsor of the family, however, the decision to start a family is a big one - it means a huge addition to our responsibilities. That means less freedom to take bad paying but personally satisfying jobs; less freedom to tell the boss to shove it and walk out; more pressure to succeed in ways that translate into continually increasing salary; and less freedom to spend take-home pay as you see fit.

men are more comfortable asking for a high salary than many women are

I'm not sure that's true, nor am I sure that it's fixable if it is true.
posted by UncleFes at 2:31 PM on June 15, 2001

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