Solving the “Problem” of Stay at Home Moms

Early on in graduate school I met a woman who identifies as a second wave feminist (personally, I’m third wave all the way). She told me that she’s opposed to stay at home moms, because every time a woman drops out of the workforce, or declines to enter it, she stands in the way of gender equality and makes things harder for women as a whole. How? Well, the greater the number of women who drop out of the workforce, the more likely employers will be to view women as a risky investment—and the fewer women in the workplace the more likely workplaces will be male-dominated and male-centric. In fact, she went so far as to suggest that women should be required to work and not allowed to stay home, as this would ultimately lead to greater gender equality.

While I could see the intuitive sense in what she was saying, it made me extremely uncomfortable. I have several good friends who are stay at home moms, two in particular. Each of them worked in their early to mid twenties, and quit to stay home when they had their first baby. In each case these decisions were affected by their job prospects—one in particular was on a job track with little in the way of advancement—and by the extremely high cost of daycare, as well as by personal preference. Both identify as feminists, and both have completely supportive husbands. I am not okay with the idea of forcing these women to have jobs outside of the home, especially when home is where they’ve chosen to be.

I think part of the problem here is that sometimes there is a conflict between choice and equality. I mean, think about it: If women always chose to take low paying jobs (say, teacher, or secretary) while men chose to take high paying jobs (say, accountant, or banker), there would never be economic equality between the genders. And it’s not just that. As long as more women go into teaching and more men into banking, even if it is by choice, teaching will pay less and banking as a career won’t be friendly to women. If you could equalize the number going into each, this would start to change. So it becomes a sort of circle, and sometimes an endorsement of “choice” is not actually the most efficient way to bring about equality. The woman I met in graduate school was right that the most efficient way of achieving economic and social equality, as well as a more family friendly workplace environment, would be to require all women to enter the workplace.

Let me try to explain where I differ. See, we all make bounded choices. My friends’ choices, for instance, were affected by daycare costs. Similarly, one of them had gotten a traditionally female degree that didn’t lead to great job prospects, which also affected her choice. We don’t make choices in a vacuum, but we do try to make the choices that are best for us, and our families, in our specific circumstances.

I don’t want to constrain women’s choices, I want to change the factors that serve as boundaries around women’s choices. Yes, I understand that, as the woman I met my first year of graduate school pointed out, these factors are reinforced in the present by women’s choices—if every woman worked, the demand for government subsidized daycare, for instance, might be great enough to overcome opponents to the measure. But I think we have to try to change these factors using what we have now, and I think we can do this, though I am not saying it will be easy. I want paid parental leave (for both genders), subsidized daycare and after school care, and family friendly work environments (including things like making part time work more viable). I want to deconstruct the stereotyping of some careers as feminine and some as masculine while also working to increase the monetary value placed on traditionally feminine spheres like teaching.

I suppose my answer is this: I want to do things that make women’s choices more free by changing the factors that make their choices bounded without dictating their choices, not things that may bring greater freedom and equality in the future but in the present require women to do “what is best” for women as a whole regardless of their present circumstances is what is best for them. Remember how I said that women’s choices are bounded? Well, if we (whoever “we” is here) required that all women work and therefore put my friends back in the workforce, that wouldn’t change the fact that daycare costs would eat up a great deal of their paychecks or the fact that one of my friends would have little room for career advancement and might be stuck in a dead-end job. Forcing women into the workforce might bring about some positive changes long term, but it would also require women like my friends to do things that, given their particular situations and constraints, are not best for them or their families.

But there’s more to be done beyond trying our darndest to remove the constraints on women’s choices. We need to be finding ways to improve the lot of stay at home moms. For example, as it currently stands, a woman who stays at home and never holds an outside job will not receive social security when she turns 65. I’m not sure how anyone can think this makes sense—we as a society ought to want to care for all of our elderly, not just those who have “paid in.” Further, we should envision a society in which people can more easily leave and reenter the workforce, a society in which gaps on a resume do not end one’s job prospects—and a society where the number of stay at home dads are not dwarfed by the number of stay at home moms. If we can change our society’s conversation from one about stay at home moms to one about stay at home parents, and also one about the needs of working parents, that will be progress.

It is our system that is the problem, not women’s choices to stay at home.

This all said, I don’t want to send you off thinking that there is some huge pool of feminists who want to force women into the workforce. There isn’t. The woman I met at the beginning of graduate school is, in my experience at least, a bit of an anomaly—and who know, she may have just been grandstanding. In my experience, second wave feminists are more likely to be critical of the ways individual women’s choices make things harder for women as a whole while third wave feminists are more likely to less critically endorse choice itself as empowering, but in practice both come together in recognizing the importance of eliminating constraints on women’s choices and working toward a world where parenthood is supported, whether through more family friendly work policies or through efforts to improve the long term prospects of stay at home parents. And this ability to look at, think about, and tinker with the system may well be what I like most about feminism.

Sometimes All I Can Say Is UGH
How We Disagree
Fifty Shades of Evangelical Justifications for Patriarchy
The Radical Notion that Children Can Have Anxiety Too
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • saramaimon

    how ridiculous. forcing people to work against there will is called enslavement and it’s illegal. to speak of enslavement in the name of equality is very strange.

    • psykins

      Yet we do it all the time in our prison system…

  • Bugmaster

    It’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem. More women would voluntarily enter the workforce if we fix all (or at least some of) the social problems you mentioned. Unfortunately, we are not likely to fix these problems (at least, not quickly) until more women enter the workforce, thus becoming commonplace and erasing traditional gender roles. I don’t think there’s a perfect solution to this.

    • saramaimon

      actually most women ARE in the workforce. The problem is probably in the higher paid, male dominated sectors of the work force.

      • Bugmaster

        Good point, though there are still many more stay at home moms than stay at home dads, like Libby Anne said.

  • smrnda

    Part of the issue may be that the typical image of the stay at home mom is the wife of a guy who is making well above average money. I’m not sure how accurate that image really is, but I think part of it might be people struggling to get by on two incomes who feel that the ‘choice’ to stay home is really a matter of concern only to privileged people.

    I’d say I know that can’t be true all the time since some people are driven to stay home because of cost – the work pays less than the associated costs of childcare. However, not working isn’t an option for some moms, and many of these moms aren’t really working in jobs that have much in the way of intrinsic rewards.

    • victoria

      Agreed. One of the more common scenarios you see in this country is where the partner with the somewhat higher income either doesn’t have a particularly stable job or can’t get health insurance through work, so the other partner needs to work even if daycare eats up most/all of it.

    • MrPopularSentiment

      My husband works in retail for not too much above minimum wage, and I am a stay-at-home parent. We cut it very close every month (though we count savings for retirement, child’s education, and rainy day to be mandatory “expenses,” so our definition of “cutting it close” is probably different from many other people’s!). So yes, there are definitely people out there who have a stay-at-home parent yet aren’t making big bucks with the working partner.

      For us, it was about priorities. My husband and I are just not ambitious at all in the career sense, and we think of money as a tool to achieve goals and not as a goal in and of itself (so as long as we have enough to pay the bills, save, and have a little discretionary cash, we’re perfectly content).

      Instead, we prefer to focus our attentions on each other, our son, and on our respective hobbies. So my husband works in retail and isn’t going for management because it means that he can just put in his hours and then come home and have a very clear division between work and home. Also, because of his regular shift, he starts very early in the morning but is home by 2pm, so he has the whole afternoon and evening to spend with our son before bedtime. That means a lot to him. If he went for a more lucrative job, he’d be coming home closer to 6pm, just an hour before the kid goes to sleep.

      Having someone at home means that one person can do the bulk of the for-profit work and one person can do the bulk of the household maintenance work, and then we get to maximize of time we get to spend on each other.

      Being forced to work? Holy crap, I can’t even imagine… I tried to go back to work when my maternity leave ended and it was a nightmare. Everyone was stressed out and I felt like I wasn’t getting to see my son at all (I worked a 9-5 job, so I was away, literally, nearly the entire time my son was awake 5/7 days). The two-working-parents lifestyle just didn’t jive with our priorities at all.

  • jose

    “I am not okay with the idea of forcing these women to have jobs outside of the home”

    This is a ridiculous idea and you have made a mistake by thinking this is what anybody wants: to force women to do this or that. Perhaps a different context will make this error apparent:

    I say: Bad movies are boring, they send bad messages, they idiotize the public, and they take all the money that could go to good movies, so the industry wants more and more bad movies. We should take some measures so good movies and good directors have it just as easy to get made as published as stupid blockbusters, because when you talk with individual persons, they recognize their worth.

    You say: You can’t force me to watch the movies you like.

    Well duh. I can’t and I don’t. That’s not the idea at all.

    • Bugmaster

      What measures would you take, though ? One common answer is, “just stop watching bad movies”, but if those are the kinds of movies that people like, then you are effectively trying to stop people from watching movies they like.

      Another option is to sponsor good directors, like you said, but it’s trickier. Firstly, the money has to come from somewhere, and it won’t come from ticket sales. Secondly, even if you do manage to create a bunch of awesome movies, most people still won’t watch them, since these are not the movies that they like watching.

      In the actual, real-world case of movies and games, one good answer so far has turned out to be Kickstarter. It allows content creators to reach their niche audiences, ensuring that movies and games that are not widely popular still get made. However, “niche” is the key word here; if Kickstarter is changing public tastes in movies and games, then it is doing so imperceptibly slowly (at least, for the moment).

      • jose

        Democratize the whole environment. Unregulated free market always leads to a powerful oligarchy that shapes culture and crushes newcomers independently of their quality. An aristocracy of opinion makers. Same thing happens everywhere, big fish eats small fish as long as nobody does anything to stop that from happening. That’s why an author like Tanith Lee can’t find a publisher. They’re all busy publishing Cristiano Ronaldo’s memories.

        Force has nothing to do with it. Nobody forces women to stay at home. People who would like to see equal numbers of men and women working and staying at home aren’t forcing women to anything.

        Libby Anne shoud retract this accusation.

      • Bugmaster

        I’m not sure I understand your plan. Currently, there are lots of people out there who enjoy watching bad movies; this is one of the reasons why bad movies make so much money: people are willing to pay for them. I’m not sure what you mean by “democratize the whole environment”, and how this is supposed to solve anything.

        If you mean, “more government regulation”, then you will increase the supply of good movies but won’t increase the demand; thus, you would reach more niche audiences (as with Kickstarter; see above), but won’t change the tastes of the public at large. If you mean, “less government regulation”, things will continue as they are (or get worse). But perhaps you meant something else ?

        You say that “nobody forces women to stay at home”, but what about those women who weigh their options, and decide to stay at home of their own free will ? A large number of women do just that, thus ensuring that there will be fewer women than men in the workforce. Would you compel these women to enter the workforce ? If so, how ? If not, what is your solution, then ?

      • jose

        As long as there is systematic oppression there can’t be a free choice. Might as well tell me women wax their legs out of their own free will ignoring the giant ostracizing backlash not shaving legs has. Or that expensive makeup and skin products are just her choices, when actually women who don’t comply with it have it harder to find a job.

        I’m not a libertarian. I don’t think people live in bubbles.

        Guarantee economic and social equality first, and then you can say it’s just a matter of choice.

      • Bugmaster

        I completely agree with your description of the problem, but I am at a loss regarding how you’d “guarantee economic and social equality”. One solution we’ve seen so far is to create an equal and opposing “giant ostracizing backlash” against women who chose to stay at home; I’m not sure if you endorse it or not. Do you have another solution in mind ? You said you’d “democratize the system”, but I don’t know what that means.

    • Baby_Raptor

      You should probably work on your reading comprehension.Libby talked about a person who advocated that idea; that was why she mentioned it at all in the first place.

      So who made the mistake again?

      • jose

        No, that person didn’t force women to anything either.

  • Alison Parker

    I actually thought of a similar solution to the same problem the other day. Except instead of forcing all women to work, my idea was to force all men to take parental leave when they have a child.

    • Anat

      As a woman who was climbing up the walls during my maternity leave I hate the idea of forced leave for both partners. Though perhaps if I had my husband at home too I wouldn’t have been that bored.

    • Kristen White

      Norway used to have a policy that new parents are entitled to a year of parental leave, and they can decide how to allocate the leave between parents, but what happened practically was that mothers took the full leave and fathers took very little, and it wasn’t socially acceptable for father to take parental leave. In 1993, they changed it so that each parent is entitled to 10 weeks of the leave that can’t be transferred, then they also have the shared pool of leave. As of 2008, 90% of fathers took ten weeks of leave, and there are more stay-at-home dads in Norway than almost any other European country. To me, that’s a perfect example of a socially responsible government. They’re not requiring anything, but are setting people up for success by giving incentives for both parents to have time alone as the primary caregiver for their children.

  • ako

    Picking equality over choice is likely, in the short term, to get faster results. It’s much easier to push for women’s acceptance in traditionally male fields without the women making more traditional choices being held up as ‘proof’ of prejudice. And you can have a much more focused movement without having to push in multiple different seemingly-contradictory directions. (They’re not really contradictory, when you recognize women as individuals, but to a lot of people, it sounds like asking for two opposite things.) But you have to look at what you’re building in the long term, and another system of pushing women into certain rigidly-defined roles and shaming or coercing them if they don’t comply doesn’t look like a huge improvement in my eyes.

    Choice is very important. Choice is freedom. Choice is fundamental to what any push for equality should feature. (The whole reason for equality is equal status, equal opportunity, and equal freedom. Very few people would want some mandatory androgynous dystopia where everyone was forces into identical short haircuts and baggy jumpsuits and not allowed to display any particular interest in decorative arts or competitive sports or anything else that might be seen as gendered. Lots of people would love a world where they could pursue whatever they wanted without having to worry about whether it was considered masculine or feminine.) But it’s easy to use the word “choice” as cover for subtler inequality, like the woman who decides to stay home because she thinks it’s good for someone to stay home with the kids, and she’s the one whose salary they can afford to give up because she’s a woman, plus she’s got everyone from relatives to lifestyle magazine articles telling her that it’s only natural.

    Trying for choice and inequality is long and slow, and it’s possible that in the end, we’ll reach the point where we discover inherent average gender differences and end up having to go “Well, these jobs will always be around sixty percent male, and those careers will always be majority female, because men and women, on average, are different.” (I’d want solid and rigorous evidence before I accepted this, but I’m not dismissing the possibility.) But based on everything I know know, it seems best for actual people.

    • Arachne

      I think that it is also worth saying that taking away choice in order to expedite equal opportunities is bound to backfire and turn people away from it completely.

  • AlisonCummins

    Fascinating. My view of second-wave feminism was that it was all about empowering choice in the sense of empowering women to make choices. Abortion rights, sex education, educating girls so that they aren’t dependent on a man (Gloria Steinem: Most women are just one man away from poverty), daycare, rejecting sole responsibility for childrearing and housework, equal pay for work of equal value. The idea of compulsory heterosexuality is classic second-wave. The pro-natalist policies we have here in Quebec are pretty second-wave: one year of fully- to partially-paid prenatal leave available to either parent and paid for through the Employment Insurance, not by individual employers. And daycare for $7/day.

    My view of third-wave feminism is that it’s all about uncritically calling any choice “empowering” whether it’s bounded or gives actual power or not, and focussing on representation in a post-modernist way that makes Barbie a feminist icon because she can do anything, even be a masturbatory aid. For me, third-wave feminism is about the right to identify as the sex of your choice and to earn praise for choosing between Coke and Pepsi. Someone born with a female body is a man if he announces he is one and we don’t look at the context for why someone with a female body would choose to identify as a man rather than as a butch woman. Third-wave feminism makes it all about expressing one’s true self.

    I’m not saying my characterization of third-wave is more accurate than your perception of second-wave, I’m just fascinated by the kinds of prejudices we have.

    • AlisonCummins

      Another way of putting it: Marx was required reading for the second wave. Derrida and Lacan are the theorists of the third wave.

    • AlisonCummins

      Also: “the personal is political” is the classic second-wave slogan and it’s very much about how personal choices and relationships are bounded by political (social, economic) context.

      • Alix_A

        I hate that slogan. I really, really do. I have only ever seen it used, outside of a historical context, as a hammer to use against other women, policing whether or not they are being sufficiently feminist, for whatever the definition of feminist is that day.

        Sorry, no. I categorically reject the notion that my body – that my self – is a political battleground for anybody, and one of my main fights is trying to get other people to leave my body/identity out of their politics. I refuse to let my enemies – the people who want me to act a certain way, or want to restrict my freedoms – win on this, because frankly? NO ONE’s personal life, body, self, identity should be a political battlefield, and if I concede that mine is, then they’ve won the major battle. Because at that point, if my personal life is political, then that means others have a right to determine my personal life for me, and they damn well don’t.

        Whether they’re feminists or fundamentalists, they don’t have that right.

      • AlisonCummins

        See, this is fascinating to me. I have *never* heard it used that way. One of us is hanging out with the wrong people.

        It comes from CR groups. Women get together and raise their political consciousnesses by talking about their personal stories. For instance, Button talks about how when she has some free time she folds laundry. When her husband has some free time he practices the flute. This could be understood as a personal division of time within a couple, or it could be put into a context where women’s time is not valued, where men’s talents take priority. There’s discussion of how much Button can do about this on her own and what things require solidarity and social and political change, discussion of who controls the means of production and who controls the means of reproduction and what the consequences are. There’s noticing that whatever women do is automatically assigned a lower value than whatever men do. It’s not just Button: Doctors in Russia are mostly women and they are regarded as technicians and not paid particularly well. Doctors in the West are overwhelmingly men and are wealthy. Then instead of feeling like a silly long-suffering twit all by herself, Button reaches out to other women and together they help bring about change.

        And more, of course. It’s exactly analogous to Libby Anne’s noticing that women’s personal, private choices to stay home to raise children are heavily bounded and are actually individual manifestations of a larger political and social structure. Back in the day, women pushed for extended paid parental leave and subsidized daycare. In some places they were successful, in others they weren’t. Why weren’t they successful in the US? It clearly has nothing to do with forcing women to work whether they choose to or not, because Canadians have extended paid parental leave and nobody’s chasing Canadian women around with bayonets herding us into workplaces. So it’s something else. What?

        (My mother wanted to join a CR group. My father wouldn’t let her because the feminists would just convince her to leave him.)

        Wikipedia discussion here:

      • Alix_A

        Thank you for the information!

        I can’t say it changes my mind about the slogan – too much baggage attached to it for me – but it’s nice to know more about where it came from.

        Edit: I feel like I should add that I’m not at all against looking at things like cultural contexts – indeed, I think that’s necessary. I just have had a lot of really negative encounters with people who’ve decided that my identity is something that can or even should be picked apart in ways they’d never accept of their own.

        So I’ve probably been a little short in my responses the past few days – I try not to be, but I am really bad at judging my tone. I apologize for that. I do, however, still think that dissecting people’s identities is … kind of dangerous, and problematic.

      • Alix_A

        I’m putting this in a separate comment, because I think this illustration might be helpful. This is the kind of dissection of my identity I hear from a lot (not all, not by a long shot, but a lot) of feminists:
        -When did you decide you weren’t a woman?
        -What makes you feel like you’re not female?
        -But women can do whatever men can now.
        -But “not ever thinking of yourself as female” isn’t good enough. What does that even mean? (repeated ad nauseam)
        -You’re just anti-woman.
        -But you look like a woman.
        -But you wear skirts.
        -No one’s really asexual. Why don’t you like sex?
        -So you don’t love anybody. You’re not planning to get married, are you?
        -You know you should talk to your doctor about that lack of sex drive. (Which, btw, is not the same thing as asexuality.)
        -I hope you never have children. I’d hate to think of how you’d repress them.
        -Your asexuality is just a relic of your Christian upbringing. (Nope.)
        -Genderqueer people are just confused perverts. Asexual people are just repressed prudes.
        -When did you realize you were asexual, and why didn’t you do anything to fix that?

        And so on.

        And yet if I turned around and asked any of these people similar questions (when did you decide you were a woman? isn’t being straight just a relic of your social upbringing?) I would be shut down as being rude and aggressively intrusive. And rightly so.

        And yet somehow it’s perfectly acceptable for feminists – and quite a surprising amount of them – to ask me these things, repeatedly, and repeatedly find my answers unsatisfactory. Because obviously something’s wrong with me somehow, because I don’t fit into neat little boxes.

        This is why I have a knee-jerk reaction to the idea of questioning people’s identities. People who claim to be my allies treat me repeatedly like a lab rat for dissection, not a human being with the right to my own identity.

    • Alix

      we don’t look at the context for why someone with a female body would choose to identify as a man rather than as a butch woman.

      GOOD. People are already more than happy to pick apart my identity as it is – it is none of your business why I identify the way I do, regardless of how you perceive my body.

      In all honesty, this attitude – that my gender and even my (lack of) sexuality are up for dissection and discussion and even shaming by feminists – is a large part of the reason I am wary of IDing as a feminist myself. I identify strongly with feminism, and I think it is extremely valuable, but it’s that once-burned, twice-shy proverb in action: I’ve run into way too many feminists who have decided that I am either sick or a patriarchal shill for being myself.

      I don’t like the implication I get from your comment that my identity is up for communal dissection in a way a ciswoman’s isn’t.

    • Kristen White

      Your characterization of third wave feminism just drips with disdain. Even when you admit that it might not be an accurate description, it’s clear that you think it is childish and not intellectually serious. Are you aware that it’s quite offensive to imply that there’s little difference between a person who is transgender and a person whose gender presentation isn’t traditional?

      • The_L1985

        Especially considering the large number of people who consider nontraditional gender presentation and transgender to be the same thing as homosexuality!

        Classic example: the recalled Chick Tract Wounded Children (here with rather biting commentary)

      • AlisonCummins

        Yeah, that’s about right. Libby Anne has a lot of frustration and possibly disdain for the strawman she calls second-wave feminism. I have frustration and disdain for the strawman I call third-wave. Clearing away the straw typically does a lot for frustration and disdain generally.

        Yes, I have a subjective impression that it’s childish and not intellectually serious. That is strongly coloured by the fact that I often get it from people half my age and I am confounding the message and the messenger. Young people often have the impression that ideas that are new to them are *new.* That’s cute but hardly ever the case.

        I also have the impression that third-wavers have made more progress with what they call “intersectionality” than second-wavers did with what they called “coalition.” Kudos.

        Kristen, are you trying to tell me that gender identity and gender presentation are two independent and unrelated concepts, like eye colour and, say, weight? I’d like to see you sit down and explain that to my ex without offending her. She’s one of the folks who did the heavy lifting that made the [relatively] safe(r) space that many trans* folk occupy today. You guys didn’t invent it.

      • Alix_A

        gender identity and gender presentation are two independent and unrelated concepts

        They’re different but related concepts. I identify as nongendered, for lack of a better term. I currently present as female, because laziness.

        It’s like how I’m a panromantic asexual. Romantic attraction and sexual attraction are two different-but-related concepts, and I feel none of the latter towards anyone, but I can be romantically inclined towards anyone.

        For a lot of people, those things overlap: they present, or try to, as their gender identity, and their romantic and sexual orientations overlap. But no, they’re not the same thing, and that people see them as such is deeply problematic. It leads to things like people telling me I must not ever be able to love people because I’m asexual, or people telling me that I must not be nongendered because I have large boobs.

    • The_L1985

      I’m kind of disturbed by the attitude I notice by the second wave towards transpeople, and your post isn’t exactly an exception.

      If a person tells me “I am a woman,” then that person is a woman, even if she has a penis.

      If a person tells me “I am a man,” then that person is a man, even if he has a vulva.

      I don’t see how it is in any way my business WHY they identify the way they do, any more than it’s anybody’s business WHY I prefer teaching over other professions, or WHY I date the people I choose to date, or WHY I self-identify as bisexual.

      And…the third wave doesn’t like Barbie much more than the second wave: we believe that dolls should put more emphasis on what people can do and less emphasis on “You should have X type of body and always be beautiful.” We also believe that there should be more dolls of color available, so that all children can have a toy that looks “just like me.” Furthermore, I’ve never heard a second-waver praise zir sons who choose to play with dolls or do other stereotypically “feminine” things, even though daughters who choose to do stereotypically “masculine” things are treated without prejudice.

      Devaluing feminine things is just as problematic as forcing women into ONLY enjoying those things: it implies that feminine toys/activities–and therefore women–are inferior.

      • Alix_A

        Devaluing feminine things is just as problematic as forcing women into ONLY enjoying those things: it implies that feminine toys/activities–and therefore women–are inferior.

        Thank. You.

      • Feminerd

        Devaluing feminine things is just as problematic as forcing women into ONLY enjoying those things: it implies that feminine toys/activities–and therefore women–are inferior.

        That’s it exactly. Beautifully worded and oh so right.

      • AlisonCummins

        Your “I am” and “that person is” statements are oddly absolute and magical-sounding. Are you talking about gender or sex?

        There are cultural variations here. My beloved’s best friend is male-bodied and has a feminine gender presentation. He uses a gender-neutral name, wears lots of makeup, floral-print blouses and tight (revealing) pants. I was introduced to him by his name and always assumed that he was a male-bodied person with a feminine gender presentation. I used the pronouns that other people were using — masculine ones — and didn’t think anything of it. But at a party when a friend from the States met him, she assumed he was a woman and used feminine pronouns. (She asked me later which was correct, so I asked him and was told “both.”) (I tried to explain that my beloved and I thought of him as a straight male with a feminine gender presentation, but that got really confusing. “Does that mean he’s attracted to men or to women?”) So in the American tradition it’s apparently not possible to be male-bodied with a feminine gender presentation and not care about pronouns. One must be either a man or a woman. My friend was really anxious about getting it wrong — I think she didn’t want to make a political mistake and betray the cause. Since in her political world a person with a feminine gender presentation *is* a woman and entitled to feminine pronouns, it was really stressful for her to have to negotiate a social context in which masculine pronouns were being used.

      • Anat

        One’s body, gender presentation and gender may be any of the possible 8 binary combinations plus the several non-binary ones. Pronouns follow gender.

      • AlisonCummins

        Addressing a different thought.

        “If a person tells me “I am a woman,” then that person is a woman, even if she has a penis.

        “If a person tells me “I am a man,” then that person is a man, even if he has a vulva.

        “I don’t see how it is in any way my business WHY they identify the way they do, any more than it’s anybody’s business WHY I prefer teaching over other professions, or WHY I date the people I choose to date, or WHY I self-identify as bisexual.”

        The first two statements I more or less accept. There are lots of different ways to be male or female or both, so I would personally phrase them differently. “If a person presents as a woman/man then that’s enough for me and I treat them as a woman/man.” Asserting that they must indisputably *be* whatever goes awfully deep and conflicts with the “it’s my body and I can do what I want with it and don’t need to justify that to anyone or even myself” ethos.

        But actually, I think the context does matter. Let’s go way back to before I was born, when “passing” was a thing people were arguing about in the US.*

        “If a light-skinned person tells me “I am white,” then that person is white, even if they were raised in a biological family that was african-american.

        “I don’t see how it is in any way my business WHY they identify the way they do, any more than it’s anybody’s business WHY I prefer teaching over other professions, or WHY I date the people I choose to date, or WHY I self-identify as bisexual.”

        If someone presents as white I’m going to treat them as white, whatever that means (I hope not very much). I’m not going to worry about it as far as my relationship with that person goes. But that is *very* different from saying that the cultural context within which a light-skinned person with african heritage chooses to present as white is irrelevant and that it’s insulting to even think about it.

        *Vocabulary would be different if we were talking about South Africa, but the situation is similar.

      • Alix_A

        So, wait a minute. Your claim is that y’all invented all these things, which, fine. Whatever. The history of social progress is pretty complicated and knotty, so things tend to get reinvented throughout time anyway – it’s not like second-wavers were the first people in the history of the world to realize transfolk exist.

        But then let me ask you something. Why is it largely second-wavers who question my identity, who tell me I must be some kind of woman-hating pervert or a patriarchal shill because I don’t ID as female? Why is it largely second-wavers who rake me over the coals for being asexual? Why is it largely third-wavers who accept that my identity is my identity and is okay?

        Obviously, those are generalizations, but that’s my experience, and this whole thread is generalizations anyway.

        I’m trying to figure out your point here. I guess it’s that third-wavers are just stupid younglings who don’t realize that second-wavers really do have all the answers and invented all of progressivism? That second-wave feminism was perfect and so the third wave is a waste of time?

        Sorry, but I’d like a feminism that actually feels like something other than the Straight White Privileged Ciswoman’s Club, and second-wave feminism, in my experience, is very much not it.

      • AlisonCummins

        And finally…

        “Furthermore, I’ve never heard a second-waver praise zir sons who
        choose to play with dolls or do other stereotypically “feminine” things, even though daughters who choose to do stereotypically “masculine” things are treated without prejudice.”

        Just because you’ve never heard it doesn’t mean it isn’t so. Free to Be You and Me was released in 1972.…_You_and_Me

      • Alix_A

        Yay, one book. Well, it was some progress.

      • AlisonCummins

        Oops — one more.

        “We also believe that there should be more dolls of color available, so that all children can have a toy that looks “just like me.””

        Again, you didn’t invent that. My parents’ generation believed that, and my generation believes that.
        (I present Isha as my grandchild even though I have no children. That doesn’t mean she *is* my grandchild in any uncontestable way, it means that I treat her that way and I expect you to treat her that way.)

  • Christine

    I know that this goes somewhat against the ideal of choice, but one thing I like is the shared-leave method used by some European countries (I’m sorry, I have NO memory of where this is or I’d try to find some stats about it). The general idea is that neither parent gets more than 10 months leave, even though total parental/maternity leave is 14 months.

    The reason I’m in favour of this is that it’s a lot easier to have only one parent take the leave, and it’s a lot less work/cheaper (or both) to have the mother do so. At that point, her career is behind (all the more so because taking leave, while you technically can’t be punished for it, makes you look less dedicated). So if someone needs to stay home later, it makes more sense to have her do it. Encouraging all parents to take leave would also really help with it being something that hurts your career

    I’m all in favour of stay-at-home dads. I’m trying right now to make sure that I spend time with my male friends who are staying home (at least part-time), so that my daughter doesn’t pick up that “mommies stay at home with the kids and daddies go to work”, even though that’s what’s happening here. I do understand where your friend is coming from – it’s not that I think that SAHMs shouldn’t be allowed, but I am aware that, by being one, I am reinforcing the gender roles, and potentially making it harder for other women. (Especially since I basically ended up doing the MRS route in university).

    • MrPopularSentiment

      You don’t have to look to Europe for this, you can find it in Canada. Women, specifically, get a certain number of weeks after giving birth or prior to birth if they are having difficulties in their pregnancy. After that, the family as a whole gets something like 47 weeks that can be taken by either parent or both (consecutively or concurrently, as the family pleases).

      The total adds up to just about a full year. I was a bit under because my son was born two weeks after his due date – three weeks after my last working day, so I ate into our parenting leave with extra pre-birth maternity leave. But it’s still pretty close to a year.

      As for the perception that “mommies stay at home and daddies work,” I’m not too worried about that. My husband does still help out a great deal around the house and with childcare (our usual routine is that he takes the kid for 1-2 hours when he gets home so that I can have some “me time,” for example), and we’re both pretty outspoken feminists. We’re very clear and explicit with our son that every member of a family contributes, and how they contribute is something that families negotiate amongst themselves. That it’s not a gendered thing.

      I think that explicit conversations can go a very long way towards countering perceptions and stereotypes.

      • Christine

        It’s 15 weeks maternity leave, which only the mother can take, and 35 weeks parental leave, but it works out to a year because you have to do two weeks unpaid before you can start your leave. (It doesn’t give you an extra two weeks if you switch which parent is taking leave, because it all has to be taken within the year). But there’s nothing preventing it from all being taken by one parent. (Neither my husband nor I were eligible for any leave at all, because they changed the funding rules about 5 years ago).

        I’m a little cynical about how much good explicit conversations do though – both my husband and I agree that we don’t care which parent stays home, and yet we both assumed that I’d not only be taking all the “leave”, but that I’d be the one staying home on going. (There are other reasons involved, but how much of that comes from it being the norm for us?)

      • MrPopularSentiment

        The beauty of explicit conversations is that it allows us to impart to our children our values – even if we aren’t quite there yet in our own thinking.

        But also, like I said, my family combines it with a father who does more than his fair share of childcare and housework, and we’re working quite hard to make sure that our son understands that, should he ever decide to be in a romantic relationship or become a father, he will be expected to do these things as well.

        Now, as for who takes leave and such, we did end up defaulting to me taking the entire leave for the simple biological reason that I was breastfeeding (and never could get anything going with a pump). That being said, my husband did take several weeks of unpaid leave starting from when I went into labour, and he was a HUGE help in taking care of a newborn (he has much more intuitive sense with babies than I do, and was even the one to figure out breastfeeding and show me how to do it properly – put *that* in your “Man Box”!).

        So my son has a baby doll that he’s taught to be gentle with, and he enjoys tucking all his stuffed animals in at night, and he helps out when we’re doing housework.

        Even though I may be implicitly confirming gender roles by being the stay-at-home parent, I think that’s overshadowed by the other aspects of our household in combination with frequent explicit communication (which can help stop assumptions from forming).

      • Christine

        I agree that biology makes it difficult to share leave, which is why I like legislation encouraging it.

        I guess part of my issue with explicit conversations is that I’m coming from a privileged position, where most of the problems (or discriminatory attitudes) that I might encounter are coming from subconscious assumptions, and expectations. So for society in general it will do a lot of good, but to get the last little bit I’m not sure it will do the trick.

    • Kat Twigg

      Sounds like you might be thinking about Sweden (I’m Swedish). Though total paid parental leave is 16 months of which neither parent can use more than 14 months. However, while some couples share more or less alike it is still the case that the overwhelming majority of the parental leave is taken by mothers. A couple of the political parties on the left now wants the parental leave to be shared equally. I must say that I agree that the paid parental leave should be equally divided, I’m very much second gen feminist when it comes to that. I don’t like that we are spending huge amounts of tax money on a system that reinforces wage differences and labour market discrimination. I don’t want to force women to work if they don’t want to but I’m not going to pretend that them being stay at home moms or taking all the parental leave is not a problem for women who work. And that means that I don’t want to pay for the system using my hard earned tax money…..

      • Christine

        I think that we need to let new moms stay at home for 8-10 months at least, as otherwise they need to use formula (expensive and time-consuming) or pump (time consuming) when they go back to work. So because we only get 12 months here, a 50-50 split just doesn’t show up on my radar. Makes sense with a longer leave though.

      • Kat Twigg

        Yeah, I agree that long parental leave (and of course affordable daycare) is absolutely necessary for equality as it means one parent (usually the mom) does not have to quit work to take care of the children during a time when the best thing for the child is to bond with its primary caregivers.

        But seeing as the normal recommendation for exclusive breast-feeding is six months, I think doing a 50-50 split of the parental leave still makes sense when you get 12 months…

      • Christine

        The problem with a 6-month split is that, if you follow the guidelines (at least for the exclusive breastfeeding), the child won’t be eating a lot of solid food when you go back to work. It’s not that bottles are a horrible barrier, it’s just that that’s work that wouldn’t need to be done if the mom stayed home instead. I want to make it easy, so that people who take the path of least resistance will also see it as making sense to have both parents share leave.

      • Kat Twigg

        Obviously it is really nice with a longer parental leave that could be split evenly with no fuss, but in the grand scheme of things prepping bottles for a while isn’t that big a deal in my opinion. Plus bottle feeding for a while can be a great bonding experience for the dad and the kid.

      • Anat

        I hope you are accounting for those parents who want to go back to work earlier. I found 3 months to be more than enough. (Continued breastfeeding, pumped, JFYI.)

      • Christine

        My issue isn’t that it can’t be done. My issue is that there is (minor) incentive to have women stay home. It isn’t insurmountable, but if there isn’t a counter-pressure then it’ll be a problem. I guess mandating that no parent gets more than 6 months leave would be the counter pressure. I’m just worried that the average woman – with a job she can afford to go back to with one child but not with two – might look and say “I’m not making much, we’re going to be stressed out, and if I want to go back to work we’ll have to convince the baby to take a bottle? How about we skip DH getting heck for “not being committed” and I stay home now, instead of later.” I’m probably too worried, and it’s looking like this conversation is mostly assuming non-professional jobs, so I’m coming from a completely different basis too.

      • Kristen White

        Pumping isn’t that terrible. I think a full year of leave for the mother only has some benefits, but definitely trades off with the bonding time that both parents would get if it were split. Part of the reason that mothers wind up as de facto caregivers is because biology makes it easier on us to stay home after a newborn, and we get into a routine and become used to being the ‘expert,’ and fathers don’t have that exclusive caregiving time.

      • Christine

        Something I hadn’t twigged to until I read your reply – everyone I know who split leave (including where he took most of it) took leave sequentially. Which means that the mom is there at first. That really can’t be changed though – she needs to recover, and while exclusive pumping from day 1 is apparently not that hard to do, it’s one more thing to do when you’re adjusting to a newborn being around. It’s not so much the pumping (or hand expressing – I know a lot of people who did that exclusively, and found it easier), it’s dealing with the @#$!@#$% bottles. Admittedly, if you aren’t recovering from 2nd degree tears it’s probably easier to do those dishes, and there are microwave sterilizers you can get if you need to use bottles a lot.

      • Anat

        Split the work! Since I did the breastfeeding and the pumping, my husband did the bottle-washing and sterilizing.

      • deh

        How does that work if the family has like six kids? Then one parent would almost always be on leave. I have a friend who is almost 30 and expecting baby #5 soon. If she could take 16 months leave, she would never go back because this is the 5th kid in 8 years.

      • Kat Twigg

        My argument is that she should only be allowed to take half of the 16 month leave, the other half should be reserved for the father. Also, parents are of course not forced to take all the leave, if they want to go back to work earlier that is their choice. You can actually “save” parental leave days and use until the kid turns eight.

        But, yes, the long parental leave in Sweden is, in my opinion, a problem today when only two months are reserved for each parent. It isn’t unusual that with parents who decide to have several kids in a row the mom will be off work for 14 months with each kid (and thus basically not go back to work at all for years). The employers, of course, aren’t allowed to fire women for being on maternity leave for years on end which naturally leads employers to feel a bit apprehensive about employing women in their late 20s or early 30s….

        So, my opinion is that while a long, paid parental leave is absolutely necessary for equality, as it prevents families from feeling like one parent needs to quit work to stay at home with the kid(s), the parental leave needs to be split more or less equally otherwise it will be counterproductive. Leaving it in the hands of the parents to divide the leave does not work.

  • AndersH

    Choice is indeed freedom, as another commenter points out, so it’s certainly good to have it. And I’m not going to judge someone for not being a perfect activist or feminist, since I am far from it, being on the whole a rather lazy person (and with the privilege to not be in a position where I have to struggle).

    Nevertheless, there’s really nothing feminist in choosing to be a stay-at-home mom. Can you be a feminist while being one? Yeah, but it’s not one of the things that makes you a feminist.

    Personally, I’m critical of stay-at-home parenthood and don’t think it can really be feminist for individual, social, and political reasons. On the individual level, for most people it makes you dependent on the breadwinner in the family, and leaves you with less options, whether if the relationship goes sour or in general when you discuss economical options within the relationship. As mentioned by Libby Anne, the labour market is not kind to someone who opts out of the labour market for a while. That dependence is problematic to me, and I would hold that to be true for anyone that stops working to become a stay-at-home partner.

    Socially, when women stay home they unfortunately reinforce the position of women as caregivers of the home and children, which sucks, since that’s not a burden anyone should have to bear, but nevertheless is something that you have to deal with.

    Politically, if you are able to stay at home, just as with homeschooling (or sending your kids to private school), you’re effectively opting out of important political issues by making them a secondary concern to your life, such as the access to childcare and the quality of public schools. If the people who choose to stay at home are mostly those who are more well-too-do , that has significant effect on the political landscape, since politicians overwhelmingly care for the issues that the rich and (less so) the middle class care about.

    Everyone must decide for themselves what makes sense for their lives and their objectives, but what I hope everyone does is to actively work to expand the options of everyone, which means to be active to make paid parental leave (on an individual basis) a reality, the creation of affordable childcare accessible to all, a well-working healthcare system, paid leave for staying home with sick children, quality schools (preferably not funded by property taxes, of all things), and ultimately changing the culture to one where women are not the default caregiver, and that includes pointing out that just because choice = good, it does not mean that all options = good = feminist.

    Speaking, of course, as a man with no intention to ever have children. So… Grain of salt, anyone?

    • BobaFuct

      “Socially, when women stay home they unfortunately reinforce the position of women as caregivers of the home and children, which sucks, since that’s not a burden anyone should have to bear, but nevertheless is something that you have to deal with.”

      When women dress in revealing clothes, they unfortunately reinforce the position of women as sexual objects, which sucks, since that’s not a burden anyone should have to bear, but nevertheless is something that you have to deal with.

      Doesn’t sound so enlightened when you change a few words. In fact, it sounds pretty much like victim blaming. When women choose to stay at home (or dress in a certain way) they are making a choice, and it’s how our society chooses to respond to that choice that is the issue. It’s unclear to me how judging a woman for her choice, and then lobbying to take away that choice, is in any way feminist. How is saying that women should be made to work any different than saying women should be made to dress a certain way?

      • AndersH

        Dealing with social pressure does suck, whether you have a strong wish to conform or whether you go against the norm. I don’t quite follow your analogy, though, since dressing in revealing clothes does not reinforce sexual objectification of women; treating women as sexual objects in social situation and media does. What women wear has little to no effect on the existence of sexual objectification.

        I see this a bit more in the same way as name-changing, which was spoken about on this blog a couple of months back. Say that 90% of people who change their last names after getting married are women. It’s the norm and what’s traditional and on the aggregate level completely out of whack – I’m not going to berate women who change their names (nor do I feel that I judge the women who have done so in my life), nor those who chose to become stay-at-home mothers, but shouldn’t we at some point be able to have the conversation about the fact that even though every individual woman who makes that particular choice has a good reason for doing so, we are dealing with a social structure that skews the results in such a way that reinforces a problematic social norm?

        I don’t think that it’s only how society responds to a choice that’s the issue, it’s also how society leads people to certain choices that reflect and in some cases reinforces an unequal society.

        Of course, that is not to say that I’m for lobbying to take away that choice, or that anyone should be “made to work”. For the latter, though, since we live in the society that we do, economic resources are something that everyone needs, which is usually provided through work, state support, or a partner. Though I have no interest in having children myself, I am all for a state that values parenting and provides generous support for it, no state that I know of provides a parenting salary, so state support is often lacking. As mentioned, having your economic resources come from your partner leaves you dependent, and I don’t think that’s a great position to be in. Everyone can of course make up their own minds if that’s a position they’re willing to be in.

      • Doe

        I don’t disagree at all with your assessment of name-changing and stay at home parenting. The problem is that it takes a critical mass of women bucking the societal trends in order to make changes. When I make the decision to change my name or not, I have no way of knowing whether my individual decision will actually make that much of a difference to societal views on marriage. What I do know is that it makes a difference in the way I feel about myself and the way people treat me. So I’m going to go with what feels most natural to me, even if that ends up being the “anti-feminist” choice. And I have a hard time blaming individual women for that (interrogating them about their decision making process feels a lot like blaming).

        It’s very similar to the controversy about gay people coming out regardless of their situation. Some people think that all LGBT people should come out because it helps form the critical mass that is currently responsible for the changing attitudes toward gay rights. I tend to side with the people who say it should be up to the individual, because only they know if it’s worth it to them to make that leap.

      • BobaFuct

        “I don’t quite follow your analogy, though, since dressing in revealing clothes does not reinforce sexual objectification of women; treating women as sexual objects in social situation and media does.”

        Um, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Woman choosing to stay at home doesn’t reinforce “the position of women as caregivers of the home and children”; treating women as though their place is caregivers in social situation and media does. Hence, saying “hey you, woman who stayed home, you’re part of the reason inequality persists” is no different than saying “hey you, woman who dresses in revealing clothing, you’re part of the reason women get raped.”

    • morecoffeeplease

      Socially, when women stay home they unfortunately reinforce the position
      of women as caregivers of the home and children, which sucks, since
      that’s not a burden anyone should have to bear, but nevertheless is
      something that you have to deal with.

      Again, you seem to be assuming that the jobs that all these back-stabbing SAHMs would have are empowering — and not in female-typical sectors like caregivers, cleaners, service workers, or assistants. Statistically, you would be wrong about that. Maybe it is more feminist to be a judge than it is to be a SAHM, but is it more feminist to stock shelves overnight at Wal-Mart? Is it more feminist to be a house-cleaner? How about a sex-worker? What if you work in an industry that exploits women? Is it all good as long as it is within the capitalist system, or does non-paid work count too? If so, what if the non-paid work is for the election of an anti-choice senator? What if it’s caring for an elderly relative? Which of these choices is feminist enough?

      I just don’t see how somebody gets to arbitrate what is a valid way for a women to spend her time. It 100% drives me up the wall when said arbiter is a childless man.

  • Jaimie Bell

    Your graduate school friend has the same problem as many conservatives. She thinks she knows what is best for everyone and wants to change the world to suit her own personal worldview. I feel completely comfortable in ignoring such people.

    Make your own choices. We did what was best for our family and the dynamic changed many times over the years. In fact, I spent the last 2 1/2 years supporting our family when my husband could not find a decent job and worked part-time. He recently found a great one and I quit mine to focus on school. Working full time and going to nursing school full time is a killer.

    No gender wars were involved. We simply do what is best for us.

  • Christy M

    I am currently navigating this quandary. I have an advanced degree that really only allows one career path. I am a feminist who expected to be a working mother. I even fought for a parental leave policy to be created at my graduate school. I got pregnant at the end of my graduate career and found myself in the following situation: My husband has a stable career already making more than I can hope to make by the end of my career. His income provides for our family and allows me to have the option of not working. The current job market in my field is dreadful and even if I were to find employment, I would likely be required to move frequently in my first five years in the job force. Because of our age and other reasons, we opted to start our family before I graduated, but this has created problems of up-rooting our family from our support system and living in relative instability for several years if I were to enter the workforce. Unfortunately, if I choose not to enter the workforce within a year or two of graduating I will be seen as obsolete and not able to find a job. Some of this is due to the field of study I chose, but it is a common situation for many women. At this point, I am happy to be a stay-at-home mom and resigned that I may not have my dream career but a job that I still love.
    That said, gender inequality and gender roles have certainly come into play. For instance, the gender based wage gap ensures that my husband will always make more than I do. Thus making it more economical for me to sacrifice my career and income. Second, the stigma attached to motherhood – that I will need to take off work to care for sick children or to have more children – plays into hiring decisions whether it should or not and regardless of what actual division of parental responsibility and duties my husband and I have negotiated. Third, if I stay at home, I am made to feel like a terrible feminist, un-intellectual, and a failure in my career, even if I have chosen that path as an educated woman. As you point out, I am seen by some as exacerbating the situation by playing into the hand I was dealt, or selected based on one’s perspective. If I work, I demonstrate my feminism by demonstrating my skill in my field and ideally, encouraging other young women to advance themselves. But, I also find myself labeled a bad mother who has abandoned my children into the hands of other working women. There are lots of other consequences and gender-based issues that I could outline but these are the factors that are at the foremost of my concern.
    I have taken the path of least resistance and the path which makes the most
    financial sense for our family, I have also taken the path that I most want – to be at home with my children during this important developmental stage. I am happy, and I do not feel that I am wasting my education, skills, or life. As I understand it, feminism at its base is the belief that women are equal to men on a human level and should have the ability to choose what they want to do in any given situation. My choices were not great, depending on your perspective they may or may not have been the same or equal options a man would have had, but I made a choice and I am happy with my choice and life. The most frustrating thing about having limited choices determined by one’s gender is being criticized and made to feel bad about making the choice that was right for me.

    • Anat

      ChristyM, while your choices are probably the best for your situation if everything works right, there are the possibilities that at some point something might go wrong. Your family’s financial well-being is entirely dependent on your husband being able to maintain his level of income. Unexpected things – eg medical issues, changes in the market or his field – can upset your family’s future. One reason for both parents to maintain employability is to serve as insurance for such situations. This does not necessarily mean both parents work full-time, there may be non-traditional ways to do that (free-lance work? volunteer work? part-time? research?). Having you employable at least in principle may also relieve your husband a bit from the stress of being irreplaceable as the provider for the family.

  • AnonaMiss

    I respect people’s right to make their own decisions in life, and I wouldn’t try to force anyone to do anything. That said, if a woman decides to drop out of the paid workforce, she’s no longer my ally in the struggle to integrate and equalize that paid workforce. Unless she is participating in the struggle in ways other than by being a representative (via donations, volunteering, etc.), she has stopped fighting the part of the feminist battle that is most important to me.

    It’s not my place to try to keep her in the fight. There are some circumstances in which I would stop fighting too. But unless she left work for reasons beyond her control, I’m going to resent her for leaving, because it makes my life that much harder.

    As I am a young professional woman, it reflects poorly on me to potential employers when other young women leave work to take care of their kids, even for only a few months. It makes me a riskier hire in their eyes, because it increases their estimation of how likely it is that I’ll need replacing. Even though, if it weren’t (rightly) inappropriate/illegal, I could put that fear at ease. I’m not Movement Childfree – I could see adopting at some point – but I would rather kill myself than give birth, due to a phobia.

    It isn’t fair that other women’s personal decisions reflect poorly on me, but life’s not fair, and the only thing I can do to deal with it is work harder, make myself so valuable that I’m worth the risk.

    • Claire

      I’ve been wondering about this and I would like to your feelings about this since people are relating to jobs as in professional careers where they work 9-5.

      Would you fight for SAHM if they work at home or have jobs that let them work at home? I’m talking about artists, writers, and any other freelancers. Are they considered the grey area because they are SAHM, they work isn’t stable, and they don’t keep hours?

      • AnonaMiss

        I didn’t mean to imply that I wouldn’t fight for SAHMs. There’s more than one feminist struggle. SAHMs aren’t inherently bad for my primary struggle – it’s dropouts that are bad for mine.

        Companies invest a lot of time and money training their technical/professional employees. Dropping out for reasons that they will ascribe to your gender, that’s the behavior I consider counterproductive to women’s progress in the professional world.

        It’s not “women should be professionals!”, it’s “I wish that women who enter professional fields wouldn’t drop out in a way that makes me seem like a riskier bet just because I have a uterus.”

        I hope I answered your question – I’m emotionally drained from answering morecoffeeplease so I’m not sure this is coherent.

      • Christine

        If it makes you any better, I did not look for work after graduating, because it wouldn’t have been appropriate, since I knew I’d be taking leave shortly after they finished training me. I wasn’t obviously pregnant, so they’d have me show up for work, announce that I was taking leave in 4 months, and then probably be around for only 1-2 years after I came back. It seemed unprofessional.

        Something interesting – one of the companies I worked at had an interesting incentive programme for employees (at least unionized ones). If they came back to work for at least 3 months (which I suspect is long enough for them to get into a routine which makes working with a small child feasible) after their leave, they’d get their EI topped up during leave. (I’m not sure how this was made to work – perhaps you had to pay it back if you quit.) Now, admittedly this may have been only the unionized workers, but I’m sure you’re aware of how few of the women at a manufacturing plant would be non-union (the secretaries were union too).

    • morecoffeeplease

      As I am a young professional woman

      You can stop right there. I have nothing but respect for women who work hard to make places for women in traditionally male-dominated workplaces. But that doesn’t give you the remove other women’s choices.

      The last job I held paid $22k/year and I hated it. I’ve done the math and if I were to return to the workforce now, my salary minus taxes, childcare, and the costs of working would be close to (and possibly less than) zero. Do you really believe I owe you this?

      I love “professional” women but if you agree with this position, please stop and take a look around you. Half of employed women work in sales, services, or administrative assistance. Half of employed women are in the working or lower classes. Do you really think they need to stick with their shitty jobs so that professional women will be considered for a promotion?

      There is still far more gender inequality (as well as far more inequality all around) in non-professional occupations. Women in the service industries, women who clean for a living, women in restaurant jobs, they are not worried about whether or not they will be passed over because some of them quit to have families. Why is white middle-class feminism so obsessed with the lives of the 1%? When your worldview is so narrow that you think stay-at-home mothers are causing your problems, you need to step back and take a breath. Put down Lean In, and read Nickled and Dimed again until you get your perspective back.

      Not every woman who stays at home has given up a career as a lawyer, CEO, academic, doctor, scientist, or senator. A lot of us had miserable, low-paying, high-stress, dead-end jobs that we don’t miss. When I announced I was leaving my job I was replaced in the same week by someone who was at least as willing to sell her time for far too cheap as I was. I honestly don’t see my decision to find a better option for me and my family as betraying women. In fact, you could just as easily argue that my willingness to work in the pink-collar ghetto in the first place was a betrayal to women, because let’s face it, if we all quit at the same time and companies like the ones I worked for were forced to hire men to do our jobs, the salaries would have gone up pretty quick.

      Obviously, the problem here is a systemic bias against women, not the choices that women themselves make. Blaming stay-at-home mothers for sexism in the workplace is like blaming people who have solar panels for problems with fracking. We’re not the problem, we walked away from the problem.

      • AnonaMiss

        I specifically stated that I don’t want to remove anyone’s choices, though I reserve the right to disapprove of them.

        I also didn’t mean to imply that the struggle with sexism in the professional world is the only or the most important or even at all important, in a grand overarching scheme kind of way. It’s just the one that I know, the one that’s most personal for me, and therefore the one that I can develop resentment about in spite of myself.

        I’m sorry you had a shitty job that you hated. Honestly, I wouldn’t even consider your situation a choice. If you make less than you’d spend on childcare, that’s not a real choice, and I couldn’t possibly resent you for doing the only thing that made sense in your situation.

        Wrt 1%, according to Wikipedia, I’m just barely in “the 25%” of individual personal income nationally. If you include my and my boyfriends’ incomes and consider us a ‘household’ – we’re moving in together as soon as I find an apartment for us to move into (currently renting a room) – together we’re at just above median national household income. “The 1%” doesn’t mean “anyone who makes more than me.”

        Half of employed women are in the working or lower classes. Do you really think they need to stick with their shitty jobs so that professional women will be considered for a promotion?

        Immediately after graduating with my bachelor’s I was unemployed for two years. After six months I started trying local retail outfits – Kohl’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts. They wouldn’t take me. I asked the lady at Kohl’s and she said it was because I was overqualified, but I suspect it’s because I’m too ugly to represent a clothing store.

        I have a marketable degree, had an internship during school with a nationally-recognized software company, and got plenty of phone interviews, but no one wanted to go further. I suspect I would have gotten a lot fewer phone interviews if I had had a gender-specific name.

        I’m not concerned about “oh no, what if I don’t get a promotion!” I’m concerned about the fact that I very nearly reached the point of unemployability, because no employer was willing to take a chance on me. I’m eternally grateful to the manager who did finally give me that chance. I drove halfway across the country on my own dime, and he offered me the job on the same day as the interview. After we hung up I cried, I was so happy. Two years of phone interviews that went nowhere. Never a woman on the phone, save non-technical recruiters. Hired immediately after my first in-person interview – by the first person who gave me a chance at an in-person interview. And I am not a good public speaker.

        What would have happened to me if he hadn’t been the one to conduct my phone interview?

        The first project manager I was placed with when I started here less than a year ago noted that he hadn’t expected me to be a woman, and ‘joked’ to my face, on my first day on his project, in front of the entire project group, that it would be a waste of time to train me, because I would probably quit after two months.

        He hadn’t interviewed me, obviously. What would have happened to me if he had?

        Re: victim blaming: women in tech professions are in a struggle to hold aloft a great big boulder of patriarchy that threatens to crush us. Other women are also struggling to keep up boulders – but tech patriarchy is my boulder, so I’m addressing my boulder.

        I am privileged. I can help hold up the boulder more, and I try to. I don’t begrudge anyone sitting down who’s too tired to help hold the boulder, or who have weak wrists, or a shitty position for boulder holding, or any of that. People who have been overwhelmed by boulders, I understand and I have sympathy and I would like to help.

        But when people of equal privilege – “professional” class women – decide to sit down and take time off to spend time with their kids? I would never try to remove that choice from them, but I reserve the right to resent them. I’m holding up a boulder over here, asshole.

      • Nina

        Honestly? Your personal experiences were shitty, and I’m sorry you experienced them, but why on earth are you putting the blame – and the burden of resolving them – on other women who don’t make your choices instead of on the shitty system we have, or, oh, the assholes who treated you like that?

        No one owes you anything, even with regard to your own personal “boulder.” And you have no idea what’s gone into any woman’s decision to stay at home or “drop out”, even if they appear to be your equal in privilege. I don’t honestly see why you have any right to resent them or sit in judgment of them because they made different choices – try putting the blame where it really belongs, on the people looking for excuses to value women less, on the people who see any action by a woman as somehow indicative of all women, etc.

        You chose to hold up that particular boulder, fine. That doesn’t make your choice better than anyone else’s, asshole.

      • AnonaMiss

        Sorry I didn’t make this clear – each boulder is a big boulder that we all have to hold up together. People don’t put down individual boulders, they stop helping with a collective boulder. The fewer women there are in technical professions, the fewer women there are holding up that particular boulder, and the harder it is for us.

        Sure, I know it’s the boulder’s fault. Doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be easier to push it up and eventually off if I had some more help. And yes, choosing to help is a better choice than choosing not to help. Though it may not be a viable choice for many people, and it’s certainly not a moral imperative, helping helps. Leaving my boulder to help with a different patriarchy-boulder is fine, would be the better choice if it’s a worse boulder. Leaving any boulder to engage in the one patriarchy-approved career for women is an objectively less helpful choice for women collectively. (Unless you plan on using your newly-freed hands to help with other, non-career boulders.)

        Sure, not everyone’s in a position to help. I won’t even judge who’s in a position to help. All I’m saying is, if you’re in a position to help, and you’re not helping, well that’s kind of a shitty thing to do to us.

        This is what I see as the major flaw with third wave feminism (though the other waves have major problems too, don’t get me wrong): we lose sight of the consequences of individual women’s choices on women-collectively. Instead of taking the attitude that “I disapprove of what you choose, but I will defend to the death your right to choose it”, third wave casts judging choices as an attack on the right to choose.

      • Alix_A

        Just jumping in on your last paragraph:

        It is a very short step from “I’m judging your choice” to “you shouldn’t get to make that choice.” And yes, judging choices often is an attack on my right to choose – it’s another aspect of all the social pressures that already bear down on my choices.

        “Being a SAHM makes it harder for other women who actually want careers” is not really meaningfully different from “you shouldn’t be a SAHM, because you make it harder for the rest of us.” Saying the first to a SAHM – or someone who might be considering it – implies the second. That you’re not taking actual steps to prevent a woman from becoming a SAHM doesn’t mean you’re not still attacking her right to make that decision.

        The other part of this is that too often this judging thing shifts the focus away from the people or systems really responsible for perpetuating the problems onto people who are the victims of those problems. I don’t have to actually be in a high-powered career to advocate for changes that make that career better for women, anymore than I have to be a woman to advocate for women’s rights.

        The devaluing of SAHMs and their work – which judging them does by default – only furthers the many problems with the cultural invisibility of “women’s work” in the first place. The traditionally male professional world is not more valuable than the traditionally female home sphere is – and my big problem with the judging of women’s choices in this issue is that it buys into that framing, that professional is automatically greater than home. I’d rather break down that framing than judge people who make other choices – especially because I don’t see any one choice as more valid, more useful, or better for women overall than any of the others. But clearly, we differ on that point.

      • Christine

        Nina, Alix_A – how are we supposed to fix these problems? From a STEM perspective, we’ve been trying to get more women in the field, because that’s the only way we can see to make the field more accepting of women. We get this message not only all through university, but even as early as high school. We’d like to not subconsciously get treated as secretaries, but that happens when they’re the only other women in the office, so that’s the only fix we know.

        Sure, it would be great if women dropping out of the workforce after 5 years (with a year off in the middle) didn’t hurt the chances of someone who doesn’t, but how is that going to happen until men do it all the time too? They’re not allowed to ask if you’re planning on having kids, or how you (would) split childcare with your partner, so they have to assume that you will be average (at best). And even if the people interviewing you are convinced that these sorts of assumptions are bad, you are at a disadvantage, because we can’t control what assumptions we make. So many tiny things can affect whether or not you get the job, because it all boils down to a gut feeling they have about you – do you look like you’d do well in the job. Well when I come in and already have a glaring mismatch with what their subconscious was expecting for the person to fill their vacancy, I’d be much better off if their subconscious didn’t also have an assumption that they’d only be getting 4-5 years of work out of me, and that half of it would be with me not being able to stay late if needed.

        This is why I can’t have a job – the requirements of my field are such that even if I was able to split childcare and housework 50-50 with my husband, my ability to do my job would be considered impaired were I to do so. Some parts of it are at a point where I could get away with that, and help the next parents, provided I stayed for a while. Not all parts are. So, because I went into a non-traditional field, and declined to sacrifice having children entirely to do so, I’m pretty much completely dependent on my husband’s career plans going through to be able to have a career of my own.

      • Alix_A

        Christine – I’ll just straight-up admit I have no idea how to fix the whole problem. I’m one of those people who’s always been better at taking things apart and finding the problems than putting things back together.

        It just seems to me that we don’t fix systemic problems by putting the burden on the victims of the system, whether that’s women in STEM fields or other forms of diversity in the workforce, or other problems.

        My gut instinct is that there are two major things that need addressing: the idea that women are a monolith while men are all individuals, and the breaking down of the binary where raising kids/running a household is concerned. And those to me seem like societal worldview problems, which mean they’re huge and have to be tackled from multiple angles, but I don’t think judging women who do stay at home or don’t go into STEM fields or whatnot is a way to do it, because it delegitimizes those options and feeds the “women as monolith” problem. We don’t get more choices for women by trying to limit women’s choices, even temporarily, and even if we’re “just” limiting them by social disapproval.

        …I’m not sure that makes sense, but it’s the best answer I have right now.

        As an aside, the other thing that frustrates me with this discussion is how it’s phrased as “get more women in traditionally male fields,” as if that’s the only way to break down the whole binary. How about doing that and getting more men to stay at home and raise kids and run the household? It seems to me like too often even feminists buy into the cultural hierarchy of work we have – that some work (traditionally male) is more valuable than others. (Sort of like how we fought for it to be socially acceptable for women to wear male clothes, but few people fight for the right for men to, say, wear dresses.) Again, though, that’s a cultural thing, and I don’t really have a cure-all for it.

      • Christine

        AnonaMiss will have to comment on this herself, but from my perspective her comments more expressed frustration at how actions of other women were hurting her because of the screwed up framework in which they took place. Do I think that it’s wrong for a woman to not go into a technical field? No, but the aggregate “women don’t go into technical fields” definitely hurt me. Yes, we need to change the system, but that’s frankly a large part of why so many people want more women in technical fields. There might be a better way to do it, but this one has worked. If my mother’s peers hadn’t put up with a lot of crap, and the families hadn’t hired nannies and housecleaning services, I would have suffered a lot more on the job.

        Your last paragraph actually confuses me. Having more stay-at-home dads to be able to allow women to work in male-dominated fields, the ones with a very macho culture is the same sort of “solution” that you were just complaining about. (Despite what the Science and Technology Studies people think, most of engineering doesn’t care if you’re male or female. But you’d better be macho.) It doesn’t involve fixing the system in any way, it just gives women a way to better fit into the broke system.

      • Alix_A

        Wait, now I’m confused. (Not a new thing for me.) My point was, broadly, that thinking of the solution as just pushing for more women to enter/stay in STEM fields (or whatever) is too limited. Heck, thinking of the problem as if there’s only one solution is unnecessarily and problematically narrowing things.

        I don’t object to trying to get women into STEM fields, other “professional” careers, whatever. I don’t object to trying to get them to stay in. Both of those are part of the solution. I do object to judging women who don’t choose those options, and I also object to framing the issue as if those are the only avenues for a solution. Y’all are saying that women who make certain choices hurt you, and that women as a whole should put up with crap to fix the system – I’m asking why the heck the burden must fall always on the women in the first place.

        But as I said in my earlier reply, I’m better at seeing problems than solving them.

        I’d also say that shifting some of the burden of solution onto men does help fix the problem, because the problem is cultural, and having a two-way street (more women to “male” jobs, more men to “women’s work”) breaks down the binary. A one-way street (women to “male” jobs) reinforces the binary by buying into the framing that those “men’s” jobs are automatically better than “women’s work.” Frankly, I’ve seen a lot of that attitude in the comments here – framing the problem as women “dropping out” to do work that’s less valuable than being in a “professional” field. Why on earth are we buying into that problematic frame of “women’s work” in the first place? Why on earth are we still prioritizing traditionally-male fields and subjects?

        You can’t really break down a problematic binary from one side. For an analogy nearer to my heart: you don’t break down the masculine/feminine binary by convincing more women to act more masculine and sneering at stereotypically-feminine women. That just reinforces the problematic binary – and the problematic hierarchy of masculine > feminine. You break down the binary by making it socially acceptable for women to express stereotypically masculine traits – and by making it socially acceptable for men to express stereotypically feminine traits, and so on along the continuum, until it really becomes a continuum of individual choice, not one determined by gender.

        More choice, not less, always, for everyone. Encouragement, not judgment, for any choice. Make it easier for everyone to be who they are and do what they like.

        It’s not a quick fix, but that’s a part of my personal ethics I can’t give up for expediency.

      • Christine

        I’d need a sociologist to help decipher the causes properly, but as I see it it’s not just gender (but frankly, after my “gender and technology” course, I’m fairly convinced they’d overvalue gender in this case.)

        I hear what you’re saying about not wanting to break down the gender binary by just letting women do the “good” stuff. (This is the dilemma I constantly face by having a toddler – I refuse to buy into the princess nonsense, but I don’t want to ban girls’ clothes because that’s equally bad). I agree that it’s messed-up that men don’t get the same level of freedom that women do in a lot of ways. (Of course, the men I hang out with tend to not buy into a lot of the gender roles.) I used to feel mildly guilty about getting to wear skirts until I realised that trousers aren’t *quite* as much of a hassle for men.

        There are multiple cultures at play here, and while I’m sure that there is some gendering (and obviously gender plays some role, as the assumption is made that women will do this, but the men will be good workers), it’s not precisely the fact that the women are leaving to be moms that is the problem. It’s that they’re letting something be more important than their job. If an army reservist was called up, you can just bet that everyone would be bitching about how he was letting the team down. If women had a tendency to leave and go back to school to get a PhD after just a few years, there’d be the same issues as now, when it’s assumed that they’ll leave to stay home. The problem is that going and holding a technical job for only a year or so is often a huge loss to the company. This makes it well-nigh impossible to fill your position when you take leave – when the stimulus funding came through, a bunch of engineers took home a LOT of overtime pay, because hiring someone else for the work in the amount of time they had wouldn’t have done a thing.

        Currently, the only way for women to really win in engineering (there are exceptions of course, but they’re growing slowly) is to act just like the men. It’s not just that you’re expected to have someone who will make the meals and take care of the kids. It’s a very macho culture in general. So, when my girlfriends and I talk career plans, the ones who say that they’d need to keep working because they wouldn’t enjoy being a SAHM, always agree when the joke is made that they’ll need to find house husbands to marry. So this is the background that I’m coming from when I say that having more stay-at-home-dads isn’t really a solution. And it’s not just engineering – I know that medicine, once you’re actually a doctor, allows some flexibility (in some fields). But of the female CEO’s I can think of (and this is largely because they were mentioned in the Macleans article on the subject), if they had kids they couldn’t afford to take more than a few days of mat leave. And at that point, biology means that women are going to be more limited then men, so the “act more like the men do” advice doesn’t work – aside from the penalties that women pay when they try.

        And bear in mind that the reason there’s a push to get women into STEM fields, and not to get men to stay at home is because there’s no companies that are looking for stay-at-home-dads to hire. Now, a really sensible company might consider trying to make it easier for dads to stay at home, so that they could hire the moms. But that would be hard to do, especially if you’re trying to do it in a way that helps you more than your competition. This is actually connected to my comment elsewhere that we need to have split leave, so that if only one parent takes the leave you get less of it. One reason that women are the ones who stay home long term is that they’re the ones who stay home short term, and why hurt both careers?

      • Anat

        You know, in Israel many men do reserve duty routinely. This means an absence of at least a month every year, for officers it can be 2 months a year. the leave is paid by National Insurance, but still, there is the work that needs to be done. Yet being a reservist is no hindrance to employment or career advancement (on the contrary, those officers who are absent 2 months each year are often considered assets because officers’ training and service as officers are valuable skills). But women who might go on maternity leave for 3 months at a time a few times in their lives are considered a risk to hire. This makes no sense. I think it isn’t about economics, it’s all about a sexist culture.

      • Christine

        You’re right – there’s definitely gendering. It’s an interesting way to look at how different cultures change though. Odd how something like military duty is ok once it’s common, but maternity and parental leave are more problematic once they’re common. (Actually, it’s not odd, it’s depressing, but it is a good example).

      • amanduh

        Very good point.

      • Alix_A

        So, wait. The blatant bigotry of your coworkers and prospective employers isn’t a problem with them, but a problem with other women?

        Maybe I am just exceptionally obtuse, but I don’t follow. It seems to me that the problem isn’t the choices those other women made, but that the people (men?) you ran into decided that those women’s choices are indicative of all women, everywhere, and not simply personal choices on their part.

        That’s a systemic problem, and it seems to me that blaming other women just feeds that system – blaming other women says that the bigots are right to be bigoted, because it really is the fault of those women, and that’s a mindset I reject.

        I’m sorry you had to face all that, though.

    • Christine

      The problem is that it isn’t just those of us who stay home who are the problem. Forget the leave – imagine how your supervisor would react if you said that you had to leave by 6 pm every day. Oh, and while you could come in early, you couldn’t really make anything earlier than about 7:30 work. Sure, they can’t do anything to you for it, but they’re not going to like it. This is honestly part of why I’m so big on stay-at-home dads. You need someone who isn’t in a professional job to take the hit, because a lot of professional fields (especially the traditionally male-dominated ones) expect a level of commitment that is above and beyond what an involved parent can give. And yes, you’re going to get stung by that when you interview.

      You know you’re in a male-dominated field when grad school activities include a warning about lunch after interviews – they can ask questions that would be illegal during the interview, and even with the best of intentions on their part, you can get stung if you mention that you have a family.

      • Zebulon Stenman

        Honestly, nobody, professional or not needs to be putting in freaking eleven-and-a-half-hour-plus shifts on a regular basis.

      • wmdkitty

        Amen to THAT!

      • Alix_A

        And see, this is what frustrates me about this whole conversation: it ignores the elephant in the room, which isn’t the individual or even aggregate choices of women, but the way the system is structured.

        You bring up one major point, which is that the workplace demands too much. Others have brought up that businesses and workplaces aren’t family-friendly, which is also true. Another part of this is how all of this work of running a household and raising kids is (usually) unpaid, ignored, and undervalued work – despite the fact that these things, invisible or not, are still a huge part of what keeps our economy (not to mention our society) running.

        This is why I get so frustrated: we act like, well, okay, the system’s not perfect, but whatever, it’s all about women’s choices anyway. But it seems like the better solution would be to fix the system. Fix it so the work of running a household/raising a family is considered legitimate labor, and the legitimate economic and social contribution it is. Fix it so that our workplaces aren’t running workers, male or female, ragged. Make, in short, a more humane system.

        And at that point, when the currently-unpaid, currently-invisible job of running a home is considered just as valuable a contribution as being out in the workplace, what would it matter what choice anyone makes?

        In this, like in so much, it seems like our whole socioeconomic structure is backwards.

        …Wow. Sorry for the rant – apparently I had more to say than I thought!

      • BringTheNoise

        No need to apologise. That was fantastic!

      • Christine

        That is EXACTLY the problem! We need a structural change to the system, so that working parents aren’t penalized. Why can’t I shift my working day earlier (there are a lot of jobs were 11 hour days don’t happen that often, but showing up early gets you less credit than staying late, especially since the long days are often in response to an emergency).

      • Alix_A

        Building on that, it often seems to me that the suggestions for how to better the workplace for working parents are also ones that benefit, well, all workers, parents or not. Flexible hours, limiting the workday, paying livable wages, etc. And the things that would be parent-specific (say, better daycare) – those free up the working parents to better contribute with less anxiety, something everyone should be behind.

        These kinds of changes would also eliminate or at least greatly reduce a major source of friction I see, which is between working parents and childfree people, who resent what they see as being forced to pick up the parents’ slack. That’s an artifact of how poor our current work system is, though, and in a more humane system that actually supports parents, there really wouldn’t be cause for that resentment.

        …It just seems like so much of our current economic system rests upon pitting various groups against each other so that the system doesn’t have to get fixed. Men vs. women. Parents vs. childless. And so on.

      • Sally

        “And at that point, when the currently-unpaid, currently-invisible job of running a home is considered just as valuable a contribution as being out in the workplace, what would it matter what choice anyone makes?”

      • Zebulon Stenman

        No need to apologize, your rant was spot-on.

      • Map Forward

        I agree those hours are exaggerated for most professions. However, one of the reasons that professional positions tend to pay better is because people not paid hourly and more is expected of them in terms of time and responsibility and contribution. I’m not saying these positions are
        harder than 9-5 jobs, but they have different expectations. Commentors below talk about reforming the system in terms of the demands of professional positions, which I think would be ideal, but I’m just not sure how to get that done the near future. I’ve always worked on a consulting basis since I’ve had kids (now in their late teens). During times when I’ve really needed to control or reduce my hours, I’ve taken more administratively oriented projects or agreed to work for less pay as a trade-off for more flexibility. Perhaps that was a cop-out, but it worked for me and kept me in the marketplace.

      • Christine

        I wasn’t trying to imply that the 10-hour days would be expected every day, but 7:30 to 18:00 on a regular basis is only a 50-hour workweek if you keep it Monday to Friday. As a maximum week it’s pretty short.

  • Sally

    I feel like I’m the one with the best deal. Because my husband makes much more money, he doesn’t have a choice. I can work or not work because we chose a lifestyle that fits within the income he can earn.
    He makes more money because he chose a career that allows him to make more money. I chose a poorly paying career (because I wanted it, not so I could intentionally make less money).
    I realize this doesn’t help with the goal of equalizing pay and social support for families, but it’s the reality for us.

    One of the reasons I stayed home with my kids was because I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that I would work for X amount of pay and then pay someone else less than I earn to take care of my kids. That someone else would probably be a woman. It sort of felt like, OK, everyone pass your kids to the woman on the left and pay her to take care of your kids. Now I know I will offend people with that. I KNOW that’s not really what we’re doing. But isn’t it true that the only way childcare makes sense is if the people doing the childcare get less money than the women they’re working for? (I realize they’re working for the whole family, but we’re mostly talking about how women can/should work, so that’s why I put it that way). In other words, what I’m saying is, in order for me to continue my career, I have to find a childcare worker (typcially a woman) whom I pay less than I earn and have her work for me. It all seems dependent on a lower class of childcare workers. I realize then we could get into daycare centers. But what if I don’t like that option?

    Anyway, I’m not really disagreeing with anyone. I’m just pondering the fact that I feel like I have the most choice as a woman and that I always felt like paying someone else to care for my child was just putting another woman into a low wage job.

    • Anat

      No, childcare doesn’t require underpaying the carer to make sense. Not even merely economical sense. Because you need to include the overall gains in pay and benefits from timely promotions (a woman might make less than she pays the child-minder, but then gets a promotion, so by the time she could have re-entered the job force had she stayed at home she is earning more than she would have otherwise – over one’s career it adds up).

      • Sally

        This is from the perspective of the working mother keeping her career going so she can make up for lost time later when she needs less childcare and/or gets a promotion, right? I’m talking about the fact that I’m creating a job for another woman (the nanny) who is not very well paid (even compared to me). It’s great for me, but it’s dependent on a fairly low paid person to make my career goals possible. See what I mean?
        Daycare is another issue.

      • Anat

        I wouldn’t want a nanny past the first year or so. Company of peers is good for kids. And once they are in group-care the caregiver can easily earn very nicely, as examples below show. In my case, in my daughter’s first year her nanny was a woman past retirement age who was supplementing her pension.

      • Anat

        Anyway, if you read my original response carefully you’d see I said it paid in the long term to employ a child-minder for *more* than one’s earnings for a limited time if one expects higher earnings in the future as a result of keeping skills current, accumulating experience etc. So my assumption is a well-paid nanny.

      • wmdkitty

        And there’s no reason both parents can’t pitch in towards paid child-care, yeah?

    • Composer 99

      That might be the case when the care-giver has a small number of children she (or, rarely, he) is being paid to take care of, and her rates.

      However, for example, in the part of town I live in, in-home daycare operators typically charge $40 dollars per day to take a child over 1 year of age, assuming a “normal” 9-to-5 work day (not an unreasonable assumption in a government town). While there’s a cap of 5 children for in-home daycare operators, $40 per day is $200 per week, or – assuming 50 paid weeks for easy maths – $10,000 per year, per child. If you hit your cap of children, that’s $50K per year. In other parts of town, higher rates are the norm, and one can easily charge higher rates for children younger than 12 months, or for children requiring longer days or evening/overnight/weekend care.

      My wife, who operates a daycare out of our house, told me once of a woman delivering a seminar on starting a daycare. This woman, at this point in her daycare career, could look forward to earning about $72K in gross income. So care-givers aren’t necessarily underpaid, although again that depends on the number of kids they are paid care-givers for (if you have only one kid, at $40 per day you’re definitely underpaid).

      • Composer 99

        I should add that another factor would of course be what care-givers can charge in your area.

      • AlisonCummins

        In my area they receive government subsidies and charge parents $7 per day.

    • Kristen White

      If that works for you, it makes sense. However, the economics are off since you assume that one woman will give her children to another one woman. My day care provider takes care of 5-7 children at a time. She loves children and enjoys her job, and makes a good living. I pay just around the average rate in my city, but with around six families paying for her care, she probably makes between 40-50k per year. That’s about what I make as a teacher with a master’s degree.

      To me, that’s the ideal. People who feel suited to be stay at home parents should do so, and people who are really excellent with young children should be well-paid caregivers. I am NOT suited to be a full-time parent. I adore my son, but I crave the intellectual stimulation and variety of my job, and I wouldn’t want to spend the entire day in any one person’s company if I can possibly help it. So we all win! I further my career and enjoy work, my day care provider enjoys her work, my son gets a loving and stable caregiver and friends he sees every day, and we all come home and enjoy our evenings and weekends together.

      • Sally

        I hear you. That works. Since she is self-employed, she has to pay double social security taxes and unless she gets insurance through her husband, she has to pay for insurance, too. One or both of those can cut quite a bit into the bottom line. But that said, I agree that you have a good arrangement. But I would still say your arrangement is dependent on (mostly) women who won’t be able to advance their careers and “move up.” So I guess we could say that your child’s caregiver is enabling several other women to advance their careers. Whereas she and I are more alike, in that we’re caregivers taking care of children and not really modeling feminism in the way discussed in the post, anyway.

  • Nurse Bee

    This viewpoint is as ridiculous as the idea that all mothers should stay at home. Moderation is key. I suppose my work might have considered me a risky investment….I have taken more than a year total off with maternity leave and went from working 40 hours a week to working 24 hours. (btw, despite that, I’m still the “breadwinner” and carry the insurance for our family).
    But I’m also in a “pink-collar” profession, so I suppose I don’t count for much of anything to anyone….despised by conservatives and liberals alike! :-)

  • C H

    Other commenters have made good points, but I want to steer in a slightly different direction: jobs. I think we can assume that your acquaintance was talking mostly about professional jobs — it makes no sense to argue that service or retail employers will think of women as bad employees if they “drop out,” since those industries have tremendously high turnover to begin with.

    I can think of many, many young women in my social circle who are professionals (lawyers, PhDs, doctors, and other professions that require years and years of school) who have specifically decided to have their children in their 20s because they cannot get jobs in their field right now. It’s not just the recent recession — the academic job market is always awful and law schools are churning out way more lawyers than there are jobs in law. I’ve taken the same approach — I’m in no hurry to finish my PhD and launch into a poor job market, so I’m having my kids now. I’ll be done with babies before I’m 30 and my kids will probably be ready to go to school by the time I actually get a job in my field. I suppose I could get a non-professional job now instead of being a pregnant, sort-of-stay-at-home mom/student, but I don’t see how that would advance the ultimate goal of advancing equality. It’s no better than welfare requirements that force mothers of young children to work in crappy jobs rather than caring for their kids and getting educations that could ultimately lead to better jobs. I know other women who would not “drop out” of work entirely if they could have six months or a year of leave, but they find themselves on bed rest and use up all their unpaid leave before the baby is even born and leave their jobs just to have a few weeks with their newborns.

    I think what I’m trying to say is that, at least to me, it’s not a matter of “choice” so much as one of “flexibility.” I’m trying to accomplish two monumental tasks: parenting and productive employment. And I can’t really do that if they are “choices” set up in opposition to one another. Rather, what I need is the flexibility to make things work. In addition to affordable child care, my life would be a lot easier if we had single-payer health coverage that was not tied to employment — the fact that we don’t means that my husband has zero chance of being a stay-at-home dad, or of starting his own business, at least until I get a job that can cover us all. We just need his health coverage too much.

  • Gail

    This reminds me of the changing your last name debate. Some women complain that nobody should be able to change her last name because it just prolongs the trend that women change their names and men don’t. And of course, some women think that no women should be stay at home parents because it prolongs the trend that women stay at home once they have kids, and men don’t. Personally, I think women should just make their own choices. Nobody needs to be a martyr for the larger cause in this case. Instead, we could all try to make society more accepting of stay at home fathers and working parents. And we could all try to make traditionally feminine career paths more valued and more highly paid, so that when a family does decide one parent should stay home, it doesn’t automatically make sense for it to be the woman since she makes less.

    And as far as the idea of forcing women to go back to work, that sounds like a very bad idea to me. What about women who already don’t work outside the home by choice before they have children (housewives are rarer these days, but they still exist)? What about unemployed women? What about women who don’t feel recovered enough to go back to work? This seems like it would end up with women having to face some deciding body to defend their decisions. And that doesn’t seem very feminist to me.

    • AlisonCummins

      In Quebec, last names are not changed as a routine part of getting married. If a woman uses her husband’s last name personally and professionally she can eventually apply to get it legally changed the same way anyone can get their name legally changed to anything they are using personally and professionally.
      Nobody’s forced to do anything, it’s just that name changes are not a part of the marriage contract. They’re handled separately.

      • Whirlwitch

        I was born in Quebec. When I married, I was very annoyed to realize that I couldn’t use the fact of my marriage to change my last name to the one I made up for myself and my wife to use, and to which she had legally changed hers in advance of our marriage specifically to facilitate my name change.

        I can’t change my name without returning to Quebec to appear in court and wade through a bunch of paperwork, and even then it isn’t a guarantee. Accordingly, I am rather annoyed with Quebec’s policy (and the way they don’t play well with other provinces).

        We’re both female, so this isn’t an issue of a man being thought strange for marital name-change.

  • Kodie

    One of the only problems I can think of when women, mothers, stay at home with their kids is what can happen. I don’t want to knee-jerk on Debi Pearl but a lot can go down in a marriage. I have a strong feeling, even when people aren’t professionals at something they love, i.e. a few mentioned taking work waiting tables or as a store clerk or whatever, they should be capable of earning their own money. Debi Pearl has a lot of “how things should be” and when you put yourself in a position where you could be divorced, you would be out, you might choose to but the same way you weigh the cost of paying someone else to do your childcare, you weigh that it’s cheaper to stay married. I am not really, I don’t think I am, judging women for making that choice for themselves. I don’t really care what that choice does to the “movement” for other women. If it’s a detriment to feminism or whatever, doesn’t matter so much to me as saying that women who can choose not to work really can choose that because they are married to someone who does, and all their eggs are in that basket. I love hearing stories about how two people love and support each other’s decisions, but that doesn’t mean the arrangement is stable if the people in it may later feel trapped in the situation because they don’t have their own income. Lots of people do break up or want to. Everyone typically defends this arrangement while they believe that it’s cooperative between them and their supportive spouse without thinking it might change someday.

    • Newbie

      Agreed. The choice to stay home presumes that you can depend on a breadwinner for support and that relationship is itself dependable. However, the vast majority of couples is bound to have disagreements, or become tempted to split up. If one partner is financially dependent on the other, she (or he) has a whole lot more to lose

    • Newbie

      That discrepancy is bound to put the breadwinner in a position of power over the stay-at-home parent

    • Composer 99

      I should like to add the possibility of early death(*), or of long-term/chronic injury/disease/disability, or prolonged unemployment, as reasons why both partners in a marriage/common-law/whatever should be in a position to generate their own income, even if at the moment both partners are happy with a “conventional” income-earner/home-maker & care-giver division of labour.

      (*) For people who do die at older ages (say, beyond retirement) there is the added issue, as others have noted, of a life-long home-maker being out of luck for such things as pensions.

      • Tracey

        Another possibility: one of the children has a physical or mental disability. The divorce statistics for families with disabled children is very, very high, and it’s usually the father who walks off, leaving the mother to care for the child *and* try to earn money to support the family. If the mother has no marketable skills because she’s never held a job, the family plunges into poverty.

      • Composer 99

        Excellent catch, Tracey, thank you for pointing that out!

      • Christine

        And, unfortunately, those are precisely the situations where it is most difficult to have both parents holding down outside jobs.

  • Lana

    Props for bringing up social security. My thoughts exactly. One of my parent’s greatest financial problems is only having one retirement saved. I sometimes wonder if it was worth it. I do have a problem with not giving women maketable skills whether that is business skills or degrees. I have a friend who comes from a family of 13 kids. She got married early, now has two kids, no degrees, has never held a job. Honestly with the lack of money they currently have saved, she’s in trouble if something ever happens to her husband. I’m sure she will pick up and be strong through it. I’m sure she will make it. But it will be a lot harder for her than it would for me in the situation since I have experience working and supporting myself.

    • Guest

      This is a fixable situation in a number of ways – one thing I am seeing, now that I’m around 40, is that a lot of the women I know who didn’t finish college & had babies in their teens or early 20s, are doing just fine. They went back to school as their kids grew up (2 women I know got PhDs in education while homeschooling their own kids, though they both had bachelors degrees to start with. Others I know got BAs, or professional/technical degrees like lower level nursing certificates) because having a teenager at home was enough help to allow them to “lean in” – go to school, work long or irregular hours – in a way that we expect younger women with no children to do.

      But it’s also true that for the vast majority of women who do take some time off, it’s not very much time – 4 years, not 20, or even a few years here, a few years there. Joining the workforce at 22 instead of 18 isn’t that much of a handicap, and neither is dropping out for a few years in your late 20s. There’s a penalty, but it’s not as large in a mid-level job as in a high-level one, and very very small for entry-level jobs.

      • Lana

        yea again, if you homeschool, you don’t go back to work for a long time unless your spouse stays home, or one or the other has odd working hours. that story of getting a PhD while homeschooling is a great story. Anyone who wants to do something bad enough will do it.

      • Christine

        Honestly, if I’m out of school for only 5 years (and it’s likely to end up being longer) before I start work, I’m completely screwed. If I’m *lucky* getting my PhD would cover the gap, but one of the guys in my group was getting hurt by the huge gap between his degrees, just as if he wasn’t just graduating, so I’m not sure. And getting a job that would actually help my resume would end up requiring a sacrifice from my husband’s career. The financial incentives to have kids while you’re still in school really don’t make up for the career-based disincentives. (Thank goodness for spousal employment policies is all I can say.)

    • Kristen White

      I had the opposite reaction. I don’t mean to judge my mother, who is a wonderful homemaker, or your friend, or really anybody from a generation where a stay-at-home spouse was the norm, but I question the judgment of anybody today who doesn’t get a job after the kids are in school. Not only are they not contributing to the family financially, they’re not building up their own resumes so that they can take care of themselves in the event of an emergency. Every person is different and I don’t mean that people should be forced to get a job, but I do think that not working after the kids are in school is a risky and probably irresponsible decision.

      • Lana

        I was homeschooled. That’s why my mom never went back to work. By the time she was through raising children, she no longer had a degree fresh enough for the job. Now she’s started a business, but still, no retirement. I think its extremely hard to live this way, but that was there choice.

  • Shazzer

    This is exactly the situation I am currently in. I have a degree in the sciences and when I found out I was pregnant, I began trying to make plans for what to do after my maternity leave. I soon found that not only was daycare in our area very expensive, but because of the hours that my lab typically worked, I would be paying an even higher premium because it wasn’t in the normal 8-5pm range. The daycare at my place of work had a 3 year wait list! My husband is currently in his residency, so his schedule is also very difficult to arrange child care around. When I was 8mo pregnant I was laid off from my job, and I have found that I have little desire to go back into an industry that makes work and having a family so difficult (not to mention the job prospects are lousy due to government funding being reduced). I have found that I enjoy the freedom of being a stay-at-home-mom and being able to take trips to see relatives, take my daughter to the park or storytime, and just be around her as she grows. I have thought about trying to find a job when she’s a little older, but I’m sure there’s going to be moving and another child on the horizon too.

  • Sophie

    I always planned to take the first year off from work and then go back part-time. In my chosen career of nursing, part-time meant doing 8 12.5 hour shifts a month, which I could do as night shifts and weekends to manage childcare. My dream plan was to take 5 years off, possibly longer if I had a second child. But that would require a willing and well paid partner. In my current relationship, I could have had my dream plan. The point is rather moot now since I can’t have babies and may never work due to my disability. Right now I am a stay-at-home partner but not a housewife since I am not capable of doing any chores without hurting myself. I didn’t get to finish my degree due to my last unit being practical, so basically I worked my arse off for three years and excelled academically to then fall at the final hurdle. Rather good metaphor seeing as I stopped being able to walk!

    This discussion is particularly interesting to me as my partner and I had a very similar one recently and he made some of the same points. He didn’t agree with the second wave feminist, he just pointed out that it’ll be very hard to get equal pay, better parental leave, less discrimination to women regarding promotions etc because the majority of men don’t take paternity leave and the majority of stay-at-home parents are women. So employers are always going to make the assumption that women aren’t as reliable employees until this changes. It’s not a fair assumption but unfortunately businesses are in it for the profits and women taking maternity leave costs money especially when you have to pay someone to replace them for that period. Plus there’s always the chance that the women won’t come back and then the business has put money and resources into that employee with very little return. So yeah the system sucks.

    I don’t believe that any women who chooses to be a stay-at-home parent is betraying the feminist cause or letting other women down. To me feminism is about having a choice, having the choice whether to have children or not, having the choice to study maths and engineering or English and psychology, having the choice to get a job in IT or to teach, having the choice to work your way to the top of the career ladder or to be a stay-at-home parent. And those choices should be available to men too. I don’t think that more women need to go back to work, I think more men need to take paternity leave and become stay-at-home parents. I think that is what will make the changes we want happen. If it is either parent that could take the time off then employers can’t discriminate, they will have to judge their employees on their ability not their genitalia.

    • Jayn

      Better leave policies would really help not only mothers but fathers who want to take time off. My husband’s job only offers him two weeks (unpaid, naturally) and he has to take any vacation time first–I’m glad I’m due in November! As it is I’m not super happy at the prospect of losing two weeks of pay at that point in our lives. I’d like to have him home but yeesh, our finances are fairly stable but that’s still a horrible time for unpaid leave.

      Edit because I forgot my point. Until men can expect the same sort of leave women get, of course women will be more of a ‘liability’.

      • Sophie

        Sorry I did mean parental leave as being for both parents, I’m not entirely sure if that was clear. But yes my point was that until more men take the paternity leave they are entitled and make it normal for men to take time off to care for their child, then paternity leave won’t be as long as maternity leave because employers won’t see the need for it.

  • Anne

    Lots to think about here!

    Me: A woman, early 40s, married 18 years, no children. In the work force for over 20 years, the sole ‘bread-winner’ for the last eight. (that last part- not by choice.)

    For the most part I agree with you, I think. I’d like to be part of a society that cares for all of our elderly, that doesn’t automatically disregard people with gaps in their employment history, and where SAHDs are just as common as SAHMs. I’m all for deconstructing gender stereotyping and increasing the monetary value placed on traditionally feminine careers.

    But I’m curious and confused about “the needs of working parents.” (vs. the needs of workers in general? given that statistically the vast majority of workers are parents…) Because what I see happening is that as we lessen the divide between the genders in the workplace, the rift between Working Parents and Working Non-Parents is increasing.

    There are multiple reasons for that (which I’m sure varies a lot from one workplace to another) & explaining it all would make this horrendously long, so focusing on what’s in the article:

    Paid parental leave, government subsidized daycare and after-school care… Someone has to foot the bill for all that. (If it would be similar to the PFL program we have here in California, it’s funded through ‘employee contributions’.)

    For taxpayers who have -or will at some point- received those benefits you could say it evens out in the end, more or less. But not for everyone, because not everyone has kids.

    Disclaimer: Generally, I have no problem with “my” tax dollars being used to benefit other people, especially children! In fact, that would be my first choice of where the money should go. If you knew me- I’m NOT a person who complains about all the lazy people on welfare and what they’re costing me; more and more I’m becoming a bleeding heart liberal type.

    Given that, I’m asking myself why it’s irking me that any ol’ working parent should be entitled to paid parental leave, subsidized daycare and after school care.

    Maybe it’s because I spent several years being self-employed, paying double the social security tax while ineligible for unemployment benefits and such, that I can barely comprehend getting paid to NOT work, by choice, for months at a time?

    Maybe it’s because the social programs that have been around since before I was born- I just accept them as part of life? New ones I have to stop and think about?

    These parental benefits- would they only be for poor people? Just for single parents? or for all parents?

    How do you do make this thing happen without fostering resentment amongst the rest of us who are forced to fund it? (…is that even a consideration?)

    What’s a reasonable amount of $ to expect people to contribute to the raising of total strangers’ kids?

    Is there a limit?

    I’m trying not to be snarky, honest!

    Just can’t relate to the idea that society should pay me for procreating. That either my current employer or other taxpayers should pay for my lifestyle while I Choose not to work for weeks or months. Maybe someday it will seem totally normal, I don’t know. Maybe our free public schools will have free public all-day daycare. Maybe some already do, what do I know.

    Very early on in life, I decided that I needed to get an education and a decent job so that I’d never, ever have to rely on another person for everything I needed like my mom did as a SAHM. (Yeah, major issues there.) Being able to set my own course and make my own choices was a big huge deal. And asking other people to subsidize my choices would be a big huge setback.

    • Anne

      Sorry that was so long, yikes! didn’t realize.

    • Katherine Hompes

      Hi Anne, as a stay at home, single mother in a government pension (I’m Australian), I thought I’d take a stab at commenting on some of your questions.

      One thing you said re: resentment for those who are paid to parent really resonated. There is quite a bit of resentment aimed at those like me- single parents on the pension. We are seen to be taking advantage of the “hard working taxpayers”, and are accused of getting money for sitting on our bottoms. And, to be fair, this can happen- there are those that tort the system. Surely though, it is better to risk that than allow the alternative?

      I don’t really have a resume-gap issue- I worked until my disability made it physically impossible, and now I study by distance to get a better paying, disability friendly job (I also volunteer where I can for the school that my daughter attends).

      One last thing- why shouldn’t society pay me to raise a child? I am still contributing to that society, am I not?

      • Anne

        Thanks for your answer! Your questions at the bottom reminded me of something else I thought of after posting this yesterday. Might be different in Australia, but on the subject of being paid to raise your own children… combining something I read about the rules re: setting up a day-care center with the idea of government subsidies where parents get vouchers to cover a portion of the cost, which they use to pay the approved day-care center of their choice, could parents get licensed and receive the voucher payments when they kids they care for are their own?

        I’m sure I worded that horribly, I hope people can follow what I’m saying. My own answer is, I don’t see why not! If a daycare provider can be paid by the gov’t for their work, why can’t a mother caring for her own kids?

        It wouldn’t really get more women back into the workforce (if that’s the goal, just referring back to the original article above). But it -for lack of a better word- legitimizes the important work that SAHMs do, which is too often overlooked. For women who either really want to stay home with their kids or can’t work outside the home for whatever reason, maybe that’s a solution. Not a perfect one, but- adds another option.

        …Is that any different than Welfare? (I’m thinking this through as I go along…) Something else I read just recently, but dates back to our latest presidential campaign- Mitt Romney saying that Welfare Mothers need to go to work. He said he was willing to spend more on daycare so that they could. Even though it would cost the state more to provide the daycare, he wants people to have “the dignity of work”.

        That’s nice, I suppose, but- funny ain’t it? When the government pays Woman A to take care of someone else’s children in a Daycare Center she has dignity, but when Woman B spends her days doing exactly the same with her own kids in her own home, she needs to get off her lazy butt and get to work.

        …I kinda forgot where I’m going with this…

      • Alix_A

        Several people better versed in economics than me call traditional women’s work the “invisible economy,” and they’ve made the point that because of the way staying at home running households/raising kids is devalued – in exactly the ways you detail – US society (and others) basically runs on unpaid labor.

        This is why I actually, honest to god think that yes, people ought to be getting paid for raising their own kids and running their own households. And if some people decide then that that stipend is enough and they don’t want to work, so what?

        The really funny thing about our economy is how very illusory it is. Things are the way they are because we decided things are that way. Because we’ve organized our society that way. But in reality, there’s nothing immutable about any of it – if you can get enough people behind the change. And there’s nothing unusual about the idea that maybe supporting all members of a society economically is a good thing, or that kids are a communal investment.

      • Christine

        Actually the Canadian Government kind of does that. Basically it was a “we’re better than you, because we’re going to give the money to EVERYONE” to everyone who was pushing for subsidized daycare. So, in theory, the flat-rate $100/month/child that you get for every child under 6 is intended to help cover daycare OR help make it easier to have a parent stay home. We won’t get into the many many ways this is messed up.

        It is going to help the economy more though, if you have a woman go to work and send her kids to someone else to take care of, so most governments are biased towards that.

    • Danielle

      I can kind of see what you are getting at. The part that I could see troubling me is that if the amount paid out during leave is proportional to the prior salary. If this is state or federally funded, does this mean that public funds are paying already privileged people a lot more than lower earners? I guess it could be somewhat like social security or unemployment, where people who earn more have to pay more into contributions and then get more. I have elective short term disability insurance at work where your premiums are calculated based on your wage and then if you need to use it, you get 60% of your base salary.

      Part of me wonders if just making work arrangements more family friendly would be more helpful than extended maternity/paternity leave. If it were more acceptable to work part-time and wouldn’t make it hard to keep health benefits, I think that would do more long-term for balanced, happy families than just giving one or both parents a whole year off up front.

    • Libby Anne

      See, this is why I think we need to view children more communally. Children are our nation’s future citizens, and we all have a stake in them being raised well. This is why tax dollars go to pay for public schools whether someone has children in public schools, or even children at all. I guess I see government subsidization of child rearing in this same light—we should see the next generation as something worth investing in, and see child rearing as something that is important and needs to be supported.

      • Ginny Bain Allen

        It’s absolutely absurd to require those of us, who are totally opposed to our progressive, anti-Christ government schools, to pay taxes for such evil brainwashing against Jesus! The government should not be subsidizing anything! It should be protecting us militarily, and our public servants should be serving we the people for free, doing our bidding, not allowing judicial tyranny to rule, while not poking its nose into anything else!

      • tsara

        It is totally absurd for those of us who are totally opposed to regressive and generally awful government military thingies to pay taxes for such evil violations of human rights! The government should not be doing that! It should be protecting us in nonviolent ways, and supporting us (blah, blah), while not poking its heavily-armed nose into other nations’ business!

      • victoria

        In that case, how do you feel about churches being tax-exempt?

      • Beutelratti

        Excuse me, lady, but you’re the one who sounds brainwashed here.

      • amanduh

        Haha, what in the world do you think is going on in public schools? It might be wise to turn your tv and radio off and step away from your pundits and maybe go live in the real world for a little while. The things that you believe are happening around you are not.

      • Alice

        Assuming that wasn’t sarcasm, if we did not pay taxes for public schools, then thousands of children would receive a far worse or non-existent education. MANY parents cannot afford private schools or for one parent to quit their job and home-school. They are barely making ends meet as it is. On top of that, many parents do not have the education or skills to teach. On top of that, there are parents who don’t care about their children’s education and won’t put any effort into it no matter what.

        And on top of THAT, tens of thousands of parents are not Christians so their children would STILL be “brain-washed” according to your creative definition!

        If children do not receive a basic education, then they will never be able to financially support themselves when they grow up. And we all know how much fundamentalists hate paying taxes for welfare!

      • Whirlwitch

        Are you equally opposed to regressive, anti-reality private and home schools which practice evil brainwashing FOR Jesus? Or is that just fine?

      • fiona64

        Please feel free to move to a theocracy if this others you so much.

        I understand Afghanistan is lovely this time of year — and they’re not too keen on helping out the underprivileged, either.

        (For someone who claims to follow Jesus, Gin, you don’t seem to get that he only asked his followers to do three things: feed the hungry, comfort the ailing and love their neighbors as themselves. No codicils about religion, sexuality or anything.)

  • wmdkitty

    Okay, here’s a radical notion — don’t “force” anyone to work, because caregiving is a gender-neutral thing, man!

  • A Reader

    I think each individual woman should be able to make her own choices–same with men. That’s where real equality is. It’s when we don’t question stay-at-home dads and full-time-job moms, or vice-verse, or couples with no kids, or whatever.
    One question though–what’s the difference between second- and third-way feminism? And, for the heck of it, first-?

  • Priscilla Parker

    How redundant. If a person weighs the value of another on how much money they make or what job they hold in comparison to another, they missed the point of equality. Feminism is about equal opportunity which we have. Sounds like this girl in grad school had a complex.

  • doctor-lawyer mom

    It is astounding to me that stay at home moms can reconsidered a problem in any way. It might behoove you all to take a look around and discover the problems we have–chief among them a demographic winter in which the population is shrinking–that are a result of the reformation of family and work life from rampant divorce to the expectation that both parents will work long hours outside the home. Choosing to have and personally raise children is NOT a problem. In the words of the “prochoice” movement: don’t want to be a stay at home mom? Don’t be one. But have the integrity to respect their choices and leave them out of your political agendas. You may find them annoying, you may disagree with them but they are not a problem.

    • Libby Anne

      Methinks all you read was my post’s title. Maybe try reading the whole thing?

    • Lucreza Borgia

      You might as well just have posted TL;DR for all your comment is worth.

    • Anat

      I’m all for shrinking populations in the west (followed by a somewhat belated shrinkage elsewhere). How many people do you expect our planet to support?

  • Sickos whiners

    Feel free to stay home, or work. But then stop complaining about wage disparity, because you are not working the same hours. I’m serious here — if you are making the choice because you need to economically, that sucks. We should have better options. On the other hand, we won’t get those options without women who stick it out. If you stay home because you want to, god bless. But stop talking about gender gaps in the working world because you have created it. Own up to your choice and all its consequences.

  • Alex

    Perhaps parenting should just have a value attached. Then it is no longer unpaid,society is demonstrating the value, and parents(male or female) have greater breathing space to make decisions that are right for themselves and their situations. Especially in lower income households,ethnic minorities as well as not every person sees working for someone else as more important than staying home and working for the betterment of the basic political unit.

  • Rabbit

    Good article! But I wonder what country the author is from, because in the U.S., a life-long housewife will receive social security benefits at retirement age, based on her husband’s earnings.
    I know this post is months old, but I just thought I’d point that out in case someone else came across this like I did.

    • sam

      The housewife receives her own benefits check drawn off of her husbands earnings, or he draws a benefits and she maybe gets to have some because they share an account?

  • stevo

    There are numerous problems with the stay at home spouse. I thought it was a good idea based on my own experience since I had some rather abusive caregivers. But the truth is that it sets up an inequity in the relationship. One partner is solely responsible for the most basic maslow needs for everyone, namely physiological and security, while trying to do their best at all the other levels, and the other “partner” frequently gets lost in their own world, without regard for the source of their provisions or security. There is plenty of resentment to go around in such a situation and only real commitment (not the same as marriage) and understanding the myriad of issues can help.