The Opt-Out Myth

We've nearly beaten to death the media myth of moms who "opt out", but a recent recap of skewed coverage of working and stay-at-home moms in the January/February Columbia Journalism Review --The Opt-Out Myth-- was so succinct and clearly thought-out that I just had to call it to everyone's attention.

The author is E.J. Graff, Senior Researcher at the Brandeis Institute for Investigative Journalism and head of the Gender and Justice Project, where she investigates "serious inequities, injustices and human rights issues that confront many women."

The Opt-Out Myth mentions an interesting analysis of 119 newspaper articles from 1980 to 2006 showing how undue prominence is placed on "the opt-out storyline," conducted by Joan C. Williams, director of the University of California Hastings Center for WorkLife Law. It goes on to cite New York Times articles from the last 50 years that repeatedly highlight how much women looove to stay home with kids: in 1953 ("Case History of an Ex-Working Mother"), 1961 ("Career Women Discover Satisfactions in the Home"), 1980 ("Many Young Women Now Say They'd Pick Family Over Career"), 1998 ("The Stay-At-Home Mother"), 2003 ("The Opt-Out Revolution") and 2005 ("Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood"). Here's quantifiable evidence of how our society returns, again and again, to the message that women's inner peace is found at home, not at work, and certainly not juggling both -- despite the fact that evidence shows repeatedly that the happiest women are ones who balance multiple meaningful roles.

The writer's interpretations of the facts are smart and sensible: "The moms-go-home story keeps coming back, in part, because it's based on some kernels of truth. Women do feel forced to choose between work and family. Women do face a sharp conflict between cultural expectations and economic realities. The workplace is still demonstrably more hostile to mothers than to fathers. Faced with the "choice" of feeling that they've failed to be either good mothers or good workers, many women wish they could -- or worry that they should -- abandon the struggle and stay home with the kids."

I am all for women staying home with kids -- if that's what they want. But E.J. Graff rightly points out the salient fact that most mothers can only dream of not working and that the newspaper articles glorifying moms at home don't present the full reality of American women's lives: "The vast majority of contemporary families cannot get by without women's income--especially now, when upwards of 70 percent of American families with children have all adults in the work force, when 51 percent of American women live without a husband, and when many women can expect to live into their 80s and beyond."

The article's argument as to why the proliferation of lopsided stories is destructive also rings true: "Here's why [it] matters: If journalism repeatedly frames the wrong problem, then the folks who make public policy may very well deliver the wrong solution."

Compared to this even-handed, sympathetic, cogent article, my earlier arguments trying to make the same point were pretty much me foaming at the mouth. Thank you, E.J. Graff. Keep it coming.

To see more of E.J. Graff's research on this subject, click here.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  March 19, 2007; 7:45 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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Posted by: First - Phila | March 19, 2007 7:50 AM

I never thought the original opt out article was realistic for most women. I did not go to the ivies but I do have a graduate degree in statistics and my husband has an undergraduate degree in information technology and he is getting his MBA. We are both government workers with one child. And frankly we both need to work. Not to make ends meet. But so we can both have a retirement and college education paid. Just to own a house, two modest cars, retirement, a rainy day fund, and college paid for, you need to incomes or one very good 6 figure income. Even the husbands that are making $120K/year with SAHPs, seem to be struggling a bit. They do maximize their 401K but rarely contribute to their SAHS' IRA. They have no idea how they will pay two college tuitions. It is nice that the very rich can choose to SAH. And frankly, if I had that much $$, I would stay at home too. If nothing else, it would be easier to balance child care. But that is just not the reality for us. And we are educated in marketable fields. What are the lower paid professionals and unskilled labor suppose to do. I imagine if you are unskilled labor, you need two incomes just to pay rent and buy food.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 7:52 AM

What's the difference between a childcare worker and a mom - FICA and the designation as "working". so funny.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 7:56 AM

Thanks for pointing me to this one, Leslie. It's just another example of how the media finds something and tells you it's a "trend" when maybe it is and maybe it isn't.

It reminds me of all the coverage in the early 90's about the "epidemic of infertility in the United States." I remember reading all this stuff and just assuming that my husband and I would have great difficulty getting pregnant, what with being in our thirties, having stressful jobs, etc. etc. etc. I remember being stunned when we found ourselves with two children by our second anniversary -- and my husband joking about how the media always covers all the celebrities and famous people who have trouble conceiving, but they never mention that it's a bell curve and there will be others who apparently have no troulbe getting pregnant.

But the misplaced emphasis on the women "choosing" to stay home is only one example of the way the media misleads. I'm one of those moms who was always completely paranoid about crime based on stories in the papers about child abductions, etc. -- until I realized how rare those stories actually are.

Leslie, I wish you'd open up a bit as a journalist and tell us why you think journalists use anecdotal data in this way to build misleading pictures. Is it laziness? IS it intentional? HOw does it happen?

Posted by: Armchair Mom | March 19, 2007 8:11 AM

"tell us why you think journalists use anecdotal data in this way to build misleading pictures"

Moronic journalists who are too lazy to do the research...sell sensationalistic articles....one article snowballs....

Posted by: To armchair mom | March 19, 2007 8:22 AM

I could have written your post. Our lives sound very similar. We, too, have one child. We're both professionals and we do need to work. And I too would stay home if we had ample money that there would be no worries about college tuition and retirement.

Posted by: TO: Foamgnome | March 19, 2007 8:48 AM


The full UC Hastings review is here:

http://www.uchastings.edu/site_files/WLL/OptOutPushedOut.pdf

It's amazingly rich with current demographics and social science results on many of the issues that crop up here regularly. I highly recommend it; the meat on those bones could launch discussions for a month!

Posted by: KB | March 19, 2007 8:49 AM

One other reason I work is that my husband, rightly or wrongly, felt the pressure of being the only person with a paycheck. Several yrs ago, when he was laid off, we both started looking for work-i know he was a bit stressed and upset that it was he who lost his job.

But recently, when he was miserable and wanted to quit, he could, without anything else lined up- and then he could figure out what to do(ended up getting a great job, but unexpectedly really as he wasn't really looking). To rely on one income can also be scary since you just never know- and you may want a few extras (took the older one to see go dog go this past weekend, and didn't think twice- when I wasn't working I would have stressed about it immensely then probably not taken him- it was great by the way).

Neither of us would be not working anymore, we've discussed it many times and if one of us quit a job, we would do something to bring in income (consulting, temping, landlording, etc). It only makes sense to not rely on the whims of an employer- the bothof us have been too involved with layoffs.

Posted by: atlmom | March 19, 2007 9:03 AM

I thought the most interesting paragraph was: "So yes, maybe some women "chose" to go home. But they didn't choose the restrictions and constrictions that made their work lives impossible. They didn't choose the cultural expectation that mothers, not fathers, are responsible for their children's doctor visits, birthday parties, piano lessons, and summer schedules." No, perhaps they didn't "choose" this cultural expectation, but they "chose" not to take a stand and expect their husbands to pull their weight and schedule doctor's visits, birthday parties, etc. This part of the article focuses on women who are 4% of the American female population - Ivy league degree, etc. How can you get an Ivy degree and not be tough enough to stand up to your husband and expect him to pull his weight?

Posted by: smf | March 19, 2007 9:04 AM

"despite the fact that evidence shows repeatedly that the happiest women are ones who balance multiple meaningful roles. "

Oh really- what evidence? The happiest moms I know are the ones who are happy just doing ONE thing- they don't need a million things to fill them up and make them whole.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 9:14 AM

The Getting-Into-Preschool Puzzle
Can an admissions director really evaluate a 2-year-old?
By Emily Bazelon
Posted Thursday, March 15, 2007, at 2:50 PM ET
It's March, which means it's time for a spate of stories about the high comedy of preschool admissions. In certain cities--or rather, in certain well-off circles in a few cities--getting a 2- or 3-year-old into a coveted school is an enormous preoccupation. The preschool wars have adopted the weapons and lingo of the college wars: consultants, résumés, essays, safety schools, and early decision($). This year, a film crew is coming to New York to document the preschool version of Survivor. And the New York Times and the Washington Post have parodied the benighted admissions process--with missives by groveling parents and chirpy advice-givers (when filling out the admissions form, "describe your dream date, and not your actual child").

In the press (and on the playground), the selective schools are the villains, and parents either the laughing stocks or the victims. The underlying assumption is that sorting small children comes down to judgments about their behavior that are wildly mercurial. This fear is overblown--at the most sought-after schools, who you know and how much money you're willing to donate just has to matter more than your toddler's personality--but it's not groundless. Several years ago, when I was a reporter in the East Bay in California, I went to watch an admissions "play date" at an exclusive preschool. One 3-year-old refused to share his shovel in the sandbox. Afterward, the director confirmed that he hadn't boosted his application to the top of the pile.

Since then, though, I've applied five times for preschool for my two sons in three cities (don't ask). And it's not all a war zone out there: In most cities, the demand for good--or good enough--preschools doesn't far outstrip the supply for people who can afford the tuition, at least for 3- and 4-year-olds. There's an "it" choice, but if you rationally compare it with the less "it" alternatives, you'll usually find they're on par. And the main thing those less "it" schools want from you is not a perfect child or a secret handshake but a $500 deposit.


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When schools check out your kid as part of deciding whether to let you write that check, they may indeed be in the business of weeding out the criers and the nonsharers. But they're not making up the assessment out of thin air. Evaluating a 2-year-old is not like evaluating an 18-year-old. Still, preschool folk can tell a fair amount about your small child. In fact, the more multidimensional (read onerous) the admissions process, the more they have to go on--and the more you learn about them.

What do preschool admissions directors want to see? Curiosity, energy, some speech, maybe some ability to sit still. In some cases, potty training. What sets off warning bells? Temper tantrums. Extreme clinginess. Kids generally aren't expected to separate from their parents when they walk in the door for an interview or observed play session. But if they never want to leave their mother's lap, "then I ask about separation issues," one preschool director told me.

At Franklin Montessori school in Washington, D.C., the admissions process includes a 30-minute play session for three kids at a time. Director of admissions Randy Crowley says most kids are apprehensive at first. But after Play-Doh, puzzles, and storytelling, a lot of them don't want to leave. "And then you know, oh yeah, that kid is ready." Crowley says she wants parents to enthuse about the Montessori method--they don't have to know a lot about it, but they should sound committed to learning. And when I confessed to her that I'd chosen my son's current preschool in part because of location, she suggested that it's better not to admit so when you're trying to get your kid in. "If a parent mentions that, especially if they also say they're looking for before- and after-care, then you wonder, are they just looking for day care?" (God forbid.)

Crowley admits that it's easier to evaluate the 3-year-olds than the 2-year-olds, because the younger ones' verbal skills are so varied, and a few months can make a big difference in terms of developmental milestones. There's another obvious weakness in the evaluation setup. However friendly and toy-laden, an admissions play session is a foreign environment. The data it spits out are data about how a child acts in a new setting, not how he acts in a place to which he goes every day, which is what school will be. The lucky kids are probably the ones who don't quite realize that they've been thrown into a toy-filled petri dish. The anxious kids may be cannier. Then there are the mishaps you can't control. On my son Eli's first day of preschool, he arrived with a fat lip topped by a woeful black-and-blue mark. Over the weekend, he'd gotten too close to a small dog who seemed calm and friendly but proved otherwise. I worried for months that his teachers were inspecting him for signs of abuse. We were just lucky that it was too late to cross him off the admitted list.

If your small child can't be relied on to negotiate a strange play date with charm and aplomb, maybe you're better off with the résumé-essay-testing approach, which gives you lots of chances to describe his less apparent charms. Presumably the added information helps schools as well, even preschools. "A single test at that age does not mean very much," Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor of cognition and education, wrote to me in an e-mail. But "if you can cull evidence from a test, a play session, a home visit, letters of recommendation (yes, the mind boggles), and they point to a consistent pattern, then you know a lot. If, on the other hand, they are wildly inconsistent, you should either watch out or select more data."

Gardner also points out, however, that the preschools of Reggio Emilia in Italy, which he says are considered the world's best, serve about 40 percent of the population without any sort of selective admissions process (except that they give preference to siblings). These schools don't weed out the kids who want their mommies or resist sharing their toys, because "you come to learn how to share. That's part of our job here," as my son's former preschool director Christine Reberkenny-Frisketti puts it. If that sounds like the right response to you, then maybe you should turn the essay you're writing to get your kid into your dream school into a paper airplane or quit worrying that he didn't get into the "it" preschool because he didn't play well with others. What's troubling about preschool admissions, in the end, is that they reveal how narrow the preferred range of demeanor for little kids is. We want 2- and 3-year-olds to be sunny but not loud, perceptive but not shy, energetic but not hyper. We want them to conform. Your genius friend who can't sit still or your tech-savvy officemate who avoids eye contact? They'd be in the reject pile.


This was on Slate this morning. Hilarious. And so true, for anyone who's ever been in the preschool admissions game!

Posted by: SAHMbacktowork | March 19, 2007 9:16 AM

I was just thinking about this, but another story that the media overemphasizes is the "crisis of college admissions today." I read somewhere that actually the vast majority of US colleges accept over half the applicants -- but the media has overemphasized the difficulty of getting into a highly selective institution, which the vast majority of students won't even aim for.

Posted by: Armchair Mom | March 19, 2007 9:16 AM

How can you get an Ivy degree and not be tough enough to stand up to your husband and expect him to pull his weight?

Some women WANT to stay home with their children. They get a great deal of satisfaction doing it and don't have a need, financially or personally, to work for a paycheck or career outside the home. There is nothing wrong with that. It's just the way some women feel.

And it is a very conflicting thing when you are a professional, well-educated woman climbing the ladder, watching other professional, well-educated women drop off to stay home and raise their kids. If you are in the small percentage cited in this article, it is hard.

Posted by: NCMom | March 19, 2007 9:18 AM

"The vast majority of contemporary families cannot get by without women's income--especially now, when upwards of 70 percent of American families with children have all adults in the work force, when 51 percent of American women live without a husband, and when many women can expect to live into their 80s and beyond."

It would be helpful if she actually tried to prove this assertion. Certainly, single moms have to work to support themselves. Many husbands don't earn enough for a family to live on. But many do.

Anyone who's followed this blog has seen many, many posts by men and women explaining that they cannot live on one income - especially in the D.C. metro area.

There have also been many, many posts by men and women who have talked about making a conscious decision to cut back and live on one salary - and discussed how the did it. Sometimes it involves making do with less, sometimes it involves moving to an area with a lower cost of living. But there are too many examples of families that have done it to say that it's simply not feasible for "the vast majority" of families.

And yes, I'll reveal my personal bias - we've successfully lived on one salary for the last 18 years (two kids, one in college now - state school, in-state tuition).

Posted by: Huh? | March 19, 2007 9:19 AM

To smf:

"No, perhaps they didn't "choose" this cultural expectation, but they "chose" not to take a stand and expect their husbands to pull their weight and schedule doctor's visits, birthday parties, etc."

How do you know the husband wasn't pulling his weight? Even when both (working) parents are doing a fair share of the kid stuff, it doesn't mean it's easy to balance.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | March 19, 2007 9:22 AM

The reason opt-out stories have been popular since the 50's is that SAHM's have experienced negative prejudice since the 50's.

So purposeful opt-out moms, even if they are a small percentage, are bucking the social pressures against them, and have been all these years, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

That's always a story, because it goes to reader's hearts.

It seems to me that it is just trying to start fights with little material to claim otherwise. It's pretty simple to understand why the stories are always appealing.

Posted by: dfgdfgdfgdfg | March 19, 2007 9:27 AM

This blog is not as interesting as it seemed for a while...

Posted by: dfgdfgdfgdfg | March 19, 2007 9:28 AM

"Leslie, I wish you'd open up a bit as a journalist and tell us why you think journalists use anecdotal data in this way to build misleading pictures. Is it laziness? IS it intentional? HOw does it happen?"


I was a journalist and most feature stories use anecdotal evidence. Have you ever read a healthcare story without some horror story of not being able to pay for medicine or find a dr?? That's not the majority of the country, yet they don't feature those people who HAVE health insurance- because that's not the point of the story.

The point of these stories is to discover why college educated women (please remember the "opt out" articles are aimed toward COLLEGE educated- not the lower economic classes) are staying home rather than pursuing careers.

There are more women in college than ever before and the trend, lately, has been for more of that group to take a few years off to care for young kids AND THEN go back to work. That's what OPT OUT is.

I think Leslie skewed both the findings of the research and the actual trend of what's going on.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 9:29 AM

"Huh?" wrote "But there are too many examples of families that have done it to say that it's simply not feasible for "the vast majority" of families."

Too many examples? From one blog and examples of people you personally know? The truth is that it is simply not feasible for the vast majority of families, regardless of what you see in your neighborhood.

And whether families can afford a SAHM is not really the point of the article, is it? The point is that the media tells us that women want to stay home, but in many cases women don't have the choice to work for a variety of factors. Your arguement pretty much supports the idea that women want to stay home by assuring us that they can if they give up a few luxuries.

Posted by: Meesh | March 19, 2007 9:29 AM

It seems that once again the underlying message is that if a woman can stay home, i.e., the family can survive on one income, then she will or should stay home.

It's not all about the money, although it's nice for my family to thrive rather than survive, but I work for reasons beyond the simple paycheck. I work because I like it - I like what I do - I like the folks I work with - I like that I have a career and I earn more than income from the sense of accomplishment and growth I gain by working.

I have said this before, but I also will not ever be dependent on someone financially. I can't imagine trying to tell my children (2 boys and 1 girl) that although they can be/do whatever they want, I gave up my career and shelved my degrees and ambitions. Although I think the article makes good points, I also think it fails by concentrating on the economic reasons for working vs. staying home rather than including the psychological, social, and myriad other reasons working can be good for women.

Posted by: Stacey | March 19, 2007 9:30 AM

Also, I would recommend that everyone read "The Two Income Trap" to realize how we got this way . . . Why it is that although average households incomes have risen tremendously in the last 30-40 years, we have even less discretionary money than our parents.

Maybe we should stop buying those McMansions and getting new vehicles every 4 years and focus on the family again.

Posted by: NCMom | March 19, 2007 9:33 AM

"Even the husbands that are making $120K/year with SAHPs, seem to be struggling a bit. They do maximize their 401K but rarely contribute to their SAHS' IRA."

We're in this group but I would hardly call that "struggling". If we are living on one income and maxing out a 401k, that is quite comfortable for planning for our retirement. We don't also NEED to fund my IRA because we don't NEED to rely on my income. As I work more in the future we'll fund my IRA from my additional income. As we see it that will be a bonus, beyond what we feel is essential for the income we plan for in retirement.

Also, no, we aren't saving for college right now but are paying for preschool and plan to divert that monthly expense into the college fund as soon as the kids start kindergarten. By our calculation that will put us in a good position to pay for an in-state college when the time comes. I have no interest in paying for an expensive private school as DH and I both got great educations at our state universities.

My problem with all the "opt-out" stories is that it usually presents the work/not work choice as so black and white. Most of my friends right now are SAHMs. Some of those (including me) also work PT to some degree. Almost all (including me) plan to work more once the kids are in school. Working/not working is not one choice made forever. It's a choice you constantly make over and over again as the circumstances of life change.

Posted by: Suzanne | March 19, 2007 9:34 AM

Equality between the sexes is being achieved via financial insecurity.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 9:40 AM

Pre-school admission tests--that is just beyond my ken. I love kids, and the under five set is my favorite. They are exhausting at times, but if I ran a pre-school, it would be first come, first served. The only caveat might be that extremely special needs children would have to be evaluated to see if our team could care for them. Children are pretty easy at 3 and 4 if you know how to deal (for lack of a better word) with them.

I would have kept working if I could have stayed in my old job once my first was born, but there was no flexibility for p/t. I now work p/t in another field and will continue to do so as long as I can. You are right about the financial aspect of raising a family. If you live in the D.C. area and did not buy a house 5 years ago, then it is tough. We actually bought our first 4 br house 9 years ago, when we were 24. It seemed like a huge amount of money. Now you can't even buy a 1 bedroom condo in Gaithersburg for that amount. Our combined incomes are in the mid 6 figure range, but our cars are 7 years old, our kids go to public school, and we do not shop at fancy stores. We do go on two 'vacations' a year, but they are cheap by most peoples' standards--we visit relatives in other states! I think about moving ALL of the time.

Posted by: mj | March 19, 2007 9:42 AM

This month's Glamour has an article about a book called "The Feminine Mistake" by Leslie Bennetts. It states that women staying home are putting themslves at possible financial risk since they might have to reenter the work force at some point due to a husband leaving or death.
While this article (I haven't read the book) seemed a bit over the top it does bring up a good point--CYA. There is nothing wrong with that.

Posted by: Formerly Soon to be Mom | March 19, 2007 9:42 AM

I think that it depends on what you are "opting out" of. If you spent the money and the time to get a degree, then why would you opt-out of your planned career and stay at home? On the other hand, if you are in a dead end job, with limited opportunities for advancement and emotional satisfaction, then opting out is much easier.

Most of the working moms that I see (that have the option to work or not) have rewarding careers that they have spent time and money trying to grow. Why would they give that up?

On the other hand, I don't know too many SAHMs that thoroughly enjoyed their jobs before leaving. Some people get caught up in saying that they are staying home "for the kids" when it's not really that much of a sacrifice since they weren't leaving too much to begin with.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 9:43 AM

My goal is to someday make the kind of money that will let me live the way my wife and kids do.

seen on a bumpersticker.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 9:45 AM

"Too many examples? From one blog and examples of people you personally know? The truth is that it is simply not feasible for the vast majority of families, regardless of what you see in your neighborhood. "

Fine - prove it!

"Your arguement pretty much supports the idea that women want to stay home by assuring us that they can if they give up a few luxuries."

I have no idea where you got that. What I did say was:

1) Many men and women say they can't get by without two incomes;

2) Many other men and women say that they are getting by on one income, and talk about how they've managed it.

Which of those two assertions is wrong?

Look - "getting by" is a somewhat nebulous concept. There are some necessities of life that require a minimum amount of income or public support (e.g., food, shelter, sanitation, etc.). Regrettably, some American families fall below even that level. There are other things that, while not necessities, are generally recognized as part of a decent life (e.g., books, better quality and variety of food, basic entertainment such as television and an occassional movie, gifts at birthdays and Christmas, etc.). Then there are all the other things we'd like to give our children and ourselves.

Some categorize these as "needs," "wants," and "desires." Those can be useful terms. But in any event, we often disagree about what falls in which of these three buckets. Cable TV may not even make the "desires" list for me - it may be a "want" for you, and my son might tell you with a straight face that it's a "need."

Some families can't satisfy all of their most basic needs on one income. But most of us have those covered, and are working on needs and desires.

What makes this very difficult is that different folks have different standards for "getting by." We have friends who simply don't understand why we don't both work.

We've chosen to live on one income, and pass on some of our "desires" - and maybe even the occassional "want" or two. Does that make us noble? Of course not - it's just the choice we've made.

Should you do the same? You won't here me say that. I don't know if your family situation and finances are such that you could - and even if you could, I'm not about to tell you that it would be the right choice for you and your family.

But I challenge you to prove that "the vast majority" of families would have insufficient income to meet their basic needs on a single income.

If that were true, how would we explain all of the single parents who manage to support children on a single income?

Posted by: Huh? | March 19, 2007 9:46 AM

Again, the same bias. Yes, paying for college for several kids and living in the DC area on one salary can be a challenge. Especially, if there is only one working parent for for 20 plus years. However, if you plan early and nothing goes terribly wrong someone can easily stay home for the first few years. From the time you decide you might have children start living off the one salsry and save the second. This will become a down payment for a house, money for extras, vacations, activites etc. Base all financial decisions off the one salary rent, mortgage etc.

If after the parental leaves be they 2 weeks 6 weeks etc if both parents want to return to work, great! Look at all the extra money you have If someone wants or needs to stay home, great you are financially able to do so.

And the same can hold true if someone stays home longer. Live off one salary until the kids are in high school. Then the second salary can be applied to college tuition. After all, the family has been living off one salary for so long that the money can easily be saved for college.

Posted by: Tessa | March 19, 2007 9:47 AM

"I think that it depends on what you are "opting out" of. If you spent the money and the time to get a degree, then why would you opt-out of your planned career and stay at home?"

Because in the big picture a degree is more than an ingredient in the recipe for a career. A degree is an education.

It's a lazy idea to assume that the only reason someone would want to educate themselves is to go spend their life working for the profit of someone else.

There are a lot of reasons someone might want to educate themselves that have nothing to do with the conventional workforce.

If you can't imagine that in the present day, it might be because your scope has been narrowed by rat race values. A good time for a values check, just in case this is what happened.

Posted by: dfgdfgdfgdfg | March 19, 2007 9:51 AM

Tessa, Nice to know that you can read a financial planning book...not get back to reality!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 9:51 AM

Suzanne, I am in the same boat as you, but worked part time since my kids were in school. We lived on one very small income for a few years without going into debt, but only because we were frugal to the point of neurosis. It was sometimes hard to watch friends doing things we couldn't afford, but that was the opportunity cost of having a SAHM. I am very glad I had that luxury. We can now do many of the things we could not afford to then. Seriously, eating out is not all it is cracked up to be! 9 times out of ten I make better food at home.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 9:52 AM

Armchair Mom and others asking about journalistic bias...really hard question to answer. No simple explanation. I don't think there is a conscious or unconscious conspiracy, but bias is obviously a legitimate factor here.

We all have our biases, obviously, no matter our journalistic credentials. In many ways, popular media reflects culture rather than shaping it -- what gets on the front page, and in the headlines, usually is what matters most to the largest number of readers/viewers. The media is a mirror of our culture.

So, when we see, decade after decade, articles seeming to reinforce that women want to stay home with children, it's because our culture is so conflicted about women's often diametrically opposed need to be involved mothers and economic contributors. We deify motherhood as if it's a saintly state, and we glorify financially successful individuals. As all moms know, it's really hard to achieve great motherhood and wild financial success at the exact same time. So of course we all feel like we are failing at one or the other. And our news, magazine, tv shows and movies reflect this paradox.

My point in response to EJ Graff's work is that we don't need to buy into the societal conflict. We can each find our separate peace and this, I believe, will help us resolve the cultural conflict over time.

Posted by: Leslie | March 19, 2007 9:52 AM

Thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing this research article to a wider audience. Staying at home is "not the best job in the world" - speaking from experience - and I am tired of the subtle and not so subtle mind twisting crap that is spewed to women and the younger ones just eat it up like they are in a trance.

Posted by: EVK | March 19, 2007 9:56 AM

"Huh?", again, whether families can afford it is not the point of the research, the article, or the blog today. It's a side point that I think you're pushing because it works for you.

There is no "proof" I can give you because, as you already pointed out, "wants" and "needs" can be subjective. Most families do cover the basic needs--seeing the doctor, buying food, having a roof over your head. But realize that many single moms or getting by with alimony and child support, welfare, subsidized day care or school lunch programs, or other financial support from friends and family. And some of the ones who don't have that support are living below the poverty line. I would not consider those situations satisfactory.

Posted by: Meesh | March 19, 2007 9:56 AM

Tessa--that IS the reality for most of my friends as well as myself and sister. We do not have a ton saved in the college accounts--a little--but I plan on turning my part time work into full time when the need arises.

Posted by: mj | March 19, 2007 9:57 AM

The New York times frequently finds, like, two people who feel one way and go, "OOH! LOOK! IT'S A TREND!" Even if they could have found 100,000 people who felt the opposite.

Posted by: Lilybeth | March 19, 2007 10:01 AM

I can't imagine trying to tell my children (2 boys and 1 girl) that although they can be/do whatever they want, I gave up my career and shelved my degrees and ambitions.

That sure would be a poor example for your kids - that you realized that maybe you were a part of something bigger than yourself; that you created these lives and have a responsibility to have a big part in nurturing those lives; that you can be a purposeful person by "working" for your child's school and community not necessarily for a paycheck. What terribly loathesome values to impart to children. Stay at work, chase the dollar just don't forget to tell your children that there will always be someone with a better job and more money than you. Its a race you can't win.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 10:03 AM

"People tend to accept stereotype-affirming
information readily; data that disconfirm stereotypes are more likely to trigger demands for formal documentation (Krieger, 1995; Heilman, 1995)."

(from the published report referenced by Graff)

Posted by: Meesh | March 19, 2007 10:03 AM

I've bookmarked the study and I think it sounds great to get a more comprehensive look at the issue.

For the 9:43 am post - well I am someone who loved her full-time job/career path.

But my first child died shortly after her birth, and that put my husband and I under unusual stress around the birth of our second child. It also made us aware that our careers, however personally fulfilling, paled in comparison (FOR US)to the time we would never get to spend with our daughter.

After a lot of talking and thinking we decided that as a family, we would like to live at a slightly slower pace than two full-speed careers would allow. We didn't really worry about society as a whole. In my career, it's possible to work part time and it's also possible to get ramped up to go back way more easily than in my husband's, which is the opposite - very demanding, very high-speed. So I opted to go freelance, which turned into part-time as my former employer hired me back.

I am ambivalent about the choice some days. It definitely is the classic feminist situation: I'd done the liberal arts degree; I was making considerably less money; I am the one who gets more crazy if the house is a mess. I'm not outside of society's influences and I did feel that push at the same time as my family situation pulled in that direction as well.

I'm confident in my ability to get back into the workplace later, but I recognize that there is some financial risk (which we covered somewhat by saving early in our marriage) and that we will not necessarily be retiring with summers in the south of France. And sometimes I think that I let the feminist power-structure side down because although I can get back to a good place in my career, I have potentially mommy-tracked out of being a top leader (although as the Boomers retire, it's hard to say - there may be way more opportunity).

I miss the higher-level job some days. And we miss the income some days. At the same time, I very very much value the extra non-scheduled time that we now have (well, non-scheduled except by my toddler son). It works for us. But it isn't without cost. And it wasn't something I did lightly 'cause I hated my job, that's for sure.

Posted by: Shandra | March 19, 2007 10:05 AM

To NC Mom:

Please! You sound like a page out of Republican handbook - "focus on the family again." I actually enjoy the luxuries that my income brings into our family. I put myself through law school and am fortunate enough to work at a very flexible job which allows me to spend a good amount of time with my kids but also pays me well. I do not feel guilty about paying someone to clean my house, wash our cars, cut our grass, and oh yeah, watch our kids. Is it a bad thing that my kids realize that (1) they are not the center of my universe, and (2) there are other people who truly love them and take care of them other then mommy and daddy? Does that mean I am not focused on my family? That is ridiculous since any time I am not at work, I am with my kids. When I am with my kids, I can actually focus on them and not worry about doing household chores. And we do not live in a McMansion (far from it - 1941 2 bedroom house) and we drive 1 fairly new car and 1 car that is 5 years old. And oh yeah, I am able to contribute to college funds, 401ks, and health insurance. What do you do all day but judge other women? And if you were so focused on your family, why are you even on this blog right now instead of enriching your kids' lives by your daily presence?

Posted by: working mom by choice | March 19, 2007 10:06 AM

Huh? wrote: "There have also been many, many posts by men and women who have talked about making a conscious decision to cut back and live on one salary - and discussed how the did it. Sometimes it involves making do with less, sometimes it involves moving to an area with a lower cost of living. But there are too many examples of families that have done it to say that it's simply not feasible for 'the vast majority' of families."

Yes and no.

First of all, there may be quite a few families who could manage to scrape by for a while on one income if they had to -- whether due to "opting-out" or a parent being laid-off work. But responsible financial planning includes sufficient savings and investment for the children's education and the parents' retirement. As Foamgnome correctly pointed out at the top, this is much harder to do on only one medium income.

Secondly, the couple may still be amortizing debt from their own college loans, going into debt for a starter house, or even financial emergencies in early adulthood.

Finally -- and bearing in mind that this is a Washington DC area newspaper -- a good many parts of the country have exorbitantly priced housing, so affording to buy or rent a modest home or apartment is a crushing financial burden for even a two-earner household.

As to the advice that people should just move to where housing is cheaper: either that involves an oppressively long commute to work, or else leaving the area entirely. And if everyone in that situation moved away, who would be left in the DC area to perform so many essential but not highly-paid jobs: e.g., police, fire-fighters, teachers, clerical workers, utility workers, repair-people, clergy, store clerks, etc., etc.? The DC area (or any other high-priced market) cannot survive without these jobs being filled, yet a DC family might encounter great difficulty trying to live -- and save adequately -- on only one such income in the long term.

Posted by: catlady | March 19, 2007 10:06 AM

This so called "debate" between working and staying home has long been a severe sticking point for me. I would heartily agree that for the vast, vast majority of women, this is not a question. They HAVE to work. They might very well LIKE to stay at home, it really isn't an option. Then there are the women who stay at home and bring in welfare because they cannot get decent child care for their kids. They might LIKE to work, and they can't.

Poverty is a gutwrenching reality for so many in this country. It isn't a matter of "doing with less" to make the choice possible for women - even in most married families. Focusing on what "fulfills" an extremely small fraction of American women is indeed distracting. Want this choice to be a problem for more women?? then we need: HEALTH CARE. CHILD CARE. AFFORDABLE HOUSING. This country will have to change its priorities tremendously.

We have come so far, and yet fail still to realize the true benefits of emancipation. Why are not our issues seeing any funding in Congress? Why are we putting the government in debt to the point of destruction to fund a war, when we could be spending for elder care, child care, decent public school education, health care, and other things that matter to the average woman?

Posted by: bad mommy | March 19, 2007 10:08 AM

The 9:43 poster had a good point. It all depends (for those of us who have the choice) on what you are opting out of. In my case, I opted out of a career for which I no longer had passion (though I was highly paid) to stay home with my first born. It was an easy decision to make, mostly because I wasn't going to mourn my job, and also because I was in love with my son. So, I announced my resignation, packed up my office, and home I went. I waited for the financial shoe to fall, but it never happened. I never realized how much money I'd spent so that I could work -- clothing, dry cleaning, transportation costs, etc., to say nothing of the $24,000 in daycare costs we would have been eating if I'd continued to work. At the time, the cost of daycare for my son would have been more than our mortgage.

Have I ever regretted my decision? Only fleetingly, when I yearn for a cup of coffee drunk in a moment's peace, or recall holding my own in the boardroom. But then I jump back into the 48th reading of "If You Give a Pig a Pancake". I have gratefully been able to "sink into the blissful oatmeal of family life" and I can honestly say I haven't looked back.

We do alright on one income. When I started looking at our purchases to see if we really, actually needed them, I gained a new clarity. So many of us surround ourselves with STUFF and it means nothing. That status symbol SUV? It's an idea, and you paid $10,000 to $15,000 more for it because of the idea, the image. I would rather have all these memories of my children -- and for my children to have so many memories of spending time with their parents -- than any car.

Posted by: Another View | March 19, 2007 10:08 AM

BTW, those caregivers don't "really love" your children, they just really like them. It is not the same as family.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 10:10 AM

Davidson College to help students graduate debt-free

By ELIZABETH DUNBAR
Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Davidson College announced today it will do away with loans when awarding need-based financial aid, a move school officials said would allow students to graduate debt-free.

The liberal arts college had capped loan amounts in recent years to reduce student debt, but higher education experts said it's the only college of its kind to halt loan handouts in need-based aid packages, which also include grants and work study.

Davidson will raise new money to pay for the grants and work opportunities that will replace loans, said John F. McCartney, chairman of Davidson's Board of Trustees.

"The trustees are deeply committed to this new policy that will be funded entirely with new monies," he said.

The announcement comes as education leaders across the country debate ways to prevent college campuses from welcoming only rich students. Elite universities such as Princeton and Columbia have eliminated or significantly reduced loans by awarding more grant money.

Others, such as Harvard and Yale, pay for the amount of money lower-income families are expected to contribute based on federal financial aid calculations. And even public universities, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have stopped forcing loans upon the neediest students.

Such policy changes are expensive, and they're rare among small, private liberal arts colleges.

"It would have been nice to see what the effect of such an implementation would be, but there was no model out there," Davidson President Robert Vagt said, adding that officials had been looking at ways to reduce student debt for a long time.

"We hope that kids will not just pass by Davidson because of the price tag," he said.

Loans will still be available if students choose to finance their education that way, Vagt said. But he predicted students would embrace the new policy, citing examples of students who passed up opportunities after graduating because of their debt.

"It forces them into a career decision," Vagt said. "They took higher-paying jobs rather than jobs they had their hearts set on."

Tuition and fees cost about $30,000 at the college, which is located about 20 miles north of Charlotte. About a third of the school's 1,667 students receive need-based aid, including about $1.9 million worth of loans each year, officials said.

Higher education experts applauded Davidson's move and predicted it might encourage other liberal arts colleges to follow suit.

"To have an example like Davidson out there is enormously important," said David Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Schools with the richest endowments are more likely to make such a policy change, Warren said, but he added that Davidson has less money in terms of endowment-per-student than some of its peer institutions.

"It's a very bold and even courageous move," he said.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 10:11 AM

Oh, and to the comment about "women who don't make their husbands do X, Y, Z" above - that argument always bothers me because it YET AGAIN makes the woman responsible. I freely admit that I 'lost' the housework battle in our home (with parenting, it is different) and decided that I cared more for the man than his willingness to scrub a toilet.

But it annoys me if this would be seen as MY failing. It's not. It's his area of weakness. It's not my job to police him. And I am really glad I gave up on that idea altogther because it was just as confining as the idea that I HAD to do it all 'cause of having a vagina.

I pick up the slack because that's my choice (I prefer to eat out now and then than to hire a housecleaner), but it remains my husband's failing that he doesn't. Not mine. It's not a dealbreaker for me.

Posted by: Shandra | March 19, 2007 10:11 AM

"I am all for women staying home with kids -- if that's what they want."

Even this writer can't get away from the bias. Shouldn't this be parents?

This is all nice and good, but the workplace is "hostile" to everyone, some more than others. Until women are expected to provide for their families the same way men are expected to now, there will always be this conflict. Whenever we talk about women and work, it is always framed as a choice, and this choice is predicated on someone else working.

We all know that whenever there is a choice to be made, someone will surely think you made the wrong one.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 10:14 AM

to anon at 9:29, the research uses a different definition of "opt-out." This refers to (1) taking a job that pays less for better hours (2) declining promotions (3) reducing the number of hours working a full-time job and (4) working part-time. Of course leaving the workforce all together also counts. All of these situations mean that women are "opting out" of full-time, career-track employment, which is what leads to more benefits, vacation time, and money.

Posted by: Meesh | March 19, 2007 10:16 AM

To Shandra:

"I freely admit that I 'lost' the housework battle in our home (with parenting, it is different) and decided that I cared more for the man than his willingness to scrub a toilet.

But it annoys me if this would be seen as MY failing. It's not. It's his area of weakness."

I completely agree with you. Just another variation of everything being the woman's fault.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | March 19, 2007 10:17 AM

My problem is it also seems to reinforce the idea that the women's income is the lower income. Are women only allowed to marry men who earn more? Aren't we supposed to be paid for our skills, talents, etc so when the 1st pregnancy happens should the person we expect to opt out be the lower paid? Why do I keep seeing if the husband earns enough - I know we have inequality in the work place but the constant beat that women will opt-out just reinforces this.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | March 19, 2007 10:18 AM

I agree with dfgd. There is such a strong prejudice out there against woman who stay home. There are all assumed to be not smart and just doing nothing with their lives. What proves this point is that when ever a mom who used to work and now stays home talks about the staying at home they always have to going on and on about what they used to do. They do that so that they will be taken seriously. Its to bad that society is trying to make man and woman interchangeable, without recognizing the differences between us.

And please dont talk about the press picking up anedotal stories, they do it all time, and usually it is the opposite of what your imply. Lets recall back a few years ago when the news all told us that men beat their wives after the Super Bowl. Their was no study on that, it was just made up.

Posted by: niceday | March 19, 2007 10:18 AM

Shandra wrote: "I pick up the slack because that's my choice... but it remains my husband's failing that he doesn't. Not mine. It's not a dealbreaker for me."

Leslie, this might make a provocative topic for the board one day: What would be a dealbreaker in one's marriage or domestic partnership?

Posted by: catlady | March 19, 2007 10:18 AM

"That sure would be a poor example for your kids - that you realized that maybe you were a part of something bigger than yourself; that you created these lives and have a responsibility to have a big part in nurturing those lives; that you can be a purposeful person by "working" for your child's school and community not necessarily for a paycheck."

What big assumptions you make. I work but perhaps my job does contribute to something bigger - you don't know. I did create these lives - with their father - and perhaps we *both* work hard at nurturing our children. You don't know. Perhaps both the children's father and I do work at our children's school and at various community efforts. You don't know. Even if I "proved" to you that we do all of these things and more, you won't recognize it because it doesn't comport with your prejudices about working mothers. Make your assumptions. We love our lives and wouldn't change a thing.

Posted by: Stacey | March 19, 2007 10:19 AM

Did anyone read this interesting note (footnote 23)?

[23]Amy Cuddy has been looking into whether white and African American mothers face the same biases. In short, no. In two studies, she emailed what was billed as a marketing questionnaire to a large national sample. In the first, allegedly an evaluation of a diaper ad, people were asked to rate the competence and warmth of a particular mother, who in the picture and caption was either white or black, working or staying at home. The white stay-at-home mom was evaluated most positively--and the black stay-at-home mom most negatively. In the second, people were asked how much should be spent on a Mother's Day gift. The most expensive gift was recommended for the white stay-at-home mom--and the least expensive gift for the black stay-at-home mom. White mothers are, quite literally, valued most highly when they stay home, while black mothers are expected to work. That puts African American mothers in a double bind. In Correll's hiring studies, African American mothers were graded just as poorly as white mothers, but were "offered" the lowest starting salaries. No wonder black women don't show up in the moms-go-home stories.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | March 19, 2007 10:21 AM

Meesh,

you're right - many single moms are in terrible financial situations, and others are in out-and-out poverty. Many two-income families are struggling as well. I never meant to say that all families, or even the "vast majority" of families could get by on a single income.

But other families do get by on a single income - and they're not all high-income families.

"whether families can afford it is not the point of the research, the article, or the blog today. It's a side point that I think you're pushing because it works for you."

It may not be the point of the research, but it's described as the "salient fact" that's used to put the research into context. How many words were in Leslie's post? Why did she think it was important to fill out her argument by quoting the claim that "[t]he vast majority of contemporary families cannot get by without women's income?" Is it to support the idea that the opt-out option is a false one, and the stories of women who do it must be isolated anecdotes - because it's simply impossible for a significant number of women to be doing this?

Do we really know how many women are doing this? I don't know if I'm cutting this right, but take a look at the U.S. Statistical Abstract:

http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/tables/07s0681.xls

There are 37.6 million families where the husband works year round; in 9.8 million of those families the wife stayed home. If you look at just those families with children, there are 21.8 million; in 6.4 million of those the wife stayed home. (This is all 2003 data.)

Did all of those families make the right choice? I doubt it. Are some of them dirt poor? Probably. Are some happy with the decisions they've made - probably.

Millions of families - including families with children - manage to do it. Is there a cost to it? Heck, yeah - among families where the husband works all year, the median income is about $25,000 lower when the wife does not work (which strikes me as about right, given that some working wives will have part-time jobs).

But is it really a completely impossible choice for all but a very small, elect few?

Posted by: Huh? | March 19, 2007 10:23 AM

An addition to my previous post. My husband's income is less than 6 figures. It can be done, folks.

Posted by: Another View | March 19, 2007 10:26 AM

"I freely admit that I 'lost' the housework battle in our home (with parenting, it is different) and decided that I cared more for the man than his willingness to scrub a toilet. But it annoys me if this would be seen as MY failing. It's not. It's his area of weakness. It's not my job to police him."

Why is this a failing on his part? He may simply not care about having a gleaming, "minty fresh" toilet bowl (I suspect he might tidy it up a bit if it looked like the pay toilet in a truck stop in South Pittsburgh, TN, but hey, you never let it get that bad).

You like it clean - you make it so.

Posted by: Demos | March 19, 2007 10:27 AM

I opted "in" by starting my own business. I work because I want to, not because I need to. My children are not suffering because I work my schedule around them a great deal of the time (I am working from home with my 12-year-old home sick from school today) and they see that I am fulfilled. Some women are fulfilled by being at home full-time. Others get it from working. Live and let live! Whatever works for you...

And on the media, they print whatever sells and go for controversy...they want people to relate to what they're printing or completely rebuke it. So I'll just tell them I am a better mom because I work and see how THAT gets them going! :-)

Posted by: ParentPreneur | March 19, 2007 10:27 AM

The house work issue is also one created by society in that the woman standard is assumed to be the right one, and her partners is a "failing". Don't you think this stems (at least a little bit) from the dumb male stereotypes we see in the media?

The problem with the opt-out issue is that it picks on women. We see nothing wrong with four thousand article about how the man doesn't pull his weight around the house and take them as truth. But couple hundred about how the woman doesn't pull her weight financially and it a big we nee to fix it.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 10:27 AM

The Opt Out Myth exposes an ironic contradiction in our current conservative social policies. We tout family values, but we design an economy that requires both parents to work, and sometimes at more than one job apiece, make it very difficult for families to spend time together, for parents to nurture children, and for children to grow up in a close, nurturing family. Many couples manage this problem marvelously, but also with great difficulty and sacrifice. If we value families, shouldn't our social policies make it easier for families to be families?

Posted by: Herb | March 19, 2007 10:28 AM

oops, the end should have read: and we seea big need to fix it.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 10:28 AM

Tessa posts: "However, if you plan early and nothing goes terribly wrong someone can easily stay home for the first few years. From the time you decide you might have children start living off the one salsry and save the second. . . . And the same can hold true if someone stays home longer. Live off one salary until the kids are in high school. Then the second salary can be applied to college tuition. After all, the family has been living off one salary for so long that the money can easily be saved for college.
Posted by: Tessa | March 19, 2007 09:47 AM


Tessa,

I'd wager that the closest you've come to putting any of your suggestions into practice is from your sofa while reading your Focus on the Family newsletter. You sound as though you don't have kids, assume everyone makes a good salary including paid health insurance, and all couples meet in their twenties and have no medical or college debt.

My husband and I were in low-paying, salaried management jobs when we met in our 30s. I still had education debt from working my way through college. Both of our cars were 10+ years old and every time we scraped $350 together, a timing belt would need to be replaced, or all 4 tires would need to be replaced in order to pass inspection. We needed both meager salaries just to pay the rent on our one-bedroom apartment near a Metro station, utilities, insurance, etc. We waited three years to have our first child, but still had no savings and my husband's job did not offer health insurance. Assuming that couples can live off of one salary and save the other requires some mighty big assumptions about what one of them makes. I don't know anyone in the non-profit or social services sphere who can live as you describe.

Your second assumption, that after taking 12 - 15 years off an unemployed spouse can return to the workforce in almost any field and get a job sufficient to pay college tuition, is frankly laughable. Twelve years off in my industry makes an applicant less qualified than an '07 graduate with a brand, spanking, new B.S. degree. The majority of employers, particularly in an urban marketplace, have zero interest in hiring someone in her mid- late 40s with no recent relevant job experience.

Posted by: you're nuts | March 19, 2007 10:29 AM

Good for you - making financial sacrifices for the sake of your kids. yawn. Not every one WANTS to live on one salary. I know, that just makes us selfish people who all have McMansions and drive BMWs.

Posted by: to: another view | March 19, 2007 10:29 AM

Even if I "proved" to you that we do all of these things and more, you won't recognize it because it doesn't comport with your prejudices about working mothers. Make your assumptions. We love our lives and wouldn't change a thing.

Posted by: Stacey | March 19, 2007 10:19 AM

OK Wonder Woman you do it all perfectly. How lucky your family is to have someone who is so right and knows it.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 10:29 AM

"If we value families, shouldn't our social policies make it easier for families to be families?"

How - by taxing them more, so we can turn around and give them more benefits (net of government salaries & wastage)?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 10:35 AM

"Some women WANT to stay home with their children. They get a great deal of satisfaction doing it and don't have a need, financially or personally, to work for a paycheck or career outside the home. There is nothing wrong with that. It's just the way some women feel."

This is nice, how can a woman not have a need to work for a paycheck outside the home? How is she going to support herself and her children? Don't any men feel this way? Because if they do, the are s%^t out of luck.

Until society has the same expectation for both men and women, financially and domestically, these inequities for both men and women will not go away.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 10:35 AM

To Shandra and Stacey: Hallelujah.

To Suzanne, who wrote:

"We don't also NEED to fund my IRA because we don't NEED to rely on my income. As I work more in the future we'll fund my IRA from my additional income. As we see it that will be a bonus, beyond what we feel is essential for the income we plan for in retirement."

With all due respect, this will be true when you actually retire only if you are still married by then. I hope you will be (and I hope and intend that I will be, too) but you are putting a lot of eggs in one basket if you think that funding one spouse's retirement fund is all you NEED. Even though the non-working spouse has rights to retirement income in the event of a divorce, it isn't an even split and you will NEED more money to fund two separate retirements than one.

I point this out only to note that there is more than one way to define what any family needs, and to posit your situation as the only definition is asking for trouble.

Posted by: Lots of good comments today! | March 19, 2007 10:36 AM

"Good for you - making financial sacrifices for the sake of your kids. yawn. Not every one WANTS to live on one salary. I know, that just makes us selfish people who all have McMansions and drive BMWs."

Not WANTing to is a very different thing from "cannot" - it's pretty durn clear that most families don't want to any more. No one is trying to make them. But it's a false way to justify your decision to claim "there just ain't no way we can get by unless we both work!" (There have been lots of things in my life that I "just couldn't" help - most of them mistakes).

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 10:39 AM

"The reason opt-out stories have been popular since the 50's is that SAHM's have experienced negative prejudice since the 50's."

??? I am confused -- I thought the 50s were all about the ideal of the SAHM. I always viewed the popularity of the opt-out stories as the societal push-back against those durn "feminists" who were encouraging women to get out in the workforce -- "see, you can try working, but you're not going to like it, so get back to what you're 'supposed' to be doing."

I'm not a historian, so I'd be very interested in more historical context. But my (limited) understanding is that WWII led to a lot of women having to go to work in the factories to keep the war engine going -- and then all the men came home and wanted/needed those jobs back. Of course, some women found out they liked working and didn't necessarily want to go back. So I always viewed the 50s vision of the "ideal" family as part of the effort to reestablish the social norm and get all those ex-soldiers reemployed. Those headlines from the 50s and 60s sure seem to indicate a sort of "I told you so" attitude -- "Career Women Discover Satisfactions in the Home"???

Posted by: Laura | March 19, 2007 10:41 AM

"Huh," you wrote "It may not be the point of the research, but it's described as the "salient fact" that's used to put the research into context... to support the idea that the opt-out option is a false one, and the stories of women who do it must be isolated anecdotes - because it's simply impossible for a significant number of women to be doing this"

I'm assuming that Leslie wrote that because it highlights the absurdity of the number of articles about a phenomenon that many women cannot relate to. But it is important to note that Leslie and Graff are not discounting the number of women who actually opt-out. That number is a fact--no one is disputing that women are staying home. What they are saying is that the media (1) makes the trend seem overwhelmingly inclusive of all women and (2) interprets the trend to mean that women want to stay home because they love their babies when, in fact, most women are pushed out of the workforce because of outdated sexist policies.

Your statistics show that women are staying home. No one needs proof of that. It also shows that women are the ones staying home. It does not show why they are at home or if they even want to be.

To answer your question, some families can afford to have a spouse stay home. I know a couple myself. Whether that number of families consists a "majority" or "half" or some other significant group is beyond me.

Posted by: Meesh | March 19, 2007 10:42 AM

Someone earlier posted : "If you can't imagine that in the present day, it might be because your scope has been narrowed by rat race values. A good time for a values check, just in case this is what happened."

How about this for a values check-- life is not all about our families. My anecodotal story-- I "opted out" of my six figure salary and stayed home for two years. I really enjoyed my extended maternity time and figured I would probably have to delay retirement because of it, but I had the resources to do it, so I did.

Now I am back at work and our family's contributions to our American society through charitable giving, social security tax and federal and state income tax have sky-rocketed. Frankly, I was a bit o fa leech on society while not working-- I was not contributing to social security, even though SAHMs do get social security at "retirement." I didn't do any more volunteer hours than I am doing now as a working parent because caring for a young child can take up just as many hours in a do as working 9-5. I'm also doing a job that is helpful to society at large. think about this-- would you advise a police officer that he should stop working and stay home after he becomes a father-- that his values are messed up if he instead decides to place the child in a wonderful daycare facility while he continues to "protect and serve"?

So . . . values check? I am living a much more value dirven life now than I was while I was staying at home. Not saying I was a bad person, but I wasn't doing nearly as much for the society at large I am now. My child could have been cared for my professionals and he wouldn't have turned out any differently than he is now-- some kids are born with easy-going and well established personalities from the very get go and it would take soemthing truely momentous to make a lasting impression on them. Excellent daycare rather than mommy-care-- ehhh.

Your milage my vary--- I can only speak to what I know.

I do acknowledge that the big soft spot in my argument is that there must be excellent daycare facilities. they are out there-- but I know that some places they aren't as readily available as here. I n such cases, it probably is better when seeking a values to have an alternative arrangement such as having one parent stay home or both parents doing the "split shift" thing.

Posted by: Jen | March 19, 2007 10:43 AM

Maybe we should stop buying those McMansions and getting new vehicles every 4 years and focus on the family again.

Posted by: NCMom | March 19, 2007 09:33 AM


Maybe we should stop getting laid off from dying industries and spending our money on second bachelor's degrees to qualify for a job in a different industry.

Maybe we should rent rather than buy a home.

Maybe we shouldn't save for retirement because we can pray to die before we retire.

Maybe we should drive with those brakes that need to be replaced and the tires with no tread left for just a little longer. What's at stake? only the lives of our kids.

Maybe we should use that borrowed carseat without proper installation instructions.

Maybe we should stock our kitchen with less expensive processed foods instead of the fresh produce that is healthier for our children.

Maybe we shouldn't encourage our kids to participate in sports and instead let them sit around reading and watching tv.

Maybe we shouldn't tithe to our church.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 10:43 AM

To Suzanne, who wrote: "We don't also NEED to fund my IRA because we don't NEED to rely on my income. As I work more in the future we'll fund my IRA from my additional income."

To the contrary.

The earlier you start saving, whether in an IRA or other conservative investment, the more interest you'll earn, because the interest compounds handsomely the more years you've saved.

Posted by: catlady | March 19, 2007 10:44 AM

"Just to own a house, two modest cars, retirement, a rainy day fund, and college paid for, you need to incomes or one very good 6 figure income. "

This kind of statement annoys me a little. My husband makes significantly less than 6 figures. We max out his 401(k) every month, and we are saving for our DD's college as well. I think people's ideas of what constitutes a "modest" home, "modest" cars, and a "modest" vacation are out of whack. If people want to have expensive homes and cars, that's fine, but it's not accurate to view luxury items as neccesities. My friend, for example, thought her $30,000 volvo was a "moderately" priced car. If I had a $350/month car payment, I could not stay at home, either. You have to remember that in the era when all women stayed at home, people only had 1 car, drove to the beach for vacation, and didn't eat in restaurants every week. The problem now is that people are used to living like wealthy people before they have kids, and it's very difficult to give that up once kids enter the picture. I think it's perfectly fine if women with kids want to work, but it's insulting to all the middle-class families who are getting by on one income say that it's "impossible" to stay at home unless you are rich.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 10:46 AM

"Good for you - making financial sacrifices for the sake of your kids. yawn. Not every one WANTS to live on one salary. I know, that just makes us selfish people who all have McMansions and drive BMWs."

Finally, an honest poster! Nothing wrong with liking the finer things, just don't say things like "We're barely getting by on $200K a year, where DOES all the money go??"

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 10:47 AM


Just a few observations about expectations of moms vs dads. I am due in May with my first and have already begun to see how people "segregate," mothers and fathers into certain roles.

Just this weekend we received both our Fisher Price swing and our Graco pack n' play. (These are things for the baby.) On both packages there are references to "the pack and play smart moms use;" the swing tells us it "makes things easier for mom and baby." Why don't they say they make things easier for parents and baby, or that smart parents buy this toy?

Also, not one person at my husband's work has asked him how much paternity leave he will take. Many people have asked me how long I will be out. More tellingly to me...no one has asked my husband if he will be quitting his job, but many people have asked me this. We are the same age and have the same educational background.

There *is* an expectation in this country that women will be the ones primarily responsible for children. There *isn't* the same sturm und drang applied to men and their decisions about whether to work or not once they have children.

There may be many layered cultural and historical reasons for this, but at this point the questions and burdens and joys of taking care of children should be a parent issue, not a primarily woman issue. Any critique of women working; just in it for luxuries, more concerned about career than family, letting others raise their children...should be extended to men as well. Parents are equally responsible for all aspects of their children's lives, whether they assume that responsibility or not.

I'm just so tired of the gender driven expectations. People are so individual that this pigeonholes too many into roles they are not comfortable with, nor well suited to.

Posted by: Bethesda, MD | March 19, 2007 10:47 AM

"It's not all about the money, although it's nice for my family to thrive rather than survive, but I work for reasons beyond the simple paycheck. I work because I like it - I like what I do - I like the folks I work with - I like that I have a career and I earn more than income from the sense of accomplishment and growth I gain by working.

I have said this before, but I also will not ever be dependent on someone financially. I can't imagine trying to tell my children (2 boys and 1 girl) that although they can be/do whatever they want, I gave up my career and shelved my degrees and ambitions. Although I think the article makes good points, I also think it fails by concentrating on the economic reasons for working vs. staying home rather than including the psychological, social, and myriad other reasons working can be good for women."

YStacey,

Youu wrote it better than I could have. Thank you.

As for those who stay-at-home who say they don't "need" an IRA, fully-funded or otherwise, that maxing out a 401K is "enough", I sincerely hope that you never find yourself divorcing your spouse (initiating or surprised by it), because you are not likely to recover financially. Don't expect to get 50%, or spousal support, or anything that resembles equitable.

I truly hope that you never face the scenario, because you are taking an awful gamble. It CAN happen to you. It's heart-wrenching to watch and horrifying.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 10:48 AM

"I'd wager that the closest you've come to putting any of your suggestions into practice is from your sofa while reading your Focus on the Family newsletter. You sound as though you don't have kids, assume everyone makes a good salary including paid health insurance, and all couples meet in their twenties and have no medical or college debt."


"you're nuts", I'd suggest this is over the top. You have no idea who Tessa is, or what her circumstances are. Perhaps her comments don't line up with your personal experience - but that's no justification for a personal attack (nor for a snarky attack on the religious and moral views you simply assume are hers).

I have a very clear picture, based on your post, of the kind of person I think you are. Shall I lay it out and attack you for it? Weave in a few snarks about the kind of people who gravitate to the "non-profit or social services sphere," enjoy feeling noble about their sacrifices, then gripe when the find that they really did have to sacrifice something, and it made a difference in their lives?

No, you wouldn't like it, and it wouldn't be fair.

It also wouldn't be fair to compare, in retrospect, the wisdom of the choices you and Tessa each have made. Neither you nor she could know with perfect clarity, in advance, how your choices would turn out.

If we're going to have a civil discourse, we have to "play nice."

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 10:49 AM

Great points- and the first poster, too. If one of us didn't work,we wouldn't be saving for retirement or college or contributing to philanthropic causes for people much less well-off than we are..not exactly luxuries in my estimation. I'm glad Leslie pointed out this article- I support everyone's choices, if indeed working is a choice for them. I'm fortunate to have an egalitarian spouse who shoulders just as much caring for our child and home as I do, but yet I still feel conflict. It is clearly related to societal messages and expectations- and many of my peers. But at the end of the day, we do the best we can.

Posted by: to 10:43 | March 19, 2007 10:49 AM

"Someone earlier posted : "If you can't imagine that in the present day, it might be because your scope has been narrowed by rat race values. A good time for a values check, just in case this is what happened."

How about this for a values check-- life is not all about our families. "

Hi, that was me, and if you go back and read the post, it was about what a college degree is for.

You lifted a quotation that was so selective it did not include the phrase that the word "that" referred to.

It had nothing to do with families per se.

Posted by: dfgdfgdfgdfg | March 19, 2007 10:51 AM

Bethesda Mom, we noticed those FP boxes, etc, too! It's really hard to believe in this day and age that those messages are still out there.

Good luck with your pregnancy! My husband and I were very open about all of the issues you raised and have strived to really break down those stereotypes as we raise our baby (now 9 months old). It can be done!

Posted by: ArlingtonMom | March 19, 2007 10:53 AM

"Just to own a house, two modest cars, retirement, a rainy day fund, and college paid for, you need to incomes or one very good 6 figure income. Even the husbands that are making $120K/year with SAHPs, seem to be struggling a bit. They do maximize their 401K but rarely contribute to their SAHS' IRA. They have no idea how they will pay two college tuitions. It is nice that the very rich can choose to SAH."

This is not true and is a generalization based on certain areas of the country. My husband makes $85K, we have a home, 2 cars, 4 children with college funds, and both have retirement funds and a rainy day fund. We are so NOT the "very rich."

Posted by: momof4 | March 19, 2007 10:53 AM

Hi Laura,
Those are important arguments. Thanks for bringing them up.

What I was trying to say was that I believe the anti-SAHM prejudice has always been there in people's hearts, and so has the desire to be a SAHM in some women's hearts.

The way it has been expressed culturally has shifted, of course. As I see it, and of course this is up for discussion, your examples are more about the expression.

In the 50's and 60's, SAHM's were put on a pedestal but that doesn't mean that they were really, truly respected any more than they were today. Of course, there has been a big transition, as you say... Nowadays it is perfectly OK to loudly voice anti-SAHM prejudices explicitly.

Posted by: dfgdfgdfgdfg | March 19, 2007 10:56 AM

"Bethesda Mom, we noticed those FP boxes, etc, too! It's really hard to believe in this day and age that those messages are still out there."

Is it really? Or is the marketing dept at FP just atuned to who makes the majority of purchasing decisions for their products? You sell to the customer who buys your product, not to solve percieved social gender imbalances.

Posted by: realistic marketing | March 19, 2007 10:59 AM

Well, marketing person, you are probably right. I should rephrase- I think it's pretty sad. May seem like a minor point to many, which I can understand, and not worth a debate (I was simply noting my agreement to the other poster on this small point). And I can also see that it's not "perceived" to be a social imbalance to everyone. I also think that many companies' marketers are more "attuned" to the role of fathers, which has changed over the years...many companies use the word "parents" instead.

Posted by: ArlingtonMom | March 19, 2007 11:05 AM

"However, if you plan early and nothing goes terribly wrong someone can easily stay home for the first few years."

If nothing goes terribly wrong is right.

Ditto for assuming your skills will still be marketable after a few years.

Not saying it can't be done, but it is a big risk these days. Particularly in certain fields.

Still, with planning and good luck (and working hard to maintain/update skills and networking with those who are still in the work force), it can be done.

Seems awfully risky to me though.

Posted by: Employed and staying that way! | March 19, 2007 11:05 AM

dfgetc --

Ok, now I get it -- yes, I think that's a good point. I think there's a lot of "damned if you do, damned if you don't" out there. My mom grew up completely stifled in the 50s and 60s, where if you wanted to be anything other than a teacher or a nurse or a secretary, you were some wacko (and everyone would let you know it). And yet, it's not as though society really had any real respect for my grandmother, either (listen to the Rolling Stones' "19th Nervous Breakdown" lately?). But of course 30-40-50 years ago, you could only say nasty things about WOHMs out loud, whereas now SAHMs get it, too. Hmmm, equal opportunity criticism = progress??

That said, I do think there tends to be more pushback against those who defy the norm vs. those who embody it. What was that quote Meesh posted earlier, about how people tend to demand the data when findings defy their own preconceived notions? So I still see the past articles as part of a pushback against the WOHMs who were defying society's expectations and, in some way, threatening the social order. I don't know how I see the current slew of articles, though -- not enough historical perspective yet.

Posted by: Laura | March 19, 2007 11:05 AM

"People tend to accept stereotype-affirming information readily; data that disconfirm stereotypes are more likely to trigger demands for formal documentation (Krieger, 1995; Heilman, 1995)."

O.k. - I might quibble with you over what the prevailing stereotype really is in this discussion ("can't be done" versus "just gotta tighten your belt a bit"), but I'll buy that statement. Probably means that we should ask for more documentation, not less - we tend to be very gullible when it comes to anything that fits in well with our preconceptions.

It's amazing how things are perceived differently by different people. It seems pretty clear to me that when Leslie and Graff say that "The vast majority of contemporary families cannot get by without women's income . . . " they mean exactly that - in your words, staying home is something that is not even an option for most, if not virtually all, women.

I think this is an overstatement. As you note, women are staying home. It's almost certainly not half (I would guess, based on the numbers I've seen, something on the order of a third to a fifth of women with working husbands) - but there are enough to suggest that for many women it is a real option.

Do the media hype it? Absolutely! I suspect that's because our social expectations and stereotypes have changed enough in the last couple of decades that it's become a "man bites dog" kind of story.

Such stories can become silly. But we shouldn't feed the "dog bites man" stereotype by arguing that "the vast majority of men are simply incapable of biting." There's more going on than that.

Posted by: Huh? | March 19, 2007 11:06 AM

"I have a very clear picture, based on your post, of the kind of person I think you are."

anon at 10:49, you're too busy being the blog's moral police to have any kind of clear picture of anyone. Think away, since you don't seem to have much else to do.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 11:08 AM

My bad -- brain fart. Was thinking "Mother's Little Helper."

Posted by: Laura | March 19, 2007 11:09 AM

I think one of the problems with these type of you can afford to stay home debates is no one gives enough information to really say how it works. Because people are enormously secretive about money, even on an anonymous blog, it is hard to assess how one can afford to live on one income. Number one, how much money does the one person make? Do they own a home? When did they buy it? What is their mortgage payment? What is the interest rate (ARM, interest only, Fixed)? What is their retirement plan (full employee retirement benefits, 401K matching, 401K no matching, SEPTA, IRA, no plan whats ever)? How many children do they have? Do they plan to pay for college? Do they vacation? Did they have their own college debt? Do they have credit card debt? Cost of day care? etc... I think you have to be a complete idiot to say that all the two income families are just working because they want to take nice vacations or have fancy clothes etc.. But people really can't assess anyone's situation without knowing the full situation. And fankly people do not want to tell the whole story. The one and only on family that I know committed to living on one income is in this situation. Hsuband makes $120K ( more then the median hhld income in Fairfax county). Bought a 625K house with interest only loan. Has no college or credit card debt. Two kids. Has no plans to pay for college. maximizes 401K contribution but nothing for SAHM. No plans to ever take family on vacation (sad thing is he vacations himself each year). Buys kids clothes a 100% at the garage sale (and boy do they look it) or takes hand me downs from friends. Willing to buy new shoes for kids but buys several sizes too large to make them last. Will not pay for a single activity for children and plans to homeschool so they are not tempted by outside world. One car. Does have TV and internet access. So is that some people's version of making it? Maybe. But let's start with the basic. He is probably in the top 20th percentile or higher for income. So that discludes 80% of the population. Then he has an interest only house loan. So will never own a house. No retirement income for his wife. No college education for his childrens. It is not about buying clothes at a garage sale, lessons at gymboree, family vacations. It is about do you want to successfully fund retirement, own your own house, and pay for college.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 11:12 AM

Do any of you dual income earners with children and deductions get hit by the ATM? I am a SAHM now. When I return to the paid workforce there is a good chance we could get hit with the ATM which could be a disincentive.

Posted by: ATM calcuations? | March 19, 2007 11:13 AM

"anon at 10:49, you're too busy being the blog's moral police to have any kind of clear picture of anyone. Think away, since you don't seem to have much else to do. "

How is this helpful? Oh, I get it - you're practicing your ad hominem attacks!

Better keep working on it - it took me a minute to figure it out.

As an aside - do you think Anon 10:49 got it wrong? Were the comments made by "you're nuts" really not personal attacks, but rather a substantive analysis of the matters under discussion?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 11:13 AM

momof4: correction, we live in DC. Obviously that is not indictive to living in other parts of the US. Sorry if that was confusing. But as you heard in the past, a poster wrote on her 85K hhld income in DC, she was living in a one bedroom apartment, with her husband and infant son. Clearly if you want to relocate, your money will most likely go further.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 11:14 AM

I am a small business owner in the Washington area. Several years ago I had an idea and my wife was one of the only people who supported this idea for a business. Oh sure everyone listened and you could see the eyes glaze over.
The idea flourished and now this business is supporting my family. My wife worked outside of the home, she did not make much money but provided the family with the important perks, health insurance, an investment plan that still makes money (yes she has a college degree) until it became necessary for her to come and work for me and the business. She is now my right hand woman, full time Mom and the person who still knows where all the stuff is in the house! Is life perfect NO - do we argue fuss and fight because we are together far to much business and family YES! Do we get to celebrate the many extras that go with owning your business and submitting to know ones schedule but your own YES. It is hard and perhaps if she was working out of the home we would have a bit more money but we would not have this control over our lives that so many people are trying to fulfill i.e. work and home. When you take the step to become your own business owner and you have support and commitment from your spouse - you have success. Everyone defines success on their own levels.
I see what goes on intimately day to day with our family, scheduling and her participation in our business, we are stretched and I watch her go from "Where is this piece of information" to "Mom I need this for my school project" to "What's for dinner" to "Did you pay the Gas bill?" I could go on and on. Point is this arguement about Stay at home Moms vs. working Moms is difficult. There is no such thing as the person who stays home and eat candy all day long- not in this area. I will be honest I maybe the brains behind the idea and yes I am the person who represents the business outside of the office- without my wife to wrap up those small details, pay the bills, take the messages and follow up on all things household our success would not be the same.

Posted by: bsnsownr | March 19, 2007 11:17 AM

11:13, not that it matters, but since you asked, Tessa's initial inflammatory and extreme comments (anyone who thinks about it can live on one income before they have children, and you can stay out of the workforce for more than 10 years, re-enter and make enough to pay for college for your now teenaged children) were not thoughtful or helpful and you're nuts picked low hanging fruit in making the two easiest attacks on Tessa's comments.

do you have something substantive to add on the topic at hand? I did not know that hall monitor was a career option.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 11:18 AM

Tessa wrote: "...if you plan early and nothing goes terribly wrong..."

If you live long enough, Tessa, you learn that sooner or later something WILL go terribly wrong for everyone -- whether job loss; unexpected special needs of a child; serious accident; property damage greater than the maximum allowable insurance coverage; legal bills; medical bills above and beyond health insurance; the severe long-term illness, disability or death of a family member; helping support impoverished elderly relatives. I assume others on this board can contribute examples I've omitted.

Things can and do go terribly wrong even for those who think it can't happen to them -- whether because they've planned as well as is humanly possible, or because they're naive. Sometimes the rainy day for which people sensibly save turns out to be a deluge.

Posted by: catlady | March 19, 2007 11:19 AM

Also momof4, I think another important point is a lot of families with SAHPs do not stay home for their children's entire childhood. You said, even you, went to work with your two older children. It is hard to predict, your financial situation given you had chosen to stay married to your first husband and stayed home the entire time. Of course, you probably do not want to envision what it would be like to stay married to spouse #1. So this is all just a theoretical argument. But most of the SAHMs, in DC area, that I have met do not plan to stay at home forever. Most of them (95%) plan to go back as soon as their kids are in kindergarten. Of course this is small personal sample of educated women that I have met. But the point being, it is easier to financially afford it if it is for a short period of time.

My other point is , that you said (and please correct me if I am wrong) that you do not plan to fully fund your children's college education. Please do not interpret this to be a criticism. I just mean that college education is a big sticking point for people. It is often the reason women choose to continue working. I am not at all trying to imply that anyone should pay for their child's education. I am just stating it is an important consideratin to SOME families.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 11:21 AM

Shandra, sorry you "freely admit that I 'lost' the housework battle in our home (with parenting, it is different) and decided that I cared more for the man than his willingness to scrub a toilet." If that's your logic, then it follows he doesn't care enough for you TO do something that matters to you.

Posted by: Too bad | March 19, 2007 11:21 AM

foamgnome,

You've described a real jerk.

Here's my situation. About the same salary. Took me many years to get there. Bought a house that's over 40 years old, and accepted a 90 minute commute each way to hold down costs. Cost under $200 when we bought it - probably worth $300 now. 30 year fixed mortgage. Don't max out the 401(k), but do participate. Have for 20 years. Plan to bump up our contributions when the kids get out of college. Did the state pre-paid tuition plan for both kids - one in college now. Used public schools - no homeschooling or private school. Don't do expensive vacations, but generally go somewhere one a year. Wife worked before the kids were born - probably will once the second one leaves for college. Two cars. Broadband internet - too cheap to pay for cable (and wife objects to some of the content), but we get good over-the-air reception. Managed to snag a Wii for the kids last month.

We don't have as much money as we could, but all in all, I think we've struck a pretty good balance.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 11:22 AM

To rockville mom, re: "How do you know the husband wasn't pulling his weight? Even when both (working) parents are doing a fair share of the kid stuff, it doesn't mean it's easy to balance." I was commenting on a specific part of the article (did you read it?) that argued these 4% of Ivy educated women didn't "choose" the "restrictions and constrictions that made their lives impossible," and then cited social pressures that make women responsible for dr's. appointments, etc. It seemed strange to me that the author would cite a group of highly-educated women being shunted into a role they didn't necessarily primarily choose because of societal pressures. I was making the point that she might be wrong because I don't know too many liberal Ivy educated women who don't expect their husbands to pull their weight with regards to childrearing.

Posted by: smf | March 19, 2007 11:26 AM

Inner pease, inner smeash, what a crock of crap. When you look at the one binding and all inclusive thread that runs thru the social propblems of this country it is single parenthood. The 2 + million inmates in the jails almost all come from broken homes, juvenile delinquency, teen pregancy, youth mental problems, drug use, homelesness all have the same cause and effect, single parenthood and whose the parent in over 90% of the cases. Women trying to find their inner pease.

Posted by: mcewen | March 19, 2007 11:27 AM

to dfg-- so glad you don't think that people who choose to work outside the home rather than stay at home to raise their children have questionable values. Hope people like the anonymous poster at 10:03 can see the light too. this is the one who wrote: "What terribly loathesome values to impart to children. Stay at work, chase the dollar just don't forget to tell your children that there will always be someone with a better job and more money than you. Its a race you can't win."


I am so happy that this post was followed by posts "Shandra" and "working mom by choice". these two posts are neat book-ends to the purported SAHM vs. working parent values divide. Both posters seem to be living a very value driven life.

I become very frustrated by working parents who are so willing to cede teh "values" argument and instead rely on "we both work because we have too!" I don't buy that -- people can live on one income, but you have to make a lot of difficult choices to do it-- like even perhaps moving to a different area. but this is big planet and there are lots of options.

A more compelling defense is, "yes, one of us could stay at home, but at this point, for our family, we feel that we can do more for our family and for society at large by having both parents work." If for whatever reason, that isn't the truth (no good daycare available, etc.) then I agree with those that say that you should consider making the sacrifices that one-income family make. but I think it is only in a very few cases that this is the case. In most cases, dual-income families are in fact living a values driven life and they should be proud of that fact.


Posted by: Jen | March 19, 2007 11:27 AM

11:22 Yeah, he is a winner. I mean he makes his wife buy clothes at a garage sale but he went on vacation with out his wife and kids. But I guess some families feel this is OK. I think the weird attributes of this particular family, is not indictive of most single income families. I do think even if he wasn't such a jerk, they still would not have enough to afford to vacation every other year. You sound like you are doing a great job. I think your willing to commute 90 minutes has helped your family a lot. I am sorry you have such a long commute but commend you on your committment to your family.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 11:28 AM

foamgnome - I know you live in the DC area. But I guess what I was trying to say is that you're making a mass generalization based on the assumption that everyone (everyone reading this blog, everyone who considers "opting out", everyone who has children, everyone everyone) lives in an area like yours where a higher income is necessary to have the kind of secure life you talked about. And then just now, you said "Clearly if you want to relocate, your money will most likely go further.", which still makes that assumption - that "everyone" is in DC (or a similar expensive area) and would need to relocate to make their money go further. There are millions and millions and millions of people in this country who care about the "opt out debate" who don't *need* to relocate to live a secure life on one salary.


Posted by: momof4 | March 19, 2007 11:28 AM

Why I am a SAHM: I enjoy taking care of my family. I am glad that on a sunny day or a snowy day we can drop everything and go embrace the fun. I am glad that when my family comes home everything is taken care of - the house is clean, laundry is done, bills paid etc.. so we can focus on homework or simply having time together. I am glad that we are never rushing around to get the kids, get them home, bang out the homework, showers and bed. I am glad that I have time to volunteer and read and pursue my interests. I am glad that on the weekends we can spend time as a couple or a family without having to run a million errands with the rest of the masses. I am glad that when my husband travels it is not a catastophe. I am glad that when my children are sick they can stay at home until they are completely well wihout throwing the family into an operational tailspin. I am glad that when my husband comes home he can relax and enjyoy his time with me and the kids without myriad chores to do. I am grateful that we are able to have this kind of arrangement so that home is a place of peace and security and fun not a place of chaos. My husband is well insured. I am well insured so he could stay home for a period if something were to happen to me. We have a 401K for me and put money away for the kids' college. We are certainly lucky to be in the financial situation that we are. My husband values my contributions to our family and we share a true partnership even if our duties are divided along more traditional lines. Could he leave me? Sure, but while I believe it is important to plan for bad things to happen, you cannot live your lifes as if the sword of Damocles hangs over your head. For us, this arrangement works and I feel that we are all able to enjoy our lives which is what the journey is about.

Posted by: Molly | March 19, 2007 11:29 AM

11:18

"Tessa's initial inflammatory and extreme comments (anyone who thinks about it can live on one income before they have children, and you can stay out of the workforce for more than 10 years, re-enter and make enough to pay for college for your now teenaged children) were not thoughtful or helpful and you're nuts picked low hanging fruit in making the two easiest attacks on Tessa's comments."

The difference is that Tessa may have been wrong - but you're nuts was making ad hominem attacks. There is a difference between ill-conceived or superficial remarks, and playground namecalling. Tessa may have offended some by her point of view - but she did not attack them by name. We have to run the risk of the first if we're going to have a candid and honest debate - we have to understand that the second is inappropriate if we're going to have a meaningful debate.

"do you have something substantive to add on the topic at hand? I did not know that hall monitor was a career option."

Neither did I - until "you're nuts" demonstrated the need.

And just what the heck is the role you're trying to play - hall monitor monitor?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 11:29 AM

Re: housecleaning- "Women are neater" is yet another of those stereotypes that isn't necessarily true of any given person/couple. I'm a WAY bigger slob than my hubby!

Posted by: SheGeek | March 19, 2007 11:30 AM

momof4: point well taken. I should have said if you lived in a high cost area and choose to relocate, your money will probably go further.

On on last weeks note (summer plans): My mother wasn't exactly the type to win mother of the year. She was never abusive or a bad mother, per say but her devotion to family was let's just say limited. But she was a product of her own parents. Her parents shipped their kids off to full summers of camp as young as 5 (she says 3 but I think she isn't remembering it clearly) and boarding school by 9 years old. I just look at it, like she did her best. She was a better mother then her own and I am a better mother then she was. And maybe my daughter will be better then me. At least it is progress.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 11:31 AM

"she did not make much money but provided the family with the important perks, health insurance"

Do you really consider health insurance a "perk"? Are you able to afford health insurance now? Good health insurance?

Because I have GOOD health insurance and it still costs us about $4500 out-of-pocket (thank goodness for the FSA). That would turn into SERIOUS money if the health insurer opted not to cover some procedure or another. Even reading the microscopic print at the bottom, on the back of the page, many people can find themselves wiped out.

Congratulations on making a go of your business, by the way.

Posted by: to bsnowner | March 19, 2007 11:32 AM

Women trying to find their inner pease.

Posted by: mcewen | March 19, 2007 11:27 AM

mcewen, may we have your permission to find our inner cauliflower or rhubarb?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 11:33 AM

Financial security means different things to difference people. I don't understand why some people question posters who say that they are "struggling" at a certain level of income. A comfortable income level for one family may mean 2 vacations a year, funding two 401K (or equivalents) to the max, saving for college so that children have a true choice of the best school whatever it may be, having a decent house where there is a space for everybody and a comfortable and reliable car or cars. Activities for the kids (even the ones the county organizes cost money). It's also important to have disposable income to take care of oneself, have nice clothes, for example, not designer clothes, but just average nice. Not to be afraid that if a car needs new breaks tomorrow or a roof starts leaking that we have to dip into an emergency fund. Sure, I would have loved to stay home with my kids especially during the school years IF I HAD WON THE LOTTERY.....My husband feels the same. We work because that's how we provide for our families what we think we should. Yes, we are accustomed to a certain standard of living. And no, we can't move, because our jobs can exist only in DC, and plus, the salaries are lower too in cheaper areas of the country, so the cost of living savings are not really realized if the income is reduced accordingly.

Posted by: from the DC area perspective | March 19, 2007 11:35 AM

Molly, it does sound like a good life and that you appreciate it and understand the privilege. I would say, though, that while our household may be more chaotic than yours :), in many ways it's a good chaos....creative, busy, along with maybe more picking up at the end of the day and figuring out who is doing what. I'm *definitely* not saying one is better than the other, and from the tone of your post, I don't think you would either (simply presenting some things that are positive about your life)...but I am glad that when I think about whether "everything is taken care of" at the end of the day, my husband and I can both reflect on accomplishments both inside and outside the home and work together to make it work- similarly to you and your husband, I suspect. And someday, when our daughter is old enough, I hope that she sees how that "chaos" is creating lives that are loving and productive in many ways.

Posted by: ArlingtonMom | March 19, 2007 11:36 AM

11:29 = self-righteous windbag

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 11:37 AM

Opting out is only an option for certain ivy-league-graduating, married to money types of women. It isn't an option for the majority of middle class women.

We work because we desire the challenge, but also because of economic realities. In my case, my husband started his own company. Without my continued employment as a journalist, we would join the ranks of the millions of Americans without health insurance. With three children under the age of 10, this just isn't an option.

The working Mom juggling act is hard. What gets sacrificed is time for self. But I hope that my children will learn that hard work is more valuable than self-indulgence.

Posted by: Andrea | March 19, 2007 11:38 AM

So Mcewan - do you blame divorces on women trying to find their inner "pease"

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | March 19, 2007 11:39 AM

"Your second assumption, that after taking 12 - 15 years off an unemployed spouse can return to the workforce in almost any field and get a job sufficient to pay college tuition, is frankly laughable. "

Just to make this argument simplistic, let's assume I take 15 years off to stay home with my 2 children and then return to work when my oldest starts high school, putting all of my salary away for college. I find a clerical job paying $12.50 per hour. I work at that job for the 6 years it takes my 2 children to finish high school and start college, and earn $117,000 net (assuming no 401(k) or other deductions other than taxes.) State college tuition, fees, and books costs around $33,000 for four years. That leaves me about $51,000 to help my two children with living expenses while they're in college.

Still laughable?

Posted by: momof4 | March 19, 2007 11:40 AM

Arlington, thank you for your thougthful post and your wisdom in interpreting the intended tone. I was indeed talking about the "kind" of life that we want and makes us feel comfortable - it wasn't intended as an indictment of other lifestyles anymore than me saying I don't like broccoli says anthing about people who do. I don't like chaos and truly enjoy a certain predictability to my days. I too am glad that you have contentment with your situation. One of the things I hope my children will find is contentment with themselves and life in general. Its a lot harder to find than one might think.

Posted by: Molly | March 19, 2007 11:40 AM

Molly
Love it - say it like it is girl- to many whinning unhappy women who would rather rationalize this blog than cut to the truth.
Why cant we welcome Mollys opinion and Andreas- ther person who posted commetn to Mollys blog- chicken _!

Posted by: 4444 | March 19, 2007 11:43 AM

Molly - amen!! :o)

Andrea - perhaps you should read the posts about generalizations about "those who opt out" and by those of us who are far from "married to money." :o(

Posted by: momof4 | March 19, 2007 11:47 AM

Herb writes:

"The Opt Out Myth exposes an ironic contradiction in our current conservative social policies. We tout family values, but we design an economy that requires both parents to work, and sometimes at more than one job apiece, make it very difficult for families to spend time together, for parents to nurture children, and for children to grow up in a close, nurturing family."

What do you mean, "we"? Are "we" the "social conservatives," or the "big-business conservatives"?

The "social conservatives" believe that children do best when raised by stay-at-home moms. The "big-business conservatives" believe in globalization, which means the working dad has to compete with maquiladora labor in Mexico, coolie labor in Singapore, child labor in India, and prison slave labor in Red China -- which often makes in impossible for his wife to stay home even if she very much wants to.

The Republican Party panders to the "social conservatives" before elections. But once the Republicans get elected, they govern as the big business conservatives dictate. The Democratic Party is the party of Bill Clinton, who gave us NAFTA and WTO and Most Favored Nation status for Red China. So, the Democratic Party also governs the way big business dictates.

"If we value families, shouldn't our social policies make it easier for families to be families?"

Yes. The Joan Williams article wonders how many of the mothers who choose to stay at home would do so if the workplace did not force them out by closing the doors to a decent balance between work and family. I wonder how many of the mothers who choose to continue balancing work with family would do so if the option of one parent's staying home were available to more than just the rich and the elite.

In both cases, we need to limit the economic freedom of the big businesses by stopping unfair competition from globalization. That would enable Unions to bargain for family-friendly work schedules and paid maternity leave on the one hand, and for Child Care Vouchers redeemable either by Day Care Centers or by relatives caring for children on the other hand.
But don't bet on either party trying to tangle with the big corporations.

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | March 19, 2007 11:48 AM

I'm surprised at everyone's assumption that men stay in and women opt out solely for cultural reasons. I know spouses (of both sexes) who've opted out because one earns less than the other. Often it's the wife who stays home because of ongoing income inequality within the same field (e.g. male lawyer makes more than female lawyer) but not always -- I know men who are clergy, writers, teachers who've taken a few years off to be with little ones while their doctor-lawyer-banker wives stayed in the workforce. If anything, it would be helpful if society regarded all middle-class jobs (teacher, first responder,journalist, etc) as deserving of wages that would permit either spouse to opt out at some point.

Btw, I'd much rather be a teacher of early childhood ed; however, a M.Ed. would have cost nearly as much as my J.D., and I'd be making about 30% of my present salary with the fed government.

Posted by: lawyermom | March 19, 2007 11:51 AM

Just a few of observations.

The research ignores all of the media attention to working mothers who are highly successful (Working Woman magazine for example), the media coverage of struggling moms who have to work (any newspaper will do), stories on how women are still struggling with workforce equality because of familial obligations, etc. The media has spent a lot of time glorifying the working mother for years now.

I find it hard to believe that the media is really perpetuating an "opt-out myth" if there is as much as, if not more, coverage of working women who stay in the work force. The real question is whether or not there is a disproportionate amount of coverage on opting out as opposed to coverage on working women who contineu to work. Get back to me when someone has the comparison of all of those types of articles, not just isolated research done solely to justify an opinion.

"Why would someone pay for an education and not work/quit working?"

Because they want to do so? Isn't that all the reason they need? Do they really need to justify it beyond that? I thought the whole point of the women's rights movement was the right TO CHOOSE, not the choice we make. If the choice made is more important than the right to choose, I'd argue we've gone nowhere, not forward.

Besides, education for the sake of education is not a bad thing.

Why is it so important to denigrate the choices other women make regardless of what they are?

Paraphrases:
"Stay-at-home moms are leeches on society because they don't earn an income and can collect social security."

"Women who choose career over family aren't doing right by their family."

"Women who 'opt out' of the workplace betray womankind because they don't continue in the paid workforce and climb the career ladder and that makes it hard on other women."

"My group is better than your group. nyah..."

My responses in order:
Women who stay at home with their kids are a tremendous value to society, just as working mothers are, and are in no way leeches.

Women who make sure their families have food and shelter are good moms/wives.

A woman's obligation is to her own conscience, her family and herself, not to anyone else or whatever is politically correct. Everyone is responsible for their own successes and failures. No woman is obligated to continue working just because someone else thinks it is the right thing to do.

And my daddy can beat up your daddy. Both statements are equally mature. Grow up.

People should worry more about their own families and less about what the Joneses are doing. We'd all be better off for it.

Posted by: Amused at the silliness of it all | March 19, 2007 11:53 AM

UC-Hastings, booo, hiss.

Posted by: Mona | March 19, 2007 11:53 AM

"The Opt Out Myth exposes an ironic contradiction in our current conservative social policies. We tout family values, but we design an economy that requires both parents to work, and sometimes at more than one job apiece, make it very difficult for families to spend time together, for parents to nurture children, and for children to grow up in a close, nurturing family. Many couples manage this problem marvelously, but also with great difficulty and sacrifice. If we value families, shouldn't our social policies make it easier for families to be families?"

Posted by: Herb | March 19, 2007 10:28 AM


You're absolutely right, Herb. I'd love to see this as a separate topic. It would invariably lead to many comparisons between our society and government and other countries. Those comparisons, which are very legitimate and from which much could be learned, often lead though to some pretty nasty and closeminded discussions. Would be well worth it anyway. I'm sure there would be lots of good input from the openminded half and those familiar with how other societies deal with these issues.


Posted by: abcdefg | March 19, 2007 11:53 AM

"Opting out is only an option for certain ivy-league-graduating, married to money types of women. It isn't an option for the majority of middle class women."

Andrea, this simply isn't true. If you look at the statistics, there are more stay-at-home moms than female ivy-league graduates (unless you want to include enough schools in the "ivy league" to get millions of working-age graduates). I don't doubt that you have a real economic need to work - but there are more middle-class women staying home than you might imagine.

Posted by: Huh? | March 19, 2007 11:53 AM

Your second assumption, that after taking 12 - 15 years off an unemployed spouse can return to the workforce in almost any field and get a job sufficient to pay college tuition, is frankly laughable. "

Just to make this argument simplistic, let's assume I take 15 years off to stay home with my 2 children and then return to work when my oldest starts high school, putting all of my salary away for college. I find a clerical job paying $12.50 per hour. I work at that job for the 6 years it takes my 2 children to finish high school and start college, and earn $117,000 net (assuming no 401(k) or other deductions other than taxes.) State college tuition, fees, and books costs around $33,000 for four years. That leaves me about $51,000 to help my two children with living expenses while they're in college.

Still laughable?

Posted by: momof4 | March 19, 2007 11:40 AM

Momof4: you are not factoring the cost associated with going to work. commuting, wardrobe, dry cleaning, lunches, office gifts, convience meals, higher tax bracket. I would beg to argue you would not really net as much as you think you would. But you do make a good argument that just saving most of the first pay check would amount a lot to college savings. I don't know any real life experiments that have worked that way.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 11:53 AM

momof4

So you expect your kids to do absolutely nothing to contribute to their own education? I find that a bit laughable.

Posted by: FH | March 19, 2007 11:54 AM

I find it interesting that most of these opt-out type stories assume and all or nothing approach to working. I know very few women who have been SAHM for their children's entire childhood. I know many women who have 'opted between'. Taken a few years off, worked part-time, worked full time, volunteered part time, and all sorts of combinations of these.

I think the 'opt-out' idea assumes that careers are linear and that career goals must start at A and progress through B, C, and D before reaching E. I question whether this model is really relevant to today's job market. I'm not sure what the exact numbers are but isn't true that most American workers will now have something like 3 'careers' in their lifetime? I know of many examples of this within my circle of family and friends. A friend of mine worked as a marine biologist, took a job as a diving consultant on an underwater construction project, became interested in underwater construction, retuned to school, and now is an engineer specializing in deep sea construction projects. After 10+ years in the workforce, my husband is currently in school pursuing a degree that will allow him to change careers completely. I myself, although in the same general field, now work in a completely different area than I started in 10 years ago. A friend volunteered while taking time off when her son was a toddler and is currently building that volunteer position into a full-time career.

I myself started at A progressed through B and C to D, sidestepped into a different area redid D and progressed to E. I plan to stall here for a few years as I take some time off to be a SAHM, then return to school for an advanced degree that will allow me to return to the workforce at G. I hope my career will progress from there to H and I. However I expect to stop there. I have no interest in continuing because in my field, the managerial positions do very little if any technical work. I love the technical work and would be miserable giving it up to manage projects and people. I don't consider the time being a SAHM as opting out. More of a breather while I pursue other interests and expect to jump back into the field when my children start school.

I question how detrimental of an impact these 5 or so years off will have on my career goals. I don't believe it will be that detrimental at all. But then my goal is not to end up at the very top of my field. I'm perfectly happy to have a career that I enjoy and modest contributions to that career are just fine with me.

I'd like to see women's choices to take time off, go part-time, or change careers viewed in this light. Where do these choices fit into a job market where changing careers is becoming the norm (or at least much more common)? How are women using time away from their careers to reevaluate their goals and change them? How many are making changes because a new career would allow them a more 'balance' lifestyle? How is this perceived as different from men making career changes to pursue different interests?

Posted by: cw | March 19, 2007 11:55 AM

Matt in Aberdeen 11:48 AM


great points.

Posted by: abcdefg | March 19, 2007 11:57 AM

Mom of 4, can you give a some more information on how you do it. Like how much do you pay for groceries? Do you eat out? Did either have student loans or medical conditions, did you have help with a down payment for your house? Do you have a safety net from paretns? Do you and dadof4 use babysitters so you two can go out? Travel? Lessons and activities for kids? Music or theater performances? How do you afford clothes and shoes for kids? Are you funding for in state college only? What if your local school was not serving your kids the way you think it should? Would you have options? Life insurance? I am curious about the details of how you do what you are doing and glad for you that you found a way to do what you want.

Posted by: to mom of 4 | March 19, 2007 11:58 AM

TO smf:
I didn't read your comment to mean you were questioning the author's conclusion. Perhaps I misunderstood. It sounded to me more like you were blaming these women for not making their husbands do more, and therefore it was their fault that they felt their lives were too difficult to work. I also didn't read the article to mean that only that elite 4% of Ivy educated women were the ones who didn't "choose" the "restrictions and constrictions that made their lives impossible," as the second phrase was in a later part of the article.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | March 19, 2007 12:01 PM

"And no, we can't move, because our jobs can exist only in DC, and plus, the salaries are lower too in cheaper areas of the country, so the cost of living savings are not really realized if the income is reduced accordingly."

This is completely true. My family lives in Tennessee. Yes, the cost of living isn't as high as in some metro areas (think D.C.), but the salaries are so much lower that it is ridiculous.

When I say that we are just getting by, I mean that we worry from month-to-month about paying the utilities, gas for the cars, groceries, medications and the little things that children need that add up (field trip fees, school lunch money, new shoes, etc.) My car is paid for. I don't buy clothes for myself at all. We haven't had a vacation in 3 years. And we don't eat out. My children wear hand-me down clothes.

My husband works terribly hard and travels all the time. He started his own business after years of working as a police officer. It's hard to say if we are better or worse off, but at least we have the potential to do better if his business grows. When he was a police officer, I had a better salary and mine would probably draw shocked gasps from most of the posters on this board who talked about "getting by" on 80K or 120K. Try getting by on 50K before taxes with both of you working and then we'll talk.


Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 12:02 PM

"Amused," I wonder if you's still be amused if you read the study.

In fact, women who opt out include working women. Opting out means opting out of career-track positions. These articles are about successful working women who work part-time, reduced hours for reduced pay, and at lower-paying, lower-skilled jobs.

And the opt-out myth is not claiming that SAHMs are false or imaginary. The opt-out myth refers to the reason women opt out. The media ignores many "pushes" from family-unfriendly workplaces.

--you wrote: "I find it hard to believe that the media is really perpetuating an "opt-out myth" if there is as much as, if not more, coverage of working women who stay in the work force. The real question is whether or not there is a disproportionate amount of coverage on opting out as opposed to coverage on working women who contineu to work. Get back to me when someone has the comparison of all of those types of articles, not just isolated research done solely to justify an opinion."

Posted by: Meesh | March 19, 2007 12:05 PM

To Bethesda! Right On!I am also sick of the stereotypes!!!!!!!!!!!! We are parents and it is up to "us" to raise our kids the best way possible, accordingly to our beliefs. Everyone else should MYOB.

Posted by: Formerly Soon to be Mom | March 19, 2007 12:06 PM

RE: realizing that having two salaries is necessary.

My wife and I ran into that shortly after we were married. I had a good job at a state agency, she later got a job with the same agency but different office.

The combined salaries allowed us to do things together that we had not been able to with mine alone, and made my wife very reluctant to drop her salary and stay home again.

I can see how that happens to a lot of couples; they get married, experience the benefits of two incomes (larger house, more/better vehicles, trips, etc), and when the babies show up, they find that it is now difficult to readjust the mindset to live on only one salary again.

Then, of course, are the women who only have one income to depend on; their own, where the "opt out" isn't an option at all.

This goes back to the same old thing, though. It all depends on what the women (or men) want to do in their own personal lives, and to what extent they are willing to sacrifice to gain it.

Posted by: John L | March 19, 2007 12:08 PM

SMF wrote:

"This part of the article focuses on women who are 4% of the American female population - Ivy league degree, etc."

Joan Williams's article in the "Columbia Journalism Review" explains why journalists write so many articles about the small percentage of American women:

"But because journalists and editors increasingly come from and socialize in this class, their anecdotes loom large in our personal rearview mirrors--and in our most influential publications."

That's why you don't see many "opt-out" articles about Alice, the bus driver's wife, or Trixie, the sewer worker's wife. "New York Times" reporters don't have friends who are married to Ralph Kramden or Ed Norton. They have lots of friends who are high-powered professionals or business people with degrees from Harvard or Yale or the lesser Ivy schools (not that there's anything wrong with that).

SMF continues:

"How can you get an Ivy degree and not be tough enough to stand up to your husband and expect him to pull his weight?"

This question was best answered by an anonymous blogger, responding to Professor Linda Hirschman's advice in "Homeward Bound," which was:

"Marry young or marry much older. Younger men are potential high-status companions." (Linda Hirshman)

The anonymous blogger replied:

"After being a powerless and patronized stay-at-home wife/mom, I divorced with 2 kids and got my career going, and did what was suggested above, married a younger fellow with less socioeconomic power. He is not motivated to take up the slack in housework in good faith to compensate for the fewer financial resources he throws into the mix.

"On the contrary.

"He enjoys the benefits of a higher-economic-scale lifestyle provided by myself, while refusing to do much housework at all.

"So now I am stuck with an idle pot-smoking nitwit who will get HALF our assets if I divorce him in spite of a very low contribution. YOU. CANNOT. FORCE. MEN. TO. DO. HOUSEWORK. GET IT??

"So please don't see 'marrying a guy with less socioeconomic power expecting that in good faith he'll take up the slack elsewhere' as a solution." (anonymous blogger)

There you have it. The President of Harvard can confer on you the degree of Bachelor of Arts, and "welcome you to the fellowship of educated men and women." But she cannot confer on you powers and abilities beyond those of mortals, e.g., the power to fly faster than a speeding bullet, or be more powerful than a locomotive, or leap tall buildings at a single bound, or force an unwilling husband to do housework.

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | March 19, 2007 12:10 PM

"Momof4: you are not factoring the cost associated with going to work. commuting, wardrobe, dry cleaning, lunches, office gifts, convience meals, higher tax bracket."

Not everyone has to wear a wardrobe that necessitates dry cleaning. Many of us know how to pack a lunch. I don't do office gifts (and when I do it's $5.00 or less). The higher tax bracket is off-set by the amount of money I stuff away, pre-tax, towards my 401k, health insurance, and FSA.

So I bring home less than 55% of my paycheck. It pays for things that I cannot teach my children (music lessons, for example--which is VERY important to me and them). A 529 plan. It provides for things that I feel are necessary. Heat, for example. And we're lucky that we bought our house before the prices hit the stratosphere. Right next door to me are new houses that went for over a million dollars. I bought mine for 215K, with a low fixed interest rate. Not everyone was so lucky. My car has over 180K miles, but it gets great mileage. $20 sneakers are a LUXURY item to my way of thinking.

And I'm happier than I would be staying at home. Particularly as my children are in school full-time. Plus I have a great boss and I have been able to save up enough leave to be able to take off early if need be. Or stay home with a (truly) sick child. One way to land a job with that sort of flexibility is a college degree (or three).

I was lucky that I have family in the area who had weird hours and could provide daycare. Plus they wanted some quiet unreported cash. A win-win.

I'm happy. The kids are happy. The spouse is happy. It works for us.

I only wish everyone had so many options--not everyone does you know.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 12:13 PM

I posted at 12:13.

No college costs for me. Let's hear it for full scholarships!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 12:14 PM

I know women who work - women who stay home and work - either way its work. Some do as they please, some make the sacrifice for the children- scrimp and save where they can. One friend in particular works out of the home/commutes Mon thru Fri as so many women do. Her office has relocated; she now spends more time commuting, more gas, new bosses, and way too much company nonsense. Does she go for the money, yes she does, she is also scrimping and saving now due to her commute and the possibility that she will have to change jobs due to a new boss who perhaps wants her out due to here new commute and issues with the kids scheduling! Her spouse is there for her and the kids.
Point is all work is a balancing act. The Washington Metropolitan area is competitive and aggressive and some what unrealistic to keep up with - If you make 100K- 50K- 40K or less, if your staying at home or commuting to your job you jump through those hoops trying to achieving a level of satisfaction. I sometimes believe this area puts added pressures and stress. The trade off is better salaried positions, better schools, better healthcare etc., etc., etc.,
It is still really hard.

Posted by: isfr | March 19, 2007 12:16 PM

"Opting out is only an option for certain ivy-league-graduating, married to money types of women. It isn't an option for the majority of middle class women."

"Andrea, this simply isn't true. If you look at the statistics, there are more stay-at-home moms than female ivy-league graduates (unless you want to include enough schools in the "ivy league" to get millions of working-age graduates). I don't doubt that you have a real economic need to work - but there are more middle-class women staying home than you might imagine."

I concede that I expressed my thoughts poorly in the sentence you quote. However, in my community, the only women I know that are financially able to stay home are women of a certain means ... well above the middle rung of middle class.

I know some others who stay at home who are part of a different subset of very conservative religious families. Most of them are eking out a living just above the poverty line ... but I don't see them as being part of the opt-out debate. It's a very different motivation.

In the true middle of the middle class in my region (Tennessee/Virginia), both parents work because the salaries (except for a very select subgroup of professionals like doctors and lawyers) are much less than in a major metro area.

I meant no ill will toward those who have the choice to stay home. I just don't think it's a choice for many people when the costs of everything from groceries to gasoline to health insurance are climbing exponentially.

Even with both of us working, I worry that it isn't going to be enough. Retirement isn't going to be an option. My kids will go to community college and then the local state university.

Hanging on by my fingernails describes my life.

Posted by: Andrea | March 19, 2007 12:17 PM

"A friend of mine worked as a marine biologist, took a job as a diving consultant on an underwater construction project, became interested in underwater construction, retuned to school, and now is an engineer specializing in deep sea construction projects."

Started out with a college education, I presume. Paying off loans from the first time around, or the second? Or one of the lucky ones who emerged without, or with very little, debt?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 12:17 PM

Why I am half of a DINK (dual-income, no-kids couple)- I enjoy the challenge of work, even if I don't love my job every minute of every day. My husband enjoys the challenge of work, even if he doesn't love his job every minute of every day. I like being able, along with DH, to keep the household chaos to a manageable level most of the time, including times when he or I or both of us are traveling. I like being able to decide, fairly spontaneously, to take a day or overnight trip to spend time outdoors or taking in some history or culture. I like having the financial margin to be able to make spontaneous purchases or donations, as long as I don't overdo it, and so does DH. I like that DH and I can empathise with each other's workplace challenges. I like the sense of security that comes from confidence in my ability to make my own living, along with the ability to fall back on savings and another earner if necessary.

Is my life perfect? Heck no! Am I missing out on both the joys and challenges of parenthood? Of course! Every possible family configuration in our society, married/single, kids/no, seems to come with its joys and its challenges.

Posted by: SheGeek | March 19, 2007 12:19 PM

Working mom by choice, you're my hero. I couldn't have said it better.

Ex-BF and I argued about this last night (we're still friends), and he said he would expect his wife to stay home if her paycheck couldn't cover childcare costs and then some. I hear this all the time. I asked him what if the tables were turned, and she out-earned him? He said he'd stay home if she made 500K/year (this after saying he could live comfortably on 200K/year). So basically, unless she was some kind of high roller, he would really never stay home, but he would expect his wife to do so, and subsist on his 100K salary (a far cry from his presumed level of comfort), unless she made enough to cover childcare. It kind of made this whole breakup thing feel a lot better for me, because I'm not stuck with a guy who expects me to stay home unless I earn the big bucks. What if I WANT to work? What if I like it? Of course, this is also the guy who thought division of chores was such: women=laundry and dishes, men=lawn mowing and splitting firewood (never mind that I was splitting firewood at age ten and could do it again if I had a reason to). This was the guy who, although he can't change the oil in his car and I can, thought women were just naturally "better" at some things, and vice versa, while I thought that women shouldn't be sentenced to a lifetime of laundry duty just because that's how it seems in Bounce commercials.

However, we also argued about something else. Many people have said here that if someone wanted to SAH, there would be a way to do it financially if it's what you wanted. I thought the same would be true of commute times. I personally would prefer a condo over a house if it shaved half an hour off my commute. I don't think kids suffer from not having an extra thousand square feet. And I thought it would be worth the sacrifice to live in a smaller place closer to the city, if it meant I didn't have to waste three hours a day in traffic. He seems to think that's impossible. Well, if it's possible to lower your standard of material living so one can SAH, why isn't it possible to lower that standard so we can ease commutes, saving money on gas and car usage, as well as having more time to spend with those kids we're all so fixated on having?

Side note: I'm in the CYA camp. Men leave, they die, and they lose their jobs. Men run off with secretaries. I don't see the point of being financially dependent on someone when just about anything could happen, leaving you alone and financially strapped. Even if I didn't want to or have to work, I still would, simply because I don't want to be left out in the cold. It would be nice to have blind faith and just trust that nothing would ever go wrong in a family, but that's just not very realistic.

Posted by: Mona | March 19, 2007 12:21 PM

Just to make this argument simplistic, let's assume I take 15 years off to stay home with my 2 children and then return to work when my oldest starts high school, putting all of my salary away for college. I find a clerical job paying $12.50 per hour. I work at that job for the 6 years it takes my 2 children to finish high school and start college, and earn $117,000 net (assuming no 401(k) or other deductions other than taxes.) State college tuition, fees, and books costs around $33,000 for four years. That leaves me about $51,000 to help my two children with living expenses while they're in college.
Still laughable?
Posted by: momof4 | March 19, 2007 11:40 AM
In order to accept your conclusion, we also would need to assume that there are zero transportation costs involved in getting you to and from your clerical job, that your spouse's income and applicable tax structures remain as they are in 2007, and that your child(ren) is (are) accepted by, and admitted to, a school where tuition, fees and books for both your younger and older child are capped at the 2007 rate for the six years one or both are in attendance.

Yes, I'd say that both assumptions are laughable.

Posted by: Babe in Total Control of Responding to Silly Assumptions | March 19, 2007 12:24 PM

I'm a CYA person. Why spit in luck's eye and dare to tempt fate?

I wouldn't presume to depend upon my spouse to pay for my retirement (assuming I could; I can't).

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 12:29 PM

Meesh, I did read the study and the glaring omission I found was the complete lack of attention to any other kind of media coverage of working women or stay-at-home moms. If the coverage in those stories is more than balanced by coverage of other aspects of being a working woman, working mother or a stay-at-home mother, it isn't really perpetuationg a myth, now is it? It's exploring ONE aspect of a much larger issue that cannot be adequately covered in a single article. The point is the media does NOT ignore other issues or glorify opting out at the expense of other coverage. This column itself shows that to be inaccurate. In a variety of forms, there are more than a lot of stories about women who have no options but to work. The existence of a magazine devoted solely to the wonder that is a working woman and all the good and bad that goes along with it belies the study author's premise.

The study is a lot like judging an entire state's fruit production by one apple--good, bad or otherwise.

The study would be far more valid if it were put in the context of the whole of media coverage. Instead, it is a justification of an opinion. How much coverage is devoted to showing opting out positively, negatively or neutrally compared to how much coverage goes into covering the inequities in pay working mothers face, how it is a struggle to get by on one salary for families, the trials of being a single mother, etc? Does the media really focus on opting out as some sort of glory hallelujah solution to the woes of womankind or is it just one piece of a very large, very complex issue?

Also, the media functions on a negative=news premise and the number of positive stories in the news media is shockingly low. That is how they sell subscriptions and draw viewers. Go over today's headlines and prove me wrong. To pull out the small number of positive stories on a narrow subset of a larger issue is not representative of the coverage as a whole.

Put it in context.

And where exactly did I say stay-at-home moms are imaginary? What?

Posted by: Amused by the silliness | March 19, 2007 12:33 PM

"Davidson College announced today it will do away with loans when awarding need-based financial aid, a move school officials said would allow students to graduate debt-free"

I read something last week that said that schools are moving toward eliminating merit-based aid in favor of need-based. While I do believe in helping those less fortunate, I believe that FAFSA's determination of "need" is not what most people expect. My family was determined to have an expected family contribution of $20,000 per year based on family income of $95K. Your college savings will be more important than ever if the schools drop merit-based scholarships in favor of need-based. If a middle-class family has not been able to save (medical, job loss, etc) but has a decent income prior to the year the child starts college, the child and/or family will have to rely on student loans. So the needy children whose families can contribute nothing will graduate debt-free, but the middle-class children whose families can only contribute part of the cost will be the ones who end up with student debt.

Something not quite right that you pay some and owe some, or pay nothing and owe nothing. Again, I am NOT saying that needy children shouldn't have a chance to get a college education, but I wish they would figure out a way for students to graduate with comparable amounts of debt. By trying to level the playing field so poor students don't have to select a job based on salary, it is pushing more middle class students into selecting a job based on their student loans.

Posted by: don't get excited | March 19, 2007 12:33 PM

What you said about family contribution to college expenses. But what about applicants whose families can't afford to pitch in?

Posted by: To don't get excited | March 19, 2007 12:37 PM

"I'm in the CYA camp. Men leave, they die, and they lose their jobs. Men run off with secretaries. I don't see the point of being financially dependent on someone when just about anything could happen, leaving you alone and financially strapped."

It depends of course on the risk you are attempting to mitigate. The often over-looked risk of the two-income family is that neither spouse is able to excel at work and achieve the type of salary increase to enable a higher standard of living.

There is a reason that most senior managers have a SAH spouse -- there is a long-term economic benefit.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 12:38 PM

"you can be a purposeful person by 'working' for your child's school and community not necessarily for a paycheck."

I love it when people advise others (and they're usually advising women) to go volunteer in the community--usually the schools or some other traditionally nurturing/women's environment. Why don't you go plow the streets or pick up the garbage for free?

Posted by: Marian | March 19, 2007 12:39 PM

Molly-- applause, applause-- you go Girl!

Andrea-- no, I opted out and i aattended all public school and most certainly did NOT marry a rich man! I opted out for a couple of years because I personally had made and saved a significant amount of money and figured what better way to blow through my wind fall than to try out the SAHM lifestyle for awhile. Actually, I could still continue to do the SAHM be I realized it was better for my family and for society at large to go back to work. I know my situation is unusal because the majority of middle class women do not have a significant sum of money to use to contribute to the family income while they are out, but I am positive that if you really want to stay at home, you can do it.

You say "We work because we desire the challenge, but also because of economic realities. In my case, my husband started his own company. Without my continued employment as a journalist, we would join the ranks of the millions of Americans without health insurance. With three children under the age of 10, this just isn't an option.

The working Mom juggling act is hard. What gets sacrificed is time for self. But I hope that my children will learn that hard work is more valuable than self-indulgence."

I hear you-- but how about this?

"I am working because my values support working to provide health insurance to my family. I am working because I value my husband's career and my working is the most effective way for me to do this."

PS-- The argument over which is more self-indulgent-- staying home vs. working outside the home-- is just a waste of time. It all depends-- it depends on the family, it depends on their situation. staying home and raising kids and running a household can be hard work.

PPS-- just because I've been spouting off today about "values" doesn't mean that I think that people should subvert their "self-indulgent" concerns. sometimes looking out for what is in your best interest is also just what happens to be in the best interests of your family and even your community at large. Like my firend said to me this morning-- "If mama ain't happy-- ain't nobody happy."

Posted by: Jen | March 19, 2007 12:39 PM

I don't think kids suffer from not having an extra thousand square feet.

LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL - can't stop - LOL, LOL, LOL

Spend 5 snow days in a house with a 2 & 4 year old and then get back to me.

LOL, LOL..........................

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 12:40 PM

Double-check this, but I was recently told that the amount of money you put away towards your retirement (IRAs, 401Ks, SEPs, whatever) during your child's high school years are counted AGAINST you in applying for need-based scholarships and even for some loans. That simply leaves me breathless with anxiety.

Basically, if I were able to set aside $15,000 per year (and I am trying my hardest!), and if I were able to do it for the 4 years of h.s., that would be viewed as $60,000 that "should have been" set aside for that child to use for college.

Now, mind you, I have told my children [okay, to date, the elder child] that if the grades and drive are noted, SOMEONE will loan the kid money to GO to college. No one will EVER loan me money to RETIRE.

I'm still trying to sock away some money for college--even if only to pay for the books, room and board.

My accountant kind of tap-danced around that last week, but the individual is swamped right now too. I'll be asking more pointed questions starting May 1. Hey--even accountants need a week or two to re-charge. Ha-ha. I made a "funny".

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 12:42 PM

"So you expect your kids to do absolutely nothing to contribute to their own education? I find that a bit laughable."

I was specifically responding to the person who said it was laughable that someone could return to work after 15 years off and find a job that would pay for their children's college tuition, and I was showing that even with a fairly low paying clerical job, that it could be done. Whether or not the (hypothetical) children help with their college expenses has nothing to do with it. Some people are going on about how you can't pay for college without working through your your kid's entire childhood, and I was saying that it isn't true.

Re: those who brought up the cost of working - not everyone wears dry-cleaned clothes, eats lunch out, or has travel expense to work. Dress casually, take your lunch, walk or bike to work. And in my example of a woman making $12.50 an hour on a clerical job, in most situations where the family was living off of one income for 15 years it shouldn't put the family into a higher tax bracket.

Touche' about the college tuition being frozen at the 2007 rate. So let's add another 10% a year for that. My $12.50/hr. STILL pays for tution, fees, and books for 2 children.

Posted by: momof4 | March 19, 2007 12:43 PM

Momof4:

Who is paying for the family's health insurance? Most jobs that pay $12.50/hour don't offer health insurance, or it's really so awful as to be non-existent. At least around here that is the case.

Posted by: Westminster | March 19, 2007 12:46 PM

Foamgnome: sounds like you know my BIL.

All joking aside, yes, there are plenty of jerks out there - my sister's family is similar - he is in love with the almighty dollar and impressing everyone with the stuff he has (insecure jerk). They moved to a LARGE house they couldn't afford so they could tell everyone how much it cost - and I hear now that they are thinking of moving cause they didn't expect the bills to be so high (not very bright of them, really - both have college degrees, he has an extra degree).

I'm sure *he's* telling *his* wife (my sister) that she doesn't need to worry her little head over retirement - because he's contributing to his and that should be enough. Of course, when the time comes, I could see him saying: sorry, hon, but you weren't the one making the money, so I'll go to the caribbean without you - it really isn't *your* retirement anyway.

Of course, we all knew he was like this (my sis included) before they got married. So none of this is a surprise, and my sister made her bed - she has to lie (lay?) in it - I think she is just as happy telling everyone how much money they have as he is. and I think she never wanted to work - so she wants to stay home with the kids and then that's more to tell people how much they have (oh, I don't *have* to work...).

Foamgnome - the wife is well aware of what is going on, I would suspect.

And another reason, everyone, to make sure you have put yourself in a good position. I really don't mean 'steal money so you have your own bank account' but make sure you know you can support yourself, or that you are putting money into an IRA even if you're not working...etc....

Posted by: atlmom | March 19, 2007 12:51 PM

Double-check this, but I was recently told that the amount of money you put away towards your retirement (IRAs, 401Ks, SEPs, whatever) during your child's high school years are counted AGAINST you in applying for need-based scholarships and even for some loans. That simply leaves me breathless with anxiety.

---------------------------------------

You are getting bad info - retirement accounts are not considered in the financial aid process.

Posted by: to 12:42 | March 19, 2007 12:52 PM

I find a lot of these arguments about 'opting out' just crazy. I'd love to be able to opt out - but since I'm still paying off $60K in student loans on my masters degree (no parental support there - thanks mom and dad!) and the only income (as my partner was laid off) in our family, I'm out of luck. I'd be happy at this point to make all of our bill payments on time this month. No, no McMansion - tiny 1950s house, one 2006 minivan and a 97 Camry with 130K miles, small credit card bills from when I was laid off myself four years ago, and one $65 a month payment for DD's judo classes is our biggest luxury. Can't find a job that'll pay me what I'm worth (or even enough to pay student loans, which are hardship deferred), but can't move because of joint custody arrangements. No college fund. 4% into my 401(K), which I can barely afford to do. No maternity leave, so plans for a baby are on hold indefinately now that I'm the sole earner.

Tell me how tough it is to 'barely' be able to afford a rainy day fund, two newish cars, college fund, and maxed out 401(K). Really. I'll try not to laugh.

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | March 19, 2007 12:52 PM

"Mom of 4, can you give a some more information on how you do it."

I'm not sure that answering these questions will really tell "how we do it" but I'll answer them anyway.

"Like how much do you pay for groceries?"

$250-300/month.

"Do you eat out?"

Yes, at least once a week, usually more.

"Did either have student loans or medical conditions, did you have help with a down payment for your house?"

Yes to student loans (paid off before I quit my job), no to medical conditions, no to help with down payment. This is my second home, my husband's first.

"Do you have a safety net from paretns?"

No.

"Do you and dadof4 use babysitters so you two can go out?"

Sort of. We did belong to a babysitting co-op which was free. Now we very occasionally pay my oldest son to babysit in the evenings.

"Travel?"

Yes. One family vacation a year, occasional "adult" trip, plus weekends away and camping here and there.

"Lessons and activities for kids?"

Oh yes.

"Music or theater performances?"

Not much. The occasional local play.

"How do you afford clothes and shoes for kids?"

Goodwill, eBay, Payless Shoes, handmedowns. I keep all of my older children's clothes for the younger ones to wear.

"Are you funding for in state college only?"

We plan on helping our children with college as much as we can, and they are expected to work and/or obtain financial aid for the remainder. It will probably mean that we could pay for most of in state school tuition, but they are welcome to use our assistance at any school they choose to attend.

"What if your local school was not serving your kids the way you think it should?"

Do you mean the public schools they go to now, or college? I answered the college question above - as far as their current schools, we would choose to homeschool if at any point the public schools stopped working for one of our children.

"Would you have options? Life insurance?"

Yes, on both of us.

Posted by: momof4 | March 19, 2007 12:55 PM

momof4, casual dress is not appropriate for many jobs. A professional wardrobe is essential for getting and keeping many of the higher paying jobs and the front office jobs that only pay $12.50 an hour. Corporate America is still corporate America and a minimum standard of dress is usually expected.

Even if you work someplace where casual dress is acceptable, there are limits on the casual dress. If you go to work at Target, for example, you have to have khaki pants and red shirts. That means if your wardrobe was not already dominated by khaki pants and red shirts, you have to invest in them.

The solutions are not so simplistic as you indicate.

Similarly, walking or biking is not always an option. If you decide to live further from the workplace to reduce costs, a bike just isn't feasible. Nor is public transit necessarily a cheaper solution.

I live 30 miles from where I work in SW DC. I do this because living closer would double my rent and that is far more than the cost in time and money than commuting. Biking simply isn't a time-effective option. Were I to drive to the nearest park-and-ride Metrobus stop because there isn't a convenient stop to which I can walk, take the bus to the train station, the train to L'Enfant, another bus to the office and then do it all in reverse, it would cost me about $220 per month. Driving, however, costs me about $100 per month because I drive a fuel efficient car. (Yes, even at the higher prices. Gas would have to exceed $5.50 per gallon before the costs equalled out.)

This in turn means I adjust the times I go to work and come home. That adjusts the way I pack meals, which adjusts how much I spend on groceries, etc.

I wish the decisions we make about working were so simple or so easily applied across the board. They just aren't.

Posted by: Amused by the silliness | March 19, 2007 12:59 PM

"I freely admit that I 'lost' the housework battle in our home (with parenting, it is different) and decided that I cared more for the man than his willingness to scrub a toilet. But it annoys me if this would be seen as MY failing. It's not. It's his area of weakness. It's not my job to police him."

Why is this a failing on his part? He may simply not care about having a gleaming, "minty fresh" toilet bowl (I suspect he might tidy it up a bit if it looked like the pay toilet in a truck stop in South Pittsburgh, TN, but hey, you never let it get that bad).

You like it clean - you make it so.

---------

Are you serious? I mean, how long are you supposed to wait for a guy to clean the toilet? And your supposition about the truck stop: deluded. I've dated guys whose toilet bowls had two inches of brown gunk above the water line. needless to say, I didn't date them long, but some guys just don't have any concept of personal hygeine.

Why is it that when a man fails to do his part of routine household cleaning, the first argument is that the woman was at fault for not making him do it, and the second argument is that the woman is at fault for having a "too high" standard of cleanliness (whatever that is), as if basic hygeine is optional. It's amazing to me how people rush in to defend men for not doing their share and somehow manage to make it the woman's fault. Here's an absolutely novel thought: maybe this guy isn't doing his fair share of the housework, and it's his responsibility (not his wife's) to police his own behavior.

Crazy, I know.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 12:59 PM

You are getting bad info - retirement accounts are not considered in the financial aid process.
=======================================
A co-worker of mine went through this. He says that it wasn't the retirement account itself that was considered, it was the fact that his parents were able to put THAT much money away during high school that dinged them.

I'll go pick his brains later this week.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 1:01 PM

when i was staying home, both my husband and i were well aware that i just didn't possess the skills needed to keep the place the way we wanted/needed it to be, so we hired a housekeeper. My husband likes the place cleaner than I do anyway, and he shouldn't have to come home and clean all night for that anyway.

foamgnome: just cause you have an interest only loan doesn't mean you're not paying principal. Sounds like your friend, isn't paying principal, i'm just sayin'.

Posted by: atlmom | March 19, 2007 1:01 PM

momof4 - you continue to ignore the substantial cost of commuting i.e. transportation costs. If you metro, you either pay for the bus to take you to the metro, or you pay for parking your vehicle at the metro lot. PLUS the cost of metro. or you drive to work, whether or not you pay for parking, wear and tear on the car plus gasoline is not an insubstantial cost for a job such as you describe.

I didn't say the family would be in a higher tax bracket. I suggested that applicable tax implications would change. It's naive to assume that your taxes will remain at the state and federal percentages at which they currently are set in light of shifting political sands.

"My $12.50/hr. STILL pays for tution, fees, and books for 2 children."

Tuition rates increase, on average, about 8% per year. An 8% college inflation rate means that the cost of college doubles every nine years. If you consider that paying for college is the equivalent of paying for tuition and books, I hope your kids know that. Tuition and fees do not tell the full story of college costs. Once room and board are factored in, in 2005, total costs at four-year public institutions averaged $12,127.

You are no doubt going to stick with your contention that a SAH spouse can return to the workforce after many years off, take a clerical position (that we're assuming she'll be offered -- good luck with that - they'd rather hire the 24 year old with no old-lady attitude) no matter how many facts are introduced, but if anyone else is reading your statements and taking them at face value, they will be sadly disillusioned at a time when their 17 year old child, and their family, has run out of time to make any sort of alternative plan.


Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 1:03 PM

"Who is paying for the family's health insurance? Most jobs that pay $12.50/hour don't offer health insurance, or it's really so awful as to be non-existent. At least around here that is the case."

The same person who was paying for the family's health insurance during the 15 years the mom was at home with the children.


Posted by: momof4 | March 19, 2007 1:05 PM

"Amused," I read your post several times and still do not really understand your point. Let me make sure I explain our points well so we avoid confusion.

You think the study is silly because it doesn't compare all possible examples of women and their employment status. You think there cannot be an opt-out myth because there are just as many articles about working women. In response, I pointed out that articles about working women were included in the study (opting out does not mean SAHM). I also said that the myth is not that women are not staying home (I assumed that's what you thought the myth was). The myth that is being written about is that women "choose" to leave the workforce on their own based on biology or physiology.

To further explain, this study is about the opt-out myth, as explained above. It only focuses on articles that deal with opting out and whether they perpetuate the myth. So the point is to compare articles about opting out. The study found that the vast majority of articles about opting out supported the myth that women wanted get out of the rat race.

To do as you say and include articles "glorifying" working women would be silly. That is not the point of the study. Maybe what you're suggesting is that another study of articles be done to uncover the working mom myth (whatever you perceive it to be). But to add it to this discussion would be like basing the orange crop of a state based on their apple production.

Also, I have to point out that both of your examples of media outlets that support working women (this blog and Working Women magazine) deal with women who work part time, from home, etc. (all women who have opted out).

Posted by: Meesh | March 19, 2007 1:05 PM

"Shandra, sorry you "freely admit that I 'lost' the housework battle in our home (with parenting, it is different) and decided that I cared more for the man than his willingness to scrub a toilet." If that's your logic, then it follows he doesn't care enough for you TO do something that matters to you. "

Well that's the problem with comments on a blog; there's no straight way to explain a whole marriage. :)

But out of the whole realm of life, trust me, he does a hell of a lot that's important to me. When I was dealing with issues of abuse in my life he got up at 3 am to hold me and supported me in a lot of ways. He calls when he's late. He brings me coffee He's a considerate and excellent lover. He's generous and kind in a thousand ways.

He does have a problem with housework and putting stuff away; it's not just a matter (as someone else implied) of overly high standards. And it was a stumbling block for us for a long time and we tried a lot of things and this (or a housekeeper) was the answer for us. We decided to see if we could work life out without it having to be a "I cleaned the shower so you clean the toilet" kind of a way. It works so far. It may not forever and we'll go back to the drawing board.

But my point remains that it is not my job to police his contribution to the home, unless it's something that is a personal dealbreaker. It's not my fault that he doesn't do this stuff any more than it would be his fault if I didn't get the oil changed in my car.

Posted by: Shandra | March 19, 2007 1:09 PM

andrea-- going to CC and then state school can be a wonderful experience. that is what I did since my parents couldn't afford otherwise and I was freaked out by the idea of debt. I got a great education-- CC teachers are there to TEACH, not to publish papers and do research. when I walk into a courthouse o argue a case, no one asks if I went to CC-- the reporter asks for my bar number and then away we go!

Your kids will be fine! Hang in there!

Posted by: Jen | March 19, 2007 1:11 PM

One other thing - please everyone stop smashing studies for looking at Ivy League educated people.
(disclaimer: went only to public schools).

The point is, much of the time, if *these* highly educated people with choices can't do it, then how could working people making much less money with much fewer choices possibly be able to survive?

Posted by: atlmom | March 19, 2007 1:12 PM

I think that your example is a fine example. Going from zero income to $26K is quite an increase, even considering related costs.

Foamgnome seems really caught up with commuter expenses. This must be a large expense for her. I commute in my personal car to my job which is only 12 miles from home and there is free parking. If I were home, I'm sure that I would be driving, running errands, visiting friends, or volunteering at school. I wouldn't be going to work, but the car wouldn't be sitting all day. For me, at least, the commuting expenses would basically be a wash when comparing working or not working.

For those who say that college expenses will rise, guess what, so do wages. Maybe not as fast, but I guarantee that the $12.50 clerical job will pay more than that in 17 years.

BTW, my personal situation is that we both work and always have. My salary is bigger, twice as much as DH. We could maybe make it on my salary alone, but DH is not interested in staying home. I am interested in staying home, but DH doesn't make enough, even with sacrifices that are acceptable to us. So, we both work and live a little better "materially" than if only I worked.

Posted by: to momof4 | March 19, 2007 1:16 PM

Oh, for goodness sakes!!

Could people just take my word for the fact that everything in this country is not like Washington DC? Riding the metro?? Commuting 30 miles? Just so not necessary in most areas of the country. I live in a mid-sized college town where I could walk to work at any one of several office & medical buildings, dress casually (as in business casual, not sweatpants and a sloppy t-shirt, and walk home for lunch. If I biked, I could expand my opportunities for employment even more.

You're right, this is silliness. I'm not going to post about it anymore - I was just trying to make the point that Tessa's original comment about working while the children are in high school to pay for college was not an unrealistic one.


Posted by: momof4 | March 19, 2007 1:17 PM

"For those who say that college expenses will rise, guess what, so do wages. Maybe not as fast, but I guarantee that the $12.50 clerical job will pay more than that in 17 years."

I came up with $20.66 at the end of 17 years, assuming a 3% cost-of-living adjustment. No raises. I don't know if that is too conservative or not, but it is a number that sticks in my head, for some reason.

Any economists here today?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 1:19 PM

"Why is it that when a man fails to do his part of routine household cleaning, the first argument is that the woman was at fault for not making him do it, and the second argument is that the woman is at fault for having a "too high" standard of cleanliness (whatever that is), as if basic hygeine is optional."

Never said that his standards were appropriate - I haven't a clue. I don't know what the woman's standards are, either. But clearly, they are not the same.

Trying to insist that a man clean something that he simply doesn't think is dirty isn't a winning strategy, unless you're a master sargeant with the entire weight of the U.S. military behind you (they do a pretty good job of getting spit and polish out of guys). It may not be right, it may not be fair - but there it is.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 1:20 PM

I think its perfectly fair that for a husband to have the courtesy to leave the toilet seat down after he goes, the wife should return the courtesy by keeping it clean.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 1:20 PM

Shandra wrote: "But my point remains that it is not my job to police his contribution to the home, unless it's something that is a personal dealbreaker. It's not my fault that he doesn't do this stuff any more than it would be his fault if I didn't get the oil changed in my car."

While I do agree overall with your post (that some things are not important enought to be deal breakers), I think that both spouses need to accept responsibility. For example, before we met, I was horrible with my money. I lived paycheck to paycheck. Now that it's OUR money, my husband had (has?) to police me. After all, it's not my fault that I never thought savings were important. But now that it affects the family, it is my responsibility to learn to adjust. Likewise with housework. It's not my husband's fault that he'd shower with a curtain that is green from mildew, but now that we share responsibility for upkeep of a house--major investment--it is our responsibility to keep it clean. So we share the responsibility. I police him to the point that he understands that it's expected. If he still refuses, he can expect some flack from me. It would be the same if I ordered some clothes when I knew we didn't have the money for them. I would expect flack from him. I mean, if you know it will piss the other person off, why would you continue to do it?

Posted by: Meesh | March 19, 2007 1:21 PM

walking to work assumes that the neighborhood has sidewalks. biking to work assumes that the company has a safe place to stash you're bike while you're working and there is a place you can shower & change. i worked for a company that did everything in its power to stop me from biking to work. they felt that biking gave the "wrong image" to their clients. i quit the company instead. since you are walking or biking you need to factor in your time.

Posted by: quark | March 19, 2007 1:25 PM

Okay, I have to ask. Does any woman on here actaully tell her husband to leave the toilet seat down?

It's such an old idea that I have to ask around.

For me, I ask that he put the lid down because otherwise our dogs drink from the toilets (bleach bowl cleaner and all). This is not unreasonable because I also have to do this.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 1:26 PM

altmom: he is not paying any principal. He told me he is essentially renting by only paying the interest.

Foamgnome seems really caught up with commuter expenses. This must be a large expense for her. I commute in my personal car to my job which is only 12 miles from home and there is free parking. If I were home, I'm sure that I would be driving, running errands, visiting friends, or volunteering at school. I wouldn't be going to work, but the car wouldn't be sitting all day. For me, at least, the commuting expenses would basically be a wash when comparing working or not working.

I only mentioned commuter expenses. I did not go into great detail about commuter expenses. Maybe you got me mixed up with someone else.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 1:27 PM

"For those who say that college expenses will rise, guess what, so do wages. Maybe not as fast, but I guarantee that the $12.50 clerical job will pay more than that in 17 years."

I came up with $20.66 at the end of 17 years, assuming a 3% cost-of-living adjustment. No raises. I don't know if that is too conservative or not, but it is a number that sticks in my head, for some reason.

Any economists here today?

Posted by: | March 19, 2007 01:19 PM

If tuition rises at twice the rate of inflation, and that is the generally accepted trend since 1954, fine, we've settled that.

Here's the other problem with momof4's assumptions: no SAHM should assume that, because she becomes interested in taking a job that she perceives to be a job requiring few skills and her qualifications exceed the qualifications for that job, that an employer will want to hire her for that job. Employers act on their own hiring biases of who is a good fit. An employer looking to hire an entry-level administrative job will find it much safer to hire a new graduate with no expectations of "how it used to be at my old job" than to hire a 43 year old former account manager or a 26 year old former bank executive.

Ask anyone who has hired lately for an entry-level position whether he would be interested in even interviewing an applicant who is overqualified on paper for the position, but whose skill set is dated because she's been out of the work force for 15 years, and you'll get a resounding, no.

You are free to assume that, if push came to shove, you could always be a receptionist at a non-profit. Riiiiight.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 1:28 PM

"I concede that I expressed my thoughts poorly in the sentence you quote. However, in my community, the only women I know that are financially able to stay home are women of a certain means ... well above the middle rung of middle class."

My community has a real mix: some moms work full time with only a short break when a child is born; some stay home until their kids go off to college; most seem to bounce back and forth, depending on the age of the kids and household needs. We're about as average a community as you can get: 30 - 40 year old ranch and split foyer homes, mid-income, no doctors, lawyers or senior executives, but mainly tech and mid-management rather than blue collar. If I had to guess, I'd put the typical primary breadwinner's salary at 90k, +/- $25,00.

Posted by: Huh? | March 19, 2007 1:28 PM

"Could people just take my word for the fact that everything in this country is not like Washington DC?"

Well, this IS the Washington Post, so is it unreasonable to assume that many of its readers live in the metro area? Besides, many people who live in or near metropolitan areas of large cities experience the same obstacles. It's true that Small Town, Mississippi may not have the same problems. But many of us do. What's wrong with a dialogue about them?

I'd love a commute that I could walk or bike. When I finish law school and start working, I plan on doing all I can to make that happen. But as I indicated in my description of the conversation I had last night, he seemed to think such a thing was impossible. I'd like to know if it really is, or if there is a chance to reduce commutes without sacrificing quality of life.

Posted by: Mona | March 19, 2007 1:29 PM

"The point is, much of the time, if *these* highly educated people with choices can't do it, then how could working people making much less money with much fewer choices possibly be able to survive?"

Don't know - why don't we ask them? Anyone here want to a) admit that you're not from an elite school, and b) describe how you make ends meet on a single income?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 1:29 PM

Meesh, the study is TOO narrow to be an accurate picture of media coverage of opting out or not opting out. I can study any subject and show whatever I want by sufficiently narrowing the scope.

How can the media perpetuate a myth when other excluded coverage balances the stories chosen? Is it really a myth if this is only a small segment of coverage of working women?

This is the same as a medical researcher finding reasons to toss out patient studies that don't support their desired outcome.

The desired outcome of this story was to show opting out as not realistic. The researcher asserts that women who "opt out" are either forced out or continue to work part time, etc., so the author chose a narrow scope of stories that support her premise. She didn't look at coverage on working mothers/stay-at-home mothers as a whole to see if a) there is in fact a media-generated myth and b)if the evidence indicates that it is perpetuated at the expense of balanced coverage.

Posted by: Amused by the silliness | March 19, 2007 1:30 PM

Yeah, walking to work assumes you have legs. I think that eliminates a lot of people.

And quark is SO on the money about biking. I mean, if it takes you 20 minutes to bike, you should really factor that in (since your time is worth 12.50 an hour, that's $8.33 a day you need to discount). Amortize that, carry the one...Nope, no way you could EVER do what you are asserting. NEVER. It is not possible. Stop dreaming up inventive ways to pay for your families hypothetical expenses. The board will find a way to shoot every last one of them down.

Posted by: sisyphus | March 19, 2007 1:31 PM

"I'd love a commute that I could walk or bike. When I finish law school and start working, I plan on doing all I can to make that happen. But as I indicated in my description of the conversation I had last night, he seemed to think such a thing was impossible. I'd like to know if it really is, or if there is a chance to reduce commutes without sacrificing quality of life."

I'm in D.C. now, but I came from Chattanooga, TN. I had a 20 minute commute, door to door, driving, from a middle-class suburb north of town (Hixson) to the middle of downtown Chattanooga. At the time I moved, real estate there was almost exactly half what it was here, even taking an hour+ commute to hold down costs. I moved for professional reasons, and the job was great. Don't know that my life is any better, though.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 1:33 PM

It is kind of funny because when people make the case to have a spouse stay at home, the cost of working is always factored in as well as the higher tax bracket. But if you follow momof4's argument, there is essentially no additional costs to working and you won't be in a higher tax bracket. I am not an economist but it doesn't seem like it should work both ways.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 1:34 PM

"no SAHM should assume that, because she becomes interested in taking a job that she perceives to be a job requiring few skills and her qualifications exceed the qualifications for that job, that an employer will want to hire her for that job. Employers act on their own hiring biases of who is a good fit. An employer looking to hire an entry-level administrative job will find it much safer to hire a new graduate with no expectations of "how it used to be at my old job" than to hire a 43 year old former account manager or a 26 year old former bank executive. "

Here's where my assumption came from:

I worked for 15 years (the last 2 years very part time) before "opting-out" completely 5 years ago. Several months ago I took a very part-time position with a non-profit for....you guessed it, $12.50 an hour. I was offered this position through contacts I've made volunteering for the school district doing fundraising - I was not looking for work, but was asked to take the job. There was a full time opportunity but the organization knew I wasn't interested in it at this time because I'm an at-home mom.

So just as a SAH shouldn't assume that she'll be able to jump back into the work force after being out of it for awhile, you should not assume that a SAH's skills are out of date or that she hasn't continued to build contacts while she's been at home with her children.

Posted by: momof4 | March 19, 2007 1:38 PM

"It is kind of funny because when people make the case to have a spouse stay at home, the cost of working is always factored in as well as the higher tax bracket. But if you follow momof4's argument, there is essentially no additional costs to working and you won't be in a higher tax bracket. I am not an economist but it doesn't seem like it should work both ways."

The cost of working, the higher tax bracket, and daycare expenses are what is factored in to the decision to stay home. When returning to work to help pay for college, daycare expense is not something that reduces the paycheck. Of course there are additional costs to working, but the point was that you could return to work while children are in high school to help pay for college.

Posted by: to foamgnome | March 19, 2007 1:40 PM

So just as a SAH shouldn't assume that she'll be able to jump back into the work force after being out of it for awhile, you should not assume that a SAH's skills are out of date or that she hasn't continued to build contacts while she's been at home with her children.


Posted by: momof4 | March 19, 2007 01:38 PM

momof4, you took 5 years off -- not 12, not 15.

Them's different facts than the ones you originally posited.

I make no assumptions about whether or not a mom, or dad, maintain their contacts. Some do. Some don't.

If any employee LEAVES THE WORKFORCE for 12 to 15 years, his skills will be dated. That doesn't take a rocket scientist or any unfounded assumptions.

You didn't take a generation off.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 1:45 PM

"How can you get an Ivy degree and not be tough enough to stand up to your husband and expect him to pull his weight?"

Welll ... my degree isn't Ivy per-se (since Ivy is all Northeast schools), but it's pretty darn close, so I'll take a whack at this one! My husband makes a good salary that enables me to stay home with our daughter and pursue a second degree (this one will hopefully be more useful than the first one I got!) Going to a great undergrad school doesn't necessarily mean that you will end up on a career track that you like - that was the case for me. My husband on the other hand, loves what he does, and his company loves him. As a result, why should I ask him to push his bosses for more time off for A, B and C when I could just as easily do it, especially since I didn't enjoy my career as much as he enjoys his? It's not a matter of being "tough" for me - it's that being "tough" would be pointless, since I rather enjoy things as they are.

I'm of the mind - the very, very minority mind on this board - that happiness in the home does not mean that the husband and wife need to split their roles down the middle. For me, economic equality was not the route to happiness ... my husband has the paying job, I take primary care of our child, and in a few years, I will probably get some sort of a flexible job with my new degree - and the only reason for that is so we can more easily pay for private school.

Posted by: StudentMom | March 19, 2007 1:45 PM

"The point is, much of the time, if *these* highly educated people with choices can't do it, then how could working people making much less money with much
fewer choices possibly be able to survive?"

Well, when my wife and I got married, we were both college dropouts. We both grew up and now live in the DC area, I have a chronic illness that requires expensive medications & supplies (diabetes), I also have to deal with a severe handicap, (total blindness), and my wife and I are raising 4 kids from preschool to highschool.

It can be done. If enough people are interested, maybe I'll write a book.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 19, 2007 1:47 PM

Quote: "Opting out is only an option for certain ivy-league-graduating, married to money types of women. It isn't an option for the majority of middle class women."

This is just not true. For the person who lamented the lack of specific information -

My husband makes 70K per year, plus a bonus of 3K some years. Our home cost just under 200K when we bought it.

We have 3 kids, and live in a 1300sf home. A lot of times I think I'd like a bigger house, but I know that's cultural. We live in a palace compared to much of the world's population. (Most families in the 1950s in the U.S. lived in houses this size!)

We have two cars -one is 9 years old, the other 8 years old. We take care of them and they've got a lot of miles left. We don't have cable TV, but we do have broadband internet.

We don't max out the 401(k), but we almost do. If he gets a raise next year, we'll max it out.

The kids each have college funds. We don't make regular contributions, but if we get a tax refund or a bonus, we contribute to the college funds. The kids will be expected to work to help pay for their college.

We don't take a vacation every year. If we do take a vacation, we go and stay with relatives. I would enjoy a family vacation that did not involve visiting relatives, but I see that as a luxury.

My older two take piano lessons and gymnastics. Also soccer and Scouts (much less expensive). We invest money in a great family library and other educational materials. We contribute significant amounts to our parish.

It can be done, in many cases, if that's what a family wants to do. (Obviously, I'm not talking about single parents here.) Families choose different priorities. Someone else on this blog today put it well: "People can live on one income, but you have to make a lot of difficult choices to do it-- like even perhaps moving to a different area. But this is big planet and there are lots of options."

Posted by: Relocated | March 19, 2007 1:47 PM

momof4: I don't want you to feel attacked. Because some people are picking on you today. But you mentioned that you worked for 15 years prior to opting out and that you worked PT for 2 years. Clearly, the amount of money saved and debt reduced in 15 years, clearly helped you be able to opt out later on. Do you think you could have opted out right after your first child was born? Clearly in 15 years, my DD would be in HS and yes, I could imagine we would be more then financially stable to have one of us opt out. But that is really different then opting out as soon as she was born. I just think working for a large number of years prior to opting out is really different then young mothers jumping out as soon as their first child was born. If you feel so strongly about staying home, why did you work with your older kids? Again, I don't want you to feel picked on. I know that is no fun.:)

1:40: Of course a SAHP can go back to work when kids are in HS and help pay for college. But I don't the clerical job would be enough in 6 years to pay for the full cost of college. But taking on any additional paid labor will eventually help with college costs.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 1:48 PM

"I'm of the mind - the very, very minority mind on this board - that happiness in the home does not mean that the husband and wife need to split their roles down the middle."

That does seem to be at least an implicit assumption behind much of the discussion.

Is that correct? Are we assuming this? Can we discuss why?

Posted by: Huh? | March 19, 2007 1:49 PM

Oh, and neither one of us went to an elite school. George Mason University 20 years ago, and we each got a terrific education. :-)

Posted by: Relocated | March 19, 2007 1:52 PM

"Maybe we shouldn't tithe to our church."

Maybe you shouldn't. If you are having trouble paying the bills, saving for yoru kids and contributing to your retirement account, you should not be tithing. Charity begins at home.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 1:52 PM

It can be done. If enough people are interested, maybe I'll write a book.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 19, 2007 01:47 PM

fo4: didn't you tell us you have 20K of cc debt? I think that must be factored into your making it. Because clearly if you have cc debt, your not exactly making it month to month. I don't want to pick on you either but I think it is important to put that out there as part of the equation.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 1:52 PM

"I worked for 15 years (the last 2 years very part time) before "opting-out" completely 5 years ago. Several months ago I took a very part-time position with a non-profit for....you guessed it, $12.50 an hour."

Ah. Then really you haven't been out of the work place for such a long time that you are likely to be shunted aside right away.

Now, if you had been out of the workplace for 10 years, or more, I would not have given you an interview. I can hire someone with a recent college degree and up-to-date computer skills for the same amount of money. Plus I am less likely to have to deal with whether or not that person will be around a full day or not (sick kids). I never ask if someone is a parent, but for some reason the women feel obliged to tell me.

Stop shooting yourselves in the foot people--do NOT tell prospective employers that you have minor children at home. We can't ask, don't tell! Why set up another road block for employment?

Posted by: The other side of the desk | March 19, 2007 1:54 PM

"If any employee LEAVES THE WORKFORCE for 12 to 15 years, his skills will be dated. That doesn't take a rocket scientist or any unfounded assumptions."

Ummm, yes it does. While I'm working at my home office at the moment my wife is currently loading her new Blackberry Pearl [because she literally wore out her last blackberry] on her laptop. While out of the paid workforce, she has founded a 501c3 charitable organization that grew to over 300 paid members, she has run a co-operative nursery school with 6 employees that serves 75+ families, and she has coordinated numerous school activities [as part of a PTA that just brought in over $225K of grants to better enable students to have safe walking routes to the school].

One can choose whether to grow one's skills or not -- being employed is neither necessary nor sufficient.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 1:57 PM

"While out of the paid workforce, she has founded a 501c3 charitable organization that grew to over 300 paid members, she has run a co-operative nursery school with 6 employees that serves 75+ families, and she has coordinated numerous school activities [as part of a PTA that just brought in over $225K of grants to better enable students to have safe walking routes to the school]."

Why in the world would anyone FOUND an organization "that grew to 300 employees" and not give oneself an income?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 2:00 PM

"Of course a SAHP can go back to work when kids are in HS and help pay for college. But I don't the clerical job would be enough in 6 years to pay for the full cost of college"

My spouse and I have always worked, and guess what? We don't have enough money to pay for the full cost of college. Does that make us terrible parents or people? NO - Will it hurt our kids to work and/or borrow some toward their own education - NO. There are benefits to working as well as staying home. Neither is wrong. College costs are a consideration, but IMO, shouldn't override other factors.

Posted by: to foamgnome | March 19, 2007 2:00 PM

Meesh - I get your point and overall I agree. I think in an ideal universe he would (or will, since he's hardly dead) step up on it. But in our non-ideal household we worked this way out, and right now (for the last 3 years) it works for us.

Other factors are that his industry's gone insane (outsourcing to India, etc.) and he has to work a lot more than he ideally would (and at odd hours, which is tiring - have to love 4 am conference calls), so if he had those hours back in his life I might expect him to put some more psychological and physical work into it. Or not. At this point it's not something I worry about every day; it's working ok for us. It probably won't be forever, and we'll have to go at it again at that point.

I still find it darkly fascinating though that every time this has come up in any group of people, people have turned /to me/ to talk about it. As the wife I am the default arbiter of housework. (Much like the baby stuff is marketed to me too.)

And when we were still fighting it out and our house was getting really rather gross it was still me people turned to about it!

It's a bit crazy and I think it does show how the prejudices are still floating around out there and in some ways I feel that when it comes to the house I actually can't win. I think my husband feels the same about other things but I would hesitate to post for him. :)

Posted by: Shandra | March 19, 2007 2:01 PM

"Why in the world would anyone FOUND an organization "that grew to 300 employees" and not give oneself an income?"

Because money isn't always the most important thing

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 2:01 PM

"Why in the world would anyone FOUND an organization "that grew to 300 employees" and not give oneself an income?"

Because the goal of a 501c3 organization is to provide a charitable service to the community -- they weren't 300 employees -- they were 300 members [with annual dues at around $35 a year].

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 2:02 PM

I am stressed by work and stressed by family life. There is always too much to do and not enough time to do it. My spouse does just as much as I do, so it's not a matter of partner imbalance, it's just life imbalance. We don't make enough to pay for cooking, cleaning, shopping, lawn maintenance, etc. If I had to do it over again, I think I would have placed less importance on the right neighborhood, and the right school, and saving for retirement and college and chasing the dollar. Now that our children are college age, I wish I had cut back on work and been less stressed and less frazzled and more patient. If that meant working a few years longer before retiring, that might not be so bad. I can remember losing patience with my children because I was tired or busy and yelling or saying things I wish I hadn't. Financial quality of life was better from working, but family quality of life was harder.

Posted by: anon | March 19, 2007 2:06 PM

Foamy, I think 20K of debt other than house mortgage is right about average in the Northern Virginia area. I could certainly take out a home equity loan, pay off whatever debt to make the books look good, but like you posted earlier, there are just so many other factors in the equation, and taking on temporary debt is one of the tools a person can do to benefit their family.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 19, 2007 2:06 PM

"Of course a SAHP can go back to work when kids are in HS and help pay for college. But I don't the clerical job would be enough in 6 years to pay for the full cost of college"

My spouse and I have always worked, and guess what? We don't have enough money to pay for the full cost of college. Does that make us terrible parents or people? NO - Will it hurt our kids to work and/or borrow some toward their own education - NO. There are benefits to working as well as staying home. Neither is wrong. College costs are a consideration, but IMO, shouldn't override other factors.

Posted by: to foamgnome | March 19, 2007 02:00 PM
I am sorry you got offended. I am certainly not saying anyone is a bad parent for not paying for the full cost of college. And I did not say that is the only reason to have both parents work. I am just saying that a lot of people factor the cost of college in as a reason for two incomes.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 2:08 PM

And yet, the Schwartz's of Days End Farm Horse Rescue (a 503b) manage to live on more than air.

How does a 503b differ from a 503c?

""Why in the world would anyone FOUND an organization "that grew to 300 employees" and not give oneself an income?"

Because money isn't always the most important thing"

It must be nice to know that you can just watch money walk away from your household and not really need it. Did you, or do you, truly not resent not getting some financial help from your spouse? I, for one, do not want 100% of the economic burden to fall upon my shoulders.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 2:09 PM

fo4: You may be right that 20K of debt is normal. But we are committed to being debt free except for our house and car payments. Right now both of our cars are fully paid for. And we hope they last a bit longer. I am just saying it all works into the equation.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 2:10 PM

"Amused," it's hard to believe that we read the same study (to be sure, I read the UC Hastings study; are you talking about the article by Graff?). I do not agree with you on the "desired outcome" of the "article." I read a study about articles that sought to uncover the underlying message in articles about the opt-out revolution.

We may have to agree to disagree.

Posted by: Meesh | March 19, 2007 2:11 PM

Great question by Huh at 1:49.

I am with Huh on this one. This question is really worth asking.

Posted by: dfgdfgdfgdfg | March 19, 2007 2:11 PM

"How does a 503b differ from a 503c?"

See below for 501c3 requirements:

http://www.irs.gov/charities/charitable/article/0,,id=96099,00.html

"It must be nice to know that you can just watch money walk away from your household and not really need it. Did you, or do you, truly not resent not getting some financial help from your spouse? I, for one, do not want 100% of the economic burden to fall upon my shoulders."

My spouse and I are a team -- through her professional management of the household I have been able to move up rapidly in my career. [For those in March Madness mode -- if my wife plays point guard and I play center then it would be silly for me to complain about her lack of rebounds and it would be equally silly for her to complain about my lack of assists.]

It's worked extremely well for us - I have no complaints.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 2:16 PM

I found this on a financial aid website:

Worksheet B (Tax-Deferred and Untaxed Income) reports income that was not included in taxable income but which are counted during the need analysis process. These amounts will be added to taxable income. This includes the following:

Contributions to tax-deferred pension and savings plans.
IRA deductions and payments to SEP, SIMPLE and Keogh plans.
Child support received for all children. Do not include foster care or adoption payments.
Tax-exempt interest income.
Untaxed portions of IRA distributions and pensions, excluding rollovers.
Housing, food and living allowances paid to members of the military, clergy, and others.
Veterans' noneducation benefits such as Disability, Death Pension, Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC), and VA Educational Work-Study allowances.
Any other untaxed income or benefits not reported elsewhere on Worksheets A or B, such as worker's compensation, untaxed portions of railroad retirement benefits, Black Lung Benefits, disability, and so on.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 2:17 PM

many people commented, after I was a SAHM, that I must love being home. I said to them: well, DH loves that I am home - he never goes to the grocery store, target, etc, never has to buy clothes for the kids or worry about it, I take his car to get fixed or washed if he needs, etc. Simply b/c i had more free time. Now it's different. But really, he had more time to focus on his job and doing it well, and not worrying about anything during the day, i.e., calling the flooring guy to get an estimate...

Posted by: atlmom | March 19, 2007 2:19 PM

OK, I will keep this anonymous. I make around 85K/year working part time. DS makes 87K/year full time. We have one child in day care. We net after (retirement, insurance, taxes, FHA,Day care account 5K) around 7K month. Mortgage with extra payments is around $1800/month. We pay an extra $300/month towards the principal each month. We have a second trust which will paid in 4 years. After that is paid off, total amount will go to extra payments on the first mortgage. Mortgage will paid off before child goes to college. We max out both 401k. We get some % match from our employers. We get a defined benefit pension from our employers ( both our feds). We save $350/month for child's college. Did that since she was born. We both had student loans. Paid them off before DD was born. Both had car payments but paid off cars before child was born. Have significant $$ in 401Ks. Started saving as soon as we started working (best thing we could have ever done). Have a decent rainy day fund (about 5 months of net salary). Have a few mutual funds. Pay about $1300/month in day care fees. Have direct tv and basic internet service. Two super basic cell phone plans. Vacation to every other year to a nice place (cruise or something equivalent). Vacation locally on the off years. Kid wears clothes off the sales rack at JcPenny. Does wear some hand me downs from friends but mostly need to buy new clothes. Pass down the rest to friends and family (no real plans for another child). Eat take out once a week. Rarely goes to resturant because kid can not behave (yes, all you childless can applaud-I do my part). Money is comfortable on two income. Would be stretching just to make house payments, utilities, and retirement (for one), and college on one income. So what are we doing wrong? No credit card debt! No debt except mortgage.

Posted by: keep this anon | March 19, 2007 2:19 PM

keeping this anon:

What kind of work do you do? I have multiple advanced degrees and make half that working full time (ok I could make that working full time if I didn't work for a non-profit, but still.)

Posted by: Bookworm Mom | March 19, 2007 2:25 PM

I'm procrastinating today too and posting, but here's how we dropped down to half my salary. Combination of support, luck, and planning:

1) Neither of us had large student loans. Neither of us went to Ivy League schools (I was admitted to two, but the financial aid package didn't add up for me). We both supported ourselves through school, although in my case I also had some money I had inherited.

2) Neither of us had any consumer debt coming into our marriage. We had a wedding tailored to our budget and couldn't afford a honeymoon so we didn't take one. We used public transit so no car for actually 5 years into our marriage, which also helped a lot with spending because neither of us wanted to buy anything we couldn't get home on the bus. :)

3) We've always tailored our basic expenses to one (the higher) salary, even when we were both making the same amount. The second has therefore almost always been available for other things.

4) We saved enough to put 5% down on our first home. Ate a lot of rice and beans. That wiped out two years of savings, and we borrowed more to have more of a downpayment (percentage-wise, not getting over our heads with a mortgage we couldn't afford) from my parents as a second mortgage (at 7% interest which at that time was less than the bank rate). We bought in '94. It was a bit of a wreck of a house, but in a decent location with good land, and it had a basement apartment which helped to pay the mortgage.

We researched the market a lot before we bought and bought as an investment. We did fix it up a fair amount but we didn't do anything really premium to it - no granite countertops or slate shower stalls. :)

5) We furnished the home with used furniture and a couch we found on the street and didn't have a dishwasher, etc. We tried not to get wrapped up in the idea that at 26 (me) and 30 (him) we had to have all the perks.

However it was around this time that we made the mistake of getting into consumer debt (about $7k on a line of credit, at its peak). I took a higher-paying job (executive assistant) out of my field to pay it off rather than breaking into our retirement savings. Later I did make a move back to a lower salary in my actual field, but eventually worked up to a better salary.

6) Somewhere in there we got tired of the student budget and started to live closer to living on two salaries, bought a car (partly on credit) and a dishwasher, but at least we had invested early as far as retirement goes.

We also stopped renting the basement which was a financial mistake but was much, much more pleasant.

7) Our biggest luck here, besides help from family with college and the house, was that after my daughter died we were ready to sell the house, and a developer was buying up land in the area. We sold our home/land at a $120k profit, and since that mortgage was 8 years from being paid off at that point, we had a tidy sum for the next house. However, we took some money out of that to top up our retirement savings. We discussed a Mazda RX-8 but came to our senses. :)

8) We bought a home in a better but still fairly working class neighbourhood where the current mortgage + taxes + utilities is about 43% of my husband's salary (thanks to the money we had from our first house), so that is a little out of the ideal comfort zone, but doable if for some reason I am not working. The mortgage will be paid off by the time our son is headed to college, and although we have geared some savings per month to his education (he's 19 mos old) we are not completely sweating the college fund. We're pretty confident there would be a way to work that out at that time via some vehicle or another, especially as we have investments outside of our retirement savings, too. Unless an illness or something chews those up, always a possibility. We carry good insurance including STD/LTD, which we consider as essential as life insurance.

I don't know if that's specific enough but I am a little cagey on the internet. :)

Posted by: Shandra | March 19, 2007 2:26 PM

"Did you, or do you, truly not resent not getting some financial help from your spouse?"

I don't. Why should I? I didn't marry for money anyway!

Posted by: Older Dad | March 19, 2007 2:26 PM

"It depends of course on the risk you are attempting to mitigate. The often over-looked risk of the two-income family is that neither spouse is able to excel at work and achieve the type of salary increase to enable a higher standard of living."

This would be an excellent topic for a separate blog. One of the reasons I stay home is because both my husband and I had killer careers that required tremendous time and energy to stay on the advancement track. after months of discussion, we arrived at the conclusion that if one of us didn't stay home when DS#1 arrived, both of our careers *and* our home life would suffer. The stress associated with trying to do everything combined with our specific jobs would have been unbearable. Worst of all (and most importantly!), neither of us would have been able to be the kind of parent we wanted to be.

DH loved his job more, so i decided to stay home. and for the first 4 years, DH worked his butt off to arrive at a place in his career where he is now senior enough that he doesn't have to play the silly face time games or work insane hours. Now he can make it home for dinner 3 night a week and no longer goes in on the weekends. simultaneously, i worked my butt off caring for 2 sons and running every other aspect of our lives with little assistance.

the first 4 years were hard on all of us, but I really do believe they were worth it. I also believe that it would have taken much longer for either of us to get to this point in our careers if we'd both been working and sharing all the parenting responsibilities 50/50.

As I think about it, the best choice for balance for our family was to deliberately chose a short-term imbalance.

Finally, these are the choices we made and we're very happy with the results. That, of course, doesn't mean that they are the right choices for everyone or that they are any better or any worse than anyone else's choices.

Posted by: 2terrificboys | March 19, 2007 2:27 PM

"Foamy, I think 20K of debt other than house mortgage is right about average in the Northern Virginia area. I could certainly take out a home equity loan, pay off whatever debt to make the books look good, but like you posted earlier, there are just so many other factors in the equation, and taking on temporary debt is one of the tools a person can do to benefit their family."

Perhaps 20K of personal debt is average, but that doesn't mean it is good. Not trying to pick on you exclusively, because I think that there are a lot of people out there with bigger paychecks, bigger houses, and lots of VLI that have at least as much if not more debt than you do. But the definition of "making it" should not be that people are squeaking by praying that nothing bad happens and that no one gets sick or fired. I think couples should have enough money to cover the bills, save for emergencies, save for their kids educations, and retirement. If people aren't able to cover the basics without having credit card debt, they are clearly having trouble. In this area, on one income, it is hard to do all of these things, even with a six figure salary. And not everyone makes that kind of salary. I think that the age of the mother who makes a career out of staying home and raising the kids is pretty much over. Yes, people may opt to stay home for a few years while the kids are small, but I think the trend is that people go back to work as soon as they are reasonably able to do so, and that is because in this area, it is financial suicide to do otherwise.

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 2:28 PM

My spouse and I are a team -- through her professional management of the household I have been able to move up rapidly in my career. [For those in March Madness mode -- if my wife plays point guard and I play center then it would be silly for me to complain about her lack of rebounds and it would be equally silly for her to complain about my lack of assists.]

It's worked extremely well for us - I have no complaints.

Posted by: | March 19, 2007 02:16 PM

It's worked extremely well for you, you mean.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 2:29 PM

To "Huh?" and "dfg," that has been discussed a lot. Feel free to discuss it again (you may want to pose it as an actual question and state your opinion to get the ball rolling), but I have a feeling that these types of conversations only divide people on the blog and create a hostile atmosphere. You have your opinions on a happy marriage, and I have my opinions. I happen to think that equality leads to happiness. I think you both will disagree. Where will that discussion lead? No way it better--it in intensly personal.

Posted by: Meesh | March 19, 2007 2:29 PM

sorry mom of 4, but it's really obvious that your years of staying home have made you out of touch with the real world.

Posted by: working mom | March 19, 2007 2:31 PM

"But really, he had more time to focus on his job and doing it well, and not worrying about anything during the day, i.e., calling the flooring guy to get an estimate..."

I have a group of about 25 relatively senior people working for me -- of which the 10 most senior make between $150K and $250K per year. All but one of them are between 35 and 40 [one is in his late 40's]. All of the group of 10 seniors have SAH spouses. About half of the remaining group have SAH spouses. It is unlikely at this point that any of the individuals in 2-income families will move into my top tier based on their performance.

We're a small company -- very family-friendly. We do a pretty good job of trying to manage work/life balance. But at the end of the day, all of my top performers have the advantage of having someone else manage their household and families if they need to address an issue at work.

There is both a cost and a benefit in having a 2-income family -- just as there is a cost and benefit to having a 1-income family.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 2:32 PM

OK, I was trying to keep this anonymous but that doesn't work so well for me. (Keeping this anon). I am a statistician and DH is a network engineer. So both fairly marketable positions. In my case, highly specific skills. So not a lot of transportability. The government is the largest employeer of statistician. I took a pay cut to work part time but love the extra time with DD. We both have a decent defined benefit pension but need to contribute generously to our TSP (governments version of a 401k).

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 2:34 PM

to anon at 2:32:
does that mean non married men aren't as effective? They don't have anyone taking care of stuff at home either.

What I've seen is those who succeed are married men and single women (CEO/upper VPs, etc).

Just sayin' - anecdotal evidence and all.

Posted by: atlmom | March 19, 2007 2:36 PM

"It's worked extremely well for you, you mean."

[I let my spouse read that -- her response follows]

No, he meant it worked extremely well for BOTH of us. We BOTH worked extremely hard, we BOTH value the contribution the other person makes, and we BOTH are now sharing in the resulting lifestyle.

I know the hours he works and the sacrifices he makes -- and I appreciate them. He knows the hours I work and the sacrifices I make and he appreciates them. We are a team -- and that is how I want it to be.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 2:38 PM

Right...

Huh did ask three questions in her/his 1:49 post:
1. Are we assuming this ["this" pasted below]?
2. If so, why?
3. Is it all right to discuss these questions?

You answered question 1: Basically, "yes".

You sort of answered question 2: Because you think equality leads to happiness. That kind of begs the question Why again, but at least it gets things started.

You put a damper on question 3: Essentially "no" by strongly suggesting that the question has already been overdiscussed at other times.

So Huh, your answers are "Yes","Because it's my opinion", and "No"....

("this" was "I'm of the mind - the very, very minority mind on this board - that happiness in the home does not mean that the husband and wife need to split their roles down the middle."
That does seem to be at least an implicit assumption behind much of the discussion.
Is that correct? Are we assuming -->[THIS]<--? Can we discuss why?")

Agree with Meesh it is a big topic.

Maybe one for a whole day's topic?

Posted by: dfgdfgdfgdfg | March 19, 2007 2:38 PM

atlmom,
If the single women succeed who takes care of their stuff (cars, furnace, etc)?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 19, 2007 2:38 PM

"does that mean non married men aren't as effective? They don't have anyone taking care of stuff at home either."

Can't really say -- I don't have any single men in the group [FWIW - I didn't even realize that until you made the comment].

"Just sayin' - anecdotal evidence and all."

Yes -- understand small sample size and all -- didn't mean to imply that the plural of anecdote is data... :-)

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 2:41 PM

Paying extra on mortgage, good vacations every other year as opposed to local vacations every year, and max to 401Ks. This is admirable, but not necessary to everyone. Most people I know only occasionally pay extra on mortgage, have a cruise-type vacation every 5 years if ever, and contribute to 401Ks but not the max.

I could care less about clothing, but others are truly unhappy without constant wardrobe updating.

Do you spend a lot on clothes? I know people with extensive, expensive wardrobes and others with smaller, less expensive wardrobes. I know women with 5 pairs of shoes and some with 25.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 2:42 PM

"I happen to think that equality leads to happiness."

But what do you mean by equality?

[Am reminded of joke that USSR was successful at ensuring equality by making everyone poor].

What about allowing each person to bring their individual strengths together to form a team stronger than the sum of the parts?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 2:47 PM

"But at the end of the day, all of my top performers have the advantage of having someone else manage their household and families if they need to address an issue at work.

There is both a cost and a benefit in having a 2-income family -- just as there is a cost and benefit to having a 1-income family."

Here is my question. How do the top earners in your company look in terms of gender? Are they mostly men? Maybe not, but I am curious.

As a partner in a marriage who has benefited greatly from a husband who takes care of the home fires, I can attest to the fact that certain professionals who are the sole providers do greatly benefit at work from the support they get at home. And I think that generally, such people are men. And I also think that while this is great in particular marriages where the couples do consider themselves a team with each person having equal rights if different responsibilities, it becomes problematic when on a societal basis, it's the men who are climbing the career ladders and making the big money and it's the women who are supporting their husbands in their career endeavors from behind the scenes. It's problematic on a societal level because like it or not, this kind of gender specific division of labor will impact women in various negative ways. Women who stay at home will as a class become dependent on their husbands for money, and they will have less clout, at home, in politics, and in general to influence public policy. Workplaces will be less likely to grant women (and men) who must work and balance families the flexibility and tools to make it possible to do this juggle effectively. Workplaces will have less tolerance for people who have to balance work and family because the superstars who have stay at home spouses are setting the bar at place that most people can't reach.

And on top of that, if the fact is that most couples need dual earners to make it, the myth about the wonderful decision to opt out sets up a fantasy that is not achievable by most, but which nevertheless becomes the standard by which people are judged.

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 2:48 PM

2:42: I assume you were talking to me but not sure.

No, we don't spend a lot on our personal clothing. I had acquired a professional wardrobe prior to child. But work in a fairly casual office. DH wears professional clothes but nothing designer. We both buy reasonable priced new clothes for ourselves. But as adults, we don't tend to need as much new clothing as a child would because we have stopped growing (at least vertically. LOL)

My daughter wears reasonable outfits off the sales rack of JcPennys or Toys R Us. But she is only 3. So for instance, can get a nice outfit of capri pants and short sleeve shirt for $14.99 at TRU. I try to shop a year in advance to get the $14.99 outfit for 11.99 but can't always find enough. Play clothes are generally hand me downs or clearance rack stuff. So far I get enough hand me downs that I have seldom needed to buy play clothes. Winter coats and snow suits are bought with LLBEAN points from our CC. So to answer your question in short, no one in our house is a fashion godess but we are also not buying stuff at good will or garage sales.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 2:50 PM

to KLB: just goes to show you...
women rock. ;)
Oh, I don't know - women can take care of themselves?

Posted by: atlmom | March 19, 2007 2:51 PM

"but we are also not buying stuff at good will or garage sales."

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Posted by: MdMother | March 19, 2007 2:52 PM

I think it is sad that so many women are compelled to work because they fear their marriage may not last and they will be left finacially stranded. If you already feel that way, why not get out now? If those thoughts are under the surface, they will probably come true.

Posted by: annapolis mom | March 19, 2007 2:52 PM

"Here is my question. How do the top earners in your company look in terms of gender? Are they mostly men? Maybe not, but I am curious."

9 men, 1 woman. [high-tech field, a little over 80% of company is male - so we are in line with general hiring]

"Workplaces will be less likely to grant women (and men) who must work and balance families the flexibility and tools to make it possible to do this juggle effectively."

It's hard to say -- I've been fairly impressed at the changes I've seen over the past 15 years -- and the positive work/life changes seem to continue. [Often, the cost is a blurring of work/home -- with more flexibility on time management at the cost of doing more 'work' at home after-hours.]

"Workplaces will have less tolerance for people who have to balance work and family because the superstars who have stay at home spouses are setting the bar at place that most people can't reach."

And this is the problem -- the superstars are choosing a structure that works for them and makes it difficult for others to compete with them. [While I'm sure our old friend Darwin might have an opinion on this, I think the jury is probably still out.]


Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 2:57 PM

but we are also not buying stuff at good will or garage sales."

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Posted by: MdMother | March 19, 2007 02:52 PM

Right on MdMother. I was just stating what we did as a financial picture. And actually that is not exactly true now that I think about it. I did attend my church garage sale last summer and did pick up a few pairs of pjs and play clothes items. But that is rare. I am NOT at all implying there is anything wrong with the practice. Besides half the hand me downs were probably in the same condition as good will clothing.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 2:57 PM

A SAHM of 6 kids to husband at his retirement: "I feel like we held you back from further advancement because you were needed at home so much and couldn't travel."

His response: "If not for you and the children, I wouldn't have advanced as far as I did. I only cared about upward mobility because I wanted to take care of my family."

Not everyone is interested in career advancement for personal fulfillment.

This is true, but before the flaming starts about the SAHM, the kids were born in the 50's.

Posted by: interesting comment | March 19, 2007 2:57 PM

atlmom,
You got it!

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 19, 2007 2:58 PM


I think it is sad that so many women are compelled to work because they fear their marriage may not last and they will be left finacially stranded. If you already feel that way, why not get out now? If those thoughts are under the surface, they will probably come true.

Posted by: annapolis mom | March 19, 2007 02:52 PM

Do you think the fear stems from a bad marriage or growing up in a divorced family? Because the people I know who grew up poor have all these extreme views on financial security (DH is one of them). So you can extend that to divorced families. Maybe they fear divorce more because they experienced it as a child. Just a thought.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 2:59 PM

It is unlikely at this point that any of the individuals in 2-income families will move into my top tier based on their performance.

We're a small company -- very family-friendly. We do a pretty good job of trying to manage work/life balance. But at the end of the day, all of my top performers have the advantage of having someone else manage their household and families if they need to address an issue at work.

There is both a cost and a benefit in having a 2-income family -- just as there is a cost and benefit to having a 1-income family.

Posted by: | March 19, 2007 02:32 PM

There may be a cost to certain families, but it's evident that, at your company, having a spouse employed outside the home is a career death-sentence. In my workplace, a top 100 law firm, of the top 30 performers, 9 are stars from dual-income families (and before you ask, in each marriage, the other spouse's career and income are equally "prestigious" and high-paying).

There are many dual-income families where the contacts each person makes at work are fruitful for the other spouse. I would not be as successful in my legal career if I didn't have the benefit of my spouse's contacts. He wouldn't be as successful in his chosen field if he couldn't easily connect his colleagues to appropriate legal advice.

If either of us needs to address an issue at work, that's what we do. I am not at all sure why you think our reproduction or marriage impacts that.

I disagree that one can characterize an employer as "family-friendly" if only one kind of family-choice is connected with advancement.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:00 PM

I think it is sad that so many women are compelled to work because they fear their marriage may not last and they will be left finacially stranded. If you already feel that way, why not get out now? If those thoughts are under the surface, they will probably come true.

Posted by: annapolis mom | March 19, 2007 02:52 PM

It's not just about divorce. You could also find your self a single, unemployed parent if your spouse were to die unexpectedly or if spouse became disabled. No one wants to think about it, but it could happen to any of us.

Posted by: Bookworm Mom | March 19, 2007 3:02 PM

"I think it is sad that so many women are compelled to work because they fear their marriage may not last and they will be left finacially stranded. If you already feel that way, why not get out now? If those thoughts are under the surface, they will probably come true."

That is total BS, mixed up with some baloney and hogwash.

People need to negotiate from a position of strength, not weakness. A strong marriage's most important foundation is two strong individuals who can survive independently of the other, but who choose to be together and unite their strengths. Women shouldn't be working BECAUSE their husbands might leave them and strand them fincially. Women should be working because they are good at their jobs, because they have brains and ambitions and motivations to excel at something and be out there in the world, just like men do. Women should be working because it is just as much their responsibilty as their husbands to contribute to the financial security of their families. And once they recognize that they can do it, and insist that their spouses support them in these endeavors, they will no longer be afraid of being deserted by their husbands, because they will understand that they can survive it if it happens. Sometimes, I think that it is men who are afraid of powerful women because they fear that their wives will stop putting up with the BS and leave them if they have to financial wherewithal to do so.

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 3:03 PM

I have to second the comment about those who a spouse staying home tend to climb faster and higher up the ladder. In my experience, it tends to be men, but that's probably because women stay home with the kids more than men do. I look around at the successful directors and VPs in my company, and with very few exceptions, they are men who have wives at home. This means they can travel and work late and come in early, etc. All things that dads who have to do the drop off/pick up, take kids to dr appointments, etc., cannot do. It changes a person's attitude at work when there's a freedom to do whatever is needed. Think back to the way you were before you had kids and you'll know what I mean. That's the difference, at my company anyway.

Posted by: Fortune100 | March 19, 2007 3:05 PM

Does anyone think that the lack of advancement has something to do with their skills and abilities and experience, or is it only because they have family obligations? I'm willing to admit that some of my co-workers deserve to be advanced more than I deserve it. Just as some deserve it less than I do. And it has nothing to do with having a SAH spouse.

Is this blog really full of the cream of the crop, or a bunch of overinflated egos?

Posted by: anon | March 19, 2007 3:05 PM

"There may be a cost to certain families, but it's evident that, at your company, having a spouse employed outside the home is a career death-sentence."

I don't think it is -- most of the people in the top position were hired after they were married and had a SAH spouse -- so maybe we have some issue in the hiring process -- but I would find it unlikely.

"I disagree that one can characterize an employer as "family-friendly" if only one kind of family-choice is connected with advancement."

I would have to disagree -- and I think if anyone objectively looked at our internal policies that would put us as being fairly progressive with respect to family-friendly. I think if you asked anyone in senior management, they would generally be surprised to see the numbers as skewed as they are [although even in your example you note that over 2/3rds of the 'stars' have SAH spouses -- which is even more interesting given that I'm guessing the average age of the stars is significantly above the late 30's of the group I described -- many of their SAH spouses will likely re-enter the workforce over time.]

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:07 PM

I think it is very sad that everyone reacts with such hostility to differences. I work, I enjoy working and I have no plans to stop. I also enjoy being a Brownie Leader, an Assistant Scout Master, and Board Member of several community boards.

I am busy, but we eat dinner together almost every night and my children attend many local events and meetings with me. I think my husband and I are teaching them to be involved in life to its fullest and that community service is a virtue.

I find I do more in a week with my children then many of our neighbors do. It's not working or not working that makes the difference it's spending quality time with your children. It's going to the Mall to ride the carousel and see the dinosaur bones.

Posted by: Mom-at-work | March 19, 2007 3:07 PM

"In my case, highly specific skills. So not a lot of transportability."

Would also probably be hard to find another job that allows you to blog all day long, eh?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:11 PM

I think it is sad that so many women are compelled to work because they fear their marriage may not last and they will be left finacially stranded.

I think it is sad that these women feel entitled to financial support just for breathing.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:12 PM

Foamgnome: Congrats on using wardrobe from before DD was here. I had to throw many of those clothes away - They were mocking me.

Posted by: atlmom | March 19, 2007 3:13 PM

"I think it is sad that so many women are compelled to work because they fear their marriage may not last and they will be left finacially stranded. If you already feel that way, why not get out now? If those thoughts are under the surface, they will probably come true."

Never heard of mental illness? Or a physical ailment that means one adult is unable to work?

As a capable adult, I refuse to be considered a dependent on anyone's tax return. The day will come if I make it to old and infirm, after all.

Besides, I know what it is to be without money. And let me tell you, living in a homeless shelter and hand-to-mouth isn't good for anyone. I will NEVER be without resources again. I was a near starving child, here in the Montgomery County; I will NEVER let my kids know what that is like.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:13 PM

"I think it is very sad that everyone reacts with such hostility to differences."

differences don't produce hostility. innaccurate and judgmental assumptions about outcomes and values produce hostility.

on some days, this blog is a more target-rich environment than others.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:15 PM

Hi FG,

Oh I know you didn't mean anything by it, I was just throwing out that old Seinfeld line. It makes me smile.

But MY best thrift store find was a pair of linen slacks, with the Britches of G'town price tag and extra buttons still attached, for $6.99

So what if they are dry clean only. I only wear them periodically, it'll take me YEARS before my dry cleaning bill = their retail price ($75.00)

Almost (Denzel) carousel season...

Posted by: MdMother | March 19, 2007 3:16 PM

"Congrats on using wardrobe from before DD was here. I had to throw many of those clothes away - They were mocking me."

Anyone else want to admit to wearing maternity pants for Thanksgiving dinner?

I do it!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:17 PM

"I took a pay cut to work part time"

LOL - I make less than 80K working full time.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:17 PM

So there are your tax dollars at work. FG gets 87K for blogging all day for the feds.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:19 PM

foamgnome,

you really need to get a life. all of you, actually!!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:20 PM

What you fail to take into account is that she is a statistician. She works at home. She could be doing her paying job at night when you are sleeping.

Posted by: to 3:19 | March 19, 2007 3:21 PM

"Women should be working because they are good at their jobs, because they have brains and ambitions and motivations to excel at something and be out there in the world, just like men do. Women should be working because it is just as much their responsibilty as their husbands to contribute to the financial security of their families."

Do you really believe this is why most men work? Because the first sentence is just making the best of a bad situation. It's not like we have any choice in the matter (choice is for women)

What is this "contribute to the financial security of the family", that is the way women look at work, men look at it "if I don't support my family we'll be homeless and starve". The contribute line can only be spoken by someone who doesn't feel that earning money is necessary to survive.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:23 PM

No. She's admitted she blogs because work is slow.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:23 PM

"I think it is sad that so many women are compelled to work because they fear their marriage may not last and they will be left finacially stranded. If you already feel that way, why not get out now? If those thoughts are under the surface, they will probably come true."

annapolis mom, if you DON'T have some survival skills in case of financial strain, you're very naive. You're also not reading very thoroughly if you think divorce was the only topic mentioned when we discussed CYA cases. I personally pointed out death, abandonment, and unemployment. There are also issues with disability and prolonged illness. Wanting work skills "just in case" is not a death knell for marriage. But we all know divorce happens, as well as other disasters. Not having a backup plan is a really good way to make sure karma throws you a curveball.

It's better to have and not need, than to need and not have.

And don't tell me to "get out now"--I'm single. I just also happen to be a realist.

Posted by: Mona | March 19, 2007 3:23 PM

Actually, a friend of mine has a bank account 'just in case' that the DH knows about, etc. She says she doesn't want to end up like mom (independently wealthy, just not as wealthy as when they were living above their means up north). I told her that that is only sitting around waiting for things to fail - she tells me that it is being 'realistic.'

We have everything together. I basically think that having the separate account says: hey, I'm just waiting for you to let me down. I'd rather spend every day in blissful 'ignorance,' (i.e., knowing that my DH loves me, wouldn't leave, etc...) and never find out the 'truth.' Rather than staring at the bank account every month reminding myself how horrible things can be.

That having been said, when I wasn't working, I *did* put money in my IRA (pathetic it can only be $4k compared with working spouses $15k), and *I* ensured we were saving money (hubby doesn't worry about day to day stuff like I do - it's just me ,not him at all).

And I know way more about the finances than DH wants to know - or will ever want to know. That's what works FOR US.

Posted by: atlmom | March 19, 2007 3:23 PM

Actually we are on five year cycle. Three years of this cycle is production. Fairly busy. One year is redesign, again moderate pace. One year is research. Incredibly slow. It won't be the same in mid 2008. We go back into the field in late 2007. But the pace of research is very different then the pace of most other jobs. A productive research year is producing two papers. I finished one already and is working on the second. I can read and run programs at the same time as blogging. I would think most others could too.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 3:23 PM

'blogging all day'

Leslie, any chance of providing insights about people who work jobs that either don't involve computer work or are so busy or strict that blogging would result in unemployment? A few suggestions would be teachers, policemen, retail workers, chefs, waitresses, daycare workers, state highway workers, utility company, plumbers, receptionists in lawyer's office rather than just lawyers.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:24 PM

"What is this "contribute to the financial security of the family", that is the way women look at work, men look at it "if I don't support my family we'll be homeless and starve". The contribute line can only be spoken by someone who doesn't feel that earning money is necessary to survive."

Wrong again. Because "contributing to the financial security of the family" is my line, and although my situation is the exception to the rule, in my family, it is the mother (ME) who works so that the family won't starve (and so that the dad can go back to school). Men do have choices. Everyone does.

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 3:26 PM

Could I contribute to the financial security to the family by allowing my husband to achieve his full potential because I handle the children and the household? Could I contribute to the financial security of the household by using the time I have to shop around, clip coupons and do a lot of the work around the house myself? Not every contribution has to be tangible to be valuable. I think that once you start counting and measuring you mark the beginning of the end.

Posted by: Molly | March 19, 2007 3:31 PM

"So there are your tax dollars at work. FG gets 87K for blogging all day for the feds."

Well, if you really want to get your panties in a wad, remember she's earning that while working part-time.

But hey! If you get the necessary training and make yourself invaluable, maybe you can do the same. I don't begrudge her the opportunity to do it. Not everyone is in a dead-end mind-sucking job.

Posted by: for anon @ 3:19 | March 19, 2007 3:31 PM

"I have to second the comment about those who a spouse staying home tend to climb faster and higher up the ladder. In my experience, it tends to be men, but that's probably because women stay home with the kids more than men do."

Genius!!! Someone should write a blog about this!!!

Posted by: snark | March 19, 2007 3:32 PM

"You have your opinions on a happy marriage, and I have my opinions. I happen to think that equality leads to happiness. I think you both will disagree. Where will that discussion lead? No way it better--it in intensly personal."

You might be surprised. I firmly believe that any successful marriage depends on two people who view each other as equal partners. That doesn't mean that each and every duty and role must be divided on a 50/50 basis (specialization works in economies - it wouldn't be a huge surprise if it worked in some marriages).

I do get the impression that much of the discussion on this blog is driven by the assumption that for a marriage to be happy, every realm of family life should be based on a 50/50 split (housecleaning, laundry, wage earning, child care, lawn care, investments, . . .) - to the extent that when someone says "we don't do it that way, and we're very happy" people find it necessary to explain to the poor naif that they are either a) brainwashed, b) not really happy, or c) going to be very, very sorry later. Sometimes it seems that no amount of "no, we really are very, very happy" protestation will work.

People tend to work out arrangments that work for them and their families. Those arrangements aren't all the same - nor should they be. But I do think we sometimes have unspoken assumptions that can prevent us from seeing (or admitting) this.

Posted by: Huh? | March 19, 2007 3:32 PM

I reject the whole basis of this discussion- that women should be on the defensive and have to prove they need to work. Show me one man, one, who feels compelled to prove he needs to work to support his lifestyle. Doesn't happen.

I don't have to justify my decision to stay at work any more than my husband has to justify his. The fact that so much angst happens in this blog about this point shows how far we really haven't come in terms of work place equality.

I love my job. Love, Love, Love it. It is not a "job" for me, it's an essential part of who I am and how I relate to the rest of the world. I don't have to prove to anyone I would be impoverished if I quit in order to "justify" my decision. That's just ridiculous.

Posted by: dc nonprofit | March 19, 2007 3:32 PM

"I think it is sad that so many women are compelled to work because they fear their marriage may not last and they will be left finacially stranded. If you already feel that way, why not get out now? If those thoughts are under the surface, they will probably come true."

I think it is sad for smart women to assume that life holds only good outcomes. To be delusional and 25 is a given. To be delusional and 40+ is pitiable.

If you watched the September 11 widows deal with the too-soon death of a spouse die, if you known of anyone who is married to a physically or mentally disabled spouse on whom she was counting for support, or if you have had even one friend divorced by her spouse and which divorce she did not want, it is irresponsible not to consider a plan that prevents being left financially stranded. Each of us may responsibly reach different solutions, but you are blaming the victim when you criticize those who consider the clouds that might occur in their future.

It only takes an instant for a loving spouse to be diagnosed with a disabling disease, e.g., Huntington's (for those of you who read the NY Times article yesterday), or to learn that his industry's jobs are shifting to Bangalore. Smart women think ahead and, with their partners, plan for as wide a range of outcomes as possible.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | March 19, 2007 3:33 PM

OK, in all seriousness guys. I really get quite bored during the research phase. Some researchers love to just read and write papers. But I find it a little dull. But even when I was in a 90% production job, there was still a lot of dead time. This was before the days of blogs, but instead people spent a lot of time talking to each other. Also I think a lot of people did some internet surfing and talked on the phone. If your interested in a high paying low stress job-study math. I did not go into math for that reason. It is just an added benefit.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 3:34 PM

Re: hand-me-downs. Recently a friend-of-a-friend asked me if she could have my shoes after I'm done with them (she wears the same size as me). She wanted the shoes that I would have otherwise thrown away or donated to Goodwill. Why? She and her husband are saving for the down payment on a house.

There's just something really screwed up about that, and kind of gross. Hand-me-down clothes are one thing, but shoes? If you're making a decent salary, you should be able to afford new shoes from Target every once in a while.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:35 PM

Mildred was very depressed when her husband died. She decided that she couldn't go on in life without him and that she wanted to join him in heaven. Mildred wanted to shoot herself in the heart, guaranteeing death.

But she was afraid she might miss her heart and wind up incapacitated so she called the doctor for some information. "Doctor, where is the heart located?" asked Mildred.

The doctor answered, "Just below the left breast."

A few hours later Mildred was emitted into emergency with a gunshot wound to her knee.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:35 PM

What happened to this blog? It's the same every single day!!!

I now know absolutely everything about foamgnome and father of 4 and fred and mona.

this is just getting ridiculous! BOOOORING!

The On parenting blog is much better, yet only a few comments.

Leslie- help us! Don't some of your oh-so-educated fabulous friends want to take some time from their schedules to make comments on this blog for you? Or maybe you should post some more?

Something needs to change

Posted by: WHAT HAPPENED??? | March 19, 2007 3:36 PM

Emily, point taken for you household, but as you say, you are the exception to the rule, which is: men work, women have choices.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:36 PM

Not trying to be snarky, but for the women who choose to support their husbands' career, take care of the kids and household, etc and not be in the paid workforce: what do you think when you hear/read about women who have done the same thing and their husbands have divorced them many years into the marriage? Or have died? And do you have a contingency plan if that happens to you? I am really curious-no judgments.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:37 PM

I love my job. Love, Love, Love it. It is not a "job" for me, it's an essential part of who I am and how I relate to the rest of the world.

Me too!

Meghan's neighbor - if your logic followed that we need to live as is life is going to smack us in the face at any time, then would any of us really go to work? We have chosen to plan the best we can and find a "balance" between being pragmatic and being chicken little.

Posted by: Molly | March 19, 2007 3:38 PM

"The On parenting blog is much better, yet only a few comments."

Why? Because Fo4, Fred, Mona, Foamgnome, and others are posting there as often.

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 3:39 PM

My guess this blog gets boring because there is only so much to say about work/life balance and the topics get repeated.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 3:40 PM

and when i was staying at home, my contribution was ensuring that our expenditures were smaller than our income, no small feat considering all the bills, etc.

And that is why I would buy my son clothes that he wouldn't wear for years - they were on sale and he'd eventually wear them.

Funny story: i am one of three daughters. My mom would go shopping at bazaars/fundraisers for religious organziations, etc, and was a HUGE bargain hunter (all new clothes, tho - not what I do for my kids now, btw). if she would find something she liked, she would buy it cause 'someone could wear it' (we were all different sizes at some point).
When I was in high school, or college, (i'm the youngest) mom came home with some cute skirt or shirt or dress or some such that was WAY TOO SMALL for anyone she knew - and she said: oh, I thought it would fit *someone*. As if one of us was still in elementary school - we were all full grown adults (size wise, at least) by this time. Too funny (okay, at least to me...)

Posted by: atlmom | March 19, 2007 3:40 PM

"mily, point taken for you household, but as you say, you are the exception to the rule, which is: men work, women have choices."

And my point is that my household does not have to be the exception. We aren't that exceptional. We just decided to live our lives in a way that worked for us, regardless of what society expects. It was a choice that any married couple can make, if they wish to.

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 3:41 PM

To those who would say that SAHMs are short-sighted for not working "just in case" husband leaves for a new chickie or a piano falls from the sky killing the breadwinner.

Have you never taken a risk? Do you trust no one? I feel sorry for you. I would rather trust and be burned -- even by a cheating spouse or a falling piano -- than to go through life assuming the worst could be around the corner and essentially waiting for it. And that's what people like you do. You never really live. You don't get it, and you probably never will. I'm not sure why I'm even wasting my time posting this. But I know there are people who understand what I'm saying. Even on this blog.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:42 PM

Emily, right on. Both my husband and I contribute to the household finances. My husband doesn't have the mindset that we would starve if he didn't work because we both work. I bet that the men who DO think that must be really stressed out.

Molly, "I think that once you start counting and measuring you mark the beginning of the end," I almost choked on my water when I read this. So Emily has to recognize your value in your family, but you can judge the way her family negotitates finances? Talk about a hypocrite!


FWIW, I clip the coupons, make the menu and grocery list, and do the discount shopping. I consider this budgeting, not contributing to the family finances.

Posted by: Meesh | March 19, 2007 3:43 PM

Oops. I meant to say at 3:39 that the regulars from here aren't posting on the On Parenting blog as often, so fewer comments. I imagine this blog would be similar to it without all the regulars.

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 3:43 PM

"The On parenting blog is much better, yet only a few comments."

because it's not better, it's tedious, mundane, and thoughtless. every day. here, lightening strikes about every third day.

and we have Emily. 'nuf said.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:44 PM

I actually think the idea of on parenting could be very good. But the topics they choose may not be as controversial. I am sure there are topics that could get more comments. Look at the HPV one. I think the best blog would be a combination of on balance with on parenting. There is probably enough topics to discuss 5 days a week. But really only for a year or so. I think you would exhaust most of the topics by then.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 19, 2007 3:47 PM

yawn!

Posted by: enough already! | March 19, 2007 3:47 PM

Not trying to be snarky, but for the women who choose to support their husbands' career, take care of the kids and household, etc and not be in the paid workforce: what do you think when you hear/read about women who have done the same thing and their husbands have divorced them many years into the marriage? Or have died? And do you have a contingency plan if that happens to you? I am really curious-no judgments.

Posted by: | March 19, 2007 03:37 PM

No snark inferred: Sure divorce is a possibility but to some degree you have to trust. I don't consider my heart, and hopes and dreams to be any less valuable than $ and I have entrusted a portion of those to him as well. I trust that he loves his children enough not to try to destroy me, were we to divorce. I trust that he will bear his fair share of the financial burden with the children were we to divorce and I trust that I can find a good lawyer that could get a good enough settlement for me to find a new career. I lived a long time on my own, I know that I can do it successfully.

Death or disability - insurance enough to tide us over and allow me to return to school if necessary to get back in the game. Again, I recognize that this is a luxury that not everyone can afford.

Some people may disagree, but that's what it looks like from here.

Posted by: Molly | March 19, 2007 3:47 PM

I feel sorry for you. I would rather trust and be burned -- even by a cheating spouse or a falling piano --

You say that now, try experiencing this first-hand when you are 50+. Don't expect the courts to really give a rats-@ss about your non-economic contributions so hubby could claw his way higher up the economic ladder, then get himself a younger, firmer version of you.

Sure, it's easy to say you would be "fine". When you are young you have more energy, more opportunities. When you are older you are more tired and quite frankly, potential employers see someone who is going to cost more to train and insure.

But enjoy your spun-sugar castle in the air while you can!

Posted by: for 3:42 pm | March 19, 2007 3:49 PM

I just stumbled across this column at lunch today. Based on the title, I thought it would be about balancing work and life - not about bashing people's choices. I am also amused at the number of SAHM's that seem to be posting. What are they balancing? It seems they have a perfect life where all needs are taking care of, the working spouse has room to succeed and work long hours, and they don't buy too much stuff.

Posted by: Mom-at-work | March 19, 2007 3:49 PM

"Have you never taken a risk? Do you trust no one?"

Do you have health insurance? Car insurance? Life insurance? Do you have regular preventive medical examinations? Or are you just trusting that nothing bad will ever happen to you? I would rather make good plans for unforeseen emergencies than be hit by a tragedy that I could never recover from without such plans. Their is trust, and then there is just blind stupidity or intentional ignorance, like an ostrich hiding his head in the sand.

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 3:49 PM

"But I know there are people who understand what I'm saying. Even on this blog."

That would be me.


Meesh - you sure are quick on the nasty, name calling trigger today. I didn't know that opinions weren't allowed here today or is it just that opinions divergent from Meesh and Emily aren't allowed? Please let me know.

Posted by: Molly | March 19, 2007 3:50 PM

"I trust that he loves his children enough not to try to destroy me, were we to divorce. I trust that he will bear his fair share of the financial burden with the children

Bwah-ha-ha! Yeah, s/he'll say he won't starve you and the kids, that you won't lose the house, he'll be "generous". Wait until the OP wants that money, wants to start a family, etc.

Naivete is only attractive in the under-21 set.

Posted by: to Molly | March 19, 2007 3:51 PM

foamgnome: me too (re math). I went to an engineering school and had people step back when i'd say what I was studying. It was okay for people to be doing engineering, but not math (maybe cause I'm a girl? = but half the math majors were girls - half my master's class were girls...).

Posted by: atlmom | March 19, 2007 3:52 PM

"You say that now, try experiencing this first-hand when you are 50+. Don't expect the courts to really give a rats-@ss about your non-economic contributions so hubby could claw his way higher up the economic ladder, then get himself a younger, firmer version of you."

You clearly don't understand the way the courts work with this one (always provided the marriage has lasted for at least 10 years, the magic number). Courts absolutely do count that contribution.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:52 PM

"I feel sorry for you. I would rather trust and be burned -- even by a cheating spouse or a falling piano -- than to go through life assuming the worst could be around the corner and essentially waiting for it. And that's what people like you do. You never really live."

Speaking of judgmental. "People like you". That's a nice touch.

Would you skydive without a parachute or would you consider that not really living as well? Our two jobs in two unrelated industries are nothing more than parachutes for ourselves and our children. We could assume that the automobile will never really take off and fully invest ourselves in the horse-and-buggy industry, but somehow that seems somewhat . . I don't know . . idiotic.

I am not at all concerned that my husband will cheat and he's not concerned about my cheating or leaving either. We can't control the other millions of people on the planet, though, or the economies of the world markets. Being an ostrich does not lead to greater living or more peaceful sleep. Having choices does. People like me enjoy sleep without worry and a happy marriage and a spouse who is substantially more relaxed when he does not have the entire pressure of the 2007 world economy on his shoulders.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | March 19, 2007 3:53 PM

To "Huh?," "dfg," and the anon person asking about equality, I think we can all agree that every marriage is different and that every one negotiates taking care of the family differently. Please feel free to discuss! But I hate these conversations and don't want to discuss my view of equality because it will lead to trolls discussing why my marriage is doomed and why my husband is miserable. I've had this conversation before and don't think it's useful.

Posted by: Meesh | March 19, 2007 3:53 PM

Can someone please explain to me why it seems so very in vogue to be so deeply nasty to people who are content with their lives? I didn't know that being happy with things was such a character flaw.

Posted by: Molly | March 19, 2007 3:54 PM

OK, I do know a woman whose husband left after 40 years of marriage. They had a second home, she lives in one, he lives in the other. His is titled in his and son's name. Hers is titled in her and daughter's name. No mortgage on hers, and I don't know about his. They are still legally married, he pays her a monthly allowance and her utility bills and she is on his medical insurance. She inherited money when her father died. Emotionally, she is a wreck, but financially, she is living just as well, if not better, than ever. Not the norm, but it happens. In some divorce situations, the SAH situation allowed the working spouse to advance high enough that the split assets afford a lifestyle that would not have been possible if both had worked and the advancement was stifled.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:54 PM

You clearly don't understand the way the courts work with this one (always provided the marriage has lasted for at least 10 years, the magic number). Courts absolutely do count that contribution.

BTDT, got the crappy t-shirt.

Bullsh*t. 25 years of marriage, raised 3 kids and at 55 I receive $350/month for 3 years so I "have time" to train and find a job.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:57 PM

You must have lived in a non-alimony state. Bad move on your part. Also, you are not telling the truth about your entire settlement.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 3:59 PM

Honestly, what kind of person actively wishes misfortune on another, especailly someone that you don't know. Because they have made different choices than you in how to live their lives? Really, what kind of person does that?

Posted by: Molly | March 19, 2007 4:02 PM

"Can someone please explain to me why it seems so very in vogue to be so deeply nasty to people who are content with their lives? I didn't know that being happy with things was such a character flaw."

Oh please, Molly, stop. No one is being nasty because you are happy. I, for one, am glad that you are happy. But your happiness is the the subject of discussion.

But if you want to get into a discussion about the merits of your way of thinking, or your philosophy about marriage, then get into knowing that people will have opinions based on reasons. Opinions that perhaps you don't like. And you are free to argue these points. But then don't come back crying because someone thinks you are wrong, or that your thinking is naive or ill-judged. If you want to discuss an issue, please, be my guest. But be ready to defend your points with a good argument, and don't mistake a good argument against you as a personal attack. They are not the same thing.

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 4:03 PM

"It was a choice that any married couple can make, if they wish to."

Emily, while I agree, I just don't think many people wish to. I know, as a 44 yo man, that the thought of not providing for myself and my family really rubs me the wrong way. I am sure this is similar to the feeling women have about maintaining the house/caring for children.

I think these are attitudes that are socially ingrained in us. I think they are attitudes that can only be changed over geneations, we are in that process now and that is why there is so much conflict.

I mean, you don't see many article about men opting out or searching for balance (even though many of us do it all the time). It is because men as a group really don't feel we have a choice. This is a pretty liberal group of people and even all of us mostly talk of women and choice.

I also think that it is the right way to go, but until women think and feel the responsibility to be the primary financial support of the famlily, it will be imposssible for men to socially support the family the way women are expected to now.

But even the workplace will not change that much, there are still people that will do the 80 hr weeks. There are people in second and third world that will do the job for half the price and business would be stupid not to take advantage.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 4:04 PM

Molly! Truce! I thought you'd appreciate my pointing your maybe unintentional judgemental tone and laugh it off! Apparently not. No nastiness intended. However, maybe you should consider how you sound to other posters before you post. Your point would have had more resonance if you had avoided the condescension.

Posted by: Meesh | March 19, 2007 4:04 PM

It's called a prenup people.

My husband and i signed a document that he would take care of me and our resulting children should be choose to leave (or cheat) (or get an addiction). I'm really not kidding.

I work now, but not when the kids were little. He knew then and still knows that if he does anything to hurt me or is ever with another woman, I will take him to the cleaners.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 4:05 PM

Molly, don't be discouraged. There are a lot of bitter, bitter people out there (Emily can come across that way, for example) and they are simply incapable of forming a difference of opinion without making it personal. It's because deep down, they question their own decisions. The people who post here so vehemently are the ones who feel the least certain about what they've done with their lives. They're not the people you'd choose to be around. They delight in schadenfreude. I feel sorry for them most of the time.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 4:06 PM

"My husband and i signed a document that he would take care of me and our resulting children should be choose to leave (or cheat) (or get an addiction)."

I actually think the prenup idea is very good. Although I am not sure how an addict would have the wherewithal to support a family if he can't even support himself.

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 4:08 PM

Also, you are not telling the truth about your entire settlement.

Posted by: | March 19, 2007 03:59 PM

Bull. There was nothing left after he took off with the bimbo. Do you know how quickly a joint account can be drained and spent? Being told I can recover the costs is a Pyrrhic victory, as there he burned the assets on the talentless tart, plus the costs of pursuing him. It would cost me more than anything I can EVER hope to recover.

So Molly, trust but verify.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 4:08 PM

"Your second assumption, that after taking 12 - 15 years off an unemployed spouse can return to the workforce in almost any field and get a job sufficient to pay college tuition, is frankly laughable."

I hardly think this option is "laughable". It's what my parents did. Mom quit her secretarial job when she got married (would have liked to work longer but they relocated for dad's job and she got pg soon after). Didn't work at all until my older sister was 16 and able to help with driving around us 2 younger kids. Then after spending some time learning how to use a computer and word processor (self-taught, with help from her kids) she jumped back into a clerical job. Her additional income allowed them to fully pay for me and my siblings to go to good state universities. She then became the sole income for a while when my dad got laid off during my last year of college. She also continued working for a while after my dad retired.

I wouldn't say her work/life balance was ideal -- looking back I think she was depressed a lot during our school years, bored while we were at school and didn't have much of a social life. But, a 17 year break in work history, even a break that encompassed the transformation of the workplace by computers, didn't doom her to a lifetime of unemployability.

"It's not just about divorce. You could also find your self a single, unemployed parent if your spouse were to die unexpectedly or if spouse became disabled. No one wants to think about it, but it could happen to any of us."

That's what life insurance and disability insurance are for. And a 2-income family who depends on 2 incomes would be in big trouble in these situations too.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 4:09 PM

"Bullsh*t. 25 years of marriage, raised 3 kids and at 55 I receive $350/month for 3 years so I "have time" to train and find a job."

Where did you live when he left? Did you receive any property such as house, car, furniture,etc. I did see where he drained the bank accounts of money.

Posted by: Just curious | March 19, 2007 4:11 PM

busy day today, but I'm not sure if I missed much here.

replying to anon at 4:06 (hey, they fixed the timestamp finally!):
I've never read Emily as being bitter. She tends to have well thought out positions. I'm not saying I agree with what she says, but they are well thought out, presented and even funny. Even the "nice is overrated" comment was humerous to me.

I see anons swooping down making incredibly nasty comments usually. Without any background, one can't figure out if they are just unhappy bored teens at school or what...


Posted by: dotted | March 19, 2007 4:12 PM

"Emily, while I agree, I just don't think many people wish to. I know, as a 44 yo man, that the thought of not providing for myself and my family really rubs me the wrong way."

I get that. I agree that it will take a while for these attitudes about gender specific roles in marriages to dissipate. My husband was not for the idea of staying at home for two years either. But then the pragmatic side of him realized that it was a much better deal for him to stay at home with the baby than for him to work two jobs so that I could. And we both agreed that we wanted a parent at home with the baby, at least initially. So he sacrificed some of his male pride for the good of the family, and found in the end, that it was a wonderful experience for him as a father. An unexpected surprise for all of us. I just think that people need to have a more open mind about these things.

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 4:12 PM

"But I hate these conversations and don't want to discuss my view of equality because it will lead to trolls discussing why my marriage is doomed and why my husband is miserable. I've had this conversation before and don't think it's useful."

Understood. But we spend a heck of a lot of time talking past each other because everything we say is driven by these assumptions - and as a result, that conversation isn't terribly useful either.

Posted by: Huh? | March 19, 2007 4:13 PM

I'm sorry Emily, but I don't really cotton to name calling (Stupidity and ignorance for example) and wishing that someone's husband would leave them. Maybe you should work on arguments that stick to the merits of the argument as opposed to denigrating the individual making them.

Meesh - I don't see how saying that counting is the beginning of the end is condescending. Arlington mom clearly understands my tone.

Posted by: Molly | March 19, 2007 4:13 PM

Molly, thanks. I understand the trust. I also understand those who want a traditional life. Working or not we have to trust our spouses. I think some of the people today are more the trust but verify type--they trust but they also don't shape their lives solely on that trust (I am in that group). I am trying to understand your perspective. I see the benefits of staying home if everything works as planned. But if it doesn't, then what?If I was ind. wealthy or my parents could support me/child/my retirement, etc if something happened, I might not work but that is not my situation. I want to know practically how a woman who is out of the workforce for a long time would support herself/kids if she had to by herself--formerly great spouses hide assets, quit jobs so they don't have to pay alimony, etc. Sometimes spouses die unexpectedly without being able to tell the other how much and where the money is. The idea that women and their kids live as well or better divorced than when married is not true-politicians of all parties agree with that. What then? Thanks!

Posted by: 3:37 | March 19, 2007 4:14 PM

Isn't it interesting that the SAH's are content and not attacking... while those that work are very defensive and attacking those who don't work? You tell me who are the happy ones!

Posted by: annapolis mom | March 19, 2007 4:15 PM

Heather Mills/Paul McCartney divorce settlement. I'd say that she clearly came out a winner. Only married 4 years and her post-divorce lifestyle will far exceed anything she would have done on her own. Plus, he made his money before she came into the picture - it wasn't a result of her taking care of the home front so he could earn it.

Posted by: anon | March 19, 2007 4:15 PM

You may trust your husband, but do you trust the driver behind him on the beltway? Do you trust the crane operator to NOT drop that piano on his head? Do you trust his partner to NOT steal his identity and embezzle in his name? Do you trust that the researchers at Johns Hopkins will be able to cure cancer before it's too late?

There's nothing wrong with making sure you have a skill set, and there's nothing wrong with earning money. It does not make you a bad wife or mother. It does, in many cases, make you more prepared for the evils that may befall you.

And the most trustworthy husband can turn into a conniving liar. The most tender and kind boyfriend can turn into a wife-beater or a control freak. The most egalitarian man can suddenly become sexist. To fail to realize that is more than blind trust; it is naivete, pure and simple.

Posted by: Mona | March 19, 2007 4:15 PM

Nice is overrated. I had a boss early in my career tell me that my good girl, please people attitude was not necessarily a good thing, that I needed to be more assertive. I guess I took her advice to heart.

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 4:16 PM

Meesh said: "My husband doesn't have the mindset that we would starve if he didn't work because we both work. I bet that the men who DO think that must be really stressed out."

Are you sure? My wife works too, and it helps, but I still have that feeling deep down. Yes, it is stressful, but I am a man, I will suck it up (haha).

And that is my point, men and women don't think the same about life, we have different experiences and expectations. You say your husband contributes to the housework, does that make you feel like it is any less you responsibility? Does it turn off that little household mananger most wives have in their heads?

Didn't think so.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 4:17 PM

"I trust that he loves his children enough not to try to destroy me, were we to divorce. I trust that he will bear his fair share of the financial burden with the children were we to divorce and I trust that I can find a good lawyer that could get a good enough settlement for me to find a new career."


ROFLMAO!!!!

psssttt.

Alimony is highly disfavored, even in states that offer it. If you can't prove he cheated which requires hiring an investigator or an admission by him, you cannot count on it, and you cannot count on it lasting any longer than it will take for you to update your skills or find a job.

The way the courts work is that the better represented party gets the benefit of that superior representation. Divorce law and criminal law have a similar talent gap between the best practitioners and the one the SAH spouse typically retains. The employed husband tends to retain the best, kick a$$ attorney in town, and the stay-at-home wife retains that nice guy who doesn't demand a big retainer upfront just to meet with him. She thinks she doesn't need a kick a$$ attorney because hubby will bear his fair share and do the right thing.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 4:18 PM

"The idea that women and their kids live as well or better divorced than when married is not true-politicians of all parties agree with that"

I think that single western mom would disagree with you.

Posted by: anon | March 19, 2007 4:19 PM

Hey Emily,
I looked up your postings just to see what you wrote and what I read is you implied someone's behavior is stupid, but I don't read you saying someone is stupid.

It seems to me:
it is more than okay for others to comment on behavior. It isn't personal. For example, you can say some behavior (e.g., like taking drugs) is stupid, but don't say that person is stupid because they are addicted.

OT: go unc...he he he

Posted by: dotted | March 19, 2007 4:19 PM

"And the most trustworthy husband can turn into a conniving liar. The most tender and kind boyfriend can turn into a wife-beater or a control freak. The most egalitarian man can suddenly become sexist. To fail to realize that is more than blind trust; it is naivete, pure and simple"

Wow, men suck, don't they.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 4:21 PM

Thanks!

Posted by: 3:37 | March 19, 2007 04:14 PM

Thanks for being so reasonable and balanced. I understand where you are coming from and I think our individual life experiences greatly shape the choices we make. Hey, we all do the best we can. I'm trying to get as much joy out of this trip as I can, and I'm sure you are too. Two different paths, hopefully they lead to the same place.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 4:23 PM

"Nice is overrated"

It depends. I've had 'nice' team leaders and 'not nice' team leaders. I'd rather have nice anyday. Life is too short to put up with the nasties.

Posted by: to emily | March 19, 2007 4:23 PM

A close friend just found out that her husband is cheating on her with a co-worker. She is a SAH mom to a toddler and her crappy husband just lost his job. Now, tell me, would she have been better off with a job of her own?

My father died when I was in high school, and my mother had her education and career to provide for us. I thank her all the time for that.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 4:24 PM

oops, that was me at 4:23

Posted by: Molly | March 19, 2007 4:24 PM

Molly,
I certainly hope your husband doesn't leave you, and while I don't think that you are stupid or ignorant in general, I do think that your refusal to acknowledge the fact that many marriages end in divorces and deaths as well as languish in disabilities is quite stupid or ignorant, given the statistics. Holding on to blind beliefs in spite of evidence to the contrary is certainly not smart. And believing that you are better for making yourself vulnerable in that way, while thinking that the rest of us don't know what it is to really "live" in such rapturous blind and unknowing delight, is just rather appalling to me. But good luck. My best.

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 4:24 PM

there are exceptions and I am happy for them-good for them!!!!!!! but many divorced women do not enjoy the same lifestyle that they did when married--just as many divorced men say they do not have good access to their kids. The law on paper is not always how things play out.

Posted by: to anon | March 19, 2007 4:25 PM

You got that right! :)

Posted by: 3:37 to Molly | March 19, 2007 4:26 PM

"A close friend just found out that her husband is cheating on her with a co-worker. She is a SAH mom to a toddler and her crappy husband just lost his job. Now, tell me, would she have been better off with a job of her own?

My father died when I was in high school, and my mother had her education and career to provide for us. I thank her all the time for that.

Posted by: | March 19, 2007 04:24 PM "

Whadda you want, a competing anecdote about my parents, all their friends and my in laws who have been happily married for 40+ years. Glad you mom could take care of you. Just 'cuz a person does something different doesn't make them wrong because it was wrong for your friend. 50% of people get divorce, 50% STAY MARRIED!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 4:27 PM

I also know people who wanted to be reasonable when divorcing, but then the lawyers got involved and fueled bitter disputes under the guise of 'trying to get the best settlement for their client'.

Posted by: anon | March 19, 2007 4:28 PM

I think news reports like this are going to scare absolutely everybody, men, women, with kids, without kids, married, single, and nowhere near married. As an armchair social scientist, I am curious: how many adults, be they married or not, are considering pre-emptive non-parenthood? I know a Christian couple who have essentially ruled out parenthood- surgically. I read one Web site and I agree with two reasons to have kids and five reasons not to. It is said again and again in demography class that careers are the pre-eminent non-reason to have kids. What is this going to do to American population growth, will we meet future peoplepower demands more with immigration than with reproduction? How low can that child-woman ratio go? How far can the implications of counting the costs of parenthood go? It is one thing, though, to ask these questions about the future. It is another thing to live these questions now.

Posted by: Christopher | March 19, 2007 4:29 PM

"It's called a prenup people.
My husband and i signed a document that he would take care of me and our resulting children should be choose to leave (or cheat) (or get an addiction). I'm really not kidding."

Very good point and extremely relevant!!

Couldn't there also be a "pre-opt" agreement for already-married wannabe SAHS's who don't want to risk the shaft?

As for the piano on the head, you can get insurance for that. (I know it sounds cold but if you're talking about financial security only, cold is OK.)

Posted by: dfgdfgdfgdfg | March 19, 2007 4:31 PM

rapturous blind and unknowing delight

Emily, remind me to tell my husband of the rapturous blind and unknowing delight of my life - he should get a good laugh. I didn't know that being properly insured and trusting my spouse was so incredibly foolish.

I certainly haven't launched on a tirade about what kind of mother/wife you may or may not be and I certainly haven't labeled you decisions to do paid work as stupid. You enjoy your life, I enjoy mine, why such vitriole on you part?

Posted by: Molly | March 19, 2007 4:32 PM

"Holding on to blind beliefs in spite of evidence to the contrary is certainly not smart. And believing that you are better for making yourself vulnerable in that way, while thinking that the rest of us don't know what it is to really "live" in such rapturous blind and unknowing delight, is just rather appalling to me."

Emily, this just sounds incredibly condescending to Molly. It may be blind belief to you, but, I'm guessing that to Molly it is a belief based on who her husband is and the person she knows him to believe. There are insurances for death, disability, and job loss (unemployment). There may not be divorce insurance, but it is possible to have everything titled jointly. You obviously don't agree with Molly's opinion and lifestyle but that doesn't mean she isn't smart.

Molly, FWIW, I have always worked but wished that I could have stayed home with the kids. Maybe the outlook is different for those of us who don't love our jobs. Being home fairly comfortably for 5,10 or 15 years with my children would be worth the possibility of having a rough time making it on my own later.

It's true that you don't jump out of an airplane without a parachute. But, does that mean that you don't get on the plane at all because it might crash? There are risks in life, including marriage.

I know people who are afraid to ever be financially dependent on another person. Usually, it is because they grew up financially challenged, or their parents divorced, or one died, or they are insecure and don't believe that someone would really beat the statistics and stay with them, or they have a low opinion of men, or they see a flaw in their particular spouse and don't quite trust him completely.

Posted by: to Emily | March 19, 2007 4:39 PM

oops "she knows him to believe" should be "she knows him to be."

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 4:41 PM

And yes, I agree with the aforementioned CYA camp. Who gets married intending on having a divorce? Christians get divorced. I've been saved 14 years but I've learned not to expect ideals from human beings regardless of what faith they claim. I think the scariest thing is discovering that you as a real person in the real world is not who you expected you would become. To say nothing of parents or spouses who die. In this life, the only thing one can count on is not human, and that is not a universal opinion.

Posted by: Christopher | March 19, 2007 4:43 PM

No vitriole intended. I bet you are a great mother and wife, and that your family lives in peaceful harmony. And I think your contribution to your marriage is absolutely valuable, if not monetary. But I don't think that there is any married person alive who can say with any degree of certainty that in 10 years, they will be happy married, or even married at all. So yes, I believe in trust. Because without it, a marriage is hell. But I also believe in measures that can help ensure that the trust is deserved. For example, I think prenups and postnups that protect stay at home parents are good. How each couple negotiates these safety nets can be based on their individual preferences. But a safety net is always a good thing, along with wide open eyes and respect for the fact that the future is uncertain.

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 4:43 PM

Hand me down shoes? Oh yeah--my gf buys so many shoes that some she only wears once. I am the lucky recipient of her clothes and shoes. I pick a reasonable amount for myself and share the rest with a couple of friends. The rest gets donated. She gets her closet cleaned out and we all get fresh wardrobes!

Also, a professional wardrobe does not have to cost a ton. I bought my best suit at a yard sale for ten bucks. Consignment shops are also great. I recently bought a pair of designer jeans for 50 cents--perfect shape. The money I don't spend on clothes and shoes allows me to live in a McMansion (sorry folks, but we had to build new because of mold allergies, and builders just aren't building houses in any other style)and stay home part time. If my spouse jumped ship, I would be fine (except for broken hearted), but I would move away from here. I chose a field that is portable and, I hope, won't be shipped to Bangalore! I would like to just see Raj control 30 children from there!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 4:45 PM

My husband says all the time how it would be too expensive to divorce me ;)

Posted by: atlmom | March 19, 2007 4:45 PM

MdMother, are the linen slacks beige? They might've been mine. I bought them (on sale) thinking I could get skinny again.

Posted by: Working Dad | March 19, 2007 4:48 PM

"Wow, men suck, don't they.

Posted by: | March 19, 2007 04:21 PM"

By the same token, women can cheat, leave, lie, steal, abuse, etc. But men tend to cover themselves financially--they are less often dependent on a woman for their survival. So while, at times, women suck too, it's less of an issue when men typically tend to be in the CYA camp by default, whereas more women then men depend on their significant others for support.

Posted by: Mona | March 19, 2007 4:50 PM


Isn't it interesting that the SAH's are content and not attacking... while those that work are very defensive and attacking those who don't work? You tell me who are the happy ones!

Posted by: annapolis mom | March 19, 2007 04:15 PM

annapolis mom, meet anon at 3:42, one of those content, non-attacking sorts:


"Have you never taken a risk? Do you trust no one? I feel sorry for you. I would rather trust and be burned -- even by a cheating spouse or a falling piano -- than to go through life assuming the worst could be around the corner and essentially waiting for it. And that's what people like you do. You never really live. You don't get it, and you probably never will."

When someone starts telling me how much they feel sorry for me because I don't really live, I assume the worst, and I just don't get it, I somehow interpret that as an attack. Contentment is not exactly seeping through the above statement.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 4:50 PM

"I certainly hope your husband doesn't leave you, and while I don't think that you are stupid or ignorant in general, I do think that your refusal to acknowledge the fact that many marriages end in divorces and deaths as well as languish in disabilities is quite stupid or ignorant, given the statistics. Holding on to blind beliefs in spite of evidence to the contrary is certainly not smart. And believing that you are better for making yourself vulnerable in that way, while thinking that the rest of us don't know what it is to really "live" in such rapturous blind and unknowing delight, is just rather appalling to me. But good luck. My best."

Emily:
There are multiple approaches to risk management -- it is possible to employ a prudent course that differs from your preferred approach.

In Molly's postings, she clearly indicates that she understands the value of insurance policies [life, long-term disability] to address many of the unknowns you mention. [In my case, I can state without doubt that I am sufficiently insured such that if I were to die my wife would never *need* to be employed -- I would give the benefit of the doubt that Molly is in a similar position.]

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 4:51 PM

To Emily and others, thanks for the back up. I think if you read my first post, I'm immensely grateful to be in the situation that I am in and truly recognize that I speak for no one but myself.

Emily - well written post and with the exception of the snarky comment about harmony, an excellent example of how to disagree without being disagreeable. Thank you.

Posted by: Molly | March 19, 2007 4:55 PM

"Have you never taken a risk? Do you trust no one? I feel sorry for you. I would rather trust and be burned -- even by a cheating spouse or a falling piano -- than to go through life assuming the worst could be around the corner and essentially waiting for it. And that's what people like you do. You never really live. You don't get it, and you probably never will."

Like 04:50 PM said in response. Big difference between planning for the future and not taking any risk.
For everyone who thinks they have enough insurance to cover everything, what if you have a severely handicapped child? A child or spouse who requires lifetime full-time care. Many insurance policies have lifetime limits. Many families have been destroyed by severe illness.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 19, 2007 4:56 PM

Sorry - hit send too soon. If the spouse who has the health insurance is the one who becomes unemployed or injured where will the insurance come from?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 19, 2007 4:57 PM

Leslie writes:

"I am all for women staying home with kids -- if that's what they want. But E.J. Graff rightly points out the salient fact that most mothers can only dream of not working and that the newspaper articles glorifying moms at home don't present the full reality of American women's lives:"

If these stories don't present the full reality, one would think that we need more stories to fill out the reality. But that's not what E. J. Graff recommends. Rather, she asks:

"So how can this story be killed off, once and for all? Joan Williams attempts to chloroform the moms-go-home storyline with facts. 'Opt Out or Pushed Out?' should be on every news, business, and feature editor's desk."

Instead of adding additional stories, E. J. Graff wants editors to "kill[] off, once and for all," the "opt-out moms" stories. Joan Williams wants to "chlororform the moms-go-home stories."


E. J. Graff writes:

"Here's why that matters: if journalism repeatedly frames the wrong problem, then the folks who make public policy may very well deliver the wrong solution."

Don't worry, E.J. The "folks who make public policy" don't rely on "The New York Times" -- at least, not in the area of fixing the workplace. The folks who make public policy do so for the benefit of big business and other big institutions like Universities and top law firms, because that's whom the folks who make public policy hobnob with. See, in the 1880's the mine and mill owners paid their workers so little that the workers' wives and even their children had to go work in the sweat shops. It took the Unions, importing the idea of the "family wage" from Australia, over 30 years to get to F.D.R. and the Wagner Act and the decent, Unionized blue collar job that would support a stay-at-home wife and several children. Now that the bosses can use globalization to bust the Unions, they can get what they always wanted: two work weeks out of each couple. (I suppose we should be grateful that sweatshop child labor is still taboo -- unless it's done in India and the products are imported to the U.S.A.)

"If women are happily choosing to stay home with their babies, that's a private decision. But it's a public policy issue if most women (and men) need to work to support their families. . ."

It sure is a public policy issue. In the first few decades of the 20th century, the feminist movement fought for a decent family wage for husbands so that mothers would have the choice to stay at home. They fought side by side with the Unions until the Unions won. But when the bosses came back, starting in the late 1960's, trying to squeeze two workers out of each couple, would-be SAHM's found the feminist movement siding *against* them and with the bosses!

Either way, the way to enlighten public debate is not to "kill off" or "chloroform" stories we don't like. It is to commission stories that tell "the other side of the story." That's the American way.

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | March 19, 2007 4:58 PM

"If the spouse who has the health insurance is the one who becomes unemployed or injured where will the insurance come from?"

With respect to injury -- long-term disability insurance is generally more essential than life insurance -- and can be purchased on the open market at reasonable rates even if your employer doesn't offer it.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 4:59 PM

Molly, you wrote"
"well written post and with the exception of the snarky comment about harmony"

What I said was:
"I bet you are a great mother and wife, and that your family lives in peaceful harmony"

I don't see how you could take the part about harmony as being snarky. I was being completey sincere there, and did not mean to be snarky at all.

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 5:00 PM

Molly, although I work part time, I live the same life you do. We are happy for the most part, but we wish we had more friends. Most people we know work (mom and dad), so any free time is spent with the kids, on the house, etc. For us, we just wonder if we can get a tennis court for free. We aren't rich, but we have a good life. It makes me feel a little guilty sometimes, because I stayed home with my children until they were in school, took a few months to acclimate, then went back to work part time. I know how blessed I am. I wonder how other people deal with the vagaries of life without the emotional and financial support of a committed spouse. I do want to say, however, that I did bring money into the marriage, and that while I was a sahm I was not shopping to relieve boredom (and sometimes it is boring to be a sahm). In fact, I bet I did not spend 500 dollars on clothes in three years!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 5:00 PM

True about purchasing LGT insurance but again, some have lifetime limits. Just something to think about.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 19, 2007 5:00 PM

I'm coming to the blog late today, and I was intrigued enough with all the anti-Molly commentary to run through and read all her posts and those in response.

Now you who know me know that I'm not inclined to stand up and advocate for SAHMs. I don't understand them, although I don't condemn them for their choices. I just don't get it.

But, folks --

What's with all the Molly-bashing?

I thought Molly's initial posting was a really good description of why a SAHM would want to be a SAHM -- what she gets from it, how it benefits her family, etc. In fact, it's the best description anyone's ever given me about why on earth someone would choose that lifestyle.

I didn't detect even an inkle of condescension in that post, nor did I find much in any of her other posts. And I didn't see ANY judgment of others' choices in her posts.

What gives?

If I can't offended by this stuff, I can't imagine how you guys could be!

Posted by: pittypat | March 19, 2007 5:01 PM

By the same token, women can cheat, leave, lie, steal, abuse, etc. But men tend to cover themselves financially--they are less often dependent on a woman for their survival. So while, at times, women suck too, it's less of an issue when men typically tend to be in the CYA camp by default, whereas more women then men depend on their significant others for support.

No, when women are like that, men often loose their children. But I gues that is less of an issue because it doesn't affect women.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 5:02 PM

For anyone who is under a spouse's health insurance, I hope no one under that care has disqualifying pre-existing conditions that would prevent getting his/her own health insurance. For either death of covered spouse or legal separation/divorce, the maximum coverage period is 36 months. Be sure you're employable for a position with good benefits within 36 months.

Also, for Social Security disability benefit eligibility, you need to have been contributing a minimum amount to Social Security for five out of the last ten years. So, no, I don't believe in staying out of the paid workforce for 10+ years.

Also, I want to be able to re-enter the workforce in some sort of professional capacity.

Posted by: Marian | March 19, 2007 5:02 PM

Emily, my apolgies. I'm sorry for misinterpreting your intent. I guess my mindset in reading wasn't in the right place. FYI, we do not live in peaceful harmony, just stumbling our way through this stuff as best we can.

Posted by: Molly | March 19, 2007 5:04 PM

"No, when women are like that, men often loose their children. But I gues that is less of an issue because it doesn't affect women."

That is less of an issue because it hasn't been brought up yet. We were talking about financial dependence, but if you'd like to raise the topic about men 'losing' their children after divorce, abandonment, death or disability (not sure how that one would go, but if you want to be inclusive, that's what we were talking about), please feel free to do so. I for one am sick of the SAHM/WOHM debate--I've chosen my preference and don't plan on budging--so I'd definitely welcome any other topic!

Posted by: Mona | March 19, 2007 5:09 PM

For Mona,
New topic: do you dress your cats up?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 19, 2007 5:12 PM

Going back and rereading the posts, I think Molly unfortunately took the hit for some anonymous posters who said that those who have safety nets in place and work do so because they really don't trust their husbands. For example

"Have you never taken a risk? Do you trust no one? I feel sorry for you. I would rather trust and be burned -- even by a cheating spouse or a falling piano -- than to go through life assuming the worst could be around the corner and essentially waiting for it. And that's what people like you do. You never really live. You don't get it, and you probably never will. I'm not sure why I'm even wasting my time posting this. But I know there are people who understand what I'm saying. Even on this blog."

AND

"Whadda you want, a competing anecdote about my parents, all their friends and my in laws who have been happily married for 40+ years. Glad you mom could take care of you. Just 'cuz a person does something different doesn't make them wrong because it was wrong for your friend. 50% of people get divorce, 50% STAY MARRIED!"

And then Molly accused everyone who talked about the divorce horror stories of wishing such a fate on her, when in fact, no one was doing that. People were just pointing out that the future is uncertain and that such things happen, so Molly became lumped in with the anonymous posters who were attacking the working mothers as somehow having less meaningful marriages because they planned for the worst. Which is too bad, because Molly has some good points in her earlier posts. She lives a life that works for her, and although she trusts her husband, she also trusts her ability to make do without him if she needs to. In the end, what else can you expect from anyone?

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 5:13 PM

Molly raised a variety of points, including the following:

Could he leave me? Sure, but while I believe it is important to plan for bad things to happen, you cannot live your lifes as if the sword of Damocles hangs over your head. For us, this arrangement works and I feel that we are all able to enjoy our lives which is what the journey is about.
Posted by: Molly | March 19, 2007 11:29 AM

I trust that he will bear his fair share of the financial burden with the children were we to divorce and I trust that I can find a good lawyer that could get a good enough settlement for me to find a new career. Molly | March 19, 2007 03:47 PM

Meesh - you sure are quick on the nasty, name calling trigger today. I didn't know that opinions weren't allowed here today or is it just that opinions divergent from Meesh and Emily aren't allowed? Please let me know.
Posted by: Molly | March 19, 2007 03:50 PM

All of the above comments provoked a variety of discussion as was their purpose. Disagreeing with someone by name isn't necessarily bashing. Secure persons call it public discourse.

The blog stays on topic and posters are criticized for bashing. The blog strays off topic and posters criticize the "regulars" for getting too comfortable.

What do you want for nothing?

Posted by: to pittypat | March 19, 2007 5:14 PM

I am all for women staying home with kids -- if that's what they want.

HAHAHA

Without reading ANY, of the above comments. I post. Leslie, you are not all for women staying home with kids. You are for what you call balance.

That's ok with me.

Posted by: Fo3 | March 19, 2007 5:16 PM

Our contribution to the progress of the world must, therefore, consist in setting our own house in order.

Mahatma Gandhi

Posted by: mountainS | March 19, 2007 5:21 PM

Sometimes children die too which would impact my life in a greater way than the death of my spouse of his leaving me. Can I insure against that?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 5:23 PM

Sometimes children die too which would impact my life in a greater way than the death of my spouse of his leaving me. Can I insure against that?

Posted by: | March 19, 2007 05:23 PM

Yes, you can, but unless your child is providing financial support, your money would be better invested in grief counseling.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 5:25 PM

It is good to see ourselves as others see us. Try as we may, we are never
able to know ourselves fully as we are, especially the evil side of us.
This we can do only if we are not angry with our critics but will take in good
heart whatever they might have to say.


Mohandas K. Gandhi

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 5:28 PM

Any post that starts out "We've nearly beaten to death the [topic X], but..." is probably going to leave people unhappy at the end of the day.

There's been more people saying this blog is boring today than any other day since I first logged in.

Today was pretty boring, admit, but in general the blog is not so bad.

Perhaps if introduced differently, the same article would have led to a more fruitful discussion.

Posted by: dfgdfgdfgdfg | March 19, 2007 5:30 PM

To "to pittypat":

The examples (three) you provided of Molly's controversial statements were pretty inoffensive. The first two are completely benign, and the third seems to have been an exasperated response to being willfully misunderstood.

Emily's summary (5:13) of the issues seems right on target. Communication on this blog really does get screwed up when people post without a name or tracking identity.

Sigh.

Posted by: pittypat | March 19, 2007 5:30 PM

I think most people are wearing their cranky pants today - is it the weather?

Also, I too am interested in whether Mona dresses up her cats or not? :)

Posted by: mountainS | March 19, 2007 5:33 PM

"For Mona,
New topic: do you dress your cats up?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 19, 2007 05:12 PM "

If I did, I wouldn't have fingers with which to type, nor eyes with which to read your posts! What I would have, however, are a couple of teeny little outfits torn to shreds, the need for a blood transfusion, and two very pissed-off cats. Just the other day, I picked up my big cat, and she farted so hard I had to leave the room for half an hour!

Posted by: Mona | March 19, 2007 5:34 PM

Who wouldn't want to stay home and not work?

The "with kids" part is just a cover. Kids mostly find their own fun...it's not like Mom is there each and every minute. It's more like being a manager, encouraging, handling the crises...

Posted by: John Bailo | March 19, 2007 5:35 PM

Emily this blog does not need a self appointed moderator-
Why do all the blogs regarding Parenting- Moms etc turn out like this- folks put your emotions at the door. The majority of persons participating in this discussion wish to have just that a discussion. Not school yard snipes back and forth. The Post should shut down these blogs and start over. There is no information or insight to be learned from these comments and lengthy diatribes! Grow up bring something to the party besides a bad attitude.

Posted by: 44444 | March 19, 2007 5:35 PM

Laura / Mona, I always suspected your cats had a certain amount of dignity. This confirms it. No outfits.

but the farting. hmmm. maybe you might want to consider letting them relocate to California without you? or buy larger cans of Lysol?

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | March 19, 2007 5:37 PM

I think most people are wearing their cranky pants today - is it the weather?

Yes. I personally am tired of the cold weather. I want Spring to be here. Why isn't it here?

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 5:37 PM

StudentMom wrote: "...Ivy is all Northeast schools..."

WRONG! The Ivy League is Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Cornell, Brown, Columbia, Princeton and Penn.

Some other private universities in the northeast fancy themselves "climbing ivies."

For the record, I'm a product of CSSs, so have no dog in this fight.

Posted by: catlady | March 19, 2007 5:38 PM

Mona,
LMAO,
My dog farts like that. That is when I know he has to go outside for a walk. I, on the other hand, dress him in a bandana for every holiday.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 19, 2007 5:38 PM

I always considered myself more as an instigator than a moderator. How was I moderating anything?

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 5:39 PM

I see your Gandhis and raise you one Buddha:

Believe nothing, O monks, merely because you have been told it ... or because it is traditional, or because you yourselves have imagined it. Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher. But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis, you find to be conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings--that doctrine believe and cling to, and take it as your guide.

Posted by: Marian | March 19, 2007 5:39 PM

44444 --

Learn punctuation.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 5:40 PM

"The Post should shut down these blogs and start over. There is no information or insight to be learned from these comments and lengthy diatribes!"

Interesting!!!!

Compare with the live chats. Those, now, are very informative, and IMO also very fun to participate in.

You are onto something, 44444. Editor?

Posted by: dfgdfgdfgdfg | March 19, 2007 5:40 PM

Cat farting is so nasty! When I was a kid I used to dress up my cat and dog - we have a great picture of our dog ready for an imaginary trip to Hawaii complete with jean cut offs and a flower shirt. He looks so sad...

On the plus side, spring arrives this week! Yahooo!!!! I love that it is staying light out later - sun sets at 830ish here... so lovely

Posted by: mountainS | March 19, 2007 5:41 PM

To catlady: OK, well mostly NE schools then!!! ;) What I meant was that my university was around the same caliber (I guess a "climbing Ivy"), but was not one of the Ivies.

Posted by: StudentMom | March 19, 2007 5:42 PM

Has it occurred to any of you cat people that cat farting is merely another weapon in the arsenal of the feline to keep us (i.e., serving staff) in line?

One of my four cats is a spite puker. I can tell by the way she glares at me just before she starts urping.

Posted by: pittypat | March 19, 2007 5:44 PM

"there are exceptions and I am happy for them-good for them!!!!!!! but many divorced women do not enjoy the same lifestyle that they did when married--"

This is, unfortunately, quite true. I'm old enough to remember that no-fault divorce was instituted as a reform that would benefit women. It doesn't seem to have worked out that way in practice - in part because it makes it so very easy for a man to simply walk away from a relationship. Pre-nups may make sense, but I sincerely doubt that they, or alimony or child support will ever completely solve women's financial problems in the wake of divorce.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 5:45 PM

Ahhh very wise... but I see your Budha and raise you a Tso Ssu:

The bird in a forest can perch but on one bough. And this should be the wise man's pattern.

Posted by: mountainS | March 19, 2007 5:46 PM

pittypat, my big one is like that. If I take too long to feed her--gak gak gak. If I leave her bowl empty for too long--gak gak gak. If it's 11 am on a sunday and she wants me out of bed so she can sit on the pillow in the sun--gak gak gak. (Not on the bed though--on the floor.)

Posted by: Mona | March 19, 2007 5:47 PM

Marian - great quote!

dfgdfgdfgdfg and 44444, the Post offers a variety of products for a variety of needs and preferences. I hope you find what you're looking for, but am puzzled that it is so important to you to take a product off the market simply because it does not meet your particular needs. Interesting approach. Then again, I can't speak to "all the blogs" out there on this topic because I have neither the time nor the interest to peruse them.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | March 19, 2007 5:48 PM

That would explain cat farts, but why are dog farts so awful?

Posted by: SheGeek | March 19, 2007 5:49 PM

"That would explain cat farts, but why are dog farts so awful?"

Because they're dogs.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 5:52 PM

Dog farts are truly evil. They are mostly silent and deadly. The other day my dog was walking along and farted out loud a couple of times. He stopped and looked at his butt - probably trying to figure out what the noise was. We are talking about a 70 lb mutt, not a little lap dog so his stick around a while.

Mona - "If it's 11 am on a sunday and she wants me out of bed" Dogs don't let you stay in bed until 11.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 19, 2007 5:54 PM

No, No, SheGeek! Dog farts are not awful. The cats are tricking you into thinking ill of your precious dogs. Or you just need to open your windows more. Or breathe in through your mouth and not your nose. Or something.

You must change. Your dog is perfect.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | March 19, 2007 5:54 PM

"Bullsh*t. 25 years of marriage, raised 3 kids and at 55 I receive $350/month for 3 years so I "have time" to train and find a job."

seems like your lawyer sucked big time!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 5:56 PM

mountains,
I will call your Tso Ssu and raise you a Bill Cosby "Why is there air?"

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 19, 2007 5:56 PM

she had one of those husbands who was going to treat her fairly. snort. she didn't need a good lawyer.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 5:57 PM

World's Shortest Fairytale

Once upon a time, a guy asked a girl, "will you marry me?" The girl
said "NO" and she lived happily ever after and went shopping, drank
martinis with her friends, always had a clean house, never had to cook,
had a closet full of shoes and purses, stayed skinny and was never
farted on.

The end!

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 19, 2007 5:58 PM

You folks just reminded me of a particular Christmas years and years ago when my little pooch had a bad case of gas. Family was gathered for the day, and it my grandmother was there. My dog loved her, and sat on her lap all the time. Everyone thought that the flatulence was grandma's and no one said anything and bore it silently. I figured it out that night after pooch and I left the party, and the smell wouldn't go away.

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 5:59 PM

I will call your Tso Ssu and raise you a Bill Cosby "Why is there air?"

I don't think you can call and then raise. Don't you have to "see" and then raise?

Anyway, here's mine. What's the difference between a duck?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 6:00 PM

divorced women do not enjoy the same lifestyle that they did when married

Of course they don't, and why should they, the lifestyle is based on having an(other) income. The question should be do they enjoy the lifestyle they had before they married. Divorce is the end of the adult relationship, at that point both the man and the woman are on their own, if the woman can't support the lifestyle she has become accustomed to she needs to get a better paying job. Own your families decisions.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 6:00 PM


... until she got a dog!

I don't own a dog. I just know about this unpleasant subject from being in the same room as the dog several times- often when no cat was anywhere near.

Posted by: SheGeek | March 19, 2007 6:02 PM

March 19, 2007 06:00 PM - I stand corrected. As you can tell not a poker player.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 19, 2007 6:03 PM

KLB, you mean all I had to do to stay skinny and have a clean house was stay single? Why didn't anyone tell me this before?

SheGeek, the cat says it wasn't anywhere near, but I know differently. It's a cat. Not to be trusted around a peaceful, loyal dog. are you -- gasp! -- a cat person?

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | March 19, 2007 6:07 PM

I fold on the Eastern philosopy for today. The Gandhi was great, mountainS.

Really, it strikes me sometimes that one of the attacks often used is that a poster is insecure with his/her life choice.

Well, one of the reasons I read this blog is that I am trying to figure out the best balance over time. I'm SAHM right now, but frankly, I don't see it working for the long term. I welcome reading about what is working for people; I would love to read about anyone's success with keeping a foothold while scaling back for a time, especially in the private sector.

Posted by: Marian | March 19, 2007 6:11 PM

Megan's Neighbor, my sister always said being married to her ex made her fat (she did lose weight after she separated). I wondered if maybe it had more to do with the fact that her hand had been buried in the Chex mix for the entire conversation.

Posted by: Mona | March 19, 2007 6:12 PM

I used to be exclusively a dog person, until I met my mother's cat. She is so smart. She greets everyone with one cool meow. She drinks water out of the tap (refuses any other method) and willingly takes showers. She knows how to ring the doorbell by balancing herself on the mailbox next to it. This is how she makes her wishes to be let in at night known. And she has a pet hamster that she has never hurt.

Posted by: Emily | March 19, 2007 6:15 PM

Megan's Neighbor, my sister always said being married to her ex made her fat (she did lose weight after she separated). I wondered if maybe it had more to do with the fact that her hand had been buried in the Chex mix for the entire conversation.

Posted by: Mona | March 19, 2007 06:12 PM

Laura / Mona, In all seriousness, I think it has more to do with great male cooks taking over 50% or more of the cooking, using less healthy products (imagine valuing taste over calorie count, LOL), and over time wives eating what husbands eat, only in smaller portions. Way back when, when my now-spouse first opened my cupboards he asked where the real food was. He was right, but I lived and ate like every other single girl I knew at the time.

Recently, I have had several friends recommend the Divorce Diet. Ha!

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | March 19, 2007 6:18 PM

Actually, I like both cats and dogs. The comic strip _Get Fuzzy_, sort of a more-mature version of Garfield, gets it right I think. The cat's a schemer, and the dog is too dense to know what hit him. Come to think of it, Garfield and Odie are kind of like that, too.

Posted by: SheGeek | March 19, 2007 6:18 PM

okay, there's no way I'm reading through all of those comments, but I can't help but post my own.

first of all, from what I *did* read of the comments, it seems like there's a ridiculous discussion on whether women need to work to support their families, or whether they work to provide for their families' "wants." Whoever said that the distinctions between "wants," "needs," and "desires" is highly subjective is right, but entirely missing the point. or actually the points, because I think there are 3 big ones:

3. whether or not most women actually need to work to support their families, the fact is, they think they do. Most women work and when surveyed, they say they work to support their families. So saying that they don't really need to work ends up sounding like a moral judgment on their priorities. I think everyone on this blog can agree that sweeping moral judgments like that don't actually further meaningful discussion or understanding.

2. why is this all about women choosing to stay home? why shouldn't men be choosing to stay home instead? If a family decides to adopt a slower pace of life, why is it almost always the woman who gives up her career? This is one huge area where the goals of feminism have been unrealized.

and the big one...
1. "Choices" to stay home often aren't actually choices. There's this completely anachronistic fallacy that Betty Friedan tried to eradicate from 1963 until the end of her life that you can be a good worker with a successful career, or a good mother and homemaker, but you can't be both. And in truth, it's quite hard to do both, partially because of point 2 above (men still aren't expected to take on as many child rearing burdens), and partially because workplaces are quite inflexible. This false "choice" has been ingrained in social mores and institutions for so long, that many think that it's some inviolable principle of life.

I'm sort of pessimistic and I don't see this happening, but if men and women could just organize and demand reasonable workplace accomodations (things like paternity leave, onsite daycare, or flexible hours), I think we'd be able to have a much more honest discussion about the balancing acts and choices that women AND men have to make in the service of parenting. And maybe those misleading articles would finally stop getting written.

Posted by: bob12 | March 19, 2007 6:40 PM

Dang it, Megan's neighbor, SheGeek, Emily and Marian...you're having fun again!

My contribution to quotes and it is on topic here:

"There's an alternative. There's always a third way, and it's not a combination of the other two ways. It's a different way."
David Carradine in Kung Fu


Posted by: dotted | March 19, 2007 7:04 PM

I have been reading the blog for a long time, but never posted. I mean this as a honest (and not nasty) question-- why do so many women (and a few men they're married to) think it's acceptable for women NOT to work, especially once the kids are in school full time?

For me, if you are educated and employable, it's a equally a question of simple economics (you never know when tragedy will strike and you'll be on your own) and morals-- I simply believe healthy adults should be able to support themselves, and should contribute to their society beyond raising their own kids. if daycare is an issue, why not open up a daycare in your home? If summers off are an issue, consider becoming a teacher in your child's school district, where you'd share much of that time off. You can do *something* to contribute. Both parents should nuture, but both should provide for their homes financially and BOTH should be seen to extend themselves out into the world on a regular basis.

Personally, I love my job, and I can't imagine not working. But, I also want my daughter to see that mom is self-sufficient and has an identity outside her role as parent. Ladies, if we're reading this blog, I suspect we're all educated and able-- I just don't see why some women feel their biology entitles them to anything different than would be expected of men, once the kids can feed themselves and are in school. But I'm open to hearing the other side of it from long term stay at homes.

Posted by: brains | March 19, 2007 7:20 PM

dotted--Now there's Eastern philosophy! :-)

Whoo hooo, brains! I agree it's both parents' responsibility, though this does not necessarily play out in both parents being employed for the duration of the childrens' upbringing. The challenge is often in the logistics for as many reasons as there are families. My ideal is varying degrees of part-time for me over the years. Income disparity between my field and DH's field is one of the bigger reasons why I'm taking care of more of the day-to-day with our young kids these days, though he is very involved on the weekends and with making decisions about the childrens' education and activities.

For now, my career takes a hit. As far as that goes, I hope to have a long and healthy life and take care of that part of my ambitions (in a more intense way) later in life. I'd be pretty happy with a productive career maintenance plan while the kids are at home though.

Posted by: Marian | March 19, 2007 8:00 PM

I stay at home because I believe it is more important to be around when they are teenagers. I volunteer at their schools. I am active in their lives. I could not do this if I was working full time.

Posted by: no brains | March 19, 2007 8:06 PM

to marian:

I was a SAHM until number 2 was 6 months or so (with one older one at 3 1/2). It was time for me to get out of the house and do something more (I was volunteering for various things, too). I've been working full time for 18 or so months (two different jobs, actually). It took me about 2/3 weeks to find a job when I started looking - I thought it would take a LONG time, so I was trying to give myself a long time (i.e., thinking I would go back when no. 2 was 10 months or so - giving myself time to look). It also enabled my husband to be able to quit his job if he wanted to and do whatever he wanted - he almost did that recently (he HATED the company he was at and came home one day to say that he would be quitting when he got his bonus - I said : Okay). But a new opportunity fell into his lap, and I think his ease with his decisions (i.e., to stay home) made him not care so much if he got the job (as when he was the sole earner) so he got the job and they LOVE him.
Anyway, I think about becoming a SAHM again, but I do know that I am not cut out for it. One day things may change (I may go part time, for instance) but this works, for us, for now. It doesn't hurt that we both decided we would have short commutes (less than 5 miles) and jobs that are family friendly. When I looked for a new job, I looked only within a 5 mile radius - I gave up amazing opportunties that I would have loved, but I *did not* want the commute.

to no brains: but you *could* get a job while they are in school.
My mom was a SAHM and was never home when we got home from school. I walked to religious school or dance class or home or friend's houses and got picked up (sometimes) or walked home from there.

Posted by: atlmom | March 19, 2007 8:32 PM

hey brains--I actually did/do both of those! While it was hard, it allowed me to be home with my kids, make money and save money (no daycare expenses!). We were able to catapult our way up to the top tier of the housing market because of it and get ourselves in a good place financially. The in home daycare is a real pita, though. Better--before and after school daycare or a pre-school masquerading as a moms morning out. If all you need is a paycheck, there are options if you do not want to leave your kid. But leave your kid for a little while, at least after age 2. He will thank you for it.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2007 8:44 PM

to WHAT HAPPENED???

Just to make you happy, I will cease posting on Wednesday. But just wait until tommorrow!

BTW, you do not even know 1/10 of me!

Posted by: Fred | March 19, 2007 9:47 PM

Fred,
please don't stop posting...I need your CTOTD, I need your experience, etc. What happened doesn't reflect my opinion at all.

What happened doesn't really know the people who blog...almost insulting really.

Posted by: dotted | March 19, 2007 9:56 PM

"Personally, I love my job, and I can't imagine not working"

Personally, I don't love my job and I imagine not working all the time.

Seriously, my life is busy with work, children, housekeeping, errands, other family obligations,etc. If I were to stay home, my house would be cleaner, I would have time to exercise more and spend more time with children by taking walks in the park, etc., evenings could be spent with my husband and children without as much pressure to "get things done" since a lot will already have been done by me. I am not the sort to take on extensive volunteering to fill up previous "work" time. The rooms I've been meaning to paint for three years would probably be painted by now if I didn't work. I would never grocery shop on the weekend or after 4:00 pm during the week.

Staying home is not a financial possiblity for me, but I understand why others choose to do so. Work is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Congratulations to those who really love their work and are so fulfilled by working. It's just not me. I like what I do, don't hate it, but would really just rather not be working.

Posted by: to brains | March 19, 2007 11:11 PM

Where did you live when he left? Did you receive any property such as house, car, furniture,etc.

House? What house? We rented. He had the car titled in his name alone and took off with it. Admittedly it was a beater, but it was a functional beater. And junk furniture. Yeah, I have a 20 year old mattress and some glorified plastic yard furniture.

But of course, I shouldn't be "bitter". No, no. $350/month--and he is taking me to court to seek to reduce it further. What. A. Prince!

Posted by: for Just Curious | March 20, 2007 8:41 AM

"Bullsh*t. 25 years of marriage, raised 3 kids and at 55 I receive $350/month for 3 years so I "have time" to train and find a job."

seems like your lawyer sucked big time!

Posted by: | March 19, 2007 05:56 PM

He took the MONEY. YOU try getting a better lawyer than the person who HAS THE MONEY. Such as it was.

You fail to understand that poor people get divorced too. It's not just for those who aren't seasonal employees.

Posted by: For 5:56 pm | March 20, 2007 8:59 AM

"1. "Choices" to stay home often aren't actually choices. There's this completely anachronistic fallacy that Betty Friedan tried to eradicate from 1963 until the end of her life that you can be a good worker with a successful career, or a good mother and homemaker, but you can't be both. And in truth, it's quite hard to do both, partially because of point 2 above (men still aren't expected to take on as many child rearing burdens), and partially because workplaces are quite inflexible. This false "choice" has been ingrained in social mores and institutions for so long, that many think that it's some inviolable principle of life."

This is really, really weak. It starts by asserting that the old view that you can do one or the other well, but not both, is wrong. Then it goes on to say that it is, in fact, "quite hard" to do both. A couple of potential reasons why are posited, but no real suggestions are given for making it anything but "quite hard." Then the great leap is made to claim that this is a "false choice."

Bottom line, all this guy really manages to say is that it isn't "impossible," it's just "quite difficult." How does that really change things for most women? You still have to choose, or take on something that's very, very hard.

Maybe grandma wasn't so dumb after all.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 20, 2007 9:38 AM

And maybe Ms. Friedan wasn't so smart . . .

Posted by: Anonymous | March 20, 2007 9:39 AM

MdMother, are the linen slacks beige? They might've been mine. I bought them (on sale) thinking I could get skinny again.

Posted by: Working Dad | March 19, 2007 04:48 PM

Working Dad,

No, they weren't. Plus they were a women's size 8. Is there something you wish to share? ;-)

Posted by: MdMother | March 20, 2007 9:41 AM

"KLB, you mean all I had to do to stay skinny and have a clean house was stay single? Why didn't anyone tell me this before?"

What, didn't you know that men are high calorie as well as messy?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 20, 2007 9:41 AM

Sorry - hit send too soon. If the spouse who has the health insurance is the one who becomes unemployed or injured where will the insurance come from?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 19, 2007 04:57 PM

The good fairies, of course!

*claps hands furiously*

Posted by: for KLB | March 20, 2007 9:56 AM

Myth About Moms is Crushed, NOW Helps Spread the Word

By Lisa Bennett, Communications Director

March 18, 2007

NOW applauds E.J. Graff and the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) for debunking "The Opt-Out Myth" that has become a staple of The New York Times, with articles claiming a surge of women are trading high-powered careers for stay-at-home motherhood.

In CJR's March/April issue, Graff takes reporters and editors to task for focusing stories on anecdotes from a relatively small group of mothers who can afford to leave the waged workforce. "The stories imply that these women took the 'off-ramp' for a few years, but really they were run off the road," said NOW President Kim Gandy.

With help from an October 2006 study, "'Opt Out' or Pushed Out? How the Press Covers Work/Family Conflict," by Joan C. Williams, Graff demolishes the myth by injecting a dose of reality. Most families these days can't make ends meet without two steady paychecks, Graff notes, not to mention all the single moms who would love to spend more time with their kids but can't because they have to put food on the table.

While some women clearly leave the workforce to be full-time moms and are happy with that decision, how often is it really a pure choice? The media are fond of framing these life changes as strictly individual decisions, made without the influence of powerful external forces. Graff observes, however, that many moms who do jump off the career track do so because of employer "hostility" toward working mothers, child care issues, cultural attitudes and other pressures.

In addition to exposing the myth, Graff identifies what might be the most critical reason for putting it to rest and instead reporting on the real obstacles that mothers face: "if journalism repeatedly frames the wrong problem, then the folks who make public policy may very well deliver the wrong solution."

NOW and its Mothers and Caregivers Economic Rights (MCER) committee have been challenging the media's outdated and irresponsible coverage of women's struggle to balance work and family. Last year NOW took on ABC and Good Morning America's ridiculous "Mommy Wars" feature. The end result was a much improved GMA segment with NOW President Kim Gandy and MCER committee co-chair Laurie Pettine as panelists (you can view the segment on the ABC web site).

NOW is reaching out to major media outlets, encouraging them to cover Graff's article and the important issues it raises. Soon we will be expanding this campaign to encourage activists around the country to write letters to their own newspapers demanding better coverage of caregiving issues.

Posted by: Mai Shiozaki | March 21, 2007 9:33 AM

Didn't see this earlier, and I'm sorry about that.
I love -- LOVE -- the way the study compiles 50 years' worth of New York Times stories about the supposedly new trend of women dropping out of the workforce to raise families.
The only thing better would be, maybe, for someone to collect samples of the thousands of years' worth of cranky articles and essays complaining about how "kids these days are no good," or even, "You call that music?!?"

Posted by: anon mom | March 21, 2007 7:16 PM

Wow--the tone of some of these posts are quite defensive and sarcastic. This has been quite the mommy wars discussion. Hmmm...with posting comments online it seems that civility is on the wane. I agree most kids are average. My second child is very average. I was just saying for my older one who is very bright and thoughtful I don't see how daycare was an impact and I thought the comments are in regards to the NIH daycare study. I myself only have my youngest in daycare 2 days a week. I'm with my kids at home the other 5 days. But what about the single moms whose options are limited I was just saying they should not be discouraged. If you stay home full-time and can afford to do that or even if you cannot quite afford it you have a husband or partner who can allow you to do it since they work and you should feel blessed to be with your kids all the time. I also don't think that having high test scores or being some whiz of type A student involved in everything is any measure of future success. I went to the same prep school as Barak Obama who was an undistinguished very average B student who many do not recall from that time. At the same time many noble people abound who will never be known by the world or be some big celebrity but are people of great character and courage. The point is shouldn't we as women be a bit more inclusive and supportive of one another than these posts reflect? BTW it makes it hard when your kid is bright. Moms think you think your child is better than everyone else's child and it's not true for me I feel like he has a learning disability--b/c what teacher out there is going to do separate curriculum for a few kids at the top or bottom? Some kids are good at sports and some kids are good at academics some at art etc. I think we should encourage our kids where they are and for my older one it's different b/c he is bright compared to my younger son who is very average which is OK too as someone said most people are average.

Posted by: So Cal Mommy | March 27, 2007 3:25 PM

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