The Opt-Out Revolution

Are they or aren’t they? File this under “thanks for telling us the obvious”:

Working mothers may be stressed by the double job of caring for their careers and their families, but they are not leaving the work force because of it, a report has found.


Rebecca Traister has more, focusing on a semi-terrifying magazine for working-women-turned-SAHMs (SAHMs = Stay-at-home moms). And it’s… interesting. I’ll applaud these women for being honest — staying at home isn’t a cakewalk. Just like any other job, it’s tiring and frustrating as often as its engaging and inspiring. And I can appreciate the fact that they don’t justify their choices by arguing that staying at home is great and problem-free. But my god it doesn’t sound like something I could handle. I’ve never believed that all SAHMs are miserable and bored, but this magazine sure projects such an image. They tally up their husband’s rights and wrongs before deciding whether or not he’s gonna get some — apparently, as Traister points out, whether or not they’re getting some isn’t an issue. They bake endless batches of cookies, and do all the shopping, cooking and cleaning.

Isn’t the new “staying at home” about empowerment of sorts? Isn’t it supposed to be about exercising choices made possible by feminism? Why are these women doing all the baking and cleaning and schlepping to husbands’ office parties? In a feature called “Gettin’ CHOey,” the Total 180! ladies write that “We needed to validate, support and reassure one another. Lord knows our husbands can’t do that for us, and we shouldn’t expect them to — that’s what girlfriends are for.” Why is there no expectation of validation, support or reassurance from the husbands whose dinners they’re cooking? Did they all marry the Great Santini?

Seriously. Traister interviews the women behind the magazine, and what she found is surprising. One points out her frustration with being asked, “So what do you do all day?”, which is certainly fair (anyone who thinks SAHMs lounge around watching soaps and eating bon-bons should try spending 24 hours with a small child or two and see how it goes). But unfortunately, feminism doesn’t seem to have had much of an effect in these women’s households:

But aren’t modern men supposed to be sharing in the experience of parenthood? It doesn’t make sense to me that a man’s life and habits wouldn’t be changed at all by becoming a father.

Ha, well you know one of the feature stories for the next issue is called “My Husband Is a Single Man Who Happens to Have a Family.” I mean, I’m sure you found from reading the magazine that we’re trying to be humorous. I don’t know how to put it, but men, as we know, maybe even biologically are able to focus on one thing at a time. Women juggle. The fact that I stay home and watch my kids gives my husband the freedom to not wear that pager because he knows I’ve got it covered. When we’re both home we share. But we had to have that discussion many times, about having shared duty. It’s the same thing women talk about all the time, that their husband doesn’t clean the house or doesn’t do this or that. A man will step over the bag of garbage to get to the beer in the fridge, and a woman will pick up the bag of garbage as soon as she walks into the kitchen.

How pleasantly reductive. Remind me to marry someone who doesn’t think it’s his birthright to ignore the filth he creates. Anyway, the article is worth a full read.


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62 comments for “The Opt-Out Revolution

  1. December 6, 2005 at 4:58 pm

    Remind me to marry someone who doesn’t think it’s his birthright to ignore the filth he creates.

    Damn straight. It’s my birthright.

    The day that I figure out a way to equalize “I made dinner, you do dishes” with “I threw my shit on the floor, you clean it up” is the day I reach self-actualization.

  2. zuzu
    December 6, 2005 at 5:14 pm

    That article was disturbing on so many levels.

  3. EricP
    December 6, 2005 at 5:54 pm

    My mother worked until I was born (and had my brother two years later). She went back to work when I was 8. I am really confused by this article. What are these women doing that it is a full time job (in terms of constant work)? My mother’s primary job was to be present. She took care of the house and was there if my brother or I started fighting or hurt ourselves – she was there to put on bandaids (both were common). Other than that she managed to have a lot of free time. She read, watched TV, talked on the phone with friends, etc.

    Having to be around constantly has tough for sure but it just doesn’t jive with the monstrous effort that I keep reading about. I don’t doubt a lot of effort goes into being one but I keep reading about SAHMs and how they are constantly on the go and are exhausted. I have to wonder how much of it is taking on too many responsibilities.

  4. piny
    December 6, 2005 at 6:08 pm

    My mother worked until I was born (and had my brother two years later). She went back to work when I was 8. I am really confused by this article. What are these women doing that it is a full time job (in terms of constant work)? My mother’s primary job was to be present. She took care of the house and was there if my brother or I started fighting or hurt ourselves – she was there to put on bandaids (both were common). Other than that she managed to have a lot of free time. She read, watched TV, talked on the phone with friends, etc.

    Something must be missing from this story, or it’s not terribly representative. Have you ever babysat? IME, caring for children–even children who are old enough not to eat cigarette butts or soil diapers–is pretty exhausting. Not just that, but your mom didn’t just take care of you, did she? I’m assuming she was also responsible for keeping the house clean, washing everyone’s clothing, and cooking everyone’s meals.

  5. EricP
    December 6, 2005 at 6:56 pm

    Something must be missing from this story, or it’s not terribly representative. Have you ever babysat? IME, caring for children–even children who are old enough not to eat cigarette butts or soil diapers–is pretty exhausting. Not just that, but your mom didn’t just take care of you, did she? I’m assuming she was also responsible for keeping the house clean, washing everyone’s clothing, and cooking everyone’s meals.

    Piny, I’ll agree with you that my upgrading wasn’t terribly representative. Not that I don’t think that other parents couldn’t see an example here.

    I have no memories of being a toddler but I have been told that I in particular was a monster. I’m talking about a bit later in life, 4–6 years old with a brother 2 years behind me.

    I’ll be honest, my family arrangement probably wasn’t standard. By the time I was 4-5, helping with cleaning was part of my daily chores. Unless guests were coming over however, the house wan’t spotless – who cares (who’s is)? My mother took care of laundry a couple of days per week and cooking (for dinner – breakfast was cereal and lunch was sandwiches). When my mother went back to work at 8, we became what today is known as latchkey kids. I still had to clean and had to prepare breakfast and lunches for my brother and I (during the summer – only breakfasts during the school year). Goodness, I remember during summer break preparing supper for when they got home as a surprise (usually when we had gotten into some sort of trouble).

    I was given responsibilities from a young age and my allowance which by the time I was 8 was $5/day was only given if I had completed a checklist of chores. I was also given $3 for each book I completed and could explain ($5 for books over 400 pages). Except for Christmas and birthdays we bought our own toys with our allowance.

    Sure my parents expected a lot of responsibility from my brother and I but just because other mothers, especially today’s mothers take on all the responsibilty doesn’t make it their choice. One hundred years ago kids had responsibilities, parents today don’t expect anything from their kids, I don’t feel sorry for them, they are getting what they deserve.

  6. piny
    December 6, 2005 at 7:04 pm

    I was given responsibilities from a young age and my allowance which by the time I was 8 was $5/day was only given if I had completed a checklist of chores. I was also given $3 for each book I completed and could explain ($5 for books over 400 pages). Except for Christmas and birthdays we bought our own toys with our allowance.

    OT, but wow. I made $.45/week for completing chores until I was ten. Books were considered their own award, albeit in part because I would have bankrupted my parents within the year.

  7. Nymphalidae
    December 6, 2005 at 7:09 pm

    I don’t understand why people think it’s so exhausting to take care of a house and children. Granted, I don’t have any children. But I work 60+ hours a week in grad school and I manage to keep my apartment relatively tidy. Children are supposed to help you clean the house anyway. Mother is not synonymous with servant.

  8. December 6, 2005 at 7:28 pm

    Nymphalidae, try having a few chatty ones. That alone can be exhausting even if your ass is parked on the couch.

  9. piny
    December 6, 2005 at 7:35 pm

    I don’t understand why people think it’s so exhausting to take care of a house and children. Granted, I don’t have any children. But I work 60+ hours a week in grad school and I manage to keep my apartment relatively tidy. Children are supposed to help you clean the house anyway. Mother is not synonymous with servant.

    Nor is “child” synonymous with “helper-monkey.” Children, even the well-behaved ones, are characterized by immaturity. They do things like, I dunno, vaulting off the second-floor staircase. Or beating up their siblings. Or taking off their seatbelts. Or, God forbid, fixing you pancakes. They’re usually rambunctious, loud, and kinda reckless. They need to be supervised, and they need to be amused. They can definitely help with the housework and with cleaning up their own messes, but childcare is a hefty job.

    Also, “I,” singular, as well as apartment “apartment,” are important factors here. I can clean my room and wipe the counters down every once in a while. That isn’t the same as providing meals, clean clothes, and spider-free ceilings–or even any significant fraction of the above–for all of my housemates.

  10. December 6, 2005 at 7:37 pm

    “They tally up their husband’s rights and wrongs before deciding whether or not he’s gonna get some…”

    Wow. Do people really have relationships like that?

    “We needed to validate, support and reassure one another.”

    Barf. Only insecure, emotional, and whiny people need constant validation. I actually feel sorry for their husbands.

  11. piny
    December 6, 2005 at 7:38 pm

    Nymphalidae, try having a few chatty ones. That alone can be exhausting even if your ass is parked on the couch.

    I once coated the entire lower story of the house with maple syrup. It was on the inner spines of every book on our bookcase.

  12. piny
    December 6, 2005 at 7:39 pm

    Wow. Do people really have relationships like that?

    In the BDSM community, sure.

  13. December 6, 2005 at 7:41 pm

    In the BDSM community, sure.

    Ha!

  14. EricP
    December 6, 2005 at 8:08 pm

    OT, but wow. I made $.45/week for completing chores until I was ten. Books were considered their own award, albeit in part because I would have bankrupted my parents within the year.

    I’ve gotten this before, my parent’s approach was non-conventual. My parents at that point were probably upper lower-class. My allowance would be considered high but if we went to a store and asked for a toy or anything non-essential it came out of my allowance and being a child I didn’t alway complete my list of requirements so rarely got the full amount. For example if I was given 10 tasks and finished 5 I got $2.50. I was also expected to buy birthday, mother’s, father’s day and Christmas gifts with that money. Crying didn’t help, if I spent my allowance, I had made my choices. Also keep in mind that at 8, there were no babysitters, we took care of themselves so we were getting the money that a babysitter would have gotten.

    As for books, in my experience while girls did read books for pleasure, boys did not. The payment for books thing didn’t last too long (a couple of years) because it started to cost too much;-). By the time I was 16 however, I was blown away when I found out that most of my guy friends had never read a book that wasn’t required by school. Even today, I know very few men who read for pleasure while my brother and I read constantly. Sure there are some, but the men I know don’t tend to read too much even though some of them do read for their job (not for pleasure).

  15. December 6, 2005 at 8:37 pm

    Even today, I know very few men who read for pleasure while my brother and I read constantly. Sure there are some, but the men I know don’t tend to read too much even though some of them do read for their job (not for pleasure).

    That is so… sad.

  16. EricP
    December 6, 2005 at 8:39 pm

    They do things like, I dunno, vaulting off the second-floor staircase. Or beating up their siblings. Or taking off their seatbelts. Or, God forbid, fixing you pancakes. They’re usually rambunctious, loud, and kinda reckless. They need to be supervised, and they need to be amused.

    I’ll agree with jumping from the second floor but none of the rest is life-threatening. Keeping your seatbelt on is good and should be enforced but isn’t likely to kill a child in the near-term. Being loud can be ingnored or punished as needed.

    The old saying is that boys will be boys. Parents accepted (or did) that boys will be rough and tumble and somehow survive. Can you imagine that there was a time when broken bones in childhood wasn’t something unusual. Since boys don’t tend to be any stronger/tougher than girls until puberty (even then the tougher part is quite debatable), I think tend to think that kids today are way too pampered. Just be there to bandaid their hurts and take them to the hospital if necessary.

  17. December 6, 2005 at 8:41 pm

    They’re Canadian, Jill.

    It was already sad.

    (Although they’re not as bad as the filthy Inuit – who DO read for pleasure, but only creepy snuff porn about sea animals.)

  18. December 6, 2005 at 8:42 pm

    EricP, Dude, no offense, but how can you stand that? All of my friends and I are readers. It’s not something I screen for, just how it is… That confuses me.

  19. EricP
    December 6, 2005 at 8:47 pm

    That is so… sad.

    I’ve always thought so too. I thank my parents for my different attitude.

  20. piny
    December 6, 2005 at 8:49 pm

    The old saying is that boys will be boys. Parents accepted (or did) that boys will be rough and tumble and somehow survive. Can you imagine that there was a time when broken bones in childhood wasn’t something unusual. Since boys don’t tend to be any stronger/tougher than girls until puberty (even then the tougher part is quite debatable), I think tend to think that kids today are way too pampered. Just be there to bandaid their hurts and take them to the hospital if necessary.

    Broken bones aren’t unusual now, and kids are plenty rambunctious.

    The point I was making was not that these things are life-threatening–although not wearing a seatbelt, kicking a two-year-old around, and messing with a hot stove can in fact be dangerous–but that they require intervention and work on the part of the parent. Nymphalidae seems to be under the impression that having a child is like having a Roomba.

  21. Jason
    December 6, 2005 at 8:56 pm

    Wow. You guys got $5/day. I just got stickers on my chart.

  22. December 6, 2005 at 9:02 pm

    Children are hard work. Whenever I babysit for relatives I’m exhausted by the end of the few hours I spent with the little darlings.

    And what about when they get sick, which I understand happens quite a lot?

    The way Nymphalidae was speaking it’s like you can chuck ’em in a play pen until they’re adults while you get on with your life. I don’t think so.

    And also, I work long hours and I have a partner and a large house and a dog, and I find it exhausting staying on top of just those things — let alone a small human depending on me for just about everything as well.

  23. EricP
    December 6, 2005 at 9:07 pm

    They’re Canadian, Jill.

    It was already sad.

    (Although they’re not as bad as the filthy Inuit – who DO read for pleasure, but only creepy snuff porn about sea animals.)

    You know Robert, I didn’t like you at first (too confrontational – as someone who seems to understand Canadians I’m sure you see the issue there) but you could almost be Canadian in your sense of humor;-).

  24. Sally
    December 6, 2005 at 9:11 pm

    I’ve never been a SAHM, but people I know who’ve done it say that the hard part is the social isolation. You go hours at a time without ever talking to a grown-up, and sometimes you want to talk to someone who can respond in complete sentences. It’s not so much the work that’s hard, although it often is. The real kicker, though, is the working conditions.

    (And yes, I am aware that there are lots of other solitary occupations. I myself have put in a lot of solitary 10-hour days in libraries and archives. But I think it’s different when you’re intensely intellectually engaged in what you’re doing. I’d go pretty nuts at my clerical job if I couldn’t chat with my co-workers. )

    My parents would never in a million years have paid us to read, and somehow both of my brothers ended up being readers. I think we all ended up readers because they were readers. It seemed natural to read for pleasure, because my parents did all the time. I can barely remember ever seeing them watch T.V.

  25. EricP
    December 6, 2005 at 9:12 pm

    Just for the record, I’m not just throwing shit out there. I work from home. If we got preggers and had a child, for practical reasons I would be a stay at home dad while my GF went back to work after maternity leave.

  26. EricP
    December 6, 2005 at 9:25 pm

    I’ve never been a SAHM, but people I know who’ve done it say that the hard part is the social isolation. You go hours at a time without ever talking to a grown-up, and sometimes you want to talk to someone who can respond in complete sentences.

    The isolation and the lack of freedom are the issues that would/will kill me (see my previous post). That has to be the toughest part.

    My parents would never in a million years have paid us to read, and somehow both of my brothers ended up being readers. I think we all ended up readers because they were readers. It seemed natural to read for pleasure, because my parents did all the time. I can barely remember ever seeing them watch T.V.

    Like I mentioned it, my parents started off with it. They stopped after it started costing too much. My mother is a reader although she reads mostly religious or romance novels. My father, to my knowlege, has never read a book in his life.

    It sounds funny whenever I mention it to anyone who actually reads. But to anyone who doesn’t, they wish that their parents had done the same thing.

    They were paying us, but it was considered a bonus on top of our allowance. I remember in elementary school we had one visit to the library per week where we could borrow 3 books. I was the only guy who read those three books (or any of them).

  27. EricP
    December 6, 2005 at 9:27 pm

    BTW Jill, sorry but I think my post stole this thread and took it off topic. I didn’t mean it;-).

  28. December 6, 2005 at 9:52 pm

    You know Robert, I didn’t like you at first

    I get that a lot. I grow on people.

    Like fungus.

  29. December 6, 2005 at 10:15 pm

    Even today, I know very few men who read for pleasure while my brother and I read constantly. Sure there are some, but the men I know don’t tend to read too much even though some of them do read for their job (not for pleasure).

    I have kids at school who brag they have never read a novel. That might be one of the reasons we read it out loud. Talk about sad.

  30. December 6, 2005 at 10:35 pm

    Wow. When I was a kid, I’d go to the library every week and check out the maximum number of books — I’d go through one or two a day. I remember getting in trouble once, and my punishment was that my dad left me at home while he went to the library with my sister (I got him back by tying his running shoe laces in dozens of knots while he was gone).

    But then, that level of childhood nerdiness is pretty sad too…

  31. Kyra
    December 6, 2005 at 10:37 pm

    They do things like, I dunno, vaulting off the second-floor staircase. Or beating up their siblings. Or taking off their seatbelts. Or, God forbid, fixing you pancakes. They’re usually rambunctious, loud, and kinda reckless. They need to be supervised, and they need to be amused.

    Once my brother and I decided to bake a cake. Instead of reading a recipe (I think I might have been old enough to read; not sure), we just got out a big bowl, and dumped stuff in, and around. I’m pretty sure your standard cake recipe does not involve garlic salt, eggs on the floor, or sifting one’s fingers through every square centimeter of flour because it’s nice and soft.

    Another time we decided to make cat food for the cat. Out of pennies. (They were the right color.) By poking holes in the center of them so they were shaped like cat food. With the needle of a sewing machine. Needless to say, the needle broke, and Mom was a bit pissed.

    In my defense however, *she* was the one who accidentally dropped half a litter box full of catshit and clumping kitty litter into the bathroom sink (and consequently down the drain, requiring a root canal on the pipe underneath).

    Then again, I’m the one who stopped up the shower drain and taped the shower curtain to the wall so that I could have a bathtub. Bad idea.

    Yes, kids do things.

  32. December 6, 2005 at 10:39 pm

    Hey, I was the one digging out my father’s WWII and Civil War novels after I’d read the entire Babysitter’s Club series twice.

  33. Kyra
    December 6, 2005 at 10:45 pm

    Can you imagine that there was a time when broken bones in childhood wasn’t something unusual.

    My friend broke her arm at the age of ten, falling off monkey bars. She got questioned over and over again by people who wouldn’t believe that it was an accident and not abuse. ‘Cause, apparently, girls don’t ever play in ways where there’s any possibility of them getting injured.

  34. zuzu
    December 6, 2005 at 10:56 pm

    I’m not sure why everyone’s jumping on Eric. I think that there is a difference in focus on parenting, at least from when I was a kid. My mother was a SAHM of six closely-spaced heathen children who worked her last nerve, but she wasn’t involved in our lives like the being-a-mother-is-the-hardest-job-in-the-world crowd who write for magazines like Total 180! and whatnot. If we got on her nerves, she sent us outside. There were hours upon hours we were unaccounted for. She had friends and played tennis and was involved in politics.

    The laundry never ended, but the house was reasonably clean and we got fed and clothed, and every week, my grandmother came and took us for the day so Mom could get out of the house. But she didn’t micromanage our lives, and I can’t remember her getting intensely involved in much of anything with any of us until we were all a bit older and moved to a new state,and she threw herself into band-parent and wrestling-parent stuff to meet new people. She was more than happy to return to work once we were all in school, but unfortunately had a hard time finding work due to her return to teaching coinciding with a dip in school-age population.

  35. girlasshat
    December 6, 2005 at 10:58 pm

    I work as a seasonal nanny (40-60 hour weeks while school is out, with two to five children at a time.) The most exhausting things, in my experience, aren’t physical – once children are old enough to sleep through the night, the physical demands aren’t that bad. It’s the psychological stuff. For one thing, you have to be constantly splitting your attention, and even when you are sitting still, eating a sandwich, reading a book, etc a lot of your higher functions are occupied with knowing where the toddlers are and whether they’re okay. It takes time for this to be subconcious; when I first babysat for little babies I would go home exhausted because I was doing all that constant hyperalertness consciously. For another thing, motherhood as currently practiced does grind you down psychologically. You’re isolated with small, constantly needy people who require things of you all day – the bandaids, the crusts off their sandwiches, chidings, encouragement, listening to them wail for thirty, forty minutes when you’ve sent them to their room for hitting their little brother with a xylophone. Try being stuck alone in a house with any two or three people on earth for months, no, years on end and see if you don’t get a little irritable. Also, there’s the repetition, because, by golly, you will have to make them blow their noses several times a day every day for years. When they learn to hold a kleenex themselves, it will be a HUGE BREAKTHROUGH.

    Both of the families I worked with – for upwards of four years – had wonderful, well-disciplined, intelligent, independent children, and I really loved spending time with them, and after a month or two of being alone in the suburb all day with no one but the kids for company, I was SO SICK OF CHILDREN I COULD SCREAM. I know being a nanny is a lot different than being a parent, but I stuck with nannying for longer, and seemed to feel a lot more positively about it, than most of the young women who worked in the same neighborhood, so I don’t think my feelings are unusually negative.

    I have a lot more sympathy for SAHM’s now. I still want to be one for a while – some day – but now I know that sometimes, it will suck.

  36. mythago
    December 6, 2005 at 11:30 pm

    Granted, I don’t have any children.

    That was painfully obvious.

    Can you imagine that there was a time when broken bones in childhood wasn’t something unusual

    This must have been in the magical time when health care was free, and the SAH parent had nothing better to do than sit in a hospital waiting room and catch other people’s viruses. Yes, I’m snarky, but I can’t muster much more than a WTF? at the idea that kids today are pampered because they suffer injury less.

    What’s sad about this magazine is what these women will never, ever want to hear: Their situation isn’t because they’re SAH moms. It’s because they married assholes.

  37. December 7, 2005 at 12:59 am

    Oooooh…. I’m sorry, I couldn’t even make it through all the comments… What keeps ya busy…. ARE YOU KIDDING? I say it with a smile, a BIG smile (thus the caps).

    Granted, the first years are ultimately the most physically demanding – try not sleeping for more than two for four hours at a time due to feeding – day and night – for even two weeks with NO option but to continue doing the same. Now imagine doing that for anywhere from six months to two years – and tell me you’d be sane enough to handle mysterious crying fits, big spills, double the laundry, sustaining the baby-stuff stock pile at home and carrying extra everything-baby everywhere you go. Imagine that you, are no longer one person in any given situation but you are at least two or more people at all times. Now imagine that you can handle that but that you also have be REALLY nice and gentle ALL the time too. Sick or not sick, stressed or not stressed, bad day or no. Got into a tiff with the mother in law, your sister, father, best friend? Ah well, better take up some nice quiet energy venting hobbies ’cause you are no longer privy to a bad mood. At least not one that can be ‘picked up on’ by a wee, tiny, helpless, innocent growing person whom needs and deserves all your most positive personal attributes.

    That’s the early years.

    After that, starts the Schedule (capital S intentional). The Schedule is a nightmare. A parent must anticipate all sorts of nasty little details to make their lives ‘work’. What time is everyone you house doing what and how do they get there? Do they need lunches made, extra sweaters, gym shoes, a water bottle, cash for the book fair, is it library day? In the interim there is housework, groceries, fixing things that broke, replacing things, nagging for chores, nagging for homework, nagging to get away from the tv or computer, helping with chores and homework, making those costumes, providing the snacks for school events, being at the school events, providing the outings, organising the outings, the after-school activities and clubs, the dance / soccor / piano / drama / martial arts camps, the parent-teacher meetings, school yard heartaches and neighborhood scuffles, owies, medical check ups, the dentist, the paper work (OH GAWD the paperwork for health, fire, accident, car insurance, for school registrations, for school transportation, for school security, for your taxes, for your subsidies if you need them, for your house if ya got one, and entire forests are destroyed to keep families organised and taken care of). Then there is show and tell days, crazy hair day, seventies days, winter and spring celebrations (to cover for various religious occassions), and at least twenty some kids birthdays to attend in the course of every school year. Add to it the management of family: yours, your spouse, theirs, or everybody else you call and consider family – with whom you all need to have some quality time.

    Then, of course, there is all the stuff that makes for memories and will be enevitably equated to the ‘health’ of your family life. The time spent chatting, listening, advising, sharing, playing, doing, or just plain hang’n out with each other on a (planned) lazy day.

    The last part is the best part of parenting.

    I worked straight up to week 38, went back to work when my son was six months old and haven’t stopped. I’ve known a number of couples whom had children after I did, and they now look at me with dumfounded expressions and gaping mouths, dark circles under their eyes, and they say things like “Who would have thought? How could we have known?”.

    Now, I personally don’t think it’s particularily healthy for everyone involved to have a devoted stay at home parent once the kids are an age to take on responsbilities for themselves. Not good for the homekeeper, not good for the spouse, not good for the kids.. That’s what I’ve seen so that’s what I think.

    On the other hand, as a woman who chose to ‘go it alone’ as a parent, I can assure you that I empathize with any woman or man whom decides to put that time in, for the sake of their family, to begin with. There is a lot to do and you certainly will not ‘run out’ of tasks on ‘the to-do list’. Managing a family and managing a career at the same time is extremely challenging by anyones standards. I’ve done this, so agree or disagree with me, I feel I can speak from experience.

    The crazy way that folks like to talk about this matter, easily tenses the hairs on the back of my neck. The fact is, that most folks really don’t have a choice, as to whether either of them stay home or not. The “Market” has taken full advantage of the advent of women in the work force and most families cannot survive on persons income, anymore.

    For those whom have that choice, good on ’em and be sure whomever stays home really wants to. I’d highly recommend taking turns, so as to keep the debates focussed on childrearing phylosophies instead of “What do you do all day anyway?”.

    I appologize for grammar / spelling errors.. wrote quickly.. couldn’t help myself.

  38. Nymphalidae
    December 7, 2005 at 1:46 am

    You know what I can have with a full time job? Kids. You know what I can’t have with a full time job? Another full time job. It’s ridiculous to compare the work I do in the lab with the work SAHMs do. I used to clean houses for lazy SAHMs. Yeah, it’s so hard to stay at home all day watching TV with your children while your husband supports you and somebody else cleans your house.

  39. piny
    December 7, 2005 at 2:15 am

    Yeah, it’s so hard to stay at home all day watching TV with your children while your husband supports you and somebody else cleans your house.

    You’d probably seem pretty lazy if you paid someone to do your graduate coursework, too.

    My mom didn’t have a maid, ‘kay? Most moms don’t.

  40. piny
    December 7, 2005 at 2:22 am

    You know what I can have with a full time job? Kids. You know what I can’t have with a full time job? Another full time job. It’s ridiculous to compare the work I do in the lab with the work SAHMs do.

    You cannot take full-time care of children and work full-time. You can “have kids,” that is, conceive and bear them with a partner, but someone’s got to pick up the slack or you’re not going to be able to work a nine-to-five plus. Your children will need you during that time.

    You’re also not the only person here who has, or had, two jobs or a job and a heavy courseload. You are the only person trying to tell the parents here that they don’t know how much work is involved in having children.

  41. December 7, 2005 at 3:30 am

    Isn’t part of the problem for at least some SAHMs unrealistic societal and perhaps personal expectations (from family, husband, friends)?

    I mean, if you’re expecting Martha Stewart meals and homeschooling for three and time-intensive mothering and a spotless home and immaculate personal coiffure – that’s several full time jobs, right there.

    Hell, I take care of kids and work from home, and I’m pretty damn organized. I couldn’t do what some SAHMs apparently try to do; I think it would be stupid to try. There are 24 hours in a day, not 36; any plan for wife-ing and mothering that requires 36 hours a day is a plan to fail.

  42. December 7, 2005 at 3:51 am

    This thread is the wrong argument. Sure, there are asshole dads or “overinvolved” moms but it comes down to: the system is BROKEN. We’re doing the best we can. Schools don’t work. We’re supposed to lean on churches, but IMHO churches suck way worse than schools. Work is structured more and more so that we’re “supposed” to be in couple-based partnerships and one of those people is supposed to be doing the shit work. Work could be structured differently and so could living conditions and families. Kibbutzes have their own problems but… it’s not like there is no other option or no middle ground.

    You may think back on your individual childhood and how your mom seemed to handle everything perfectly with no effort but… did she? What was she giving up? What about all the other moms who didn’t handle it so perfectly and who are still popping barbiturates nonstop? So you let yourself in with a latchkey and did your homework and cooked dinner for your little brother and you turned out just fine – WHAT about the kids who had those responsibilities and couldn’t hack it? and weren’t fine?

    It’s not about whiny upper middle class women feeling entitled. Fuck y’all who go on about how easy it is and how we can take up a hobby. Do you have any clue how dumb that sounds? It’s not about picking up your own socks or riding herd on your kids to make them do a chore. There’s a lot of driving and supervising and WORK. Do we, can we, all live somewhere where we and our kids walk lots of places, what, some kind of townhouse where the toilet never breaks and everyone’s always healthy? You know… it’s so not about class. Because the working mom who is working 2-3 jobs and has a crisis of any kind … is driven deeper into poverty simply by not having the time to deal with those crises, by being on the phone 3 hours with the insurance company or standing in line or whatever it takes – or by dealing with them and losing her job. And the upper class stay at home or part-time-working mom who is doing shit work unpaid not just for her family members but also in the school system – she has a safety net, but it is dependent on the class status of her mate, and… do I need to say it again… she DOES NOT SHARE THAT CLASS STATUS. My god, I wish someone would reprint Christine Delphy’s work in English. Why do you think women are an underclass? The treatment of moms is a symptom not of women’s inability to be responsible human beings but of the ways that they are inhumanly burdened. Men too in this system are badly burdened but they end up with a hell of a lot more money and power.

    It’s not like I have some quick fix for this but in the interim between now and, you know, the End of Patriarchy, I would say that nothing is so crucial to stay at home moms as ties to other moms. And that is not about sitting around with the fabled bonbons bitching about your husbands. It is about forming an economic unit. It’s an informal one but it’s there and it’s important. It saves people’s sanity every day… You might make fun of the tone of that magazine, which I haven’t seen and I hate most parenting magazines, they make me totally barf, but don’t make fun of the central idea which is women forming strong important ties. And which would seem central to feminism don’t you think?

  43. piny
    December 7, 2005 at 9:54 am

    Isn’t part of the problem for at least some SAHMs unrealistic societal and perhaps personal expectations (from family, husband, friends)?

    I’d say so, but one of them is the idea that, “having it all,” means, “doing it all,” or even “doing both unassisted.” Even apart from the June Cleaver trap, there’s the idea that kids are as low-maintenance as parakeets, that taking care of them simply involves being in the same house. And, heck, that working from home is a viable solution for most people. My mom held down a more-than-fulltime job (in a lab, btw), and three kids. My dad, meanwhile, left for the office every day at six-thirty and returned home after dinner.* My mother was able to handle the job because mom and dad decided to put us in daycare. It wasn’t merely that our house could never have been mistaken for Martha Stewart’s; it was that other people assisted in supervising us when our parents were working. That’s a realistic scenario.

    *I’m not defending this division, mind.

  44. December 7, 2005 at 10:08 am

    Am rambling here a bit because I have so much to say on this topic that it would take up multiple blog entry spaces. But I think that while the idea that SAHM’s do nothing all day, especially with babies, is mainly a stereotype, that the feminists are correct that the level of exhaustion probably DOES depend on how involved Dad is at home.

    My mom did most of the work at home, which meant double shifts once she started teaching again. But most couples I know today, liberal or conservative minded, tend to share the house chores more equally than past generations. In fact, our registered-Republican marriage appears to be more “feminist” than that of a lot of the more feminist bloggers who sometimes complain of lazy husbands at home. We are not parents yet and we both work our asses off all week, but I wake up on Saturday morning and the laundry has been done, and if I cook, he does dishes, etc. The only thing I insist on doing myself is cleaning the bathroom, but that’s only because I’m anal about it, not because I’m female. I hope that level of equality stays once we have kids.

    On another site I compared a husband who won’t do anything around the house to an annoying slobby roommate, and I wouldn’t have put up with it any more than any feminist-identified woman.

    I think a lot of these articles though do tend to focus on what someone on another blog called “Straw SAHM’–the one who stays home for a full 18 years (most work at least part-time once the kids hit school), is wealthy to the point of being spoiled and eating bonbons all day, and is submissive to an arrogant husband who won’t “help out” much at home.

    I don’t think it applies to many people in this generation though. Personally I only plan on SAHM’ing until the youngest (we’re planning on only 2) hits first grade. And I think most of my friends who plan to SAH (one of whom is due in March with her first) have the same plan. And none of us have chauvinistic asshole husbands either, although I might question that amongst some of the WND and Townhall pundits. :-)

    I do *not*, however, care for the feminist pundits (*cough* Linda Hirshman *cough*) who buy into the idea that childcare is demeaning and something to be avoided. Hirshman attacks Straw SAHM again, but her arrogant and insulting comments about motherhood had both the liberal and conservative blogospheres in a justified tizzy.

  45. December 7, 2005 at 10:15 am

    I have always had at least one full-time job in addition to being home with my son. I am a single mom. Many times my full-time job has allowed me to work from home or be with my child full-time. I have always maintained that difference between full-time moms and moms who have a full-time job is quality.
    My son ate quick dinners (spaghetti & meatballs, etc.) on paper plates in front of the tv (watching the Simpsons together is also quality/talking time) many a night. If I didnt have a full-time job the extra time would’ve been spent using/washing real plates, making a more complex dinner, and spending more time with him.
    On the other hand, due to both time constraints and personal beliefs i sent him out to play much much more than most of his contemporaries.
    So while he has rarely had a sit-down dinner at a table with the whole family, he also knows how to play and amuse himself with only a backyard and some sticks.
    I buy his birthday cupcakes from Shoprite instead of baking them – does this make his life less rich? I dunno.
    I do think it’s harder to be a parent than it was for our parents. Even if you discount some of the most ridiculous expectations (micromanaging your child’s seconds) it is no longer possible to leave your first grader alone in the house after school. Or just throw your toddler in the backseat un-seatbelted whenever you want to go somewhere. Or send your kid to the corner store (depending on your comfort level) to pick up dinner ingredients.
    I also think that expectations at work are a lot stircter than they were for our parents – a lot of menial jobs require that you be in motion at all times, and if you want to just be a secretary, forget it – you have to be an administrative assistant with a 5-year career goal.
    Maybe if we all stop taking sides in this ridiculous battle we could help to change work and home so that everyone benefits.

  46. December 7, 2005 at 10:16 am

    Ricia:

    Now, I personally don’t think it’s particularily healthy for everyone involved to have a devoted stay at home parent once the kids are an age to take on responsbilities for themselves. Not good for the homekeeper, not good for the spouse, not good for the kids.. That’s what I’ve seen so that’s what I think.

    And for a classic example of attacking Straw SAHM, see Nymphalidae:

    You know what I can have with a full time job? Kids. You know what I can’t have with a full time job? Another full time job. It’s ridiculous to compare the work I do in the lab with the work SAHMs do. I used to clean houses for lazy SAHMs. Yeah, it’s so hard to stay at home all day watching TV with your children while your husband supports you and somebody else cleans your house.

    Sounds like you worked for the spoiled minority of SAHM’s who actually do sit home watching TV all day instead of interacting with or stimulating their kids, or getting out of the house at all. The ones who stay home, but don’t want to do any of the childcare or cleaning. I agree with you about the staying home watching TV bit, which I don’t consider healthy anyway. But most SAHM’s aren’t like that, and most don’t use housekeepers anyway.

    Consider what percentage of the population can afford a) to live on one income, and b) to hire help on that one income, and you’ve got a very small percentage of the very rich.

  47. December 7, 2005 at 10:17 am

    Oops, sorry Ricia, I forgot to type my response to you:

    I agree, and that’s why I don’t plan to stay home for 18 years. Sorry if you thought the “attacking SAHM’s” referred to you–it didn’t!

  48. piny
    December 7, 2005 at 12:18 pm

    I buy his birthday cupcakes from Shoprite instead of baking them – does this make his life less rich? I dunno.

    If this wasn’t rhetorical…I don’t think so. I mean, you could make the same argument of those shiftless slatterns who make their kids cupcakes from a mix, couldn’t you? Our upbringing involved plenty of TV, plenty of alone-time, and plenty of cold cereal. It also involved time with both our parents; I don’t think any of us felt unloved or unsupported. None of us have strangled any kittens, to the best of my knowledge. Two parents working their asses off has been the norm for most families for most of human history. How a mother without running water, electricity, or bottled milk would have managed to make her little woogums feel like the bestest, most adored baby on the planet, I have no idea. I think she was at least as workworn and distracted as moms are now.

  49. Annie
    December 7, 2005 at 12:37 pm

    Doesn’t seem like many of you really get what it’s like to be a SAHM. I am a SAHM to three kids, ages 9, 2, and 6 weeks. I do not spend all of my time surfing the net, watching tv, eating bon bons, or anything else. I spend ALL of my time cleaning, nursing a baby, doing laundry, helping the oldest with his homework, teaching the middle child her ABC’s, fixing dinners, doing Cub Scout projects, and on and on. And sometimes I get enough time for a shower or even sleep. Most days I get about 6 hours of sleep (with wake-ups for night feedings), and I get to shower when my husband comes home from work. I don’t get to talk to grown-ups regularly and very rarely do I have more than ten minutes to spend doing something I want to do.

    I’m not complaining. I love what I do and I love being a parent. It just seems to me that many of you have a distorted image of what it’s like to be a stay at home parent. Just because your mothers did it and seemed fine doesn’t mean they were. Now that I stay home, I understand what my own mother went through and why so many women of her generation turned to valium and prozac. Not only is it hard work, it’s constant, undervalued, isolating work, even with a partner who does everything he can to share the responsibilities of being a parent.

  50. piny
    December 7, 2005 at 12:40 pm

    Uh, Anne, what are you talking about? Nymphalidae doesn’t seem to believe SAHM’s do any work–because, after all, the ones who pay other people to do their work don’t do any work–and a couple of people have mentioned that their moms had other supplementary interests. However, most of the people here have been very clear on the childcare-is-a-rough-slog concept.

  51. Annie
    December 7, 2005 at 12:49 pm

    Piny, you’re right….it must be the sleep deprivation, because I can’t seem to thread a coherent thought together! Re-reading the comments, I can see that the bon-bon comments are coming from the same few people.

    As an aside, I wish I could pay someone to clean my house….I’d take a nap!

  52. piny
    December 7, 2005 at 12:55 pm

    Piny, you’re right….it must be the sleep deprivation, because I can’t seem to thread a coherent thought together! Re-reading the comments, I can see that the bon-bon comments are coming from the same few people.

    It’s okay. Go lounge around for awhile with a Jane Mitchener novel and some Haagen-Dazs. You’ll feel better.

    Seriously, though, I’m glad to see you here. And there was a definite bon-bon-myth strain in comments, albeit mostly from one commenter.

  53. December 7, 2005 at 1:28 pm

    Interestingly, I knew some “bon bon moms” in my childhood. Some of my friends from elementary school had SAHM mothers who hired housekeepers, nannies, AND cooks. I know exactly what they did all day–spent time at the country club, and their kids were just as unsupervised and bratty as kids without SAHM’s are stereotyped to be.

    The point is that your average SAHM does not live that way. One interesting theory is attachment parenting. Most of those moms are as liberal/feminist as you can get, but have also devoted their lives to mothering and bonding with their kids. Fascinating stuff.

  54. piny
    December 7, 2005 at 1:38 pm

    The point is that your average SAHM does not live that way.

    …And that if a workload requires a nanny, housekeeper, and cook, it’s nothing to sneeze at.

  55. December 7, 2005 at 2:37 pm

    I think I was the first person to mention bon-bons. My point was that stay-at-home moms aren‘t usually sitting around eating bon bons. Which I think is what everyone else has said, except for one commenter. So apologies for bringing bon-bons up in the first place.

  56. Nymphalidae
    December 7, 2005 at 11:32 pm

    “You cannot take full-time care of children and work full-time. You can “have kids,” that is, conceive and bear them with a partner, but someone’s got to pick up the slack or you’re not going to be able to work a nine-to-five plus. Your children will need you during that time.”

    Was my mother not really my mother because she put me in daycare? I mean, she had me – that is, she conceived and bore me – but I guess she didn’t do her job right since she had to have somebody else pick up her slack.

  57. December 7, 2005 at 11:36 pm

    No Drive-By Parenting!

  58. piny
    December 8, 2005 at 12:29 pm

    Was my mother not really my mother because she put me in daycare? I mean, she had me – that is, she conceived and bore me – but I guess she didn’t do her job right since she had to have somebody else pick up her slack.

    Look: MY MOM AND DAD PUT US ALL IN DAYCARE SO THAT MY MOM COULD WORK A FULL-TIME JOB AS A RESEARCHER IN A LAB.

    I’ve said so in at least one post. I do not, repeat do not, have any problem with this choice on their part. I consider it admirable. I think she’s an awesome scientist and an awesome mom, and I’m glad she stuck with her career rather than make herself miserable out of some misplaced desire to do well by all of us. Her tenacity has made me and my sister the people we are today.

    Because of the decision she and my dad had to make, I understand–unlike you seem to–that having children means either farming them out to someone else or taking care of them yourself. The latter choice involves serious fucking work, and it doesn’t allow you to simultaneously do things like studying the causes of blindness for eleven-plus hours per day. The former choice allows you to do other kinds of serious fucking work, like studying the causes of blindness for eleven-plus hours per day.

    People frequently have children and work at the same time; that has been the standard for centuries. But most people–and I don’t understand why your mom’s career/family path didn’t bring this home–cannot both take care of children and a household and hold down fulltime jobs. They can, of course, be parents. They generally cannot be primary caretaker parents. They need another SAHP. They need daycare. They need a nanny. They need the public school system.

    Everything I said before was in response to your anti-parent bullshit about how being an SAHM isn’t really work, based on the following logic: some SAHM’s pay people to clean their homes; those SAHM’s don’t do any housecleaning; therefore, all SAHM’s, including the ones without any paid help, don’t do any work. I am not denigrating parents. You are.

  59. December 8, 2005 at 1:13 pm

    i must admit, it gives me a strange satisfaction to see parents venting like this…. makes one less alone in the world, n’est-ce pas?

  60. zuzu
    December 8, 2005 at 2:56 pm

    What are bon bons, anyway?

  61. Linnaeus
    December 8, 2005 at 3:03 pm

    The American Heritage dictionary defines a “bonbon” as “a candy that usually has a center of fondant or fruit or nuts coated in chocolate.”

    (“fondant”, btw, is “a sweet creamy sugar paste used in candies and icings.”)

    You can get Bonbon brand candies that have ice cream at the center, instead of the usual fillings.

  62. December 8, 2005 at 3:31 pm

    direct translation is: good goods (in english would be said “goodies”) but yes, a once famous brand for chocolates….

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