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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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141 Responses

  1. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl August 12, 2013 at 11:21 am |

    “For better or worse we live in a capitalist society, and money is power.”

    Right. And women will always come out on the bottom as long as we continue to be complicit in upholding this system that ties one’s personal and political power to money. Because our capitalist society systematically goes about undervaluing women and their labor, and doubly so when that labor is something traditionally coded as feminine, or women’s work.

    But, hey, let’s let the professional, MC and UMC women who are still able to fight their way closer to the top continue to dump on those women who never will have that sort of access. And crow about how they told those women that they were throwing away all their potential and their educations, and their earning capacity. Because those women in power are so different, so above being treated as lesser that those other women.

    Yeah, no.

    1. Safiya Outlines
      Safiya Outlines August 12, 2013 at 1:15 pm |

      Where to start.

      It took until the penultimate paragraph for this article to make even the briefest mention of “family-friendly policies”.

      When, when, when are are all the USians beating the More Career Women =More Power drum going to realise that the USian maternity and family provision in the workplace is absolutely dire and until this changes nothing else will?

      That’s regardless of how many finger wagging articles get written warning SAHMs of the consequences of their actions.

      Instead why not value women (for it is generally they) for the role they play within the home and ensure divorce courts do too? Or is that too radical, so we’ll stick letting Rich White Men dictate what is valuable, that’s worked well so far.

      Then there is the whole downplaying of exactly why, in a life that is short, people may want to stay at home with their children, a point that has been argued here many times previously, but to no apparent avail.

      1. Past my expiration date
        Past my expiration date August 12, 2013 at 1:35 pm |

        Yes, I’m tired of reading about the opt-in/opt-out woes of middle-class professional women. I’m also tired of reading that “financial dependency” is an inherently suspect condition for an adult human being.

        In E J Graff’s 2007 Columbia Journalism Review article “The Opt Out Myth”, she quotes Caryl Rivers, at the end, saying that the US approach to family policy is “Okay, let’s build a superhighway; everybody bring one paving stone…We don’t look at systems, just at individuals. And that’s ridiculous.”

        That’s what I’d like to read about.

      2. Aydan
        Aydan August 12, 2013 at 1:46 pm |

        Instead why not value women (for it is generally they) for the role they play within the home and ensure divorce courts do too? Or is that too radical, so we’ll stick letting Rich White Men dictate what is valuable, that’s worked well so far.

        Then there is the whole downplaying of exactly why, in a life that is short, people may want to stay at home with their children, a point that has been argued here many times previously, but to no apparent avail.

        The article I read was about (an article about) women who wanted to stay home with their children (with some reluctance for some of them) and did so, and would not change that. Now they want to go back to work and are having trouble doing so. That’s not finger-wagging, that’s an unforeseen difficulty that they’re actually experiencing.

        I’m not sure that telling them simply to value different things is really going to help anyone in their situation. Yeah, you can argue that Rich White Men have brainwashed them into wanting to go back to their former careers, I guess, but it won’t be a very convincing argument. They want to go back to paid employment, at least part time. Telling them to value their role in the home more is… not helpful, at best.

        Maybe you weren’t referring to the NYTimes article that Jill references at all, and just speaking in generalities. If so, sorry for misunderstanding.

        1. EG
          EG August 12, 2013 at 2:52 pm |

          That’s not finger-wagging, that’s an unforeseen difficulty that they’re actually experiencing.

          Well, it may have been unforeseen, but it was completely forseeable. By 2003, when the first piece came out, the difficulties of SAHMs trying to re-enter the paid workforce had been well-established. I find it odd if this difficulty really was unforeseen by the women in the article.

        2. BBBShrewHarpy
          BBBShrewHarpy August 12, 2013 at 3:01 pm |

          EG, from my reading of the article, the unforeseen part was not the difficulty of re-entering the workforce but rather the effect that leaving the workforce in the first place had on their lives & especially their relationships, and the fact that they came at some point to want to reverse that choice.

          Definitely a position of privilege… the first case study is someone who is now earning 1/5 of her original salary. Most of us gasp until we hear she’s still making 6 figures.

        3. Aydan
          Aydan August 12, 2013 at 8:40 pm |

          Maybe “unforeseen” was a bad word, but I think two or three of them talked about how it took longer to go back than they expected. Should they have been more realistic? Well, maybe. But it doesn’t change the fact that these aren’t hypotheticals dreamed up to admonish SAHMs, these are actual problems actual SAHMs are/were having– and not just the three relatively wealthy women profiled, but the ninety percent of women in Dr. Hewlitt’s survey who wanted to return to paid work but often found it difficult.

          Suggesting that they change their definition of success to a less “male-centric” one– or implying that they should– seems kind of irrelevant to what they are trying to accomplish. I’m sort of getting the vibe from some of these comments that people think these women have been indoctrinated into the idea that having a career and making money is good.

        4. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 12, 2013 at 9:01 pm |

          “there is the collective impact to consider. It’s hard not to be discouraged by the numbers. Over the last 10 years, the decades-long advancement of women to higher positions in business and politics seems to have stalled. According to the nonprofit research group Catalyst, women now account for just 4 percent of Fortune 500 chief executives, 17 percent of corporate board seats, 20 percent of law partners and 19 percent of Congress (thanks to a big bump in the 2012 elections). A younger generation of female high achievers, especially those who aren’t most highly privileged, aren’t getting a very hopeful message. And without women in powerful positions pushing for change, employers have less incentive to alter workplace practices that may encourage women to exit after they have children. “Once they leave the corporate workplace, their ability to imbue workplace culture with their values is gone,” Pamela Stone says”

          The above quote is from the New York Times Magazine article that Jill is responding to in her article. So, please, don’t tell us this isn’t also about tsktsking women for losing out on their professional earning capacity and career accolades. And I’m saying that these things should only matter to one because they matter to one, not because society tells one that they are the only way to be valued or considered valuable to the rest of society.

        5. Aydan
          Aydan August 12, 2013 at 9:46 pm |

          The above quote is from the New York Times Magazine article that Jill is responding to in her article. So, please, don’t tell us this isn’t also about tsktsking women for losing out on their professional earning capacity and career accolades. And I’m saying that these things should only matter to one because they matter to one, not because society tells one that they are the only way to be valued or considered valuable to the rest of society.

          Yes, I know. I read it too.

          But what I’m not getting is the connection between the erroneous implication that professional women “owe” anything to women coming down the pipeline after them, and your implication that these SAHMs who want to go back to work are experiencing their present difficulties– not being able to find work as easily as they expected– because they are “upholding this system that ties one’s personal and political power to money.” How would not “upholding this system that ties one’s personal and political power to money” help them restart the careers that they want to restart, and what would that even look like?

          And I’m saying that these things should only matter to one because they matter to one, not because society tells one that they are the only way to be valued or considered valuable to the rest of society.

          I think it’s just as dangerous to assume that these women only want to return to paid employment because of what “society tells” them as it is to assume that women only want to have children because society tells them to. Both are terrible and sexist assumptions. Maybe you’re not assuming that, but that’s how it’s coming across to me.

        6. Safiya Outlines
          Safiya Outlines August 12, 2013 at 10:10 pm |

          Aydan – I’ll put it simply.

          1)It is rubbish to talk of “Opting Out” when there are so many massive constraints in the US around combining work and family life. I am sick of reading about women’s “choices” – and a very select group of women at that, and never any analysis of the constraints they face.

          2)Both articles are swimming in USian exceptionalism. Neither makes any mention that other countries do things differently – longer maternity leave, legally supported flexible working, working less hours and having more annual leave.

          I live in the UK, I will be getting 9 months paid maternity leave with an extra 3 months unpaid if I wish to take it. Partners can have 1-2 weeks paid paternity leave and if the mother wishes to return to work before her mat leave is up, her partner can take her mat leave. (N.B – This all applies regardless of gender of the couple and adoptive parents have similar rights).

          It is LAZY, yes LAZY to forever and ever judge and head-shake over women’s choices and not once, raise a peep against the system and instead continue to place the sole burden on individual choices.

          Where is the movement, the NYT articles and elsewhere fighting for better, more family compatible working? Why instead is the message to always imitate what the men do?

          3)This blog does not have a great history of discussing parenting issues, other comments here may give you a clue about this.

          We are just past any mention of children being a cue for 600 comments on strawbabies in restaurants, but there still seems to be this failure to accept that parenting can be fun and fulfilling – yes, for some people, even more so then any job.

          So we all feel like we are banging our head against a brick wall – and having 30% less fun*

          *First!!

        7. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 14, 2013 at 9:17 am |

          Amen, Safiya. I was having a very difficult time spelling it out to Aydan without resorting to nastiness. Because I’m just so, so, so, tired of seeing a retread of the same discussion over and over again here at Feministe. Minus all the important nuance required to bring these issues into proper focus, not to mention that it is utterly missing the holding accountable those who hold all the cards of power in this shitty system that is so sorely lacking.

          Also, haha, you beat me to it!

        8. roro80
          roro80 August 14, 2013 at 11:35 am |

          Safiya — I totally agree with all your points, and would love to have a better system. But it’s not rubbish or exceptionalism to say that that’s not what it’s like here in the US now. It’s not, and considering the crap political system we have going on here, it would be farsical to think that there will be a magical change toward paid maternity leave and family-friendly work environments, let alone a dismantling of the patriarchal capitialistic corporatocracy we live in. Certainly it’s not going to happen in time for me to have and raise kids. It’s extremely important to work and fight for those things, but setting up our individual lives in such a way that they count on the country being a better place than it is is not really a viable solution.

        9. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 14, 2013 at 11:47 am |

          it would be farsical to think that there will be a magical change toward paid maternity leave and family-friendly work environments, let alone a dismantling of the patriarchal capitialistic corporatocracy we live in.

          Wow, I really disagree with you. Which ties into the point you finished with in your comment.

          but setting up our individual lives in such a way that they count on the country being a better place than it is not really a viable solution.

          I fail to see how what your comment does not boil down to, shit’s not gonna change, so keep on being a good little cog and don’t bother complaining any more.

          There can be real change, but that definitely will not ever happen if we all sit back and accept our current system. And it definitely will never happen if we don’t fight, and refuse to accept the sexist norms and rules of our capitalist system. So I actually think that at least trying to set up our lives, on an individual basis, and to the best of our abilities, in way that expect our country “being a better place” can do quite a bit to make those goals happen.

          Because if enough of us say screw this, I’m not going to work myself into the ground, without seeing any real benefit to myself or my family, that will start to turn the tide back in the favor of worker’s rights. As opposed to working ourselves into the ground for the benefit of a very few at the top of the heap.

      3. Donna L
        Donna L August 12, 2013 at 1:56 pm |

        the whole downplaying of exactly why, in a life that is short, people may want to stay at home with their children, a point that has been argued here many times previously, but to no apparent avail.

        Very true. How many times have we had variations of this same exact thread over the last year or so?

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 12, 2013 at 6:41 pm |

          Oodles, Donna, more than I think I could possibly count on both hands.

      4. Bfing Sarah
        Bfing Sarah August 12, 2013 at 7:40 pm |

        Safiya outlines, I wish you could hear me applauding you. As I sit here, watching my two children play in the bath, “wasting” my JD and, apparently, my life. I had No idea that someone who wasn’t living my life knows what is best for me!! Thanks, feminism, for never getting tired of telling me what to do and how to do it! And here I thought that was my husband’s job? Or maybe my bosses’ jobs? Or the patriachy’s job? Not mine, that’s for sure! I don’t have ANY IDEA what’s best for me! Won’t someone please help me decide??

        1. sally
          sally August 14, 2013 at 4:15 am |

          You asked to be told what to do so here: read the article she refers to then actively seek out and read about women who had to face returning to the workplace.

          As a woman who wants to be told what to do, I’m telling you to shift from a teenage, storming off tantrum to measured thinking. If you react so much to very real consequences of solely being a stay at home mom, you aren’t thinking about the future of your household. And hey, if you don’t want to think or consider and just want to spew a tantrum on the mere mention that hey, there’s a downside of never tending to a career or never attending to the idea that you’d be responsible for the rent or mortgage. Could you support your household beyond poverty? Because your husband and kids are counting on you to deal. Not to mention you now and your retirement years. But maybe..the bigger the tantrum and the not hearing…then God never deals you a circumstance.

        2. (BFing)Sarah
          (BFing)Sarah August 14, 2013 at 9:55 pm |

          Sally: fuck off. You don’t fucking know me or my situation. I did read the article. And I’ve read, over and over again (on this site and others) about the loads and loads of silly little SAHMs that are seeking to get back into the workplace and now they can’t. I’ve read about how we shouldn’t feel sorry for them and how they deserve what they get. I don’t need a tutorial on the Mommy Wars, Sally. I’m pretty sure they have been going on for a long time and its certainly not a new topic here. I know plenty of women seeking to get into the workplace and I’ve also been one. And guess what? I’m working again. Am I still making six figures? No, I’m not. But when I’m walking to work I don’t still wish that a taxi would hit me so that I could go to the hospital and get a momentary respite from billing every single second of my fucking life. I also know plenty of women who left the workplace and are perfectly happy FEMINISTS. Yup, that’s right. FEMINISTS that stay home. You know why? Because just because they have a graduate education does not make them too good or too educated to stay home to raise their children. Because they actually ENJOY being around their children. And, for me, I opted out of my old career because my children are black children and I wanted to make sure they had all the love and support in the world before they went out into this racist society. Because both myself and my husband were working at large firms and coming home after 10 at night, as a matter of course. We knew that one of us was going to have to stay home if our children were going to know that they even had parents. I stayed home because my husband is a black man and he didn’t really want to quit his job so that people would judge him as just another lazy black guy who can’t/won’t get a job. But, that’s my story. And its my fucking business and it was our family’s choice. These decisions are based on a million little factors that are personal and private. But, you know what? I’ve said all this before on this site and I’m getting really fucking tired of rehashing the same old tired crap.

          Everyone has their reasons for their choices and, once you have children, most of those choices are agonizing. Articles like this are partially WHY they are still agonizing, because everyone all too ready to wag fingers and tell women that what they are doing (no matter what it is) is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. Do articles like this help women make the choices that are going to work best for them in their own unique situation or do they make them feel guilty for making the best choice they could at the time? If its the latter, and it often is, perhaps maybe we should tone down the judging. Not to mention the articles are just chock full of class and race privilege.

          Also this:

          But maybe..the bigger the tantrum and the not hearing…then God never deals you a circumstance.

          I have no idea what you mean by that. It makes no sense. And I don’t believe in God. SO there’s that.

        3. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie August 14, 2013 at 9:56 pm |

          sally: I’ll bite, even though you weren’t talking to me.

          First: I don’t believe in God, so I’m not afraid of God dealing me a “circumstance.”

          As for the rest of your snotty, know-it-all comment, here’s a deal: Impromise, should my husband die or leave me, to never ever ever ever ever depend on you personally for ANYTHING. So you can stop worrying about whether I, or any other SAHP, am too stupid to have a contingency plan should my vapid little life not go according to plan.

        4. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 14, 2013 at 10:54 pm |

          Well isn’t that cute. Sally thinks she is providing us silly ladies with a Very Important Feminist Lesson. And lecturing us about God, and dealing us a circumstance.

          Excuse me, I have to go laugh my ass off for a second…

          Oh my, how hilariously hilarious. Really, you belie your supposed feminism by finishing up with your little fundie dog whistle code speak there, Sally. Spare me your bootstrapping nonsense about what drains on society we are and oh, so irresponsible. Because all I’m going to muster in response is more laughter and ridicule.

        5. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 14, 2013 at 11:21 pm |

          You asked to be told what to do so here: read the article she refers to then actively seek out and read about women who had to face returning to the workplace.

          As a woman who wants to be told what to do, I’m telling you to shift from a teenage, storming off tantrum to measured thinking. If you react so much to very real consequences of solely being a stay at home mom, you aren’t thinking about the future of your household. And hey, if you don’t want to think or consider and just want to spew a tantrum on the mere mention that hey, there’s a downside of never tending to a career or never attending to the idea that you’d be responsible for the rent or mortgage. Could you support your household beyond poverty? Because your husband and kids are counting on you to deal. Not to mention you now and your retirement years. But maybe..the bigger the tantrum and the not hearing…then God never deals you a circumstance.

          My mother-in-law has never worked outside the home in her life, yet she has devloped skills in managing the household on a limited income that are identical to that of people who have worked in high level jobs involving budgeting and planning. She can’t even drive, yet my father-in-law would be completely lost without her.

          In other words: Sally, no.

        6. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan August 15, 2013 at 10:57 am |

          She can’t even drive, yet my father-in-law would be completely lost without her.

          Erm, isn’t that more “codependence” than anything? The not-so-healthy kind? Like, it’s cute when couples say they’d be helpless without each other, but it shouldn’t be true because that’s a good way to end up royally fucked.

        7. EG
          EG August 15, 2013 at 11:13 am |

          When you’ve spent decades making a life together? Being lost without the other person sounds pretty normal to me.

        8. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 15, 2013 at 11:14 am |

          Erm, isn’t that more “codependence” than anything? The not-so-healthy kind? Like, it’s cute when couples say they’d be helpless without each other, but it shouldn’t be true because that’s a good way to end up royally fucked.

          It isn’t healthy…but it’s equal…

        9. JBL55
          JBL55 August 15, 2013 at 12:33 pm |

          Erm, isn’t that more “codependence” than anything? The not-so-healthy kind?

          How is what Fat Steve described a not-so-healthy codependence? What is unhealthy about two individuals with different gifts and skills creating a loving and mutually beneficial whole greater than the sum of their parts?

          No doubt Fat Steve’s MIL would say she would be lost without her husband, just as my husband and I would say the same about each other.

          it’s cute when couples say they’d be helpless without each other, but it shouldn’t be true because that’s a good way to end up royally fucked.

          After my first husband died (he was 29, I was 24), I became even more confirmed in my life-long belief that I should always be able to support myself and take care of myself, if only because humans are mortal and can be expected to die at the most unexpected moment, leaving the widow (as you say) “royally fucked.”

          Ten years later I married a man who, like me, was perfectly capable of taking care of himself by himself. But we really liked there being someone else to help do things we each found unpleasant (e.g. taking out the trash) and to be the primary on tasks we either were really bad at (e.g. wiring a three-way switch) or never enjoyed in the first place (e.g. mowing the lawn).

          Early in our marriage, often one of us would insist on refusing the help of the other, only to realize how hurtful we were being by saying in essence, “I don’t need you.” We learned to share burdens, to help one another, and to show appreciation not just of the help offered but the loving willingness of the other to offer it in the first place.

          For the last 23 years we have each helped the other through serious illnesses, deaths of loved ones, professional upheaval, and countless smaller blows and chaos. Every now and then one of us will say, “I couldn’t have done X without you,” the other will always reply, “Aw, you would have been fine,” and the first will say, “Maybe I could have muddled through it alone, but I’m so glad I didn’t have to.”

          Some people might find a person’s acknowledgment of the incalculable worth of their spouse to be “cute.” I call it “appreciation and gratitude for something I can never take for granted and which could end in a literal heartbeat.”

    2. EG
      EG August 12, 2013 at 2:37 pm |

      I think an important point that is overlooked is that capitalism, as it has always been constituted in the West, absolutely depends on women’s unpaid labor in the home and in the volunteer force. The economic system simply wouldn’t be sustainable if nobody did domestic/reproductive labor, because the conditions necessary for productive labor wouldn’t be met, or if that labor was compensated, because that money would dramatically lower profits. Therefore, that labor has to be ideologically devalued as not labor at all, but rather a lifestyle, a choice, a “calling.”

      The idea that corporations shouldn’t have to “subsidize” women’s “choices” through family-friendly policies is laughable, because the reality is that it’s women’s unpaid labor that subsidizes the existence of those corporations.

      1. Athenia
        Athenia August 15, 2013 at 10:32 am |

        I think it’s worth pointing out too that since reproduction is a “natural” process (like growing food), capitalism is always going to look at it as “free” labor, no matter how much labor actually goes into it.

    3. Miss S
      Miss S August 12, 2013 at 5:36 pm |

      “For better or worse we live in a capitalist society, and money is power.”

      Right. And women will always come out on the bottom as long as we continue to be complicit in upholding this system that ties one’s personal and political power to money. Because our capitalist society systematically goes about undervaluing women and their labor, and doubly so when that labor is something traditionally coded as feminine, or women’s work.

      Agreed. It’s also true that

      “For better or worse we live in a ,racist society, and whiteness is power”

      and

      “For better or worse we live in a homophobic society, and heterosexuality is power.”

      That doesn’t make it right, and it shouldn’t be something we’re willing to uphold.

      1. Tony
        Tony August 12, 2013 at 6:12 pm |

        On the consequences of opting out thread a couple of people have brought up the capitalist system / money as the root of the problem. I see this theme keep coming out when the subject of Opting Out is broached: why must we conform to the capitalist money = power paradigm?

        That doesn’t make it right, and it shouldn’t be something we’re willing to uphold.

        I don’t know. I’m probably more sympathetic to capitalism here than most, but I really don’t think that overthrowing it would necessarily lead to a better world. All the alternatives I’ve seen are horrendously thought out.

        It seems like a bit of a red herring to redirect all discussion of the gendered impact of workplace pressures onto the capitalist system because it kind of implies that it doesn’t exist as a distinct issue, and that feminist workplace concerns should be mostly subsumed under Marxist revolutionary agitation, and that I just don’t agree with.

        However, if anyone has an alternative they think could work, I would challenge them to go out and build it. No seriously.

        There was an article here recently about the Bolivian Mennonites- obviously a progressive a dystopia if there ever was one. But one thing they’ve done that’s somewhat impressive is they have a clear idea of how they want to live and then they went out and did it and built a self governing, self sustaining community. And it’s last at least 60 years. The Amish have done the same.

        I really think if you have a different vision of society and then go make it work– even on a very small scale, if it’s attractive enough people will flock to it.

        1. Tony
          Tony August 12, 2013 at 6:13 pm |

          Oops, that was supposed to be posted to Spillover #7.

        2. EG
          EG August 12, 2013 at 6:56 pm |

          Tony, if you think that analyzing the way capitalist economies depend on unpaid female labor is synonymous with advocating for Marxism, you know very little about Marxism. Noting that capitalist economies depend on unpaid female labor is a feminist economic analysis. Further, it is entirely possible to analyze and critique capitalism without advocating for Marxism. Or even without having a fully thought-out alternative in mind. I can’t build a car, but I still know a crash when I see one.

        3. Tony
          Tony August 12, 2013 at 7:33 pm |

          analyzing the way capitalist economies depend on unpaid female labor is synonymous with advocating for Marxism

          My comment wasn’t about unpaid female labor, it was about the more fundamental equation of money with power. That will always be true, barring revolution. So I think if you want to say that Jill’s argument that women have a vested interest in paid labor because money is power is the wrong one, then you do need to propose an alternative that is actually workable. Because otherwise, we’re left with the status quo, women have less money, and thus less power.

        4. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 12, 2013 at 7:54 pm |

          No, Tony, just, no.

          EG is correct that there is absolutely nothing inherently Marxist about bringing a feminist critique to modern capitalism. Also, it’s haha hilarious that you throw down the Marxism declaration in response to those of us who are questioning the shortcomings of capitalism. This isn’t a throw the baby out with the bath water approach, but it is about refusing to stand by and continue to let permit capitalism to undervalue women and their labors.

          Because there is absolutely nothing feminist about saying well, ladies, them’s the breaks and that’s just how it is, so suck it. Also, please tell me you didn’t just try to mansplain to us little ladies who don’t like continuing to get shit upon by the almighty American way of capitalism and its lie of being a meritocracy that rewards all hard work.

          Haha hilarious, indeed.
          Talk

        5. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 12, 2013 at 8:06 pm |

          the almighty American way of capitalism and its lie of being a meritocracy that rewards all hard work.

          Ha ha ha ha. Capitalism rewards being adept at taking advantage of others.

        6. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie August 14, 2013 at 10:02 pm |

          “All the alternatives” you’ve seen? Have you “seen” any economic/social systems that center women, rather than men? Any that don’t depend on the unpaid labor of women to keep things going for men? Any systems that center the raising of children as a vital part ofkeeping a society going? Any that don’t equate money and power?

          If any of this seems “horrendously thought out,” I wonder if that’s because the idea of men losing their privilege and power (e.g., living more like WOMEN do) is just horrifying.

      2. Tony
        Tony August 15, 2013 at 11:02 pm |

        Lolagirl, EG you are right. Your analysis is deeper than mine and I agree thus more valuable. I saw capitalism under attack and immediately thought you were advocating for Marxism but that is a false dichotomy.

        Tinfoil, I believe it is possible. However, you are talking about something radical one way or another- its not terrifying. It’s something that I want to see, I want to live, not just hope that it’ll be so and so 2 or 3 generations down the road if liberal reformism continues long enough. In the long run were all dead.

        And I was not being facetious. I do think that abandonment is a viable alternative to reform. It doesn’t mean going off into the woods either. Look at the haredi. In the middle of Brooklyn. Yet no one dictates to them how to live, what to value, how to organize authority within their community, except what they choose. That was my point. Local community building and creating alternate cultures from the ground up, where norms are set to counterattack against hegemonic systems root and stem. Maybe it can’t be done by everyone but it can be done Now. We dont need the approval
        Similar to people who decided to take their conversations outside of mainstream feminist spaces rather than deal with the same crap over and over. The chances of success in the aggregate, are, I believe, greater.
        andrea366.wordpress.com says what I mean 1000x better

  2. Asia
    Asia August 12, 2013 at 11:28 am |

    I think its a combination of women really truly believing that all money/resources brought into a marriage are owned in common as well as truly believing children are better of with a constantly present primary caregiver.

    Perhaps, there is something to that. You mentioned that the husband gets to devote extraordinary amounts of time to work if his wife stays home. Well, she does get to devote extraordinary amounts of time to the kids.

    The big problem with this set up is that if your unhappy or disaster strikes finances can/do plummet quickly.

    I don’t understand why these very wealthy women didn’t have more invested. At there level of wealth they could have had a significant income stream just from the interest off their investments. Also, really this is what friends/family are suppose to give advice on. If my sister told me she planed to become a stay at home wife I would tell her to make sure she starting investing from day one and to take a active hand in finances.

    1. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl August 12, 2013 at 11:42 am |

      Not so small quibble, most states here in the U.S. have some sort of variation of assets becoming joint as a result of marriage. Go in together on a house? That becomes a joint asset, and even if one spouse contributes more or less to that principal or mortgage payments, the house IS a jointly owned and held asset. Ditto with jointly held saving accounts, or other personal property.

      It’s a silly common talking point among MRAs that women are stupid, and even thieves, for the crime of being a SAHP who works from the assumption that assets jointly owned and held assets are jointly owned and held assets.

      Just saying…

      1. Asia
        Asia August 12, 2013 at 12:34 pm |

        I know that lolagirl. However, its clear that in reality during divorce joint assets aren’t enough to be able to maintain financial stability for the partner with the least earning capacity. Or at the very least the ability to stay within the same socioeconomic class.

        I’ve seen this happen in two income homes as well. The profit of the sale of the shared property isn’t enough to offset expenses. Especially, if one person (the woman) is also providing the majority of childcare.

        While the wealthier partner can sometimes see a net gain because there expenses go down.

      2. TomSims
        TomSims August 12, 2013 at 4:38 pm |

        “Not so small quibble, most states here in the U.S. have some sort of variation of assets becoming joint as a result of marriage”

        I am certainly no lawyer, but do believe that in most states, all assets like a house , cars, boats, retirement accounts etc are known as community property and in the case of a divorce they are divided equally between the 2 people involved. And alimony and child support are separate issues. It’s my guess that may be the reason behind the growing popularity of prenups.

        1. suspectclass
          suspectclass August 12, 2013 at 10:34 pm |

          TomSims-laws vary from state to state. A handful of US states have community property, mostly in the west, though not in Oregon.

          Many states use an equitable division regime, not necessarily equal division. And I believe that even among community property states, California’s 50/50 presumption (as I roughly understand it — I am not a California family law attorney) is unusual.

        2. TomSims
          TomSims August 14, 2013 at 11:26 am |

          @suspectclass
          Thanks for the correction. The word I should have used was equitable and not equal.

      3. Alexandra
        Alexandra August 12, 2013 at 7:48 pm |

        So what if the assets are jointly held, if you can’t afford to keep up on the mortgage the judge awarded you in the divorce, because you earn a fifth of what your husband does, or you don’t work at all? Financially unequal marriages entail greater risk for the partner who earns less, and gives that partner a greater incentive to stay in a marriage that may make them unhappy, particularly when ending the marriage might mean a dramatic reduction in personal wealth, class status, and thus lifestyle.

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 12, 2013 at 8:02 pm |

          I was responding to what appeared to be a snarky take from Asia above about those women who “really truly believing that all money/resources brought into a marriage are owned in common.”

          Because this isn’t some sort of delusionary dream of silly SAHMs who don’t know how the world really works. The reality here in the U.S. is that women who believe that money and resources brought into the marriage are actually owned in common are correct in those assumptions.

          Sure, there can be some difficulty in maintaining the mortgage on the marital home post divorce. But that is often just as true for women who worked throughout their marriage as women who were SAHPs.

        2. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie August 14, 2013 at 10:05 pm |

          I read Asia’s comment as a remark about society and the pressures SAHPs face: it can be very hard to truly internalize a belief when so much contradicts that belief.

    2. JBL55
      JBL55 August 12, 2013 at 11:46 am |

      they could have had a significant income stream just from the interest off their investments

      Your excellent point underscores the complete lack of planning by these “successful” women. If they had approached their professional lives the way they did their personal lives, they would never have excelled in their careers.

      1. Bagelsan
        Bagelsan August 15, 2013 at 11:02 am |

        It’s part of the weird divide between personal and professional, in which women must be competent in the workplace and adorable in the home — simultaneously, natch. If they treated childcare/SAHM-ing like a real job from day 1 maybe they could have even pulled a salary from hubby for it. :p

  3. JBL55
    JBL55 August 12, 2013 at 11:38 am |

    When I read this piece in the New York Times yesterday, I couldn’t help thinking of my sainted in-laws, the parents of my first (late) husband. When they married in 1945, they agreed that whatever money each made would go into a general fund for investments and household expenses, and each would receive an “allowance” out of that general fund.

    This practice successfully continued for 55 years, even when Mom would temporarily leave the workforce when the boys were small. They practically never argued about money, since each had their own money to spend on what each wanted to spend it on; e.g. books, hobbies, etc. The boys were taught how to iron their own shirts, as Dad believed that was something every man should know, and whoever made dinner didn’t have to clean up afterwards.

    All three of the boys’ wives (e.g. me) were very grateful their parents had raised them in such a remarkably equitable way, especially given the whole “June Cleaver” attitude towards wives during the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s when the boys were being born and raised.

    My current husband and I use the same approach, and it has worked very well for the most part. Both our incomes (his monthly SS retiree payment and my paycheck) go into the same joint fund, we each get an allowance, and since he’s home he manages the finances and takes the lead in housework, maintenance, and special projects. However, my husband retired involuntarily due to an inability to find work, and there are times when I know he does not like being dependent on me as the primary breadwinner. This is something he does not like to admit, but I’m verging into OT territory and will stop right there. :-)

    The couple with whom I was most impressed in the NYT piece was Kuae Kelch Mattox and her husband Ted. Perhaps this was because she was keenly aware of how privileged she was to even have the choice of staying home when her children were small.

    it’s worth evaluating the circumstances that lead one to decide such dependency is a desirable thing. Is it an inflexible job? The assumption that childcare is your primary duty? A partner who simply isn’t pulling his weight?

    It seems to me both partners need to be clear-eyed, realistic, and willing to leave their egos outside the door when they make “opting out” plans. Unfortunately some of the couples in the article did not seriously consider what life might be like in the then-hypothetical world before embarking on the journey. But I suppose the same can be said for many of us about different journeys.

  4. Barnacle Strumpet
    Barnacle Strumpet August 12, 2013 at 11:43 am |

    In the meantime, though, the husbands with the privilege of wives who stay home have been able to dedicate even more time and energy to their jobs than husbands who by necessity have to pitch in more around the home.

    This is unfair to women in their workplace as well. While some women have stay-at-home husbands, it’s much less common, which means we almost always have to be giving our all at work as well as 50% or more at home (and as studies have shown, most of us wind up doing well over 50%), while competing with men who only have to concern themselves with work. We should be getting the sympathy in the above quoted paragraph, not the poor menz who have to chip in 50% as well.

    Most, though, find themselves with outdated resumes and a tough job market. And that’s not an entirely unfair situation.

    I don’t even see how the partially of it. The average time it takes to find a job is so long now that new college grads’ resumes are going out of date while they’re looking for work. It sucks; is it unfair? Not really, unless it’s unfair to everyone looking for work in a recession.

    1. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl August 12, 2013 at 11:51 am |

      I agree, Barnacle Strumpet, it is absolutely unfair to women in the workplace as well.

      So much of what screwed me when I was still lawyering was that I didn’t have a SAH spouse to do all the things that need doing related to my private life while I was toiling away at work. It sucks that women get screwed that way, and the system only continues to perpetuate itself. Because I don’t think nearly enough people are pushing back against all the sexist, underlying assumptions of our capitalist system. As long as we continue to accept that women must be and do just like their male colleagues to succeed they will continue to get screwed.

      1. Aydan
        Aydan August 12, 2013 at 1:52 pm |

        Because I don’t think nearly enough people are pushing back against all the sexist, underlying assumptions of our capitalist system. As long as we continue to accept that women must be and do just like their male colleagues to succeed they will continue to get screwed.

        In the NYTimes article, at least, I didn’t really get the sense that anyone was forcing these three mothers to go back to work. They wanted to go back. That a woman wants a career in an industry that also contains a lot of men doesn’t mean she’s been brainwashed, somehow, to accept a “male” definition of success. Sure, there are other definitions of success, but this particular path was what they wanted right now.

    2. EG
      EG August 12, 2013 at 2:42 pm |

      Of course it’s unfair to everybody looking for work in a recession; that’s how capitalism works. It’s a feature, not a bug.

      1. Barnacle Strumpet
        Barnacle Strumpet August 12, 2013 at 2:58 pm |

        Pretty much; why bother giving an individual human being a chance and spend a tiny amount of time/resources on getting them up to par on new trends and technology, when you can save a few cents for the profit margin?

        Why any activist would accept that as a “for better or worse, that’s just how things are” inevitability is beyond me.

  5. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin August 12, 2013 at 11:50 am |

    My own mother took time off to have children. She quit her job as a special ed teacher following my birth. Two and a half years later one of my sisters was born. Four years after that, my youngest sister was born.

    Though she left the workplace for eight years, she always intended to resume working. In between caring for us, she kept taking classes to keep her certification to teach up-to-date and had a master’s degree when she sought a new job. When I was nine, she was hired to teach fifth grade. My mother never looked back, but was an excellent parent even though she worked a responsible full-time job.

    When I had my first major bout of depression, my father stayed home to care for me. For the first time, he was not the primary breadwinner, and it was an adjustment for both of my folks. Mom moved from teaching into administration because the pay was significantly higher.

    In my current relationship, I rely upon my female partner to make most of the money. She has no reservations in doing so, and I perform the house husband role chores with no complaints. I do the cooking, the grocery shopping, run errands during the week, and keep the apartment clean. The system works for us.

    I guess I was never raised to believe that there was something wrong with me for not doing it the traditional way.

  6. emilybites
    emilybites August 12, 2013 at 2:07 pm |

    The situation is taking a turn for the worse in the UK with the Conservatives promoting the traditional gender roles and actively rewarding couples who conform financially. The UK Chancellor George Osborne said last week on Radio 4 that not working in paid employment outside the home was a ‘lifestyle’ choice (RAGE), and that’s why childcare benefits are being extended for parents working outside the home but not those who are patronisingly called ‘stay at home mums’.

    One of the worst manifestations of this kind of ‘lifestyle’ view of working at home/working outside the home, is that people try to justify slashing maternity/parental benefits by claiming that companies shouldn’t have to subsidise the family planning decisions or ‘lifestyle choices’ of women who don’t do paid employment when they have children.

    You can counter that argument by pointing out that partners of people employed outside the home are subsidising THOSE companies by providing free childcare and freeing up their other halves to work harder/longer. Also, if you don’t want to pay taxes to support infrastructure including caring for children and the elderly then the human race is fucked and you are a miserable git.

    I was in the Supreme Court last year when Baroness Hale (first and only woman ever to be a UK SCJ, sigh) interrupted a barrister in an employment case to remark sarcastically, ‘And of course we all know that domestic work in the home doesn’t count as WORK.’ She rules.

  7. wanttobeanon
    wanttobeanon August 12, 2013 at 2:20 pm |

    Great article.

    I ‘opted out,’ and I know how lucky I am that that was a choice I could make. And I am content in and satisfied with my choice. At the same time, I know there’s no going back, particularly in this part time recovery ongoing recession, and that is scary. Even if the economy recovered properly (which I don’t think it will due to jobs leaving the country probably never to return, automated robotic production increasing, and the 1% squeezing the underpaid for every last dollar), I doubt I would be able to find satisfying work with a living wage. Knowing I probably couldn’t support myself and my kids should it be necessary is scary, even with no real fears of the possibility of divorce, even with a large life insurance policy for my husband.

    On the other hand, even had I ‘leaned in’ (I dislike that term, I haven’t read the book but the concept smacks to me of being well-paid middle or high-tier management) it’s not like I was going to magically find myself in a satisfying or well-compensated job. I would have been leaning into a relatively cushy but dead-end customer service job just to afford to send our kids to day care. I don’t think the article touched on the pay gap (did it? I could be wrong) but that’s going to be a factor too in these decisions as long as it persists. And it persists in part because of the perception that women generally aren’t as committed to the workforce as men because children, and around we go.

    So mostly, the last line of the article there is what applies. I was lucky in who I married (so far so good, anyway). And obviously that’s no answer at all.

    I’d like to say more but I don’t have my thoughts sufficiently organized, and I don’t know how much to share, and I don’t know if I sound like a privileged ass because I know I feel like one. But I felt compelled to comment because this topic greatly interests me and I obviously have a personal stake in it, not least because I am raising two daughters.

  8. 30ish
    30ish August 12, 2013 at 3:32 pm |

    This is such a complex issue. An important distinction I see is between what we should strive for ideally and what we can do in the world as it is right now. Ideally, everyone should have a free choice of how to balance work outside the home with care work, raising children and work in the home shouldn’t be seen as “less than” compared to work outside of the home, and there should be social security benefits for people doing this type of work.
    In reality, there are lots of pressures influencing these choices, those pressures are heavily gendered, going out of the workforce is a big risk in terms of financial autonomy, and raising children and working in the home is not seen as valuable by the market.
    Most women need to muddle through somehow and sacrifice one thing or the other, even relatively privileged women. I think that in the process of muddling through, “opting out” can sometimes seem like the easier solution (not that it’s actually easy) when you have small kids and come back to haunt women later as financial hardship and a loss of autonomy.
    Again, we’re talking about a choice made under pressure, so I’m not blaming anyone for making it. (And of course some women make the choice of staying home not because of the pressure, but because it’s worth it to them personally. I’m not discounting that).

  9. karak
    karak August 12, 2013 at 3:53 pm |

    I find that life “just happens” or “falls in” that way. My parents fiercely believed I should be able to do everything–from cars to investments to paying bills to working to cleaning to cooking to minor household repairs. They taught me what I could/would learn, and then taught me how to seek help for tasks I couldn’t master (I don’t “get” electricity. My dad can re-wire an outlet and I can set the house on fire. So, we practiced finding and calling electricians).

    But, somehow—somehow– my dad became a corporate man and my mom is a stay-at-home wife. I see the same situation developing with my SO, because, magically as it happens, I’m better at cooking and he’s handier with computers; he has corporate experience and a desire for corporate life and I an on a social services/teaching path. We are both walking stereotypes, and while I’m not unhappy (and perfectly capable of taking a computer class and electrician class) I’m concerned at how I was gently, gently pushed into this mold that I don’t mind yet somehow exactly resembles sexist power dynamics.

    All these little steps and little nudges push women out of the path of power, and force men into it; I wonder what would have happened if I had been urged to “push through” my trig issues in math, or if my boyfriend had been harped on to cook more.

    Nothing “just happens” or “falls out like that” it’s nudges, assumptions, and choices. If you can’t fight it the least you can do is be aware of it.

    1. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan August 15, 2013 at 11:09 am |

      The exact same thing happened to my parents, actually; they both got Ph.D.s in mechanical engineering and then Mom just “happened” to wind up at home with the children for 2 decades while Dad worked full-time. It was essentially the ’50s throughout my childhood. And you’d better believe that Mom was never able to find work in her field again, after that long away from the workplace; she had to go back to school and learn something completely new before she was employable.

  10. Tony
    Tony August 12, 2013 at 5:54 pm |

    A lot of seemingly minor things in life can make a big difference. When I was a kid everyone was in the same playground. It didn’t really matter your gender, race, orientation, how much your parents made, what clothes you wore or anything like that. There were hierarchies for sure- but they were fluid. You could go from the least cool kid on the playground to the coolest kid in one day just by bringing in a new toy that everyone wanted to play with.

    It’s said in this society that as we get older, we no longer have to conform to school cliques, find our identities, discover ourselves and whatnot. And there’s certainly some truth to that. But there’s an opposite force too– we become increasingly defined and differentiated by our station. The cumulative force of societal pressures on determining life’s path builds up. “Life happens”, but it doesn’t happen randomly. It tends to happen in a way that reinforces existing structures. And then there’s no going back.

  11. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie August 12, 2013 at 6:03 pm |

    “I’ve been a full-time caretaker for more than one of them, but they simply are not all that intellectually stimulating –”

    Sez you. I love caring for children, and I am rarely bored. I was bored more often when they were young, but why is it so hard to understand that some people really, really, REALLY like children?

    “Opting out” as it’s currently used is a bullshit term, because the only things SAHPs are “opting out” of are money and benefits. SAHPs certainly still WORK.

    Society always, always, ALWAYS studies, analyzes, shames, and blames women for everything we do. I stopped paying attention to “trends show” and “studies indicate” and “experts say” years ago.

    Also, I get that some people are angry at and feel a strong need to admonish women for raising our kids, but fuck it. I was the best caregiver available for my kids. I love it, I am good at it, and I’m neither guilty for nor sorry about the grave damage I did to all other women and to the economy and the poor menz and society at large.

    1. EG
      EG August 12, 2013 at 6:50 pm |

      I pretty much love this comment.

      1. pheenobarbidoll
        pheenobarbidoll August 12, 2013 at 7:11 pm |

        Ditto

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 12, 2013 at 7:27 pm |

          Thirded!

      2. Bfing Sarah
        Bfing Sarah August 12, 2013 at 7:46 pm |

        Agreed.

      3. Donna L
        Donna L August 14, 2013 at 2:19 pm |

        Fifthed!

        I love caring for children, and I am rarely bored.

        I spend a huge amount of time with my son when he was little, because I worked part-time until he was 5. (For medical reasons, but mostly I saw it as an opportunity to be with him.) And I loved it.

        Number of times I’ve been truly bored while being with my son in the last 23 years: zero.

        Number of times I’ve been truly bored while practicing law over the last 30+ years: innumerable. Almost every single day, in fact. And I don’t even get the monetary rewards that people seem to think all lawyers receive!

        If I could live my life over again, the way it should always have been, and had the economic ability to make that kind of choice, there’s nothing that would have pleased me more — apart from being able to be a mother in the first place — than being my child’s primary caretaker. (And not going to law school!)

        1. (BFing)Sarah
          (BFing)Sarah August 14, 2013 at 10:00 pm |

          Oh, Donna L, if I could go back and not go to law school I would be so, so happy. I knew it was the wrong path for me from the very first day, but I hate quitting so I just kept going, hating every minute (but loving the competition), for those three, terrible years. What I could have done with those years!! Sigh. Oh well.

        2. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie August 14, 2013 at 10:09 pm |

          You ARE a mother, DonnaL, and from everything I’ve read in these comments, a damn good one, too.

          Thanx for the hip-hip- hooray, everyone! Feels good.

        3. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie August 15, 2013 at 9:14 am |

          PS: And, DonnaL, I do get what you mean on another level. And I hear ypur grief over it.

    2. Safiya Outlines
      Safiya Outlines August 12, 2013 at 8:11 pm |

      Also loving this comment.

    3. HIna
      HIna August 14, 2013 at 10:15 am |

      That’s really nice and I’m glad that you were happy with being the primary caregiver and fully enjoyed it but please don’t be oblivious to the fact that the decision you made is one 99% men don’t get to and that is what makes this not a personal but a gendered choice. Discussing why this happens and how we can level the playing field for both men and women so they can make their choices without any social or financial pressure isn’t a way to bring you down for the choices you’ve made.

      1. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl August 14, 2013 at 10:39 am |

        Umm, no.

        Feminism isn’t about leveling the playing field for the men.

        Just, no.

        Men are already running the show, they have been since the inception of our USian capitalist system. They don’t need feminism, or me, or any other women to look out for their interests or have their back. Hell No.

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 14, 2013 at 11:58 am |

          Umm, no.

          Feminism isn’t about leveling the playing field for the men.

          Just, no.

          Men are already running the show, they have been since the inception of our USian capitalist system. They don’t need feminism, or me, or any other women to look out for their interests or have their back. Hell No.

          Surely, society becoming more accepting of men as SAHP’s is good for women and good for feminism in general. If there were equal societal pressure for men and women to be SAHP’s then ‘opting out’ would have considerably less significance to feminism.

        2. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 14, 2013 at 12:16 pm |

          Sure, it’s a net good if society were to be more accepting of SAHDs. And I’ll even take the next step and say that sexism also hurts men to an undeniable, albeit lesser, extent than it does women.

          What I object to is the centering of the poor menz and how oblivious we women supposedly are to the “fact that the decision you made is one 99% men don’t get to.” Or that we should center men in this discussion, to such an extent that we accept as gospel the need to “level the playing field for both men and women.”

          Because all of that stuff stinks of poor men not getting a fair shot like the women do. Which you should know to be utter bullshit, Steve. Men already get more than a fair shot in this show, as they are the ones holding the highest positions of power in both our government and corporate world. No way am I going to agree that we feminists need to take up the fight for the poor, misunderstood and unfairly treated men. Not going to happen, because they have already done plenty to prevent women from having a shot at that oh, so important level playing field.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 14, 2013 at 12:25 pm |

          If there were equal societal pressure for men and women to be SAHP’s then ‘opting out’ would have considerably less significance to feminism.

          So basically if everything were perfect, everything would be perfect. Okay.

        4. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 14, 2013 at 12:27 pm |

          What I object to is the centering of the poor menz and how oblivious we women supposedly are to the “fact that the decision you made is one 99% men don’t get to.”

          I agree, his tone was very whiny.

        5. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 14, 2013 at 12:30 pm |

          So basically if everything were perfect, everything would be perfect.

          OMG! YES!

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune August 14, 2013 at 10:59 am |

        please don’t be oblivious to the fact that the decision you made is one 99% men don’t get to and that is what makes this not a personal but a gendered choice

        LOL. Well, I’m actually unsure why you have this notion that 99% of men don’t get to choose SAHPing, considering that the actual number of SAHP who are men is higher than 1%. Just saying.

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 14, 2013 at 1:56 pm |

          a bit of judginess seems to you like a perfectly adequate reason for men to leave the work of SAHP to women,

          OK, if I made it seem like I felt that was an adequate reason for men to leave the work of SAHP to women. If it sounded like that it didn’t reflect my attitude.

          I was just trying to make the point women who would like their partners to stay at home are sometimes put under immense psychological pressure by family members and friends. I admit this may only be something I’ve witnessed, but I’ve seen it a few times. I was saying people look down on the situation, not the man, i.e. don’t look down on the stay at home dad, they look down on the working mother.

      3. EG
        EG August 14, 2013 at 11:11 am |

        Don’t confuse men not doing it with men not having the opportunity.

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 14, 2013 at 12:03 pm |

          Don’t confuse men not doing it with men not having the opportunity.

          I think we can all agree that our sexist society at large has a pretty shitty view of men as SAHP’s as an element of it’s overall misogyny and this view is borne out of a disrespect of women. So, if ‘opportunity’ means ‘ability’ then yes men have the opportunity. If it means ‘opportunity to do it without your family and friends being horribly critical and judgmental,’ then not so much.

          Again, this is an example of the illogic of misogyny and sexism, not some argument that men are oppressed from being SAHP’s.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 14, 2013 at 12:50 pm |

          If it means ‘opportunity to do it without your family and friends being horribly critical and judgmental,’ then not so much.

          Oh, well, if a friend’s going to critique you, I guess that’s too hard to even bother trying. As we all know, friend-critiques are literally the worst, and so much more horrible to try and get over than those trifling things wimminz deal with like rape, sexual harassment, discrimination and glass ceilings.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 14, 2013 at 1:01 pm |

          And by the way, family and friends are horribly critical and judgmental when women choose to work, too. And when women choose to stay home. And when women work part-time. And when women do literally anything up to and including existing in the world/ being dead.

          The sheer privilege in stating “but the judginess of friends!” as THE major reason to do/not do SAHPing. I can’t even. Grab your roundy genitalia of choice and fucking deal with the judgment, it’s not like women* don’t.

          *specifically also counting trans women here, because I imagine they get even more shit for SAHPing than cis women do.

        4. EG
          EG August 14, 2013 at 1:05 pm |

          If it means ‘opportunity to do it without your family and friends being horribly critical and judgmental,’ then not so much.

          Women don’t have this, either.

        5. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 14, 2013 at 1:08 pm |

          And by the way, family and friends are horribly critical and judgmental when women choose to work, too. And when women choose to stay home. And when women work part-time. And when women do literally anything up to and including existing in the world/ being dead.

          The sheer privilege in stating “but the judginess of friends!” as THE major reason to do/not do SAHPing. I can’t even. Grab your roundy genitalia of choice and fucking deal with the judgment, it’s not like women* don’t.

          That is my whole point!

          You don’t seem to understand that I’m saying it all stems out of disrespect for women.

          People who are critical of stay at home dads, are not critical of the men in that relationship only, it’s seen as just as much a negative for the women, in my experience more so.

        6. moviemaedchen
          moviemaedchen August 14, 2013 at 1:44 pm |

          I’m fairly sure mac understands the role that disrespect for women plays in this situation; she doesn’t need you explaining it to her. What YOU are missing is the level of privilege you are bringing to bear in this discussion, such that a bit of judginess seems to you like a perfectly adequate reason for men to leave the work of SAHP to women, with all the negative consequences that women can experience from taking that role, including and going far beyond being negatively judged.

        7. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 14, 2013 at 1:55 pm |

          And by the way, family and friends are horribly critical and judgmental when women choose to work, too. And when women choose to stay home. And when women work part-time. And when women do literally anything up to and including existing in the world/ being dead.

          No shit.

          Women get criticized up and down for any and all “choices” (missing utterly the reality that the making of these choices is so ridiculously constrained by shitty circumstances such as to make those choices not really freely made anyhow) they make regardless of what they are. Or for NOT making the right choices, subjectively determined to be the right ones leading to head spinning uncertainty as to what the right choices are in any right direction.

          Meanwhile, men get their choices and decisions policed and thus criticized pretty much never. Either by other men, or by women. Because that just isn’t how it’s done. And men are given enough political and social capital in our society to say, eff you, I’m going to do whatever I want anyway, and then go on their merry way.

          Which women get, pretty much never.

        8. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 14, 2013 at 1:58 pm |

          that a bit of judginess seems to you like a perfectly adequate reason for men to leave the work of SAHP to women, with all the negative consequences that women can experience from taking that role, including and going far beyond being negatively judged.

          (sorry, accidentally posted this unthread)

          OK, if I made it seem like I felt that was an adequate reason for men to leave the work of SAHP to women. If it sounded like that it didn’t reflect my attitude.

          I was just trying to make the point women who would like their partners to stay at home are sometimes put under immense psychological pressure by family members and friends. I admit this may only be something I’ve witnessed, but I’ve seen it a few times. I was saying people look down on the situation, not the man, i.e. don’t look down on the stay at home dad, they look down on the working mother.

        9. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 14, 2013 at 1:58 pm |

          Everything MM said. Thanks for the splaining, Steve, I’m sure I could never have understood, being raised by a partially SAH dad and all.

        10. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 14, 2013 at 2:02 pm |

          …and now I feel like a jackass. That makes more sense, Steve.

        11. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 14, 2013 at 2:04 pm |

          I think we are kind of talking in circles here because I was just voicing a sentiment said by Lola’s comment here:

          Sure, it’s a net good if society were to be more accepting of SAHDs.

          not agreeing with with the MRA framing of it…so I think we really all do agree.

      4. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie August 14, 2013 at 10:13 pm |

        Say, HIna! Maybe men “don’t want to” become SAHPs! Isn’t that what men always used to say about women and education, elected office, CEO positions, scoence and math classes, computers, sports, on ad infinitum?

    4. JBL55
      JBL55 August 14, 2013 at 2:43 pm |

      I’m really happy for any woman who enjoys staying home raising her children. Studies I have read conclude that, when it comes to mothers, the best thing for kids is neither a SAHM or a working mom per se, but a mother who is happy in her work whether it’s outside or inside the home.

      My DIL loves her job, and when she is completely objective about it she is the first to admit she is really not cut out to be a SAHM. But she feels terribly guilty about it, no doubt because of all the societal pressure in the metaphorical water she swims in.

      When I’ve asked her what she’d do if she could do anything she wanted, she always says she’d stay home with the kids … but keep her job and work from home. The next minute she is talking about how much she would miss her co-workers and the travel if she worked from home.

      When we are together, she seems to prefer that the kids be somewhere else, as long as they are quiet. I rarely see her initiate activities with them — generally it happens when they are all visiting us and I talk about playing Rummy Kube or UNO or badminton or going for a hike.

      She is seriously conflicted between wanting to be a mother (or perhaps seen as a good mother by judgmental outsiders) and not wanting to deal with the headaches kids inevitable bring.

      Her husband? He’s much better with the kids. It would seem to be a natural fit for him to be a SAHD, but his income (less than hers) is needed to keep them from merely treading water financially.

      And me? I’m just a step-mother who never had any kids of her own and wrings her hands over these wonderful and conflicted people she loves so much.

      1. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie August 14, 2013 at 10:16 pm |

        JBL, I wish your DIL didn’t feel she “has to” be with her kids all day. I find it enjoyable. Other people don’t. Neither temperament is “better.” If kids are with someone who loves them and enjoys being with them, chances are the kids will thrive. And the parents will likely enjoy the kids MORE when they do spend time with them.

        Sigh. Our system is broken.

        1. JBL55
          JBL55 August 15, 2013 at 9:22 am |

          She believes she should want to be home with them, but she also knows she would be very unhappy if she did.

          So she works a full-time job she loves (and provides a good solid reliable steady income for her family in the process), while feeling under the weight of an expectation that if she was a “good” mother she’d want to be home with her children.

          I suppose many of us, both mothers and non-mothers, do one thing while beating ourselves up that we aren’t doing another thing.

          If kids are with someone who loves them and enjoys being with them, chances are the kids will thrive. And the parents will likely enjoy the kids MORE when they do spend time with them.

          Exactly so.

    5. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help August 15, 2013 at 4:45 am |

      Love your comment, tinfoil hattie – and I am so not a child-oriented person.

  12. Alexandra
    Alexandra August 12, 2013 at 7:43 pm |

    Classic NYT article that “reports” on a supposedly widespread phenomenon by profiling a diverse range of women from the tippy-top of the upper middle class. There are no primary school teachers, librarians, administrative assistants, or nurses here, much less dental assistants, retail sales clerks, or waitresses. No, it’s movers and shakers in the corporate world and high-powered tv journalists – women, no less, who married men making as much or more than them.

    1. Safiya Outlines
      Safiya Outlines August 12, 2013 at 8:09 pm |

      This.

      I am so sick of the whole “working mother” media trope only focusing on a tiny subset of women. It’s facile and pointless.

    2. Coraline
      Coraline August 14, 2013 at 8:59 am |

      Agreed!

      I feel like it is only “opting-out” if you are part of that 1%.

      If you are part of the remaining 99%, you are just “unemployed”.

      I wish that the Times article had included the profile of at least one woman who wasn’t a high-6-figure earner with a husband who also earned in the 6-figures. As it was, the whole article had this unreal “someone else’s problem” feel to it because it is just so far from my life and situation.

      Like that one woman who was so upset that she could only find a job for 1/5 of her former $500+K salary. Cry me a river. I WISH that I was “only” making 100+K!

      1. Donna L
        Donna L August 14, 2013 at 2:23 pm |

        I wish that the Times article had included the profile of at least one woman who wasn’t a high-6-figure earner with a husband who also earned in the 6-figures.

        If your annual family income isn’t at least $200,000, I’m not sure that the New York Times wants you reading its publication.

        1. (BFing)Sarah
          (BFing)Sarah August 14, 2013 at 10:04 pm |

          LOL!

        2. Coraline
          Coraline August 15, 2013 at 11:19 am |

          And not only is my household income (significantly) lower than $200k, but I have an additional sin to confess… I do not even live in NYC. I am in the midwest… yea, verily, in a flyover state.

          I obviously should be stripped of my NYT subscription, for I am not worthy.

        3. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 15, 2013 at 11:31 am |

          And not only is my household income (significantly) lower than $200k, but I have an additional sin to confess… I do not even live in NYC. I am in the midwest… yea, verily, in a flyover state.

          I obviously should be stripped of my NYT subscription, for I am not worthy.

          The targeting of higher income readers is a legitimate gripe. However, the argument that the NEW YORK Times is New York-centric, is utterly ridiculous. The Omaha Herald, for example, is surely even more locally targeted.

    3. Miriam
      Miriam August 15, 2013 at 2:02 am |

      It was a follow-up from a trend piece over a decade ago that featured on wealthy women with traditional high achieving careers precisely because they were wealthy women with traditionally high achieving careers. It was part of, or started, the idea that women voluntarily removed themselves from the elite track once they had families and that this is partially why there’s such a gender discrepancy in terms of income and executive positions.

      The critiques you’re making were made of the original piece and the idea of opting out as a widespread phenomenon has long been debunked (the majority of families can’t afford for anyone to opt out, which is part of why you don’t see teaches and librarians), although some of the “Mommy track” observations have held up. But I think the relevance and interest of the follow up is being understated. These were couples who had every belief that they could, as bardiac so eloquently put it, “use the social structures that feminists in the 60s and 70s had critiqued as disempowering women without being subject to disempowerment.” (

      In this era where people still focus on individual agency in making choices, I think it’s a productive follow up to look at what happened when couples made this choice because it illustrates how powerful structures are. The couples didn’t intend for the choice to become a dominating narrative about how to structure their families and gender roles, but that’s what happened. The women didn’t intend for it to have a permanent effect on their career options and earnings, but that’s what happened. While I agree that no one needs to feel sorry for a woman earning $100,000, I think we should problematize how work is structured and rewarded that a woman so good at her sales job that she was remembered 11 years later still ended up with so much lost ground.

  13. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune August 14, 2013 at 12:23 pm |

    My 0.02 on SAHP as an option for men, and why men don’t do it, and the poor men never having a choice to do it:

    Women* have to overcome sexism, sexual harassment, pay gaps, glass ceilings and the avalanche of microaggressions that is existing as a woman in a workplace in order to break out of the confines of their traditional gender role. Men*, on the other hand, have literally nothing barring their way institutionally, aside from their conditioning to be providers (which isn’t substantially stronger than the conditioning women face to be homemakers, or else why the hell are there so many deadbeat dads?) and the possibility of having their delicate little egos being bruised by the occasional comment, in order to break out of theirs.

    But somehow WE’RE supposed to coddle THEM?

    Shyeahright.

    *naturally the north American patriarchy only knows of cishetwhites.

    1. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve August 14, 2013 at 2:32 pm |

      Women* have to overcome sexism, sexual harassment, pay gaps, glass ceilings and the avalanche of microaggressions that is existing as a woman in a workplace in order to break out of the confines of their traditional gender role. Men*, on the other hand, have literally nothing barring their way institutionally, aside from their conditioning to be providers (which isn’t substantially stronger than the conditioning women face to be homemakers, or else why the hell are there so many deadbeat dads?) and the possibility of having their delicate little egos being bruised by the occasional comment, in order to break out of theirs.

      I still think it’s important to emphasize the societal pressures against women in the stay at home dad situation, and while I think those things are bullshit, unfortunately many women are influenced by the attitude of those around them and unfortunately women with stay at home partners get a double dose of judgement by being viewed as either:

      a) a heartless careerist who doesn’t care about her kids
      or
      b) a poor dear who is only working because she can’t find a suitable partner and is married to a ‘bum’ who doesn’t want to work
      or
      c) a little bit of both

      1. moviemaedchen
        moviemaedchen August 14, 2013 at 4:09 pm |

        This I agree with (and I wish it had been spelled out more clearly in your earlier comment, since I was reacting to the apparent focus on men there). One thing that can perhaps help in such a situation is for men, not only to choose to be SAHPs more, but to also be vocally involved in pushing back against that pressure on women and to refuse to even passively support those narratives by being silent about them.

    2. Alara Rogers
      Alara Rogers August 15, 2013 at 5:48 pm |

      Men face exactly the same level of social pressure in being conditioned out of being SAHDs that women face in changing their names on marriage.

      There are no laws that privilege women changing their name on marriage (actually, the opposite!) It is, in fact, legally easier and involves a lot less paperwork to not change your name. All women face is snarky comments from people, and maybe their husband being Disappointed In Them, and their in-laws tsk-tsking, and occasional bullshit from average people who mistake their name for Mrs. So-and-so.

      Contrast with men being SAHDs. No legal structure against it, it’s actually easier than going out and getting a job, but there are parents and in-laws tsk-tsking, and their wife possibly being Disappointed In Them, and snarky comments from people, and occasional bullshit from average people who “praise” them for “babysitting” or bypass them to keep trying to talk to the mom about the kids.

      Exactly the same thing. And 90% of women change their name on marriage.

      Don’t tell me the pressure men face to not be SAHDs is miniscule and easily overcomeable, unless y’all want to explain to me how that *doesn’t* mean it’s the fault of 90% of the married women for changing their names. Women have a lot of pressures at work, but work is worth *money*, and everyone is told work is great, work validates you, work is awesome. When you say “women get it in both directions”, well, that’s absolutely true but also means that there *is* no choice women can make to *not* put up with shit. Nobody gets in the face of men who decided to work and asks them why they are a bad dad. So women actually have a choice. They will be criticized *and* praised, by different groups, no matter which they choose, so the choice is going to be made by personal circumstance. But when the personal circumstance almost invariably involves, if there is a man in the picture, he is under great social pressure to work and gets no social pushback if he does, well, women can’t make choices in a vacuum. The man in the picture being unable to be a SAHD without social bullshit that the working man does *not* have to deal with forces women into the choice of SAHM or daycare? And then if there’s no daycare, that means SAHM.

      It is not “what about the menz” to point out the very real issue that pressures men to not be SAHDs… because then *women* do not get the choice “be a breadwinner with a stay at home spouse”. And pooh-poohing that pressure because, hey, it’s just some social bullshit and snarky comments… do you think SAHDs don’t deal with microaggressions? Men have been thrown out of playgrounds where they were with their kids, arrested for being the brown father of a white child, overlooked by schools who keep trying to contact the mother, unable to diaper their child without sitting down on a disgusting bathroom floor or doing it in a non-bathroom area… these are not microaggressions? Their wives or girlfriends told by mothers and grandmothers and fathers and grandfathers that he’s a gigolo? In-laws refusing to respect them? Parents being disappointed in them?

      Look, I am no MRA. I’ve been a feminist female chauvinist pig since I was 3 years old. I refused to watch Red Dwarf on the grounds of no women characters when I was 20. I do not center men in my thinking. But I do *consider* men, because men are humans who are under pressure from the patriarchy to do what conforms to it, just like women are, and when men are pressured to avoid certain roles women are forced into them. The reason I do not get to look at sexy men wearing pretty clothes and dancing for *me*, a woman, is that our society insists that no straight man would ever do this, and when straight men try they get their sexual orientation erased and they get oodles of shit for it. I don’t feel a particular pressure to be sexy for my man, mostly because I don’t give a shit, but the fact that my husband is terrified of dressing up in sexy clothes where anyone but I can see him because he faces very real potential financial and social consequences means I don’t get something I want, whereas he could get the converse any time I felt like doing it because I am under no social pressure to not be sexy (the opposite, actually, except that I do not give a shit about that particular pressure.) I can’t go rent a movie about gay super-spies having sex that was created to cater to *my* tastes; if such a movie exists it was created for the gay male market, and the fact that my Star Trek fandom for the character Q has been completely overrun by James Bond/Q slash fiction when I search by character name keywords doesn’t mean jack shit, because actually filming a movie about gay super-spies for women would involve getting men who are willing to play gay for a female audience. This bugs the shit out of many gay men because they see it as appropriating, which it totally is, and straight men are terrified of it, but dudes get lesbian porn made for them all the time. Because when society tells men You Shall Not Do This, it means that when women want them to do it, we can’t get them to do it.

      And shaming them for not bucking very real social pressure isn’t going to solve the problem. If it’s wrong to shame women for buckling to social pressure to change their names, then it’s wrong to shame men for buckling to social pressure to not be SAHDs. In fact, because of the myriad issues we’re discussing right here about disadvantages in being a SAHP of either gender, men not only have to buck enormous social pressure but also take a very financially risky move that could end up destroying them in the event of a divorce. Whereas as a married woman who did not change my name… there are no financial consequences. None. No financial penalty for not changing my name. That is not the situation for the wannabe SAHD.

      1. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve August 15, 2013 at 6:17 pm |

        Men face exactly the same level of social pressure in being conditioned out of being SAHDs that women face in changing their names on marriage.

        Well, even if that was true, surely taking care of your children is far more important than the name on your driver’s license and as such, one would think that if the social pressure were ‘exactly the same,’ then if 10% of women are keeping their name, then at least double that number of fathers would stay at home. If it were ‘exactly the same,’ that is.

        [Moderator note: Steve, you are consistently borking your blockquotes, and when I notice if fix them to aid clarity for other readers. Please take a bit more time to ensure that you're not wrapping your own words in the blockquote tags! ~ tt]

      2. moviemaedchen
        moviemaedchen August 16, 2013 at 10:47 am |

        Have not had enough caffeine yet this morning, so this may be somewhat disjointed.

        I’m not entirely sure I buy that being a SAHD and a woman changing her name upon marriage are really so easily comparable, but assuming for the moment that they are:

        Yes, men are people too and the system fucks over individual men who truly want to be SAHDs. The system fucks over both men and women all the time (as well as people who don’t identify as either). But men as a group are still the ones with more power in this system. No, I wouldn’t go up to an individual man who seriously considered being a SAHD and chose otherwise due to pressure and start shaming him, so long as he respected his wife’s situation and voice as well (I’m assuming hetero marriage here in RE the power imbalance – same-sex couples face additional issues). But I would expect him to realize that for everything he faced, his wife likely faced even worse if she made the same decision, due to the sexist system that will always privilege him over her.

        I’d also expect him realize that, whatever the legitimate grounds for his choosing not to be the SAHP, his choice also supports the macro-scale sexist system in which women are discouraged from working but then get fucked over for being SAHPs. That choice can have good individual reasons behind it and STILL be part of a sexist structure, and critiquing that doesn’t = wrongly shaming men. Yeah, men face social pressure not to be SAHPs. Women face social pressure too. Men however have, collectively, much greater power than women do. So if men collectively don’t want to face social pressure to not SAHP, then maybe men as a group need to work on creating a system in which that’s acceptable, in which men and women both aren’t shat upon for not following rigid gender roles. A system in which parenting is not seen as lesser work and therefore left to women. And if men as a group aren’t working for that system, then maybe men collectively are happy to leave it to women and keep them as the bottom rung on the ladder while they climb that ladder to the top.

        The reasoning that’s problematic in Steve’s earlier comment, as it was originally understood, is the idea that the consequences to men of bucking a sexist system that privileges them over women are sufficient justification for them to collectively leave that system as it is and thereby throw women under the bus. That’s capital-B Bullshit. NOT the idea that any individual man regardless of circumstance must right now become a SAHD or forever be an Evil Sexist Pig. I mean, there isn’t much room for *anyone* to SAHP now without facing negative consequences for it in some form – even in fundamentalist communities where SAHM’s are the norm a woman who did that and was truly happy doing that still faces other negative consequences for doing so, financial and otherwise, and yes, men who choose to SAHP face some negative consequences.

        But the system that creates those consequences? Is a patriarchal system that serves men and which men (as well as women) perpetuate. So men, as a group, can either recognize that the system hurts them and women and do serious work to dismantle it, or they can leave it as it is and sacrifice the occasional individual man who goes against the norms along with all of the women who are still getting fucked over, while men as a group get to keep their privilege and power.

        Critiquing the reasoning that the consequences to a few men of a system created by and for men collectively are enough reason to not bother trying to change that system, when women face the same consequences and worse, is not some sort of unjustified shaming of men. There is a difference between a man going, “In my circumstances and my family’s circumstances, me choosing to be a SAHD is not the right choice” and men collectively going “parenting – that’s women’s work!” – but they are not entirely dissociated from each other either, and the pressure to not be the man who does “women’s work” is only half of the dynamic. Not being the man who parents also helps support a system in which women have to be the ones to do it, and to reap the financial and other consequences for doing it.

        So maybe I’d like to see men, collectively, step up, instead of whining that “they’ll call us naaaaaames!” They could encourage people not to support the system that makes them targets of mockery. Someone‘s going to be shat upon until the system is dismantled – maybe men could take a little bit of the pile off of women in the process of dismantling it, hmm?

  14. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines August 14, 2013 at 5:48 pm |

    Sticking this here as can’t reply directly.

    Roro80 – There is a big difference between “I want the downfall of capitalism as we know it” and “There needs to be better maternity leave provision and family friendly working practices in the US, like other countries have”.

    I was suggesting the latter, using the UK as an example. To respond with it can’t happen in the US, is absolutely USian exceptionalism.

    Parents are a huge section of society (more on this in a minute), if some activism started to happen, with social justice groups participating things could change, just like we’ve seen on so many issues.

    We don’t shoulder shug round here when it comes to abortion rights, or gay marriage rights and rightly so, so why does the concept of mothers getting a better deal – as opposed to just “changing their ways” seem to be met with such incredulity?

    I find it baffling the way feminism and parenthood is seen as some niche interest within certain sections of feminism, with many online spaces being actively hostile to mothers. A big chunk of women are mothers, so how can it be correct to deem their issues as less important?

    I think part of it is that motherhood is deemed a patriarchy-approval role for women, so mothers are somehow seen as being privileged – (a notion which donning our intersectional spectacles would quickly disprove) and therefore not in need of feminism or being listened to by their fellow feminists.

    1. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl August 14, 2013 at 6:11 pm |

      I find it quite disturbing how much of mainstream feminism seems to take a bootstrappy approach to parenting issues in a way it does not with another issue under the sun. Women getting dumped on by the patriarchy? Feminism will fight back against that and try to find a better way.

      That is, unless we are talking about women who are parents getting dumped on by the patriarchy. Then it’s all, well, you should have known better, we all told you not to be a SAHP! Or better yet, this is why I’m CFBC, you should have been too, and then you could be successful and have tons of fun like us! But you chose wrong, too bad, so sad, suck it up sister!

      1. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie August 14, 2013 at 10:19 pm |

        Yes! Motherhood is the only job you must never, ever, EVER complain about: or it’s all, “Well, whose fault is THAT, mom?”

      2. (BFing)Sarah
        (BFing)Sarah August 14, 2013 at 10:24 pm |

        Yes! I see so much “well, she should have KNOWN” type articles that make it seem like its such a SIMPLE decision: just stay at work in your fulfilling, six figure job that offers the promise of advancement, ample retirement funds, and support for the financial future of your family for years to come! What about all of the women and men that absolutely hate what they are doing and feel devalued every second of the day? What about all the women and men that already hated going to work and hate it even more once they have to leave their children at daycare from 7:30 to 6:30 because of their horrible commute? What about all the people whose salaries are less than the cost of a good daycare (especially for more than one infant)? What about the mothers and fathers that have a special needs infant and can’t find a good, affordable daycare or nanny for him or her? I feel like all these articles do is make everyone feel like crap.

        Yes, I wish I had chosen my career more wisely. I wish I had a career that could be done on a part-time basis or with any semblance of life outside of work. That was my mistake. I didn’t listen to my instincts because I felt the pressure to achieve because I COULD (instead of because I actually wanted to be a lawyer, for example). But, isn’t it supposed to be conservatives and anti-feminists that tsk tsk about how people should have known and made better choices? Aren’t we supposed to be the more nuanced thinkers that give credence to the idea that you never know what constraints a person or family is working with at the time they make their decisions? I know lots of SAHMs AND full time working moms that made a very difficult calculation when making their decision. It is a decision that we all question constantly, on both sides. It was not as simple as “well you should just work” because not all jobs and families are created equal.

        And, yes, the decision would have been a lot easier if there were supports in place for parents, but there are not. If I could have taken time off for my bedrest pregnancy AND gotten a year of paid leave…my choice may have been different. Instead of pushing for those supports, we are constantly inundated with articles that basically tell women, “Too late! You are screwed!” as if that is helpful. I also think that many women “know” what they are going to do re: staying at home or working, until they are actually there and then they find it is a much harder choice than they thought it would be due to the many, always changing, factors they are weighing. Hearing women’s stories is interesting, but not really applicable to everyone else’s life choices. Why do we continue to pretend that the women profiled are representative of all women and all families?

        1. EG
          EG August 14, 2013 at 10:34 pm |

          I could not love this comment thread more if I tried. Co-signed to every single thing.

        2. Miriam
          Miriam August 15, 2013 at 2:15 am |

          I remember reading the original Opt-Out Revolution article and thinking how of course the women left their jobs when they could. Their jobs sounded horrible. I believed at the time (and still believe) that if the husbands had the enforced recovery period of labor, the husbands would have reconsidered the work, too. We all want lives outside of work!

          But the main takeaway from the article for me is how permanent an effect a choice had and in ways that the couples did not foresee. I do think these women may have made different choices if they’d understood how permanent and long-lasting the effects of their choices would be.

          I’d really like to see more family and medical leave in general, and more equitable parental leave in specific. The disparity in maternity/paternity leave creates a structural problem, IMHO.

  15. roro80
    roro80 August 15, 2013 at 3:43 pm |

    Again, Safiya, I’m so right there with you on all your points. Literally no points of disagreement. I am repulsed by the contingent of (mostly white, upper-middle class) feminism who will tut-tut about those women who make the “bad” choice of staying home with their families. I am in vehement agreement with the idea of a better system, and I do activism to that aim.

    However, I also don’t see how it helps anyone to blast as traitors to the cause those of us who are career-driven, and who find their own ability to help women from within the system. I am a 30-something white, upper-middle woman, working my way up in an extremely male-dominated fortune 500 tech company, and I am contemplating having kids in the very near future. While I am very aware that I do not have a universal situation, I guess I just don’t see what feminist ends someone like me would be achieving by dropping out of the workforce, should that be what I decide to do, which I haven’t worked through yet. I can, however, see some feminist progress to be made by using my privilege to encourage and promote younger women I work with, talk with my HR department about better resources and benefits for women and families within my company, volunteering and organizing in my community to help girls and women in STEM fields in my area, and agitating for political change toward better policy and protections that will benefit women regardless of what situation they are in. These are all things I do with great enthusiasm, but given that my wish list has not been fulfilled as of today, I still have to live in this world, as someone like me, right now. I don’t see how giving or receiving asked-for advice on different ways individuals can do so is shrugging off all hope for a better future for everyone, or deeming mothers unimportant.

    1. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl August 15, 2013 at 4:04 pm |

      “I guess I just don’t see what feminist ends someone like me would be achieving by dropping out of the workforce”

      I honestly think you’re missing the point here.

      This isn’t about telling you, or anyone else who is really into their career, that the best feminist ends are to be achieved by you stopping work to take care of your hypothetical kid. It’s simply about acknowledging that not everyone is career inclined as you and others are. And that is ok, and does not make one a bad feminist, or a tool of the patriarchy, etc to feel that way about having a career. Too much of mainstream feminism is populated by women who are oblivious to the various realities of women who are not career inclined, or who are, for a millionty reasons never going to have huge career opportunities to begin with. And those career feminists are too often all about crowing about how much they would just wither and die if they quit to provide childcare to their kids.

      Different people, different opinions, different circumstances. Those differences do not automatically equate to being feminist or unfeminist.

      1. roro80
        roro80 August 15, 2013 at 4:37 pm |

        This isn’t about telling you, or anyone else who is really into their career, that the best feminist ends are to be achieved by you stopping work to take care of your hypothetical kid.

        I was told pretty specifically that that is what it’s about. Here, a characterization of women who continue with their career, from Safiya, to whom I directed my comment (nesting didn’t really work):

        shit’s not gonna change, so keep on being a good little cog and don’t bother complaining any more.

        There can be real change, but that definitely will not ever happen if we all sit back and accept our current system. And it definitely will never happen if we don’t fight, and refuse to accept the sexist norms and rules of our capitalist system.

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 15, 2013 at 5:13 pm |

          I was part of that exchange, in fact, you are misattributing that comment to Safiya when it is actually pulled from one of my own comments above. And yeah, you’re really misunderstanding what that was all about. Start at the beginning, and read all the way through. The criticism isn’t be a SAHM to fight the power! The discussion was a dissection and criticism of how capitalism undervalues women and their labors. Regardless of whether those labors are paid for by an employer or unpaid at home or through volunteer work, etc. We seem to have come to a point where everyone just accepts this staus quo, without realizing the inherent sexism and inequality of that system. And that’s wrong.

          Furthermore, your comments were to the effect that the change I and Safiya believe to be necessary will never come to pass. I pointed out how fatalistic that view is. Because no great movement can ever effect change without an outright refusal to continue accepting the status quo. Hence, refusing to accept the sexist norms that rule our capitalist system.

          Which has nothing to do with telling all the women everywhere that they must quit working at their jobs if they don’t want to. It isn’t a binary discussion, where there can only be one right answer. It’s simply about accepting that the answer to ending patriarchy isn’t to dump on SAHPs as traitors to feminism.

        2. roro80
          roro80 August 15, 2013 at 7:07 pm |

          I apologize for misattributing the quote.

          I fail to see how I misunderstood being told that I’m trying to shut anyone up and turning women into cogs. I read the thread through before commenting. I did not say that change will never come to pass, just that it’s not “rubbish” for trying to develop strategies to cope with the situation as it exists now. I wouldn’t even be a feminist or an activist if I thought things couldn’t change for the better.

          It may be a lack of imagination on my part (not a lack of understanding — I really do understand what your point is), but what do you think “an outright refusal to continue accepting the status quo” looks like to an individual, if not dropping out of work? How, in a work environment that is 6% women as it is (which mine is), is it not following the status quo to drop out? Not that it’s a decision that everyone can or should make, but for those who can? I tried to explain what it looks like to me, but you seem to think that that is missing the point.

          So no, as I’ve agreed with already, I totally think it’s reprehensible to snark on or shame SAHPs, and we should all call out that sort of behavior. Support for them, and an opening up of options through policy and other support, are vital to improving things for women and families. But there is more than one direction from which to tackle this, and one of those directions is for those of us women and allies with relative privilege to leverage that to the benefit of other women. Dismissing this as rubbish or exceptionalism doesn’t do much to help the cause either.

        3. Aydan
          Aydan August 15, 2013 at 9:19 pm |

          It may be a lack of imagination on my part (not a lack of understanding — I really do understand what your point is), but what do you think “an outright refusal to continue accepting the status quo” looks like to an individual, if not dropping out of work?

          I am curious about this too.

          Lolagirl, I’m pretty sure that you’re not trying to blame the conditions women face in the workplace on women who work for pay, that there’s just a disconnect happening here. But roro80’s not the only one having trouble understanding what you do mean.

        4. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan August 16, 2013 at 12:09 am |

          Cosign. I read the “cogs” shit as more blaming, just in the reverse direction. So I’m now upholding the patriarchy by working for money? Well, fuck, I’ll just quit school and starve shan’t I. Or I could work for free, like a mom, because men hate it when women do that amiright. :p

        5. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan August 16, 2013 at 12:11 am |

          Not bashing moms, here, obviously; bashing working for free.*

          *whether you’re paid in money or fruits and grubs, whatever floats your boat.

        6. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 16, 2013 at 7:30 am |

          It’s still early, and I’m under-caffeinated, but I’ll take a stab at explaining further.

          My first comment above pointed out that our USian capitalist system values people according to their relative wealth, and that women as a class lose out in this system precisely because their labors are undervalued. Be that paid or unpaid labor. From the way that women who parent get considered lazy leaches loafing off their husbands who work for pay while the wife does the easy peasy non-activity of childcare, to the way that pink collar professions get systematically undervalued and underpaid, and even on to how professional women experience a persistent pay gap. Oh, and the way that our system relies on women, as a class, to undertake the lion’s share of behind the scenes of their husband’s success labors without remuneration so that he can become Mr. Successful Professional Guy also adds to this systematic undervaluing of women’s labors.

          This systematic under-valuing of women’s work and labors, this is the Big Picture Thing that I insist we must refuse to continue accepting as the status quo. Not by us all quitting our jobs and saying suck it, corporate America! But by pushing for and agitating for the end of this system. And that comes not just at a national level wrt to Congress, but locally where we refuse to accept it at home and in our jobs. And even by disagreeing vocally when we hear people parrot sexist shit about Mommy tracking and how SAHPs are lazy gits who know nothing of the value of a day’s hard work. Also, perhaps it is time for more organizing from a laborer perspective.

          I don’t pretend to have all the answers here. But I know the time has long since passed for us to continue accepting the status quo so as not to rock the boat. So let’s throw it all up against the wall and see what sticks.

          Does that make more sense?

        7. roro80
          roro80 August 16, 2013 at 10:58 am |

          Sure, it makes more sense, lolagirl, but it’s also pretty much exactly what I said that I already do, which you called “missing the point” and being “a good little cog”.

        8. roro80
          roro80 August 16, 2013 at 11:32 am |

          So, I guess it’s more important that we agree on substance. Just maybe be a little more careful about calling other women “cogs” and things that matter to them “rubbish”?

        9. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 16, 2013 at 11:34 am |

          Honestly, it sounds like we are at a point where we are talking past each other.

          I keep getting the sense that you feel like I expect you to be on the defensive because you WOH, Roro. If that is the case, I apologize, because that is certainly far from my intention. Quite frankly, the culture here at Feministe tends towards being anti-SAHP, and I have always felt it was important to push back against that. Because a lot of the anti-SAHP sentiment expressed here is completely absent of the nuanced culture, class, and race aspects of how so many parents come to SAH full time.

          I want to reiterate once again that I just find the retreading of this same ground with so little progressive progress being made incredibly disheartening and discouraging. That criticism is not about you, though, Roro, or any other WOHPs, so again I’m sorry if you feel like you’re getting caught in the cross-fire.

        10. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 16, 2013 at 11:39 am |

          And when I used terms like good little cogs, I was referring to how I felt when I was WOH as well as how I have seen my fellow employees were being treated. I’ve rarely felt like any of my employers ever considered me to be anything more than a means to the end of making profits. And now that I am a SAHP, the judgment I get about not earning money to afford my keep still gives the impression that my worth as a person and a woman is being tied to my monetary worth.

          Again, this isn’t about criticizing you, Roro, but it is a criticism of the system so many of us live and work under.

        11. roro80
          roro80 August 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm |

          I keep getting the sense that you feel like I expect you to be on the defensive because you WOH, Roro.

          I’m defensive because you called me a willing cog (I’m not), said I told other people to stop complaining (I didn’t), and said that talking about issues that affect my life is “rubbish” and “just accepting the status quo”. We can and should criticize the system that means that neither you, as a stay at home parent, nor I, as a person who works outside the home, can win. We can do this without disparaging each other, or blaming each other for making things work in a system that undervalues both of us. It sounds like we are working toward the same goals from different sides of the divide that has been erected by the system, so I’d like to just leave it at that if that’s ok with you.

        12. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 16, 2013 at 12:49 pm |

          Leave it at you misattributing things to me that I didn’t say?

          I can’t sit by and let it go without responding.

          First of all, I never used the term rubbish, that was Safiya.

          Second of all, my entire cog comment was as follows, just so we are all clear all what I said in response to your previous comment:

          “I fail to see how what your comment does not boil down to, shit’s not gonna change, so keep on being a good little cog and don’t bother complaining any more.”

          I never referred to you as being a cog. If anything, I was inferring that you did not oppose a system that treats people as cogs in the wheel of capitalism.

          I really don’t care to argue back and forth either. But I let’s at least be clear with regard to what I did or did not say earlier in this discussion. That I clarified further what I meant by using the term cog is something you seem to be intent upon ignoring, and I’m uncertain as to why that is.

        13. roro80
          roro80 August 16, 2013 at 1:34 pm |

          Uh, leave it to me to interpret your “Amen” as agreement. I guess it was actual literal worship of Safiya?

          And saying my point of view boils down to wanting everyone to be a cog — with a strong implication that those who like me do continue to work are cogs — is untrue. I didn’t “ignore” your explanation; it was and continues to be clear that you were not just talking about you. You are allowed to feel the way you feel. Do not attribute your feelings of cog-ness to something I said, because I didn’t. Do not project that I must feel like a cog because I work outside the home, and do not project that I must feel ashamed for being a cog. I did not tell you to stop complaining. I didn’t tell you to be a cog. Your inference that I didn’t or don’t oppose the system was clearly incorrect, as I stated explicitly at the very beginning of my comment that I was in extreme agreement with all the points about the system and how it was bad and needed to change. And then I went on to explain what, specifically, I do to oppose the system, which only got the snide remark that I must be missing the point.

        14. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 16, 2013 at 1:50 pm |

          Wait a minute. So just because I agreed with Safiya you get to take out your disagreement with her points on me. Really?

          And worship? What on earth?

          This most recent comment subthread actually started with you misattributing something I said to Safiya. I clarified how you were mistaken. Then you misattributed something Safiya said to me, and I also clarified how you were mistaken.

          I am not Safiya, Safiya is not me. Why I have to defend her words as my own simply because I signaled my agreement with her baffles. You have clearly lumped our words together as being expressed by the same person, and there is nothing wrong with me pointing out how you are mistaken. Nor is it wrong for me to infer you are misunderstanding my point of view when you clearly did not separate out my words and opinions from Safiya’s.

          I, wow, I don’t get the hostility here, truly, Roro.

        15. Aydan
          Aydan August 16, 2013 at 10:45 pm |

          Thank you for your reply, Lolagirl. I think I understand your position better now.

        16. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan August 17, 2013 at 12:22 am |

          Nope, still came away with the impression that non-SAHMs are cogs. Maybe Lolagirl can try again post-coffee ’cause I am baffled at what my quitting nursing will do for my stay-at-home sisters. Perhaps I should assay to be paid even less? :\

        17. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan August 17, 2013 at 12:34 am |

          So in lieu of getting a meaningful response from Lolagirl, I’m going to assume I’m literate and she is blaming non-parents for… I dunno, needing money. Because “parents” and “needs money” are non-overlapping groups or something.

          And frankly, I’m a little peeved that women who work outside the house are getting blamed by women (presumably mothers) who work in the house for not fixing the system. Fuck that, there’s a ton of mothers out there, more mothers than work-outside-non-parent-women! If anyone gets blamed for a culture, and no one should be, let’s at least be logically douchey and blame the parents first…they technically outnumber the rest of us.*

          *is pointing out a hypothetical, not actually blaming parents for sucky working conditions. Obvs.

      2. roro80
        roro80 August 16, 2013 at 4:27 pm |

        When “Amen” doesn’t mean that you agree with enthusiasm, it’s other meaning is worship. Like at the end of a prayer? It’s the only other meaning of “amen” that I know. Maybe there are others. Maybe I’m too stupid to understand, so why don’t you explain.

        And yeah, it’s a long thread that loads slowly on my computer. Sorry, again, that I misattributed. You did agree with the position, though, and it was a single word of my entire last post. Pretend that word “rubbish” isn’t there. There is no difference in meaning.

        Listen, you demand total deverence to your position, to the point of accusing anyone who has made other decisions (sometimes forced to make other decisions) of being cogs and forcing you to be one too, and to shut up about it. When explained numerous times over multiple posts that no, that’s not what my position is, you continue to insist it is, and do not acknowledge that your comment is insulting and entirely unhelpful. Again, it’s not that I’m too stupid to understand your position. I’m not a noob feminist, and I’m not a dumbass. It’s actually pretty surprising that you “don’t get” the hostility.

        I’ve tried twice to step away from this nicely, but now I’ll do so with hostility.

        1. JBL55
          JBL55 August 16, 2013 at 6:05 pm |

          If I had a nickel for every time I had to choose between taking a principled stand that would have kept me unemployed or swallowing my pride and going ahead (e.g. pissing into a cup as a condition of employment despite it being a violation of my Constitutional rights), I’d have a pretty big jar of nickels. And I’d also be employed. Which I am.

          I protest against it in whatever way I can, but at the end of the day I have to keep a roof over my head.

          So yes, there are many of us unwilling cogs out here doing our best to live in an unjust world while we try to make it better; e.g. writing letters to the editor, working for more equitable social policies, and engaging others in constructive dialogue.

          I wish you all the best when and if the time comes for you to manage the delicate balancing act of having kids and being able to provide for them. I would have loved to have had children but it wasn’t in the cards.

          It sucks that our society is build on a foundation that forces women and men to make “choices” that aren’t really choices and doom us to condemnation no matter what we do.

          But since we’re damned either way, we should just go ahead and do our best at what works for us, and that includes working towards a more just world any way we can.

  16. McMike
    McMike August 16, 2013 at 10:04 am |

    There is more pressure on men than women to be the provider, that simple fact is reflected in the statistics the way you would expect.

    1. JBL55
      JBL55 August 16, 2013 at 10:09 am |

      You are describing the flip side of the same coin of gender inequity.

      Sexism affects everyone to a highly destructive degree, which is why many of us try to preach the advantages for both sexes of eliminating these expectations and societal pressures based solely on gender.

    2. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan August 17, 2013 at 12:24 am |

      I’ve always found that things like needing food leaned more-than-sufficient pressure on me to provide, gender politics and delicate man-feelings aside. But I guess non-provider women can just diet a lot?

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