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February 24, 2005

The Mommy Trap: When 'Having It All' Isn't 'All That'

In Newsweek, Judith Warner paints a nightmarish picture of American Mommyhood:

...70 percent of American moms say they find motherhood today "incredibly stressful." Thirty percent of mothers of young children reportedly suffer from depression. Nine hundred and nine women in Texas recently told researchers they find taking care of their kids about as much fun as cleaning their house, slightly less pleasurable than cooking, and a whole lot less enjoyable than watching TV.

...Why do so many otherwise competent and self-aware women lose themselves when they become mothers? Why do so many of us feel so out of control? And—the biggest question of all—why has this generation of mothers, arguably the most liberated and privileged group of women America has ever seen, driven themselves crazy in the quest for perfect mommy-dom?

As I read Ms. Warner's overlong screed, I struggled to reconcile the lives of these Desperate Housewives with my own experience as a mostly stay-at-home wife and mother for 18 years. And I realized that somewhere, there was a dramatic disconnect between the Living Hell she describes and my memories of motherhood. What was wrong with these hyperactive, self-absorbed, "liberated" women?

When I sit down at my computer every morning to start work, what I miss most about those years was the glorious freedom of motherhood. I hate knowing that from 9-5 each day, I am on call. I miss waking up every morning and knowing the day was mine to shape as I saw fit. I miss taking my small sons for long, rambling walks in the woods. Finding wild blackberries and watching two greedy little boys stuff ripe fruit in their mouths almost faster than I could pick it, their berry-stained fingers eagerly parting the brambles as they raced each other to see who could find the most. Finding enough to surprise my husband with fresh cobbler when he got home from work that evening.

I miss making tent cities from blankets and overturned furniture on rainy days - turning half the house into a fort with tunnels and caves filled with 'wild' stuffed animals.

I miss baking fresh bread on Mondays - dill-onion bread, cinnamon loafs, beer bread, whole wheat bread with honey in the batter. I miss the feel of flour on my fingers and the blissful contentment I felt kneading dough.

I miss working like a demon for weeks to upholster a chair, refinish a dining room table and chairs, struggle with the Spousal Unit's new circular saw and build angled beds from landscape timbers, or sew curtains or a bedspread and pillow shams, knowing that when I was done I could kick back for a few days... let the housework go and just read to my heart's content. Novels, non-fiction, literature, magazines... for almost eighteen years, I read three to four books a week.

I don't have time for that sort of thing, anymore. I work.

Motherhood, perhaps more than any other endeavor, is what you make of it. With the exception of the first year of a new infant's life, mothers have more control over their work environment, living conditions, and hours of employment than I have experienced in any job I've ever held. What was wrong with these women? Searching for a clue, I kept reading:

I started speaking with women from all over the country, about 150 in all. And I found that the craziness I saw in my own city was nothing less than a nationwide epidemic. Women from Idaho to Oklahoma City to the suburbs of Boston—in middle and upper middle class enclaves where there was time and money to spend—told me of lives spent shuttling back and forth to more and more absurd-seeming, high-pressured, time-demanding, utterly exhausting kids' activities. I heard of whole towns turning out for a spot in the right ballet class; of communities where the competition for the best camps, the best coaches and the best piano teachers rivaled that for admission to the best private schools and colleges. Women told me of their exhaustion and depression, and of their frustrations with the "uselessness" of their husbands. They said they wished their lives could change. But they had no idea of how to make that happen.

Gee - let me think - how much help did I have with child-rearing? My husband worked long hours, leaving the house by 6 am at the latest and rarely returning before 6:30 or 7 pm at night. He was often away for extended periods of time - my eighteen years at home included almost a year's separation before he joined the Marine Corps, two one-year spans when he lived in Japan, several 1-2 month deployments each year, and innumerable shorter trips. During one three-year tour, he was gone 32 weekends out of the year.

Calling him at work was a no-no. Expecting him to be there for pre-natal appointments, or to be on call if the children got sick (even if I was sick too) was out of the question. And you know what? It wasn't so bad.

Did I feel trapped sometimes? Resentful? Unfulfilled? You bet. I'll bet my husband feels that way too when he contemplates the pressures of being a breadwinner - of being the sole support for our growing family for most of the time we've been married. I'll bet he's not 100% 'fulfilled' by his job, either.

Did I ever wish I could go to work? Miss adult conversation? Absolutely. And then I looked at my schedule (which I controlled) and figured out a way to get some of what was missing into my life. Because I was in charge.

These women are not 'liberated'. They're not in charge. Who in their right mind stays up all night to hand-paint paper plates for a class party unless they truly enjoy it? Will second-graders really notice or care? Who are these women trying to impress? Warner offers a clue:

We saw ourselves as winners. We'd been bred, from the earliest age, for competition. Our schools had given us co-ed gym and wood-working shop, and had told us never to let the boys drown out our voices in class. Often enough, we'd done better than they had in school. Even in science and math. And our passage into adulthood was marked by growing numbers of women in the professions. We believed that we could climb as high as we wanted to go, and would grow into the adults we dreamed we could be. Other outcomes—like the chance that children wouldn't quite fit into this picture—never even entered our minds.

Strikingly, these liberated women show a surprising lack of independent thought. I recognized this picture - I'd seen it on the boards of various volunteer groups where career-women-turned-SuperMommies drove themselves full-tilt into every task. As an older wife and mother, I watched these ladies bring their corporate skills to bear on a silent auction, or to making sure the philanthropic fund disbursements were 15% greater than last year's. They turned what was supposed to be a social group into a full-time job, never asking themselved why the Thrift Shop had to make a 10% greater profit than last year, or why we had to file as a 501(c) when that would make us subject to legal restrictions on how we disbursed the funds we raised in our spare time.

And they bring this same driven quality to motherhood: their children just have to be enrolled in a blitz of activities. They spend their days as miniature bus drivers, shuttling children non-stop from one frenetic activity to another. They run around with fat DayTimers to help them keep track of all the things they've signed up for, cellphones constantly at the ready as they juggle multi-task themselves into a nervous breakdown.

No wonder they're exhausted. They can't accept limits. John Podhoretz comments:

We do not live in a stoical time, where people are given credit for bearing discomfort in seemingly calm silence. We live in an emotive time, where we are given credit for expressing ourselves honestly.

But the problem with living in an emotive time is that negative emotions and unpleasant feelings seem to get the better of us. That's especially true when it comes to the way people these days talk and write about being a parent.

There are just too many demands. Children need to be fed and housed, so you need to make enough money to do both. They need round-the-clock care, but if moms provide that care themselves instead of workng, then housing themselves and the kids is financially more challenging.

How is it that these women can make management decisions in the workplace, but can't manage their own hectic, out-of-control lives? Podhoretz quotes part of the Warner article:

She interviews an articulate woman who is hurled into inarticulate despair as she tries to make sense of her life: "What I'm trying to remember . . . Is how I ended up raising this princess . . . How I got into . . . How to get out of . . . this, this, this, this mess.'"

This is not a woman living in Darfur, fearful that her children are about to be butchered by the Junjaweed. This is not a Sri Lankan woman trying to make sense of her life after the tsunami. She's a newspaper editor with a supportive husband — and someone in desperate need of some perspective.

And that, above all, seems to be what is lacking here. Perspective.

Motherhood doesn't have to be a competition. You don't have to hang out with the Uber-Mommies who spend their days hauling ungrateful brats around in suburban assault vehicles with onboard TV screens. You don't have to live life vicariously, using your children's accomplishments like trading cards in the self-esteem market: "Johnny's an honor student... Your Justin's not walking yet? My Tiffany walked at 8 months...Brandon made the all-star team again this year - we're sending him to 3 soccer camps this summer...".

You don't have to live up to someone else's idea of motherhood.

And maybe, just maybe, you can't have it all. Maybe you shouldn't even be trying.

Life is full of tradeoffs: time for money, freedom for security, popularity for integrity, and maybe...just maybe someone else's idea of motherhood for what you think matters.

It's hard to see what's so 'liberated' about these frantic women, chained to a treadmill of unrealistic expectations they seem to accept without a whimper of protest. Liberation - true liberation - comes about when you stop worrying what other people think and take control of your life and responsibility for your actions.

Having it all is just another way of saying you have to do it all. Maybe what's really needed here is some intelligent setting of priorities. Because if these women don't even know what they want, why do they expect the rest of the world to figure it out and give it to them?

Posted by Cassandra at February 24, 2005 05:57 AM

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Comments

You know, I watched Oprah for about a half hour in the late eighties. Then it dawned on me I was being programmed for selfishness. Let me explain here: She is single. She has no husband, no family, no one to answer to. She shaped her life as she saw fit. I DON'T fit that mold. When I realized that, I shut off the idiot box and went on with my life.

If I were to listen to that....BILGE all day, I would be a desparate housewife too. I CHOSE to marry, have children, yadda yadda. I stand by that as the best thing I ever did. Yes, in spite of everything that has happened since, it was for
better or worse.

And when the kids are grown and gone, I will go in to their rooms, sit on the bed with a stuffed toy, and cry.

I can't imagine that her life is MORE fufilling because her drivel is broadcast to millions of
True Believers, but I can see the harm that it is doing to the family. We don't need a marriage
amendment to save it, we need to turn off the television or tune it out.

The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world has been exchanged for an empty life. I love my husband, my children...I am living.

I am sure Oprah is cuddly wudlly adorably sweet.
But she is not the lamp that lights my path.

Posted by: Cricket at February 24, 2005 09:04 AM

And when the kids are grown and gone, I will go in to their rooms, sit on the bed with a stuffed toy, and cry.

Maybe. I doubt it.

I thought I'd really suffer with the Empty Nest thing, but I've found that, like anything else, life post-children is what you choose to make of it.

I have talked with friends and while we love it when our kids come to visit for a few days, we all sigh a big sigh of relief when they leave.

I like being able to spend time with my husband. I like the fact that my sex life (always good) is better now than it ever has been before because I have the luxury of TIME.

I like the fact that I'm more assertive (in a good way, I think) than I was when my kids were at home. That I take more risks.

I miss loving my boys - I miss rumpling their hair and tickling them and talking to them about what's going on in their lives every day.

But I love not worrying all the time about where they are, what they're doing, how they will turn out.

I think your life will change in big ways when your children leave home - some of them you'll like very much and some will leave you with an empty feeling in the pit of your stomach.

But life - all of life - is what we make of it, and I have no doubt you'll make a success of your life (however you choose to define success) when the last child leaves for college.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 24, 2005 09:29 AM

I felt so desperately sad for these women, but then found that there is a group that is trying to help!

Posted by: MathMom at February 24, 2005 09:43 AM

I never said how long I would cry...heh.

But that is the whole point. We have made a choice, and this is the time and season of my life where I help nurture others. Contrary to Christ's teachings, these people think that you lose you when you serve others. I think it is because I have married and am raising a family that I am a better person, more complete and am looking forward to
the empty nest, but I am also in no hurry.

I lost myself in the service of my family, and found that I was a more rounded, better human being as a result.

Posted by: Cricket at February 24, 2005 10:06 AM

Mathmom, I too, am emptying out a pringles can as fast as possible so I can help. Unfortunately, the Child Labor Units hate pringles chips so I have to eat them myself, but that is what carb blockers are for. I do all right up to two chips, but after that, I get nauseated and have to lie down and watch
Oprah.

Posted by: Cricket at February 24, 2005 10:14 AM

Imagine a 5'1" lady who couldn't weight 115lbs soaking wet standing between two 6' 180+lb 18 year old gorillas (sons) exclaiming "I just don't understand, I used to be able to make this dish with just 4 chicken breasts (when there were 6 of us living at home) and now I have to use 8 (when there is only 4 of us)" while my twin and I were shovelling food onto our plates as fast as we could. My dad, who is usually good about things like this, laughed out loud at the irony.

He told me mom cried for a week after she had to make cornbread in the 6" cast-iron skillet instead of the 12" one and realized she still had half of it left.

Almost 10 years later she'll tell you how hard it was for her when we'd come home for a month in the summer between when summer ball ended and school started back up. All she wanted was her house back from the invading hourde.

Posted by: Masked Menace© at February 24, 2005 10:21 AM

Never having been a mother myself (although I've been and still am a father), on reading the study they reference, what I clue into as a possible explanation for the Desperate Housewives being all stressed & depressed might be in the litany of "dangers to your children" they tend to glom onto on all these shows and magazines and other media outlets that profess to tell them how to be a "good parent". They worry about bad stuff in the water, bad stuff taught at schools, the safety of the seatbelts in the minivan, whether a serial perv will swipe the little ones if they let their guard down for a SPLIT SECOND in any situation anywhere... they're so busy taking all of that "shock and awe" campaign seriously, directly to heart, that they probably do get more busy feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders as mothers, rather than enjoying motherhood the way healthier mothers probably do when they take a good deep breath, relax, and calm the hell down.

But I could be wrong, having neither been there nor done that from a female perspective.

Posted by: Ciggy at February 24, 2005 11:51 AM

...and speaking of all things babies---I'm a Great Auntie!

My oldest brothers oldest....My oldest niece and "all time favorite birthday present of mine" gave birth yesterday to a girl. D went in to the hospital at 12n and baby said "HELLO!" @ 12:58p!

Now my mom is a great grandma and my middle brothers 3 yr. old is an Uncle! Plus yesterday was the 3 yr olds moms birthday, also!

I know it all sounds a bit convuluted-- but we're from a long line of gypsies, tramps and theives...and circus people from the Applachians.

Posted by: CKCat at February 24, 2005 11:58 AM

I just find it supremely ironic that feminists are decrying the "losing of self" that goes on with motherhood, when it is these nutty broads who are laying all this pressure on THEMSELVES.

I dearly loved my children, and [gasp!] when I was at home, I deferred to my husband on several occasions as he was the breadwinner and was providing for us.

But I NEVER, EVER did what these women are doing: organizing my whole life around my children.

I let them know there were limits. One thing I used to say when they were being annoying or pushy (yes, this is a joke - children have an amazing sense of humor) was:

"Go away for about 15 minutes, dear. Mommy doesn't like you very much right now."

I don't think my children ever saw me as subservient to them - I would never have chased after them if they forgot assignments at school or covered up for their mistakes - I let them take the consequences. Even when it was embarrassing to me.

These women don't seem to have make that fundamental distinction that your children are not extensions of you, nor should your life be centered totally around them. I made a lot of big sacrifices to stay home with my kids, and that was a voluntary decision.

But I didn't submerge myself in their lives - they became part of mine, as is proper when children come to live with an adult.

You can make career sacrifices without losing your identity - it just requires a little willpower.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 24, 2005 12:01 PM

right now, I have 15 lbs of ground beef in the fridge. That was one 7 pound chuck roast and one
8+ pounder as well. We grind our own hamburger. I have a thing about mystery meat and that is what ground meat is in the store, the trimmings from the other cuts.

That will make 75 tacos and six gallons of chili
as well as four meat rolls, or sausage en croute.
That is about 12 meals. I have to cook in bulk ahead so that when we get busy, I can send a CLU
upstairs to put the finishing touches on dinner.

The other day we had salad Nicoise for lunch and they ate almost the entire bowl. That was at least four quarts of vegetables and one can of tune fish!

Posted by: Cricket at February 24, 2005 12:02 PM

I see a lot of women making themselves indispensible to their husbands and children.

They do everything for them, no matter how trivial, as though they were helpless to fend for themselves. But there is a huge guilt debt to pay for that kind of sacrifice and the recipients quickly find out that they have involuntarily assumed a debt they can never repay.

I think what a lot of these women are feeling is the sense that they are perhaps overdoing it and not getting a like sacrifice in return. But their children and husbands didn't ask them to do all this silly stuff.

If you can't give with a glad heart, there is something wrong. A gift begrudged is a gift with strings attached (in other words, no gift at all), and women are masters at that kind of psychological warfare. But it's a game they can't win: being a saint may make you feel self-righteous, but it's no fun being a martyr.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 24, 2005 12:08 PM

Congratulations, Cat!

What a wonderful way to start the day. Babies are awesome.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 24, 2005 12:10 PM

The answer to this problem is obvious. In the old days, frustrated moms could relieve that stress by beating their kids until they (the moms) felt better. Now, even that is considered a no-no in today's touchy feely, kids are to be seen and heard and not live in fear till the next beating hippy world view.

Posted by: KJ at February 24, 2005 02:29 PM

I hear ya KJ, the Onlette is already earning some spankings, what with her pushing and kicking and generally making my bride miserable.

Posted by: Pile On® at February 24, 2005 02:35 PM

The last few weeks aren't much fun Pile. I slept upright in a recliner the last month of my second pregnancy. But it will be over soon.

At least she's not crying...

Posted by: Cassandra at February 24, 2005 02:43 PM

Yet

Posted by: Masked Menace© at February 24, 2005 02:51 PM

The baby or the bride or both?

Posted by: Pile On® at February 24, 2005 03:23 PM

Yes

Posted by: Masked Menace© at February 24, 2005 03:31 PM

Well I suppose actually both, but I was referring to the Onlette.

I believe I excused myself and burst into tears about 10 pm on the night I went into labor - they had told me I would deliver two weeks before that, I'd had 2 weeks of pretty much constant contractions, and we were moving in a week, so I got pretty depressed when the end of the month arrived with no baby (for some odd reason, I delivered both mine on the very last day of the month).

Then I went to sleep and woke a few hours later in labor.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 24, 2005 03:34 PM

"I like being able to spend time with my husband. I like the fact that my sex life (always good) is better now than it ever has been before because I have the luxury of TIME."

Agreed. We've still got one at home but she's always out doing the social butterfly thing. The Lovely Bride still works a full day but when I'm home I always have the place shipshape, squared away, and supper ready to go. Takes a big load off and there's way more relax time around here now. This seems to have equated into a massive rejuvenation of all things petting. Or really it's just 'cause I'm that damn good! he-he!

"But I love not worrying all the time about where they are, what they're doing, how they will turn out."

And then they become Marines and go off to war. Again, and again, and again! You try your whole life to teach them to NEVER, EVER volunteer for nuthin' but there you have it. Buy 'em books and all they do is eat the covers!! :-o

Hey CKCat, when I was a wanker the only people that could wear ear rings without getting their butt kicked were Gypsies! Tough motor scooters they were! Now an ear ring is a common place fashion item for males. Further evidence of the ability of today's males' ability to "get in touch with their feminine side".

Bah-Humbug! I don't have a friggin' feminine side! But then I'm not rich and have loved the same woman for 30 years! And I don't NEED a friggin' feminine side! If that is the kind of horse manure guys need to get girls nowadays I'd be a hermit! I would want someone to walk BESIDE me that isn't afraid to hold my hand walking down the mall and doesn't wear those ridiculous low risers from the local Sluts Are Us stores in the mega malls of Amurica! I have no problem with the old 70s hip huggers (which the Lovely Bride still wears - just to drive me insane) but these new low cut things are obscene. Neanderthals Rule! ;-)

I see these stressed out Moms all the time at the soccer fields. I bet they've spent $50k on training for their DD by the time the girls are seniors in HS. I don't get that frankly. Whatever happened to Dad pinging a ball around with his DD and teaching her Cruyffs and stuff? I understand the pressure but when we had four playing sports (and Dad was still playing and coaching) we always had a carpool thing goin' on. We got a group of parents together and we worked stuff out. But then these folks were totally whacked out and trying to live their own lives through their children.

Then you have the other end of the spectrum with the parents that just simply didn't care and never attended anything. I don't which is worse! But some of us always made sure the kids could enjoy something they wanted to do. Without all the stress and micro-management! Different perspectives I guess. I bet I haven't heard allot of the SuperMoms' kids being told "NO" more than a handful of times. Shoot, that's how I always opened the conversation with my kids! :-)

Posted by: JarheadDad at February 24, 2005 03:34 PM

I think parents can either calm their kids or make them nervous. I don't want my kids to suffer unnecessarily, (no one does) but I thought our whole purpose was to teach them correct principles by example and precept, and then they govern themselves.

So, they have had to learn to take the consequences, and in the course of so doing, they have made fewer mistakes and have *gasp* built their confidence and self esteem. Not letting them fail and learn from it is as harmful as not teaching them or guiding them at all.


Posted by: Cricket at February 24, 2005 04:23 PM

Wonderful post, Cassandra - I completely and totally agree with you.
I was a full time mom for 7 years, and I never rushed around like those mothers. I got to be a kid when I was growing up, and I wanted Andy to have the same chance to just be a kid and not have to be signed up for a zillion activities. No wonder so many kids are hyperactive - they have to be just to keep up with the schedules that their mommies set up for them!

Posted by: beth at February 24, 2005 05:59 PM

Beth, when my son came home from his scout meeting last night he was doubled over with laughter. One of the kids was whining about wanting to eat (his mother didn't have time for more than mac and cheese from the box...even *I* will put something nasty like hot dogs in it and make them eat an apple while they guzzle their kool aid) with the girls on the other side of the building. One of the other boys there (not ds) threatened to neuter the whiner and dress him all pretty so he would blend in. It shut the whiner up...mom was rushed getting him home from gymnastics before scouts
and there are at least two more things he is signed up for besides gymnastics and soccer.

Anyway, my son told me how much he appreciated me preparing decent meals for them and that a lot of the kids there were hungry becasue they didn't have time to stop and eat between activities.

Yes, I know that is why there is Burger Thing, but stil.

Dinner is a daily ritual, even if all we have are quesadillas and tomato soup. I like sitting down, talking about the day, listening to them. We even have after dinner speeches.

Posted by: Cricket at February 24, 2005 06:15 PM

Yes, yes, yes. I was a single mom and worked full time, but I think that it actually gave me more time to spend with him since I didn't have to divide my time between my child and my spouse. And in the summer, instead of booking him into camp after camp, I'd drop him off at his grandparent's farm on my way to work - he'd race into the kitchen, pack a lunch, and head up the hill where he'd spend the day with his cousins digging holes and filling them, building forts, chasing goats, throwing rocks into the pond, seeing who could pee the farthest and all the other mysterious things that hold such fascination for little boys. I carried a pair of boots in the car so that he could show me, each night, what he'd done during the day. It was a great childhood filled with great memories. I don't think the lack of back-to-back planned activities has hurt him at all - he grew up to be an independent, confident, strong Marine. In contrast, one of my friends, late-in-life mom with one adorable three year old in NYC has had him on the waiting list for the right preschool since her pregnancy was confirmed. He's currently taking lessons from a private tutor to enhance his success on the entrance exams. For preschool!! Because if he doesn't get into the right preschool, he'll never be accepted into the best private elementary, and on and on. He's also taking music, dance, karate, art and has a French nanny so that he'll be bilingual. At three he knows that his responsibility is to get.into.that.school. Poor kid. Ah well, vent over. It's not as much of a problem in my part of Oregon - fairly rural - but kids in the larger areas who are similarly overbooked are stressed and burned out by the time they're halfway through grade school.

Posted by: Deb at February 24, 2005 06:31 PM

Deb, you hit it just right. Boys need to be boys.
Your son learned more from his cousins about independence, self reliance and teamwork than he would have in a 'supervised, well run' activity.

What is play for them are life lessons. Children need to PLAY. They need to hunt frogs, snakes and other animals. They need to listen to the snow fall and the ice crack. And the best part is they will take us along that stress free journey of discovery.

Posted by: Cricket at February 24, 2005 07:02 PM

Methinks these Moms in the article are looking at "motherhood" as THE NEXT GREAT THING....taking the place of the past TNGT's, like EST,and Yoga,and Vegetabletarianism,and Feng Shui (sp?), and the Atkins Diet,and.......well, you get the picture.


Slow the fu** down, love your kids,read to them,talk to them like you love them, and they'll pretty much work out all right.


Greg

Father of 2 pretty great kids.

Posted by: Greg at February 24, 2005 07:08 PM

Deb, I'm amazed more kids don't rebel.

Part of the reason I quit college when I was 18 was that I noticed all my friends (seniors) were clueless. They were only IN college because their parents expected them to be - several were pre-med (and had NO interest in medicine) or pre-law b/c that's what their parents wanted.

I asked them what they wanted and they had no idea.

That just struck me as unutterably stupid and wasteful.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 25, 2005 05:51 AM

Cass,

If they didn't know what they wanted to be, then what better way to spend their clueless years than getting a degree that makes becoming what they want to be (when you decide what that is) more easily acheivable? I don't really get your logic. Most entry level jobs, except in some specific professions, aren't about what you studied in college, only that you have the degree. And those jobs don't typically looks at a professional degree as a bad thing. If you are suggesting that quitting school is what you should do when you don't know what you want to do, I would question your logic. If you don't know what you want to do (and my experience was that was around half of my college chums, including me until my junior year), then study something you enjoy, get a degree, and give yourself as many options as possible. You want to explore the grand canyon while living in a VW beetle, fine - do it in the summer.

Posted by: KJ at February 25, 2005 10:24 AM

What I was suggesting is that perhaps one should not waste their parents' money on a specialized degree if one is not serious about school and/or undecided on a career.

I don't believe I suggested all college students needed to decide on a career before going to school - that doesn't make much sense. But there is nothing wrong with working for a year or two before you go to school if you're not ready, or taking a more generalized course of study (since you have no idea what you want to do).

Assuming that all 18-year-olds are ready for college is dumb. Many aren't.

Going pre-law or pre-med JUST BECAUSE YOUR PARENTS PICKED YOUR MAJOR FOR YOU is dumb. Staying in school and getting lousy grades because you are there under protest is dumb. The time would be better spent working for a year or two until you're ready to buckle down and study.

I stand by that.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 25, 2005 10:35 AM

If you re-read my comment, I think you'll find you were reading something into it that I never said.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 25, 2005 10:37 AM

No I wasn't. I was inferring what you oh so clearly were implying. You are much deeper and more controversial that you think. It just takes someone like me, trained in reading between the lines, to figure you shifty types out. :-P

Posted by: KJ at February 25, 2005 12:03 PM

Touche, counselor :)

Posted by: Cassandra at February 25, 2005 12:16 PM

I've been at home for ten years now.

Do I ever feel trapped? Do I wish I had a job? Do I miss "adult conversation"?
Not just no, but HELL, NO!
Having a job doesn't make a woman independent, it makes her dependent on her boss. If I wanted adult conversation, I'd grab the kid and go to the park or the library or some other place where there were adults I knew and talk to them (the conversation was usually more intelligent than what I got from my coworkers). If I wanted to "get out of the house", ditto. I have freedoms now that I never had when I was working.
And that's the dirty little secret that feminists don't want you to know.

Posted by: MrsPurpleRaider at February 26, 2005 07:31 PM

What a tour de force. Your kids are lucky to have such a smart mother, and we readers are lucky to have such a smart blogger!

Posted by: Sissy Willis at February 27, 2005 01:47 PM

You're very kind - I think I've just been a lot luckier than I deserve, Sissy.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 27, 2005 02:08 PM

Mrs Purple Raider echoes thoughts of the insect lady. I agree.

Posted by: Cricket at February 27, 2005 02:48 PM

You both had a different experience than I did.

I have different types of conversations with coworkers than I did with other Moms. Not necessarily better, but different. I didn't find many stay-at-home Moms who were willing to discuss politics, for instance. I got tired of talking about child rearing, although I do find that interesting, too.

And there is a difference between one's attitude to a thing when one makes a conscious decision to give up work to stay home (which you did) as opposed to not having much choice until after the fact (as I did - I could have gone to work after I had children, but I did not give up my career to have children: I had children first).

It matters. I was a LOT younger.

And I disagree to some extent about the independence argument too.

Having your own money gives you options you don't have when you are dependent on your husband's salary, if you are honest. Of course, if you have a good relationship the point is moot - I have always had control of the family budget for 25+ years. My husband's paycheck goes into my account, of which he is joint owner. I can spend freely without asking permission, and I determine the household budget and pay all the bills and always have. But not all wives can say this.

As I pointed out, your time is less your own when you work, but if you are an honest and ethical person, you work for your husband since he supports you. It logically follows that if you piss your husband off, your source of income goes away, just as if you lose your job your source of income goes away. So there is no difference.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 27, 2005 03:00 PM

And I would add that I always took it as a point of honor that I DID work for my husband. He provided a roof over my head and put food in my mouth.

And in return I provided domestic services. I was not a freeloader - I earned my keep.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 27, 2005 03:03 PM

One more point: I can't think of the last time I discussed recent developments in the software industry with another Mom.

Or how software development productivity has been affected by the use of IDE's and the accuracy of code counting procedures with the advent of software reuse, or the last time I had another Mom call me on the phone to ask my personal opinion about why smaller systems typically exhibit lower productivity, giving me the opportunity to pontificate about economies of scale and ad hoc management strategies and the learning curve.

The fact is that I think about a whole lot of things, now that I work, that I never thought about when I stayed home. That's because I went to school so I'd have an intellectually-challenging job.

And I also miss out on some things that I loved about staying home. So there are definitely tradeoffs involved - I'd never say one is better than the other. And if I got pregnant tomorrow, I'd have a hard time giving up my job, but I almost certainly would.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 27, 2005 03:13 PM

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