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June 20, 2006

Meet The New Boss...Same As The Old Boss

Reading this passage from Linda Hirshman's essay in the Washington Post on Sunday, I had several reactions:

When I set out to write a book about how the first generation of women to grow up with feminism managed their marriages, I never dreamed I'd wind up the subject of a Web article called "Everybody Hates Linda."

Everybody started hating Linda, apparently, when I published an article in the progressive magazine the American Prospect last December, saying that women who quit their jobs to stay home with their children were making a mistake. Worse, I said that the tasks of housekeeping and child rearing were not worthy of the full time and talents of intelligent and educated human beings. They do not require a great intellect, they are not honored and they do not involve risks and the rewards that risk brings. Oh, and by the way, where were the dads when all this household labor was being distributed? Maybe the thickest glass ceiling, I wrote, is at home.

The first was puzzlement. I had, somewhat naively, always thought one of the smarter tenets of mainstream feminism involved Hirshman's bete noir: the freedom to choose. Choice feminism affirms the right and the ability of women to make rational choices regarding their time, their talent, their very lives. For those who think in economic terms, the word "choice" brings to mind two related concepts: tradeoffs (the idea that it is rarely possible to choose one thing - at least in the real world where resources are finite - without giving up other things) and the weighing of opportunity costs, which recognizes that intelligent decision making requires the evaluation of the most valuable forgone alternative.

My second thought was that Hirshman has an incredibly parochial view of work; notably, the long decried notion that only traditionally male occupations have value. In her much longer American Prospect article, the author rails against what she views as the demeaning choices made by educated professional women who "opt out" of the working world to raise their children:

Half the wealthiest, most-privileged, best-educated females in the country stay home with their babies rather than work in the market economy. When in September The New York Times featured an article exploring a piece of this story, “Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood,” the blogosphere went ballistic, countering with anecdotes and sarcasm. Slate’s Jack Shafer accused the Times of “weasel-words” and of publishing the same story -- essentially, “The Opt-Out Revolution” -- every few years, and, recently, every few weeks. (A month after the flap, the Times’ only female columnist, Maureen Dowd, invoked the elite-college article in her contribution to the Times’ running soap, “What’s a Modern Girl to Do?” about how women must forgo feminism even to get laid.) The colleges article provoked such fury that the Times had to post an explanation of the then–student journalist’s methodology on its Web site.

There’s only one problem: There is important truth in the dropout story. Even though it appeared in The New York Times.

I stumbled across the news three years ago when researching a book on marriage after feminism. I found that among the educated elite, who are the logical heirs of the agenda of empowering women, feminism has largely failed in its goals. There are few women in the corridors of power, and marriage is essentially unchanged. The number of women at universities exceeds the number of men. But, more than a generation after feminism, the number of women in elite jobs doesn’t come close.

Why did this happen? The answer I discovered -- an answer neither feminist leaders nor women themselves want to face -- is that while the public world has changed, albeit imperfectly, to accommodate women among the elite, private lives have hardly budged. The real glass ceiling is at home.

The disturbing (to Ms. Hirschman) implication of the opt-out phenomenon is that, while women now have the option of competing with men in the workplace, a substantial number of them choose, at least temporarily, their children over the rat race. Again, in the presence of scarcity this choice is not without consequences in terms of lost wages, diminished resumes, and a still lagging presence in America's boardrooms and to a lesser extent, academia.

Interestingly, underlying the author's heartburn with women who opt out are her unsupported assumptions that only traditionally male occupations have value and that the choice to stay home with the kids is somehow (she never bothers to explain why) a coerced one:

Here’s the feminist moral analysis that choice avoided: The family -- with its repetitious, socially invisible, physical tasks -- is a necessary part of life, but it allows fewer opportunities for full human flourishing than public spheres like the market or the government. This less-flourishing sphere is not the natural or moral responsibility only of women. Therefore, assigning it to women is unjust. Women assigning it to themselves is equally unjust. To paraphrase, as Mark Twain said, “A man who chooses not to read is just as ignorant as a man who cannot read.”

I greeted Hirshman's first statement with mixed emotions:

The family -- with its repetitious, socially invisible, physical tasks -- is a necessary part of life, but it allows fewer opportunities for full human flourishing than public spheres like the market or the government.

I chose to stay at home for most of the twenty or so years my two sons spent growing up. On the one hand, one could argue this choice was not entirely freely made and additionally that the consequences - periodic bouts of feeling trapped, impatience with routine, repetitive tasks, a wish for more intellectual stimulation, and the desire to take more risks with my life - at times gave me heartburn too.

But now that my sons are grown and I've been in the working world for seven years, I know these feelings are hardly unique to stay at home Moms. The heady rush of acquiring competence and credibility in a foreign and highly technical field, of taking on sometimes daunting challenges has been replaced by (quelle surprise!) periodic bouts of feeling trapped, impatience with routine, repetitive tasks, a wish for more intellectual stimulation, and the desire to take more risks with my life. Nor are these feelings uniquely female. My husband, an extremely intelligent and competent man capable of succeeding in any sphere in which he chose to exert himself, often feels these emotions too; arguably to a greater degree than I do.

The reason is simple. Looked at objectively, my husband's life has been in many ways less well-rounded and balanced than my own. He has never carried a child to term, nor been intimately engaged in the decades long dance that is child rearing. I, on the other hand, have both raised children and established myself in my career. Hirshman looks at stay at home moms and sees only drudgery and repetitive chores. Those elements are undoubtably part and parcel of homemaking unless one has the luxury of domestic help. But she misses what I found most stimulating and challenging about staying at home: the luxurious freedom to think and read and the intellectual challenge of constantly re-evaluating applying the moral precepts with which both my husband and I were raised to a constantly changing set of circumstances.

How much freedom should I give my children? Should I "cover" for them when they make mistakes, or stand back and let them suffer unpleasant consequences in hopes that experience is the best teacher? What if, owing to immaturity and lack of context, they draw different or even destructive conclusions from those experiences? How should I teach them to handle conflict and adversity? What values should I seek to instill in them? These are choices presented to any leader, but Motherhood is very nearly unique in the sense that no healthy adult relationship compares in intensity to the raising of tiny beings who start off completely dependent on their parents and gradually, over the years, must make their own way in the world using the tools their parents have given them. Motherhood, in many ways, is a pure form of leadership as well as a teaching profession. The curriculum involves teaching not just practical knowledge but abstract concepts like honor, civic duty, and ethics to students who see life through an entirely different prism.

Raising children requires the ability to step outside your own experiences and frame of reference; to view the world again through a child's eyes. Simply answering the thousand ubiquitous "Mommy, why does..." questions posed by one's offspring forces one to reexamine virtually every experience and moral teaching in life. It forces one to think about human societies, how they evolve, and what our goals are (and should be) both as individuals and members of a larger social construct.

As a returning 4.0 college student in my early thirties (an eloquent refutation to the notion that the sacrifices associated with child rearing are of necessity permanent ones), I found myself applying what I had learned about human nature and how the world works to subjects like economics, law, and political science. Working both case law and calculus problems, I quickly outpaced my classmates using the same problem-solving process I'd used at home for over a decade: assess the facts, find the applicable abstract principles or rules, and apply them to the problem.

But the ease with which I made the transition from full-time Mommy to college student did not surprise me. Even when I still filled part of my days with uninspiring tasks like scrubbing the toilet bowl or de-fleaing our pet beagle, my husband often remarked that I thought - and talked about - about subjects he hadn't addressed since college. It is impossible to be a good mother without also being something of a philosopher. Moreover I would argue the influence of a good mother's moral, ethical, and intellectual tutelage literally shapes the lives of her children and often by extension, those of future generations.

David Brooks, in an essay Hirshman thinks "attacks" her and relegates women to the realm of the sub-human, mirrors my own views:

When you look back over the essays of 2005, you find many that dealt with the big foreign policy issues of the year, but also an amazing number that dealt with domesticity. That's because the deeper you get into economic or social problems -- national competitiveness, poverty, school performance, incarceration -- the more you realize the answers lie with good parenting and good homes.

Hirshman has it exactly backward. Power is in the kitchen. The big problem is not the women who stay there but the men who leave.

Brooks' observation begs an interesting question I often ask of feminists who deride choice. Is it really in society's best interest for only uneducated and stupid women to raise children? And why do feminists like Hirshman value selling one's talents to the highest bidder over selflessly using them to enrich the lives of our loved ones and, inevitably, society? Is she so quick to dismiss the paid "helping" professions: social work, teaching, psychology?

The secret of Hirshman's discontent appears to lie in the equitable distribution of power:

If women’s flourishing does matter, feminists must acknowledge that the family is to 2005 what the workplace was to 1964 and the vote to 1920. Like the right to work and the right to vote, the right to have a flourishing life that includes but is not limited to family cannot be addressed with language of choice.

Women who want to have sex and children with men as well as good work in interesting jobs where they may occasionally wield real social power need guidance, and they need it early. Step one is simply to begin talking about flourishing. In so doing, feminism will be returning to its early, judgmental roots. This may anger some, but it should sound the alarm before the next generation winds up in the same situation. Next, feminists will have to start offering young women not choices and not utopian dreams but solutions they can enact on their own. Prying women out of their traditional roles is not going to be easy. It will require rules -- rules like those in the widely derided book The Rules, which was never about dating but about behavior modification.

There are three rules: Prepare yourself to qualify for good work, treat work seriously, and don’t put yourself in a position of unequal resources when you marry.

But the interesting thing is that the women who most upset her: those "wealthiest, most-privileged, best-educated females" who start out in the working world but later decide they'd rather be at home with their children, are extremely well qualified to work. And demographics suggest (as most educated white women, at least, tend to marry men with a similar background) these women were not in "a position of unequal resources" when they married. It was only after being out in the workplace that these women chose to barter the benefits of the working world for those of hearth and home. Finally, there is little to suggest these women did not take their careers seriously. It is more likely that a significant number of them also take their families very seriously.

What Hirshman cannot accept is that these women, much like men who often remain in financially secure but unrewarding jobs rather than trading in their pinstriped suits for the life of a starving artist, have made different (and apparently unacceptable) judgments about the relative value of work and home life:

During the ’90s, I taught a course in sexual bargaining at a very good college. Each year, after the class reviewed the low rewards for child-care work, I asked how the students anticipated combining work with child-rearing. At least half the female students described lives of part-time or home-based work. Guys expected their female partners to care for the children. When I asked the young men how they reconciled that prospect with the manifest low regard the market has for child care, they were mystified. Turning to the women who had spoken before, they said, uniformly, “But she chose it.”

Hirshman's attitude towards women's choice smacks of, dare I say it? the very paternalism rightly rejected by mainstream feminists decades ago. It is undoubtably true that if more men were willing to pitch in around the house and to share parenting tasks, some women would spend more time in the workplace. But conversely, if more women forced this choice on the men in their lives, many men would opt to spend time at home rather than face the breakup of their marriages. Not content with limiting womens' choices, Hirshman wants to limit mens' choices as well.

But Hirshman neglects to examine the role of free will in all of this. The truth is that women don't have to fulfill the expectations of their male partners. It is also true that no one is forcing them to stay home. They can always park the kids in day care and head off to work without so much as a backward glance. That they do not do this more often reflects the reality that for many women, the happiness and welfare of their husbands and children is inextricably intertwined with their own. In that context one could argue the decision to stay home is as much a selfish as a self-sacrificing one. Women are simply happier when their lives include both family and work, and if men take advantage of this to some degree that doesn't change the fundamental truth Hirshman so detests; namely that women now have freedoms that were unthinkable in the 1960's. Abortion and birth control have given us the same advantage men possessed for centuries: the ability to enjoy sex without bearing children. Workplace legislation and the women's movement have opened the doors to the executive washroom. If women choose to forgo these benefits for the privilege of having children, it is not for women like Hirshman to tell them they've made a "mistake".

Second-guessing the voluntary decisions of women who are, for the first time in human history, truly free to choose infantilizes women and robs them of responsibility for their own behavior. If they are unhappy and unfulfilled at home, they have chosen to be. No prison bars block the exit door. In her quest to free women from what she views as outdated patriarchal notions, Hirshman has merely traded the old boss (rigidly defined gender roles) for an equally tyrannical new boss which demands women adopt traditionally male criteria for what matters most in life: competition, money, and power.

Is it really a surprise that so many women haven't rushed to embrace Hirshman's world view? Perhaps a new generation of working women has simply decided they won't get fooled again.

Posted by Cassandra at June 20, 2006 06:58 AM

Comments

TLB was a stay at home Mom. By her choice. Until 1990 when she reentered the work force and in 16 years has become #2 in the food chain at her place of employment. Even then she refused to find work further than a mile from the house and could be making literally double her salary if she wanted to drive 2 hours in traffic each day. Her family was more important to her than anything. Guess this makes her a bad person!

Her rewards? When these kids leave the house or come home from school, deployments, etc. the sheer reverence for which they hold their Mom, the look in their eyes, the fact they hug her picking her way up off the floor, the loving teasing, just the love that shows her "choice" was the correct one. She raised some well adjusted ambitious children and turned them loose on the world. No regrets what-so-ever! Yeah, being a Mom is such a degrading "lifestyle"! Heh!

Hirshman is a ditz. I notice that women like her use all kinds of psycho-babble to cover their own shortcomings. Jealousy is a terrible thing and there is not one Lady I know that would ever regret being there for her children. Protective lioness comes to mind! Hirshman will never understand that type of devotion to something that is such a liability to womyn! Hirshman has a personal issue with her own inner instincts it sounds like to me. In typical bedwetter fashion you have to attack that which is better than yourself!

Oh well, guess we've fallen behind the times again. How unusual! ;-)

Posted by: JarheadDad at June 20, 2006 09:08 AM

Mrs. KJ stayed home with KJita. For 12 weeks. Then it was time for Mrs. KJ to earn my beer money and my darling little scamp to earn her keep. Hey, she could hold her own head up and manipulate shoe laces by then. Old enough for fine motor dexterity, old enough to make Nikes I always say.

Posted by: KJ at June 20, 2006 09:30 AM

What Ms. Hirshman is missing is an understanding of a simple four-letter word, LOVE. It is the most powerful force in the universe

Posted by: Russ at June 20, 2006 10:18 AM

The message was so nice, Russ said it twice. :)

So Cass, what's up with 'Hosting Matters' anyways?

It's eaten several of my more moronic comments in the last few days, and frankly, I can't spare the brain cells.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at June 20, 2006 10:47 AM

I don't know Don.

I'm not entirely sure what the problem is, but haven't had time to troubleshoot. It's possible the problems are a combination of server blips and some corruption in my comments cgi routine, but I've been reluctant to replace the copy on my server unless I have time to tweak.

I know my server at HM has been on the fritz literally every morning. Posting is a freaking nightmare - often for hours at a time I can't even get into Movable Type - or it eats my posts when I try to view or save them.

Fortunately I got into the habit of pasting my posts to Word before saving or viewing them a long time ago. It's must way too frustrating to lose an hour's work b/c of some stupid server issue when it takes a grand total of two seconds to copy it to the clipboard first.

That's what I'd advise with any lengthy comment - just copy it before hitting Post in case it gets eaten.

I'll fix whatever it is as soon as I have time.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 20, 2006 10:52 AM

And FWIW, more often than not if you just presss the back arrow on your browser when you get that Internal server error page, the page is refreshed with your original comment intact and you can hit Post again.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 20, 2006 10:53 AM

Now it appears to be eating comments. Wunderbar.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 20, 2006 12:33 PM

Cassandra,
I would rather stay at home and raise three well behaved intelligent men and one beautiful accomplished woman than broker deals and negotiate
conflicts. To teach, model and mold young minds and hearts is real power, real accomplishment and is truly a labor of love.

I wouldn't have it any other way. I worked, and do plan to finish that degree. But right now, we are learning about more important things.

Oh, and less whatsername gets her Hanes Sheers in a twist, my sons can clean a bathroom, take care of the house and cook meals...because they saw their father take care of us all.

She is a whiny spoilsport and can't see the forest for the trees.

Poor thing. She will never know or love or understand the sweetness of a sticky little pair of arms reaching for you, or the cozy intimacy of
blanket forts in the living room while reading to a rapt audience...

Sorry guys, I love my home and appreciate my husband's willingness to keep me there to participate in one of the best jobs on the planet.
Motherhood.

heh.

Posted by: Cricket at June 20, 2006 12:54 PM

What a dim wit this person is ... 'Oh, and by the way, where were the dads when all this household labor was being distributed?'

I guess she's never run into a stay at home dad? I admit it was once rare, but is becoming more common. A friend of mine in the Shire Guard made the decision to be the stay at home dad because his wife had the better career ... a few of the women I work with have simialr arrangements with their husbands. If you can do it, I would always say it is preferable to have one stay at home parent, at least until the kids are in their teens.

Posted by: Frodo at June 20, 2006 01:19 PM

I told KJita she could stay home with Mommy now, and then when we were old, we would move in with her and her family could take care of us; or Mommy could work now, she could go to kiddie college at an extremely expensive day care, and we would take the rest and save for our retirement, and when we were old, she could visit and leave when we started telling the same story for the 6th time.

She said see you after work, Mommy.

We considered offering the stay at home Dad option, but I refuse to wear a skirt.

Posted by: KJ at June 20, 2006 01:36 PM

Mr. Frodo,
You can't be talking sense to someone whose conscience and hormones have been repressed all this time. I know of role reversal couples too, and the chyldryn are not in counseling because of it.

One other observation: Years ago, when Jacqueline Kennedy was still alive, I watched her life get splashed across the tabloids. Why this is relevant is because she was one of those well educated, wealthy elite women who was the nation's First Lady, and despite the horror of seeing her husband killed in front of her, managed to raise her children in a semblance of security, love and home. She CHOSE to stay home. And, I might add, did go to work after her children were more independent. One parting shot. She was also a Democrat.

Posted by: Cricket at June 20, 2006 01:37 PM

IF you want to see what some other are saying on this, please go here: http://crookedtimber.org/2006/06/19/making-the-political-personal/

Some that stand out for me:
"Isn’t this debate is so emotive because women are trying to find a reasonable response to an act of oppression? That is, socialy, women are the ones forced to choose between full-time motherhood, full-time paid employment, or some combination. Men only enter into this dilema when a couple individually decides to think of the situation in more egalitarian terms. But, even then, women are statistically likely to find themsleves being the primary parent because of economics (i.e. salary gaps). Seems that simple at its base to me."

"There is also an undercurrent of resentment

Not to argue the merits of Hirshman’s position, but I wouldn’t characterize that as an undercurrent of resentment. It’s a fact claim that the decision of some women to opt out of the workforce has real negative effects on the career possibilities of other women who don’t opt out.

Posted by LizardBreath · June 19th, 2006 at 5:09 pm "

Anyone want to tackle this?

Posted by: ry at June 20, 2006 02:17 PM

Oh, and this one's pretty choice too:
"In this particular case, I think it is very clear why there is such passion attached to the issue at hand. Stay-at-home mothers feel that there is real value attached to the hours that they spend with their children. Mothers who have their children in day care feel that the kids do just fine in that environment, and that they are not sacrificing the well being of their kids for their careers. (The fact that there is little economic choice for many couples is true, but I gather from the ground rules that we’re not supposed to go there). At the crudest level, it’s a debate about the value for children about parent care (usually from the mother) as opposed to day care for preschool children. I think it depends on what people actually want to do and are good at, but I suppose for some folks it gets more generalized.

There is also an undercurrent of resentment – some of the threads at the Tapped page had rather elaborate arguments along the following lines:

Stay-at-home moms permit their husbands to work longer hours and to be more productive, which puts “working” mothers at a disadvantage; ergo no mother should stay at home with their kids to put everyone on an even footing.
(I’d observe that you could extend this to require everyone to have children, or no one to have children, or to require everyone to work exactly the same number of hours, etc. I don’t agree with it, but I did see it argued as above..)
"

Posted by: ry at June 20, 2006 02:20 PM

They are all mean spirited poopy heads. Longer hours doesn't always translate into a bigger paycheck unless there is overtime for it or a promotion with bigger pay because of it.

Let them all look at the military's pay scale for rank and bonuses and incentives for MOSs...the military keeps pace more or less with the civilian sector, and here is a news flash: Pay isn't based on gender, but on rank and the kind of job one is doing and where one is doing that job. How's that for even footing?

To go further: It is a mandate that single service members have a family plan in action in case they get called up if they have minor children. No family plan they either get one or get out. That goes for single male soldiers who have custody as well as the females.

Day care is available at or on all military bases, paying for it is based on rank.

If someone MUST work outside her home after she has kids, she can't whine about missing them or their lives if she wants to succeed. You can't have it both ways unless you want to have a trade off. If you are a single mom, get a family plan or get out of the workforce. No one is making you stay there and the men who have been single dads have it just as bad, and even worse sometimes.

Spare me.

Posted by: Cricket at June 20, 2006 02:34 PM

"Women are simply happier when their lives include both family and work, and if men take advantage of this to some degree that doesn't change the fundamental truth..."

I'm not sure that's a fair formulation. One could write a similar article on men's predominance in dangerous, life-threatening or unpleasant occupations from policing to crab-fishing off Alaska. The article could note that women marry these men and reap the rewards (such as they are in the case of policemen, but crab fishers can make good money) "Men are simply happier when their lives include both risk and reward," the article could say, "and if women take advantage of this it doesn't change the fundamental truth..."

The real fundamental truth is that men and women are different, and society -- not surprisingly -- reflects that. I think you and I are in agreement about this: We have a free society now, so that women who feel inclined to be police officers can do so; men who feel inclined to stay home and raise kids can do so. If we still aren't doing it that much differently than we used to, it's because this is how we want things. People who wish things were different for ideological reasons can go soak their heads.

So, I think we're in agreement -- it's just that I'd like to note that there's unfairness on all sides. All choices have tradeoffs and opportunity costs, including men's choices as well. I'm not going to blame women for failing, on average, to suit up for a rewarding life as a sewer technician or coal miner; I'd like it if we didn't blame men for, on average, not signing up for a life of raising the wee bairns.

Posted by: Grim at June 20, 2006 03:32 PM

You're right to point out that I didn't acknowledge that women reap some benefits from men's choices, however that wasn't the point of this post (which is why I didn't mention it). That particular comment was meant to address the fact that *women* are making voluntary choices, and if they are also advantageous to men in the sense that this makes it easier for them to evade sharing parenting and housework duties equally, that doesn't lessen the voluntary nature of that choice.

IOW, you can't lie down and act like a doormat and then complain that because men wipe their feet on you, they've coerced your choice. I'm not saying that this is what men do. I'm saying that men will generally do what they need to do to preserve a good marriage, even if that includes chores they dislike. But if women voluntarily assume the lion's share of those chores, they can hardly blame men for choosing to occupy their time with things like making a living.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 20, 2006 03:49 PM

"Women who want to have sex and children with men as well as good work in interesting jobs where they may occasionally wield real social power need guidance, and they need it early. "

I just love this. If I had known, when I was 11, that this is what feminism was going to turn into, I would have made a different choice. Hirschman and her ilk have strayed far from the roots of feminism, which were, as Cassandra noted, CHOICE. It was about consciousness of your role and circumstances, and the CHOICE to accept it or reject it for something else. Or at least, that was what I thought. I didn't realize (I'm such a silly girl) that I needed their guidance to make the choice they wanted me to make. It's as creepy as church--the notion that I can't make good decisions without the guidance of some "higher" organization.

And is she really saying that women only "wield real social power" in the workplace? Sitting here in my cubicle, wondering what my children are up to right now, I have to disagree. From here, I'm completely powerless over what I've unleased to society. I have to trust that the love and guidance they got AT HOME when I was staying AT HOME with them carries over, and that they are staying out of trouble, and they never disappoint me in that regard. That's social power.

Posted by: April at June 20, 2006 04:23 PM

Agh...there is so much more to address in that posting...too bad I'm working and can't give it more attention. The irony.

Posted by: April at June 20, 2006 04:27 PM

I wonder why it is that progressive types seem to fear individualism. I thought that self-fulfillment was the be-all and end-all of human existence, unless you're not fulfilled. Then others must be made to mirror your choices in order to validate those choices.

It always seems to boil down to equality of outcome rather than opportunity. Of course, levelling the playing field means tearing some down, and putting pedestals under others, but hey, what's an omelet without broken eggs?

Posted by: Chris at June 20, 2006 05:05 PM

Well as long as there is a glass ceiling at home, please make sure that you've got the canine nose streaks and boogers cleaned off it by the time I get home. Otherwise, no dessert.

Serously, who the hell are these people to say that mrs. rdr's work isn't "important enough?" Her work is danmed important to me and the rdrs, and although her children don't ever seem to appreciate it enough (my view), guess what? niether would her boss at "work."

And by the way, because mrs. rdr spends her day hosting the home, that leaves open other high-paying high-intellect jobs for social commentators such as Ms. Hirshman. 'Cause, believe me, my housefrau's intellect would kick some righteous feminist ass...That is, if I ever let her out of the kitchen.

Posted by: spd rdr at June 20, 2006 05:48 PM

Now that's what I like to hear :)

I'll bet her work is important to mrs rdr, too. And rightly so.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 20, 2006 06:00 PM

Looked at objectively, my husband's life has been in many ways less well-rounded and balanced than my own.

Just look at my blog. I'm a poster-child for that comment.

And if we could afford it and still be the consumerist materialistic rapers of Gaia SWWBO and I wanna be - I'd love to stop working and focus on *really* making my blog geekhaven!

I'd vacuum. I'd do laundry. I'd order in pizza and pay to get the windows done.

Posted by: John of Argghhh! at June 20, 2006 06:25 PM

No, no, no! You all have it wrong. Ms. Liberal Feminist is single and not at home with a loving husband and family because she's an obvious conceited, whiny bitch, but because men fear "strong" and "intelligent" women like her and Maureen Dowd.

Posted by: a former european at June 20, 2006 07:54 PM

> But conversely, if more women forced this choice on the men in their lives, many men would opt to spend time at home rather than face the breakup of their marriages. Not content with limiting womens' choices, Hirshman wants to limit mens' choices as well.

Hirshman is, to reuse a classic term, a Female Chauvinist Pig

She's not content with women having a choice in the matter -- she wants women to be able to force their choice on men as well. "Look, I want to have kids but I want you to do all the work of raising them so that *I* can be the one with a career, too."

Men don't HAVE a choice. It's unlikely that they will GET a choice. They are (mostly) stuck being the father figure, the one who isn't always there and is the disciplinarian.

This happens because it is in the sociobiological makeup of male and female humans. Her extreme feminism is an attempt to deny that reality (HUH. A leftist attempting to deny reality. Whoodathunkit?). Men have gone off on the hunt, gone out to fish, and learned to be the One Who Goes. Women have been the ones who stay and nurture.

Both sexes have this as a subliminal program, and, while one might speak of changing it with time, it is, to a greater or lesser extent, wired into all of us by sex. Any attempt to change it by a simple wave of feminist fiat is doomed to failure -- as it, for the most part, has been. Women gained options, and many have said, "Screw that sh**!" after a little while.

Even "Mr. Mom" got that -- after they switched positions, they gained respect for what each of them do -- that NEITHER had it "easy" -- and things returned to "normal": No more "Mr. Mom".

It is nothing less than whining childishness to insist that all women must agree with Hirshman as to their choices.

You got your choices, ladies. Pick one and deal with the consequences, and stop demanding that you Get It All -- NOW NOW NOW NOW -- like some #$%#%^#$^ ill-behaved, obnoxious four year old denied a toy.

(That last is not directed at you, Cass. You certainly appear to Get It).

Posted by: OhBloodyHell at June 21, 2006 03:23 AM

> Now it appears to be eating comments. Wunderbar.

Cass, it's a good idea to "select all" and "copy" before you post anywho. As someone not known for brevity (hey, I TRY! but there's too much ground to cover!) I'd pull out my hair constantly to baldness at the number of 10-15 minute dissertations I'd lose from random blog glitches (to say nothing of Netscapes tendency to crash when you look at it the wrong way, something which appears to have finally gotten a bit better with NS8).

Posted by: OhBloodyHell at June 21, 2006 03:33 AM

Someone has to say it. Stay at home moms can be replaced with an $80/week maid, a $450/week nanny (or $1,000/month day care) and a $3.95 extra value meal, not supersized.

The big expense is in replacing the night time companionship. That cost is killing me.

Posted by: Lonely Man at June 21, 2006 09:00 AM

You are so dead :)

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2006 09:11 AM

uh, oh am I going to take a feather to OBH for Dad being the disciplinarian.

Dad usually sets the standard and MEAN OLD MAMA BEAR enforces it. I have been known to swat my cubs when they have needed it, but usually it is Mom who helps the children in their discipline and polices the punishments, not Dad. Of course, I am a spouse of a retired veteran, and he still works away from home 12 hours a day...

However, we discussed the standard and the consequences of their behavior as the Parental Units so there is no playing of both sides against each other.

I seldom said to my children "You just wait 'til your father gets home!" Not a Good Thing To Do All The Time.

Posted by: Cricket at June 21, 2006 10:45 AM

Ditto in our house, Cricket. It's an interesting paradox.

My kids have both told me that though I was far and away more likely to swat them or to say no when they asked for something, yet they were never afraid of me. OTOH, they were scared of their Dad - I think less physically than because they didn't want him to disapprove of them.

I was stricter with them because of my husband's rules than I ever would have been left to myself, but if we made a rule, it got enforced swiftly and consistently. That's the only way to make kids listen.

Oddly enough, the boys still call me or drop by all the time now that they're grown, so if I traumatized them, the horrible memories must be repressed.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 21, 2006 10:53 AM

I think they knew all along that you loved them enough to teach them correct principles. And they know it even more so now that they have left the nest.

Interesting comment about them not wanting to disappoint their father. That is the kind of respect fathers need to command from their offspring. Not in some unreal tyrannical way, but to have them at least try and mentor them through something challenging.

Just today a CLU was asking about me correcting her. I told her that I knew she was able to do the work, and that part of the fun for me was to see her and her brothers make progress.

They love to show off to the Engineer when he gets home, as he never fails to ask them what they have done while he was at work.

Posted by: Cricket at June 21, 2006 01:44 PM

> I seldom said to my children "You just wait 'til your father gets home!" Not a Good Thing To Do All The Time.

Cricket, Cass, I'm not going to say that is the only way things work, and particularly not the form of discipline, esp. as "Wait until your father gets home!"

I mean it far more in the form of, "if it's bad enough to get Papa involved, the kids are more scared".

I mean that I believe that, in most cases, it's far easier to wheedle Mom out of a judged punishment(or, more likely, to lessen it) than it is to do so with Pop.

Further, the presence of Papa in a family situation tends to regulate Mama's compassion a bit -- the woman knows that, if she's being too lenient, Papa will not approve and there will be internal stress.

I'm sure there are exceptions to all those assertions (my own single mother wasn't TOO lenient, but I certainly could have been disciplined more), but they do tie to the general family dynamic, and why it is that many single-parent (i.e., fatherless) children tend to be spoiled and poorly disciplined.

Posted by: OhBloodyHell at June 23, 2006 07:06 AM

> Interesting comment about them not wanting to disappoint their father. That is the kind of respect fathers need to command from their offspring. Not in some unreal tyrannical way, but to have them at least try and mentor them through something challenging.

I believe we're all on the same page, here. Ideally, the father is strength, sternness, and a fatherly type of love.

The mother is a different kind of strength, compassion, and a motherly type of love.

I don't think, if you look at it, that those are not descriptions of your family dynamic, nor are they descriptions of anything less than the ideal family dynamic.

> I was stricter with them because of my husband's rules than I ever would have been left to myself

Like I said... :-)

The father represents a counterbalance to the mother's compassion. The kids should fear him as much, if not more, because of the loss of his valued respect as because of any direct physical retribution he may impose.

Even in the rebellious teen ages, they should still respect their parents and fear losing that respect.

One reason I refused to go to Taco Bell for years was because of a commercial they ran with kids freely dissing their "clueless" parents, as though it were perfectly acceptable. It may not have been uncommon, but it certainly should never have been *acceptable*.

Posted by: OhBloodyHell at June 23, 2006 07:18 AM

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