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Stay at Home Moms are Making a "Willingly Retrograde Choice"

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Had an email this morning from Brenda, one of my readers, asking if I'd caught the segment on the Today Show that featured "Feminine Mistake" author Leslie Bennetts. I didn't, but based on what she told me about it, I figured I might go do a little digging.

The Today Show web site features an excerpt from Bennetts book and while I couldn't find too much wrong with the excerpt. Well, at least other than a sneaking suspicion that much of Bennetts vitriol comes from having a lack of positive male role models. After all, who could put forth the trust in men that is required if a woman chooses to give up her own career to become a stay at home mom if all the men they've known treated women poorly?

Of this morning's segment, Brenda writes:

It was a woman who wrote the book “The Feminine Mistake” and basically her whole case was that it is so sad how women quit their jobs to stay home with their kids because of all of the financial security they are losing and how “there are plenty of good day cares” and there’s basically no justifiable reason for a woman to stay home and take care of her kids.

It's a line I've heard many times before.

Women "owe" it to other women to go to work every day to make sure those doors of opportunity not only stay open, but grow wider.

In other words, your responsibility isn't to your own family, it's to society.

The problem here is that feminism is about expanding choice, not limiting it.

Bennetts seems to be saying "stop listing to those men as they try to tell you what to do! Listen to ME instead!"

How have we improved our position if we're still being told what to do instead of making the decision for ourselves?

I found an interview with Bennetts over at iVillage.

Some of the snippets intrigue me...

Many of the women who had chosen to give up their careers felt it turned out to be a big mistake that had very unfortunate consequences for themselves and their children, and some of them were clearly motivated by a desire to help other women by warning them about the pitfalls of depending on a man to support you. I think a lot of the working women were grateful for the opportunity to talk candidly about how much they enjoy their work and the benefits it confers.

But there's no talk of the women who work and wish they didn't. Or the moms who stay home and are thankful they do. These women exist. I know many of them. In fact, many of them read this blog. (Many readers also work and enjoy it or stay home and dislike it, but the point is, there are people on both sides.)

She goes on to say...

Our culture is not informing women adequately about the dangers of depending on a man to support them, and I think the media have misled women into thinking that the stay-at-home life is a better and less stressful choice. The facts would indicate otherwise -- working women tend to be not only happier but even healthier than full-time homemakers, as I have documented in the book.

Funny...but that goes counter to many of the women I know. Now anyone who has read my writings about childbirth know that I'm not big on anecdotal info over actual studies, but since she doesn't cite the study that proves WOH moms are happier and healthier than SAHMs, my anecdotes count.

And really, should we simply be comparing the groups of who works and who doesn't, or should we also be considering whether the women WANT to work and whether they WANT to stay home. Because wouldn't a woman who wants to work and does obviously be happier than a woman that doesn't want to stay home, but does anyway? Wouldn't a woman that doesn't want to work but has to NOT be as happy as a woman who wants to stay home and does?

Now let's be clear...I have no issues with her writing about how she thinks more women should work. I think more women should stay home. The difference is the sarcastic and caustic attitude with which she promotes her ideas.

I think that having one parent at home while the kids are young is the best case scenario. But guess what? It's not always possible. Sometimes both parents need to work outside the home. Sometimes the parents WANT to work outside the home and obviously, a parent that's home grudgingly isn't going to be the best parent they can be.

Bennetts on the other hand allows for alternative beliefs with these lines...

many stay-at-home mothers are very angry that anyone would dare to report that they are taking a big risk in being financially dependent on their husbands. Unfortunately the risks are undeniable; the facts don't go away just because you refuse to look at them. Over the long haul, most of these stay-at-home moms are going to find themselves on the wrong side of the odds.

So I guess what I would say to them is, Feel free to disagree with me, and do whatever you want to do, and I wish you good luck, because you're going to need it.

Nice. Way to be supportive of women's choice.

I guess I just have a hard time understanding how self-proclaimed feminists can attack women for making choices. Unless of course Bennetts feels that women are so incapable of making their own decision and so reliant on doing only what they're told to do that she has to make sure she's doing the telling instead of "The Man." I'm not very keen on taking lifestyle advice from someone that thinks I'm so suggestible that I'll just do whatever I'm told.

So what do you think? Does Bennetts help push forward women's causes or does she limit them?

ETA: Here's a link to the video of the interview. (Thanks Penny!)

Ok, so having seen it, here are my comments...

Watch Bennetts' face VERY closely when Ann makes her comment about women feeling like they are doing what's best for their children when they make the choice to stay home. If she pursed those lips any further, they could put a Coach label on them...

Next, I find it astonishing that she'll completely gloss over all of the risk factors of leaving your children with strangers (NOTE: I am NOT slamming moms that put their kids in day care) and blames the concern on the media and then says that the REAL risk is in staying home and risking your child's future.

She also says that if you can't provide food and shelter for your child at a moment notice (and by that she means if you can't go get a high-wage job tomorrow) then you are letting them down.

Also, am I the only one that watched that and thought that Ann Curry though this woman was full of it?


  1. Blogger heidi | 4:33 PM |  

    *Slow, careful breathing. Relaxing meditation. No cursing.* OK, here goes:

    You want to know what "sets women back" and is a retrograde action to take? Condemning women for making choices about their own lives and gasp! making those decisions with partners who shriek! are sometimes male.

    I just don't get why people equate focusing on raising children with antifeminism. When I bawled and sobbed and wept for weeks after going back to work, my husband was confused. "I thought you were a feminist." Total non sequitor, honey.

    The feminist, womanist, whatever you want to call it, movement (which is about evolving and being fluid and encouraging change, um duh!) is in serious, serious danger right now because of this divisive, judgemental thinking. It's not now and never has it been about women working or not working or fulfilling this or that role. It's about the power to choose. Period.

    I take this so personally, as one of the ones who wishes her choices weren't economically constricted. What I wouldn't give to be condemned for staying home.

  2. Anonymous Nev | 5:15 PM |  

    I don't think her position is necessarily wrong, but her presentation definately is. For the record, I work full time. I always planned to. What I didn't plan on was hubby suddenly taking off halfway through my planned pregnancy. I have that urge to warn SAHMs that, no matter what you think, *IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU*. (Yes, he was one of the "good ones". No, there were no "warning signs.)

    Having said that, I think women have to do what works for them and their families. Stay at home and love it? Good for you! Work full time and are happy? You're probably a better parent that way!

    I think the education and information are important, but belittling someone else's choice is never the right approach.

  3. Blogger Penny | 5:21 PM |  

    I found the today show interview online. http://video.msn.com/v/us/msnbc.htm?g=4b7a6fd4-7bac-496f-9665-4aabe227d477&f=00&fg=

    I also found this link http://news.yahoo.com/s/huffpost/20070331/cm_huffpost/044690

    I don't think I could read her book because I can't get past her hate.

  4. Blogger Lesley | 6:47 PM |  

    I think she limits women's issues. It's a very common error on the part of so-called feminists to believe that women MUST work outside of the home in order to be happy little feminists. I consider myself to be a feminist, and I am a very happy SAHM. I could list the ways that being a SAHM is rewarding to me, but that does not mean that they apply to everyone. My mother worked, first out of necessity and later because she did find it rewarding to WOH. I know my mom would not have been happy as a SAHM. I applaud her for knowing that about herself and in doing so she was very much a full-time parent who gave so much of herself to us kids. Neither one of us made the "right" choice for women as a society, we made the right choice for us as individuals. And it works for our individual situations.
    In closing, I leave you with this quote:
    "It is demeaning to say that you respect and empower women, but only as long as they are making choices you agree with" Stephanie Pearl-Macphee, AKA The Yarn Harlot

  5. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:24 PM |  

    Talk about perpetuating mommy wars. I guess I have been mistaken in my belief that feminism surrounds supporting a woman's right to choose her own options for her life with the key word being SUPPORTING. How could I have been so wrong all along? Silly me. Thank you Leslie Bennetts--I have you to thank for all the answers to my life's biggest dilemmas.

  6. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:04 PM |  

    Bennett might be right that it is a dangerous choice to be a stay at home mom these days. But the problem is not in that choice, but in the way American culture penalizes SAHMs (dare say, parents) by promoting goods over values, work over family, dollars over time. It is deeply unforunate that this story focuses on the individual choices when the real issue is the lack support for raising children at all.

  7. Anonymous Eilat | 8:07 PM |  

    Its funny because as a full-time working mom, I always feel like the hard-core AP's can be so judgmental of working moms. It was heartbreaking to go back to work when my son was 4 months old. I didnt know what it would be like so I arbitrarily (sort-of) chose a date to start my new job after moving across the country. I cried every day and fantasized about being a SAHM.

    That said, I was writing my dissertation when I was pregnant and was (and still am) very serious and committed to my career choice. I put a lot of work and effort into getting my degree and I got an amazing job offer when I was 3 months pregnant. I felt that I would be throwing away my dreams and I couldnt do that, personally. But it was hard and its still hard and I feel like Im often making up for lost time. Pros and cons, as usual.

    I will definitely take more time off for the next baby. But these are personal decisions and for someone to come out and judge such hard choices one way or the other is wrong and counterproductive.

  8. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:40 PM |  

    sigh..this debate is sooo tired......the real debate should be, why don't we have family friendly policies in this country? Why isn't there more paid family leave? why isn't good, safe, affordable childcare an option for everyone? why aren't there more workplace options for working families like job sharing and part time work? why is there no affordable healthcare? That way (for the most part) women that want to work can and women that don't, don't have to....and you stop this divisive rhetoric.

    If you are interested in these issues check out momsrising.org

    These are the issues that need to be addressed, not is working better than staying home. It's a ridiculous, pointless debate and takes away from real feminist/family issues.

  9. Anonymous Smooches | 8:50 PM |  

    So, basically all women need to be ready to support themselves at a moments notice?? SAHM or not aren't you becoming "dependent" on a (gasp!) man when you make any financial decision with your spouse such as purchasing a home or vehicle?? Can ALL married women afford their entire household's bills? Should they have to? Of course not! I guess you should never become dependent on anyone, ever! What a bitter, bitter delusional women!

  10. Blogger Astabeth | 10:02 PM |  

    I think part of the problem is that there are too many people thinking 'us against them' meaning us (women) against them (men). I think it would be more productive for people to base their decisions for the family - us (my spouse and me) against them (the world)! Not that I'm against the rest of the world, but you get my gist.
    I consider myself a feminist, but don't advertise it because people tend to stereotype and try and fit you in with certain other vocal females that may not have any ideals in common with you. I am more interested in protecting women's rights to choose where they want to be - working, at home, in school, wherever. And their right to breastfeed, and have a midwife...

  11. Blogger Judy | 10:23 PM |  

    The feminist movement has never been about choices.

    I went to NOW's website, and as I suspected the focus was on abortion rights and lesbian rights. Regardless of where you fall on these issues, they don't have much to do with a WAHM or a SAHM or a WOH, which I'd suspect most moms fall into one of those categories.

    The only mention they make about child care is increasing day care choices and trying to make employers or the government pay for child care so women can work outside the home more easily.

    They're still pushing the Equal Rights Amendment, which would force the government to ignore differences between males and females.

    I am not a feminist and never will be. You probably aren't either.

  12. Blogger Jennifer | 5:19 AM |  

    Actually Judy, I do consider myself a feminist.

    If you go back to the roots of the feminist movement (rather than what it has become in the last few decades) then I stand 100% behind those sentiments and I feel that many of them are still battles that need to be fought.

    Feminism...original feminism was about choices and power...two things that women of the time did not have. Women in the U.S. at the start of feminism were legally nothing more than property of their husbands. They held no rights, and they also held no responsibility. For example, women could not be charged with many crimes...they basically didn't count as enough of a citizen to be held responsible...if they committed a crime in the presence of their husband, he could be charged because it was up to him to keep her in line.

    Read about the original Declaration of Sentiments written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

    Feminism was about taxation without representation. It was about having the right to make autonomous decisions.

    It wasn't about making women and women 'the same' it was about making them equal.

    Sure, a new group of women with their own causes and crusades has usurped the title of "feminist" and changed the ideals behind it, but that doesn't negate the original intentions of the movement.

    I always have, and always will be a feminist. I'm just not a feminist in the Gloria Steinham, Leslie Bennett sense of the word.

    I'll take my feminist cues from the great leaders of the past like Stanton, Lucrita Mott and Susan B. Anthony.

    Rich Nathan has a great quote in his book "Who is My Enemy: Welcoming People the Church Rejects" where he says:

    "My conviction is that many Christians view feminists as their enemies not because they have thoughtfully considered all of the issues, but because they have encountered radical feminists such as my law school professor." (to note, his professor taught a women's studies course that was nothing but a semester long rant against men...as opposed to an exploration of women's history.)

    So yes, I AM a feminist and I firmly believe that Jesus was too. :)

  13. Blogger Leah | 5:53 AM |  

    I can't respond to her crap because it would make my head explode. So I'll just say that I appreciate living in a country that allows women and men to make choices that are best for them and their families.

    But Jennifer - have you seen www.ifeminists.net? It's a site that promotes equality. For women, but also for men. I believe in those principles, not those of NOW or Linda Hirschmann or this ho-bag on the Today show.

    Ooops, couldn't help a little name calling. Knee-jerk reaction, if you will.

  14. Blogger Jamie | 6:08 AM |  

    What a bitter and jaded woman. Isn't life about taking risks? If you want to lead a risk-free life, then dont get married, dont enter into relationships, certainly don't trust anyone, heck I am not sure you are allowed to wake up in the morning. If I spent my life expecting my husband to leave me (or die), what life would I have to live. I think staying at home is a risk, but for most, it is a very calculated risk. Most women do not make the choice lightly.
    Now, I am a SAHM now... and I will return to work. I have a Masters degree in a field that I plan to use. But I also know that I'd figure it out if my husband died (or as she likes to argue would leave me)... My father left when I was 12, leaving us to end up on food stamps and my house to be foreclosed on, and my mother - an assistant teacher - to pick up extra jobs and figure it out. Was it rough? Absolutely. I grew up with a real money consciousness. But we figured it out, we had family, church, and friends to help as my mom figured out how to support us as a single mom. And she WAS working.
    I refuse to spend time at a job that makes money that I would only spend in daycare to prepare me to be able to cope with my husband leaving me. But I do have skills and connections that would enable me to quickly return to the workforce should my husband be unable to work for whatever reason.
    She really just seems like a miserable woman. Sad, very sad.

  15. Blogger Melissa | 7:22 AM |  

    Oh good grief.

    Sadly, I think her opinion reflects what is really wrong with this country. People with extreme opinions have the loudest voices and the media loves them. It's why people like Michael Savage and George Soros are on my TV and radio. They don't reflect the *true* America, yet claim to speak for *all* Americans. Does that make any sense? (I feel like I am having a mind to fingers problem and I don't know if I am explaining how crazy I think this woman's opinion is!!)

    I WOH, but I would like to keep the roof over my head. However, I think that even if SAH was an option for me, I would have a PT retail job just for mad money, time away from DD, and conversation that doesn't revolve around DD.

  16. Blogger tiny-dog | 9:13 AM |  

    You know Jennifer I am always impressed by how carefully you think about the issues. I totally respect your views even though they differ from mine (am I your token crazy liberal reader? ;-)

    Reading the Lactivist always makes me think, could I read or think about an issue more before jumping on the first emotion that strikes me?

    Maybe the message women can take away from the alarmism around the risks of staying at home is that, no matter what choice you make, have a stake in your family finances. Would you know exactly how to handle the sudden death or departure of your husband/partner? Do you have a sound insurance policy? Could you work if you had to? I think it is common sense to have a backup plan (the same way you have, say, a fire escape plan for your home) while still trusting your husband and your choices. I don't think it is a betrayal of trust to know how to deal with disaster, so to speak.

  17. Anonymous Nev | 10:02 AM |  

    I think one of the ideas that irritates me the most (no offense, Jamie) is that I'm "only making enough money to pay for daycare". For what it's worth, daycare may take a chunk of expenses, but I am no means hurting because of it. And, incidentally, I *did* pay majority of our bills...always had... In fact, it was *his* lifestyle that went down when he left. FWIW.

    While I agree you can't live your life Little Chicken style--"TheSkyIsFalling!"--you can't bury your head in the sand, either. I don't expect to get hit by a bus tomorrow, by I did add a life insurance policy because of the baby.

    I'm certainly *not* trying to perpetuate the mommy wars. I'm not saying a SAH parent shouldn't trust their spouse...just that they should be aware of what *could* happen. I just wish I had known then what I know now. :)

  18. Blogger Ahmie | 10:26 AM |  

    I really don't understand where someone with that many issues against "dependancy" can feel right about *creating* a completely dependant human being. If *you* can't trust anyone else enough to depend on them, who the hell are you to create a defenseless human being, and how can that baby depend on YOU not to go off and leave them like "some man" might leave you? If you distrust men that much, stick to your vibrator and go see a therapist to work on YOUR issues before bringing a baby into them.

    And I say this as an adult, college-educated woman who CHOSES to stay home with my children because I don't think any stranger doing it for a PAYCHECK could do it nearly as well as I could... even though my own father left my mother for another woman when I was 2 years old. It took a lot of PERSONAL work before I could trust my husband enough to rely on him as the sole income earner. We've been together 11 years now. Our firstborn will be 3 in May. He wouldn't have been conceived if I hadn't gotten over my abandonment issues first - that's what birth control is for, that's what our feminist forebearers fought for. Right? So we *wouldn't* be having children before we were fully prepared to care for them?

    Why are we "entitled" to retire but not "entitled" to take care of our children? Where are our priorities when the "goal" is to run away to Florida when we turn 65 instead of remaining vital parts of our families thoughout our lives? (yes, I'm a tad bitter at my grandparents who didn't help my mom in any way except occasional financial help, at least as much as I'm bitter at my dad for leaving her in the first place.). Our societal priorities are so out of wack, but gee, let's perpetuate it. Because in order to be a feminist you should be aspiring to the 1950s male work model of reality, right? Not trying to change the world so that MEN can also be family-orientated and women can be work-orientated IF THEY FEEL LIKE IT... and not judged for being "backwards" if they just happen to be family-orientated (since, gee, those darn hormones that are released with pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation that have us crying at car commercials have NOTHING to do with the human experience, right?).


  19. Anonymous Brenda Z. | 10:54 AM |  

    well I'm glad I could bring up such a fun discussion:-) I have enjoyed reading all of it. I work part-time b/c that's what works best for my family- but to me the whole concept of Bennett's perspective is talking to women like we can not realize the obvious- that the less we "work" the less money we will have- but you will never prove to me that making the most money you can is what defines you being able to parent well. We all try the best we can and whether or not we coupon clip and shop at thrift stores or go out to eat and buy our kids expensive things- or a little bit of both- it should be our choice to decide what is best for our families- and anyone that tries to tell another mom that her way is wrong is just trying to prove that their way is right- but the problem with that is that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to parent (well ok- some things are right and wrong) but when it comes to most areas we discuss, we all try and do what works best for us. I seriously would love to write a book or something about all the different parenting styles out there- because it's so interesting to me the convictions that lie within each of us and how you might assume that some practices are lumped into the same category but then someone surprises you with such a random assortment of parenting values- It's funny b/c I don't think any 2 womem parent exactly the same way. Ok- done rambling now- but by the way I agree with Jennifer- Jesus definitely was a feminist in the purest sense:-)

  20. Blogger Debbiemommy | 11:09 AM |  

    I think this woman is just trying to express a point of view as seen through her life experiences and what her family went through. My grandmother was also in the same boat as her grandmother but she went in a totally different direction. She started off the same believing that her husband would tire of the hussy and then finally said "To hell with this!" Got a divorce went to work and her mother, a widow took care of her 5 children during the day while she was at work. Later she remarried a wonderful man who "took care" of her. She had some rough patches in life but basicly she was happy. She would have rather stayed home and raised her own kids but that wasn't how it worked out so she adjusted. Now my mom found my dad and stayed home and was happy with that, when she got board with staying home she'd clean houses because that was what she wanted to do she enjoyed it. It didn't interfear with her parenting because she could do it while we were in school. That made her happy. I have a college education and luckly I'm able to stay home with my 5 kids but if something should happen I do have the education to go out in the work force and get a job. My grandmother situation taught me not to mistrust men but to always have a plan B! Really it depends on what your personality is and what works for your family. So she learned to Never depend on a man, where as I learned Always have a back up plan. I stay home because I like it and if I didn't I'd go to work where as another woman might go to work and if that didn't work for her she would stay home. Feminism is all about choices staying home was mine. There is probably a 50/50 draw back to either situation. Do you want somebody else spending all day with your kids while you build a career for me the answer is No but somebody else might say staying home with my kids will drive me insane I have to work that is what works for them! Choices people choices!!

  21. Blogger Naki | 12:38 PM |  

    Wow. I'm quite speachless. I for one am for woman's rights BUT I don't think being a stay at home Mom is degrading in any way. I recently just separated from the Military so I could be at home with my 2 girls. I missed precious milestones in my older daughter while away. You can't get that time back. I for one love being home now and when the time comes I will go back to work, but home is where I want to be. Being a SAHM doens't mean you are chained to the house as a slave. The only word I can use to describe all this is ignorant.

  22. Blogger Jennifer | 12:46 PM |  


    Ha, I think I have lots of "token crazy liberal" readers, so that probably means none of them are token, right? (as an aside, don't you love how breastfeeding and parenting can bring together people from different sides of the aisle?)

    I think you make an excellent point too, in saying that women should have a stake in their families finances.

    For example, my mother is an incredibly intelligent woman. Double majored and graduated college summa cum laude in under four years. She worked a few years as a teacher and then quit when she had my brother.

    For 34 years, she has not had a paying job. (Though she's on the board of directors of a state and national organization, runs a local sports league, handles things at church, etc...like most SAHMs, she was still working her tail off.)

    Financially, she runs everything. Dad jokes that he turns in his pay check and gets an allowance, but it's pretty much true. My mom has completely and total control over the finances. She handles their investments, their retirement, health care planning, everything. If something happened to my dad, she'd be fine. Heck, in reality, she could be sucking funds into her own off-shore accounts and could run off and leave my dad with nothing. LOL...but I'd imagine Bennetts isn't worried about men, after all, they can take care of themselves, right? ;)

  23. Blogger Rixa | 2:13 PM |  

    Hoping my sleeping baby will let me finish...

    My biggest disagreement is with the author's assumption that our ultimate value comes from our potential to earn money. I have chosen to stay home and raise my own child (and am also writing my PhD dissertation during naptime!) because I value human relationships more than a second income.

    I agree with many of the comments that getting an education and marketable skills is important. But I vehemently disagree that women who stay at home to raise their children are selling out. Frankly, the SAHM's (and dads!) I know feel it's a luxury, not a drag, to stay home. My husband would love to quit his job and stay at home too, and we're always looking for ways to make that possible.

    There's more to fulfillment than money or a high-powered career.

  24. Blogger MamaBean | 2:18 PM |  

    Yeah well my husband is not a real man because he's a stay at home dad. Let's get his jockeys in a wad and call up the chauvinist movement and get HIM on the Today show. I'm sure he'd LOVE to get back in construction. Would sure beat staying at home and playing with his baby girl, and being there when his son comes home from school.

    *rolls eyes*

    love the comments on this blog. So far I've read my own knee-jerk reaction, my "on 2nd thought" reaction, and my "okay I've thought about it" reaction.

    So let me just add - ditto!

  25. Blogger Jamie | 3:17 PM |  

    No offense taken... but in reality - my paycheck woud have just been paying childcare. We did the math and the research. I am not saying any paycheck I brought home - but in the job I was in that I chose to leave to become a SAHM that was the situation. I certainly have the capacity to make more in a different job should I a) want to and/or b) need to.

    I get your point about the life insurance. And I absolutely agree with the have a stake in the finances and understand whats going on. I am not talking about blind trust - because to me that is more than trust - that's naivety. I dont want to live that way WITH my husband by my side. We share household responsibility, I manage our finances even if he is the only one bringing in money at the moment. And I indeed know I could care for my child and manage if something should happen to my husband (disability, death, divorce, and any other D we can think of :-)). And the fact is, it could be any of those reasons that I'd need to support my child and myself and possibly my husband. So it is not just about the trust issue. I am never going to count on or plan for my husband leaving me, I just can't think that way... but should something happen whatever that may be I have a handle on how to deal with my finances indepedently and provide for my child. Hope that makes sense! No mommy wars here :-)

  26. Anonymous Velveteen Mind | 9:10 PM |  

    It's so refreshing to find a post about this that is even-handed. I won't take up a bunch of your comment space, as I've already posted a fairly extensive response to this on my blog and know I can't keep it short, but I do want to say that I have thus far found Leslie Bennetts to be full of contradictions and rather convoluted.

    When you get right down to it, she almost seems anti-children. She points out that employers are reluctant to hire mothers... so what would she have us do? We can't have them and stay home (which is what I do), we can't have them and go to work (because no one wants to hire us old mommies)-- so what then?

    I think staying home is best for my family, just as I think breast is best. I have contingency plans for if either of those approaches fails. However, I'm not going to rip you apart if you disagree. I'm not going to say you are engaging in "high risk" behavior by not living your life in fear, as though your apparently unreliable husband is going to get fired/ leave you/ drop dead at any moment.

    Okay, I'm recreating my blog post here. Please visit my link for more of my elaborate thoughts on this, as I'm apparently full of them. Until then, Jennifer, thank you for a well-balanced post in response to a possibly unbalanced author. Anytime we use the terms "best" or "right" in regards to parenting, tempers are bound to flair, and we sometimes forget to present both sides. Well done. Love the site and I happily added your link today. --Megan

  27. Anonymous pupa | 10:00 PM |  

    Thank God for my home country, seriously. Every mom gets ONE YEAR maternity leave. When it finishes, they have the following options:
    full time work, part time work (and note that the state pays basic health insurance and social insurance for the remaining time until the child turns 6 years of age) or stay at home (no benefits except cheaper daycare due to less income). If they go back to work, they're entitled to breaks for breastfeeding/pumping, more days off etc...
    The local govenment pays 20-80% of daycare costs per child, depending on the family's income, the rest is paid for by the parents.
    BUT -
    even if we had our ONE YEAR off with our children, even if the daycare is partly covered by the municipality, even if we have breaks for breastfeeding and the things that should make our decision to go back to work easier, THERE ARE SITLL MOMS WHO CHOOSE TO STAY AT HOME and depend on their husbands. This issue is not about women! It's about FAMILIES!

    Mateja from Slovenia, a tiny country of 2mil people, central Europe

  28. Blogger K | 4:47 AM |  

    Token liberal raising hand.


    Bennetts did herself and her "cause" a great deal of ill by choosing to present her thesis using the harshest language possible. She isn't starting a dialog but launching a diatribe based mostly on her personal experiences with the cover of "research."

    That said, the idea that women should take all aspects of their choices into account and that families need to consider contingencies (50% of marriages end in divorce), need not be another salvo in the mommy wars. For example, how many working moms (or Dads) out there who currently send their kiddos to high quality expensive caregivers could afford said caregivers if they lost one income?

    Facts are that our society has chosen not to provide the support and safety nets necessary to raise children under less than ideal conditions in this country. And I am not whimpering of some by gone era -- I mean we have never had such conditions.

    For most, there is no choice to be made. Folks work for many reasons. And moms (dads) stay home for many reasons. I know plenty of SAHM who would WOH in a heartbeat if they had a career they enjoyed that paid enough for quality care. But when working for satisfaction is a net loss, why bother.

    Feminism is the audacious idea that men and women have equal rights, responsibilities and potential. Equal doesn't have to mean identical, rather feminism demands that the worth of an individual and their aspirations be given equal weight and respect regardless of their gender.

  29. Blogger Jennifer | 5:43 AM |  

    "Feminism is the audacious idea that men and women have equal rights, responsibilities and potential. Equal doesn't have to mean identical, rather feminism demands that the worth of an individual and their aspirations be given equal weight and respect regardless of their gender."

    Kelly, I agree with you.

    However, I think that feminism, much like Christianity, is often represented by those who are the most vocal, rather than those who hold to the foundations of the belief system.

    Granted, the media operates in extremes, so that's who they are going to show in interviews and give voice to...

    But just as the so-called Christians standing around carrying signs celebrating the death of a Matthew Shepard are NOT representative of true Christianity, I don't believe that the women who spout off about how useless men are or who push women as wholly superior rather than equal are representative of true feminist thought.

  30. Blogger K | 7:07 AM |  

    Jennifer -- I agree. I wish the more vocal feminist groups would have understood that there are issues other than abortion for most women.

    I do see in some of the more strident voices of feminist backlash this idea that but for those wommen libber types we would all still be living in a lovely world were women could choose to stay at home and their adoring husbands could have great jobs at great salaries and all would be well in the world. And that is plain old hooey. Feminists have not harmed the status of women one iota. Have some focused on sexual issues while neglecting family issues -- yes.

  31. Anonymous stacey | 7:44 AM |  

    I skipped the Today Show interview after hearing the promo. But I did catch a quick interview with the author in Newsweek, in which she says "Raising kids is a temp job." As in, once it's done you can finally get to the good stuff! Or, as in, once you're done you better have something else to do because if you're a SAHM you've got nothing else to live for.

    My feelings on working vs. staying at home are complicated, but my feeling on this is clear: raising kids is NOT a temp job. How insulting to all parents and children. Way to offend *everyone*, lady!

  32. Anonymous nonpartisan | 10:26 AM |  

    The more interesting way to consider this issue is, what is this author so afraid of? The more women who choose not to be on career-track workforce, the more room for those women who believe this is their destiny.

    Why is she so worried about us, sitting at home looking after babies. Someone has to do it! I can either be a mother, or a professional day-care provider paying taxes because I own a business looking after children, but in the end, a certain number of people have to be present to supervise all the children. Is she worried that by doing it for free in my own home that I'm stealing work from a more worthy woman?

    Or, is there a fear of woman who have no restrictions? As of right now, there are more highly educated women who are not bound to a coporate paycheck than at any time in American history. And what are we doing while the baby naps? We are questioning the whole system of our nation's health care, protesting discrimination against breastfeeding women, challenging the monopoly of public education, asking our doctors too many questions, talking too much to each other online,and starting our own local businesses that meet local needs.

    We, my friends, are very dangerous and need to be discouraged from living such creative alternative lifestyles.

    I just read that every breastfeeding mother cost the formula industry $450 a year, at least. Can't allow that to happen, and it wouldn't if we all just stayed at the office.

    So, I repeat my question, why should she and others like her be so worried about us. And does her publisher really believe that I'm going to buy her book? I wonder who the intended audience really is?

  33. Anonymous Anonymous | 5:53 AM |  

    If only, if only I had a reliable partner-husband-thingie to live with; if only, if only I hadn't been abandoned to TANF subsistence, reporting my every hour and breath to our lovely incompetent state administrators; if only, if only I had inherited or won the lottery; maybe then I could do what is best for my family by staying home.

    Alas, 'twas not to be. Heaven forfend any of you should ever be in my shoes for trusting the wrong guy.

    I agree that Ms. Bennett's attitude is the wrong one to take, and that she is naught but divisive.

    But I just want to let everyone know that it can happen - You can put your trust in the wrong person and get screwed. It was actually the only time in my life I put aside my paranoia that things could go wrong. I failed to make my contingency plan. Because he said, "trust me, we'll be okay."

    oi vay.

    And yes, I'm in therapy.
    That owie hurt too much.

  34. Anonymous Mama Luxe | 7:42 AM |  

    Thanks for some really thoughtful comments on this.

    Part of the problem is we as a society assign value with money and we (again, as a society) do not place value on the work a mother does.

    She doesn't seem to take into account that there are ways to keep up one's skill set (and possibly even make a little money) at home.

    Also, if it is indeed difficult to return to the workforce if desired/necessary after taking time off to raise children, should the answer be, don't bother raising the children or fight to improve understanding of the work we do and the role we play in society?

  35. Anonymous Amy | 3:17 PM |  

    Thanks for a thoughtful look at this issue.

    I have a lot of reactions to the Today segment- and I saw most of them put here by you and other readers quite eloquently, so I'll try not to duplicate.

    Just if Bennetts and others like her could step outside the debate momentarily and see this issue reflects society's chronic devaluing of "women's work," such as child care and education. Valuing raising children *is* a feminist issue.

    When I first announced I was staying home, my step-mom responded by telling me I was no longer a feminist. I was flabbergasted. Raising my children is the most outrageous act of everyday rebellion I've done so far.

  36. Blogger Sanveann | 3:58 PM |  

    Wasn't there another woman a year or so ago who wrote a book about how women are doing such a disservice to themselves by staying home? I can't recall the title, but I remember there being a big flap about it at the time.

    Anyway, Leslie Bennetts is just one more person trying to tell women what to do. Why does she think that's more acceptable than a man telling us what to do? How about you just let me make my own dang decision?

    That said, I do think it's important for women to be able to support themselves if need be ... it's just common sense to have a good education and some sort of job skill.

    But to be able to provide food and shelter at "a moment's notice"?

    Well, first of all, it wouldn't say much about my marriage or my opinion of my husband if I expected him to walk out on us at any given second.

    Second of all, my field is not so high-paying that I would exactly be living it up if I had to support myself and a child (and pay for daycare) on a journalist's salary.

    And third, I have these things I call "family" and "friends" in the event that the worst happened and my DH -did- leave. They wouldn't let us end up living out of a cardboard box, and I wouldn't let them end up like that, either.

    I think Bennetts' real problem, as Jennifer pointed out, is a lack of trustworthy people in her own life.

  37. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:36 AM |  

    I have been a stay at home mom raising my children because this is what my husband and I decided on together. We have the most amazing kids. Our oldest left for college in August and she wrote a paper on "Her mother being her role model". I am not a corporate lawyer, doctor, or politician. I am my children's mom, first and for most. I do not regret one day staying home to raise them. I will never look back and say, "I really wish I could have made lots of money instead of enjoying my children grow into magnificient people".

    Now, I am trying to get back into the work place and find myself being interviewed by women who are either jealous of my sacrifices I made, or don't understand my decision and question me.

    One women told me that it seems as if I am dedicated to my family more than I would be to the company! Another interviewer said, "what have you been doing all these years, nothing"? Another women said, "you are so lucky that you could afford to stay home with your kids, I could never afford to do that".

    How do you respond on an interview to comments like this. I drive a 10 year old car, we live pay check to pay check. Why is money so important to our culture.

    We are lucky as women that we have choices. Please, do not put other women down for their choices and do not condemn them from the work place when they would like to go back because of the choices they made regarding their children.

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