Saturday, April 21, 2007

Choices

The other day I was minding my own business when I came across this article , which just made me feel like crappity-crap-crap-crap. And that's just an article. For $16.47 I can get the whole book and feel miserable for 384 pages. At the rate I read lately, that would be a whole lot of misery. I suppose you can't win either way, really.

8 Comments:

Anonymous guh! said...

This is what I found interesting about the article -- the author asks "are we giving up too much," and reports that women everywhere are asking the "angry question "Why didn't anyone tell me what a mistake this was?" Ironically, I think one could write a book with the same title from the opposite viewpoint, and I wonder if the real problem isn't that too many of us (myself included) spend too much time living in regret and justifying our choices with "why didn't anyone tell me" questions. The whole point, I thought, of feminism was to make us responsible for our own choices with the goal, I thought, of removing some of that regret.

I think your heading, "choices," is the key thing to remember. Life is full of crossroads and surprises. Wherever there is more than one option, it is generally best to actually make a choice, and I agree with the author that too many of us don't make conscious decisions and that we need to be willing to look the data in the face.

That said, I have never been convinced by the studies that say children do equally well in child care, probably because I had two children, and the one who went to child care when she was three consistently had more problems than the one who had the benefit of a SAHM until he went to school. And yes, many marriages do end in divorce or death of a spouse, but does that mean that we should make our separate life plans or that we should make financial security one of the goals of our marital partnership. When I have met women who were left blindsided by death or divorce, they were also women who had no idea of the family finances, who lived in marriages where there were many secrets.

For what it's worth, I do wish I had been smarter, more purposeful, about finances and about looking the real world in the eye, both when I was married and when I had a single parent household. And I did miss out on some of the non-financial rewards of having a paid job during those early years when I was home with my children. (although those rewards may be just as unrealistic as some of the rewards we seek at home -- I once thought that I might have found like-minded women to talk to if I had gone to work, but I haven't met many of those even years later. And I think the author underestimates the power and value of a supportive, like-minded spouse in all aspects of parenting and life.)

As you say, even if we make our choices as carefully as possible, there will be win-win/lose-lose aspects to what we do. I am one of those people too willing to look back with regret, but I am increasingly convinced that real maturity and responsibility moves forward rather than looking back. And I do know this for sure: I have never felt that my salaried work was as important as the work I did at home, and when I look back, It is the mom-job, not the lawyer-job, that I wish I could go back to.

It is clear to me that you are providing your children with benefits that you cannot buy for them in the marketplace. The cost/benefit of staying home might change for all of you as time goes by, or it might not. Whatever happens, you will be able to make reasoned, intelligent choices that seem best at the time. There is nothing crappity-crap-crappy about that!

10:55 AM  
Blogger jennifer said...

I know, I know. It's just that when someone from the other side actually says, "No, really, the grass IS greener over here. You aren't imagining anything." That's when it gets to me.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Autumn said...

maybe you should check out writing for "alpha moms"! get some creative juices flowing & out there ...

9:44 PM  
Blogger TK said...

I can see how that article can get to you. Notice, though, how she qualifies with "most" and such. She talks about presenting the facts so women can make choices and that SAHMs shouldn't be talked to like children, but then she says about her work:

"Thus buffered from harsh realities, stay-at-home mothers can often preserve their illusions for quite a while."

Preserve their illusions? Sounds like judging and condescension to me.

The difference between you and "most" SAHMs is that you and Tony work together in everything, finances included.

The other thing that bothers me about this whole article is that she really only talks about the benefits to the woman as they relate to finances. Let me tell you, from watching my mom after my died died (my mom controlled the finances, my dad just earned the money), there's more to losing a husband than losing his income.

Like any research or study, this isn't conclusive, it's just one [working] woman's interpretation.

11:13 PM  
Blogger Marissa said...

The article would have been good if it wasn't a glorified book report. It could have used less catty diatribes against the people who disagreed/criticised her book. The topic is an interesting one, but this articles execution was just terrible! Sure yeah, there is the whole "otherside" to choosing between career and family, but her entire tone is just nasty. What good is she really trying to do? She's chastising the very people she's claiming she's trying to help via education.


All I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't feel like crap.

Anyways, smile. Joie de vivre is important.

1:13 AM  
Anonymous Carrie K said...

I think the author's main take-away point was to not stick your head in the sand about the ramifications of your decisions. There are regrets to every decision, just as there are benefits. I ended up childless, divorced and working. Not what I'd planned and not the greatest life, but there you go.

I do worry about women of all ages who don't have a clue what their finances are. The elderly woman who was left a fortune in her 80's when her husband died (she had no idea) was basically robbed of it by household employees she had to hire because she lost her sight shortly after she lost her husband wasn't much better off than the trusting wife of 30 years who signed all the forms her husband gave her and ended up with nothing and owing the IRS a bundle when he divorced her (and, stereotypically) ran off with his secretary.

Personally I don't buy that daycare is so fabulous. Convenient, maybe.

2:56 PM  
Anonymous guh! said...

Speaking of books that sound too depressing to read, I just saw a review on "Mothers-In-Law Do Everything Wrong: M.I.L.D.E.W." (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $9.95) I haven't read the book and I won't, but I want you to know that I'M SORRY!

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Kaitlin J. said...

It seems to me like Ms. Bennetts can't stand the idea that not all women agree with her. She is operating on the assumption that once women hear the facts that she is writitng about, many of which have a great deal of validity, they will suddenly have a change of heart and drop their families to reenter the workforce. Can I make a guess that perhaps this woman does not have a very satisfying home life and that family is not on the top of her priority list?

What would she say about stay-at-home-dads? Maybe that they have turned over all their power to their wives and will never get it back? But how many stay-at-home-dads ENJOY being home with their kids and escaping the pressure of being the sole breadwinner? Are THEY delusional, or just enjoying their situation?

Ms. Bennetts seems to believe that all women belong in the workforce, and that we should outsource all our household duties. Since women who stay at home perform many tasks that could be considered unpaid labor, like cleaning, laundry, ironing, shopping, and cooking, who takes these tasks over once the woman goes back to work? Should women have to do all of the home tasks AND raise the kids AND hold down a full-time job? Are husbands of these women reentering the workforce going to pick up the extra duties?

With the continued discrepancy in wages earned by women compared to men, sometiems it is better financially for the family for the woman to stay home, rather than putting all the kids in daycare, hiring a house cleaner, and buying lots of preprocessed and carry-out food. It may not be the most exciting or rewarding labor, but women's labor in the home is crucial for the family's success.

And what about all the women that stick with their career, telling themselves that they have plenty of time to have a family later, only to realize that they can't get pregnant in their mid- to late-thirties? Don't you think they have regrets? And how many women cry on their way to work after dropping their infant or toddler off at daycare, knowing that they may miss them taking their first step or saying a new word? I think that these mothers feel a very different kind of guilt than stay-at-home-moms, but that doesn't make it any easier.

So cheer up, there are two sides to every coin. You can't listen to some self-serving writer who is trying to prove that her book is important and that more people should read it. Just do what you feel is right for you. There will always be opportunites to work, but there won't always be opportunites to watch your kids grow up.

10:28 AM  

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