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December 14, 2011

Comments

Nothing is more important, and yet more common, than the need to raise the young. The latter makes it hard to celebrate.

Good post Eric. Good to hear from you!

This is something I've thought about a bit, because I have a number of friends who are working musicians, and who are married with kids.

A number of these folks are men, and a number of them have a household arrangement where their wife has the day job with the steady income and benefits, and they stay home with kids. At least during the day.

They get the kids up, fed, dressed, ready for school or daycare, pick them up after and get them organized and into their afternoon. They get dinner together.

A lot of them do house chores, shopping, what have you.

One thing I notice about these folks is that, in doing all of this stuff, they aren't particularly "feminized", for lack of a better word. They bring their usual yang-y guy vibe to the task of being Mr Mom.

The other thing I notice is that the kids are generally perfectly fine.

The only person who seems to suffer in this arrangement (if anyone) are, sometimes, the wives, who miss being around the kids during the day.

But a lot of times, they're fine with it also, because they like their jobs, they like being engaged in some kind of life outside the home. Some of them enjoy wearing the breadwinner hat.

So, FWIW, there's a model for not associating family role with gender.

The nasty issue that I think is surfaced by all of this is this:

We are really bad at recognizing the value of things that people do if those efforts don't generate money. Maybe power, too, but mostly money IMO.

Even when people try to throw at-home-parents a bone, it's usually expressed in terms of money. "How much would it cost you to pay someone to do what they do?"

The *inherent value* of what they are doing doesn't seem to register.

If it doesn't make money, preferably a lot of money, it doesn't count. It's a hobby, or a luxury, or an eccentric lifestyle choice.

It's a weird value system.

This is the most intelligent and passionate defense of [stay-at-home-mothers] that I've ever seen.

Why "mothers" instead of "parents"?

women who do women's work

Women's work! I'm sorry, but this is maddening. The whole point should be women are not automatically assigned to one particular kind of work.

Callie's right.

the ways in which even ostensible celebrations of woman-empowerment can, even if inadvertantly, serve to demean what has been traditionally viewed as "women's work":

it wasn't demeaned when only men were "empowered"? (Yes, that's a rhetorical question... .)

it wasn't demeaned when only men were "empowered"? (Yes, that's a rhetorical question... .)

Of course it was. And still is. I thought that was obvious from my post. If not, allow me to clarify.

Women's work! I'm sorry, but this is maddening. The whole point should be women are not automatically assigned to one particular kind of work.

I think this is obvious. And this is a term of art based on the present discussion. It was an informal email, not meant to be an exact recitation of her views.

My language was more exact (scare quotes and all):

what has been traditionally viewed as "women's work"


Maybe someday "hausfrau" will no longer be insultingly applied to either gender. What a wonderful world that would be, eh?

Right on.

The whole point should be women are not automatically assigned to one particular kind of work.

I didn't get that from Eric's post. I thought Eric was making the point that staying home, taking care of the house, looking after the kids, etc is sometimes demeaned when it shouldn't be. If a woman chooses to stay home and do these things, it is as valid a choice as any commercial or professional undertaking. The larger point, made by Russell, is that whoever stays home ought to take care of it.

Last year, the Boston Review had an excellent collection of essays on mothers. The essay by Nancy J. Hirschmann (the primary essay found at the link) provides an interesting counterpoint to the view that Catherine Connors represents.

This is a subject I enjoy thinking about, but when it comes right down to it, people make choices about their domestic life that make sense to them and their own situations. People are intrinsically valuable in all kinds of ways that aren't rewarded, as russell points out, and no one should feel "diminished" by other people's choices. That fact doesn't negate the outstanding accomplishments of some people who manage to do extraordinary things, even on top of taking their role as parents seriously. Also personal choices sometimes have unintended political consequences, which is why "doing the right thing" is sometimes more complicated than it seems.

In what ways do you think Hirschmann's essay provides a counterpoint to Connors'?

I read both, and they seem to be working in tandem.

Check that Sapient, upon re-reading each, I see what you're getting at.

Eric, thanks - I appreciated Connors' article very much. I just thought the Boston Review collection of articles provided additional perspectives, and that the Hirschmann's article was interesting in that it addresses the problem that some personal choices might not further a desired political result. The fact that there's more at stake in these choices than meets the eye explains (somewhat) the (overblown) "Mommie Wars."

While it may be true that women shouldn't be assigned to a particular kind of work, the truth is that they always have been and still are in part because of their unique ability to give birth and breast feed babies. While it is a sign of progress that some fathers are choosing to do child care and domestic labor, there aren't enough of them to have changed the perception or the reality that this is in fact women's work. Even the term "stay at home" does not reflect the reality of the work that women do, but rather makes it invisible.

It isn't maddening to me that some work is considered primarily women's work, but it is maddening that it is so demeaned, and that the tasks that aren't gender specific are largely unshared.

While it may be true that women shouldn't be assigned to a particular kind of work, the truth is that they always have been and still are

If I'm reading it correctly, I think that's the point of Connors piece.

It's absolutely correct that men can't carry and give birth to a child, or breast feed it once it is born.

Beyond pregnancy, birth, and infancy, men can do pretty much anything women can do.

I see two dimensions to Connors' piece:

1. Work that is done for family, community, etc., but which does not earn a wage, is not highly valued.

2. That work is generally seen as "women's work".

I'm not sure which is chicken and which is egg - whether it's not valued much because women have traditionally done it, or whether women have been stuck with it because it's not valued.

In either case, I agree with what I take to be her overall point, which is that it's both of great value, and doesn't need to belong exclusively to either gender.

In either case, I agree with what I take to be her overall point, which is that it's both of great value, and doesn't need to belong exclusively to either gender.

I agree. I think that if you asked almost anyone, almost anyone would agree. Is there anyone you personally know who would disagree? Yet, it remains true that, in fact, work that is important, but is personal, is not valued. Unskilled work that we all rely on is not valued. When people are paid to do it, they're paid very little, and most people get a lot of it done for free by the women in their families.

The question is, how does this change? It won't change by saying to each other: "This work is valuable! Let's honor Mom on Mother's Day!" It will change when women can say, "Look, I can be a corporate executive and make scads of money just like you, Buddy. If you think this work is important, you have to do some of it."

Childbearing and nursing doesn't last all that long. The stay-at-home-until-your-child-turns-eighteen phenomenon lasts a very long time. The latter situation is closer to what we're talking about (or at least where I believe the problems lie).

This is a son who values his mom.

“She lives with me,” said Mr. Galeano, who is 42 and has an apartment above the restaurant. “This is the bad part, but it’s a sacrifice you have to do.”

I think that if you asked almost anyone, almost anyone would agree.

If you asked almost anyone, almost anyone would say that they agree.

The question is, how does this change?

I think it changes every day. Parts of it have changed enormously during my lifetime.

Ultimately, I think things change when a given status quo isn't really working for a lot of people anymore, and they figure out some other way to do things. Some people will be bold about it, some will be timid, but if the ground reality isn't being well served by the social norm, it'll shift. If it actually makes sense, the "social consensus" follows suit.

That said, IMO statements like Connors' are valuable, because it's helpful for people to have some kind of external recognition and acknowledgement that what they're feeling in their gut isn't nuts.

I'm fifty eight and female and so have had a ring side seat on the evolution of the womens'realm in recent American history.

When I was fourteen or so I heard of Women's Liberation. I really hadn't thought much about my future. I just dorked along, doing what everyone else did. I took typing because it was required of all girls so we could be typists until we got married. I wore dresses because they were required.WL came along and I started thinking. I refused to learn to type on the grounds that I was not going to be a typist and tried to get enrolled in the car mechanics class. A friend and I wore jeans to school and the dress code fell before us like the Walls of Jericho. I realized that I did not want to have children and I have never changed my mind about that. Without Women's Lib I think I might have asuumed tht I wanted them since as I female I was supposed to. However as I came of age I had a sense of life beig full of possiblities and marrigae and family were not on my list. I did a lot of travelling.

I don't thik I thought poorly of other women's choices. I had a close friend who chose marriage and children. I was sort of surprised since she was a Merit Scholar, a dancer, and a poet; but she was also chronicaly unhappy so I was just gald that she seemed to have found her niche.
Later when the traveling stage was over and I dicded to get a marketable skill I chose cabinetmaking. I workd in a series of situaions ad found sexism to be a problem. Men seemed to think that I could be female or competent but not both. I'm not sure whic was worse: being treated like I couldn't do my job or being treated like I was a guy. Anyway I was miserable and did not make a career out of woodworking although it was a very satifying hobby for a while.

I'm a lot older ow and have a better since of myself. Other peole's ideas about what women should be or shouldn't be usually do't affect me and I don't think about it much. I did have an aggravating experience a few months ago with with some male types who seemed to think that a woman's role was to be silent while the men made ignorant pronouncements. (I annoyed them by being more knowledgable about the subject under discussion than them). I was very startled by this experience because I don't expect to encounter sexism. I just don't think about it.

My husband and I are Mad Men fans and at first the showmade me uncmfortrable. Th eoppression of women. Really. Oppression is the right word. The Taliban isn't much worse than the US just five decades ago. My mother grew up under that!No wonder she was a prescription drug addict and an alcoholic.

I think my older sister has suffered all of her life fromher failure to be what women were supposed to be back in the sixties ande seveties. She has always been very smart and has a managing disposition, qualities that are respected in a male but considered annoying and unfeminine in a female.

I assume that there is a male side to this, a set of expectations which are imposed on men which make some men uncomfortable or unhappy.
I'd like to see the day when people, male or female, can just decide for themsleves what they want to do without it being a big deal to anyone else.

I think it changes every day. Parts of it have changed enormously during my lifetime.

Yes, it has. But why has it changed? The reason it has changed is not because people kind of "figured out some other way to do things." The reason it changed so dramatically is because women attained economic power by working really hard to do get jobs and make money. And now they aren't automatically "dependent." So they don't just listen to what works or doesn't work. They decide what works and doesn't work. Or they are a partner in the decision. This is what Hirschmann is afraid might be lost by women foregoing their economic power for "care." Connors worries about celebrating extraordinary women at the expense of women who "care," but without the extraordinary women's accomplishments, "care" would still be a mandatory role for women.

Laura, thanks for your comment. I think a lot of people don't really understand how much things have changed because women made decisions that defied expectations. It wasn't always a conscious effort, but women worked twice as hard for much less remuneration (not to mention a lot of harassment) for a long, long time, and kept things together at home many times as well. These "super women" or "power women" or women who have otherwise been labeled as "becoming the new men", as well as women like you who just chose a different path - these are the people who have made today's "choices" possible. I don't think that anyone should forget that today's "choices" can be lost by people who take them for granted.

The reason it changed so dramatically is because women attained economic power by working really hard to do get jobs and make money.

Well, that is certainly a part of it.

How is doing that not "figuring out a different way to do things"?

And why were they able to do that, at that particular time, and not before?

Was women not having access to well-paid professional careers the only thing that was harmful or out of balance with the "way things were"?

Was women gaining access to well-paid professional careers the driver of social change, or the result?

russell, there were a lot of things changing in the '60's, '70's, etc. The civil rights movement for black people was a huge part; the protests against Vietnam happened. Certainly those movements influenced other movements, including the movement for women's rights. I'm not arguing that it was a spontaneous movement. But when you talk about people "figuring out a different way to do things" it doesn't sound like much of a struggle. I mean, we all "figured out a different way to do things" because it wasn't really "working out" to have racism and Jim Crow. And there was a movement, and a response, and laws changed, and there were people who were sympathetic and helped, and there were other things.

For some reason, when we talk about racial equality, we don't talk about it so much as "it wasn't really working out" so people "figured out a different way to do things." The women's movement wasn't as overtly dramatic (although it's hard to know what kind of toll was taken in domestic violence) but it was a struggle by people who sacrificed. And women's access to economic power was both a driver of social change and a result. But the "result" part didn't just passively happen. It was won.

And as to things being out of balance in the olden days, obviously there were many things out of balance. There are still many things out of balance. Now wealth disparity is greater than in the days of yore. We're always having to fight and struggle. Things will never be perfect. Laura suggests that someday people might be able to decide for themselves what they want to do. Obviously, that's a huge luxury reserved to only a few people in human history, and we (in the US) are more privileged than many other people in the world in that regard. But we need to keep at it, don't we?

But when you talk about people "figuring out a different way to do things" it doesn't sound like much of a struggle

Apparently the phrase "figure out a different way to do things" minimizes the level of effort and sacrifice involved.

To clarify: a huge level of effort and sacrifice was involved. Making any kind of dent in any kind of social norm is always costly, in a variety of ways.

The point I was trying to make, however inartfully, is that social changes are driven by the ways in which, and the degree to which, the status quo is undesirable. And the means by which they are driven is that *people do something else*.

At first the "something else" is a threat, and a scandal, and an outrage. Then it's risible. Then it's hip. Then it's the norm.

Then the inadequacies of the new thing become apparent, and the cycle begins again.

But "doing the new thing", whatever that is, definitely does not come for free.

I'll also say that I find this troubling:

personal choices sometimes have unintended political consequences, which is why "doing the right thing" is sometimes more complicated than it seems.

To me, it puts the cart before the horse.

In my opinion, the hallmark of political / social / economic justice is that *people have the greatest degree of ability to make the personal choices that are meaningful to them*.

If anyone - man or woman - wants to stay home to care for their kids, that's what they should do.

If anyone - man or woman - wants to climb to the very top of the professional ladder, then that's what they should do.

The goal of our political, economic, and social institutions should be to support that. Or, at a minimum, allow it to the greatest degree that is practical.

Politics should serve real, live, actual human beings, and not vice versa.

"It's absolutely correct that men can't carry and give birth to a child, or breast feed it once it is born."

Actually, the last bit is wrong. But you really don't want to know.

russell, we're arguing about nothing but since that's my specialty, I'll persist. You say In my opinion, the hallmark of political / social / economic justice is that *people have the greatest degree of ability to make the personal choices that are meaningful to them*.

Well, sure. Of course, totally for that. But what I meant was that sometimes particular choices one makes in order to achieve self-fulfillment have political consequences that might be negative for many other people and their ability to make choices. It's easy to see this with regard to the environment, where some people attempt to "do the right thing" by taking public transportation, buying local food and generally living more sustainably. Clearly, some personal choices are more socially responsible than others even if there's some personal inconvenience involved.

Making other socially meaningful choices might involve giving up some personal choices that are otherwise meaningful. People might really hate to read the news, but find that doing so makes them a better citizen, more able to participate in democracy, etc. For some reason, people think that having and raising children are activities so sacred that collateral decisions made in doing so are somehow immune from concerns about social responsibility. But that's kind of silly (IMO) since that would immunize almost all considerations by a parent. So does a parent opt out of social responsibility altogether because s/he has more intimate, important, higher goals with regard to his/her superchild? I don't think so. Every decision a person makes is complicated by the responsibilities that person feels to other people. Many otherwise inexplicable decisions can be explained by the fact that people sometimes twist their lives into knots in order to accommodate competing moral demands.

To apply that discussion back to the subject, I agree that how a person decides to use intellectual power, time, energy, economic and reproductive power should definitely be a matter of personal choice. When personal choices have larger consequences, though, it's fair to consider what those might be. (And as I said in a much earlier comment, what it usually comes down to for parents is what they decide is comfortable and doable. And I don't think that outsiders are in a position to make too many judgments made by other people about their own families. But that doesn't prevent thinking and discussing potential consequences in general.)

I smell a fallacy of composition here.

but it is maddening that it is so demeaned

By whom? I am unaware of any meaningful, identifiable slice of US society that demeans staying at home and raising children.

The core issue here is procreation, by a couple, and how to divide the responsibilities that flow from that. Children come into the world in plenty of other contexts, but that isn't in play here: a single mother or one who's partner defaults and flees doesn't have the options a mother with a committed partner has. Ditto for a couple that either can't afford to make ends meet without two incomes or chooses not to.

Underlying this discussion, at least in part, is what seems to me to be an obvious fundamental point: on balance, women are more inclined and more able in the child rearing, nurturing department than men.

One sees this everyday. Whether it's a professional, full time employed woman or a stay at home mother, women tend to be much more engaged in the detail of their children's lives than the fathers.

Here's an example: if I stayed home with our kids, way back when, I'd do all the right things: meals, play, naps, diaper changes, etc. At the end of the day, if asked what I'd done and what the kids had done, I'd be able to describe only in broad, very general terms. My wife, OTOH, could give a full report. This was true when my wife worked and, later, when she decided to stay home.

I don't think this is a socially-imposed construct, nor is our experience an outlier.

By whom? I am unaware of any meaningful, identifiable slice of US society that demeans staying at home and raising children.

Really? It is the default position.

Stay-at-home motherhood is not revered on the same level as, say, policemen, firefighters, lawyers, doctors, accountants, bankers, political leaders, professors, actors, musicians, professional athletes, other professionals, etc.

This, despite its difficulty and importance.

There's a potential problem with the "stay at home" thing that goes beyond it being stigmatized.

It can, if things go badly in the marriage, put you in a really bad spot. A stay-at-home parent may find themselves out of the workforce for a long time and thus find it hard to get back in. If the marriage breaks up...

I see this with a relative of mine right now. She was a SAHM. Three kids. Loved it. That's great. But her marriage failed, there was a divorce (also, in and of itself, a positive development at this point). The result is that now, after ~20 years, she needs to find a job. A job that pays decently. She's working on it. It's not easy, especially in this economic climate.

That doesn't justify stigmatizing staying home to raise the kids, of course.

Eric, there's a reason why it's not revered. It's because every woman who has children is a mother. Mothers manage to mother, whether they work outside the home or not. Some mothers have a choice to stay home. Some mothers who stay home do mothering really well; some don't. Same with working mothers. It's not clear that the outcome as between working or stay-at-home mothering is really all that different on average. Outcomes seem more to be based on wealth and quality of care (no matter who the care provider is).

But as anyone would note, it isn't really about measurable outcome. It's about how people want to live their own lives. If your particular cultural cues tell you that staying at home is the right thing to do and you have the choice to do it, that's probably what you're going to do. If you can't do it, you'll probably feel guilty about it. The opposite scenario is also true.

People shouldn't expect a lot of applause for their decisions, especially when their decisions are about pleasing themselves. Either that, or we should applaud everyone's decisions, which is probably more generous.

Perhaps it should be on the reading list thread, but Jonathan Franzen's novels, The Corrections, and Freedom, delve into these issues rather well.

Yes, Rob in CT. That too. There's a certain amount of economic power that women have when they work. There's a price to pay, both individually and collectively, when they choose to forego it. And although people shouldn't be stigmatized, I think it's fair to discuss consequences.

And I just noticed this.

“I see great opportunity that these high-value women will ask and gain the flexibility they need to have marriages and families — their lives will probably look different than what we’ve seen — but they will work for them.”

Funny how people are figuring out how to do things. People who have power.

Really? It is the default position.

I missed this somehow. Whose default position? No one I know. Nor have I read anywhere of any identifiable group who holds this view. Seriously, is there any influential person or group who takes this position?

if things go badly in the marriage, put you in a really bad spot.

This is very much the case. The range of dynamics that underpin a break up is a separate issue. Child support and alimony may--heavy emphasis "may"--mitigate to an extent, but the wife and kids definitely take the greater hit. I have no idea what the solution would be. Going back to fault-based grounds for divorce has as much or more downside than up.

we're arguing about nothing but since that's my specialty, I'll persist.

Mon semblable! Mon frere!

When personal choices have larger consequences, though, it's fair to consider what those might be.

Agreed.

I think in this specific context, I find that a lot of people - and especially women - who decide they want to not work while their kids are very young catch a lot of grief for being reactionary, or politically incorrect, or something.

I find that, specifically, objectionable, because spending a lot of time with your kids, especially when they're very young, is a really good thing to do. For pretty much everybody.

I just wish more folks could afford to do it.

A stay-at-home parent may find themselves out of the workforce for a long time and thus find it hard to get back in.

This is very true, and is one of the costs of deciding to stay at home. And, it does put you in a very bad spot if you end up single.

on balance, women are more inclined and more able in the child rearing, nurturing department than men.

I agree that there are broad differences between men and women, that aren't merely artifacts of social convention.

But I disagree that inclination or ability in child rearing are among them.

Whose default position? No one I know.

McK, you must run with an exceptionally nice crowd.

I missed this somehow. Whose default position? No one I know.

Well, I believe we can all stipulate that you don't know everyone in the world and, thus, we can take this evidence with about 7 billion grains of salt.

As for identifiable groups, see, for example, the US justice system, groups that demand single mothers get jobs in order to receive welfare, religious groups that demand women acquiesce to the will of the man, etc.

PS: Have you never heard anyone griping about their wife sitting at home, sitting on the couch, watching soaps and eating bon bons.

The lack of valuation is deeply engrained in our culture. That you don't know anyone personally says more about the truly remarkable qualities of every person you know than about those same value judgments of human societies writ large.

Maybe someday "hausfrau" will no longer be insultingly applied to either gender. What a wonderful world that would be, eh?

'Hausmann' is already in quite common use. Gender-appropriate job titles have met with mixed success. Absurd forms like Amtmännin (for female Amtmann, now properly Amtfrau) did not stick. In the opposite direction the male term for Krankenschwester (nurse, literally sister to the sick) became not Krankenbruder but Krankenpfleger (which formally has a female form Krankenpflegerin which is not in use).
There were some attempts to replace terms that were seen a demeaning but usually the old term stayed (e.g. Raumpfleger(in) [room carer] did not replace Putzfrau/Putze/Reinemachefrau [cleaning woman*]).
Interestingly originally 'nurse' referred exclusively to males. The change took place only after the Crimean War thanks to a certain nightingale.

*be careful not to use that where dead men don't wear spades.

I refused to learn to type on the grounds that I was not going to be a typist

Laura, this highlights (if indirectly) one of the major troubles with gender stereotypes: It leaves no room for changes in the world.

I was in much the same age group, but typing was not stereotyped at my school, and I took it. The result was that, like a bunch of guys I knew, I was qualified when computer jobs came along. (For those of you too young to remember the 1970s job market, knowing how to type was a minimum job requirement to get into programming back then.) In the 1950s, typing was women's work, and not well paid; by the 1980s, men who wanted to make big bucks in IT all had to know how to type. Which may be why IT was a lot more accepting of women than most highly paid careers were back then -- there simply weren't enough men who knew how to type.

I missed this somehow. Whose default position? No one I know. Nor have I read anywhere of any identifiable group who holds this view. Seriously, is there any influential person or group who takes this position?

Let me also ask you, how many awards, accolades and honors are given to stay-at-home mothers?

All of those other professions have numerous such honors. Do you not see that as a small piece of evidence as to the relative valuation?

The US is one of four nations *in the world* where some form of paid parental leave is mandatory.

The others are Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guineau.

When people talk about child rearing not being valued, or not being seen as important, that is the kind of thing they are talking about.

There are very few people who will plainly say that raising kids is less important than earning money. That's because children occupy one of those apple-pie niches, it's bad form to say anything negative about them or their caregivers.

But it's really freaking difficult to work a full time job and raise kids, especially little kids. If we actually did believe that raising kids was as important as making money, *that would be visible* in any of the approximately one million tangible ways that it is, currently, not visible.

Job-sharing and/or availability of part-time hours. Child care. Parental leave. Not expecting people to travel for work when they have young kids. Flexible hours.

Schools would be first priority in any municipal budget. Teachers would be as well paid as lawyers. Pediatricians and family medicine specialists would be as well paid as plastic surgeons.

It would be against the law to fire someone if they missed work due to any emergency involving their kids.

Blah blah blah.

That's what it actually would *look like* - not just *sound like* - if child rearing was seen as valuable.

Deeds not words.

And, of course, I am an idiot.

The US is one of four countries in the world where paid parental leave is NOT mandatory.

The others being etc. etc. etc.

Let me also ask you, how many awards, accolades and honors are given to stay-at-home mothers?

You can't be serious. Who would be the people evaluating stay-at-home mothers for these awards? And who would be eligible: are mothers who volunteer, say doing Meals on Wheels, cheating? What about mothers who stay at home because they also want to make art, or do independent study - is that cheating? Or taking in other children for a few bucks?

Being a stay-at-home mother is a lifestyle choice. It's lovely for everyone for as long as things work out, but nobody deserves an award for it (except from their grateful family). There are plenty of good mothers who don't stay at home all day, whose families might also be grateful - like for the shoes they get to have put on their feet.

Being a stay-at-home mother is a lifestyle choice.

Most things are.

Job-sharing and/or availability of part-time hours. Child care. Parental leave. Not expecting people to travel for work when they have young kids. Flexible hours.

Absolutely. This is what we need to be working towards. And by women having economic power to demand changes in the workplace, there is some of this happening. Stay-at-home parenting is fine, but these innovations help everybody.

"{Let me also ask you, how many awards, accolades and honors are given to stay-at-home mothers?"

Because we have now taught generations of people that this is how they should determine their self worth.

Raised four kids and have four grandkids and I don't need a society to give me an honor, nor would my wife, to tell me the time I spent raising and nurturing them has been the most valuable work of my lifetime.

It really is an interesting read that, even in russells list of ways at 1:23, we require external validation and government support to count something as valuable.

Some things are valuable and don't cost any money at all, a hug, a supportive word, a good talking too when required. How much should we pay for that?

And a few questions about russells 1:23,

Should people with no kids get to work from home too? Or do we value them less? Or should that just be a right? How about those child care givers or grocery clerks or retail workers? Do we let them work from home too?

How many child related things count? Parent/teacher meetings? Home with the sniffles? My kid didn't feel like going to school today? Although I am sure it happens, I don't think many people get fired for the first "emergency" with their kids.

Other than maybe fire and police, whose municipal budget doesn't prioritize schools?

And, as a summary, people decide to have children. Almost everything you list is government support for an individual decision to take on the responsibility of raising a child.

Most things are.

Most lifestyle choices don't have awards assigned to them. Say I decide to move from a single family home to an apartment, do I get an award for that? I don't understand.

If a mother stays at home, she is responsible for her kids. If a mother works, she is responsible for her kids. Where does the award come in? That she doesn't get arrested for neglect?

Almost everything you list is government support for an individual decision to take on the responsibility of raising a child.

No, some of them were support coming from private employers.

My point is that if *a society* values child-rearing, the institutions of that society will reflect that.

Ours basically don't.

McK says everyone values child-rearing. I'm saying "show me".

I'm not calling for anyone to do one thing or another. I'm just making an observation about what *is*.

And none of this is about asking for "external validation". It's about organizing a society and its institutions in ways that facilitate the things that you, collectively, think are important.

We sure as hell find ways to do that for lots of other things, things that are just as much personal, individual decisions as deciding to have kids is.

The things a society supports and encourages reflect its values. They demonstrate what it thinks are most important.

You can't be serious. Who would be the people evaluating stay-at-home mothers for these awards?

Most lifestyle choices don't have awards assigned to them. Say I decide to move from a single family home to an apartment, do I get an award for that? I don't understand.

But even there, and in your prior comment, your calling work outside of the home a profession, and work inside the home...a lifestyle choice. Akin to moving from a single family home to an apartment.

It seems, there is a clear value attached to such a term, and it is meant to differentiate such activity from an "actual" profession.

Even if my example wasn't the greatest.

Because we have now taught generations of people that this is how they should determine their self worth.

Raised four kids and have four grandkids and I don't need a society to give me an honor, nor would my wife, to tell me the time I spent raising and nurturing them has been the most valuable work of my lifetime.

Great personal story, but also just about entirely irrelevant to discussion on societal attitudes and norms.


"Great personal story, but also just about entirely irrelevant to discussion on societal attitudes and norms.
"

I couldnt disagree with this statement more strongly. It is entirely the sum of each individuals understanding of the value associated with parenting that makes up the societal norm. If it valuable enough to you, it requires no externa;l validation.

It is the learned behavior to only feel valuable if you get an honor or a paycheck that has caused the "stay at home" mom (or dad) to cede to societal status the personal gratification that was felt by the homemaker and parent in the past.

It is an unintended consequence of WL that something that many women (and some men, I believe there is a truly rational reason for the difference in number of those) want to do has been even more devalued.

Most lifestyle choices don't have awards assigned to them.

That's true, most don't. Some do, but most don't.

I personally am not looking for awards to be granted to parents. I agree that it would be problematic and potentially weird to figure out who are the "award-winning" parents, and who are not.

I'm not sure Eric is looking for awards, either. Unless I mistake him, the "award" thing is simply an example to demonstrate that, in fact, child rearing is not that highly valued of an activity.

At the social level, anyway. As a personal thing, everyone thinks it's great. And, they think it's mom and dad's personal, private issue to sort out the details.

What we, as a society, recognize and reward reflects what we, as a society, think are important.

And, there are a lot of *private* activities that we, as a society, *do* reward and recognize.

To bring this back to the context of the original post, it's not that uncommon for women to be recognized and rewarded for, for instance, rising to the top of some kind of professional career ladder. The first female SCOTUS justice! The first female Fortune 500 CEO!

Those are lifestyle choices as much as they are anything else.

But there aren't many awards for the woman who, for instance, *gives up* the six-figure job and accepts a huge scaling back of her financial resources, in order to raise her young kids.

Maybe the first-ever-female-CEO is creating more "social value", and deserves the award. Maybe it's just that the "first female whatever" gets recognized for breaking the ice.

I couldn't tell you.

But there are no gala award ceremonies for stay at home moms. Or dads, for that matter.

I'm not calling for them, I'm just noting that they don't exist.

I couldnt disagree with this statement more strongly. It is entirely the sum of each individuals understanding of the value associated with parenting that makes up the societal norm. If it valuable enough to you, it requires no externa;l validation.

Not really. You miss the point. Many people find certain activities personally gratifying, but society - in a larger sense - does not value such activity. It is still worth discussing the latter phenomenon.

It is the learned behavior to only feel valuable if you get an honor or a paycheck that has caused the "stay at home" mom (or dad) to cede to societal status the personal gratification that was felt by the homemaker and parent in the past.

I imagine that even some of that "personal gratification" is a learned behavior. So? And, also, largely an irrelevant comment considering the nature of the discussion which is about societal norms and will, thus, necessarily involve myriad intertwined "learned behaviors."

PS: Even if we take your equation as gospel, your one story is still only worth one in 7 billion, or if you want to limit it to the US, 1 in circa 300 million.

It may be hard to discern discrimination or the demeaning of a group because these attitudes become part of the language and we simply don't notice them. When we make a distinction between domestic labor and child care and "work", we are making women's work invisible and therefore totally lacking in value. (I didn't go to work today, I "stayed home.") This strikes me as totally irrational, but if a woman does someone else's domestic labor and child care it becomes work.

It's disturbing for me to hear a woman say "I raised seven children. I never worked." Language is important in defining ourselves and our roles in society.

Men never describe themselves as "working fathers". There are no "Working Fathers" magazines or helpful articles for them.

Part of the solution to any problem, I think, is being mindful of the language we use to describe it.

I couldnt disagree with this statement more strongly. It is entirely the sum of each individuals understanding of the value associated with parenting that makes up the societal norm. If it valuable enough to you, it requires no externa;l validation.

This is akin to telling a minority that racism doesn't exist if that individual decides not to feel racist animosity directed her/his way.

Now, I agree that we, as individuals in society, can determine (rightly) that work done raising children/keeping a house in order has serious value, and actively treat it with such respect. It is imperative that we do, in fact.

But just because change requires individuals to make such judgements that doesn't mean that the problem isn't real, and the work isn't presently demeaned and undervalued by society writ large.

I should think no socially sanctioned labor (trying to exclude criminal 'labor' here) should be considered demeaning, whether it's cleaning toilets or raising children.

I have a long response that is not getting through, so here it comes serially:

McK, you must run with an exceptionally nice crowd.
Probably no nicer than anyone else's. More in response to Eric below.
the US justice system, groups that demand single mothers get jobs in order to receive welfare, religious groups that demand women acquiesce to the will of the man, etc.
PS: Have you never heard anyone griping about their wife sitting at home, sitting on the couch, watching soaps and eating bon bons.
The lack of valuation is deeply engrained in our culture. That you don't know anyone personally says more about the truly remarkable qualities of every person you know than about those same value judgments of human societies writ large.
I'll take these one at a time:
In what way does our justice system demean stay at home mothers or other traditional women's roles? I don't know how many women are sitting judges outside of conservative, traditional, family values Texas, but we have a ton of them here, at both the state and federal level.
Demanding that single mothers get jobs in order to receive welfare. This demeans motherhood in what way? Single motherhood is the product either of a choice or bad planning or bad luck. Probably a lot more of choice/bad planning than bad luck. The pill isn't that ineffective, so I'll go with limited attention given to birth control. Tying welfare benefits to work—my recall is that welfare benefits are now time-limited, i.e. a mother can collect X amount of welfare for X number of years and then she either has to find work or some other means of support. Regardless, the flip side of this coin is asking others to underwrite a lifestyle choice or bad planning. The compromise is that we underwrite for a finite period, then, as is so often the case in life, the individual involved must confront the consequences of her actions. Some see this as fair, other not so much. But to say that those who believe that everyone should play the hand they deal themselves necessarily demean childrearing is a big, big reach. Too big, IMO.

Religious groups that demand women submit to men? Interesting: these folks demean homemaking? Probably the opposite. They think it's what women should do. They are wrong, but that's beside the point.

I'll stipulate, in a country of 300m plus, there is someone who thinks raising kids and taking care of a house is no big deal. However, the statement I except to implies this is a widely held view. Sorry, but that's simply not the case. You can find plenty of published criticism of people who have children and then do a crappy job of raising them. But, demeaning the task of childrearing? I haven't seen that.

People griping about wives sitting at home eating bon-bon's? Yes, I've heard this one. Not said in a serious manner, but rather said in a manner intended to convey the opposite. Now, I can imagine a situation where a wife objectively falls short of what could reasonably be expected of someone who elected to stay home and I can further imagine a husband expressing concern and even being critical. But, how does that demean all women who choose to stay home? Rather, if anything, it is a criticism leveled specifically at someone who chose to stay home and isn't pulling her load. The opposite would be a husband who could, but doesn't, provide to the extent of his ability or who spends more of the family's resources on himself than is appropriate. On an individual basis, we all probably know of couples where one spouse carries a heavier load than the other. But none of that has anything to do with a widespread belief that child rearing is viewed negatively or in a way that could be characterized as demeaning.

Tying welfare benefits to work—my recall is that welfare benefits are now time-limited, i.e. a mother can collect X amount of welfare for X number of years and then she either has to find work or some other means of support.

So, childrearing isn't "work" then? But that doesn't demean the...er...work of childrearing?

Lack of valuation. Ok, this is also in response to Russell's comment below. The tangent taken here is that because we don't, as a society, pass laws or adopt widespread accommodations for working mothers and that if we really valued child rearing, we would do so and since we don't, we therefore demean it. Put much shorter: if you do not affirmatively take steps to value working mothers, you demean stay at home mothers.

If this is the logic, I don't have a response because it makes no sense to me.
And, FWIW, many companies allow all employees personal days in addition to vacation days. Anecdotally, most of my peers, i.e. small employers, allow women with children at home to either come in earlier or stay later to shorten commute time or otherwise accommodate family time.

If you wanted to really help working mothers, we would revisit the 'etched in stone' rules for time worked over forty hours and let women, if they choose to do so, work extra hours and use that as comp time (at time and a half).

McK says everyone values child-rearing. I'm saying "show me".

See above. One isn't the same thing as the other.

If it valuable enough to you, it requires no external validation.

Here is a very short list of things that we do not hold to this standard:

Charitable giving.
Buying a house using a mortgage.
Operating as a religious organization.
Investing capital.

I'm sure this list could be made much, much longer.

As always throughout this thread, I'm not arguing for or against any of these things.

I'm just pointing out that they exist, and that their existence expresses the value that we put on them as part of our public life.

McTex:

It's hard to respond to you without citing the entirety of history.

I mean, this idea that childrearing is undervalued and the work attendant thereto treated with derision is not...new, or radical or, really, controversial.

It exists. It is the dominant view. It has been for millenia. If you want to review some literature on this, I can dig up a good bibliography.

Otherwise, your anecdotes and accounts of personal conversations are unpersuasive.

Russell:

child day care credit
deductions for dependents
lower tax rate for married, filing jointly


Further, the mortgage interest deduction helps people with children too. It was crucial to our ability to get by on one income after our daughter was born.

Further still, we can value a lot of things in a lot of different ways. Your comment implies that by valuing one, we devalue another.

Interesting: these folks demean homemaking? Probably the opposite. They think it's what women should do. They are wrong, but that's beside the point.

Not sure I follow here. So, women should submit to men, who are the dominant gender as God intended, and should be obeyed but...women's work is just as important? Moreso?

That's a stretch.

I'm sure this list could be made much, much longer.

And on it could be added "child tax credit" of $1000 per child.

So, childrearing isn't "work" then? But that doesn't demean the...er...work of childrearing?

It is work, but it is not work that anyone can reasonably expect strangers to underwrite. And, declining to pay for other's decisions or bad planning or what have you, does not demean the decision to stay home and raise children.

By this logic, because I am not paid money by the gov't to hire people, society demeans my role as an employer.

Russell:

child day care credit
deductions for dependents
lower tax rate for married, filing jointly

I would note that these aren't really about valuing the work women do.

I would refer to MP's comment above about the language built up around this issue as indicative of underlying attitudes.

By this logic, because I am not paid money by the gov't to hire people, society demeans my role as an employer.

That logic would only hold if that were the ONLY means of valuation. But it's not. And, no, society doesn't demean the role of employers. Could not be more opposite, in fact.

if we really valued child rearing, we would do so and since we don't, we therefore demean it.

This actually overstates my point. There's a lot of daylight between "actively support" and "demean".

There are lots and lots of things that we do as part of our public life to encourage a variety of private, "lifestyle choice" activities.

Not many of them are focused on child-rearing.

So, when people say "Of course we value child-rearing", I have to say that I don't see all that much evidence of it.

There's some stuff, but not really as much as I would expect, given how important folks say it is.

And, to reiterate, none of this is a policy recommendation, it's just an observation.

If you want to make the argument that it's all a private affair, as CCDG seems to, then I'm perplexed about all of the other private activities that receive public encouragement.

And, of course, all of this public policy mumbo-jumbo is kind of my own weird left turn through the topic. The original post was more about the quandary of women, specifically, who feel that home-making receives insufficient respect *from other women* and/or from people who are nominally supportive of women's issues.

IMO that's a really apt point. Not everyone wants to stay at home, not everyone can afford to stay at home, but for folks who can and want to, *it's a really good thing to do*. Yes, some stay at home folks are crap parents, but some working parents are crap parents.

If you can stay at home and are inclined to do so, it's a worthwhile path through that part of life. It's a shame more folks can't afford to do it.

Your comment implies that by valuing one, we devalue another.

My comment has no agency whatsoever. The strongest thing you can say is that *I* imply it.

Which I do not.

McK and sapient - yes, child care credit and dependent child credits are tangible expressions of the value we place on child-rearing. I will leave it to the reader to compare and contrast them with other examples.

Child care credit in particular is an interesting case because it's basically a partial subsidy for you to continue working and pay somebody else to care for your child during the work day.

Not that that is not a welcome thing for a lot of people.

But what's not available is, frex, a tax credit for a household to offset loss of income if one parent stops working to stay home and raise the kids him or herself.

Yet another episode of "what russell said"

(On my phone now)

The bibliography you speak of, Eric, would certainly support a historical view of "women's work". The question is whether that applies to today's societal norms at all. I suggest not. Today's societal norms are vastly different than 1978, which were already much different than when I was a child.

So I would be interested in the bibliography that reflects the current attitude that demeans it. My, 1 in 300M, experience, is that today every couple thinks through the valuation of staying home versus working and applies both monetary and nonmonetary valuations to the need to provide money and all of the at home tasks that don't bring in money and decide. I don't know many, if any,couples that simply assume the woman will stay at home and provide child care. (Sorry the rest is too long for the phone)

It is work, but it is not work that anyone can reasonably expect strangers to underwrite

Gotta follow through to the logical conclusion here if you want to have something approaching a point. What work can we reasonably expect strangers to underwrite? Whatever your answer to that question is comprises the category "things we value more than child rearing and homemaking."

Not so.

What work can we reasonably expect strangers to underwrite?

Police, firefighters, military, justice system, garbage collection, etc, etc, etc.

Whatever your answer to that question is comprises the category "things we value more than child rearing and homemaking."

Seriously? Aside from the fact that no private citizen is compensated by other private citizens, through tax dollars, for performing a private, familial function, to posit that any publicly funded job necessarily places a greater value on that position than child rearing is simply bizarre.

First of all, let me just say that for every denigrated stay-at-home mother, there's a working mother out there that's being criticized for having children that she doesn't stay home and take care of. The idea that stay-at-home mothers are the bane of society is just not accurate. Most people theoretically support women's choices (or don't really care). Those who are judgmental are divided between people who think women should spend their time tending to what they procreated, and those who think that stay-at-home mothers are brain dead. Of course, there are those who think that women should stay at home, but when they do they are brain-dead.

Let me just recap a few points: "women's work" (let's just use that term for those things traditionally seen as such) is not highly valued, I agree. Most women have done this work, and still do it, for free in their households. We had a discussion some months ago, where some people here took the position that domestic "help" was somehow creepy and no one would want any part of it. I think it was me who pointed out that the people who need domestic help most are working mothers. Of course, getting a lawn service to take care of one's yard seems less creepy to most people than getting a nanny, and getting a handyman to fix things around the house is not creepy at all. Why? Guess.

In some families, men are doing more, but studies have shown that this isn't happening all that fast - in fact, women who most need to work outside the home because their husbands have lost their job are more likely to face resistance from the husband in helping with chores. (I'm not going to find the links again - we discussed these things on the thread about domestic help and I provided links then.)

So now Eric suggests that we value the work that these women have been doing for free all this time.

Meanwhile, women in the workforce have gotten wind of the fact that when they do paid work in the larger economy, they do pretty well. They have a certain amount of power in the workplace (many have negotiated more family friendly policies at work), and a whole lot more power in their homes. Their kids seem to do fine, at least at the same rate as other kids - they're maybe even more well adjusted than if the mom had stayed at home. Working women are paying a needed wage to a care provider. If hubby loses his job, or dies, or divorces her, there's still income. Meanwhile, she's talking to adults every day, having a role in the wider community and making some friends that may or may not have children. When she goes home, she spends time with the kids and gives them the benefit of her highly intellectually stimulating life. Result? Win! That's true even though she still faces most of the housework when she gets home. (Okay, this scenario doesn't completely apply to women who hate their job.)

So if society is going to support one lifestyle decision over another, which should it support? Although russell says that stay-at-home mothering is a "really good thing to do", working outside the home also is also "a really good thing to do." And in what way should it support the stay-at-home mother's choice not to work outside the home? And are there collateral effects, such as encouraging people to have children if they can't find a job outside the home, and do we want that?

"Religious groups that demand women submit to men? Interesting: these folks demean homemaking? Probably the opposite. They think it's what women should do. They are wrong, but that's beside the point."

I thik this attitude is demeaning because it makes the woman dependent. She isn't supposed to go out ito the world and support herself or her kids. She is supposed to depend upon her father until she getsmarried and then o her husbahd. It's like beig a childall of
her life.

In other words it isn't the nature of hte work that is demeanig--it's the alck of choice and the dependency that comes from that.

In other words it isn't the nature of hte work that is demeanig--it's the alck of choice and the dependency that comes from that.

Yes. Do people remember how good it felt when they became financially independent from their parents? There's a reason for that. It's called power to make decisions about your own life. The alternative? Being stuck with the life someone else is giving you.

Let's face it Laura-women (still) just can't win no matter what they do. It would appear that bending some historical arcs takes a bit longer than many seem to think.

I recall Chou En Lai had some quip that would fit here. Something about the French Revolution.

Although russell says that stay-at-home mothering is a "really good thing to do", working outside the home also is also "a really good thing to do."

I agree. People should do what they want to do. If you want to work, that's great. If you want to stay home with the kids, that's great.

They're both great. See, we agree!

I'm sure there are people who are happy to give women a ration of crap if they work, and people who are happy to give women a ration of crap if they don't.

But in general, women who are high achievers in highly visible public positions are applauded, women who stay home and hang with the kids, less so. If I read it correctly, that's sort of the point of the article, and IMO it's pretty valid.

As far as my weird off-topic point, the only thing I was trying to bring up is that *as a society*, we talk a lot about family values and supporting child-rearing, but we don't do much by way of giving that support a concrete, tangible expression.

I'm not really interested in getting into the should we / shouldn't we debate. I'm just observing that, by and large, we don't.

What strikes me in all of this discussion is that the options being discussed are:

Woman works full time.
Woman stays home.

Why is it always on the woman to have to make these difficult decisions? Why it always the woman who catches a ration when she makes a choice that somebody, somewhere doesn't like?

What about the guy? What about other family members?

In real life, people make all kinds of adjustments and compromises. Maybe somebody works part time. Maybe somebody changes jobs so they have a shorter commute, or has more flexible hours, or more time off. Maybe extended family helps out.

Everybody's situation is different, and everybody has to sort out their own issues, for themselves, regarding how they want to organize their family life and their child-rearing responsibilities.

Please see CCDG's 5:04, I think he captures the basic flavor of it quite well.

To me, it is *clearly the case* that staying at home to raise kids is seen as a lower-value activity than going out to work. The reason this seems clear to me is because the range of things that we all do, privately and publicly, to accommodate working overwhelms the things we do to facilitate child rearing.

That's how it looks, to me.

I think it would be great if it were normal for employers to offer people greater flexibility, in whatever form, to help them deal with the semi-chaos of early childhood. I don't think we need to go pass a million laws to make that so, I just think it would be really helpful. If it was something that we, as a society, valued highly, it probably would be more so than it is.

I think it would be great if schools and other facilities targeted at kids and the folks who care for kids hands-on were a higher priority in our communities. I don't think we should go pass a million laws to mandate it, I just think it would be good if it were so. It would indicate that those things were as important as any of the other stuff we prioritize with our public money, tax regimes, and zoning laws.

I think it would be great if freaking SCHIP and SNAP and WIC were simply off the table as political footballs, out of some wild unexplainable outbreak of basic human decency. Again, I don't expect that to happen, I just think it would be great if it did.

Because all of those things would be concrete expressions of us making child-rearing a public priority. Deeds, not words.

But very long story short, I think it basically sucks that there is any controversy, at all, about people staying home when they have school-age kids, if they can afford it and if that's what they want to do.

It's a good thing to do. It's not the *only* good thing, it's merely at least as good as anything else you might want to do with those years.

It's amazing in America that those who are worthless and those who are priceless receive exactly the same wage -- nuthin.

And even those wages are resented.

On the other hand, hide a funky mortgage -- probably sold under false pretenses to the worthless and/or the priceless, cause, you know, sometimes they are same people -- in a three-card monty package of sh*t, and honey, it's bonus time in America for those midway between worthless and priceless.

It's a lifestyle choice.

You want a motherhood award? There are/were such in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_of_Honor_of_the_German_Mother>Germany, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%A9daille_de_la_Famille_fran%C3%A7aise>France and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_Maternal_Glory>(Soviet) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_Hero>Russia.
Of course those were to a degree awards for the mass production of cannon-fodder.

Laura Koerbeer, the traditional gender role division is one of codependence. Yes, the wife is dependent on the husband, and the woman is passed from father to husband - but the man is passed from mother to wife as well. He cannot take care of children independently, or even himself very well Bachelor is synonymous with irresponsible slob in traditional parlance.

Traditionally, women's work is devalued - among men, when they're the ones doing it. But when done by women, it is neither devalued or highly valued, it is mostly simply overlooked. The traditional woman's value does not come from her work anyway: She has value for what she is - like a beautiful vase, quite possibly useless.

Whereas the traditional man has value for what he does - which may be very high or quite low, depending on station and status. But even if he has high utility, he is fundamentally more expendable, replaceable, than a woman. The woman may be his property of sorts, but then it is property that he is expected to die for - in wars, or by leaving the lifeboats to women and children. More women from 3rd class survived the Titanic than men from 1st class. There are stories of men being shot and killed by other men, for the crime of wanting to survive to see their children again, and not giving up their place in the lifeboat to a woman.

Where the woman is a precious vase, the man is a hammer. Highly useful and important, but not especially valuable.

I do not advocate the traditional gender role division. It is not well-suited to the modern day. But one should not lose sight of the fact that it was also a raw deal for men.

I think one has to make a distinction between the 'official' honoring of the role women play and the reality of considering women as second class humanoids. I find it especially egregious in religious circles. Looking into the works of famous theologians and religious writers of the past I often find on the one hand a worship of 'the woman' in the abstract while at the same time justifying treating actual living specimens as dangerous beasts (hell-bait), worthless shit, biologically deficient etc. And let's not even talk about the guys that prayed for the day that women (and sex) could be made superfluous by finding a way to have children without these walking (but hopefully not talking) incubators.

Clarification: I do not intend to paint all religious writers of reknown as disguised misogynists. There are enough counterexamples. Luther was a nice example in the relationship with his wife (and children). It probably had a lot to do with the fact that his wife was a quite remarkable character herself (much to the disdain of many contemporaries).

The traditional woman's value does not come from her work anyway: She has value for what she is - like a beautiful vase, quite possibly useless.

Do you know any farmers?

russell: You notice I said "quite possibly" useless. The lower the social class, the more work the wife actually has to do, and the worse the consequences for the husband if he does not consider this. But like with so many things, the lower classes seek to imitate the upper classes, so the farmer would probably also like to put his wife on a pedestal, if he could afford to.

It is of course very real oppression to not be valued for what you do.

I am speaking of traditional gender roles as if it was something monolithic here; of course it has really varied a lot across time and place. But for our purposes, in what is marketed as a traditional gender role by social conservatives, one must realize that it does indeed place a high value on women, only an oppressive sort of value: higher intrisic value but less utility value. Whereas for men, it goes the other way.

And this general bias in valuation does of course not exclude the individual man from being seen as useless, or an individual woman from being seen as worthless, especially if they fail to fulfill gender expectations.

To me, it is *clearly the case* that staying at home to raise kids is seen as a lower-value activity than going out to work. The reason this seems clear to me is because the range of things that we all do, privately and publicly, to accommodate working overwhelms the things we do to facilitate child rearing.

I guess the reason I have taken a slightly contrarian view is that it is NOT "clearly the case" in my community that raising kids is a low-value activity, except in terms of money. It is primarily a women's issue. Among the many women I know who've had children, most have worked but some have not. Most who have worked were able to find less than full-time employment when their children were very small. Most were able to navigate the waters in such a way that their children were very well cared for (to a large extent by their parents) and are now very sound young adults. (My friends are in their fifties, so most of the women I know have grown children.) They were pioneers in this - they made their own way and their career status suffered because of the time they took off. As you mentioned, russell, the focus could be (should be, IMO) on creating options, and work-life balance. That's where I see support that society can offer. It's already happening, thanks to the women who have demanded it.

I realize that caregiving and care professions are undervalued. Unfortunately, if people were paid what they're really "worth" in these areas of life, no one who needs it could afford it. That's true with CNA's who take care of elderly people in nursing homes, as well as people who work in child care. So how do we "value" this care? We can't do it with money. We can try to do it with helping, appreciating and giving back. Society can make sure that people get a living wage and are treated appropriately in the workplace.

As to whether women who want to stay home with kids should do so? Sure, if the family can afford it. If I could afford it, there are a lot of things I might do with my life instead of work for pay: make art, do more volunteer work, start a little business without worrying about its success, go to the gym more often. But if I did that, I wouldn't expect other people to applaud me for it. I'd also need to realize that leaving the world of work carries risk, so having a lot of my own money in the bank would be a prerequisite for me to do that (which is why it's not going to happen). To a certain extent, people need to decide what's important to them, and do it.

The number of broad, sweeping generalizations to the end that women just can't get a break exceed my ability to cut/paste/italicize/comment.

Because I see women pretty much matching men professionally and socially, not just in my immediate social setting, but in client after client I come to meet (typically, fairly large companies), at the schools, colleges and grad schools our children attend/attended, at the courthouse as sitting judges or opposing counsel, and pretty much everywhere else I look, and further because many of these women are my contemporaries or are older, and finally because most have children, I am wondering, is it just Houston and maybe Texas, or what?

Where do I have to go to find all of these problematic situations women seem to face regarding career choices/opportunities or judgments re: stay at home or work?

My question is focused on career choices and opportunities and lifestyle choices, not rape culture or date rape or objectification or women in combat, but these two specific areas. I am just not seeing it. It was an issue in the past. Mad Men captures that pretty well, but today? Just not seeing it.

Where do I have to go to find all of these problematic situations women seem to face regarding career choices/opportunities or judgments re: stay at home or work?

Maybe places where women's peers are not sitting judges or corporate attorneys and can't afford college, let alone grad school.

Do you know any actual poor people?

I'm not buying the notion that traditonal family roles were copdependent. For one thing men went thoruogh women like...what's something you use up, bury, and replace? Women died in child birth regularly and men reglularly went on to a second wife to make more kids and do the housework for them.

How many of those women would have chosen to support themsleves with a profession rather tha spend their days pregnant while doing backbreaking house and farm work ifthe option had been available?

For many years in America a man had the leagl right to impregnate his wife against her will.

In tradional Western cultures men could beat up thier wives legally and with a great deal of social acceptance but women did not have the same power.

Besides its not a codependent relationship if one party can leave at no economic risk to himself but the other party faces personal economic disaster if she leaves.

I'm not denying that couples divided the work and that both parties benfitted fromthe work done by the other. However codependent relationships existed based on the individuals, not the social norms or legal standards. There were individual people who treated each other with love and respect and worked as a team, but the laws treated women as disposable relaceable subordinates and cultural values supported the laws.

OF course this varied from time and place.

I remembmer reading years ago a collectio of letters written by pioneer women. Some of the letters were all Little House on the Pairie, teamwork building the farm etc. But most weren't. One I remember vividly: this woman wrote to her sister that she had met her husband at the front door with a shotgun and told him he was sleeping in the barn from then on. She didn't want any more kids.

Do you know any actual poor people?

Are you implying that a woman's value is a function of economic class? I do know poor people and we were that way for the first 4 years of our marriage, by any objective standard, so what is your point?

If the issue of value is limited to the poor, then why isn't everyone saying so in this thread? Isn't that a meaningful distinction: the middle class and well off, for the most part or to a considerable degree, value women, but the poor, for whatever reason, do not?

For many years in America a man had the leagl right to impregnate his wife against her will.

In tradional Western cultures men could beat up thier wives legally and with a great deal of social acceptance but women did not have the same power.

At times, women in this country were considered "chattel" (property of their husband), and couldn't own real property. And, obviously, vote.

Where do I have to go to find all of these problematic situations women seem to face regarding career choices/opportunities or judgments re: stay at home or work?

Elsewhere, apparently. Are you really saying that there is complete equality in the USA right now in terms of what is expected of women? That there are no groups that view stay at home motherhood with a lack of respect?

Also, re: career choices - women are still paid less on average for doing the same work.

What's odd is that you seem to acknowledge that many pernicious forms of sexism still exist in this country, but for some reason, despite those attitudes toward women, the though that stay-at-home motherhood would be disrespected is beyond the realm of possibility.

PS: I guarantee you, even in Houston, there are still men that expect to come home from work and have a hot meal, and have their wives clean up after they're done eating. Because the man is "off" from "work."

Are you really saying that there is complete equality in the USA right now in terms of what is expected of women?

Of course not, but I am saying that there is widespread, functional equality. I am saying that the proposition that women are not valued, regardless of their career choices, is a commonly held view is very much open to debate today. Not in the past, as I've acknowledge, but today. Further, looking back over the last 20-30 years, the playing field has been functionally level.

Of course, you can find individual's who remain in the stone age, sexual predation remains a fact of life, etc. Specific bad stuff doesn't disprove the larger picture.

women are still paid less on average for doing the same work.

Same is the operative word here. I'd like to see a study of women vs men where a statistically valid cohort of same actual work requirements, same years in service, same hours worked year in and year, out etc are compared. My experience and my reading suggest that, as career's advance, more women than men choose less demanding, less time consuming career paths.

That there are no groups that view stay at home motherhood with a lack of respect?

Well, I'm not the proponent of this proposition. I'd like the name of one group.

even in Houston, there are still men that expect to come home from work and have a hot meal, and have their wives clean up after they're done eating.

Sure there are. I know of one family, however, where both spouses work and the husband prepares most of the meals and the wife looks after the finances. This proves what? I know two CFO's of large publicly traded corp's based in Houston who are women. Both are oil field-related companies, the last bastions of male chauvinism, etc. This seems more probative of functional equality than the broad, unsupported assertions to the contrary running throughout this thread.

I'd like the name of one group.

People that view household chores as "women's work."

This seems more probative of functional equality than the broad, unsupported assertions to the contrary running throughout this thread.

Extremely limited anecdotes trumps millenia of attitudes toward women that we are supposed to presume "functionally" evaporated over the past 20 years? OK, I tend to disagree.

the last bastions of male chauvinism

Would that this were the case. There are, alas, still many more.

But that is not exactly the point, anyway. The point is, stay at home parenting is undervalued. Even if there are some women CEOs of oil companies.

Wage gap piece:

http://www.womensmedia.com/money/95-gender-wage-gap-are-you-paid-as-much-as-a-man-if-he-had-your-job.html

People that view household chores as "women's work."

This is a 'group'?

http://www.womensmedia.com/money/95-gender-wage-gap-are-you-paid-as-much-as-a-man-if-he-had-your-job.html

Read it. Not persuasive. It's an opinion piece, not a study. I am aware you can find this kind of stuff. It is a statement of contentions, not evidence.

That said, I suspect there is a wage gap, but it is probably a lot narrower than the 77 cents on the dollar figure that is contended by the article, when like is compared to like. Further, it is likely that, to some degree, some of the gap is due to residual sexist judgments by men.

But what I see above is a rehash of what has been said for decades by the left, as if the changes have been so marginal as to hardly be worthy of comment. In women's rights and integration into the economy, more than any other group or class, the progress has been remarkable.

For many years in America a man had the leagl right to impregnate his wife against her will.

In tradional Western cultures men could beat up thier wives legally and with a great deal of social acceptance but women did not have the same power.

At times, women in this country were considered "chattel" (property of their husband), and couldn't own real property. And, obviously, vote.

The fact that the institution of marriage has been burdened by such sexist assumptions is a major reason why I don't believe that the law should support it. We've had conversations about that, and they're not worth repeating here, but these gender roles are slow to die. Obviously things are much, much better for women and in many cases very good, even wonderful. But it's difficult to shake roles that are so firmly established. The recent disturbing story about 1 in 4 women having been beaten by an intimate partner is telling.

Anyway, there are many happy couples, and women have more choices now. Phil is right, though, that poor women have less bargaining power when trying to find solutions that make it more comfortable to work and manage a family. This is what I would most like to change now.

Taking care of small children can be very isolating. It's very important to have a network of friends during that time. That's one way to be supportive of a stay-at-home mother.

Extremely limited anecdotes trumps millenia of attitudes toward women that we are supposed to presume "functionally" evaporated over the past 20 years? OK, I tend to disagree.

This is coming in a week in which a fraternity at the University of Vermont was suspended after asking prospective members to fill out a questionnaire including the item, "If you could rape anyone, who would it be?"

Specific bad stuff doesn't disprove the larger picture.

Uh, a sufficient amount of is a pretty strong indication that you've actually got the picture hung upside-down.

I know two CFO's of large publicly traded corp's based in Houston who are women. . . . This seems more probative of functional equality than the broad, unsupported assertions to the contrary running throughout this thread.

This year, Fortune recorded a record high -- record high!!-- 18 women among the CEOs of the Fortune 500. Eighteen. Is that "functional equality," or an outlying statistic, or are you about to throw a bunch of gender essentialism out here ("Women's brains are wired to remember what their kids did, men's aren't!"), or come up with a million reasons why women leave the workforce and therefore don't advance to CEO?

(My guess is a combination of C&D, which will both be offered without reflection as to why women are expected to interrupt their careers to raise children and men are not.)

In women's rights and integration into the economy, more than any other group or class, the progress has been remarkable.

My Jewish ancestors would like a word with you.

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