November 29, 2011

"The only career I wanted — as his wife — was just beginning!"



Meade sent me that a propos of the discussion the other day about the little girl who said "When I’m a mom I’m not going to get a job. I’m just going to look after my children." There are 249 comments at the moment on that thread, many of them very good, but let me pull out one that's stuck in my head. Jessica said:
Thank you, Ann! Eight months ago I left Big Law (and a $200,000) salary to stay home with my daughter. After we tallied all the economic costs of working (extra car, extra gas, work wardrobe, dry cleaning, child care, increased meals at restaurants) and the utility costs (a hectic and stressful life, and a shallow and reduced role in my daughter's life), our choice could not have been more clear. Thanks for making the point!
I'd identify the artist, but Meade doesn't remember where he found it, and Googling the text, the closest I can get is Comically Vintage, which takes comic panels out of context. It's clever and often hilarious — e.g., this ("I... don't understand it! It feels so... so... hot!") — but I'd like to know the original context and the artist's name.

97 comments:

Robert Cook said...

It could be any number of artists,but I will hazard a guess and suggest it could be Mike Sekowsky.

Allie said...

Eight kids later she had her head examined.

Scott M said...

I'd suggest that it's very early Frank Miller, but he's not screaming "THIS IS SPARTA!" at her. Perhaps he IS doing it, but he's yelling at the bottom of her stomach.

Psychedelic George said...

Speaking as a father of four, one of the huge and unsurmountable problems for most parents is that if you want to have more than one or two children and you do not have grandparents nearby and you both want to work full-time jobs, you...really...can't...have...a...big...family.... because someone has to wrangle the tots when they are little.

Then....presuming you want to have a gang of kids--and the wife isn't going to do the corporate thing--you have to live a more modest lifestyle, unless you can pull off the work-at-home thing. Why? Because you have to put the children first. And that is what this whole evolutionary game is all about. The kids are more important than we are. It's better to have as many rascals as you want and to struggle financially than to have one child, go nuts commuting, and have fancy toys and vacations.

All that said, speaking as a guy who stepped out of the work world to be the housedad, it makes more sense for the mother to "sacrifice" her career for the sake of the family and the children than it does for the husband to do this. Hundreds and thousands of years of human history tell the tale.

sniklacg said...

Regarding the little girl's comment about planning to stay home when she's a mother:

It seems to me that a girl that age isn't making an economic decision, but an emotional one. What she's really saying is that she would much rather have her own mother at home.

In my mind the most important reason to stay home isn't economic. My wife is just days away from finishing her degree and will start a new career this year after spending the past 17 years at home. Our kids are much better off for it.

Robert Cook said...

No...it's NOT Frank Miller. He never in his life could draw this well.

(One doesn't need to know that to know it's not Miller; simply given the content of the panel, one can see it's from a comic book that probably predates Miller's birth.)

Beta Rube said...

This makes supporting me problematic.

Scott M said...

Simply given the obvious absurdity of the comment, one can see it's snark.

The Crack Emcee said...

The funniest part of that cartoon is "The End" at the bottom:

That poor guy's toast,...

BTDGreg said...

You might want to ask Scott, the blogger at Polite Dissent (politedissent.com). He frequently blogs about vintage comics, particularly when they are set in hospitals. This looks like it could be one of those nurse comics. He may very well know which comic this comes from.

Shawn Levasseur said...

Jack Kirby did a number of romance comics, it might be his. Though another of the early Marvel/Timely bullpen could have done it.

d-day said...

Hey, Jessica (the commenter): Do you have a blog or some other online journal of her transition. The fact that we are recognizing child rearing as a valid choice is progress. Growing up in the 80's, I can't think of a SINGLE relative, teacher, or other authority figure that wouldn't have been completely appalled at the girl's comment.

I wonder whether it's worth it for a mother to stay home and just be a mother when she hasn't been prepared with her education and training to take on the job.

gregq said...

Ask James Lileks, if anyone would know, he would. :-)

J said...

Amazing Cracki, Ahht guy as well as atheist philosopher. Wow. You got that in like yr GED classes inside? Impressive

Pogo said...

The problem with most careers is that when it's all over, you're quickly forgotten, as if you'd never even been there at all.

I remember running across the lovingly bound scientific papers marking the career of a successful doctor, now long-retired. They were at a thrift store, a dollar each. They sat unsold for well over 3 years. After that they were gone, probably discarded.

I remember visiting him in the nursing home. No family to speak of ever came.

My name is on my office door; it snaps in and out of the holder without any trouble at all.

My wife, in contrast, stayed at home with our three. They needed her even into college, and only now can she find time to get a job like mine.

But for her, I would be:
Fred Jones Part 2.

Nancy said...

Yes, thank you Anne for your comments on that story. I stayed home with the kids when they were little and scored a telecommuting job for a few years while they have been in elementary school. I was recently laid off.

Even though it was more than 50 percent telecommuting, it exhausted me. I was sprinting through life. It's great to be able to wash laundry and run out for errands close to home while working, but taking a deep breath and exhaling is also great.

There is no easy answer and no perfect situation. Each family has to do what is best for it. Expressing disappointment that a daughter wants to stay home with the kids is, well, disappointing.

The writer ought to ask herself, do you live to work or do you work to live? I've lived my past to work. Now I want to just live. If I have to work to do that, fine. I like work, but I don't want to kill myself doing it.

MadisonMan said...

If you seek validation for your life's choices in the comments sections of a blog, even as stellar a blog as althouse, then you have not learned an important life lesson: Do not take what other people say so seriously.

pm317 said...

Ann, a mother with two children, very confortably off financially and careerwise, is throwing 'pity' red meat at the stay at home moms. It is like Oprah applauding and honoring all the moms in the world for what a noble job they do. My question is why are all the stay at home moms so defensive? You made a choice, own up to it. Why do you think you need to explain or seek validation or show how much of a sacrifice you are making? Who cares? Why should Ann make the point for you?

Steven said...

You mean that's NOT a Roy Lichtenstein piece? Who can tell?!

Robert Cook said...

"Simply given the obvious absurdity of the comment, one can see it's snark."

Sorry...I see so many absurd comments on this blog every day that are meant in all seriousness that it's a tad hard to tell.

Jessica said...

I'm the above-referenced commenter. The comment I made was not snark -- it's the truth. I'm lucky enough that my husband is also a highly-paid professional, and we agreed before we were married that one of us would stay home with our children. We could not be happier with our choice to have a stay-at-home parent. Yes, our lifestyle is a bit more frugal (we live in a modest home and rarely eat meals out), but the things we've gained (a peaceful and not harried home life, greater connection with our daughter, a more nurtured marriage) are worth it, without question. Thanks for highlighting my comment, Ann.

denmotherblog said...

What does the cartoon have to do with being a stay-at-home parent? There's a vast difference between staying home to take care of one's children and staying home to take care of one's spouse, who isn't even home during working hours. I admire stay-at-home parents, but the others (unless they devote their time to volunteering) are just leeches.

J said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Robert Cook said...

"The problem with most careers is that when it's all over, you're quickly forgotten, as if you'd never even been there at all."

Why do you see this as a problem? This is the way of all life. We'll all be replaced all too soon.

A few years ago I was on lunch hour and out walking in the city. I had a moment where I saw the street ahead of and around me--and all the people in it--as if it were a photograph, and the thought struck me, "In 100 years, everyone on this street right now will be dead."

It wasn't a glum or fearful thought, just a quick reminder that our time is brief, and most of us not long remembered, if at all.

I love this quote from Marcus Aurelius:

“In the life of a man, his time is but a moment, his being an incessant flux, his senses a dim rushlight, his body a prey of worms, his soul an unquiet eddy, his fortune dark and his fame doubtful. In short, all that is of the body is as coursing waters, all that is of the soul as dreams and vapors; life a warfare, a brief sojourning in an alien land; and after repute, oblivion.”

Bracing, is it not?

MayBee said...

There's a vast difference between staying home to take care of one's children and staying home to take care of one's spouse, who isn't even home during working hours. I admire stay-at-home parents, but the others (unless they devote their time to volunteering) are just leeches.

Leeches upon whom?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

There's a vast difference between staying home to take care of one's children and staying home to take care of one's spouse, who isn't even home during working hours. I admire stay-at-home parents, but the others (unless they devote their time to volunteering) are just leeches.

Not necessarily leeches. I would think it would depend on the circumstances of the marriage, what the occupation of the working spouse is and how much value they each place on the separate roles that each play in the partnership.

There is something to be said for the working spouse to be able to come home and have the comforts of a well run household. Not to have to be concerned about whether the house is clean, do their own laundry, to have the foods and necessities at hand.

When I was working full time in my business and my husband also working more than full time in his plumbing business, I often longed for "a wife". My husband's business is physical and he is often one tired puppy when he gets home.

I would have appreciated "a wife" so that I would not have to come home from work to my second job of cooking, cleaning, bill paying, laundry and so on.

Leeching is when you don't contribute to the partnership and ride on the fruits of someone else's labor. Kind of like the welfare state that we have now :-)

Being a stay at home wife is not necessarily being a leech.

Brian Hancock said...

Looks like John Romita, Sr

David said...

Memo to Jessica's hubby: Don't you try this now too.

David said...

Pogo:
The problem with most careers is that when it's all over, you're quickly forgotten, as if you'd never even been there at all.

Boy, is that true! Sure was for me, when I retired pretty young.

But it's a benefit, not a detriment. Or was for me.

ricpic said...

Whoever the artist is, judging by the woman's profile his standard of feminine allure was Mary Astor. Mine too. How far we've fallen that the present day standard is Kim Kardashian. The only contemporary IT girl who compares to the beauties of the glory days is Blake Lively...until she speaks.

Brennan said...

"Hundreds and thousands of years of human history tell the tale."

Nature has to have a team of lawyers to come sue you.

Jessica said...

@d-day. I don't have a blog, but I've actually thought a few times that my journey might be one that others would be interested in. I've known several Big Law women whose deep dark secret was their desire to be a SAHM. I'm sure there are other professionals out there (men too?) who feel the same...

Lyssa said...

pm317 saidMy question is why are all the stay at home moms so defensive? You made a choice, own up to it.

In my experience, it's the working moms that are the most defensive. For example, I frequent another blog devoted to professional women, and when I mentioned once that I didn't want to send my kids to daycare (rather, my husband would take care of them), I was heavily criticized. They very clearly saw it as a judgment against them for choosing differently.

As I said on the prior thread, my husband and I have planned for him to stay home and me (a lawyer) to be the breadwinner. Our families, which both included SAHMs and traditional conservative values, think this is fine. The only people who give me negative reactions are liberal, professional, females.

MayBee said...

DBQ- I agree wholeheartedly with what you say, but this

Being a stay at home wife is not necessarily being a leech.

Really, being a stay at home spouse is only being a leech if someone within the relationship thinks so.

MayBee said...

My question is why are all the stay at home moms so defensive? You made a choice, own up to it. Why do you think you need to explain or seek validation or show how much of a sacrifice you are making? Who cares?

As far as I can tell, people on both sides are just discussing an issue. I don't see anybody not "owning up" to their choice, either way. Any defensiveness is something you are reading into the conversation.

Pogo said...

@Robert Cook and David,

The point is that 'careers' are usually no big deal. You come and go, your effect is minor.

So why the discomfort about missing out on a 'career' or even the income?

Raising children, directly raising them, has effects far downstream, for ages hence. That may mean nothing to you, but then your effect will be nothing.

You can live forever by being a good shepherd. Not so much when you sell post-it notes, computers, or flavored sugar water.

Brennan said...

"I'm sure there are other professionals out there (men too?) who feel the same..."

Not a father yet, but getting there. I'd stay at home to raise our children in a heartbeat. The most rewarding part of my profession is when I get the chance to teach. The transfer of knowledge is easily the thing I most look forward to.

My job may give me the opportunity to be a stay at home Dad. We'll see.

Lyssa said...

Pogo said: So why the discomfort about missing out on a 'career' or even the income?
Raising children, directly raising them, has effects far downstream, for ages hence. That may mean nothing to you, but then your effect will be nothing.


Pogo, I'm curious (and please don't take this as rude or snarky), if you had it to do over, and were married to a woman who had the opportunity to earn enough to live comfortably on her income, would you take on that stay at home parent role instead of your chosen profession?

Dan in Philly said...

I didn't comment on the last thread since I was sure I was not going to say anything original, but FWIW my wife stays at home, and doesn't have any high earning potential by choice mostly because she always knew she wanted to stay home. She found a man (blush) that she knew she could count on to fulfill her dreams.

I certainly hope that women get to the point where they can say this is what they want without qualifying it with economic calculations, or saying they could earn bongo bucks if they didn't sacrifice to stay at home, or whatnot. My dear wife says something like "This is the life I've always dreamed of. It's hard but satisfying" and gives two filps about what any fem-lib writer may think of her.

Rob said...

The comic panel is from the "Incredible Ironies" series. This was the Ted Bundy issue.

Dan in Philly said...

And by the by, those comments about stay at home spouses being leeches? Considering my wife stayed at home stricly at a spouse more or less for 2 years before the kids (she occasionally worked part time), all I can say is - it's freaking awesome to have a stay at home spouse!!!!!!!!!! Like, more awesome than awesome!!! As if awesome and freaking awesome had a child, and that child then found another super-awesome thing and they had a child, and that child was super-duper-totally-rad-major awesome! That's how great it is.

But maybe that's just me...

Lyssa said...

Dan in Philly said This is the life I've always dreamed of. It's hard but satisfying" and gives two filps about what any fem-lib writer may think of her.

This is one of those things that make me absolutely crazy when it comes to liberal so-called "feminists" - they're incredibly hung up on what people might say about them. My example above about negative reactions to my anti-daycare stance is one example (just the thought that I might disaprove of daycare was a personal offense), and I am constantly being told that women "can't" do X, Y, or Z because "society disapproves."

What are they, 12? Seriously, when was the last time you, as an adult, made a decision about how you live your life based on what "society" thinks of it?

/soapbox off

Scott M said...

But maybe that's just me...

The amount of awesome would vary proportionally to the number of times you were met at the door coming in from work by naked awesomeness.

Allie said...

My daughter is an attorney, as is her sister in law, who stays home to care for her three children. I will admit that when my daughter informed me she wants to be a SAHM (she's pregnant) I expressed surprise and some degree of dismay, but respect her desire to be home with her baby.

All her hard work and education put on hold, for how long? Turns out though, her income is needed, as well as her husbands at this time. I as Grandma, will be caring for the baby, no day care, so no worries there.

MayBee said...

Dan in Philly-

Yes yes yes! A thousand times yes!

I knew I wanted to be a mom the way some people know they want to be an actor or a writer or a fireman. It was my passion. Being a mom is my fulfilling career. And I'm really good at it.

Other people are really good at other things, and find fulfillment doing those things. This is what works for me, my husband, and my kids.

Dan in Philly said...

Scott M - That's one perk, yes ;)

Allie - that's one of the points I was wanting to make: My wife was wise enough to know what she wanted in life, and it wasn't a high-powered career. If your daughter had been wiser, she might have not wasted her time and money (and maybe your money, too!) with law school, and instead have focused on what she did want. There's the calamaty of pushing people, particularly women, into high-cost educations with the idea that will give them more options in life. Such high investments do not give more options, they remove them! Your daughter clearly wants something she cannot now have because she first chose to beleive the lie that what she was doing was liberating her. It did not. In her case at least, it imprisioned her.

Pogo said...

@Lyssa said...
"...if you had it to do over, ...would you take on that stay at home parent role instead of your chosen profession"?

In a heartbeat.
I like my job, but I love my kids.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Turns out though, her income is needed, as well as her husbands at this time.

We don't know your daughter's situation, of course, but I would like to point out that there is a big BIG difference between need and want.

You can chose to downsize your life. You don't NEED a new car. You just WANT one. You don't NEED a big house by the lake with granite counter tops, flat screen television, new Wolfe range or whatever....you just want those things.

If what you WANT is the material trappings of life then you sacrifice other parts of your life.

Sacrificing your children and the time that you will never ever get back with your children and your family on the altar of what you want is irreversible.

As the Stones put it.... you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might get what you need.

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann, a mother with two children, very confortably off financially and careerwise, is throwing 'pity' red meat at the stay at home moms. It is like Oprah applauding and honoring all the moms in the world for what a noble job they do. My question is why are all the stay at home moms so defensive? You made a choice, own up to it. Why do you think you need to explain or seek validation or show how much of a sacrifice you are making? Who cares? Why should Ann make the point for you?"

Why do you assume there wasn't a stay-at-home parent? Fathers exist too, you know!

kristinintexas said...

Pancakes & French Fries is a really well-done blog by an attorney turned stay-at-home-mom. (I don't know her or anything; it's just a great blog.)

Kit said...

The only people who give me negative reactions are liberal, professional, females.

And I would not be one of them.

Dan, it’s not about being wise or not, not knowing what’s coming down the pike in one’s life. We get to make choices. We get to change our minds. You have no idea the timeline of these events in her life and how presumptuous of you to say that she wasted time and money or that...she was imprisoned. Really, you're reading way too much into this.

Shanna said...

Such high investments do not give more options, they remove them!

This is something it would be wise for a lot of people to learn about higher education. It can be great, but if you have to finance something with debt, you are limiting your future options greatly.

I often longed for "a wife".

DBQ, did you ever see that 'I need a wife' thing from some feminist magazine in the 70's? Kinda funny. I admit I would love to come home to a clean house and dinner on the stove!

Lyssa said...

Kit said: Dan, it’s not about being wise or not, not knowing what’s coming down the pike in one’s life. We get to make choices. We get to change our minds.

I appreciate your response to me, Kit, but I do have to disagree with you on what you said here. It's not (or shouldn't come as) a surprise to any man or woman that he or she would like to be a parent, or that children have certain needs which must be fulfilled.

I agree that you are allowed to change your mind, but you have to accept that this means that you missed some opportunity, and have to live with the choices that you made before as well (such as, for example, incurring a lot of debt for schooling that you might not actually want to use). If any person (I don't want to make this specifically about Allie's daughter, because of course we don't know her circumstances, but we all know a handful of people in situations similar to that which Dan suggested) is wiser, they will understand and be prepared for these realities of life, but many are not.

Dan in Philly said...

Kit, it takes a huge load of time, effort, and money to become a lawyer. To quote her mom Allie "All her hard work and education put on hold, for how long? Turns out though, her income is needed, as well as her husbands at this time."

Am I reading too much into this?

1) She worked hard, putting huge amounts of time and effort and I think it's quite safe to assume $$$ into her goal of becoming a lawyer.

2) Now her income is needed, and she does not have the option of staying at home. Let's assume she got 100% of her law school education for free. How much could she have earned and saved putting that kind of time into working a job with the idea she could have that to fall back on when she got pregnant? Even minimum wage would have produced tens of thousands if she saved it all. That couldn't have been harder than law school.

3) Although your point is true that people can and do change their minds all the time, there are clear and obvious consequences to decisions as HUGE as going to law school. One of these is if when you are done you wish to stay at home, you pretty much can't.

The only thing I really presumed is that she didn't go into law school with both eyes open. I made that inference based on the fact that Allie said she now wants to put it all on hold, which is a desire to do something, not a regret for having made a decision. If Allie said "She wishes she could stay at home" then I would think she made her original decision with both eyes open.

I would advise most young ladies that unless they are 100% sure they don't want kids or are 100% sure they don't want to stay at home with them, they had better work on making sure they can stay at home, in terms of getting into debt, attracting a man who can allow them to stay at home, and cultivating a lifestyle which will allow that as well. Young people being who they are, this advice is seldom followed, and very frequently I hear newly married or soon to be married women expressing suprise and regret that they can't have what they blithly assumed they would be able to due to their choices. It's sad to me.

Lyssa said...

Dan in Philly, I'd ask you to keep in mind that men can stay home, too.

Dan in Philly said...

Lyssa: I can see you are not interested in actually considering my points. If you are a women who is 100% certain you DO NOT WANT TO STAY AT HOME (which, as I re-read my post, I pretty clearly said), then you have to make sure this is possible. If you want to work, you have other choices to make, and one of these is to attract a man who desires to be an at-home dad. The overwhelming majority of women do not want their spouse to stay at home, even if they choose to work, but it does happen, as Mrs. Meade points out.

Lyssa said...

Jeeze, Dan, I don't know what you thought that I was getting at, but I definitely don't disagree with anything you wrote in your last post (and everything else I've written would back that up).

I only commented because you gave advice in your 2:56 post that only applied to women. It should apply also to men, and to women who might prefer to work while her husband stays home.

What on earth are the points that you think you've made that I'm not considering? You're not making them very well, if at all.

d-day said...

@Jessica: I'm not "BigLaw," but I am a partner-track MediumLaw associate with a 4 year old who spends 10.5 hours a day in day care. I'm giving notice the day I cash my year-end bonus check. When I concocted this plan a few months ago, friends and family were unanimously supportive. As the reality of the situation approaches, everyone is pretty much unanimously horrified that we're giving up 70% of our household income in this economy, voluntarily. I see their point.

But then again, everyone here with a stay-at-home spouse seems to unreservedly recommend it. How do people get to the point where they're happy with it? How do they handle the uncertainty?

Jessica said...

@d-day: Congratulations to you. Many people will believe you're making the wrong decision. Or they'll try to convince you of such because they're defensive about their own decisions... On a larger level, our society is built on consumption, and someone willingly giving up income (and purchasing power) really goes against the grain.

While being a SAHM will entail some sacrifices, try to always remember what you're gaining from this new life! I'm so happy for you - I hope you love it as much as I do. (It's not hard to love it when you're coming from a demanding, draining, yet tedious legal practice ... ha.)

Dust Bunny Queen said...

@ Dan and Lyssa

No one is 100% sure of anything, or to put it another way can BE 100% sure. At age 22 you are 100% sure you want to go to college, marry your current boyfriend, get a tattoo. Lots of things are 100% sure, at the time.

However, life does have a nasty habit of intruding upon your sureness. Things change. Your boyfriend turns out to be a creep. You get married to someone else and realize that all those things you thought you were sure of at age 22 are not what you wanted after all at age 32.

Very few people make the right decisions at one age and keep those decisions throughout their lives.

When you realize that what you wanted once is not what you need now, you must make sacrifices, adjust, change your plans.

I like the statement from yesterday...."You CAN have it all...just not all at the same time."

Dan in Philly said...

Lyssa, I misunderstood your post. I apologize.

Petunia said...

I like the Marcus Aurelius quotation, Robert. Have you read "Household Gods" by Harry Turtledove and Judith Tarr? Quite good.

In the comic panel Ann linked to, what is Marjorie holding in her hand, and why is the man's crotch glowing?

Lyssa said...

1. DBQ: I agree. I think that Dan's point more went to the fact that when you're growing up, no one really addresses these issues and pretends that you can (and deserve to!) have it all, all the time.

2. Dan: It's cool.

3. Jessica: Your post made me smile.

4. Pogo: Your post made me smile.

5. Aren't threads nice without Ritmo?

Scott M said...

5. Aren't threads nice without XXXXX

If you invoke it, it will come.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I think that Dan's point more went to the fact that when you're growing up, no one really addresses these issues and pretends that you can (and deserve to!) have it all, all the time.

Quite so. This is also a part of the problem with the OWS generation. They have been fed a line of bullhocky that they can have everything. College, no matter what the course of study is, will guarantee a life of success without the hard grinding work that comes along with success.

The hard reality that you are not going to be able to have everything you want and that there are trade offs in life have burst their bubbles and now like the pampered children that they are....they are throwing tantrums.

Women who were raised by the feminist generation, were told the same type of fairy tale and given unrealistic expectations.

d-day said...

@kristinintexas: Thanks for the recommendation.

MadisonMan said...

they'll try to convince you of such because they're defensive about their own decisions.

This is a very true statement. Make sure people aren't trying to validate their own lives and decisions when they judge yours. Even if they aren't doing that, you should still feel free to ignore them. They aren't you.

pm317 said...

@Ann: Why do you assume there wasn't a stay-at-home parent? Fathers exist too, you know!

I am making no such assumption. The audience for my comments are all the whiny stay at home moms craving validation, approbation for their choice.

In fact in your post, if 'Jessica' was a 'John' making that comment about giving up $200,000 to take care of his babies, that scenario I like. Yeah, another 'high-powered' woman gives up her career to be with her babies, yawn.. does not interest me. In fact, what would interest me more is if she marries a gardener and hangs on to her career and relegates the home duties to her stay at home spouse.

In your case, you still have your cake and ate it too. But here you are patronizing these women who give up their careers to be with their babies. At least they could afford to stay at home. How many other women have that choice? How many men have that choice?

denmotherblog said...

In response to the people who questioned my characterization of stay-at-home spouses as "leeches":

Managing a childless household in the 21st century is not a full-time job. We no longer have to wash our laundry by hand in wash tubs, hang them on the line to dry, and then iron everything. We no longer have to wax the floors on our hands and knees (or was them at all, for that matter, with no-wax kitchen floors and polyurethane finish for hardwoods). Even cooking from scratch is faster and more convenient than ever because of modern appliances and other kitchen gadgets. So if a stay-at-home spouse doesn't have to spend all day doing those things and doesn't have children to take care of and doesn't have a job (paid or volunteer), what does he or she do all day? Sleep in? Watch soap operas and talk shows? Surf the internet? Go shopping? Get a tan at the electric beach? It's a nice deal if you can get it, but to pretend that it's much of a contribution to the marriage is a stretch.

Freeman Hunt said...

How do people get to the point where they're happy with it? How do they handle the uncertainty?

One spouse makes a total commitment to staying home with the family; the other makes a total commitment to providing what is materially necessary. Then the first spouse feels comfortable that income will be handled (even if that means the other takes on crummy jobs for a time), and the second spouse feels comfortable that family is taken care of (even if that means the other is doing so on an extremely limited budget.) Each demonstrates commitment, so each can rely on the other.

Also, insurance.

Plus, it can be incredible how much the career of the working person takes off when that person has a spouse at home. Something about the combination of being happier, less stressed, less tired, and feeling less diffusion of responsibility for income often seems to make things go.

Freeman Hunt said...

Most stay at home people do a whole lot of volunteer work if they don't have kids at home and don't have chores to do. At least, that's what I see in my area. There's an ex-CEO of Walmart who has a stay-at-home wife. There's no way she has to cook and clean. Yet, I think she's probably one of the busiest people in town.

Obviously there are exceptions. But there are also working people who do nothing but lounge around and get paid for it.

Joe Schmoe said...

Ask James Lileks, if anyone would know, he would. :-)

Yeah; I was looking for the tell-tale panties on the floor to see if it was an Art Frahm.

Canuck said...

"Sacrificing your children and the time that you will never ever get back with your children and your family on the altar of what you want is irreversible."

True, but what is "sacrificing the children?" Is it more important to be a full time at-home-mom (or dad) for a 1st grader or to save for college and retirement?

What is the burden placed on children if they cannot afford University? Will your children need to go into large amounts of debt?

As you age, your children will not want to see you worry if you cannot find a job as a 50 or 60 year old who has been out of the workforce. While I'm sure they would happily take you in, do you want to be a burden to their growing family? What if you need home care? A 401K or a pension can make quite a bit of difference.

These choices are not easy, nor are they simple.

Julie C said...
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Allie said...

Dan in Philly said;

Allie - that's one of the points I was wanting to make: My wife was wise enough to know what she wanted in life, and it wasn't a high-powered career. If your daughter had been wiser, she might have not wasted her time and money (and maybe your money, too!) with law school, and instead have focused on what she did want. There's the calamaty of pushing people, particularly women, into high-cost educations with the idea that will give them more options in life. Such high investments do not give more options, they remove them! Your daughter clearly wants something she cannot now have because she first chose to beleive the lie that what she was doing was liberating her. It did not. In her case at least, it imprisioned her.

11/29/11 2:03 PM
Whoa, hold on there Dan, she is very proud of her accomplishment as am I. Its far from an imprisonment, or a waste of her time and money or mine. Even if she were to stay at home with her child or children to come at some point in her career, it doesn't mean she regrets having a career and plans on continuing it after the kids are older. She didn't always want to be a stay at home wife and mother, nor should any young woman feel it's a waste for her to have a career. That's a ridiculous notion.

Dumb Plumber said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dust Bunny Queen said...

@ denmother

Pray tell then, do you also have a list of volunteering activities that meet with your approval and wouldn't count towards leeching? Number of mandatory hours to volunteer to not be accused of being a parasite? How many hours would be too many hours and also count as leeching because you aren't taking care of household business? What about hobbies and pursuits that contribute to the home and ambiance of life....not allowed unless it is on your approved list of volunteer activities?

I would think that leeching is in the eyes of the beholder. If the husband or wife of the SAH spouse doesn't feel like they are getting the help in the partnership that they expect, then they should be the one to make that decision.

I agree that someone sitting home, eating bon bons or drinking beer and watching football games; spending money on themselves and not on the family unit. Letting things pile up and not contributing could be considered a leech.

However, the opposite could be true. The SAH spouse could be working their tail off but because the work might be not "visible" it isn't seen in action or just isn't appreciated, they could be accused unjustly of being a leech

John Burgess said...

@denmotherblog: You never know...

Before we married, my wife was a book editor. She had to give that up when we married because I was in the foreign service. Not only was there no demand for English-language book editors in countries to which we were assigned, but many of them had laws prohibiting spouses from finding work in the local economy. Embassy-related jobs for spouses tended to be at the typist level and not very rewarding in any sense.

My job, however, had very high representational requirements. I had to entertain foreign government officials, teachers, artists, etc. four to ten times a week.

My wife made that possible. Her spare time was spent on things like learning the local language or dialect; shopping; cleaning the shopping so that it was safely consumable; and the like.

When our son came along, she was primarily responsible for raising him. My job, at the time, had me working up to 20-hour days, with time to nap, shower, and change before going back to work.

She negotiated food supply, energy supply, medical care, hell, even finding potable water, light bulbs and toilet paper in eight different countries. Each of those countries had its own way of doing things. She literally dodged bullets, got stoned by kids who didn't like foreigners, and had to worry every time she got on an international flight because of the color of his passport.

I eventually reached a pay grade where I could afford to hire part-time household help. That did take a load off her shoulders.

She used that time to set up a pre-school in a country that had none. She provided support to official USG visitors, whether Cabinet officers, congressmen, or Fulbright scholars and students. She made sure that the wives of more junior officers weren't left adrift in a new culture.

I don't think she was 'leeching' or sitting there waiting for Beulah to peel her a grape. Nor was she compensated by the USG for the thousands of hours of direct support she provided.

Eric said...

When I was working full time in my business and my husband also working more than full time in his plumbing business, I often longed for "a wife".

Seems like most childless (or empty nest) couples do well with 1 1/2 jobs. There are life things that need to be done, no doubt. But there isn't enough to occupy an entire day, and too much leisure can be as damaging as not enough.

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Paco Wové said...

"The audience for my comments are all the whiny stay at home moms craving validation, approbation for their choice."

Seems like most of the defensiveness here is coming from you. Why are you and denmother so danged concerned with other couple's living/working arrangements?

Class factotum said...

if a stay-at-home spouse doesn't have to spend all day doing those things and doesn't have children to take care of and doesn't have a job (paid or volunteer), what does he or she do all day?

I sit on the sofa watching soap operas and eating bon bons. It is a sweet deal.

Scott M said...

If one parent works full-time and one parent is home full-time, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the full-time worker expecting the house to be clean, dishes always done, laundry folded and put away, garbage taken out, etc. Even when there is a small child or two in the house, these chores are completely doable.

Unless the at-home spouse is running an at-home business or seriously (not just putzing around with it...like me) pursuing a writing career, there is absolutely no reason why the full-time worker should ever come home to cluttered chaos or want for clean socks.

This is true regardless of the exterior plumbing status of the at-home spouse.

carrie said...

Wisconsin became a community property state in 1986. Community property treats marriage as an economic partnership and all income earned during marriage belongs equally to both partners--this gives equal economic power to the stay at home spouse. We all thought that the other common law states would follow Wisconsin's lead and become community property states, but that didn't happen. One of the reasons that didnt' happen was that the feminists decided that a woman's worth should be measured by what she earned herself, and so feminists assigned no value to being a stay at home mom and promoted the belief that a woman had to be compensated for work for it to be meaningful. Jo Staab has a good discussion of this in her book on the adoption of the Wisconsin Marital Property Act called "Marriage as an Economic Partnership: How One State Made it Happen." I think that raising children is an important role and I think that it is too bad that the feminists took the position that they did which discourages women from becoming stay at home moms (and creates disrespect for those women who decide that they will not work outside the home).

Asprey said...

The problem isn't one spouse staying at home, it's that the one who decides or is encouraged to do so is predominantly female. This creates a power gap between men and women culturally and socioeconomically, as money and power in the adult world are how we are valued. 50% of marriages end, and the one without the independent income is always worse off. If that person is mostly female, it means something.

Every woman who takes the SAHM path has the right to. But she shouldn't pretend she isn't part of a statistic that, overall, is damaging to women.

Scott M said...

This creates a power gap between men and women culturally and socioeconomically, as money and power in the adult world are how we are valued.

Laughable. I suppose this is true to a) shallow people, b) insecure people, and/or c) people who watch too much tv and want everything on it.

If that person is mostly female, it means something.

With the seemingly systematic demeaning of the boyfriend/husband/father figures in popular culture and advertising, leading to an apathetic crowd of young adult males who's employment outlooks is almost as bleak as their dropping college graduation rates, I'd say you'll have nothing to worry about in about twenty years.

Every woman who takes the SAHM path has the right to. But she shouldn't pretend she isn't part of a statistic that, overall, is damaging to women.

She also shouldn't have to defend herself to people who think her choice is damaging to women.

Asprey said...

Scott -- it's not about shallowness, it's about reality. Half of marriages end -- that's not debatable -- and the alimony eventually runs out.

If that person is mostly female, it means something.

Nobody has to defend herself. But adding to an uneven statistic speaks for itself. I'm not questioning each individual choice, but also not pretending that the perpetuating of an uneven statistic doesn't have consequences.

Neither I nor other women can judge each other's choices to be good or bad. But, we can look at the results -- a pretty dramatic gendered corner-office statistic -- and say that's bad.

Scott M said...

Scott -- it's not about shallowness, it's about reality. Half of marriages end -- that's not debatable -- and the alimony eventually runs out.

My intent was to point out the shallowness of the point of view claiming money and power is how adults value ourselves. That worldview is shallow and, if you don't have either, probably soul-crushing. I am a faithful, loving husband and a good father to my children. I value both of those things highly and, I would venture, my wife and kids do as well. Sure, I would like to have more money, but only for the freedom it would afford, not some perceived value it would give me in someone else's eyes.

If that person is mostly female, it means something.

Most of the divorce actions in this country are initiated by the wife. Against his will, a man can suddenly find his children removed from his home (or indeed, lose his home) and his income garnished. Family law in this country is heavily stacked against the husband/father. If that person is mostly male, it means something.

There are uneven statistics everywhere you look. Getting hung up on the unfairness of it all will make one spiteful and sour in short order.

Asprey said...

Scott -- I agree that it valuation based on $ and power is shallow, but your and my views on that don't change the unfortunate reality, and we can't change how people are affected by that reality.

I am sure your family appreciates the situation you and your wife have created, and your ability to define what is important.

It sounds as if you do have adequate, if not inordinate, means. Where someone gives up the power to create adequate means and cannot always rely on someone like you (or your female equivalent -- although it's almost always a male) to remain loyal, it is a different story -- no matter who initiates the divorce.

I don't dispute that divorce laws can be unfair to the male, but that's an issue of fairness that doesn't refute the issue of practicality I'm talking about.

I'm not suggesting getting hung up on an issue, but instead taking action to prevent having to struggle with it.

Scott M said...

I don't dispute that divorce laws can be unfair to the male, but that's an issue of fairness that doesn't refute the issue of practicality I'm talking about.

How is getting completely boned, to borrow a phrase, in civil court, losing your children and a healthy chunk of your income not count as a "practicality"? Of course it's a fairness issue. So is being on the loser-end of a divorce that finds the stay-at-home spouse facing a full-time job for the first time in years. Let's go a step further. If the full-timer is the wife who divorces a stay-at-home dad, she will likely get the kids AND not have to pay alimony. Fairness indeed.

Life's not fair. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something. Trying to somehow alleviate that unfairness through some sort of public policy is not only fooling themselves, but will probably end up doing quite a bit of societal damage, all the while harping about their initial good intentions.

Asprey said...

"If the full-timer is the wife who divorces a stay-at-home dad, she will likely get the kids AND not have to pay alimony. Fairness indeed."

Nope. I divorced a working dad, share custody 50-50, and pay alimony and child support due to a mathematical calculation based on income differential that wasn't gender-based.

Who is talking about a public policy? I'm talking about individual choices lining up in such a way that an approximately equal number of women and men chose income-producing work.

Scott M said...

Nope. I divorced a working dad, share custody 50-50, and pay alimony and child support due to a mathematical calculation based on income differential that wasn't gender-based.

I would be interested in knowing what state has such an egalitarian approach to family law.

Who is talking about a public policy? I'm talking about individual choices lining up in such a way that an approximately equal number of women and men chose income-producing work.

I assumed you were positing that since a SAHM is damaging to women, and that it means something, you were looking for the problem to be addressed. I'm still not of a mind that a SAHM damages women in general, but if you're just pointing out that she should be aware of it based on her choice, and leaving it at that, then I suppose I was in error.

Asprey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Asprey said...

Most community property states use the "Dissomasters" program which mathematically calculates custody, child support, and alimony based on income -- without regard to gender. My fiance (male) and I have similar situations, and so our the Dissomasters results were the same although we are different genders. He had a SAHM wife but my income differential with my working spouse was greater, so our payouts wound up being around the same.

Who is talking about a public policy? I'm talking about individual choices lining up in such a way that an approximately equal number of women and men chose income-producing work.

As a libertarian, I don't think a governmental or otherwise dictated solution makes sense. I wish it would be addressed by men and women simply opting for income-producing work in approximately equal numbers. The fact that this doesn't happen isn't something that for which I blame either men or women. I think both suffer in different ways because of it.

Andrew said...

Asprey,

So how is the weather back in the 1950's?

Getting worked up about the choices other people make, for their own reasons, sounds oddly un-libertarian.

But then this entire comment thread reads like a bunch of hypersensitives getting their snouts out of joint because other people's life choices fail to conform to their own.

It's a strange phenomenon. I noticed it most recently when my wife and I decided not to find out the sex of our impending child before the little dickens made his/her appearance.

My reasoning was: what are you going to do with that information? Buy a bunch of pink stuff, or blue stuff. And what happens if the ultrasound tech is hungover, nearsighted, or just plain wrong? Whereas if you buy a bunch of green or yellow stuff, that stuff can be used for the next bundle of diapers, whatever it turns out to be.

People who chose otherwise apparently find this a very offensive notion. Apparently the human race will not survive without gender-themed nurseries.

Life would be much simpler if difference was not inferred as insult. Especially when there are a great many other sound reasons to insult people.

Asprey said...

Andrew -- not sure what is modern about a significant economic empowerment gap between men and women.

Also, read Terry Hekker to see whether, 10-20 years after the "choices," those who make them feel they were fully informed.

Finally -- see my comment to Scott in which I state that I would not propose any state or otherwise dictated steps to affect these choices, but instead share information that can be accepted or rejected. That, my friend, is in fact a libertarian proposal.