September 20, 2005

"When we work so hard to open academics and other opportunities for women, what kind of return do we expect to get for that?"

Does a woman squander her elite education when she opts to say home with her children? Many of today's college women say that's what they plan to do.

What they actually end up doing is a different matter, but I wonder if college women are more likely to say that in the end they will stay home than they are to actually do it.

When the time comes to actually make the choice, there will be some hardcore financial realities to face. (My advice: If this is what you want to do, never let your spending reach the level of your income. Stay on a restricted budget, and always view the money you've brought into the family as extra, so you don't have to cut back to meet your aspiration to take the childraising years off. Don't get addicted to the money.)

Another consideration is whether the woman will have a husband (or other partner) who will share her goal. Will a man who marries a highly educated and accomplished woman (who has high earning power) really want her to stay home and raise the kids? Some men will. Maybe more men than women like this arrangement. The article quotes a guy saying "I think that's sexy."

I wonder whether the decision to become a one-earner family is more available to those at the highest income level. Maybe not. These people may be the most likely to get addicted to the money. And surely, they are most able to pay for nannies and other child care. The less the woman makes, the less of a financial sacrifice it is when she stays home (assuming the partner makes a decent income), and in fact, one could come out ahead. Consider all the expenses of going to work: childcare, transportation, clothing, eating out.

Anyway, the linked article makes it seem as though it has discovered a new cultural development, but I think this issue has been a live one all along. Since the early 70s there have been older women carping about younger women not sufficiently valuing all the work that had been done opening doors for them and women who want to stay home complaining that [other women are failing to recognize that] their choice is equally worthy. The one thing I don't hear so much anymore is people questioning whether to hire or educate women because they will just quit when they have children. Oh, but look at that quote in the post title again. That's from Harvard's director of undergraduate admissions.

UPDATE: Bracketed material in the last paragraph added (for clarity).

IN THE COMMENTS: This is an especially interesting forum in which many readers grapple with personal and economic issues. One commenter becomes distressed about what she interprets as sexist stereotypes.

MORE: The linked article -- a front-page NYT piece -- is based on a survey, which had some pretty obviously weak methodology, as Jack Shafer pointed out in Slate on Tuesday. Gelflog has more, including the text of the questions asked.


Laura Reynolds said...

When my wife began staying home, when our first child was born, she was an accountant and earned more than I did. It came with severe financial stress but we were able to do it for three kids and 14 years. It was a choice we made before we got married and decided to start a family.

Many of our peers with two working parents (and kids in daycare) still managed to have finacial stress. They just drove newer cars, took nicer vacations and ate out more than we did.

Robert said...

Employers still question whether they should hire women; they just aren't stupid enough to do it where it can be overheard.

Troy said...

The return on my wife's education has been 2 brilliant kids who have been tught the basics and beyond by a college educated Mom. These kids will (barring unforeseen circumstances) hopefully propagate this model and be productive citizens whether my daughter stays at home with her kids, even has kids, or becomes a physicist. THAT'S the return on Miss Harvard's quote.

I guess my wife did not live up to this administrator's feminist ideal. My family's the better off for it and I strongly suspect our community is too. We do it in Southern California on a professor's salary -- adjuncting included. Besides San Fran and Manhattan perhaps it can be done.

And if something happens to me or she changes her mind, then my wife is prepared and credentialed to go into the workforce.

Along with Stever we made this choice before we got married and our income dropped 40% after Joshua was born.

Pete said...

I'm a stay-at-home Dad, or was until quite recently. I work part-time now, while our girls are in school. We made the decision shortly after 9/11 - since my wife's career is in computers, she, and thus the family, stood to lose more if she opted out for a few years. Savings on daycare, taxes, gasoline, eating-out-less, and putting off retirement plans for a few years, helped close the gap. I've since gone back to school, earned the accounting hours necessary for a CPA, and will be back to earning what I was soon while giving our girls a small taste of a traditional upbringing. Neither my wife, nor I, feel my time, or education, has been squandered.

P_J said...

"What does concern me," said Peter Salovey, the dean of Yale College, ... "is that so few students seem to be able to imagine a life for themselves that isn't constructed along traditional gender roles."

You can hear the disappointment of the superior intellect whose preferred outcome for other people's lives isn't their choice (the stupid sheep). What Dean Salovey cannot understand is that the young women interviewed seem to have thought quite clearly about their choices and decided (at this point, anyway) to say, "That's not what I want."

My wife graduated from a top national university and worked before we had kids. It was her informed choice to stay home with the kids and our kids have benefitted from her excellent education.

If moms want to work, that's their decision, but I'm glad that more young women are seriously considering the financial and relational trade-offs. You'd think that "feminists" would celebrate more choices and better education for women - but apparently what women are supposed to do is march in lockstep behind the feminist vision whether they want it or not.

Wade Garrett said...

Having gone to Yale, all three Yale professors quoted in this article said more or less exactly what I thought they would say.

I think that a lot women at Harvard, Yale, etc might say at age 20 that they want to take time off to raise a family, but once they become doctors or lawyers or professors, and if they like their jobs, I think they might have a harder time walking away than they expect. Consider all of the men out there working high-stress, long-hours jobs, who justify it by saying that once they make their money they will scale back their hours and live a better lifestyle. Most of them never do, because, as Ann said, they get addicted to money or, on the other hand, they get so caught up in their work that they don't want to leave.

Also, high-earning, well-educated parents are more likely to put their children into pre-school at an earlier-than-average age. If a kid is going to school from 8:30-3:30, a stay-at-home parent really only gets to spend two hours more per day with the child than they would if they worked. I guess I just don't see much utility in that, when they alternative is working a very high-paying job, especially so if there are active grandparents living in the area.

P_J said...

"When we work so hard to open academics and other opportunities for women, what kind of return do we expect to get for that?"

Satisfaction as an educator?
A better-educated citizenry?
Roughly $160,000 over four years?

I'm Full of Soup said...

The post title caught my attention. IMO, the speaker is actually saying "how do we weed out these ungrateful baby makers"? Great example of Harvard group think. Nice post, Ann.

A parent might rightly wring their hands when a child squanders a costly degree by going to live on a commune but you will rarely hear a parent complain when their child elects to stay home and raise some grandchildren.

Unknown said...

The current generation of women (and men) seem to be making their own choices, and that's what the feminist revolution was about...wasn't it? They realize that slogging through a career for 40 years is not, in and of itself, a worthy life path. My young cousin and his wife, both MD's, for instance work 20-30 hrs per week each and raise their 3 kids together.

When I worked in the courthouse, it was the upper echelon of women, strangely, who had the hardest time. The female judges were always struggling with subpar child care; the typists, mostly immigrants, had extended family and grandparents at home who took care of the kids.

Jillene said...

Personally I am no where near making this decision about my life. However, my profession has been pondering how the great influx of women practioners will affect the vitality of the pharmacy workforce. If the admissions committee had taken into consideration if an applicant was female and likely to quit or work part-time in order to raise a family, the pharmacy school would be 1/5 the size. Hence, they did not. And really, is it such a bad thing that American children are raised by highly educated, non-working, highly motivated women and men.

Finally, what a condescending title to an article!

Ann Althouse said...

Jult52: Are you sure it is impossible? Make a budget and cut everything you have to to do what you want. Many economies can be realized if one person has the time in the day to do things that save money (like learn to cook very inexpensive meals and keep a very small house liveably organized).

Ann Althouse said...

Mary: I'm assuming Jult's wife really wants to stay home and feels required to work and at odds with the professional style of behavior. Note that Jult is admitting feeling inadequate because (as he sees it) he can't support the family alone. If he was all into being a dominating male, he probably wouldn't admit that.

I strongly recommend "The Tightwad Gazette" to anyone who wants wants to realize their dream of a one-earner family on a small income. It not only makes being a tightwad seem creative and fun, it makes the argument for how expensive it is to work and how valuable not working can be.

Let's not fall into the mistake of thinking work is the one true path to fulfillment. Even without raising children as your motivation, the idea of not working can be very attractive. What if one spouse would like not to work so she (or he) could be an artist or a writer or to engage in charitable works or political activities? What if a childless woman wanted to stay out of the workplace and just read, garden, cook, and generally enjoy life? Would the man think she was not pulling her weight?

Wade Garrett said...

I agree that the class issue is pretty important here. I have to be careful how I say this, but when a woman with a high earning capacity marries a man with a similar earning capacity, and stays home to be with the children, what I've seen happen with a lot of my parents' friends is that, once the kids are in school full-time, say, by age 3 or 4, "staying home to be with the kids" often turns into: "drop the kids off at 8, starbucks at 9, workout at ten, shoe shopping at 1."

Not having had to go through this myself, it seems to me that most of the value of having a stay at home mother is realized in the first couple of years after the child is born. After that, I think a lot of women don't go back to work because they don't want to and can afford not to, not because they need the time away from work to be a better mother.

MrSpkr said...

(My advice: If this is what you want to do, never let your spending reach the level of your income. Stay on a restricted budget, and always view the money you've brought into the family as extra, so you don't have to cut back to meet your aspiration to take the childraising years off. Don't get addicted to the money.)
Sage advice, Ann.

Abc said...
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Abc said...

Yevgeny Vilensky said...
It's pretty interesting, I actually knew Louise Story, the story's author, in college. She was a couple of years behind me at Yale.

I think what's interesting is that in the early Republic, while certainly women's education in the arts and sciences was not something that was promoted in society, there was an idea floating around of republican motherhood. Namely, that while women ought not be involved in the baseness of politics, they should be educated in the values of our government and society so that they can instill republican values in children.

I think that it is not at all a waste of an education for a woman to use her great education to raise children. Presumably, one would want children educated by a parent who had a great education rather than a teacher who might not even know the subject he or she is teaching.

I am actually surprised that some admissions counselors would be skeptical of this trend. I would think that because elite schools like Yale, Harvard, and Princeton have an ethos that they want their graduates to pursue, it would be a benefit to have their alumni better able to instill this ethos in future generations, and even provide a pool of potential applicants who are already living this character ideal.

Wade Garrett said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

I think it's telling that in the title quote and virtually all of the subsequent comments, it's assumed that men will work but women have a choice of whether to work or not. (Setting aside, for a moment, that choices are *always* made within a set of constraints.) As an example, consider Troy's comment:

"The return on my wife's education has been 2 brilliant kids... who will (barring unforeseen circumstances) hopefully propagate this model and be productive citizens whether my daughter stays at home with her kids, even has kids, or becomes a physicist." [emphasis added]

What about Joshua? Doesn't he have a choice?

And why have so many commenters assumed that the woman's choice is the only one of consequence for how the kids turn out? Under this logic, if the kids don't turn out right its her fault for working (if she's in the middle or upper classes) or for not working (if she's poor). But isn't it just as much the husband's / male partner's "fault", and for the same reasons?

Wade Garrett said...

Mehera - I didn't claim to know it all; I just know what I've seen amongst my family's friends. Its not a value judgment - if you can afford to do it, go ahead! I'm just saying that I've seen a lot of married women lead leisurely lifestyles under the guise of 'staying home to raise children.'

Ann Althouse said...

Kim: I don't think people are faulting the women who work, just offering support for the ones who stay home. I'm also directing this at the men: they should figure out how to help wives who want to stay home. They could also be the ones who stay home with the children. When my kids were very young, my husband was the one who stayed home with the kids. That's even more difficult to pull off, but it can be a good choice. In our case, it made sense because he was a writer.

Mom said...

Well, maybe there are a few stay-at-home moms out there who spend their days shopping for shoes once their children reach the halcyon age of three -- but I certainly haven't met them, other than the ones with full-time nannies. In my own experience, part-time work does get easier once kids reach school age (which, by the way, Terence, is closer to age five or six than to three or four.) Full-time work for both parents, however, can continue to be genuinely challenging right through high school, even for higher-earning families. For one thing, most schools let out around three, while most workplaces stay open all day. Children don't go to school in the summer, on holidays, on teacher conference days, or when they are sick. Babysitters are fine for younger kids, but not so great as kids get older. And not all of the work of raising children goes on when the kids are at home.

I don't know what it is about choosing whether to work outside or inside the home after children arrive that brings out a need on the part of some people to belittle and criticize. In my experience, the parents who are most successful in finding workable approaches for their own families are those who remain flexible, humble about what they don't know, and open to different possibilities -- qualities Terence might want to work on before he starts a family of his own.

Unknown said...


Why don’t *you* stay home and raise the children?

Perhaps the reason is this: because mothers are, on balance, far better mothers than fathers are. And since I'm not the president of Harvard, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the reasons might even include some physiology.

I mean, when a man makes less money, shouldn’t he be the one who stays home with the children?

I sincerely hope that nobody makes their childrearing decisions with such a tunnelvisioned view of the bottom line. I don't think you meant it to be that way, but it reads that way.

But I don’t see why it necessarily has to be a woman. I know a lot of men who are better with the children than their wives.

Of course, there are going to be cases where the father proves to be an exemplary care-giver. I spend a lot of time with my daughter thanks to my flexible schedule, and I'm always heartened to watch the stay-at-home dads care for their kids, as I am with the stay-at-home mom I know whose female partner works full-time. Of course these alternative arrangements can work.

But it reflects measures of selfishness and/or materialism not to give reasonable weight to biology. So while there are certainly going to be instances where those alternatives prove superior, they should not begin with equal standing before other factors are taken into account.

My wife is fully convinced that she was flat out deceived by the mantra that a sucessful woman is a career woman. Now that she cares for our precious 2-year old, and almost certainly unable to have more due to our advanced age, she genuinely considers the time she spent focused on career to the exclusion of marriage and family a waste in comparison.

amy said...

Interesting article. One I've discussed with my husband and friend many times. I'd love to work from home, but we can't make it work financially right now. We are hoping to move in the spring, and maybe with some re-structuring of our bills and such we'll be able to make it work. Especially given that the cost of 2 children in daycare will be over half of my income!

Unknown said...
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vnjagvet said...

Diane of course has a point. As Ann points out, for the last generations, at least since the sixties, the stay at home dad has been at least an acceptable life style for the upper, upper middle, university educated classes.

But whether the stay at home parent is male of female, it sure helps a child's sense of stability and being well cared for. Also, if the stay at home parent is well educated, it generally gives the children a great head start in their education and promotes a healthy respect for education itself.

This is not a new phenomenon. I was born in 1940. My mom was born in 1914 and my dad in 1912. Both had college educations during the heart of the depression, mom a BS in Chemistry and dad a BS and MS in engineering. Only one of their parents had a college degree, and he died young. None of their siblings had college degrees.

My mom worked before marriage, but stopped after three years to raise a family. Twenty years later my dad died (at age 48) and my mom taught elementary special education for the remaining 25 years of her life.

The result: three children with advanced degrees (all of whom married strong willed, college educated spouses), and many grandchildren with advanced degrees all of whom were raised by one stay at home spouse. In other words a tradition which helped keep higher educational institutions in business across three generations.

Interestingly, both of my parents were strong financial supporters of their colleges, as were each of their children, and now their grandchildren.

Based on our family history at least, (realizing this is but one family) I believe the quote which introduced this post is both uninformed and short sighted.

Jim Rhoads

Laura Reynolds said...


My wife did not make that much more than me, either way it was going to be tough financially, my point was that she was educated and career minded, but prioritized motherhood and I supported her. Gee its not a freakin PC test, we are two intelligent people who reached a decision based on our values and careful thought. Besides I would have been really lousy at breast feeding and just so you'll know, I do most of the cooking, plenty of dishes and other chores, except for laundry which I'm banned from for improper color sorting and water temperature selection.

Ann Althouse said...

Mary: "--Writers and artists aren't "working" ?" You know I mean working for pay here, but fair enough. Many artists and writers make little, no, or less than zero money. Believe me. I've been there. But to have all your time to yourself is important. Try coming home after a day at a job and doing art. It is not the same as owning all your own time. When a spouse make it possible for you to have that time, it is very valuable.

And by the way, I wasn't raised to think someone would take care of me either. I had an art teacher who told me I needed "a sugar daddy" and offered to make introductions with people in NYC for me. I thought the teacher was a ridiculous creep, who did not understand modern times (in about 1972).

There were times later on when I thought I would have been better off if I had looked for a rich man to support me in my creative pursuits, but the option never realistically crossed my mind when I was young.

Anyway, Mary, you are quite off with your generational analysis. I went to college at the HEIGHT of the women's movement. And if you interpret my post as anti-feminist, you are not reading very well!

Laura Reynolds said...


With three daughters (15, 12 and 9) its just a place I've decided not to go, but I'm glad you've done it. In a pinch, I'll do my own stuff, like the bachelor days.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

It seems one of the main points of the article has not been adressed in the comments: many of the students plan on having their children while still in their 20's. I believe that this is as significant as the stay-at-home-or-not question.

This might not seem like much to the Boomers here, but for my generation it's a big thing. Most people I know thought getting married before 30 was rushing things, let alone having children before 30.

We were brought up to fear pregnancy and parenthood as the end of all that is good in life. I'm not kidding; the contraception education we received all through our adolesences scared the hell out of us. I think that this is an unexplored impetus behind the delayed adulthood of Generation X.

Thus I believe that the real issue here isn't who will care for the children of college-educated middle-class women, but whether they will manage to have children at all. I'm 35 years old and live in NYC; most of the women I know my age in the city are childless. In contrast, my sister (34) has a cohort of more conservative, suburban friends who are just now having their first or second child.

I know so many single, beautiful career women in their mid-late 30's who are beginning to doubt that they can have it all. Many of them would drop their careers willingly for the chance of having a family to care for. I rather doubt they they would turn into the Stepford Wives; in fact more than one envisions some combination of home-schooling and part-time work from home.

Finally, I remember when Reese Witherspoon chose to start her family when she was in her early 20’s. An article at the time was full of much of the same chin-pulling as this one but it focused on the child-bearing aspect. The pundits seemed apalled that a mere child of 24 or whatever was having a baby! What kind of example was she?!? One of the non-Hollywood young mothers they interviewed said she wanted to have her children while she had a full tank of gas and wasn’t running on fumes!

PS- I notice that the article doesn't mention if any of the Boomer academics quoted has children themselves. Hmmm....

Jeff with one 'f' said...
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Jeff with one 'f' said...

Jame Taranto, in todays Best of the Web:

The vast majority of today's young women are the daughters of women who decided to have children. Women who abjured motherhood for full-time careers can't very well pass their values on to the daughters they never had.

Also, see this:

Best age for childbearing remains 20-35 - Delaying risks heartbreak, say experts

Eli Blake said...

Maybe I have a different persective, working at a community college.

The class I just taught, there was one male student and twelve female students.

Last year at our graduation, we had 139 female graduates and 45 male graduates.

Our student body is consistently 70% or more percent female.

It's not that the young men in our area (a very rural, poor area) are going to college elsewhere either. Most of the young men go to work, go to the military, go to jail-- but not to college. This is especially true among our native American students-- probably 90% of them are female.

I've heard a lot of explanations for this. Two that stand out in my mind are: 1) It is now expected that the young men should go to work in the native American communities directly out of high school, and a lot of families can only pay to send one or two children to school, so they send daughters; and 2) Among a growing segment of young Navajos, going to college is considered effeminate and young men who consider it are looked down on by their peers.

Ann Althouse said...

Mary, I would ask you to look carefully at how I have responded to people. I am not trading in stereotypes but I am also not inhibiting expression and demanding orthodoxy. I'm trying to foster a working forum.

Ann Althouse said...

Mary, I didn't say you were messing up the forum. I'm just trying to explain why I am making the kind of contributions that I am. I think people are very sincerely trying to express how they are trying to grapple with difficult real world problems. No one is being blatantly sexist, and I think it is good for people to be able to talk about it. If that makes you feel that you're not being supported, then I'm in an impossible position.

ShadyCharacter said...

Mary said: "I'll just quietly cultivate my own garden until things get more civil out there."

It seems to me that you are cultivating sour grapes in that garden of yours. I'll go out on a limb here and shamelessly make an assumption about you - you "abjured" (still an interesting word choice? why?) having children and a family yourself and you deeply regret it. How else to explain your misreading of each and every comment you responded to as an attack on women with careers. It doesn't take a Sigmund Freud to diagnose - IMAX-sized projection.

If you have stuck around, please point to something uncivil that was directed at you (aside, perhaps, from this post). Someone writing "my wife gave up her law practice to be a mother and she LOVES it!" is not an attack on you or your life path, and if you think that it is, well, that must just suck...

Unknown said...

A waste? So you're not planning to send your daughter to college then? Articles and comments like these somehow always lead to belittling the choices that are unlike your own -- a backlash against mother who work, if you will.

It is unreasonable to suggest that just because someone considers a life choice a "waste" that it belittles those who think it is not. It is entirely possible to waste one's time on a pursuit that others do not consider a waste at all. For a woman who has made an informed choice not to have children, then a career is far from a waste.

The issue is one of informed choice. Certainly my wife does not believe, nor should I have suggested, that she had preferred that she never went to college nor started a career. Rather, she feels that she had an improper view of the value of motherhood and therefore unable to make a fair judgement about the direction her life should take. Had she obtained a proper view of motherhood, something that frankly many in the feminist movement actively seek to prevent, she might have stepped off the career train a little early.

Still, to be fair, my wife really doesn't consider her past choices a complete "waste" because, after all, they led her to her current station, in which she is quite happy.

Now, if you need evidence that "many in the feminist movement actively seek to prevent" [obtaining a proper view of motherhood], you need look no further than the article in question:

For many feminists, it may come as a shock to hear how unbothered many young women at the nation's top schools are by the strictures of traditional roles.

"They are still thinking of this as a private issue; they're accepting it," said Laura Wexler, a professor of American studies and women's and gender studies at Yale. "Women have been given full-time working career opportunities and encouragement with no social changes to support it.

"I really believed 25 years ago," Dr. Wexler added, "that this would be solved by now."

I mean, is this kind of thinking not the least bit shocking?

Unknown said...

Just to be clear, here is what I find shocking about that quote: "They are still thinking of this as a private issue."

It's not a private issue? It seems to me as if she is suggesting that women who decide to forego extended careers to have children are somehow failing their gender, not just themselves.

Am I reading this wrong or is this just completely daft? Should not a true feminist be striving towards an expansion of options for women, so that they are free to make an informed choice between (external) career, family, or some mixture thereof? Or does Dr. Wexler believe that making an informed choice to stay home and raise a family is oxymoronic?

Unknown said...

"Telling of what? You should specify what you mean when you write that."

Telling of implicit gender biases among Althouse commenters, a majority of whom would self-identify as conservative.

Kim: I don't think people are faulting the women who work, just offering support for the ones who stay home.

The problem is that the latter goal so often devolves into the former. Remember Dan Quayle's infamous comment about Murphy Brown? Now read the comment in the NYT article from the mother who was criticizing women who put their kids in day care. Plus ca change.

Just to clarify, I'm not against women choosing to stay home (even if they have Yale degrees). It just bothers me that there is so little attention paid to men's choices, or the lack thereof.

Unknown said...

Until this movie becomes common reality, then I think that a certain degree of gender bias regarding parenthood is not just unavoidable but justified.

Ann, in my opinion, is right on target by acknowledging gender differences and focusing her words towards men in the area of finding ways to support women's unique decisions.

Unknown said...

Oh, and if I may: if that movie does become reality, I hope we men will be forgiven for unanimously rejecting Lamaze :)

Mary Gee said...

I am a 50 something woman who stayed home with my kids until they started school. I went to college in my 40s and had a masters degree by my 50th birthday. Now I am amazed by the experience of working with younger women who want it all.

I am glad I stayed home and I concur with Ann about learning how to live without tons of money. I became a great baker of bread and knitter and canner. Not for everyone, I know, but I loved it.

I just don't understand how you can possibly have everything all at the same time. I am old enough to remember when no one wanted to hire a woman because they would quit when they got married or had children. They also didn't want women on the payroll because they would call in sick if their children were sick. Women of my age and older set out to prove them wrong "back in the day."

I marvel at women now who are legally entitled to take time off for their children and families. I don't even think they know what it was like a few short years ago. And they would probably be bored to tears by an oldster like me telling them...

Ann Althouse said...

Lindsey: Yes, I find stuff like that depressing. I used to have a job that required me to read Family Circle and Woman's Day, back in the 1970s -- actually, it was my day job when I was trying to be an artist! -- and some of the tips just made me feel really sad. I remember one recommendation that women save the string that comes wrapped around bakery boxes and to knit it into dishcloths! You have to use common sense about what the usable tips are and when they are just toying with you. I think a better tip would be, don't spend money at the bakery. Learn how to make cookies or a simple cake from scratch! You kids might help you make the cake and in any event will think it's nice that you baked something for them, whereas if they see you knitting string into dishcloths, they will think you're bizarre -- or trying to guilt trip them.

Troy said...

Jult -- Torvald is Mary's cute little Ibsen allusion. You see -- you are a brute just like Torvald in A Doll's House and your poor wife is put upon Nora -- but watch out because Mary's instant karma's gonna getcha! Boo!

Ann -- Interesting comments.

Mary -- Come back! Yes my little Joshua has a choice. Now listen carefully.... When he's 18/19 and out of my house -- he can do whatever the hell he wants to do with his life.

At this point he will either be a warrior/poet because he writes some great poetry at age 5 and he loves light sabres in which case he can stay home and raise little Jedis or he will be a guitar god/astronomer in which case he can watch the kids during the day so because his gigs and stargazing will be at night.

As long as he stays out of Pelican Bay...

btw -- I have the most awesome kids (and I failed to mention 5 week old Zachary!) -- perhaps I'll re-name him "Stanley" for you Ann.

Wade Garrett said...

What interests me about this article is that so many of the women who expressed interest in staying home with their children wanted to be lawyers and doctors, two occupations notorious for the stress and number of hours they demand of their practicioners. I find it odd, and interesting, that these women seem to want to work 60 hours per week, including night shifts if they want to be a doctor, and then give it up entirely when they become pregnant. Some say they want to go back to work part-time when their children are out of the home. I know some part time of-counsel lawyers, but I haven't heard of any part-time doctors.

It seems to me that there are a number of rewarding careers women can pursue that do not make such demands. My mother was a high school teacher, and she never stayed home with us. However, she liked the fact that so much of her job - preparing lessons and grading papers - could be done at home, while she kept an eye on my brother and I. Also, the semester schedule gave her the summers and holidays off, corresponding to the times at which my brother and I were off from school. It seems to me that there are a number of other careers - teaching, academia, writing, real estate, etc - which afford women the opportunity to do a significant amount of their work at home, and thus not have to stop working entirely when they have children, or at least once their children have started school. I'm somewhat surprised that these women want to go through years of post-graduate training, and work crazy hours, to have careers and then walk away entirely.

The reason I referred to school beginning at age 3 or so is just that I began going to pre-school at age 3. I would imagine that most people who went to the elite Universities mentioned in this article, and who went on to become lawyers and doctors and so forth, would value education enough, and would have sufficient monetary resources, to put their children into school at as early of an age as possible. That's just my assumption, I don't really know if its true.

Bruce Hayden said...

Interesting discussion. I think that to some extent the pendulum is swinging back towards center - so that women (and ultimately men, hopefully) can pick the heavy duty career or parenting, or maybe some of both.

Going back to the 20s and 30s, all four of my grandparents had degrees, and three of them worked full time professionally. And arguably the fourth did through the 40s - as the wife of the commander of several army bases. Back then, the social life of the base revolved around her, and that took work.

My mother was Phi Beta Kappa and the outstanding science student at U. Ill. in 1944. She worked until I was born in 1950, but was, like almost all of the women of her generation, pushed out of the workforce.

The one time I ever saw my parents fight in their 57 years together was when I suggested that she had quit working because my father wanted her to. I don't think that it had ever come up before - they just did what society expected them to (reinforced by the MSM of the time). His retort was that his mother worked (as a college professor) all the while he was growing up.

In the end, after all five boys were at least in high school, she got involved in volunteer work - including being a registered lobbyist and legislative chair for the League of Women Voters for CO. My father was proud that they were rich enough that she didn't have to work for money.

I never wanted a wife to quit work for me (reflecting some of that hidden tension with my parents). The women of my generation (including Ann) were really the first (since my grandparents' generation) where it was acceptable for women to have careers (Those graduating in the 60's were still mostly falling into traditional roles).

Since then, what I saw (thoughout the Baby Boom) for awhile is that the push was for a lot of women to sacrifice families for careers - or to kill themselves trying to do both. And as a result, a lot of the glass ceilings have started to fall.

But I would argue that this is not fulfilling for a lot of women. So, I think the pendulum is moving back towards the center where women have more choices - that they can have either a career or family, or both. (hopefully, we are on a trend that gives men the same choices).

The women today don't seem as driven as those of my generation to prove themselves - to prove that they are every bit as good as the men in the workforce.

Unknown said...

I find it odd, and interesting, that these women seem to want to work 60 hours per week, including night shifts if they want to be a doctor, and then give it up entirely when they become pregnant.

Yeah, but all that grueling work is good practice for being a homemaker and mother :)

Though it's not conducive to finding a husband, perhaps.

XWL said...

I have a feeling that as with most things their is a huge gap between thought and expression.

This article doesn't show any statistics about the actual choices recent graduates have been making in the real world.

Gather any group of undergrads, ask any question about their future and I am fairly certain that you will get answers that don't reflect the choices they will be making.

The nature of this survey too was self-selecting, and a tiny sample, therefore should be looked at with strong skepticism.

If they mean what they say though the money they are spending now could be better spent later. 4 years of Ivy League can easily run to $200,000, put that in a college fund for your hypothetical children and for yourself as well, that money could easily pay for yourself and 2 or 3 children 20 years from now.

Why not start college when you are 40 instead of 18 then any training and contacts you receive will be current and readily applicable.

My instincts tell me that this is just a new form of conspicuous consumption and saying you plan on being a stay-at-home parent is a way to attract the best of the potential mates amongst the males at the Ivy Leagues, or alternately it's a way to tweak the noses of their feminist Professors (yesterday's traditionalist is today's counterculturalist)

Anna said...

Regardless of whether a parent (mother or father) decides home or career, there is one thing the parents should not do. Do not take each other for granted. Keeping a strong relationship with your spouse is just as important as the decision of whether or not to stay home.

Both parents will be very busy no matter the decision and the husband/wife relationship can suffer incredibly. "Date night" may seem silly, but it keeps you communicating. It also shows your children what a strong relationship is like and gives them a sense of security. (And date night doesn't have to be anything more than waiting until the kids are in bed to have dinner and a movie together.)

It doesn't matter if you have a PhD. or no college at all, if you lose your relationship with your spouse, you run the risk of being a single parent and not having the choice of whether or not to stay home.

This was the best advice my mother ever gave me.

Ann Althouse said...

I wouldn't assume a woman who stays home is putting her children above herself. Working is a lot of work. It can be much more rewarding not to work. If you're not also enjoying taking care of the children all the time, you won't be all that good at it. Staying home from work is a personal choice that involves a lot of factors, only one of which is that it will benefit the children. I'm sure some children are better off in day care than with their mothers and that with many women, they will do better by their children spending less time with them, because their temperament does not suit them to spending the entire day with children.

KCFleming said...

I am rather surprised to see that, despite all the great comments, no one has yet questioned the unspoken premise that paid employment is so desirable.

Face it, only a small minority of people ever make it to the higher echelons of power. For the remianing 98% of folks, work is , well, work. Most of us work because we get paid. The corporate, academic, and government work worlds are marked by petty tyrannies, political fiefdoms, and mind-numbing meetings. Stupidity abounds, gossip is rampant, and backstabbing is often rewarded. And the moment you leave, you are forgotten (quick, who was the boss two bosses ago?).

Home life is assuredly hard, but no one at work can make your heart melt like a five year old daughter glad to see you came home at six o'clock again, shouting " It's daddeeee!". Home life leaves a legacy. Work is no great shakes for most.

Simon Kenton said...

Pogo wrote:

"For the remianing 98% of folks, work is , well, work."

And this is why the budget advice fails. Knitting dishcloths? I was trying to counsel a single woman with one son who was the best I ever encountered at that budget crap - supermarket coupons, economical cars, re-using squares of aluminum foil, all that stuff. She could squeeze a quarter until the copper filling jetted out. She had reached 40 with a good salary, and had nothing. She was pretty much impervious to financial counseling, so unless she has landed a replacement husband (it became clear that was her financial strategy) it is likely she will reach 70 with nothing.

No matter how little you make, you have to invest some of it or you end up with a drawerful of folded aluminum squares. It's the only way out of jobs.

Ann Althouse said...

Eddie: I think 186 is the record.

Jennifer said...

It's always interesting how much people have to say and how strong their opinions are about this subject. I can think of few other life choices that inspire so much debate.

That said, many here are quite condescending (even while approving of) a woman's choice to stay at home with their children. I went to an elite, private college prep school, went to college and worked on the stock market for years making significantly more than my husband. Now, I personally find raising my child (and the one on the way) to be a challenging and rewarding pursuit.

And Slocum, I want to be married to an adult partner, not an sweet, infantilized, victorian 'angel of the house'. Grow up.

And Mary, sure, at some point my kids will grow up and I will no longer be devoted to raising them full time. At some point, you will retire and then what will you have? Hopefully none of us are so focused on our careers that we are nothing without them.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

On the affordability of staying at home I have only my own experiences to go by. My husband spent 20 years in the military as an enlisted man. He retired two years ago as a Master Sgt. (E-7) I never worked outside the home (our oldest child is 22, our youngest is 7, and we homeschool).

When we had our fifth child we were able to supplement our income by about four hundred dollars a month- it didn't even put us in a higher tax bracket.

We took vacations. They were called PCSing, or transferring, or moving to civilians. We watched videos at home and made our own popcorn. We played board games, card games, and read aloud together in the evenings. We went outside and kicked a soccer ball around. We bought clothes at thrift shops. We've never owned a new car. We do not do credit card debt. If we can't pay for it, we don't own it.
We managed to donate ten percent of our income to charity ever single year.
I cooked from scratch, we didn't do the dry cleaners, we never had television, let alone cable, and we believed in home-made fun.

Still do. Hubby's been retired for two years, he' the manager of a discount retail business and we make about hte same as we did when he was in- and it's never topped fifty thousand a year.

Our kids are very happy children who wonder why other families aren't as fun as ours, not why they can't be like everybody else.

While there are always exceptions, to those two parent families where it really matters that a parent stay home with the kids, it's generally possible to make it happen.

Jennifer said...

Headmistress - Good to hear! You are way ahead of us on the same journey. My husband has only been in for 2 1/2 years. But, we're looking forward to our upcoming PCS to North Carolina with a bonus TDY enroute in Georgia. Two vacations! :)

Jennifer said...

Slocum, it's possible that had your mom worked, your parents would never have had issues. Or, they may have just had different issues.

My parents were both like-minded professionals with much in common who divorced while I was fairly young. My mom is now on her third husband in my lifetime.

You know what they say about anecdotal evidence...

L.T. said...

Future stay at home mothers at Ivy League undergrads aren't much of a problem. With graduate school becoming more important, it matters less where you went to undergrad. It is more likely to be a terminal degree from a SAHM and unlikely to be one for a career woman, so why not give her the chance to get that kind of experience? Plus, a high school senior is unlikely to really know whether she wants to be a stay at home mom.

On the other hand, it is very important where one goes to graduate school. Ivy League professional schools have to turn down hundreds of fully qualified candidates each year. To take up a spot because you want a hobby, or a three-year career, or just the fun of the experience is to take a spot away from a woman who will use her education for a lifetime.

If one fully knows that they are going to be a stay at home mom, it would be better overall if she went to an ordinary school; it would make much less difference in her life than in the life of a woman who wants a full career. (which, in most professions is significantly impacted by going to a top school)

Of course, no single individual can be expected to think wholistically about the applicant pool and make such a choice, it is more of a fleeting thought. However, I wouldn't blame a school for using it as an admission criteria, if such a thing were discoverable.

According to the study After the JD which shows significantly more female law grads having no kids at all, (76 as compared to 36 in general pop) such selection may be already underway, or alternatively, unnecessary.