Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Newsweek Weighs in on the so-called "Mommy Wars"

And this sounds much more like the real world:

Women who are most likely to stay home with their children are younger than 24 and have obtained high-school diplomas, according to the U.S. Census. Older, more educated moms are more likely to keep working. When women quit to raise kids, they rarely retire for good. According to a report issued in December by the Census, 75 percent of women with school-age children are employed or looking for work. By the time their children are 12 or older, that number rises to 80 percent. "The nature of the economy," says Kathleen Gerson, a New York University sociologist, "means that only a very tiny percentage of women—very wealthy ones," can afford to leave the work force entirely.

And the "all the educated mommies are doing it?" Not so much.

While the number of working moms rose dramatically in the 1970s and 1980s, those numbers peaked at 73 percent in 2000. Since then, the number of working mothers has dropped about 1.6 percent. But this shift doesn't indicate an "opt-out revolution" among affluent moms, says Heather Boushey, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a think tank in Washington, D.C. Instead, it reflects a tough labor market. "Yes, the number of moms in the workplace has dropped," Boushey says, "but you can't attribute that to child rearing, since men and childless women have left the workplace at similar rates."

Smart Moms, Hard Choices

And isn't it funny how sometimes all the blog planets come together and a topic you stumbled into is discussed everywhere? I'm a big fan of Dooce, but I have to admit this entry left me scratching my head.

Heather, hon? You are not a SAHM. You were in Freaking Amsterdam because of your blog a few weeks ago. You are going somewhere else in a few weeks. YOU SUPPORT YOUR HOUSEHOLD WITH THAT BLOG - a concept that makes me deep puke-green with jealousy, btw.

You are not a SAHM, you are a writer who works at home. You are SO not a SAHM, your job takes you to other countries! It's really cool that you can work from your home and support your family and be there for your child - that's just about every parent's ideal situation - but it's NOT what people are talking about when they are talking about being a "SAHM." Actual Stay at Home Moms generally don't take work-related junkets to Amsterdam. Honestly, girl, you make my head hurt! Go now, stand up, walk to the mirror, look in the mirror, say it out loud: "I am a professional writer." Because you are. You've hit the ideal working mommy jackpot, and we all enjoy reading about it. But you need to start claiming your profession, because the IRS sure as hell will.

I didn't wade through the well over a thousand comments (no wonder she supports her family with that blog) to see whether anyone else pointed out the absurdity of her acknowledgement and denial of her job in the same breath, but I thought it was comical. Made me think of the great Erma Bombeck, who always said she was "just a housewife" too - yeah, a housewife with a journalism degree who never stopped writing and made a very good living at it, and became a household name. Heather, Heather, Heather....


Geogrrl said...

Um, yeah. Being a writer does not make you a SAHM. It makes you a writer who writes at home.

Eric Nicol (Canadian writer) commented that when he was writing at home it was hard to get people to understand that he wasn't "at home"--that is, available to run errands and do chores--within certain hours. That's something many writers have worked hard to educate people about... and Heather seems to be undermining that work.

Catherine said...

I think "supporting the family by blogging" just didn't sink in yet. But damn, the girl gets trips to other countries because of that blog, you'd think that would be the first clue that it's a real job. I can't imagine a guy not noticing that he's earning a living as a professional blogger. The pressure to identify with the SAHM mindset apparently is VERY powerful. I don't know why.

Anonymous said...

That's what was niggling at me about her post! I didn't realize it when I first read, but good call on that contradiction.

Janet said...

I agree with anonymous -- I was feeling the cognitive dissonance but couldn't place it. I did comment on her blog and say that my mother didn't work and GOD do I wish she had, since I'd've liked a role model for a professional woman, rather than a role model for a great housewife whose individuality and needs were utterly subsumed in her kids. (As I ranted in an email to you!)

Catherine said...

Yeah, my mother stayed home and it really caught up with her later in life - she had so much potential and she never "caught up." She didn't want that for me. There was never really any question about whether I should work after having the kids, both my parents felt it was a really good thing.