June 28, 2003

Parental Guilt and Stay at Home Moms!

Perusing my blogroll, I spotted a recent update to Kevin's fine blog Wizbang. He was commenting on an Oprah show centered on the marketing of special products to working parents:

Some of the most successful ideas that are promoted on Oprah's show (she does these kinds of episodes fairly often) are ideas that capitalize on the type of parent who has plenty of money, but a lack of time. These parents worry that they are not successfully parenting their children due to work commitments. Their life is a constant balancing act between the necessity to earn money and spend quality time raising their children. These products and services fill a void, real or imagined, in the parents' quest to raise the perfect child.

Kevin suggests that these products may assuage the guilt of the parents, but may be of no actual benefit to the children:

A whole cottage industry has developed around catering to the worries of parents. There is a product or service that you can purchase to address most any perceived problem. I use the word 'perceived' deliberately, since your child will probably be no better off in life if they have a scrapbook or watched a video set to classical music.

But that's not really the point is it? It's all about making the parent feel better…

So, what is the answer? I have always thought that the feminists sold women a baseless ideal when they convinced them that the Donna Reed lifestyle was demeaning. Kevin pointed to this posting by Courtney, in which she discusses her mommy fears. Courtney concludes her post with this statement:

Has the end result of feminism been to make all of us fear our dirty little secret desire to depend on men to support us while we raise the children? I can't even write that without cringing.
Yes, women are afraid to face the fact that they might have been mislead by the feminists. However, in this modern world, Courtney has valid concerns:
I want to have fun, I want to do interesting things, I want to stay up until 3 am reading books and playing on the internet. I don't want to sign over 85% of my day to children who will scream in public, get sick and scare the hell out of me, occasionally annoy me, and have their whole lives depend on me. I want to be selfish!
She additionally points quoted this scary portion of an editorial by Maggie Gallagher:
Logically, staying home almost never makes any sense from the individual perspective. It exposes women to financial risk if marriage should fail. It reduces family income over the long haul (even a few years out of the workforce reduces women's long-term earnings). But then, by any of these measures -- safety, security, autonomy, self-interest -- having a baby makes no sense either. The same longing to participate in the great mystery of creation that drives men and women together, into marriage and baby-making, seems to pull many women from purely market relationships -- whether or not they also work.
Maggie Gallagher concluded her remarks with this statement:
I have nothing against working mothers. I am one. But something in me rejoices to see the deeply countercultural impulse of motherhood rising and winning over mere economic forces. Where will this lead? Not to Mommy Wars between moms who work and those who stay home, I hope, but toward a profound and shared recognition of the importance of mothering and of the husbands that give mothers the gift of choices.
I too have to applaud any movement toward stay-at-home motherhood. Although the economic consequences might seem insurmountable to some, there are actually cost savings associated with one parent being home with the children: decreased commuting costs and parking fees, savings on child care, savings on prepared-at-home meals over the cost of take out (and providing more balanced nutrition, as well), savings on clothing necessary for the workplace vs. clothing appropriate for general daily activities, just to name the easy ones. I have had a continuing conversation with a friend of mine who points to the general overall trend whereas wages have not increased exponentially with growth in the economy as being a consequence of the addition of women into the workforce. It is almost a given fact that women receive less money than men for the same type of work, so that in itself is a clue. In addition, with an increase in the workforce, there is greater competition for the jobs. Such only empowers the employers to seek the cheapest workers, and often, the least qualified workers. With the greater numbers of workers, the rate of unemployment climbs. If the rate of unemployment is actually 7 or 8%, as current numbers suggest, doesn't it make sense that if approximately 25% of the current workers were removed, there would be a greater demand for workers. Candidates for jobs would not only have a better chance of being hired, but could demand higher pay?

Does this mean that women are unqualified to be in the workforce? No, I think women have proved to be capable of accomplishing any task that does not require superior physical effort, and there are few that can even compete for those jobs. But I do think that mothers need to rethink their priorities and to mold their hours around the needs of their children more than around their careers and need for additional income. Courtney described her mother:

Mom stayed at home with us until we were in school regularly. Even when she did go back to work, she worked near or in our schools, and was always home when we got there.
I remember my own mother doing likewise, at least until I, the oldest, was mature enough to stand in loco parentis during the period after school ended and the parents returned from work. Women can be mothers but men cannot. While we are capable of being good parents, we can never be mothers. We are, however, suited to hard work and making money. We have never had any aspirations to do otherwise, despite the feminists changing of the gender roles.

However, I am also mindful of the alarming social trend of young motherhood, where young girls mate with some good looking man who has no feelings for them and very poor future prospects. Just to point out an example, I was eating in a restaurant yesterday and there was a 17 year old girl who was talking about buying a car. I advised her how to best get something reliable without paying an arm and a leg. As the conversation progressed, I learned that she was sharing an apartment with her boyfriend who worked as a mechanic in his father's garage bringing home $250.00 a week. She told me she had just graduated High School and had received over $900.00 from people as graduation gifts, and yet had less than $100 left because she had paid the rent and bought a new rear end for his truck. I was thinking to myself, and yes, next year she will be pregnant and this good for nothing boy will be the father.

Our ancestors were so much smarter when it came to choosing mates. People didn't move in together until they were married, and no one got married until they had been engaged, and no one got engaged unless the parents approved of the suitor, and no parents approved of a suitor who did not have the means to financially support a family. One thing the feminists are right about is that to most men, women are nothing but sex objects. What is so very very sad is that this is not the fault of the men. We men are dogs who are ruled by our lust for succulent female flesh. We freely admit to it. What is so sad is that so many women have allowed themselves to become and to be used as sex objects. Our society is sex crazed. Our society is warped.

Posted by Tiger at June 28, 2003 02:25 PM

Of all the benefits mentioned of having a stay-at-home mom (or dad), the most significant omission in the above excerpt concerns the general well-being of the child[ren], and by extension, the family. "Quality" time is no substitute for simply being around enough to provide a solid base. Taking the time to actually raise your child rather than 'watching them grow up' can mean the difference between helping a child that needs extra discipline and guidance, and a Columbine kid.

Posted by: Danielle L. at June 28, 2003 07:40 PM

I'm a SAH mom (who occasionally does contract gigs that I can do from home on a part-time basis). I'm also a feminist. I believe a parent staying home with the kids is ideal. But I also realize, as you do not seem to, that many families don't have the luxury of my choice. I know lots of women who would like to stay home but they can't afford to (and these are not families taking expensive vacations or living in pricey homes or driving flashy cars). The reality is that to have a moderate, middle-class lifestyle it is usually necessary to have 2 incomes. If I worked full time, I could make 60-80k depending on the job I took, which is alot of money to forgo;instead I do some contract stuff and if I make $25k its a good year. My husband is a lawyer and makes a moderate salary, but we have almost no college savings, very little retirement, and about three months of living expenses in the bank. Staying home is, IMO, the right choice for my children's development, but I am worried about our financial future (especially with a brilliant 13 yr old stepchild who will probably get into a college that costs a mint). I don't dismiss moms who work as less invested in their children's wellbeing than I am. I think they had different choices and who knows - they may be in better shape to give their kids other necessities down the line than I will be.
It is so, so easy to criticize other people's parenting decisions. But it is so, so hard to be a parent. I don't know if you're a parent or not, but every parent I know tries the best they can to DO the best they can by their kids.

Posted by: hope at June 28, 2003 10:57 PM

Perhaps you misunderstood my post.
I didn't criticize anyone's choice. I was commenting on the article. I believe that high taxes especially contribute to the need for 2 incomes. It also depends on what sort of lifestyle you want, and all that. For the record I have 2 teenagers and have run the gamut from a 2-income household, to being a single (working)parent to now- which is being the one with the full time day job and my husband works sporadically as a musician, and takes care of the kids during the day. I made a conscious decision to have one parent at home because I felt that was best, after having done it the other ways.
We get by on roughly 30k a year so in my book you're living the good life.

Posted by: Danielle L. at June 30, 2003 09:54 PM

Jackie Kennedy Onassis said something to the effect of...A person can be the greatest success the world has ever seen, and if he messes up parenting, what good is it? or if you screw up with your children, nothing else really matters.

I think, for mothers, that is true. You only get one chance, granted over eighteen years, to do it right. If you fail, you really never get over it. There isn't enough rationalization in the world to get over it, even if you have an incredibly good or factual reason as to why you didn't do anything wrong.

Posted by: Lana at July 2, 2003 12:27 AM

im 14 yrs old and what is this shit?

Posted by: Kayla Elliott at December 12, 2003 11:43 AM


Posted by: UR MOMMA at December 12, 2003 11:44 AM