Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Opting Out.

A friend of mine recently sent me the link to this blog post, titled "The Choice Myth", by Judith Warner of the New York Times.  In the post, Ms. Warner discusses the how the choice to either work or be a mother, or the choice to do both, is not a choice at all.  She aims to dispel "the opt-out myth", that the most educated and richest women are leaving the workforce to be mothers.  She argues that women respond to objective constraints of their families and the "all-or-nothing non-choices of our workplaces".

The post itself was a response to a Washington Post article on stay-at-home moms and the census, which says that stay-at-home moms are likely to be young, less educated and have less income than is conventionally believed.  They are also more likely to be Hispanic or foreign-born.  These women don't "opt-out".  They rarely have a choice.

My Mom stayed at home with us for the first five years of my life.  There were a wide variety of reasons for that decision and I am not entirely sure that the choice was all my mother's.  As I get closer to the age of having a family, I sometimes consider how I could handle it all.  I know I am who I am because I had involved parents that were around all the time.  I also know that in my line of work you cannot have a good career and not be traveling all the time.  As much as I would love to be home with my kids, I know I also need personal fulfillment in the form of work outside the home.  Additionally, in today's world it would be very difficult to raise a family on a single salary.  I am fortunate to come from a place where such decisions can even be pondered.  But how do you strike a balance? The sad truth is that I have yet to meet a woman that has done it successfully, though I am sure that they are out there somewhere.

Would or have you chosen to stay at home with your kids?  Why or why not?

As Warner writes, "When mothers can choose, they choose self-empowerment. Because they know that there is no true difference between their advancement and the advancement of their children. Why do we so enduringly deny them the dignity of choice?"


{Photo credit: rahego}

3 comments:

f1trey said...

My peev is you are raising adults..not children.....what makes women think they HAVE the capability of raising a kid AT HOME 24/7...it makes the mother nuts after a year or two and the kids have no social skills theat they need in the REAL world.....

motherhood defines women so much ( in the past )that they would sacrifice anything to PROVE they were a good mother.....but I think youre right ..go back a little further and women had no choice in the matter.......

Melita said...

i'm an only child & my mom stayed home to raise me. i wouldn't have had it any other way. my mom had some jobs that included taking care of the elderly & cleaning for the elderly but was always home when i was. if i ever had children i would want to stay home with them at least until they went to school. that's such an important time in a child's life.

Kristine said...

I am a single mom to a nearly 11 year old daughter. I was married to her dad until she was 6 yrs old. I wish I could have been a stay at home mom at least for the first few years. It is EXHAUSTING to work outside the home and be there for your young child. I was lucky in that I reduced my hours to half time for the first six months after returning from maternity leave. I'm not saying being a stay at home mom is easy. I am saying that there is a difference between being able to set your own schedule versus having to accommodate a 40 hr work week, then do errands on the weekends, evenings, etc. when all you would really like to do is to just hang with your kid & spouse.