I get no respect

by Stacey

I used to have a job. I loved it. I miss it. I wish I still got paid. I wish I had colleagues who said witty things instead of the ubiquitous “why?” I get from my three-year old son with whom I spend the bulk of my day. I wish I had a desk and work that was manageable. I wish someone said, “Good job!” to me every once in awhile. There. I said it.

So now that I’ve admitted that leaving the workforce has it’s drawbacks, I have one more wish. It is this: I wish that people like Linda Hirshman, who wrote this op-ed in the NY Times yesterday, insisting that mothers shouldn’t leave their jobs to stay home with their kids, would at least acknowledge that what I do is still work, just a different kind. It’s work that I choose because I believe it has value even if no one is paying me for it.

Hirshman, is commenting on this study by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which found a decline in the rate of married women with infants and toddlers who work, from 59 percent to 53 percent between 1997 and 2000. (The study also showed a smaller decrease for married women of school-age children. The rate dropped from 77 percent to 75 percent in that time frame.)

According to Hirshman, married women who are not poor “also have more freedom to leave their jobs. But why do they take the option? It’s easier in the short term, sure, but it’s easier to forgo lots of things, like going to college or having children at all. People don’t — nor should they — always do the easier thing.”

I think she means it’s easier because women who work tend to have hectic schedules and child care is expensive. I do not agree with her though, that less running around is necessarily easier. It’s just less busy.

Then she offers this explanation:

The pressure to increase mothering is enormous. For years, women have been on the receiving end of negative messages about parenting and working. One conservative commentator said the lives of working women added up to “just a pile of pay stubs.”

Sorry, Linda, but I don’t buy into this either. I get that work outside the home is good for me, for women, for everyone. Hey, it’s one of the reasons I send my little one to preschool. Not working outside my home is a sacrifice I am making right now so I can work inside my home. This is my choice. I don’t have issues with parents who make different choices. I don’t think that daycare is evil. I just want to be with my kids more than a full-time job will allow.

Here’s Hirshman’s reasoning for why I’ve made the wrong choice.

Should we care if women leave the work force? Yes, because participation in public life allows women to use their talents and to powerfully affect society. And once they leave, they usually cannot regain the income or status they had.

I am using my talents. And by raising healthy, respectful children, I am powerfully affecting society. Perhaps more than I was when I wrote articles for a national news magazine. It’s thanks to people like Hirshman that I have little status in society. And as for money? I hope I’ll make some again in the future. It sure would be nice. But for now, we’ll live on less.

Hirshman ends with an economic analysis of the trend.

In most American marriages, wives earn less than their husbands. Since the tax code encourages joint filing (by making taxes lower for those who do), many couples figure that the “extra” dollars the wife brings in will be piled on top of the husband’s income and taxed at the highest rates, close to 50 percent, according to estimates made by Ed McCaffery, a tax professor at the University of Southern California. Considering the cost of child care, couples often conclude that her working adds nothing to the family treasury.

I really feel there is a voice missing in this kind of thinking. It is mine. It is the calculation of what it means not only to birth children, but to raise them in the way that feels right to me. It isn’t perfect, but it’s my choice. I’d like a little respect please.

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1 Comment

Filed under family life, mommy wars, politics, work

One response to “I get no respect

  1. aadc

    really well-expressed perspective. so many women I know opt out of the either-or, choose-a-side approach that a lot of the public discussion makes you think is the dominant discourse. Stacey, did you see this http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/27/AR2007042702043.html? I think you might like it.

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