Asking if being a stay at home mother is a job or a luxury misses the point

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This week the mommy blogosphere was roiled by its perennial favorite topic: stay at home mothers vs. working mothers.

The proximate cause was a piece on xoJane entitled Being a Stay-at-Home Mom Is Not a Job, written by a former stay at home mother Liz Pardue-Schultz:

I also understand a stay-at-homer wanting to validate her or his life choice by calling it a “job.” We get a lot of grief from academics and professionals, and we’re very often belittled by our society for not contributing anything “valuable.” There’s a sense that we need to defend ourselves against a culture that wants to make us feel inferior or useless because of the way we’re spending our time, but trying to argue its worth by identifying it as something identical to a full-time career isn’t helping the cause. If you’re proud of how you’re living your life, there’s no need to rephrase it to make it more palatable to those who don’t agree with its worth.

Being a stay-at-home mother to your own kids is not a “job,” no matter how difficult it is or how hard we work. Period. Getting to do nothing but raise a person you opted to bring into the world is a privilege, and calling it anything else is ignorant and condescending.

She elaborates:

parenting is hard work, but so is going camping or throwing a party for a friend or having sex with someone I love; I don’t go around calling those things my “jobs.” And FUN FACT: While there are obviously labor-intensive tasks involved with running a household like cleaning and cooking, those are things every person has to do (or pay someone else to do) regardless of their status as parents, and they don’t define our life’s work.

Obviously, staying at home and taking care of people in lieu of working for wages is a valued lifestyle, but it is not a “career”; people who retire early to care for their elderly parents don’t suddenly tell everyone they’ve gone into the health care profession. Choosing to care for your own small child is no different.

Not surprisingly, there was tremendous push back to this view, including 1200 comments and counting.

This piece in The Motherlode, written by Allison B. Carter, appears to be at least partially in response, A Stay-at-Home Parent Is Not a ‘Luxury’:

He looked at me from across the table and said, “Well, you are lucky you have the luxury to stay at home.”…

I do, indeed, hate it when the word “luxury” is used to define my role as a stay-at-home mom. But not for the reasons you might think.

I am not here to argue who works harder: a working mother or a stay-at-home mother. I stand firm on my belief that it is hard for everyone. What goads me are the financial and lifestyle implications this statement carries.

“Luxury” is a loaded word. Yes, it is absolutely true that my husband and I are lucky that he has been able to secure and keep a job that can pay for us all to live. I am aware that there are many families who require a dual income to successfully sustain their children’s basic needs. Raising children is expensive and on the rise and, for many families, the financial equation is hard.

So in some ways, yes, we are lucky that I can stay home. But a luxury is a nonessential item. An indulgence. What I do is essential, and certainly not self-indulgent.

So which is it? Is being a stay at home mother a job or a luxury?

Neither. Asking that question misses the point. It is just a choice, and women’s obsession with what other women choose tells us more about them than about the issue itself.

There are, of course, some women for whom staying home with their children is not a choice at all. For them, working is the difference between feeding their children and letting them go hungry. But most women who have a partner do have a choice. A job for them is not the difference between food and starvation. How the woman and her partner make that choice depends on many factors including children’s needs, parents’ needs, financial goals, the health of the partnership or marriage, beliefs about money and beliefs about the importance and respect accorded to earning money.

There is no one-size-fits all approach.

A child with special needs alter the calculus.
A history of paternal abandonment and poverty alters the calculus.
Lifestyle goals alter the calculus.
Power relationships within the partnership alter the calculus.
The list of modifying factors is endless.

The two authors quoted above are both wrong in large part.

They’re both wrong because they assume that money inevitably take pride of place in these choices.

Pardue-Schultz is wrong because she implies that the only valuable work is paid work. She conveniently ignores the fact that volunteer work (think healthcare workers who go to underserved areas around the world) is real work.

Carter is wrong because she implies that she is making a sacrifice that working mothers are unwilling to make, never considering that her definition of “sacrifice” is limited to money and the goods it can buy. What she considers a worthwhile sacrifice could easily be an intolerable burden for another woman.

Both women fall into the trap that many other women fall into when considering the value of staying home with children vs. working. They believe that the choice a woman makes tells us about her worth as a mother and person and therefore, they fight fiercely to justify their personal choices.

But motherhood is not a zero sum game with a limited about of child happiness, parental success, and personal self-worth to be doled out among the mothers of the world. It’s not an “I win; she loses” world. Two women making opposite choices can BOTH raise happy children … or not. Two women making opposite choices can both point to the same parenting success … or not. Two women making opposite choices can both be proud of what they have done … so long as they aren’t always judging themselves by what others are doing.

Asking whether being a stay at home mother is a job or a luxury is the wrong question. It’s just a choice, one that should be made based on the needs of the families and individuals involved. One woman’s choice tells us nothing about the validity of another woman’s different choice.

Women don’t need to fight to prove who has made the best decision. Everyone can be right at the very same time.

  • JReid

    Interesting Article….Whilst I agree it is a choice, I also think women are just not honest with themselves. My view is that although they want/love their children, they do not want to be parents. Parenting is a full time job. Whilst there are families who need both parents to work due to the choices they have made re their lifestyle, there is also that same choice to possibly change your lifestyle in lieu of parenting. Parenting is a job. Work outside the home and going out to work is a job. Once you engage in one, you are our essentially outsourcing the other. My view is there is nothing wrong with that other than the fact that I just wish that women would be honest about it.

    • KarenJJ

      “My view is that although they want/love their children, they do not want to be parents.”

      So a parent that works outside the home don’t want to be parents? What out all the Dads out there – do they want to be a parent? In what way do parents who work outside the home not want to be a parent? How am I not being honest about the fact that I enjoy having a career as well as enjoy being a parent? What do you want me to be honest about?

      • fiftyfifty1

        “How am I not being honest about the fact that I enjoy having a career as well as enjoy being a parent? What do you want me to be honest about?”
        She wants you to be honest about the fact that you must be secretely miserable even though you seem happy, and that your children are secretly suffering even though they seem to be thriving. She just KNOWS that her choice is the only right one, and she wants you to be honest and admit that.

    • LibrarianSarah

      It’s funny that men are never told that the fact they work outside the home means they “don’t want to be parents.” Only women get that particular guilt trip. But I am sure it has nothing to do with misogyny at all.

      And I am sorry parenting is not a “job” full-time or otherwise. It is a relationship between two human beings. You are cheapening the relationship between parents and children by calling it a “job” or “work.” Is it hard? Yes but all relationships are hard. Especially those where someone depends on you. The fact that it is hard doesn’t make it a job or work. Work ends when you retire, parenting ends when you are dead.

      • Roadstergal

        Exactly your point about the dads. The NCB/AP/EBF axis can manage to be both misogynist and misandrist at the same time – women are required to stay home and devote their lives to the children (unless they’re the suboptimal women who don’t _really_ love their kids), men are there just to donate sperm and a paycheck.

        “Whilst there are families who need both parents to work due to the choices they have made re their lifestyle”

        Nice passive-aggressive language there, and nicely skimming over the varied reasons a woman might need to work.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        It’s funny that men are never told that the fact they work outside the home means they “don’t want to be parents.”

        That’s because men are assumed not to be parents in the first place. When the kids were little, we got a free subscription to Parents magazine. But it wasn’t about parents. It was all moms, with a token reference to a dad here and there.

        Dads, OTOH, are notable for actually being a parent. Then they get all this patronizing praise about how wonderful it is that we are an “involved father” and crap like that.

        It’s two sides to the same coin.

        • Just me

          Well, it is irritating that dads who are out and about with their kids get all kinds of praise, friendly smiles, etc., whereas no one thinks twice to see a mom taking care of their kids out and about alone. My local mom friends and I have all experienced this.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Well, it is irritating that dads who are out and about with their kids
            get all kinds of praise, friendly smiles, etc., whereas no one thinks
            twice to see a mom taking care of their kids out and about alone.

            I agree. I’ve experienced it, too, and it’s extremely irritating. It’s highly condescending and patronizing. And make no mistake, as a father, I DON’T like it, either. I have much higher expectations for myself and other fathers (and you know what? A lot of my friends feel the exact same way). Of course, it’s typically the old ladies who are the ones doing it. I wish they’d stop.

            But it is also irritating that I get completely ignored in terms of parenting issues if my wife is around, or that when I am taking care of the kids that I get called a “babysitter.” See my example of Parenting magazine, which is 95% mothers (there were times that the ONLY picture of a dad alone with their child in the magazine was a Huggies ad where the Dad is chasing a crawling baby across the playground – you know Dads, they can’t take care of their kids and will lose them on the playground if they have the right diapers on)

            As I said, it’s two sides to the same coin – mothers are pigeonholed into the parent role and can’t work, and Dads are the workers and can’t parent. They both suck.

    • momofone

      I’m curious about your views about fathers who work outside the home. Same apply there, or is it only the women who lie?

    • JJ

      I guess my husband is not a parent.

    • Cobalt

      I’m curious, as a mother who “works at home” running our farm while caring for our kids (including an infant), where I fall on the “inadequate character” scale you’ve developed?

      I make income (actual, taxable money) and directly increase our household resources (grow food), and don’t outsource childcare.

      • momofone

        I think you deserve credit for not outsourcing childcare–it almost makes me think you wanted them!–but the fact that you do things that rob your children of your undivided attention clearly shows your ambivalence about being a parent. The taxable money is the clincher. If you completely, wholeheartedly wanted to be a parent, I’m sure money would never come into it. (I’m sure your argument will be something about needing money to support them, but I’m not falling for that!)

        • Cobalt

          On a related track, I really think NOT having a parent’s attention all the time is good for kids. Not just for preventing “center of the universe” syndrome, but because they learn stuff when unsupervised that is hard to teach.

          Kids are sometimes bravest when adults aren’t looking, and there are good lessons there. And great stories to tell the grandkids.

          • momofone

            I totally agree.

    • Just me

      For the zillionth time quit referring to “lifestyle choices”as though I and other working moms work so that we can afford our yacht, live in chef, monthly trips to Europe etc. gag.

  • A

    parenting is hard work, but so is going camping or throwing a party for a friend or having sex with someone I love

    What? No, these things aren’t hard work. Okay, so maybe throwing a large party is work, but are you really comparing that to parenting? Or to having a job or studying or any other hard, long-term work?

    I don’t even.

    (For what it’s worth, I don’t understand why having sex is hard work to her… Wait, is she implying that it isn’t unless she loves her partner?)

  • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

    Ever since reading the ” In Death” mystery/scifi novels by JD Robb I have wished that we have something like the Professional Parent status that they have in the books. A professional parent files paperwork with the state that they are going to be the SAHP of the child/children of the family and they are paid a salary and they get a retirement:

    From the Wiki –

    “Professional Parent – Status can be claimed and pay received for having/adopting and raising a child. If someone is collecting pay as a professional parent, and he or she has a child in college, that individual keeps the status until that child is finished with college, or turns twenty-four. Professional Parents earn a retirement stipend
    According to Witness in Death, one can file and claim professional parent status for twenty years per child. However, according to Memory in Death, if someone is collecting pay as a professional parent, and he or she has a child in college, that individual keeps the status until that child is finished with college, or turns twenty-four ”
    http://www.indeath.net/wikiindeath/index.php?title=Professional_Parent

    • Daleth

      That’s so cool!
      BTW, off topic, but I love your username.

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

        Thanks! I stole it from the the Shoebox greeting cards line with Maxine, she’s a crotchety old lady who always has a snappy comeback. Let’s just say some people think I resemblance her…

  • Francesca Violi

    Which one is the coolest between SAHM and working moms? To me it is like fighting over the position of the flower vase on the coffee table when disregarding the big old elephant sitting in the living room. We don’t witness many heated discussions of working fahters vs. stay at home fathers, do we?

  • araikwao

    I’ ve really enjoyed the post and the ensuing comments. I have had some periods of SAHMing, and the only time I find it sustainably enjoyable is when I can work on the weekends. Lucky for me, hospital PT is a great job in that situation, and casual weekend work pays well.
    I really struggled with the perceived identity you are allocated SAHM, because when I did meet new people, it was a conversation stopper, as if I mustn’t be capable of anything else, as if it indicated some sort of personal deficiency, and that you have nothing to say but anecdotes about your kids (the latter was often true for me when hubby would get home from work, often!) That says a lot about what society thinks of SAHMs and what I value about myself. As as a fairly high-achieving person, I realised I don’t like having my intellect sorely underestimated. As society, why should being a SAHM equal ” uninteresting/not worthwhile as a person, and lacking in capability or intelligence”?
    I know I was guilty only last week of feeling disappointed when I saw a mum I’m distantly acquainted with, who has a PhD in neuropsychology, visibly pregnant with her 5th child. I thought to myself that it seemed like her intellect and her achievements are wasted because she has chosen to stop contributing to clinical work and research to have more children. I don’t know, is that knowledge and training wasted? I hope though, that she got to choose what was best for her and her family, because to me, that’s the ideal – being free to choose, and not being limited/minimised/disadvantaged by the biological ability to bear children.

    • Dinolindor

      Yes, I was heartbroken when I realized how quickly the revelation that I am a SAHM would stop conversations at weddings, jury duty, etc. In my experience, it was the worst from single or child-free women than anyone else. Or at least they were the rudest ones (“What do you do?” “I’m a stay at home mom. What do you do?” “Oh.” And meanwhile turns and scans the empty room for anyone, anyone at all to talk to, never mind they were just asked a question). Then there was the one man at a friend’s wedding who loudly proclaimed that being a SAHM mom was the hardest job there is. No, no it is not. That was profoundly patronizing.

      • Who?

        Some people are just plain rude. For others, the knowledge might bring up issues for them that they would prefer to not air to a stranger. Which of course they could easily avoid by not asking in the first place.

        It’s a lazy early question outside of a business environment, though no doubt once asked needs an answer which itself deserves an at least courteous response.

        And don’t we love people telling us how we should experience (or are experiencing) our lives. I particularly appreciate big noisy men speaking for me. No doubt he meant well. It seems mean to take people on when they do that, and it probably isn’t courteous to the host, but the temptation can be very strong.

        • Dinolindor

          Yes, I agree that there is a discomfort that brings on the rudeness in those situations. But you are incorrect in assuming this was the first question in the exchange I gave as an example. That was after we had been chatting quite nicely and after seeing that we clearly had similar interests. As soon as she found out I don’t have a career right now (never mind that in my plan it’s a paused career that I intend to return to and excel at), poof. No possible way to continue. Granted that was an extreme example but those sorts of interactions happen all too often.

          And the big noisy man. Yes he was trying to be nice and it was such a lovely wedding. I couldn’t bear to challenge him when he meant well. But it certainly made me feel small instead of me-sized.

    • Bugsy

      Yes. Wonderful points. I sometimes find myself saying “I’m a SAHM…by choice” and then launching into a background of my career history. I’m sure it’s mainly to prove myself in a society that values status, but I secretly hope that it helps show that being a SAHM doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with (a lack of) intellect or educational level.

    • Wren

      I have found a really interesting (to me) thing occurring as my husband moves up the career ladder. He works for a large company in the City (City of London) with the traditional very long hours plus a long commute. Nearly a decade ago, being a SAHM was an absolute conversation stopper, and still is if we are with those below him on the ladder. When he began to socialise more with the partners, being a SAHM became more acceptable, even among the women he works with. I rarely get the “Oh, that’s nice” and move on to talk to someone else response I used to get.

    • Life Tip

      It does seem though, that it is generally the SAHM who is deemed “wasting her intellect”. I have a good (male) friend with advanced degree in mathmatics who recently made a major career change and is now a maintance manager at a state park. He likes to be alone and outside. And it doesn’t seem that anyone is giving him a hard time about wasting his education or not making the contribution to society that he is capable of doing. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with everyone congratulating him on following his heart and finding happiness.

    • Daleth

      **”I know I was guilty only last week of feeling disappointed when I saw a mum I’m distantly acquainted with, who has a PhD in neuropsychology, visibly pregnant with her 5th child. I thought to myself that it seemed like her intellect and her achievements are wasted because she has chosen to stop contributing to clinical work and research to have more children. I don’t know, is that knowledge and training wasted?”**

      Wasted? Good god no. What an interesting mom she must be–what incredible intellectual development she must be fostering in her children! Personally I think that’s more important than publishing an academic paper that about ten people are ever going to read.

  • Dr Kitty

    SAHP is not for me.
    I’m going to take six months maternity leave when this baby arrives, but no longer than that.
    I am afraid that while I have the deepest respect and admiration for people who manage to find intellectual, spiritual and emotional fulfillment in running a household and caring for small children, I am not one of them.

    I am proud that I have spent years learning skills that I can use in my chosen career to help people. I find my job immensely rewarding, and I have chosen a job within medicine that gives me an excellent work-life balance (GP).

    I know where my gifts and talents lie, I’m going to use them as best I can given my circumstances, and really, isn’t that all anyone can do?

    Your choices may not be the same as mine, but I’m sure you’ve thought long and hard about them, and you made the decisions that work best for you.

    So I’m with Dr Amy- work full time, part time or no time outside the home, whatever works for you, but your choices aren’t necessarily better than anyone else’s.

    • MaineJen

      I”m with you, Kitty. I have nothing but respect for women and men who are SAHPs; I feel like it takes more energy and creativity than I have to give. When I am home all day I’m restless and miserable. I love my children, BUT I’m a happier person (and a better parent) when I’m able to spend a part of each day in the adult world; I too enjoy my work and wouldn’t want to leave.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      Indeed! And one of the best things a mom (or dad, for that matter) can do for herself (and therefore the family as a whole) is to figure out what the best balance is for HER, and then make it happen. I have friends who are blissfully happy and wonderful SAHMs. I have other friends who work full-time and love it, and seem to balance work and family life very well. I currently SAH full-time, but plan on getting my nursing degree in the next few years because a) I think I’d be good at it and like it and b) I am convinced, after a year of being a strictly SAHM, that my best balance is probably to be out of the house for a shift or two a week, and be home the rest of the time. None of us are better parents than the others for parenting the way we do.

  • Ennis Demeter

    I would love to make it easier for SAHP’s to re-enter the workforce. Most of us have small families now, and after the early years are over, it would be great if the free time could be spent making money to provide for the family in a meaningful way. Para-professionals at school are always these really educated moms who need an income, but who also need to work around their kids’ schedules. I wish professions had more flexibility. A highly competent mother of school age children is a great hire! She’s done bearing kids, the ones she has are getting more independent every day, she is really motivated to use her time well and keep her job- what’s the downside, really?

    • gingergirl

      Agreed because I’m nearly there, but you can’t ask if someone is planning to have more kids. I once worked at a company that was entirely men (except for me) and they let me know that “if you’re feeling maternal, it’s time to leave”. They weren’t joking. I quit that job because it was crummy. I was not feeling “maternal” at the time.

    • Mac sherbert
    • Wren

      Count me in the well-educated women working in the schools, hopefully. Even those jobs are hard to come by as many of the women I know would like them.

      • Wren

        Update. I am now employed by my kids’ school, for all of 1 1/2 hours a day up to 4 days a week. It’s not a huge job, but the money helps and it is a stepping stone to future employment. As I was unemployed (and not looking) for 10 years, it’s good to get a foot on the ladder, however low.

        Ironically, before I am even paid my husband is taking one of his precious holiday days to stay home with the kids on a training day. He earns more in a day than I will in a month, but we’ll ignore that for now.

  • Zen

    Yeah, I have my own 2 cents about whether or not SAHM-ing is a “job” or a “choice”. And you know what? Not gonna share it, because it doesn’t make a lick of difference one way or another. Is your family as happy and functional as could reasonably be under your set of circumstances? Yes? Fabulous! Keep doing what you’re doing, and props to you.

  • gingergirl

    Having worked professionally for many years in at least two related fields that required long hours into the night, I would say that being at home as a single mom with two little ones has been harder work. It’s also been the most rewarding. It is a choice every day to do my “job”. I liked my former profession and miss it and will see it again someday. For now, I have the best “job” on the planet – and one chance to get it right. It’s not coming around again.

    That said, it’s not for everyone and some days I’d rather do my former job. It was easier and the hours weren’t always as long. That day will come soon enough and I will miss these days. We are fortunate to be able to pay for the privilege of me being at home. FWIW, it was a choice that I am OK with, but walking away from a job for 5 years will have its consequences. I have no doubt about that.

  • Anne Catherine

    Thank you for this article —it was the best!!!

  • DiomedesV

    Whenever anyone, man or woman (but it’s always a woman) starts talking about the “sacrifices” they’ve made for their kids, I just tune out.

    Having a child is an inherently selfish act. Like all living organisms, humans reproduce, and there is nothing altruistic about it. It is probably one of the most selfish things any of us will ever do. That’s fine — no need to apologize. Once they’re here, the choice to support them is both 1) ethically required, and 2) also selfish, because it is in your interests to have healthy, successful children. The only thing more selfish is to willfully and completely abrogate all support for your child to the community.

    Supporting your child financially, emotionally, scholastically– is not a sacrifice. It’s in your interest, and it is your responsibility. How you choose to do that is largely up to you. Parents should assess their own moral framework, their desires, their wishes, their long term goals, and their own personal preferences of course. But the intrinsically selfish nature of this choice, plus the overwhelming evidence that the details of how children are raised are largely unimportant, means that this is not only a nonissue, it’s just another way for people to assert themselves in the pecking order of human society.

    As parents, we may choose to forgo one thing in favor of another– say, paid employment for more time with our kids. But that is not properly thought of as a sacrifice, because generally we do this if we believe that our kids (or ourselves) will benefit personally. A better word would be tradeoff. People should feel free to make the tradeoffs they want. But just as I do not praise people for showing up to work or paying their bills on time, I do not feel that I should have to praise fathers or mothers for supporting their children in all the ways that children need to be supported.

    • Laura

      You make some very compelling and provocative points; certainly not ideas that I hear a lot. As a mother of six girls, if I want to enjoy my “golden years” you better believe I make every effort to invest in my children so that they are as healthy and independent in every way so that they 1)are enjoyable to me in my old age and similarly 2) don’t break my heart and drive me nuts in my old age. Honestly, that really does motivate me at times! And, of course, I really do enjoy my children and love being with them – most of the time. But my motives are rather selfish, but do I feel guilty for “selfish motives” and working hard to educate and provide for my children? NO.

    • fiftyfifty1

      One extreme of the argument says that having children is purely selfish. It’s not a sacrifice but rather a sort of hobby that people choose, and as such society has no more obligation to help them then they have to help someone who has bought a puppy. The other extreme of the argument says that having children and raising them right is a moral (often god-ordained) duty and sacrifice.

      My guess is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Most people do have children because they want to. At the same time, raising a good citizen is a public good. When you are old and frail, the person wiping your butt will be someone from the generations below you. It may be your own child, or it may be the child of someone else. And you do hope that they were painstakingly raised to be good citizens.

    • fiftyfifty1

      “Whenever anyone, man or woman (but it’s always a woman) starts talking about the “sacrifices” they’ve made for their kids,…”

      The reason it is only women is twofold:
      1. The Mommy Martyr social trope that makes this an acceptable, even stereotypical, conversation topic among women.
      2. The harsh reality that men, in general, don’t actually have to make sacrifices when they choose to reproduce.

  • Guesteleh

    OT but interesting: Indigenous people in Bolivia are suspicious of hospitals, have some of the highest maternal and neonatal mortality rates in the world. In 2013, 230 women and 36 babies died for every 1,000 registered births.

    • Elizabeth A

      There’s something wrong with the maternal/infant mortality rates there. They seem to come straight from the linked article. The reason it jumped out at me is that it presents a very odd ratio of maternal to neonatal deaths. Usually, women are more likely to survive labor and delivery than babies are. Their could be issues with reporting maternal vs. Neonatal deaths, particularly in cases of pre- or intrapartum stillbirth, particularly in communities where women give birth mostly assisted by family. I then went on to read the article, and found that the Aymara women who were the subject of the piece expressed the concern that the work time lost to healing from surgery would be a problem for them and their families. Surely, the loss of nearly a quarter of all pregnant women would be a bigger problem.

      Other sources put maternal mortality for rural populations in Bolivia at closer to 230 in 10, 000, which is still appalling, but far more probable.

      The author of the article seems to disapprove of the c/s rate for the hospital in Patacamaya, which is around 40%. That’s the kind of c/s rate that people hyperventilate about, but it’s possibly too low. The hospital supports a community in which women often plan to birth at home, and transfer to hospital only when things go wrong. Women in the community typically have many pregnancies, and the article includes multiple grand multiparas with advanced maternal age. The hospital is basically handling the highest risk deliveries, and often not getting hold of those until they’ve gone off the rails.

      Unfortunately, this leads to a cycle where women going to the hospital are more likely to have c-sections, and the community believes that c/s is inevitable in the hospital. The more patients try to avoid the hospital, the more likely they are to require c/s when they get there.

    • Elizabeth A

      The comments at the NYT are infuriating, btw. Dying in childbirth is fine if it honors your cultural context.

      • Guestelehs

        The comments are appalling. Babies dying is okay because they are indigenous. And then there’s the person who thinks it’s great because it takes care of overpopulation.

        Also, yes, those numbers are way off and I didn’t notice when I did the copy paste which is why I am not a scientist (I just work with them and should know better).

        • Elizabeth A

          Be fair to yourself there. The NYT has a gosh-darned fact checking staff that missed that one.

    • adelaide

      I lived in Tanzania for a while. In our village the women almost always preferred homebirth in dirt floored huts. Come to find out they avoided the hospital because there was not a private room for delivery. Adding a couple of private rooms for delivery to the hospital made a huge difference in the number of families willing to choose a hospital birth . Sometimes understanding the culture and community needs goes a long way.

  • KarenJJ

    “Women don’t need to fight to prove who has made the best decision. Everyone can be right at the very same time.”

    This. Plus I’d add that instead of fighting against options and support for other women, we should be fighting for more options, more choice and more ability to make choices.

    Instead of limiting formula we should be allowing women to make that decision for themselves. Instead of fighting against interventions in hospitals, we should be increasing options for them if they are an ethical and medically sound decision. Instead of fighting against daycare we should be increasing support for the care of young children. Instead of fighting against government funded leave for infant care we should be fighting for it.

    This would give women more ability to make decisions that are suitable for their families. There is no “optimal” way for a family to operate and we not be limiting our support to only those decisions that have worked for us.

  • peanutmama

    I am a SAHM and we do not consider it a luxury. It is a real necessity for our family. We are expecting baby #5 in september, and if i put all my kids except the eldest in daycare, it will eat up anything i make working out of home. my husband luckily makes enough money for us to live comfortably as a plumber, but me working out of the home is just too much for the familly. My children are very little still. And we homeschool. I am by no means woo-tastic, but it is just how it worked out for us.

    • Laura

      You’re where I was at about 5 years ago- but I had just had my 6th baby. I really enjoyed those years home schooling and being at home with all my babies and toddlers. But our finances necessitated a 2nd income and so I’ve had to shift gears. It’s been good in many ways. I can honestly say that every season with our family had had multiple pros and cons. I try to enjoy each season that we’re in. Best wishes to you, your family, and your next baby :).

    • gingergirl

      In the interest of finance and what I would reasonably earn at a “real job”, it made no sense whatsoever to have me working outside of the home. All my income would have gone to childcare – and that is with just two.

    • Ennis Demeter

      If we lived in the times of no birth control and unfettered fertility, most mothers would be in your position. I think about that a lot. I think your case is interesting because it shows how all over the map we humans all are, and how modern medicine reveals this. I would have been very, very unhappy if I had been a mother back in the days before long acting, reversible birth control. I only have one child, because for me it was really important to be able to live in a good school district, pay for her college education, and go on trips as a family once a year or so. I know how very lucky we are compared to most people in the world, but we are firmly in the middle class, and even one more kid would make the college and retirement funds out of the question. I also recognize that something is lost with a very small family, especially with an only child. It’s a trade off.

  • Kathleen Barney King

    In some ways it would be a “luxury”, We just can’t afford it. No amount of penny pinching would replace the 40k a year I make. On the other hand I love my job and am not sure I would enjoy being a SAHM. I went back to work when my son was 5 weeks old. He just turned 5. Everyone’s individual family is different and I think it gets forgotten. There is no one size fits all solution. The loss of my income would most likely mean my family would be close to homeless and struggling as my husband makes less than me. Losing his income would mean the same thing. I enjoy my job but even if I did not I absolutely do not have a choice other than working. People complain about working mothers and then they complain about people getting Section 8 and food stamps which is where my family would be without two incomes. Do what is right for your family and don’t judge someone else even if their life is different than yours. Staying home or working isn’t what defines someone as a good or bad parent.

    • Eloquently and rightly put.

  • Who?

    When you think of the people in the world who have no choice about anything-due to poverty, social or political conditions, war or whatever else it is-this is a grotesque conversation.

    Most of our kids, barring the rare accidents, illnesses or disasters that can befall us all, will grow up okay. Who knows how any of us might wield our silver screwdrivers given all our druthers all the time: we assume we’d do better or be happier, I’m not so sure.

    Eyes on the ball would look like calling out employers and professions that demand 70 and 80 hour weeks as routine; and also employers who maintain stables of casual workers they conjure up and stand down at will, destroying people’s capacity to plan and save.

    And how is day care still routinely-in my experience, unconsciously-regarded as a women’s issue?

    We’re wasting time and energy fiddling around the edges when there are so many big picture things that need attention. And we look self-absorbed and naive doing it.

    • theNormalDistribution

      And how is day care still routinely-in my experience, unconsciously-regarded as a women’s issue?

      This. So much this.

  • Are you nuts

    For it to be a choice is a luxury – many women are forced into one camp or another based on their circumstances. I love my job but there are days when I would like to drop it all and stay home with my munchkin. Lucky for me, I can do either and my smart husband will hardly weigh in because he wants me to decide without his influence. Now THAT is a luxury.

  • Puffin

    I stayed home for two years with my kids not by choice. My son had up to thirty hours a week of therapy for his early intervention and I couldn’t find a job that would either give me set evening shifts or flexibility to accomodate his services. It was not a luxury by any means.

    My kids are fantastic people and I adore them to pieces, but two years at home was a bit much for me. It felt very isolating and my mental health suffered greatly. I started university when my oldest started school, and everyone is happier since. I’m going to be a physician and have gotten criticism for pursuing such a time-intensive career with kids at home, which really annoys me because I know people don’t say the same sorts of things to dads who have gone back to school (I know several.)

    This pointless argument is yet another front on the mommy wars, a way for insecure women to put down other moms in an attempt to validate their own choices.

    • araikwao

      Kudos to you from another mother who is on the way to being a doctor, too! I echo the feelings of isolation, and the suffering mental health. My kids were poor and terrible sleepers, respectively, and I isolated myself more and more just trying to fix the sleeping problems, which really just improved with time and maturity. And I grew to hate housework more and more, because it felt like the only goal I had in life at that stage, and yet I still struggled to keep up with it, and when I did get it done that week, it was all waiting for me again the next..
      Anyway, good for you! We add diversity and maturity to our class, I think, and I’ve certainly found patients respond really well to someone a bit older and wiser. All the very best with your studies and managing life.

  • This – women need to understand we are individuals with different preferences and we critically need to support and enable each other to make the “Best choice” under the individual circumstances that are faced.

  • Sue

    In my view, the difference between “paid work” and “unpaid work” misses the point. You get paid for work if you trade it in the marketplace.

    You don’t get paid for looking after your own children, but you can earn a living looking after other people’s children.
    You don’t get paid for cooking dinner for your family, but you can earn a living cooking for others.
    You don’t get paid for mowing your own lawn, but you can earn a living mowing lawns for others.

    WHether you get paid for a particular task doesn’t validate the nature of the work – it’s whether you contribute that work to your own family (or collective) or whether you sell that work to others to earn money.

    • momofone

      Excellent point. My husband has stayed home since our son was born, and I work in my field. There isi no doubt that what my husband does is work; he never STOPS working, in fact. It wouldn’t work for everyone, but it’s exactly right for us.

    • But if you fail to do any of those things, you must pay someone else to do them. There is an implicit value in that work, and often that work enables someone else in the household to do what they do to a very high level.

      • guest

        Actually, many people fail to do these things but convince other people to do them for them for free. That was the traditional nuclear family model.

        • I wasn’t “convinced” — I volunteered to save my daughter more than half her income by taking care of my grandson [and before that, my granddaughter] until he will be a year old. Why? Apart from the sheer fun of it, I will never be able to help my children financially, and childcare in Israel for babies and the under-4s is hugely expensive. My daughter needed to return to work as soon as her government-funded maternity leave ended; in fact she needed to earlier, because she is the office manager for her husband’s business and is fairly indispensable. But the most important reason for going back to work three months after birth is that she simply was beginning to crawl up the walls, cooped up 24/7 with an infant. She hasn’t the personality for it. Being able to get away from the children occasionally makes her a far better mother when she is with them.

          • Who?

            That is a lovely story. I hope to be able to help my kids out the same way-assuming they and their partners are happy to surrender the grandchildren to me a bit. Many hands make light work, and I think being a grandparent (not too soon though) will be awesome.

          • It can vary. My daughter just dumped on me a Playmobile Shopping Mall that requires assembly and has at least 1000 parts. The instruction manual appears to have been written by a Chinese who thinks he speaks English, but did the translation when drunk or stoned. Granddaughter Shir’s 4th birthday is tomorrow…

          • Who?

            That guy writes a lot of manuals, I too have seen his work.

            Good luck with it and happy birthday little Shir!

          • Amy M

            My mom is able to do this for my sister, but couldn’t for me because we live 250 miles away from each other. 🙁 My in-laws are much closer to me, and my MIL was a huge help if the children got sick and couldn’t go to daycare, but the distance as well as her health issues made it so daily care was not an option. Your daughter is lucky that she has you there to help out.

          • One of the benefits of living in a very small country
            Although my non-grandchild-producing daughter lives in northern Israel, that’s only a 2 hour drive away, and my other daughter is here in Jerusalem, about 10 minutes by car from my house.

        • Guesteleh

          But that’s not free either. The traditional nuclear family in effect pays the wife in the form of food, shelter, some spending money and social status (now that I am married I realized just how much social capital women gain from being married). It’s not a matter of whether it’s paid, it’s a matter of how and who pays.

    • fiftyfifty1

      Speaking of the marketplace…For all the lipservice anyone may give to the implicit value of caregiving, the marketplace gives us an explicit measure of how much our society values it. The fact is that childcare workers, cooks and mowers of lawns command very little in wages. One can barely earn a living doing these jobs.

  • SF Mom & Psychologist

    Just to further demonstrate that we are all different… I feel that it is a true luxury to go to work 4 days a week! I am paid, people use manners, and I can eat/pee when I want! I recognize that I would feel differently if I had to work 40+ hours a week, or if I didn’t enjoy my work. I love my work and derive deep satisfaction from it. My hours are sane and I have pretty good work-life balance; I would make more money working more or at a different job, but I am privileged to choose be able to choose balance. We live in an expensive city, so we need my income. Even if that weren’t the case, for complex and deeply personal issues, I need to generate some income myself.
    For me, there is absolutely nothing “luxurious” about my days off at home – doing dishes, cleaning up my house, going through the mail, planning meals. It would also not work for my marriage if I were at home full time. I mean NO disrespect to SAHPs with this statement – it’s only a reflection of my own needs, feelings and experience.
    I suppose the downside to working is that I never feel like I’m nailing it on either end. I feel messy and imperfect in both roles. But it’s still the best choice for me/us.

    • Somewhereinthemiddle

      The *vast* majority of the women I know who have both a career and children feel the way you do. There are only a handful that suffer through working longing to stay home. For a variety of reasons, I have stayed home ever since becoming a parent and I am likewise happy with my choice. I must have awesome friends because it’s has been exceedingly rare for any of us to compare our life choices or say anything that isn’t extremely supportive no matter the choices/ circumstances.

    • Guestll

      I don’t have any friends who became or are SAHMs. We also live in an insanely expensive city. But I suspect there’s a lot more to it than that for most. None of them express longing to stay at home.

      I also feel like I’m never nailing it on either end. But I am learning to lower my expectations. 🙂

  • Kelly

    Yes, thank you. I have done both. I really hated working and having a kid and so when an opportunity presented itself, I took it and I stay home now. We did it for various reasons and my husband completely supports me. When he first started working on his job, his boss told him that we would not make it on one income. What she did not understand was that there are certain things that we are giving up in order to do this just like there are certain things she is giving up in order to have a career. I love that I have the opportunity to choose. I do not have to work in order to support feminism.

    • Wren

      I have been told many times that I am clearly not a feminist because I choose to stay home. When I say “stay home” at this point with both kids in school that means volunteering at the school 3 days a week, chairing our PTA and recently branching out into other volunteer opportunities. Nothing I do is paid, but it is work. If I did the exact same things I do now but was paid, and looked after someone else’s children after school and during school holidays, I suppose then I would be a good feminist.

  • HolyWowBatman

    Setting aside luxury and vocation, the real privilege lies in being a parent at all. And good parents who honor that privilege take care of their kids the best way they know how.

  • Gretta

    How would some stranger know what the heck led to the decisions my husband I made on how to parent our children? A stranger doesn’t know our strengths, our weaknesses, our finances, our histories, our experiences, our desires, or really anything pertinent about our lives. We made a choice, a choice that was best for our family.

    I absolutely 100% agree with Dr Amy. What you may see as either “a luxury” or “a job” for you may not (and probably does not) apply to me at all!

  • Bugsy

    The best line of a great post: “One woman’s choice tells us nothing about the validity of another woman’s different choice.” Bingo.

    I am a stay-at-home mom. By choice. I’m very grateful to have been given this choice. Had my husband not accepted a new job necessitating a cross-country move when our son was 4 months old, I would have gone back to work 2 months later.

    That being said, I have utmost respect for my friends and their decisions, working or not. Most of them do work full-time, and more power to them. What they’ve decided has no bearing on my family’s decisions…it’s just what works for us.

    • JJ

      Yes! I am a SAHM mom and one of my sisters works part-time and another sister full-time outside the home. We all made different infant feeding choices too! All our families are doing well and we all love our kids!

      Sometimes I do wish I could work some outside the home. The issue is that we are expecting our 4th child, my husband is self-employed with a variable schedule, and he makes 4X what I do per hour. It is very practical for me to be a sahm at this time in our life and I do enjoy it.

      • Somewhereinthemiddle

        We are hoping to have a 4th sometime soon too and I am a SAHM. I chose to do so and am quite happy with my choice. Part of that choice was doing the math on my household contribution and it would be a fraction of our total income, especially when factoring childcare for 3 children and all of the costs associated with a two income family. My husband also travels very frequently and when I realized that I would have the schedule of a working parent, the obligations of having a spouse without the benefit of their daily contribution, and have to single parent during the week, I thought “No, bloody thank you”. My husband makes about 5 times what I would make if were still employed.

  • Tosca

    I hate this argument. My late husband and I made the choices that worked for our family. The choices took into account our individual circumstances; income etc. Did our choices work for us? Hell yes.

    Other families look at their individual circumstances, and make different choices about what will work for them. Would those choices work for me? Hell no. Do they have to? Hell no.

    People should keep their damn noses out of other families’ business.

  • EyeHartHomonyms

    Can we all agree that (intentional) stay at home spouses without kids, at least, are insufferable when they complain?

  • guest

    From the point of view of this single parent, yes, it’s a luxury to be able to make that choice. I gotta say, I side with the first author. I will never refer to being a housespouse as a “job.”

    • Mac Sherbert

      It’s not a job in the typical sense, but as a SAHM I do look at it as my job. If I don’t look at it that way, I tend not to get things done because there is always tomorrow. Also, if my child were being cared for from 8-5 by a nanny that nanny would call caring for my child from 8-5 a “job”. So no I’m not getting paid to take of my kid, but if I wasn’t doing it someone else would be getting paid to do just that. Now do I think it’s as hard as my husband’s job? No. Is it as hard as being a sp. ed. teacher? No. Is it as hard as my mom had it working and raising kids? No.

      I think Mom’s who work have at least two jobs. Their job that pays them money and the job they do at home taking care of their family.

      • guest

        Taking care of my children when I’m not at work is not a job, and as I said, I’m never going to refer to not working as being a job. It’s not because one is better than the other, but because they are fundamentally different things. I stayed at home with my kids for eight months, and it in no way made me a childcare worker, nor do I “work” at a “job” all weekend when I’m with my kids.

        • Amy Tuteur, MD

          And who are you to decide whether other women are entitled to refer to caring for their own children as a job? Why do you think you have the right to judge other mothers for personal choices?

          • mostlyclueless

            “If you call a tail a leg, how many legs has a dog? Five? No, calling a tail a leg don’t make it a leg.”

            They can call it a job if they want, but it’s not a job.

          • fiftyfifty1

            And the harsh reality is that our society agrees with you on this. Social Security does not see it as a job. Potential future employers don’t see it as a job.

            Choosing to stay home to raise children is often an excellent choice for all involved. This is especially true if all goes well (no death, disability, divorce or downturn). And viewing it in your mind as a job so that you do your best each day is a great idea. But still, society doesn’t call it a job.

          • Guestll

            It’s the “if all goes well” that gives me pause. Not for me in particular, but…I saw any number of women from my mother’s generation for whom it didn’t go well. There’s a reason why in my affluent area, women over 60 make up the largest proportion of food bank users.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Yes, if a woman is contemplating leaving the workforce she would do well to have a Plan B for each of the scenarios. You can purchase insurance against death and disability. Not so for a divorce or downturn in husband’s job prospects, but there are still ways of planning.

          • Somewhereinthemiddle

            It is a job in the sense that if you fail to do it and do it properly, you run the risk of having a spouse stop supporting you financial and eventually divorcing you, your kids getting hurt or killed, or having your children taken away. If you don’t show up there are consequences. I tell people I wipe butts for a living.

          • fiftyfifty1

            This is true. But you can also extend the same argument to just about anything. Take sex. Most spouses wouldn’t stay in a sexless marriage. But that doesn’t make you a prostitute.

          • Somewhereinthemiddle

            Or does it? Lol. I wasn’t trying make the point that we should all run around saying we are employed in the traditional sense of the word. Approaching my work as a “job” helps me function better, feel better about the 8,935th (hyperbole) time that I am handling bedtime duties alone, the 15 meals I am serving up every day, the volunteer hours I feel obligated to perform for the school, and what feels like endless laundry all without the reward of financial compensation. I have a master’s degree, I have abilities that extand far beyond the function I am fulfilling in my family right now, and it does sting to feel the distain/ dismissal/ lack of importance in the real world right now. It *feels* better to me to approach things as the operations director to not get mired in inertia.

            That isn’t to say I am “employed” but to approach it as a job feels more empowering to me. I wouldn’t tell people that I have a “job” because no one pays me. It *feels* discrediting when people scoff at the idea that we don’t have a job to do. I get up everyday and do what I have to do and it includes very few opportunities for play-dates, meeting up with friends for coffee, shopping, leisure etc, just like those with full time employment. Make sense?

            I’m not suggesting that that means that our lives are similar or the same or that I do what you do or vice versa. Apples and oranges you know? I like my life and it is sounds like most of the employed women on here and in my life are pretty happy with theirs. Good stuff right?

            In any case, I don’t care what you guys call it or not. My world, my oyster, I do what I want. 😉

            P.S. I do have a job interview on Monday, eek!

          • fiftyfifty1

            “Or does it? Lol.”

            Well, there was a line of radical feminism back in the day that did try to argue exactly this.

            Best of luck at your job interview. Knock ’em dead!

          • Somewhereinthemiddle

            Thanks! We’ll see! Just hoping the job sounds interesting and the $ is something substantive. Otherwise it’ll cost me to go back to work and that just isn’t going to fly.

          • Cobalt

            Hey, if you’re submitting to sex purely or mostly for access to resources, that sounds a lot like sex work. I don’t think many marriages actually function that way though.

          • fiftyfifty1

            I don’t see anywhere where guest decides what other women are entitled to think or say. She simply states that she, for herself, is never going to refer to staying home as a job. From her perspective (single parent) these mommy wars between partnered SAHMs and partnered working mothers probably seem very silly.

          • guest

            Who are you to tell me that I have a job 24 hours a day? My job is my job. Whatever work I do outside of my job to take care of my family is NOT my job. It’s about what words mean, not a judgment of the choices women make (unless they’re making choices to redefine words stupidly, in which case we should all judge harshly and frequently).

        • just me

          And there’s the whole movement to refer to what we do as “working outside the home”. Gag.

          • Who?

            It’s better than ‘working mother’. Like ‘normal’ delivery it is (perhaps intentionally) judgmental.

            If anyone knows a non-working mother I’d like to shake that woman’s hand.

          • Cobalt

            Yeah, if you’re doing it right, it’s work. The type, amount, and return on investment may vary, but life with kids means work of some kind.

            Non-working mother could be a euphemism for those that neglect their children to pursue something negative. Like non-functioning drug addict parents. I can’t think of a positive context.

          • just me

            Well if job = work then working mother = mother with actual job.

          • Who?

            I don’t agree that ‘actual’ (in this context, another judgmental word btw) job is the only thing that=work, so…

          • Poogles

            “If anyone knows a non-working mother I’d like to shake that woman’s hand.”

            Eh, I don’t think you would want to shake my mother’s hand, and I would definitely consider her a non-working mother, as I was the one doing the daily care and “parenting” for my 3 younger siblings, while she slept off the alcohol until mid-afternoon and then parked on the couch to watch soaps and talk shows for the rest of the day.

          • guest

            Yeah, like SAHMs never take their children outside the home! The word “job” needs to be reserved to working for money. There is all kinds of work, but not all of it is paid.

            I’d be all for a more socialist democracy approach, though, where every full-time caregiver gets paid by the government. That isn’t what we have in the US, however, and I find it insulting when a SAHP says he or she has a job “just like” me.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Oh wouldn’t it be a happy day if fathers were routinely asked at dinner parties “So, do you work outside the home?”

          • momofone

            When our son was a baby, his dad took him to reading programs at one of our local libraries (he stayed home with him–sorry if that’s a repeat, just wanted to clarify), and it is very unusual for a father to stay home where we live. The mothers who brought their babies would tell me, “Oh my gosh, he is WONDERFUL! What a selfless/incredible/devoted/fill-in-the-blank man, to take care of his (!) son that way!” If it were me, it would have just been my job. He would say to them, “He’s my son.” (as in, of course I take care of him) And “you’re doing the same thing!” “Well, sure, but I’m the mother–it’s my job!”

          • fiftyfifty1

            Yes, the sexism is astounding isn’t it?

            Mothers just can’t win when it comes to work. If they have a job it must be for selfish reasons, because they can’t give up luxuries, or because they are cold hearted career bitches who shouldn’t have had children in the first place if they were just going to have them be raised by strangers. Mothers who stay home eat bon-bons all day and wallow in the luxury of it all.

            Fathers, in contrast, can hardly lose. Working fathers are heroes who keep a roof over your head and food on the table. Fathers engaged in childcare are practically saints.

            Or contrast what happens if a parent abandons a family completely. If you are a father, sure you are a dead-beat dad. But a woman? She’s seen as some sort of psychopath if she does that.

            The only way that men, perhaps, have it harder is if they really are the very domestic type who loves to stay home long term. Such a man may get a lot of flack –from his former colleagues, parents, you name it. Sure, he is a saint, but also something of a weirdo to accept such a degrading position full time. (Women are used to being constantly subtly degraded so it comes as less of a shock).

          • Amy M

            My husband would get this crap too. He was home with our children in the summers and then a couple days/week last year. He HATED it, so sexist.

          • araikwao

            So with this in mind, I ask women patients of childrearing age now if they do paid work as well. What do you think, is this ok, or is it insulting or anti-feminist in some way I haven’t realised?

          • Who?

            I guess it depends whether the answer is relevant to your more general line of inquiry (or it could be enquiry, my caffeine hasn’t kicked in). At one end of the spectrum, if she comes in looking exhausted and overwhelmed, you could ask how many weeks she crams into one, and how that time is divided, and it would be relevant.

            Asking it reflexively of women while never asking men of the same age-not that I assume you do that-probably bears reconsideration.

          • araikwao

            I may have assumed some knowledge of context – this is wrt asking women who are clearly already parents if they also have another occupation . It matters because of need for sick certificates for work (or not), and other activities of daily living that are impacted by their injury or illness which I need to take into account as fully as possible. The woman who has acute bronchitis and is a SAHM will be inconvenienced by the illness, but if she is also an oncology nurse it has additional impact. (that’s a completely made-up, off the top of my head example, and yes, I happened to think of a stereotypically female-dominated profession. Sorry in advance if that is annoying or offensive!)

          • Who?

            That all makes sense, and I see your dilemma.

            I guess the question could be ‘Will you need a certificate?’-which is the general question, and then ask about what the job is if the answer is yes. If it’s a no, the follow up could be ‘Okay, so you’re not working out of home?’ or, more flippantly (perhaps better for social contexts) ‘so you just work the 24 hours then?’. The latter shamelessly purloined from my notoriously dry GP in the UK.

            For instance my husband’s employer doesn’t worry too much about certificates if he is only away for a day or two, so he wouldn’t get one, but I’m sure the doctor asks him. My employer always liked us to get one if we went to the doctor. Mind you the husband has months of sick leave up his sleeve and I always used all mine up as carer’s leave for the kids, but that is another story altogether.

            Good luck with your study and training, I’m sure you’ll be an asset to the profession and your patients.

        • Sue

          All tasks can be “work” if we trade them for money. If you cook your family dinner you may not consider it “work”, but if you cook for others for a living, it is.

          It’s not the task – it’s whether it is done for your own people as part of normal life, or whether you do them for other people to earn money.

          • guest

            Work does not require monetary compensation. A job does. That’s why I don’t regard SAHM as a job, but nanny or daycare worker is.

  • Julia

    For many parents it is indeed a choice (yes, parents, not just mothers).
    But it’s only a choice if basic economic necessities are met. Moving to a cheaper apartment is not really a sensible option if it’s in a crime-ridden neighborhood. Forgoing a second income is not an option if it means not having enough money for food, shelter and clothing. It’s a privilege to have the choice.

    • Ennis Demeter

      I would go further: I think modern standards in our culture mean a safe and peaceful neighborhood, health care and a college education are the minimum for most of us. Most families need two incomes for those things. In fact, not enough of us give credit where it’s due: if it weren’t for working moms, the standard of living in this country and our economy would be WAY lower for most.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Not related to birth, but still relevant to parenting:

    http://t.co/v8xxiWsQ7G

    Very moving.

    • CrownedMedwife

      Thank you for sharing this.

  • Guesty

    Thank you for nailing it again, Dr. Amy. Life is hard. Make the best choices you can and quit needing other people to share them, respect them or even understand them.

  • Sarah1035

    I’m a college educated woman who who had a great career and tried going back to work after my first child was born, for about six weeks. I hated it. No amount of money was worth it to me. Yes we are taking a hit on employer retirement savings and my long term earning potential. But my husband was able to take a better job making more money in a different city and there are no arguments about who does more housework etc… It works for US. It would not work for a different couple with different personalities and needs. I do feel fortunate that I have this option as I realize many do not, but I don’t feel like it’s a luxury anymore than owning a home or car is a luxury even though many do not. Its just what works for us.

    • Ash

      Although it’s not necessarily a luxurious life, you had the luxury of choice. You did not have to choose between working and evicted because your family could not pay the rent. Your choices were way different than the woman who has to work in order to pay the rent, or safe childcare. Or the woman who cannot wrok because there are no employment opportunities.

      Your choices–leave paid workforce or stay in it both seem to be decent options–safe housing, safe childcare (whether with your family or childcare), and food security.

      • Ennis Demeter

        I have a job that lets me see the stories of mothers who truly have no choices sort of close up. I know of TWO cases of very poor moms who had to work, and also had to leave their babies with their boyfriends (not the fathers) while they were at their fast food jobs. In both cases, the babies died, one after being punched, one after being thrown. I am certain that those women let their loser boyfriends move in as a way to defray living expenses and hoped they would be decent babysitters.

      • Sarah1035

        The problem I have with the word luxery is it gets used against the stay at home parent, not the parents of a similar SES who both work. I would have had the same luxury of choice if I’d stayed working. So what is the point of self flagellation? Luxury is a loaded word that is used intentionally to make the stay at home parent seem frivolous as an expensive purse.

        • just me

          I think it’s the opposite. People assume us working moms must be doing it to support luxuries. I have had a nice male colleague tell me to my face that he and his wife made the choice to buckle down and do without some things so she should stay home bc it was so important. I mean this really is a nice guy and obviously he was clueless that he just insulted me. But really? I guess my kids just aren’t as important to me and I wasn’t willing to do without those luxuries of having a small house, eating out 4x year, saving for retirement, etc.

          • Jessica

            I’ve seen that accusation floated around too and it makes me stabby beyond belief.

          • Cobalt

            Was it really an insult? Just because it’s important to them to have a parent stay home doesn’t necessarily mean your colleague is insulting you for doing differently. I wasn’t there, but if it’s a person that is generally nice and not judgemental, they might have just been talking about themselves. They could have been being a clueless jerk, too, not ruling that out.

          • the wingless one

            I think when people phrase it, “it was just so important to ME/US” or something along those lines then that’s fine. But usually I just hear about how important it is not to put the kid in daycare, etc., with no qualifications that it was simply important to his/her own family. Most of the time it is actually people (who’ve never used daycare) talking about how terrible it is to put kids in daycare. Online I’ve gotten the whole, if you wanted to have a kid you should also take care of them properly by having one parent stay home to care for them.

          • just me

            Right. Even someone above made a comment about giving up some things. The implication is that if you are “choosing” to work you are *not* willing to tighten your belt and give up some things. You’re a selfish person who prefers her daily Starbucks and weekly meals out and fancy spa treatments (none of which I have or can afford).

          • Amy M

            Yeah, the old “stranger raising your kid” thing. Well, you pick a good daycare you are happy with, and within a week or two, the caregivers are hardly strangers. The first daycare our boys went to was a small in-home daycare, where a woman and her assistant (her daughter or DIL), took care of 6-8 children. That woman was basically a member of our family for a while there. I still miss her (she’s moved away).

          • fiftyfifty1

            Yes, the in-home daycare we used is a fixture in our community. The owner has been doing it for nearly 50 years, and now that her husband is retired, they do it together. Her fridge is covered with high school graduation pictures, wedding invitations, and Christmas cards from her now adult former daycare kids. She was such a great resource for us as parents. I don’t think that anybody has more practical knowledge about child development than she does.

          • the wingless one

            Exactly! My son LOVES his daycare, everything from his little friends, to the teachers (it’s 2-3 kids per one teacher so they get tons of attention), their dailiy “field trip” and fun activities they do (on Friday they did whipped cream art!). I was hesitant about sending him to daycare at first but I think for the type of kid he is he is enjoying it a lot more than being with me at home all day – they are able to provide soo much more stimulation than I would be able to think up on my own.

            I make significantly more than my husband and while we probably could technically try to make it work somehow and have me stay at home (or him, although that is a risky propisition since my health could take me out of the work force at any time), I really do believe that in our situation with our particular daycare, our current arrangement is best for our family.

            It’s weird because a lot of times those who are critical are the exact ones who will tell you “it takes a village.” Well our daycare workers are just part of that “village” and we love them!

          • Cobalt

            I have found the judicious application of daycare makes me a much better parent. Seriously.

          • Somewhereinthemiddle

            I hear you on this one even as a SAHP. I’ve been shamed for getting baby sitters, yes a babysitter. The pearl clutching “I would *never* leave my schmoopsies with a *stranger*!” annoys me to no end. I paid someone to watch my kids for FIVE days so my husband and I could enjoy a vacation alone together and it was fantastic. And I’ve heard the daycare distain too and it is terrible.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Yes, I find the “stranger” argument so bizarre. Once your children are 5 they will be cared for all day at school* by “stangers.” And later your children probably will go on to marry and live with a “stranger”. Just think, a “stranger” will be the other parent of your grandkids! Isn’t that shocking?

            * Perhaps homeschooling is just the logical outgrowth of insisting that no “stranger” must ever care for your child. I suppose the next step will be insisting that your children marry within the family?

          • Cobalt

            The Dugger girls’ relationships are constrained to only approved boys from approved families. They can’t pick from the normal pool, at least not without throwing off their parents’ control and approval.

          • Somewhereinthemiddle

            Although it isn’t limited to homeschoolers (I know a lot of them), those who adhere to AP/homeschooling/whatever crunchy philosophy seem to be more vocal about this opinion. I’ve turned my back on entire groups of people that I thought were friends because of these extreme and judgemental attitude. Turns out I don’t need friends like that. 😉

          • Mac Sherbert

            I’ll admit I didn’t like leaving my kid with “strangers” until he was able to talk. Once I knew he could communicate any issues I was fine with leaving with “strangers”. In fact, I was more than fine sending him off to preschool…go, have fun, make friends, learn, play and let mommy have some alone time.

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            See I don’t get that attitude. How is only seeing one parent most of of the day and maybe(if the parents live where they can easily visit friends) a small group of that parents’ friends or their kids, necessarily best for every kid? My daughter has been in day care since she was 6 weeks old, and while I do wish I could have had a longer maternity leave, she is a happy , well adjested, definitely well bonded 20 year old.
            And being at her nanny/babysitters home and then at 2 being in nursery/preschool actually was great for her in a lot of ways. There were bright, happy people teaching her how to get along with other kids, preschool teachers who taught her the basics of reading and math, and there were other kids to play with and do fun activities with.
            Being an only child, it was good because she learned she somethimes had to wait for a toy she wanted, that other childrens needs and wants were just as important as hers. It really made the transition to “real” school at 5 very smooth. She was used to interacting with a lot of people and also used to following the classroom instructions/being a member of a larger soceity.

          • the wingless one

            Yup, I have definitely run across this attitude as well. Always from people who don’t realize how insulting they’re being.

        • Cobalt

          “Luxury is a loaded word that is used intentionally to make the stay at home parent seem frivolous as an expensive purse.”

          I run into this a lot, and it really bugs me because I’m an at-homer and it certainly wouldn’t be my first choice all else being equal. This is the best meeting of needs to resources available to us right now, but it certainly isn’t frivolous.

        • guest

          It’s insulting not to recognize privilege, which is what a luxury is in this context. It’s something you have that others don’t, and I see it all the time in online parenting discussions. For example, making statements “owning a home is not a luxury” when there are so many families in the US – reading this very blog! – who cannot afford a home, for whom it very clearly IS a luxury. Owning a home is a good decision for many families, and we might say that it *shouldn’t* be a luxury, but reality says otherwise, and I find it rather cruel to act like it isn’t.

          • Sarah1035

            I did recognize the privilege when I said I knew I was fortunate to have those things. But when luxery is used to describe a stay at home parent I think it is being used to make stay at home parents seem frivolous as opposed to being a part of a larger discussion on class or wealth disparities. I would have the same privilege or even more if I choses to work, but no one would call me keeping my job a luxury.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Yes, the word luxury is used to patronize women whether it is used against SAHMs or mothers with jobs. Nobody ever talks about luxury when they are talking to men about their work.

          • Zen

            Preeeeecisely! Nobody goes up to a man and says, oh, you have a wife who stays home and runs your household/rears the children (OR goes to work to supplement your income and manages the selection of childcare), what a luxury for you!

          • fiftyfifty1

            No they never say those things. And they never NEVER say something implying that the father works because he can’t deprive himself of Starbucks or shoes or vacations.

            Men’s work is never seen as selfish. It is never seen as shallow. They are never expected to apologize for it. Nobody sits around analyzing their temperaments or belittling their work by explaining that “he just doesn’t have the right personality type to stay home” or “work is what he does instead of taking an antidepressant”.

          • araikwao

            Ha ha, I always think that when the perpetually-working surgeons mention that they have a couple of kids.

      • Somewhereinthemiddle

        If that it indeed the case, then financial stability is the luxury and is unrelated to whether both parents work or not. No need to make it about one or two income households.

    • guest

      Those are all luxuries. You just don’t want to admit it. It doesn’t make you a bad person to HAVE luxuries, but it kind of makes you a bad person to act like they aren’t luxuries, sorry.

  • Elizabeth Neely

    when you have an autistic child there is no choice involved…..my son needed me to be there for him. And I was, I have no regrets…

    • Mariana Baca

      That is a weird statement: there are many degrees of autism — some kids are in mainstream school full-time, or even special needs school full time, and don’t need a full-time SAHP. Some aren’t and need full-time parental care. Some can do well with hired care if it is available in the area. Sometimes the dad takes care of them. Sometimes the mom does. Some need care as little kids but not as adults. Some don’t. Some parents are single parents and need to work and make it work. Some are single parents and stay home and get assistance.

      The blanket statement: autism thus I have no choice ignores the reality that there are many different types of autism and many different life choices to be made.

      • Anj Fabian

        There is the choice that is not spoken of – the choice to give up a special needs child because you don’t have the resources to care properly for it.

        It’s a shame we don’t talk about that option because no matter how painful it is, it should be considered a valid option.

        Some of the tragic stories involving special needs children could have had different endings if the families had made that choice.

        • Cobalt

          Where do they go? When my son was at his absolute worst several years ago, I thought about what would happen to him if I failed, and no reassuring answer presented.

          • Anj Fabian

            Into government care usually, since private care is beyond the reach of most families.

            There is no “good” solution to most of these situations.

          • Liz Leyden

            My peds rotation was in a home for children with profound mental disabilities. Quite a few were wards of the state.

      • Kelly

        Not all areas have the same resources to deal with a child with special needs. My parents lived in an area that had amazing resources and had two schools for children with severe disabilities. They also had many centers for them to go after they graduated. The area I taught in didn’t. Our school had a classroom for the students with severe disabilities, after they graduated, there were no options for them. My Mom also stayed home because there were so many appointments that she had to attend for his medical issues. It was the right choice for our family.

      • Elizabeth Neely

        I dont owe you any explanation about how autistic my son was.. You are very judgemental about things and people you have no knowledge of. My son came out of and healed of his autism because of a few different reasons. 1 I stayed with him and protected him from people who did not understand him. 2. I discontinued all vaccinations because they were making him have seizures and psychotic episodes 3 I prayed and pray for him every single day. Unlike Modern women who think that their career is more important than the relationship they have with their families I devote myself to my family. I was the Child of a career woman and it sucked. We got small crumbs of leftovers of her love because we were not her priority, money was. I swore not to do that to my children because I know how it made my siblings and I feel. in a word UNWANTED.I took my son to special ed classes from the time he was 1 year old 3 days a week. He was sick constantly and was profoundly deaf from the severe weather conditions of Michigan. I took him to California by myself. I drove from MI to CA by myself with a 2 year old so that he would not be sick all the time. I worked harder than most parents ever will. Did I have a choice?? not in my book, because once you are a parent your childs need are more important than your own. and by the way he is going to college to be a computer programmer and network administrator.

    • Cobalt

      I stopped working away from home because I have a kid with special needs that daycare can’t accommodate. We ended up saving money because our childcare and my work expenses, plus the extra buying we did because no one had time to do it at home turned out to be more than my income. We were paying for me to work, and my son was suffering for it.

      I just wish I was more into it. It was the right choice overall, but I was happier for me when I had a job.

      • Mac Sherbert

        This seems to be fairly common for parents with special needs kids that require lots of extra care. You had to sacrifice something you loved for something you loved even more (your son).

    • guest

      And what would you have done if you were the only parent, and the only income for your family? Let your son starve because you had “no choice” but to stay at home?

      You made a good choice, but it was still a choice that not everyone has.

      • Amy Tuteur, MD

        Single parents make choices, too, including for some the CHOICE to be a single parent.

        • ArmyChick

          Some single parents yes. But I have a feeling it is not the majority nor close to it.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            For most women (not all), it’s a choice to have sex. For most women (not all), it’s a choice to use birth control. For most women, (not all), it’s a choice to forgo a termination.

            Often people shed responsibility for bad decisions by claiming that they didn’t have a choice, when in reality they did.

          • Julia

            Women AND MEN chose to have sex and whether or not to use birth control. Then when the man involved does not take responsibility and the woman ends up raising the kid as a single parent it somehow becomes *her* bad decision?

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            I’m not sure what the man’s decision has to do with the fact that the woman can be held responsible for her own decisions. It’s not a case of “I had no choice.”

          • guest

            Wow, that’s some crazy misogynist talk there. Yeah, women can (usually) choose not to have sex and therefore avoid the possibility of becoming pregnant and having the responsibility of finding an abortion provider, an adoptive family, or raising a child. That’s how we used to justify shaming women who had sex outside of marriage, and how men got out of having to provide support for the children they fathered through the same sex act. That’s how ultra conservatives try to justify banning abortion and contraception. And it’s not remotely okay.

        • guest

          That’s right, but choices aren’t made on a level playing field, that’s the root of the problem here.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            And often people who make bad decisions try to shed responsibility by claiming that they didn’t have a choice or they didn’t have the same choices that another woman had. That doesn’t change the fact that they made the choice; it wasn’t imposed on them by forces beyond their control.

        • just me

          I don’t get that whole movement. I mean, I getting choosing to be a single mom although I would find it too hard and risky. What I don’t get is why SMCs feel the need to point out that they chose it to everyone. It’s as though they want to make sure they aren’t mistaken for one of those lesser single moms, heaven forbid. Seems kind of insulting to those single moms who didn’t get that way by choice.

          • guest

            There are a few reasons. First, it is to counter the idea that single motherhood is a negative, but the intent is not to glorify it over those who had it befall them. It’s more to say “this is something that people actually choose freely” – which was, after all, a really novel thing not so long ago. But it’s also to fend off attacks from people who think women who choose single motherhood don’t deserve the sympathy that other single mothers do. If we call ourselves SMCs, we can’t be accused of trying to gain sympathy for our “plight” (not that I’m saying other kinds of single mothers want that or are doing that – it’s a reaction I’ve gotten. There are people who think SMCs don’t deserver the same sympathy or benefits as other single mothers. I make no comment on that here – I just prefer to not be accused of being duplicitous).

      • Mac Sherbert

        Actually, having taught at special needs title one school I can tell you that some single parents with special needs children do make the choice not to work.

        • guest

          If they have the economic resources to do so, that’s great that they have that choice. But not everyone does. So it’s not “no choice.” It’s a choice. Sounds like a good choice to me, but still a choice, and not one that’s available to everyone.

          • Cobalt

            Some parents can’t choose an income that pays the expenses of earning that income. If childcare expenses (and special needs kids can have very high expenses) are higher than earning potential, there’s not a real choice.

          • guest

            Yeah, that’s a choice like starving to death is a choice, which was my original point. Someone who is able to stay home to care for a child and NOT starve had options others don’t. The idea that anyone could stay at home to care for their child if they really wanted or needed to is bullshit.

          • Mac Sherbert

            They lived completely off welfare. It was a choice they made.

          • guest

            Welfare is not actually a choice available to everyone.

          • Mac Sherbert

            They lived off welfare. It was a choice they made because they determined that was what was best for their situation.

      • AlexisRT

        Actually, some parents of special needs children are left with NO choice. Truly, no choices. Their children cannot go to daycare, and care that can handle their child (not just autism but serious physical disabilities, e.g. kids who really require a nursing level of care) is too expensive or unavailable.

        There’s little safety net in the US for these families.

      • Somewhereinthemiddle

        Please, NO ONE is suggesting that everyone has the choice to work or not. Will you *please* stop making the implication that anyone is bitching or or complaining about their station in life? We are *all* aware that painful need exists and that it is horrible. I’m just going to make the assumption that almost everyone on here has some measure of luxury because we have to time and resources to read and comment on a birth related blog. Can we step back from the asumptions and shaming? Geez.

        • guest

          How is telling someone that they made a good choice shaming them? The problem is that when people act like in a given situation there is “no choice” involved when very clearly there was. Elizabeth Neely didn’t say “my son’s autism left me no choice,” she said when ANYONE has an autistic child, none of them have the choice to work outside the home, which is factually untrue.

          It’s probably just bad writing, but it’s bad in a way that insults and hurts other parents who made different choices, or who do not have the luxury of making that choice.

          • Somewhereinthemiddle

            I am assuming that you are the “guest” above lecturing everyone above about privlege, owning a home, luxury, calling talking care of your family a job vs. employment, choice vs. no choice, etc. Hard to tell when people go by “guest” who is saying what. I’m suggesting that the lectures about all of those topics assuming those here don’t understand those concepts is annoying and shaming.

  • Alenushka

    I think it is misleading to call it a choice.At lease, we can’t consider this decisions matter of choice for all. It is a choice for people who have certain degree of financial resources and education but it is not choice to many families. I know many women who would rather work but since US does not have affordable day care they can’t. The day care would eat up most of their earning. So, these women stay home and they are dependent on their partners. Thing turn ugly when the partner becomes abusive, disabled or simply leaves them for a better younger version. There also women who would like to be home but their job is the only that provides health insurance coverage . So, they are stuck working even thought it was their dream to take 2-3 years off.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      `It’s a choice nonetheless. There is more at stake than money. The fact that some people consider money the controlling variable is their choice.

      • Alenushka

        I disagree. If one wants to work to earn money for a vacation or second car, then yes, it is true choice. It one must have a job for provide rent and basic food, then is not true choice. It is a necessity. Either way, I do not really care why people want to stay home or work. I am tired of hearing who is working harder. Long term studies I read showed that it does not really matter if mom stayed home or not. What works for one family or one woman, would not work for another. Continuing working was a 100% right decision for my family.

        • Amy Tuteur, MD

          What seems like “no choice” to one family may be a reasonable choice for another family. Beyond food and shelter, we all have different ideas about what is a necessity. Some people feel comfortable being “poor” and others find it intolerable. Some women are in relationships where the partner uses money as a form of control and need to be able to earn money to protect themselves; other women have partners who consider the family a team and all the money belongs to both partners.

          There are just so many different variables that it doesn’t make sense to argue whether a woman “needs” to work or whether staying home is a “luxury.” That’s the only point I was trying to make.

          • Alenushka

            There is poor as in a small apartment with simple food and then there is “homeless”, CPS taking your kid away, getting food from the garbage. I know, for most of the posters here it is hard to believe that sometimes there is not choice. I wish media move on from this ridiculous discussion of SAHM vs WOMH and into “Why as we society we care so little that we do not provide quality day care or universal preschools”?

          • Roadstergal

            This, absolutely. Our work provides on-site high-quality child care, and it makes the decision to work and raise a child a more reasonable one for the mothers and fathers I work with. And all I can think is – why isn’t there a law that every workplace has to offer this?

            Yeah, it cuts into my bonus, but it improves the world I live in.

          • KarenJJ

            “I wish media move on from this ridiculous discussion of SAHM vs WOMH and into “Why as we society we care so little that we do not provide quality day care or universal preschools”?”

            That was awesome. That is what it means to me. Babies and little kids need someone to care for them. There is no choice in that and it is an issue for society, not just individuals.

          • Ennis Demeter

            That’s true, but I still think we need more women in the workforce. We need women doctors, women police, women lawmakers. In addition, women’s economic power is not just a matter of choice and alternatives, it’s matter of women’s status in the world. Remember, the real golden rule is who has the gold makes the rules. When most wage earners and asset owners are men, things are bad for women and girls.

        • Liz Leyden

          Years ago, I heard about a study that evaluated the emotional health of children, and considered not only whether or not the mother worked outside the home, but whether or not she wanted to. The kids who did best had working moms who wanted to work and SAHMs who wanted to stay home. In the middle were children or working moms who wanted to stay home. The kids who did worst had SAHMs who wanted to work.

    • Ennis Demeter

      The self protective thing is to keep working. Even if most of the check goes to childcare, some if may not, and seniority and retirement benefits should be a part of the equation. I know it’s cynical, but women close to me were divorced in their 40’s, and then suddenly “their” money was “his” money, and the men fought tooth and nail to keep everything. Yes, they received divorce settlements and are not penniless, but their exes are earning more every year than either of the women received as a settlement, and the women are hoping to hold on to their new jobs and living in smaller quarters, hoping their exes will pay for college (they don’t have to).

  • EllenL

    I think we only make a mistake if we feel superior in our choice, our decisions or our situation.

    • Mac Sherbert

      Right. When you compare you lose. Choices need to be made on what is best for your family. The choices that are right for your family might not work for a different family.

  • Sprite

    I agree with this. But, one thing that is missing from the list of factors and from the conversation is the woman’s self-actualization. It is not just about money that people work for, but somehow, it does not even make women’s lists of why they work. Perhaps it is because money, lifestyle goals or anything that directly contributes to the family’s financial well-being are acceptable goals, but other more philosophical reasons are considered too selfish? I am an attorney, not just a woman and a mother and a wage-earner, and it is important for me to continue practicing. It is part of what I am. I enjoy it, what I do is interesting and important, and my life should not just be reduced to a choice over whether to make money or not.

    • ArmyChick

      You are right but somehow women are made to feel ashamed about having career goals and gasp, even enjoying working! I know I have been looked down on for having a toddler, working AND going to school (one more year to go). It has never bothered me; I find it quite comical… But that’s because I come from a family of very educated women who had kids and careers and never felt bad about it.

      Men have children and work and nobody bats an eye.

      • Ennis Demeter

        Take heart- it only lasts for a few years, and then even the stay at home moms are scrambling to find paid jobs again. Parenting very young kids is really intense, but gradually they need less of your time and more resources, like a college fund.

        • Ash

          As Dr. Amy said–what works for one family may not work for another. Some people will attempt or desire to get into the paid workforce, others no.

          • Ennis Demeter

            But look around and tell me what adults stay permanently out of the workforce after having children. I know one woman, and she was never in the workforce at all. Even my wealthy SIL re-entered the workforce after raising her five kids. Perhaps in a very wealthy family a SAHP may do non-profit work, but I daresay that is limited to a very few. For most families, leaving all of the considerable costs of college and older children to one person is untenable and unfair. That’s basically retiring in your 40’s or 50’s, just when your husband is hit with a huge financial burden.

          • just me

            My lazy SIL did. Oh right she homeschooled. Then “retired”.

          • ArmyChick

            My boyfriend’s mother hasn’t worked in over three decades. The husband is the one who earned all the money (he was enlisted in the Air Force so by no means wealthy). The boyfriend told me she regrets not getting an education and holding down a job. Her youngest child is my boyfriend and he is 30. Unfortunately, her daughter went down the same path and had 3 kids with a very abusive man. She just re-entered the workforce and is living on public housing because she has no marketable skills and no education. The father is a deadbeat who pays no child support.

            I think women need to think long and hard before they become financially dependent on another human being, with or without children. At least get an education so you have something to fall back on if you and your children end up depending on you only. That is the least you can do for your them. It is the responsible thing to do as a parent.

          • Ennis Demeter

            I totally agree. A degree protects you. Not as much as seniority and a job, but it still protects you.

          • Guestll

            I lived in another country for 5 years and worked in that country. Came back to my own country and could not find a job in my field (I have two grad degrees) for close to a year. Granted, I came back during a recession and I did do paid consulting work, but yeah. There are no guarantees. Leaving the workforce and returning, even with a degree or specialization in your field, can be very tough.

          • Liz Leyden

            My mother had a teaching license that was supposed to be permanent. She left teaching after her oldest (me) was born. She had various part-time jobs, but considered herself a homemaker. When my father left, the state had just decided that all teachers had to have a Master’s within 5 years of licensure, and no one was grandfathered. Mom could have taught in a private school, but without money for a Master’s her teaching license was useless. We ended up losing our home. This was back when failure to pay your mortgage was considered a serious moral failure, and a lot of people in my small town shunned us.

            I didn’t plan to be a SAHM, but my job is more flexible, day care for twins is very expensive, and my daughter’s heart problem means she can only do family day care, with a maximum of 6 kids, including 2 infants. Finding 2 infant slots in a family day care has proven impossible. I work about 20 hours a week, mostly on weekends, to maintain my license. Fortunately, my husband’s job has great benefits.

            My state has a practice requirement for nurses, and failure to work enough hours can mean losing your nursing license. A colleague of mine who works per diem, and developed health problems, ended up out of work for 3 months when the state refused to let her renew because she hadn’t worked enough hours. She had to take a refresher course and work a number of hours with a supervisor to get her license back.

          • Ennis Demeter

            Those requirements for teachers to re-enter the workforce really piss me off. It’s a field dominated by women, and they lose many of their members because you have to have the time/money to get a masters after raising kids. That nursing thing is B.S. as well. I’m curious- do MD’s have to take refresher courses if they are out for only three months?

          • Mac Sherbert

            Yes. Maintaining my teaching certificate has been a pain! I already have a master’s and I have had to take two master’s level courses to maintain my certificate, plus lots of professional development hours. The professional development hours I can generally find for free, but paying for master’s level courses that aren’t’ even in my teaching field is ridiculous.

          • emkay

            no, the RESPONSIBLE thing to do as a [arent is not to abuse your spouse and abandon your kids. How dare you blame women for not assuming responsibility for their ADULT partners. disgusting.

          • fiftyfifty1

            It’s possible to blame parents for abandoning their families while at the same time, encouraging SAHPs to have a back-up plan. Having a back-up plan is indeed the responsible thing to do.

            I blame drunk drivers. At the exact same time I have bought a car with airbags, I wear my seatbelt and I strap my kids in their car seats. That way, if a drunk driver hits me, we have a chance of surviving.

            See how that works?

          • ArmyChick

            And since when is that the only reason behind why marriage ends?

            You are preaching to the choir. I was married to a man who was abusive; mentally, verbally and physically. He ended up in jail after he attacked me. I was able to leave that relationship and never look back. I was financially independent from him. Thank GOODNESS.

            Marriages end for several reasons and a lot of women stay in abusive, unhappy marriages, because they are not financially independent and feel trapped. I know a handful of women who stayed married because they didn’t have anything to fall back on. No plan B. Nothing. Yes, it is their fault for not planning better. They were adults and the responsible thing to do is to always have a plan B. You can’t predict the future and to think nothing will ever go wrong in your life is naive and silly.

          • ArmyChick

            By the way, my daughter’s father up and left shortly after her 1st birthday….but we are okay because I have a job and an income (he doesn’t pay child support because he doesn’t think the law applies to him). But at the end of the day I’m glad – I – have an income to keep us afloat. Over 50% or men who are ordered to pay child support don’t pay it at all or underpay it. I am not naive to think that men will always put their children first. The statistics prove otherwise and I am not willing to gamble my daughter’s well-being. Never have and never will. And that is the responsible thing to do. Everything is fine and dandy until it isn’t.

          • Dr Sarah

            It’s not about blame, it’s about self-protection. If you don’t support yourself – if you’re financially dependent on your partner – then you are going to find it much more difficult to get out of a bad situation, and you’re going to face a lot of extra problems if your marriage ever breaks down. Those situations won’t be your fault, but that won’t change the fact that an already-difficult situation will be made more so, and that it’s better to at least avoid that aspect of it by making sure you’re always in a good position to support yourself financially. *That*, I think, was ArmyChick’s point.

          • Ash

            I don’t know how much of the employment numbers are TRULY people “opting out” (there’s a very nice article called “Opting Out, Pushed Out” though). In addition, unemployment numbers do not capture people who have decided to stop seeking employment because they haven’t been able to find anything.

            We do know that as little as 6 months out of the paid workforce can make it extremely hard to find work, no matter your gender, and things get more dire if you are disabled, do not have postsecondary education, or you are a person of color in the USA.

            Someone who has not been in the paid workforce for many years may not re-enter the workforce because there’s no one who will hire them.

          • Liz Leyden

            My wealthy brother-in-law’s wife never worked again after their first child was born. He made enough money to support all of them in increasingly expensive parts of San Diego. She manged house and kids, he managed the finances. One kid is now in law school, one is trying to get into law enforcement. It worked for them.

          • Ennis Demeter

            Did it every occur to you how heavy the burden is on the wage earner in those families? Yes, it worked for them, but at what cost to the person who shouldered the entire burden of being the sole provider?

          • momofone

            As the wage earner in my family, it can be a heavy burden, but it’s one I choose. It isn’t one that was foisted upon me without my agreement. The person staying home has a heavy burden as well. (I actually don’t think there’s a way to not have a burden at all; I think it’s a matter of choosing the one(s) that work best for a particular situation.) We fall into the living very frugally category, but it works for us.

          • Liz Leyden

            I was the family breadwinner for a few years, so I’m aware that it’s a burden. Her husband was willing to shoulder that burden.

          • Allie

            As long as it’s freely chosen by both parties, having a stay at home partner can be a huge luxury… For the working spouse! At least once the kids are no longer tiny. I know my dad missed those days of home-cooked meals and a spotless house once my mom went back to work.

        • PenFox

          Thank you for this comment. I know it won’t resonate with everyone, but it resonates with me (and my *choices*). I’m in the thick of it, with two young kids and two full time jobs in my household. Today, I feel like quitting my job because I’m just spread too thin, but I keep telling myself that I want to play the long game, and know that working in the future will be the right thing for me. I’m too scared of the challenges of re-entry in my chosen field, so here I am, hoping that we make it through parenting two toddlers with enough reserve left to make the most out of the years ahead.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Hang in there PenFox. It’s a few years of scrambling and being spread thin, and then voila, all of a sudden they can all wipe their own butts, and they can mind themselves for an hour without a babysitter, and then you can breathe and a new wave of energy hits and you remember even your hobbies, and your job seems much more exciting and not just a drag, and it’s like meeting your spouse for the first time all over again. Somebody told my husband “It will be magic when your youngest child reaches age 5”. And it turned out to be true.

      • Sarah1035

        Women are also made to feel ashamed if they have a degree and then choose to stay home and are happy doing so.

        • fiftyfifty1

          Although not half as ashamed as men are made to feel if they make the same choice.

          Our society views holding a job to be an essential part of being a full adult citizen. People who don’t are given less respect whether it is the poor, the disabled, the elderly, or the stay-at-home parent. They are seen on a largely unconscious level as lesser. For women this may be OK, because society views them as less adult and less capable anyway. But for men to willingly put themselves in this position is still very rare. Even more than emasculating, they see it as infantilizing.

          • Ennis Demeter

            You are right. Also, men don’t get to wonder how to make their lives meaningful by filling their hours with volunteering and helping out at the school, etc. They are expected to provide the funds. I think a lot of SAHP’s underestimate the simmering resentment that the wage earners can accumulate over the years.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Also, men don’t get to wonder how to make their lives meaningful by
            filling their hours with volunteering and helping out at the school,
            etc.

            Like this?

      • fiftyfifty1

        “Men have children and work and nobody bats an eye.”

        Yep. No bullshit conversations about “luxuries” or “choice” or guilt ridden confessions about “shortchanging both my job and my family”. The fact that women are expected to have this conversation again and again, while men are never expected to have this conversation, is pure sexism.

    • Roadstergal

      This, exactly. My mom tried the SAH thing with my oldest sister – and just couldn’t take it, for her mental health. She worked with my dad to get her doctorate (it was expensive, they had to sell their nice house and re-locate to a worse area) and re-enter the workforce, balancing four kids along the way, because it was critical for her self-worth to be a scientist and to do the work she believed in. And the fact that she found this important enough to fight for and work for was a powerful lesson for her youngest daughter, for sure. I wasn’t APed or anything like that, but I don’t think any amount of co-sleeping or carrying me in a sling (gasp, I had a crib and a stroller!) could have made me more welded to her or more adoring of her.

      • KarenJJ

        Same. I kinda joke that my job has saved me from years of SSRIs, but to be honest I’m not really joking. I really wouldn’t have coped as a SAHM. It’s not humble-bragging, I just really needed the headspace my job gives me, I needed the structure in my day. I wasn’t coping without that.

        • Kelly

          Even though I feel differently, there are still times I miss having a job. I was at the store listening to the employees bantering and laughing and I missed it.

    • Amy M

      My husband was a part-time SAHD, off and on, for the first few years of our children’s lives. He was a teacher, so he stayed home with them in the summers. Then, 3yr ago, he got laid-off and decided to go back to school for a career switch, so we’ve been on my income alone (plus savings). We still had the children going to preschool several days/week, for everyone’s sanity, but husband had them the other days. (Now they are in kindergarten)

      Basically, what all this taught us was 1) even though we really can’t afford to go too long wo/a second income, his income is easier to live without than mine and 2)as much as he loved having that time with the boys, he very much wants and needs to have a career and be out in the world, interacting with adults. I also want to be working, so I never begrudged him his SAH-time, though I do wish I could work 4 days/week instead of 5 or leave an hour earlier every day or something.

    • Mac Sherbert

      Even as a SAHM I can relate to what you are saying. I was a teacher and even though I’ve been a SAHM for 7 years I still think of myself as a teacher. I still keep up all my professional development and keep in touch with teacher friends. It was a very hard adjustment that first year I wasn’t getting a classroom ready! Honestly, I don’t think women win either way. I want to be in the classroom, but if I were in the classroom I would want to be with my kids.

    • just me

      Plus, as attorneys, we know it’d be almost career suicide to take a few years off in our field.

      • Allie

        Depends on what kind of lawyer you are I suppose. I know several who’ve taken years off (including my own mother) and gone on to be very successful.

    • Medwife

      I am lucky enough to have a career that means the world to me. It doesn’t pay great but it makes for some extra, after paying for child care. But I worked really hard to get my education and training, and I love what I do, and leaving it would be heartbreaking. My family could certainly survive without my paycheck but I’d be pretty miserable to live with 🙂

    • Lisa Murakami

      I don’t see this as missing; I see it as inherent in Dr. Amy’s point that everyone is making their own personal choice. I “was” a lawyer – practiced 3.5 years before staying home. I find my days at home far more enjoyable and meaningful *to me – not to anyone else* and that’s why I do it. Choosing to stay home in spite of having been raised to see it as an “unfeminist” choice *is* my self-actualization. I’m living life the way I best enjoy my time, being who I am. I think it’s fantastic that other women find that in their careers. The idea that we would all be drawn to the exact same life is akin to saying we are all the exact same person: patently false. Plus, it takes a village – you’re showing my daughter that if she wants to continue working through motherhood, it can be great for her… and I’m probably going to end up lending more of a hand at school and carpooling, and watching kids after school (I’m told). To each her own!

  • mostlyclueless

    I am grateful for Pardue-Schultz’s piece. As a working mother I am sick, sick, sick to death of hearing SAHMs tell me their job is harder than mine (I quote a friend: “being a stay at home parent is 1000x harder than being a working parent”).

    I agree that both are valid choices, the choice to do both depends on many factors, and neither is inherently better or worse.

    But I do think it is harder to balance paid work with being a good parent than to just do one of those — either one. I wish SAHPs could just acknowledge that instead of constantly competing in the “who has it harder” Olympics. However difficult being a SAHP is, try getting all your housework and self-care done before and after working a full day, commuting and doing daycare dropoff/pickup.

    And I want to vomit on the next person who tells me what a luxury it is to be able to have a cup of coffee in peace or take a leisurely lunch hour — or who tells me how lucky I am to have adult conversations, as if placating my boss or sitting in interminable meetings is some kind of fun social event.

    Again, I think being a SAHP is a good choice for some families. But it’s not a job. Pardue-Schultz is right.

    • ArmyChick

      I agree 100% with you.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Why do you care whether anyone says their job is harder than yours?

      • just me

        Maybe bc we are just so bloody tired and stressed and in some cases wishing we had the luxury of staying home with our kids when they’re young or having time to actually vacuum or clean the bathroom and we get irritated when we hear of women who CAN do those things complaining they have it as hard as we do.

        Just as how I can imagine someone not as privileged as me (eg single mom works 3 fast food jobs has to ride the bus and put kids in not so good daycare) would be irritated if I claimed I had it as bad as her.

      • Ennis Demeter

        People care a lot when their parenting is called into question.

      • mostlyclueless

        Maybe annoying things don’t annoy you. They annoy me.

      • fiftyfifty1

        Maybe for the same reason that moms who bottlefeed are sick of being told they took the easy way out?

    • Mac Sherbert

      As a SAHM I have never thought I have it worse than a mom who is working. I grew up with a Mom that had to work and I know how hard it is. I figure if I have trouble keeping up with laundry now how on earth would I get it done if I were working.

      I do envy getting to have adult conversations, but I was a teacher and the conversations I miss are those I had with my best friend across the hall everyday. I’ve also worked in an office and I don’t miss those adult conversations. 😉

    • FormerPhysicist

      I’ve done both. I personally find being a SAHM much harder. Vomit away.

      • Amy M

        Harder in what way? I know from my brief maternity leave, that I would find being home harder too, not because taking care of the children is especially difficult, but because of the boredom and isolation factors. I know lots of SAHMs find groups of other SAHMs and they aren’t bored and isolated, but I’m pretty introverted in real life, and not the pinterest type either, so doing crafts with small children all day isn’t my cup of tea either. And of course if there are severe special needs children involved, that is a whole other situation.

        • just me

          I think the first few mo with a newborn espec one that doesn’t sleep IS harder. But not after that. Technically I was a SAHM for 5 mo with one and then two kids.

      • Staceyjw

        I couldn’t agree more. My job was a breeze compared to being a SAHM. Just being able to leave work at work was an improvement, where being a SAHM has meant 24/7 with no breaks (no cash for help, no gamily, husband is 0 help w kids). At work, I got to go to nice lunches and talk with cool people, it was easy overall. The money was nice, and I had some status.
        It was just easier to work.

    • Somewhereinthemiddle

      I really don’t think it is up to you judge who has a “harder” position. As a SAHP, I don’t put much energy into contemplating who has it worse. This may be just the folks that I know but the women (who are admitedly higher on the income scale) have nannies who keep their kids, people who clean their houses, people who do home repairs for them, take long lunch hours, and enjoy expensive vacations while someone else cares for their kids. I’ve chosen not have those things to stay home. I’ve had those very same women tell me that they *enjoy* going to work every day and that often work is easier than being home with kids. These are women who tell me that they *could* stay home with their spouses income. So tell me, who has it harder? The answer is WHO CARES. There are way too many factors and scenarios to make broad, sweeping generalizations. I personally do not want to go to work and have the choice to do so. I’m quite happy that the women around me have a choice and are *happy* with those choices and feel no need to do the ridiculous who has it harder game.

      • just me

        See… You’re making assumptions. I don’t have/can’t afford a nanny, help with housework, long lunch hour ( I have flex so I can pick up my kids in time to still have dinner/bath/bed = no lunch hour), expensive vacations. You’re implying that by choosing to work I have all those things and won’t give them up and that’s why I work. I don’t have those things! Gah I hate this attitude!

        • the wingless one

          I feel like I’m just going down this thread and agreeing with all your comments but seems like we are just in the same type of situation! I don’t have a nanny, although we do pay to have the house cleaned professionally every couple months just because everything starts feeling really sticky and looks discolored after awhile. My husband spends his weekends/free time doing our home repairs himself. I work market hours so I’m up early and done with my work day by 3 so can pick up my son on time from daycare (and then swing back and pick up the hubby from work too). I also get no lunch hour just due to the nature of my job (market based which means on busier days there are times I can’t even leave to pee with any sort of regularity). We do like to go on vacations but certainly not with a nanny or au pair! We can’t afford that.

        • Somewhereinthemiddle

          Absolutely not. I was simply stating that you don’t speak for all working parents and that some feel quite differently than you. Some do not feel that their situation is “harder” than that of a SAHP. It would be ridiculous for anyone to assume that all working parents have that sort of set up. Don’t put words in my mouth.

          • Somewhereinthemiddle

            And you know what attitude I hate? “My life is harder, no MY life is harder, no MY life is harder…”. Truth is, if you have the “luxury” of coming here and having the time and energy to comment, your life just *isn’t* that hard, period. No way of getting around that. Or you know, we can just all sit around keeping score and out martyring one another.

          • Who?

            Suffering competitions attract a particular kind of crazy.

            I once sat at a mummies morning tea between two women who were both planning absolutely stunning holidays for their families, complaining in escalating detail about how much work it was, what the disruption would be like, how much they had to do before they went and put off until their return….

          • Somewhereinthemiddle

            Yeah, it’s *really* terrible when one is forced to go on a luxurious holiday. I sure hate it when I have to go to the French Riviera for a few weeks and do all the terrible work to get ready. (I’ve never actually planned a trip to or visited the French Riviera)

          • just me

            This reminds me of lawyering–the side with the weaker or losing argument always wants to stop the debate.

          • Somewhereinthemiddle

            Not stopping the debate. I can just agree to disagree. No point in beating a dead horse.

        • Somewhereinthemiddle

          Absolutely not, just no. You have misunderstood since I I am not stating that all working parents have those tools available to them. That would be a jackhole assumption. I’m simply stating that not all working parents have your exact experience and that there are infinite scenarios. Too many to state definitively that one may or may not be more difficult than the other. Don’t put words in my mouth.

    • Lisa Murakami

      I will be the first! I think it’s way easier to be a SAHP. Back in the 1950’s it probably did suck. These days it’s a breeze – technology has improved everything so dramatically that cleaning is easy, avoiding social isolation is easy, honestly, I find this beyond enjoyable and I can’t imagine having to get out the door by 7:15 with two young children!

    • Wren

      Maybe whether being a SAHM or being in paid employment is “harder” depends on the exact circumstances?

      I have stayed home since I was put on bed rest during my pregnancy with my first. I generally enjoy it, but there have been times I have seriously envied my husband’s commute, his ability to talk to adults during the day and being able to pee with no one asking for anything while you do it. He has only rarely envied my life, and that’s mainly been things like performances at the kids’ school he has been unable to attend and those moments like first steps.

      My mother worked, except for the brief period she was forced to quit because maternity leave was not an option. She went back to the same company within 2 months, and in the end her employment was considered continuous in retrospect. She got some gift for 40 years of employment there. I was brought up to beleive working was the only good option unless a woman wasn’t smart enough to get a good job. It took her a long time to accept me staying at home, until she finally realised I did work at it and it does work for our family, but never would have for her no matter how much money we had growing up. Her personality does not suit staying home. Mine does. We both made the choice that worked best for us and our respective families.

  • AlexisRT

    The view that staying home or working is simply a choice does the context of our choices a disservice. I also know women for whom staying at home is not a “choice” because their household income would decrease if they worked and they cannot afford that. Staying at home vs paid employment as a “choice” is something that is only an option for parts of the middle and upper classes.

    The insistence on viewing all parenting decisions as simply “choices” (ignoring the cultural mediation of those choices and the factors that go into what options we have available to us) does American women a disservice. Having children is simply a “choice” now, which people use as an argument for why parents and children are not deserving of societal support. It’s also always about women’s choices: women’s choices are made within the same context as men’s. What happens when a woman decides to quit working because there’s no paid sick time and long hours?

    • Ennis Demeter

      Also, if childcare costs as much as her paycheck, her paycheck is worthless, instead of seeing it as costing as much as HIS paycheck, or as taking a chunk out of both of their paychecks, and her job seniority and retirement benefits are never a part of the calculation.

      • AlexisRT

        Yes, I frequently see men and women referring to childcare as “her” expense to work. I disagree with that, but as I said, if A + B – C is less than A OR B, where you put the parentheses in the equation may not matter, and the short term hit may be enough that future advancement and retirement benefits aren’t enough.

        • Ennis Demeter

          That’s true. It also puts the non-working spouse in a very vulnerable position. Even with modern divorce and child support laws, in the end, the wage earner moves on with his seniority and experience, and the non-wage earner starts all over again.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Lilith:One of us should be with our child at all times.The only question is: Which one?
            Frasier: Well, you, of course.
            Lilith: Why me, of course? Because I’m the woman? Why is the man’s work automatically more important? I’m making great breakthroughs in my current research project.
            Frasier: Yes, well, damn me to an eternity driving a Yugo, but I make more money than you.

            Of course, Frasier was the one who stayed home. And then brought Frederick to the bar.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Of course it was Frasier who stayed home. What’s funny about a woman giving up her career and staying home? That’s not funny, that’s normal and boring.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            No, the funny part was when Frasier brought Frederick to the bar and he ended up beating Cliff at darts.

      • ArmyChick

        What I hate is when people imply that the woman’s paycheck would go all to daycare as if it was her job, and hers only to rear children. It drives me nuts.

        “Ever since I realized I was unwittingly degrading my own work, I’ve been trying to unpack where these messages came from. Not from my husband. Not from my mother — she worked full time when I was small, and never had one iota of guilt about it. Not from my mom friends, who either work or are supportive of those who do. The only answer I can come up with is that I’ve somehow internalized the cultural message that says I am the one who should be primarily taking care of our child, and if I’m going to work, it’s up to me to pay for it.”

        http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/16/why-do-i-think-my-salary-pays-for-child-care/?_r=0

        I read that article when it first came out. Take a look at it. You might enjoy it since it addresses your response 😀

        • Amy M

          Yeah, in our case, my husband’s paycheck would all go to daycare. Thank goodness we are done with daycare, though we still have before/after school. We have twins, so daycare for two at once the entire time was pretty rough.

          • guest

            Where I live, it actually costs the same to have a nanny as it does to put two or more in daycare! That is crazy to me.

          • Who?

            And people get so antsy about nannies. There are all kinds of subsidy here for even very affluent families who use daycare centres, but none for using nannies. Daycare centres are incredibly stretched, but if anyone proposes subsidising nannies ever, under any circumstances at all, out come the pitchforks.

            The naysayers are terribly concerned the nanny may peel a few spuds for the family dinner, thereby making the taxpayer pay for housework. At the same time, ‘work’ vehicles used for all sorts of private uses are gleefully government subsidised.

          • just me

            What country are you in? Subsidies for affluent people to use for daycare???? We’re not affluent but sign me up.

          • Who?

            Australia.

            Care still ends up costing a lot, because the daily rates are high-most centres are for profit, and there are not enough spots.

            I think it works out as a tax credit, most of my high earning friends use centres until the credit runs out-somewhere around 2-3 days a week, depending on the age and number of children-and pay a nanny for the rest. The credits are not available for nannies and most centres work a long-ish office day, so no good really for shift workers or anyone who can’t reliablly clock off when it’s time to go.

          • Amy M

            We got no subsidies….only the dependent care pre-tax thing I can set up through work, which only reduced the taxes on a fraction of what we were spending on child care. Meanwhile, I know several people who used nannies–some had very good experiences, some had horror stories. Aside from the extra expense, we wanted the children to be with other children, not just them and the nanny all day for five years, hence our interest in center and in-home options.

          • just me

            Same here–we wanted the kids to have socialization etc and go to a licensed accredited etc place rather than have a stranger in our home and we couldn’t afford a nanny anyway. We are quite happy with our daycare center.

            Yeah, and who pays only 5-6K per year on childcare (the amount you can avoid taxes on)? We pay about 12K per kid.

          • TheGiantPeach

            I know this reply is late, but actually in the area where I live $5-6K per year would probably cover quality daycare for one child. We actually pay less than that, because my husband is a teacher for an internet-based school who only works 4 days a week, and we don’t need child care at all in the summer. We paid a little less than $4,000 last year for a daycare that we all love. Of course the downside is that we live in an area of the country with endemic poverty so that keeps the cost of living low overall, including childcare.

          • Just me

            Wow. Just did our taxes. We paid about 25k for the year.

            And for the record I absolutely think my children’s caregivers and teachers are doing important work and should be paid good wages. We’re lucky to have preschool teachers with BA degrees in education etc. just wish we could get more of a tax break or government subsidy.

          • guest

            Huh. I get a flex spending tax benefit for my nanny that is the same as if I used a daycare. The city family assistance programs even allow some low-income women to get nanny subsidies (but I don’t know the exact rules on how that works because I don’t qualify). I do feel silly when I say I have a nanny, because I’m not who you would think would have one, but it was the most cost effective childcare I could find in my specific situation.

            Well, I could pay under the table to make it more cost effective, I guess. But I don’t.

          • Who?

            And that’s exactly the issue-what works for your circumstances.

            It’s great that the convenience of a nanny is cost-effective for you; others with different needs or priorities would choose differently, and it’s the opportunity to choose what makes your and your family’s life run smoothly that is the prize.

          • Amy M

            When we found out we were having twins, I immediately started looking into daycare and in our area, centers were most expensive, then nannies, then in-home, so that fueled our decision. After 3yrs, the in-home person had to move away, so we transferred the children to a center–a more preschool-y place, which we thought was actually quite good for them at that point. It was a bit more expensive, but they had to go somewhere, and we got what we paid for at least. We pay a (smaller than daycare) fee for full day K in our town, and extended day, and starting next year, only extended day. It’s gonna feel like we won the lottery.

        • guest

          When I was a kid, my parents referred to my mother’s smaller paycheck as the one that paid the mortgage – it was basically just enough for the mortgage every month, and my father’s income paid everything else. And of course, since they were still married neither income was really “for” separate things, that’s just how they thought about it to help with budgeting. But it’s a nicer implication to me that my mom paid for the mortgage instead of just assigning her all the child-related expenses or groceries.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Excellent point. A mother’s income is always talked about as paying for childcare or perhaps “luxuries” that the woman is unwilling to give up. The father’s income is never talked about that way. No indeed! The father is the hero who puts a roof over your head and food on the table. Fathers are never selfish for working, and they are heroes for any time they spend “babysitting” their kids.

        • Mac Sherbert

          I can see your point, but it really all depends on the parents and the situation. In my case, my husbands salary far outweighed mine. So, if even if we thought of it as him paying childcare…it was kind of like he was paying childcare so I could I work. He really didn’t care whether I stayed home or worked. In the end I decided to stay home because 1. I could 2. Child care options were limited in our area 3. All our family lives some distance away, so help with sick kids, etc. would have been limited and 4. In theory I could/can always go back to teaching.

    • Lisa Murakami

      She specifically addresses that in the post itself – yes, for some it’s not a choice, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about those for whom it is.

      If a woman decides to quit working because there’s no paid sick time and long hours… what’s going on with her husband? Doesn’t he have to sometimes be the person who takes the sick day? Presumably the men in her profession are subject to the same rules. If they can hack it, why can’t she? I think if that’s the case, it speaks to inequality within the home, not within the work place.