September 9, 2007

The Feminine Reality Check

This is an interesting article.

Stay-at home moms take big financial risk

It also ties in nicely with one of my favorite new books, Leslie Bennets' The Feminine Mistake. Basically, she is arguing that women should not sacrifice their careers for their children, because one never knows when the breadwinner could get cancer, get hit by a bus or just up and leave, and then what will you (and your children) do?

I suppose in one way this is pretty cynical, in not trusting one's partner to always be there for the family. However, I'm sure we all know at least one person to whom this has happened (either the dying or the upping-and-leaving part) and to deny it is not facing reality, in my opinion. As the writer of the article states:

They are handicapping their future financial security and that of their children by being economically dependent on a man. Leaving the workforce, even for a relatively short period of years, can permanently affect a woman's ability to support herself and her children in the event that something untoward happens to her marriage or to her husband's job or health. Once you leave, it's not so easy to get back in.

This should be so obvious it shouldn't generate any controversy. Nevertheless, reading the comments to this article is instructive--and sad. Talk about protesting too much--which inadvertently proves the writer's point. One commenter, Wendy, is refreshing:

I find it interesting that a reality check is considered mommy bashing. Paranoia, anyone? Ms. Blumner makes some excellent points. Even if you are lucky enough for them not to apply to you doesn't mean that they don't happen. Get over yourselves.

The basic thing to consider in all this is that PEOPLE DO CHANGE. The twenty-year-old who promises to love you forever becomes the forty-five-year-old who has to take his sportscar and "find himself," leaving you penniless, jobless and up the creek. Personally, I would much rather be prepared than be broke.

Also, one must consider the fact that those children eventually grow up and leave home, and you as a mother are only responsible for them for the first eighteen years of their lives. Do mothers live only eighteen years? "What a stupid question," you say. "Of course not." Of course not indeed--I think the average lifespan of women (at least in this country) is coming up on eighty. That leaves sixty years wherein a woman needs to think about herself. Are those kids going to support you if you haven't worked enough to provide for yourself in your old age (as an example, my own mother only gets $858.oo a month from Social Security--in plain terms, if she wasn't living with me, she'd be S.O.L.)? Frankly, you shouldn't count on that either. Most people do their best, but in the end the only one you can rely on is yourself.

Anyway, if you make it clear to the kids that you're going to work, most of the time they'll adjust. This is especially so when your partner steps up and takes on equal responsibility for the children--i.e., sharing in housework, picking up kids from daycare, paying for daycare, staying home with kids when sick, etc. This should be such a deal-breaker that if the husband doesn't agree to do it, there won't be any kids. If the two adults in the family work together, it is entirely possible for both partners to have fulfilling jobs, be fulfilled parents, and be prepared for whatever quirks life might throw at you. (I get irritated when women complain that we "can't have it all." Well, yeah, if you don't have any help from your frakking husband, I suppose that's true.)

The article ends thusly:

If what a stay-at-home mom does is truly worth more than $100, 000, then her husband should write her a check. Otherwise, she needs to protect her financial future and her footing in the larger world, and opt back in.



Anonymous said...

What happen to "trusting in the Lord with all your heart, leaning not on your own understanding".

How about you and your husband, should have a plan in place in the event that something happens to either one of you?

Unknown said...

Well, certainly. That would only make sense. The reason I concentrated on the wife, however, is the fact that women--especially stay-at-home mothers--are left worse off after divorce.

As far as "trusting the Lord," I do that, but I also remember that "time and chance happen to them all" (Ecclesiastes 9:11).

Anonymous said...

anonymous says we should trust in the Lord with all our heart. Well, I believe God gave us brains and common sense so that He won't have to work so hard!

Surely you've heard the joke about the drowning man who refused help in the form of a life preserver, a boat, etc., because "God would save him." The man got to heaven and asked why God didn't save him. God replied that he sent the life preserver, boat, etc., and the man was fool enough not to use them.

My mother is a teacher. I saw PLENTY of her teacher friends get screwed when their husbands up and left them in midlife. At least they were working, even if teaching is a low-paid job. The ones who really had it hard were those who had stayed home. And yes, I also had a friend in high school who lost her dad to a heart attack. Her mother hadn't worked in 20 years.

I'm trying to teach my kids that ALL adults need the capability of earning a living. Yes, you may end up out of the work force for a while, either by choice or by force (layoffs -- grew up during the oil bust of the '80's). That doesn't change the fact that you need to always have a Plan B, Plan C, and even a Plan D for earning money.

In my own life, I work part-time at a job with completely flexible hours and schedule. As a software engineer, I also make more working part-time than my mother does teaching full-time. The baby and preschool years were HARD to wrangle with a combination of daycare and preschool, but it's gotten easier with every year.

As a mom, I think each of us has to find the level of guilt we can live with. If we work for pay full-time, we have a full load of "family" guilt. If we work without pay at home, we have a full load of "I'm wasting my education/not supporting my family/possibly ruining my financial future" guilt. If we work part time, we get some of each type of guilt, plus the "I can't do anything well because I don't have enough time for either work or family" guilt.

I wish all moms would realize that we ALL have guilt of some flavor and do more to support each other. Then maybe we could all drop some of the collective guilt we carry around :-).

Bonnie, it was great to find you. I came here via Churchgal. It's such a relief to find other Christian feminists!

Anonymous said...

Are we to be independent of ourselves or totally dependent upon the Lord for life answers? I am not saying we should not have plan a plan A or B in place, or not think about the future, but a woman cannot perdict if her husand will leave her. Should a woman live in fear of the possibility of a man walking out, or should the two of them (husband and wife) plan accordingly if something was to happen like sickness or even death? If she worked, who's to say she won't lose her job? No difference.

The article was about women getting screw once becoming stay at home mom. Life happens. I think it should be thought out and plan before you say "I do". And, most importantly, trust in the Lord for the outcome. We have no way of perdicting our lives. I believe if a man wants his wife at home, he should put in place something for her in her name so in the event that the evitable happens, she and the children will be okay.

Lunalibra, no guilt. You're exercising a choice that works for you.