Don't Burn the Muthah Down

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New at Reason: Has feminism downgraded the value of motherhood? Cathy Young says don't have a baby about women who enjoy being moms.

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  1. Of course, one of the questions that this raises is can the American family afford to have one parent stay at home to raise children while the other goes off to be breadwinner? Yes? No?

  2. As an answer to this dilemma, many feminists want to see the state free women from the burden of child-rearing. In the March issue of The American Prospect, Brandeis University women’s studies scholar Margaret Morganroth Gullette calls for “affordable, high-quality child-care and after-school programs, run by well-paid and well-trained and caring teachers.”
    Alrighty. Let?s get the future leaders addicted to a government nanny system at an even earlier age.

    If you don?t want to take responsibility for your offspring, by all means, do everyone a favor and stay childless. Taking care of children isn?t for the faint of heart.

    I?m probably one of the few posters here who is a parent. I can tell you, a lot of times it?s harder being a parent than working at my job. And after observing the cesspool that is public education, I?ve opted for home schooling too.

    Having said all that, it?s gratifying to see my kids already becoming self-reliant, and able to think for themselves. That?s as much as I could ever hope for.

    The days of one ?full time? parent and one ?full time? breadwinner are gone, if you want to take care of your children yourself. Parenting is about one and a half full time jobs.

  3. Of course, one of the questions that this raises is can the American family afford to have one parent stay at home to raise children while the other goes off to be breadwinner? Yes? No?

    Yes. I’ve seen it happen at least three times in the last two years with friends and colleagues. In each case, the women in question were doing pretty well; one was the district manager in my company’s Washington DC bureau, one was the public relations manager for my wife’s former company. Both gave up their jobs to raise kids, and they’re doing just fine.

    In many cases, the couples actually find they have more money if one of them isn’t working, because the costs of commuting, constantly eating lunches out, professional wardrobe, and so forth are eliminated for one of them.

  4. I’m proud to say that I’m a bread winner and my wife is a stay at home. It is “doable”, though you have to make some economic sacrifices.

    All of the rhetoric just screams selfishness and a lack of personal responsibility.

    Personally, I don’t know how people drop their kids off at daycare. I walk past a nursery / day care on my way to work. While I’d always noticed the toddlers, one day I walked past and the blinds were lifted so you could see the babies. Some weren’t much more than newborns. I was horrified, there must have been 15 or 20 basonettes and maybe 3 attendants.

    I know how much time my child took up at that age (even now) and how tiring it is to take care of a crying baby when all you want to do is relax. Who knows how 3 attendants could handle it and give the attention each baby needs.

    Sure, there are some situations that I can understand the need for nursery care. But I’m more than willing to say that most are a result of selfishness.

  5. My mother is eager to live in the same town as my wife and I once we have kids. She is so excited by the prospect of grandkids (some day, but not now) that whenever they appear she is enthusiastic about packing up and moving.

    So I don’t anticipate a childcare problem for my wife and I. I actually don’t mind it, because I had my grandparents around when I was a little kid, so I know how important it is. And my wife doesn’t mind it because the only time my mother tries to meddle in our marriage is when my mother is intervening on behalf of my wife. (My mother views my wife as the daughter that she never had.)

    That said, I recognize that not everybody has a mother who would be a good nanny and who wouldn’t cause trouble.

  6. I don’t want kids and I get irritated when I’m trying to eat in a nice restaurant and have to listen to some screaming infant. That said, the fact is that SOMEBODY has to bear and raise children, in order to ensure another generation of adults, and it can’t be healthy for a society to have childrearing be something affordable only to the wealthy and the welfare recipients.

  7. Jennifer,

    The screaming infant at a nice restaurant may actually be a symptom of the problem. I can’t really think of a good reason to bring little kids to a fancy eating establishment. That?s what babysitters are for.

    And if a person can?t afford a babysitter, perhaps fine dining shouldn?t be the choice of restaurant fare.

    The root of the problem is, a lot of parents don?t really know what to do with their children, and depend on the State to hold their hand and help out. I?d guess that a good percentage of parents don?t even make a conscience choice to have children, they just let life happen to them, come what may.

    What should be done for the non-welfare working families? I guess I don?t have an answer. But I don?t like the idea of state-sponsored child rearing. There are already tax incentives for child care, and you get to choose who you trust with your kids. Different people have different opinions about what makes a good caretaker. Anything state-sponsored would be almost guaranteed to fail some of the kids. Just take a look at foster placement statistics.

  8. “But does the feminist approach ignore many women’s desire to care for their children? So says a new book by clinical psychologist Daphne de Marneffe . . .”

    Stay tuned for more new, groundbreaking research:

    -A new book on natural history contends that bears shit in the woods.

    -A new book on religion discloses that the Pope is a member of the Roman Catholic church.

    -A new book on politics contains the stunning revelation that many libertarians are socially-awkward computer geeks.

  9. KMW-
    Yes, state daycare is a bad idea. I used to work in a state-run daycare center, only it was called a “high school.” And yet: as bad as my school was, and as worthless as were the diplomas it handed out, the fact remained that an education truly was available there for those who wanted it, and so my imperfect old public school is still better than no public school at all.

    I have a feeling that telling a cash-strapped working-class family about the evils of state daycare would be like trying to convince the one-in-seven Americans who have no health insurance that Canadian socialized medicine is bad. Gov’t medical care is better than no medical care at all, and the same may well be true for daycare.

  10. ok…. That 1 in 7 # isn’t necessarily a result of being too poor to afford health insurance. Until I graduated from college and was hired by corporate america, I never ever had health insurance. Did I go to the doctor? Of course. We simply saved money each month and low and behold got by just fine. And I would most definitely prefer that route than gov’t sponsored medicine if I was given a choice. You’re misrepresenting the statistics.

    As for putting a child in daycare. No it is not like high school or any other school. There is a purpose to school, it is to educate. The purpose of daycare is actually for a child to survive while the parent works. Honestly, you should have a child before you start rattling off the merits of gov’t sponsored daycare. I’m a cash strapped working family. No matter the fact that we don’t get to eat out and I drive a 15 year old car to work, I’d take my wife raising my child at home anytime. It is possible to do it. People are merely selfish. Thankfully, there are some folks like yourself, who realize they don’t want children. Hopefully, you’ll never have one like you want. And if you do, then you need to realize that sacrifices must be made for a life that had no choice in the matter.

  11. Yelowd-

    Have you ever heard of a thing called “looking at statements in context?” I neither advocated state daycare nor socialized medicine; I simply pointed out that many poor people would be likely to view them as good things. However offensive this may be in principle, the fact of it remains.

    If you also apply the principle of “context” to my daycare=high school comment, you will see that I wasn’t *really* comparing day care to high school; rather, I was insulting high school by comparing it to daycare. Read it again–you’ll see.

    You are right to feel proud of earning enough and making the proper sacrifices to allow your wife to stay at home with your baby. However, I must assume that there are many men who make less money even than you, and whose wives cannot stay home, because then they couldn’t afford the home for them to stay in. I imagine these people would be glad if the government offered some help.

    Also: notice that when I said “government” day care, I did NOT put the word “mandatory” before it. I am not advocating the idea of your offspring in the Oceania Daycare Center. Nor do I advocate your solipsistic idea that a system which works fine for you must therefore work well for everybody.

    I wish you and your family all the best.

  12. Jennifer-

    I understand what you’re saying, but on this forum it is absolutely crucial that you always make it 100% clear that you oppose big government. Even the tiniest slip will be noticed.

    It is probably better to say that it’s hard to persuade somebody without healthcare/daycare/insert-other-service-here that gov’t-provided service would be a bad thing, so the best route is to identify market-based alternatives that satisfy their need without Big Government.

  13. Thoreau-
    Hmmph. I wish I still had my old college psych textbook–there was this chart in there, listing the minimal IQs needed to perform certain cognitive functions. I am trying to remember the minimum number of IQ points needed for such cognitive leaps as “identifying sarcasm” and “recognizing a metaphor WITHOUT necessarily having it bite you in the ass.”

    Any impoverished working mamas on this site? I wonder how you respond to the earlier charge that you are all ‘selfish.’ Damn those Wal-Mart cashiers for putting their Careers before their Families!

  14. Doug-
    You don’t think some of these selfish mothers had kids during the 90s economic boom and must now work to earn money in their reduced circumstances? You’re positive that all working mothers are working to buy designer clothes as opposed to food? No widows whose husbands had inadequate insurance? No divorcees whose husbands wanted trophy wives? Well, if that’s the case then you’re right–fuck ’em all and let ’em suffer.

    I do have a question, though. If having a child out of “Maternal desire” is selfish, then what is the NON-selfish motivation for motherhood?

  15. Remember: don’t have a baby unless you can afford to spend your every waking minute with her! Mothers who work are evil whores. Babies should only be had by women whose husbands make good money and will never, ever lose their jobs, or by women who are independently wealthy. Like Paris Hilton.

    Also: don’t have a baby for the selfish reason that you want one. Have a baby because. . .um. . .it is God’s will? We need more cannon fodder for wars? Your husband wants one? Those reasons are all acceptable, but wanting to be a mommy is not.

    Remember: better for a child to never, ever be born, than to be born and then set foot in a daycare center. Remember also: kids with emotional problems only exist in the families of moms with jobs.

    And finally, if your 11-month-old baby can’t identify you by name, then be afraid. Be very afraid.

  16. Gee, Aliandra, thanks for the assumption that I don’t deal with my child on a daily basis. I spend several hours a day with him. My husband and I limit his time in day care as we can (he and I work offset hours). I placed him in day care because I had a choice to return to work. I was lucky that I could wait until he was 11 weeks old. Some places you have much more limited maternity leave.

    Rachel, again, I love the assumptions that his being in an environment other than home will automatically make him into something other than a happy healthy baby. My husband and I searched carefully for a place where he would be in a warm, loving, and stimulating environment.

    Would either of you feel that he was neglected if he was staying with his grandparents all day?

    Would you feel I was so selfish if I went back to work and my husband stayed home with him all day?

    I have great respect and even some envy for those women who make that choice, however, I don’t find it is right for me.

  17. The bottom line is that people who choose to have children are the ones responsible for them – period. It doesn’t matter what their economic circumstances are or whether they’ve subsuequently declined after the children were born. The responsibiltity is still theirs.
    There is no such thing as collective responsibilty for child rearing (or much of anything else on this earth).

    If someone else cannot or will not fulfill their responsibility that does not mean that it therefore becomes my responsibilty to pick up some of their slack.

  18. Gilbert,

    I agree that my choice to have a child does not mean that you or anyone else has a responsibility to rais him. My husband and I have that responsibility. We may have no choice in completing the job (ie premature death), however, prudent planning requires we make a choice in who would raise him in that event. I certainly don’t want the state to try to raise my child. If I didn’t want to raise him, I would not have had him.

  19. My $0.02

    -Similar to Medical Expense Accounts, you can also get childcare accounts where all money paid to daycare is pre-tax. You?re still spending, but you?re saving quite a chunk in taxes.

    -My wife stays home raising our kids. We budgeted out the estimated costs and determined that her position as a teacher was less likely to cover expenses than my position as a data analyst. That doesn?t mean she?s home forever, just until everyone is in school. It does mean we?ve put off buying a home until she?s working or buying a ?newer? car, but I guess that?s sacrifice? I don?t know, even if I had a new car or house these kids would just puke all over it! Better to wait for the nice stuff until they all stop running at both ends, I?m thinking.

    -I don?t know a lot about daycare, but I do know quite a bit about nannies. My brother in law just got rid of his two daughters? nanny
    to be the stay at home dad and he?s shocked that his kids are undisciplined, walking in the street at age 5, and in general a pain to deal with. I don?t see why he would be, since it?s way easier to give in at every step when dealing with a kid than to actually teach them how to be a responsible person.

    -Since I really believe all the problems in this country for the past 30 years were caused by the boomers, and the boomers all had moms like Donna Reed, I?m hoping daycare?d kids will not have the same feelings of entitlement and concern for the ?less fortunate? as the boomers and cut all Medicare and Social Security expenses to the bone. Perhaps daycare is raising the next generation of libertarians?

    -Someone who is the head of GE has a career. Someone answering phones in a call center or working at WalMart has a job. I bet most of the WalMart moms would be happy to trade in their jobs for taking care of their infants. Same goes for men as well.

    -Salon.com has had a number of stories in the past year about stay at home moms which were interesting, but mostly focused on the issues of the top 10% of moms.

  20. Doug:

    high schoolers are capable of making their own decisions, whereas infants are not. If the latter are neglected by their parents, they’re “fuckered” as my coke-headed friend likes to put it; if high schoolers choose to forego the educational offerings of our public schools, that’s they’re prerogative.

    I’m sorry, I seem to recall attendance at high school to be mandatory, and this in the days before they had police and metal detectors on campus. Hell, when I finally got my GED, the bastards still made me go through that bureaucratic dive, to certify it or something (make me a “success” in the eyes of the funding gods).

    I will say there are just two conditions when a kid should drop out: if they know how to read, and if they don’t.

    In the first case, they’re wasting their time justifying the salaries of welfare workers in a program that combines mediocrity with job security; in the second, they’re going to prodded and studied and further set behind in so-called “remedial courses”–that are largely designed to keep the kids in as long as possible.

    Tell me again what you learned in a high school week that you couldn’t have picked up with an hour or so of independent study?

  21. i’d much rather work in an office and manipulate adults than deal with the cute-but-subverbal all day, personally. babies are a lot like hookers, i assume, in that their charm and appeal begin to wear off after about an hour.

    and that being plastered beforehand makes their company more enjoyable.

    of course.

  22. Jennifer,

    I think there are a lot of reasons to have a baby. If you have a baby to have a baby, but then don’t worry about teaching a child and teen how to be an adult, you’re ebing selfish because yuo’re condeming a perrson to a shitty life.

    If you have a baby for the whole package, baby, child, and adult, and you have it to share life, experiences, books, good star treks or whatever, and teach it to deal with life when you are gone, well, I think that’s an unselfish reason to have a baby.

    No matter how much or little money you have.

  23. Britney-
    Tell Doug, not me. He’s the one who said it’s selfish to have a baby out of “maternal desire.” I still wish he’d tell me what non-selfish reasons remain.

  24. “I don’t want kids and I get irritated when I’m trying to eat in a nice restaurant and have to listen to some screaming infant.”

    Maybe the kid is screaming because that sour-pussed lady at the other table is giving him the creeps. Kids pick up vibes pretty well.

  25. My husband and I planned for the possibility of one of us not working before we started our family. While I was on maternity leave, I discovered that I didn’t like not having stuff to do other than housework and caring for baby. I love working. I need and enjoy the brain excercise.

    My child was introduced to daycare at 11 weeks and loves it. I consider myself lucky that we have one close to home with excellent staff that adore all their kids (infant room has a 3 to 1 ratio so I know all the kids get attention). The facility encourages learning activities and prepares children for the next steps (ie preschool/kindergarden).

    This is not to say that staying home with the children is not worthwhile. I certainly considered it (as did my husband).

    I don’t support government day care – mandatory or not. (Yes Jennifer, I actually did catch the sarcasm in your post re: high school.) I have found however that the government does assist in subsidizing day care by making part of the cost tax deductable. Of course this in no way fully covers the cost of daycare (believe me it won’t even cover half our costs this year), but it certainly helps if someone has no choice about working.

  26. “As an answer to this dilemma, many feminists want to see the state free women from the burden of child-rearing.” What a load of horse shit. My daughter is in daycare three days/week, but I am not even within shouting distance of being free from the burder of child-rearing. I think Cathy Young knows about as much about daycare as…well, yelowd does. Which isn’t saying much.

    Reading the piece, an yelowd’s comments, it’s clear neither one of them knows what they’re talking about on the subject of daycare.

  27. C,
    If you’re putting them in daycare right away because you prefer not to deal with them, what’s the point of having kids?

  28. I am still trying to find verification that all working mothers are selfish bitches who’d rather buy Gucci than spend time with their kids. I would also like the answer to my question: if wanting to be a mommy is the SELFISH reason to have a baby, what is the unselfish reason?

  29. BTW, it is good for children to have contact with other children, and to have experience with adults other than their parents.

    But then, I’m a feminist who works full time and wants to have a rewarding career. Funny, but I don’t recall ever getting crap about that.

  30. “I was insulting high school by comparing it to daycare. Read it again–you’ll see”

    Whence cometh this aplomb? Your message implies nothing of the sort, and anyone who tells you otherwise is fibbin’.

    You insinuated that parents who send their children to public schools are fobbing their responsibility off onto a peep of addlepated schoolmarms.Those who send their children to daycare are doing something analogous. Very witty. Your claqueurs have no doubt worn their palms pink clapping for that little quip. Alternatively, you’re simply equating high school with daycare by hinting that many students are bussed off to school each day so they can play hackysack and be policed by teachers. Not a very fine compliment for high schools, and not an apt comparison, either (unless you’re trying to be funny, in which case it is passable): high schoolers are capable of making their own decisions, whereas infants are not. If the latter are neglected by their parents, they’re “fuckered” as my coke-headed friend likes to put it; if high schoolers choose to forego the educational offerings of our public schools, that’s they’re prerogative. See the difference? This is what yelowd is saying. This is what was obvious to the rest of us. Of course, you already knew you had erred, otherwise you wouldn’t have appended your shrewd commentary with such crude contumelies, right? Riiight. “Jesus, do something.”

    “However, I must assume that there are many men who make less money even than you, and whose wives cannot stay home, because then they couldn’t afford the home for them to stay in”

    And I’m sure yelowd would reply that they shouldn’t be having children if they’re more concerned with the size of their home or what brand of gym shorts they’re wearing than with the wellbeing of their children. What kind of IQ is required to make use of higher-order intentionality? To educe patterns of value? Surely it’s lower than what’s required to unravel the involutions of your “metaphors”.

    “I wonder how you respond to the earlier charge that you are all ‘selfish”

    Improvidently having children when you aren’t gainfully employed is selfish. Having a child to fulfill a “maternal desire” is selfish. Canned responses.. it’s like you’re intentionally trying to illicit them. Very boring. You’re both idiots, as far as I’m concerned.

  31. Change your name to “Josephina” and see how fast that changes, you selfish Gucci-lover, you.

    But Yellow’s standards, I suppose C’s children should never have been born. Ouch. Harsh. Sad, when the childless-by-choice woman is one of the least cold-hearted on the thread.

  32. You put an 11 week old baby in day care? Why didn’t you just get a fish? Does the kid even know who you are? What an incredibly selfish choice–because you need “brain exercise”?
    So, someday, when the kid goes to school with a gun or starts cutting and starving herself–you can feel so proud of your career.

  33. Anything even approaching evidence that kids in daycare are more likely to shoot up their schools?

    Didn’t think so.

    “Does the kid even know who you are?” Another dipshit spouting off about daycare without knowing anything about it.

    Me, I just let the giant Nazi spider people wrap the baby up in the morning, and cut her down every afternoon at 5. Really, that’s how it works.

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