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September 20, 2005


NY Times looks at stay at home moms... again!

Today's Times has an article about young women at elite Ivy League schools who are planning to leave their careers and stay home once they have kids. You know, exactly like that other article they published almost exactly two years ago ("The Opt-Out Revolution"). The main difference is that, while the 2003 piece interviewed about five Princeton graduates to support its generalizations about American women, today's piece includes interviews with four students from Yale, as well as one from Penn and two from Harvard.

Questions neither article goes into: why aren't young men at these elite schools being interviewed by the NY Times about if they'll stay home once they have kids? Why are these young women all assuming that it is their choice and their right to have a man support them and their children for their entire lives? Why are privileged young women unable to think outside conventional gender roles in envisioning their futures? What do women at East Tennessee State University or Lehman College think about work and family? When discussing family values and personal goals, why don't issues like saving to buy your first home and building financial stability come up?

And I love this guy at Harvard who in his American Family class, during a discussion about women giving up careers to stay at home and raise their kids while their husbands support them, said "I think that's sexy." It sure is, dude! You know what else is sexy? When women don't vote. And are illiterate! That's fucking hot!

It is such a riot when the Times runs series like that one about class from earlier this year, to show how in touch they are with all the different sectors of Americans and all the struggles that working people face in their lives, and then they keep coming back to articles like this one about the young wealthy elite who can just flippantly decide whether they feel like having a job from one year to the next, and talk about having a job or not like it's some kind of moral issue of being a good parent.

Here's an idea: rather than blowing $250,000 on Ivy League college and graduate school when you know you're going to stop working once you have kids, how about donating that money to some low-income woman or man who wants to go to school and actually use their degrees to have a career in law or business or academia, while the most challenging thing you'll have to write is your kids' Montessori school applications?

categories: Economics, Education, Gender
posted by amy at 10:03 AM | #

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I agree it's pretty ridiculous for the Times to claim to be concerned with the travails of the lower classes with pieces like these. However, your analysis is incomplete. A few years ago the Times had a piece on Ivy Leaguers who became cops. Surely this is an equal "waste" of an expensive degree, and yet these students of elite schools may bring something new to the force. Is there something wrong with a child spending the formative years with a woman versed in classical poetry? Besides, the degree doesn't expire.

Posted by: Kurrup at September 20, 2005 1:37 PM

I would like to see their "analysis" broken down by class. This is ridiculous.

Posted by: cushie at September 20, 2005 1:48 PM

One person interviewed in the article hit the nail on the head when he said that so many of these Yale-Harvard-Princeton students can't think outside the box and imagine anything beyond traditional gender roles. In high school, I did not have a singular devotion to rigidly following the Y-H-P preparation protocol. Rather, I was broad minded and curious. That is why I didn't go to YHP. A person who is excellent at rote memorization and disciplined regurgitation gets into YHP and one who is not like this can not. It is no surprise that when you select a student body based on the ability to robotically acquire knowledge and skills rather than the ability to think creatively and synthesize new knowledge, that you have students who can not think outside of traditional gender roles. If all your success in life is due to your ability to precisely copy an established model whether it be how to best take the SAT or how to raise a family, you are not going to be a leader - one who changes the world. These women, and men like them, will never be leaders, captains of industry, whether they breed or not. Our educational system is still structured to produce workers, not thinkers. As we continue to transform into a post-industrial society, our educational system is going to have to produce more thinkers if we are to stay ahead of other economies. Especially ones which are going to be way better at industrial production than we could ever be.

Posted by: Agent 0019 at September 20, 2005 2:19 PM

Kurrup, it's not so much that I think the women in this article, or Ivy Leaguers who become cops, are "wasting" their degrees--they're certainly free to do whatever they want with their education, and education is an asset in itself.

But education, particularly at top schools, is increasingly becoming a luxury only the very rich or the very poor and brilliant have access to. Getting a good education and going to grad school is a great thing for anybody to do, but there are so many people who can't afford it, and these are the people who need to work their whole lives in order to live. Education is still one of the best ways for people from lower class backgrounds to move up in the world. With space at a premium at top schools and tuition costs going up 5-8% every year, it bugs me to see women like this get super-prestigious, super-expensive degrees seemingly as something nice to do while they're biding their time waiting to have kids, at which point they will move into full-time doing laundry and getting their nails done.

Many of the women interviewed here say they plan to go back to work part-time at some point after their kids grow up, so I do hope they use their degrees. But elite education is increasingly a scarce resource that others might use more wisely than these unquestioning little wifeys.

Posted by: amy at September 20, 2005 2:32 PM

Wow. Lots of hostility coming out.

I hate to break this to you but when my wife, who has a masters degree, tells people she is a stay at home mom she gets a lot of hostility directed at her too. The Times is lame, but don't bag on people for having freedom of choice.

Posted by: Joe at September 20, 2005 6:42 PM

It's not the people who have the freedom of choice who are the problem, it's the people who don't have the choice ie most people in the country who do not have this elite economic status.

Posted by: cushie at September 21, 2005 1:06 PM

Why are these young women spending all this money to get useless degrees?

For the sake of snagging husbands with the means to support them in the manner to which they expect to become accustomed.

(Admittedly an anecdotal conclusion -- I have a really brilliant friend at an Ivy because her family wants her to "marry well." They have explicitly stated this goal. I keep hoping she'll break loose and actually pursue higher mathematics as a profession, but I'm not holding my breath.)

Posted by: Mac at September 22, 2005 6:38 PM

What I find even worse are women with great educations, who become mothers, and then spend their days doing next-to-nothing while a Guatamalen woman without a high school diploma essentially raises their children for them. They leave to become 'full time moms' but spend most of the time out of the house. The education has really gone to waste in those cases. It's very common here on the west side of LA.

Posted by: Ted at September 22, 2005 7:52 PM

I made the choice to stay at home with my children, and like the gentleman said, don't rag on the people who choose, noticed I wrote "choose"to put children before career. The article was very weak. However, you don't have to be rich to stay at home with your kids. Using common sense may help.

Posted by: tracey at September 23, 2005 11:05 PM

Have you ever considered the fact that maybe some people go to college because they like to learn?

I know many people (myself included) who started college with lofty goals in mind. However I pursued a degree which interested me, rather than one which would lead to a lucrative career.

Certainly a future stay-at-home mom has the right to do the same thing. Perhaps her parents were the low-income immigrants who worked their tails off just so she could get that good education and have that choice (like my father).

Don't be so quick to judge people who have different experiences from you, or who make different choices.

However, I do agree that the moms who stay at home but use a nanny, are worse than those who work.

Posted by: Kat at September 28, 2005 9:06 AM

Here's the thing: I just don't want other people ripping on me.

I totally empathize with moms who want to stay home with their kids. What I resent is that many of these women, who wanted this to be a choice for them, now want to turn around and say that I'm a bad, bad mom for *not* staying home with my kid. I truly believe that loving daycare (not an oxymoron! I have found such a place, and I know others who have, too, and yes, I know we're lucky) provides a healthy, supportive, safe environment for kids to grow up in, and my son, at least, has not been shortchanged by not having me home all day. If I *was* home all day, I'd probably be a lot less fun and a lot less loving than I am now, so for my family at least, I think we've made the right decision.

And I'm tired of having to defend that decision to strangers. Okay, you decided that for your precious child, nothing but your time and attention would do, and maybe you're right. But you know what? Maybe I'm right about what my kid and I need, too.

Footnote: In an ideal world, what I would want is to work part-time, and stay home with my son part-time. But I'm a single mom and I just can't afford it.

Posted by: zoe at October 10, 2005 2:27 PM

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