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Cecily Arenas

This is a great post. I was a 100% stay-at-home mom (SAHM) for 2 years with my second child. This was by choice, sort of. It was by choice because I *wanted* to do so and theoretically I could have put her in daycare while having some low wage job. It was also by choice because we could afford it from James job. Unfortunately most families nowadays do not have this as an option as both parents are forced to work.

My stying home was not a choice because biologically I needed to be home at least a year to nurse my baby. I suppose I could have fed her with artificial milk, but I was not open to that. It was not a choice because at that time my income would not have amounted to much. Had James and I switched roles we would live in a project. And I did not grow up thinking I would ever be a SAHM. While I was home, I read Adrienne Rich's "Of Woman Born." She is my favorite feminist author and poet. In it she discusses the oppression of mothers and addresses the fact that childcare is full time work in itself. She points out that housework, logistics, cooking, etc added to this is oppressive. As if we have nothing else to do when raising children!

Now J and I have traded roles. he stays home full time with our youngest son while I work f/t. It works well for us so far though the mindset of a SAHM father vs SAHM mother is radically different.

Comrade Kevin

I have to say that my parents had a more or less equitable relationship when it came to raising us.

My mother was a fantastic parent when we were small children and I didn't see any sort of disrespect or unfair expectations placed on her by my father. My father was always out working and I saw him usually for a few hours every night but on weekends.

I just finished reading "Diary of a Mad Housewife" in which the husband does place unreasonable demands upon his wife at the expense of her own independence and identity.

So, one of the reasons I don't have any children is that I want to be a good parent and I acknowledge now all the things I put my parents through when I was growing up. And I realize that having children isn't just a matter of mere procreation.

The Happy Feminist

I should clarify that I don't blame my father for this. It was just the way things were in our specific time and place. He would have had a tough go of it if he had to explain to his boss that my mother wasn't willing to do what was asked. I once suggested that his organization should have hired a caterer but apparently no one thought of that since there were cheaper sources of labor available!

Annamal

If you want to see how much they really respect homemaking then explain that you've flipped roles and he's keeping the house clean and meals made.

See how quickly they jump to questioning whether he's just mooching off you.

Sarahndipity

As a working mother out of financial necessity who would love to stay home with my daughter, I must say I'm appalled that a boss would even consider asking an employee’s wife to host a dinner like that. (But then again I’m a naïve young’un born in 1980). :)

I think we need to distinguish in this discussion between “homemaking” and “childrearing.” The number one reason to stay home with your kids, by far, is to raise your own children, instill values in them, get to know them as individuals, be there for them. Something is definitely lost when both parents work 40 or 50 hours a week or more and lose touch with their kids.

Keeping an immaculate house is *not* the purpose of staying home. Cooking, cleaning, etc. is a distant second. I think a lot of homemakers sort of elevate that stuff to being more important than it actually is. Yes, it’s important to keep a relatively clean house, and it makes sense for the person staying home do more of the housework, since they would have more time. (This doesn’t let the working parent off the hook, though – they should pitch in as much as they can when they get home.)

Sydney

Ms Arenas's comment reminded me of a conversation I had with some classmates of mine a few months back (I'm in medical school). Many were hand wringing over whether they'd be able to stay home with their kids, and the financial "hardships" they'd have to endure if they had kids. I pointed out gently that we were actually the lucky ones who really don't have to choose between work and kids if we don't want to. We will all make 6 figures eventually (and likely our husbands will too), and we will NOT HAVE TO CHOOSE because we will be able to afford high quality day care or perhaps indeed a babysitter. The only difficulty we may encounter is guilt -- whichever choice we make. I can even hire a housekeeper if I want so that my husband and I won't have to do the cleaning.

There are a great many families who DO have to choose (or work multiple jobs), because babies are expensive. Those are the people who have it tough. Not my classmates or I. I kind of feel that women of my "class" can get carried away with the complaining about female inequality and the idea that you "can't" have both a career and a family, failing to realize how much better we have it than people who really do have to choose.

David Thompson

Naturally, none of this work is compensated in any way.

Ah, but it is compensated. Presuming a successful presentation on the part of the wife, the business relationship is successfully cultivated, and the husband is bestowed with a proportion of the resulting profit, of which the wife enjoys the benefits at home. Compensation by proxy.

The Happy Feminist

David, I thought you went away for good? (Not that you aren't welcome back!)

Naturally I am aware that my mother benefited indirectly from my father's successes. That's not the same thing as being compensated. She wasn't given direct control over any extra income he received except at my father's sufferance, nor did her unofficial contributions enhance her resume in any way. Indirect compensation is not acceptable when one makes a direct contribution.

mythago

Cooking, cleaning, etc. is a distant second.

It's a pretty important second, unless you're feeding your kids MREs and they're clothes-shunning neat freaks.

Compensation by proxy.

That's how they used to explain that women didn't really need the vote, too.

Isabel

So this is a great post and I don't have anything to add but I just want to say--Happy Feminist! You're back! I'd stopped checking and then I saw a comment of yours over at Pandagon and clicked right over. Your hiatus has definitely not impeded the quality of your posts.

First piny, now you. A good month in the feminist blogosphere.

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