Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Wives and Mothers

Kim has started a series, prompted by a book reviewing American history and culture from the 30's onwards. The first post is titled "Wives and Mothers", and addresses the issue of the change of gender roles away from motherhood, and now it's recent swing back:
I think that women will rather prepare themselves for a career as family managers than as factory managers.

Events seem to support this suggestion. Where women have gone into the full-time workforce, they’ve had children later in life (and fewer children withal), and in some cases, not had children at all. It’s also not surprising, therefore, that the generational replacement rate has fallen massively in societies where women have discarded their traditional role and become career professionals.

But what I say doesn’t matter. The plain fact today is that young women are returning to their traditional role, despite all the propaganda to the contrary. (Yes, I know that college enrolment among women is higher than ever: but college, today, is really no more than an advanced high school in terms of education standards, so that’s not a real indicator.)

More to the point: I think that young women under the age of 20 today have seen the effects of what working full-time has done to their own mothers—and I believe that they’re going to reject that path in higher and higher numbers.

This has a great personal significance to me, first because my mother was one of the women greatly harmed by the womens "working revolution", and as my fiance and I are going through this right now.

My fiance has two little girls, 4 and 2, from a previous marriage. We plan on having at least one more, and maybe up to three more kids (five is about the max either of us would ever want to take on). We aren't going to limit our kids based on a desired lifestyle or expense limit, we're going to limit them based on how many we think we can take care of.

She was working two jobs (one full time weekdays, one part time weekends) before she met me, and was going to continue doing so with a low income childcare subsidy. Without the subsidy, the cost of childcare would have been between $300 and $400 per week, which incidentally was her approximate take home pay.

She was spending between $50 and $100 a week in gas getting back and forth to her two jobs, and another $50-100 on fast food lunches and dinners because of timing.

So it would actually COST us an extra $100 to $200 per week for her to work; over and above any salary or wage she made. Then we looked at the tax numbers, and it gets even worse.

We calculated that she would need to make almost $40,000 a year for us to break even on her working; at least as long as we have young kids.

Not only that, but the kids would suffer for it, both of our time and energy and stress level would suffer for it…

Just in general, EVERYTHING IS WORSE when she works; so long as the family has a husband (me) who can provide for us.

At one time, most people understood that having both parents working in a family with small children was something negative. It is only something to be done when absolutely necessary, because everyone is worse off in every way, except the extra money coming in to the household; and when you factor other things, often that extra money is an illusion.

We decided that she would stay home, and that I would be the primary source of income, at least until the kids are all in grade school. She’ll go back to college when the kids are out of the house, and then when they are a bit older, she’ll go back to work.

In order to do this and maintain our current lifestyle, I need to make about $60,000 a year; which given my profession and my experience etc… I have no problem doing. It just means that I can't afford to go a few months between contracts anymore, and that I really should get a job with benefits. I'm more than willing to do this for my family.

This is going to be better for her, for me, for the girls, for the family as a whole. She knows this, and it is very definitely what she wants to do…

...and yet…

She actually feels guilty over this.

I guess it comes back to the Steinems of this world, and the myth of having it all