Friday, February 10, 2012

Weekend Reading: The Achieving Equality Edition

I have a follow up to my last post in mind, discussing how hard it is to discuss being happy with my life (and particularly with being a work-outside-the-home mother) without offending women who have made different choices, why I think that is, and a couple of misconceptions about work-life balance for working parents that drive me absolutely batty... but I don't have the energy to write that post tonight. It has been a tough week, and I'm tired. So look for that post early next week.

Besides- it is Friday, so it is time for a weekend reading post! I will keep roughly in theme, though, because this week's post has a bunch of links that each in their own way remind us women that we still have a way to go before society really sees us as equal to men.

First, Ginger over at Ramble, Ramble wrote an eloquent plea for people to stop saying that someone else is raising our kids when we work. No one says that fathers aren't really parents if they work, but if mothers work- well, to some people, we're not really mothers. We're letting our nannies or the teachers at our day care raise our kids. Obviously, I think that is nonsense. Her rant was about how annoying it is when other working mothers say this- presumably as a self-deprecating joke. I agree, that joke is always going to fall flat. I would extend the rant to cover the other people who say this sort of thing, too.

Next, I believe that I found this awesome post about a lecture in which a woman scientist systematically dismisses the standard explanations for the gender gap using data in science via fiainros' twitter stream. If you are at all interested in the gender gap in science (and what we can do about it), go read that post. And follow @fiainros- she tweets good links!

I have no idea where I found this article from Forbes about how the response to Madonna's halftime show is ageist. Full disclosure- I didn't see the halftime show. We are rugby fans here, and don't watch much football. I went grocery shopping during the big game. But, I'm going to hazard a guess, based on the fact that people reacted so differently to Madonna than they did to the older male musicians who have performed in the past, and say that the reaction is probably a bit sexist, too. Aging still means something different to women than it means to men. For women whose careers are in performing arts, it must be so frustrating to see actors like Harrison Ford still getting cast as leading men while they are relegated to playing bit parts. It has been gratifying to watch actresses like Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep start to break through that barrier, but we still have a long way to go. Hey, Hollywood- I don't see many movies. Maybe that would change if you made the roles played by women I can identify with a little more interesting.

Of course, men and women get different reactions from the press and the public even before they are old. I really liked this article in the Atlantic discussing how annoying it is that Sheryl Sandberg is being characterized as "lucky" instead of just damn good at what she does. I haven't read that much about Sandberg, so I don't know how pervasive this characterization of her success is. But I liked her Barnard commencement address- a post about it was the trigger for the "don't lean back ahead of time" rant post that brought some of you to my blog. There was a link in that Atlantic article to an earlier Atlantic article summarizing her advice to ambitious young women, and I think it is good advice, particularly the bit about making sure your partner is a true partner.  I've said very similar things, and have ranted about how having a true partner is indeed possible. I'd add one more thing to her advice- don't fall into the guilt trap.

One of Sandberg's key pieces of advice is not to "lean back ahead of time"- i.e., don't scale back your career ambitions in anticipation of the time when you will have kids. I have noticed that when I go to career events for college students, graduate students, and post-docs, it is only the women who ask me about how I achieve work-life balance, and many of the women asking this have no partner, let alone kids. So it was interesting to read a post from The Mama Bee about an expectant father who was also considering "leaning back"- or more accurately, opting out. I can sympathize with that man, and of course he should do whatever is right for his family. But I can also sympathize with the Mama Bee's wish that he'd stay and help fight to make work places more hospitable to people who have children- or any other interest outside of work. I have ranted on this before, too, but I'm too lazy to find the link- work-life balance isn't just for mothers. We won't make progress on this issue without getting support and involvement from everyone in the work place- mothers, fathers, and people without any dependents at all. We all deserve a life that encompasses more than work.

That's enough ranting for tonight. It is almost time for Friday Night Beers!

In other news, I glanced at my stats this evening and thought "wow! Where did all those people come from?" It turns out that Gretchen over at the Happiness Project linked to my blog, which is pretty cool. Thanks to Gretchen for linking, and Laura Vanderkam for referring her. And hello, all you Happiness Project readers! Welcome to my blog.  There is a guided tour up there that might give you and idea of the various things I write about. At the end of last year I wrote a year in review post that highlighted some of my favorite and most popular posts of 2011, which would also be a good starting place if you want to explore my blog.

Also, in all the stress of this week, I forgot to draw a new winner for the Discovery of Jeanne Baret give away, since my first winner, Jen never sent me contact info. This is why I don't do many giveaways. I suck at them. But I'll rectify the situation soon, and contact the new winner. Jen- if you happen to read this, I guess you have one last chance to claim your book!

Happy weekend, everyone.


  1. Re: other people raising working mother's children.
    Not only is that not true, but as a stay at home mother I can tell you that a lot of other people are raising my children: neighbors, playmates parents, teachers, daycare for socialization, etc.
    Also I have been told that since I stay at home other people have to work for me....We women simply can't get a break.
    In my mind this battle between stay-at-home and working-outside-the-home mothers springs from a mentality of scarcity: there is not enough praise, recognition, ....., whatever for all of us. Well, there would be if we women would stop beating each other up all the time. As long as all children are well cared for the exact circumstances of their home life don't matter.

  2. @Regina- exactly! There is no one right way to be a mother. We all do what is best for us and our family, and as long as the kids are loved and cared for, they'll be fine.

  3. the milliner12:55 PM

    I remember thinking about "other people raising" my kid when I was about to go back to work. At the time I calculated how much time he'd spend in daycare and how much time he'd spend with us at home. I think it came out equal (if you compare over the span of a week)in the number of awake hours. Even following that logic his daycare teachers and us parents would be partners in raising our son.

    Quite frankly, I'm happy this all is a joint effort.

    Interestingly too, people kind of drop the whole "other people are raising your kids" logic when the kids start going to school. No one seems (or it's not the norm anyhow)to mind that someone else is teaching their kid.

  4. To be honest, growing up I always felt sorry for kids who stayed at home with their moms rather than going to daycare. They always seemed so immature. (And their moms were never anywhere near as cool as my mom, but then, who is?) So, like I said on the OP, I didn't realize daycare was something I was supposed to feel guilty about until I started reading mommy forums.

    And really, I feel like with a 5 year old I've grown out of caring about these same old same old discussions. There's only so many times a person can say the same thing (my line is always, "It takes a village whether you're a WOHP or SAHP"). I'm ready for new controversies, I guess. But everything parenting-related seems so dull, even age appropriate disagreements. Homework load? *yawn* Public vs. private vs home school? Grade skipping? Other people's opinions are irrelevant. Guilt? We're still against it. My choices judging yours? Yeah, they're not but why would someone care if they were?

    Gotta come up with some other hot button issues so people will keep getting snagged on our blog... but, meh.

  5. Personally, I like the mantra "all mothers are working mothers." Some is paid labor and some is unpaid labor, but there are no mothers since the dawn of civilization who have not, in fact, worked. And in most cases, in most societies, the majority of the work has not involved creating crafts for children and showing them foreign language flash cards. This idea that what it means to be a "mother" is a full time exclusive focus on children is basically a fiction of the late 20th century culture wars.

    Like nicoleandmaggie, I don't have the guilt chip. Is it because, like n&m, I had a WOH mom? (My mom also very clearly had her own life and interests, which I think helped me.) Did you, Cloud? Do you think what our mothers did or didn't do affects the way we feel about what we do? (I know it can go the opposite way - some women with mothers who worked felt abandoned and wanted to stay home as a result.)

  6. @Erin- you know I agree that mothers have always worked!

    For any newcomers, here is my old post on that:

    My mom stayed home with us until I was in kindergarten, and then went back to work. She was an elementary school teacher. I suspect she stayed home due to a combination of the fact that she really enjoys young children and the fact that it was much less common to go back to work when you had young kids at that time. I should ask her some time, though!

    I struggled with guilt when Pumpkin was a baby, but at some point I got over it. I really wish I could pinpoint when and why! If I had to guess, I think it would be when I realized that she was absolutely thriving in day care.

  7. Thanks for the link, Cloud! And that's great that Gretchen sent people over here. You have a refreshing blog.
    But yeah, that "other people raising your children" line bugs me, too. Especially given that it seems all fine and dandy for most people after age 5. The average mom with a full time job (according to the American Time Use Survey) works about 35 hours a week. The average child is in school and activities...35 hours a week.

  8. Cloud, thanks for linking to my post. The thing I find really interesting about the whole thing (for me, personally): I had a WOH mom growing up--and when I was little she worked 3 jobs so I was in all kinds of care situations. I never questioned that I would be a working mom when I grew up...until I had a kid, and then suddenly this guilt thing appeared out of nowhere. I'm still trying to work through what, exactly, brought that on. I know it has to be some societal construct, but it's interesting to me to try and figure out where. (Oh, and the guilt dried up about the same time I started weaning. Whether that is because my hormones finally chilled out or because my toddler appeared and I realized how hard it is to parent 24/7, who's to say).


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