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SAHMing as default huring society's work/life balance?

post #1 of 185
Thread Starter 
One of my friends was recently asserting the following --

That SAHM-ing is still the default expectation for the wives of professionals (doctor, lawyer, etc.) and the "executive" worker.

That SAHM-ing is contributing to and reinforcing the total work/life in-balance of many of those workers (as the hours requirements for those jobs are extremely high and just getting higher) -- since the expectation is that those workers have someone at home managing all other aspects of their lives (grocery shopping, bill paying, appointment making, childcare, etc., etc.) so that they can focus 100% on their career.

She feels that if the general social understanding was that the wives were continuing to work, and that the husbands would as a result HAVE to meet at least some proportion of primary responsibility for child-care and running the household, that the situation would not be as bad as it currently is. She further thinks that more women would be able to stay in those sorts of jobs full-time if the work/life balance was more reasonable.

I thought this was an interesting idea, though perhaps overstated. Thoughts?
post #2 of 185
My dh is an outside salesman. He travels 2-3 nights a week. In similar positions, almost all of his colleagues have wives that SAH. It is expected and somewhat rewarded. (When I had the baby and word got out that I SAH, he somehow was rewarded with a raise shortly thereafter)

Part of the decision for me to SAH was sheer logistics. I had a job where I worked 1-2 twenty-four hour shifts during the week. WIth his travel, that was hard enough to balance with just a puppy. Our dog spent a few nights a month at the kennel because of it. With a baby, we knew that it would mean lots more juggling.

All that juggling, we felt, would cause my dh to not be able to be as devoted to his career (he'd have to leave for work in the morning after daycare opened, instead of early; he'd have to make sure he was home certain afternoons, etc) One of our jobs had to go. Because his job has much greater salary potential, it was a no brainer for us to focus on that job.

But, yes, I think that companies expect a certain level of devotion to really succeed in certain jobs. And, having a partner at home makes that devotion lots easier. My dh has never had to leave work early or go in late for childcare, his clothes are magically washed weekly, he doesn't do the household errands, he never leaves work for a sick baby, and on and on. That job gets 100% of him while he is there.
post #3 of 185
Quote:
Originally Posted by bczmama View Post

She feels that if the general social understanding was that the wives were continuing to work, and that the husbands would as a result HAVE to meet at least some proportion of primary responsibility for child-care and running the household, that the situation would not be as bad as it currently is. She further thinks that more women would be able to stay in those sorts of jobs full-time if the work/life balance was more reasonable.
I'm a very cynical person but my belief is that if the wives worked they would be expected to work part-time or "only" 40 hours a week so that they could still support their husband's careers.
post #4 of 185
There was actually a very good article recently in The Economist about aging populations and birthrates. Italy and Japan are actually having a lot problems with birthrates. While France was able to turn theirs around by giving women more options in the work place and having more family friendly policies. Italy sort of has family friendly policies but your career as a woman can't really go anywhere if you decide to have kids same with Japan where it's even worse women don't get high powered jobs to begin with. Basically it boiled down to the more options women have and the more support they get for those options, the more kids they have which I find interesting. You sort of go from an agrarian society where you have to have a lot of kids, to a more industrialized society where job opportunities make you need less kids to an enlightened industrial society that sees the importance in work/life balance and birth rates go up.

I don't think sahm'ing per se actually hurts women, everyone should have the choice. But when the patriarchy that sets the agenda feels it should be the default for women who have kids, that's where it hurts women. When I just become a lactating uterus, then I have problems with society.
post #5 of 185
Well my issue is with the expectations of the long hours for everyone, regardless of marital/SAH-partner status.

But yes, I do think the expectations are over the top for certain jobs - not just the high level or traditional lawyer/doctor ones either; a lot of social workers work long hours, and my husband is in IT and the expectations there are ludicrous - still the "nerd who lives here" kind of view. In order to find a family balance there may be pressure on the lower-earner to stay home, usually the woman (I am a classic example, me and my liberal arts)

Even in my field (publishing) there is a new expectation that one is available more around the clock - most of the higher-level people answer email one last time after dinner.
post #6 of 185
I think your friend is right. There is a certain level of career where there is an expectation that you are available 24-7. I know because I've done it. People who are single are expected to not have pets or houseplants because they must be available to travel for weeks at a time on one hours notice. Children would be completely unacceptable. If you do have home responsibilities then you must either have a spouse who takes care of everything or an ex-spouse who takes care of the kids and then you maintain the pet and houseplant free lifestyle.

I was horrified to be a part of this system. I had zero respect for the men (and 1 woman who reached the upper levels at a huge firm) who could be so detached from their children. I gave up a ton of money to get away from that world.

I left with the belief that the best way to achieve work/life balance is not to focus on making it easier for women to manage the day to day of a career and children, but to fundamentally change the expectation that men can ignore the home sector. If men are expected to be more than breadwinners, then everyone would benefit and the work/life balance would simply fall into place.

Thankfully I now work in an environment where both genders are expected to leave early for the school play, or to have the kids in the office during Spring Break. The type of environment I have found is the exception not the rule, and everyone in it chose this particular path over other options so we have a unique group of people.

And just to be clear, I don't think the solution is that women should not be SAHM. The solution is a change in expectations for people who are in the paid workforce.
post #7 of 185
Moving to SAHM forum.
post #8 of 185
i agree -- i would have stayed home no matter whaty Dh did -- as it is a prority for us, and we waited until $ possible to have kids.

but

It is really a necessaity with DH's career. his hours are long adn unpredicatble and subject to change constantly on a moments notice -- the ringing of a phone He is on call 24 / 7 even on vaction. I don't even leave DS with him to go shopping, for like an all day thing, cuz of it. The most i leave DS wiht him is 2 or 3 hours, then we both have a car seat and i keep my cell phone on my body at all times in case i have to go meet DH and get DS from him.

But that is not to say DH's job or office is anti-family or anti-kid. the work is just unpredicatable at times. Dh takes off for well baby check and OB appt all the time. we wives (and one SAHD) bring in teh kids for family lunches a lot, and we all stop by the office when we run errands and the whole office stops to talk and play with the kids. DH has stayed home with a sick baby, and a sick momma and everyone in the office is totally supportive of each other and their families. BUT there are times, be it court, or a Grand Jury or whatever -- when THAT can't be adjusted. and he is expected to be reaschane and "go-able" 24 hours a day 7 days a week .....

IF I worked at all it would have to be PT, and no responiblity -- no getting off late no odd hours and so on ..... asnd for THAT money it would not cover daycare.

We do know familes in DH's profession with two working parents and the mom has a high profile demanding job and the 2 younger than school aged kids are in daycare and it is a NIGHTMARE, of constant phone calls to see who can go get the kids when the center is closeing, to fight about who is going to go to work "late" that day and take them to the center as soon as it opens, and at least 2x a week a grandparent has to step in and go get teh girls, or take them in the morning cuz neither parent was able to make to the center before it closed. Juggling thier mutal trips and late night dinners and meetings and events and so on ... and with the DH being on call ... : : : : : it is amazingly complex, scarey and no one seems happy. and BOTH parents feel the other parent is not pulling their part and both feel stressed and fustrated at work due to the constant juggleing and worry.

Dh and I see our sitaution as divide and conquor -- looking at what is best for the kids. However me being home allows him more success at work, which in turn is good for the family too

That being said DH doesn't get a pass on child care or home care when he is here ... jsut cuz of the job (ok a little on the night time stuff)..... but there is an acceptance of when he is not here.

So yes i do think some preofession and some career necsate a stay at home partner -- or a full time nanny and house keeper.

Is the IDEAL .. no in the greater picture it is not a perfect thing... but i do think it is REALITY and not going to change even with we are the grandparents talking about how our kids manager careers and kids ..... i think it is tooooo biiiiiig a change to expect over all ......... because any one person or company that tires to make that change, falls risk the the others that don't.
post #9 of 185
I think that my husband is where he is in his career because I stay home. And our family, as a result, is benefiting from it. It's a win-win situation.
post #10 of 185
Quote:
Originally Posted by bczmama View Post

I thought this was an interesting idea, though perhaps overstated. Thoughts?
Oh, interesting topic!

I think you said it best in your last line..."interesting idea, though perhaps overstated."

While it's never good to generalize or stereotype people's lives, I think there is a lot of truth in your friend's theory.

Has anyone read the last few articles the New York Times did on the new wave of stay at home mothers? The thrust of the articles was that stay at home mothering had a lot to do with economic class; that stay at home mothering was becoming a luxury and a wife of white collar worker phenomenon. Again, this is dangerous territory to generalize, because I know many many families who sacrifice in order to have a parent stay home.

The articles made the point, however, that women who had advanced degrees themselves from Ivy League schools and who had worked in lucrative careers before having children, were now staying at home with children, and lending a supporting role to their husbands career arch.

Anecdotally, of the few doctors, lawyers, MBAs, etc that I know in real life, one of the parents stays home (male or female) and they lend a supporting role to the long work hours, infrequent vacation time, inflexible schedules.

I know that day care is often not a very good option for these families if they had two jobs because it would always fall on one parent to pick up and drop off and do all household tasks, just due to the work commitment of the other.

So, yes, I think your friend makes a very valid point!
post #11 of 185
Quote:
Originally Posted by Momma Aimee View Post
i agree -- i would have stayed home no matter whaty Dh did -- as it is a prority for us, and we waited until $ possible to have kids.

but

It is really a necessaity with DH's career. his hours are long adn unpredicatble and subject to change constantly on a moments notice...


IF I worked at all it would have to be PT, and no responiblity -- no getting off late no odd hours and so on ..... asnd for THAT money it would not cover daycare.

We do know familes in DH's profession with two working parents and the mom has a high profile demanding job and the 2 younger than school aged kids are in daycare and it is a NIGHTMARE, of constant phone calls to see who can go get the kids when the center is closeing, to fight about who is going to go to work "late" that day and take them to the center as soon as it opens, and at least 2x a week a grandparent has to step in and go get teh girls.
I think you illustrate exactly what I was trying to say in my post! If you have two demanding careers, it makes it nearly impossible to juggle the responsibilities of parenting, even with day care. Many day care hours simply do not align with the extended hours of a demanding career.
post #12 of 185
I would agree. When dd1 was born 5 plus years ago, we wanted me to stay home which I have done since then. FF to now. I NEED to be home for my family. MY dh's clinic is owned by himself and 3 other partners. ITs demanding and he works half days a lot- meaning which 12 hours do you want to work??
The upside, he has been able to focus on his career, make more money and this keeps us out of debt etc but also better himself too. If both of us were WOH, it would be like the pp said about the juggling act and neither of us would devote what is needed in our career. I know a few sahmoms who were lawyers in their previous life, one ped who delivered premature twins last year and decided it was time to focus on her babies for now. And many others who also had a demanding career or job like I did and said- not worth it, I can always go back or do something else some day.

Good thread btw.
post #13 of 185
Quote:
Originally Posted by bczmama View Post
One of my friends was recently asserting the following --

That SAHM-ing is still the default expectation for the wives of professionals (doctor, lawyer, etc.) and the "executive" worker.

That SAHM-ing is contributing to and reinforcing the total work/life in-balance of many of those workers (as the hours requirements for those jobs are extremely high and just getting higher) -- since the expectation is that those workers have someone at home managing all other aspects of their lives (grocery shopping, bill paying, appointment making, childcare, etc., etc.) so that they can focus 100% on their career.

She feels that if the general social understanding was that the wives were continuing to work, and that the husbands would as a result HAVE to meet at least some proportion of primary responsibility for child-care and running the household, that the situation would not be as bad as it currently is. She further thinks that more women would be able to stay in those sorts of jobs full-time if the work/life balance was more reasonable.

I thought this was an interesting idea, though perhaps overstated. Thoughts?
I think your friend has come up with a simplistic way to deal with the evils of capitalism and sexism among other things.
post #14 of 185
A demanding career doesn't necessarily mean a career that is well paid! My husband has a very demanding career, but we still have the same struggles that many one paycheck households have.

While it would make a lot of financial sense in our household for me to work (as I also had a fairly demanding, fairly well-paying job), the logistics of two demanding careers AND raising children were just too challenging (not impossible and not that we didn't think about it, it was just not very easily managed).

My husband's hours at work, inflexible schedule, and travel make it nearly impossible for me to rely on him to ever pick up or drop off a child at daycare on time and within their scheduled hours, even for many in-home options. The amount and the hours he works make it difficult for me to even have a part time job.

If I had stayed working in my job, my schedule would not have jived very well with day care hours either.

So, it was a tough choice, and one my husband didn't completely agree with or support, but I felt like in order to be the type of parent I wanted to be, I needed to stay home, at least until my children were school aged.
post #15 of 185
Women who are nurturing and caring for children are not to blame!
post #16 of 185
Quote:
Originally Posted by bczmama View Post
She feels that if the general social understanding was that the wives were continuing to work, and that the husbands would as a result HAVE to meet at least some proportion of primary responsibility for child-care and running the household, that the situation would not be as bad as it currently is. She further thinks that more women would be able to stay in those sorts of jobs full-time if the work/life balance was more reasonable.
I think it would be more accurate to say that if the general social understanding was that family was an important priority for all workers, THEN the situation would improve. Or that we should expect partners of SAHPs to *still* participate in parenting.

I *am* a stay at home mom. My husband *still* lost his job shortly after our son was born, essentially because he would no longer put work above everything else. Someone else who still works there is desperately seeking a new job because they won't arrange his on-call hours to not include the two weekends a month when he gets his six year old son (who lives out of state); they literally told him that he "had to put the program first, because we need you". It's completely unreasonable
post #17 of 185
First, I'm a little disappointed to see this moved to the SAHM forum because I think it's a reasonable topic that anyone could weigh-in on. These sorts of philospophical discussions with the AMAZING intelligent women on MDC are why I keep coming back.

But that aside, I agree a lot with GuildJenn, Lisalou and especially pumpkin below:

[QUOTE=pumpkin;9283871

to fundamentally change the expectation that men can ignore the home sector. If men are expected to be more than breadwinners, then everyone would benefit and the work/life balance would simply fall into place.

And just to be clear, I don't think the solution is that women should not be SAHM. The solution is a change in expectations for people who are in the paid workforce.[/QUOTE]

I'm totally on with this. As an employed mother, I see many more men taking responsibilities for the children than I think ocurred in generations past. My mother worked, but also kept the house, did all the laundry, all the cooking, all the shopping and all the cleaning. Today, I see men who are totally or partially responsible for grocery shopping, cooking, laundry etc. I was thrilled earlier this year when my roofer cancelled his appointment with me because of his sick child. I was thrilled to see him sharing in that kind of responsibility. I bet his father never cancelled on a client due to sick kid illness. Yes, I'd arranged to take off work and meet the roofer and he couldn't tell me until that morning, but really, it was fine with me. I think those sorts of things will bring about the societal change we desperately need - men being expected to take on more household resposibilities, singles who must care for aging parents or grand-parents. The expectation that our jobs don't own us 24/7.
post #18 of 185
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ellien C View Post
First, I'm a little disappointed to see this moved to the SAHM forum because I think it's a reasonable topic that anyone could weigh-in on. These sorts of philospophical discussions with the AMAZING intelligent women on MDC are why I keep coming back.
And we are too busy eating bon bons, painting our toes and wathing soaps to weigh-in.

I know you didn't intend it to come off as such but that just made me .
post #19 of 185
All the people in high demand jobs that I know, do have a SAHM partner.

My DH has a very demanding career and this was one of his issues when we talked about having DC, I had to be a SAHM when we had DC. I completely agreed and had always planned on it anyway so it was a moot point for us. I take care of everything in the house and everything to do with the children, DH does not have the time nor the energy to handle it. I can't imagine would happen if at 5pm when a crisis was occuring, he looked at his watch and said he had to left because the daycare was closing and he had to pick up his children. It is not going to happen in his line of work, not if he wants a jobs, someone else has to handle all of that, million dollar companies do not care about 5-6pm daycare pickups. Sick days don't exist for him, even when DD2 was in the hospital, I had to arrange care for DD1 because I was with DD2, and DH had to be at work. Clients are understanding to a point, once here and there rarely, but when you have an ill child for many months, they lose patience very quickly.

To be fair, I could be making good money if I was still working, my profession isn't as demanding, RN, but DH makes far more then I ever could...
post #20 of 185
I don't think that at least IME, SAHMs are a default. In fact, I have found almost everyone expects the women to work full time from birth and be available at the drop of a hat to take time off for a child, but men are not expected/allowed to.

My being a SAHM tends to get some strange looks like noone even knew you could do that.
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