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SAHMing as default huring society's work/life balance? - Page 9

post #161 of 185
This is an interesting thread, Siobhan.

A friend from college who typically makes $400K/yr (but made $1M the last two years) stopped by yesterday and casually wondered why I (or my dh) didn't leave our jobs in public service to go into the private sector and rake it in. His wife does not work; they're contemplating having their first child (& probably only) next year; she'll definitely be the primary caregiver for their child.

The answer I gave him was that I (& my dh) want to be home at 6 to have dinner with the family every night.

But why is the default for high-powered jobs a greater than 40 hour week? I've seen headlines recently about what hard workers Americans are. What does this mean, and what does this get us as a society? I don't mean to be flip - I'd really like someone's considered response.

In my profession, the default work week in the private sector was 40 hours a week 50 years ago. Now the default work week is 8 to 8, 6 days a week; more if you're gearing up for a trial.
post #162 of 185
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rio Mama View Post
But why is the default for high-powered jobs a greater than 40 hour week? I've seen headlines recently about what hard workers Americans are. What does this mean, and what does this get us as a society? I don't mean to be flip - I'd really like someone's considered response.

In my profession, the default work week in the private sector was 40 hours a week 50 years ago. Now the default work week is 8 to 8, 6 days a week; more if you're gearing up for a trial.
Well, I think that for high-powered American jobs, employees are compensated extremely well. You mentioned your friend who has taken home $1m over the past two years, for instance.

And then for those who aren't taking in that much, but who want to do it, they have to work those hours to get to that point (e.g., beginner corporate attorneys, beginner investment bankers). They sure aren't suffering as far as salary goes either even though it's not in the 7 figures.

Not to be too flip, but that's a heck of a lot of money, and I'm not surprised it requires more than 40 hours. In other countries elite jobs either require tons of hours or aren't nearly well as compensated, speaking very generally.

Getting back to the original question, I can't see how you'd do one of those jobs without a SAHP at home taking care of everything to do with the family. It would be very hard otherwise.
post #163 of 185
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rio Mama View Post
But why is the default for high-powered jobs a greater than 40 hour week?.
Because that's why it's called a high powered job? Seriously, do you think someone in a high powered job is doing 20 hours a week and getting paid a million a year?
post #164 of 185
A small and meaningless caveat to the scope of the intellectual prowess of this thread:

some women do not want to be with their children all day
some do not want to stay home
some find staying home hard and beneath them
some do not want to trust their husbands for providing for the family
some do not want to live in a lower economic bracket
some do not want to move or go without things to be able to stay home
some do not want public assistance, thrift store clothes or old cars

And in kind, some women do want to do some or all of those things.

The women's movemet was to dislodge us from shoulds and inequality and into doing what we desire and with equality. It literally gave us a voice to vote, to be educated, to be seen and respected. To put down mothering at home as lesser, ignorant, frazzled, whatnot or as taking away from society's work'life balance is to negate what many of our foremothers fought for us.

I had to look up the term "opt out revolution" and found an interesting article on it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/26/ma...ZqXu9vpl4RzMyA
post #165 of 185
Thanks for the link, Hotmamacita! That's a good article.

It helped me think more about why I don't have to worry that there won't be a job for me, if I ever do want to reenter the workforce.

Even when I was single, my focus was always on doing work that fulfilled me -- and I've always been fulfilled by nurturing others. After my children are grown, if for some reason I need to earn an income, I feel I have lots of options to do this in ways that are meaningful and rewarding to me.

I don't forsee any reduction in the need for good foster-care parents in my state. I also don't forsee any reduction in the need for good paraprofessionals to work in our public school system. I have an associates degree in Early Childhood, and a bachelor's in Social Work.

I never ended up getting a degree in special education, though I was interested, but I hear there's somewhat of a demand for paraprofessionals to assist in meeting the needs of the special needs children in public school classrooms. I'm not sure exactly what would be available to me some 15 years from now, but I'm sure I can find someone who will hire me, if and when the time comes that I'm looking.

I guess I've never really been on a "career-track" -- so I never got off one, either -- and I have no interest in getting on at this phase of my life. Which is probably a good thing, since I'll be well into my 50's when my children are grown; it's good I'm at a place where I can be content with a job, and don't feel a need to build a career. My "career" has been a life of nurturing, both with and without pay.

I can't see myself regretting, when I'm 80, that I didn't build a different sort of life.
post #166 of 185
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rio Mama View Post
This is an interesting thread, Siobhan.

A friend from college who typically makes $400K/yr (but made $1M the last two years) stopped by yesterday and casually wondered why I (or my dh) didn't leave our jobs in public service to go into the private sector and rake it in. His wife does not work; they're contemplating having their first child (& probably only) next year; she'll definitely be the primary caregiver for their child.

The answer I gave him was that I (& my dh) want to be home at 6 to have dinner with the family every night.

But why is the default for high-powered jobs a greater than 40 hour week? I've seen headlines recently about what hard workers Americans are. What does this mean, and what does this get us as a society? I don't mean to be flip - I'd really like someone's considered response.

In my profession, the default work week in the private sector was 40 hours a week 50 years ago. Now the default work week is 8 to 8, 6 days a week; more if you're gearing up for a trial.
There has been some research into this, and when men work those hours not as many are working hours as when women do it. It seems that women know that they have to be somewhere else and work when at work. So those "high-powered" more than 40 hours guys are often not working efficiently.
post #167 of 185
Thread Starter 
"There has been some research into this, and when men work those hours not as many are working hours as when women do it. It seems that women know that they have to be somewhere else and work when at work. So those "high-powered" more than 40 hours guys are often not working efficiently."

Can we all say "Face Time" together?

Anyway, if you get a lot done, but no one sees it (via your presence at work at 10:30 at night) don't you just get more work?

Of course there are all the fun techiques to make everyone convinced what a hard worker you are -- never turning your office light off, leaving stacks of paper on your desk, drafting emails earlier in the day and then sending them out late at night -- all sorts of "office theater".
post #168 of 185
You both bring up a more intriguing and perhaps more fruitful thread for discussion....the realities of inefficient employees/positions and even entire businesses that actually hurt the workplace and our economic system. Also, there is a huge waste of resources and much employee apathy in our work environments that, imo, have NOTHING to do with staying home to take care of your children/whether you are a man/woman/single/married, etc...
post #169 of 185
All really good points.

I think a lot depends on the field. Mine (publishing) is pretty results oriented but there is a certain amount of - maybe not "face time" but "availability time" that you need, often to look at photo spreads and things which is still somehow a LOT easier to do in person than electronically. As I've said, the new piece since I went back, to me anyway, is the expectation to respond to email from home at night.

Also, like many creative fields, coming up with ideas sometimes takes time outside the 9-5 world - going to industry events or even non-industry events, getting out and talking to people, etc. For me that is something I would want to do anyway... but it is a balancing act with a toddler, for sure.

I had two days a week working from home written into my contract, which helps cut down on commuting time too, and also is less prone to interruption, and I leave at 4 every day. I have found that being firm about it hasn't hurt so far, but we'll see.

My husband's field, however, (IT consulting) is the reverse in many ways. His team actually spans three countries and two continents and face time is often nil. But the amount that they are expected to produce and their availability to deal with problem that come up is to my way of thinking unreal. And people who protest really are let go, and although there are some alternatives for sure, his particular passion/area of expertise is mostly just like that at this point in history.

And the reason companies make those demands is the marketplace - if they won't do it for X dollars and be available 24/7, someone else will. So it's way beyond just a corporate culture.

And frankly, it's even a societal thing - how many of us would be able to cope if, say, the credit card/debit card network was shut down for two days during the day for maintenance so that people don't have to miss weekends or work overnight... not too many. And yet in the past banks closed on weekends and people coped.

So yes, interesting times.
post #170 of 185
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuildJenn View Post
And the reason companies make those demands is the marketplace - if they won't do it for X dollars and be available 24/7, someone else will. So it's way beyond just a corporate culture.
Good point. If the neighborhood grocery store closed at 5, and I called dh on his way home from work to say, "We're out of milk: it's after 5, you'll have to stop at Walmart" -- that's some $4.00 the neighborhood store just lost that went to Walmart because Walmart decided to make some of their workers do a night-shift.

And some mamas prefer to do all their grocery shopping late at night when dh's are home and little ones are asleep.

You're right: the more we talk about changing society and the workplace, the more complex it all becomes. Rather than saying, "All wives should work," we could just as accurately say, "We should all limit our business transactions to 9 to 5, Monday through Friday." That'd probably improve things more than a few additional women going back to work after giving birth.
post #171 of 185
Thread Starter 
"We should all limit our business transactions to 9 to 5, Monday through Friday."

And then - how do single people, or families with 2 working adults ever get any errands done? Its an ugly cycle...
post #172 of 185
Quote:
Originally Posted by bczmama View Post
"We should all limit our business transactions to 9 to 5, Monday through Friday."

And then - how do single people, or families with 2 working adults ever get any errands done? Its an ugly cycle...
Exactly! Limiting everyone to 9 to 5 transactions would be just as constricting as pressuring all women to return to work after giving birth, whether they wanted to or not.

It's ugly when we try to shove everyone into the same mold -- regardless of the ideology behind the mold.
post #173 of 185
Quote:
Originally Posted by bczmama View Post
"We should all limit our business transactions to 9 to 5, Monday through Friday."

And then - how do single people, or families with 2 working adults ever get any errands done? Its an ugly cycle...
When I moved to Holland 7.5 years ago, this was kind of how it was, except that the store hours were 10-6. When my DH was little, the schools sent the kids home for lunch! All these things virtually guaranteed that a parent, almost always the mom, had to pretty much be a FT SAH.

things are slowly changing. most stores still aren't open on Sunday, especially in smaller towns and villages. more stores stay open longer on saturdays and stores are open on thursday evenings till 9:00 PM.

Still, the whole country is still set up for one parent to work full time and the other parent to work, at most, part time. As someone who works PT myself, I see a lot of advantages to it. However, Holland is on par with Pakistan (I kid you not) for the number of women who are in board level positions in the business world and the public sector. one reason is that women have a very hard time working FT OH, even if they want to, because nothing in the society is set up to encourage that. Yes, things are changing, but not very quickly.

so . . . as PPs said, be careful what you wish for, because it's usually the woman who gets shafted! (not to be cynical or anything . . . )
post #174 of 185
Quote:
Originally Posted by DariusMom View Post
When I moved to Holland 7.5 years ago, this was kind of how it was, except that the store hours were 10-6. When my DH was little, the schools sent the kids home for lunch! All these things virtually guaranteed that a parent, almost always the mom, had to pretty much be a FT SAH.
That's exactly how it was when I visited friends in Macau, South China in 1997 (not the store hours: the school lunch arrangements). Macau was still under Portuguese rule at that time, and my missionary friends sent their children to Portuguese school. The 5yo stayed all day and had lunch with her class, but the 7yo had to go out with a parent for lunch.

I think the teachers just kind of sent the kids out the door, and it was the parents' responsibility to make sure they were there to meet them, not the teachers' to make sure they were met.

These friends knew one single mother who worked full-time, and she had arrangements with her job to get that segment of time off every day. Still, she seemed kind of harried sometimes and was grateful on days when my friends offered to care for her son along with their own.

I think it's probably nicer for the kids to have that spot of contact with a parent in the middle of the school day. Of course, it's kind of complicated if the school's not "right up the street," where the child can easily walk home on his own -- and also in this day and age we don't always feel it's safe for our children to walk even short distances unsupervised.
post #175 of 185
I'm late to the thread, but will add.

I think the responsibility for work-life balance rests on the shoulders of the workers and their employers. While your friend makes a valid connection between how a stay at home spouse can help one's career, it's not accurate to blame a non-working individual for the difficult conditions within a workplace.

However, women tend to get blamed for everything, so I understand why the argument was attempted.

Because so many are willing to work gruelling schedules in exchange for big bucks, or even a shot at big bucks, that's why things are the way they are. If people refused those jobs and those hours, then it would change. The long work schedules have much more to do with ambition and competitiveness than anything else.
post #176 of 185
I work in publishing too. Specifically magazine publishing. I like the cycles of it. There might be a day or two an issue where I might be needed later than normal but the then impending shortfall in work makes it easier to actually take comp time.

I do think sometimes proving that you're overworked is some kind of ego trip. Not that we aren't. But I sit across from a woman where I swear her job is high pressured to begin with but she makes it 10x worse by not delegating, or delegating and then getting reinvolved for no good reason or just starting out every conversation with how overworked she is. Like the rest of us do nothing or something.

I also had a boss that felt it was more important that you were in the office than doing actual work. Specifically you should stay late. So all of my peers and I would set the timers on our lights and computers to turn off 30 min after we left. I'm in circulation which can be very task oriented. I've never met a circulation person who didn't mind going the extra mile to get the job done. Or if I did they didn't last very long. But we're also very cynical people who don't like busy work and won't go the extra mile for nothing or should I say to appear busy.
post #177 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?
So many people have posted interesting thoughts on this thread-I thought I'd just go back to OP.

I fall into the camp where I don't think you can categorize it as SAHM--I just think the expectations of corporate America are really pretty outrageous, and as long as people keep meeting those expectations they will continue to increase. Corporate America just does not care about your standard of living. (Blanket statement--there might be people who work for more family friendly companies who disagree, and I'd love to hear from them...)

I was working full-time up until May--it was expected that I start on the blackberry at 7:30am, work all day, and then still be available on the way home, via cell or bberry. I also traveled for work. The standard was no different for a man with a wife at home. I didn't work at night too much, unless I had a big presentation or something.

When DD was born, my husband was consulting and his schedule was so flexible. The next year, we were both working full-time, in NYC, responsible positions, and it was really awful. Life was much better with someone at home for the baby, do the errands, keeping life running smoothly! That person doesn't have to be a SAHM, though--it could be help in any form. I'm always so jealous when I meet people who have a supportive family network locally. That would help too.

Working a shorter schedule, or from home one or two days a week would have made all the difference, but I couldn't make it happen at my company. And honestly, I could do the work and get it done, and be profitable that way. At a certain point in my career, it became more about the skills and connections I had made, and less about hours. So I quit and started consulting, which I love. And I think, until more people, male and female, take their talents out of the corporate world, nothing will change.

I don't think that everyone having a job outside the home would change the demands of Corporate America. I think everyone would just find themselves paying for more help with those things--and errand runner services would really take off...

Also, here's an article about how Generation Y is really going to change the workplace...

http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortu.../28/100033934/
post #178 of 185
Quote:
Originally Posted by madskye View Post
Also, here's an article about how Generation Y is really going to change the workplace...

http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortu.../28/100033934/
That article's got me excited about how the new generations of attachment-parented kids are going to change the world even more than the Generation Yers. The author says the baby boomer parents gave Generation Yers lots of love but also placed strong emphasis on achievement.

Attachment parents also give lots of love -- and in addition to that, we follow our children's leads, and free them to develop their own ideas about what achievement is and what they care about working for. Our kids may really be able to write their own job descriptions and map out their own careers!
post #179 of 185
Quote:
Originally Posted by mammal_mama View Post
That article's got me excited about how the new generations of attachment-parented kids are going to change the world even more than the Generation Yers. The author says the baby boomer parents gave Generation Yers lots of love but also placed strong emphasis on achievement.
Sorry that article just makes Gen Y sound like a bunch of kids who need to grow up a little. I just can't imagine a bunch of people who have no qualms about living at home into their 30's and still rely on the parents to do things like come to their job interviews and make decisions for them will be well prepared to be AP parents. But then I used to work at a college and heard some very distressing horror stories about Gen Yers.
post #180 of 185
Quote:
Originally Posted by lisalou View Post
Sorry that article just makes Gen Y sound like a bunch of kids who need to grow up a little. I just can't imagine a bunch of people who have no qualms about living at home into their 30's and still rely on the parents to do things like come to their job interviews and make decisions for them will be well prepared to be AP parents. But then I used to work at a college and heard some very distressing horror stories about Gen Yers.
They actually may be more prepared than some of us were/are.
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