August 13, 2004

Welcome Back

Well, you can tell school's about to start again, because the flow of academic goofiness has already resumed.

From FIRE, the morons at Chapel Hill have decided that one lawsuit was insufficient to deter them from their goal of eradicating discrimination within Christian groups by not allowing the Christian groups to require that their leadership be, oh, Christian. Umm, guys? Contrary to your interpretation, losing the first lawsuit doesn't give you an automatic "do over." It means you should stop using the bureaucracy to beat up the folks you don't like. Just so we're clear.

In my more cynical moments (what, I have some wide-eyed wonder left, I do! Oh, fine.) I think that savvier academics understand the best way to raise your cache' amongst the moving and shaking intelligentsia is to come out with statements that are so over-the-top, outlandish, and patently wrong to anyone with at least one foot on planet earth that you create a backlash of epic proportions. And then I read this, (via the Esmay collective) and realize that my cynicism, as usual, is completely vindicated.

Seriously, what other purpose could someone have for publishing an article like this except to create a furor and get some name recognition? Unless of course she actually BELIEVES the tripe she's typing. See, that's where I get confused.
I mean, read this and decide for yourself:

The new stay-at-home motherhood movement parallels the movement to create the "perfect" child. It's not just that mothers are home with their children; they are engaged with their children constantly so they will "develop" properly. Many middle-class parents demand too much of their children. We enroll them in soccer, religious classes, dance, art, piano, French lessons, etc., placing them on the quest for continuous self-improvement.

Many of these youngsters end up stressed out. Children should think it is all right to just hang out and be kids sometimes. They should learn that parents have interests separate from their lives as parents. And we should all learn that mothers are not fully responsible for who their children become so are fathers, neighbors, friends, the extended family and children themselves.

Finally, the stay-at-home mother movement is bad for society. It tells employers that women who marry and have children are at risk of withdrawing from their careers, and that men who marry and have children will remain fully focused on their careers, regardless of family demands. Both lessons reinforce sex discrimination.

It goes on. And on. We get the usual nod to class warfare, because apparently only rich white chicks stay home with their kids--which is news to my neighborhood, I'm sure. Bottom line, stay at home moms are "bad for children." Wow, good thing we came to our senses in the 1960's then--by her logic we should have destroyed ourselves in a neanderthal gender-stereotyping frenzy centuries ago. Idiot.

So what is this article? A post-modern parody of the passe militant feminist? The ravings of a lunatic who forgot her thorazine? Or the true colors of a true believer? The english major in me would appreciate option one, understand option two, and try to resist the urge to put my eyes out with a fork over option three.

Welcome back to school, people! Let the crazy commence!

Posted by Big Arm Woman at August 13, 2004 08:33 AM


I'm afraid it's option three.

There are too many true believers out there on both sides of pretty much everything. It's beyond my understanding. I go around muttering to myself, wondering if my opinion on various topics is valid.

In the last thirty years I've changed position in small ways and large on many things. My favorite line now is: The older I get the less I know for sure.

Yet, these people repeat the same old tripe with never a backward or forward glance, never taking a serious look at alternatives. It's as if our school system, especially at the college level, has trained these lemmings to regurgitate drivel instead of challenging them to THINK.

On the subject of stay-at-home moms, my wife (a white chick) has been both a working mom and the stay-home kind. She'd rather be with the kids. Since we're fifteen years into the process of raising a granddaughter after partly botching the job with our daughters, we've pretty well been exposed to all that girls can offer and we would very much like for my wife to stay home. So far, it ain't gonna happen.

I think the article writer needs one thing for sure -- a child to ask her questions about all things under the sun. Children have a way of deflating egos and they can smell bullshit a mile away. Many of the 'elite', in and out of our universities, need a long stint with a child.


Posted by: Jim at August 13, 2004 09:54 AM

I think she might have a couple of points -- although I honestly don't thing there's a better way to do it between stay-at-home and working parents. Depends on the family and the kids. Among the SAH families I know, though, the children's schedules are just that -- schedules. They have datebooks and most of their activities are planned out ahead. These kinds have class and social calendars around which the family rotates.

I don't buy it. I think it's cool to be able to send your kids to music lessons or soccer league or whatever. On the other hand, there are some serious advantages to not having had those opportunities. I had a SAH mom for a while, and it was really cool -- mostly because she was a room mother and did lots of neat, craft-y things with us -- not because she thought it was good for us, but because she enjoyed them. Mostly, though, our schedules followed hers. We shopped with her, cooked with her, sewed with her, did laundry with her ...

When we lived in single working mom land, things didn't change that much, except that we were older and had to a lot of the housework and cooking ourselves (to detailed instructions). The time we spent with my mom was still pretty much on her schedule, but we did a lot of stuff together, like grocery shopping (here's how we compare prices, kids!), cooking (we spent lots of years making Christmas cookies because we couldn't afford presents), etc.

We may be crap at soccer and only one of us (the one who got music lessons) is really proficient at things instrumentally musical, but none of us expected the world to revolve around us. We all know how to balance our checkbooks and, if we were really worried about finances, would know how to track our spending. Mostly, though, we know how to enjoy our lives without having everything planned out and to make even the practical things more enjoyable.

Like I said, there probably isn't a better, but I would rather have a few planned things for my kids and a lot more unstructured time for learning stuff without feeling like they're 'learning'.

Posted by: Another Damned Medievalist at August 13, 2004 11:58 AM

Just what I needed, another article to make me feel guilty about my choice in life.

I am a rich white chick (although, if this is rich, then I'd rather be REALLY rich. I am on a budget from hell at the moment.) and I stay at home. I worked for a while. And guess what. I wasn't good at it. I felt like I was a half-ass employee because I was worried about my daughter most of the time. My husband's job is completely inflexible and so I was the one to stay home when my daughter was sick. I felt like a half-ass mom a lot of the time, too. I would come home and plop her in from of the tv in order to get a meal on the table and sometimes purposely leave for work early if she was grouchy.

I'm not a great SAH mom either. The other mommies drive me nuts and my house is a total wreck. I snap and yell at my children a lot. I think my brain is going to mush sometimes. But this is my family's choice. And as the previous comment stated, each family is different. Thank God.

In my defense, I don't think I'm ruining my children by staying home. I'm not a real "joiner" and my children are not enrolled in thousands of classes. We really do hang out a lot and sometimes do nothing more than ride bikes in the driveway or stare at our birdfeeders. My children have chores and go to the grocery. I do tons of volunteer work to stay both current and out of the house. I know other moms who are guilty of many of the article's charges but why do we have to vilify them?

Any idiot can be a parent. But it takes a real fool to ridicule the choices of those who are.

Posted by: Belle at August 13, 2004 05:26 PM

Dollars to doughnuts she's "child-free."

And what the hell does "dollars to doughnuts" mean, anyway?

I sometimes think that all of the tension over mothering choices is for the most part fabricated and exacerbated by little idiots like this woman who, having decided that her path is the One True Way, decide to "convert" the masses by guilt tripping them to death.

Posted by: BAW at August 14, 2004 08:31 AM

Contrary to popular belief, it's not required to have your kids scheduled up the wazoo. My wife Jane stays at home with the kids (and does a modicum of billable work from home); and the kids' lives revolve mostly around what Jane's doing, not their own schedules. This means that they have time to play, to daydream, to use their imaginations, and to discover that saying, "I'm bored!" puts them on the fast track for chores they'd rather not do.

And then, when I'm home (which is a good bit of the time; I'm not working those 10 and 12 hour days) they tend to congregate in my study.

I remember when I first set up a room as my study. My eldest, Dave, was about three-and-a-half. And I showed it to him, and he said, "And when you're here, I can come up and play!" I explained to him, solemnly, that this was my private room, for when I wanted to work undisturbed. And he looked me and said, "But Daddy, you have to share!"

He was right, of course, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Posted by: Will Duquette at August 14, 2004 10:51 AM

Because I didn't breastfeed (my child refused) and because I work outside the home and she was in daycare from infancy, there are those who would have me believe that I have ruined my daughter for life. Heck with 'em. On the other hand, for mothers who can afford to stay home AND WANT TO, as opposed to being bullied into it by the true believers, more power to them.

OT: I read somewhere that "I'm bored" is a sign of untapped creativity. I've always made sure the kid has lots of art supplies and so forth; markers and pencils of various kinds, paper of various kinds, beads, glitter, glue and tape, rubber stamps and a kit to make them, etc, etc. She has always been able to entertain herself.

Posted by: Laura at August 14, 2004 11:59 AM

the article made me hurl, but then, so do "my child WILL be perfect" (the normalization of excellence) so go figure. I don't know the answer, I just know I'm not interested in being part of such a pointless conversation.

Uhm, not what is here, the urban & suburban perfect-child conversation.

Posted by: Liz Ditz at August 14, 2004 02:43 PM

Great article. This author picked out a few bones and tried to string them together to make a new dinosaur. SAH motherhood doesn't have anything to do with stressed out kids, demanding too much from our kids, enrolling them in classes, or what employers think about the sexes. These are all separate and can occur on their own whether the mom works or not. This author decided women should work and is frantically, eroneously trying to gather info to support her position. Pathetic! Where do you find these people?

Posted by: Cheryl Potts at August 14, 2004 02:44 PM

I have a question.

Why do stay at home moms have to schedule anything? I had a stay at home mom when I grew p and the only thing scheduled was a piano lesson every week for one hour. Other than that we were free to play with the other kids in the neighborhood, go to the park, ride bicycles, read, listen to the radio, whatever. She was there if we needed drinks, snacks, or medical attention for cuts, disciplining, or just to talk to. She did not press us to do anything special except be kids.

Don't the SAH live where other kids live? and don't the kids get a chance to play together without having to schedule a play date? Seems that just being there when needed and letting the kids be kids should be enough. Nothing says that SAH are forced by society to try to make their kids live out the ambitions of the parents and be "mama Rose" caricatures.

Posted by: dick at August 15, 2004 12:17 PM

Dick--things have changes since you grew up unless you're 7. Kids don't just hang togther, like a wolf pack.

Posted by: Kate at August 16, 2004 10:08 AM

As a SAH mom, sometimes the only way that I could find other kids for my sons to play with was to head out to a park or sign up for town activities. We live in a neighborhood populated by grandparent-types and couples with kids in college.

From watching other kids in my sons' school, I believe that the real difference in the way a child behaves has to do with the mom's commitment to being mom (dads, too, but the article was focused on moms). I've seen kids of SAH moms who are stressed; I've seen kids of work-outside-the-home moms who are balanced.

The difference seems based on the extent to which the mother is interested in fostering her child, not the extent to which a mother is interested in fostering her own agenda for her child.

I believe it is best for a child to have a parent (or grandparent) with them during their early years so that a child can develop into who he/she is going to be. Pushing kids into molds from the get-go is only going to lead to real problems later.

Posted by: di at August 16, 2004 01:11 PM


I will admit that I grew up in a small town and in a neighborhood with kids and houses and reasonably sized yards. The kids really did hang together. We had basketballs, baseballs, wagons, scooters, bikes, etc and we all got together and got along very well. The parents were there if needed and there to see that all was OK. Kids will hang together if they are allowed. Look at the teens if you don't believe that. Look at the kids in elementary schools if you don't believe that.

I have neighbors who have scheduled play dates for, say, 3-4 PM on Tues and Thurs with other kids 2 blocks away. That to me is ludicrous. What if the kid doesn't want to play from 3-4 on Tues and Thurs? I have neighbors who have kids entered in schools already and the kid is one year old. Who knows how the kid is going to develop? That to me is also ludicrous.

Where is the child going to exercise his or her natural creativity? When is the child going to learn that the world does not live by his or her schedule alone?

Posted by: dick at August 16, 2004 08:06 PM

Dick--no everyone lives in LeaveItToBeaverVille. I grew up on a cattle ranch, 40 miles over dirt roads to town. I didn't have kids in the niehgborhood. Now I live in one of the world's biggest cites, and there aren't kids on the block.
If my kids hadn't had "play dates", they wouldn't have had anybody to play with, except during school.

Don't live up to the stereotype of your name.

Posted by: Kate at August 17, 2004 11:01 PM