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March 19, 2004

Mommy Is a Personal Topic

Marc Comtois has tweaked my post about the type of women who can afford to be stay-at-home moms. I'm not entirely sure what accounts for the difference in our opinions, except perhaps our ages and personal experience. Reacting to my breakdown by class, Marc writes:

The trend is for younger mothers, despite their education level, to choose staying at home. This is probably a result of holding onto the ideal of one parent working/one parent at home, which results from either the fact that that is the type of home the GenX mothers grew up in or its the type of home they wish they grew up in. With this ideal in the back of their mind, I'm guessing that most worked for about a decade, made some money, met the right man and then wanted to start a family.

These women proved that they could make it in the career world, but some realized it wasn't all that it was cracked up to be. ...

The first thing that differs from my experience as one who is about to be a twenty-nine-year-old father of two is the notion that thirtysomething women who have been working for a decade are "younger mothers." Younger than whom? Younger than their own mothers, to be sure, but in a country in which the average age for first-childbirth is 25, these new moms are about a decade behind the curve.

The second, and more to-the-point, thing that differs from my experience is the number of options that newly three-person families actually have. It hardly disproves my contention about privilege to suggest that the women in question have already "proved that they could make it in the career world." And if they've done so, what type of "right man" were they likely to meet? It is the women who either haven't yet become, don't want to be, or aren't capable of being careerists who have been hurt by this wide-scale social experiment. Worse, the men whom they tend to marry are much more likely to be bums like me.

At the lower end of this spectrum, both in age and in income, the choice to stay home or not isn't a matter of fulfillment of an ideal — which is to say that it really isn't much of a choice. Childcare can eat up almost all of one spouse's income, so the choice is between poor while abandoning the kids all day and poor while staying home. At the next level, the extra income is just too necessary to give up.

Again, this is a thorny issue, and there are no easy or universally applicable answers. The fact remains, however, that the impetus for sweeping social change has come at the behest (I almost said "whim") of a class with the resources to keep its fallout in the range of choice.

Posted by Justin Katz at March 19, 2004 11:43 PM
Marriage & Family