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Generally Recognized As True: Feminism as a sanctuary for lazy folk

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Feminism as a sanctuary for lazy folk

Violent Acres has a post on why staying at home and raising your kids to the exclusion of everything else in your life is not the behaviour of a sane or genuine feminist.

I tend to agree somewhat.

I greatly respect women who decide to stay at home and raise their children by themselves. It seems to me that, since we discovered the importance of "the first three years" and the associated tenuous belief that children are generally best raised in a daycare by professionals that can maximize the stimulation in these years, kids have been getting measurably more intelligent -- the metrics look great -- but realistically less capable, and generally less able to do for themselves or have a connection with where the things that they need for sustenance come from and why they're there. They're great cogs, and they make great paper children, but where's the rest? Time will tell, of course. We need more evidence. But the first signs don't look good to me.

So, again, I have a huge respect for women that decide to take the lives of their children into their own hands and stay at home with them during their formative years.

But, I think there's a large contingent of women that don't decide to do this. They do it because they don't want to do anything else, and they use the feminist umbrella to hide their intentions. How many women are staying at home with the kids because they can't be bothered to get a job? And, how many of the same say that they chose to do it when, in reality, they just didn't have any other options? I think you know the type I'm talking about.

"I chose to stay at home with my kids" has quite a different connotation when you've been jobless and unemployable most of your life, compared to someone who strived toward a career or some other ambition and set the fervour of that ambition aside for a number of years to do the right thing by their children.

The logical complement to this argument is that there are some women that have no choice but to work, and put their children in daycare. Many single mothers simply could not make ends meet. And, many families these days can't get by without a dual income. And, we shouldn't condemn or criticize these women that must go out and work. They're doing what's best for their children in their particular situation. But, we can't also necessarily deem them ambitious, motivated career women. They did it because they had no choice.

V's point is solid, I think, because the women that genuinely decide to stay at home and raise their kids -- and decision implies that you had conviction in deciding between two or more alternatives -- are not likely to be the ones that nullify their own interests and abilities by spending their spare time sitting in front of American Idol. The ones that do the latter are the ones that can't be bothered to do anything else and, in truth, had no legitimate decision to make.

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Anonymous said...

...children are generally best raised in a daycare by professionals that can maximize the stimulation in these years...

Who said this? Please give a reference. Most daycare I have observed involves warehousing children.

mattbg said...

The two are not mutually exclusive: professionals often warehouse kids.

And, it's anecdotal evidence. I have heard numerous people tell me that they believe their children are better off in the hands of professionals in their primary years. In Canada, where I live, you have politicians who seem to think that parents are somehow abusive if they try to raise their children by themselves.

Ken Dryden, Canada's Social Development Minister, for example:

"Last year, in a Nov. 18 interview on Ottawa's CFRA talk radio, Dryden compared stay-at-home parents to parents who try to treat their children at home rather than take them to a doctor or to the hospital.

In other words, parents who don't put their kids in a day care the federal Liberals approves of, are essentially neglectful or downright abusive."


Voodoo Idol said...

...most daycare I have observed involves warehousing children.

I have had the exact opposite experience, and I could by no means afford expensive daycare for my kid when she was of the age. I found several places at great weekly rates that actually had curriculum. I remember once when I was picking my daughter up from her mothers house. I asked her (as I normally do) what she was learning about in school. My four year old tells me from the back seat "The weather." I asked her what it was that she learned about the weather. She replied "The weather is what it's like right here, right now, including temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure."

I almost wrekced the car I was so shocked. And that IS her answer, verbatim. I will never, ever forget that as long as I live.

There is nothing wrong with day care, but you do have to shop for a good one.

Mer said...

Ok, you've said it an VA said it, but I must be missing something. Where are these useless mothers the two of you are going on about? I'm not saying you're wrong, but I'm just baffled. Am I reading the wrong blogs? Am I running in the wrong crowds? You're not describing any women I know personally.

Broken Arrows said...

None other than the liberal New York Times reported on this debate back in 2003. And what they reported was that two studies linked behavior problems with day care.

Children's stress levels apparently get higher while put in a daycare situation. And, no, the studies weren't done by conservative groups. Here is the link to the Times' story:

Then in 2007, The New York Times reported on this again:

This time, they reported on long term effects of being in day care, which pruportedly persist through sixth grade. Notice the quote about how the study authors tried to make these results go away.

Why is everyone so annoyed when a woman takes a few years off work to care for a child she brought into the world? Are we that obsessed with money and ego over humanity? What's three years?

Jennifer said...

Right on. There'sd a real mental;ity with some people. In a lot of cases, I think there's a fear element, but laziness is definitely a major motivator.

I'm a work at home mom (a writer), and nif I didn't have something meaningful to do, I think I'd go nuts.

We just recently took in my mother in law, whose ambition at sixty is apparently the same as it was at twenty, to be a stay-at-home mom. When forced to work, she's always taken part time work as a teacher's aide. Now that she's divorced again, she fights having to work and does nothing toward improving herself or her condition. I think I'd be thrilled, at her age, to live rent free and have choices- try different jobs, go to school, travel, whatever- but really, she just wants to watch television.

felman said...

Is everyone in the blogosphere connected except for me?

Anonymous said...

My mom has a degree in computer science and is a SAHM. However, it had nothing to do with sacrificing a career. She has severe panic attack disorder, borderline personality disorder, and social anxiety. Rather than get treated, she used motherhood as an excuse to hide from the world. Yes, she kept herself barefoot and pregnant by having kids. She claimed that she loved kids sooooo much, but really my parents just had more kids to try to save mom's sanity due to her refusal of treatment. Empowered choice, my ass.

I have another friend whose baby momma is the laziest cow in the world. She claims, "But I CAN'T work, I'm a mommy! I'm sacrificing money for my baby!" In reality, she spends all day on the internet, pausing long enough to prop up a bottle or nuke some pizza. She also spends his money at Hot Topic. Again, empowered choice, my ass.

I respect real motherhood. I don't respect women who half-ass it, yet feel entitled to the respect that their hardworking counterparts deserve. Any 14 year old crack whore can pop out a kid. It takes work to be a parent.

Am I the only one who sees the irony of said stay-at-home parasites and their opinions of prostitutes as dirty whores? Prostitutes are out working, and exchanges are a quid pro quo.

Minds_Alliance said...

If I ever decide to get married with a Decadent Western Woman.

She will have to work at least Part Time.. while the kids go to kindergarden (school for young children).
If something crops up, what are Grandparents for!?
I was raised by my Grandparents, I have no REGRETS for that!

I'm not buying this FEMDOM Bullshit.

You want to exercise your feminist powers? OK, But only if I exercise my Male Powers..such as coming home from work, dead beat, with a bag for a belly and still having the energy to Beat the crap out of you if you don't cook my dinner, after shag you then go off to the bars to drink with my mates.

You want to be an Extremist with me? Whats the problem with me being extremist with you.. I'd Say!

Equality for Women What a joke!
Its all a power struggle.

The only power women have are their Breasts.

mattbg said...

Minds_Alliance, that's a pretty harsh position. I think the underlying sentiment is expressed well in the following:


mattbg said...

Broken Arrows, I've also heard anecdotes from teachers that suggest they can easily tell the difference between kids that were raised in daycare and the kids that were raised by their own parents (and it's not a positive difference).

mattbg said...

mer, there are two ways of looking at your perception.

One is to say that maybe you just move in good social circles.

The other is to say that maybe you exist in an echo chamber. Some people evaluate other people's intelligence by whether or not they think the same way as them. If they do, they're intelligent; if they're not, they're rather lacking. So, in this case, when all of your friends are intelligent, it's possible that quite the opposite is true and that you and all of your friends are pretty dumb in the grand scheme of things, and are only considered intelligent inside the echo chamber of boring and undiverse opinion.

The same dynamics of the latter could be taking place in your group with respect to child-rearing. But, who am I to know? :)

mattbg said...

Broken Arrows, also, I'd like to add that being a good mother to your child -- a unique type of bond -- is a special feminine ability that you'd think feminists would be in support of... and, weren't feminists supposed to be promoting the special abilities of women?

There are feminist organizations these days that get into a panic whenever governments make a move that may make it easier for a woman to stay home with her child. It's beyond me how anyone can take them seriously because opposition to those things (a) reduces choice for women and (b) discourages the expression of special female ability. What's left? To be more like a man in a man's world...

kathaclysm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kathaclysm said...

I've often said that Feminism let me be whatever I wanted when I grew up; except for stay at home mom. With twice as many people in the work force, and twice as many people with college degrees, jobs aren't paying as much and these days a 2-income home is bringing in the equivalent of a 1-income home 50 years ago.

Though, also, too many people think they can't afford to not work because they insist on buying all kinds of crap to keep up with the Joneses. Not being able to afford the latest, biggest, SUV or a brand new Lui Vuitton bag is NOT a good reason to say "I can't afford to stay at home to raise my own children."

I'm married and contemplating children, my husband and I have discussed that I will stay home with any children we may happen to have for their first 7 years. I desire to do this because I cannot imagine having children & not raising them myself (and don't have local family support group). I really see no point in being a mother if that entails going back to work & dropping off a 3-month-old at "day care." But then I risk being called lazy for not going back to work?? Or should I not care what those "hard working career women" think?

I have female friends who put their career choices above their family; to me, this is also the wrong kind of "feminism." Too often, they emasculate their husbands & essentially abandon their children 8am-6pm.

If I do get to have kids & stay at home with them, I do look forward to bettering myself in ways I don't have time for now with a career; my artwork, my garden, my graphic novel. I don't plan on spending days at the salon or watching soaps. I do agree that too many people sit around & watch TV instead of pursuing hobbies; but this isn't just stay-at-home mom's who aren't doing "good things" with their spare time.

elephant said...

Thanks for a great perspective on this. I found your post via VA, who is (as always) a little funnier and a little crankier, but this hits home.

My ex-wife is currently pregnant (again) and "unable" to work. Guess who DOESN'T get child support for our two kids? Me, even though I have them full-time. All of a sudden, she wants to stay home with her new family, even though she left me and our two kids for a 17-year-old boy toy because she HATED being a stay-at-home mom. Guess she hated working more.

My current wife is pregnant with our first child. She also works full-time as a graphic designer and journalist under a government contract. We're looking at our options, but if she decides to stay home full-time (and we choose to take a pay hit), she will be doing so as a choice between two valid options.

My mom chose to be a stay-at-home mom after earning her bachelor's degree and working in a medical lab to put my dad through grad school back in the 60s. Thirty years later, she had to leave her garden and church work, and went back to teaching. (SoCal is an expensive place to live!)

So I've seen it from both angles, and it makes sense that choosing full-time motherhood really ought to be one of many choices. Otherwise, it's not really a choice, is it.

Anonymous said...

First off I would just like to say that I agree with some of the comments being made here. I am a stay at home mom. Not a T.V. watching, internet surfing one but, an active participant in the school my children attend and the community I live in. Yes, I chauffeur my kids around to after school activities and I also participate in my own activities such as kickboxing, softball, and I am a firm believer in self improvement. I clean my house and have dinner on the table for when my husband gets home. This is what I choose. What I find difficult to swallow is the comments concerning daycare. My background encompasses Psychology, Earlychildhood Education, and Teachers aide. While I agree that not all daycares are wonderfully nurturing environments I'm not so sure I agree with out any question, the studies linking behavioral problems with daycare. In fact, as with any topic worth discussion there are two sides of the coin. The Perry Preschool Project paints a different picture concerning daycare.(
Do I believe that "children are best raised in a daycare by professionals that can maximize the stimulation in these years...", NO! I believe the best place for a child is at home with a parent who is attentive and in tune to their child's needs. Not all parents are active parents, on that I think we can agree. I believe that there are some children who are prone to have behavioral problems regardless of whether or not they attend daycare. Behavioral problems can be found in children of varying backgrounds. We must look at the bigger picture. Family life, economic background etc. You can not isolate it to one thing. As for children's stress levels increasing when they are in a daycare situation. Well, duh!! The same thing happens when children enter the school system. Does that mean they should not go to school? All new situations raise stress levels to a degree for some more then others. It is natural and goes away with time and experience.I also do not agree that most daycare wearhouse children. Yes there are some that do, for the soul purpose of making more money. We live in a capitalist society, go figure. As far as this is concerned it is the parents responsibility to investigate and research to find high quality daycare. As for the Comments made by Ken Dryden, I'm pretty sure he does not speak for all Canadians. I certainly don't care about his opinion. Ken Dryden is most definitely not a person I go to for advice on my life. I know that there are quality daycares out there but I chose to stay home,why? Because I am fortunate enough to have that option. And yes, it was my choice. I certainly don't call it a Feminist choice, I call it a parental one. Further more what is best for one family may not be best for another. Again one has to look at the bigger picture. Do I think some woman/men choose to stay home so they can sit around all day watching t.v.? Absolutely. Do I think some women hide behind Feminism in order to be lazy? Sure. However, that is lame and is easily recognizable as a front for the truth. I believe I am a Feminist, not because I chose to exercise my right to stay home with my children but, because I support a woman's choice to choose her life, what ever that means and it is different for everyone. Some women choose to be a house wife, raise the kids, have supper on the table every day and basically dote on their family. Do I think that is wrong? No, I don't, just as I don't think it is wrong for a man to choose to be a stay at home dad. The world is full of different belief systems. None, being more right then another as long as you have the freedom to choose.

mattbg said...

Anon (3:03pm), I of course agree. And I think it was clear that my post was talking about a certain contingent within all types of mothers.

The part about Ken Dryden was significant because, for a time, he was in charge of setting the country's childcare policy during a time when it was underdoing significant development.

As for the "stay at home Dad".. although it's better than daycare, I think the mother is generally the best choice to provide early child care, if at all possible. There's a special relationship between mother and child that doesn't equal that of the father's. The father is very, very important, but the relationships that children have with the two parents are quite different, I think.

mamazee said...

i could be wrong, but as a SAHM, i don't see working women doing anything other than spending all their energy earning money for their husbands to fritter away and missing out on actually raising their children, instead leaving them with literally dozens of strangers (think about kindergarten - it's 20 other children, the teacher, all the admin, all the other teachers, the bus drivers, the other parents who come in and "help" but aren't subjected to a criminal check. I'm home, i'm teaching my children piano, violin, latin, a chronological approach to human history, hands on science, and i also have the time to actually read and pursue activism in fields that passionately attract me, mostly human rights and children's safety. working moms come home bagged from their day at the till at tim Horton's, nuke something full of msg, and put the kids in bed. i don't see how that's in any way better. You're assuming most working mothers are professionals with degrees that find satisfaction in their jobs - and i don't see much of that - maybe less than 10% - most women work now because their husbands make them.

mattbg said...

mamazee, I wouldn't necessarily disagree with you. I think we've had a massive emasculation of men in society. Men do "man things" (mostly defined by corporations these days) to appear manly and do what they think men are supposed to be doing, but as far as setting out a course for a family, knowing what's right and wrong, and being responsible, men these days (as a group) are a disappointment. I would not be at all surprised if many men these days would not sacrifice their toys in the interest of supporting a family, and would feel more comfortable asking a wife that was willing to stay home with the children to go out to work so that he could have his toys and a family at the same time. You will get no disagreement from me, because it's somewhat consistent with my view of the world at this point in time.

On the other hand, this was driven to a large degree by feminism and the inability of society to keep it bridled and harness its power for good things.

What we've had happen is that many of the past-positive attributes of men have become more feminine and many of the past-positive attributes of women have become more masculine. And now everyone is average at everything and seems to think they need some kind of help to get even the most basic things done. We've also set aside inexpensive pursuits in the interest of things that are so much more expensive. And every solution requires that a product be bought to fix it.

What we should be doing is spending most of our leisure time trying to improve ourselves so that we can pass things onto our children -- even before we have them. It sounds like this is what you've been doing.

Anonymous said...

The person that wrote that article is a complete idiot and has no idea what a good mother does for her child day in and day out. She is referring to people of her own intellect and social standards.

Let me start off by saying; I have four children and another on the way. I hold a PhD and my husband an MD. All of my children have higher than average intelligence and are extremely socially adjusted.

On another note; it was much easier to work as a Sr. Researcher for the Department of Defense than it is to stay home and ensure my daughter reaches her full intellectual potential.

My daughter has a 170 I.Q. She is two years old and already enrolled in a State accredited Kindergarten class. She speaks three languages when most cannot speak one at this age. The minimum age day care workers and BS degree teachers; have no idea how to school her.

Television has not been watched by me in over three weeks. My children are only allowed to watch an hour of educational programs a day as a reward for completing other tasks. We do not have a nanny or other family help. I am lucky if I can take a shower before my husband gets home.

Yes, there are stay at home women (as well as men) out there that gossip and are bumbling idiots. There are also the same types in the workforce. Lazy is lazy no matter where they have their lunch break.

Do you think it's easy and lazy to cook 3x a day for a family of seven and wash their laundry? That alone is two full time jobs for some people. During this time I also teach a two year old and tend to other home matters.

It would be much easier for me to go back to working fourteen hour days, get a quiet drive back and forth from work and a quiet lunch break. At least I got a six figure paycheck, respect and a good nights sleep when I worked.

Again, there are lazy stay at home moms out there but they are not any different than the fat ass county clerk that is too busy playing solitaire on her computer than to work for her paycheck, the police officer that hides in a parking lot until the next shift, the journalist that wastes their time posting attacks on people they have not researched or the person in the cubicle next to you surfing the web.

Are those people any better because they send their children to a daycare worker that watches twelve other children at a time in a 12x12 room? I don't think so....

Anonymous said...

I accidentally ran across one of your articles, read it inside and out, and after great thought proceeded onto reading other articles of yours. At first glance the whole outlook on mothers at home would be, to anybody that’s lived it an insult, and disgrace, yet after some thought and realizing where you’re coming from I can oddly agree on “some” points you’ve made. I know way too many mothers that stay at home, watch daytime television and do as much housework that they “look” productive to their working counterpart and people looking in. These same women sadly are usually overweight, and see no reason to take an active roll in their children’s lives or education, yet consider their presence as a needed element in their child’s rearing. I also know way too many, such as myself who choose to stay home even with a degree because we do enjoy working art projects with the children, teaching them to read and planting gardens. I have been complimented many times on my children’s behavior and intelligence. I am not overweight, yes I do not watch much television, yet I do not stick my nose up in the air and believe my way of parenting is better than others. I feel life is a choice, and I’ve worked in daycare centers, schools, and offices. No matter what job I choose to do, or where I place myself in that time of my life my main goal is the security and well being of my family. It’s a choice I make and it’s no better or worse than a mommy that may be staying home, and diddling with the local mom’s groups they hang with. Daycare isn’t always the wisest choice a parent could make, trust me as a child who’s been in daycare centers, and homes, and one who’s worked in it, things can happen your child will never speak of and those working in it are not always empowered to report. If given the choice I tell parents to stay home if they can, at least then you know what is happening to your child, and by whom! You can say what you will, but you’re not speaking from somebody that’s looked and lived all angles of your argument.

You seem rather ignorant (no offense intended) on some of your points. Either from word of mouth or “read” up facts you’ve scrounged from internet, television, or magazines your points or biased narrow and do not make much since. With every argument, or life situation there are other ways to look at it, and not everybody lives an uncomplicated easy life. You cannot argue that you’ve not added into the whole stay at home mom factor those moms that stay home with their disabled or sick children, while ushering them from doctor appointments and working on assigned developmental projects given by their doctors these moms are no less contributors to society than any other. How about this stay at home mom I know, who has a Masters Degree, worked for many years as a senior program analyst and chose to stay at home to take care of her aging mother. Yes, that’s it! She’s horrible because she’s taking financial burden from nursing and senior home centers. Her daughter however, straight honor role student is only growing up with a respect for others and a desire to help people in need. So, as a result when her daughter grows to be a well educated, caring adult she should curse all those years of her mother being home when she arrived from school to assist her in her studies, and of course all those times she watched mom get up tired to take care of her grandmother looks selfish and she should resent it. I don’t think so, on the contrary the result from what I’ve noticed over the years is that her daughter has only gained intellectually, as well as behaviorally, and will be a far better adult than the neighborhood children that love to run around in groups after their parents have picked them up from daycare and talk in incomplete sentences about how much they’d love to harm their teachers.

Children are our future, and if you invest a little time and effort into them then you’re contributing more than some guy who writes stupid articles and works 80 hours a week every week for the rest of his life. You’re actually providing a future for that guy to retire in and get help in his older years. Those children that grow up to help him could very well be in those shoes thanks to good ol’ mom who stayed home, educated, and helped them through their growing years.

mattbg said...

Anon, I think you missed the point of my post. I think that having parents raise their own children is the right thing to do, and I don't understand why a lot of people think it's not worth their time or that they'd be no good at it so it's just not worth it to try.

I was directing my post at a rather slim profile: the mother that uses stay-at-home motherhood as an excuse not to do anything else. The ones that really have no choice and just decided to get knocked up so that they wouldn't have to bother doing anything with their lives.

People that CHOOSE to stay at home with their children have my respect.

Ajil said...

Mer: That is a good thing, believe me. It means you spend time with people who are worth spending time with, and not with people who might as well have been flushed down the toilet.

True feminism has no problems with a woman deciding to stay home with her kids. True feminism says she should have the choice to do so, or not to do so. True feminism is about equality, so anyone who says they're a feminist and doesn't support PATERNITY leave isn't a feminist. Anyone who says that it's totally awesome for women to wear pants, but it's "sick and wrong" for a man to wear a kilt (or heaven forbid, a skirt) is a HYPOCRITE. That's not feminism. That's female supremacy, and it's *no better* than male supremacy.

Anonymous said...

"We either need to go out into this world and make an impact or we need to forfeit our right to vote, get back into the kitchen, and make a goddamn peach pie."

hey! our impact in the kitchen is worth world wild! making your food does not mean you will not vote...making food at home from scratch is the biggest vote you can make three times a day!

mnield said...

Anyone can sit in front of American Idol at home with their biological children screaming in the other room. Is that stay at home mothering? No. If you want to attack laziness, by all means do so. But do not associate it with full time, stay at home mothering.
Your article strongly implies that anyone can be a mom, but it takes someone special and ambitious to be a career woman. In my opinion, it is the exact opposite. All is takes to be a career woman is a brain and an interest in a chosen area. Who doesn't have those things? I am proud of my degree and I love my job. But it didn't take anything beyond absolutely ordinary skills to achieve these things and I fail to see why career women are so idolized in our culture. My career is secondary to my role as a mother. It takes someone special and ambitious indeed to be a mother. Not just a biological mother, but a true mother. A mother is someone who a child can come to for love, support, encouragement, and kindness in an often cruel world. A mother guides her children through the very defining early years of their life. Without this steady source of love and guidance in their lives, what is to stop children from becoming bitter, lonely and vindictive human beings? A mother needs to be morally and ethically sound, emotionally healthy, well educated, devoted, and hard working to provide her children with all the understanding, skills, and qualities they need to succeed in this life. It's not a job that can be pushed off to some child care facility or relative. They are not parents. And despite their good intentions and their training, they can not provide all that a child needs from a parent. They can help. They can fill in from time to time and provide temporary supervision and education and sometimes even love. But that could never be enough to make up for the absence of a true parent.
Motherhood is a serious job. When done correctly it is a contribution to society every bit as legitimate as the contributions of doctors, lawyers and engineers, if not more so. I don't see how a lack of other strong career interests makes the choice to be a stay at home mom less legitimate. If a woman wanted to be a lawyer and nothing else, is her choice to pursue a career in law less legitimate because she didn't have to give up some other dream?
Just because stay at home mothering is sometimes used to disguise laziness and lack of ambition doesn't mean that's what it is. Far from it. I always knew I would be both a health care professional and a mother. The idea of being a health care professional never intimidated me the way the idea of being a mother intimidated me. I have to take this very vulnerable, malleable little person and be this never failing rock of support for them. I could do so much damage by simply neglecting to be there in all the ways that I should. I sometimes wonder if this recent attack on stay at home mothering, at its core, stems from this very fear. Do people try so hard to belittle the vast importance of motherhood because deep down, they worry that they can succeed in every area but this?

mattbg said...

mnield, I think you may have missed my point because I am pretty much in agreement with you.

My point was that there's a difference between a conscious decision to be a stay-at-home Mom and put your children first (which is a good thing) and the decision to be a stay-at-home Mom because you're lazy and can't do anything else and would just rather stay home all day (which is not so good).