Friday, September 23, 2005

Smart Young Women, Dumb Idea

I was super annoyed by this story that appeared on the front page of the New York Times Monday (and stayed on the "most emailed articles" list all week), Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood ,
about how the smartest girls are planning to become stay-at-home moms because "you can't be the best career woman and the best mother at the same time."

1) This story doesn't at all recognize that being able to stay home is for rich people. Most mothers of even young children work. They work because they have to.
2) The story doesn't ask young men about their behavior or assumptions, except for one girl's comment that guys think women who aspire to be wives are "sexy." What happened to encouraging fathers to be more involved?
3) Both the writer, Louise Story, and the women she interviews take it as a given ("obvious") that working results in an inferior outcome for children. Not so!
4) I hate to see this kind of message out there for people like my sister, an 18-year-old freshman at Yale. When you are still forming your career aspirations and the pressure to be the "best" at something is so great, it is easy to fall back on daydreams about retreating into that perfect family life. When I was 6, no lie, I decided I would marry a rich man because only rich wives don't have to work. I would have maids to do my housework, leaving me plenty of time to play games and make up stories.

In the real world, most of us are not the absolute best at anything. But it doesn't mean we should close off our ambitions.

But after I got all worked up about it, Jack Shafer of Slate's Pressbox column wrote an awesome takedown of the story, pointing out that it is based on no real numbers and relies on "weasel words" like "Many" to disguise that fact.


kevin said...

A couple of comments about your post.

1) Staying at home as a mom is not for 'rich people'. It's about choices. People choose to live in their expensive houses, and therefore need two incomes. People choose to have all the latest 'stuff', and therefore need two incomes. People choose to drive a brand-new care every few years, and therefore need two incomes. I say this not because of an assumption, but because I am living it. I am far from rich, but my wife stays at home with our children. It was a choice that we made together, and are very happy with it. But with that choice came some sacrifice. We don't have brand new cars, we don't have the latest PC, we don't have a television in each room, and god-forbid, none of us even have an iPod. No one more than I would love to have all these things (I am a total gadget-freak), but I choose to do without, so that my wife can stay home and raise our children.

Which leads to my second comment...

2) Just because I work a full time job doesn't mean that I can't be involved in my children's upbringing. I spend plenty of quality time with my children, and I am involved in all the major decisions in their lives.

3) While I agree that children of working parents aren't at a disadvantage when compared to a child where one parent is at home, I do think there are advantages to having one parent stay at home. Some are probably very meaningful, and others more trivial, but they are real.

4) As far as your little sister is concerned, she is a smart young woman, who will make her own decision when the time comes. She probably had the same (or similar) day dream when she was six, and has obviously chosen a different life-path.

btw, with regards to Mr. Shafer, it sounds to me like he has more of an issue with the writer's style, and the NY Times in general, than the story itself. Just my opinion.


kevin said...

btw, the first comment was supposed to read brand-new car....not care. Kinda loses it's effect with a typo :)

Dick Masterson said...

"What happened to encouraging fathers to be more involved?"

It turns out men decided to encourage women do their fair share first. Women make atrocious parents when they split their time between work and home. They can't handle the pressure and lash out like rabid wolverines. Men have been doing it with great success for years.

You few irrational zealots can argue against the biology all you want, but it seems like these girls know well enough on their own. Apparently college is good for something.


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