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September 18, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Right on schedule comes this article (Daily Mail, 9/16/15).

Yesterday’s piece was about Princeton professor of political science, Andrew Moravcsik’s mostly uninformed piece on the work/life balance.  His take, like that of his wife, Anne Marie Slaughter, was that men must do more housework and childcare so that women can do more paid work.  As is invariably the case with such articles, Moravcsik never entertained the notion that it might work the other way around.  He never considered the possibility that, if women did more paid work, men might be freed up to spend more time with their kids.  The idea that women actually wield far more power in the home than do men seems never to have entered his mind.

That of course is nothing more than simple ignorance.  Moravscik is so in thrall to the contemporary narrative of female victimization in all areas of life that he can’t see the obvious.  In that, he’s got plenty of company.  But where he shifted from a common kind of myopia to outright strangeness, was when he on one hand told men how wonderful it is to emphasize childcare at the expense of one’s career, but six sentences later found women’s doing the same thing to be a social outrage demanding an immediate solution.

At one point I modestly proposed that, since he’s a highly-respected academic, Moravscik might consider doing a bit of reading on his subject instead of simply parroting his wife’s ill-founded opinions.

Now, the type of reading I was thinking of was mostly science.  I thought a bit of basic information about the hormonal connections between mothers and their children might enlighten him about why so many mothers choose kids over career.  Or he could consult evolutionary biologists who could explain to him the evolution of sex roles that are proving so stubborn in their resistance to change.  For that matter, he could even have a squint at data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census and learn that almost six million mothers did no paid work in the past year compared with under 200,000 dads.

But funnily enough, then came the Daily Mail article linked to above.  It’s much easier reading than what I had in mind, but, if one is open to its messages, carries a lot of good information.  If he were willing to put aside some of his anti-male/pro-female biases, someone like Moravscik could put the DM piece to good use.  I won’t hold my breath.

The article is another one that describes women who dropped out of paid work when they had a child.  

Emma Bird ran her own graphic design company and, self-described as “non-maternal,” fully expected to return to work full-time shortly after her daughter was born.  It didn’t happen.  Jane Lee was a well-paid airport operations manager who quit work she loved when her first child was born.  When her twins were born two years later, the family’s finances demanded that she start earning again.  But three years or so into that program, she quit again.  The pull of motherhood was just too strong.

The same was true for civil servant Aimee Foster.  She assumed she’d return to work full-time after her first child was born and she did – for a month.  She described the time as “a nightmare.”  Despite tight family finances, she’s still a stay-at-home-mom.

As people like Moravscik see it, those women abandon paid work in favor of childcare solely because their husbands/partners refuse to do their share of the parenting.  So it’s interesting to notice that not a single one of the women discussed said – or even hinted at – anything of the kind.  On the contrary, each one put the decision down strictly to her own desires that overwhelmed their desire, and their family’s need,for her to work.

Bird:

Then, last December, she gave birth. And from the moment Ottilie was placed in her arms, she experienced a shift in mindset so dramatic that it surprises her to this day.

She explains: 'From the second I held Ottilie, I realisednothing was as important to me as this little girl. The love I felt for her was overwhelming.

Lee:

Jane was 38 when she had Olivia. At that moment, she says she thought: 'Gosh, I don't ever want to work again.' She explains: 'Suddenly, the money didn't matter - I wanted to spend every moment with my little girl.'

Foster:

'After nine months' leave, I went back to work, but it was a nightmare.

'Susie would scream when I dropped her off at the nursery, which broke my heart. I'd grown up with my mum staying at home and I wanted the same for my own daughter. I wanted to see the little milestones she was achieving.'

People like Moravcsik have such a hard time listening to what women say – or at least those whose words contradict their carefully constructed worldview.  Not one of those three women even suggested that their decision to stay home was influenced by their husbands.  Not a word so much as hints at the notion – assumed by Moravcsik to be true – that the women stayed home because their husbands refused to.  On the contrary, each woman had a hormones-driven epiphany that nothing the workplace had to offer could measure up to the fulfillment they enjoy caring for their kids.

This of course is not news.  People have known about the power of mothers’ connections to their children forever.  But today we’re so enlightened, so progressive, that we have to relearn it.  Moravcsik, et al are slow learners.

Speaking of the men in the lives of Bird, Lee and Foster, they don’t get much of a mention in the Daily Mail piece.  That’s par for the course.  I’ve yet to read an article on women opting out of work to care for kids that gets around to stating the obvious – that the reason the women don’t have to earn is that someone else is.  As we all know, someone has to pay the bills and that someone is invariably the husband/partner of the woman who opts out.

Two years ago I wrote a piece about a study Judith Warner did and wrote about in the New York Times (New York Times, 8/7/13).  Her topic was ambitious, career-oriented women who’d dropped out to care for children and were now considering opting back in.  Here’s how Warner described what happened next:

[N]ot a single woman I spoke with said she wished that she could return to her old, pre-opting-out job — no matter what price she paid for her decision to stop working. What I heard instead were some regrets for what, in an ideal world, might have been — more time with their children combined with some sort of intellectually stimulating, respectably paying, advancement-permitting part-time work — but none for the high-powered professional lives that these women had led.

Just like the women in the Daily Mail piece, those were women who valued their children over paid work and, also just the same, they relied on their husbands to facilitate their choices.  And, just as in the DM article, those husbands who paid for their wives’ choices, rated barely a mention.  But one did, and his comments are worth the read.

And Ted had kind of had it. Here he was, he said while coming and going from the kitchen where he was making French toast for the Mattox’s youngest child, earning the household income, helping drive the kids around, pitching in on laundry, housekeeping and cooking, while Kuae, in his eyes, was blithely giving her time away — free — to a volunteer organization. He’s a numbers guy, he said. From his perspective, the numbers pertaining to what he called her at-home “journey of self-discovery” just didn’t add up to be a very good deal for him or any husband whose nonearning wife still expects to split household drudgery 50-50…

[I]t seemed natural to him that Kuae, as a self-proclaimed stay-at-home mother, might want to try putting some more time into their home. Into things like “the shuttling of kids, the picking up the house, the laundry, the shopping.” Even, he ventured further, “balancing checkbooks, cleaning, setting up the home Wi-Fi, fixing an appliance or whatever.” A hoot of laughter from Kuae greeted the end of this task list. 

He continued: “Being the kind of person I am, Type A, wound, always going after something, I wonder what I could have done, having 12 years to sort of think about what I want to do. I sometimes think, Wow, I could have been an astronaut in 12 years, or I could have been something different that I’d really enjoy and that I never was afforded the financial opportunity or the time or the resources to enjoy. Maybe call it jealousy. Maybe envy. What could I have been in 12 years of self-discovery? I’ll go out on a limb and say: ‘I’d like to try it. It looks pretty good to me.’ ”

Since Moravcsik doesn’t listen to women, I doubt he’ll listen to men like Ted.  But he should.  After all, they’re not forcing women to care for kids, they’re making those choices possible.  They’re the ones listening to their wives and agreeing to take on the sole or primary burden of earning the family’s income – that thing that’s necessary to survive.  In the process, Moravcsikmight get the message that a lot of men aren’t happy with the arrangement.  A lot of men might jump at the opportunity to lighten their load and, in the process, get more time with the children they love.  A lot of men see that slaving away at work while their wives stay home with the children “just [doesn’t] add up to a very good deal.”

And of course that’s particularly true when divorce comes around and Dad loses what little time he does have with his kids, still has to support them and an ex who wants nothing to do with him.

But I suspect Moravcsik and his fellow true-believers don’t have much interest in the facts of the matter.  As such, they’ll continue to be surprised by those facts as they develop.  A quick glance at easy-to-read articles like the one in the Daily Mailcould provide a much-needed education for them, but to do sothe readers would have to be mentally open to the message.

Alas, they’re not.

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