The first part of this author’s argument is the easiest part to unravel.
I get the challenges. I appreciate very much that childcare is prohibitively expensive.
If she “gets” that childcare is “prohibitively expensive,” then why doesn’t she “get” that lack of access to affordable childcare prohibits one parent in the home from working?
That had me going hmmm pretty early on. Still, it’s true that in the vaaaaast majority of cases, if a heterosexual couple has children, and decides that one parent should stay home because childcare is too expensive, it’s the female parent who stays home. (Not always.)
So what’s that about?
Well, check out this Pew study, that Sarah Lacy cites in her new book, The Uterus Is a Feature, Not a Bug. Sixty percent of men and women believe that children are better off when a parent stays home. Bonkers:
A majority of those surveyed believe that kids are worse off if a kid doesn’t have one of their parents at home. Again… what’s that about?
Well, look what I spotted in the sidebar on this Pew study page:
So where does that leave me in my rebuttal? Well, if we live in a country where 15% of those surveyed think that fathers should take NO paternity leave. And 60% think that it’s better if one parent (I wonder which one that is) stays at home, then…
In a society where these are the norms, how the heck is it the fault of these individual women for deciding to stay at home? What if we were to address the following issues:
- Why do so many people think children are worse off if both parents work?
- Why do so few people place a monetary value on the labor associated with taking care of kids and managing the household?
And here’s another assumption that crumbles upon examination: if you stay home, that means you’re not working.
As a matter of fact, beyond the fact that our society undervalues domestic labor, here’s another kicker: a lot of stay-at-home moms do work that earns money. Some of them do it at home; some of them work part-time outside the home on nights and weekends. I even know few who make more revenue than I do, but hey continue to call themselves SAHMs.
This author never mentions this large, and growing group of women. It’s as though they don’t exist. (There are 25,000 women who are members of the Boss-Moms Facebook group. If you spend more than 5 minutes in this group, you’ll see many of these women earn while taking care of their kids as well.)
But I think what Johnson is saying that women shouldn’t just work/earn–they should do it the way they did it when they were childless. Otherwise, they’re hurting feminism.
So does the problem lie with women who reject the notion that they have to work the way they worked before? Or does it lie with a society that dismisses any work that doesn’t look like:
- completely leaving the domestic realm to enter a public realm
- staying in that public realm continuously from 9 to 5
- and then re-entering a private, domestic realm in the evening?
Guess what? No one needs to do this anymore. Not only do moms not need to do it, but neither do dads, or childless people. Because of a confluence of technology, the changing nature of white collar jobs, we don’t need to go to an office, start work at 9 and be away all day.
I don’t call myself a stay-at-home mom. I work, and while I work, someone else takes care of my children. But I work from home (about half the time).
I quit my 9-to-5 office job for lots of reasons. I actually worked 100% remotely, but my job was 9-to-5. 9-to-5 jobs are predicated on the schedule of a single, childless person. You have to get to work at a certain time, be there for the entire time (even through lunch for the most part) and then leave at a certain time. This is the case whether you have a huge amount of work to do, or very little to do.
WHY? This schedule has exactly ZERO to do with real life. And it’s got less than zero to do with real life after kids. Kids get sick. Kids dress up like Cat Boy and march in Purim parades at 9:30 a.m.
Kids get sick. (I said that one already.)
But acknowledging this reality is just so rare. I’ve heard of one consultancy, August, which is focused on trying to change that, but that’s only for the companies who opt in by paying August to help them.
So, we have to urge on organizations like this, too. If we want to see workplace policies change, we have to point out how workplace realities are already changing, whether or not traditional workplaces want to keep up.
Not only that, but these categories: “stay home” vs. “work outside the home” have much less meaning than they did even 5 years ago, before 100% remote work became commonplace.
As women at this moment of technological innovation and renewed commitment to the equal value of women and men, we have an opportunity to create a new vocabulary for a whole spectrum of work that we do.
And isn’t that a more fun and energizing blog post to write?