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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 6:44 am 
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So my sister in law posted this article, which was an adaptation of a speech that someone made at a college. Part of the problems I see here is where is the father? I can understand women making decisions to scale back their career (and men as well) in order to spend more time with their kid but she is definitely actively encouraging women to do so. Also the writer admits that she has full time help (live in nanny?) so she isn't the norm.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ ... story.html

The other part of this that annoys me is that she mentions a book
Quote:
Nearly two decades later, Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook and the author of the best-selling “Lean In,” laments that far too few women are in positions of leadership — they make up only 4 percent of Fortune 500 chief executives — and that the numbers are so small because women hold themselves back. Too many women, she says, curtail their ambitions in anticipation of having a family and are not as aggressive as men in how they approach their careers.

As I read “Lean In,” I nodded in agreement with much of what Sandberg says: Negotiate your salary, take a seat at the table (and when you’re there, speak up), don’t reflexively turn down opportunities, and choose your mate carefully because that is the most important career decision you will make. It is.


I have a problem with blaming women with not being part of the executive ladder and not being ambitious. I know plenty of ambitious women career wise yet it isn't themselves holding back, it is a systemic problem. I've met a few women who will say things like 'no travel' (although our business uses travel as a last resort due to the expense) or they limit their hours due to their kids but honestly I know men that do so as well. My (male) manager leaves work at 4:30 every day because he has dinner with his family. Yet he has a very successful career and is my same age. If a woman has to leave at 4:30, she might be talked about putting in short hours even if she isn't.

I think there is no problem with setting boundaries with your work but when men do it, their careers still seem to flourish. When women do it, it seems like they are perceived as not being dedicated to their job.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 7:22 am 
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I feel the same way you do about the Sandberg book linanil. I think its problematic to blame individuals for a structural problem.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 8:20 am 
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I am not really comfortable with the idea that women who place their careers first are doing something wrong. For some people, it is the most important thing in their life. I don't know that they are "missing" anything anymore than a woman who chooses not to have a child.

There were some ideas that she presented that are in Valenti's book. (For those who have not read it.)

Quote:
The vast majority of American women do not have a choice about whether they will work. They will, and most will have to work full time to support their families.

I think this fact is why idealizing parenting methods that have little scientific evidence to suggest they are "the best" and end up interfering with true co-parenting are problematic.

Quote:
And don’t quit completely because, as wonderful as parenthood is, it cannot and will not be your whole life.

Women are individual people first and foremost. . .

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 8:37 am 
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I wasn't saying that women shouldn't put their careers first and I don't read linanil's post to say that either. I think we should all be free to make the choices that work best for us. But to deny the fact that the workplace is often inherently unsupportive of women, even those who don't have children (see my post upthread for some examples), is to leave a lot of women frustrated by the fact that they are doing everything "right" and still not getting ahead as fast as their male counterparts. I put my career first for 12 years, and felt the same frustrations. And its also frustrating to see male colleagues being given concessions to their family lives, in part because as linanil said upthread, men are compensated for their potential, so they are supported during times when they need to invest more time at home, because their employers expect it to pay off down the road. One of my male colleagues with a young child was never staffed on last minute problems, because he wanted to be home on weekends and holidays, and the partners at our firm (a huge multinational firm) were so supportive of his choice. By contrast, whenever women got pregnant, they started to be pushed out and when we had mandatory layoffs, they were almost all women.

Did you read the piece on Harvard Business School's experiment to make a female-friendly curriculum? http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/08/educa ... wanted=all

Quote:
This was the lopsided situation that women in business school were facing: in intellectual prestige, they were pulling even with or outpacing male peers, but they were not “touching the money,” as Nori Gerardo Lietz, a real estate private equity investor and faculty member, put it. A few alumnae had founded promising start-ups like Rent the Runway, an evening wear rental service, but when it came to reaping big financial rewards, most women were barely in the game.

At an extracurricular presentation the year before, a female student asked William Boyce, a co-founder of Highland Capital Partners, a venture capital firm, for advice for women who wanted to go into his field. “Don’t,” he laughed, according to several students present. Male partners did not want them there, he continued, and he was doing them a favor by warning them.

Some women protested or walked out, but others said they believed he was telling the truth. (In interviews, Mr. Boyce denied saying women should not go into venture capital, but an administrator said student complaints prompted the school to contact the firm, which he had left decades before.)

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 9:10 am 
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Yeah, the article by Elsa Walsh seems to say that women shouldn't put their career first which I don't agree with. And she is looking at the mother only, not the father.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 9:22 am 
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Yes, the Elsa Walsh article isn't very good - its one of those crappy "This is what happened to me, so I assume that every single other woman ever feels the same way" pieces also known as the "N=1" articles. My point was about "Lean In."

I haven't met many high-achieving professionals or executive men who don't have children. One of the best litigators I have ever worked with has 10 children. I also know some successful lawyers who have children and they have done a great job with family support, nannies etc and that is awesome. Really, whether you're a man or a woman, the key to having a successful career and family is having a lot of support - for many men that support is their wife, but really there isn't any reason it would have to be a parent, as panda says.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 11:05 am 
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Vantine wrote:
There were some ideas that she presented that are in Valenti's book. (For those who have not read it.)

Quote:
The vast majority of American women do not have a choice about whether they will work. They will, and most will have to work full time to support their families.

I think this fact is why idealizing parenting methods that have little scientific evidence to suggest they are "the best" and end up interfering with true co-parenting are problematic.

And isn't it funny that the vast majority doesn't get the blogosphere and mainstream press attention that smaller but wealthier groups do? Almost a way of focusing on problems that aren't really problems to avoid looking at the larger picture.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 1:49 pm 
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I just finished Lean In this week. I agree that it is a big failing on Sandberg's part to avoid looking at systemic issues. But I understand the urge to believe there is an answer to the question "okay, there are systemic issues that I am not going to solve by myself, but what can I do to better my life?"

I have mixed feelings overall about Lean In. There were some interesting ideas, many in common with Why Have Kids, but overall I felt Sandberg tried too hard to please everyone and it weakened her message.

She spends an entire book encouraging women to focus on their careers, with data supporting why it is important collectively and individually, and she finishes with "...I feel grateful [towards stay-at-home mothers]. These parents -- mostly mothers -- constitute a large amount of the talent that helps sustain our schools, nonprofits, and communities. Remember that mom [mentioned in an earlier anecdote]? She is a tireless volunteer in my son's classroom and in our community. So many people benefit from her hard work."
Er, so if you benefit personally from the unpaid, unrewarded work of women, it's totally cool? What was that book you just wrote about exactly?


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 2:54 pm 
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Tofulish wrote:
Ariann wrote:
And the moms' groups' conversations tend to emphasize over and over again their roles as sacrificial mothers, which is kind of tiresome.


I don't see this in the groups I belong to (but I do agree that way too many of the groups are geared towards mothers and can see how it would be challenging for a SAHD). Instead I see people struggling with being the primary caregiver without much help, and feeling inadequate because they aren't getting any support themselves. The whole myth of the natural mother, who takes care of everything and asks nothing in return sets a lot of women up for burnout.

One of my friends wrote a really great post on how our American society has moved away from larger traditional families, where family would help out with children, and now a mother is often left doing all the caregiving that used to be shared by herself. (I disagree with the title - I think every culture has its own challenges and you can't generalize that one group has it "tougher" though) http://montessorionthedouble.com/2012/0 ... n-america/


Sorry, been deep in holiday stuff, couldn't respond earlier. I totally agree that most modern, post-industrial societies have moved away from larger traditional families with shared childrearing as a norm, but in almost all of the "moms" groups I'm in (in real life or on Facebook), the families represented have gone to a pretty extreme level of mother as 99% or more responsible for childcare and many of them have done so with clear intent. That's ideological, not just about shifting cultural norms.

There is definitely talk on the group we're both in about mothers who have arranged their lives in such a way that it is almost impossible for them to get help and thus feeling like they're giving 100% of themselves to childrearing and being burnt out to the level of physical illness, having problems with their spouses, etc. I don't know what to call that beyond sacrificial mothering. This includes making decisions about who is going to work or really sacrificing to have mom stay home so dad is working crazy or non-traditional hours or feeling overwhelmingly responsible for earning money and thus doesn't have much left physically or mentally to pitch in, deciding that nobody they're related to is an acceptable respite caregiver because they won't interact with the kids in the same way as mom and dad, deciding that the style of parenting they're practicing means that they shouldn't ever leave their kids with another caregiver, deciding to homeschool because the system doesn't share their values (and of course who is going to be almost entirely responsible for the incredible amount of research and effort that would take?), child-led weaning which of course has ramifications for how much a woman feels like her body actually belongs to her for years on end, etc. Some of it is just the overarching culture in a microcosm of a family - dads not expecting to have to help, or helping in ways that aren't that helpful, or not doing any of the mental work of childcare and moms understanding it as their primary and exclusive role and potentially pushing dads out, but also some of it is because of choices in childrearing that families make that isolate mothers. And a lot (most, even) of those choices make total sense to me philosophically or on a gut-level, but I would probably not choose most of them (and haven't, obviously) because I know that it would not lead to well shared parenting, would be detrimental to my marriage which I consider my primary relationship, and would isolate me and leave no time for me to engage in things outside of my child. Although thank God that group at least exists to mitigate some of that isolation.

Other groups I'm in include a group about sleep issues and another for women with insufficient glandular tissue who can't exclusively breastfeed. In both of those groups, which include only women (the wait it out group certainly should not include only women - unless it's only women who put their children to bed!), most of the members are sacrificial mothers to the extreme - spending hours upon hours upon hours *alone* working on putting their children to bed with the goal of never causing a tear, spending small fortunes and most of their waking hours and all their sanity on breastfeeding helps (and heck, the reason I'm in that group is to get ideas for ways to spend my own small fortune and all my sanity next time around!), etc. Sometimes the things people post about their self-sacrifice are really alarming. A more mainstream group I belong to, "springfield moms" is just kibbitzing about where the construction is that's going to make the school commute more complicated, irritation at the volunteer cheerleading coach, comparing back-to-school shopping lists, raving or ranting about teachers, etc. Why is ANY of that about "mothering" as opposed to parenting? Oh, I forgot, we're also in that veg families group together. Another group where almost only women post, plan things, etc.

jordanpattern wrote:
At the same time, the biggest fear I have about potentially having a child is that there will be some kind of huge hormonal shift that will happen that will make me into a Mommy and not let me be ME anymore.


I think this is a legitimate fear. Not really because of the hormonal stuff (maybe that might happen for you, that just wasn't it for me), but because of the sleep-deficit, the scheduling issues, the amount of attention small people really require (even with the most hands-off parenting techniques, and we are very hands-on parents), etc. I feel less smart, less funny, less creative, and less ambitious since having a child. And that makes me feel like shiitake and like less than a person. I think it is mostly about exhaustion for me, and I just don't know when that will go away, but I operate better on WAY more sleep and a different sleep schedule than I am capable of getting with a toddler underfoot and I used to be able to devote hours a day to personal development including reading, studying, writing, networking, just working out, etc. One of the smartest, most creative, most ambitious women I know is a mother of three and she said stuff to me in my first year of parenthood like, "You're not going to feel like yourself for at least two years, so just let it stuff slide." I am not a "let is slide" person! I am Type A (amusingly, in relation to everything BUT parenting, where I am suuuuper laid back and go with the flow and everything will be cool so let's just chill)! And anyway, it's been two years now, when do I get to be Type A again?

It is just true that without children you have way more time to devote to your own stuff, whatever that stuff might be. What is not true is that mothers have to bear alone the burden of being set back in their education or their careers or their hobbies or whatever. That I think is the trick to co-parenting. I can at least say that my husband and I have pretty equally shared that burden (beyond breastfeeding, he took on a larger share than I really), although it means we're both exhausted, we both feel like we've sacrificed things in our careers, etc. Bottom line, the biggest thing I agree with Sheryl Sandberg about is that your spouse is the most important career and parenting decision you're going to make. If you want to share responsibility, pick a partner who will share responsibility.


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 3:45 pm 
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jordanpattern wrote:
At the same time, the biggest fear I have about potentially having a child is that there will be some kind of huge hormonal shift that will happen that will make me into a Mommy and not let me be ME anymore.


I agree with Ariann (above). I don't think there is a huge hormonal shift for most people that make you want to devote yourself to your child to the exclusion of other things. I think there is a huge social pressure on women that you are the default caregiver and that anything your husband (or other family members) doesn't want to take on will fall to you, because it has to fall to someone. You can't just leave a child alone to fend for themselves because neither of you feels like being a caregiver in that moment.

Parenting, especially at the beginning, reminds me of rough hiking/backpacking in that you have a laserlike focus on just getting through one challenge at a time, which sometimes makes it hard to stop and do other things. You're sleep-deprived, you can't hear yourself think because there is someone crying or yelling or even just demanding your attention all the time, and you're in the middle of a big life change because you are now responsible for another person. And it doesn't help that childcare isn't valued in the US, so even though its really hard to be present to a small person who has terrible judgement and is testing limits constantly, people don't really see it as being a valuable thing. I was listening to NPR and the host said "Oh we can't call you a working mother, or we'll have all the SAHMs calling up and complaining that they work too." And it was said in this dismissive tone, because of course, staying at home and providing care to your child isn't seen as "work" and often the conversations include an assumption that anyone can provide childcare, which is why you often have students, women of color, recent immigrants and people who are having a hard time finding other work working in childcare. And that is another outflow of the myth of the "Natural Mother" if anyone can do it, just by being a woman and having the right hormones, then why should someone who went to college or law school or is trained in other skilled labor do it (from the left - its better for them to fight to change the system by being CEOs) and why should women who want to mother bother going to school etc (from the right - because that training is wasted and better used by men who are going to be CEOs). Not that other work isn't similarly devalued (artists, teachers etc), but our society does tend to rank what we do by what others pay for it.

And yes, the most important thing you can do to have space for you to be YOU, is to have these conversations with your partner both before and after you have your child. The best things I did was do all my prenatal classes (including BFing classes and labor classes) with my partner, so he realized that it would be more work than I could do alone. And he was great about supporting me after L was born. Wherever we have had challenges, I feel like its been from the messages he gets that women are supposed to be "natural mothers" and that fathers just need to try not to get in the way (stuff like "A man can't do anything with a baby until its a year old and can throw a ball around" from his friends (who have kids!)) and a bit of selfishness, because who among us wants our lives to change and have to give up more of our own time - he wants to be HIM too! We had a lot of conversations about how to structure our time, and some of that ended up not happening, which was a source of huge frustration for me. He is a wonderful parent, and when we're together, he is the one who gets up and cares for her and runs after her most of the time, but it has taken a lot of conversations to have him realize that he has to also support my emotional wellbeing by giving me some scheduled alone time. And I have had to learn to take my alone time when I can find it too. Because I think we all want to be US, not someone who has no needs and exists solely to provide love and care to someone who has incredibly high needs and no boundaries. Leela does give me a lot of love and care, and I love hanging out with her, but nothing recharges my batteries like time alone (which is why I stay up way too late at night on the PPK).

TL;DR, All that to say its not the hormones, its the patriarchy :)

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 4:20 pm 
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+1 to everything tofulish just said.


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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 4:21 pm 
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If anyone wants to chat about the Valenti book with me further, please shoot me a message on the facebookery. I won't be back in this thread but I'm happy to hear any further thoughts y'all might have.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 5:58 pm 
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Kelly wrote:
Let's keep this thread to discussion for those who have read the book please.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 6:45 pm 
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I am so tired of this. If you guys aren't going to discuss the book, just let the thread die.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 9:19 pm 
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Yes. Discuss the book or this gets closed...with apologies to everybody who is actually DISCUSSING THE BOOK.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 9:45 pm 
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I've read the book and the themes we have been discussing are the ones mentioned in it. I don't really see how its off-topic given that all the conversation is on themes in the book, even if every post doesn't start with "as it says on page 12."

We're all discussing the subject matter of the book, which is also covered in the other articles and books like "Lean In," and though there is a little disagreement on the book, for the most part, I think we all agree on the vast majority of the issues. A little respectful disagreement seems to me to be great for discussion - it would be so boring if we all agreed 100% with what everyone else said! I also don't believe that sharing our own experiences on the themes raised in the book, is off-topic, I think that helps illustrate the real importance of the themes the book covers in our own lives.

I mention this only because I find it a very useful and insightful thread, and would be sad if it were closed, especially because I don't see my posts as being off-topic and I am learning a great deal from it.

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I won't post in this thread again, unless someone tells me it is okay to do so, but again, I have read the book and am discussion the themes in it, and I don't see it as being off-topic.

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 Post subject: Re: Why Have kids? by Jessica Valenti
PostPosted: Mon Sep 16, 2013 7:20 am 
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I've read the book and I was waffling whether to post the Washington Post article here or in the feminism thread.

I think the idea that 'you women, as mothers, in order to be happy should scale back your careers to be a mother first' fits with the ideas of the book. Sure it works for some women, but why put that responsibility on the mothers? Why not say 'it is ok, mother or father, to scale back your career if you like' and she ends the article with "Parenting is a joy".

I know the mention of "Lean in" is kind of auxiliary to the topic in that it is blaming women in general for their lack of 'work success'.

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