Monday, May 09, 2011

21st Century Non-Sexist

As I was reading various essays and editorials about Motherhood and Moms last weekend, I was reminded of a conversation I had earlier this year at a meeting.

At a meeting, as happens from time to time, I met someone I had not previously met before. In fact, we had never heard of each other, as we are in quite different fields and employment sectors. In any case, we were chatting about Science Things, and then (somewhat randomly, I thought) this man, who looked to be in his mid/late-30s said:

Fortunately I get paid enough in my job so that my wife doesn't have to work. It is so much better for kids when one parent is home all the time taking care of the house and the kids and the shopping.

So I said:

It's great that that works well for you and your family, but I don't agree with it as a general statement for all kids and all parents. For other families, like mine, everyone is happier with both parents working.

He said:

What I said isn't sexist because it doesn't matter whether it is the mom or the dad who stays home. It just happens to be the mom in our case.

I said, ignoring his bizarre defensive reply that implied I had accused him of sexism, when I had not:

That's fine, but my point is that you can't extend your preference to every family, just like I can't say that it is best for all families, including the kids, if both parents work, even though that is what is best for my family.

He went on to explain how much nicer it is for him to return home to a clean house with dinner ready and to have a relaxing evening instead of coming home to a wife who was stressed out and exhausted from her day of work, back when she had a job outside the home.

I am sure it is nicer for him, and I hope his wife is truly happy with this as well. From what I've seen and what I've read, the key factor in whether mom-staying-at-home is a good choice for a family that can financially manage that arrangement is whether the woman really wants to do this or whether she feels she should do it or has no choice.

In any case, I did not ask this man how much he contributed to housework and childcare even when his wife also had a "real" job and was exhausted and stressed out all the time, as I really didn't want to delve into the details of his life; I just wanted to refute his generalizations.

But he wasn't done with his generalizations. He went on to state that places with lots of stay-at-home parents (typically the mom, but again, it doesn't have to be the mom) have better schools than places with lots of two-job families because the parents are more involved in the schools and it's great when the moms (or dads) can stop by and read stories and be lunch monitors or whatever. Schools that don't have lots of moms (or dads) involved can be pretty bad.

I said that many working parents participate in their kid's school activities, and the schools and kids benefit from interacting with moms and dads representing a wide range of career and life experiences.

Mostly, I think that this man was doing what so many people do -- trying to justify or feel good about his own personal decisions by trying to convince others that this is the best way to be. Why not just be happy with your choices? Perhaps he has issues, and these issues came to his mind when he found himself in conversation with a Female Scientist.

Even so, if he and his wife made this choice together, if both are happy with their decision and the kids are happy and mom-at-home really is the best thing for their family, that's great. But don't tell me that kids are harmed by working moms (and dads) and local schools are bad if lots of moms (and dads) work. That is a very unscientific conclusion, in addition to being quite bizarre to inject into a conversation with a Female Scientist at a meeting.

57 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was booed by the feminazi cadre when a few weeks ago, I wrote on this board saying that academia is now institutionally sexist against men. In fact, I specifically pointed out an interview in Nature magazine of the feminazi who now runs the famous Universitat Gottingen. The feminazi declared brazenly to Nature: "Women have a highly developed sense of fairness".

Is feminism the 21st century version of "White man's burden"?

Guess what? Close on the heels of that, Universitat Gottingen announces this ONLY FOR FEMALES fellowship:

www.uni-goettingen.de/en/122481.html

My application is NOT welcome because I belong to the wrong gender. Gosh, I wonder how long it is before male scientists will have their PhD diplomas stamped with a big yellow star....

Anonymous said...

I had a stay-at-home mom. I don't wish that on anyone. Actually, I don't think there is anything more unhealthy than someone who is living their life and ambitions through other people (typically, their children and husband.) Not to mention that it's definitely not the sort of example I would want to give my children, whether girls or boys. It took me years and many successful female mentors to realize that you could live your life differently (i.e., have a kid, work full-time, and not feel guilty about it), because my mother also used to justify herself that staying at home was "better for the kid". I understand that it may be a necessary evil for big families, though.

Anonymous said...

While this attitude is not sexist on its face, when widely held and generalized (and combined with certain other attitudes such as the attitude that stay-at-home-dads are wimps/losers/not-real-men) it seems to lead to women staying at home far more often than men (because women earn less or have to take time off to give birth anyway), which seems to lead to women being pressured/forced to stay at home whether they want to or not (because it is BAD for kids if no parent stays home, the Dad sure as hell isn't going to do it, and the Mom will get the heat for being a Bad Mother if she doesn't), in other words it it a part of the ambient structural sexism in society.

Azkyroth said...

I'm inclined to be highly skeptical of this, since my observations and, I believe, at least some psychological studies support the hypothesis that:
1) having only one thing in one's life in which one takes pride and by the state of which one measures one's sense of accomplishment is highly detrimental to people, and to the people around them, and
2) "home and family" only counts as one thing for this purpose.

Anonymous said...

It's indeed a strange comment for a conference discussion with a stranger...
While I'm not a fan of generalizing things, my own experience as one half of a mom-and-dad-working-with-two-kids-couple tells me that LIFE WOULD BE SOME MUCH MORE RELAXING IF ONLY ONE PARENT WOULD BE WORKING!!! Mother staying at home, dad working used to be the standard where I come from when I was a kid while it's nowadays getting more common for both parents to work. Problem is, there are still only 24hours in a day and working hours haven't decreased since when I was a kid (also, on average, people need the same amount of sleep so no chance to gain time there). I find it stressful to try to balance time for work, family, couple, friends, community service etc and this is devinitely taking a toll on both our marriage and relationship with our kids...

nicoleandmaggie said...

Argh. I'm grading final exams right now and it is very clear that despite the ENTIRE SEMESTER being on how correlation is not causation, a handful of students are just not getting it.

Anyhow, your acquaintance gets -6 on that problem for the statement that because places with majority two working parents have worse schools than places with one (if that is indeed true). Omitted variables: income, job types, part of country, homogeneity, percent English learners, etc.

*sigh* We lost a regular reader when he posted on his blog that it's ok to have "someone else raise your children," and we took exception to that statement. He took us off his blogroll and *everything*.

I do wonder if deep down they wish they had that second income, or if it makes them feel more manly to be the sole provider. I gotta say, we sure enjoy having that second income even though either of us makes enough that one could stay at home. Only, we both had working moms so we don't feel like we're making much sacrifice to get that second income. We turned out great and our kid could not be more perfect.

Plus parenting these days is so much more hands-on than it was when there were more SAHM... I secretly think DC is better off getting more variety of experience from daycare than ze would with us 24/7.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

But don't tell me that kids are harmed by working moms (and dads) and local schools are bad if lots of moms (and dads) work.

Local schools in wealthy neighborhoods tend to be good. Families in wealthy neighborhoods have a lot of stay-at-home parents.

It is surprising to me that a scientist would be so oblivious of this causality, and instead assert a bogus self-serving one. Or maybe he understands this, and he's just a big fucken liar?

Anonymous said...

I had to respond to this, as I completely agree with you. My mother stayed home with me and my sister not completely by choice. My father would not contribute to any chores, bills, lawn care, etc, and at some point when we moved, she decided not to look for a job. She was clearly bitter about it, and I think that harmed us more than it helped, particularly as we got older.

We still love our parents, of course, but I believe strongly that in our case, it would have been much better had my mom worked.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. Send this guy back to the 1950s. I guess it works for his family. It was SO much better that my mom worked, and it would have been better if my dad had gone back to work and not stayed home. If you are a two job family you often have enough money to pay someone to clean / cook / etc and mom can do something cool and intellectual and the children will benefit from that.

alison said...

Hey, I liked this post. I'm a PhD student in engineering, on the way to having my first child. I recently read an article saying women who wanted to stay home AND were able to do so were less likely to be depressed with their situation. But women who wanted to work and chose to stay home were much more likely to be depressed. (Sorry, I can't find the source again.) Honestly, I would imagine it's similar for men. So someone staying home in a case where both parents desire outside work would be quite detrimental!

PeggyL said...

FSP, I think you handled this conversation in a much more gracious fashion than I would have been able to. High quality schools have much more to do with the property values, property taxes, and socioeconomic status of their communities (which may or may not be related to whether families can afford for one parent to stay home with the kids) than with the level of parental involvement in the school. Many people frame the decision of mothers to stay home with their children as a "choice" when in fact it is highly constrained by (as you pointed out) the degree to which fathers are willing to invest in parenting and housekeeping as well as the amount of flexibility that employers give to parents to enable them to juggle home and work responsibilities.

EliRabett said...

The problem with this entire conversation is the projection that all jobs are interesting. If you are in the chicken herding business or worse, the answer is no, most jobs are somewhere between a pain and a problem and staying home is a plus. Many people work part time jobs to avoid the full time stress.

Geoknitter said...

Huh. I found it interesting that as I read your post, I did get defensive and wanted to rebut. Your approach of just stating that every family needs it's own solution is much better.

Anonymous said...

It's as if this man saw a FEMALE (scientist), and started talking about his wife and family and kids and schools (?). I wonder if he randomly brings up those topics with male scientists he has just met (?).

m @ random musings said...

I would say that his comments only make sense from a zero sum game perspective.

That is, "winning" spouse is only happily employed if they are at work 80+ hours a week, have extended and frequent business trips, take calls at all hours during vacations (essentially only coming home to sleep and periodically "enjoy" the family). Where anything less than the workaholic lifestyle is "losing". And the "loser" gets be the stay-at-home parent.

Lovely.

I wonder what his wife thinks. After her long day of kid-wrangling and housework, does she like "coming home" to a spouse that is stressed from his day? Or does this schmuck think that she "relaxes" to the aroma of Lysol and dirty socks?

Steveo said...

I happen to have mixed feelings on this. I do think that, all things being equal, it is probably better for children to have a stay at home parent, at least until they are school age. I guess the problem comes that, all things are never equal. It is highly unlikely that the stay at home parent will have the same level of happiness working vs staying at home. Some might be happier, not having to work a job they do not enjoy, which would certainly end up being a good thing for a child. Some would be unhappy, missing out on doing a job that they enjoyed and this would be bad for the child.

So I certainly agree with FSP that the working situation of the parents is not a one size fits all solution and is unique for every family. But I certainly do know many mom's who really want to, or wish that they could stay at home. This is a choice that some women (or men) want to make. As a guy without kids, the thought of getting to spend lots of time with my future (hypothetical kid) sounds awesome, but taking on the majority of the household chores and missing out on doing a job I enjoy doesn't make that choice seem as appealing.

As a kid, I think I had a pretty fortunate situation, where my dad ran a home business, so I had a parent at home, but one who wasn't overbearing either. I used to get to eat lunch with my dad everyday as a kid, which I think was a great thing for me. As a teenager, it wasn't as good though, as privacy was harder to get! :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon @8:23

Sure, it sounds good when FSP talks about how everyone in her family is happier with everyone happily employed, what with FSP's cushy job in the ivory tower.

I wonder how "unfair" it would be to a woman if her husband made "enough" money in an 8 hour day as a construction worker and the wife didn't have to work outside of the home. Instead she would have to work like a slave making pot roast for dinner while her sexist pig husband comes home after an easy day of carrying concrete blocks.

For most people, "work" is what sucks the life out of them. If you were a Chinese coal miner, that could even be true in a literal sense.

Yes, FSP, most people on earth work outside because they need to buy food. Not everyone works for "fulfilment" and a "sense of identity". I wonder how you didn't know that.

It's funny that FSP would accuse this other person of "generalizing" when it looks like FSP is the one who needs some perspective.

Anonymous said...

My husband stayed home for a year with our daughter while I was a new Asst. Prof. While yes it was great to come home to dinner on the table and to not do laundry for a year... The stress of me having to do everything for our daughter as soon as I stepped in the door because he had taken care of her all day, plus having to be my husband's primary adult contact person... it was rough and things are so much better now that he's working.

And it's not true (most places in the country) that the dad can stay home just as easily. All the stay-at-home moms I know here get together for play groups and see each other a lot during the week-- important adult interactions! They knew my husband was home, but did he ever get invited to any of their gatherings? No.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 08:55:
The person FSP was talking to is not a coal miner or a construction worker, he's a scientist, so by your token his day at work isn't all that exhausting anyway. No "work sucking the life out of him" there.

FSP provided the most balanced response possible -- that different scenarios work for different people. I agree with you, for most people a job is just a job -- a way to make money; not particularly enjoyable or fulfilling, and staying home, as Eli Rabbet says, is way better. But, there are people, men and women, for whom the job is a career they enjoy, and they should be free to tailor their lives accordingly. FSP's point emphasizes that -- to each their own -- while the guy she spoke to presented an inflexible view ("my lifestyle is best!") I would expect more from him, as an intellectual.

Anonymous said...

There's a swing in gender expectations among my peer group that I find sort of odd. I'm about to turn 30 later this year, and I'm at the age where pretty much everyone I know is entering the "baby phase." The vast majority of these women have chosen to stay home with their kids instead of continuing their careers. That's their choice, and feminism fought long and hard for women to be able to exercise choice, so whatever. More power to 'em. What I find weird about it, though, is how many of them express the desire to do this as an extension of their hippy-esque socially conscious desire for things to be "natural," like on the same wavelength as buying organic food or wearing unbleached cotton. It's like we've swung completely the other direction.

Don't get me wrong, these women want to do what they're doing, it certainly seems like constantly washing a stack of reusable diapers would be a full time job, and I myself do enjoy a good farmer's market and the like, but something just strikes me funny about the image of stay-at-home-motherhood being trendy because of its perceived progressiveness.

Dr. Sneetch said...

I agree with FSP's sentiments. I have experienced this sort of situation many times. It's poison in my view -- making two working parents feel they aren't doing something right. Instead of society moving in the direction of supporting dual-career families, the trend is toward making one parent stay at home (gender neutral).

CPP, NicoleMaggie, and Eli Rabbit make very good points. Picking up on Eli's comment, most people consider their jobs boring and painful. Is it better for a woman to be a stay-at-home-mom or a store-clerk? Perhaps. But being a scientist is different. It is too closely tied to self-identity. Self-identity simply means that's who you are. It has nothing to do with fullfillment.

Another thing I noticed a lot of stay-at-home moms are quite savvy about parceling some things they like into an income-generator whether it is tasteful decorating, homeschooling, writing books etc. and develop quite a standing in those 'professional communities" often on par with those employed full-time.

We can't be scientist-at-large and have any standing in the scientific community. A part-time professor is an adjunct with all the negative baggage that comes with that word.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to add to my above comment, that our way of managing an 18-month-old plus 2 tenure-track jobs has been to just not really have a clean house and to eat frozen pizza fairly often (with salad, at least!). And this is something we are both okay with. When we do take the time to really cook dinner it ends up feeling like a treat, almost a date. I've had numerous conversations with other (female) faculty about how fabulous it would be if we could add a "wife" to the mix...but all I'm really saying is that I'd like to hire a maid.

Doug said...

There's a lot of strong emotions, indignation, and anger here. My read on this is that there was a bit of a miss-communication between FSP and her new acquaintance. Perhaps he had read somewhere about how families with stay at home parents do better, but was not used to (as are most of the non-science public)in being prepared to justify that statement. FSP countered by pointing out (logically) that the statement he made was not valid in all situations. Which, again, to those not in academic fields may not be the "normal" course of discourse.

Now, not having a set of data to work from, I CAN tender my observations on this issue. Both my parents have PhD's, and my mother elected to stay home while we were school age, and my father continued on as MSP. I am currently a MSP myself, and my wife has a MS in Science, and is currently working as a lawyer. I was a stay at home dad for an AWESOME year and half with our first child. When she graduated law school and started working and I took my faculty position, our income went up but our quality of life suffered. Notable in the child rearing arena, child 1's skill acquisition rate slowed dramatically after he went into a day care. Child 2 has had a slower skill and development rate relative to child one over the same period. While I appreciate that N is small, I would contend that the same trend for small class size (student to teacher ratio in that case being 1 or 2 to one) would far better than 10 or so to one. I'd prefer to spend more time with kids, as would my wife, but our jobs do not permit it.

Ms.PhD said...

I think the relevant point here is that this guy is young. We're all used to these kinds of "I get to have a career while my wife is a martyr to the family cause" attitude from older guys. And so many feminists loved to believe that these attitudes would go away if we just waited. Well, waiting doesn't fix anything.

I think The Feminine Mystique should be required reading in schools. The history of why women stay home and work while men get paid to work elsewhere, and how that has been enforced through psychological manipulation and societal pressure, is a long, scary story that most people don't even seem to know.

Based on having read that, I doubt his wife will be happy with this arrangement forever, even if she's enjoying it now while the kids are presumably young.

Oh, and if you think it doesn't matter how this guy conducts his personal life, think again. If he's uncomfortable talking to FSP at a meeting, what kind of PI will he be? What kind of mentor to female trainees?

Do you think his personal sexism won't translate to professional sexism?

Do you really think it won't leak out and influence his evaluations of potential colleagues?

Anonymous said...

I hate it when I meet someone new at a conference or whatever and they think that I will be more interested in hearing about the wife and kids than in talking about science. It's as if these men have a simple little program running in their brains:

I am talking to a woman.

My wife is a woman.

I will tell this woman about my wife-woman.

Barefoot Doctoral said...

I want to applaud NicoleandMaggie's and ComradePhysioProf's comments. The causation/correlation mistake really bugged me when I first read this.

I just want to address Steveo's comment about it being best for a parent to stay at home until school age. I'm not trained in a child development. Neither is my partner. We both have PhDs in different fields. As much as we love our kid, we don't always know what the best thing for him is, or what his next developmental need may be. A good day care provider has much more experience with children than we do. We've learned a lot from our daycare provider about setting expectations. Our kid has learned a lot from being in day care about playing with older and younger kids. Maybe I could have learned these things by spending all day with my child, and had a tool box ready for the next kid.

Anonymous said...

I think its a bit passive aggressive that he randomly interjected this into your conversation. He's trying to "prove" that you and your choices are wrong. You should have just sarcastically admitted that you were a miserable humorless feminist and thank him for freeing your afternoons up for baking.

Anonymous said...

If he knew nothing about the kid/spouse-work situation of the person he was talking to, he was essentially saying "You are a bad parent and your kid's school probably sucks". I bet he has that unpleasant combination of being deeply insecure but aggressive.

Anonymous said...

@Anon at 9:17

"The person FSP was talking to is not a coal miner or a construction worker, he's a scientist, so by your token his day at work isn't all that exhausting anyway. No "work sucking the life out of him" there. "

Sure. But what made FSP assume that this person's wife had a PhD or some kind of higher degree? What FSP says holds only if BOTH parents are extremely highly skilled professionals. What if this person in question had a wife with a Bachelors in Literature?

In that case, it seems to me that this male scientist is providing a pretty sweet deal for his wife. I am sure any woman would prefer to make coffee for a loving husband and cupcakes for her own kids than fetch coffee for a boss.

So, it is actually FSP's family that is a special case, not the other way around. And she is the one accusing others of generalizing.

Anonymous said...

Why do you think FSP assumed the wife had a PhD or other higher degree?

Anonymous said...

Fortunately I get paid enough in my job so that I can hire a cook, a maid, and a prostitute, so I don't even need a wife!

Anonymous said...

In that case, it seems to me that this male scientist is providing a pretty sweet deal for his wife. I am sure any woman would prefer to make coffee for a loving husband and cupcakes for her own kids than fetch coffee for a boss.

Yeah, provided the wife really does not want to work. I know women who don't, and that's fine. Btw, I have at least four youngish male colleagues (late 30's, early 40's) who are actually quite strapped for money living on one income and would love nothing more than for the wife to go back to work, but the wives don't want to.

But there are plenty of women for whom tending to husband and kids (cupcakes and all) does not equate with fulfillment. There are plenty of jobs where the woman is neither a PhD/MD/JD nor a coffee-fetching assistant (teachers, nurses, librarians, computer programmers, engineers, various administrative staff positions, accountants,...) and where the woman may love her job and would not want to drop it. Implying that her children will be damaged by her actually enjoying her work is wrong and sends a horrible message to her children about the worth of women.

Anonymous said...

"What if this person in question had a wife with a Bachelors in Literature?"

Then there's no way that she could ever find a job that she enjoyed more than sitting home and making cupcakes for her children and coffee for her husband. Nothing else she could possibly due besides be a full-time coffee-maker for a boss.

"I am sure any woman would prefer to make coffee for a loving husband and cupcakes for her own kids than fetch coffee for a boss."

And there's also no way that someone could find an administrative position enjoyable. Socializing with coworkers, helping an organization run - all torture for all mothers compared to sitting home and making cupcakes.

Cloud said...

I agree with you, FSP- what is right for one family may be completely wrong for another family, so we should avoid generalizing.

That goes both ways.

I am a very happy work-outside-the-home mom, and would be a miserable stay-at-home mom. But I have friends who are the exact reverse: happy stay-at-home moms who would be miserable as working moms.

As far as I can tell, all of our kids are doing just fine.

I think the real key for kids is that they are loved and given opportunities to learn and grow, and that the parents are happy. Kids can tell when we aren't, and it worries them.

As for the question of whether the wife's job is "worth" it, I would say:

(1) we don't know what she thinks, and that is a very personal thing. Maybe she was "just" a sales clerk, but maybe she really enjoyed being a sales clerk. Or really enjoyed having her own income. Who knows? We shouldn't assume that our opinions of a job are universal.

(2) even if her pre-kids job sucked and she hated it, that doesn't mean that she wants to be a stay-at-home mom. There are some unique demands in that role, and it is not just highly educated scientists who might find it a difficult and ultimately unsatisfying choice.

Anonymous said...

I think part of the source of his comments to you was finding a FSP still a novelty -- he just doesn't understand how you and your family operate?! "My god, who does your laundry?!"

I am approaching another week-long conference away from my family, and all of my male colleagues ask me (every time!), "But who will take care of your daughter?" I don't understand this question-- the answer is "Husband and Day Care." Why is this perplexing to them? No one ask them this question when they travel.

EliRabett said...

"No one ask them this question when they travel."

You should

MathTT said...

In that case, it seems to me that this male scientist is providing a pretty sweet deal for his wife. I am sure any woman would prefer to make coffee for a loving husband and cupcakes for her own kids than fetch coffee for a boss.

I would seriously stab myself in the heart rather than live the life you described.

I am now an Asst. Prof. But I have done lots of other jobs in my life, including working at McDonald's in high school and working at a movie theater in college. I would work any of those former jobs rather than serve coffee & cupcakes to husband & kids full time.

Why would I let myself be completely financially dependent on my "loving husband"? My parents are thrice divorced between them... I harbor no delusions that marriage is forever. Divorced women can end up in poverty because they made those choices.

Plus, I like working. I actually had a really hard time in grad school. It was the first time I didn't have a "real job" (secretary, food service, whatever). They were just paying me to go to school. It took about 18 months to wrap my head around that... "This is my only job."

Anonymous said...

Come on, people -- didn't any of you watch "Mad Men?" You really think Betty Draper was happier & more fulfilled smoking & drinking at home than when she got to model? And Joan -- certainly happier as office czarina than as SAHM. Different strokes for different folks! Neither of them were super-educated professionals: just normal women who liked having something to do beside make pot roast.

I am happy for my friends whose interests and finances line up. I would hate to be a stay-at-home mom, and it would be bad for my kids as I'd slide into bitter depression and refuse to get out of bed. Maybe they'd learn how to mix drinks, though. Heh. And my husband wouldn't be so happy either: he has said that the dynamic of being sole bread-winner is not one he'd enjoy.

PostDoc said...

@ Anon "What if this person in question had a wife with a Bachelors in Literature?"

From where does this condescension about those with Literature degrees arise? People with Bachelors in Literature don't get to have fulfilling jobs? No one has a satisfying job without a higher degree? I currently have a job that demands my PhD, but the other jobs I would like to have do not. And this list speaks just for me: teacher, food service, bookshop employee (or owner), travel agent, librarian (for at least two of which a literature degree could be seen as an advantage).

As for the travel question, I too get it at least once every time I go out of town.

My response: "My daughter has two parents."

PostDoc said...

Sorry for the double post, but re: the washable diapers comment. I do take your point that they are sometimes part of a "lifestyle", they are also vastly cheaper than disposables. We used them partly for green reasons, partly for financial ones, and they are really not the burden they are perceived to be. We did own a washing machine (I think having to wash them at a laundromat would indeed be a burden), but didn't even own a dryer and found them a commitment of only about 10 min per day which given the several thousand dollars we saved was an easy investment.

Washable diaper proselytizing over.

nicoleandmaggie said...

Re: washable diapers, ITA with Post-doc.

If we have another baby we'll start them much earlier! Modern cloth diapers are awesome. Even for a dual-working couple who got no parental leave.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Some of us don't make cupcakes for kids or fetch coffee for anyone a boss.

Anonymous said...

thanks to the first commentator for alerting me to a great opportunity for women graduate students and postdocs.awesome.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. I appreciated your comment about how being a stay at home mom is really about whether the mom wants to do this (finances aside, of course). I am the working stiff in my relationship and my wife has struggled mightily with the idea of staying at home. When she did work she felt horribly guilty, and when she made the decision to stay home she felt a bit cheated and ashamed. It seems to be a function of our society that we convince ourselves that issues like this are black and white, when in fact they are very difficult to resolve. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Anon @9:05 PM

You are welcome. A word of caution though: the Jim Crow model might not work too well with science. Somehow, science has this uncanny knack of weeding out the undeserving.

Anonymous said...

Happy parents are better for the kids. My mother's a philosopher; she was able to be home after schools but we ALL would have been miserable if she'd forced herself into a lifestyle that didn't interest her, "for the kids". We benefited immensely from the environment we had at home, and it was so enriched by all of our parents' work and community involvement!

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

I disagree somewhat with
"We can't be scientist-at-large and have any standing in the scientific community. A part-time professor is an adjunct with all the negative baggage that comes with that word."

Paul Erdős was a famous mathematician whose itinerant lifestyle lead to hundreds of collaborations.

More recently (and less famously) Bob Edgar comes up as an example of a well-respected and well-published bioinformatician who is not affiliated with any institution.

Although it is much more common for a scientist to be tied to a research institution of some sort, it is not an essential part of the identity.

Anonymous said...

Love this post. I just found this blog and I think I'm about to become a regular reader!

Thanks for writing.

Anonymous said...

What I have come to learn is that each family finds what works for them. There are always pros and cons, no matter what that choice of lifestyle is. I am a 40-ish female science professor and my husband has been the stay-at-home dad to our three kids for the past 11 years. This has worked great for us and we are happy with this decision, despite the fact that we have little savings.

On the other hand, my mom was a stay-at-home mom and, although she did a fantastic job raising kids and running a household, I do not think she was happy with this role.

We need to respect each other's personal choices.

Alex said...

From the post title, I deduce that FSP is a Green Day fan.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Sneetch posted (on my blog instead of here, but as a public comment, so I feel ok in quoting it):

"Hey Gas station without pumps — responding to your comment on FSP’s post about my comment. Figured you wouldn’t read it there since it would be like 50th or somthing. I knew Paul and he was no part-timer. He did math 24/7 and everyone was happy to host him. Adjunct math profs have no standing in the research math community."


Paul Erdős was indeed a full-time mathematician—so much so that he did not hold a professor position but traveled from place to place being hosted by other mathematicians. He was a shining exemplar of the rare breed of "scientist-at-large".

Incidentally, I do subscribe to FSP comment feeds, and so would have seen the reply here. It would be convenient if the FSP comment feed were a single feed, instead of needing to subscribe separately to each post. Surely even backward software like blogger has that option!

---Note this is "gasstationwithoutpumps". I'm posting anonymously because blogger has been refusing my comment all day, and I thought it might be because blogger and OpenID are not talking to each other properly. (Blogger threw away my comment each time—they really hate commenters—but I saved comment before sending, so I could paste it in again).

Female Science Professor said...

Thanks for persisting despite the comment annoyances..

unlikelygrad said...

Coming in late here (darn finals!) but wanted to make a comment that being a stay-at-home mom does not mean that your sole focus in life has to be your children. When I was home I had many outside interests that made me feel that I was not "just" a mom, as did my own stay-at-home mom.

I don't think it's healthy to base your self-esteem on any one component of your life, whether that be family OR job OR hobbies OR... Finding balance is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

FSP, I hope this male colleague of yours doesn't have female students or postdocs who have kids because then he would obviously consider them bad parents since they are not staying at home. Since he seems to not recognize that different things work for different people but that there is one Absolute Truth which is that one parent (i.e. the mother) should stay at home. Even if he never said anything out loud to them, I'd find it hard to believe that it woudlnt' come through in his attitude towards them - perhaps channeling more opportunities to his male students or taking them more seriously?

Anonymous said...

I think that when one parent (usually the mom) is stay at home, it is fertile soil for creating lots of resentment between the spouses. Since each spouse essentially lives very different lives under the same roof, it's hard for them to understand and sympathize with each other. he works all day and comes home and resents that he still has to do chores and childcare. She works all day at home and does housework and resents that when he gets home he wants to relax while she has to continue with childcare and chores. he's the only one making the money, but she expects to have equal say in how money is spent. Or, he doesnt' allow her any say in how money is spent because he's the only one making the money. And so on.....IMO, marriages where one person is stay at home, are about as unequal and as far from true partnership, as you can get.

Anonymous said...

Actually to me he sounds defensive. Which is rarely a good thing wrt sexism

Anonymous said...

What the hell are you talking?
Men have to say that these days as any hint of sexism ( just against women) is so ingrained in society that it was an automatic reaction from him not overtly defensive.
Men in general don't need this nonsense were women in general seem to or at least made to think they do.
As for his kids. Well you are right in the modern world women don't stay at home as much but then again the alcohol and drug use as well as the year on year increase in stds as well as unwanted pregnacies speaks for itself that society is not funcioning as it should.
There is no black and white by your attitude is getting rather bloody annoying. Change the record love it's only political correctness that 'seems' to make your views acceptable but in reality they are selfish unthinking and dambright offensive