Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Monday, 2 February 2009

Working mothers, Part 2

This subject has certainly stirred up emotions. And I think we all basically agree: taking care of our children is perhaps the most important thing we can do with our lives. And I, for one, left my residency program in the United States because they only offered 15 days of maternity leave and to me, spending time with the little Bois and breastfeeding him was my number 1 priority.

But I would like to respond to what Abbie wrote. I totally agree that having an education is an asset to being a mother. And often (especially when daycares have untrained employees), children get much better care from their mothers than from daycares. But I must ask, if everyone who held bachelors and masters degrees dropped out of the working world and raised children, what would happen to our society (be it Danish or American)? Take another example: what if all men and women who went to medical school suddenly decided that it was more important to stay home and raise their children than to contribute to society as doctors? Life as we know it would fall apart. And what about all of the public funds that go to education? At least here in Denmark, a university education along with medical education are paid for by the government. Can you imagine how all of the tax paying citizens would feel if the money the spent to educate doctors went instead to those doctors staying in their homes and only sharing their education with their children? That just wouldn't be fair to the society that educated them (and this applies to any degree).

I do, however, think that women everywhere should have the right to chose what she does with her life (as opposed to the situation Olga described in communist Russia). But it is sad when daycares are so expensive or of such poor quality that women are compelled to stay at home. After all, having a fulfilling job can make a mother very happy and, in turn, (maybe) make her a better mother.

On another note, I've been entertaining myself by reading what a certain forum has been writing about me and my blog. They say that The Bois is nothing more than an accessory to me (because I just want to send him to daycare and go to work). I immediately thought of the Flav-o-Flav clock necklace.

But then I thought that if by accessory they meant a compass, then there is truth in that. Not to sound sappy, but he gives direction to my life with his beautiful, unconditional love. And I'm sure that anyone who has had a child can relate to that feeling.

Please see the related poem by John Dunne "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning" (

And I am so proud of him. He did so well in his obligatory 1 hour speed crawling session on the treadmill (we need to get rid of that rear end cellulite!). Here he is afterwards with his personal trainer.


Anonymous said...

There's no doubt that our society has always devalued women's work - particularly that as mothers. I think the touchy point here is really whether a woman who does have a choice "ought" to stay home or go back to working outside the home.

I didn't read Sea Legs' comments as negative in any way toward women who stay home, and I think it is important to look at the tone of her remarks - they are more directed at the USA's lack of support and resources for women. I certainly didn't see them as judgmental toward women for "wasting" their education. The issue isn't really "ought we work or stay home" but that women have to make those difficult choices at all in a country as wealthy and privileged as the United States, especially when other countries grant women better leaves, pay, childcare options, and job protection.

You know, when you think back 40-60 years, one of the main reasons families didn't want to pay for a girl's college education was that it would be "wasted" on her - since the expectation was that she would, like most of her peers, spend her life as a homemaker.

To Abbie's point, this thinking is backward and represents a sad devaluing of the role women play in shaping the next generation. Not to mention that the purpose of higher education is not merely economic betterment of the family, but has value in and of itself (OK, forgive me, I'm a professor, so that's my soapbox!).

But - in closing - we do need to remember that you can't really make the assumption that a woman's decisions about work are driven by choice. Most women who work do so because the family needs the income - or other vital things, like health benefits. If we were all single or divorced mothers, this conversation might be quite different.

Anonymous said...

I did just read the comments about you on that "certain forum", Sea Legs. Good god. Don't those women have anything better to do than be catty and make uneducated, rude comments? I don't really think you qualify as either "weight-obsessed" or "scary", or any of the number of other ridiculous things I read. But you do seem to have a talent for inciting controversy! Hmmmm... there might be an alternate career in there somewhere!

Abbie said...

Oh Sea Legs Girl! Your follow-up was wonderful. Though we have slightly differing opinions I do believe that we can find a lot of common ground. I did send you an email (p.s) apologizing in case I came off in the wrong way. Either way, we can look at those things which we agree upon and accept that we have some differences in thought(thank goodness or else what a boring world it would be).

It broke my heart when you said that others have been calling the Bois an accessory. You must have very thick skin because even reading that made me want to cry. I know you love your son and that he is, like you say, your compass.

Every mother is different and has different needs in order to make her the best mom she can be. Please read my email and the quote I included... I think you will like it.

Abbie said...

PS. What forum?

Barbara said...

I've been a SAHM for 19 years now, our youngest is 5. I don't have a degree, my father was one of those who felt that girls didn't need them because they would likely stay home with their children. (I do regret that he was right in my case, although even with a degree I still would have chosen to stay home) My husband and I always felt it was more important to scrimp by so I could stay home with the kids. I think it's a personal decision that must be decided by individual families. Everyone's situation is different. It's a pity that childcare is so expensive in the U.S. for those who want/need it. However, I don't see how someone with a degree who takes a few years off to stay-at-home is "wasting" their education. If that's what they really want to do, go for it. And if they want to go back to work, that's fine, too.

I haven't posted in a while, congrats on your new life, sealegsgirl, and the bois is adorable!

SteveQ said...

Treadmill speedcrawling had my morning coffee shoot out my nose! Thanks for the laugh.

olga said...

I am kind of confused what comment was bad about communist Russia, where all women had a choice to get a free education (and actually getting stipend for it too) and then at the work force had a choice to either work and send kids to cheap subsidized day care, or take maternity leave that was fully paid for 1.5 years and then your place was held for you for another 1.5 years. If you wanted to.
So, for the world to be a better place because we got an education - again, first of all, it's a choice of what to do for each of us, and secondly, I am nit proposing to stay home forever and ever (although it could be a choice as well, just not mine). I am just asking for the first 3 years, that's all:) Then I am back at work and making country proud - whichever country that is.

sea legs girl said...

I misunderstood! I read it as Russia was the country making choices for women (I missed that that you meant the US!). Sorry to put words in your mouth.

Lisa said...

Hey Sealegs! I wasn't gonna post, but here sister stayed at home since her first was born 22 years ago.

She makes comments to me that rub me the wrong way, ie. I expressed concern that our parents are aging and how we'll handle helping them living an hour away. Her response "It'll be you, Honey. You are the youngest and you have no kids." I replied acidly "No, Honey, it'll be you. Your kids are grown, out of the house and you don't work 50 - 60 hours a week like me." She said, "Oh, that's right, you work." I work especially long hours at year end, so I do not host holiday dinners. I am willing to bring side dishes, desserts, wine, etc. I just can't get the house ready for a get-together. I think she does not understand this. It is easier for me to prepare and bring complicated side dishes, etc than to have the group at my house.

I watched her raise her kids, and it was an envious lifestyle. She controlled her entire environment in her home. She got to schedule her days more flexibly than a working mother. She made comments about neighbors who ate fast food on the way to delivering kids to activities 'Oh, yuck'. Yeah, they want to balance work and family life and that is one choice they or home-cooked meal. She had to finagle a play date for her kids, ie. offering playmates to spend the whole day at her house or come off the school bus instead of daycare. I admired that, she was very accomadating to the working moms so the kids could play. I still think she has been out of the workforce so long, she really doesn't have a clear view of the reality of working moms conflict in balancing it all. If her kids were sick, she didn't have to endure disapproval from her management in using vacation days to stay home with them. Her house was spotless, all meals were home cooked and from scratch, laundry was done, errands finished, etc. I wish I could have done the same, but it's not feasible for MOST people.

Incidentally, I work for a 'prominent eye care company' that rhymes with Taowshe and Bomb. I didn't know you were an eye surgeon! Those training videos nearly made me pass out. "First you make the initial slice. Peel the flap back, " Oh, God.........

Darnys said...

Having read the comments on an as-yet-unnamed forum as well, I do want to point out that although I don't agree with the comment about The Bois being an accessory, I also didn't interpret it as having anything to do with you wanting to send him to daycare and work. Near as I can tell, most of those forumites also work part or full time.

I, too, am a working mom in the healthcare field. I, too, send my baby to daycare (he's 2.5, cute as a button, thanks for asking). I struggle every day with what is the best way to meet both his needs and mine. I know that for my own mental health, I need to work, and so for our family, daycare is definately the better solution.

Also, I have to agree about using your medical degree. I have an acquaintance who has chosen to be a mostly SAHM after completing her residency just a year before her son was born, and every time I hear about it I mourn my lost tax contributions, particularly since our area has an acute shortage of MDs right now.

SteveQ said...

Before I forget, a running song I think you'll like: I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked by Ida Maria.