Yesterday, four permabloggers here at Times and Seasons made internal announcements that there will be new little blogglings in their homes come next March. Hours before the flurry of “me-too” emails, I’d heard that my sister is also expecting. I was truly delighted to hear so much happy news at once. Along with my hearty congratulations to everyone, I responded with a couple of comments in an email which led to a much broader discussion. With everyone’s permission I am reposting some highlights here for your blogging pleasure. Please weigh in on the issues we raise. .
I think you fathers out there are luckier than you realize. You get to be parents without pregnancy or childbirth and without giving up your other demanding and valuable work. I may not ever get to be a parent, but if I am presented with that opportunity, it will most certainly require all of this from me personally.
If I had the choice of trading with my husband, I wouldn’t. (Although he’d be much better at being pregnant–at 6’1, he’d still be able to reach faucets without turning sideways, which is something I can only dream of in the final trimester). I’ll spare you the treacly rhetoric about motherhood because I hate it myself, but what I do is more important and more rewarding (even in the short term) than what he does. To contextualize that, he is doing what he wants professionally, in good (extremely flexible) circumstances, adequately compensated. But he’s still hunched over a monitor for 9 hours per day, while I read aloud about alchemists, tour ice cream factories, teach the baby to clap, read the Little House books to my kids for the first time (and to me, for the first time), and, in general, have much more control over my life, schedule, and environment than he does. Which is not to say that I don’t deal with way more literal and metaphorical poop than he does, but I still think he has the short end of the stick.
Julie, I know you feel this way and I love the fact that you do. But, I can’t help wondering if your husband agrees? Does *he* think that he’s got the short end of the stick? Bracketing theological and practical considerations for the moment, would your husband want to change places with you?
How much of not wanting to trade with your husband has to do with what he is actually doing (hunched over a monitor all day)? I don’t know what it is you might want to be doing except for raising kids–because it seems like that’s what you love best–but what if there were something else you really loved and couldn’t do as long as you were a full-time mom? What if you could be an engaged and devoted parent and still pursue that passion (I don’t just mean having the ability to do enjoyable things like “tour ice cream factories and teach the baby to clap”) in a concentrated way like some (certainly not all or even most) men get to do? Wouldn’t you want to?
>How much of not wanting to trade with your husband has to do
>with what he is actually doing (hunched over a monitor all day)?
I honestly didn’t know. I asked. He said he wouldn’t trade because he didn’t think he could do what I do the way I do it, and that I’d be ticked at him. I asked him to take that off the table and imagine that I’d be fine with whatever he had or had not done when I got home from work. He said he couldn’t do that because then I wouldn’t be me.
>I don’t know what it is you might want to be doing except for raising
> kids—because it seems like that’s what you love best—-but what if
>there were something else you really loved and couldn’t do as long as
>you were a full-time mom?
This made me cringe. (Although I am sure that wasn’t your intention.) Raising kids isn’t what I love best. Raising kids while homeschooling, teaching Institute and Sunday School, writing, reading, experimenting with new recipes, and going out to dinner with my girlfriends in the ward is what I love best. Raising kids by itself would make me someone-cidal (self or other, I don’t know). As for your question after the ‘but’: I don’t know how to answer that except to say that it isn’t just about moms. Maybe 1% of men love their jobs to the point where it is ‘the thing that they love’; the rest are paying the bills and having their time to do what they love devoured by their children. In other words, being a working dad is usually just as incompatible with doing what you love as being a SAHM mom is. BTW, had I not had kids, I’m sure I would have taken a PhD at the GTU, finished around 2000, and looked for a job.
>What if you could be a engaged and devoted parent and still
> pursue that passion (I don’t just mean having the ability to do
>enjoyable things like “tour ice cream factories and teach the
>baby to clap”) in a concentrated way like some (certainly not
>all or even most) men get to do?
Ah, I just don’t think that is true. Men who work full time give up a huge chunk of ‘engaged and devoted.’ (I’m not saying they are bad fathers; I am not saying society does or should call them disengaged and lacking devotion, I am saying that they miss out on a lot of good stuff.) I addressed above my thought that very few men are actually pursuing their passions 9 to 5.
> Wouldn’t you want to?
No. I may just be a dilettante, but I am happier on a day with a few hours of school, a (grudging) hour or so of home care, time at the park with friends, dinner with the family, and then ‘holing up’ (as we call it around here) with my books for 5-6 hours in the evening. I wouldn’t trade that for a 14 hour day with the books. I think balance improves all endeavors.
Sorry for asking such personal questions, but in honest moments I’ve had not a few men admit to me that they would never want to trade positions with their wives. I’d be interested in what your husband would say if really pressed–maybe he’d say the same thing he did–or perhaps he’d be duplicitous about it (for whatever reason), but then again maybe not.
>In other words, being a working dad is usually just as incompatible
>with doing what you love as being a SAHM mom is.
Of course, this is true. I made the same point at M* last week. I was just interested in the question theoretically for you two. As for the cringing, you’re right I didn’t mean to evoke that response. Of course, I recognize that you do much more than raise kids. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I’m also sure that your life is MUCH more balanced than mine is. I sat in two 3 1/2 hour seminars today (has anyone else ever heard of seminars longer than THREE hours?) one of which I directed. I was up at 5:00 to finish reading and writing my notes for that meeting and I’m still at work now–not even close to being done yet. Although I spend a lot of the day reading, I can’t imagine 5-6 hours of reading strictly for pleasure. I too like to cook but cooking for myself feels like a waste of time when it’s so easy to stop by the salad bar on campus or pick up a cup of soup at the cafe across the street. I haven’t actually cooked a single meal since I’ve been here. It’s really not enjoyable to cook for yourself and it turns out to be more expensive too. Whether or not balance improves “all” endeavors is another question we can argue another time–but certainly your life is more balanced and varied than mine and that might be a good you wouldn’t want to sacrifice.
I tried to make it clear that I know that most men, like many women, don’t get to do what they love. This seems to be an obvious and uncontroversial claim. I was just wondering what you thought about a woman who does have a job she loves which happens to be incompatible with full-time parenting. Of course, I’m talking about myself here. I realize I am one of the infinintesimally small numbers of lucky people on the planet for whom this would even be an issue. Nevertheless, I am not the only person on earth for whom the following description is apt. I simply *love* what I do. Not a single day passes when I’m not struck by feelings of amazement and gratitude that I get to be doing the sort of work I do. Of course there are challenges in my profession, but that would be the case no matter what I was doing. I am so passionate about and committed to my work that I can’t even fathom leaving. It would be a profound, identity-altering sort of loss for me to walk away from academia, especially my teaching. Although there may be but few men who have the luxury of feeling this way about their work, there are certainly some who do. These men will never be asked to give up their professions to become parents. You’re right that there are things that fathers who work outside the home all day miss—and I think that’s unfortunate. Part of what I was arguing at M* is that our current way of doing things is bad for men as well as for women. But, even in our flawed setup men can still pursue a profession of interest to them and also become parents. Provided that men take an active interest in their children and are generous with their time in the evenings and on the weekends they are even considered and can consider themselves good parents (even if they do sometimes miss important moments). This sort of picture would never be acceptable for a mother. I could never be considered a good parent if I worked outside the home full-time by choice no matter how much I adored my children or how involved I was with them in my off-work hours. What’s worse, in my experience, most LDS men who are serious about the gospel would
unreflectively expect me to leave my profession once we became parents.
A man expects to carry on with his professional life more or less unchanged when he becomes a parent. In contrast, as a woman, I am expected to walk away from (or severely curtail) my profession in order to do the same thing—become a parent. For some men very little needs to change in their lives to be able to experience parenthood. But, my whole world would have to change (physiological, professional, social . . .).
If we both love our jobs then this arrangement seems to favor him. If he is only marginally happy with his job the scenario is even worse! Why should I leave a job I love while he stays in a job he’s indifferent to (and possibly even despises) so that we can become parents? Aren’t there other arrangements that make more sense than this one? It’s one thing to start having babies in your early twenties; it’s quite another to you start having babies in your early thirties, and yet the norms are the same. A woman who has spent a decade or more receiving education, professional training, gaining experience and advancing in her career is expected to leave it behind (some even expect her to want to do so and are “shocked” to discover that might not be the case). If I were a man the fact that I love my career would NEVER prompt the question, “don’t you want to have kids?” but as a woman I get this question all the time. Parenthood and professional pursuits are seen as mutually exclusive activities for women but not for men. Let me make it clear: this wouldn’t bother me so much if I didn’t care about being a mother! It troubles me precisely because I do want to have children. I don’t want this point to get lost in the conversation.
Of course, I am always willing to acknowledge the possibility of my becoming so besotted with my own infants that I couldn’t imagine leaving them for a moment. I am willing to entertain the idea that the reason I don’t feel that way now is that I don’t yet have children. Perhaps my feelings will drastically change when this is no longer merely theoretical.
>I’m also sure that your life is MUCH more balanced than
I’m not sure that is true. I’ve only seen glimmers of your life, but you do things I don’t: exercise, pick berries and apples, host dinner parties. I would be a better person if I did those things.
>Although I spend a lot of the day reading, I can’t imagine
>5-6 hours of reading strictly for pleasure. I too like to cook
>but cooking for myself feels like a waste of time when it’s so
>easy to stop by the salad bar on campus or pick up a cup of
>soup at the cafe across the street. I haven’t actually cooked
>a single meal since I’ve been here (besides it’s really not
> enjoyable to cook for yourself. It turns out to be more
I hope nothing I have said appeared to sound as if I were trying to suggest that my life is better than yours; what I was trying to suggest is that I think the ‘SAHM-life-is-so-hard’ card gets overplayed sometimes. I got a little of that vibe from your post about fathers being grateful, and I just wanted to suggest that even for a woman with lots of academic and non-child interests, even for a woman for whom the language of duty and ‘woman’s natural inclinations’ rings hollow, there are a lot of advantages to this arrangement (which, incidentally, I had to work to establish–I didn’t feel this way at first).
>I tried to make it clear that I know that most men, like many
>women, don’t get to do what they love. I was just wondering
>what you thought about a woman who does have a job she loves
>which happens to be incompatible with full-time parenting.
God asks different sacrifices of each of us, and it may be that some women (those with career interests incompatible with motherhood) may have to lay that on the altar. But this isn’t primarily a feminist issue–many men do, too. Have you seen the pictures of Pres. Hunter’s band–he toured on cruise ships–that he gave up because he knew it wasn’t conducive to family life? To the extent that a woman is more likely to have to give up career aspirations than a man, well, he’ll have to end up sacrificing some significant depth of relationship with his children. From a gospel perspective, he is getting the short end of the stick, whether he realizes it in any individual case or not. Let us not forget that God is a stay at home parent, primarily responsible for the nurture of children.
>I am so passionate about and committed to what I
>do that I can’t fathom leaving. It would be a profound,
>identity-altering sort of loss for me to walk away from
>my work, especially my teaching.
I felt exactly the same way during my graduate program. I felt like a fish out of water–a really, really angry fish–during my first year of motherhood. I had to refashion my identity, I did, and I am happier now than I was then.
>Provided that men take an active interest in their
>children and are generous with their time in the
>evenings and on the weekends they are even
>considered and can consider themselves good parents
>(even if they do sometimes miss important moments).
Yes, but even with the social and religious approval, they are still missing out on good things of great value by not getting to spend those hours with their children. They are still making a trade-off.
>This sort of picture would never be acceptable for
>a mother. I could never be considered a good parent
>if I worked outside the home full-time by choice no
>matter how much I adored my children or how
>involved I was with them in my off-work hours.
Your passive contruction here intrigues me–by whom would you not be considered a good parent? God? Yourself? Your family? The gossip sitting behind you in sacrament meeting? The prophet? I would consider you a good mother if your husband were home full-time. Otherwise, I would think that your children were missing out, and you were, too. I also think the focus is off: we shouldn’t be nearly so concerned about whether you are (or are perceived as) a good mother as we are about what is happening to your children. What would happen to your children if you weren’t there? I don’t wish to make this too personal or accusatory, but I’d no sooner have paid someone 2.25 an hour to write my book than I’d pay someone that rate to watch my kids–why would I assume that appropriate attention would be given to the latter but not the former?
>In contrast, as a woman, I am expected to walk away
>from (or severely curtail) my profession in order to
>become a parent. For some men very little needs to
>change in their lives to be able to experience parenthood.
>But, my whole world would have to change (physiological,
>professional, social . . .). Why should I leave a job I
>love while he stays in a job he’s indifferent to (and
>possibly even despises) so that we can become
>parents? Aren’t there other arrangements that make
>more sense than this one?
In that situation, I would be carefully prayerful about it and go with that. I am not opposed to SAHDs, assuming God is onboard with that plan, and I have no reason to think that is impossible.
>It would be a profound, identity-altering sort of loss for
>me to walk away from my work, especially my teaching.
As Julie pointed out with the President Hunter example, Melissa, I know many men who give up doing something they love expressly because they wish to provide support for their family and, in some cases, so that their wife could be at home with the children without the financial pressure of a low income. Your ideal profession, a professor of religion, would actually be a prime example of the sort of thing that many men would never even attempt because they know it will, with high probability, not provide for their family and is too risky a job. Let’s face it, a PhD in the humanities is as much about personal consumption and gratification as about investment in future income. How is that professional sacrifice substantively different than the one you envision you may be faced with?
As for giving up my job to stay with my kids, I’d be happy to give it a shot. I am not so naive to think that I know how I’d feel about it before trying it, but then, who is? But it is a little silly of you to think you know whether or not any man is properly grateful for the work of his wife and the mother of his children.
>But it is a little silly of you to think you know whether or
>not any man is properly grateful for the work of his wife
>and the mother of his children.
I don’t think I’ve suggested that I know this at all. Being “properly grateful” is very different from being willing to trade places. In fact, it may be the case that some men are grateful for what their wives do at least partly because their wives’ labor at home makes possible their pursuit of other projects which matter a lot to them. I’m not saying that this is the way it is, but I am posing questions.
I feel pretty bad for you, Melissa, but I don’t have anything useful to say about your personal situation. I do think that you are making a mistake by converting your personal anguish into a feminist critique. I hear you saying two things that don’t seem right to me–first, that the current system favors men because, while many men don’t love their job the way you do, some do, and they get to keep it–and second, that the problems of people having to spend their lives doing what they don’t love would go away if we stopped having gender roles. Neither bears up under inspection (in fact, the second point almost contradicts the first).
>I’m not sure that is true. I’ve only seen glimmers of
>your life, but you do things I don’t: exercise, pick
>berries and apples, host dinner parties. I would be a
>better person if I did those things.
Well, I pick fruit four days a year and I can’t remember the last time I threw a big dinner party (it may be almost a year ago). On a daily basis your life sounds a lot more “balanced.” Again, we could debate the relative importance of balance, but that’s another question.
>God asks different sacrifices of each of us, and it may
>be that some women (those with career interests
>incompatible with motherhood) may have to lay that
>on the altar. But this isn’t primarily a feminist
>issue–many men do, too. Have you seen the pictures
>of Pres. Hunter’s band–he toured on cruise ships–
>that he gave up because he knew it wasn’t conducive
>to family life?
I’ve already agreed with this at several turns. I know that men make great and good sacrifices for their families. That’s not in question. My central point is that men get to be parents without giving up their careers. If we are going to pull out the general authorities as examples, Frank, Elder Oaks got to be a lawyer and then a judge AND be a father. Elder Nelson got to pursue medicine and become a leading surgeon AND be a father. Their wives, as far as I know, did not pursue any career but motherhood. This is not a denigration of motherhood it is simply an empirical observation.
>To the extent that a woman is more likely to have to
>give up career aspirations than a man, well, he’ll
>have to end up sacrificing some significant depth of
>relationship with his children. From a gospel
>perspective, he is getting the short end of the stick,
>whether he realizes it in any individual case or not.
>Let us not forget that God is a stay at home parent,
>primarily responsible for the nurture of children.
I’m not sure about any of what you say here. I certainly don’t think that “from a gospel perspective he’s getting the short end of the stick.” And it doesn’t seem like God is primarily “responsible for the nurture of children” since he’s also busy organizing worlds without number among countless other things (if we subscribe to the theology that God is still progessing it is certainly the case, although this doctrine has been up for debate historically).
>Your passive contruction here intrigues me–by whom
>would you not be considered a good parent?…I also
>think the focus is off: we shouldn’t be nearly so concerned
>about whether you are (or are perceived as) a good
>mother as we are about what is happening to your
>children. What would happen to your children if you
>weren’t there? I don’t wish to make this too personal
>or accusatory, but I’d no sooner have paid someone
>2.25 an hour to write my book than I’d pay someone
>that rate to watch my kids–why would I assume that
>appropriate attention would be given to the latter but
>not the former?
Since I think being a good mother is directly tied to what’s happening to my children I didn’t separate the two. I have never suggested day care. I don’t think I’d ever consider anything but the most minimal type of friend/family/ward member exchange sort of day care arrangement. The question about what other people think was not really my point, but we could have a long discussion about it someday. As a member of a ward community it is very difficult to be deeply misperceived and misunderstood on an ongoing basis. I don’t imagine that as a stay at home, homeschooling mother you have ever been perceived as anything but the quintessential example of womanhood and motherhood by members of the church. If you were to experience being marginalized, mistrusted, overlooked, demeaned, patronized, pitied, etc., etc., for any extended period of time at church you might feel very differently about whether how others perceive you is important. Lots of Latter-day Saints, especially LDS women, seem bothered that I adore my work and generally have a strong sense of wellbeing even though I don’t have children. Sometimes it seems like some of them would be much more comfortable if I seemed just a little unhappy.
My feeling, with Frank, is that I’d love to give child-rearing and domestic operations a try, but, unlike him, I know ex ante that the results would be a shambles. Sara’s a lot better at this stuff than me.
I haven’t meant to convert my situation into a feminist critique, Adam. The critique exists whether I make it or not and stands quite apart from my own experience when I do go down that path. I know many full-time stay at home mothers who are NOT happy with the way that work and childraising gets divided up. I don’t think that the extreme specialization model is the best model for anyone (including children). That has less to do with my own experience (since I don’t have children am not even faced with the challenge) than with what I’ve observed over a lifetime.
I would, I’m almost certain. Trade places with my husband, I mean. (Not with any man, to be sure, but with a man who has had the same opportunities and choices as my husband–which I have every reason to believe I would have had if I had been born an oldest son, as he was, instead of an oldest daughter.)
Yes, I enjoy pregnancy, and yes, I enjoy a qualitatively different relationship–far closer, far more interdependent, far more emotionally fraught, and, undoubtedly, far more constitutive–with my children than does my husband. But my husband, who frankly admits that he would not trade places with me, doesn’t feel at all the lack of these in his own life, and I have no reason to think that I would, either, if I were a man. My husband, I think, enjoys the children during the time that he’s with them, he feels responsible for them and certainly loves them, and I think fatherhood has generally been a very rich personal experience for him, despite the fact that he is not an especially involved father, either by temperament or, of course, by profession. My father was not at all a hands-on father, either; he performed even less of the physical care of us, if possible, than my husband does of our children, and he spent very little one-on-one time with any of us, and yet he takes an enormous pride and satisfaction in his children–he always wanted more. The point is, I think I’d be like my husband and my father, if I were a man: I would enjoy and benefit from my children, and I wouldn’t miss the emotional interdependence or the physical experiences of pregnancy and childbirth.
And of course, both my husband and my father take great satisfaction from and, even more importantly, derive a significant sense of self-identity from their work. They do not experience the sort of transcendant radiant attachment to their work that Melissa does to hers–it may very well be that most human beings are constitutionally incapable of that sort of transcendant radiant attachment to anything! ;) –and, of course, their work is high-pressured, sometimes boring, and not always glamorous. Still, according to what they tell me, they have greatly enjoyed and profited personally from the opportunity to develop an expertise of their choosing, and from the sense of, what, underlying self-worth (I hate that phrase, there must be something better) and realization that it has given them. I experienced some of that as a graduate student, and as I said in a previous message, I feel its loss acutely.
This is because my (and Julie’s) claim is not limited to upper or middle-class, professional men. I was just talking about men in the whole, wide, world, of whom the upper middle class (American) professional set is neither representative nor particularly large, nor particularly important. It is a set many of us are members of, but that has little relevance to its global importance.
The first problem with Melissa’s “feminist critique” is that not getting to do what you love applies almost equally to men and women across the globe, outside the clique Rosalynde mentioned above. It is a classic case of overemphasizing one’s own box.
And Melissa, if Oaks and Nelson are the test cases, we all pretty much look like losers, right? Those men have had far more opportunities than billions of other people, because of their extraordinary skill and spirituality. Both those men were called to leave their professions by God to do something else. The sacrifice may have been small because they recognized the incredible value of the Apostleship. Is it more important to be an Apostle than a mother? If so, why? Don’t we all serve where we are called? To my children, Carrie and, to a lesser extent, I, are vastly more important to their spiritual development than Elder Nelson. No offense to Elder Nelson.
It is my observation that men who most strongly support naturalized traditional gender roles are also the first to insist that they would trade places with their wives in a minute, if the tables were turned. And then, almost invariably, they add that their wives are much better at it than they would ever be, etc etc etc, thus re-naturalizing the roles. Don’t get me wrong, and please don’t take offense: I don’t doubt theirsincerity in the least; in fact, I’d think it’s probably psychologically necessary to believe this in order not to feel bad about insisting on the rigidness, too.
Conversely, men who are most equivocal about naturalized gender roles tend to be much less sanguine and much more qualified about their willingness to give up their chosen work.
There are a few men, just as there are a few women, for whom childcare is a true avocation, who take true pleasure in interacting with and caring for kids—and these men are often quite flexible about traditional gender roles, but also would be quite willing to give up their own work to be with their kids. I think Kaimi may be one of that sort.
>I would, I’m almost certain. Trade places with my
>husband, I mean.
Are you saying here that your choices were limited in your family because of your gender?
>But my husband, who frankly admits that he would
>not trade places with me, doesn’t feel at all the lack
>of these in his own life, and I have no reason to think
>that I would, either, if I were a man.
You know, I’ve had many conversations with working women who say that their relationship with their children is just fine, thank you. I want to say (but don’t): that’s becuase you don’t know what you are missing! (Analogy: if you have never enjoyed a fine meal, you might think a frozen dinner is just fine, thank you.) My point is that just because he doesn’t feel a lack, and just because you might not in his place, doesn’t mean that something real is not missing.
>The point is, I think I’d be like my husband and my
>father, if I were a man: I would enjoy and benefit from
>my children, and I wouldn’t miss the emotional
>interdependence or the physical experiences of
>pregnancy and childbirth.
I wonder how much family of origin plays into all this. My father (a nonmember with only 2 kids) was with us constantly: wrestling on the floor every night, swimming, going sailing almost every weekend, etc. This might be my template for what constitutes adequate parenting. (BTW, my mother taught school during most of my school years.)
>My central point is that men get to be parents
>without giving up their careers. If we are
>going to pull out the general authorities as
>examples, Frank, Elder Oaks got to be a lawyer and
>then a judge AND be a father. Elder Nelson
>got to pursue medicine AND be a father.
>Their wives, as far as I know, did not pursue
>any career but motherhood.
I think the problem is that you are assigning equal value to Elder Nelson’s ‘fatherhood’ as to his wife’s ‘motherhood’, as if because they both got to check off the boxes, they both did the same thing. I read his bio; during his career he was out of town ONE THIRD of the time. He also had demanding callings. I hate to comment on other’s (especially church leaders’) personal lives, but I daresay he put much less into those relationships and therefore got much less out of them. It isn’t equivalent. In a very real sense, I think
he gave up 80% or so of fatherhood (NOT that I am questioning his decision) for his career. He made a
>I’m not sure about any of what you say here.
>I certainly don’t think that “from a gospel
>perspective he’s getting the short end of the
>stick.” And it doesn’t seem like God is primarily
>”responsible for the nurture of children” since
>he’s also busy organizing worlds without number
>among other things.
Well, I cannot say much to your assertions, but I’ll engage them if you flesh them out. Do you really think that God devotes as much energy to physical creation as to nurturing children?
>As a member of a ward community it is very
>difficult to be deeply misperceived and
>misunderstood. I don’t imagine that as a stay at
>home, homeschooling mother you have ever been
>perceived as anything but the quintessential example
>of womanhood and motherhood by members of the
(falls on the floor laughing) You have no idea. I generally get shunted off as a feminist firebrand because I actually disagree with what people say in Relief Society and present challenging Sunday School lessons. No one thinks I am normal. They think I am bookish, weird, geeky, etc.
>If you were to experience being marginalized,
>mistrusted, overlooked, demeaned, patronized
>etc., etc., for any extended period of time at church
>you might feel very differently about whether
>how others perceive you is important.
Perhaps. But that wouldn’t make it right to privilege other’s opinions over what I knew God wanted me to do.
>(falls on the floor laughing) You have no idea. I generally get shunted off as a feminist firebrand because I actually disagree with what people >say in Relief Society and present challenging Sunday School lessons. No one thinks I am normal. They think I am bookish, weird, geeky, etc.
I have no doubt that you stand out in any ward as being “bookish” and “feminist” because you’re smart and articulate. But, this isn’t at all what I mean. Take your experience of being labeled as “feminist bookish, weird, geeky,” and multiply it exponentially. I’m considered all those things because of my education too but I’m oh so much worse because I’m not married, don’t have children and don’t seem to be actively mourning this situation. In an earlier email you said that one of the things you love best is going out to dinner with your girlfriends from the ward. The very fact that you have girlfriends (plural!!) in your ward indicates clearly that you just do not know what I’m talking about. I would guess (although I’d be happy to be wrong) that those LDS girlfriends of yours are all married with children. Am I right? I hope I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I were right.
>But that wouldn’t make it right to privilege other’s opinions over what I knew God wanted me to do.
This discussion has been so wide-ranging that it’s easy for the different issues to begin to bleed into each other, but let me make it as clear as I can. I never ever said or meant to imply that it is “right to privilege others’ opinions over what I knew God wanted me to do” If I believed that it was I would have gotten married and had kids a long, long time ago. I engaged you on the “what other people think” line of thought when you picked up a loose thread from another of my comments but in terms of causality it is simply a nonissue in my situation. It is tangentially relevant to the larger conversation in that being ill-treated by some members of the church can sometimes be a consequence of being in a situation like mine, but that’s a different point from letting other people’s treatment determine behavior.
I began this conversation to try to get everyone to see a different perspetive from the essentialist one that underlies most LDS conversation on this issue. I am not different from you, Adam or Frank! I do not think that I would find it natural (or easy or . . . insert your own adjective here) to raise children or make a home. I don’t think I’d be any good at it. . . at first! Just like Julie said of her experience, I think it would take a lot of deliberate effort for me to learn how to do it well and to finally embrace and enjoy it. (reiiteration: that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be a mother, or that I don’t value motherhood! On the contrary! It is too simplistic to say that the qualities necessary to be a good parent are inherent in women and not in men. It dismisses the real work involved in acquiring key virtues like patience, compassion, unselfishness, perserverance, and so forth). I was trying to say that as a woman, in order to become a parent, I will be asked to do something that I don’t think of as being an expression of the “essence” of my identity. So many of you have talked about “sacrifice,” and rightly so. There is a lot of sacrifice involved for both spouses in the decision to become a parent. What I want to call greater attention to is what sort of sacrifice (if we are going to use this word in this way) it is that women are often (perhaps unnecessarily) compelled to make.
I have framed this conversation around pursuing a job that one enjoys partly because I personally really love what I do, but also because I think there there is value in choosing one’s own life path. What I don’t mean by “one’s own life path” is a veiled reference to radical individualism or even the misguided attempt to be as different as possible for the sake of being unique. What I do mean is that in choosing the course of one’s life (inasmuch as we can choose some parts of it) we should take our agency very seriously; planning one’s life should be an active, engaged, imaginative endeavor. A life that is deliberately constructed in this way is qualitatively better than a life in which one uncosciously mimics another’s plan or defaults unreflectively to custom or convention. But, just because that is the case, does not mean for a minute that I am suggesting that one should leave God out of the enterprise. The opposite is in fact what I suggest—since without seeking God’s active participation in our plans it is too easy to succumb unthinkingly to society’s expectations of us—whether that society is the church or the world. For me, constucting a life plan has always been a dialogical affair. At every step in the process of my education I have counseled closely with God. In every decision regarding my personal life I have sought His guidance and direction. In the course of these conversations, I have often been asked to make sacrifices that I never dreamed I would have to make. Indeed, there have been moments when I’ve been asked to do things that I believed were beyond my capacity to endure only to find ultimately in my Jacob-like wrestling that I could.
Fun conversations — thanks for the peek behind-the-scenes. You guys seem to interact with each other differently in private than in public, which is interesting.
Steve, what do you mean by interacting differently in private than public? I don’t disagree, but I’d be interested in just what it is you see and the observations you make from the outside.
Also, I hope that that’s not all you say about the topic at hand.
That is a lot to get through. But I would not trade places with my wife and she would not trade places with me. I do believe that masculinity and femininity are innate in each of us according to our gender. Most of us who have been well nurtured want to live according to our natures. I reflect on my influence on the home. I think that it has been positive but I think that its biggest impact is on my children themselves. My wife’s impact on our children is even more important than mine but her impact has been greatest on our yet unborn grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Now I will make people angry.
Our society has gone overboard on gender equality and men and women are being forced to deny their very natures. God said that we are to subdue our natures but he didn’t ask us to suppress them. There has been a lot of progress in the workplace for women but there have been huge excesses.men are really slapped down in the workplace. Women of no particular accomplishment run offices like their homes. No risk taking allowed. Compliance and conformity are the daily rules. No one can question any of the rules. No one can challenge authority. I have seen this over and over again. I am now in a different kind of professional consulting practice and I am in the offices of a lot of different clients. It is always the same. I have never met a woman who will take a risk. Ironically this is true even when the payoff for taking the risk is to reduce risk generally. I also notice that women have no curiosity about the way things work. They want everything to be reduced to a black box with predictable outputs for given inputs — not a bad idea for routine but never workable for exploring and discovery.
I feel very sad for a lot of young single LDS men (and women too). A significant portion of these men are drifting. They are not getting educations. They have been told all their lives that they are ADHD or ADD. (i.e. being a boy is bad) They have been hemmed in at every side. Society tells them that the only way they can be masculine is with their genitals and preferably by themselves or with other men thank you very much. Hanging out and hooking up are a problem among LDS singles.
LDS women are hurt by this as well. They have been pushed to get educations and achieve professionally but they look around and see a bunch of losers that no right minded woman would marry.
This doesn’t apply much to the Mormon elites who hang about on these blogs but just take a look at the youth who are in the singles wards in communities where the community college is the main educational opportunity and you’ll agree with much of what I am seeing and saying.
It is very sad. Women have made a lot of progress but I think for humanity it is been close to zero-sum. The Gospel of jesus Christ would have women’s progress toward exaltation and eternal life to be additive to men’s progress and vice versa.
“it’s probably psychologically necessary”
This smacks of a suggestion, which you probably aren’t making, that the belief is not related to truth, but to not feeling bad. I know this is par for the course in some disciplines, but it is still a rather blatant attempt to come up with reasons to ignore people’s views. And it is not neccesary to go to some psychological motivation when logic will do just fine. Namely, a very reasonable reading of prophetic counsel is that the work with children is the most important we can do, and helps us to learn about love and God. As such, people who follow that reading would be willing to stay at home with their children, just as they would be willing to accept a calling in Church, if it is what God wants.
When I said “properly grateful” I was not referring to trading places. I was referring to your line about “not realizing how lucky” we are. It is not obvious to me that
a) you know whether we realize how lucky we are or not and
b) that the differences by gender in how lucky upper middle class Americans are is clearly going one direction gender-wise and is large enough to fuss over.
“I will be asked to do something that I don’t think of as being an expression of the “essence” of my identity”
Err. it seems to me that God defines Himself by His Fatherhood. So in what sense is parenting not part of your essence if you are His child?
Something that George said made me want to clarify, since I said that I would trade places with my husband: I wouldn’t want to trade places with him NOW, just all of the sudden, either functionally (ie, he stays home with the children and I go out to work) or ontologically (somehow I become him, but retain my core identity as a woman). I of course could, if I chose, get a job and go to work every day just like my husband does, but I haven’t and probably won’t because, in part, I’m virtually certain I would dislike life as a full-time working mother.
That comment was a very helpful point of clarification and is relevant for the way I think most of us were thinking about the issue during the email exchange.
I agree with Rosalynde. When I say I would be willing to give it a shot, I mean that in the context of, I would if God or the prophet asked me to.
Frank, I will retract the suggestion about psychological motivation, both because it offends people I care about and because, of course, it’s unverifiable. But if I may respond to a few points: first, just so you don’t get the wrong idea, my branch of my discipline maintains a particular hostility to psychological readings, so please don’t assume that this was simply my training speaking. And second, I didn’t understand the question to be, “Would you trade places with your spouse if God wanted you to?”—but merely, “Would you trade places with your spouse if you could?” I assume that most of us would conform to God’s explicit expressed desire in this hypothetical case, and that the motivations for doing so are neither psychological nor ideological, but spiritual. That seems to me a rather significantly different question from the one that you and Adam answered, however.
Frank, our comments crossed, and I now find that I have nothing at all to say about your answer, since it didn’t mean what I thought it did after all! As I said, it seems to me a rather different question if God has explicitly required the trade.
Well, I agree that they are very different questions. But, if I wanted to trade occupations with my wife, and she were amenable (which she would not be) then why wouldn’t I? Which is to say that, our behavior already reveals the answer to the most practical version of the trading question.
Glad to hear, by the way, that your branch of English is anti-psychological imputation.
“There are a few men, just as there are a few women, for whom childcare is a true avocation, who take true pleasure in interacting with and caring for kids—and these men are often quite flexible about traditional gender roles…”
Let me clarify further, I would not be willing to trade solely because God asked me to. I would do it willingly because I love my children and like to be with them. I do not define myself by my career (which I love, but is temporal) but by my fatherhood (which is eternal). Our house would be a disaster, but I enjoy caring for children. And I probably do not meet your definition of being flexible on gender roles, but mostly because I think the prophetic counsel is pretty clear, not because I have any secret insight into human nature.
So, Frank, a PhD in the humanities is more about personal fulfilment than future investments? Are we playing the irresponsible hippie card here? Those of us who have PhDs in the humanities and are good at what we do lead comfortable middle-class and upper-middle-class lives. In fact, sometimes we get accused of being rich college professors by the working class people we go to church with or get complimented on our flexible and family-friendly schedules by the small business owners we go to church with. Maybe all us goofy bohemians realize that we have, or could develop, a marketable skill that will provide a comfortable living.
You have an academic job. Perhaps you are even tenured. That’s great. Many PhD’s in the humanities do not end up as tenured faculty in the field. It is principally to that risk that I am referring.
Furthermore, if you are smart enough to hold down that academic job, you probably could have done lots of other jobs which would have been a higher income and more secure and comparably flexible (after the first few years). And they would not have required a 5-7 year extra educational period. Thus the decision to do a PhD in the humanities did not generate more income than the outside option. It generated more personal satisfaction. Hence my statement.
Naturally this is going to be true of lots of academic jobs, which have great job attributes once tenured. But in fields (such as many in the humanities) with a reportedly high risk of _not_ landing an academic job, and with much lower salaries to start with, it seems particularly applicable.
My wife and I have talked about the idea of trading places from time to time. Generally we recognize that both being the primary parent and working full time have positives and negatives associated with them. I think my perspective has changed as my time being a parent has lengthened. If, for example, my wife announced that she wanted to work full-time, I would find it physically and emotionally very painful to send my children to daycare and would be extremely anxious to quit my job to be home. They’re too important to me now to turn over their care to anyone else if it is at all remotely possible for one of us to be home. The parenting they would get would be different in some ways than it would be with my wife, but it would be one of us, someone with a real emotional, spiritual tie. I think I would appreciate, also, having the chance to grow because of the lessons that being in that situation would force me to learn.
I know what sort of money-earning work could engage me for ten to twelve hours a day and make me feel happy for years. Thing is, it doesn’t pay well and I have a responsibility as a spouse and a parent to provide for my family. So I do something that’s relatively boring, that doesn’t strongly engage me emotionally or intellectually (except occasionally), but that I feel good about because I like the people I work with and, more importantly, because doing this work fulfills my responsibility to care for my family, which is something I feel very keenly and which became the paramount reason for me going to work once our first child was born. That aspect of work actually goes a long way toward taking the edge off of any undercurrents of dissatisfaction. The question of whether my money-earning employment, or my parenting work is more engaging and fulfilling to me is simply laughable, even absurd. In fact, having a few years under my belt as a parent, I can say in all sincereity that I simply can’t imagine ANY money-earning work being, in and of itself, more important than raising my children, even my fantasy job mentioned above.
I think it’s important to keep in mind that in much of the world, and up until a couple hundred years ago in what is now the developing world, there was no such chasm between the worlds of work and the home. You essentially worked with your family either on a farm or in a craft shop attached to the house. Certainly there were ways of dividing work based on gender, but in essence, one worked with or around the family all day long. That’s actually something about the Amish lifestyle that I find tremendously attractive. I can see how someone could actually consciously reject a technologically and informationally specialized world, where we work in divided spaces, in favor of a simpler life that revolves around unified family work. I wish there was some sort of way I could do that. But I am too addicted to hot and cold running water and air conditioning and our computer to just toss the whole specialization of labor out the window.
In terms of being pregnant and going through childbirth. The births of our two children were, I think, transformative for my wife. To go through the power and beauty of that experience is something that I am frankly jealous of. I know, I know, you women are groaning about how stupid I am and how I’m glorifying morning sickness and the third trimester of waddling around and how hard it is to sleep and the pain of crowning, etc. etc., but at a very fundamental level, we learn from the challenges we go through, and pregnancy and birth are challenges that as a man I will NEVER have access to and never be able to learn from. To do something so beautiful, so productive, so holy, so sacred, something that in my observation of my wife, lent such strength and sense of self is something to be desired, and in my case, envied.
Amen, GeorgeD, and AMEN, Jesse. Especially that part about working together as a family. That’s one of the reasons I’m such a strong advocate of small, family businesses. Seems like the ideal thing for Mormons.
Melisssa wrote, “The very fact that you have girlfriends (plural!!) in your ward indicates clearly that you just do not know what I’m talking about. I would guess (although I’d be happy to be wrong) that those LDS girlfriends of yours are all married with children. Am I right? I hope I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I were right.”
The crux of the group is two women (sisters, unmarried, no children) in their 50s. Another is married, no kids, finishing PhD. There’s 3 or so married with children.
Melissa wrote, “What I want to call greater attention to is what sort of sacrifice (if we are going to use this word in this way) it is that women are often (perhaps unnecessarily) compelled to make.”
There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think that one should mention in the same breath that virtually all men (1) make sacrifices–of personal time if not professional time–for parenthood and (2) all men who work full time make a huge sacrifice in the time they could be spending with their children.’
GeorgeD wrote, “I do believe that masculinity and femininity are innate in each of us according to our gender.”
Disagreeing strongly, for the record.
GeorgeD also wrote, “LDS women are hurt by this as well. They have been pushed to get educations and achieve professionally but they look around and see a bunch of losers that no right minded woman would marry.”
Yeah, you better tell President Hinckley to stop pushing them to get educations! (It was interesting to me that encouraging YW to become educated was singled out in the CES manual as one of hte main themes of his presidency.)
I’d like to add a general point. Imagine giving a very young child a shiny new quarter and a crumpled old dollar bill and asking her to choose one. I imagine she’d take the quarter: shiny, round, cold, hard, and bumpy are way more appealing than a crummy old piece of paper. Whenever I hear a woman frustrated over the necessity to choose between a career and motherhood, I hear a child agonizing over choosing a quarter or a dollar. I’ll be the first to admit (see comment about poop above) that on the surface, the quarter looks like a much better deal, if you don’t understand that the choices have inherent value not associated with their appearances. But could modern prophets have been more adamant about insisting that motherhood is more intrinsically valuable than a career? It seems that if we engage in the extremely countercultural act of believing that motherhood is most valuable (and not only society in general but Ensign art about ironing also undermine the real importance of motherhood), we’d realize that quarters might roll, flip, and be useful for scraping off gunk, but dollars have more inherent value. What we should really be lamenting is not that mothers have to give away a quarter to keep the dollar, but that men don’t even have a choice; they have to take the quarter.
Well, for one thing, you’re all more long-winded in private, apparently (insert smiley). I also think that Frank is less hostile — he disagrees with others (he is Frank, after all), but he is much nicer. Actually, all of you are a lot nicer, except Rosalynde.
True, Julie in A., but I like to remind myself that my wife is only able to do what she does because of my work. I get to be a servant to the servants of God. This is my glory.
Amen, Adam and the other guys.
I don’t want a career. I want a maid and a personal shopper and a chauffeur however you spell that, and all those rich things.
Buttgold is getting married day after tomorrow!! Eat your hearts out, girls, and guys, I will have my house to myself. For one month, before I become a greeter at Wal-Mart.
The post above shows significant (maybe 30%) reduction of the original discussion.
So do we get to know who is expecting babies?
Married female cobloggers and/or the wives of male cobloggers.
Julie, I guess I’m not sure that working fathers’ relationships to their children are so much more impoverished than at-home mothers’. Yes, they are different qualitatively (as I discussed above), and occupy a far less prominent psychic space both for father and child, in most cases. But empirical evidence would seem to show that most fathers and children seem quite satisfied with this sort of relationship, since fathers are not leaving the workforce in droves to spend more time with their kids.
Until there is a social logic to ideologically theorizing “working father” in the same way that “working mother” has been theorized, I just can’t accept the fact that the work/family tradeoff is equal for men and women; if it were, what would be the advantage of having mothers at home? I know a lot of people who insist that the tradeoff is identical in magnitude, or nearly so, and I know a lot of feminists who would like it to be, but I just don’t think an observation of the social landscape bears that out.
Julie in Austin (#16): I think a quarter does have more inherent value than a dollar. The value of a dollar is based wholly in the public trust in the US Government, and the only value inherent therein is whatever value that can be assigned to the paper. The quarter, by contrast, contains some nickel.
Let me add that I think Adam is right when he observes above that this is part of a larger issue, of which feminist critique is only a single part; the disparity in the work/family tradeoff may be even greater between parents of different classes than it is between men and women of the upper middle class.
Melissa, thank you to you and the others who contributed to this post. I find it extremely interesting to read your thoughts and turmoil on this topic. I have a lot of sympathy for the feelings you’ve articulated, but cannot say I’ve shared them. I have the exact opposite situation which sometimes causes me insecurity. In other words, I always wanted to be a SAHM. I am now living my greatest ambition and though I’ll be the first to admit it is incredibly difficult and even tedious at times, it is also much more rewarding and fulfilling than I ever imagined.
What’s my problem then? Well, there are times when I see women like you, Rosalynde, and Julie and wonder if there is something completely wrong and simplistic and small about me that made it so the choice to be SAHM was never even remotely difficult for me. Ultimately, I’m grateful that my natural inclination and desires happened to be in line with what I believe is my responsibility as a Mormon woman. However, I think that Rosalynde and Julie have done a much more noble thing by choosing to be SAHM’s than I have and will be blessed accordingly.
I’m not sure if my rambling thoughts are at all relevant, or even make sense, but I feel better for having expressed them.
Congratulations to all of you expecting babies!
Andrea, nope, DEFINITELY nothing wrong with you! You’re a lot like my mother, and I would be perfectly delighted if my daughter were like you, too. (I’ll also, of course, be pleased if she’s maybe a LITTLE like me.)
I’m not sure I’m noble, and almost certainly don’t deserve extra blessings, but your tribute means a great deal to me. I hope it doesn’t sound above like I want people to feel sorry for me and women in my position—but a little respect feels awfully good. And let me return it to you in kind! You are certainly a noble woman.
“So do we get to know who is expecting babies?”
You have to guess. Clues will be given. Prizes for the winner.
Thanks, Rosalynde. I didn’t think your comments sounded like you were asking to be felt sorry for at all. It’s just generally a topic that I cannot relate to based on my own experience, but one I can logically assume is incredibly difficult.
I appreciate your kindness though if you could see my sitting here at my computer still in my bathrobe with my two non-school children jumping on my bed to bounce the crumbs of the crackers they just ate on it off, all the while the smoke alarm in the hall keeps beeping every 30 seconds begging for a new battery– you might change your mind about the “noble” title :)
I also want to chime in and say that I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Rosalynde and Julie for making the choices that they made. There is so much cultural pressure to make an opposite choice. You guys can teach my kids in SS or primary any day.
I really think that one of the reasons it is harder for women to consider a work path that takes them out of the home is because of the physiological ties they have to their children, particularly breastfeeding. It is possible to use formula, but frankly, that simply can’t measure up to the real thing and no matter how fancy the lab churning the stuff out, never ever will. Extended nursing is something I think our children deserve (and which our society is just all messed up about).
If I was a woman, that alone would be a HUGE hurdle for me in choosing to work, and one that isn’t even a possible issue for us guys.
And women have more oxytocin running around their blood vessels than guys do. My wife once told me about a study of male rats that were injected with oxytocin (that’s a hormone that is associated with sex, birth, nursing and emotional bonding) and it resulted in them acting more like female rats toward some baby rats in their presence. Frankly, because female levels of oxytocin are higher (in some cases many times higher) than in men, the biological deck is stacked against them working away from their children in a way that it isn’t for men.
Wow, there is a lot here and while I haven’t read every word I thought I would say a word or two as a man who has traded places (at least mostly) with his wife.
After we both completed masters degrees we tried the more traditional path of me working full-time and my wife staying home with our new child. However, after only 6 months to a year we could tell that it wasn’t working as we wanted it to. I wasn’t happy at work and wanted more time at home. My wife missed her field and was overwhelmed by some of the house keeping responsibilities that seemed to go along with the job. After a long and complicated path that included more schooling for both of us, we have ended up in a situation that seems to work better. She works full-time as a professor, and I teach part-time and have the primary responsibility of caring for our children and home. Part of why this works for us is that we both have flexible job situations that don’t require us to be in one place for 8+ hours each day. I think we are both happier and our kids seem to be doing just fine as well.
As per Steve Evan’s comments that everyone but Rosalynde sounds nicer in the behind-the-scenes comments, I’d like to suggest that (1) yes, I think Rosalynde values being reasonable, respectful, and nice on her public, in-front-of-the-scenes posts and comments (I think this is all the more admirable because she also never gets intimidated when other commenters strongly oppose her stances), but also (2) in the 30% of the original discussion that we got to read, I saw Rosalynde’s role in the conversation as providing some moral support for Melissa (who was frankly getting pretty intense pressure on all sides for a while there) as well as giving her own opinion on the matter. It’s not surprising that in this situation, she may have come across as stronger and less qualified in her views than the original participants in the discussion. Of course, this is Rosalynde’s sister speaking here, so I may be a little biased. But those are my observations, for the record. And now I’m off to be a single, unemployed, 27-year-old LDS woman currently eight minutes late for the one thing I have to do all day long today.
Naomi, thanks for your valiant defense! I just assumed that Steve meant that I couldn’t possibly get any nicer on email than I am on the blog—and of course I’m just as nice in real life!
But at least you’re not, well, you know. :P
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. . .
Steve Evans, by contrast, does remarkably well at maintaining the the same high level of annoyingness both online and offline. . .
RW wrote, “But empirical evidence would seem to show that most fathers and children seem quite satisfied with this sort of relationship, since fathers are not leaving the workforce in droves to spend more time with their kids.”
(1) They aren’t leaving the workforce in droves because they like food and shelter.
(2) I’m not sure if this comment made it into the above post, but much like someone who has only eaten frozen dinners might say they are just fine with that arrangement, fathers and children may be just fine with the current arrangement because they are unaware of the alternatives. As someone raised with a highly involved father, I know what I could have missed. Those who haven’t had the experience don’t know what they missed.
RW wrote, “Until there is a social logic to ideologically theorizing “working father” in the same way that “working mother” has been theorized, I just can’t accept the fact that the work/family tradeoff is equal for men and women; if it were, what would be the advantage of having mothers at home? I know a lot of people who insist that the tradeoff is identical in magnitude, or nearly so, and I know a lot of feminists who would like it to be, but I just don’t think an observation of the social landscape bears that out.”
Please restate in simple English if you want me to respond. I can’t follow you.
gst–I think you understand where I was going with the analogy. If you want to suggest that Church leaders are wrong when they claim that motherhood has greater inherent value than alternative uses of a mother’s time, then make that argument.
all–Most of the editing was done by RAF. His main concern was eliminating length. He also took out a lot of the personal angle of the discussion, I think. (observation, not complaint)
Back from my appointment, where I ended up being entirely superfluous. Kaimi, the number of things I could put into the blank that you so temptingly filled with an emoticon is overwhelming. At least I’m not…trailer trash? At least I’m not…a showgirl? At least I’m not…working at McDonalds? Hmmm…I haven’t dropped off my resume there yet.
And now just one quick question for b bell. I’m glad that you admire Julie and Rosalynde for the choices they’ve made, particularly because they did require sacrifice. I attended a RS lesson that Rosalynde taught a few weeks ago, and I can vouch that your confidence in her as a teacher of the Gospel couldn’t be better placed. But would you be more reluctant to have your kids taught in Sunday School or primary by, say, someone like me–unmarried, no children, supporting myself in a career (well, if I ever get a job). Or would you not want me to teach them because I wouldn’t be a good role model for them? Please forgive the rather hackneyed grievance that single adults aren’t as valued as married adults in the church, but I personally think I’d be a splendid Primary teacher, marital status notwithstanding. Okay, now I’m five minutes late for my next thing. Man, I can’t even get the small stuff right.
For the record, I dislike RW’s psychologizing on the beliefs of those that she disagrees with. It implicitly reduces the views of others to little more than psychological coping mechanisms with a kind of patronizing not-that-there-is-anything-wrong-with-that-if-you-need-it kind of disclaimer. Also, as she points out it is pretty difficult to verify. Finally, even if the correlation that she claims to find exists, it may be that causation flows from personal experience to ideology rather than vice versa. In other words, there is no reason to suppose that those who describe their own experiences are deluding themselves to fill some psychological need to shore up their pre-existing ideological commitments. It is just as likely that they are being quite honest and accurate about their experience, which is one of the reasons that they happen to have the ideological beliefs that they do.
Julie in Austin, my only point was the small, off-topic, nit-picky, and, frankly, snotty one: I think you are wrong about the relative inherent values of a quarter and a dollar bill.
“I have never met a woman who will take a risk . . . I also notice that women have no curiosity about the way things work.”
You thought this part of your post might make people “angry.” I myself was not angered, but amused. GeorgeD, let me introduce myself. I’m Melissa. Nice to meet you.
Now you know at least one.
Do you think it is possible to love one’s children, like to be with then, not be defined by one’s career AND still desire a career that may take one out of the house? The way you framed your comment makes it seem like you think these are incompatible. I maintain that they are not.
I have acknowledged from the first and continually throughout our discussion ad naseum that men also make sacrifices for parenthood. I’m not sure why you feel the need to keep asserting the point. Are we misunderstanding each other?
You write, “Whenever I hear a woman frustrated over the necessity to choose between a career and motherhood, I hear a child . . . ”
Perhaps I should have included infantilized along with judged, overlooked, dismissed, pitied . . . in my long list. I think this comment was out of character for you. I also do not think (this is in fact one of my central points) that it is at all “necessary” to choose. That so many believe that is part of the problem as I see it.
“I get to a servant to the servants of God.” Do you mean your wife? You only have one, right? Aside from this bit of confusion I thought this was quite a lovely sentiment. Then again “sentiment” can disguise a lot of what goes on on the ground. I don’t know how things work in your home though so I can’t say more. But, if there were anyone whose behavior might match his sentiment on this it would probably be you.
I’m so glad to hear that this conversation is meaningful to you. It’s quite a leap to post what began as a personal conversation in a public space like this so it’s good to know it matters to you.
Your comment raises a more theoretical question for me that I wrestle with all the time about various questions. Are things that are good to do more “noble” (to use your vocabulary) if they are hard for us to do them? You brought this up regarding your motherhood (and I have certainly felt that it is “unfair” on some level that my sister gets lots of church support for what she most wants to do simply because it happens to be motherhood she most wants to pursue) But, this question is, of course, relevant to other issues too. On one hand we are supposed to be becoming the sort of people that love and seek the good. With that understanding it doesn’t seem more “noble” to do something one wouldn’t have chosen (*not talking about motherhood here) than what one would choose since we are supposed to be in the process of becoming the sorts of people whose preferences are being shaped to value the good. This model would thus suggest that it is better if you desire the good and do the good than if you do the good you don’t desire since who you are is more important than what you do. On the other hand, we only become the sort of people who prefer the good if we practice choosing the good regardless of our current preferences. In this case it seems that one’s actual choice (whether it was the right one or the wrong one) is the most important criterion . . . but I digress.
What a guy! Your willingness to renegotiate your arrangement based on your wife’s sense of wellbeing is wonderfully admirable. Do you have single friends? ;)
I’m glad that you’re not a showgirl, working at McDonalds, a showgirl working at McDonalds, etc. But the specific “you know” that I was referencing relates to a particular blog comment from a while back, which is filed under the “Most Embarrassing Parental Intervention Ever” category. Hence the follow up, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Your objection to RW’s argument clearly stems from your own inability to control your own inner demons. Such an attitude is no doubt the product of latent schizophrenia, paranioa, and Tourette’s disease, combined with a deeply ingrained sense of gender essentialism.
Also, you have unresolved issues relating to your relationship with your mother.
Melissa: If it is any consolation, I do not feel sorry for you. You have rare intellectual gifts, a genuine love of what you are studying, and educational opprotunities that are beyond the ken of the vast, vast, vast majority of humanity. No small bundle of blessings and opprotunities that.
Melissa wrote, “I have acknowledged from the first and continually throughout our discussion ad naseum that men also make sacrifices for parenthood. I’m not sure why you feel the need to keep asserting the point. Are we misunderstanding each other?”
The post to which I was resonding at that point said nothing of fathers.
Melissa then quoted me” You write, “Whenever I hear a woman frustrated over the necessity to choose between a career and motherhood, I hear a child . . . ”
and then wrote:
“Perhaps I should have included infantilized along with judged, overlooked, dismissed, pitied . . . in my long list. I think this comment was out of character for you.”
You take my quote grossly out of context. I wasn’t using the child as a marker for childishness/infantilizing, but rather as a part of my analogy of the child who chooses a quarter over a dollar. If you had quoted the entire sentence that would have been obvious. One almost suspects with that kind of creative editing that you are looking for offense.
“I also do not think (this is in fact one of my central points) that it is at all “necessary” to choose. That so many believe that is part of the problem as I see it.”
You’ll need to explain this one to me, slowly and in great detail, because it seems patently obvious to me that one can only be in one place at a time, and one is either with one’s children or with one’s profession for the majority of the day. (Obviously, there is part time work, work at home, flextime, etc., but I don’t think that that is what either of us is talking about here.)
Naomi’s Most Embarrassing Parental Intervention gets some competition from the Oman Underoos Revelation, don’t you think?
I should clarify–we renegotiated our arrangement because we both were somewhat unhappy and it took a while and some pain and frustration to figure out the new arrangement. We actually didn’t initially intend for it to end up just like it is now. Initially we thought I would be the full-time professor, but that didn’t work out either. I couldn’t hack it. Regardless, I think it has worked out well. It’s probably not the best of all possible worlds (we both might be working part-time in that one) but a pretty good one.
Kaimi (no. 37): hey man! that just plain hurts — you and I are friends! Please let me know you are kidding with an outpouring of affection.
No. 35: Rosalynde is exactly right: she is super nice, at all times. That is the proper interpretation of my reformed egyptian comment no. 17.
If the bishop prayed and got inspired to call you. Its all about the spirit with callings.
Steve: Stop being so needy…
Thanks Nate — from you that is an outpouring of affection.
“Naomi’s Most Embarrassing Parental Intervention gets some competition from the Oman Underoos Revelation, don’t you think?”
The dangers of having blog-reading and computer-literate parents.
Nate, since I’ve already retracted the suggestion about psychology (and it was merely a suggestion), you’ll forgive me if I think you’re showboating a bit, but your objections are duly noted. And technically I was psychologizing the views of those I AGREED with, since Frank and Adam and I all agreed that we would trade places with our spouses. ;-)
Julie, what I mean is: does the phrase “working father” call up any kind of vexed cultural baggage, like “working mother” does? If not, why not? Whatever your answer, it’s probably one reason why I don’t think fathers face a tradeoff of the same magnitude that mothers do in balancing work and family.
I never suggested that fathers face a trade-off of the same magnitude, because the ‘baseline’ for them is so much lower. However, the conclusion we should draw from that is not that women are unlucky but that men are.
Showboating? On a blog? Never!
Any way, I apologize for burdening the discussion with my comments…
“Do you think it is possible to love one’s children, like to be with then, not be defined by one’s career AND still desire a career that may take one out of the house? The way you framed your comment makes it seem like you think these are incompatible. I maintain that they are not.”
I was simply responding to Rosalynde’s comment to give her another example of a man not defined by career etc. etc. It is, of course, fine to desire whatever (moral) career you wish. The fact that something is desired does not make it right or wrong to do. That is a function of the associated costs and benefits. I desire to be a great piano player, but that will not happen in this life. My acting career was also a non-starter, with the exception of a rousing rendition of “The Electric Sunshine Man” in 8th grade.
I only quoted the part that I did to save time since I assumed everyone had already read your analogy.
Comparing women who express frustration over feeling the need to make a decision betwen motherhood and career to children would rather take a quarter over a dollar is so obviously infantilizing I can’t believe I have to make a case for it. In your example the chooser is explicitly a “child” who makes her choice because she is naive, ill-informed, lacking in understanding . . . (insert whatever descriptor you wish). The child is drawn to the quarter because it is “shiny” but she doesn’t have the knowledge she will have as an adult that the quarter is worth far less than the dollar. How could this be other than infantilizing?
You ask me to explain my comment that I don’t think it at all “necessary” to choose “slowly and in great detail.” I wish I had the time to do so now, but I don’t. Still, I am frankly surprised that you resist this based on our past conversations. It is the same point I made on M* last week that you approved with a strong “Amen”. Perhaps it would help to go back and re-read some of that thread?
I had forgotten about that one. Yes, definite competition.
Now what we really need to do is get Steve’s parents to visit and make a few embarrassing comments about him. (Does that count as an outpouring? I’m clearly no expert on Mormon humor and my original joke was pretty weak.)
I think the penalty for showboating is an outpouring of love. You’d better give Rosalynde an e-hug. We’re all waiting.
“It’s probably not the best of all possible worlds (we both might be working part-time in that one) but a pretty good one.”
Ah! There it is! And I didn’t have to make the comment myself. A strong statement that the best of all possible worlds is one in which both spouses would work part-time! I could just kiss you.
Mark, there’s nothing wrong with admitting to being unhappy in a rigid role expectation. I think working full-time outside the home is as “less good” for fathers as working full-time in the home is “less good” for mothers.
The reigning Christian worldview is that we are, all of us, children who lack the understanding of God, lack the patience, over-value today instead of eternity, and are, in comparison to God, dumb as rocks, sheep who must be led.
Julie’s comment is a spot-on reflection of that view. Is it infantilizing? (a word I find annoying to no end) No more so than Christianity itself. Another’s words do not make us like silly children. Our sins reveal us as such long before that.
“Ah! There it is! And I didn’t have to make the comment myself. A strong statement that the best of all possible worlds is one in which both spouses would work part-time! I could just kiss you.”
Too bad Mark isn’t a prophet. I wonder why the Brethren haven’t made this statement you think is so obviously true? They sure have had the opportuinity. Perhaps it will come out this weekend. Or perhaps it isn’t really true…
“If it is any consolation, I do not feel sorry for you. You have rare intellectual gifts, a genuine love of what you are studying, and educational opprotunities that are beyond the ken of the vast, vast, vast majority of humanity. No small bundle of blessings and opprotunities that.”
Thanks, Nate! I do feel like one of the luckiest people on the planet. I’m always trying to figure out why I’ve been given so much because it’s so patently obvious that I don’t deserve it.
Not really related to you comment, but it’s bizarre to me that it feels like some women would be more comfortable with my single, childless status if I were in a less privileged position and a little more unhappy about my situation. I’ve never been able to figure this out. If they really think motherhood is the pinnacle and they’ve reached it, why would they begrudge the happiness I have in my career? Why would they *want* me to be single, childless AND unhappy in my professional life? I just don’t get it.
I’ll come back to your comments later tonight when I catch my breath, alright?
In Lehi’s dream, some people eat the fruit, but are ashamed of it because of the mocking of the well-dressed folks in the great and spacious building. Some people reach the pinnacle, take the grubby dollar on faith, but still envy the kid with the shiny quarter. I am not, obviously, blaming you for their envy, just making an observation about human nature.
Melissa, whenever you wish, or not at all, as it pleases you.
“I just don’t get it. ”
if you haven’t thought of anything by then, I’ll email you an explanation tonight.
Melissa re #59:
I now see where you are coming from about infantalizing, but I still disagree. Many adult men and women don’t see the supreme value of motherhood, so my point isn’t to say to you, “You’ll see when you are older, dear.” (I think you may be a year or two older than I am, at any rate.) The salient characteristic in my analogy is the child’s lack of knowledge, not her age. I maintain that one who thinks a mother’s fulltime career is of comparable worth to fulltime motherhood is lacking in knowledge. (I know there are exceptions, but we aren’t talking about those.)
Then you wrote, “Still, I am frankly surprised that you resist this based on our past conversations. It is the same point I made on M* last week that you approved with a strong “Amen”. Perhaps it would help to go back and re-read some of that thread?”
Point me to the comment numbers, because I don’t think we’re talking about the same thing.
Re your #61 Melissa–I, too, think that the very highest ideal might be a mother working part time and a father working part time. Of course, the number of couples who can actually swing that is so miniscule that we might as well be talking about the number of couples who have inherited enough wealth that neither has to work. Hopefully, this will change, and we can go back to arguing about SSM and abortion instead of working mothers ;).
Frank in #63–I think that the reason they don’t say that is because it is as realistic as telling the members to be born into families where they have inherited wealth ;). If you can make the case that two part-time working parents would be in some way inferior to a full-time SAHM and full time working dad, I’m open to it, but I don’t see it at this point.
If you think they don’t mention it because it is not realistic, then it is hard to see why it is worth arguing about here.
If you think your position on two part time parents is unrealistic and the GA’s have never encouraged it then why make a fuss about it? It goes back to my original posts that its sounds like a theory and not applicable to those of us raising kids right now. We need to deal in the here and now.
Julie, why do you think, if men (even upper middle-class ones with well-paying jobs) are the ones getting the short end of the work-family stick, it’s generally women who critique the current version of gender-divided labor? Since men are still, by and large, the ones in the position to change the structure of employment practices and the culture of career, why doesn’t it happen? If it’s merely mass delusion about the real value of things, why don’t things look too different among church members?
Frank and b bell–I think it may be worth investigating for the extremely small number of couples (1) who are interested in it and (2) for whom it would be possible. But I agree with you that it isn’t a major consideration in the working mother debate.
RW asks, “Julie, why do you think, if men (even upper middle-class ones with well-paying jobs) are the ones getting the short end of the work-family stick, it’s generally women who critique the current version of gender-divided labor?”
Because almost all of us (myself included) are frequently blind to that which is of most worth.
“Since men are still, by and large, the ones in the position to change the structure of employment practices and the culture of career, why doesn’t it happen?”
I’m sorry, RW, but this is silly. Will the men reading this who are in a position to change the structure of employment practices please raise their hands? To the extent that there are some men (and perhaps a smaller number of women) who are in a position to change them, I imagine they too are often blinded to that which is of most worth–almost by definition since those who ascend to the heights of earthly power are not generally those spending the most time with their families.
“If it’s merely mass delusion about the real value of things, why don’t things look too different among church members?”
For the same reason the HT stats are in the toilet and no one has read the entire Old Testament. We aren’t as far away from worldliness as we’d like to be.
RW and Melissa–I am a little unclear if either or both of you disputes my position that full-time mothering is the best use of a mother’s time. I sense that I am dancing around the real issue with both of you. Please clarify.
Ok. The temptation has passed.
Nate, Julie’s the one saying it’s mass delusion (blindness). So that leaves me wondering why you, Frank and Adam aren’t flipping out about the patronizing way she’s discounting the life decisions of all the LDS doctors, lawyers and businessmen out there. I tend to think that many of those doctors, lawyers and businessmen have rationally chosen their couses because it provides what they find to be reasonably satisfactory balance between work and family; because most people, when they are able, act in their own self-interest, I would expect those men to leave their professions for a less demanding occupation (and, of course, revise their lifestyles) if they found their situation to be radically unsatisfactory.
Julie: It seems fairly clear to me that RW and M are marginalists. (No! Not that kind of marginalist; put away the readers on subaltern studies.) The implicit assumption of their position seems to be that there is diminishing marginal value to child rearing. The optimal solution of course is for the marginal value of female child rearing to exactly eqaul the marginal value of male child rearing. (Hence, M.’s gushing about Mark Biglow’s arrangment.) The criticism with the current system is that the women long ago pass the point where the marginal value of their child rearing exceeded the marginal value of their spouses child rearing. For a marginalist questions of value are meaningless outside of the context of pervious activity and comparative activity. Don’t be fooled by the humanitarian veneer. Underneath it all, they are both heartless neoclassical economists trying to wring inefficiency out of the family economy. Mark my words!
RW: Julie’s claim is actually different. She is claiming two things. First, that people are mistaken. Second, that people suffer from circumstances that they cannot change. Niether of these are exactly the same as implying that they hold particular views not on the basis of reasons, but rather on the basis of pyschological need. One may believe that a person is mistaken, or even that most people are mistaken, without psychologizing their beliefs.
Re RW in #75: I don’t think I am patronizingly dismissing those delusional LDS men; but I do think we (in general, not you personally) should be a little more grateful for the fact that men follow the prophets’ counsel to physically provide for their families when it means that they have to give up the greater good of a closer relationship with their children.
I’ve made this comment repeatedly, RW, and you haven’t responded to it except to say that you think people act in their own self interest: I think those who did not have a close relationship with their father do not know what they are missing and what their children are missing. How and why would they? The fact that men aren’t refusing overtime in droves suggests not that time with children isn’t a better use of their time; it suggests that they don’t know what they are missing [ed] and/or have misplaced priorities.
Nate–I would be afraid to try to speak for RW and/or Melissa. I’ll wait until they respond.
Well, Nate, looks like you aren’t afraid to try to speak for me, either. You didn’t do a half bad job of it.
Julie: Think of my interpretation of RW/M as a strong misreading. I am too obsessed about the anxiety of influence to actually post thoughts as my own thoughts for fear that they would be found out as the thoughts of someone else. Much better to simply post twisted “restatements” of the thoughts of others.
Nate (#76): Oh, how I gnash my teeth that I cannot be sure that I understand what you meant! I fervently desire to be a heartless neoclassical economist, or at least to talk econ intelligently, alas I neither am nor do. To the extent that I did understand you, you may be right. The difference between Melissa and me being that she believes the optimal solution is an attainable possibility, whereas I am much less optimistic (for reasons relating to the intransigencies of both market and biology).
As for #77: I really don’t think this is worth pursuing, but if you would like to you’ll have to clarify how you’re using the term “psychologizing” and “psychological need,” since I’ve become confused.
That’s pretty derivative, Nate Oman. Everybody gives that excuse.
My old and dear friend Mark Bigelow commented over two hours ago, so I feel like I missed my chance to testify of him. But, better late than never. Mark and his wife, Claudine, live in Provo, where she teaches at BYU. They have, to put it mildly, raised numerous eyebrows and rumors because of their (knowing them as I do I can say) eminently sensible arrangements. Yet they persevere, because they recognize that 1) both of them would rather spend time with their children than anything else, 2) Claudine’s passion for music has more easily translated into the sort of work that can put food on the table than Mark’s passion for baking bread, 3) so it makes perfect sense, in order to maintain their very low-key, family-oriented existence, that the one whose passion is slightly more likely to lead outside the home than the other become the breadwinner for the family. Mark talks about the pain and struggle that came along with the process of making this decision, and I’ve no doubt he’s telling the truth, but I can also testify that I have rarely spent time in any home which is more intimate, less stressful, less frenzied and more spiritual than the Bigelows.
I also close friends with another Mormon couple who have traded places, and their home, God bless them all, is a lunatic asylum. So it’s no like switching places opens up a Zen paradise or anything. Just for some people.
Adam #82: You are a cruel, cruel man.
RW: When I use the term “psychologizing” I mean the claim that X believes Y not because of the reasons A, B, or C that he offers for belief Y, but rather because belief in Y satisfies some psychological need wholely unconnected to any set of reasons offered for Y. An example of such a psychological need might be the requirement to preserve a particular self-image or perhaps to shore up the validity of an ideological belief on which one had predicated one’s life.
To say that a person is mistaken is to simply point out that Y is false or that A, B, or C do not in fact entail why. It is a statement about the the abstract relationship between beliefs and reasons, and does one’s interlocutor the courtesy of assuming that they are capable of analyzing their beliefs in rationally, in terms of reasons. Psychologizing a persons beliefs, it seems to me, does not do this courtesy.
So here’s a question for Julie.
Let’s do a hypothetical (while the following states my own fathering experience, I will remove my name so that you can attack this man if you wish) Ralph is a committed dad who loves spending time with his kids. He has a full-time job that requires him to be gone from 7:30 to 6:15. every weekday. When he is home, he spends a huge majority of his time with his family. He plays with his kids, bathes them, sings to them, reads to them, throws the football over the house with them, takes rocks out of their mouths, etc. There is rarely a day when Ralph doesn’t spend significant, meaningful time with his kids, and he’s with them almost constantly on Saturdays and Sundays. The time spent with his family is his primary source of personal fulfillment.
The question: What is Ralph missing? Assuming that Ralph’s kids spend all their time being cared for by one of their parents, what will the kids gain by getting one more hour per day with Ralph than they currently enjoy? What is to be gained with two more hours? And with three? In other words, as long as every moment of the kids’ life is spent under the loving care of at least one parent, how important is it that the father play more than a weeknights and weekends role? Isn’t there some point at which the marginal gains to be had from an extra hour or two a day begin to diminish? I confess that on days when I’m around for longer stints, it feels like that.
I’m not asking you this to put you on the spot. It’s because I’m really curious about this in my own life. I feel like my current situation offers me adequate opportunity to have very deep relationships with my kids (I think my wife would agree my relationships with them are equally as deep as hers with them, although quite different in the details), and instruct and influence them properly. I don’t really know how much more these relationships could gain if I cut back to half-time at work, for example. I wonder what I’d gain if I did that, and whether it would offset what I’d lose. It’s an intriguing thought experiment.
Julie, your father spent a lot of one-on-one time with you and provided a lot of physical care, I gather, as your husband does with your children; you judge your relationship to your father and your husband’s to your children to be close, and to have some added value that other kinds of relationships do not. My father did not spend a lot of one-on-one time with me (with so many kids, that would have been very difficult), nor did he provide much physical care, and my husband is not able to do much of this with our children, either. But here’s the thing: I consider my relationship to my father to be “close,” too, and rewarding and rich, and I have every hope and expectation that my children will feel the same way about their father. Yes, it’s a qualitatively different kind of relationship than I have with my mother or with my kids, but I just don’t have any evidence to suggest that it’s as unsatisfactory as you’re insisting that it must be; my father certainly had and has a significant influence on my life for good, and I love him and honor him. If my father and husband were missing out on something so huge, I think they’d look around, see it in the lives of their brothers or colleagues, and, if it looked that good, do something about it.
For fathers who are not the primary caretakers, the quality of the relationship with children does not seem to me to be a simple linear function of time put in. For those mothers who are the primary caretakers, the equation, quite obviously, is different; I don’t think that I could suddenly start working 80 hours a week, too, and not suffer any impoverishment of my relationship with my children.
There are economists who would see things by the stereotype you laid out, but none of them apparently are on this web page. If I thought everybody was making optimal life decisions I wouldn’t have gone on a a mission to tell people to repent.
Yes, they are making a perfectly good marginalist argument based on diminishing returns to parenting. The flaw is that we don’t actually know that parenting is best described as diminishing returns, it may well be increasing returns to the child (they may get more, principally at a young age, from 40 hours with one parent than 20 each with two). Nor do we know how important specializiation is to parenting, which is, by implication also increasing returns. But we do know that work participation is, in most cases, increasing returns. So that one gets more (hence is proabably more productive) for 40 hours than one gets for two 20 hours shifts. If these processes are increasing returns and not diminishing returns, the result changes dramatically.
The calim is based on assumptions that may be the exact opposite of the truth. Flip the assumptions and you are back to full time work, full time parenting.
Alternatively, one could mix things up a little and say that there are both increasing returns, and then decreasing returns to parenting at massive numbers of hours. This would make a lot of sense and would suggest that fathers should be available to take over when the wife is burning low. A novice, but fresh, father is probably better than a wiped out mom. Also it suggests that mothers should have outside hobbies and other refreshers to keep them from getting driven into the ground by the intensity of child-rearing. Hence we get statements about fathers helping mothers as equal partners, even if not for equal time.
eerie, Rosalynde. That you could sum up and restate what I was trying to say at the exact moment I was saying it is, to say the least, impressive.
Frank: It seems to me that your argument is less about increasing marginal returns than it is about comparative advantage. You get all work and all child care if one partner has a comparative advantage for one vis a vis the other. However, if both partners have increasing marginal returns, then it seems to me that you only get specialization if one partner’s returns increase at a higher rate, assuming of course that the time that can be spent on child care is functionally infinite.
“Alternatively, one could mix things up a little and say that there are both increasing returns, and then decreasing returns to parenting at massive numbers of hours.”
I think this is probably right. A coive. Much like with work performance which is why Rosalynde is right that, ideal arrangements aside, the ‘market’ rewards having a full-time worker in the family.
Ryan, my skill at reading my male interlocutors’ minds knows no bounds… Psychologizing is my speciality.
Nate: On your view of “psychologizing,” I concede that Julie is not doing precisely that. And I restate my retraction of the original comment. And I offer you the last word on the topic, and, because psychologizing is not my usual analytical MO and I’m heartily sick of the topic, I fervently hope never to discuss the matter again. However, this does not mean that I want to shoo you away from the larger conversation, so don’t get sniffy.
Frank: You also assume that the marginal value of parenting is the same thing as the marginal value of parenting to the child. However, if we assume that there is decreasing marginal utility to parents for parenting and increasing marginal utility for children, it might be the case that you still have diminishing marginal value over all. One might argue, of course, that parental utility should be disgregarded, but then we are no longer being steely eyed neoclassicists ;->…
RW: “psychologizing is not my usual analytical MO”
For which I praise you to the skies…
Nate, comparative advantage obviously implies specialization, but it requires arguing that women actually have a comparative advantage in the vast majority of cases. An alternative is something Melissa alludes to above. Parenting is a learned skill, so both people can start out equal, but it still makes sense to specialize because of the costs of learning the skills or, more likely, the fact that the child benefits from having a primary caregiver.
As for whether or not you need different rates, you don’t since both workers get more specialized than divided, this is the nature of increasing returns. Perhaps I am missing some difference in the models we have in our heads.
Kaimi: Oh yeah, that… When do I get the bloggernacle award for placing myself in the largest number of embarrassing situations?
At next year’s Blogscars. You’re sure to win.
I was thinking as the social planner, in which case the question is what is the social return (to the parent and child). I agree that the marginal returns are likely to be different, but my argument was that the net may be increasing. Obviously, the net may also be decreasing, which was the original argument.
One really useful point you make here, though, is that even if the socially efficient thing to do is to have specialization, the parent doing the specialization may be getting a really lousy deal without some sort of transfer from the other partner. At the minimum, some flowers and a regular date night. At that point, you get men talking about how wonderful what their wife does is, but not actually able to step in and efficiently do it because of the increasing returns. Then you would observe a bunch of feminist complaining about women being put on a pedestal, but its all just production functions.
Of course, even if the overall production has increasing returns, it may still be dimishing returns at the end point, such that men really should do more on the margin.
Re 16 to J in A
You don’t have to believe me that nature is innate. But try this on as one piece of evidence.
That debate will go on forever but my mind is completely made up on this.
I certainly don’t think that women shouldn’t get an education.My daughter is off getting an education that I hope will be able to sustain her in whatever eventuality. I certainly don’t want to be on the hook for her long term support. But I hope that there is a young man out there for her who is working hard to be able to support her in whatever role she chooses for her adult female life. (Yes I am confident that she will choose marriage if a worthy opportunity is available.) Unfortunately the statistics are headed south for her opportunity. I understand that her student ward at BYU is 2/3 female. I understand the statistics are similar at BYUI. We don’t need to suppress women we need to quit suppressing young men. I think the Church has a great message for young men but society doesn’t. Its a perilous course to manhood for our boys and they are dropping like flies. I understand that in some wards in SLC only about 1/3 of young men in active families are making it to missions. Lowering our standards is a non-starter.
Generally I am amused by the elitism of this blog (and most other LDS blogs). Women with PhDs, men with Harrvard Law and other prestigious degrees. I can tell you that most people with that quality of education and opportunity are absolutely clueless about the real working workld. For your information very few Mormons (numerically) work in the prestigious law firms, the elite universities or the senior corporate staffs of major companies. The transportion department, the accounting department, the manufacturing department and the engineering department are all pretty grim places to be working. Most men I know have a few hours of work pleasure a week. The rest is compliance, procedure, conformity, safety, coordination and bending over. (Yes I am talking about a near-elite of people with corporate employment. Then there are the tradesmen, retail workers, construction workers, laborers etc. )
These guys just love going to work every day so they don’t have to stay at home with the kids. No they can’t pick up the phone and get a part-time job. Many (especially the most masculine) have been down-sized right-sized etc. one or more times in their careers. They may have sat at home for momnths, used up their savings, sold their homes, borrowed for their kids education etc.After Church on Sunday their amusement is having their wives tell them about the feminist in RS who rails about patriarchy.
Tell me about all the women who are just dying to have their experience.
Head is swimming must be the rarefied air in here.
Melissa, I have nothing to back my theory up and have no idea if it is a truth which can be applied across the board. I understand your reasoning as to why the opposite should be true. However, it just seems to me that when 2 people make the same good choice, the one who put the most on the alter to commit to that choice deserves the greater reward. I’ll have to think about this more.
I hope my comment did not make it sound like I feel sorry for you. From what I gather you are greatly blessed and I think it’s wonderful that you are happy with what you have. I think just with that, you have more than most.
Thanks again for a great discussion, there has been a lot to think about.
I think you are right, Andrea, because the one who has an easy time making the good choice already has their reward. In other words, making good choices easily is reward in itself.
So, while its accurate to say that people who make good choices with difficulty deserve more rewards, its inaccurate to say that its better to have difficulty in making good choices.
Since I am (gladly) a stay at home mother and graduate student, I didn’t have time to read all of your thoughts (apologies about that because I am sure they are heart-felt, considering the subject). I do have a few of my own.
In English (fluent speakers of other languages might enlighten me about others), when we use “to mother” as a verb, it implies a life-long reltaionship. In fact, people could even mother people they are not related to or are younger than by taking care of them–heck, a man can mother. But when we use “to father” as a verb, it refers to a brief contribution. In fact, many people have been fathered by fathers they never know.
How much does this effect our ideas about appropriate mothering and fathering?
Personally, I would not trade roles because I believe that spending time with my children is more important than any other job. [My profession, before and probably after mothering, is as a teacher, which I chose because it is important–can’t see myself putting all my time and energy into something that isn’t (even though more financially profitable).]
Re #85. Ryan/Ralph:
I am far more concerned about the kids than I am about Ralph. Is the additional hour(s) they’d spend with Ralph hours that they wouldn’t be in the care of a surly day care worker making less than minimum wage? Then Ralph should move heaven and earth to spend that hour with them. On the other hand, if they are receiving adequate care during that hour, then what is being lost is an addition to the depth of the relationship between Ralph and his kids. He is the only one is a position to decide whether the alternative use of that hour is worth the lose of depth that it causes. (although perhaps he could/should pray about it)
As far as the ‘what is he missing?’ question, I have to believe that there is a correlation between the amount of time two people spend together and the depth and quality of their relationship. Is this unreasonable? Every hour not spent together is the loss of a drop in that bucket. The use to which the hour is put determines whether the loss is justified.
“In other words, as long as every moment of the kids’ life is spent under the loving care of at least one parent, how important is it that the father play more than a weeknights and weekends role? Isn’t there some point at which the marginal gains to be had from an extra hour or two a day begin to diminish?”
I don’t think it is important that fathers play more than a weekend/weeknight role, else the prophets would have told men to quit their jobs and stay home full time. There is a point of diminishing returns for not only men but also women (who need respite from childcare) and children (who need time with friends, grandparents, time alone, etc.)
“I feel like my current situation offers me adequate opportunity to have very deep relationships with my kids (I think my wife would agree my relationships with them are equally as deep as hers with them, although quite different in the details), and instruct and influence them properly. I don’t really know how much more these relationships could gain if I cut back to half-time at work, for example. I wonder what I’d gain if I did that, and whether it would offset what I’d lose. It’s an intriguing thought experiment.”
I’m sure it is very deep. But let’s say that you were able to cut your hours to spend time each day–I don’t know–building model rockets with your kids and flying them–or something else you and the kids would enjoy doing. Don’t you think that that would add an element to your relationship? It may not be worth the tradeoff right now, if it meant that you couldn’t pay your mortgage, but that doesn’t mean it has no worth–just not as much as the alternative. Ask your wife, please, if she thinks that her and your relationship with the children is ‘equally deep.’ I’m curious as to her answer. My husband spends more time with our kids than any other full-time-employeed man I’ve ever known of, but his relationship is not as deep as mine.
RW wrote,”Yes, it’s a qualitatively different kind of relationship than I have with my mother or with my kids, but I just don’t have any evidence to suggest that it’s as unsatisfactory as you’re insisting that it must be; my father certainly had and has a significant influence on my life for good, and I love him and honor him.”
You answered your own query here when you note that the relationship was/is ‘qualitatively different’ That’s what I have been saying all along. I never said it was ‘unsatisfactory;’ that’s too strong. (Although I do have a strong bias towards time and lots of it as an essential component of fatherhood and would not have married a doctor or the like for that reason.)
RW wrote, “If my father and husband were missing out on something so huge, I think they’d look around, see it in the lives of their brothers or colleagues, and, if it looked that good, do something about it.”
Just like all those people lining up and begging the missionaries for baptism? All those Saints in my ward and yours giving up all their leisure time to go to the Temple? Most everyone is unaware of what they are missing out on when they disobey counsel.
RW wrote, “For fathers who are not the primary caretakers, the quality of the relationship with children does not seem to me to be a simple linear function of time put in.”
No, not a simple linear relationship. But haven’t you seen those public service announcements? It is _about time_, RW. The amount of time fathers put in is a huge factor in the relationship they have with their children. Given that this is a personal issue (with your husband and father having chosen one avenue and my husband and father the other), I don’t want to make it any moreso, but time matters. Is this really a radical idea? I thought this was standard General Conference boilerplate.
Frank, balancing the fact that parenting is a learned skill is the fact that children benefit from interacting with a variety of adults.
There’s a world of difference between a botched circumcision and claiming that women are ‘naturally more nurturing, patient, self-sacrificing, whatever.’ So perhaps we are talking past each other here. I do not accept that women and men have inherently different virtues/characteristics (aside from physical, obviously)/etc.
Julie, I think it’s a little presumptive to say that my father and my husband have disobeyed counsel by pursuing demanding careers (in fact, weren’t you the one a while back who said that I should more grateful that they *are* obeying counsel by supporting my families?). If you are aware of prophetic statements urging men to pursue undemanding occupations, I would be exceedingly interested in seeing them.
That said, I think I understand your view of proper fatherhood, and I think its difference from my own view is such that they’re unlikely to be reconciled. I think in many ways it parallels the difference in our views of what motherhood means.
Julie: Is it beyond the pale to suggest that their might be some connection between biology and particular aptitudes? Obviously, this needn’t hold true for every case, but what is wrong with the claim that women have biological characteristic X which leads to an increased probability that they will have characteristic Y which provides an aptitude for activity Z. Given the history of how the concept of nature has been used, I can certainly understand why someone might be warry of such claims, but it seems mistaken to me to completely reject the notion that nature (ie biology) has something to say in this conversation.
To give a less politically charged example, the vast majority of violent crime is committed by young men. This seems to be universal across all cultures, and I have a hard time putting the massive statistical disparity down entirely to the social construction of masculinity. It seems entirely plausible to me to say that violence is associated with agression and agression is associated with testosterone levels and testosterone levels are highest in young males. This doesn’t mean that all young males are violent or that there are no violent women. But it seems rather more plausible than some theory of pure social construction. Certainly, it would strike me as really silly to insist that biology had absolutely nothing to do with the massive disparity between male and female violence.
Yikes, RW, I never meant _in any way_ to suggest that your husband and/or father was disobeying counsel. If anything I wrote came across that way, I retract it. All I meant to suggest is that “fathers, spend as much time as you can with your families” is standard counsel, so I was surprised to find myself being challenged on it here. Now that I look back at my comment, I think what happened is that you conflated two statements I made: one about people not maximizing temple attendance as disobeying counsel (meant to counter your point that people always seek out what is in their best interest) and another comment about fathers spending time with children as standard counsel. Again, I didn’t mean to imply that yours are disobeying; my position is just one of surprise that you seem to imply that fathers spending time with children doesn’t matter all that much. This seems contrary to prophetic counsel, not to mention what we know about child development, etc.
Nate, given what I know of the current state of the science, it is beyond the pale. That might change. We aren’t really talking about aptitudes, are we, though? Motherhood is a far more complex skill set than the ability to read a map properly (which for all I know has a genetic, gender-related component for many or most people). The sort of gender essentialism that I find most egregious is the ‘women are naturally (or innately) more nurturing, self-sacrificing, patient, etc., etc.’
Nate wrote, “what is wrong with the claim that women have biological characteristic X which leads to an increased probability that they will have characteristic Y which provides an aptitude for activity Z”
Replace your variables with words and then provide scientific evidence to back it up and then we’ll talk. But what I’ve found is that most people’s sense that ‘women are more charitable’ is based on no more science than observing their mother, and they never stop to think how much social and cultural programming went into their mother’s charitable “nature.”
Nate wrote, “but it seems mistaken to me to completely reject the notion that nature (ie biology) has something to say in this conversation.”
Again, (1) mothering is too complex a skill set for this type of science to work and (2) show me some data and I’ll think about it.
Your point about male violence is compelling. But can you point me to any major societies that don’t value aggression, achievement, and dominance in males? How unrealistic is it to think that a slight warping of that social agenda results in violence? But even if I grant that some % of violent behavior is biologically determined, it doesn’t hold that some degree of mothering behavior would be. Violence is a perversion, not a norm. Violence is displayed by a small subset of the population, not the vast majority. etc. Again, I am willing to entertain a biological component to mothering behavior, but I’d need to see evidence of it itself, not just by analogy to violence. Do you know of any?
I was intrigued by RW’s challenge: “If you are aware of prophetic statements urging men to pursue undemanding occupations, I would be exceedingly interested in seeing them.”
These interest me:
President Spencer W. Kimball explained:
“The words none else eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes pre-eminent in the life of the husband or wife and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969, p. 250).
“You share, as a loving partner, the care of the children. Help her to manage and keep up your home. Help teach, train, and discipline your children. . . . We reiterate what was stated by President David O. McKay: “No other success [in life] can compensate for failure in the home” (David O. McKay quoting J. E. McCulloch, “Home: the Savior of Civilization,” in Conference Report, Apr. 1935, p. 116) and President Harold B. Lee: “The most important of the Lord’s work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes” (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974, p. 255). Effective family leadership, brethren, requires both quantity and quality time. The teaching and governance of the family must not be left to your wife alone, to society, to school, or even the Church.”
“Husbands, recognize your wife’s intelligence and her ability to counsel with you as a real partner regarding family plans, family activities, and family budgeting. Don’t be stingy with your time or with your means.
Give her the opportunity to grow intellectually, emotionally, and socially as well as spiritually.”
Here’s a list from Pres. Benson of things that fathers should do:
“With love in my heart for the fathers in Israel, may I suggest ten specific ways that fathers can give spiritual leadership to their children:
1. Give father’s blessings to your children. Baptize and confirm your children. Ordain your sons to the priesthood. These will become spiritual highlights in the lives of your children.
2. Personally direct family prayers, daily scripture reading, and weekly family home evenings. Your personal involvement will show your children how important these activities really are.
3. Whenever possible, attend Church meetings together as a family. Family worship under your leadership is vital to your children’s spiritual welfare.
4. Go on daddy-daughter dates and father-and-sons’ outings with your children. As a family, go on campouts and picnics, to ball games and recitals, to school programs, and so forth. Having Dad there makes all the difference.
5. Build traditions of family vacations and trips and outings. These memories will never be forgotten by your children.
6. Have regular one-on-one visits with your children. Let them talk about what they would like to. Teach them gospel principles. Teach them true values. Tell them you love them. Personal time with your children tells them where Dad puts his priorities.
7. Teach your children to work, and show them the value of working toward a worthy goal. Establishing mission funds and education funds for your children shows them what Dad considers to be important.
8. Encourage good music and art and literature in your homes. Homes that have a spirit of refinement and beauty will bless the lives of your children forever.
9. As distances allow, regularly attend the temple with your wife. Your children will then better understand the importance of temple marriage and temple vows and the eternal family unit.
10. Have your children see your joy and satisfaction in service to the Church. This can become contagious to them, so they, too, will want to serve in the Church and will love the kingdom.”
While none of these, obviously, say outright that one shouldn’t pursue a demanding career, they clearly suggest that other roles deserve a father’s time and attention, and several state directly that the time a father spends with his family matters. To the extent that this conflicts with ‘a demanding career,’ each man himself is left to determine if a course correction is in order.
Thanks for those quotes, Julie in A. As a father in Israel, I need those reminders now and again.
Pursuing undemanding careers? What is an undemanding career? Can you imagine working on an assembly line?Stocking shelves in a supermarket? Working a cash register? Are those undemanding? I worked at the end of an assembly line for two days once. It was pure hell. Imagine doing it for 35 years. How smug — an undemanding career.
I’m sure RW will correct me if necessary, but I think by ‘undemanding’ she simply meant ‘not a lot of hours.’ Content of job irrelevant.
Frank, I promised you a response today to some of your theologically baesd questions but I’ll have to put it off until the weekend. I haven’t forgotten though.
Nate, your interpretation of my comments here as a heartless neoclassical economist desire to wring inefficiency out of the family economy is certainly creative. I have more to say to you too.
RW, you’re just right that I think the optimal solution is attainable—and, incidentally, that’s why I think this conversation is worth having. It won’t happen over night (and of course we must try to get some consensus about what the optimal solution is) but it can happen a little at a time with a measure here and a measure there—here a little, there a little until the perfect day . . . One example of the sort of “measure” I’m talking about is a recent policy at Princeton. The university has done away with student loans for their undergraduates. The financial aid packages that are sent include what the student’s contributions (based on what he or she could earn during the Summer months and grants that do not ever need to be repaid. This is really quite a revolutionary move. The rationale for this new policy was to discourage Princeton grads from feeling compelled to go into investment banking to pay off educational debt, to encourage them to pursue their interests instead. This is, of course, just one example of a small change among myriads that would be required to influence the way people make childraising/employment decisions, but it serves as evidence that these changes are possible if people in positions of power (like university presidents, for example) begin to have a different vision.
Please don’t offer the now tired objection that the example I gave is irrelevant to the rest of society because it is happening at a place like Princeton. Change has to start somewhere.
J in A “…that women are ‘naturally more nurturing, patient, self-sacrificing, whatever…’
Please don’t put words in my mouth. I said that masculinity and femininity were innate in us based on our gender. I didn’t say anything about nurturing, patience or self-sacrifice.
An objection grows tired because the same flawed claim is endlessly put forward. You can give the poor, weary, objection a rest by not offering the flawed claim up again and again. :)
Certainly it is interesting that Princeton has decided to, de facto, lower tuition. But I would guess it was an attempt to attract quality students through lower prices, rather than the initiation of a Zion community. Princeton has a long reputation of being full of cash, but they still want to rake as much money from the richer students as they can. Thus they, and other private schools, set high tuitions and then give grants or loans, which are basically a form of price discrimination. So now Princeton is claiming they will be lowering the effective price of going to school there. Great. But if it were about helping the world then handouts to upper middle class kids seems a strange way to do it. Competitive pressure seems a lot more plausible.
Of course, it can be a little embarrassing to actually admit as a Univeristy that this is what you are doing, so if you can disguise it behind a package of altruism then all the better.
Yes, children benefit from lots of things, one of which is interaction with many adults. But it does not necessarily follow that they would benefit from having two half time caregivers and no primary caregiver. The benefits of interaction with other adults may be largely played out by hour two. Not that I or you know. That is why, after all, we try to figure out what God wants us to do because He has this all figured out.
I have really appreciated taking a peek into a bit more of your personal lives. Thank you for sharing this with us, and to whomever is expecting, congratulations. I have my guesses as to which of you it may be…
It seems too late on this thread to engage in some of the finer points of the debate. In general, though, I empathize with you Melissa in your situtation and long for more structural changes that will make it easier to share work and family as a couple. My husband has returned to school and with that greater flexibility has been able to take on much more with our two children and home. At the same time, I have had time to finish writing a dissertation while not having to cobble together a child care solution. We are still undecided about our future jobs and family life, but I think he really will feel a loss if he returns to a full time job. And I know I will feel a loss if I leave academics to take up full time mothering (by which I mean no outside career).
A couple of questions for you: Can you talk about your decision to homeschool Julie? I am selfishly anxious for my daughter to start school as it will free up time during the day for me. Why did you decide to homeschool? From other things you’ve said, I don’t get the sense that you always planned to do it. And do you anticipate homeschooling through high school? I’d love to hear you talk about how homeschooling is related to the vision of your motherhood.
A somewhat related question. I worry about stepping back from work for a while to engage in the raising of children. If I could take the years off during the most intensive time of child rearing, and then return to the labor market without incurring penalties, I’m certain that the heavy burden of the decision now would not feel so monumental and troubling. Once my children are in school, I know I would want to pursue career goals, but that seems nigh impossible if there is a big gap in my vita unless I do something very different from what I’ve been trained to do. Do any of you plan to resume work? If so, in a new area? Or are you trying to keep a foot in the door now?
Thanks again for sharing this.
GeorgeD re #111–Then what precisely do you mean when you say masculinity and femininity are innate?
Frank–OK, as long as you are recognizing the possibility, I can acknowledge that we don’t know how it would ultimately play out. My guess: a complex interaction based the the personality, needs, strengths, and weaknesses of all the parties involved.
I used to think homeschoolers were nuts. (I was 80% right.) This all began when I looked into our district’s K curriculum online and realized that any child who hadn’t been raised by the Cartoon Network would already know 90% of it just as a result of basic living (i.e., not flashcard-wielding parents). I had skipped a grade in school and had a resulting social disaster; my husband was bored to tears by a school with no provision for gifted students, and I couldn’t fathom placing my sweet boy in a position to reenact his parents’ problems. I looked into private and charter schools but those weren’t good options for us. I ended up homeschooling out of desperation and had NO IDEA that I would love it. I love it. I love being engaged in this family-centered learning project with my children. I cannot imagine having them away from me all day–at the age when they finally start to be interesting to be around! We plan on homeschooling until college, probably taking junior and senior level math and science classes at a community college. As far as free time during the day, I wouldn’t be in that boat yet with a 4 and 1 yo, but to me it is a reasonable sacrifice (but only because I have my nights free for 5-6 hours of my own pursuits), but I can see how that wouldn’t work for others.
Homeschooling *is* my vision of motherhood. I pretty much hated being a mom until I began homeschooling because I was too focused on providing physical caretaking, which any reasonably competent 10 year old could do as well as I can. It was mindnumbing, it was drudgery, and it didn’t justify itself to me. To me, reading, doing science experiments, chanting Latin case endings, listening to books on CD, going on field trips, etc. allows me to share things that really matter and that I enjoy with my children, and to share some of my talents and gifts with them. The physical caretaking takes second place, and I don’t mind it because it is something we get out of the way so we can get on to the real acts of mothering/teaching.
Mimi, I have nothing helpful to say about the resume gap, I’m sorry. Perhaps if you share your field, other women who have trod that path can share some things they have done to keep their resume up.
Regarding comments #103 and #106, there is also this bit from
“Conversely, there are important ways in which planning for failure can make failure more likely and the ideal less so. Consider these twin commandments as an example: ‘Fathers are to … provide the necessities of life … for their families’ and ‘Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.’ Knowing how hard that might be, a young man might choose a career on the basis of how much money he could make, even if it meant he couldn’t be home enough to be an equal partner. By doing that, he has already decided he cannot hope to do what would be best.”
Thanks so much for sharing that. I honestly think homeschoolers are nuts too! Except for you of course. That’s why I’m intrigued about your choosing to homeschool. How does it balance out with your children, all at different ages and different needs? You still have a baby wtih all the physical needs to meet. How do you care for a baby while at the same time homeschool? I think it would be very intensive to plan for different ages, and provide them with the social and other outside the home opportunities that they would need.
One other question–our daughter’s birthday is on the border for K entry in our public school system. We are debating the relative merits of trying to get her in when she would be on the young side of her class (she’ll be emotionally and academically ready, at least at this point we think she will be) or holding her back for another year. What problems did you encounter by being the youngest one in your class (your social disaster)?
114 J in A I believe that are gender expresses itself in us not just physically but psychologically in ways that go beyond culture. I believe my spirit is male and came with male emotions and feelings. I believe my maleness is more that something cutural that I acquired in this world. I also believe that it is pernicious to deny this.
As to your thoughts on home schooling: We never did it but I am increasingly in favor of it. Our schools are a mess. I used to think that getting some form of street smarts and social IQ was desirable but I think that education has been dumbed down to make that worthless. I am very interested in home school co-ops where groups of parents collaborate for the childrens’ education.
Unfortunately I have witnessed several major home school failures. The parents didn’t have the determination and discipline to guide their children and now their children are young adults with no education, no self discipline and not even enough savvy to teach their own children. In some cases the kids have been unable to hold down even minimum wage employment. They would have been better with a diploma and the same “no-education”. I hope these are exceptional situations because I see the future for many LDS families will be home schooling.
Home schooler outcomes are not, as I vaguely recall, all that different on average from outcomes for the general population. There are some homeschoolers who do really well, and some do very poorly. I believe it is still an open question the average causal effect of homeschooling, but that is because the average probably does not do nearly as much as Julie does for her kids. I would hypothesize, but don’t know, that home schooling outcomes have higher variance than government schooled kids, since some parents do very well and others fail in spectacular fashion.
Are you still talking on this thread? Its so yesterday.
Please define what you mean by the psychological expression of gender, male emotions, and male feelings. Then we can talk. And, I agree with you about the homeschooling failures; I’ve seen some myself.
John Mansfield–Thanks for that quote.
Mimi asks, “How does it balance out with your children, all at different ages and different needs?”
First, note that we ‘do school’ for two hours per day, four days per week, year round, so it is not as if the 4yo and baby are constantly ignored while I sit at the table with the 7yo all day long. The 4yo will either pay attention to what we are doing for school (scary some of what he has just picked up–difference between common and proper nouns, a little Latin [‘clamo’ is is favorite–yikes!], Henry VIII saying his new wife looked like a horse, remembering that Joan of Arc was the one that ‘got fired.’ etc,.). I will hold, play with, etc. the baby during school. We read out loud when the baby takes his morning nap.
“I think it would be very intensive to plan for different ages, and provide them with the social and other outside the home opportunities that they would need.”
Well, morning is school, early afternoon is housekeeping and then quiet time, late afternoon is out of the house for social stuff (scouts, coop, play dates, swimming, park, something every day). It works.
“One other question–our daughter’s birthday is on the border for K entry in our public school system. We are debating the relative merits of trying to get her in when she would be on the young side of her class (she’ll be emotionally and academically ready, at least at this point we think she will be) or holding her back for another year. What problems did you encounter by being the youngest one in your class (your social disaster)?”
Well, to be fair, I had a pre-grade-skipping social disaster caused by being an insufferable little smarty pants, drawing the ire of my classmates for doing well and doing it quickly and not hiding it. I then traded that for scorn brought on in the older grade by still being near the top of the class and being a year younger. I skipped 5th, 6th-8th was a disaster, but high school was fine. I have no advice for you; I have no idea what would have been a better alternative in my situation (at that point, homeschooling would not have been a good option because they was no community).
Frank et al–
The problem with homeschooling stats is that the community consists of people like me (focused on educational excellence), religious nuts (focused on keeping their children away from secularism), and desperate people (whose children have had terrible experiences of all kinds in school). The first group care about test scores, the second doesn’t, and the third, well, those kids were already failing before they started homeschooling, so you cannot exactly blame hsing for their deficits. When you average the three groups, you get scores that tell you absolutely nothing about the results of hsing.
I haven’t read the entire thread, but I will say I was against Homeschooling big time until recently when I met a family of home taught children who were not outcasts, who had skills, and seemed overall normal and exceptionally bright. Kudos to the mother (and father) for their efforts. But I would suggest that homeschooling is not for most mothers or fathers to get involved with. Most don’t have the patience, ability, or knowledge that would assist them in doing a job-well done.
Sounds like you have got it going great Julie, keep it up.
Sorry to veer off the main topic here, but I’m intrigued by homeschooling. We visited one of my husband’s best high school friends a few months ago, who (well, his wife) homeschools his two children, and his kids were just wonderful. They were eager to talk about their experiences homeschooling with us, and were relieved to find out we didn’t view them as freaks (which, to be honest, I had wondered about before I spent the afternoon with them). Anyway, I was so impressed with their lesson plans and home school schedules, but I still wondered how the mother didn’t go crazy being constantly with her children all day. Do you ever get a break, Julie? Women in our ward take turns teaching in a version of preschool/homeschool called “Joy School”, which seems to work out okay. And what about starting a neighborhood charter school yourself? (in all your spare time, of course :)
I get lots of breaks! A standard homeschool thing is ‘quiet time’ in the afternoon (we do this almost every day) when the baby naps. I read aloud to the older boys for about 15 minutes (we’re finishing the Little House books; Chronicles of Narnia next) and then they play or read quietly in their rooms until the baby wakes up. I read or do whatever. So that’s about an hour.
I also generally keep to myself between 6pm-midnight to read, write, etc. So I have lots of my own time.
Another thing to keep in mind is the this isn’t like deciding to have babies with you all the time: if a child is old enough to be hsed, they are old enough to be told, “go play in the other room for ten minutes so I can respond to the 81 new comments on the horse thread.” ;)
I’d never do a charter school. I think you lose the advantages of one-on-one education and gain all the headaches of trying to work with people who have very different philosophies of education. And to what end? We have the social aspect covered, and money isn’t an issue (not that we are wealthy, but with a decent local library, hsing need cost only 200-300$/year).
FWIW, I read recently that homeschooled kids averaged 1 point higher on the ACT than others. Probably need to do some multivariate analysis to control for other supporting and detrimental factors.
Hi, Julie – I think the value of a charter school in your neighborhood would be having you as a resource and invested in making the school effective, because your children go there. While this would probably be immeasurably frustrating for you personally, you could definitely make a huge positive impact on the educational opportunities in your community if you helped to to organize a charter school. But you’re right – it’s a lot of work, and a seemingly thankless task. One of my friends is on the board of a charter school in Boston’s inner city, and his efforts and dedication to the children are amazing (especially considering he has no children of his own). Anyway, I feel bad for the threadjack – maybe you could post something on homeschooling so those of us coming late to the discussion could participate?
Julie, yes, those are some of the obvious reasons why the causal effect is still an open question. This sort of problem comes up all over in social science, and there are some pretty clever ways to overcome it, but I don’t know of any successful attempts for home schooling.
There’s a lot of things I could do, but I think the entire point of this post is that those I do with my kids are mots important :). Go ahead here with more questions, I’m not up to a new post; it is all I can do to keep up with the horse thread.
I know that Idaho, at least, has a charter school for home schoolers. They send you a computer and there is an online curriculum for them. It is a clever way to get some of the state money back to the student while still home schooling.
120 J in A What I mean is some part of what you would call my masculinity is part of my spiritual heritage and some part of what I call your femininity is part of your spiritual heritage. You and I were born with it.
I would call nothing “your masculinity” except for your physical differences from a woman. Would you define it more broadly?
130 I won’t go there. Your mind is made up and so is mine. But for the record the thought that personality has no basis in biology (particularly masculinity and femininity) went out of intellectual vogue ten years ago (after coming into vogue 30 years ago.Of course LDS believe that we were created spiritually as men and women so that it ain’t jist our bodies that make us our gender.
“I would call nothing “your masculinity” except for your physical differences from a woman. Would you define it more broadly?”
Just wondering, what do you make of this from the Proclamation: The Family: “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”?
As defensible as Julie’s position on non-temple marriage is, pre-birth gender question has been addressed, so I think Julie’s just mistaken. As manaen quotes from the Proclamation, our gender was in place in the pre-existence, and will be there in the afterlife. To carry Julie’s position further, if gender is only dependent on the physical body we receive, then why would it matter which gender we are in our kingdoms of glory? Or will there even be gender there? The answer is that it matters because there are two kinds of spirits, male and female, and they corresponding bodies, mortal and glorified (though I’m willing to concede that there is occasional chemical confusion in this life). My own personal belief is that gender was an aspect of our intelligences even before we were spiritually born; that Heavenly Father did not get to decide which gender we would be because we already had it. That is neither here nor there.
Because gender is such a deep-rooted characteristic, why is it so surprising that children’s relationships with each parent are “qualitatively different”. I think that’s a given. What’s not so clear is that they are therefore necessarily “Quanitatively different”, i.e. Mothers’ relationship is deeper than Fathers’.
For me, the question of time spent with children is separable from the depth of relationship because no matter what I do, I can never have a mother’s relationship with my children. Their mother can never have a father’s relationship either. Why, because it’s apples and oranges. Why do children suffer if there is not a “father-figure” in their lives? Because it’s not possible for any woman to have the relationship with a child that a loving man can. And vice versa of course. I think it’s been demonstrated that especially girls who do not grow up with a father, no matter how much time they spend with mom, or how many different adults they’re exposed to, simply have a harder time developing normal relationships of their own with men. Boys without fathers are similarly handicapped without an idea of what a man can/should be.
Of course the amount of time we spend with our families makes a big difference. I’d say there’s a long way for any of us to go before we reach the domain of diminishing returns with the children. My point is simply that just because a mother has a deep loving relationship with her children, and the father has a different kind, that it must necessarily be inferior, much less unsatisfactory.
Just speculating here, but perhaps fathers can get away with less actual time spent because a father-child relationship get better mileage, and a mother-child relationship needs more constant development. If you had an independently wealthy mother and father both stay at home with the kids all day, every day, we’d agree that the depth of relationship would be optimal right? It doesn’t follow that it would be “qualitatively the same”. Man/woman, yin/yang, apples/oranges, all are necessary for a fruit salad.
Most of my formative years were spent with my mother working full-time (often nights and early mornings at a radio station) and my father working part-time from home (freelance writer). Maybe you can say that I don’t know what I’m missing in my relationship with my mom, but I think I have a pretty good idea of what a father’s relationship can be, and it’s not the same. I got love and nurturing from both and they were heavily involved (went to everything we did and cheered us on). Still, I never get confused about which one is my mom and which is my dad, because they’re different animals.
When we were extremely young (0-4) the roles were reversed, and maybe I lucked out and got the best of both worlds, but what I remember is that my mom worked more than my dad. Not only did I not mind, I got to see a wonderful example of how a woman can excell in a career (she had an entire wall of plaques and national radio awards!) and be heavily involved with her family. I never questioned whether I was more important to her. Somehow they made it work.
In my own life, I may have the chance to try this out myself. I work in the arts (not academia), and my wife is just finishing law school. We both earnestly desire to be with our future children as much as possible. I am seriously interested in homeschooling them (for academic reasons) and may just get that chance. It may also be that I can support us all without my wife working as much. That way I can put more energy into my career (I’m probably a little more career-oriented than she is), which will be great too. I am willing, nay, excited for the chance to stay home with the kids and, if I’m lucky, pursue my career at the same time.
As for career choices, I have definitely felt serious pressure from the church and even the world (even from my father who was a musician, and knows how hard it is), to give up on my dreams and choose a field where I could ‘be better able to support a family’. My answer is this, guys: If you settle for less, it’s because you didn’t want it enough. If you want it enough, you find a way. There is too much reliance on safe standard operating procedures in our culture, in these kinds of areas (career choice) that have nothing to do with doctrine. We only connect our career choices to the “provide for a family” rhetoric because that’s the easy way to think. I know what some of my talents are, and ‘working for the Man’ isn’t one of them. So I’ve gone with what I can do best, and make course corrections if necessary (it has been). Do what you gotta do, and roll with the punches!
So I have no problem with trading places. I feel sorry for those men whose career strengths lie in hunching over a monitor for 9 hours a day. There’s nothing wrong with what they do, but it’s harder to do that job from home while homeschooling the kids. I’ll check back in about 15 years to report how it’s all worked out.
Julie: In response to your comments in #105.
On biology, it seems to me that we ought to ask the question. I don’t claim any great knowledge about science, but as a hypothesis it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to suppose that biology can account for at least some differences in behavior between genders. That is my point. You want to turn my claim into a much more grandiose one about the inherently charitable nature of women, etc. etc. It seems to me, however, that the vehemence of your adversion to the suggestion that biology may have some explanatory power has everything to do with ideology and politics and little to do with intitial plausibility of the hypothesis. In addition to ideological objections, it seems to me that there is more than a little bit of intellectual boundary maitance at work: human activity is the purvey of social interpreters, and hence the understanding of gender should be primarily committed into the intellectual hands of the humanities and cognate approaches. Yet I don’t see that invoking the phrase “socially constructed” is some sort of intellectual talisman that dismisses the issue. As you quite rightly point out, things are complex. This, however, suggests that we want to take multiple approaches rather than invoking the complexity as an excuse for dismissing whole approach. I have not studies to cite because I have done no research in this area. I’ve no idea what evidence exists or doesn’t exist. My point is that the hypothesis does not seem implausible, and I think that the vehement rejection of the hypothesis has very little to do with evidence one way or the other.
As for the social constuction of male violence, I have just a couple of points. First, no doubt many (most) socieities value male agression. This, however, fails to explain why young men are so much more prone to violence than their elders. Second, it may well be that the culture is a response to behaviors with a biological root, ie cultures value certain forms of male agression as away of sublimating the biologically driven. Hence, it is difficult to figure out which way causation might flow here. Third, if the social values that identify are indeed universal, that itself is a very surprising fact that requires some explantion — biology seems a more likely candidate than some supra-cultural cultural construction. Finally, I assume that culture does have some significant effect on the level and distribution of violence.
“Please don’t offer the now tired objection that the example I gave is irrelevant to the rest of society because it is happening at a place like Princeton. Change has to start somewhere.”
The objection may be valid just because Princeton is a tremendously wealthy institution and many institutions are not. For example, in Europe there is increasing pressure to charge students tuition and increased fees, not because of a failure of some sort of ideological commitment to career choice, etc., but because of the simple economic pressures that the schools face.
Not all institutional decisions are matters of ideological choice or some pristine reflection of values. Many — perhaps most — are constrained by economic and practical realities.
Nate (re: #134): There may be a little interdisciplinary lag-time at play, too. As you know, claims about gender based on biological warrants have been around for millennia—many of them ludicrous and harmful. It’s only in the last decade and a half or so that the laboratory techniques for measuring the molecular bases of neurological, hormonal and other physiological sex differences have been around. Thus when the American feminist movement was getting started in the sixties and seventies, it really was possible to reject many of the biologistic arguments as having no basis in established fact. Now, however, it’s not—but intellectual movements (many branches of science, of course, included) are notoriously difficult to change en masse, particularly once their foundational assumptions have been politicized and so much is at stake. Feminists need to take notice of, understand, and respond to these advances, and now—critically but honestly.
RW: I agree. It would just be nice if everytime this issue was raised there wasn’t an outbreak of arguments directed at Galen and Aristotle.
Nate’s book of Argument Crimes
2. Historicizing to the exclusion of current reality
3. Being a Deer
In no particular order.
Frank: Not a bad list. One might also add being a cat…
manean #132: Nothing in my position contradicts the Proclamation, else I’d revise my position. The fact that gender is an eternal characteristic does not mean that every single thing that people have ascribed to gender via history, tradition, custom, and stereotype is eternal. For example, stereotypically, women are thought to be more charitable than men. Do you think there is room in a gospel worldview for men to be perfected while being less than perfectly charitable (since that’s a feminine characteristic)? I don’t.
Gavin–Slow down. You’ve attributed to me about 900 things that I don’t believe. See the paragraph above; I do believe that gender is eternal; I just don’t think that everything that falls under GeorgeD’s umbrella of “masculinity” and “femininity” is eternal (although since he refuses to define for me exactly what he means by masculinity and femininity, I cannot be quite sure); I think a lot of it is cultural conditioning.
Nate–Given the fact that neither of us is a master of the science of gender, I don’t think we are going to accomplish much with this conversation. I can accept that the chemical and hormonal conditions that affect a male or female fetus may cause brain changes than may dispose them to certain types of behavior, possibly including violence. But there is then a huge gap from this kind of situation to the kinds of gender-ascribed behavior that you hear from sloppy sacrament meeting speakers: “Women are naturally more spiritual than men.” “Men are better suited by nature to work in the world.” “Women are just naturally more nurturing.” etc. If you or anyone knows of scientific data that supports these statements, lay them on me.
Julie: Fair enough. My point is that your defensiveness about this point and the larger social phenomena of which it is a manifestation tends — in my view — to inhibit productive discussion of the point. Furthermore, it is not clear to me that nurturing is necessarily a more complicated sort of behavior than violence. For example, both can involve quite difficult to obtain skills and are often embedded in comlex social rituals. Finally, it is not clear what normative implications if any we ought to draw from biology, and it seems to me that much of the ire is directed toward these implications rather than constituting any sort of substantive a priori objection to biological influence.
Ditto Nate’s first sentence. It’s too bad that words are such an inadequate method to describe how we feel about these things. Julie, you’ve clarified a bit more now, but I do think that clarification was needed.
Now, off to being a provider!
Up, Up, and …
An article by psychologist Janet Shibley Hyde regarding gender similarities and differences has been in the news the last few weeks.
Nate, you’re admirably cautious about drawing normative or policy implications from scientific investigation of sex differences, but there are at least some who aren’t. See, for example, this essay by Charles Murray (of “Bell Curve” notoriety). If you scroll down to the conclusion, you’ll see that he starts concluding by assuring everybody that simply talking about this need not change anybody’s politics—indeed, needn’t change anything at all (why talk about it then?)—but by the second-to-last paragraph, you’ll start seeing the litany of policies he seems to think are implicated by his findings, which includes, as he admits, “an apparatus of laws, regulations, and bureaucracies that has been 40 years in the making.” I don’t, in fact, think that the conversation should be inhibited, but perhaps you can see why so many people are wary of such “productive disucssion.”
J in A. Please note that I never tried to define masculinity and femininity. I just said that whatever they are they’re innate (or significantly so) and part of our spiritual natures. It doesn’t mean anything to say we have preexistent gender but no pre-existent gender characteristics that are manifest in personality. I never said a word about charity, compassion, violence etc. I b elieve that discerning people can tell what these characteristics are.
Rosalynde: I am sorry, but I just don’t think that is a good reason for distrust at all. I can point to any number of really hideous political experiments conducted on the theory that “human nature” as it is historically defined is socially constructed, and can therefore be socially reconstructed. Is it fair to hang the Khemer Rouge around the neck of every feminist who trots out the hackneyed arguments about how gender is socially constructed? Note, I am not denying that social norms play a massive role in how we understand sexuality, and in what we think of as being male and female. Nor do I object to the social, economic and political advances that women have made over the last couple of generations. I am certainly a feminist in that I believe that there are all sorts of things in society that adversely impact women, these things are — ceterus paribus — bad, and that women are entitled to freedom and equality. On the other hand, I think that the attack on the idea of nature has been so relentless as to have hardened into dogma, particularlly in the humanities and the social sciences, which are already dealing with various intellectual insecurities with regard to science and seem to wish to defend their territory against the further encourchments of the sciences.
It is not as though I expect that one is going to find some hormone for domesticity that will justify the division of labor on gender grounds or the like. On the other hand, it is telling that the psychological study referenced by Justin bills itself as finding less difference between genders than was expected. Well how much difference, exactly did we expect to find? After all, it is not as though anyone is claiming that men and women are radically different species, and one would expect that they would share the vast majority of traits in common. Furthermore, virtually all traits that differ on the basis of gender are going to differ as to aggregate populations, but not necessarily individuals.
Nate’s book of Argument Crimes cont.
4. Unwillingness to even consider a hypothesis on the grounds that someone in the world might use the hypothesis to justify something one dislikes on policy grounds.
5. Being a Cat
RW: My last post was a little too strong. Being suspicious that some claim might be used to justify something morally outrageous is a reason for being careful how you think about a claim. As for whether nature or nuture arguments are more vulnerable to this kind of suspicion at best the jury is out. If anything, I would argue that cultural construction has been a more bloody-minded premise. On the other hand, I don’t think that this means that we are wrong when we argue that any number of different things are culturally constructed. However, there are certainly more horrible things in the world than — gasp! — Charles Murray.
Nate, agreed on nearly every one of your points; you yourself appear to have an admirably nuanced approach to the issue (very much like my own eminently admirable approach, of course, if perhaps slightly different in emphasis). I was simply responding to your suggestion in #141 that critics of biologism inappropriately focus on the normative implications of the biological claims while ignoring the claims themselves, to the detriment of the ongoing discussion. I think this is often true, and unfortunate (I found the Larry Summers affair excruciatingly embarrassing as a feminist, for example), but it is not as if those critics are responding entirely to phantoms: proponents of biologism (distinct from bench-top biologists generally) do make normative claims, or gestures toward such, based on the data. That’s it. The knee-jerk defensiveness is counterproductive, absolutely, but not exactly out of left field.
Its clear to me that there are some parts/facets/characteristics of gender that are biological and some that are cultural. Which are which? I do not have a clue.
We do socialize children differently according to gender. What role does this play? Again not sure. Do we socialize them differently because of our biology or our culture? Or our individual ideas about how a particular gender should be? Again another good question.
Nate Oman– What defensiveness? GeorgeD stated differences as a given, I objected for the record. Other than that, I have no quibble with your comment.
GeorgeD–If you aren’t willing to specify what you think is inate, then there is nothing for us to discuss here.
B Bell–I appreciate your post for its honesty. I’d also add: to the extent that we determine anything to be inherent or not inherent, where do we go from there in a gospel context? For example, I don’t think spirituality is inherent, but if someone could somehow prove that it is (I’d like to see the design of *that* experiment!), then what do we do with that information in Mormon thought?
Justin #143: Very interesting; thank you. I have no quibble with the idea that pitching ability is gender linked (grin).
Pardon me, but…
Julie #140: “I would call nothing “your masculinity” except for your physical differences from a woman”
Doesn’t that mean that the only difference between men and women is whether they put the seat up or down?
I’m glad you believe that gender is eternal, though it’s hard to think why you would say something like the above if you did (barring exaggeration for emphasis). There was a time when we did not have a body, spiritual or otherwise. I speculate that our gender existed even before our spirit bodies were given to us. Even if I’m wrong, I can’t limit my concept of gender to what I can see and test, because if it’s spiritually/doctrinally pertinent (or even not), there’s bound to be something about it we don’t know yet.
I don’t think we are able to know what exactly is innate about gender and what is social conditioning, personality, etc., so I don’t mind that Manaen hasn’t tried to guess. I’m willing to bet, though, that it’s more than meets the eye (or the underwear).
Until you can put some content into the bucket labelled “your masculinity,” I have no real idea of what we are talking about. Give me something to work with here. A characteristic? A preference? An ability? What are we talking about?
J in A Finally you recognized that there is nothing to discuss. You announced that your mind is closed at the beginning. A closed mind is a feminine characteristic (on average ladies).
I find it hard to believe that you have “no idea” about what gender-innate differences might be. The human mind is very adept at pattern recognition and almost cannot be prevented in this. I guess you’ve ignored your own assments of men and women because you’re (quite understandably) withholding judgement considering the likelihood of other factors accounting for such differences. That’s not to say hunches are always wrong.
I won’t accuse you of not knowing many men and women to compare, but it seems you give a little too much credit to personality and society.
Precisely because we don’t exactly know what the gender differences are, it’s very difficult to come up with something that can’t be explained away and chalked up to something else.
However, not being one to back down from a challenge, and having known the taste of my own foot more than once before, I’ll venture one (even if it is slightly whimsical)
Bre*asts. Men like them. We don’t really even know why. Women certainly can’t explain it. There is nothing really special about them except perhaps what they symbolize. That is, acceptance. One of a man’s greatest and most earnest desires is to be acceptable to women, and we try to gain it by all kinds of crazy stupid things. A woman’s busom is one symbol of that acceptance, and she will probably never know (nor can he express) how significant that is.
There’s one. This brings me to another related point, which is that any of the individual things that separate us can likely be accurately explained in more than one way. In my example: Biology-hormones, Psychology, social conditioning, and personality governing the degree to which all of these apply to the individual.
So I’d say just because we may someday scientifically prove that a certain gender difference is caused by X, it may in fact also be Y. Like how light tests positive for waves and particles. As Nate is fond of saying, the flow of causation is very hard to verify either way in complex situations like this. I have provided very little to go on, but it’s one attempt to verbalize gut feelings I have (that I suspect are general).
Does that help?
Whoa!! One heckuva typo there! I meant to say “assessments”. I wish I could be that funny on purpose.
I know that many different people have many different ideas as to what constitutes these innate differences, hence it would be foolish to try to discuss whether what any given person calls ‘masculinity’ or ‘femininity’ is inherent without being clear as to precisely how they define those terms. Contra GeorgeD, I am open to having my mind changed about particular elements, but I’m not clear exactly what GeorgeD or anyone else is trying to change my mind about (a virtue? a proclivity? a characteristic? a preference? a weakness?).
Gavin, I have absolutely no problem in believing that male and female sexual response are (in general, with some personal exceptions) inherently, hard-wired, biologically different. But I cannot remember the last time men’s interest in breasts came up in sacrament meeting (grin). I’ve been operating under the assumption that we are talking about differences that come into play in a gospel context. If others have made a different assumption, then I’m glad we’re finally being clear now.
J in A No one is trying to change your mind about anything. We look at a world where male and female differences are self evident all the way from physical to psychological to emotional etc. etc.We learn as LDS that we are male and female as spirits and will be resurrected male and female. So we don’t think that we have anything to prove or convince anyone of. For thirty years feminists have been trying to convince us that the only difference in the genders is morphological and that only trivially (hahaha) and that hasn’t held up even one littlke bit to real science so I for one think that there is nothing for me to prove. Men and women are different across the board. You are not obliged to prove otherwise but if you want to convince me you (not I) have the burden of proof.
I’m not interested in trying to change anyone’s mind. I was interested in a discussion where we might tease out what precisely we personally and/or the Proclamation generally means when it states that gender is eternal. Neither of us disputes that statement, but I suspect that we are putting different items in the bucket labelled “gender.” However, you don’t seem interested in engaging this discussion other than to say “it is self-evident” so I guess there is nothing more for me to say.
I wasn’t talking about sexual response. This is a deeply emotional and psychological thing. As George says, my assumption and position is that male and female minds are different in their cognition of similar things; also that their emotional needs are different. That the study Justin (i think) cited does not find much various in aptitudes is not conclusive to me. Results may be the same and still acheived in different ways.
You seem to imply that the differences are subtle and only discernable by a sophisticated intellectual effort.
I’ll tell you what they are. They are what your four great grandmothers thought they were. They are what the mentally handicapped ladies you know think they are. They are what your children think they are.
The differences between men and women are so obvious that they don’t need any discussion.
OK, Gavin, now we have something to work with: I don’t think that male and female minds differ inherently in cognition or that the emotional needs of men and women are inherently different. Maybe you are not interested in pursuing this conversation, and that’s fine, but I don’t see a need or role in the gospel plan for gender-based cognition differences (and what would this look like anyway?). My personal experience leads me to conclude that the emotional needs of men and women do not differ based on inherent differences, but rather differ for many people based on their cultural conditioning, and, even if this were proven to be the case, again, what role would this play in our understanding of or advancement in the gospel? While I currently reject the idea that gender-based cognition patterns and emotional needs are inherent, I am open to changing my mind on this, but see no reason to at this point.
GeorgeD–My greatgrandmothers were, being Italian, big believes in the evil eye, and they were wrong about that, too. Again, if your position is that it is so obvious that it doesn’t merit discussion, I suppose we have nothing more to discuss.
…(and what would this look like anyway?)
Mens’ and womens’ differences perfectly complement each other, such that we are not whole if alone. This is why singles cannot inherit the highest blessings of the Celestial Kingdom (which is why they’ll have a chance at some point). The man cannot be “in the Lord” without the woman, and vice versa. Not because they need a box checked on their application, but because exaltation is the realization of our full potential, which is impossible with one half of the puzzle.
This is how gender differences relate to the gospel.
I see those differences as based on (1) personal individuality and (2) cultural conditioning instead of inherent difference.
Then why would it matter whether one marries someone of the opposite gender? Biology does not answer that question; we do not prevent couples from marrying who cannot have children. What would there be in heterosexual marriage which is preferable, if physiology is the only variable?
Then why would it matter whether one marries someone of the opposite gender?
Because each gender has distinct roles and responsibilities in the union. A family with two people filling either role is less ideal than a family with one adult in each role. I also do not deny that the gendered patterns of behavior taught in most/all cultures bring the average man and the average woman to the marriage with differences that will (1) enhance the union, if they are good things or (2) require personal growth to overcome, if they are bad things.
Why should there be distinct roles and responsibilities in a union, if there were no distinct characteristics to justify them? If we agree that these roles are ordained of God, how can we imply that they are arbitrary?
Julie, I can’t remember if you have any daughters. I know I’ve found my children to show gender difference from very young ages, and I’ve read many stories of feminist mothers determined to raise their children without gender bias who are alarmed to find that the boys want to do boy things and the girls like to do girl things despite all of their efforts. Even though I have a relatively mellow boy and an active, stubborn girl, the boy is still the one who introduced killing into the children’s play, and the girl likes to take care of her little sister in a way that the boy hasn’t shown an interest in.
To answer the original question, dh and I would be pretty miserable if we had to take each other’s places. I enjoy my work at home and feel that it gives me a lot of freedom to use my talents that the workplace would. Dh would need to change a lot to be a good caregiver. He’s a great guy and a very hard worker, but tends to see the children’s needs as obstacles to getting his work done.
Wow, everybody must be really focused on the other active threads! I’m amused that no other men have chimed in to rebut or at least to supplement Gavin’s suggestion in #156 that an ineffable psycho-emotional response to breasts is a (the?) salient feature of masculinity. For what it’s worth, male preference for breasts is variable across time and culture, so it would appear to be one feature of masculinity that is not hardwired but rather culturally conditioned. Preference for a specific hip/waist ratio in women appears to be a much more stable male sexual trait across time and place, so that might be a better place to start looking for innate responses.
Gavin–there’s a world of difference between “arbitrary” and “based in biology.”
Sara R: I have three boys, no girls, and that is part of what informs my opposition to gender essentialism. My second little guy has the stereotypical warrior heart of a little boy: he’s all about guns, knights, samurai, robbers, monsters, etc., etc., etc. The stunning difference between his reality and that of my first boy (who *never* engages in *any* of that stuff unless at his younger brother’s behest, and never did before he was around to suggest it) convinces me that the things many parents say are part of the gender package simply are not.
(I think part of the difference in my case can be explained by the fact that boy #1 never played with children older than he and >50% had female playmates while #2 almost always plays with older brother’s friends–not kids his own age–and, until we discovered Rebecca of the Warrior Heart–a perfect match for him who, conveniently, also suggests that this gender play isn’t hard wired–would not acknowledge the existence of girls. In other words, their play patterns seem to have been shaped by their environment, not their gender.)
I’m glad no one (yet) was too shocked by my example. I fully accept its limitations and that there are probably better ones. I chose it because it was the first thing that came to mind which could not as easily be refuted as, say, preference of Jane Austin novels or the preoccupation with shoes; also because it would keep the thread light.
Julie’s two boys do not prove me wrong any more than the fact that some cultures don’t care for breasts as much proves you right. This is not likely to resolved on thread, as the prevailing sources of opinion are more visceral than empirical. It’s also very hard to even construct truly scientific experiments about this, partially because no one wants to run the risk of warping a child.
Gavin, You don’t have to prove anything. There are too many obvious differences between men and women in all cultures, races, times and places that are constant for someone who believes in the innateness of gender behaviors to have to worry about proving a point. The feminist movement has been on this gender neutrality kick for 30 or 40 years now but they have never been able to make even the tiniest case for it. The only way they can get any headway is to resort to political correctness and stifle the debate.
Men and women are different. Vive la difference!
And thus we see that one is always tempted to overgeneralize from one’s own children…
I have two kids, one of each gender. They exhibit all sorts of interesting behaviors. But statistically they are way too small a sample to get anywhere when the population of children has so much individual variation.
Your model seems to be that biology should be rigider than environment. I say this by your example where, if a boy goes against the stereotype, the stereotype must be environmental. I think most of us reject that kind of role for biology. Individual people vary enormously, whatever their gender, but that does not mean that biology doesn’t affect group averages or variances.
GeorgeD, my friend, I’ve actually come to look forward to your comments, to see how comically you can render what started out as a pretty reasonable claim. I actually agree with you—I think there probably are, across entire populations, some sex differences in cognition and psychology—but you’re making nonsense of your own position. If you’re going to use history as the index to innate sex difference, you have to know something about history—and so far I’ve seen no evidence that you have made any study of the ways in which gender and sex have been understood across time.
Take, for example, your claim that closed-mindedness is an essential characteristic of women. If this were innate, by your line of historical reasoning, then women throughout history would always have been understood as closed-minded. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, women were understood to be weak-minded and overly prone to evil persuasion, cognitively unable to formulate and maintain consistent opinions. This is in part why it was seen as dangerous to teach women to read, for example, or to allow them exposure to influences outside the household. History, then, does not support your position—and unfortunately you’ve provided no other supporting argument. (By the way, if you’re interested of making a study of sex and gender in the Renaissance, I’d be happy to provide you with an extensive bibliography; you’ll find material there to support your position, and material to rebut it.)
I am sorry Rosalynde. You see I am not an intellectual nor am I a scholar. All I have at my disposal are my observations and some common sense. I just don’t know anything about the Middle Ages (of course no one else does either but because 0.00000005% of Middle Ages history and experience of been transmitted to us and are written up in fancy books by scholars with pre-existing points of view there is therefore a comprehensive understanding of women in the Middle Ages. Anyone who understands this trumps anyone who doesn’t.
My abject and humble apologies.
I wasn’t drawing eternal principles from two small boys. My questioner asked if I had girls, presumably thinking that someone with all boys might not appreciate the gender differences. I was suggested that my experience with all boys just reaffirmed the belief *that I held before having children*.
That sounds right.
I am not sure what your field is, but if you had jumped into it with no preparation, you might not have enjoyed it. Part of “loving” what you do is feeling like you know what you are doing and you are good at it. Meeting the challenges, progressing and accomplishing.
As mothers leave the workforce and “sacrifice” their career, I realize that many find SAHMhood less enjoyable than their career. But I sometimes wonder how much of a chance they gave themselves.
My satisfaction as a SAHM has a lot to do with how much work, effort, creativity, enthusiasm I put into it. EVery SAHM has a different set of talents, and a different set of children to deal with. I’ve discovered that just like my career before children, I like success, and years of practice, goal setting, research, and problem solving make me better at my job, more satisfied with my job and ready for new challenges.
I think that assuming that the first month of a new career, like being a SAHM, is everything the career has to offer is naive.
I have, on occasion, felt mildly insulted by those who think that they just aren’t cut out for being a SAHM. Like its an inborn thing. Like I haven’t worked hard to be a good SAHM. Like I haven’t consciously made wise choices as a SAHM to make it work for me, to progress, to succeed. None of this just fell out of the sky.
Being a mother is a difficult job, whether FT or PT. I am not proud of myself just because I”m a SAHM, I’m proud of myself because I put forth the effort to be the best mother I know how to be. And I know that I’m only getting better.
I am smart & educated and I always wanted to be a stay at home mom. I did have the opportunity to love my job before having children. I was really good at it and over the 4 years I was promoted and learned so much I am glad I had that experience. Even those of us with jobs we love can still happily choose to be a SAHM.
I find my children to be about 75% gender stereotypical. They don’t have ALL boy traits and NO girl traits (or vice-versa) but they seem to have more than 50%. My son, for instance, isn’t wild (no broken bones) or aggressive (never, ever hits/bites/throws) at all, but he loves space and dinasours and volcanos and, yes, guns, even though all he had was an older sister and no older boys taught him how to play with fake guns.
I just had to thank you all for some of the best entertainment I’ve had in some time. I like you all even better than I already did (even you, Jesse). But especially Nate and Kaimi. Sorry, Julie, but I’m in the other trench on the biology question. But I think you already knew that from our birth discussions. Okay, WAAAAAAAAAY past my bedtime.
Melissa writes in response to Julie:
“I have no doubt that you stand out in any ward as being ?bookish? and ?feminist? because you?re smart and articulate. But, this isn?t at all what I mean. Take your experience of being labeled as ?feminist bookish, weird, geeky,? and multiply it exponentially. I?m considered all those things because of my education too but I?m oh so much worse because I?m not married, don?t have children and don?t seem to be actively mourning this situation. In an earlier email you said that one of the things you love best is going out to dinner with your girlfriends from the ward. The very fact that you have girlfriends (plural!!) in your ward indicates clearly that you just do not know what I?m talking about. I would guess (although I?d be happy to be wrong) that those LDS girlfriends of yours are all married with children. Am I right? I hope I?m wrong, but I wouldn?t be surprised if I were right.
re: melissa #64
“Thanks, Nate! I do feel like one of the luckiest people on the planet. I?m always trying to figure out why I?ve been given so much because it?s so patently obvious that I don?t deserve it.
Not really related to you comment, but it?s bizarre to me that it feels like some women would be more comfortable with my single, childless status if I were in a less privileged position and a little more unhappy about my situation. I?ve never been able to figure this out. If they really think motherhood is the pinnacle and they?ve reached it, why would they begrudge the happiness I have in my career? Why would they *want* me to be single, childless AND unhappy in my professional life? I just don?t get it.”