Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Maternity leave 'damages' careers

I happened to read this article, titled "Maternity leave 'damages' careers", and just couldn't pass without making a few comments on it here. Most of my readers already know what I think about trying to combine a full-time career with wifehood, homemaking and motherhood - one or another inevitably tends to suffer, and unfortunately it's the most important things we tend to stray away from - but this article was such a perfect example of how we can try to avoid reason and logic, even when they are banging at our door.

"The extension of maternity leave to up to a year may be sabotaging women's careers", we are warned. But wait... is anyone actually surprised? Isn't it common sense that out life consists of time - years, months, weeks, days, hours and minutes - and when we spend time doing something, we are spending the same amount of time not doing something else? If I spend the day visiting family, I won't clean that day. If I spend time at work, it's time I didn't spend at home. And someone is away from work for a year, can they truly wonder things have changed while they were gone?

The grim consequence of extended maternity leave is that "some employers are thinking twice about offering women jobs or promotion."

Well, you know what? If I had been an employer, I would probably think about it twice, too.
I realize that in order to succeed in the corporate world, one can't be all about charity and providing equal opportunities for everyone, regardless of whether they measure up or not. It's not about being "family friendly", either. It's about money, money, money, and aggressive competition. If I had two applicants for the same job, with identical skills, knowledge and experience, and one of them was a 30-year-old man while another was a recently married childless woman of the same age, I'm not sure I could avoid thinking, "what if she has a baby in a year or so?" - after all, why should I, as an employer, spend valuable resources training an employee who is likely to disappear for an extended period of time, and later pay for maternity leave?

The matter is often discussed in light of "equal rights", but in my opinion, this is far, far away from it. There's a limit to the level of sympathy a boss can be expected to extend towards an employee's personal circumstances. When someone simply cannot pull the same load everyone else do, yet even talking about it is labeled as "discrimination", it isn't equality. It's mollycoddling.

There's work to do, and someone needs to do it. Work doesn't take a vacation while the woman is on maternity leave. Who picks up the slack? The remaining employees - and the smaller the company is, the more difficult it is to accomplish. "As a kind of reality check, if you had a small employer employing four people and one of those is on maternity leave then that's a quarter of the workforce out of action." Sometimes it will mean searching for, hiring and training temporary employees - an additional expense and a reduction in efficiency.

While the world bangs its head against a wall trying to figure it all out, I marvel at how simple and beautiful God's design is. He knew what He was doing when He placed women at home, to take care of their husband and children. To me, the very expression "maternity leave" sounds ridiculous and sad at the same time. It's like the woman is allowed to fully experience the joy of motherhood for a short period alone, before being expected to give up the best part of each day with her child to someone else.

If an employee is valued and needed, and able to pull her weight, he or she will be hired. If she needs to force herself in by legislations and court decisions - which is precisely what is happening - it makes an alarm go off in my head. Are we trying to artificially turn employment into a charity institution? It might satisfy the self-focused needs of some individuals, but for the rest of us, it's an economical drag when employers are forced to hire workers who simply won't be there. It created a world of smaller salaries and a two-income trap for us all.

Whatever angle you look from, we haven't been able to think of anything better than a God-ordained family design. With women at home, men in the workforce (including our own hard-working husbands!) won't need to pull the slack for someone's maternity leave. Women, in their turn, won't need to prove that they are valued and needed; they won't need the state's protection to enforce their right to take adequate care of themselves during pregnancy, after giving birth, and while raising small children; the home's nourishing environment will provide enough flexibility for both efficiency and rest. Salaries will grow, thus enabling families to live on one income more easily.

It won't be easy to reverse the trend and stop this snowball, but it can be done.

60 comments:

Anonymous said...

I certainly hope you wouldn't cancel maternity leave. For those
who must work for one reason or another, it is a lifesaver.

I guess I come from a more socialist slant, less capitalist....I do think society and businesses must be forced to help the working pregnant, mothers, etc. That's why I'm glad I live in Israel, where there's legislation to help them out (in contrast to the States, where it's more a game of survival).

Of course businesses are all about the money. They wouldn't pay taxes either if the gov't didn't force them. But they are part of a larger society, and if that society wants to allow women in their fertile years the right to work, well, the businesses are going to need to adapt.
(Would you allow businesses the right not to hire blacks or Jews? Or not to promote them? Maybe a certain company is convinced they are less productive or harm their image....That's precisely why we have these laws).

Disclaimer: I agree a woman working full-time is not the best option for many (not all) families. But I want to live in a society that gives the woman the perogative to decide what's best for her and her family, and doesn't make the choice for her.
Tammy

Zeljka said...

I agree. I used to work outside the home when I was single, and before I had children. When I gave birth to my first child I just couldn't understand any more the concept of "equal rights" and women's employment. While I work somewhere outside the home, the other women works in my home, raising my children, taking care of food, laundry etc? Hello?
Many mothers now says that working outside the home gives them satisfaction, that they are bored with children, that children drives them crazy... our culture totaly lost knowledge of family living, of beauty of human connections... so sad.
As far as I am concearned, I must earn some money for our family, but I do my best to work from home, while children are with me. And I need some prayers that I manage in that so that I don't have to go work outside the home.

Mrs. Parunak said...

A few years ago, a woman at the small start up company my husband worked for was having a baby. The company did not have the resources to provide her with paid maternity leave, so the CEO asked everyone to work overtime to donate hours to this woman. After much thought, my brave husband said, no. He wasn't going to take time away from his wife and children just because this woman wanted to be a working mother.

Bravo to you, Anna, for this insightful post and for speaking up on behalf of the families who are asked to suffer because of some women's choices.

Terry, Ornament of His Grace said...

I'm linking to this one, Anna.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Tammy,

If a company simply *didn't want* to hire a Jew because he's Jewish, for no practical reason, it would be discrimination.

However, if a Jew applies for a job that requires work on Saturdays, while it's clear he can't and won't work on Saturdays, and is denied the position, I could hardly call this discrimination.

Of course, it's not the Jew's "fault" - Shabbat observance is a part of Jewish life just like maternity is a part of a woman's life. However, why must non-Jewish employees constantly pull the load of work the Jew cannot do on Saturdays?

An employer may decide that the Jewish employee, or the female employee, is important enough to deserve special arrangement. However, I don't believe it's fair to legally force it.

Gothelittle Rose said...

It's not much of a "game of survival" in the U.S. Maternity leave is guaranteed by federal law, and your job or an equivalent one is guaranteed upon your return.

It is true, however, that the working mother spends more time out on sickness and vacation, less productivity in the workplace, and in a workplace that rewards productivity, a woman's wage can lag behind a man's. However, that is the reason why it happens. A man who slacks off or who is the main caretaker of young children will end up paying the same penalty.

Then people look at raw data about wages and proclaim discrimination due to wage difference. The truth is that a single-example woman who does not have children and shows the same work dedication as a man will have equal or higher wages than him, initially and over time.

misskassandra said...

We had a code blue on an infant the other day, a 2 1/2 month old. The new mom had just gone back from maternity leave a few days prior, and left the infant in the care of a woman who runs a daycare out of her home. From what I know, the baby was acting sick the day before so she stayed home with him, but couldn't take another day off so she went back to work- well, the babysitter put him down for a nap, then found him blue in the face when she checked on him.

To make matters worse, this small town has no ambulance service so the babysitter had to try to pile all of the kids in her care in a vehicle, and drive to the hospital. Of course by the time they actually got to the hospital, it was much too late. When the mom came from work to the hospital...I heard the bloodcurdling scream.

I don't know her story,why or where she works...and I don't judge her, I just feel horrible for her. SIDS( if that is in fact what it was) probably would have happened at home, too, but maybe she could have gotten him to the hospital faster..and I know she'll forever live with that question in her head.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Anna. Your posts always inspire me, everyday. I couldn't have said it better myself.

I can't detail statistics because I forgot where I read it from, but according to that article, in America, the trend of one-income family has started to grow again actually, and many young women who got married and have children leave their workforce to stay home. I hope this is true.

God Bless,
W

letters to elijah said...

I am blessed to be a stay at home Mom. I have had offers to go to work but my husband and I have decided to follow God's plan for our family and stay home. I do, however, have a part-time job outside the home where I work 10 hours a week.
When I took this job they asked me for my availability. I told them I was able to work after 5:30pm and only on Saturdays, not Sundays. (I am a Christian) I had to trust God with the Sundays. I had to be willing to walk away from the job if they insisted that I work both days of the weekend.
God has provided.

God always provides what we need - he does not promise what we want or desire.

I believe that a young Mother (that is a Mother with children living at home) should be at home with her children. The only exception I could possibly see is if she is a widow. Even if that was the case she may need to move in with her parents or her husbands.

Being a wife and a mother is my job. It's not something I do part time or when I want.


Thank You for your blog...

Have a blessed day,

Dana

elena rulli said...

In my humble opinion we can't decide if a woman is right or wrong when she decides to work outside her home, simply because we don't know her reasons; therefore she has the same rights of her male coworkers, even more when she is or gets pregnant. This comment is intended to be respectful and in no way polemical, so I hope I didn't offen any of you ladies.

compactmanifold said...

I'm a small employer with three employees, and as a consulting start-up we often get irregular work with ridiculous deadlines. I love what I do, but am decidedly childfree, as are most of the other people in the same sort of business that I'm in. You would have to be crazy or seriously wanting to never see your family again if you chose this life with children.

That being said, once I go over 6 employees I'm going to be fully subject to family leave and required health insurance sorts of laws, and it terrifies me. At six employees, I can't wait around for somebody to make up their mind about their position while they're on maternity leave, since I'm going to have to both fill it and offer it back to them if they decide to come back. If they go on maternity leave and then decide not to come back, I'm out a lot of money in administration and benefits. The increase of health insurance premiums for even a normal pregnancy could be astounding. Given that I'm an employer in Massachusetts, the first state in the US to require health insurance, I can even be liable (with huge fines!) if an uninsured family member of one of my employees uses the health services here. It's becoming a practical concern to minimize my own liability for this, since the health insurance payments are already through the roof.

Anna, I have a much different viewpoint than you but I do agree that you can't expect to have it all. I believe women should get equal pay and respect for equal work, but are wrong to expect anything more than equal - certainly if you take time off or have your mind on other things it would be next to impossible to say that it's equal work.

The best thing I can think of to cover myself as an employer is to seriously evaluate the risks involved in a new hire, and it really hurts me to think that I turn an extra-critical eye to women. The most fair way I've found to ensure that the employees I get will be able to do the job is to put in the job description the requirement for rush jobs and travel, often on only a day's notice. Luckily, most men and women will still tell you upfront if they can't do that (for any reason) and we can amicably part ways before wasting more time.

Similarly, a lot of women recently have been going to law or business school in full expectation that they'll drop out of the workforce shortly afterward or not look for a job after school in order to have children. In that case, I wonder why they bothered with such expensive schooling? Universities are starting to notice this phenomenon and I know it's just a matter of time before they associate a woman with the loss of prestige they have when their graduate professional programs don't turn out professionals. A friend of mine did this same thing when going for an MBA and actually wondered why business schools don't aggressively recruit more women when she herself said that the average age of a student is exactly where a lot of women have children. Why should the schools bother if the women have already chosen something else?

Anonymous said...

As a woman who is currently on maternity leave, I can tell you that although my company was going to have to pick up some slack, I gave them ample notice (6 months). If there was no such thing as maternity leave I would have found myself going back to work probably after 2-3 weeks rather than the 3 1/2 months I am taking. As I am not in the corporate world, my taking time off does not hurt my chances of promotion (because my job does not have any). Thankfully, as nearly every woman I work with is a mother, they were very gracious about allowing me time off.

Anonymous said...

Of course people who take significant amounts of time off to deal with personal circumstances are going to take a career hit and consequently, will be more economically vulnerable! This is EXACTLY why feminists are utterly opposed to the notion that women must carry the lion's share of childcare. It isn't that we don't love our children or that we don't want to care for them -- it is that an entire class of people (the female half of the population) are left poorer and more vulnerable because men are not expected to serve as caretakers for their children, leaving women to pick up the slack at great expense to our ability to earn a living. This is why women are more vulnerable than men to having to live and raise our children in POVERTY.

Feminists are often accused of being "angry" and "selfish." Yes, this issue makes me angry (not at you specifically, Mrs. T., but at the attitudes that consign women to unpaid labor)-- angry but not selfish. My anger is not (for the most part) on my own behalf (thanks to the laws you cite, I have been able to earn a healthy living). My anger is based on the fact that an entire class of people are left vulnerable to POVERTY because they are expected, or even commanded by their religion, to work at the VERY difficult and important work of childcare and homemaking without assistance from husbands and without much of an economic safety net. (A husband, who might die, become disabled, lose his job, or abandon the family, is not an adequate safety net.) And it makes me doubly angry that women are expected to be glad about such a state of affairs and to embrace this unfair situation joyfully (some certainly do, but what about those who don't?). It makes me triply angry when pointing out this inequity is equated with not liking children!

Again, my anger is not directed at you specifically, because I really think highly of you and your blog despite our differences. It is not anger at specific individuals, but rather anger at the attitudes I have described and their results in the lives of women.

== Pendragon

Anonymous said...

Implicit in my prior comment is the notion that there should be PARENTAL leave rather than just maternity leave. Gender-neutral parental leave upon the birth or adoption of a child is mandated in most cases in the U.S., but the culture hasn't quite caught up to this idea. I know plenty of men who WANT to take 3 months of leave to care for a newborn but don't feel comfortable doing so because this isn't quite as acceptable for a man to do as for a woman.

Sure, mandated parental leave puts a constraint on employers. There HAS to be such a constraint, because otherwise employers would have no incentive to permit parental leave for either sex. As a result, families would be even more strained and/or women would be effectively shut out of the workforce. As a general matter, I am a free-market capitalist but the free-market has limitations. That is, sometimes what the market wants to do is bad for society as a whole, i.e. for the health and families living in society. That's why we have child labor laws, protections for workers, anti-discrimination laws,etc.

I would also note that, while the culture isn't quite where feminists would ideally want it in terms of equal sharing of family responsibilities between the genders, feminist changes in society have improved father-child relationships. It is far more acceptable today than it was 50 years ago for a man to take a call from his child at the office, or to deal with a family emergency during the work day. Women flooding into the workforce have made it a greater focus on family by employees of BOTH genders par for the course. Such changes are good for fathers, mothers, AND children. We no longer have the situation I grew up with where father is inaccessible and mother is frustrated by the helplessness imposed on her by the traditional division of labor.

== Pendragon

Allison said...

I'm going to have to disagree with you on this one. There is a reason why employers are not allowed to discriminate on multiple bases: the work force would probably consist largely of young, white, non-disabled Christian men!

Of course, it is best for children to have a mother at home. But what about those who cannot afford to stay at home full time? Or what about those who want to re-enter on a part-time basis once their children are older? Without job protection, many of these women would probably lose their higher-paying corporate positions and work longer hours at a lower-wage job.

Job protection does not turn employment into a "charity institution." I'm sure we all have anecdotal examples to the contrary; however, with respect to most protected classes, the employer is only required to make "REASONABLE accomodations." For example, if a Jewish employee cannot work late on a Friday night, he will be expected to make up those hours. If a blind person applies to be a truck driver or pilot, he will be rejected. This is not charity - this is striking a balance, and it is fair.

Finally, in my experience those employees with significant family obligations - children, caring for an elderly relative, etc. - tend to make the best employees because they make the most effective and productive use of time.

Megan said...

As usual, a thoughtful and interesting post! For the most part, Anna, I agree with you. However, I also believe that there are cases where a woman has been given a "special" (for lack of a better term) gift and passion that need to be used outside of the home. The two examples that jump quickly to my mind are Deborah the OT Judge and Sarah Palin. In these cases, women aren't working outside of the home in order to provide family income (which is unfortunately necessary for some families, at least for a period of time) or for a feeling of independence (wanting to be "more than" a stay-at-home-mom). Rather, they have been given a gift and passion for a purpose that only they can fulfill.

Now let me step back and affirm that as a general rule, I agree that giving 100% to being a mom and a wife is the desired scenario. It's just important to remember not to put God, and His plans for individual women, in a box (something I catch myself doing all too often!)

AnneK said...

Been a long while since I commented here. I almost did on the "Population fallout" post, but didn't end up doing that. I skimmed though the comments and they were quite enlightening. One in particular was hilarious. "If Indians eat cows, there would be no food shortage." I am amazed at the sheer brilliance. (insert sarcasm) Anna, you take care 'cos that person is going to suggest you eat pork if there is a food shortage in Israel.

As for this article, I am writing a respons epost, 'cos my response is going to be way too long. I just want to comment just on one line.

"Whatever angle you look from, we haven't been able to think of anything better than a God-ordained family design. With women at home, men in the workforce..."

Great line except that there is no God ordained family design of man working and woman at home. At least in Christianity.

Bailey said...

So very true. It must be realized that a business is a business is a business--like a family is a family. If you take an employee out of a business, one link has gone down. If you take a mother out of her home, one link--one very major link--has gone down. Talking about equality, it's unfair to expect other employees to double their workload for another person's absence, and it's unfair to expect a husband and children to take the toll on a mother's/wife's absence (I'm talking about the feminist mindset, not the exceptions of women who must work). Yet help columns are crammed with confused ladies wondering how to get their husbands to help with the housework. Isn't this why God created divisions of labor?

I hope I did not sound rude to anyone. :) That's just my two cents.

God bless!

Laura said...

I don't know. It is tough. I see your point, but what about women who don't want to be mothers at all, or women who don't believe they can have children? If they are denied work because they might change their mind about motherhood, or become pregnant accidentally or against their will, first of all, how can they be expected to survive? Second, if single expecting mothers can't get jobs, how can they expect to support their children?

It seems to me also, that penalizing women who work for having children is discouraging people from starting families, because there are MANY reasons that a woman might have to work even if they don't want to. Working from home is an option, but often not the best one. If the choice a single woman faces is homelessness or abortion, that would be very sad.

I suppose that the government could collect an extra tax to give to the employers of working women to compensate them for leave, whether maternity, disability, bereavement, sickness, or religious observance. It could work for men and women, and maybe it would help with the problem. It would definitely be expensive though. The alternative is for someone to pay to support the women who can't get jobs because of their gender and have no means of support.

If an employer never hired Jews because some time they 'might' want an employee to work on a Saturday, I think that would be closer to the situation facing working women.

Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly with your post. I was a full-time working mother for a few year around 2002. My children were aged 10 and 13 yo. Why did I work? Because my husband and I were caught up in materialism. We were not paying a mortgage, but were paying off leather lounge suites, computers, a newer car etc. I was utterly exhausted. Work got the best part of me... I had nothing left in the tank for my husband and children.

One day the Lord revealed to me the folly of this. In reality, I was working to pay off a car that was used primarily to get me to work!?! How silly was that?! We sold the car, and boughter a cheaper one for cash. I stopped working, and haven't worked since. My children were coming into their teenage years, and I felt they needed me at home more than ever. The people I worked with thought I was weird. They said the children were old enough to not have me at home. I disagreed, of course, as these years were very impressionable ones and the loving eye and availability of their mum at such vulnerable times was to me, very essential. I needed to be there for them as they came home from school, and spend much quality time with them.

The company I worked for was a pharmaceutical business. It was a big firm and very prosperous. I worked withing the R&D section and it employed a large percentage of women, and was dedicated to Equal Employment Opportunities, no 'discrimation' policies etc. At the time I was there, the majority of these professional women were married, but yet to have children. Some were working mothers. They were all in their 30's. Within one year, 80% of them that didn't have children all fell pregnant one after the other. Some had returned from maternity leave, only to be there 6 months, before they fell with their 2nd child. These women dedicated 50 to 60 hours a week to their positions, as unpaid overtime was considered the 'professional' standard. One woman (my boss) had a little boy that got very sick. He constantly caught one thing after another from the daycare centre he was forced to attend, that his doctor advised his mum that he needs to be kept home so his immune system can recover. She told me that that won't be happening as they were wanted to be financially secure so he could have a 'good education'!! This baby was only 12 months old! He eventually had to be hospitalised for a short time he was that ill. The truth was that this lady and her husband were concerned with building their portfolio of investment properties, expensive 'toys' and a successful image. All at the expense of their child's well-being. They had convinced themselves (as most do) that they are doing it for their children's future. What deception.
The women at my work had all stated that their maternal clocks were ticking over, and as they approached their mid-late 30's, they had to 'fit' in having a child and at the same time, build their careers. The havoc at this company with just one away really did put a strain on the other employees, especially those that did have littlies. The sad result was that the littlies spent from 6am till 5.30 in the daycare centre so that employee caught up the increasing load.
I know that is just one company, and just my own personal experience. But I know that this is a nation-wide issue in our country (Australia). Our childcare centres can't keep up with the demand, and all have such long waiting lists. Professional women are booking their children into these centres, as soon as they have a 'positive' reading on their pregnancy tests.
I am glad that we saw things from the Lord's perspective... we don't have much, not even our own home... but we have a beautiful close relationship with our now-older teenagers, and I wouldn't trade that for anything. They are worth the sacrifice of our materialist whims.
In saying that, I don't say it is wrong for a mum to work a couple of days a week, where grandma or aunts can give good, loving care and attention to the child... as long as it is not a burden to them.

Sorry for the long response. It is just a subject that has hit close to home.

Blessings,
Amanda

ps. Here in Australia, men can also get paid 'paternal' leave.

Sheri said...

Anna, I too think maternity leave is very sad and I'm incredibly thankful to be home with our little ones... baby Levi is now 8 weeks old and in America, if I worked outside the home, I would already be spending my days away from him. That thought makes me sick to my stomach.

Yes, God's ways are always better than the lies from this world. He is faithful!

Karen said...

That's a tough one. On one hand you are absolutely right in that it is kind of like "welfare in the workplace" but on the other hand, in our economy right now it is nearly impossible for a lot of people to make it on one income, so a lot of moms don't have much of a choice. I think the last time I looked it was like 75% of women in their childbearing years are in the workforce. That's a lot of employees that we just can't do without. Especially nurses...even with women in the workforce, there is a shortage here and male nurses statistically quit after 1 year.

I'm glad they offer maternity leave...as much as I think it is kinda like charity, I also think it's better to give help to those who are trying than those who are just lazy. (And I've seen a few stay at home moms in my day who truly were just lazy living mostly off charity and neglecting their kids). While being at home with your children is the ideal, it isn't always possible for everyone and we need to consider that too.

Of course, that whole working overtime to pay for someone else's maternity leave is going a bit too far. I know personally my husband would quit before he put up with that one.

Sarah K said...

I would disagree with Gothelittle Rose who said that a working mother spends more time out in sickness and vacation. My mother has always worked, although she worked flexible hours and I never felt abandonned or neglected. She took the vacation time that her contract entitled her to (as did all other staff, regardless of gender or family status), and as we were both very healthy, I don't think either of us took more than a couple of days off sick during my school career. If I needed her at home, she would work from home or arrange for a neighbour or relative to watch me for a bit if she needed to be out for a couple of hours. I also know that she is not alone in this by a long way.

I don't recall ever resenting the fact Mum worked, and only a couple of times wished she was home waiting for me when I got home from school. When I was at primary school I used to play at a neighbour's house after school for the half hour or so that it took for Mum to get home to pick me up. I was an only child, so I loved this. When I was at secondary school I had my own key, and I started my homework, put dinner on, and enjoyed the independence of having the house to myself for a short while. It made mealtimes extra special because we caught up on each other's day. School holidays I spent a lot of time reading, visiting museums and when I was younger I went into work with Mum on occasion. She works with adults with Learning Difficulties, and this gave me a tollerance and understanding from a young age.

Our life experiences make us who we are, and having a working mother is not always a bad thing. I also agree with Tammy, coming from a socialist slant myself.

This is, as ever, written in the interest of sharing thoughts and experiences. I learn a lot from your blog, I completely respect your opinions and those of the other readers, and I love having my ideas and perceptions challenged by them.

Anonymous said...

In light of this...do you refuse to do business with shops/businesses that employ married women?

Thuis said...

Dear Tammy,

You said: "But I want to live in a society that gives the woman the perogative to decide what's best for her and her family, and doesn't make the choice for her."

The problem is that this kind of policy inevitably leads to other women not having the choice to decide what's best for her and hér family, because others decide for her.

They decide for her whenever they prefer an equally qualified and experienced woman over her husband, purely because this woman is a woman and they wanted to have more women in their company. They might even choose to hire a less experienced woman, because she is a woman.

If a husband is declined time and again on these grounds, the inevitable result will be that the money will stop coming into the home. The result is that she might have no choice anymore but to go out and work, because she has a bigger chance of being hired than her husband.

Work is more and more seen as necessary for 'personal development', it's becoming a goal in itself instead of a means to provide for the family. And I pray that this trend will be reversed soon.

Erna

Anonymous said...

I agree with gothelittlerose that statistical data about wage discrepancies between the genders often ignore the basic fact that women devote more time to home and less to their career (working overtime less often, etc) - thus earning less in the long run.

While some wage differences are no doubt due to discrimination, much of it is a result of the choices women make - which is just fine by me.

I believe things like maternity leave (a minumum of 3 months paid leave; 6 would be better) should be fully paid for by the government, and in no way should an employee be directly asked to pick up the slack. That's the job of society as a whole, and certainly not of one employee.

I do believe women are very valuable employees in many fields, and would not want to see them disappear. The wonderful teachers my kids have....if there were no maternity leave, what would they do? Quit and leave the field to only men? What about the kind nurses at the hospital? I certainly wouldn't want to see only men there. Or the lawyers who can understand a woman's point of view, or the doctor who knows what I'm talking about. Or the professor who showed me it's possible to be both intellectual and maternal at the same time. I would never want to force these women to choose between their contribution to society and to their own home.

Again, I believe there are times in a woman's life where she is needed at home more often, perhaps even full time. But it is her choice to decide if and when to stop working outside of the home, and I hope my country will continue to value women's contributions enough to allow them to make that choice.
Tammy

Mrs. Anna T said...

About "parental" leave: I'm very sorry, but *I'm* the one pregnant with this child. I will be the one delivering her, and I will be the one who will need to recover from labor. I will also be the one to breastfeed her.

Therefore, the concept of my husband getting "paternity" leave rather than me, sounds illogical.

Anonymous said...

I've got to agree with Laura. Discriminating against women in their 20s and 30s because they 'might' get pregnanant is like discriminating against Jews because there 'might' be a need to work on a Saturday someday.

I also agree with Allison: an employer should be expected to make reasonable accomodations - in my opinion, both for those of different faiths and for mothers.

I think it's a dangerous route to imply employers or others need not accomodate people of different faiths, etc. I remember back in the days, many years ago, when I lived in a town where SAT exams were only given on Saturdays. What were religious Jewish students to do? Give up on the idea of university?

And finally, Pendragon is right: changes in the labour force have made fathers, by necessity, more accessible. It's very common for fathers to take the day off for a sick child. As a part-time teacher, I can't take time off work often; my husband does so if a child is sick, etc. Most of the teachers I know work this way. So it's no longer quite relevant to discriminate against working mothers - many husbands are in the position where they take off the bulk of child sick days.
Tammy

Anonymous said...

Anna: paternal leave in Israel is only given for the last 6 weeks. The first 6 weeks must be taken by the mother; the last half of leave can be taken by either mother or father.

In most cases, obviously the mother would take the entire leave, but I can see instances where they would want to share (the woman has a high powered job, the man works abroad and this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to spend a lot of time with baby, or the baby was adopted and there is no physical recovery to go through, etc).

Personally, I would never give up or share my leave though!

Erna - I am not for affirmative action, in general. I don't think women should be hired just because they are women. And I believe that in general, discrimination against hiring women is still far more rampant than pro-women affirmative action. And yes, I think men need to compete with competent peers for the same job, be they male or female. That's life.

Tammy

As an aside...I know of so many families where the husband is rather lazy or unemployed by choice. As far as he's concerned, the family could live off welfare. Thank goodness there are laws to allow the wives and mothers of these families to work in dignity.

Amanda said...

"About "parental" leave: I'm very sorry, but *I'm* the one pregnant with this child. I will be the one delivering her, and I will be the one who will need to recover from labor. I will also be the one to breastfeed her.

Therefore, the concept of my husband getting "paternity" leave rather than me, sounds illogical."

The men that I have known of, take paternity leave when their wife has given birth... this leave enables them to stay home with his family.

I guess there are men who also take paternity to cover a 3 month period after their wives have returned to work from their maternity leave.

Interesting comments to an interesting thread!

Amanda

Allison said...

Tammy, you make some excellent points. Like you, I place tremendous value on having choices available. I trust that when I ask God for guidance, He will point me in the direction that both honors Him and uses me to the benefit of others.

And Annek makes a very valuable point too. For some of us, God ordains us to to certain paths, and not all these God-ordained paths are the same. What is "best" for one person, one couple, and one family may not be "best" for another. God led me to practice law, and He continues to bless me in my work. He might lead me somewhere else when I get married, but I have never doubted that God did not want me where He put me. Who are we to judge otherwise?

And frankly, I don't exactly think that there are veritable armies of new mothers out there *ruining* the economy. Go to any office, and you'll see plenty of workers chatting online, surfing the Internet, shopping, and wasting valuable work time. Maternity leave is one way of acknowledging - and rightly so - that women make a valuable contribution to life outside the home, should she choose to work.

Anonymous said...

Hello All! I want to express my gratitude for all of your opinions. I appreciate the time it took to share them.
I too wanted to share my opinion.
I feel that all people deserve equal leave to support growing families.
I respect those who share different opinions, however, this statement concerns me:
"The problem is that this kind of policy inevitably leads to other women not having the choice to decide what's best for her and hér family, because others decide for her.

They decide for her whenever they prefer an equally qualified and experienced woman over her husband, purely because this woman is a woman and they wanted to have more women in their company. They might even choose to hire a less experienced woman, because she is a woman."

You could replace woman with person of minority decent or minority religion and a person of a majority group (such as males or Caucasians) would be in the same place. For better or for worse, a certain group and their families have enjoyed privilege in the past and dominated the work force. The families of minority decent/religion had to face the fact that they might be more qualified but not hired.

Without such laws, unfortunately majority classes, races and religions would still dominate the work force and those of minority decent would be victims of discrimination and I know that being a victim of discrimination is a terrible thing.

My father is African-American and he faced serious discrimination in school, in the work place and with the law. He has fought very, very hard to get where he is--perhaps too hard. Some of the issues he faced might have been prevented if equality laws had been in place when he were a young man (schools and water fountains were still segregated when he was a child.)

My father is living proof that without equality laws which protect the equality of all people then only certain groups would enjoy education, employment and justice.

Equality laws exist to balance the hiring process. If a person is not hired at one company because that company chooses to hire a person of minority, I guarantee you, even today, that at another company, a qualified candidate is passed over in favor of a person of the majority, as exemplified by companies who pass over women.

The ultimate goal of equality laws is that eventually the world will be color and gender blind and the best applicant will be hired regardless of sex, race, or creed. If people desire to see the best applicant, not the most politically correct hired, then such members of society need to remove the rational behind political correctness: hate, discrimination, and prejudice.

I suggest that we support each other as human beings and respect and cherish our differences, rather than insist on conformity to one life style or another. To do this, we must acknowledge our equality as human beings. You have the right to live as you see fit, and I have that same right.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you completely, Anna. I have a friend who just went back to work after 2 months with her newborn. She hemmed and hawed about it, thinking that they could probably still "make it" financially with her staying at home, but she ended up going back to a job she didn't like, just because her maternity leave was up and she was "expected" back at work. So sad. I'm a full-time mother to my 20-month-old, and I can't imagine leaving him all day. We don't have much money, but we have enough to live off of obviously, and I can't think of anything I'd regret more than being at a job all day instead of with my child. I think these laws are a joke, government should say out of business, and the laws make women feel obligated to work. I will keep reading your blog and being the best wife and mother I can. Its hard sometimes but I find inspiration from people like you.

Love, Ann

MarkyMark said...

Tammy, Allison, and Pendragon,

You all have your heads so far up your derrieres that you can see out of your mouths! As Mrs. Anna pointed out, SHE is the one who is pregnant; SHE is the one who will have the baby; and SHE is the one who will nurse it! Her husband will do none of the above; God did equip him for that-duh!

Tammy,

When you say that the government should offer maternity leave, you're saying that I, as a taxpayer, will be stuck with the bill! Sheesh, more socialist, do-gooder garbage! There are THREE THINGS that the government is supposed to do: protect life, liberty, and property. That's it! Anything outside of that purview is NOT amongst their duties. It's not up to government to provide schools. It's not up to government to provide health care. It's not up to government to provide retirement. It's not up to government to provide a lot of things.

You know, because the government is doing things it shouldn't, our taxes are higher. One of the posters (I believe it was Kelly) said that, due to economic reasons, many women have to work. You want a translation for that? What she REALLY means is that, due to the CONFISCATORY taxes that the government collects, wives often have to work just to pay the family's tax liability! I've read that, once one considers all taxes (both direct & indirect), that we pay 40%-50% of our income in taxes; no wonder why many wives have to work! Too much of Hubby's paycheck is going to pay those who DO NOT WORK!

Yeah, I get angry at this socialist garbage; I get very angry over it! I lose about 1/3 of my pay to taxes-1/3!!! In order to start saving again, I'm going to be taking a second job. If I were allowed to keep more of MY money, then I wouldn't HAVE to do this! It's because of policies YOU are advocating that I have to take a second job. Sorry, but if you want to engage in charity, spend the money from YOUR pocket, not MINE!

The thing is this, Ladies; we all have to make CHOICES in this life. These choices have CONSEQUENCES-duh! When we make choices, we pay an OPPORTUNITY COST, and forgo OTHER CHOICES. For example, if you wish to work, fine; but, if you want to have the same advancement opportunities a man has, then you have to WORK like a man does, and not take time off-duh!

You say that women's pay lags behind men's due to discrimination? I say balderdash! I say phooey!! I say a lot of things to that. Let's take a look at some facts, shall we?

One, men work an average of 200 hours MORE per year than women do; to put that in perspective, we work the equivalent of five, full workweeks (5 weeks x 40 hours per week = 200 hours) MORE than women do! Well, if you work on an hourly basis, as I do, then that directly translates to more money in my paycheck vs. one who only works 40 hours per week. If you work on salary (i.e. you get the same pay regardless of hours worked), then the person willing to help the company more will be REWARDED for helping the company more! Can you say duh again?!

Here's another thing to remember: men do the dirty, dangerous jobs that few people WANT to do. As a result, the employers offering these jobs have to pay more to find and retain people willing to DO them! Men comprise 95% of workplace fatalities. Well, if you want someone to literally risk life & limb on the job, you're going to have to pay HIM more to do it-duh!

Let's review why men get paid more. One, we work more than women do. We work 90% of the overtime here in America. Whether one works on an hourly or salary basis, this will yield a bigger paycheck; directly or indirectly, this will yield a bigger paycheck for those willing to make the sacrifices that go with it. Secondly, since women aren't willing to do dirty, dangerous jobs, and since many men aren't willing to do them either, employers must pay more to entice some man to do the work. Just look at the guys you see on "Deadliest Catch"; they can earn almost a YEAR'S worth of pay for a few days work! However, there's a good chance that they'll be maimed or killed during those few days, so the paychecks have to be sufficient to attract those who are willing to take that risk.

Finally, I work for a small company. We make specialized, electronic equipment. Normally, I usually spend my days testing and calibrating the equipment before it gets shipped. However, when there is none to test, I'll test the subassemblies that go into our equipment; I did that all day yesterday. On other days, I'll help build the equipment, so I can have something to test! IOW, I wear different hats, as does anyone who works in a small company. What does this mean? it means that each absence hurts us, big time. Well, if an employer has to choose someone to work for him, then he's going to choose the one who is likely to be around longer and more often. Again, this is common sense, something that Tammy, Pendragon, and Allison know nothing about.

To those aforementioned women, you can have ANYTHING you want-as long as you're willing to pay the price. If you want to work, fine; then your family life must suffer. If you want children, fine; then again, your career will suffer. Why should the remaining employees do YOUR WORK while you're away? Why should you get paid for NOT SHOWING UP TO PERFORM THE JOB FOR WHICH YOU WERE HIRED, HUH? In life, we have opportunity costs that are part of our choices; i.e. to make one choice, we sacrifice the opportunity to make other choices. For example, if you spend an afternoon reading a book, then you cannot spend that same afternoon at the beach, watching a movie, going shopping, or anything else. If you wish to take time off from your job to have a baby, recognize the fact that you're sacrificing the opportunity to advance in that job. Why should those who STAYED ON THE JOB not have more consideration for promotion as a reward? Conversely, why should YOU be rewarded for not showing up, when others did show up on the job? Sorry, girls, but you cannot have it all; anyone who believes that they can is an idiot-end of story.

In closing, let me say this: when we choose to give of our time, money, and efforts, that is charity. When we're FORCED to give of our time, money, and efforts for others, there's another name for that: CONFISCATION. It is theft, pure & simple, when you take MY money out of MY paycheck to have YOUR baby. It is also theft when you get a promotion as a reward for taking time off, while I showed up every day. The person who showed up every day helped his boss more, so he deserves his just deserts (i.e. promotions, pay increases, et al) more than those who don't. You want to engage in charity, fine; use YOUR money, not mine. Thank you, and good day.

MarkyMark

Terry, Ornament of His Grace said...

I think in all the talk of "discrimination", the point of Anna's post was missed. I think, and correct me if I'm wrong Anna, that if an employer desires to offer maternity/paternity leave, then that's perfectly acceptable. However, because a business is, first and foremost, a money making entity. As such, for a government to insist that they pay for an employee that isn't even present is counterproductive if a business wants to make money. I thought the Jewish example was a good one. If my business requires that my employees work on the sabbath, then I cannot hire a practicing Jew and they should understand that I can't hire a person who is unable to accomodate my business's needs.

This is not an issue of discrimination, but rather one of all members of a free society, including business owners, to operate as they see fit. And as we have devalued the family, forced women into the workplace, and encouraged male irresponsibility, it has created an unfortunate set of circumstances for women, families, and the marketplace as well.

Ewokgirl said...

Would everyone who is so anti-maternity leave be just as lacking in compassion for male workers who fall ill, have a personal tragedy, or have some other issue come up that could cause them to temporarily leave the workforce? I bristled at the tone of the post and comments here because situations can arise in any worker's life that could necessitate a temporary leave of absence.

My husband has kidney disease and is fine for now, but we do face the very possible future of his having to undergo a transplant someday. I would hope that his coworkers would display more compassion than what I see here towards mothers who leave the workforce temporarily to give birth. Frankly, I don't see a big difference between the two situations. Each involves an incident that requires time for the body to heal.

What of employees who are in accidents and find themselves in the hospital for a time? An employee whose family dies suddenly and tragically? An employee who must take time off to accomodate an aged parent? There are so many possible scenarios that could require someone to take a temporary leave of absence. Maternity leave really isn't any different. As human beings, it would be nice if we could pull together to help one another when necessary and not treat a woman as a workplace welfare case just because she chooses to have a baby. It's not anyone's place to judge a woman who works outside the home.

Mrs. Anna T said...

"situations can arise in any worker's life that could necessitate a temporary leave of absence."

Indeed. But in the cases of young, married, fertile women these situations are more than commonly expected. Therefore, I feel I cannot blame any employer for taking this into consideration when he chooses his employees.

Anonymous said...

Anna, I for one do not blame employers for taking into account the possibility a young woman may start a family when reviewing resumes. That's only natural; a company's bottom line is profit, not equal opportunity for all.

On the other hand, that's why I'm glad I live under a gov't that protects its citizens (even if it's far from perfect...). There is a law in Israel, for example, that forbids firing pregnant women, without extremely good cause. Were there no such law, I can only imagine how many young women would find themselves without a job the moment their tummy started showing.

Mark - you sound like an upright, productive citizen and outstanding family man. I'm sure your country would greatly improve were it only to adopt your genius proposals. Good luck.
Tammy

Anonymous said...

Terry, I may have misunderstood, but it sounds like you believe businesses must pay for maternity leave out of their own pocket. (Does it work that way in the States?) At least where I live, the gov't pays for maternity leave (out of our taxes, of course). A business doesn't pay a cent of the regular wages during the 12 weeks a woman is absent from work.

Of course, the business may suffer in other ways (a replacement must be found, a link in the chain is missing, etc) - but that's the price one pays for belonging to a bigger society, a price I believe well worth it.
Tammy

Allison said...

MarkyMark:

Given that most maternity leave policies guarantee a job upon re-entry to the work force, are you opposed to similar laws that mandate the exact same protection for civilian employees who are called to active duty overseas? After all, these are soldiers who leave their places of employment for, on average, *much* longer than a few months of maternity leave.

Eworkgirl:

I pray for the continued health of your husband. I also value your contribution because your point out that there can be a place for compassion in the workplace...even if that "compassion" if government-mandated. I also thank you for reminding us that even those who are not 100% healthy (or able-bodied or child-free) make valuable contributions to the work force.

Anonymous said...

Ewokgirl, best of health to your husband and many productive years on the job.

I like Allison's comparison to military leave. I mean, is it also charity to keep an employee's job open for him if he's called to military duty? This happens so, so often in Israel, especially in times of war (as we had 2 yrs ago) but also as a regular matter of course. Would those of you who empathize with the employer who doesn't hire young married women also empathize with the business that rejects young men in their 20s? In Israel, they have more of a chance of missing a month or much more of work per year than any woman (the draft here is universal).

As with maternity leave, a young man's military leave is not paid for directly by his job, but by the gov't or the military (which pays approx. the amount he would earn in civilian life). But, like with new mothers who are absent, soldiers who leave the job leave a gap that is hard to fill.

Or is it only 'charity' when one does not agree with the cause?

Tammy

Allison said...

Tammy:

I think we can all imagine the uproar and calls for boycotts (US, at least) that would occur if an employer said "I'm not going to hire you because you're a Reservist. Sorry, but I'm running a business here." Or, even worse "Welcome back from 18 months in Iraq. Your country appreciates your sacrifice. By the way, good luck with the job search."

And just another thought: I only see female physicians. I'm not comfortable allowing men seeing me in a state of undress save for an emergency. Without maternity leave, I suspect I would have to decide between skipping a check-up or disrobing in front of a man. (I'm certainly not implying that a woman who sees a male physician is in any way immodest - this is just my own personal comfort zone.)

Terry, Ornament of His Grace said...

Yes, Tammy, I am syaing that if a business wishes to provide maternity leave as a benefit to its employees, then that business should foot the bill. That's only fair. And if a busines can't afford to or doesn't want to do that, then the government should not force a business entity to do something that is detrimental to its (the business's) purpose for exisiting. Unless I am misunderstanding the article I read, though the government in many cases mandates the leave, the government also requires the company to pay for the leave. If I am wrong, someone please correct me.

Anonymous said...

Marky Mark,
I want to thank you for giving me the chance to read a view that contradicts my own. However, and I expect that I am not alone when I say this, I do not like your tone. We all have different opinions--I suspect that's why many of us are here. To comment that posters have their head up their “derrière” or to use the ever-educated phrase, “duh” is to paint yourself and your point as uneducated, crude, and ultimately unreliable. I do hope you continue to post, but I also hope you’ll consider revising your tone.
I believe a brief look at history will shed light on our conflicting opinions. It is a common belief that women did not work until the “women’s liberation movement” of the 1960s and 70s. This is, in fact, a fallacy. “Women have always worked inside and outside the home.” (Rupp qtd Sorensen). Until the 20th century there was no such thing as a single income family. Work, as we think of it now where a person goes to a place of employment, receives a pay check, and then comes home, began to develop in the 16th and 17th centuries, but fully developed in the 19th century with the industrial movement.
When most think of the golden age of the feminine, well dressed and coiffed lady, generally people are thinking of the Victorian age, particularly the wealthy or aristocratic classes. During this era, these classes had family income that often depended upon the hard work of the lower social classes or slaves. Their wealth generally depended on exploiting the hard work of others so that they could live a life of leisure. The wealthy men of these social strata could afford to “keep” women—more or less ornamentally. A true mistress of the house had very little to do. She did not, contrary to popular opinion, generally nurse or raise her own children. She had servants to do that (women who worked and drew a wage). While some women kept the household accounts, for the most part a housekeeper would oversee this. Women of this stratum often complained of boredom and occasionally went mad. It’s important to remember that these wealthy women represented a minority of the population.
The majority of the populace generally viewed work as providing for the family, and was the responsibility the entire family--male and female, child and adult. This was particularly true in peasant classes. After certain social revolutions (ie. French Revolution, and the American Revolution), this class was often called the working class. All members of peasant families worked to survive. In fact, “all women, except the most elite, worked on the family farm and anywhere else work needed to be done” (Rupp qtd Sorensen). This reflects the idea that women were not “mere” women of the house. They did what they had to in order to provide for their family.
Society underwent a dramatic shift in the industrial age, when people left the country for the factories or mines. At this point in history, men, women and children all needed to work just to feed and house themselves. As I’ve mentioned, the responsibility for providing for a family fell on every family member’s shoulders. It was not just husbands or even older sons who went to the factories and mines. Women and young children worked for up to 16-18 hours a day for pennies. The conditions were horrible. Many people, men, women, and children died at the workplace during this period. There was a vast out cry at the inhumanity of these work places. As a result, laws were enacted to protect women and children from horrible work conditions in the 19th century. From here we get our child labor laws. The Out of these laws and the desire for reform come our current ideas of childhood as a time of play and education.
While, as mentioned women always worked, during the 20th century, middle as well as upper class women stayed home more, although unmarried women often sought white collar jobs such as secretaries and other service positions. During World War II women in the workforce became a key component to America’s success in the war. According to Sorensen, factories accepted government contracts to produce large quantities of war related goods at the same time the male work force was deploying over seas. In order to man these factories, the government actively recruited women to work with the “Rosie the Riveter” campaign. It’s interesting to note that, according to The Mommy Myth, childcare was also a government funded institution. Daycare centers offered mending, grocery shopping and even running errands like taking a child to the doctor’s. These services were provided at an affordable rate, allowing even mothers of young children to join the work force. The fact remains that America would have been hard pressed to provide the soldiers and the goods required to win WWII if women had not entered the workforce.
Again, in the fifties, middle class women were able to stay at home (or forced there, in the case of many woman who wanted to remain in their wartime jobs). The “June Clever” image of the 50’s is, again, an image of middle and upper class white women. Poor women and minority women still had to work and often they took a pay cut now that the war was over.
What is striking about the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s is not that women could now work (again they have always worked), but that they were choosing to enter the work force, not for economic reasons but for reasons of achievement, self actualization and autonomy. The women’s liberation movement followed heavily in the footsteps of the civil rights movement. In fact, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race, color, national origin, and religion. This act came about largely from the actions of civil rights leaders.
Today women enjoy more equality in the workforce, but not total equality. Sadly, there have been thousands of recent cases of discrimination against women. Pregnant women are often targets of discrimination. According to the The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “In Fiscal Year 2007, EEOC received 5,587 charges of pregnancy-based discrimination.” Statistics like this reflect how necessary it still is to protect women in the work force.
To bring this to the current issue, parental and paternal leave isn’t just about coddling women in the work place. It’s about offering equal rights to mother’s and father. Yes, women birth, and in many instances nurse their children. This does not make parenting a one person job. Parental leave supports family development. Children need their fathers too. By supporting parental leave companies are supporting family values as well as offering a benefit to men (one of the few) that had previously been enjoyed exclusively by women. Unfortunately, companies tend to be too mercenary and so the government must step in and protect the rights of citizens. The government does this by supporting equal opportunity laws.

(Bibliography available upon request)

Marky Mark, I hope I have shared with you some interesting historical facts as well as my own opinion. I do not believe that you need to share my belief system. Nor would I expect you to keep silent on such a hot button issue. I enjoy debate and discussion. However, I would ask that comments are not derogatory. In the end, the only person such comments hurt is yourself. Additionally, you make your point of view seem less valid. I hope that we can exchange ideas through Mrs. Anna T’s forum. I, for one, am grateful that she provides the space for comments and strive, for her sake, to remain respectful.

Anonymous said...

Terry- I'm not sure what goes on in other countries, but in Israel, the gov't foots the entire bill for all maternity leaves for all businesses. The gov't also foots the bill when a young man needs to do his annual reserve duty for a month. Or when a person needs to go on extended leave for health reasons, etc. Both the businesses and the employees pay special taxes that allow the gov't to offer such privileges. (I understand you believe the business should foot the bill. Should they also foot the bill for soldiers or medical leave?).

I'm not sure how it works in Britain, which the article discusses. Or in the States.

I don't think maternity leave is charity. Not only is the same 'mollycoddling' of employees offered to other sectors, but most important, most countries today WANT women on the job, or at least on certain jobs, and therefore ensure appropriate conditions.

As for the two-income trap. I refuse to believe this is a result of women working. Most families in most Western countries today CAN live on one income if they want the standard of living of a few generations ago.

Our problem is that we have come to expect a much higher standard of living. This has created the 'two-income trap'.
Tammy

Mrs. Anna T said...

Did farm wives work along their husband, as needed, in the field? Yes, but ultimately the husband was the leader, provider, and protector of the family. He did the lion's share of physical work, and he was the one looked upon in times of hardship.

Were there situations when women *had* to work in the Victorian era, before, during, and after the industrial revolution, and anytime before modern feminism came into the picture? Yes.

However, they worked because they had to. They worked in order to survive. If they could find a good husband who would provide even a moderately decent income, they would gladly retreat to the cozy corner of their home, to be queens and managers of their own little household. There was no concept of working for self-fulfillment, or feeling "wasted" if you didn't work outside the home. Being the manager of your home was a honorable task and a privilege.

About living on one income: Tammy is right in noticing that most of us can, if needed, survive without having two working spouses, and that many are simply too spoiled to give up a certain standard of living. Absolutely! However, women entering the work force *without actually having to be there* also inevitably caused cheapening of labor and reduction of salaries.

At the beginning of the 20-th century my great-grandfather, a simple clerk, sustained his family of 9 quite comfortably without his wife ever having to work outside the home. Not that they had any luxuries; not that they bought a whole new wardrobe for each child every season; not that they went on expensive vacations etc. But, they always had plenty of food and clothes, and paid for decent education of each child, and even had a maid who would come and help around the house several times a week. How many simple desk workers can comfortably afford household help these days??

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with most of the historical analysis provided above.

The whole romantic idea of the lovely woman in apron at home full-time, tending to her husband and kids, existed only for short periods of time in history, and only in certain classes.

I don't know of many of my grandmothers or other women of their generation who did not work (Jews in Israel and Europe). This was long before feminism, and these ladies were anything but feminists. One used to sell used clothing at the market all day every day; one was a seamstress, working mainly at home, but certainly making their home a two-income one; one was a clerk; still another did the laundry rounds, going from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, each day a different place.

I agree with Anna that many of these ladies would have gladly left their jobs to be full-time homemakers if they only could. But the fact remains that they were working, so one cannot say women suddenly entering the workforce has caused a cheapening of labour.

A simple desk-clerk cannot hire cleaning help these days because there are no semi-slaves or serfs around, at least not where I live. In countries like Brazil, even blue-collar workers can often hire someone to do their every bidding.
Tammy

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Anna T, thank you so much for addressing my comment. I believe I mentioned the difference between women working prior to women’s liberation and after. Women were engaged in employment after the emergence of modern feminism solely for an idea of self-fulfillment and achievement. However, it is fallacy to assume that because they did not work for self-satisfaction prior to this that they did not want such employment.

What I’m trying to say is that historically, women, as a general rule, did not work for personal satisfaction because law and society prevented them. The laws and social constraints created to lock a woman out of professions reflected women’s desire to do so. There is no need to create a law against that which no one desires to do. In “The Subjugation of Women,” a document from 1869, one of the most lucid feminist texts ever written, and in my opinion the best text of its nature written by a man, John Stuart Mills states: “that what is contrary to women's nature to do, they never will be made to do by simply giving their nature free play. The anxiety of mankind to interfere in behalf of nature, for fear lest nature should not succeed in affecting its purpose, is an altogether unnecessary solicitude. What women by nature cannot do, it is quite superfluous to forbid them from doing.”

Again, I turn to Mills because he states it so eloquently: “It will be said, the rule of men over women differs from all these others in not being a rule a rule of force: it is accepted voluntarily; women make no complaint, and are consenting parties to it. In the first place, a great number of women do not accept it. Ever since there have been women able to make their sentiments known by their writings (the only mode of publicity which society permits to them), an increasing number of them have recorded protests against their present social condition... while the demand for their admission into professions and occupations hitherto closed against them, becomes every year more urgent. How many more women there are who silently cherish similar aspirations, no one can possibly know; but there are abundant tokens how many would cherish them, were they not so strenuously taught to repress them as contrary to the proprieties of their sex.” (Mills). This observation, made by a man more then one hundred years ago reflects that women were indeed protesting their “proper” social status.

Mills goes on to make other startling observations about the population of women who did not protest. He writes: “It must be remembered, also, that no enslaved class ever asked for complete liberty at once...” (Mills).

I recognize how controversial such a statement may be. I am by no means suggesting that this idea applies to all women, or even all women of Mills era. Nor do I believe that Mills is suggesting that all women suffered silently and secretly harbored desires of liberation. However, history has shown us that not all members of a populace would feel comfortable protesting their situation. They might hold their peace for several reasons, the most common being social retribution.

Maintaining social standards is an established concept. Men and women have been pushed to cross their own concepts of right and wrong in order to conform to authority. Milgram’s 1963 study on conformity and obedience shows 65% of people obeyed orders, even thought they thought that were harming, even killing the test subject.

Despite humanity’s desire to conform, not all women of any era gladly accepted the social norm. Throughout history there are cases of women who refused to be subject to the socially accepted sphere of womanhood, which meant marrying and focusing on family. One of the most famous is Queen Elizabeth the I who refused to marry so that her husband would not have dominion over her. She played a very delicate and tricky game using her sexuality and her virginity to hold her male courtiers in check. She was one of the most successful leaders in all of history. Many women also chose to have a career out of the home. Catholics recognize Saint Joan of Arc who marshaled France’s army and personally led them to victory. In the Bible we have Deborah in the Book of Judges. Some people challenge Deborah’s example. However, if we accept that God is all-powerful [and I do] then if He had wanted to He could have used a man. He chose not to. He used a woman because she was the right person for the job. The men were all afraid, or cowardly, some point out. The fact remains that God created a brave woman when he could have created a brave man. If a woman feels called to a profession, who are we to question her?

Furthermore, if all women left the workforce the economy would collapse. Important fields like heath care would suffer terribly. There are not enough nurses to go around now. If women left, many, many people would suffer and die.

It seems to be generally acknowledged that some women must work. Who decides which ones work and which ones stay home? Just because you could scrimp out a living, doesn’t mean you should. Life shouldn’t just be about surviving. I’m not saying we all have a right to living excessively, but living comfortably isn’t a crime either.

I recognize that society is experiencing some difficulties—crime rates are up, the economy is unstable. However, we must recognize how new equal rights for women really is. The constitution was only amended in 1964—less than 50 years ago. Just as a point of reference, after the slaves were freed, the American South was devastated. Their economy was ruined, the social structure fractured, crime was up, and life was generally unpleasant. This is not an indication that freeing the slaves was wrong. The solution was not to enslave them again, but to rebuild society to include African-Americans as citizens—a process that is still on going. History has shown us that change leads to a time of upheaval.

At this point I wish to mention that I respect women who choose to stay at home. I respect their dedication to their vocation—to their calling, if you will. God uses each person differently and I cherish our differences.

I want to thank you for taking the time to reply to my comment. I enjoy your blog immensely.

If any one is interested, The Subjugation of Women can be found at http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/mill/john_stuart/m645s/chapter1.html

Anonymous said...

Mrs Anna T.

Sorry, this is a little off topic.

You wrote above about a farmer being head of his family because "He did the lion's share of physical work, and he was the one looked upon in times of hardship."

Why are greater physical strength and the ability to earn money (or more money than other famiiy members)the criteria for earning the title "head" within a family? Having a head of family suggests that there is a hierarchy. Your statement, and the thinking behind it, suggests that other family members are surbordinate by virtue of being less brawny, having a lower earning potential, not being able to work outside the home, choosing not to work outside the home or, in the past at least, not being allowed to work outside the home. Does it come down to just money and muscle? Obviously earning potential is important; but is it worthy of greater status in the home. What is done to keep home with that money is just as important isn't it?

This devaluing of unpaid (house)work allowed men (and women it seems) to feel justified in thinking that women in the home were/are inferior beings. What women did, their skills and strengths were not valued as highly as those of men. This is, to an extent, still true today, which is why you and other SAH wives and mothers are trying to champion your cause, and it is why you feel the need to persuade others (and yourselves I feel)that there is great value in what you do.

Why shouldn't those who keep home be heads of their families? Or why have a head at all? Husband and wife may have different roles, but they should have equal status in the home. The hierarchy based on the man at the head in the home was reflected in society in general. And what a struggle it was to change attitudes.

I feel you've benefitted from that change as much as any other woman. Perhaps if you'd lived through the earlier years of that struggle you'd have a greater appreciation of what has been achieved. You have married a modern man, a man who has been influenced by the change in attitudes, and you are reaping the benefits in these better times

MarkyMark said...

Allison,

WRT your questions about men who are members of the armed forces reserve components, that's opening up a HUGE can of worms! Let me explain...

When we talk about the reserves, one typically thinks of the 'weekend warriors' who get called up for active duty. I believe that would be called the ready reserve. That is not the only reserve component; there are at least two others I can think of: the standby reserve and inactive reserve. Men in either the standby or inactive reserve components do NOT drill on weekends, nor do they do a two week training period annually as do the ready reserve members.

That begs an obvious question: who would comprise the standby and inactive reserves? Typically they consist of discharged and retired active duty members respectively. For example, a guy does a four year hitch; he gets out, and he's placed into the standby reserves. Depending on how long he served and other factors, he may or may not be placed into the inactive reserves. Retired active duty servicemen, if I remember correctly, typically go into the inactive reserves. After a specified period of time (which has no doubt changed since I separated over 20 years ago), a guy will not be in any reserve component whatsoever.

Another fly in the ointment is the change in how the ready reserve is used. Until recent years (Gulf War I), the reserve components were not used unless there was a DIRE EMERGENCY, a la WWII. Men who were in critical specialties may have been called up during Korea & Vietnam, but one didn't see the wholesale deployment of the reserves that one sees today; today, the reserves are considered an integral part of the armed forces, and the armed forces could not perform their missions without them. You didn't see TENS OF THOUSANDS of reservists called up and deployed for months at a time like you see now. Because of the CHANGES in how the reserve components of the armed forces are used, employers are being burdened in a a way that they were not before, when the reserves were held back for use in dire emergencies. BTW, I think that this is the correct use of the reserves.

As you pointed out, reservists have enjoy statutory employment protection, and they've had it for years. However, the CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH THOSE LAWS WERE PASSED were vastly different than what we have today! Back when these laws were initially passed, employers did not have a high likelihood of losing employees; the statutory protections they received seemed to be the right thing to do, since they wouldn't be used unless there was a national emergency of sufficient magnitude to endanger our nation's very existence, and alone with it the existence of the nation's employers.

The reason this opens up such a can of worms is because the difficulty of drawing the line. Do we not protect the ready reservists, the weekend warriors, since they chose the ready reserves (the ready reserves often consist of college students, since the schedule doesn't conflict with school that much)? What if a former active duty serviceman who's now a member of the standby reserve component is called up two years after he gets out? What about a retired guy who's deployed five years after retiring from the service? Do you begin to see the difficulties in trying to make exceptions? It's far simpler to give blanket protection to reservists.

As I think about it, your argument is that of apples vs. oranges. If women either marry well and/or live frugally after marriage, they have the option of leaving the workforce; even though it's more difficult to do today, women still have the option of exiting the workforce. Men have NO SUCH OPTION; we never have. You can use the 'Mr. Mom' argument all you like, but both culture and nature mitigate against that, mainly because of pregnancy, child birth, and child rearing. Men have NO CHOICE BUT TO WORK-end of story, whereas women do have a choice. Therefore, pregnant women should not receive the same protections that reservists do. Reservists help protect the nation. If there's no nation, then pregnancy, child birth, employment leave, and other such questions become moot, as do debates like this. Those are my thoughts.

MarkyMark

Mrs. Anna T said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mrs. Anna T said...

Anon,

I'm sorry I kept your comment on hold for such a long time - I wanted to reply right away, and simply didn't have time to do so until now.

You are absolutely right: men are leaders not because they are physically stronger, or have more money, or more social power or whatever.

We can rationalize as long as we want, but ultimately, a man is a head of his family because GOD SAID SO. Eve was created to be Adam's helpmeet; in Genesis 3, she was told, "and he will rule over you". That, and no other reason, is why I believe in masculine leadership.

Also, I'm not sure what you mean by saying "You have married a modern man, a man who has been influenced by the change in attitudes". My husband, just like me, takes God's Word quite literally. He might be modern in the sense of understanding all about the latest gadgets and computer technology, but there's nothing "modern" or "outdated" about God's Word!

Anonymous said...

Eve is told man will rule over her in the same sentence where she is told she will give birth in pain. This is a punishment, a new twisted reality after the fall. This is not the ideal way things should be.

In fact, many don't even view this passage as a command. It's just an explanation of the new facts of life.

Logically, if a woman MUST do her best to submit to her husband because of this passage, a woman MUST also do her best to experience pain in childbirth.

I don't know of many women who strive to feel as much pain as possible in childbirth. They either try to escape it altogether via drugs, or reduce it greatly by being prepared, measured breathing, water births, reflexology, etc.
So why is the second part of the curse, that of men ruling, so celebrated and encouraged? It's beyond me......
Tammy
PS....I absolutely understand if you don't want to include this comment, as you have previously stated you don't want this to become a site for theological debates. Just couldn't help myself from replying though!

Mrs. Anna T said...

To me, it seems that if Eve was created to be Adam's helpmeet (NOT the other way around!), it also makes sense for her to submit to him, like the second-in-command submits to a captain.

Also, labor = pain. No one can escape it altogether. Some women fear and avoid birth, some celebrate it as a part of their femininity, despite the pain. I don't see why the same doesn't apply to feminine submission.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anna,

I live in CA in the US where not only is it law for woman to get at least 12 weeks of partially paid leave, but new dads may also take up to 6 weeks for baby bonding time. I'm wondering whether you would have the same objections for a man to take time off to spend with a new child. As those men without children or with older children would have to work extra to make up for those who are off with their new babies. Thanks!

Analytical Adam said...

It is interesting someone mentioned Eve well Adam was punished too that providing food and working would be VERY HARD and through the SWEAT OF HIS BROW. Yet today many women feel work is fun which was not what work is and mayn women feel that way because companies can't fire them or can't
even yell at them if they are doing a lousy job (can you say sexual harrasement) which of course they do to men which in the end is not good for a company to have mediocore or plain unproductive female workers and many jobs in the US have been outsourced to other countries which is bad for everyone male and female.

Anonymous said...

LOL... some of these comments had me rolling, LOL...Mrs. Anna, I wholeheartedly agree with what you said in your post. I had my first little one when I was 17. Did it limit my options? You betcha! I missed school for Dr. appointments and sick days for both of us. I was pretty blessed and my parents were supportive and I managed to finish high school with a two year old in tow and go out into the world. Yeah. In the last 10 years I have learned that the type most discriminated against in the US in white middle aged men. Not because of any worthwhile reason, but because of a fear of being sued. Great reason to hire a minority. It's not about qualifications or the best fit, it's about making sure you don't lose everything in a lawsuit. I have worked out side the home of and on since I finished school. And I seem to see the same thing everytime I turn around. My employers have been willing to give me whatever I want so that they can lessen their fear of getting sued. (We now have 3 munchkins)The last time I was in the workforce, I left because my then 10 year old was getting in fights at the "day program" he was in. Every couple of days I got a phone call at work that I needed to come pick him up for the rest of the day. After the 3 time I put in my notice since it wasn't fair to me, my employer, my son, or the "program directors". But this is what women with children costs us. Wasted overhead, administration costs, etc. If a women is alone and HAS to work, that is one thing, and would hopefully not last very long.

And the comment about lazy husbands....well...since we don't do arranged marriages anymore I guess it's one of those natural consequence things. LOL...

Danielle

Analytical Adam said...

I also wanted to respond to the comments by Tammy and others that this is to benefit society maternity leave.

It really only benefits working women. It doesn't benefit men. It doesn't benefit women that want to put family first. It only benefits working women and nobody else. That isn't benefiting society as a whole.

Kat said...

"After much thought, my brave husband said, no. He wasn't going to take time away from his wife and children just because this woman wanted to be a working mother."

Ok...he was brave for not wanting to help a woman. Did she "want" to be a working mother or like himself (who was a working father) did she need to be a provider? If a working father at the same company injured himself and his family relied on his income would we think it brave for people to refuse to help him?

MEG said...

Kat, pregnancy isn't an illness or injury - not a fair comparison. And he wasn't brave for "not wanting to help a woman"; he was brave for standing up for his family, standing up to the feminist idea what women are entitled to certain benefits and advantages, for risking the ire of his employer. If women who don't need to work - i.e. mothers with husbands who can support them in their domestic work at home - returned to the home then the women who do need to work (single, widowed, etc.) would have a much easier time of it and employers wouldn't have to worry about women employees as much.