Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Nanny State Trap

Have you read the New York Times op-ed piece today regarding,"The Parent Trap" by the goddess of domestic dysfunction, Judith Warner?

We women have, in many very real ways, at long last made good on Ms. Friedan's dream that we would reach "our full human potential — by participating in the mainstream of society." But, for mothers in particular, at what cost? With what degree of exhaustion? And with what soul-numbing sacrifices made along the way?

The outside world has changed enormously for women in these past 40 years. But home life? Think about it. Who routinely unloads the dishwasher, puts away the laundry and picks up the socks in your house? Who earns the largest share of the money? Who calls the shots?

Is it my imagination or is the NYT's crowd stuck forever in a bad 1950's sitcom? And Ms. Warner's solution? More government control, of course:

Ms. Friedan said last year, "We are a backward nation when it comes to things like childcare and parental leave." That's just the beginning. We need universal preschool, more and better afterschool programs, and policies to promote part-time work options that don't force parents to forgo benefits, fair pay and career prospects.

If only the men of the world would keep working those 50-70 hour weeks without complaint, keep the dishes clean, do the laundry, and leave their wives to make most of the decisions like the smart ladies on today's tv sitcoms, the world would be a wonderful place. Oh, and throw in free daycare and a part-time job with full benefits for women and Oiula, problem solved. What a selfish view of the world Ms. Warner has and the worse part? If she can't control the men in her household, she will look to the government to step into that role.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife and I get up at about the same time. While I shower and get dressed for work, she makes lunches. I take some of our kids to school, then go to work.

I am an engineer in a production facility, so I am on my feet most of the day, working, making decisions, thinking, etc. Usually, I get to leave at 5. Usually.

I go home. Until a couple of months ago, sometimes I cooked, sometime she cooked. I clear the table, load the dishwasher and do the rest of the dishes by hand. I also help the kids with their math homework.

Now, I go home, change, eat dinner, go work on converting our basement into a family room.

She takes our youngest to school. On a slow day, she then comes home, does some laundry, cleans part of the house, runs a couple of errands, picks up all the kids, starts dinner and goes to bed between 9 and 10.

On a fast day, after the school drop off, she goes out to help out her parents or one of her siblings, runs lots and lots of errands, picks up the kids, runs more errands, cooks supper, etc.

Oh, and she does all the non-math homework, etc.

I have no idea who does more work. I know at the end of the day we are both exhausted. On the rare occassion that we are not, we sit and talk and plan and laugh.

No were in there is there any room or need for the government, daycare, nightcare, or anything else.

Anyone who thinks they need those things either was raised with a trust fund or wishes they were but is too lazy or stupid to earn on for themselves.

2:33 PM, February 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I meant "nowhere", not "no were".

2:33 PM, February 08, 2006  
Blogger Loquitur Veritatem said...

Dr. Helen, I am with you on this issue, as on most issues. My own take about the politics and economics of state-sponsored "feminism" is here, here, and here.

3:04 PM, February 08, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...


I don't think it is how much money these readers make--it has more to do with the sense of entitlements these readers have when it comes to government issues.

3:12 PM, February 08, 2006  
Blogger Nick said...

If only we didn't have to actually raise the kids at all...

3:15 PM, February 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(sigh) Marriage is hard enough without the government trying to tell me who should be balancing our checkbook or unloading the dishwasher. The dishes by the way, all of my kids are fully capable of doing and it's one of their chores along with putting away their own laundry. My 12 year old is learning to wash laundry besides towels and jeans because sooner rather than later, she's going to college & I don't want her to ruin it because I'm not doing it for her. My 9 year old is now on towels and jeans. My youngest helps him sort and carry, but he can't reach the controls on the washer yet. The kids all help us cook from time to time, and my husband I trade off on the cooking. It depends on which of us gets home first.
These people need to get a grip! Nobody has time to do all and it's not hurting my kids to learn to be responsible for these things - even if they do think their dad and I are nagging them to get it done.

3:17 PM, February 08, 2006  
Blogger Elam Bend said...

The real solution is that if neither parent can sacrifice enough time or money to take care of the kids, then don't have them.
Everyone makes sacrifices to have childred, whether through time or money.
This author is trying to affix her paradigm (paid help/nanny) onto those with less money, and instead of recognizing that what people do now works (grandma, daycare, one parent working part-time or not at all); she seeks to have the government replicate her paradigm for all.
I wouldn't want the government paying for my daycare, god forbid the establishment of government daycares.
Parents seeking sacrifice-free parenthood should perhaps investigate getting a pet.

3:22 PM, February 08, 2006  
Blogger Jerub-Baal said...

Elam Bend, they would never get a pet, to leave it for others to take care of, or to leave it all alone during the day... Why - that would be cruel.

A central theme in all this is a lack of personal responsibility, coupled with a lack of perspective.

3:43 PM, February 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't some woman publish a book or a study last year that revealed that for every dollar spent in a family, women in the USA and Canada decide where and how 80 cents of that dollar will be spent?

And that was true even though in most cases the man earned more money than the woman or the man was the single provider...

I'd be happy to stay home and empty a woman's dishwasher in exchange for getting to decide where 80% of her income will be spent...any of you know a rich single woman?

I would emty her dishwasher and then... " Honey! The bathroom needs new curtains!... and the garage needs a new 2006 V8 5 speed automatic Mustang preferably in bright red or black!
Feel like shopping? I'll rub your feet when we are done, promise! "

3:53 PM, February 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


At my house I do the cooking when we eat at home, I vacuum, pick up socks, sort and put away my wife's piles of paper or whatever stuff she leaves on the floor. She does the laundry most of the time; we both load and unload the dishwasher. We do home projects together. I manage the finances with frequent consultations with her. We grocery shop together but I'm better at it than she is. We make all of our decisions after lengthy discussions. I make nothing because I'm a doctoral student; she makes more than enough for both of us and she works entirely from home and is one of the leading people in her field. But people still ask me when I'm going to get a job and act as if I'm taking advantage of her. She is a strong, confident, intelligent, and capable person. She probably doesn't need me - but we have chosen to live together in a mutually respectful relationship because we love each other and it has worked for 21 years.

4:07 PM, February 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Helen;

Damn good post. Thank you for sharing your insightful observations!

5:12 PM, February 08, 2006  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Too bad that Ms. Warner measures her and other women's lives by "Ms. Friedan's dream." People need to try to reach their own dreams.

In most families I know, OK all, everyone works pretty hard except for some of the most wealthy. And most of them choose too.

People like Ms. Warner seem to forget that typical "male" chores, like mowing the lawn (not many lawns in New York city), painting, repairing leaky sinks, minor car repairs, killing spiders (Joke!!) etc. is pretty hard work also.

With so many single parent families, hard work is simply a fact of life. But feminism has brought about as much of the pain as not.

10:00 PM, February 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We need universal preschool, more and better afterschool programs"

The one thing I simply do not understand about many feminists and other like-minded people is their desire to immediately pawn off their children on someone else to raise shortly after they're born. I understand poorer families who don't have much of a choice in the matter, most of whom I would guess would love to spend more time with their children. But for those who simply don't want to raise their own children, don't have them, I say.

I also like this quote from the article: "Another is the fact that there are no meaningful national policies to make satisfying work and satisfying family life anything but mutually exclusive for most men and women."

A national policy to make all aspects of life satisfying? Oh, but why stop there? Perhaps we can create a national policy where we all get paid to do only the things we like to do, which in my case, would be to drink beer, watch sports, and play video games. We can create robots to raise our children.

Apparently we all now have the right to "Life, Liberty, and simultaneous family and work satisfaction." Oh, and the right to not have to raise our own children.

If Ms. Warner is upset about the amount of housework she has to do, perhaps she should take it up with her husband, rather than the op-ed pages of the New York Times.

10:51 AM, February 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay - went and read it and it's even worse than the excerpts you've pulled Helen. Good lord!

I think the only way Ms. Warner is going to be happy is if she can get someone else to do everything for her, so she can do whatever she wants, whenever she wants. She certainly conveys that SHE thinks women are second class citizens (gee thanks but I have never felt that way).

Are there some households where the wife does "everything" yes there are, just as there are some households (which Ms. Warner would never deign to acknowledge) where the husband does everything. I know people who live both types of lives. I don't understand it, but if they want it that way - I don't care.

For the Ms. Warners of the world - they can never have enough done for them. Any menial task makes their little souls feel as if they are slaves... they never stop to think that if they lived alone... they'd have to do everything they do now - PLUS all the stuff their husbands do that they don't think about.

On the whole - I consider Ms. Warner to be tremendously offensive... especially in labelling me a second class citizen!

And I certainly can't quite figure out how preschool funding by the government is going to help anyone get their household chores done. But maybe I'm missing something.

1:42 PM, February 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know I'm a little late to this thread, but some of the comments here have touched a nerve with me. The people who say, "Why have kids just so someone else can raise them?" kind of go to the heart of my own personal feminism (which is NOT the same as the author's of the piece, or really of the so-called "feminist movement" in its current incarnation). The issue for me is that I am a lawyer. I LOVE being a lawyer, and I worked hard to get where I am. I am also currently pregnant with my husband's and my first child. I intend to go back to work after my three-month maternity leave, and because part-time really isn't an option where I work, it will be day care for the child. Yes, I want to raise my child, but not necessarily at the expense of what I consider to be an important part of my identity, that of a lawyer. I am NOT advocating government child care, or any of the things the author seems to think are so necessary. I am only saying that there are deeper issues at work than the question "why have children if you don't want to raise them?" suggests.

By the way, I DO get that we must make sacrifices for our children, and if it turns out that we can't raise our child satisfactorily without one of us staying at home or working out another solution, we'll investigate that. All I'm saying is that being a lawyer is important to me, and I'm not sure I should automatically have to give that up to be considered a good mother. Isn't that what early (I say true) feminists fought for?

2:07 PM, February 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My point, is, why can't I have both? Why is it considered so disgraceful that I want to be both a mother and a lawyer, especially when being a lawyer is something that I enjoy so much and have worked so hard for?

You are not the first person who has been judgmental to me about my life choices, Steve. My question to you and everyone else who thinks I'm not fit to be a parent because I won't sacrifice a part of my identity that I consider very important to myself- certainly no less important than being a mother, at this point (I can't know how I will feel about it after I give birth)- is, WHY do you think that? Why can't I do both without you thinking I'm a bad parent?

2:37 PM, February 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


It's not really people like you that I'm talking about. We all have to make difficult choices and compromises when we have children. I think it is up to each couple to determine which way to deal with it best. What I object to are those who believe that having a child should have no effect on their lives whatsoever, other than perhaps missing a week of work. They can simply have the child and then pass it off to some agency funded by other people's tax dollars to raise him/her.

It's one thing to have children and figure out for yourself the best way to raise them. It's completely different to expect others to take care of your kids just so that your level of life satisfaction isn't affected by the drudgery involved with having to pick up socks once in awhile, as the author suggests.

Although, I admit, I still don't quite understand people who want to have kids and then immediately give them over to someone else, who might be a complete stranger, to take a large role in raising them. Maybe I'm a bit old-fashioned, but it just seems odd to me. I'm by no means saying that it necessarily has to be the woman that stays home either.

But do I think someone is a bad mother if they pursue their career and hire a nanny or put their child in daycare? Of course not. My own mother worked (although she didn't have a career so much as just a job). I'm just bothered by people who think that raising their own children is somehow beneath them. When reading Ms. Warner's column, I get that sense from her.

2:42 PM, February 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fair enough, Jason. Thanks for explaining, and I completely agree with you in that point.

Also, as you might have guessed, it's a little bit of a sore spot for me at this time! :)

2:47 PM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger Bad Penny said...

anon said: My point, is, why can't I have both?"

You can't have both because it's not good for your infant to be in daycare all day. It's not about what you want, it's about what the child needs. When you become a parent, you give up your right to be selfish.

2:55 PM, February 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mrs. biswas:

I don't think it's selfish to want to have a fulfilling career and children. Why would you begrudge me at least trying, and be so judgmental about the effort? I think I turned out okay, and both my parents worked my entire childhood. As I mentioned above, I am trying to balance both, but if it becomes apparent that it's not working, either on our end or on our child's end, my husband and I will have some more choices to make.

And can you please send some links to studies that indicate that daycare isn't good for an infant? Not about abusive or overcrowded daycare, or some such, but normal, good daycare that is nonetheless detrimental to infants?

3:12 PM, February 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mrs. biswas, I should clarify that I don't necessarily disbelieve you on the daycare-isn't-good-for-infants point, but I'm just not aware of anything authoritative that demonstrates that. If you can send me some info, I am definitely open to reading it. Thanks.

3:26 PM, February 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do readers object more to the idea of funding a national daycare program or to the institutionalization of daycare (e.g., a nationwide curriculum for infants and toddlers)? I may be missing something, but aren't there already tax credits for parents who use daycare? Do the proponents of a national daycare program think the subsidies are too low to make much of a difference in a family's budget?

I am a grad student studying developmental psychology, so I thought I would add some links about the impact of daycare on children. The first URL is a summary of research (2003) and the second takes you to the NICHD Study of Early Childcare and Youth Development's list of publications and abstracts:
(The NICHD Study of Early Childcare and Youth Development is a longitudinal study of over 900 children who went to daycare as infants and/or toddlers (the first cohort of children are now teenagers).)

10:03 PM, February 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Steve Skubinna-
I'm the same Anon from earlier. I'm not sure that how much weight I'm giving either choice is at all apparent from what I've been writing; all I'm trying to say is that I'm struggling with these issues, because my career is important to me, and let's be frank, it's all I know at this time, having never been a mother at this point. And I'm saying that I shouldn't be castigated for thinking deeply about it. For you, it seems a no-brainer- give up the career for the child. For me, having never been a mom yet, it's not so simple. You also seem to think that we should have waited until I was 100% positive that I can give up my career to have a baby. Well, since I can't know what being a mom is until I am one, I probably would have outlived my fertility before being absolutely certain that losing my career for the sake of my child was 100% okay with me.

You seem to think that I can just turn off the part of me that loves my job and wants to have a successful career, for the sake of raising my child. That I could just suppress that part of me. All I'm saying is that it is something I wrestle with. More to the point, you seem to think that turning that part of my life off is something I SHOULD do automatically, for the sake of my child. I just can't agree with you on that.

And as for the issue of the man, he is my husband, and we are working these things out together. This was a planned pregnancy, and we have given these issues a lot of thought before now. But this is, as you might imagine, a more personal issue for me than for him, if only because it is generally the woman who stays home. It's more acceptable in our field (we work in the same law firm) for the woman to stay home, work part time, etc. I was only writing about my own perspective, and not intending my comments to be a treatise on my and my husband's decision-making, which is why his perspective hasn't shown up much in my comments.

6:15 AM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And Ann 10:03, thanks for the links. I am a bit uninformed about the issue of the impact of daycare on kids, and I'm still reading up, since we haven't made childcare choices yet. Thanks for the info.

6:19 AM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's only one thing worse for a marriage than an unfair balance of chores.

Constant Scorekeeping!

10:16 AM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To anon:
You're making tough decisions with your husband and I wish you the best of luck. The jury is still out on the effects of daycare (good, quality care that is) and unsurprisingly existing studies show it seems to have both positive effects (better socialization, earlier reading skills) and negative effects (higher tendency toward physical aggression in the early grades, fading by 3rd grade) on the children involved. My two cents is that neither partner should automatically have to give up their careers for the good of their child. That doesn't mean you both can't work towards finding a compromise between work and home life in order to meet your needs and the needs of your child. "True" feminists, as you call them, have fought for things like flex time and telecommuting that can really help ensure that parents can still work and spend time at home with their children so they don't have to be in daycare as much.

Mrs. Biswas, especially: why shouldn't the father quit working because he's having a child? Is he not as important a parent? Several of the posters seem really intent on making anon feel guilty for wanting to continue working outside the home. She's not the only one choosing to be a parent here, and she's also trying to make smart choices and care for her child, so lay off the guilt trips!

10:47 AM, February 10, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...


The issues of childraising usually work themselves out with time and experience. Like you said, you don't know how you will feel about being a mother until you are one! You may love it and want to be around more or you may find you spend enough time with your child before and after work. I went back to work the week after I had my daughter and it was fine--but hard. Take a few weeks off! The daycare thing will work out if that is your decision. I found a great place near my home that was great with kids and never had a moments worry except for the first day I dropped my daughter off--after that, it was fine. Daycares aren't the best for all kids and they are not created equally. Some are better than others. Go look at some unannounced to get a feel for the atmosphere. Your child might be high or low maintenance--if high, you will have to make more sacrifices to some degree, if low, count yourself lucky! Good luck with whatever decision you make.

12:55 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think someone said once, or twice, that no one on their deathbed ever says they wish they spent more time at work but an awful lot of people wish they spent more time with their kids. Unfortunately an awful lot of people put the prioty on the former instead of the latter.

3:22 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Judith Warner doesn't go far enough. You know, there are PLENTY of women who work long hours, then come home to do the laundry, run the errands, take care of shovelling the walk... and they get NO help whatsover! Yeah, that's right - us single women without kids! Where's OUR legislation that sends a man to cook, do our dishes, fix our cars, and hand us the remote?!?! I mean, having to work outside our homes and THEN come home to do housework... chores are dehumanizing! Think of how many more women could reach their personal and professional goals if we could ALL have maids and personal assistants!
Seriously, her comments were not about social injustice; they were about not getting everything she wants when she wants it. I laughed when she wrote, "Once the money for outsourcing runs dry, it's the lower-status member of the household who does these things." She assumes that chores are demeaning and that most women's problems at home are because of time-management.
And to Anonymous who posted about wanting to spend 80 cents per dollar of the household income: I hate to break it to you, but you don't want that responsibility. That same study showed that the wives were in charge of all the bills, including mortgage and car insurance, and had to set up the budget. In fact, 80% is nothing. In many Midwestern farming families, wives were handed 100% of the pay -and then they would divy it up between bills, household expenses, discretionary income, etc. My grandmothers and great-grands had to run farms while their husbands (and older sons) worked in mines, lumbercamps, etc. My grandfather, even as a kid, helped his mother churn and "brick" butter that she sold to the grocers - imagine that, a home-based business! If she had squandered the money - or her husband drank too much on his way home - then their family would have been ruined.

4:38 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Helen, I'm the lawyer anon from earlier. Thanks for the encouragement. My husband and I are trying to be responsible, to both our child and to ourselves, and it seems like I'm being called selfish just for taking myself into consideration. That's kind of hard to take when my career is something that I love so much but I'm also trying to make the best choices I can for my child. It's not a no-brainer, at least not to me. I envy those for whom such decisions come so easily!

And I agree with you about telecommuting, flex time, etc. My firm is pretty flexible about where I do my work, and I and my husband intend to take full advantage of that after our baby is born. I also get 12 weeks of maternity leave, and I plan to take it all after the birth. Hopefully that time, while short, will help make some things clearer.

This has been an interesting and sometimes upsetting discussion for me, but definitely thought provoking. Thanks, Dr. Helen, for hosting such a forum, and to all the commenters who engaged with me on this topic.

7:26 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon. Lawyer,
I'm another "anon. lawyer" and I'm eight years down your road, with two kids and a "part time" (9-5) job at a big firm. I grew up in a traditional home, Dad worked (all the time) Mom stayed home. My parents were both great, but my mother had a very difficult time when we were young, as my father's career required constant travel and frequent moves. They encouraged my sister and me to have careers, because they thought it would give us better lives than what they had. They were right. My father passed away a while ago, so when my first child was born, my mother was availabe to babysit. I felt very guilty going back to work, but my mother offered a great insight from her childhood on a small farm: my childhood was the anomaly, women have always worked, hard, and relied on grandparents, siblings and aunts to help with childcare.
I'd ignore the critics. I could quit my job and force my husband to have the kind of job my father had, it brought in the money, but he was never there (and then he was dead at a young age). And yes, he wished he had more time with us at the end, but he also wanted to make something of himself. Was he selfish?

8:46 AM, February 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh man, that last comment was pretty bad. If there's one thing a couple should consider when making these decisions is the toll it'll take on one or the other and how that might affect how much time they're able to be with you (in the marriage/relationship and on this Earth).

6:36 PM, February 12, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Who routinely unloads the dishwasher, puts away the laundry and picks up the socks in your house?"

My guess, for most of her NYT readers, is the nanny.

12:54 PM, February 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


5:38 AM, March 14, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

視訊做愛視訊美女無碼A片情色影劇kyo成人動漫tt1069同志交友網ut同志交友網微風成人論壇6k聊天室日本 avdvd 介紹免費觀賞UT視訊美女交友..........................

10:18 PM, May 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

男同志聊天室免費成人情色愛情公寓aaa片免費看影片sex movie日本美女寫真集情色a片情色交友色情遊戲aio交友愛情館sex999免費影片伊莉成人視訊交友歐美潮吹短片線上a片85cc免費影城s383情色大網咖sex888 sexy girl自拍美女聊天室 s383視訊情人主播脫衣秀微風論壇080聊天室6k情人網性感美女美女寫真影片裸體美女18成人網

10:28 PM, June 07, 2009  

Post a Comment

<< Home