Podcast will return; Judith Warner's latest blog
Entries are coming in and I love hearing from real podcast listeners in Iowa, Hawaii, New York, Ohio, and Canada, to name a few places we've heard from.
Next week I will be talking to Julie Shields, author of How to Avoid the Mommy Trap. I am excited on many levels. I adore Julie's book and it has been a big influence on me. I found it after Mojo Mom was already in press, but I have blogged about it and I'll incorporate some of those thoughts into the new edition of Mojo Mom.
I am working on the revisions and yet I keep coming across new relevant material every day. Take Judith Warner's latest Domestic Disturbances blog post, "The Other Home Equity Crisis." I have not had time to digest it thoroughly yet, but the piece takes a look at the post-Opt-Out narrative. This is the very topic I've been thinking about for Mojo Mom. We need to move beyond that limited storyline, but I can't help but worry that as we risk throwing stay-at-home Moms under the bus in the process. Warner describes "opt-out" Moms (in the context of the media zeitgeist) as "a sort of angel [who] has appeared to guide their way and re-label their unfortunate circumstance as virtuous choice."
Argh. I realize that women leave the workforce for many reasons: choice, circumstance, being pushed out. On a societal level we need to understand these contexts. But on an individual level, what is wrong of making the most of the hand you are dealt? Given our current situation that expects many workers to put in 50+ hours per week, it is rational for one parent to decide to stay at home to care for the kids. It's not always ideal and need not be idealized, but it's a valid choice. And while we are there, why not enjoy ourselves? I'd like to combine work and family with enough time to enjoy and succeed in both roles. This is my idea of an ideal life, not an "unfortunate circumstance."
And do other people somehow get to be career mavericks, but we Moms have something to prove? Timothy Ferriss wrote a bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek, built on the premise that he wants to generate an automatic income so that he can race motorcycles in Europe, ski in the Andes, and dance tango in Buenos Aires. He gets to be completely brazen in his life's goal to be a professional dilettante (and he's laughing all the way to the bank right now). Somehow Moms risk getting labeled as a loser for wanting to go off script. And the real kicker is, there are so many scripts out there that there is one to potentially bash every Mom, employed (a la Caitlin Flanagan) or at home (a la Leslie Bennetts).
That's one reason I am excited about the book Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It. In addition to having a real solution, Cali and Jody acknowledge that work as it is currently constructed does suck a great deal of the time, particularly for caregivers who are expected to function as though they have no other responsibilities.
We have the potential to make work more rewarding, productive and efficient, and less punitive. That would be good for everybody.
We also need a corrective narrative to the Opt-Out storyline, but in the process let's make sure that we don't come up with something that is equally divisive.
That's another reason why I am excited to talk to Julie Shields. She is able to cross the gender divide with really good strategies to help Moms and Dads share parenting. And in the long run, getting true workplace flexibility (i. e. with proportional benefits and promotional schedule) for everyone will allow men to create humane work schedules for themselves, which will allow them more time as Fathers and more options for Moms to work as well.
More on this next week after I talk to Julie!