Friday, July 25, 2008

Podcast will return; Judith Warner's latest blog

The Mojo Mom Podcast is taking the week off, I hope you'll visit our podcast archives and listen to a previous July episode to learn how to enter our drawing to win an iPod Nano.

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!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amy, I'm going to send you some fodder offline in a minute or two because this topic came to life for me just this week and from a different perspective. The bias against women is so deeply institutionalized that is hard to see when choice = no choice, but that is often the case.

I'm sure you'll handle this dichotomy beautifully.

4:57 PM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

Karen, it's so good to hear from you and I am eager to see what you have to say. I feel like I am wrestling with a Zen koan -- one with no simple answer but there has to be some understanding to come out of the struggle. (And today it literally feels like a struggle -- I have a pounding headache.)

I see both the systemic level of needing to change things, but at the same time, can't each of us be given permission to enjoy our lives, however they unfold? I think of all the hats that a women is likely to wear over her lifetime. "Mom" is just one of them. "Stay at home Mom" and "working Mom" come and go. We have given these labels far more power than they deserve.

Looking forward to continuing this conversation....

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Amy Vachon said...

I'm thrilled that you'll have Julie Shields on your podcast. Her book has been dear to me for a long time. One of my favorites!

-Amy V.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Robyn said...

I am at home with my toddler son and my husband and I are what I would consider middle class for a family of three not "upper middle or middle" as Ms. Warner and so many others would have you believe. My decision to stay home is a daily struggle, both personally and professionally, but working a 45 hour a week high stress/low paying job as a community social worker only to spend it all to put my son in the care of someone else seemed a ridiculous choice only to fit the mold defined for me by someone else. Wow, that was a mouthful. Thanks Amy, for always being a compassionate and objective voice for women and mothers.

2:17 PM  
Blogger blue milk said...

Sounds fantastic. I was both very excited by equal parenting when I read about it and terribly disappointed. I compared it to my own situation and whereas I'd thought I was doing so well it soon became obvious that we were still only scratching the surface. Explains why I was so tired and stressed all the time.

9:20 AM  

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