Excerpt: 'Get to Work'

With both groups, it's hard to know which came first--the failure in the education, and alienation from the workplace or the reshuffled priorities of children and family. Unlike the richer women I studied, however, the cost of child care also played a role in the blogging mommies' decision. Even Ammie says she quit in part because "we were spending more money on child care than it was worth for me to work at that 'regular' job anyway." Christine was "stuck in a job that [she] didn't really like....It got depressing to be working just to pay the nanny and fill up my 401k." Michelle says that "while all this was going on...I began to fall in love with my children. I began to love my husband more." Yet she, too, admits that her decision is partly driven by economics. "If I work at a smaller firm, I still have to put in 50 or 60 hours a week, occasional nights and weekends, and my salary will once again be eaten up by childcare." (This is obviously absurd: A lawyer in private practice working fifty hours a week makes more than any nanny except Mary Poppins.) Socially privileged women and just regular folks. Highly educated and the whole American female workforce. All the data reflect that women are tied to the household today in a way that rebuts every expectation of the feminist movement.

The reports are almost always couched in a description of the family that sounds eerily like a religious experience. Consider the endlessly repeated canard I never met a man who wished on his deathbed he had spent more time at work. What does this really mean? It's manifestly false--think Mozart. It devalues the world of work--and other public service--and elevates the world of the family to the experience closes to the afterlife.

(The precious, leisured, nuclear family is certainly not a deep-rooted concept. Any good history of the family reports that work was separated from home only recently, in the industrialized West, maybe a century and a half ago. Before that, everyone in almost every family on earth worked. The exaltation of bourgeois monogamy is a product of the Protestant Reformation's war against the celibate clergy with a good kick from the accident that Queen Victoria just loved her husband. Protestantism isn't exactly newborn, but it's certainly more recent than you would think from the current rhetoric about the family. The idea that children are anything but small adults who should fit themselves into the world of adults is a product of all those social changes.) COONTZ HERE

The flip side of the caregiving women are the grateful men. These are the guys, beavering away at their high-status, high-paying, dangerous, interesting, courageous, political, public lives, who write me and anyone else who asks about how grateful they are to have such wonderful wives to raise the couples' children. "I thank God every day that my wife stays home with the kids. It makes my job, here and overseas, a lot easier to do knowing they are safe." Arguing that I am un-Christian, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary admits that he "respond[s] to Hirshman's arguments from a highly privileged position--as the son, husband, and son-in-law of women who gave and give themselves to the calling of motherhood without reservation."

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