Moms Opting Out? Is the topic really as controversial as the media makes it out to be?

Starr - posted on 10/09/2009 ( 5 moms have responded )

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Recently, the Opting Out debate was revisited in the Washington Post and I couldn't help but add my own two cents: http://suburbtopia.blogspot.com/2009/10/...



Here is the link to the Washington Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/con...



But I wanted to bring the topic of Opting Out to this forum because I am curious as to how women of different backgrounds feel about this issue. I work in IT and love my job and of course being a Mama. I always go back and forth with the decision of whether to stay put or be a sahm.



However, I don't want this to turn into a "working Mom versus stay at home Mom" debate! We, as Moms, are all super awesome regardless of whether we choose to work in the market or at home. :)



I do a lot of graduate work on family policy and so I am very curious to hear what people have to say about topics like Opting Out and work/family balance. My questions are thus:



Do you see a trend of Opting Out amongst working Moms and is the notion of Opting Out really as bad as some radical feminists say? Is the real issue the lack of family friendly policy, like paid maternity leave etc in the workplace?



Thank you for your thoughts!

Starr C.

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Jodi - posted on 10/09/2009

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I agree with the others and don't think it should be called "Opting Out" at all. Neither side is opting out of anything, they are making a choice based on what works best for them and their families.



I have been in both situations. Up until 5 years ago, I worked full-time outside the home. My son was 7, and I was pregnant with with my daughter when I quit my job. My husband and I had our own business, and he worked very long hours with that, and we struggled to keep up with the paperwork, so we decided that I would be a stay-at-home mum, and help him with the paperwork for the business from home.



I have found that as the kids get older, it becomes more difficult to keep up with them. Sports practice after school, after school care is no longer available once they reach a certain age, and I refuse to allow my kids to become latchkey kids (and that is pretty much the only option), school concerts and sports that they love to have me attend to watch them doing things they enjoy, helping with homework when they need it. To me, that is all part of being a mother.



Now don't get me wrong, I was able to do all those things when I was working, I had a very flexible workplace. I was even allowed to take him to work with me and could sit in my office and play if I needed to. However, my dilemma was with all the running around, I was finding that it was becoming difficult to find the time to get shopping done, feed the family healthy meals, help with homework, and also get my son off to bed at a reasonable time of night (his bedtime was 7:30 because he needed it that way) so he could cope with his school day. His school grades weren't where they could have been because he didn't always finish his homework, or there was no-one there to help him with it when he didn't understand it. He was getting tired because I struggled to get him fed and to bed, and still find time with him, between 5:30 when we got home and 7:30 bedtime.



Now, I have a small part-time business at home to help bring in the extra income we need (so I guess I am not a true SAHM, although I was for the first year of it), I help hubby a little with his business, and the rest of my time is devoted to my children and my home. It works for our family and it is how our family has chosen to live.



I'll be absolutely blatantly honest with you from a small business perspective. If feminists have their way, and all businesses have to provide all these benefits to mothers, it costs money....women will find it more difficult to get jobs. There has to be a balance - our government here, for instance, has just introduced 18 weeks paid maternity leave (it is paid by the government, but employers have to pay it out and claim it back, and employers still have to pay superannuation), we already have allowance for 12 months unpaid maternity leave. We already have a right to a certain amount of paid parental leave when the kids are sick, and most workplaces allow you to use your sick days on your children and provide flexibility with annual leave. What more do they want without costing business so much money that people start losing jobs? Because that is exactly what will happen.

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Tracy - posted on 10/10/2009

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I'm a SAHM and love it. I thought about going back to work but it just did'nt suit us at this time. I consider myself lucky that I have the choice of staying home and alot of mums don't because of financial reasons. I think you just have to do whats right for your family. I love that women of today have options and should not be judged on what option they choose because everyone has their families best interest at heart.

ME - posted on 10/09/2009

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I think that Feminism was supposed to be about women having the OPTION to have a career, in addition to being moms, if and only if they choose to do so! I think radical fems have lost track of this. Do I want women to be represented fairly in the work place? Of course I do...but I also don't want to be told that I am doing something wrong by staying at home with my son (and one on the way). I teach college philosophy part time at a local college, and I enjoy the few hours I get to spend working around intelligent, thoughtful, open-minded individuals each week. I was just as happy, however, staying home full time with my son for the first year of his life. I enjoy the flexibility that this job offers me, and I am lucky that my husband makes enough money for me to make this choice. I do not like anyone passing judgement on moms no matter what their choice is. I do not care if that judgement comes from the left or from the right...it is inappropriate!

[deleted account]

I really enjoyed reading your blog post, Starr. As for the article and the census data, I'd been paying attention to this issue as well. Personally, I don't see a trend of moms choosing to stay home, at least not in my field. I currently work outside of the home (grad school), and my 13 month old is in daycare. I've recently been thinking about leaving the workforce to stay home once I finish my degree. Quite frankly, I think the state of the economy a year from now will play the biggest role in determining what I do. But if I do decide to stay home, I don't see it as "opting out" because I won't be leaving the workforce permanently. Just like I don't see myself as opting out of parenthood by working full-time. And what works for my and my family isn't necessarily what is best for others - I don't judge someone for staying home or working, both can be fulfilling for mom and enriching for baby, depending on the situation. I'd certainly agree that instead of all the focus on work/stay home, we should be worrying about affordable childcare, paid maternity leave, flex-time, etc.

Sara - posted on 10/09/2009

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I read what you had to say about it on your blog, bravo Starr! I have to agree with you. I hate the term "Opting Out", because what exactly are you opting out of? Working or staying at home with your kids presents their own challenges, and just because you chose to work or chose to stay at home I don't think it means you're chosing your career over your family or vice versa.



I have a full-time paying job for two reasons. Reason one is that we can't afford for me to stay at home right now. I have student loans to pay off, my husband is currently working on his graduate degree...it's not a choice for me. Reason two, I have a really good job doing exactly what I want to be doing, and it's a competitive field. I have flexibility to be able to take off whenever I need to be there for my child. In the end, I work for my child, to give her a better and more secure life. I absolutely think that more women would chose to go back to work if their jobs were flexible, and if we were given more paid time off for maternity leave or even the option to work from home. Let's face it, no matter what you do, someone is going to look down on you for it. If you work outside the home, you've given up your family for your career and if you're staying at home you gave up your career for you family. There has to be a nice compromise.

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