Saturday, March 17, 2007

In keeping with a theme

Several blogs are discussing the myth of the "Opt Out Revolution". The idea that women are choosing to be SAHMs in greater numbers than ever before.

At Pandagon it's pointed out that for many women, it isn't a free choice. It's a choice we make because our other choices are less palatable. Like the choice for Mr. Gaia to be a SAHD was basically forced because the daycares available to us were abysmal and my choice to be a SAHM was that my job market was absolutely flooded and I had a new baby.

Several of the commenters say that of course women choose to SAH, it's a free choice and anyone that says that they're choosing it mostly because the feel there are no other choices are just whining. Men there are saying that of course it's fulfilling and wonderful and more WOMEN should choose it.

These discussions remind me of a workshop I had while working for the USDA Forest Service in 1995. The point of the workshop was to stop sexual harassment and discrimination. At one point we broke up into groups by gender and wrote what we saw as the benefits and drawbacks of our gender and the same for the opposite gender. In both of our categories we had childbirth. The men had a FIT when we revealed that. How dare we think childbirth is a negative part of being a woman. THEY would give anything to be able to have a child. No amount of us explaining why it was a negative (harder to find a good job, being expected to balance job and family in a way men aren't simply because WE give birth, etc) would convince them.

Seriously, if staying a home is such a great choice that more and more women are choosing it simply because they want to and society has no effect on that at all, why aren't more men choosing it? Why when a woman works 80 hours/week she's seen as neglecting her children, but no one says boo when a man does it?

Apparently I'm radical because I think the "choice" to SAH is all too often a matter of choosing the lesser evil. For us it was put our son in a substandard daycare or live in relative poverty with a SAHD (or abject poverty with a SAHM). Of course, we benefitted from Mr. Gaia staying at home - when he went back to work a short 2 years later, it came with a 50% pay raise and good benefits (with absolutely no change in his qualifications). When I went back to work, it was to a 10% paycut and the only benefit I have is a part time work schedule (and that 10% paycut is based on the idea of what I would make if I worked full time, if I compare what I actually make part time to what I made full time, it would be a much larger paycut)

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