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O.K., I'd like to do my bit to help un-dupe mothers of young children. My oldest child is 16 years old. Those 16 years have gone by in a flash. Even though he still needs me, I'm witnessing his establishment of greater independence from myself and my husband in large and small ways everyday. It has been a priveldge to serve him and his siblings these years and I have every reason to believe that the next few years will rumble by us even faster. I could have filled these past 16 years with a lot more meetings, gained a larger earning potential and grown a fatter retirement package, but I'm really hoping you will appreciate that I'm about to introduce a contented, kind, intelligent and well-adjusted young man to the world. I'm confident the board room hasn't changed too much, and I know of three places who currently want me back. I know even more about a boy about to become a man who has changed a great deal and I'm proud to have been personally present to oversee this important project. I hope this helps to bring you some clarity on your human service project.


It's probably harder with more than one child, but my mother went back to work a month after I was born. I was with a nanny a lot of the day, and Dad was my primary caretaker when he got home from work (he'd been married before and had other children, whereas my mom was new at this and not quite sure what to do with me). I was in and out of daycare until I went to school. Once I got in school, I'd be in daycare for about another hour after school until one or the other of my parents could come and pick me up.

Based on what some people say, you'd think all this daycare would leave me emotionally stunted and distant from my parents, or something. Yet, my parents always had time for me and read to me before bed every night from the day they brought me home from the hospital until I was about 8 years old, at which point I wanted to read to myself. Our house was almost always immaculately clean, and I did not know the taste of mac and cheese from a box until I came to college--Mom always made it from scratch. I am considered remarkably polite, well-adjusted, and mature (I'm 21, by the way).

Incidentally, my dad loves to cook, he actually likes ironing, and does his fair share of the dishes, laundry, and grocery shopping without my mother ever asking. He occasionally brings her flowers, and always wants to take her (and usually me, too) to lunch on Sundays after church.


Jane, you seem to be a happy and splendid young woman, you are certainly articulate. You were fortunate that your mother chose healthy people to help raise you. Some mothers do not make great choices in those who will be predominantly caring for their children. Not one of those who cared for you, outside of your father, loved you more than your mother. I recognize that there are cases of abusive stay-at-home mothers. My observations focused mainly on what I would have missed. Jane, I'm going to presume you yourself have not yet had a baby. As you seem to indicate with your mother, I too wasn't quite sure what to do with my first child. In fact, I was downright frightened and bewildered. After looking into several daycares, I just couldn't do it. I know that sounds selfish, and you know what, actually it is. I just really, really wanted to be the one to see him smile, walk and talk for the first time and all the thousands of things that happen spontaneously throughout the day. When I made that decision in 1990, when you were five years old, the venom spewed at me for having decided to do so was astounding. I was told that I was, "driving back the women's movement," "socially retarding my child," and "contributing to a patriarchal society." All of those statements were said to me by angry women. Women with whom I worked. I understood what made them so angry, but I also knew that they were not family -- no matter what the company line says. All the morale boosting, team building meetings, after-work parties put together will not equal your family. When you become less useful to the company, if you are fortunate, you will be given a handshake, a retirement package and nice brunch... and you will be forgotten inside a month. This is not "evil," this is the nature of business. I have been given children in an era where being a stay-at-home mother is frowned upon and I offer my perspective as one to new mothers and those who will be mothers. Having chosen to stay at home with my children has given me the added benefit to be personally present with my aging parents. Increasingly, they are requiring more assistance. I know that the fine folks in the business of caring for the elderly would do a satisfactory job of caring for them, but, because we are family and I love them, I know the small things my father and mother like and dislike (no lima beans!). I know what comforts them and what frightens them. Perhaps I will be called arrogant and selfish just as I was with my children, perhaps I am. I believe I'm the very best one to care for them. God bless you and your family, Jane.

mark justad

It is interesting how personal matters get when it comes to choices about work and family life--at least for women. I still marvel at how men and dads remain almost invisible in discussios about these choices. This is not entirely true, of course, but the domestic (home, children) realm largely remains something for women to deal with whether they work outside the home or not. And men mentioned in relation to these topics seem to be regarded as somehow different and therefore not really men. What simply has not happened has been the creation of something analagous to the ideology of motherhood that argues that mom's are necessary for children on a foundational level. This ideology is, of course, exaggerated and not necessarily a positive thing for women or men. Still, the primary pull for men remains the world "beyond" the domestic where they are expected to make their mark, find their identities. I suspect that until the domestic sphere can provide the same "pull" for dads that it does for moms--both good and bad--articles about working moms that ignore the relationality of gender identities will continue to go unchallenged as incomplete.


Interestingly, I don't think men are hard-wired to be pulled by the domestic sphere, unless it is their livelihood, as in the case of a working farm or the like. The "tug of home" for women is a personal "tug of the heart" to persons there. Women are hard-wired to respond intimately to the human person, and that's why there is so much guilt attached. It's not that she's "guilty" per se for her choices (whatever they are) but the "tug" makes her constantly assess the needs of others.

Men who stay home don't do it for the same guilt or pull of the heart; they do it as a sensible financial arrangement, and look at it very differently than women. But it will never be a 50-50 way of life because of the differences in hard-wiring.

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    • From Benedict XVI
      “People have realized that the complete removal of the feminine element from the Christian message is a shortcoming from an anthropological viewpoint. It is theologically and anthropologically important for woman to be at the center of Christianity."
    • Anger and Patrimony (from Donna)
      This is just another of the unintended consequences of the cultural acceptance of contraception and abortion! Men's sexuality has been robbed of its creative essence. It is now viewed as something that imposes a burden on women (when conception happens to occur), something used to control women or something that is purely recreational. Why would men bother?? In taking away their responsibility, we've also robbed them of their significance! In the big picture of humanity, men have been made into nothing more than a nuisance women have to figure out how to control in order to bring about the next generation. Men don't see it as their task to protect the vulnerable because they see themselves as the vulnerable ones. A few well preserved vials of sperm would make men entirely obsolete in the world's ethos today!!
    • Excellent, Dom! (from Teresa)
      That is astounding Robin, and good for you for standing up. At the heart of that matter, I think, is even worse than a gender mixing message. There is an increased sharper and sharper focus on the "self." Solid Catholic teaching returns our focus away from ourselves to Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The original sin, Eve denied her womanhood when she desired to be like "gods." Since the only god she knew was the Father. Where was Adam? He stood impotent... in other words, they were divorced. There's a young girl at Robin's son's high school who was just told that she is the center of the universe and it's a tragic disservice to her.
    • Find the logic (from "me")
      Ditto what Mary said! A lot of high schools have very poor math and science depts, for boys and girls. I also am educated as a chemical engineer, but chose to teach the two years before we had children because its hours were more suited to spending time with children. (I was looking ahead). When it came time and I was pregnant with our first, I realized that I did not want to leave him with someone else, and was able to stay home full time. I am not sure it would have been that easy if we were used to another engineering income and not just a private school teacher income. Also some of my first job offers were out on oil rigs - I had no interest in that at all even though I enjoyed my engineering classes and did well in them. No one discouraged me from an engineering job, on the contrary I got a lot of flack for my decision not to pursue an engineering career.
    • Find the logic (from Mary)
      I've been lurking, but this is one that irritates me. Beats the heck out of me what these "barriers" are. I was educated as a chemical engineer, where 1/3 of our class was women. However, in electrical engineering, only 1 or 2 out of 30 were women. Is it possible that women are Just Not Interested in some areas? Nah, it must be The Man keeping us down so we must legislate (and, I agree -- when they say "legistlate", I hear "quota"). And actually, I have a friend that was also a chemical engineer. When she lost her job, she decided not to go back into engineering and started working from home so she could spend more time with her 3 kids. Also, if nothing else, there are all kinds of incentives for women to enter science and engineering -- scholarships not available to men, guaranteed housing on campuses that do not guarantee housing to the general population, etc. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that schools in general are not preparing students for the hard sciences. It is truly a sad state of affairs, the lack of science education these days.

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