SAHMs: Who’s got your back?
Parents invest more time and money in their kids than ever, but the shocking lesson of twin and adoption research is that upbringing is much less important than genetics in the long run.
There are so many things wrong with Bryan Caplan’s reasoning outlined in this article. I think the first and obvious is that — even if extreme tiger/helicopter parenting is probably not a good idea — it doesn’t automatically follow that the opposite extreme is better.
But there’s another point that I’ve been trying to put my finger on ever since I read that article a couple of weeks ago. It’s that — by the same logic — staying home to raise your kids full time is a complete waste of time. And this recommendation is coming from Deseret News which is run by the same church that teaches that moms need to sacrifice their career ambitions to be at home for their kids. Thanks, Deseret News, for letting us know just how much you guys value women’s time and talents!
Since some of my very earliest blog posts I’ve been arguing that (contrary to popular myth) the feminist movement benefits SAHMs. When a woman has the option of supporting herself and her kids (if necessary), then she has more leverage in her relationship, even if she never takes that option. If a husband isn’t the one thing keeping your kids from starving, then bye-bye abusive husbands!
And then there’s the question of status and respect. Plenty of women (and even men) who have the talents and opportunity (or potential opportunity) to earn money and respect in the business and professional world choose nonetheless to stay home with their kids instead, demonstrating that homemaker is not just a role that one settles for but is a role that has value.
Contrary to myth, The Feminine Mystique and feminism did not represent the beginning of the decline of the stay-at-home mother, but a turning point that led to much stronger legal rights and working conditions for her.
Domestic violence rates have fallen sharply for all wives, employed or not. As late as 1980, approximately 30 percent of wives said their husbands did no housework at all. By 2000, only 16 percent of wives made that statement and almost one-third said their husbands did half of all housework, child care or both.
Most researchers agree that these changes were spurred by the entry of wives and mothers into the work force. But full-time homemakers have especially benefited from them.
From 1975 to 1998 men married to full-time homemakers increased their contributions to housework as much, proportionally, as men whose wives were employed.
Contrast this with the 1950’s, an era so often held up as an idyllic time for motherhood:
Typical of the invective against homemakers in the 1950s and 1960s was a 1957 best seller, The Crack in the Picture Window, which described suburban America as a matriarchal society, with the average husband a woman-bossed, inadequate, money-terrified neuter and the average wife a nagging slob.
Meanwhile, modern books are making it clearer and clearer that there’s no sharp dividing line between career women and stay-at-home-moms. Middle-class mothers these days (and fathers too!) typically sacrifice some career advancement for their kids and sacrifice some potential kid/family time for their careers. So, as I’ve argued in my series on women’s conflicting interests, the following is the wrong model: