Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Gross Story with a Point

Last night, my head finally hit the pillow at 1:30 AM, whereupon I smelled feces. The source? A clump had stuck to my dog's behind, and to try to get it off, he had scooted along the quilt and bed sheet. I had to get up and change the quilt and sheet, and get into the shower with Einstein to remove the smeared feces from his backside before I finally, at 2 AM could get back into bed.

That's about as unpleasant as "parenting" gets and yet it was less stressful than many worklife tasks. And I got immediate gratification for my work: In a half hour, all was clean and dry.

Again and again, I see stay-at-home moms having much more pleasant lives than people in the workplace. Sure, they have to change diapers and clean toilets, but also, they're on the phone with their friends while their kid is in the crib. They're strolling in the mall or supermarket, relaxedly picking out things. They're seeing the concrete rewards of unstressful tasks like cleaning up the house or making a yummy dinner. If their kids are in school, they have time to get their nails done, take an art class, etc.

Yet women and women's advocacy groups endlessly complain of the stress and difficulty of being a stay-at-home mom, even claiming that mommyhood is the most difficult job. In fact, as a commenter on a previous post wrote, very few women would trade their job as stay-at-home mom for their husband's job out in the work world. Today, even white-collar careers tend to be stress-packed: landing a job, keeping a job, succeeding in a job, fighting the commute, etc. And blue-collar work is typically even more exhausting if not downright dangerous.

Men and women who work outside the home, you deserve a lot of credit for what you do, moreso than do stay-at-home moms or dads.


Kat said...


It's okay. Let these "SAHMs" (as they call themselves) go out for their strolls and chit chat with the girls while we go out and work our rear ends off.

In the end, I will get the last laugh because all those years they were laughing up a storm and hanging out with the girls, I sacrificed by investing money in my 401(k) and IRA.

One day, these stay-at-home moms will not be able to justify staying home anymore and they will be forced to work in order to keep up with paying for college and other day to day expenses. Their rude awakening awaits.

And the joke is on them!

I, in turn, will be in Hawaii sipping on a Pina Colada and enjoying many years of comfortable retirement. My hard work will pay off and I will delight in seeing these former mommies work for the rest of their lives.

You can't get those years back. That's the power of compound interest. Sweet revenge.

Anonymous said...

Jeez, it sounds like I wrote this article myself! Thanks for posting something that is so long overdue.

It's funny how people call SAHM the "hardest job in the world." For the hardest job in the world, it requires no experience, no references, no background check, and no job interviews.

Funny how I never see brain surgeons gossiping at Trader Joe's at 11am on weekdays, or getting their hair done at the salon while their husbands slay dragons at work.

And if I needed brain surgery, I'd ask for more qualifications than SAHM's are required to give for their jobs.

SAHM's are pulling off the biggest scams in America today, and gullible men continue to buy it. It seems Peggy Bundy is a much more realistic view of the SAHM lifestyle than anyone wants to admit. After all, why would they want anyone blowing their cover?

Well, back to watching election coverage on the news. Too bad Obama and McCain are applying for such easy jobs. If they wanted the hardest jobs in the world, you know, something really challenging, they should be campaigning to be stay at home moms.

Dave said...

You don't understand the stay-at-home lifestyle because it goes against the values you hold dear. I posted an anonymous reply to your "I don't believe in the pursuit of happiness" blog-post a few months ago.

"Okay. Based on your articles, you seem to draw three components for a life well led.

1. Accomplishment

2. Gratitude

3. Serving others (helping people to get what they want).

And these things bring about self-satisfaction, a life with meaning/purpose and overall contentment."

Full time, meaningful employment can provide these things. The stay-at-home lifestyle can't, and that is why you (and I) don't understand how or why these stay-at-home wives choose to stay home. They are not living a well-led life.

Anonymous said...

I'm a woman and never been a SAHM (full disclosure).

If you're a SAHM, I suspect that when you're cleaning the toilet for the 5,000th time and no one would be aware that you ever did it -- seeing others working where they have their own office, business travel, expenses, etc. might make them feel like they have a rotten deal.

What I think many SAHM don't understand (or are in denial about) is just how stressful work environments are. Companies get thousands of resumes for a job and treat employees like slaves knowing it's all they've got (and reminding them of it regularly). Obviously, that's just for starters.

While some SAHM with little budget money and no skills feel trapped and powerless, I agree with Marty's point that really a SAHM is her/his own boss. Most SAHM that I've known have nothing like the kind of stress of working a typical job.

Charles said...

I have a couple of questions for you, Dr. Nemko.

1.) Why do you continue to rail against stay-at-home moms? As I pointed out before, only 7 percent (approximately) of all mothers in the U.S. are stay-at-home moms, and that number has been declining for decades.

2.) Who should be caring for young children - newborn to pre-kindergarten?

Marty Nemko said...

I rail against them because even if they're just 7% (and I think the percent is higher than that), they often take precious slots in colleges and graduate schools and abdicate the implicit responsibility to, in exchange, give back to society, to simply to what they promised they'd do in their admission essays.

Also, I have become convinced that stay-at home moms are, on average, worse for kids than are working moms: they are more often overprotective, are bad role models (all they do is be a mother), and are more likely to be a bad parent because being with a kid(s) 24/7 leads to intolerant parenting.

Environmentalists agree that the greatest threat to the environment is overpopulation. I don't feel we need to excuse people from contributing to society because they decide to have children.

Anonymous said...

It is truly shameful that women who later choose to be SAHMs take those precious university slots, but shouldn't men be glad that at least they aren't taking those even more precious high paying jobs?

Some people(men included)do derive a great deal of meaning out of raising a family. Accomplishment, gratitude, service to others: all that can be achieved just as easily, if not more so, by having a family. And for many, that may be the only way for them to experience any of those things, as most aren't so fortunate to have jobs come close to giving any sense of "self-satisfaction, meaning/purpose and overall contentment."

Marty Nemko said...

I completely disagree with the previous commenter's statement that men should be glad more women don't take high-paying jobs.

Just as I fight for men to be treated on his merits, I am equally concerned about when a woman isn't. If a woman is the best person for a high-paying job, she should get it. No question.

Not only does the employer, and in turn, society benefit, when a mom assumes a high-level position, she becomes a far better role model for her children and all kids than the stay-at-home mom. And, as I've argued in previous posts, I believe that working moms make better parents than stay-at-home moms.

Marty Nemko said...

In response to Kat's comment, I disagree that men with SAHM's will usually get the last laugh.

Usually, the wife will because one of the following will occur:
1. He will continue to support her lifestyle
2. They will divorce and with most state's divorce laws, he will continue to support her lifestyle for years.
3. He will drop dead, in part because the stress of being the sole supporter, leads to early death. (There are more than 4 widows for every widower.) Meanwhile, he will likely have left her with enough money for her to continue to not work.

Anonymous said...

Marty, you misunderstood Kat's point. She didn't say husbands with SAHMs will get the last laugh (they won't, obviously, for the same reasons you listed). Kat said that SHE will get the last laugh, because working women like her will live their golden years in luxury thanks to wise retirement savings. SAHMs, on the other hand, will not. SAHMs may not have the stress of working, but there is something to be said for a sense of accomplishment and pride when you look back on a long career, and they will have nothing to look back on except raising a family. That may be admirable to some, but it won't fund your retirement.

And a lot of those husbands won't have such a big nest egg, either. They're too stretched trying to pay the bills of their ever growing families. Nearly every man in my family works to support their SAHM wives, and they're all barely making ends meet. How will things be in 20 years when it's time for them to hang it up? If their parents are any indication, then they should worry. Divorces happen, kids become deadbeats, and the cost of living skyrockets. The same can happen to families with working mothers, but the potential for disaster for them is nowhere near as great.

Helena S. said...

Being a stay-at-home mom is hard work, let me tell you. I have a science background and I've worked in the real world long enough to know how stressing it is to be out there. But at least I had free time when I got home from work. I respect my husband who works the day and then comes home to help me with the baby but somehow I'm always more tired than he is. And more tired than I used to be when I worked outside of home.

But I won't be able to stay at home till my kids are teenagers because we simply can't afford that. And I'm not complaining either! It's wonderful to be with your kids 24 hours a day. Even though exhausting... :-)

PS. I was just looking for bloggers who like Sleepless in Seattle, and you were the first man I found.

Grace said...

Please answer Charles question:
Who should be caring for young children - newborn to pre-kindergarten?

Grace said...

Cleaning up dog poo once? Ok. The task is unpleasant but it is easy to fix. But what about doing it again and again, all day long, day after day? Even a simple task can become stressful and exhausting.

Full time parenting has its joys and its perks. It also has incredible stresses. I have been a SAHM. I am currently working full time outside the home. Both situations have their advantages and stresses. When I was a SAHM, there were days when I would be so busy that I wouldn't have time to eat or shower or sit down. There were other times when I blissfully looked ahead at an empty schedule and thought, "What should I do today?" But this happens to me in the workplace too!

Blanket generalizations about SAHM and mom's in the workforce are incredibly silly to me.

Marty Nemko said...

As I've written, Grace, people should be having fewer children. And the research does NOT support the benefits of moms staying at home for 5 years. For the first one to six months or even 1 year, fine. After that, I am convinced that, on average, the greater net good to the woman, the child, and society accrues from her going to work.

Grace said...

Yes, we should be having fewer children. I agree wholeheartedly. Until people are rewarded for having fewer children, with revised tax laws or a brand new big screen tv, people will still keep pumping out child after child.

Someone has to take care of young children. I ask again, who should do it?

Marty Nemko said...

I thought my previous comment answered your question: child care providers. The data does NOT support the fact that children do better with stay-at-home moms. When you control for socioeconomic factors, there's no difference in how well the children do, cognitively or emotionally.

Anonymous said...

"Until people are rewarded for having fewer children, with revised tax laws or a brand new big screen tv, people will still keep pumping out child after child."

Grace, I have no children, nor plan to have any. I don't think I could raise a child with the care and attention one needs.

You know how I'm rewarded? No tax breaks, of course, but with no child, I don't need extra tax breaks.

And I did just get a new TV, and paid cash. How? My bills are paid. With a child, I'd likely be swamped with bills.

My biggest reward is not monetary. Because I have no children, I have time to do whatever I choose. If I had a child, most of my time would be my child's time.

As far as I'm concerned, I've already rewarded myself for not having children. For me, these outweigh the benefits, and I'm sure there are many, of having children. In this day and age, childrearing is a choice, not a necessity, and I'm glad I have that choice.

What a popular subject this turned out to be, Mr. Nemko. Who knew that your dirty dog would inspire such a turnout?

Anonymous said...

Can you provide links to this data you mention?

Marty Nemko said...

Here are some"

Here's an excerpt from a piece I wrote a few years ago citing many studies:

It’s better for the children. Yes, on average, kids with a stay-at-home-mom do somewhat better, but that is largely because couples that can afford to have mom staying at home are, on average, from a higher socioeconomic class, which confers many other benefits on the child.

A number of studies indicate that being a working mom doesn't hurt and may even help the child. For example, Caring and Counting: The impact of mothers' employment on family relationships by Tracey Reynolds, Claire Callender and Rosalind Edwards, reports, "...the mother's work had a positive impact on their family relationships. The mother's employment provided skills and resources that meant they could meet their children's emotional, developmental and material needs better. Their relationship with their partner was enhanced because they shared the financial burden of providing for their family and had more common interests." Thebook, Ask The Children, is based on in-depth interviews with 600 parents and more than 1,000 children in the third through twelfth grades from diverse backgrounds. Itfound that "having a working mother is not predictive of how children assess their mothers' parenting skills, based on a number of attributes strongly linked to children's healthy development and school success. These include 'being someone I can go to when I am upset' and 'knowing what is really going on in my life.'" This study's results were reported to the public in a cover story in Working Mother magazine called "Hey Moms, Drop the Guilt!" Millions of children with working moms do just fine. What counts most is quality time: reasonably consistent, loving, limit-setting but not punitive parenting, even if it begins after the workday.

Here are links to additional research indicating that, if anything, kids and moms benefit when mom works outside the home:

Here's the link to entire article:

Grace said...

I don’t know the statistics, but both my husband and I worked in daycare centres through our twenties. Our experiences made us (yes, both of us) decide that when we had children, one of us would always be at home with them. Currently, my husband is the stay-at-home parent. We, like many single income families, are in a lower income bracket, but have adjusted our lifestyle to make this decision a reality.

Some children we worked with were much better off for being in daycare. Their parents were not able or willing to provide a stimulating environment for their children. So, for these children, daycare was the best place for them. However, some centres that we worked in offered mediocre to unsatisfactory care because of the high turnover of good staff. Unqualified staff were hired because of staff shortages and children were herded from one activity to the other like sheep.

I understand the idea of using my gifts for the greater good, but what if I am not a brain surgeon and the job that I do can be filled by someone else? Well, if I have career contentment in my job AND if I can find excellent care for my child, then I should feel great about continuing in my career. However, if someone else can do my job, if I don’t have career contentment, if I don’t feel comfortable putting my child in the care of someone else, and if I would enjoy giving my child full time care, then it makes sense that I should do it if I am able.

I understand your resentment of those that say that nothing is harder than being a stay-at-home parent. This role, as with any role, has its ups and downs. But can’t we stop there? Do we have to say that one role is better than another? Yes, some people suck at being SAHM’s, eating bonbons and talking on the phone all day while their kids are babysat by the TV. But, many people in the workplace suck at their jobs too – spending company expense accounts, going for endless coffee meetings, and loitering on Facebook instead of being productive. It is wrong to say that being a SAHM makes you a better parent. It is also wrong to say that not being a SAHM makes you a better person. As I have said before, sweeping labels and generalizations are not helpful to any cause.

Marty Nemko said...

A very helpful post, dear Grace. In my view, your best yet.