Sciencewomen

i-9dc84d4d9156dccb30d5f62466b4219a-swblocks.jpgHappy New Year everyone!

I just read a fantastic post by Pat at Fairer Science, where she quotes from writings by mill girls in 19th century New England. The ideas put forward by the young woman who wrote the essay are eerily prescient of the sentiments I expressed 170 years later.

I also wanted to point towards Janet’s thoughtful revolutionary post respond to a few comments from the “my revolution looks like this” post of a few days ago.

From dave:

As far as household responsibilities… if my hypothetical future wife is also working full-time, I rather hope she’ll force me to pick up my share of housework (though I have a short list of things I’m going to insist that that share includes and excludes); but if there are children involved, I’d rather treat kids+house as a full-time job of its own, and it would take a lot to convince me to pick up that one. (I’m not going to rule it out completely, but if my hypothetical future girlfriend tells me she wants both kids and a career, I plan to tell her to marry somebody else.)
For perspective: My mother was a full-time mother (of six kids, twelve years between the oldest and the youngest), and my father worked full-time and hardly had any involvement in taking care of kids+house. Everybody involved seems to be happy with that, so try to leave some room in your post-revolution world for people who prefer it.

Sure, dave. If that’s what your hypothetical wife really wants, but I suspect that once we make it possible for all people to have reasonable work hours, fair compensation, flexibility in career tracks, etc., a lot fewer women will find it attractive to solely be the domestic servant for their husband and children. Most women I know do enjoy some intellectual stimulation beyond dishes, laundry, and play-dough.

From Alan:

The thing I dislike most about your revolution is that it seems everybody has to do something for you. I do not hear you saying what you will do for others in return….You entitled to talk about whatever kind of revolution you want but considering the number of children on the planet working 16hr days picking over rubbish dumps just to survive, you’re “revolution” sounds more like “let them eat cake”

In my revolution, we build cities so that car dependence is reduced and food is sourced locally and organically. Therefore, we reduce carbon emissions, reduce greenhouse warming, and reduce the economic, social, health, etc. consequences of climate change. Those consequences, incidentally, that will be felt most profoundly by the poorest people. Does that not count as doing something for other people? Also, in my job as a teacher and scientist, I already “do for others” every day. I guess I didn’t need to include it in my revolution, because I think many of us already spend much of our lives helping other people (and the planet.) Speaking also of the poor, I concede the point that my revolution does sound pretty middle-class western civ.-oriented, but I truly deeply hope that as we achieve these things in the U.S. and other rich countries that we also work hard to help those in less wealthy nations and let them enjoy what we mostly take for granted. One place you can start is by making a donation to Heifer.

Finally, from Nat C.

Sorry, but if you are feeling sleep-deprived and making hard choices it is your own fault. Either get your lazy ass partner to help you, have one person watch over the children full-time or pay for the nanny. If your idea of fun is working all day long and then going home to do the dishes that is your own problem. I have better things to do.

Clearly, Nat has no idea what life is like for most parents where economics dictate that both parents work (and still can’t afford a nanny), for single parents, for parents with a disabled spouse, ….or, generally, for most parents in the world. Clearly, Nat has not be reading this blog for very long. We are left to wonder why if Nat has “better things to do,” did he bother to comment on this post?

There, I feel better now with that out of my system. There were also some very positive comments in the post and a good discussion about how we do or don’t enable men to do an equitable share in child-rearing and household-running.

I look forward to another year of good comments around these parts. And I include in my definition of “good comments” even those with which I disagree, for those disagreeable comments can be the ones that cause us to think most deeply about what we know and believe. Of course, the positive comments are a lot nicer to read.

Comments

  1. #1 Comrade PhysioProf
    January 1, 2009

    Happy New Year, SciWo!!

  2. #2 dave
    January 1, 2009

    “Sure, dave. If that’s what your hypothetical wife really wants, but I suspect that once we make it possible for all people to have reasonable work hours, fair compensation, flexibility in career tracks, etc., a lot fewer women will find it attractive to solely be the domestic servant for their husband and children.”

    I think my comment was misunderstood (which is probably mostly my fault for phrasing it poorly).
    “Domestic servant” wasn’t what I had in mind there; I was thinking more along the lines of “I think children are important enough to be worth having a full-time parent”. Adding household responsibilities to that is more a matter of logistics than anything else (though I don’t have direct experience there, so I’m willing to be convinced I’m speaking ex recta on that point).
    Post-revolution, I would love to contribute half a fulltime-equivalent to taking care of kids+house (I love my day job, but not so much that I’d pass up the opportunity to do half as much of the same work if it were feasible and I had other things I could usefully be doing). Until the revolution comes, though, it’s probably easier to find a wife who thinks raising children is worth (to her) doing it full-time (or worth convincing me to give up my job to do it full-time) than it is to find two career-grade part-time jobs.
    (Such women do exist (I know a few, not all of whom are in my parents’ generation), and if you were to suggest to any of the ones I know that they’d be better off with a career outside the home, you would be (quite deservingly) laughed at. Making life easier for people who have other goals is a Good Thing, but if it comes at the expense of acknowledging the contributions of people who don’t, you’re losing something rather important.)

  3. #3 Isis the Scientist
    January 1, 2009

    Happy New Year, ScienceWoman! Stick with the revolution…

  4. #4 Neuro-conservative
    January 1, 2009

    I was surprised and dismayed to find that my comment on that thread was deleted/censored. Can you please spell out which ideas are not permitted in your revolution?

  5. #5 Peggy
    January 1, 2009

    As far as household responsibilities… if my hypothetical future wife is also working full-time, I rather hope she’ll force me to pick up my share of housework (though I have a short list of things I’m going to insist that that share includes and excludes)

    While this is better than a flat-out refusal to participate in household duties, I think this really lays an unfair burden on your hypothetical future wife. Why should she have to “force you” to share the housework? My own experience is that this can be as exhausting than just doing the tasks myself – and can leave me feeling like a shrewish nag, which is not pleasant at all. It’s taken a number of years for my husband and me to figure out a system that works for us, and it’s been a sometimes stressful journey to get us to that point.

    In my ideal world, all adult household members will not only contribute equally to the chores, and not wait to be asked to “help” (which implies it’s someone else’s job), but volunteer to do what needs to be done, no matter how much they dislike the tasks.

    Such women do exist (I know a few, not all of whom are in my parents’ generation), and if you were to suggest to any of the ones I know that they’d be better off with a career outside the home, you would be (quite deservingly) laughed at.

    Most of the women who had children in my mother’s generation (she’s in her 70s) were full-time care givers. Many I’ve talked to remember feeling isolated and underappreciated when they spent all their time with their young children. Many found work outside the home when their children were old enough. Sometimes it was because they needed the income, but often it was unpaid volunteer work that they took on (the public elementary school I attended relied heavily on such volunteers). When no-fault divorce was enacted in California 1970ish, the cliche was that women were leaving their families to “find themselves”. And I think there was a grain of truth in that – many women felt unfulfilled by full-time motherhood.

    It’s probably different in communities where the childrearing is more communal, but in the middle class suburbs it can be a pretty isolated job. Of course there are some women (and some men) who love being full time caregivers and housekeepers. But that’s just not true for everyone.

  6. #6 dave
    January 1, 2009

    “Why should she have to “force you” to share the housework?”
    The same reason my housemates had to force me to share it when I was a student living in shared houses: Because my tolerance for having it left undone (at least beyond the kitchen counter – I often had to force my housemates to wash their dishes) is abnormally high. (Anybody who’s seen my apartment wouldn’t have to ask that question.)
    (“Force” may be too strong a word for what I actually meant, but definitely at least “encourage”.)

    “Many I’ve talked to remember feeling isolated and underappreciated when they spent all their time with their young children.” … “many women felt unfulfilled by full-time motherhood.”
    I might not know if that were the case, but that’s not the impression I get from any of the full-time mothers I know. The “childrearing is more communal” element you mention in the next paragraph is probably part of that – every full-time mom I know is (or was, when they had young children) active in some sort of “Moms’ group” and has connections with friends and/or neighbours, sometimes more so than most people with outside-the-home jobs (parents or not).
    (My mother also volunteered at the school her children went to, and has had a paid job there since my youngest brother was in high school. That kind of involvement is included in what I think of when I say “full-time parent”.)

    “Of course there are some women (and some men) who love being full time caregivers and housekeepers.”
    That’s precisely the point I was trying to make (in defense of my preference for having children with a parent who is one of them).

  7. #7 ScienceWoman
    January 1, 2009

    I was surprised and dismayed to find that my comment on that thread was deleted/censored. Can you please spell out which ideas are not permitted in your revolution?

    In the previous thread, Neuroconservative suggested that my vision resembled the infamous Jonestown. To me there seems to be only the barest hint of a parallel between an inclusive dream for a more reasonable world and the separatist utopia turned disaster with a paranoid leader that caused mass suicides/murders.

  8. #8 Peggy
    January 1, 2009

    Because my tolerance for having it left undone (at least beyond the kitchen counter – I often had to force my housemates to wash their dishes) is abnormally high.

    But part of effectively living with other people (related or not) is coming to an agreement on issues like cleanliness, then doing your part whether it’s within your “tolerance” or not. You probably just need to find a mate who has the same tolerance level you do for untidiness. Or you can do the dishes and she can do the dusting. But I think the important thing is that couples come to an understanding of what needs to be done, and that both then just do their bit with out any “forcing” involved. It’s not like you are fresh-from-living-with-your-parents like most college students, and unaware of the kind of resentment and irritation not pitching in can cause.

    I might not know if that were the case, but that’s not the impression I get from any of the full-time mothers I know.

    Well, I was talking about women who were mothers 30 or 40 years ago, when there was little choice for mothers other than staying home full time. That’s something that has changed for the better in the past few decades. But I think that it can be tough for women who choose to be full time housekeepers/child caretakers today too. Because they have chosen to follow a path that many people still believe is “natural” for women, they can be reluctant to share any misgivings or feelings of dissatisfaction. I know a couple of women my age (40s), who in their 20s thought they would be perfectly happy being a mom full-time, but didn’t realize that they might feel like they were missing something until they actually became mothers. I guess that’s why a guy saying he wants to have the hypothetical mother of his children parent full time bothers me – not every woman really knows whether that will work for her until she is (or is soon to be) a mother. Would you be OK with your partner changing her mind and asking you to share in the household duties?

  9. #9 Jim Thomerson
    January 1, 2009

    As a side comment, I recommend “Big Cotton” by Stephen Yafa. Learn more about the mill girls, etc. etc.

  10. #10 dave
    January 1, 2009

    But I think the important thing is that couples come to an understanding of what needs to be done, and that both then just do their bit with out any “forcing” involved.

    One of the things that I’m going to need in a transition from living alone to living with people is an external input to get me into the routine of doing *everything* that needs to be done *now*, not later, and I suspect that might require continued reinforcing well beyond the initial adjustment (this would fall under the ‘forcing’ I was referring to); but if that can be classified under “understanding of what needs to be done” (a stretch, but not a large one, I think), I think it’s my presentation and choice of words more than the substance of what I meant that you’re disagreeing with.

    I guess that’s why a guy saying he wants to have the hypothetical mother of his children parent full time bothers me – not every woman really knows whether that will work for her until she is (or is soon to be) a mother. Would you be OK with your partner changing her mind and asking you to share in the household duties?

    I think that would depend on exactly what the change of mind involves. My preference is better stated as “hypothetical future children should have a full-time (or full-time-equivalent) parent” than as “hypothetical future wife should be the full-time parent” (though I also have a preference for not parenting full-time myself, and external factors (most of which SW’s revolution intends to change, but for now we’re stuck with them) would make it hard-if-not-impossible to do an equal split); so if it means my outside-of-day-job activities become mostly centered around parenting and housework to free up more of hypothetical future wife’s time and energy for outside activities, I would probably be OK with that. I would be less enthusiastic about diverting hypothetical future wife’s time and energy away from parenting beyond what I have the capability to fill in for.
    (This is not something I’ve had reasons to think deeply about up to this point; my views are becoming more well-formed than they were when this discussion started, and it’s something that will have to be discussed in rather more depth with hypothetical future girlfriend before she becomes hypothetical future wife.)

  11. #11 Sicilian
    January 2, 2009

    I am totally naive because I can’t believe some of the comments I’ve read . . . . First. . . . how a household runs is totatlly between the people in the house. If I could. . . . I’d stay home. . . .however for all my 14 years of working. . . . I have provided the health insurance for my family. I don’t think people realize that there are a lot more factors as to why two people work than money.
    The traditional dad work and mom stay home family is almost an impossibility in our current economic mess.
    I sometimes think that all we have to do is walk in another person’s shoes for a day. . . . . it would sure give those who seem so enlightened a real world view of what life is like for the majority of Americans.
    Ciao

  12. #12 kiwi gal
    January 2, 2009

    Happy new year Science woman. All the best for 2009.

  13. #13 ScientistMother
    January 2, 2009

    Happy New Year SW!
    Is this the same Dave from DM infamous blog? If so whats up with the hypothetical wife? I though he had a wife that was a kick ass scientist?

  14. #14 dave
    January 2, 2009

    “Is this the same Dave from DM infamous blog?”

    Probably not. For one thing, I’m quite certain that I do not have and have never had a wife, kick ass scientist or not.

  15. #15 Silver Fox
    January 2, 2009

    Scientist Mother, I wonder(ed) the same thing. And then I also think about Stephanie’s post on “How to Hijack a Thread.” It wouldn’t matter whether one was being consistent or not, if that was the case. The point, in that case, would be to end the conversation!

    SW, I thought you were right on the money about deleting that one comment – I still don’t see how it relates.

  16. #16 Neuro-conservative
    January 2, 2009

    Sorry, SW. I recognize that my hasty post was more than a bit obnoxious. At the same time, I did find your vision to be eerily reminiscent of many failed utopian nightmares of the past. The idea of redesigning the structure of cities, child-rearing, eating, traveling, etc was creepy in its totalizing nature.

    We would all like more time, more support, and an escape from some of the crazy-making aspects of the academic science lifestyle. But if you’ve ever talked to someone raised on an old-school Kibbutz, you’d be quickly disabused of the loveliness of communal child-rearing and food-growing.

  17. #17 Alex
    January 2, 2009

    Neuro-conservative-

    Truthfully, I’m just as skeptical as you are in regards to this utopian vision: I think certain facets of human nature and economic reality are being ignored.

    However….

    Don’t you think it would have been more constructive to point to Kibbutzes the first time around? Those are a more realistic, instructive, and relevant comparison.

  18. #18 DrugMonkey
    January 2, 2009

    Is this the same Dave from DM infamous blog?

    aaahhh, so we’re “infamous” now? yikes…

  19. #19 dave
    January 2, 2009

    Silver Fox:
    It’s more a case of topic drift gone mad than a deliberate attempt to hijack. My intention was only to contribute to the discussion on men doing an equitable share of the work and comment on some ways that SW’s revolution would change that… and then to clarify a comment that seemed to have been misunderstood… and then… and then…
    But I’ll stop now.

  20. #20 Peggy
    January 2, 2009

    Sorry I helped the conversation drift too. I actually originally stopped by to wish SW and Alice Happy New Year, and hope for a bit of revolution in 2009.

    Happy New Year!

  21. #21 kiwi gal
    January 2, 2009

    My goodness yes, Drugmonkey, infamous is totally the right word.

    Still, happy new year to you, and Alice, and PP too (yeah, I know its not your blog, but I’m feeling very cheery). Lets hope for lots more great conversations this year.

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