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September 23, 2009


What a beautifully written, well-thought post! Thank you for sharing. Why do we need to explain it anyway? A man would just tell someone he wanted to do that, and the conversation would be over. How have we come to a point where a woman has to actually justify the role she's created for?

I suppose that my #2 response would depend upon the company I'm in. I would either choose the "raising children well profits society" or the "choices bring us closer to our goal, reflecting our values" statement. They actually both end up being the same for many parents, but if I were to be in a group where my personal goals were not understood, societal values are always a good way to find common ground.

To Lisle's comment, the reason that women need to justify their choice is because many do not believe (including myself) that women are "created" to be mothers and mothers only. They want women to contribute even more, because they value the skills women bring to the traditional workplace.

I recognize that many women who read this forum will disagree with my take, but I'm willing to put it out there because I believe it is the express purpose of Dare to Dream - to engage activities in addition to parenthood.

This is a wonderful post. I am a full-time mother of six; I write in my "spare" time. This passage was very meaningful for me, as it gives me perspective both on my mothering and on my writing:

"Doing something part-time (including parenting) does not render one a failure, or even merely inadequate. Nonetheless, there is a certain proficiency that follows effort and experience. If this is true of students, athletes, musicians, and other professionals, then wouldn’t it also be true of parents? There are variations in inherent ability, but performance typically improves with practice."

What a well-written and brilliant post. While I may not have the female perspective, I thought Elizabeth's connections to Ayn Rand were spot-on.

I associate with women on both sides of this discussion, and I feel lucky to see the contributions from each side. I do, however, truly value the contributions that are made to culture and community. As I watch society around us, it becomes even more critical for us to strengthen and support the societal infrastructure we belong to.

May I add my applause to Elizabeth's comments. As a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, I have studied in depth the psychosocial stages of human development and know that the nurture and care of both parents is critical for heathly emotional development. Once a couple makes the decision to have a child, it is no longer just about them and their personal needs. The child must become their primary concern. A part-time nanny cannot never replace afull-time mother in the home.

Ahh Elizabeth, thank you for your elegant post and rich arguments. Being constantly reminded that I am not a feminist because I am wasting all that incredible education and 18 yrs of corporate life is getting a tad dull. The fact that my children and therefore generations will benefit from the full impact of those experiences would appear to have no value because it cannot be monetized.

I too, do many other things besides my mothering: running a small business, speaking, writing, exploring a PhD, involvement in my community. But my core role is a "professional mother". I think Janna is right - society hungers and mothers do too, for us to contribute in multiple ways when in the thick of parenting. Having said that, it is a rare woman who doesn't.

May you find much joy in all that you do. And thank you for the term "professional mother" - already used it commenting on a blog reflecting the
"not being a feminist because I mother full-time" issue today and linked to this post).

Dearest Elizabeth, I laude your bright and cohesive commentary. You raise several important and well connected points. First, there is no such thing as sacrifice, rather rational decisions that bring us closer to our ultimate goal.

Second, investing time in yourself in your 30s to determine where your values and goals are at given your family status and realigning your ultimate goal and subsequent decisions to support that.

Third, women should own their choice/decision to stay at home or go to work. Each choice is a complex web of motivations and consequences and society benefits from each decision in different ways.

Lastly, give yourself time. Any profession (motherhood, careers, pursuing the arts or personal passions) takes a great deal of time, sacrifice, education and PRACTICE. Success in mothering is not achieved once a baby is born, it takes a lifetime of practice, just like any other profession.

Thank you for your thoughtful insights; this was a brilliantly written piece!

What would my 2nd reason be for staying home? Why can't it simply be "It makes me so happy that I wouldn't want to be doing anything else."

We applaud people who switch careers for finding that magical thing that finally brings them satisfaction/allows a creative outlet/makes them stinkin' happy. Usually these are switching careers from one professional (non-mothering) job to another. I respect people who do what they love, and I expect to not need any more justification than the fact that it's the most fulfilling thing for me personally right now.

Of course, "being happy" has become such a catch-phrase in America's workplace these days that it does seems trite at if someone pressed me for details on my decision, I guess I'd have to say that I had a professional career before my child was born, but I never found what I was looking for in the 9-5 rat race. That I'm a confident, outgoing woman who views it as a luxury to stay home full-time while also contributing to my local community.

Great post. Yes, I've been thinking lately how illogical it is to expect that parenting is something parents are supposed to do on the side--after working a 40+ hour job a week and investing most of their energies toward the needs of an employer. It would be so much better if our society could accept that adults (women mostly, but perhaps men) will get their training and education and several years of work under their belt, step aside for a few years (perhaps even a decade) to care for small children, and then come back raring to go. Often times, women in their 40s, 50s+ have their child-rearing years behind them and can and want to devote themselves to career, but the traditional workforce won't take them.

Another good point you made: Yes, why is it that every other profession must be worked full-time in order for a person to validly be a practitioner of it, but full-time, stay-at-home moms and employed moms (as I refer to "working moms") are considered equally skilled and devoted as moms. I'm not saying employed women aren't good moms. It's just unfair to elevate one and dismiss the other.

Re Whitney's "cocktail party" question: I currently explain that when we had to relocate for my husband's job, having two of us pursuing a career full-throttle had become logistically impossible. I agreed to stay home with our children while they were small but, now that they're in school, hope to get back into the paid workforce.

"What do you do?" can be a hard question for a stay-at-home mom to answer, in large part because so many people have preconceived notions about who we are, e.g. that we're affluent, spoiled, unskilled, couldn't hack it in the workforce, wanted nothing more than to be mommies, etc. I find that many people don't see the sacrifice, or the rational choice, educated women make to be home with their children. Too often, we're seen as needy when the total opposite is true.

This was a very satisfying discussion. Once children leave home, the "what next" can be as challenging as the decision to remain or leave the workforce when the children are there.

Elizabeth, thanks for this thoughtful and stimulating post.

Love this post. Love the reference to Ayn Rand. When I read Atlas Shrugged, this was exactly what I thought about motherhood--it's not a sacrifice according to Rand's definition of the word. There was a piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Duggar Economics: The Cost of 19 Kids" that asserted that when you add up all the lost wages of a woman who foregoes income to be with her children, plus the cost of raising the child (including college tuition!) a single child born to a middle-class family costs about $1.1 million (to your point, Elizabeth)! see But the reality is, unless children are born and raised well, who will be supporting our generation when we retire, given the massive entitlement programs to seniors in the form of Medicare and Social Security? Maybe the government should start to pay us for having children!
Great post, Elizabeth.

I am actually proud to say I stayed at home with my children for 12 years and struggle to say I went back to work even though I am now teaching in my daughter's school. When people say you can do both, I am not sure you can do both well. I certainly feel that if I do both well my health and marriage begin to suffer. If I do one well, the other suffers be it my teaching or my kids. Just some thoughts from a mum who has been at home for 12 years, worked without children for 12 years and will no doubt need to work now with children for another 12 years. Thanks for a great piece of writing.

What a thoughtful post...and this sentence is definitely sticking with me...something i've thought of often. "If all the capable people are working eighty-hour professional work weeks, then who will tend to our children, communities, and culture?" thank you! warmly, -melanie-

Loved this post! Thanks, Elizabeth.

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About this blog

  • When I took a sabbatical from Wall Street to pursue a different dream and help others live theirs, I learned that women in the U.S. may be placated, even pampered, but because we aren't dreaming, we are also desperate and depressed. Drawing on a variety of sources, ranging from academic studies to pop culture, dare to dream encourages us to dream. And then to act on our dreams.


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