I came across a Wall Street Journal blog post this week on a study showing fewer mothers “opt out” (a term I haven’t heard used before, but okay) of working after the birth of their children. There were a number of insightful comments pointing out potential flaws in the study.
There was also a good discussion on “how can we justify the institutional and social investments made in these women with specialized professional degrees who don’t use them?” with lots of well-reasoned answers (my answer: being overqualified to raise children and choosing to guide and raise our own children makes us a drain on society?)
But that wasn’t the comment that really got under my skin. It was a response to a mother’s anecdotal observation about mothers in her child’s preschool class:
[from the original comment] “In my daughter’s preschool class of 18 kids – maybe 4 or 5 moms work. I am one of two that work full time. In my immediate circle of friends that I met while on maternity leave – I was 1 out of 7 women to return to work. Four years later and I am the only one working. These women are former lawyers and professionals.”
[this anonymous person’s response] There must be a lot of key parties in your neighborhood!
What do these woman talk about with their husbands besides the kiddies? No wonder married men cheat!
I hesitate to say anything because, well, from this comment it’s obvious that this person has absolutely no understanding of anything they mentioned, and not just parenting—everything from human nature to marriage to fidelity to working. But I think there is a pervasive attitude of “What do you do all day?” underlying this comment and society’s perception of stay-at-home mothers.
But let’s take this one point at a time.
“There must be a lot of key parties in your neighborhood!”
A key party is one of those parties held by swinger-types (men put keys in the bowl, women take them out and go home with the owner of the keys). What that has to do with the rest of the argument is beyond me, since apparently everyone in the neighborhood is a SAHM—and I’m pretty sure the premise of a key party isn’t to have an interesting conversation. (And who says that working or staying home has any impact in this area anyway?)
“What do these woman talk about with their husbands besides the kiddies?”
Underlying assumptions here: children are boring; men couldn’t possibly be interested in the daily adventures of their children; any and all jobs are more interesting than raising children and better conversation fodder.
In all the words in my vocabulary, “boring” isn’t one I could apply to my child (soon to be children). Granted, I’m not going to argue that every single day is filled with excitement, interesting activities and new milestones. I do get bored sometimes during the ten to twelve hours I spend with Hayden.
Frankly, however, when I worked full time my job was way more boring. I enjoyed it to an extent, but spending eight hours in front of a computer screen has a bit of a stultifying effect on pretty much anyone. My husband works four ten-hour days a week, and I have a hard time getting more than 10-15 minutes of description about each day out of him (and he’s not the taciturn type).
I’m actually not a SAHM; I work from home (WAHM, I guess) 10 hours a week. But even now, while I enjoy my job, it’s not always interesting—and very rarely is it worth talking about with Ryan, who doesn’t know very much about my field anyway.
Maybe this person has a fascinating job and can regale crowds for hours with tales from each day at work, but the rest of us living in the real world almost always don’t. And even if we had things that we found interesting happen during the day, odds are good that our spouses don’t work in the same field and wouldn’t necessarily find them interesting.
On the other hand, fathers have a bit of a vested interest in the wellbeing of their children. If they can’t stand to hear the highlights of the previous ten hours for at most 30 minutes (and that’s if no one else says anything during dinner), then they should probably be subjected to it for that very reason.
Oh, and since this person asked: my husband loves to hear about my day with Hayden. Perhaps once a week, we’ll talk about my job. I try to get him to talk to me about his job, but he usually is in decompression mode during dinner, and doesn’t want to talk until later (or he’s so eager to talk that he’s already told me everything by the time we sit down).
Aside from Hayden, we talk about news, politics, philosophy, history, psychology, sociology, finances, investments, literature, television, films, etc. You know, the things that most other married couples talk about. Guess what? I might be a mother, but I didn’t go put my brain in the toy box.
But here’s my favorite part of the comment:
No wonder married men cheat!
Yeah. Let’s do an informal survey: if you’re a married man, would you cheat if your wife subjected you to hearing about your children? Otherwise boring dinner conversation?
No? How strange.
Just so we can be fair with the stereotypes, here’s my perception of the “professional” couple without children’s dinner conversation: . . . . Oh wait, they’re both still at work.