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Yes, I think that's right.

I think someone somewhere pointed out that women use maternity leave as a socially acceptable escape clause from subpar employment. The trick is that men don't consider it an option, for financial or cultural reasons, and so the imbalance between fathers and mothers continues.

It's hard to know where to push back in that equation: it seems better to push back against supbar employment, but meanwhile the men are climbing the corporate ladders.


I just started my permanent maternity leave last week. I'm going to grad school instead of back to work once things settle down.

I know that if I hadn't gotten pregnant, I would be stuck indefinitely in cubicle hell.


For me, the cost of daycare made the value of my income almost nonexistent. I couldn't wait to have the baby so I could have a good excuse to step off the soul-sucking nightmare that my jobs were.

Even though I was slowly scraping my way up the management ladder, as soon as I had that first baby, I knew I wasn't headed for higher management any more. I just wanted a job that was low stress and paid the bills. Since low stress/decent pay/or part-time work seems impossible to find, I am home for the time being. My kid is as demanding as my old boss, but at least I can give her time out when I get really fed up.


I find myself among the truly lucky, whose employer, when I became pregnant the 1st time asked "We think you are valuable, can you tell us how we can keep you after you have your child" And I said "Let me return to work only 18 hours a week and keep all my benefits" They said yes. Here I am 3+ years later and 2nd baby on the way, with the same schedule and no plans to change it. In turn I work my tail off for them while I'm here, and they get very close to full-time value for part-time pay.

I am lucky though, and if I weren't at this place I know it would have been very difficult to justify staying were I to be "mommy-tracked" or otherwise marginalized because I chose to have a family.


But I'd argue that you're not lucky as much as your employer is smart. And I bet all the employees at your workplace are treated well, so they al do great jobs at work.


Recently in our town a woman replaced a man in a public position who's salary is decided by a board of commissioners.

The board elected 7-1 to give the woman -- who had BETTER credentials than the man who had left the position -- a lesser salary than he started with.

I just can't figure out how this can still happen today.


It's amazing to me how many employers just aren't "getting this." Most working moms I know are good, conscientious professionals who will repay decent treatment 1000x-fold. It seems to me that companies don't recognize this. Higher-ups assume that we're going to slack whether we've already had kids or are just of the age where it's believed that we want to have them. This is not surprising because looking just at the company I work for, there is not a one woman at director level or higher who has children.

Change needs to happen at all levels, but its a self-perpetuating cycle as mothers either leave the work force or stagnate due to not being appropriately valued.

Rosemary Grace

I do think that legislation can help make places of work more family friendly for women. Raising the standards of required maternity and paternity leave (full pay, longer window of leave offered) etc. etc.

What is worrisome to me is seeing women wait to make a move based on having a baby. If you're feeling stuck, and you could afford to go to grad school, why not GO? Rather than waiting for it to be after a baby. Granted, I am sort of planning that "try for baby" may coincide with a new phase in my career, but that's because I'll hit 32 around when my husband finishes his degree, and it'll be my turn to go back to school, but also time for us to take the whole kids thing seriously.


We need to change the world.

I think part of the problem is that if we allow women to work from home after the baby is born (which, I think, is the ideal situation for many women), we must admit that the whole '40 hour work week' is a fallacy. Only certain jobs (teachers, which is what I was pre-baby, jumps to mind) actually require you to be AT THE JOB for what is usually 45 hours per week. Many tasks can be performed from home, with this fancy thing we call the Internet. If employers would admit that, we'd all be better off.


I'll admit that when I first read the Hirshman piece, I thought it was the most obnoxious piece of crap I'd ever read. And I'm a partner at a major law firm, mom of two, and have worked a part-time schedule since my youngest was born, after taking six months of maternity leave at 100% pay. In other words, I'm not the woman that Hirshman is criticizing, yet I still found her tone and comments to be insulting.

That said, after I thought about what she was saying some more, I realized that she had a point. And the article about women on Wall Street cited by Jody proves exactly why she's got a point.

The fact of the matter is that for the majority of women, whether they be high-powered educated professionals or minimum-wage workers, the state of employment in the U.S. today is diametrically opposed to their interests as mothers. (And I thought last week's NY Times piece on the two-class system for nursing moms vividly made clear how this is even more true as you move down the socio-economic ladder.) So of course many women choose to quit -- its easier to leave a dead-end, unsatisfying job than it is to try and satisfy the demands of an employer that doesn't give a hoot about your need to get your kids from school.

But what I think Hirshman, and many modern-day feminists, are struggling with about the "choice" of the most talented women to stay home is that these are precisely the women who have been given the skills -- whether through eduction, credentials or both -- to effect changes in the work force that would bring about more family-friendly policies. But rather than stick around and do that, they opt-out.

That's not to say that raising children isn't important work. I'd submit that raising and educating children is of paramount importance (which is why the state of our public schools is so distressing, but that's a whole other can of worms). But the reality for most working moms in the U.S. is that they don't have the luxury to quit their jobs and stay home. Or if they make that choice, they may still find themselves back in the work force 10 or 15 years later if the primary breadwinner of the family dies or divorces or is otherwise incapable of supporting the family. Or they don't have the political voice or power to force changes on a national legislative level.

And that's precisely why its so important that the women who have the education and the skills to become the CEO or the managing partner or the independent woman business owner or the local/state/federal politician need to achieve those things. Only as women (in my opinion) reach those levels of power are we going to start to see women pushing to make changes that better address the needs of children and families and working moms. And at the very least, those moms who have the resources to "opt-out" need to be self-aware enough to realize that not every one has the luxuries they do, and find ways to make a difference in their own communities, whether its by pushing for better schools, support for nursing moms, or getting involved with local politics.

Anyway, I've hijacked your blog enough. This is obviously an issue I've thought enough about to write my own blog post, if I'd only ever get my blog up and running.


here here! and thanks for writing this.


Blah, I don't even know where to begin, or if I should. I don't have a choice financially - we can't afford to live on just one income. I had a seven-week unpaid leave with my daughter, and will have a similar leave with this next kid when it comes this winter. My yearly salary is much more than the annual cost of day care, although the stress level of two jobs and parenting is sometimes pretty costly too. Who knows, I still don't think I'd be a very good stay at home mom. Maybe it would just be nice to have a choice instead of being forced into the path I took.


I am one of those who took a long maternity leave and am now plotting to shift careers. One factor that influences people like me is maternity benefits. In most cases, you have to work someplace for a year before you get leave benefits, and I couldn't switch jobs, then wait a year, then try to get pregnant...I'm too old for that amount of finnagling. And being pregnant you need someone to cut you slack, which a new employer isn't likely to do.

I do plan to go back, because I feel obliged to try to make it work but I know deep down that it won't.

Which raises my second thought - a job that was merely tolerable when you are childless can suddenly seem like a horrid way to spend a day away from your child. I could have stayed in that job another couple of years, but now that being there means being away from my little bean - seeing him for a few minutes before bedtime if I'm lucky - I can't get out of there fast enough. And yes, if I could work part-time and/or from home all the time, I would likely stay.


I think you're onto something here. When we found out I was pregnant the first time, my mindset was that I would hang out at my crappy job until the baby came and then see what how I felt.

Then came the news that we would miscarry -- while waiting for the confirming bloodwork and D&C, I jumped ship (since I knew I wouldn't be released from my job/prison in 9 months as I'd previously thought).

Turns out the doctor was wrong -- the empty sac he saw was the TWIN of the very happy & healthy bean that turned into DD. But I'd already made the switch to a job I I went in and told my new boss that I just found out that I was *still* pregnant. That was fun to explain.

Before leaving on my maternity leave, I ended up working out a wonderful PT schedule at the "new" job -- something I couldn't imagine even wanting to try to do if I'd still been stuck at the first one. More than three years (and another kid) later, I'm still here, still working PT, still contributing to the greater good, and still happy.


I also stayed in a job I didn't really like (work was ok, great boss, but such terrible corporate culture/environment) because I was expecting to get pregnant any second. I did...after 2.5 years of trying.

I was faced with spending 90-110% of my salary on childcare and commuting to that crappy place, so I maxed out my vacation and disability (what passed for maternity leave), then didn't let the door hit me on the ass as I quit.

We got very lucky that my husband has enjoyed nice raises and a promotion in the 2+ years that I have been making less than $3,000 freelance. But he works long hours and wishes he could see more of the kids; there are plenty of days I wish I saw a few more adults.

Still searching for a happy medium.


I agree 100%! What I haven't seen addressed though, is HOW can you go back to a job when the school system/doctor's schedules etc. depend on (or expect?) there to be a parent at home? I have not been able to find a job that is worth the pay between the hours of school drop-off and school pick-up (never mind the fact that our crap school system runs Junior/Senior Kindergarten as HALF DAYS still!!), and/or covers before/after school care. So I work a shit job, midnights, in order to be the mother they somehow expect me to be (be home in case they are sick/have a problem/act out/need to be taken to the doctor/volunteer for class trips etc. etc. etc.) but still have an income and contribute to the household, be a strong female role model for my daughter (I do not want to start a debate, I'm just saying we cannot depend on a man's income to support the family in all cases, we can't live like that anymore I'm afraid, I don't want my daughter growing up expecting someone to take "care" of her, we all need to take care of ourselves!), and have something to fall back on if -god forbid- my relationship doesn't work out. The school system still runs as if both parents don't have to work, the doctors work 9 - 5, and I am not willing to have my children in childcare 10+ hours a day to work a "normal" job, and I have never been so frustrated in my life!


Thanks for this great post.

Another facet:

Is it harder for women (than men) to quit a job they are unhappy with?

Why do we need an escape clause? Isn't being miserable every single day reason enough to look elsewhere? How is accepting less than you are worth acceptable?

I suspect that women are trained to accept work that they don't much care for. Or to stay with something even though something (like pay or working environment) is seriously wrong.

Perhaps we are trained to value security over happiness. So staying with a job you hate is better than venturing into the wilds.

I gave my 2 weeks notice (I have been working full-time and working on a graduate degree for a year and it has been killing me) yesterday so I can spend more time on my studies. Once I actually looked around, I found a part-time job that will be much more flexible almost right away.

But to really look, I had to convince myself that I am "allowed" to quit a job where I am miserable. I'm shocked at how hard that was.

It is possible to be happy at work. You have to demand what you need, and look elsewhere if you don't find it.

However, when you are constantly undervalued by your employer, you begin to see yourself as worth less. The kind of creative thought and initiative it takes to find the right job is probably actively discouraged by your crappy job. So it's an uphill battle to get to the point where you can even look for something better.


I worked for a firm of accountants who was trying to understand their lack of senior women. What found was that the women do actually leave before they get to the point of having children. They look at the (few) women with children in the company, and how hard they find it, and decide to get out and work somewhere smaller, start up a business, go back to school - not hang around until they get to the point that they are trying to work with children.

Kind of contradicts your point, but I think the main point is that employers will get incredible value and loyalty out of treating women well, and particularly allowing them to have a family life, and they should be more sensible about their cost/benefit analyses.

Merci pour le bon augure bon writeup. Il était en fait un compte d'attractions il. Regardez avancé de loin ajoutée plus agréable de vous! En passant Cependant, comment pouvons pourrions-nous communiquer?

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