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well said, T. Couldn't possibly agree more.

I couldn't agree more with the substance of what you're saying, but all those references to micro-economics are making me break out in a cold sweat! Please, please, whatever you do don't start posting those horrible little graphs with the curves going every which way *shudder*. I have no idea how I ever made it through those classes in grad school, and what's worse, I'm married to an economist and still have to hear about this sort of thing on a regular basis! I suppose it could be worse, you could have brought game theory into it - that would have me curled up in a fetal position and babbling to myself...

Beautifully explained!

Oh Tertia, for a woman who appears to have the balls of a 2 ton bull most of the time (uh, I mean that in a GOOD way naturally) I'm amazed at how insecure you are on this subject. Wouldn't it be so nice if everyone just encouraged and supported eachothers decisions and let us mother how we want and need to mother our children? K&A are lucky little ones indeed to have parents that love and worry about them so much. They wouldn't be any better (or worse) off if mommy was home with them 24/7.

I hear ya T, at the rate I am going, if I am ever lucky enough to have kids, I will have to spend the next 50 years working just to pay back the costs of the millions of IVFs, never mind bonds, cars, food and private schooling - and I really don't want to have to feel guilty about that!!!

- from a hopeful "future working mom"

Wow. Eloquently written! In my family, the debate is there, under the surface of every conversation. My SILs and I don't mean to make each other feel any less of a mom, no matter which side of the issue we're on. I try to be supportive of all of our decisions, because for each of our families, we are all doing the right thing.

I think I'm forwarding this one on to all of them!

That is a great way to explain why we shouldn't judge each other's choices and I agreed with everything you said, except one thing (perhaps just a poor choice of word). I don't think education is ever wasted. I don't think education should be achieved solely for earning potential or career advancement. Maybe you don't either, maybe it was just one word in a really well thought out, well written essay. Maybe you do and we disagree, thats fine too. All of a sudden I feel like a shrew harping on one word instead of seeing the big picture.

Lol, you lost me in the beginning with: "microeconomics" and I didn't finish the post so I'll just do the poll!

i'm taking micro this summer at school. i'll make sure to bug you with questions cuz it baffles the shit out of me. if it doesn't involve sex, sperm, eggs, or other methods of infant manufacturing, i'm lost.

T, you really shouldn't feel insecure about this and feel you have to explain your situation. I will admit that when I started reading your blog I didn't understand the economics of SA. To me, a nanny, cleaning lady etc would be more than my decent full time wage, so I figured you were working because you just wanted to work, that you worked to pay for Rose, and pay for someone to clean the house, and there wasn't much change left in your pocket. And now I understand that your opportunity costs for not working would be much higher than giving up those 2 things. It's about where you live, your children's education. And more. But guess what?? Either way, it didn't change my opinion of you. If you work because you just love it, that would be fine with me. If you work because you don't want to be home with kids all day, that's fine too. And if you work because you have to, well no worries there. I would never attack a woman's choice on this, ever. I am a SAHM with 2 degrees and a good work history. But I don't have to work (we've had to give up some things, but not too much), and don't particularly want to. I can't afford a nanny, and childcare where I live can be dodgy (my best friend works in child care and the stories are awful). It's my choice. But in a year or two (which will make 7 years at home) I have told hubby that I do want to go back to work, he can take over. And I think it's OK for me to do that as well.

Every person takes the path which fits their family, their personalities. We shouldn't have to explain that.

Well said T. My husband and I have been having this debate for months. He wanted me to work. Then we looked into the cost of day care and realized that I would work to pay for day care. It wasn't worth it to us. I am sure we will have to give up things. Everyone judges either way and they shouldn't, it is not fair to either person. Don't feel guilty you are doing what is best for your children. Just remember that.

You've defined this whole thing so well. My son is in school now so it's not quite the same debate anymore but he went to day care, and was cared for by a wonderful,caring woman whom he loved and I knew he was safe. I can't feel guilty; if I didn't work we wouldn't have health insurance which is a huge thing in this country. I didn't think my family was worth that sacrifice.

Opportunity cost -- I love this explanation.

(And Em -- for Tertia, it might indeed be an education wasted; for you not; that's the whole good point!)

A-freakin'-men. I am so done talking about this now.

Excellent explanation. I have often said I love mathematics because there are no shades of gray or points to be debated--the answer is just the answer, no room for interpretaion.

I always thought I'd be right back to work after having my baby, but when that baby became babies, I decided to take a paid sabbatical leave for a one year period. I wish like hell I had just quit because I had no idea that staying at home, for ME, would be just as fulfilling as my career. However, I have to go back and pay back my sabbatical with a year of service (starting in August) and I feel a little sick every time I allow myself to think about it. I wish I had a Rose in my life, but mine will be at daycare for a year until I can quit.

I loved the point someone (?) made in Julia's comments--being a feminist means supporting ALL choices for women. What is right for each person can be completely different.

You are awesome.

T. you are an amazing woman. You explained it so well

I ALWAYS stay out of conversations about this topic, because in my experience everyone always comes out feeling attacked for the choice that they have made. But your eloquent and straightforward "analysis" of the situation was so perfect that I actually came out of lurkdom to say thank you

Tertia- there have been so many pieces written about this subject and your's is so beautifully done. You are absolutely right. It's so true that people (women) tend to analyze this issue as if everyone is starting out on a level playing field and that is simply not true. Well done.

And they say economics is a voodoo field of study! I am so glad you are so articulate about this. I suspect that you have said what most of us really mean, even the ones who say "We decided our kids were worth the sacrifice."

This is an excellent and interesting analysis. For me, a critical point is "And yes, sometimes it is value based, but never assume that your values and the worth you attach to them are universal truths or unilaterally applicable"

It is amazing how often one might think that their relative experiences are, in fact, universal truths. This is so pervasive that it seems to be an almost natural human tendency. This one thing that seems to be a necessary part of our survival (making judgments about the world, good/bad, etc) can evolve into destructive tyrannical thinking.

I, of course, agree with all you have posted. One of the related issues that I struggle with is how to strike my own healthy balance between two (seemingly) opposing forces -- my need to make judgments or establish my own set of values (based on my set of life experiences) against my need to recognize that my set of experiences and associated values are totally relative.... that I really do not know what is right for other people! (More often than not I am stuck in overanalysis and the "I'm sorry, but I really have no f*&king idea what anyone should do.")

Okay, that was too long for a comment, but I couldn't resist.... it is a very interesting issue you bring up...

50 kids per teacher, really?, wow! That's not beneficial for ANY child. Could you write a post about the educational system in SA in the future?

Amen, sistah! I have lost patience for the mommy wars, and generally feel that people who stridently debate either side of the topic are trying more to convince themselves that their "choice" (assuming it is a choice) is the right one. In my case, as a single mom, I have to work. Haven't won the lottery yet, so until I do, work will be my reality. And yes, also a well-educated mom with MBA and all that, so my work does pay enough to allow me to have a live-in nanny here in the US (which makes my life manageable as a single mom to 3.5 year old twins). My hours are more than 40 a week, but generally not more than 50. To do something less time-consuming would mean earning probably half as much, so that I can have an additional 45 minutes a day or so. Not a very good trade-off. So there you have it. Would I quit working if I won the lottery? In a heartbeat. But would I continue to have some childcare so there is some space in my life for ME? Absolutely. Best of both worlds. I love my girls and love spending time with them, but I also know that if I was with them 24/7, I wouldn't be nearly as patient or engaged. No martyr mom here!

But mostly, I am so weary of this "debate". Whose business is it but mine how I raise my kids and who helps me do that? What ever happenened to "it takes a Village"?

Thank you. This is by far one of the best views I have seen expressed on this topic. I work part-time because I can afford to, and I know I'm very fortunate. I am also able to work from home. I'm lucky. Not everyone has that luxury and it's really not fair for anyone to judge another without knowing the whole situation. Bless you for looking at all the angles and bless you for not feeling guilty about your choices.

I very much agree with this post, and it can really be applied to respecting people's decisions in all aspects of their lives. The idea of framing choices in terms of opportunity cost can apply to whether to live in a small place in the city or a larger place in the suburbs. It can apply to whether one goes to grad school at the same times as one's spouse or waits until afterward so that one of you is making a salary at all times. It can apply to deciding to take public transportation or to drive to work. It's really all about realizing that the person making the decision has thought about the factors involved and weighed them and decided which factors are the most persuasive to them in their situation, and *then respecting that they made the choice that works for their situation.* As happens so often, it all comes down to respect.

Holy smokes! Your public schools can have 50 pupils per teacher? That's enough reason to keep working right there! Besides, if you stayed home, where would Rose go?

Here here!!! I'm so glad to hear you thinking this way. Makes sooooo much sense.

The theory of opportunity cost can be applied to so many situations. In fact, now that my oldest is school age, the mommy wars rage on, but instead of being about SAHM or WOHM, it is homeschool, public school, or private school. I find it all so fatiguing. For whatever reason humans seem to fall into the egocentric thinking that my way is the best way for everyone. How foolish. And yet if we honestly evaluate the opportunity cost of each scenario, I can see that there is not some universal right answer because the cost associated is dependent on so many things.

Wow! Well said. Before I had my daughter I thought I wanted to stay home. I did, for 4 months. After that I CHOSE to go back to work. I love my job, I make good money, and I have great potential to be promoted and excel. I had a very wonderful woman who watched my daughter till she was three. My husband and I both come from a family full of educators. Professors and school teachers. All of them were amazed at how well my daughter adapted. She is a well adjusted, bright and happy child. She's a social creature and she'e very inquisitive. I don't think that I could have given her any of those skills myself, given that I am a shy, introverted type person. We would have stayed home and watched TV all day. Daycare and preschool can be good for children. So can being at home with a parent. It's all about what works for your family.

Sure, I still feel pangs of guilt when I can't be there everyday to pick up my daughter from school. But my job is somewhat flexible, and I pick her up every Friday after school. Occasionally I can take time off to work in her classroom. I do the best that I can. That's all I ask of myself.

You're doing a great job. You have a wonderful support system in place for your babes and your family. If you are doing the best you can, then you are doing the right thing. Screw everybody else!

I never studied economics in any depth, and what little I was taught came from a raving Communist, so I am awestruck at this simple explanation. I guess I'm in the same situation as several other commenters of "would be working to pay for the childcare". I could be in the economic situation you're in, ie cheap childcare and good wage (rather than teacher's salary)enabling me to buy in domestic help, I'd do it in a trice. For us, the cost analysis has been that it is cheaper all round for me to stay at home. Also, the options for childcare in the UK in fall into two categories (or possibly three, in a Venn diagram of overlap in the middle): Crap, or Unaffordable (for those on normal wages).

A nanny in London can earn £25000 per year. A teacher of my level of experience (five years teaching) earns...£25000 per year pre tax (bearing in mind 30% is lopped off by the govt), and from that I would have to pay not only her wage, but also national insurance and pension contributions for both her and me. If I had had the good fortune of being in your position, I sure as hell would have gone back to work after I'd finished breast-feeding (multiply allergic families on both sides).

Your children are just fine. They may miss you during the day (for about five minutes/ thirty seconds/ until you reach the end of the drive), but they are well provided for while you are at work, and you have a very good relationship with their nanny. It seems a very harmonious arrangement all round. I think the one who suffers the most is probably you.

One of the things that freaked me out about childcare when my children were very small was seeing a middle-aged woman and her late-teens/ early twenties daughter in a fast food place once. They had with them a little boy, 5 ish, and a screaming infant (5 months ish) in a push chair. Both children were left at a table while the women discussed what they wanted in the queue at the back of the shop. I was just on the verge of getting up and going over to rock the poor baby, thinking that her mother and grandmother must not be able to hear her, when they returned to the table bearing two trays of chips and two cups of tea.

The little boy attempted for several minutes to engage the older woman in converation, while she gassed with her daughter and ate chips, and the baby was rocked savagely in her push chair, bottle of milk propped in her mouth (sadly not that uncommon a sight in that town, the milk-propping thing). In a lull in the conversation, the little boy popped his question: "Please may I have some chips?".

The older woman turned to him and hissed savagely: "I'm not paid to buy you chips!" and turned back to her daughter.

So there it was: child"minder", her daughter, and her two charges. She was probably registered as a childminder with the local authority (all minders have to be in the UK). And their mother/s had no idea what sort of a woman she was. I seriously considered for a few minutes how to alert the older child's parents to what was going on- hiding a note in his coat, etc but it was impossible to do anything about it. Those children were being neglected and abused psychologically every day of the week no doubt, and there would be no way for the parents to know. That, and a few nursery visits later, did it for me; I preferred to stay at home rather than even risk that.

Thank you for your explanation of "Mommy Wars."

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention earlier that I am excited for you to get your braces off. I had braces in grad school and when I first got them off I think I smiled at everything. My teeth looked huge at first, but I LOVED THEM!!!!!!

Also, the ortho asked if I wanted to keep the braces.

Keep them?

Yeah, some people like to make them into charm bracelets.

Well I guess I could keep them, but I seriously doubt I will wear them on my wrist. Wearing them on my teeth were enough. Anyway, I want my smile to be charming not my bracelet.

In a perfect world, there would be no need to defend our decision to either work or stay home. "I want to" should be enough.

I have my own business, so I have gotten some attitude from both sides, working moms and at-home moms, especially when my daughter started school. I don't entirely fit either category, as sometimes I have a fair bit of time, and others very little.

I've gotten to the point now where I don't take it personally anymore, nor do I justify my position with explaining why I need to work, financially, emotionally or psychologically (and they all apply in different measures on different days). I just think to myself, "Opinions are like assholes... Everybody's got one."

Hi Tertia. Great post, but I just want to say that the feeling I'm getting is that you are still wanting to justify why you go to work and leave the kids with Rose.

Quite simply, we are all different and for every SAHM advocate you will find an equally vociferous WAHM advocate. Horses for courses and as you know there is no blanket right or wrong, just what is right for you and your family. Don't feel guilty, if you stayed at home you would have to not only downsize your house/move suburbs but compromise your childrens' quality of life. Personally I feel that a good education is vitally important to allow anybody to become a functioning and contributing member of society and it will be a huge priority for our child/ren (if more come). What choices they then make are up to them.

I have friends who have decided that the wife would go back to work when their child was 4 months old...he is a builder and she is a foreign exchange trader, far and away the best financial decision for them as she earns mega bucks and he doesn't. Nobody in our group of friends thinks this is strange at all, it just *is* their situation.

Please, please stop feeling guilty, because although you'll likely get lots of supportive comments, you will also open yourself up for some other points of view that will make you feel even guiltier. Vicious circle you know...

BTW, I am a SAHM and have a degree and don't care two hoots if people stay at home or go to work, it's the lifestyle you (+/- your partner if you have one) are providing for your child and only you know what's best for them.

Tada, rant over, you're obviously a fantastic, caring and sensitive mother.

Tertia, this is the best discussion of this issue I have ever read. Seriously, it explains why different choices work for different families and why there isn't one/same superior answer for everyone. Please try to get this published as an editorial every where. You are/would be doing moms all over the world a favor.

Very well put. The great equalizer among us all is that we love - WE LOVE - our children. No matter how the children came to us, no matter how we define ourselves as parents, or which "box" or label we, or society, puts us in....we are all "MOM". Not one of us can lay claim to loving our child more than so-and-so loves their child. Because as MOMs - we all truly understand the "mommy-love". No matter what choices we make throughout the rest of our lives as MOM - we all know that mommy-love trumps all - we LOVE our children.
-from a MOM without an acronym...just MOM

Delurking to comment re:wasting an education.

"Educate the mother, educate the family".

We all have our way of dealing with it, it seems.

I neither am able to stay objective about this subject. The reason is my mom has been such "a saint". She has stayed home baking and caring for me and my two siblings our whole upbringing - and from quite an early age I often hated it.

I simply didn't like having her around all the time. I preferred to stay with friends or my sisters than being cared for by mom or engaged in activities she organised.

I grown up age she's expected us to be so deeply thankful for her work, and we've had to tell her - causing tears and tantrums - that we are not in pure awe of her "sacrifices". She obviously did it partly for herself as well because she din't like her work.

She of course never admitted but she has taken the hint I think. Amazingly enough she has started on a careerpath with charityrelated work in her fifties - she's doing good and she seems to be very happy about it. And I'm happy for her.

After all she has, I dare say vasted, so much time baking buns and reading for her kids that rather often wanted to be with other children instead.

I don't mean saying that parental attention isn't good, I just want to show that one shouldn't exaggerate its importance either. Parenting in the form of staying at home too much and being too children-focused might be just as detrimental as parents working 14 hours a day every day, I think.

So let's find the golden middle way...

And I just have to add: My father was almost completely absent due to work. God how I missed him and his way of dealing with things in between all the mothering.

I didn't die from missing him ( but I have long story of choosing a bit distant and difficult to get into boyfriends - maybe because I wanted to repeat the childhood trauma of not seeing my father enough some say). My point is we shouldn't forget that the fathers are as equally important as the mothers in the upbringing of kids, girls and boys.

No matter how good it feels to imagine yourself as the center of your kids life. Not saying that that's your underlying drive Tertia or anybody elses - but it was my mothers, I know for sure. And it still bothers med from time to time and is a touchy subject.

I love this post -- Adam Smith`s "invisible hand" is at work, too.

Great post, and a good reminder to look at things without letting them be clouded by emotion in order to see what is 'real' about it.

Live and let live

I pulled up your page today, say the title "Guns or Butter?", and thought, "Ooh, I hope this has to deal with Linda Hirshman etc.!" Such beautiful logic adds a great deal to this discussion. Thank you! :)

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