Saturday, February 12, 2011

Welcome, Strib readers!

My essay about the cost of staying home with kids is running today in the Minneapolis Star Tribune under the really nice headline, "Staying home to raise kids - priceless (but with a cost)."  I've noticed a slight uptick in traffic on the blog tonight, and am gratified to know people are stopping by.

(And thanks, Commentary Editor D.J. Tice -- that's the best headline I've seen on it yet. And thanks, Star Tribune Editorial Writer and Digital Producer Susan Hogan, for making it so easy for people to get here!)

Welcome to all those who came to this blog after reading that piece and would like to talk about it. Pull up a chair. It's an endlessly fascinating topic, and we have much to discuss. Did anyone else feel pressure to choose one way or another when they had kids -- either to stay home with them or keep working? Anyone else feel the choices were pretty narrow, the costs high either way?

Anyone else feel that there's something wrong in a society that encourages women to provide unpaid family caregiving but offers no security net for those who sacrifice income to do it? (Or not! We're always open here to opinions either way!)




  1. Excellent essay Katy, I really enjoyed reading it. I've been a SAHM since my son was born nearly 11 years ago. I have a college degree and had a well-paying job when I gladly decided to stay home with my son. Both he and my husband appreciate the sacrifice I made. However, a few years ago, I evaluated my job prospects and realized I will probably never work a traditional job again. So, as much as my family appreciates me, society as a whole turns its nose up at me. I get the feeling some people see SAHMs as freeloaders, not contributing their share. Perhaps that's some of the attitude that goes into why we don't deserve compensation. Thank you for bring this issue to the forefront.

  2. Brilliant essay Katy, thanks so much. In case the MN Women's Consortium has a job opening in the next year, you should apply (and then I will break my heart over 299 of the 300 fabulous applicants of course) as we DO value concise and heartwrenching writing with key facts and women who are living what Ms. Magazine used to call "mid-revolutionary mores." I've been an activist for 35+ years and sadly we have never come to grips with this issue of what we used to call "displaced homemakers" (even feisty feminists don't like the term now - but how else to describe this problem) and are still fighting tooth and nail for basics like pay equity which is all about the value of women's work (all the low paid versions of being a mom). I have been super lucky, took just a couple of years off for kids 22 years ago and a lot of low paid part time work combined with adequately paid 60 hrs a week work ever since, doing ok financially but now noticing the status of older women, triple ouch. Thank you both for your tough choices and for using your big writing talent.
    Bonnie Watkins, executive director, Minnesota Women's Consortium -

  3. My wife and I are amazed over these articles. We have two children, have both worked full time (my wife travels three days a week) with the exception of six weeks after the birth of each baby. Where did you expect to be, Katy? Your "Mommy Track" was a conscious decision, actually many choices over many years. You could have gone back to work years ago. Now, it's time to pay the piper. You have no qualifications because you choose to be idle. YOU chose to wipe butts, do all the shopping, mail the bills, do the laundry, in place of staying in the job market and working. Your attitudes and actions seem elitist and, as my wife said, "nothing short of lazy". You chose to give-up over likely over a million dollars in pay, medical benefits, 401K savings, HSA savings, and probably have limited college funds for your kids (meaning they will also pay heavily for your years of Mommy-time. Sure looks selfish and very short-sighted from this perspective. Please don't ask me for a job, you are not qualified. Try the daycare center.

  4. Sorry if my last comment was too harsh, but my wife and I have seen many women who chose to stay at home "for the good of the kids", with horrific results for all. The woman ends-up in Katy's place; divorced and bewildered, without an identity or much of a chance of landing a decent job. Her ex-husband grew tired of coming home to a woman in a T-shirt and sweats, no make-up, typically overweight, and speaking only of the kids, the high price of milk, and how overwhelming the laundry seems...Then, she will complain to her friends that he was a "pig" for leaving her for a younger, fit, and intelligent woman with a job and a bright future! Their kids now typically attend a "more affordable" college and end-up with crushing student loan debt. But, wasn't it great that Mom stayed at home full-time? Please. Our kids benefitted greatly from day care and are both doing wonderfully and, most important here, ARE VIEWING APPROPRIATE ADULT BEHAVIOR (adults who work and hustle to achieve and have goals and will leave the kids with a legacy both financially and in terms of role models). We have already told our kids, boy and girl, to RUN in the opposite direction if someone you are dating wants you to play Mommy full-time, or wants to herself. Katy, real Life is work. The rewards are great. Sloth builds resentments and nothing. Wake-up and smell the coffee and get to work at something.

  5. NO, SOCIETY DOES NOT OWE YOU A "SAFETY NET" FOR MAKING YOUR OWN CHOICES! No one told you we were going to pay or support you for staying at home with the kids. Now, we will all likely have to support you again in your old age because you won't have medical savings or much of a 401K either. Looks like more of the same for Katy; let me do my thing for years, then support me financially. An excellent example of a person who is many decades behind in her thinking, and now we have to support her. Stop the whining and go out and get a job. Yes, it will be well below your college degree qualifications, but certainly fitting based on your poor decision-making. I will pray for you, and your kids and their struggle ahead.

  6. Hi Katy -

    I've never been to your blog before, just wanted you to know that I really enjoyed your article in the Star Tribune. I've also struggled with my choice of going back to work, 6 months after my daughter was born & 4 months after my son was born. It was heart-wrenching,emotionally draining, but I went back to work.

    Now that they are 5 and 7, in retrospect, it was a good decision. Not that your decision was a bad one - I can relate to how you made the decision that you did, and I'm sure it was right at the time.

    Would you ever consider going back to school to train for a career that could poise yourself for an in-demand job related to aging baby-boomers? That's my best off-the-cuff advice to potentially make up for years of lost financial ground.

    My sincere best wishes for your financial future. You seem very intelligent, I'm sure you'll succeed in whatever you choose to do.

  7. I'm almost a year late to this blog post, but I just ran across it, and thus, Scott's comments.

    Scott, how closely did you read this article? Katy was a journalist. In 15 years, I really doubt she could have gained a million dollars worth of pay by working full time. :)

    Your comments seem directed not so much at Katy (who doesn't seem at all lazy), but at any stay-at-home parent who finds the decision came with a cost. This is a real, viable issue that in some ways has more to do with marriage and divorce than it does with whether a parent stays home with the kids. It's a couple of generations removed from the "displaced homemaker" issue. Were women "lazy" in the days when women routinely were homemakers and had no work history after a divorce? These issues are not as simple as being lazy, or poor decision-making. Your stereotype about fat, lazy, idle, slothlike, boring stay-at-home mothers is as silly as the stereotype of stay-at-home moms as saints.

    Katy and I and many other women have done both the working-parent and stay-at-home-parent routines and see both the positive and negative aspects of each. It's a tradeoff either way.