Choice and Social Structure

by Kieran Healy on December 2, 2007

A rich post over at Scatterplot.

I spent a lot of those years exhausted and angry. We continued to have only part-time child care. Some nights I put the children to bed crying because I knew they were better off crying alone in bed than interacting with an angry sleep-deprived mother. I was furious that I had to make constrained choices and could not have the life I wanted. When he was home, my spouse was “superdad,” who did a lot of the work and played a lot with the children, so there was a big hole when he was gone. He was aware of how much he did when he was around, but not of what it was like when he was not around. I wanted him to confront the consequences of the work-home choice he was making and feel just as bad as I did. In retrospect, I probably should have used more paid child care and household help, as the children would probably have been better off with a saner mother, but I did not want to concede defeat to the constraints in my life. I preferred feeling angry to adjusting.

I haven’t said “Read the whole thing” in a while. This one’s worth it.

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Feminist Law Professors » Blog Archive » “Choices, Consequences, Constraints,” an essay about academia and motherhood that may floor you.
12.02.07 at 5:51 pm

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1

a 12.02.07 at 6:53 am

“Perhaps we can both make better choices for ourselves and do better sociology if we take the complex interdependency of our system as a starting point, and then attend specifically to the ways that we go about simplifying or schematizing our understanding of it.” Um, yeah, one needs to accept the world as it is, rather than supposing the world is at should be one as one wants the world to be. In the country where I live, it is accepted that women with children work part-time. It is less accepted that men do so. So even though I would like to work part-time, and I am envious of my wife’s time off, I continue to work full-time.

2

a 12.02.07 at 6:54 am

“Um, yeah, one needs to accept the world as it is, rather than supposing the world is at should be one as one wants the world to be.”

Sorry, that should be: one needs to accept the world as it is, rather than supposing the world is as it should be or as one wants the world to be.

3

Bill Gardner 12.02.07 at 7:02 am

You become what you do. Every day in every way we make choices that have consequences for ourselves and other people. Every time we say yes to some things we say no to countless other things. We make dozens of choices every day that are consequential for ourselves and others. We live embedded in opportunities and constraints created by other people’s choices, and we in our turn create constraints and opportunities for ourselves and others.

This is, I think, what ‘karma’ refers to. No sarcasm intended.

4

Matt 12.02.07 at 3:55 pm

I really should stay out of this as my position is quite unpopular but when I read things like,

_”I was furious that I had to make constrained choices and could not have the life I wanted.”_

I can’t help but think, “well, welcome to the real world for the large majority of people. I’m sorry it had to finally catch up with you.” I especially feel this way when the other options are 1) hire more child care, something apparently not out of their means, implying that their situation is already much, much better than most people’s, or 2)re-negotiate the work-home situation between the spouses, something not pleasant to do, perhaps, and something that might make for unpleasant life-style choices, but again, much less bad than what many people face all the time.

5

seth edenbaum 12.02.07 at 4:10 pm

” He took the job because it was a dream job for him, a chance to do something exciting, fun and interesting. He was “owed” in our relationship because he had already moved twice for my job. His first choice would have been for him to have the good job without the travel, but that wasn’t an option. To be honest, I’m selfish enough that I would have preferred that he keep his bad job and make my life easier, but I cared about him, agreed he was owed, and knew why he really wanted to do it, so I signed off.”

Communication as contract: between the selfish and self-conscious (but not unself-aware) All the grey areas in a relationship described as lines. I’m sure she feels the children were “owed” too. It was unreadable.

6

s.e. 12.02.07 at 4:51 pm

The use of the passive voice.

7

Mara 12.02.07 at 5:05 pm

“Um, yeah, one needs to accept the world as it is, rather than supposing the world is as it should be one or as one wants the world to be. In the country where I live, it is accepted that women with children work part-time. It is less accepted that men do so. So even though I would like to work part-time, and I am envious of my wife’s time off, I continue to work full-time”

One may need to act in the world as it is, but that doesn’t mean one has to blithely accept the world as it is. The fact that the wife’s time spent caring for children continues to be seen by spouse as “time-off” is precisely the kind of socially conditioned perception that gets in the way of creating more gender neutral social arrangements for balancing work/career with family.

8

Slocum 12.02.07 at 6:05 pm

In the country where I live, it is accepted that women with children work part-time. It is less accepted that men do so. So even though I would like to work part-time, and I am envious of my wife’s time off, I continue to work full-time.

But why do you care what is generally accepted and what isn’t?

When our kids were very little both my wife and I worked part-time. Since then, we’ve both worked full time. But many of her friends work only part-time, and in the past she’s hinted that she might like to do that too. Well I can understand that–I would, too. So did she mean that she wanted both of us to switch to part time, downsize to a smaller, cheaper house, get rid of one of the cars, cut down on eating out, go on cheap vacations, etc? Because I’d consider that (really). But no, it turned out that she wanted to work part time while I worked full time and we continued live pretty much the same life style as always — only with her having a lot more free time.

Do some of her friends have that deal? Why yes they do (some don’t even work part time though their kids are well past school age). Would I sign up for it? Hell no — it’s a lousy, unfair deal, why on earth would I do that?

9

a 12.02.07 at 6:12 pm

“But why do you care what is generally accepted and what isn’t?”

Because if I want to continue working in the job that I’m doing, I have to do what is generally accepted.

10

Kieran Healy 12.02.07 at 6:17 pm

I can’t help but think, “well, welcome to the real world for the large majority of people.

“Um, yeah, one needs to accept the world as it is,

Look, what’s really good about this post is the way it conveys several things at once: a particular, but common, personal reaction to finding oneself in a particular, but common, set of circumstances; honest and insightful reflection on the substance of that reaction; and some clear-minded thinking on how to think about these and similar questions more broadly, both from a strictly analytical point of view and in connection with the question of active efforts toward social change. It is just this combination of qualities that makes the post rich, and worth reading.

11

seth edenbaum 12.02.07 at 6:28 pm

Kieran, try reading the paragraphs as if they were the words of a narrator in a work of fiction. Don’t read the words as content, read them as form. Then think about what they might imply about the narrator’s relation to her role and to others.

12

LizardBreath 12.02.07 at 6:53 pm

think about what they might imply about the narrator’s relation to her role and to others.

Hrm. I’m coming up with “She’s attempting to communicate the difficulties with managing the conflicting demands of her family, her own career, and her husband’s career without sugarcoating her own role or presenting herself as a flawless martyr.” What do you come up with?

13

seth edenbaum 12.02.07 at 7:04 pm

I’m coming up with “he was owed” among other things.
Ideas are not implications.

Or is the point to only look for subtext in things you disagree with?

14

LizardBreath 12.02.07 at 7:21 pm

I’m coming up with “he was owed”

What conclusion are you drawing from this? Does it illuminate your understanding of the writer’s character, or of the quality of her relationship with her husband, or your opinion of her veracity? I understand that you think this is interesting and informative, and I might agree if I knew what you thought it meant.

15

seth edenbaum 12.02.07 at 7:40 pm

I feel a rant coming on, and it’s not a new one.

I’m out.

16

Shamus Khan 12.02.07 at 7:41 pm

What I find curious about a lot of the rather smug comments here is that folks seem to want to punish the author for being honest. What? You’ve never been selfish, known you were being selfish, known that your selfishness was wrong, but felt that way anyway? What? You’ve never been frustrated with “how the real world works”? What? Every time you feel bad about yourself you should ask, “Does someone have it worse?” find that they do, and they decide you can’t feel that way any more or acknowledge your frustration?

The posting was open and honest about contradictory feelings. About feeling and acting in ways that weren’t perfect – in fact that were highly problematic. And acknowledging that is powerful. Because it highlights the ways in which we are all a little like “olderwoman.” We do things and feel things that are less than ideal.

Oh, and “a”: a little tip for you. Your wife working part time does not mean she has “time off” that you don’t. It means she works at home in addition to working outside the home. She works at home so YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORK AT HOME. Last time I checked, raising kids (and/or performing other kinds of household labor) wasn’t “time off”… If you start counting household labor hours you might even find that she works more than you. Your envy sounds incredibly presumptuous to me.

17

geo 12.02.07 at 8:04 pm

An affecting piece. But it’s true, as others have noted, that her conclusion — “Perhaps we can both make better choices for ourselves and do better sociology if we take the complex interdependency of our system as a starting point, and then attend specifically to the ways that we go about simplifying or schematizing our understanding of it” — is lame. Not to be drearily ideological, but isn’t it all capitalism’s fault? Aren’t Ruskin and Morris still the starting point for any solution to the contemporary epidemic of stress, overwork, and drudgery, with the resulting cultural and environmental blight?

18

seth edenbaum 12.02.07 at 8:27 pm

I had to come back for one last comment. I never made it to the end of the post. That quote from the conclusion is amazing.
She certainly became what she does.

There’s a Gordian Knot that needs to be cut. She’s just pulling it tighter.

19

LizardBreath 12.02.07 at 8:53 pm

There’s a Gordian Knot that needs to be cut.

Yeah, there’s nothing more annoying than someone who complains about a situation when there’s a simple, obvious solution staring them right in the face. Clearly, she should have… huh. I’m stuck. You?

20

Ingrid Robeyns 12.02.07 at 9:04 pm

I agree with what Kieran @# 11 said. I, too, thought it was worthwhile reading, though can imagine that it resonates more for some of us than for others. Thanks for the link, Kieran.

21

Bill Gardner 12.02.07 at 9:30 pm

Yeah, there’s nothing more annoying than someone who complains about a situation when there’s a simple, obvious solution staring them right in the face. Clearly, she should have… huh. I’m stuck. You?

Perhaps the only escape from this kind of situation is a kind of grace. I was, for several years, an untenured, divorced man who had my kids half time. An easier situation than a single mom with no man on the scene, and perhaps easier than what the author faced. I fell head over heels in love with the kids. That saved me. I’m not saying she ‘should have done’ this, because I didn’t do it. It just happened.

22

Matt 12.03.07 at 4:10 am

I don’t want to punish anyone. It would be great if she can work things out and be happy. These sorts of things, though (and the one some time back by the woman who wanted kids but didn’t have them) just come across to me as the academic’s version of _Bridget Jone’s Diary_. I didn’t like that one, either. “Life didn’t work out like I wanted it to” is just too common a story to be that interesting to me.

23

Dan Simon 12.03.07 at 4:35 am

a particular, but common, personal reaction to finding oneself in a particular, but common, set of circumstances;

How common is it, really, to have the flexibility of a tenured faculty position, the financial security of a two-income household, and the domestic help of a “superspouse”? Or to react to this state of affairs by being consumed with selfish anger to the point of neglecting your family?

honest and insightful reflection on the substance of that reaction;

I give her credit for acknowledging the objective reality of that reaction. But for her reflection to be both “honest” and “insightful”, it would have to offer some introspective explanation as to why she responded to such incredibly privileged circumstances by retreating into a shell of angry, self-absorbed resentment and neglect of her loved ones. Such an atypical–even bizarre–reaction can only be explained by psychology, not sociology.

24

Mary Catherine 12.03.07 at 5:22 am

Frank and open discussion of class is all but proscribed in America, whereas Oprah-ized discussions of gender are frequently fostered and encouraged (you go, girl!), if only kept within the bounds where we all tacitly agree not to mention, or at least not to seriously analyze, the politics of class.

With the result that any woman, of whatever social class whatsoever (but she’s probably middle to upper-middling), who dares to speak honestly of whatever it is that concerns her, will meet with all kinds of weirdly class-based resentment…how dare she not realize how good she really has it?…as if we were all being brutally honest about class from the get-go, and then that rich bitch came along and dared to complain when she’s not even working as a cashier at Walmart?

We do not speak honestly of class, but we like to sometimes use gender as a substitute.

If people were honestly concerned with the wages and working conditions of the cashiers at Walmart, I would have more sympathy, and more appreciation.

But they’re not, mostly. And mostly not at all.
I have about zero sympathy for anyone who says, “Accept the world as it is” when it comes to women, of whatever class whatsoever. As if we were just making “choices”, and choosing to lob the ball this way or that, on a level playing field.

Call it the Marie Antoinette syndrome. Why bother with the abuses and corruptions of an entire regime (so complex, and so overwhelming in its difficulties, when it comes to correlation and causation and all of that), when l’Autriche wore feathers in her hat, and we all know what that meant? Let them eat cake!

25

c.l. ball 12.03.07 at 5:44 am

Her Scatterplot post is excellent. Thanks for the link.

I sympathize with the poster, and I’m sure my wife would, too. She works 10 to 11-hour days (5 days per week only, thankfully), the kid is in daycare up to 11-hours too, and we’re still stressed out at 7 pm when I’m cooking dinner, she’s trying to pay bills, and the toddler’s on a rampage.

She (Scatterplot) does not say that paid childcare or household help would have been cheap — just that she probably should have done it, given the troubles she faced without it.

I’ve told my wife, parents, and anyone else who asks about the possibility of a second kid. My response is the same: “If someone else is paying for 24/7 nanny coverage, sure.” I like playing w/ my kid, making her snacks, giving her baths, etc. But when you’re trying to read the Sunday paper, read a journal article, edit a book review, shovel the snow, read a few blogs, cook dinner, enjoy some music, shop for food, clean the house, and prep for Monday work (my day today) and two kids are on the prowl, well, if you have one spouse road-warrioring it on top of it — you’d be angry about not being able to do it all well, too.

26

MissLaura 12.03.07 at 6:13 am

I know that was a very good post because it made me angry, and then reading many of the critical comments here made me equally angry.

It’s a dilemma with several sides that make me angry, and peculiarly so given it’s not a dilemma I’ve yet faced and it’s one my parents dealt with quite adeptly.

27

a 12.03.07 at 6:36 am

“Your wife working part time does not mean she has “time off” that you don’t. It means she works at home in addition to working outside the home. She works at home so YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORK AT HOME. Last time I checked, raising kids (and/or performing other kinds of household labor) wasn’t “time off”… If you start counting household labor hours you might even find that she works more than you. Your envy sounds incredibly presumptuous to me.”

Shamus – well, I think your whole blathering is presumptuous to me. Do you know what my wife does when she’s not working? Do you know who does household labor chores in my household? Do you know what I would do should I work part time?

Let’s just suppose that, if I were to work part-time, I would spend the time off by going to the casino and gamble. The fact remains that I can’t do that because I have constraints at my work which means I can’t work part-time.

” The fact that the wife’s time spent caring for children continues to be seen by spouse as “time-off” is precisely the kind of socially conditioned perception that gets in the way of creating more gender neutral social arrangements for balancing work/career with family.”

Who said anywhere that time spent caring for children is “time-off”? Of course it’s not. Anyway, despite the fine feelings exhibited in your comment, still the fact remains: society (or at least the society I live in) does not yet have these “gender neutral social arrangements.” By all means, try to change this and make a better world. On the other hand, when it comes down to choices that one needs to make in life (such as having children), one is apt to make a bad choice if one assumes that the world is already better than if one assumes the world as it is. Just to take a more gender-neutral example: given the prevalence of divorce and the facility which people go into it, it is reasonably foolhardy to assume when one is getting married that it will be forever.

And Kieran applauded the original post’s “honest and insightful reflection”. Can I ask how he knows it is “honest?” Does he know the person?

28

seth edenbaum 12.03.07 at 8:18 am

It’s not a dilemma, it’s a decision. You can’t do it all. Pick a few things and let the rest go. Children are first and foremost a moral responsibility. You either want that or you don’t.

#26 “If someone else is paying for 24/7 nanny coverage, sure.” Then they’re not your children anymore. Let the servants take them home. They have kids too: that they can’t take care of while they’re taking care of yours.

#25 “We do not speak honestly of class, but we like to sometimes use gender as a substitute.”
I have no sympathy for anyone, male or female, who can afford to hire servants. I have no sympathy for people with “careers,” only for people with jobs.“We do not speak honestly of class”
No, you don’t.

This isn’t the life “of the mind” it reads like the life of the over-worked and self-absorbed bureaucrat. There’s not an ounce of emotional sympathy for another human being in the language of the post or in most of the responses. It’s not about you it’s about the kids. All your store-bought expertise and you end up where you started: adolescent/academic narcissism.

“He was owed”
No…
“I owed him” But even if she’d had the guts to write it straight she’d be incapable of attaching any irony.

29

Tracy W 12.03.07 at 12:36 pm

Perhaps we can both make better choices for ourselves and do better sociology if we take the complex interdependency of our system as a starting point, and then attend specifically to the ways that we go about simplifying or schematizing our understanding of it.”

Okay, I’m puzzled. I’m thinking of having kids myself, and would like a way of thinking about the trade-offs. But how are we meant to do this? And how will it be useful as a way for making better choices for ourselves?
I’m trying to think through the steps.
1. Complex interdependency of our system is a starting point.
Okay. Taken.
2. Attend specifically to the ways that we go about simplifying or schematizing our understanding of it.
3. Look up schematizing in a dictionary.
“To express in or reduce to a scheme”

4. Where now? Well, I learnt in university a number of ways of simplying, or schematizing a system. Pictures of blackboards and whiteboards come to mind. I can write an equation for daily time available from me and my husband:
No of hours spent working + no of hours of housework + no of hours spent in childcare + no of hours in personal care

30

Tracy W 12.03.07 at 12:37 pm

Hmm, remainder of post disappeared somewhere:

5. attend to how I am doing this. Well, clearly this is a simplification. It does not discuss the details of each hour spent, or the possibility of multi-tasking, or the impact on our mutual finances, or the time-dilation effect of time spent in motion as per relatively theory. Nor does it discuss involvement from extended family. It’s a way of schematizing that reduces matters to a mathematical formula, and it’s based on a daily rather than weekly, yearly or hourly level.

Okay, I’ve attended specifically to the ways in which I’ve gone about simplifying and schematizing my understanding of it.

Now what? This is a genuine question. What does olderwoman think I should do now?

Or does simplifying and schematizing our understanding have a meaning in sociology that’s like the meaning in maths of the phrase “differentiate y with respect to x”?

31

Tracy W 12.03.07 at 12:38 pm

Oh, I see another detail. My equation should add up to “less than or equal to 24”

32

KC 12.03.07 at 3:35 pm

Many of these posts overlook the structural constraints on her choices. Her story perfectly illustrates the fact that parents and children suffer the more we privatize caregiving. When both partners are active parents, when employers allow flexibility (in academia things like on-site childcare & stopping tenure clocks for childrearing), and when governments provide supports like universal preschool & after school programs, parents are less likely to be torn b/t kids and work and resort to the TV as caregiver for 10 hours a day. (Janet Gornick & Marcia Meyers’ excellent book Families that Work shows how U.S. kids are by far the worst off on all kinds of measures, due to our turbo-capitalism and privatized view of caregiving.)

I think her post also shows how these dilemmas are often particularly difficult for women. We get more education now, are expected to have careers,… then once having children are confronted with an intensive mothering ideology (see Sharon Hays’ The Cultural Contradictions of Mothering) that extorts us to lavish time & attention (& money) on our kids. It seems men suffer in particular ways too — from all kinds of institutional constraints that prevent the majority from reducing work hours for childrearing. These phenomena exist in North America — other CT posters can speak more to other countries.

So, while many of her parenting decisions might seem questionable, let’s remind ourselves of the structural conditions under which she lives — and that these similarly affect other employed mothers in North America. (And that those without partners or other folks to help out and those with low incomes are clearly the most disadvantaged in our privatized system of caregiving.)

33

c.l. ball 12.03.07 at 5:08 pm

#26 “If someone else is paying for 24/7 nanny coverage, sure.” Then they’re not your children anymore. Let the servants take them home. They have kids too: that they can’t take care of while they’re taking care of yours.

24/7 nanny coverage means hiring three full-time (8 hour shift) nannies, down to two when your kid is able to sleep through night regularly. Having a nanny on shift does not mean you never interact with the kid. It can mean that while your playing outside he or she is doing the kid’s laundry. It means that when a colleague returns your calls while your playing or feeding your child, you can take the call without yelling for your spouse to stop what she’s doing to watch your child. I’ve seen the stress-levels that dual professional couples with dual-nannies display around the house. It’s a lot less than the stress-levels at mine, where there are no nannies.

Why assume that nannies still have kids at home? Some have adult children or have not yet had children.

34

dsquared 12.03.07 at 5:20 pm

But no, it turned out that she wanted to work part time while I worked full time and we continued live pretty much the same life style as always—only with her having a lot more free time.

Do some of her friends have that deal? Why yes they do (some don’t even work part time though their kids are well past school age). Would I sign up for it? Hell no—it’s a lousy, unfair deal, why on earth would I do that?

way to stick it to the man your wife, dude.

35

Tracy W 12.03.07 at 5:29 pm

When both partners are active parents, when employers allow flexibility (in academia things like on-site childcare & stopping tenure clocks for childrearing), and when governments provide supports like universal preschool & after school programs, parents are less likely to be torn b/t kids and work and resort to the TV as caregiver for 10 hours a day.

So instead of the children watching TV for 10 hours a day they will be in state-provided childcare for 10 hours a day in utopia?

From my reading of her post, I don’t know if that would have helped OlderWoman and her husband. She said at the time that they didn’t want to hire full-time childcare, so presumably they wouldn’t want full-time government-provided childcare. She already had tenure by the time of their second child, so stopping the tenure clock wouldn’t have helped her in particular.

It sounds like a large chunk of their dilmmia was that neither her nor her husband wanted to give up their interesting jobs. The author turned down a lot of work possibilites to take care of her kids, so presumably she also had work flexibility. Her husband consciously choose a very demanding job with a lot of travel.

I don’t think government can do much to solve those sorts of problems.

And, incidentally, I was dispatched on a number of occasions in my childhood to after-school and holiday programmes. I preferred it when we had privitised childcare – either with people my parents had hired or us being dispatched around amongst our aunts as part of some complicated childsharing system my mum and her sisters had running. In a programme you are always being organised and entertained and educated, and there’s no allowance for curling up in a corner with a book or splashing around in the stream. If you splash around in the stream there is a workbook to fill out telling you to do things like “see if you can find these aquatic creatures!”. Aaarrrgh. Give me privatised childcare any day.

36

c.l. ball 12.03.07 at 5:33 pm

Re #29 the decision to have children can hardly be treated as a dichotomy between single-minded devotion to a child on one side and childless commitment to career and leisure on the other. That’s olderwoman’s point.

Given that dual-income couples and families are more common today among professionals than say, 30 years ago, the tensions olderwoman describes are widespread. This is not a personal choice as much as a social one. “Keeping up with the Jonses” is a result of this. For example, buying a house in a neighborhood also favored by DINKs and DIWKs is harder for single-income families. It is not a personal choice to have other professionals pursue dual careers and drive up your cost of living.

Consider the irony — Scatterplot’s poster had her husband follow her to two places for her career. Then her career gets nose-dived w/ the 2nd child and his travel-centered job (she never said it paid more; only that it was something he had always wanted to do and was “exciting, fun, and interesting.” For all we know, it paid less than his prior job). She does not regret this choice; it is after 10 years on the mommy track, and her attempt to re-engage her academic career that she gets hit with her children’s resentment. In the end, her academic career is not revived. So, her husband’s prior sacrifice is for naught; her career as she had imagined it is aborted. She didn’t choose this; it happened. She never blames the kids or he husband. That doesn’t mean she should blame herself.

37

Megan 12.03.07 at 6:20 pm

I was very impressed with that post and her capacity for self-evaluation. I suspect that from the outside looking in, I would think that she had done a great job at each facet she turned her attention to. I’m willing to guess that because her post reveals a lot of personal integrity, and people with integrity can simultaneously resent the circumstances that force them into constrained choices and do still do a good job at the task itself. Revealing one’s inner frustration is not the same as describing one’s outer behavior.

38

Martin James 12.03.07 at 8:59 pm

You are a proper fool, I said.
Well, if Albert won’t leave you alone, there it is, I said,
What you get married for if you don’t want children?

39

Mark 12.03.07 at 10:55 pm

“…the structural constraints on her choices. Her story perfectly illustrates the fact that parents and children suffer the more we privatize caregiving.”

These seem like odd thoughts: human caregiving has always been “privatized” i.e., done first and foremost by kin of the one being cared for as opposed to strangers. Thus, it makes no sense to say “the more we privatize” it.

And, the phrase “structural constraints” is one of those massive generalities that just sweeps so much under the rug. Laments about ” no universal preschool” etc are irrelevant to the original post, most of which deals with events that occurred once the kids starting going to school. It is a structural constraint that one can’t have one’s cake and eat it too. One person’s “structural constraint” is another’s “real world.

40

Ancarett 12.04.07 at 12:57 am

Ah, the good ol’ gender trap. Women are demonized for having children or for having jobs or for both. The quality of their parenting is always crap in the eyes of the commenter. The choices and compromises they make in their life are signs that they’re weak, selfish and inferior. Heard it all before. Walk a mile in her shoes, wouldya, before you judge?

Olderwoman’s post was brilliant. I’ve also been squeezed between the impossibly and insanely overlapping demands of jobs, family and relationships, so her words evoke those memories with painful clarity. Her situation and choices aren’t identical with mine, but her experience of being condemned all around for trying to be a “good” scholar as well as a “good” mother and “good” partner? That’s sadly universal.

41

s.e. 12.04.07 at 2:30 am

“Ah, the good ol’ gender trap.”

The criticism is the same whether the author is male or female.

42

Carol 12.05.07 at 5:22 pm

“Women are demonized for having children or for having jobs or for both.”

And not just for that. In the comments on olderwoman’s post here and elsewhere, she is also demonized for having the gall to have had negative feelings about her situation, and worse! to have expressed them in writing. “Bitter” seems to be the pejorative term of choice. Because, as we all know, a single post about her life is adequate to sum up all of her feelings and actions. Or at least adequate enough for all of us to judge her by.

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