11 January 2013

Reality Bites: Career v. Family Edition

Here is a Friday afternoon treat for you (via Marginal Revolution) addressing in an utterly practical and realistic and witty way the fundamental conundrums of modern applied feminism from Penelope Trunk, whose new book: The New American Dream: Blueprint for a New Path to Success a feel obligated to draw your attention to.  The fine writing in the linked blog post quite vividly recreates the essence of how decisions on balancing work and family are made by women with a great deal of well substantiated wit and a little more Myers-Briggs personality analysis than is probably reasonably necessary for the task (mostly omitted in the excerpt below).  Here is a taste of it:
You cannot pick a husband to have kids with until you know if you want to work full-time while you are raising them. Some women will say they know for sure that they do want to work full-time. Most women will say that they don’t know for sure. But there are actually only two choices: be a breadwinner or marry a breadwinner. . . .

Scenario 1: Be a Breadwinner . . .
Breadwinner option 1: Marry a stay-at-home dad. . . .
High-powered jobs leave little time for kids. And people who advance past the age of 35 have a stay-at-home spouse supporting them. If you have kids, the top-tier jobs in the business world are two-people jobs. People who have kids and a stay-at-home spouse advance at a much, much higher rate than people who don’t.

Breadwinner option 2: Nannies . . .

Women who have kids and a big job and no stay-at-home husband have two nannies, and a household staff, because you need to be covered every second of every day because you don’t know what work will need. (Remember: this is from day one of having kids.)  . . .
How to pick a husband who will co-exist with a breadwinner and nannies.
If you are picking the two-nanny route, you will need to find a husband who earns more than you. Statistically your marriage is high risk if you and your husband are both in the workforce and you earn more than him because surveys show that you will resent him. This is not logical, or social, it is primal. Statistically, you will marry a guy who does not make as much as you and then you will have kids and get a divorce. Because women hate the feeling of out-earning their husbands.
To be clear: there is no scenario where you have a big job but do not work long hours. That does not happen. There are not those jobs in this world. And that is fair: . . . You give something up to get something. Always. 
Scenario 2: Be Home with Your Kids
If you want to be home with your kids, you’re going to need a solid plan to make that happen. Pew Research finds that about 60% of all working women with kids want to work part-time and be home with their kids part-time. (Note that Macleans magazine reports that women with kids who work part-time are the happiest in the world.) Gallup reports that about 40% of women don’t want to work at all. (Note that this leaves a statistically irrelevant number of women who have kids and want to work full-time.)
Home with Kids Option 1: Work part-time.  Let’s assume you want to work part-time, since this is the more complicated of the two scenarios. The problem with this scenario is that part-time jobs don’t offer advancement or a lot of money, so you need to be with a guy who will work full-time.  Don’t tell me that you want your husband to work part-time, because aiming for the impossible 50/50 split leads to divorce. First, because it’s the road to eternal poverty; part-time jobs are low pay, without advancement, and they are the first to go when it’s time to cut jobs. So you create massive financial instability by having two people work part-time. Also, parents who do this say it’s total chaos, and in a 50/50 split the women always end up doing way more.

Home with Kids Option 2: Don’t bother with earning money. 

If the guy is working full-time, then he is not going to do all the parenting stuff. You are. So you are working part-time and you are a full-time parent. You will have to work hard to not get resentful about this. And really, who could blame you? The best antidote for this resentment is money. If the guy makes a lot of money you can hire people to help you and then you don’t have to be upset that the guy is not helping you.Or not. Or you can just let the guy go to his job, which, you will certainly know, is way easier than taking care of kids, because every job in the whole world is easier than taking care of kids, and you will be home doing everything else. Maybe you will have a part-time job, but that will not be the focus of your energy because the stuff at home is way harder than your part-time job. Your part-time job will be a break from the hard stuff. So pick a guy who will earn enough to ensure that you are not pissed.
Also, pick a guy who will earn enough so that you don’t have to work. Because statistically speaking, you will not want a full-time job, and you definitely won’t want a job where you have to earn six figures, because that’s way more than full-time.

How to find a husband who is a breadwinner.

[E]veryone looks like a breadwinner in their twenties. . . . at some point, the salary gets high enough that you have to actually be good at what you do to continue getting jobs at that salary. Then some people start getting stuck . . . This happens to most people around age 30. . . . So the best thing to do is to assume anyone over 30 is making as much as they will make in their life. . . .  (By age 40 almost no one’s salary increases.) . . . If you are marrying young, which I recommend, then you’re playing the odds.
Scenario 3: Denial. Don’t do this.
There will be people who say you can’t choose who you fall in love with. This is a lie, of course. There are a million people you could fall in love with. If one is impractical, just go find another. There will be people who say they don’t know what they want until they see who they marry. . . . the odds are you do not want a huge job and you are in scenario two.
Most people just will not like these choices. Nothing here is good. It’s reality, and of course it’s not as good as fantasy. The only good, real thing is that you have choices, and you can figure out who you are and what you need and you can get what you need. The only thing worse than the choices I’ve just laid out is not making a choice.

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