Monday, September 24, 2012

Workin' for the Man

I'm headed back to work today.  It's a bit early, but in exchange I get to work part time through Thanksgiving.

Given that, I thought this headline made for a good blog post today: "Is Opting Out the New American Dream for Working Women?".  In a survey by ForbesWomen and, they found that:

84% of working women told ForbesWoman and TheBump that staying home to raise children is a financial luxury they aspire to.What’s more, more than one in three resent their partner for not earning enough to make that dream a reality.

Subsequently I saw several bloggers reference the fact that "84% of women want to be stay at home moms", so I decided to do a little digging.  What did this survey really say?  Well, Forbes published more about the survey here.

Weirdly, in that recap, the only time the 84% number is mentioned is in reference to women believing staying at home is a financial luxury, leading me to be more than a little curious as to how they phrased the question.  Do 84% of women actively want to stay at home, or do 84% of women wish they had enough money that they got to make the choice?  This quote from the article lead me to believe perhaps we were really discussing something rather than prioritizing staying at home with the kids:
As one (working) mom of two told me, she may dream of leaving work to take care of her kids, but the (financial) reality of it is not so ideal. “Sure, if my husband made so much money that I could spend time with the kids, still afford great vacations and maybe the occasional baby sitter to take a class or go out with friends, I’d be the first to sign up,” she said. “So maybe while it’s a luxury I do think about, it’s not one I would want unless it was actually luxurious. I don’t want to be a stay at home mom who clips coupons or plans her weekly menu to make ends meet… If that’s the case, I’d gladly go on working to avoid that fate.”
So it sounds like at least some of the respondents were focused less on wanting to opt out of the workplace to raise their kids, and more on wanting to have enough money to keep their standard of living while not feeling pressured to work.  Two slightly but significantly different things IMHO.  I have rarely seen a stay at home mom who didn't strive to make the household more financially efficient while at home, so this dream seemed a bit divorced from reality. This is backed up by the survey's additional result that only half of working women think they'd be happier if they stayed home.  I'd also guess most of us would be happier if we had enough money to completely call the shots regarding where we worked.

Of course none of this addresses the totally skewed sample that comes from two websites joining up to do a survey like this.  Doubtless ForbesWomen/TheBump do not attract a random crowd.  Additionally, it should be concerning to our sense of family that 1/3 of women are resenting their husbands for not making more money....though to note the survey used the phrase "sometimes resent" while the article merely used "resent".

A side note about this of the last questions was about how much women spent on themselves per month.  Most (63% of working moms, 78% of stay at home mom's) said they spent less than $100 a month on themselves.  Every time I see a question like this, I always wonder where people count cable TV and haircuts.  When I was getting my degree, they mentioned that during premarital counseling you should always ask the woman how much she thought a reasonable haircut cost.  Apparently that one expenditure can cause a lot of fights.  I definitely know women who believe a basic haircut costs $80 or more.

All that being said, I'm going to miss my little monkey today, but I'm happy to have a job I love to go back to, I don't resent my husband, and I think a reasonable haircut for a woman costs $40.


  1. And I thought haircuts were expensive when I no longer got change from a $10 at a barber shop.

    (I'm a guy, what can I say?)

    Interesting that the sample, and the interpretation of the data, is so far from what the headlines say.

    But I think I've come to expect that. Numbers/data in headlines are interpreted and broadened to provide the most surprising headline possible.

  2. Think of another financial luxury, and how that would get answered. Many women would say that a yacht or a round-the-world cruise or a Swiss chalet was a financial luxury - and that's true. But it wouldn't imply that they were aspiring to having that in anything but a general way. A hundred other things might be higher on the list. So saying "It's a financial luxury" may mean nothing more than that.

    1. Yes, when I read that I was subbing in "beach house" or "vacation home". I aspire to that as a financial luxury, but I definitely couldn't tell you how much I'd have to make before that would top the priority list and actually happen.