The playwright George Bernard Shaw, a Fabian Socialist and strong supporter of women’s rights, appraised the balance of power between men and women in a way that we would perhaps find easy to dismiss today. He observed that
the bearing and rearing of children, including domestic house-keeping, is a woman’s natural monopoly. As such, being as it is the most vital of all functions of mankind, it gives women a power and importance that they can attain to in no other profession, and that man cannot attain to at all. In so far as it is slavery, it is slavery to Nature and not to Man; indeed it is the means by which women enslave men.
Whatever one makes of that declaration with modern sensibilities, it is nevertheless true that in Shaw’s time respectable women had limited access to power and prominence in professions other than motherhood and homemaking. But today his view that stay-at-home mothers performed the most vital work of “mankind” would no doubt be condemned, at the very least, for failing to employ gender-neutral language.
Much has changed, not only in the rise of gender-neutral locutions, but in popular perceptions of motherhood and the avenues to power for women. Today’s feminists talk about the “market” not as a place to purchase the family dinner but as an arena through which to achieve equal power with men. The belief that married mothers could only escape the oppression of domestic life and obtain equality with their spouses through labor force participation was widely expressed by the most influential voices in the feminist movement between the 1960s and the mid-1990s. Indeed, ever since Betty Friedan identified “the problem that has no name”, a prevalent strain of feminist thought has depicted care-giving and household work as servile, mind-numbing activities of limited worth.
Friedan’s gloomy rendition of a mother’s work in the 1960s no doubt resonated with many women. Three million copies of The Feminine Mystique (1963) sold in the United States within its first three years in print. Her message clearly came at the right time—a prosperous era of rising expectations about personal fulfillment. The contraceptive revolution and the expansion of white-collar employment offered liberation from what many had persuaded themselves were the smothering bonds of motherhood and housekeeping. (The popular idea that equality and self-determination were possible in the labor market, but not in the family, had a curious side effect: Feminism trumped socialism as the preferred “progressive” ideology of equality and, in the process, advanced the interests of capitalism by shifting household labor to the market. But that is another story.)
Although the core group of feminists that promotes Friedan’s critical assessment has lost members over the past decade, the view of childcare and housework as a mentally numbing grind continues to shape the social context in which individual decisions and public policies are being made about motherhood and paid employment. Public policies in many countries, including the United States, aim to harmonize work and family life by having the state assume child-care responsibilities so that mothers can return to work as soon as possible.
On the individual level, too, an unprecedented number of women have figured out how to avoid the years of sleepless nights, changing diapers, cooking and feeding children and cleaning up the never-ending mess they create. The most direct solution to the problem that has no name is simply not to have children. In 2002 almost one in five women in their early forties were childless, close to double the proportion of childless women in 1976. Over the same period the proportion of women having only one child by their early forties also doubled. In addition to having fewer children, mothers are increasingly outsourcing the daily care of their preschoolers to other people, while they invest their labor in work for pay, which is seen not only as financially beneficial, but as personally and psychologically more satisfying than childrearing and household management.
Indeed, the belief that paid work confers incomparable social satisfactions and psychological benefits for women with young children has become so ingrained that the public discourse on harmonizing work and family life revolves almost entirely around proposals to create high-quality out-of-home care (with a few months off immediately after birth). High-quality care for preschool children seeks to achieve what they normally receive at home with competent mothers.
The conventional agreement about the personal rewards of employment has come about, however, mainly because the vast majority of those who publicly talk, think and write about questions of gender equality, motherhood and work in modern society are people who talk, think and write for a living. And they tend to associate with other people who, like themselves, do not have “real” jobs—professors, journalists, authors, artists, politicos, pundits, foundation program officers, think-tank scholars and media personalities, all people for whom “doing lunch” is work. (As one of them, I am qualified to speak with some authority on the subject.)
Of course, people who get paid to build knowledge, inform the public and shape social policies work for their wages, and they often work hard at what they do. When I say that they do not have “real” jobs, I am referring to the fact that the kind of work they perform provides a degree of physical and temporal autonomy unknown in the typical weekly routine of a nine-to-five worker. Among the professoriate, for example, many of my colleagues in the social sciences and humanities are required to spend four to five hours a week in classroom teaching, thirty weeks a year. That is, they are obliged to be in a particular location for about 120 to 150 hours a year—compared to an average office worker’s 1,815 hours per year.
Most people engaged in normal jobs do not write much about the joys of work; they rather vote with their feet. Women seeking to escape the drudgery of domestic work for the stimulating pleasures of employment supposedly enjoyed by men might ask why the average male worker throughout the advanced industrial world hastens to retire as quickly as possible. Among the major industrialized nations, almost one man in three was retired by his mid-to-late fifties in 1999. Survey findings show that, if given the choice, the vast majority of those in retirement would not go back to work. It comes as no surprise, of course, that members of the occupational elite are disproportionately represented among the workers who do not take early retirement.
As for the gloom of domestic life, do most women really find unpaid housework and childrearing more disagreeable than paid work? Empirical evidence suggests not. Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues surveyed 909 employed women on how they had felt during 16 different activities and interactions with eight different partners on the previous day. Overall, respondents reported a much higher degree of positive than negative affect on all activities and interactions. In comparing specific experiences, however, the data showed that on average the employed women expressed a higher degree of enjoyment for shopping, preparing food, taking care of their children and doing housework than for working at their jobs—an activity that was ranked at the next-to-lowest level of enjoyment, just above commuting to work. Similarly, they experienced a higher level of negative feelings while at work than while cooking, cleaning, shopping and caring for their children. When it came to interactions with different partners, the women ranked interactions with their children as more enjoyable than those with clients/customers, co-workers and bosses.1
The Myth of Independence
Those who think it desirable that mothers of preschool children shift their labor from the home to the marketplace as quickly as possible argue that, if employment is not always personally satisfying, a paycheck at least confers freedom from male domination. Feminist ideology conveys the popular expectation that liberated women achieve independence through work in the marketplace.
Independence is and ought to be a highly valued attribute, but what exactly does it mean in the context of family relations? Mothers and fathers want their children to grow up to be independent in the sense that they should be able to think for themselves, act autonomously, and eventually move out of the house to set up their own home and take care of themselves. But do mothers and fathers want the same kind of independence in relation to each other? They may want their partners to be able to think for themselves and act autonomously, but do they want partners who are preparing to eventually move out of the house to set up their own home and take care of themselves?
Feminist expectations have framed the idea of a liberated, independent woman as one who is not economically dependent on her spouse. A psychological distinction can be made, however, between the capacity to manage what comes our way in life, which I think of as self-sufficiency, and the desire to be economically independent of one’s partner. Self-sufficiency involves the ability to take care of oneself, not in the narrow sense of economic self-support but in dealing with the contingencies of daily existence. Self-sufficiency is a human quality that speaks to a much broader and deeper set of competencies than independence, which conveys merely an autonomous state of being—not being controlled by others. A personal sense of self-sufficiency frees one psychologically from concerns about being controlled by others. In contrast to independence, which emphasizes freedom from control, self-sufficiency is more amenable to interdependent relationships, in which family members may feel confident dividing social powers and responsibilities.
Going to work confers independence in a particular sense for married mothers: Their financial reliance on their husbands is diminished. This is liberating to the extent that they are married to men who want to rule the roost through control of the purse strings. But even in these homes the economic independence gained through employment is in a larger sense paradoxical. At the same time that the employed wife’s paycheck liberates her from financial dependence within the family, it heightens her vulnerability to interpersonal constraints imposed by strangers—bosses, customers and clients—and to the vagaries of the marketplace. She may encounter the same subjugation experienced by the typical “independent” male breadwinner, including bullying, which has become so widespread in the workplace that Robert Sutton’s book on building a civilized workplace, The No Asshole Rule (2007), jumped to number ten in the Amazon.com sales rankings within a month of publication.
Most men and women working for a wage find that the independence that comes with a paycheck is tied to obedience to the daily authority of supervisors, submission to the schedule and discipline of the work environment, deference to customers and susceptibility to the mounting insecurities of modern-day employment. Indeed, as the person who cares for his children, prepares his meals, and bestows physical warmth and affection, the dependent mother has much greater power in her relationship with her husband, on whom she relies for economic support, than the “independent” working mother has in her relationships with her boss and customers, on whom she relies for her paycheck.
What does all this tell us about “the problem that has no name?” Roughly two decades after the publication of The Feminine Mystique, researchers in applied psychology discovered an ailment that bore a curious resemblance to the housewife’s complaints she had described. Those troubled by this disorder displayed many of the symptoms Friedan had diagnosed—emotional exhaustion, lack of personal accomplishment, fatigue—except the afflicted were not stay-at home mothers but women gainfully employed in the market place. The name given to the suffering of working people was “burnout.” If Friedan had outsourced the care of her children at an early age and taken an average job like, say, selling cosmetics from behind a department store counter, she might have written a book on burnout among female workers (although it is highly unlikely that a 1940s graduate of Smith College, then one of the elite Seven Sisters women’s colleges, would have ended up doing that type of work long enough to burn out).
Of course, many women do find work enjoyable. And as I’ve said, they tend to be among the most vocal in spreading the word about the satisfactions of paid work and the tedium of unpaid family labor. The voices of women in privileged occupations speak most often of their own felicitous experiences and their perceptions of the gratification that men in their circles reap from work. It is an authentic assessment based on a self-referential slice of reality, but it fails to reflect the working lives of a large proportion of women and men in jobs marked by stress, monotony and emotional exhaustion. Alas, it is not entirely uncommon for intellectuals to advance revelations drawn from personal circumstances as universal truths. Sigmund Freud conjured up the Oedipus complex from his childhood feelings of love for his mother and jealousy of his father. Writing to his friend Wilhelm Fliess in 1897, Freud made it clear that after reflecting on this personal experience he considered such feelings “a universal event in early childhood.”
Freud, I might note, agreed that work offered tremendous sources of satisfaction. But he was speaking of the intellectual work of artists and scientists, not about factory floor laborers or taxi cab drivers. The idea of attaining independence and happiness through paid work, while true for a fortunate few, makes a virtue of necessity for the many. There is need for a frank corrective in the prevailing discourse on work and family life advanced by academics and other members of the occupational elite. When these people write and talk about the joys and personal fulfillments of work, they should admit that what they really mean is their work. And just as not all work in the marketplace is created equal, so the satisfactions and economic value of childrearing and household production, particularly during the pre-school years, have been understated while too much has been made of the depression and tedium that plagues stay-at-home mothers.
Rethinking Family Policy
The massive transfer of women’s labor from the home to the market over the past forty years, at least in the United States and selected other countries, has serious implications for childrearing, family relations, personal satisfaction and community life. Comparing the magnitude of this workforce shift to that of American workers moving from fields to factories during the industrial revolution, Robert Putnam, in the January/February 2008 issue of The American Interest, notes insightfully that we have had nothing like the conversation we need to have about the consequences of this change, the meaning of work, and how it fits into the course of modern family life. Coming to grips with this transformation requires a broad-based public discourse that gives voice to women’s diverse needs and interests, and that opens new opportunities to achieve a decent balance between work and domestic life.
In considering ways to balance work and family life, it is important to recognize that staying home to care for children during their pre-school years—the most critical period for their development—does not eliminate the possibility of labor force participation over the course of one’s life. We do not face a stark choice between Friedan and Shaw: to realize the importance and power of a woman’s monopoly—barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen, as it is sometimes disparagingly depicted—or to join the fast track of professional life while outsourcing childrearing and domestic responsibilities. By taking a longer view of motherhood over an expected lifetime of about eighty years (twenty years more than the life expectancy of mothers just a couple of generations earlier), those who so desire may achieve a balance between motherhood and employment through a sequential pattern of paid and home-care work. Mothers choosing to follow a sequential pattern, for example, might invest all their energies in childcare and domestic activities for five to ten years and then spend the remainder of their working years in paid employment. Women who want to combine an active life of motherhood and employment could have it all—one phase at a time.
This approach recognizes that the contributions of mothers to their families and to society vary according to different stages of the family life cycle. Because the early years of childhood are critical for social and cognitive development, some mothers want to invest more heavily in shaping this development than in advancing their employment prospects. Home care during the early childhood years is labor intensive, which heightens the economic value of the homemaker’s contribution during that period. Indeed, at the end of the day second earners in middle-income jobs with two preschool children do not take home much of their paycheck after deducting the costs of child care, travel and work-related expenses, taxes and all the extra costs associated with reduced household labor: eating out in restaurants, home-delivered meals and other payments for domestic help.2
Women who choose to stay at home with their kids during the pre-school years would still have thirty years or more to invest in paid employment—enough time for most people to fully experience (perhaps even to extinguish) the alleged joys of labor-force participation. There is, however, little public approval or support for this choice. Instead, among academics, journalists, politicians, feminist leaders and almost everyone else whose opinions on the role of modern-day women are in print, the overwhelming majority backs proposals for so-called family-friendly policies that emphasize publicly subsidized, high-quality non-maternal child care, parental leave and the development of universal pre-school. This customary package of social benefits transmits public support for and confirmation of the life choices of mothers with young children who opt to return to work as soon as possible and have their children cared for by other people. These policies are more aptly labeled “market-friendly” than “family-friendly”, as even a moment’s reflection makes clear. While women are thus encouraged to juggle having children and rushing off to work, the sequential approach to balancing paid employment and family life is deemed unworthy of consideration as public policy. Clearly, we need to correct the current discrepancy in public incentives and symbolic approval that skews the social context of modern lifestyle choices so sharply toward market solutions and metaphors.
Since the turn of the century, politicians on both sides of the aisle have been bidding for ownership of family values. As pressures build to help parents manage the challenges of work and childrearing, those looking to craft a pro-family agenda in the United States are likely to begin by fiddling with the standard package of family-friendly benefits—non-maternal day care and limited periods of paid parental leave. It is what they know best and hear most about from family-policy advocates, and, of course, the conventional benefits are essential to many mothers who struggle with the daily demands of raising children and going to the office. But it is not the only way to address the problem. Recommending that policymakers rethink family policy is not to diminish the worth of conventional measures, but to broaden the pro-family agenda by giving equal consideration to alternative approaches to balancing work and family life. A genuine family-friendly agenda to help all mothers with young children would incorporate not only measures to assist an early return to paid employment, but a range of policies designed to recognize the inherent economic worth of motherhood; to facilitate the transition of women’s labor from the household to the market after the early years of childrearing; and to protect against the heightened insecurity faced by mothers who elect to care for their children at home.
The economic worth of motherhood. Arguably the most essential way to acknowledge the economic value of motherhood is the same way we recognize the worth of all caring services in society—that is, to pay for it. In 2000 the Federal government provided about $16 billion to subsidize a variety of cash and in-kind benefits for working parents who placed their children in day care, and such public spending is on the rise. No equivalent public support is offered to parents caring for their own children at home. A home-care allowance to full-time homemakers with children up to five years of age would afford mothers greater freedom to choose between caring for their own children and placing them in state-subsidized day care.
Various objections to such a measure would no doubt ask: What about welfare mothers? And rich mothers? Some constraints would of course have to be set. To guard against home-care benefits that would end up disproportionately subsidizing wealthy families, these benefits schemes could be progressively indexed as a refundable tax credit that tapers off rapidly for those earning more than twice the median family income. In addition, it could be limited to cover the first five years of care for up to three children. This would create a time-limited benefit that is longer than the period of welfare coverage currently available under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, but not as open-ended as the social assistance benefits previously available in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program. Although the home-care allowance might create some incentive for low-income mothers to stay at home during the early years of childrearing, it is not necessarily the case that on balance such an outcome would be harmful to their children or society. (In any case, few if any social policies dealing with family life have zero negative side effects.)
The proposal for a home-care allowance is neither unique nor revolutionary. Many countries provide a cash allowance for home care for the elderly that can be used to pay relatives. And for decades in the United States, feminist organizers, politicians, religious leaders and academics have backed the development of policies supporting in-home childcare. Despite these efforts, proposals for home-care benefits have not gained much purchase on the modern agenda of U.S. advocates of family-friendly policy.
In Europe, by contrast, home-care policy has sparked public debate and significant division. Home-care benefits are the centerpiece of the “neofamilist” model, which is seen as one of the dominant European childcare alternatives. Offering long-term payments for in-home care (three to four years per child), the new familism emphasizes a woman’s right to choose between a housewife-mother role and labor-force participation in the childrearing years, rather than simply choosing from among different types of non-maternal care. This approach to family policy is followed in Norway, Finland and Austria. In 1998, Norway initiated a policy to pay cash benefits to all families with children up to three years old who were not enrolled in a state-subsidized day-care center. In 2004, home-care payments amounted to approximately $595 per month, at which time 70 percent of the children under three years old were cared for at home.
Facilitating the transition from home to market. Although the lifelong job of motherhood is far from over when children enter grade school, the full-time demands of daily care are greatly reduced—along with the caregiver’s economic contribution to family life. At this juncture, women who chose to be stay-at-home mothers during the early childhood years encounter the challenge of shifting their labor from home to market. With a large gap in their professional résumés, they are somewhat disadvantaged in the search for work compared to women who follow the male model of early entry and continuous employment. Still, one might argue that for many jobs prospective employers should and would judge re-entry mothers as more attractive candidates than younger women fresh out of school. Having gone through the critical junctures of childbearing, early child care, marriage (usually) and sometimes even divorce, re-entry mothers are likely to be more mature and stable workers than younger women for whom the future remains uncertain. Admittedly, however, this view has not yet captured the popular imagination of human-resources personnel. Thus, to balance the ledger of family policy, home-care benefits need to be supplemented with policies that smooth the transition into paid employment.
Transitional policies have already been established in several countries. France, for example, introduced a measure in 2000—the Return-to-Work Incentive for Women—that offers a temporary cash benefit to stay-at-home mothers (caring for at least one child under the age of six) when they return to a job, start a business or enter a training program. Similarly, Australia provides a return-to-work credit of $1,200 for education and training for parents who spend two years caring full-time for their children.
An alternative policy might involve a “social credit” awarded by the government for each year spent at home with up to three children under the age of five. When the mother is ready to enter or re-enter the labor market, the accumulated credits could be exchanged for various benefits that would assist her in making the transition. For example, the credits could be applied to cover tuition for academic training and enrollment in technical schools, or they might be traded for preferential points on Federal civil-service examinations.
As with the home-care benefit, concerns about the social credits unfairly benefiting the wealthy could be allayed by setting an appropriate family-income limit for eligibility. The social credit scheme would be somewhat akin to veterans’ benefits, which recognized people who sacrificed career opportunities while serving the nation. Homemakers sacrifice employment opportunities to invest their energies in shaping the moral and physical stock of future citizens. By recognizing this contribution to national well-being, the social credit plan would revive the sagging status of motherhood.
Protecting against heightened insecurity. Even with a home-care allowance and transitional policies, postponing entry into the labor force is a risky proposition for young women. Among other concerns, the modern probability of divorce, the volatility of the marketplace, the erosion of health-insurance coverage and dire predictions about the future of social security pensions pose an uncomfortable bundle of vulnerabilities for the stay-at-home mother. What happens to the family’s health insurance if her husband loses his job? How will she fare in old age if she does not pay into Social Security during the childrearing years? What resources will she retain in the event of a divorce? There are no guarantees against the vicissitudes of modern times. To lend equal draw to the sequential approach to work and family life, however, the final entries on the ledger of family policy must offer some measure of protection against the risks accentuated by withdrawal from the labor force for a period of childrearing.
Although home-care allowances afford some immediate compensation for childrearing, these benefits do not insure against illness or the inevitable decline of income in old age. In the United States, the prevalence of employment-sited health insurance is a powerful motivator for early entry and continuous participation in the labor market. Although most middle-class stay-at-home mothers would be covered under their spouses’ health-insurance plans, the risk of divorce and unemployment, along with the absence, inadequacy or high costs of insurance coverage in low-wage occupations, poses a level of insecurity surrounding access to health care that would drive many women away from the option of working at motherhood and homemaking. Access to health care is, of course, a complex and pressing issue that goes well beyond the matter of balancing work and family life. In this context, though, it is worth noting that some system of universal health insurance would do much to allay the anxieties of young mothers contemplating a temporary retreat from the labor market. This is an argument for universal care that one does not often hear, true enough, but that is more the pity.
As for worries about the decline of income in old age, mothers who stay home to care for their children lose the credits toward public pension benefits that would otherwise accrue if they were employed during that period. To offset this loss, several countries, including Austria, Sweden, Britain and France, assign varying amounts of pension credit for caregiving. Sweden awards credit to either spouse for each year they care for a child under three years of age. In Britain people who interrupt careers to assume caregiving duties are compensated through the Home Responsibility Protection policy, which credits both men and women with a minimum level of contribution during the years they spend caring for their children or disabled family members.
Yet even with contribution credits added in for the time at home, women who temporarily leave work are still likely to qualify for much lower pensions than those earned by their husbands (or ex-husbands, as the case may be). Family-friendly policies designed to promote choice encourage fathers and mothers to divide up the work of paid employment and domestic labor according to their talents and personal inclinations, in order to further the mutual objectives of family life. After having made these decisions, it would seem only fair that parents be able to share equally in the assets and material benefits accrued by both parties to the family enterprise. In the case of pension entitlements this translates into policies such as those enacted in Canada and Germany, which dictate the splitting of benefit credits between spouses. The Canadian policy requires splitting only entitlements to public pensions, whereas the German scheme is broader in scope, encompassing all entitlements acquired in both public and private pensions.
Once we broach the subject of equal shares in social security pensions, it is a short step to applying the same principles of equality and security to other material resources acquired by both partners, regardless of who holds title to the property. In Germany, as noted, the scheme to split credits between spouses applies to all entitlements in both public and private pensions. In the United States, nine states have enacted community property laws that treat husbands and wives as equal partners in married life, each of whom is entitled to one-half interest in all employment income received (including private pension benefits) during marriage and all property acquired through such income. This exemplary policy not only imparts symbolic recognition to the egalitarian ideal of family life, but also affords some protection against the loss of personal resources that young mothers risk by withdrawing their labor from the marketplace to invest in childrearing and household management.
Adjusting the Trade-off
Clearly, the sequential pattern of caring for young children at home and entering the labor force later in life is not to every woman’s advantage. The cost would probably be too high for dual-earner families in which women are the primary earners (in those cases the men could provide home-care). In the absence of public aid, single mothers in dire economic circumstances could not afford to remain outside the labor force for an extended period. In other cases, investing five to ten years in childcare and household management would derail careers from the fast track. For example, it would limit participation in occupations that require early training, many years of preparation or the athletic prowess of youth. And a later start lessens the likelihood of rising to the very top of the corporate ladder. Those are the trade-offs for enjoying the choice of two callings in life.
There are indications that accepting such trade-offs is becoming more attractive to young women. Of course there have always been different schools of feminist thought about the importance of caretaking, the value of women’s work and the reality of dependency in everyone’s life. Although the advocates of liberation through paid employment captured the imagination and shaped the core movement up through the 1990s, since the turn of the century support for a more flexible approach to work and family life, sometimes referred to as “care feminism” or “relational feminism”, has been on the rise. Stretching back to the 1980s, this strand of feminist discourse emphasizes the value of care work and the need for women to have meaningful opportunities to choose how much of their lives to invest in paid work and childrearing. Supporting this position, Anne Alstott argues that “a pluralist approach should grant each caretaker equal resources and permit her to decide for herself which life to lead.”3
Yet, ironically enough, there is still resistance to giving women more choice about how to balance work and family life. When Betty Friedan suggested that women should have the choice to stay home and raise kids if they wished, Simone de Beauvoir responded that this was a bad idea because, given the choice, too many women would choose to stay home. That was thirty years ago. But those sentiments continue to resonate among some high-profile feminists. Linda Hirshman, for example, argues in Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World (2006) that, because housekeeping and childrearing offer fewer opportunities for full human flourishing than working for business or government, assigning family work to women is unjust. Moreover, she writes, “women assigning it to themselves is equally unjust. To paraphrase, as Mark Twain said, ‘A man who chooses not to read is just as ignorant as a man who cannot read.’” In a not-too-deft shuffle, Hirshman moves from declaring a woman’s choice to invest her labor in family life “unjust” to equating it with “ignorance.” This opinion was delivered not on an obscure feminist blog or in an alternative newsletter, but in the American Prospect, a well-circulated and highly-regarded journal of liberal persuasion—signifying that in some quarters de Beauvoir’s resistance to choice continues to animate a prominent strain of feminist thinking.
Its influence among young women, however, is on the wane. Behavioral change, particularly among college-educated married women with young children, is manifest. In sharp contrast to the 1980s experience, the labor force participation rate of this group declined by 8 percent between 1994 and 2004. Many of them will probably enter the labor force at a later date, and some surely already have done so. This trend might be accelerated by a family policy agenda that supported the full range of choices on how to mesh work and family life. If so, it would mark the revival of motherhood on a scale of expectations that admits to Friedan’s view of the benefits of work, but lends more weight to Shaw’s observations about the power and value of a woman’s monopoly.
1Daniel Kahneman et al., “ A Survey Method for Characterizing Daily Life Experience: The Day Reconstruction Method”, Science (December 2004).
2Here’s an example I can vouch for personally: Daily childcare at the center sponsored and subsidized by the University of California Berkeley averages $14,760 per year over the first five years, and work-related transportation costs and taxes add another $9,408 to the costs of a second earner. With two children in day care, that leaves roughly $2,000 in take-home pay on an annual salary of $40,000 (and that’s without taking account of all the other activities that must be outsourced to compensate for the reduction of household labor).
3Alstott, No Exit: What Parents Owe Their Children and What Society Owes Parents (Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 144.