I'm not particularly vested in this Momosphere argument. I breastfed both my daughters for 6 months each, far short of what the die-hard advocates advocate, but it was important enough for me to breastfeed that I did it though I was a full time law student living 2 hours away from school (for my oldest) and studying for the bar exam (for my youngest).
However, my mom, who had me in one of those "developing countries" that we hear about, raised me and my sister on formula. I have no doubt that this was in part because of aggressive marketing on the part of formula makers. During the late 60s/early 70s (and I believe even today), breastfeeding was perceived in Asia to be lower-class, and the ability to purchase formula a reflection of the upwardly mobile. As the saying goes, I turned out Ok.
Then something struck me this morning. Ultimately, my personal pro-breastfeeding beliefs are, on some level, marketing induced. I have unscientific "feelings" about the benefits of breastfeeding, and the scientific facts I have are, well, let's just say I know what the track record is with things that are "scientific fact". What I have been exposed to, since I'm most often surrounded by crunchy, tree-hugging hippies, is a lot of pro-breastfeeding research, enthusiasm from the la leche groups, and other forms of group-think.
But what I know is that breast-feeding, as a striving, sporatically ambitious woman, was a career liability for me. It made my children constantly at the forefront of my thoughts, and made them manifestly at the forefront of my behavior. I made it work, with difficulty, as I am sure thousands of mothers are making it work all around the country every day. But there is no denying that breastfeeding changed my relationship with my "job," as I am sure it had similar impact on other breastfeeding moms.
So what if, just what IF, the reversion to breastfeeding-is-best is partly motivated by putting up just one more barrier between a woman and her chance at professional success? What if, by making the striving, ambitious woman bear one more burden on her back, it becomes the one burdent that breaks her?
If I were a tad better versed in economics, I'm sure I would be able to say this as well as Steve Waldman (pfft, as if!). But I'm doing tadpole economics in a sea of sharks (in power only, not in aggression), so I can't. But he so lyrically says exactly what I'm thinking, every single time:
Credit was the means by which we reconciled the social ideals of America with an economic reality that increasingly resembles a "banana republic". We are making a choice, in how we respond to this crisis, and so far I'd say we are making the wrong choice. We are bailing out creditors and going all personal-responsibility on debtors. We are coddling large institutions of prestige and power, despite their having made allocative errors that would put a Soviet 5-year plan to shame. We applaud the fact that "wage pressures are contained", protecting the macroeconomy of the wealthy from the microeconomy of the middle class.
I hate the whole Republican attitude of "nation of whiners" and I'm not sure why there are so many who buy into the line. Given the real lack of income progress made by the majority of Americans over the last seven/eight years, it is shocking that there are so many out there who still swear by the whole "pull yourself up by your bootstrap" motto.
Here is the deal: look at the first graph. What you see is that the highest fifth of American households consumes just 47% of their income compared to the middle fifth (who consume 77% of their income) and the lowest fifth (who consume an astounding 182% of their income).
A couple of interesting asides. First, this chart ends at 2005, before the most recent run-up of gas and food prices. Given that the official inflation rate in the US is running in the 5-6% area (and some suggest that inflation is as high as 8%, once you toss out certain metric bending adjustments, such as hedonic pricing), you would have to bump up consumption slightly for each bracket. These numbers also do not take into account (1) any increases in housing prices due to ARMs adjusting over the past year, which has substantially increased housing costs for many Americans and (2) it also does not take into account the escalating unemployment numbers, which will drive the average income down. Second, I find that there is an interesting disparity between the supposed average American consumption, which would suggest a savings rate of at between 20-50% among 3/5 of Americans compared to the actual savings rate in the US, which is and has been hovering in negative territory (which is, apparently, also a contentious issue, since the savings rate may or may not include pensions and other retirement savings plans and doesn't include home equity -- except we know how that's going).
Anyways, Waldman believes (as do I) that these numbers are vitally important because they hint at what has prevented furor over the growing income disparity in America. That even as wages have stagnated for everyone except those in the top 5-20%, absolute consumption has actually kept apace among the different income groups. And the truth is, most Americans (this one included) often use consumption instead of wages as the gauge of their own economic well-being. (If I can own that latest Coach bag then I must be doing ok financially.)
Of course, the kind of consumption that these numbers suggest has been supported by easy credit. Apparently, credit was soooo easy, that creditors were under the false illusion that they never had to be repaid. And it is this "irresponsibility" that the conservatives seem irasibly focused upon.
Now don't get me wrong: I don't understand how Americans have sank so far so fast, how we have an entire generation of people who think nothing of being tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. And I'm not counting the folks who simply found themselves in hard times because of illness or other bad luck, who had to rely on easy credit to get them out of a jam. I'm mostly thinking about those who thought it was worth a debt burden to own the latest model Suburban, iPhone or whatever monster machine most in vogue. On the other hand, we are too quick to forget that on the other side of the debt equation were financial companies that made fistfuls of cash (on paper) from one-off fees and usurious interest rates. As any credit card company will tell you, they don't make money off the rich, who tend to make their payments on time, qualify for low interest rates and, worst of all, never incur the penalties and extra interest charges associated with carrying a balance on their credit cards. You just know that the incentive system is all wrong when a company can make MORE money off poor people than off the rich.
Now that credit is no longer "easy" and lenders are being told tighten their standards (by their shareholders and by regulators), we are going to face an enormous challenge as a society: what to do with the millions who will shortly have to arrive at the conclusion that they are not in fact the middle class that they had perceived themselves to be?
As Waldman points out: "in a way, the credit crisis comes out of a tension between the
broad-middle-class America of our collective imagination and the
economically polarized nation we have in fact come to be. We borrowed
to finance an illusory Mayberry. The crisis won't be over until this
tension is resolved. Either we modify the facts of our economic
relations, or we come to terms with a new America more comfortable with
distinct and enduring social classes." (emphasis mine)
So what do you think? How comfortable are you with an America where social classes are far more distinct and less fluid than that which we have all become accustomed to?
J is a slob. Don't know if I've mentioned that before, but he is. Some of his more "attractive" traits:
He does the guy sniff test. At the end of each day, his clothes go on the floor in a pile by his bed. When he runs out of clothes, or can't find something he likes to wear, he "sniffs" his clothes to decide if any are still wearable (eewww...) And he hasn't done a load of laundry by himself since 2000, when we started living together.
He collects pieces of paper. Literally. He writes his thoughts down on the backs of receipts, paper napkins, on the margins of papers and magazines. Then he leaves those pieces of paper lying all around the house. If I try to clean up and throw away things I think are garbage, he will rummage through and accuse me of various unsavory acts if he finds one of these scraps of paper with his scribbles on it.
He won't do the dishes. Or he will, but only when they are threatening to declare statehood for the kitchen. And we have a small kitchen. A tiny kitchen. And no dishwasher.
And forget about mopping/vaccuming/ dusting and that ilk. He still doesn't know what a swiffer is.
I know that he's not the worst slob in the world (his brother is. No seriously. Just disgusting... double ewwww.) For example, despite the clothing example above, he's actually quite neat in the bathroom. He cleans the shower and the sink after he uses them, he hangs up his towel, he puts away his toiletries, there has never been a "out-of-bowl" situation in my bathroom. And he's meticulous about making the bed every morning (which is so weirdly OCD of him).
I also know that there are millions of women around the world in exactly the same predicament as I. Thus, the recent spate of blog-ticles about the sexiness of husbands doing house chores. I don't have the statistics, but it is clear that even as women catch up to their husband in number of hours spent working outside the home, there remains a great disparity in the number of hours women spend doing family/home related chores compared to their husbands.
We encourage the men in our lives to rise to our level. To share in the burden. To participate.
But my neanderthal of a husband insists that it's my choice to be neat. That my proposition of shared duty is based on a fundamentally flawed assumption that cleanliness is next to godliness. (I'm grateful that he does not have the same view of childcare and that he is, in fact, very much a partner when it comes to Loo and Kali.)
In other words, he refuses to share in these chores and insists that I sink to his level.
As a woman, I feel like this is the anthem of our time. That for me to succeed, at home, at work, at anything, I have to sink to the boys' level. At work, we have to sacrifice our family, we have to play dirty, CYA, lie and cheat, we have to be ready to cut people loose, and we have to win at all cost. In relationships, we have to settle, we have to play games, we have to be both sexually inexperienced and sexually adventurous. And at home, we have to be wife, mom, therapist, cook and maid while being grateful for any hand lent to us.
Even as we make strides in the world, we are still playing by their rules.
I know that things are changing. Every day, I meet couples where the man has taken on a disproportionate (i.e. more than 50%) of home/family related work. It is becoming more acceptable to be a stay-at-home dad, to have the man be the cook of the house, for the woman to be the primary earner. Similarly, there are more and more touchy feely companies (though still a minority, but look at Patagonia) that encourage things like paternity leave, volunteerism, have subsidized childcare and afterschool care. But on the whole, we still live in a society where machismo is king (well, duh!).
But the real question is, is one mode better the other? Is the traditionally feminine better than the traditionally masculine?
For all those Republicans out there who say that only the poor take handouts from the government, another example of how that is so clearly not the case. The only difference is, when the government help the less well off, they help millions of them, but when the help the rich, they help like 100 of them. Thanks to Boston Gal for the link.
So I was talking to a (male) colleague the other day. Apparently, he had run into a law school acquaintance in town and they were doing the catch up thing. He found out that she was a senior associate at a (pretty big) law firm in Boston. After the work conversation, he asked her about her husband and if she had had any children (he knew that she had gotten married shortly after graduating from law school).
Apparently, she went psycho on him. She started screaming at how he was a complete misogynist and clearly thought that the only thing women should do is have babies and stay at home with them, how she was working so hard that she clearly didn't have time to have children, how despite men like him, she was going to make partner at her current firm.
Is it me or did she really flip the frick out?
What's funny, of course, is that my colleague-friend has had kids since graduating from law school, and is doing just fine at my firm (of course, he's a man, so I suppose that doesn't count). I don't know if this woman knew this or if it would have made a difference. Apparently, she stomped off after her rant. My friend basically felt like a cad, totally shitty, was asking me if he had done something wrong.
I mostly found this story funny and revert to my belief that *PEOPLE!* we gotta calm the fuck down.
Kali is a real meany. I don't remember Loo being so mean when she was one. Kali will bite, claw, scream, grab... she'll pretty much do whatever it takes to get her way. I know that all kids are wilfull, but this is sort of, well, beyond. And the worst of it is that she's really quite mean to Loo. Loo kinda adores her baby sister, calls out to her after they haven't been together, gives her lots of kisses. But Kal just pushes her away, usually quite insistently, with a punch or shove thrown in for good measure. And Kali is a big girl compared to her sister. They're only 7 pounds apart (this is mostly because Loo is a teeny weeny little tot, not because Kal is some 50 foot baby).
Ah, well, back to work. It's gonna be a late one tonight.
By the way, it's been gorgeous these last few days. It's too bad that I spend all my day sitting inside on my badunkadunk.