Friday, January 13, 2006

What is "mommy track" behavior?

First, a disclamer: Scott is the author of this post. He could not post it himself, because he does not have the author privileges on this blog.

There's a great, short law review article by Christine Jolls entitled, "Is There a Glass Ceiling?" It's short and a good read; it runs through some of the social science evidence of ongoing discrimination and job segregation. (The cite is 25 Harvard Women's Law Journal 1 (2002), for those possibly interested in it.) The following is a somewhat long but, trust me, entertaining excerpt from the beginning of the article:

In the spring of 2001, I was asked by the Federalist Society at Harvard Law School to debate Diana Furchtgott-Roth, chief of staff of the Council of Economic Advisers in the George W. Bush Administration, on the question of whether there is a "glass ceiling" for women in the labor market. I was to argue in favor of the glass ceiling's existence, and she was to take the opposing view. As those who attended know, the discussion ranged broadly over widely varying terrain, including some questions that should be silly but apparently aren't--most memorably, whether it is "mommy track" behavior to give one's nanny or babysitter a cell phone number at which one can be reached while at work when one is away from one's desk--to serious academic disputes over the underlying explanations for women's present labor market position....

"Yes," I replied, unhesitatingly, when Ms. Furchtgott-Roth asked whether I provided my children's caregiver with a cell phone number at which I could be
reached during work hours. (My husband, vice-president of marketing at a large corporation, does the same.) "If, for example, one of our children were to need emergency stitches during the work day and I happened to be out of my office for an extended period, I would want to be reachable so that I would know what was happening and be able to be present, and my husband feels the same way." I then asked the same question of Ms. Furchtgott-Roth (whose economic position would surely allow access to a cell phone for use in emergencies): "Doesn't your children's caregiver have a cell phone number at which to reach one or both parents at work?" "No," she replied. "I simply hire a competent caregiver to begin with." (This is either an exact quote or a very close paraphrase.) In Ms. Furchtgott-Roth's view, "serious" business people cannot be interrupted with "home matters" during their work hours.

This exchange was surprising to me on many levels. Part of the surprise came from the way in which the exchange placed me in the entirely new position of "perceived mommy tracker." I also chuckled in thinking about how various Bush Administration officials would react if they had been there to witness the exchange. But what was most surprising--and disturbing--was the way in which the exchange demonstrated a vision of the "appropriate worker" as one who was wholly unencumbered by life outside of work. Even the tiny likelihood of an emergency phone call from a child's caregiver, in Ms. Furchtgott-Roth's view, would radically disrupt the worker's effectiveness and render him or her not "serious" enough to hold down an important job."

As the Baby Grows

When Piper was born, I loved her and thought she was the most perfect creature that ever graced this planet. I loved being around her, and on many occasions, I just sat there staring at her. However, if I had to be alone with her for more than an hour, I'd get really really bored. I wanted interaction, but all I could do with her was hold her and sing to her; she wasn't interested in toys or anything else (although she did like to listen to Beethoven sonatas - maybe I should start playing them again). So, I just assumed that I was one of those mothers who love their children, but wasn't suited to be around them for too long.

Fastforward 8 months, she's now almost 9 months old. Guess what? She is a totally different person now. She is happy and engaging. She communicates (she doesn't speak, but she makes very clear what she wants), she plays and she interacts with the world. Not only that, but she does something new every day. All of a sudden, I am saddened that she goes to sleep so early and that I don't get to play with her longer. Now I wish I didn't have a full-time job (I still want a job though) and that I could spend more time with my daughter.

Who would have thought?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Glass Ceiling Still Exists - What a Shocker!

Here is a NYT article talking about the glass ceiling, and how even women who have broken through it later find that maybe they haven't really.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Valuing Time Differently

I've always loved reading; I still do. Now that Piper is a little older, some days I find a little time to read. (No, I don't find any time to cook, clean or do laundry - it's all about priorities, people!) However, these days I feel particular impatience with some authors. The reason is that I feel I have so little time alone that every book I read must be worthy of my attention.

For example, a couple of weeks ago I read a book by Maureen Dowd called "Are men necessary?" Dowd is a New York Times columnist, and her columns are witty and sharp. Therefore, I expected a witty and substantive discourse on feminism. The book turned out to be a sloppy compilations of Dowd's rantings. For example, she cites scientific research for the proposition that in 100,000 years the Y chromosome will be extinct. It's pretty obvious that she sat down one afternoon and slapped the book together.

Before Piper was born, I did not feel the same scorn for unworthy literature. I might discard a book, but I'd move on and wouldn't take it as a personal affront. Now, my feeling is, I have so little time, and I'm reading this garbage? Oy.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Competence and Confidence

I don't know about the rest of you, but my ego as a mother is exceedingly fragile. After 2 weeks of erratic schedules (making for a fussier than usual baby) and exposure to lots of people who feel both the desire and the right to tell me how to raise my child, I am really feeling like I might be just about the worst parent on earth.

Some of the criticism I've endured recently:
1. She's too fussy. If I would just give her a pacifier she'd be quiet.
2. She's too big. I should start her on solids and give up that foolish "feeding on demand."
3. Something's wrong with her. She should be taking 2 two-hour naps instead of 4 one-hour naps and sleeping through the night.
4. She's spoiled. We hold her too much. She should be willing to sit unoccupied for longer.
5. She's anti-social. We need to let strangers hold her even if she is crying.

And, of course, I always try to explain my parenting decisions. They are almost always decisions that my partner and I have consciously made, taking our instincts, the research, and what we remember about our own upbringings into account. Somehow none of that seems to matter to folks who don't care about the link between starting solids early and food allergies (for example) because that's what they did. Although I know it shouldn't, the criticism, especially when people label my daughter, leads me to feel that I am a bad parent.

I'm doing the best I can. There will come a day, or several, when my daughter blames her quirks and dysfunctions on me and I want to be able to look her in the eye and tell her that I did my best. In my mind that means trusting my gut and the research even if it means discounting the wisdom of those who mothered before me.