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If I'm happy with being a SAHM, is it only because I've still got the wool pulled over my eyes with regards to inequality?

(45 Posts)
AgentZigzag Sun 13-May-12 00:04:24

And if I were to take a more critical look at how being in an unequal economic relationship with my DH affects me in reality (like limiting the options I have), I'd be less happy with the choices I've made?

AgentZigzag Sun 13-May-12 13:26:17

If the indicators of being in a more equal position are that I don't rely on him to manage our lives, then I'm probably not in too bad a situation.

I'm dependent on him, but self-sufficient in my head.

Could be because I don't find it easy to trust anyone other people, could be because both of us are lazy pretty laid back when it comes to who does what.

What you seem to be saying is that it's usually only if the woman's in a situation where her DP is of the nature to take advantage of her vulnerable/dependent position (and she lets him?), that the inequality becomes a problem?

(I'm starting to actively dislike Miss Pert Buttocks, even though I know I'm wrong to do that bet she wears leggings/short t shirt combos and looks great )

RustyBear Sun 13-May-12 13:34:37

Looking at it from the later end of my working life, I was a SAHM while the DC were young and DH was the only earner. But it was for only a few years and now I'm working in a different role from the one I gave up, and there's a possibility that DH may want to give up his paid job and start a consultancy business, which will probably mean I will be the sole earner for a while and the main earner for longer I don't think he's going to feel unequal if that happens, any more than I did when I was a SAHM.

AgentZigzag Sun 13-May-12 13:38:04

Your post about people asking questions about the choices you've made Alice, made me think of the only time I've felt uncomfortable about not going out to work.

Someone asked me what I did and I was genuinely stumped as to what to say, and that surprised me.

Lots of people don't like the word, but I'd describe my 'job' as housewife, but I was chatting to someone who I was getting to know, so 'housewife/looking after the children' wasn't an option. I'm a student, but I wouldn't define myself by that either.

I'm pretty socially awkward anyway, but I was really embarrassed at not having a stock/acceptable answer.

EatsBrainsAndLeaves Sun 13-May-12 13:57:22

I think housewife/looking after the children is a perfectly acceptable answer.

AliceHurled Sun 13-May-12 14:16:53

Yeh the whole what do you do question is problematic more broadly. Why do we define ourselves by paid employment rather than our thoughts, passions, contribution to society, relationships, whatever.

AgentZigzag Sun 13-May-12 14:33:32

It was a friend of my dads, and we were chatting while walking along.

To answer housewife/looking after the children to her question of 'what do you do?' would a - sound a bit formal or curt in the type of situation, b - wouldn't necessarily be something I think of as summing up what I 'do' and c - if I started to add to that 'job description' it'd feel I was saying I was uncomfortable with it and was trying to justify or excuse myself.

Usually people might say 'I look after the children at the minute but I used to be/do blah before I had them', which because there are other reasons why I don't do paid work don't apply to me.

I think I ended up mumbling something about studying as if to validate my existence before trying to change the subject grin

EatsBrainsAndLeaves Sun 13-May-12 14:39:55

People ask either because they can't think of another question to nudge conversation. It can be the equivalent of how do you know X at X's social do/event. Or people can use it to judge you and place you.

But I really think for most its the first. So saying I look after the children would lead to questions about how many, ages, maybe sharing stuff about their children or nieces and nephews.

Alice - I know what you mean by how do you ask a relative stranger what are your passions, or what contribution do you make to society. Most people aren't that interested or judging, they are just trying to find a hook in as it were

SweetTheSting Sun 13-May-12 20:47:18

I agree, Eats - I ask the question as one of my 'standards' and wouldn't judge the answer, just starting a conversation.

AgentZZ, if economics and any other reasons were rhs other way around, do you think DH would be the SAHP?

<votes tribpot>
<awaits free chocolate>

tribpot Sun 13-May-12 20:59:54

Sweet - nicely played. You are joining the Trib Party at the very beginning, which maximises your chocolate return (obv Eats and Gay are ahead of you slightly, I'm currently thinking Eats for Deputy PM, but not in a Clegg kind of way).

I have to agree, I think the 'what do you do?' question is just an ice-breaker, you can always call on one of the fantastic phrases from my mum's ancient Politically Correct Handbook, where the correct term for 'housewife' is 'domestic incarceration survivor'. She has referred to herself in these terms for many years. Probably to complete strangers, knowing her wink

MrsTittleMouse Sun 13-May-12 21:00:21

Did anyone see the episode of The Big Bang Theory, where Howard and Bernadette were discussing children. He really wanted them, and she didn't, based on the fact that she had had to help her Mum raise her younger siblings. Her solution was for her to go back to work, and for him to be a stay-at-home Dad. It made me feel very uncomfortable that it was all played for laughs (yes, I know, it's a comedy smile), and that it was assumed that it was completely normal for his reaction to be complete horror, even though he loves children and she earns more than him (so it would make sense economically).

It made me think, and it wasn't a very comfortable place to be, even though there wasn't actually any possibility at all for me to stay at work and DH to be a SAHD (very specific circumstances).

SweetTheSting Sun 13-May-12 21:49:53

Didn't see that, Mrs T, but sounds angry-making

Me and DH both work but I know either of us could be an SAHP and we would both absolutely respect the other doing that role. Hopefully our kids will watch Big Bang reruns and be bemused by that 'joke'

tribpot Mon 14-May-12 21:03:49

MrsT, so what the joke? He liked kids but didn't actually want to look after them full-time? Or that he was horrified at the mere suggestion of being a 'househusband'? WTF!

wickerman Mon 14-May-12 22:20:06

This is complex. Childcare is extremely expensive. However - given that 40% of partnerships will end, and that if you are completely relinquishing your job or a job or a career path for a number of years to be an sahm you are going to fuck with your life long earning potential let alone the concomitant insanity, boredom and slow erosion of self I think that it DOES put you in a vulnerable position. I love the idea of life long monogamy and of people having choice within relationships, and although the idea of being an sahm =hell to me, I know it isn't for everyone. I just think it's a dangerous position to put yourself in, unless you have a prenup that guarantees you'll get half of EVERYTHING if you split (including pension, health benefits, free time to recoup your lost earning potential by studying).

tribpot Mon 14-May-12 22:29:31

wickerman - yup, I think it should be properly risk-assessed by every couple as there are pitfalls (not just the major earner sodding off with Miss or Mr Perky Pants) but also the major earner being made redundant or falling ill. On a purely economic level, it might make sense to treat childcare like insurance if it leaves you somewhat out of pocket (and I appreciate for many it isn't a question of 'somewhat') but secured against the loss of the sole income in the future.

However, having children is not a purely economic decision - it'd be a pretty poor one if it was! - and there are many other reasons why couples decide it would be better for one parent to stay at home. For example, it maximises the flexibility of the other partner to be able to work late, go away on business at short notice, not have to take leave when one of the dc is sick, be on call, whatever. All things that can inevitably help on the career ladder. They may equally feel it is the right choice for their children and worth taking an economic risk for that reason - also perfectly valid.

So - every couple has to find the right balance of risk for them. It's just that too often an accepted 'balance' is in fact very imbalanced and based on perceived notions of normality. We've (mostly, sort of) achieved 'women work and balance childcare'. We categorically haven't achieved 'men work and balance childcare'.

mnistooaddictive Tue 15-May-12 04:19:55

I am a SAHM and I actually think I have the best of the deal. In an ideal world, DH and I would both work part time. He would be great having 2 days a week with dc and I would enjoy the balance. As he earns 3 times what I do, economically it doesn't work so I get to be the one at home full time. He envys me the time with the children in a way I really don't envy him and the hard work he does.

Many if my friends would live to stay home but have to work due to economic considerations. They generally work but also do the majority if childcare, and housework. How is this in women's best interests? We have swooped the 1950s condition of women being forced to stay at home for the current one of women being forced to work AND take care if the home. It is still exploitation if women where choice has been taken away. It is only equality when a genuine choice can be made and that means for men too.
I often described decision to be a SAHM as a neo-feminist decision. I watched the generation before exhaust themselves having the successful career whilst also being the perfect mother and running the perfect home and to me it just looks like far too much effort. How is that progress? In our family all our lives are easier when I don't work but most of all mine! It can be incredibly challenging looking after my DC and my DH respects what I do completely. I think I have the better end of the deal actually!

wickerman Tue 15-May-12 09:04:30

Mnistoo you make good points. This happens, definitely - woman feels she has parity because she is working - but she's also doing way more stuff in house, for family, etc= run ragged and thinks "is this having it all?" I think this sentence is interesting though: "he earns three times what I do". This sentence is still one that you won't hear very often said by the woman in the partnership, and until that balances out across the majority of relationships, we won't have true parity /choice. Also, what happens to your earning capacity whilst you are an sahm? Does that not bother you?

AliceHurled Tue 15-May-12 09:30:14

mnistoo Sure that's an issue, but I'm not sure the solution is to go back to the 1950s, rather than model a new world where women don't take on the double quadruple burden.

Re the 'what do you do?' question, I know it is just a starter question and isn't meant to mean very much. However from a feminist perspective it is interesting that in this context 'doing' equates to 'do for money' rather that 'do' in a wider perspective. Working for money is the public and trad. male realm. So equating 'doing' with this is minimising the role of the private and trad. female realm. The reluctance to say SAHM, or go walking, or dream of a better world, or whatever shows the hierarchy of what is seen as important operating.

AgentZigzag Sat 19-May-12 02:45:16

Thanks again for your posts smile

I think DH would find it difficult being the one to stay at home SweetTheSting, I think because he'd find it hard to get into a routine that doesn't involve the structure he'd get at work, whereas the routine I have doesn't feel like a restriction.

Having his time and experience valued in financial terms must come into that, as well as the interaction he gets with other people (which I value not getting).

It's a bit weird reading the posts back again, because (and there was no hint of it when I posted) I've had an alarming week that's meant I might have to get a job in the near future, which has put a totally different slant on what's been posted.

I hope I'm getting it out of perspective, because it's left me struggling a bit tbh.

SweetTheSting Mon 21-May-12 13:43:30

Hope you are ok AgentZZ

AgentZigzag Sun 27-May-12 00:03:18

Thanks Sweet smile

Trying to take my mind off it by MNing - AIBU has never let me down yet grin

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