Why Mothers’ Choices About Work and Family Often Feel Like No Choice at All

When policymakers frame “choices” as personal preferences, it distracts from major structural constraints.

Comments: 230

  1. When I looked at all my “choices” in the 80’s it was a very easy decision. I chose to remain childless. Best decision I ever made. My husband of 43 years and I are now enjoying our retirement years with enough money to take care of our needs and enjoy ourselves. And we were able to cut our carbon footprint a lot by that decision. We need fewer people on this planet not billions more.

  2. @Patricia I couldn't agree with you more. I just turned 30. And I plan never to have children and live my life to the fullest. Good career, good partner, and good traveling.

  3. I fully support people’s decisions to not have children. I have *just* one and get told regularly I *should* have more. That said, we’re all in this together. Today’s children will be taking care of you and all of us in our old age. They’ll be our doctors, nurses, lawyers, entertainers. We are all in this together and our society should make it easier to produce and care for the children who will be taking over for us - whether we birthed them or not. It’s 6 am - gotta work now before my son wakes up. My choice.

  4. @Patricia respectable choice, but doesn't ameliorate the obligation we have to all children in our society and in supporting their care takers. I don't think that's what you are putting forth at all, but just wanted to make the point, we are each are here because the caretakers and society that supported us-- including through schools and roads and patiently enduring our screams in airplanes. We and the children of our generation are now the nurses, builders, soldiers, caretakers of society. We will depend on the children who exist now very shortly (whether there needs to be fewer of them or not, we will still rely on them to keep society functioning when we retire and ultimately care for us if we are lucky to be old). Investment in their care--not just the ones we birthed, *all* of them--which includes their healthcare, schooling, environment and supporting the labor of their caretakers--is *all* of our responsibilities, and such a fundamental requirement of society that we have done so poorly for so long. I hope the push for more rational, progressive policies comes to be.

  5. What that women (and men) need is time. The day still has the same 24 hours even after they become parents. Long working hours and ever longer commutes steal time. I worked as a freelancer for almost twenty years when I was raising my children. The sweet spot was 25-30 hours per week. This allowed me to be at my most productive when working and the most present when my children needed me -- before and after school and on school breaks. Given the worries about job losses due to automation, AI, etc. it is high time our government, thinkers, and economists, as well as advocates for working men and women mobilized to reduce the work-week to 25-30 hours.

  6. My only choice as a young mother was to work because my husband and I needed the second income. It wasn't easy and daycare was expensive. Had there been options for a more flexible work schedule and more affordable childcare, we would have considered having more than one child.

  7. I'm a former NYC woman who enjoyed an exciting career as chef before I met my husband and decided to live with him in Austria. Best "choice" I ever made in life. I had children late, 38, 40 and because of the laws here I was paid in both pregnacies in full because of my age and "risk" factor. I stayed home with both kids being paid my family benefits for 2 years for each child plus full medical care for my kids (every six weeks a check). They are both grown now and thriving. Austria also gave me (American citizen) complete medical coverage in my name plus a small monthly pension for all the years I invested in my children--which the government recognizes as a huge investment for the future and rewards them with full support for mothers and families. I feel truly blessed to have even had more fun than my kids while they grew up. I can only imagine if we had stayed in NYC with our children all the problems and conflicts we would've faced daily. So, I won the lottery by my personal choices. I also have the most wonderful man as husband and father one could ever imagine! He told me in NYC, "There's someplace waiting for you that is at the mouth of paradise!" Truer words were never spoken. 30 years and counting and its been a DREAM. I feel blessed by it all.

  8. @C T "Austria also gave me (American citizen) complete medical coverage in my name plus a small monthly pension for all the years I invested in my children--which the government recognizes as a huge investment for the future and rewards them with full support for mothers and families. " This is the kind of recognition mothers need in the US.

  9. How great the Austrian society valued your work as a mother! I hope one day America gets to that point. To this article’s point, it will take a lot of reframing to get there. It’s not just a woman’s issue and these aren’t our choices.

  10. @EmGood I totally agree with you! By-the-way, I grew up in South Orange (in Newstead) and it was a really great place to grow up in! Wow, its been a really incredible journey from there to here. Austria does value family and they do this so both men and women can take time off and bond with their children and work as a partnership in concert with the needs of babies, small kids and older to ensure that they get a great start in life. So, children really come FIRST in this land. Its a social country with a HUGE safety net. Especially in the area of women and important issues to their lives. I don't know where I read this but its beautiful to me; "The best thing a father can do is love their mother." Yes, I think my husband tells me weekly that he can never forget the trust I invested in him by coming and starting a new life with him. Because of his love I've never, not even for one day, ever felt any regret over leaving NYC and my career behind. Both were great. I never thought I would marry or have kids, either. Not in my plan. What richness I would've missed out on if not for HIM and THEM. This is paradise......

  11. I grew up witnessing divorced aunts and my friends' moms raising their children in the bottom strata of the middle-class: just barely hanging on to the rung that might give their children a chance. There was no way I was going to trust any marriage to support me financially, but I wanted a family. So I made a plan and made all of my choices to bring it to fruition. My brother wanted the same thing, but never gave a second thought to a plan. I never saw not working was an option. The choice, as far as I could see, was to risk it all on motherhood or not. Birthrates among the middle-class suggest this has become the prevailing view.

  12. @Renee Like you, I determined always to be able to support myself. Fortunately, I have a supportive husband, and we share all the working-parenting as a team. But, I would never allow myself to become unable to support myself and my children on my own. I have "opt-out" friends who are now stay-at-home moms trapped in miserable marriages because they can't see w way to support themselves if they leave.

  13. Please don’t equate “policy makers” in both parties as if they were the same. Warren will help working class people have more power at work. The whole point of the right is to strip workers’ power.

  14. @Daniel The right loves the huge and growing American underclass, but it can only retain its power through oppression and disinformation. I wish so many didn't help them by cultivating their own ignorance. If they learned how much better the quality of life is for the middle class in civilized countries, they might decide they deserve better - or at least, their children do.

  15. @Daniel The very first line of this article is shamefully bad in its framing: No, liberals and conservatives don't agree on what parents should have. Sure, both parties have plans. Warren's plan would help parents. Ivanka Trump's 'plan' would have working moms get early access to social security benefits, so they'd use up some [or many] of those benefits while young, and would no longer have them when old. That isn't a plan-- it's fleecing. This different in the two sides matters. I'm so, so sick of pretend equivalence and bothsides-ism. Any good reporter could state the essence of Warren's and I. Trump's respective plans in one sentence for each, instead of simply parroting their talking points.

  16. I had two children back to back, just one year apart. Living in NYC, all of my salary would have gone to daycare for 2 kids for at least 5 years. There was no universal pre-K when my kids were young. I *chose* to stay home with them, but it really wasn’t a choice. When they finally started kindergarten, I began freelancing as much as possible, but it was tough to find freelance work with a 5 year gap. When both kids started elementary school I began looking for full time work - and it was HARD. I worked a lot of temp jobs that I was overqualified for, and struggled to find permanent. I have a masters degree, I never thought I would be stuck doing entry level work. It took years to prove myself all over again, but finally I landed a good job a few years ago. I never *wanted* to be a stay at home mom, and while I’m happy I got to spend time with my kids when they were young, I would have preferred to have more choices.

  17. @Jen In these times of widely available birth control and abortions, having children and timing their births are largely matters of choice by individuals. In every society on our planet women are the ones to bear children. And in most societies women are generally more nurturing than men, and are usually more likely to take on child-rearing roles, especially for infants and very young children. Offhand I can't think of a culture in which men are required or expected to tend infants and young children, and if such cultures exist they are probably not found in modern, technologically-advanced groups. The author notes that feminists "...always wanted changes in workplace culture, public policy and men’s involvement at home, along with career opportunities." However, changing cultural mores and expecting men to take on what have traditionally been women's child-care and other in-home roles is obviously easier said than done. As for two years (or even one year) of paid parental leave and multiple years of pre-school child-tending, I am sure that many parents would welcome same, but I don't see employers rushing to institute such policies. As with so many of the Democratic candidates' calls of free everything for everyone, it would be helpful to see some credible estimates of what such benefits would cost, and how much taxpayers would end up paying for them.

  18. @Jen how were you able to choose to stay home? Was there a father/husband supporting you you just happened to fail to mention ?

  19. I wonder how every other first world nation on earth manages it. It’s a matter of priorities. Nobody ever asks for estimates of how much the next war for oil will cost. Or how we will pay for the next 85 million dollar fighter jet.

  20. In America one of the biggest predictors of poverty or dependence on social benefits is being a single mother, and no wonder! These are women with literally no options. I myself gave up my $32,000 a year teaching job because I couldn't afford to keep it AND put my son in daycare; staying a teacher would have meant working full-time and paying more than my salary to NOT see my son all day. And then when it became time to back to work? There was a huge gap in my resume I'm not sure I've ever fully recovered from. This was hard enough for me and I had a husband. I can't imagine going it alone. Interestingly (and by that I mean obviously), in European countries with strong social support including affordable daycare and maternity leave, single motherhood is NOT a predictor of poverty. Gee, who would have thought? It's almost like our lives are a direct result of policy decisions.

  21. It's difficult to rear a child alone, and unless one is a bit older, financially stable, and enveloped in a loving extended family, having a baby and not having a spouse should not be done. Being a single mother is hard enough for widows and divorcees; just up and having a baby young is a sure way to staying poor. And a very likely way for children to have behavioral and learning issues. It's the root cause of our problems in New York City public schools. It's hard enough for married couples to bring up kids. Birth control: the great economic leveler. As for choices: My father had no choice when his job sent him across the country for months at a time, back in the 1960s. It wasn't fun for him. But companies don't like for employees to say no.

  22. @B. Sounds like you think most single mothers choose to have a child upfront without the father there. Not my experience at all. I was a single parent because my husband chose to not be there after the children were born. As for most families in this situation, his income and standard of living skyrocketed upward while the children’s nosedived into a harsh struggle. HIS choice. Not ours,

  23. As a SAHM for the last 20 years, please stop referring to woman at home as "not working". Making the home the center for the family is work. It is not bringing in money to a bank account, or rising in the career world-- in fact it is opposed to the career world as the decision to stay at home challenges the premise that the career world is the one to value, the one that takes supremacy over the other option -- staying at home. I work as a caregiver, as a tutor, , as a neighbor, as a volunteer in the community. I stay home with my kids, and I love it.

  24. Agreed! I’m a SAHM, and sometimes fantasize about returning to the workforce just to take a break- you get a lunch break and paid time off! Taking care of a household is WORK. I’m the CEO of running a small business called Home. Our chief product is one highly functioning, future, positive, contributor to our society. Though that may not be considered valuable to some, it’s still needed in this society.

  25. @kkm I too was a SAHM, though I also went to grad school and taught part-time in the evenings to supplement our income. I went back to work full-time when my youngest was in first grade and my income enabled us to hire a part-time housekeeper to meet the kids off of the bus until we were able to afford a parochial school that also offered afterschool programs. I was out of the professional workforce for a little more than 8 years, and it cost me dearly. I don't regret the choices we made, but the struggle to still provide transportation to our nondriving young teens, to be there to help with homework, attend baseball games, etc. is difficult. When I went back to work, without adjusting for inflation, my income dropped 35%. The 8 years I lost in income, in benefits, in retirement contributions, and in Social Security earnings, have an impact that will continue to affect us long after my kids are in college. I agree with you - staying at home was an extremely tough job. Trying to do much of what I did when I was a SAHM while working outside of the home full-time is also very hard. We need to ensure that we embrace and support all configurations (I won't say options or choices - since most parents don't have either).

  26. @kkm While I mostly enjoy working, I want to point out that your statement 'It is not bringing in money to a bank account' is probably not true. Having a full time manager (and money manager) likely enables the family unit to save a substantial amount of money, and that is 'money earned' according to the Ben Franklin saying. Especially if you can fix things around the house (most people can, because of youtube videos and Home Depot courses.) It doesn't matter if the 'full time at home' person is male or female (my niece is married to a woman and she saves the family unit money by staying at home, and also she is good with her hands.) Of course, I fully support 'career' working women, both in general and in my job, because I am one!

  27. There are many good reasons to make it easier for parents to be able to have time to bond with their newborn or newly-adopted child. Having a strong bond helps a child to become a stable adult and there are numerous publications on the need we have for attachment to a parent. It is not economic sense to frustrate this process. The cruelty of the lack of any paid leave in the US is the main reason I never returned back there and raise my children in Ireland. Ireland isn't perfect either, good childcare is expensive. However, we do have paid maternity and now paternity leave, free preschool, minimum 4 weeks paid vacation and options for unpaid parental leave as a legal right. As a single mother, these measures have made a huge difference in my ability to work and raise my children myself. Working gives me a means to save and have a pension when I am old, reducing my dependency on a government pension. My kids needed at least one stable parent there who has time for them, which they have. I hope that things will change in the US. It seems that conservatives really hate women, particularly single mothers, there and make it very hard for them. I also think that paternity leave, even a short time, is very good for fathers because they are so important. However, I couldn't move there now, my family would suffer a real loss in quality of life.

  28. As a father, I am dismayed by the thought of a government solution, and I'm suspicious of possible abuse or neglect. Private solutions subsidized by government are possible, but nothing is ever going to be free of charge. We evolved from daycare, to in-home care, to after-school care for our kids, and it worked out.

  29. @Ryan Bingham How much did your evolution cost? What if after-school care wasn't available for you? What did you do when your kids were teens? Did either you or your partner scale back work to accommodate kids' schedules? How did you handle after-school transportation to the library, to sports, to clubs, etc.? Did you have to manage any healthcare crises? I won't make suppositions about your income level, but few families in the US can afford in-home care unless it is provided for by a family member. Daycare where we live is prohibitively expensive for families earning even 125% of the median income in my state, let alone those earning less. We struggled, and we had the income to "purchase" flexibility, but there is a significant impact that lasts even though our kids are now young teens (not driving). I've seen how hard it is for our friends and neighbors without that privilege and without the help of family.

  30. This article offers a good explanation of the either/or parents face, and mentions the fact that many women would like changes in workplace culture--but to be less abstract, what would those be? Besides universal preschool and paid family leave, people with children need more flexible hours, more vacation, the ability to work from home when appropriate, models that allow for part-time work while still offering benefits and job stability. People without children also need this, people with ailing parents, siblings, and partners need this. People with health issues need this. We only need to look to recent developments--for example, companies experimenting with 3-day work weeks--to see that human-centered workplaces are also more productive workplaces. But productivity should be considered a side effect rather than the main goal. For workplace culture to truly transform, we must prioritize equity over competition, basic human needs over the fiscal year.

  31. Finally! One of the most frustrating issues of womanhood. And one that forces you to ask yourself questions like "should I pursue a career or a family?" Interestingly enough, if you look at the economics of the issue, it makes economic sense to support mothers--whether through universal childcare, public preschool, flexible work, etc. More mothers working = more spending power = better economy. Add in the fact that better support for mothers would also prevent women from feeling forced to make the decision between having a career and having a child. Again, more kids = more people in the workforce = more spending power = better economy. Perhaps if conservatives started to see these policies as dollars, rather than social programs, they would support them? Moreover, the issue requires men to take more responsibility for parenting. When men don't ask for time off, don't take responsibility for at least some of the doctors appointments, school lunches, sick days, etc., women can't be present at work. There has to be shared responsibility. See Sweden's "latte papas" for a great example of how policy can reinforce this behavior in fathers. This is an incredibly complex issue, and for anyone interested in the specifics of how women are impacted in the workplace by motherhood, I highly recommend Bloomberg's "Pay Check" podcast.

  32. @Ellen Totally agree! I think the secret to equality for women in the workplace is paid PATERNITY leave (in addition to paid maternity leave) so that fathers start helping out and learning the baby and the home routine from day one. Then, when both parents go back to work, they can evenly split the home responsibilities and no one (i.e., the mom) has to shoulder all the house work. Having had a very generous paid maternity leave, I would have been satisfied with it being half as long if my husband had had equal leave and workplace support for actually taking it.

  33. @jla Depends on the husband. If my ex had been offered paternity leave after our daughter was born, he would not have used his time to bond with her or learn basic parenting skills. Nor would he have used the time to do the laundry, make the coffee, or cook a meal. He would have run off to enjoy his hobbies or holed up behind his computer in the den.

  34. As a feminist I had no idea how horrible the social policies and attitudes of US society are to working mothers until I was widowed when my son was an infant. The discrimination we experienced, my son and I, was pervasive and demeaning throughout his childhood. This partially informed my decision to leave corporate work, go back to university and work on social equity issues. We did not choose to be fatherless, nor did we choose to be treated opportunistically by so many as we braved our lives. I feel most badly for what the children endure.

  35. Gary Becker's analysis brought a lot of clarity to thinking about this subject, and influenced many governments to modify the variables in that equation with paid parental leave, daycare, and other programs. Those variables need a *lot* of modification if we want careers to be entirely unaffected when parents take time for their children. Particularly so for high-flying careers, where there are many human factors involved. Therefore I think it is not realistic to expect government programs to help much with highly visible leadership positions, and we as a society should concentrate on helping the vast middle class, and measuring our success in that demographic.

  36. As with any complex problem, there isn't a single answer. While parental challenges affect both men and women, they impact women more on average and in total. We've never felt that the decisions we've made for our kids were choices - they are what we have to do each day just to get by. When I stayed home when they were little, then worked part-time nights in a different job, I lost a big chunk of my career progression, salary gains, retirement contributions, Social Security income, and benefits (my husband's healthcare carried a $10k deductible for 60% coverage). We never had family available to help, as many of our friends did. We tried part-time in-home care (expensive, difficult, taxes were nightmarish). We switched schools, paying parochial tuition plus aftercare because it was cheaper than $20/hr plus payroll taxes for in-home. We are now trying part-time work for my husband, and flexible schedule (somewhat) for me, but we are both completely fried. Though our kids are now young teens, in some ways it is harder - too old for a sitter, no aftercare, not old enough to drive, sports and after-school activities that require transportation. There's also the small matter that our kids NEED US - to supervise homework, make dinner, limit videogames and screen time, etc. PTO, childcare subsidies, key changes to the childcare tax credit, flexible work hours would all help. What would help most is a family-first attitude by our government. Or a miracle.

  37. @Julia Scott This is perfect! While I want childcare subsidies for younger families, I also really want to hear more for families with older children. They don't require less care - just different care. I would give so much to have more time with my kids. The time is flying by because we are all so very busy and forcibly so. We are all, as you said, fried. More support and flexibility would be a god send.

  38. @Julia Scott Middle School is critical. I saw an astounding dichotomy at work when kids reached this age. Some parents said 'They're old enough - we can get divorced now.' Others - going through an epiphany said 'OMG! Our kids are a mess - we need to do something' The wife would stay home only to find out it's almost impossible to change kids after 13. The basics are set early on. Pay attention - especially at school. Middle schools are used to parents NOT paying attention. You'd be amazed at how easily schedules are fixed when parents question why this class was left off or why another wasn't the honors class it was supposed to be.

  39. Many of my children's well-educated well-paid friends are opting to have only one child. It's simply too expensive and difficult to have another. Imagine how difficult it is for those who are not in this elite pay range.

  40. "we’ve just got to accept the idea of women wanting to do this." She's got a point. Women choose being a mother over choosing a career and economic stability. If a single generation of women in this country "chose" to not have kids, I guarantee that we would see a systemic shift in this country's attitude towards parenting and children. Not sure if that would manifest as society funded parental leave and childcare or mandated pregnancy.

  41. This is a policy conversation that very much needs to be had. The stress of raising children when both parents are working full time takes a toll on everyone. We need universal pre-K, better daycare options, after school options for older children, more flexible work hours for moms and dads, better pay for workers including child care workers. We need to cultivate a culture of understand that offers real choices on all sides of the equation, whether parents stay home or work or do some of both. And we need to cultivate a culture that accepts the choices people make, because no matter what a mother chooses to do, there is guilt and regret aplenty. My husband and I both worked full time while raising our son, because part-time or reduced hours were not an option our employer offered until my son was in high school. Looking back, I so wish I could have spent more time with him when he was small, but it was not an option. I also genuinely enjoyed my career, and being a full time SAHM probably never would have worked for me. It would have been wonderful, and better for all of us, to have had some viable option in between.

  42. @Calliegirl So well said. Thank you.

  43. Those who think women - mothers - have a wide array of choices and choose poorer jobs and inadequate child care (to mention only a couple of the things facing a mother) have obviously never been a single mother in the United States. It was the hardest thing I ever did. And I have done some serious **** in my time ...

  44. My “choice” to stay home with my daughter was made simply because I couldn’t afford to pay to work. In my field (I work in a museum, a field dominated by women) the yearly salary is about the same or less than what a nanny makes. In my area, all the daycares have a 2 year wait list. I also had to factor in the thought of leaving my daughter with a stranger for a high stress, low pay job. Again, all my “choice”, funny how it has never felt like one though. Of course I miss working, I miss my field, I miss my colleagues- and if I had found a way to go back to work, I would have missed my daughter terribly and would question my decision every day. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. There is no choice.

  45. I made the same choice thirty years ago, and would make a different choice today, even with the same constraints. When your child becomes more independent, the gap in your resumé will make it very hard to pick up where you left off, and some day, you may need the income. Paying more than you earn may seem harsh and nonsensical, but it is is an investment in your future. The choice is heart-rending, all the same.

  46. @Nicole Same here. There is no choice.

  47. @Nicole I’m curious if you are supported by the baby’s father so you can stay home...if so, I find it strange that you seem to think that 100% of the cost of child care needs to be covered by your salary without any of it being “charged” to the baby’s father’s salary. Aren’t both parents equally responsible for taking care of the baby and raising this child? Why is the financial cost of the child assumed to be yours alone without any financial contribution by the father?

  48. The premise that women are denied choices when it comes to work is inaccurate, particularly if those women are in the upper middle class. Women in straight couples with means often step away from work when they become parents, and they do so as a choice. Many women in straight couples are, in fact, eager to leave the rat race for parenthood, and doing so for them is a sign of status. Men, however, are considered failures if they leave the workforce or even down-shift in order to spend more time parenting. How many men do you know who are asked "Will you continue to work when the baby comes?" My wife was asked that question repeatedly when we were expecting our first child. Not one person asked me. Look at the data: According to the Pew Survey of 2017, more than 70% of men in straight couples are the sole or primary earner in straight couples. Other surveys show that, among upper middle class straight women, the EXPECTATION that the man will be the primary or sole earner is much higher than 70%. Surveyed women are shown repeatedly to select a mate based on his earning potential and his ability to eventually support her financially as a parent. Men continue to be raised with the expectation they will be earners, no matter what. Women continue to be raised to believe it is ok to be financially dependent on a man, especially in motherhood, but even in order to pursue that "passion job" as a writer or equine therapist. Women are given a choice. Men are not.

  49. @Tintin Let's change that! These shouldn't be framed as choices between women and men. These should be framed as human choices. In addition to policy changes, our ridiculous patriarchal society needs to free all humans from the tyranny of male/female expectations. We've made this oppressive construct. Let's make it better.

  50. @Tintin Chicken or egg? Men tend to be the primary earners, and still are expected to be the primary earners, because men tend to be paid at a higher scale than women... in part because of the expectation that at least some women will "down-shift" at some point or several points over the course of their careers due to family demands... and since a majority of families need more than a single income, the practical (only) so-called choice must be to support the higher income by allocating family demands to the person who makes less... which in turn leads to an expectation that most men will not down-shift... so employers feel justified in a higher pay scale for men... and lo and behold, we're back to the expectation. The culture around work in this country is very nearly as broken as the healthcare/insurance system -- and in each case, the situation as it exists is self-perpetuating: if we don't call it out, we contribute to the preservation of the status quo. Which, as comments indicate pretty clearly, stinks for all of us.

  51. @Tintin You see things the way they are, and then you say from there that is what people want? That's the point of the article -- that men and women have made so-called choices based only on what are the opportunities. Those aren't really choices, then.

  52. This is why I loathed Sheryl Sandburg and her horrible Lean In book. It essentially blamed women for the failure to advance and ignored the need for structural changes in the workplace and in society to support working families.

  53. as in religious orders, if men had the babies, there would be more real choices and real support.

  54. In the US, for people working jobs with an average wage, that wage only supports one person.I make a little above the average wage, and it covers me and 2 dogs pretty nicely. But there is little left in the budget- ie, I could not feed, clothe and insure 2 extra humans. I do not know how people manage with children. But it seems like the "choice" for a woman to work or not only goes to women with husbands who are in the top 25% of earnings (at least). If your husband makes $50 or $60k a year with stingy benefits, chances are you will need to work to not be in debt.

  55. I'm a grandma now, after struggling with the issues described here, I can't believe that things are in many ways even worse for my daughters. The "pro-family" rhetoric is all talk. I'm glad Dem candidates are making this a campaign topic. When one is in office we need to hold them accountable for real change. See Jared Polis in Colorado for a leadership example!

  56. I’m 34 and pregnant with my first (maybe only) child. I put earn my husband, and not in a marginal way. The way I see it I have few choices; and I’m incredibly privileged in those that I do have. My company gives 12 paid weeks of leave, 5 weeks PTO, and has explicit alternative work arrangement policies. And yet childcare in our area is incredibly expensive. And what if me or the baby have complications and I would want/need more? I have more “choices” than most, but those choices are dictated by my companies return to work policy, cost of care in my area, and government policies. I’m not trying to “have it all” I’m trying to do what’s right for me & my family and truthfully it’s not always clear what that is.

  57. @Jackie H And if your husband chose to leave you and the baby, you would have fewer choices. In fact, you would have few choices at all. You would have to work outside the home to support yourself and your child, and you would have to put up with a lot of nonsense in order to keep your job because you won't have the luxury of quitting. You would have to put your child in a day care and limit your working hours to those in which your day care was open. Or you would have to hire a nanny or au pair and let that person bond with your child, and your child bond with your nanny or au pair. And that is just the start.

  58. We do need to note that for the vast majority of women, having a child is a choice in the first place. They are choosing the primary focus of their time and energy for at least the next 18 years. It is - whether they accept it or not - a declaration of what they value most in life, and it necessarily means that they will have less time and less enery to put towards other pursuits. That being said, we ALL need balance between work and the rest of our life, whatever that life may consist of. I don't have any problem at all with, for instance, providing paid leave, telecommute options, or flexible scheduling to mothers (and fathers) as long as those same benefits exist for the rest of a company's workers. If a woman is going to get 12 weeks of paid leave when she gives birth to the child she chooses to have, then every other employee who does not choose to have a child should also get 12 weeks of paid leave, to use as they choose. Perhaps employers could limit paid leave (for everyone) to two 12-week periods every, say, seven years. If people want to spend that popping out kids, fine, but that (or even using it to care for another family member of any type) shouldn't be a pre-requisite. Some of us want to do other things with our precious time on this planet.

  59. If you want to spend that time caring for yourself, a spouse, and a newborn child then I’m all for people taking off 12 paid weeks to do those things. But parental leave is not just an extra paid vacation. It’s healing from birth, caring for a new born that can’t care for itself, & working to ensure a healthy start for the next generation. A generation that will impact your life, contribute to your social security, and to your community. There are real public benefits to paid parental leave, benefits many other countries are reaping while we’re still trying to figure this out.

  60. @Kristin - You seem to have missed the primary point that the 18 year commitment is by both the Mother and the Father but the expectations for those 18 years clearly isn't the same for both parents. She is solely responsible for carrying the child for the 9 months prior to the 18 years for practical medical reasons. Why is she more bound to it than the father after that?

  61. @Kristin I don't have kids but I think it is unreasonable to expect that everyone should get time off just because people with a new baby do. There is no double standard that needs to be redressed here, because if child free couples have a kid in the future, they would also get parental leave. Also, if there is across-the-board parental leave, then every person born would receive this. Every person in the society would benefit from it, when they were themselves that baby getting care from their mom. Whether or not they have kids when they grow up.

  62. The need for affordable child care doesn't stop when the child starts kindergarten. We had wonderful after school programs until 5th grade. Now, nothing. The distance between school and home is too great for him to walk home, and there isn't a bus. I've changed my hours to accommodate the lack of care.

  63. Speaking from my experience, a middle/upper-middle class family. My wife had more flexibility than many women have. But her attitude was still that she had no choice. She did not have a choice to work if she wanted, despite our full ability to have child care or rely on family for care. She did not have that choice because she as a mother did not want our child in anyone else's care but her own, and even if hard financially we were able to do that. It was a maternal instinct. And yet this was not seen by her as a privilege, a choice or a benefit, it was seen as a burden and requirement she didn't want. A choice or a burden, it all depends who you ask I guess. Likewise, she did not want to be working full time, nor do many mothers in our community want to. There was never a choice being made, pros and cons weighed. Her instincts were so strong that she had to be at home, always available as a mother when needed. So she ended up working "mothers hours", a term my own working mother taught me to distain. Yet my wife believed she had no other choice. Once again, it all depends who's making that judgment. So there is either a perceived choice, or women blaming others for their own perceiving there not to be.

  64. Paid leave and free pre-school help, of course they do. However, it takes many years of commitment to raise children, and compromises are inevitable. Who stays at home when the child is sick? Who picks her up from school early? Who goes on the school trip? The parent/ teacher meeting? The doctor‘s appointment? The list is long. In a work culture where people compete for promotion, parents, not just mothers, are at a disadvantage, provided both parents make equal compromises. My guess is a father taking time off for a child still faces more prejudice than a mother.

  65. @Lucie Roy I just missed a meeting with my child's teacher. Most of us don't have choice. My kid doesn't get picked up from school early, she walks home by herself (to her teacher's dissaproval), she needs braces but we can't go to appointments so she doesn't have one. We need two jobs. We both have health insurance, but I am a teacher and my husband works for a startup. Both of us have good benefits as long as you only need benefits for one. Benefits for a family are way too expensive. And if someone lost a job? The only "choice" in our family is to work. He can actually take more time off than me, but he works far away. It takes him an hour to get home. I have 30 minutes off to eat lunch and check my phone. Once our daughter broke her arm at school and I didn't even find out about it until 3:30. The private school thinks I'm a bad parent. (Daughter has to go private because she has a learning disability and public can't handle that.) Really, I'm just a teacher.

  66. @Lucie Roy My experience is that ALL women in a workplace suffer decreased standing when even one woman asks times off to take care of children or aging parents (as in, "Women are ALWAYS asking time off for family matters, and you are a woman with a family; therefore, you are probably always taking time off, too . . . no promotion for YOU, missie!"). However, when men ask the same, people, including higher-ups, seem more likely to publicly celebrate what rare and beautiful flowers they are as individuals. That doesn't mean that I believe that men can't be discriminated against over work leave: because of gender, I can lose status for taking time off while a man can gain it, but evidence of any individual man's goodness or kindness doesn't seem to help "men" as a group be seen as more compassionate, nurturing, or non-threatening. We're really stuck socially in our inability to see people as individuals and to untangle old social structures that force people to be treated as just one more faceless member of a group.

  67. I love that the writer focused on how men are allowed to become the "ideal" worker. This is my experience, and likely the experience of most women in a 2-parent household (that doesn't have inheritance money or doctors' salaries to spend on childcare). My sisters and I are both engineers, both with careers pockmarked by periods of lesser hours worked, including periods of no work at all, to take care of our kids. So we don't have any cushy company benefits, like medical plans and retirement plans, since we've both been running on our own consulting businesses, trying to make some bit of money within the confines of a schedule that allows husbands to do everything that the employer asks, including travel whenever they want him to, on the weekends, multiple overnights, up to weeks at a time, not daring to complain about how this affects his family, because to do so would diminish his standing among the others at the top and even those at his own level (who play the game, too). So, somebody has to bail on a real career if you want to give the American employer what they demand, and choose to have children. Now, with my kids out of the house, do you think I can get a real job? No way, I'm an engineer with a graduate degree, yet I'm older with an interrupted work career, so all I can find is work as a substitute teacher. Enough! 32 hour work-weeks for all! Divert military spending to education now, or else make men "choose" to stay at home to care for their kids!

  68. @Maureen "Somebody has to bail on a real career": spot on! Despite a graduate degree, I am working several underpaid part-time jobs without benefits to accommodate the demands that my husband's career has on our family. I have a lot of flexibility and much unpaid time off, which are hidden benefits of my jobs. But it's a far cry from an adequately paid, intellectually stimulating job. I know, our choice.

  69. @Maureen Amen!

  70. @Maureen Couldn't agree more. As I tell my kids all the time, "What I really need is a wife." Lol

  71. Two inconvenient truths: 1. Some, perhaps most, choices require compromises. We give up one thing to get another. We cannot simultaneously be in two places at the same time. Most of us cannot pursue a financially rewarding career while also indulging pet personal interests in some idyllic location. And we cannot be part of a family and raise kids while maintaining the same life choices we had when single. 2. Mandating social support to enable choices for some people will eliminate choices for others. Most of the desired programs mentioned by Miller will cost time and money, and that will be supplied by other workers. If my demand for paid time off means that you work more, how is that fair?

  72. @Bob Krantz "And we cannot be part of a family and raise kids while maintaining the same life choices we had when single." Really? Men do it all the time.

  73. We all benefit from a healthy future generation. It is civilized to grant paid family leave—like every other first world nation on earth.

  74. @Bob Krantz Then you work more in return for the folks who put in extra while you were gone! Social support always means that all of us help all of us. Parenthood is not a "pet personal interest," it's something that is designed to keep the human race alive and functioning. If you look around, you'll find that people are often able to do two things at the same time. My parents could.

  75. When women (like me) get to a position to influence their organization’s behavior and/or to set the workday parameters for others, we need to be better about accommodating family issues. I have collaborated with junior staff on flexible work hours, working remotely, commuting and travel schedules and putting a black box around “can’t miss” events like school plays. The team is very high functioning. Careers are advancing. Working on better childcare and other family friendly benefits. The biggest issue for us is that Boston area housing and childcare are becoming unaffordable for the middle class and salaries cannot keep up.

  76. @Impatient Sadly, in my experience, the women who have risen to a certain level in their work often seem to be the least interested in accommodating the family issues of their staff. I don't fully understand it, but I suspect the mentality is "If I had to do it, so do you."

  77. We need to first admit that the American economy is deeply anti-family. Then we need to accept that the health of future generations is a societal responsibility and a societal good, whether people are currently raising children or not. Then we need to adjust work and social supports accordingly. To have pro-family talk and an anti-family economy is hypocritcal and cruel.

  78. @Fred Don’t forget we have to pay for it the rich will always hide their wealth... are you willing to spend your extra money for the national good? Nobody’s mentioned that so far...The $$$

  79. Women today have the choice that was denied to our foremothers: to have or not to have children (leaving aside the efforts of theocrats to take this choice away by limiting abortion access). But this freedom changes the equation. We have to assume much greater responsibility for our lives since we no longer ruled by our biology. Yes, preschool education, parental leave and quality childcare are basic social goods. But as a mother and a professional, I don’t want any special treatment. When pregnant, I didn’t want to be given any slack just because “hormones”: it is infuriating and degrading. And equally as a manager, if I find a woman on my team does not perform well because of issues with her kids, I will not hesitate to fire her.

  80. Wow! You are, like, a villain in a Hallmark movie.

  81. Whoa! I’d hate to be in any group where you have control over employment decisions.

  82. Your attitude is the reason why parents are at a disadvantage in the workplace. I am curious, have you never had to make compromises for the children you say you have?

  83. In these times of widely available birth control and abortions, having children and timing their births are largely matters of choice by individuals. In every society on our planet women are the ones to bear children. And in most societies women are generally more nurturing than men, and are usually more likely to take on child-rearing roles, especially for infants and very young children. Offhand I can't think of a culture in which men are required or expected to tend infants and young children, and if such cultures exist they are probably not found in modern, technologically-advanced groups. The author notes that feminists "...always wanted changes in workplace culture, public policy and men’s involvement at home, along with career opportunities." However, changing cultural mores and expecting men to take on what have traditionally been women's child-care and other in-home roles is obviously easier said than done. As for two years (or even one year) of paid parental leave and multiple years of pre-school child-tending, I am sure that many parents would welcome same, but I don't see employers rushing to institute such policies. As with so many of the Democratic candidates' calls of free everything for everyone, it would be helpful to see some credible estimates of what such benefits would cost, and how much taxpayers would end up paying for them.

  84. I wonder how every other first world nation on earth manages to provide paid family leave, free health care, and heavily subsidized higher education. I guess the USA is not really that great. And we’re not really so lucky to be living here. For our tax dollars we get a bloated military industrial complex and endless wars for oil.

  85. @Mon Ray , that would only be true if (i) all women had equal access to reproductive health care, which is not the case in all 50 states or even within various states for all areas, and (ii) that there is a choice between paid and non-paid parental leave so that parents had actual choices for weighing economic impact. And market forces and culture can never change? So humans are creatures of the past and unable to make different choices at the level of society? So men cannot be nurturers? Ever? So women are basically the ones stuck with it? Way to insult both sexes in the same post. Just be honest and say you want women to be barefoot and pregnant and men to be breadwinners and head of the household; it's shorter and less insulting to the intelligence of people reading the comments to include the rest of the spurious market and historical "analysis".

  86. “Widely available birth control and abortions” I think you got the wrong country!

  87. Add in another layer and consider having children with special needs. This is not a situation you anticipate, but with the increasing ability to keep alive fragile infants born with grave illness or severe prematurity, this is an issue that will only get worse. The choice about childcare is stripped away entirely. My first child required special care for years, necessitating my husband and I splitting schedules to the point we rarely spent time together. We “made it work” through the grace of flexible jobs in healthcare. I shudder to think what we would have had to do without the help of our employers willing to work with us.

  88. The atavistic mindset in this country fostered mainly by Republicans is that children are a burden and the sole responsibility of the parents. Government subsidized day care, after school care, and early educational programs should be a priority in this country to assist working parents who struggle to pay the costs of expensive day care. The mindset should be that early investment in our children can only enrich our country for the future. After all, the children of today will be the tax payers of tomorrow.

  89. My experience is that ALL women in a workplace suffer decreased standing when even one woman asks times off to take care of children or aging parents (as in, "Women are ALWAYS asking time off for family matters, and you are a woman with a family; therefore, you are probably always taking time off, too . . . no promotion for YOU, missie!"). However, when men ask the same, people, including higher-ups, seem more likely to publicly celebrate what rare and beautiful flowers they are as individuals. That doesn't mean that I believe that men can't be discriminated against over work leave: because of gender, I can lose status for taking time off to give care while a man can gain it, but evidence of any individual man's goodness or kindness doesn't seem to help "men" as a group be seen as more compassionate, nurturing, or non-threatening. We're really stuck socially, not just in our inability to see people as individuals, but also to untangle old social structures that encourage use to view a person as just one more faceless member of a group. As far as some of the complaints about pursuing workplace fairness for parents, I agree--I don't think it's fair that someone should have to work late uncompensated because someone else has to take a child to a dentist appointment. But someone has to take that kid to the appointment. The issue is not with the parents of whatever gender. It's with companies not hiring enough personnel to handle normal business. Families are part of that.

  90. @MWI So very true the inequity in treatment of work absences. I never had children, but when you are of child bearing age, you could, so that can work into decisions made about your career by male in management positions. I also covered 12 maternity leaves over 40 years, never once did I receive a bump in salary because of it. Few companies are family friendly.

  91. @MWI and @Heidi You're right! There are jobs that are forced to deal with this in some ways, all that I know of are union, such as long term substitutes or part time hires. Examples: teachers on maternity leave, police officers, nurses.

  92. My husband and I both work full time and have a 2 and 5 yr old. And it is HARD. I am jealous of my friends who SAH because their life is easier, logistically speaking. Grocery shopping, laundry, who takes care of sick kids is easier. Their lives also seem slower...which sounds good with kids. But I also won’t sugar coat that working is helping my family get financially secure. I was able to get promoted 2 years after my first was born, buy a house in a good school district, work hard for a few more years, and get promoted again. We are now in a place where we - god willing - will be able to provide the life we want for our kids, including paying for their college and our retirement. Would that have happened if I had cut back or stopped working? Probably not. Do I wish I didn’t have to pay an extra mortgage for daycare or eventually college? YES. If we had that, plus universal healthcare, we might have made very different choices. I also say WE because this is something my husband and I decided together. He would gladly stay at home but, you know, his health insurance is way better then mine.

  93. Anne, I am a stay at home mom. Please do not be jealous. The grass is not greener. I am college educated but gave up a thriving career for many nuanced reasons. Yes, my life is easier logistically and much slower. But looking after children full time is so undervalued by society that I have become worthless and invisible (in terms of ever making meaningful money.) Yes, there are creative and entrepreneurial choices, but hard to fathom when it feels like your intellect has all but vanished - kids are fun in small doses, but day to day, it is mind numbing tedium.

  94. Reading over the tone and thoughts in the comments to this article, I would guess that most of the people who are opposed to maternity and childcare support are also climate change deniers (or they are indifferent to it.) Why? Because people who don’t see they value of society helping to nurture and support the future generations of children are also unlikely to see the value of protecting and supporting our future environment.

  95. @Enlynn Rock Agreed, and these are the same people who can't add 2 + 2 together to get 4. They can't see that is the children of today that pay their social security of tomorrow. They can't see that it is the educated women of today, who when have to leave their work to care for their children, diminish the output and capability of our national economy.

  96. @Enlynn Rock if you are so concerned about nurturing children, then isn't it better for the mother to be at home to raise them, rather being in the corporate environment. You cant change biology.

  97. @Rhsmd1 No, you can't change biology. But that distinction ends at birth. Why not the father stay home rather than be in a corporate environment?

  98. Corporate greed is responsible for the fact that parents must both work full time to make ends meet, but cannot afford to cover child care costs, never mind that there is not the prospect of homeownership on the horizon for most of them. Social programs are a bandaid, not the solution - Corporations need to start paying worthy wages.

  99. Reasonable people can disagree. Some feel that the government must step in to provide what parents no longer can, and see no disadvantage to having family, friends or strangers raise young children. Others believe having children is a personal decision and thus the responsibility for having the time and resources for them belongs to the parents, and further that having one parent stay home when the children are little is what is best for the child. Another area of great divide.

  100. @Dr B Certainly there are different opinions on this. That is not the point of the article. Women who want to stay home to take care of their kids, and can afford it, should do that. The article is about mothers who want to, or have to, keep working and how they get short changed when it comes to childcare in this country. Adequate, affordable child care is often not available. The fact that fathers rarely give up their own careers to take on childcare duties is another problem.

  101. @Moon Dog It's still their choice to work instead of taking care of the children. If one believes that having children is too much of a person sacrifice, one should not have children. Why should one expect others (the government) to pay for your decision?

  102. Again...so only the rich or middle class deserve to create a family? How is that fair?

  103. In my municipality in Japan, mothers need to prove they are employed with a letter or paystub from their employer to get a slot in subsidized pre-school. Bad luck if you are self-employed or looking for work, or can't work because you're caring for an aging parent. There are very few non-subsidized pre-schools, and the cost is prohibitive. This is not encouraging to couples who want to have children, and likely adds to the declining birth rate. The excellence of the public school system once children reach first grade is a great help once you get over the first 6 years, but the early end of the school day still prevents full time employment for many.

  104. While the article focuses on the "choices" we make to care for children, there's another huge issue here dealing with eldercare and aging parents. Our fraying social safety net and threadbare health care mean more of us also face the "choice" of helping our moms and dads age in place since they can't afford quality nursing home care. Something's got to give. We can't go on like this.

  105. @Kate That is one reason I even thought about returning to the workforce- by the time my youngest was 4 I had to help care for my grandmother and father and had sole responsibility for my mother. Our medical industry just assumes that someone will be available to provide semi-skilled nursing care when they discharge elderly fragile people too early because of insurance rules. Example: Having a cancerous breast removed was same day surgery! So my fragile wobbly sedated 80 year old mother was sent home and I was given written instructions on her care- including how to check her incision for signs of infection and how to empty her drainage bottles, measuring and recording the amount of fluid every hour for 24 hours. I asked the discharge nurse what happened to people who did not have someone who was willing and able to drop everything and move in with the patient and I just got a sad look and a mumble about hospital rules and insurance coverage. As it turned out, she needed to be rushed into the surgeon's office 2 days later (on a Sunday) because her tubes pulled out. Thank God I was there. It's all cruelty in the name of saving money so the CEO's can get more outrageous packages.

  106. Your body, your choice, your responsibility.

  107. Choice is a convenient way to say "you're on your own"

  108. I’m writing a book on this very topic based on interviews w 100 women around the US. Spot on.

  109. Universal Child Care Paid Leave Etc etc etc. Nice! More public programs wealthy white people can game and sort to their advantage, much like they've done with public education/real estate values, etc. This is the monied white folk way to live all of their narcissistic life-goals on the public dime. Sweet! Of course the rhetoric will be wrapped in the language of helping poor folk. Lets be real tho, all these programs will end up being gamed by the top. Universal child care will mean one thing to life-goals!-mommy in Manhattan and Westchester, and another to a single African-American mom in Newburgh. We know who will get the short end. Lets talk about the real issue here. Its 2020. Birth control works, and in states like NY, abortion is still fully legal and available. People have kids because they want to. Period. If you want to MAKE THAT CHOICE, go ahead. Don't ask me for much more though. I pay full on taxes with no breaks because I didn't spawn. Better policies, sure. But lets not be nonsensical here. You don't have to have a kid and if you do, you should ask yourself if you can manage it or not. For the rest of us on every other thing, we have to decide what we can swing in this life and what we cant, and in that process leave some dreams behind. Its ok if some people have to leave breeding behind because they can't swing it. Doesn't bother me at all. Being a "mommy" or "daddy" shouldn't be an aspiration to begin with. Its weird.

  110. So only the rich can have children?

  111. A women who has children now is just making a human who will suffer the ravages of our new fascist government and the collapse of the environment. Should we really encourage that? To pretend that our leaders will collectively act to resolve any issues is delusional. We don't need any more people. I know that people are most in love with themselves and that is why they have children. They think they are so special that the world needs more people exactly like them.

  112. I am 66 and raised 3 children, working through 3 pregnancies, once, up to the night before. I had one paid maternity leave. Sometimes I had 2 kids in two different daycares on two different sides of the city. I had bosses at work who resented young mothers using sick days to stay home with a sick child. The workplaces were hostile to young women having children. It was stressful, and now I see my own kids facing the same problems: using their own savings to fund a too-short maternity leave, scrambling for daycare, waiting lists for daycare, etc. Nothing has changed. And please don't insult all of us working moms with the mention of Ivanka Trump. She's clueless. The less we hear out of her dumb mouth, the better. If I were wealthy, I'd move my entire extended family to a civilized country.

  113. Only in America do we give a mother "the fredom" to choose between a career and family. How enlightened are we? Sonorous of how far we have come as opposed to those silly socialist countries that actually do care about their women, their careers and their families.

  114. When is the Times going to stop referring to women in wage-earning jobs as "working mothers"? Raising a child is "work." Full-time parents are "working" mothers and fathers. If you dispute this, tell me when the Times last referred to men who have children and an outside job as "working fathers"?

  115. @LJ Thank you!!!

  116. @LJ Of course, “working mother” is another shorthand term we use and have used for decades. So what do you suggest?

  117. Full-time parent

  118. For most women, they either work or they can’t afford to have children in the first place.

  119. This is a sadly silly comparison but government agencies consistently act ignorant of their clients lack of financial power. Almost every time I take a long bus ride within NYC I hear an announcement thanking me for choosing the MTA. Huh? Me think they are complimenting themselves selves by maintaining an illusion that us users of public transportation have the wherewithal to just choose, perhaps a helicopter today or maybe a canoe tomorrow...

  120. Here’s your big clue: it’s only a choice when there is any other reasonable option. Most American women have no options at all. No paid time off. No sick leave. No guaranteed job (getting pregnant and trying to return only to find you’ve been “rightsized” out of a job is just another legal form of discrimination.) I was a GS-13, my husband a GS14, when my son was born. We decided to do everything in our power to protect both jobs. I was able to take off 5 months with a combination of 8 years worth of saved annual and sick leave, plus some leave without pay. When I came back I worked part time (32 hours a week, some part time, huh?) for four and a half years. It was incredibly hard. And we still consider ourselves incredibly lucky. Most people still aren’t that lucky. It needs to change, and the ONLY way that will happen is by putting more women in office.

  121. Ultimately, you choose— or choose not to —have children. Regardless of what you choose you shouldn’t be expecting for the American public to pay for your life choices. Make no mistake, universal childcare is making the American tax paying public pay for your choices to have children. I say this ias somebody who was disabled as a child and unable to have children. Why should I subsidize your lifestyle choice. You weren’t born with a child on your hip. I was born with a disability which limited my choice of jobs. Your body your choice ladies.

  122. @Uncommon Wisdom Part of the reason is that in order to keep this country's economy afloat, and in order for the government to be able to collect enough tax revenue to support those who are unable to work (whether due to age, disability, or whatever), there have to be children and new generations. If everyone decides not to have children, your life, in many ways, will be affected negatively. Your life is also heavily impacted by how those children are raised and the quality of their education, and the type of citizens they become. I would understand your perspective if we were all able to live completely independently and without regard to whatever happens in the economy or the broader society, but that is not the case.

  123. @Uncommon Wisdom This reflects a zero-sum view of the world. Just because something makes it better for someone who does not have the same life situation as you does not mean it makes it worse for you.

  124. @Uncommon Wisdom If young people "choose" to be childfree, there will be no one to buy the goods and services produced by our economy and no one to take care of the last remaining generation of human beings or even disabled people like you. Having and raising children is a social and economic service and should be paid for by the community.

  125. "When policymakers frame “choices” as personal preferences, it distracts from major structural constraints." When policy 'experts' frame choices as relentlessly and causally determined by the 'system' it infantilizes women and their partners. Pick your poison or believe both - but don't pretend they both don't exist.

  126. Thank you for this column! Just like our "freedoms," "choice" is a nonsensical word as it applies to American modern life. We have a choice between spending ridiculous amounts of money on ... going without a drug or buying it for five times what Europeans pay? Which two or three overpriced cable and phone services to be gouged from? The fact is, we're all ruled by corporations who give us utterly fake "choices."

  127. It just all needs to be reframed. Someone, somehow, has got to take care of the kids—- mom, dad, (Elizabeth Warren’s aunt Bea,) day care, grandma, grandpa, nanny. Whoever, whatever it is, it is a low status, low, or non paying job. The raising of children, the most important asset to the future, is completely devalued. There is no choice for society not to have children, and yet one has a child today almost at their own peril. Just as there’s public policy to keep our economy, infrastructure, and the defense of our country healthy and viable, there needs to be public policy in support of children, and by extension those who care for them.

  128. This comment nails it. Thanks for voicing such a critical point. Why is investing in our kids (our future) not a top priority? It should be.

  129. Thank you! Can only hope that our voices become amplified. Not only does someone have to take care of the children, but who’s going to take care of us when we get old, if not somebody’s child?

  130. @Suzanne Exactly. It is THE most important job in the world, with the possible exception of caring for seniors ( another back-breaking, low or no-pay job that falls largely to women). The value placed on the care of our most vulnerable should be the first measure of a society's civility.

  131. Very important points but why are you still framing childcare as a decision of the mother? In two parent households the quality and type of care ought to be the responsibility of both parents.

  132. Carrie Lukas: How is "funding to increase the number of home-based family child care providers" not provided by taxpayers, i.e., different from other government-funded programs such that "the people making different choices than you aren’t paying for your choices”?

  133. If money wasn’t a factor, what would your life look like? Now tell me we have any real “choice” at all. There is only coping and adapting, creative adapting—even enthusiastic adapting—but let’s not fool ourselves into believing that we have any “choice”.

  134. Businesses need people to be present and able to do the work. The reality is that any additional parental leave programs that are mandated by the government will be "paid" by all of the employees not on parental leave by enduring increasing workloads. Some businesses have VERY slim margins....like not-for-profit hospitals. They must maintain their bottom line with these cost shifting strategies. The reading they have such slim margins is because the Medicaid/Medicare reimbursement does not cover the costs if providing service. Adding to this problem are the illegals being treated under EMTALA in out Emergency rooms. Folks....we can't give everything away for free and expect businesses to be there when we need them. People don't work for free. Raw materials are not free. Building maintenance is not free. Also, there is a limit to how much you can tax people. Eventually, they will stop working our leave.

  135. @Lyn Robins Disability insurance pay is paid by people not disabled, someone's prostate cancer treatment is paid also by women who pay their insurance premiums. We all pay for each other.

  136. STOP framing this as a women's issue or "choice." It takes two people to make a child (and pardon me, but I'm going to focus for the moment on heterosexual couples as they have more inequality issues between the 2 partners). Most of this would be solved if men were expected to contribute a full 50% (or more) to housework and childcare. Women need to demand more of their male partners. The government and your "evil" workplace are not the culprits here - it's the guy you're vacuuming around at 7pm while still wearing your suit.

  137. @S It's not that simple. Some people (my husband for certain, and probably my daughter as well) are just not suited for being the primary or even equitable care givers for (in particular) young children. They have other skills and talents (husband is one of those hands-on sorts who can fix / fabricate anything, daughter is a highly trained specialist in maternal- fetal medicine). I really enjoyed the early childhood years, despite the challenges of being isolated on a rural homestead with husband working at remote jobs sites much of the time. There was no way I would have asked, expected, or even trusted him to be the childcare provider ! But that was ok. Rather than being ideologically driven to 'share equally', each couple needs to honestly assess their own strengths and weaknesses and determine for themselves how best to navigate the parenting years.

  138. The focus is on how can we make it easier for mothers to work. Why don't we begin with what do infants, children, and teenagers need? What best policies benefit them? Better childcare? Who are the providers? Do they have children? If so, who cares for their children? Women are forced to adopt a male pattern of reproduction and a male pattern of working. Joanne Roll

  139. ... and ensure that “the people making different choices than you aren’t paying for your choices,” This is the most disingenuous statement ever! I don't believe in organized religion, yet I'm paying for it through the fact that these groups don't have to pay taxes. I don't believe in the industrial war complex, yet I'm paying for it through my taxes. I don't believe that the government should be subsidizing corn, soybeans and wheat, yet I'm paying for it through my taxes. The conservatives love to talk about reducing government interference, as long as it benefits them.

  140. No. The answer is to NOT subsidize religion, war, corn and sotbeans. Think about it. ( Just think about what corn syrup has inflicted on the health of the average american!) None of that stuff has made society happy. Subsidize childcare, education and healthcare instead. These are 3 things that will make a positive impact on happiness.

  141. Choices abound and simply saying they are not choices makes the universe sound like some great causal meat grinder. You can choose to have a child or not - you can choose to have a child later in life - you can choose to be a stable relationship before having a child - you can choose how many children to have - you can choose to return to work in a timely fashion so you don't experience a kiddy-penalty. The claim that none of these are personal choices is insulting to women and should not for the foundation of any coherent policy. "...maybe it is partially society forcing them to" - it really is not.

  142. @SteveRR You may make all of the "right" choices and then the universe laughs at you. My daughter and her husband waited to have a baby and planned to both go back to work after the baby was a few months old. Baby decided to come much earlier than expected and weighed only a pound seven ounces. She needed to spend 114 days in the NICU and then was so medically fragile she could not attend any kind of daycare available. My daughter's employer was sympathetic but said either come back to work or find another job. If grandma (myself) wasn't there to save the day, it would have been a disaster. Not everyone has that kind of help. By the way, my granddaughter is now in preschool and doing great.

  143. It's incredibly depressing to this 60-something feminist that we've made exactly zero progress on these issues since I entered the workforce 40-plus years ago. I think honestly the most frustrating aspect is that this is still framed as a women's issue - not a men's issue or a family issue or a societal issue. We all need to step up, folks - the idea that not having children may sound like a solution to some, but who do you think is going to take care of you when you get old? And I don't mean living with your children - I mean who are the future doctors and lawyers and business owners and other economic drivers going to be if no one has kids?

  144. @Kathy D you don't mean living with your children, but the reality is that most people do need help when they get older and choosing not to have children does leave a big question mark about one's future security and quality of life.

  145. @Kathleen Breen one's future security in life is a big question all the time - regardless of whether you have children you not.

  146. My spouse stays at home with our two young children, and I am our sole breadwinner. We hear all the time how "fortunate" we are to have one parent at home, and we resent it. This sentiment is echoed in this article saying "Very few parents have enough money to choose whether to opt out of paid work entirely." We are not more fortunate than any of our peers - but rather, my family has chosen to prioritize one of us being home, and has made sacrifices accordingly. I deeply relate to this article and support all of the proposals that would make it more affordable to have a child. But we tire of people thinking that one of us staying home is a matter of "good fortune." There are people who are legitimately low income, and yes, those people have much less options than my family and both people may have no option but to work. However, in my peer group, there are generally two working parents who live in large, nice house, drive newer cars, travel abroad, etc. This is their choice - being able to afford to live better and do more but, yes, both parents must work. You too can choose to drive a car with 200,000 miles. You too can buy a smaller, less nice house. You too can forgo vacations, nice meals, and clothes. Then, you too may be able to afford for one parent to stay home. I get grumpy when its phrased as if staying home is a luxury/choice that my peers do not have. With careful planning, many people have more of a choice than they think in whether a parent can stay home.

  147. "And when politicians talk about parents making choices, it’s really about mothers — rarely is a man asked how he divides his time between work and family." In his memoir "Winning", former GE CEO Jack Welch said that he didn't do work-life balance. He preferred to spend Saturdays at the office. His first wife raised his 3 kids, and he admitted that they were strangers to him.

  148. I'm a man that raised my son by myself since he was 6 months old. I'm really really tired of "woman" focus. It's always about "single moms". Society treats me as if I don't have the same exact issues a woman raising a child would. I was able to raise my son, while building a career. I have no other family and never received help from people. I sure never received any help from any programs or gov't assistance. When I tried, I was often told, it's a woman's support program. All while being looked at as if out of place. In this country, if you are a single father you are expected to "deal" and toughen up, if you're a single mother, you get sympathy and are able say things like "i'm a single mom". SO WHAT. I was a single father and nobody cared. I'm just sick of this one sided agenda pushed by special interest groups.

  149. @MushyWaffle This is why patriarchy hurts all of us-- I was raised by a stay at home Dad while my mom worked-- these societal standards we set that women are the only sex capable fo childrearing is antiquated and is damaging to all.... single parents especially. Single mothers get sympathy more often because in our culture it is far more common for men to forgo their parenting responsibilities or fair share of childcare. It's not fair to anyone, and sets a terrible example for future generations. Single parenthood is brutal for anyone....(don't forget women tend to make less money and see their careers suffer, as well) but EQUALITY and social support in the form of paternity leave, maternity leave and free child care is the way forward for all of us.

  150. Because women make babies and society holds them responsible for the outcomes not men. Not saying dads don’t contribute but if women don’t children tend to die. Women have also been taking care of kids since the dawn of civilization, duh!

  151. Affordable, accessible childcare is the lynchpin (24/7). It would make the American workforce more productive, focused and dominant. It would also improve global health by reducing family stress. Paid family leave is also a no-brainer. Women in the U.S. pay a very heavy price for "doing it all." Choice is a meaningless word with our current male-dominated culture. We will waste billions on war, cleaning up after war, subsidizing rich farmers, etc., but refuse to recognize the vital role healthy families play in making us great. The male-dominated GOP will talk "family values" but what that means is keeping women barefoot and pregnant while men control the world. Time's up GOP.

  152. @Lilnomad I suppose it would not have been wise, but I would have appreciated Elizabeth Warren not only pointing to the electoral success of women on the stage, but also to the (losing) collective societal record of a male dominated body politic. Time to give women a chance to run the world!

  153. America is the only developed nation on the planet that does not offer paid family leave to its citizens. In Connecticut, Democrats in the legislature just passed, and the Democratic governor just signed, a bill creating paid family leave. Republicans opposed it. This isn't about "choices." Democrats want to enact paid family leave so that young parents don't have to choose between taking care of their infants and paying the mortgage. Republicans oppose paid family leave. The real choice is the ballot: whether to vote for Democrats who give women real choices, or Republicans who don't.

  154. Why do we continue to place all responsibility and "choice" in women? Child rearing is a family issue in which adults in the household are and should be equally responsible for, regardless of their gender. It is disheartening to see reputable publications continuing to reinforce stereotypical gender roles. The question posed in the headline should address "parents" not just mothers. It is true that society continues to have these fixed archetypes but one would think that a reputable publication such as the Times would help the masses move forward by shifting the narrative. What are we as a society asking from fathers? What is their role in these choices affecting their families? Shouldn't they count?

  155. If the U.S. was a parent, Child Protection Services would remove Americans from their care for neglect; physical, medical, educational and emotional.

  156. There is no “choice”. I was dismayed when in the last debate ‘choice’ was defined as choosing among better childcare providers. Women have to leave their children because they must bring in the income needed for a family because men’s wages have NOT kept up with inflation for 30 years. Employers love it because they are getting a two-fer, two employees for the cost of one. And families suffer so employers can get this great deal. THIS is the problem. Instead of talking about ‘quality day care’ we should be talking about the Choice for women to stay home with their children until they reach school age in five short years. NO woman should come to work crying because of the agony of leaving her two month old Infant in daycare. What Civilized society makes new mothers leave their infants 10 hours a day?! How is this good for a baby?! Why do only high income wage earners get to have the mother stay home with their baby? Let’s talk about the Choice to stay home with your child without the penalties of proving you that still have skills when you return to work. And the reduction of women’s Social Security amount when they finally retire at age 70.

  157. @Almost Can’t Take It Anymore there are plenty of us that want to go back to work though. I know myself well enough to know that being a SAHM would be detrimental to my mental health. I think that giving women better support to stay home if they choose to is important, but progress on quality and affordable day care is also important.

  158. One of the reasons it's hard to have a structural conversation is because on the ground, every body is working with a different set of variables: is there good daycare in your area? Is it affordable? What work benefits do you have or can you get? Do you have family to help out? Are you rich enough to afford a lot of paid help? But this disparity, from city to city, state to state, neighborhood to neighborhood is the point. Families need a system, not the current hodge-podge. I guess we'll figure it out when the falling birth rate becomes a big enough problem.

  159. Women are criticized if they don't have children ("Why?"), but also criticized if they do ("Why should the public help you with the spiraling costs of child care, healthcare, and college?"). Women are criticized if they stay home ("Must be nice to have someone support you") or if they work ("Who's raising your kids?") Sure, we have choices; but they're all the wrong choice, to someone.

  160. Those criticisms do not sound like men were the source of them. I worked for forty-five years and never heard a man bring up those questions. It could be that men could likely care less about a female co-worker’s kid, but they did not voice those criticisms. Those questions sound like they originated with female family members, co-workers and neighbors.

  161. It is stunning that those without children can be critical of those who chose to have children. There is no higher morality by choosing not to have children, nor is their higher morality for having them. We should collectively appreciate the choice to have or not to have children and fully support society as a whole so that our society stays strong and healthy. Those without children can provide value to society in ways those that have children cannot and vice versa. Stop pointing fingers and look collectively at what we need to do to keep the collective society strong. So many of these arguments, on all sides, are short sighted. Can’t we be smarter than that?

  162. On the contrary: Watching good parents parent and seeing how well their children turn out is a pleasure. My young cousin's wife chose to stay home with her two kids. It's tight, but they have managed, and soon she'll be able to go back to work. We keep our fingers crossed that she'll be able to get work. The kids are articulate, curious, and good-natured. Not perfect, but hey. What I and others like me do not enjoy is the debacle of subsidized single motherhood, which too often produces children who cause problems for our schoolteachers, social workers, and cops. Not to mention their neighbors and sundry folks who get in the way of their knives and guns. Four generations of single mothers receiving subsidies; how's that worked out for us -- and for them and their communities? Birth control: the great leveler.

  163. Does anyone really want to be a single parent? This sounds so judgemental. Walk a mile in those shoes first.

  164. Quite of bit of feminine disdain seeps through this opinion. "...rarely is a man asked how he divides his time between work and family." Well, why don't you ask then? It's actually rather offensive more people don't ask men about their approach to parenting. Have you ever considered men don't like wearing the banner of "model" employ without complaint? Men are expected to work 60 hour weeks on 30 hours sleep with a smile on their face because why? No parent should be required to work before the child is sleep trained. That's 4-6 months. Whether you want to place the burden of lost productivity on business or the government I don't care. However, getting sent back to work after one or two days in the hospital stay isn't a pleasant choice for men either. The entire parenting arrangement places men on very bad footing to become healthy partners.

  165. My own lack of children was not a choice. I have three years left to work and I still long to come home to a hot dinner, a clean house, and no errands to run or bills to pay. The contributions of a "wife" to the family finances have never received the economic recognition they deserve. Now that we have same-sex marriages, I'm seriously considering a mail-order bride. I need a wife. I have always needed a wife.

  166. I never thought about this issue in this light. Very insightful! On the flip side of the coin, society needs to be more open to men participating more in their family life after they have kids. For example, many employers nowadays offer paternity leave but men rarely take more than 2 weeks off because they are pressured and expected my their colleagues and bosses not to take time off. This perpetuates the gender stereotypes and inequality in child rearing and family life. Meanwhile, when women take maternity leave coworkers often say “IF she comes back to work” ... How ironic.

  167. Ah, 1986, when my son was about the age of the baby on that Newsweek cover. We women who were new mothers and our own mothers were thrilled that we finally were not shown the door when we started to “show.” And that we might, if we decided to, return to work. It was a huge moment. Sadly, not much has really changed. Pregnant women still get the push out the door. Child care at almost any realistic price - outside of hiring a nanny - is in short supply, if it exists at all. Work hours and schedules for parents or those without children are still relatively hard and fast. Why?

  168. "If liberals and conservatives can agree on anything about family policies, it’s this: Parents should have choices." You can't be serious. Conservatives believe women shouldn't have access to birth control or abortion, and the only correct "choice" a woman has when she has children is to stay home with them. In no way do conservatives support parental choice.

  169. @someone Miller should have put the word “choices” in quotes from the get-go. Because “choices” is double-speak. And we all know it.

  170. My wife doesn't like it when I say this, but we are "rich." When our daughter was young, my wife, a "helicopter parent" chose to stay home. But if there was an issue, or she had something to do, I worked in a job where I could stay home for a day, or work from home. When my wife went back to work and it was time for high school admissions, I was able to take many days off to visit a variety of schools, with and without our daughter. So, yes, we are "rich." We're certainly not in the 1%, but we have jobs and freedom that allow us to lead a decent life and provide for our offspring in a decent way, as so few can in a Republican governed environment. But how many people have jobs where they can come and go essentially as they wish? And certainly those who need the freedom the most have the least of it.

  171. In my long years as a CPA, I was always competing in the workplace (public accounting) with men whose wives stayed at home and took care of everything. All the guys had to do was show up on time, in the clean clothes that their wives provided and work. No interruptions for any family matters. The partners I worked for in the 80's and 90's couldn't really understand why the guys needed to be physically present for the birth of their children. The guys got promotions and higher pay and when a young woman got pregnant, she was politely pushed out. One woman had a birth control failure and was due with her first child during tax season and the partners were absolutely furious. Things have changed a bit in CPA offices now only because over half of the new grads in accounting are women and there is a very large and growing shortage of people willing to do that type of work given the long hours and relatively low pay for the education requirements to enter into the profession. I don't expect that the unrelenting culture of that industry will ever change. I am close to retirement and have stepped back into a non-management position in private industry. I would never recommend that anyone, especially women who desire to have children, enter into public accounting. In order to succeed, you must be willing to no private life at all for at least a third of the year.

  172. @MNGRRL I'm sorry to hear of your experience in public accounting, I worked in that industry while I obtained my CPA, and of course to this day, 80% of the partner/director class at the Big4 and National firm I worked as were men, and of the remaining women who were partners/directors, half of them were basically married to their jobs with no children or domestic partners.

  173. Shouldn’t the pictures accompanying this story include people of color, particularly babies of color? The majority of births in my state, California, are now non-white. This story’s photos look like something from the 1970s.

  174. Another article about parenting, written by a woman who only conducted interviews of women. At least this time the author refers to a paper written by man (though decades old and helpfully “femsplained” by one of the interviewees) and a bill cosponsored by a male Senator. That’s progress, I suppose. But not enough. Do fathers have choices? How are stay at home fathers dealing with the compromises that parenting requires? How are fathers’ career opportunities affected by career breaks once the children have grown? Tiresome.

  175. Articles like this mean well, but women need to stop pushing the false narrative that the deepest desire for women is to top the corporate ladder "if only" affordable childcare and leave existed. The real issue (or enemy maybe) is corporate America, our enduring Puritanical obsession with work, and overall unhealthy stress levels and lifestyles. I would argue that men and woman all need to "lean out" at work. I don't think we want to live in a society where a family's "choice" is only applauded when it reinforces a certain narrative.

  176. @Julie Right only YOUR narrative should be considered. Yes we work to pay the bills, our housing, our food etc. Its been that way for how long. We have a not so bad longevity span compared to the past so stress can be dealt with and unhealthy life style is just poor unforced choices.

  177. @Julie Yes, but how do we do this? Oh, yeah, those quaint ideas of legal labor regulations and organized labor. Good luck getting that done anywhere in either of our lifetimes. But I'll be sure to vote for candidates who are at least willing to talk the talk.

  178. @JDSept Hmm. Record rates of suicide and substance abuse. Largest wealth and income disparities in history. Vast majority of productive gains going to the top of the capital class. Inability of most middle-class families to afford college tuition (let alone living expenses). Yeah, nothing wrong with this picture. (And, by the way, my 80-something grandparents who, between them, have over a dozen major medical problems, wouldn't argue that "longevity" is the best marker for a good life.. . Nor would my grandfather who died of complications of Alzheimers in 2000, 21 years after his initial diagnosis of early-onset. Just because your life has worked for you doesn't mean the current laws and policies in place are good ones for society generally.)

  179. We also need to address the problem of kids having such a long summer break. It is impossible for most working families to pay for childcare/summer camps for so many weeks. Especially when average adult only gets 2 weeks vacation a YEAR. The math does not add up. The long summer was only created way back when mothers were usually not working. This is not reality any more. Kids do not need so much time off, most other countries have 4-5 weeks summer holiday and it suits the kids just fine. Ten weeks of summer holiday is RIDICULOUS. Yes I loved it when I was a kid, but as a working parent I see now its absolutely outrageous.

  180. @Honeybee Yikes. We're all in this together. Your view is important and I'm glad you shared it, but it sounds like you're chiding the OP for not staying home, and there's just no need. Ha, I'd say she made the right "choice" for herself and her family, but maybe she just did what she needed to do.

  181. @Honeybee Couldn't we all benefit from some radical creativity? Radical change in curriculum would put less stress / strain on students to learn to dozens of required tests during the school year. And stretching out the school year would give students longer time to master key concepts. And time to add in "extra" curricular activities that have vaporized. Art. Music. Daily PE... And benefit the vast majority of parents who work, as the article points out. Oh, who am I kidding? Radical change in education...

  182. @Anne I liked my kids being home for a long summer. YOU don't want YOUR kids send them away. By the way, one daughter graduated Princeton, the other Columbia. Women work YES by choice many times though I do think those should get very dollar they deserve for divorced families. The problem is way so many families over buy as to housing, cars, vacations etc. Buy less and it makes a big difference. Expanding the school year sounds like lets have schools raise kids not families. That just doesn't work. Schools are good for subject matter and learning how to think but not for morality, religion, and many other different things as to living an acceptable life. My moral standard is not yours. Nor should schools be teaching that stuff. Somebody who is strict (not me) Catholic teaches that stuff at home. Your suggestion sounds like just warehousing kids. There is much to be learned in time off for kids. Family connections being one. I should not pay extra taxes to cover for those who wish to work and not raise their kids by choice. Geesh I loved having the daughters home all summer. And yes I ran 8 businesses and the wife did work fulltime. I PAID the few hours I needed a baby sitter at times and didn't ask for a tax break or schools to raise my kids.

  183. The work-arounds that working mothers create to deal with child care put to shame the sports adage, if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying. Working moms are trying to make the best of a bad economic deal that has not materially changed in more than a century. In 1912, the first White House Conference on Dependent Children happened, but women and children still suffer. Women are constrained by outmoded ideals and children find themselves thrust into roles they are too young to play. What working mother gets up in the morning saying, today I will neglect my child? And yet many children are neglected in big ways and small. Working mothers make choices, alright. They make tough choice within a framework of penalty and punishment.

  184. America: where quality childcare is unaffordable for most, yet choosing to care for you own children is so undervalued, you’re all but dead to the corporate world.

  185. I've applied Pareto's analysis to the workday and like the economy, the 80/20 rule applies. Most of us get the bulk of our measurable results from 20% of the workday. The remaining hours provide minimal results but also create maximal stress. Meetings, career management, writing reports that never get a reading, and a host of "required activities" that often stretch well beyond the "normal" workday. Yes, women, particularly women with children, get the worst of it. However, all of us suffer. Few bosses use objective criteria to measure or reward performance of the job. Like most things in life subjectivity rules and almost always rewards both the wrong people and the wrong behaviors. We are a long way from our ancient ancestors who lived and worked in small communities of generally less that 70 family units. Issues like family leave and other forms of paid time off are there only to be temptations to show your lack of commitment. Think about it, when was the last time your boss took a full vacation without checking-in multiple times per day, or maybe your boss hasn't been out of the office for any paid unofficial time. Unfortunately, you are a single voice with next to zero support versus a corporate structure to whom absolute loyalty to the company is demanded. The leaders wear their divorces, alienated children, and stress based medical problems as badges of honor. The basic structure is diseased for women and men.

  186. Pareto analysis works on the average, but does not tell you what 20 percent provides the 80 per cent. If employers knew that algorithm, they simply would not have you there for the other 80 per cent of the time and likely cut your pay by 40 per cent or more. No one knows and consequently you have to be around when the opportunity is there. Fortune favors the prepared mind and the bold, but you also have to be on the field to win the game.

  187. @Michael Blazin, et al., The only reason that the business leaders cannot identify the most productive elements of the work done is because the evaluation system is based on subjective assessments. Most managers don't really know what their people do, how they do it, or what elements get the greatest results. Objective measurement is possible but it means that the boss has to have a deep knowledge of the process and the business as well as collect objective data. Making subjective judgement is so much easier and the people you like (and they like you...) get rewarded even if the business suffers and the people who you don't like get the blame.

  188. @George N. Wells It's true that managers cannot be objective and they reward those they like in most cases than those who's work deserves rewarding. I was at a job where the manager promoted a guy who wasn't all that bright but for some reason the manager liked him. Liked him enough to promote him to a director position when he didn't have anyone reporting to him. This director not only displayed inappropriate behavior towards a female assistant but was tactless in job interviews with prospective employees. I stayed at that job for about six years. Five pretty awful years where I did marketing in support of five sales channels. I was consistently told that I couldn't be promoted because ________ (fill in the blank). At some point, I figured it was better to focus on my kids as one of them had ADHD and the other had speech issues. The inequity between what my then husband made versus what I did in my job is typical. What was worse was that I never felt that I could quit because my ex-husband was paranoid about losing his job at one of the networks and wouldn't let me quit. Women take on a lot of pressure from men and society to handle family situations. We need more resources for women, fathers too to some extent, but mothers really need help.

  189. As long as there is no universal childcare in the U.S., women will be blocked from the financial opportunities and security they should have...and men will continue to have more of both. It is a major part of the structural system that keeps women from full equality, and ensures less competition for men. Imagine how the workplace would look if there was safe, regulated and reliable childcare for all. It would look very different.

  190. @Concerned in NYC Frankly I'd prefer to see more female executives. Male ones waste too much time and effort on pointless competition. Women are more focused on solving problems and nurturing talent.

  191. Based on this article, the most important choice the woman has is the father of her child. Most of these issues look like choices made for the woman by the man or that she let him make. It obviously should not always be woman’s work, but society should not have to pick up the slack for a lazy man or someone whose pride won’t let him make the best choice for his child. He was there for the beginning so he steps ups up till the end.

  192. Fun to make babies; not so much when it comes time to put your children ahead of your own pleasures.

  193. Everywhere I turn my eyes, I know childless people who consciously said, "Whoa, I think it's just too expensive to raise a family." And they didn't. This includes self-identifying "devout" Catholics who have only one or two children (no, the Vatican hasn't changed that rule.) With so many people childless or limiting their families--even, apparently, at great theological risk--how are we supposed to muster a wellspring of sympathy for folks who had no business craeating a family but went ahead anyway?

  194. It bothers me when people judge the poor for creating families, as if they are being selfish. How dare they burden others more well off. This kind of discrimination doesn't take into account the systemic and multigenerational oppression faced disproportionately by women, people of color, single parents, immigrants, the disabled, etc. It assumes that people deserving of children have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps no matter the obstacles. By this reasoning, people of color are less deserving of having children. Think about it.

  195. Long long ago people would say that teaching was a “good career for a woman” because of the hours and vacations,etc. I became a teacher in the waning days if the War in Vietnam when men were also teaching for the draft exemption. I liked it but one day I decided to get a different degree and enter a more traditionally male dominated field. By then I was a mom and not long after I was divorced. I pursued that career part time for several years and finally and happily returned to teaching for many years. No regrets. I was not made for the corporate world. I feel sorry for the women and men of today who must work a million high pressure hours a year to feel successful.

  196. It is not a 'mother's choice' it is a FAMILY'S CHOICE. But we no longer have any real choice. Too often families NEED 2 incomes to have a family. We too often dismiss child rearing as a 'women's' issue when it involves both the mother AND father. As a Stay-at-Home- Dad for 20 odd years I was one of the few parents in our community actually home with children. My wife worked close by and spent far more time involved in our children's lives than most fathers. My being home let her career progress farther than if we both remained working. Two working parents often come into conflict when their child care arrangements fall apart - not unusual. Most parents were out of the house from 7 or 8 to 6 or 7. With few childcare centers available, most families used nannies. I am perturbed at how few parents remain home now with their children. Of all the houses that have turned over on our street in the last 3 years (all but coming with multiple small children), none have a parent home. The family is becoming extinct as a structure for raising children

  197. One point I'd like to make as a stay at home parent. We waited 15 years to have children. NOTHING I did at any of my employers during that time still exists. Companies fold, get sold. Things change. The corporate world is ephemeral. My children will be the one legacy that I know will outlive me. I know they learned more and accomplished more with me around. By waiting to have children it is unlikely that I will be around to see any grandchildren. That is my one regret. But then the way the world is going..... many of their contemporaries are choosing not to have children. Most of my children's friends know me. I baked cookies for holidays, taught kids how to build Pinewood Derby cars (and built the track still in use). I taught Merit badges, drove Scouts on overnights and hiked hundreds of miles over the years. I taught basic carpentry to kids in theater (no more wood shop in schools). I showed some of my kids' friends how to change brakes and do basic auto repairs. All are things parents used to do. I'm remembered because I still did do them.

  198. In many ways things are working as intended. Current forces requires at least two parents (and preferably the rest of the village) to be intentionally making certain choices in order to survive the early childhood years. Making it easier (with subsidized & adequate daycare) for the (wisely not mentioned but definitely implied single) parent to be able work is what is the goal here. Do we want a model that makes it easier to raise children without two parents? Of course it’s difficult even with two well meaning parents, but then they decided when and how many children to have right? They planned it out right? Unintended consequences of getting what you think you want as a society should be considered here. ‘Choice’ comes with ‘responsibility,’ and I’m not sure we want to make the incredible responsibility of parenthood easier to choose, without some of the friction that comes when that rubber meets the road.

  199. It is not a good idea to facilitate the having of babies by 16-year-old girls with boyfriends who go on to next girls very quickly. Undereducated, jobless young women then have children to rear (almost always more than one, or more than three; perhaps the next boyfriend will stick around?), which too often they cannot, or will not.

  200. The word "choice" is very interesting. For many mothers like myself, if I wanted to have a roof over my children's head and food for them to eat, my only "choice" was to work. I know I'm not alone here. The choice to work or not work is largely left to women of means...and for some reason, that seems to be the demographic that is most reported in the media. I understand that this was not the primary point of your oped, however, I wish it was because this is the true starting point for many many women. From this starting point, we working mothers then have many many not so good choices for job choice, schedule, child care etc.

  201. I would like to add that the discussion of working mothers and choice is not the same for white, middle- and upper-class women as it is for poor women of all colors. We have always had to work outside the home because there wouldn't be food and shelter otherwise. Often the "choice" of where to work wasn't much of a choice either. The jobs were mostly low-paying, back-breaking, and low-skilled. Generational poverty and systemic racism has a way of limiting "choices" that I don't feel was adequately touched upon here. Also, policy-makers/pundits bemoan the failure of U.S. students to soar on academic tests in comparison with other developed nations. While there are myriad causes for this problem, I see lack of parental involvement because of lack of parental/family support as a major cause. Parents who work bizarre hours because of random shifts or work excessivly to even make ends meet are exhausted and find it difficult to contribute fully to the emotional well-being of children. As a teacher, I see the fruit of this born daily in ill-prepared students and am part of it because I work 60 hours per week and struggle to be present for my own child. If we ever want to soar as a nation in anything other than invading other countries, poor health outcomes, and producing/owning weapons of all sizes, then we had better move beyond the bromides about choice and develop and implement policies that would genuinely help Americans of all persuasions, not just corporate overlords.

  202. Perhaps this wasn't the intention of the author, but I read so many articles about the need for women/families to take time off for paid family leave. The problem is so much broader than that. Americans have numerous personal problems that need addressed and require paid time off from work. After getting fired from a few jobs, I recently realized my performance issue was a simple one that could have been easily addressed; anxiety when faced with a heavy workload. Had I had talked to my company to try to figure it out and been given a little time off and money to address it, I could have taken care of it quickly. My employers would have retained a valuable employee. But I didn't get the opportunity. It came down to, "You're messing up. You're fired." There was no discussion; only dismissal. Now I will have to find another job to my regret, but at least I am now armed with tools to help me work better. Employees have other things going on. They have many reasons for requiring personal paid time off. It would be interesting to do a data analysis on how much money a company would save or spend by offering paid leave for issues the employee faces, rather than just replacing them with another employee who may end up experiencing their own personal issues and needing paid leave themselves.

  203. Parents should not have to draw down Social Security benefits for child care. Our society needs to provide adequate support and options for child care as it is to the overwhelming benefit to society as a whole.

  204. Drawing down social security is an abomination. As if you can pay that back when your children get to college.

  205. I chose to be a SAHM when my kids were young but I also don't know how we would have managed otherwise. My husband was in grad school and starting a new career and worked sometimes 80+ hours a week. He was never home. I had to take care of all the household and childcare responsibilities. Now they are teens and I work 4 days a week and I love it. It is a great balance for me and I love my job. My husband also has more flexibility with his work now so we share more responsibilities. I feel really lucky in our job and financial situation but even teens need a lot of attention. They are still a lot of work. We have 2 that have some issues that require a lot of doctors' appointments. Add that to school and extracurricular activities and sometimes I wonder if I still should be a SAHM to keep up with it all. Families take a lot of work and commitment. I believe is is totally worth it but we should have policies in place to support worker's needs. I really feel for single parents. I don't have a lot of support from extended family so I don't know how I would survive without my husband. We are partners in this and we've definitely make work decisions based on what is best for our growing family.

  206. This debate would be solved if fathers step up and demand parental leave, work life balance, prioritize family over careers and create the societal shift in acknowledging that both fathers and mothers are caretakers of the family. I think the millennial generation is trying to do this but it will probably take another 2 generations for this to truly change.

  207. We need to recognize that children need support. It can come from a stay-at-home parent or from child care outside the home, but either way it costs real money. Because children can't raise themselves, we must value and reward those caring for them. It doesn't need to break down by conservative or progressive, both the child care worker, and the stay-at-home parent, could be paid by the state for their work. The more supported the child's caregiver is, the better off we are as a society in the future. But instead, we choose to treat this work as a moral sacrifice...

  208. To me having a career and well paying job is what provides the most choices, which is why I waited till late 30s to have a child. I refuse to be a dependent on someone else - if anything happen to my husband or his employment I will be ok. Being able to provide for myself and my child is the ultimate freedom.

  209. "Nobody’s saying, ‘I’m making choices in an impoverished world.'" Actually, some of us are and are fighting to improve conditions. But, until then, we are being responsible by not having children we cannot afford either financially or with our time.

  210. By this reasoning, poor people don't deserve to have children. That's pretty discriminatory.

  211. Words matter and reflect our values. Let’s get rid of the term “stay at home mom.” Many women and men work from home all of part of the time. So called “stay at home moms” are rarely home—they are driving in their cars all day picking up kids from school, running errands, going to appointments, etc. Anne Marie Slaughter suggested using the word “lead parent” instead to reflect the dignity and hard work involved in being a primary caregiver to children. It may not be compensated, but this role has value and whether it is performed by a parent or a paid caregiver, we should improve our structural and financial support for women and men who are caregivers.

  212. @FilmFan Yes yes yes!

  213. It bothers me when commenters in California, Brooklyn, the DC suburbs, etc, say that they have “no choice” except for both parents to work. You ARE making a choice - to live in one of the most expensive places in the country! Many people move to lower cost of living areas specifically so one parent can stay home with the children.

  214. @L That may be, but there are plenty of parents in the same predicament in more "affordable" parts of the country. You also need to have one parent be able to make enough money on their own to support the family. That assumes that (a) there are two adults at home raising children together, and (b) there is a match of skills and available jobs that equal the income. My husband and I work opposite shifts. He makes decent money for the area, but it's nowhere near enough to support a family. There is a lack of affordable housing everywhere, not just big cities.

  215. And giving up your friends, family, and social support, not to mention entire professional network, to move to a less expensive region of the country so one parent can stay home with the kids seems like a very tough (and potentially unwise) “choice”. That said, I have friends in the Bay Area who have been trying to move to Atlanta, Houston, or Dallas for this reason and they are having trouble finding jobs.

  216. Born and raised in the Rust Belt. Wages are lower to match to the low expectations.

  217. Very informative article. This article reminds me of the Sheryl Sandberg debacle. When asked by a young black woman about how women like herself could better balance their private lives and careers, Sandberg replied: "Do what I did -- Hire a 24/7 nanny." Of course, the reality is that most women in America today cannot afford a nanny. Sandberg's response exemplified how corporate feminists cannot fathom the immense difficulty that the average working-class woman faces in balancing their familial obligations and their careers. Of course, such out-of-touch faux pas didn't stop The Times from hailing Sandberg as a feminist icon for many years.

  218. After this article, I will never again look at the word 'choice' in the same way. The punitive connotation of the word has been clearly explained. My brother in law chose to get cancer, someone else chose not to use their bootstraps, poor people choose to remain poor while we choose to exploit them and blame them for being exploited. And this way we never have to ask what is wrong. We chose not to have children and it was the right decision for us. And there were plenty who chose to pronounce this decision as selfish. Literally. The fun never ends in the sad, vindictive country we've become.

  219. Carrie Lukas offers a stunningly blunt admission of the degree to which conservative social policies are actually antisocial (or anti-society, anti-community, if you will): "ensure that "the people making different choices than you aren’t paying for your choices,” said Carrie Lukas, president of the Independent Women’s Forum, a conservative policy group." What's the point of society, if it's not to come together to make life better as a community, then? Even (and maybe especially) if it involves supporting choices you wouldn't have personally made, when those choices are about balancing working and parenting?

  220. @reader Exactly my reaction.

  221. We need to normalize men scaling back their careers too. If it were socially common for dad to be home with the kids or to work a flexible schedule, it would a.) Help women and b.) Politicians would take the problem seriously.

  222. From Kirsten Swinth's (Fordam history professor) book “Feminism’s Forgotten Fight: "Swinth definitively dispels the notion that second-wave feminists pushed women into the workplace without offering solutions to issues they faced at home." Hah! We absolutely failed to make it absolutely clear the work women traditionally did in the home (particularly childrearing) had significant economic and social value, so men needed to step up and do half of it. That necessitated redefining the term "full time employee" to something significantly less than 40 hours weekly. Now GenX and Millennials are paying for it, running on empty as both parents struggle to work full time and raise a family. The problem is that most GenX and Millennials have no idea what's been lost because they grew up in a world where childcare and running a household are considered "grunt work" that should be fobbed off onto low-paying "others" in order to free parents up to do "real" work. Hence, all the memes about how great life was when Boomers were kids and parents weren't stretched to the breaking point, which younger generations think are all fairy tales.

  223. The parts of feminism that fit well into corporate capitalism is what got accepted and what we have now. The real challenges to the system got lost and “forgotten,” forgotten by all except those of us who were fighting for those changes.

  224. I’m an attorney and my husband is an engineer. 30-40 years ago we would have been considered “wealthy”. Now, not so much. If we want to afford a house where we can send our children to a decent public school, two non-luxury cars, save for our children’s college, our retirement, and help our elderly parents, and pay $15,000 per year for health insurance (all of which we have no “choice” but to do since we will get no government support in any of these areas), then we have no “choice” but to both work full-time.

  225. Daycare ,from 6 weeks ,in a facility or daycare licensed home ,with a slew of kids ,is no way to raise up babies. We had adequate income ,so I stayed home ,or worked off shifts per diem ,while my kids were under school age. I always told HR in interviews and my managers that ,family came before work for me ...up front. I never had an issue. I was very fortunate. Today you have to budget well to do this and have a strong family support system. I think it is a rarity. Kids are growing up differently. Observing family life as a toddler and preschooler is better than being stuck with unmet needs in an institutional daycare atmosphere. Providing that home life isn’t abusive or neglectful or poverty stricken in extremis with addictions of caregivers. Society doesn’t treat nurturing parents very well. Not in the USA.... today.

  226. I think the social advantages of well-supported, well-organized, well-staffed day care are very clear. Not only does it ensure that parents can really entrust their children to care, but it improves the social skills of the kids who participate in it. I've seen this over and over. It's only our narrowly ideological commitment to the nuclear family, and dependence on relatives and not necessarily all that well trained care workers that makes this not the obviously most viable choice. Less money on guns, much much more on supporting our parents and children.

  227. I have no children but find work life is unreasonable for many of us. I think it is challenging whether it be caregiving for children, aging parents, pets or focusing on partners, health, community and spiritual growth. My work life is so competitive and requires so many hours of focus and travel that is can be overwhelming quite often. Unless you are the very top, saying no -as all the women’s self help and the time management books seem to suggest we do- isn’t an option. I must complete all assignments, go to all meetings, be on call for special projects, travel, etc. if I don’t my boss would surely be upset and my competitor would get the advantage in the field. All this to say that while I agree there is a child care problem in our country, there is also an elder care and work-life balance problem overall. Americans can be so judgmental of one another, whether for choices or circumstances, and this needs to change IMO. To have a better society we have to think about what makes us good humans before all else.

  228. I see. We need to give freedom and choice to mothers. No problem. But by forcing everyone to pay for it through taxes. So the rest of us have no freedom and choice?

  229. So Republican! Let's make new parents eat their seed crop (retirement $) by "letting" new parents draw down their Social Security or tax credits early. Let's give them more "choices" for less safe child-care environments by funding to increase the number of home-based family child care providers. It isn't like that at the same time they are increasing that funding for home-based child care that they would actually also have increased funding for regulation and to monitor the safety and appropriateness of those new providers! I don't understand why the Republican party doesn't see the children as the future, or at least the future taxpayer. And please, "choice"? Not much of choice when it is a rock and a hard place. Republicans don't believe in choice of any sort...