Jenny Rosenstrach, who in her more time-consuming life is an editor at Real Simple magazine, has a New York Times Op-ed piece today in which she rationalizes away the fact that she spends only three hours a day with her kids.
Now I realize that coming from a male perspective it isn't entirely fair for me to comment on these things. Our society is set up so that it is almost automatically the mother who has to make the tough choices about whether and how much to work versus staying home with the kids. And in my case it was easy in that R. wanted to take a substantial amout of time off to take care of J. (Or at least she says she does and you really have to take these things at face value in the end.) And I'm not going to criticize women who have decided that they don't want to stay home but instead return to work as soon as possible.
But still, there is something pathetic about Jenny's agonizing. As she admits herself, she has other options:
Other more well-adjusted working moms might remind me that I have a choice in the matter and if it's so torturous: "Why don't you find a job that's more flexible? Why don't you work part-time? Why don't you quit?" All valid questions. And all questions you're welcome to discuss with me at 3 a.m. when I'm staring at the ceiling trying to figure out the answers myself.
Well? If she isn't happy with the priorities she has set in her life then shouldn't she do something about it besides pouring her heart out to the Times? I doubt that she makes so much as a magazine editor that there is a huge financial advantage for her to work full time, especially after one factors in the cost of child care and commuting and clothing and all that. So if her decision isn't born of necessity and it isn't personally satisfying, shouldn't she try something else?
I realize that there are other factors here that I'm not taking into account. Laura wrote just yesterday about the financial troubles that divorced women can have due to the fact that they often put their careers on hold for several years. Preserving financial independence is certainly a valid concern for women and a good reason not to take time off. But still... I guess I am just reacting to the tone of the piece as much as the substance. In the end I have no final solution either.
The irony here is that the magazine she works for is one whose focus is on how to simplify your life. I'm not sure she is all that well-qualified...