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Work-Family Policy

The Sky is Falling: Elite Women Want Motherhood?

September 20, 2005 | By | 11 Comments


The New York Times is horrified. Elite young women at presitigious Ivy League schools are indicating an interest in, gasp, motherhood.

The article is heavy on anecdote and fails to ever explain its methodology — the source of its “data” is email responses from some young women at the Ivy’s. So, even though I think the conclusion is interesting and one that I agree with, in all honesty the researcher in me has to point out to you that this is not terribly reliable reporting.

The more interesting question is: what is the Times up to here?

Well, the headline may read neutrally: “Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood,” but the text is anything but. The idea that young women might choose motherhood is clearly, from their perspective, a bad trend.

Let me offer my own anecdotal evidence: frankly, the young women the Times quotes, who feel comfortable expressing a preference for motherhood, don’t sound at all like the co-eds I taught at the University of Virginia, who felt pressured to be single-mindedly devoted to a high-powered career track — and would admit to interests in marriage and motherhood only sotto voce.

Here’s the good news, Shirley Tilghman, President of Princeton, said to the reporter:

“There is nothing inconsistent with being a leader and a stay-at-home parent. Some women (and a handful of men) whom I have known who have done this have had a powerful impact on their communities.”

Cheers for her.

Here’s the bad, from Peter Salovey, dean of Yale:

What does concern me, is that so few students seem to be able to think outside the box; so few students seem to be able to imagine a life for themselves that isn’t constructed along traditional gender roles.

The man is dean at Yale and he misses the irony that he is the one who isn’t thinking outside the box?

Memo to Peter: You’ve got it exactly backward. In today’s world, thinking outside the box involves constructing a life outside traditional male career paths. For both men and women, but especially for young women.

It is precisely the female inclination to think outside the box — sequencing, part-time work, entrepreneurial innovation — that is enlivening the 21st century work world.

UPDATE: Ann Althouse also reacting. She uses as a title the quote from a Harvard administrator: “When we work so hard to open academics and other opportunities for women, what kind of return do we expect to get for that?” Goes to my point.

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The Anchoress weighs in, and picks up on this quote: “They (these young women) are still thinking of this as a private issue; they’re accepting it,” from a Yale women’s studies prof, natch.

And Betsy Newmark.

It’s Just What Moms Do . . .

April 30, 2005 | By | No Comments

If you are coming over from LaShawn’s Corner, welcome!

With the writing I’ve been doing on women in combat, I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between men and women, moms and dads. A lot of people want to argue that there isn’t much difference.

But my friend and mentor, Steve Rhoads, wrote a book this last year Taking Sex Differences Seriously which lays out all the evidence that, in fact, moms and dads, while equally important, are not interchangeable. (You can find a direct link to get this important book on the left sidebar!) For example, moms are better able to hear their baby’s cry than dads are. Strange, but true.

This week was the Dude’s tenth birthday, so we had the cousins over last night. The Penta-Posse plus Two were camped out in the family room, including the Dancer, who hasn’t been feeling very well this week. The physical space separating us included stairs and a door. . .

In the middle of the night, I woke up, for no obvious reason, so started trying to go back to sleep. But I couldn’t. Something felt wrong. I listened carefully. I heard nothing. Or was there something faint?

I decided to check on the kids since I was awake, and as I opened the door to head down the hall toward the family room, I heard the Dancer crying as if her heart would break. She was curled up in a ball on the couch, the blanket on the floor, her body cold, her head hot.

Why didn’t you come to me, baby? I asked.

It was dark. . . I was scared. . .

I got her some medicine, took her to our room, and got her settled in snugly. She burrowed in and went to sleep immediately. With the commotion, Jack woke up. What’s going on?

Over the years, with five kids, we’ve had our fair share of multiple kids throwing up, so he’s been a part of plenty of night-time traumas.

But, usually, mom is the one who hears the first cry. It’s just what moms do.