Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Monday, February 9, 2009

Please, God, No!

Megan McArdle's latest post is a holographic picture. If you look at it from the front you get a post about the economics of motherhood. But if you turn your head just a bit, a far different picture appears.

First, the normal picture.

Here's a question that bothers me, though: most women I know actively participate in sacrificing their careers to care for the children.


[snip]

I take the boring libertarian stance that this is a perfectly fine thing to do, or not, as long as your husband is also on board with whatever you decide. But I also recognize that this represents a massive sacrifice of future earning power, and often of power in the relationship.

Ah, the two bete noirs of mommyhood; money and power. You give up both, and all you get is a kid.

[snip]

After two kids, they will always be ten years behind men their own age, and in certain high-paying industries that depend on a labor force that works all hours in the early years--consulting, law, banking--they have no shot at all. Staying home with children sends a very strong signal: "I care more about my children than my career". Companies offering rewarding, relatively remunerative work are rarely willing to also play second fiddle to an eight-year-old.

Women who decide to be full-time Moms because they don't want to be a law associate any more, rather than from any personal or cultural avocation to homemaking, might well be better off if society cut off this option. (Yes, yes, men might be better off if this were an option for them . . . except that it is an option, and they're not taking it).

This is approximately Linda Hirshman's argument. I ultimately find this unconvincing, because I don't think that you promote liberty by destroying the village in order to save it. But she's certainly right that women who start out expecting that they'll share childcare duties participate in their own conversion to traditional roles.


Well, that's interesting. Make it impossible or illegal for women to hold demanding jobs. Not the solution that comes to my mind, but McArdle seems to at least agree with the underlying principle. It's a stupid thing to suggest, even if she dismisses it. And the whole discussion is a waste of time. The issue has been discussed at legnth for decades and most people manage to just do what they need or want to do.

At this point I usually would roll my eyes and move on to K-Lo or the Doughy Pantload, but unfortunately Megan babbles, and there is another side of the post to examine. From earlier in the year:

So, layoffs have come to the McArdle household, making this a depression by the most commonly accepted definition. The startup my housemate works for has gone out of business, and as we sat around last night talking about the financial implications of this, I pondered the Paradox of Thrift.

Megan now lives with her boyfriend, knowledge I could have very well lived without, and he is unemployed. Megan is 35, the point at which women who want children start to take a very hard look at their domestic situation. Reluctantly we also remember that Megan has a habit of presenting her own situation while pretending she's talking about someone else.

I wouldn't blame you if you stop reading right here. It's a little painful to contemplate the rest.

Even the men I know who say they might like to stay home with the kids seem to be saying it because they have absolutely no idea what's involved. Many journalists, for example, say they'd like to stay home with the baby and have their wife support them so that they can really get some writing done. I don't know of any female journalist who is under the impression that caring for an infant affords extensive leisure time in which to produce that novel you've been dreaming about for ten years.

Someone's been discussing having a child with her unemployed housemate. We have no idea who.

[snip]

Here's a question that bothers me, though: most women I know actively participate in sacrificing their careers to care for the children. They do this, for example, by setting standards higher than the men would, which makes them de facto the supervisor of family life. They also sometimes do it because for most upper middle class women (not journalists, usually), mommying is a career option.
[bolding mine]
And here's the crux of the matter. If Megan becomes a mother she will probably stay home to take care of the children. It's what authoritarians do. That's a problem for Megan, who is selfish in both healthy and unhealthy ways.

Caring for children can be a way of not either slogging away at an unrewarding job, or grappling with the epic failure of your original life plan. I'm not saying that this is why all, or most, mothers stay home with their kids. But it's definitely one reason that some do.

Failures stay home with their kids. This is lack of self-esteem talking; she is afraid people will think her a failure.

After two kids, they will always be ten years behind men their own age, and in certain high-paying industries that depend on a labor force that works all hours in the early years--consulting, law, banking--they have no shot at all.

Mothers fall behind their peers in making money and career advancement.

Staying home with children sends a very strong signal: "I care more about my children than my career". Companies offering rewarding, relatively remunerative work are rarely willing to also play second fiddle to an eight-year-old.
Megan is ambitious. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as you acknowledge it to yourself. But alas, she is authoritarian, and good women aren't supposed to put themselves first. Disdain for women is a fundamental part of society (no matter how authoritarian it is).

Women who decide to be full-time Moms because they don't want to be a law associate any more, rather than from any personal or cultural avocation to homemaking, might well be better off if society cut off this option.

And now this quote is not vaguely sinister, it's just an attempt to cut off one's options, so one doesn't have to make a decision. It's the conservative way. That other people would suffer is just collateral. Which is also the conservative way.

When decisions are difficult people have a way of doing what they want and justifying it afterwards. Sometimes all they have to do is nothing, for that is a decision too.

6 comments:

clever pseudonym said...

I have to admit, I don't even read the the quotes of Megan's you guys post anymore. I just skip to your snarks. Her writing is too painful, her thought process, if you can indeed attribute thought to anything she writes at all, is too vapid and shallow. At least you and FMM make the infuriating reality that this woman is paid for her crap fun.

Julia Grey said...

I see it, too: She wishes there wasn't a choice because she doesn't want to make the choice.

Sorry, Megan, it's something every woman has to work out for herself. It's, like, you know, the libertarian ideal: the government has no say in it, and most importantly, shouldn't.

Gee...what else does that remind me of?

She's a lot like Peggy Noonan, I realize: her personal preoccupations always become vanguards of the New Zeitgeist. What she wants to talk about is an important indicator of Major Concerns Everyone Must Consider.

But at least Peggy, woo-woo solipsist that she is, plainly states her case. You can understand what she means, because she's decided what to say. McArdle's jumbled, obscure, wandering "points" reflect her personal turmoil and indecision all too well.

Susan of Texas said...

CP, at least she can be a useful idiot by being held up as an example of how people make bad decisions.

Julia Grey, yes, she really needs to learn discrection, but she can't, because she needs people to tell her she's right.

Geeze, don't people get tired of the complexity of lying to yourself?

Chad said...

(Yes, yes, men might be better off if this were an option for them . . . except that it is an option, and they're not taking it).

Wait, weren't there a slew of articles not too long ago demonstrating that the number of stay-at-home dads has been steadily rising? And how come I know this while someone paid for their opinions on political and social topics doesn't?

(And hi by the way. I wandered over from FMM).

clever pseudonym said...

"And how come I know this while someone paid for their opinions on political and social topics doesn't?"

Because Megan McArdle is a lazy idiot.

Susan of Texas said...

Welcome, Chad. Yes, reality frequently gets in the way of the point Megan is trying to make.