When a mom says she’d love to stay at home but she needs the money

She might be lying because it’s easier than politely telling you to STFU.*

Sometimes working mom wants to work, regardless of her husband’s goals for income.  Some women do, even mothers.  Unnatural, I know.

When her husband says he can’t have more kids because they can’t afford them, well, he might not be telling the truth either.  I imagine the wife also has some say in the additional children question… she may even not want more kids!  But when a woman says she’s done with kids, that never goes over well.  People always feel like they have to say, “Oh, you’ll change your mind” or “I’m sure if you had another one you’d be happier.”

I find the question really intrusive (although we do plan to have a second some day) and wish people would stop asking me about my fertility plans at work.  Nothing I say ever satisfies them.  Finally one well-meaning gentleman has stopped pressuring me (about 4 years of this, including in front of job candidates) to have another kid when I explained in detail the kinds of infertility treatment I had to go through to get the first one.   Much easier to say it’s about money than whatever is actually going on, especially when it’s none of the questioner’s business in the first place.

Same thing with the working mom, we’re allowed to say we’d love to stay at home but we need the money but we’re not allowed to say we love our children to pieces but staying home with them would DRIVE US CRAZY.  Coming off a week with DC in daycare and DH at a conference, I know that would definitely be true in my case.

The woman in question might not even realize that she prefers working and having a smaller number of kids because we’re so brainwashed into believing that the ideal of womanhood is staying at home and sacrificing ourselves for the Victorian ideal of the next generation.  All those little boy chillin’s we ought to be martyring ourselves for (and boy grandbabies our daughters will be raising).  So we say one thing to people who need to mind their own business, but deep down in our heart of hearts, may actually feel another, even if we don’t realize it ourselves.  Oh, if only we didn’t have this mortgage, these schooling expenses etc, then we’d love to have 15 kids and no job other than to watch after them.  Maybe not.

Not to say that there aren’t people who really would choose to stay at home or have more children if they had more money, but I bet those folks make a lot less money than most folks who answer the question in exactly the same way.  (Not because of any SES reason, but because people who  genuinely need 2 incomes to make ends meet are a subset of the people who say they do.)

Are you ever asked intrusive questions?  Do you always answer them honestly?

*This is paraphrased from a reply I made on someone’s blog post I can’t find again.  The point of the post was the blogger knows this guy who isn’t having any more kids and his wife works instead of staying home because the husband wants additional income.  If they just lived super-frugal lives then they could instead have a SAHM and a dozen kids.  Because that’s everybody’s ideal goal.

Round 2: Childfree women’s posts answered

From The Hermitage.  And we’re special because we do Social Science.

1. Are there any suggestions about how to look professorial as a young (and young looking and smallish) TT faculty?

Here’s our post on dressing the academic.  Bottom line though:  the younger you look, the more professionally you need to dress.  Also, get an expensive haircut– ask the hairdresser specifically to make you look older.

2. For those of us who like things like pink, skirts, baking, sewing, knitting, heels, makeup, and other things girlie, how important is it to not do / wear / talk about these things lest we be seen as fluffy girls who can’t do Science?

A.  #1  Well, I’m not at a top 10 school, and I’m not into most of those “girlie” things so I can’t say.  I will say that many of my male colleagues are into food, so we talk about food, including baking, a lot.  Don’t bore your colleagues.  If they’re not into such things, don’t talk about them.  I don’t talk about my nerd hobbies to people who aren’t nerds.  I’m not hiding them, but nobody wants to be around that person.

#2  Hey, knitting is trendy these days!  All the hipsters are doing it.  Food is always good to talk about.  I think you can wear whatever you want, as long as it’s work-appropriate.  Heels aren’t practical for many parts of my job.  One of the reasons I don’t talk that much about my hobbies at work is because I like some separation between work and the rest of my life.  But like #1, I’m not hiding them and will talk about them if the conversation comes around to it.

3. What can we do when other women deny there are problems being a woman in science?

A.  #1  Well, I’m always into the facts.  There are good controlled studies (done by psychologists usually).  But many of my male colleagues will deny said facts because they have blinders on when it comes to issues of gender.  So if such women exist, I assume that they probably have blinders on too.  So … no idea.  Thank God my social science doesn’t seem to have any of these women I hear about in other professions.  Our Grand Old Dames are amazing in every aspect.  Possibly because their careers were spent studying gender.

#2  I do what I can to educate with data, like #1 said.  Then I just sigh and move on, blaming the patriarchy.  I wish I had the superpower to force insight into people’s brains, but I only have so much energy in the day.  I make a mental note to never work with that person in the future and try to let it go.

4. It seems to me that often women don’t have as strong professional networks as men – the kind that gets built over shared interests (sports or drinking). People seem to gravitate towards others like them. What specific advice do you have for establishing and maintaining network with men as well as other women?

A.  #1  My early networks were predominately female.  Only recently have I branched out to more male networks.  One thing that is important to do is to share your work with the people you cite.  In a male-dominated field, these folks will predominately be male (even if you work in gender studies!)

#2  Likewise, lots of my network is women — I was very fortunate to work in a lab of strong, supportive, and very intelligent female scientists in grad school, and they are still a large part of my network.  My adviser did an amazing job making sure her students got introduced to other successful female role models.  Only after I graduated and got a job did I work up the courage to contact big names in the field, a lot of whom are men.  I have been given some opportunities to network with leaders in the field and I’m trying not to mess it up.

Our panel-mates are: Geek Mommy Prof, Professor in Training, Dr. Sneetch, KJHaxton, Micro Dr. O

Living on one salary?

I’m worried with putting so much away to DH’s retirement this year (maxing out the 403(b) and the 457, possibly a Roth) that we’re setting ourselves up so we won’t be able to save enough to live on next summer meaning a very tight August or September.  The requests have already been made so going back would be difficult.  (In retrospect, given the US problems, perhaps the 457 was not the best choice and we should have gone for the mortgage… more on that decision Oct 1st.)

The rationale is that if he loses his job, we’ll have to live on my salary alone.  We might as well get used to it now, so it doesn’t hurt so much then and the sacrifices to fund retirement, pay off the house etc. won’t be as deep because we’ll have done a lot already.

Is it ridiculous?

DH loses job… then what?

Should we just assume it will be short term unemployment and have a larger emergency fund?  (I can’t figure out if he would be covered by unemployment… I kind of assume not as he’ll be given a year contract after being denied tenure.)

Will he really be bringing in no money?

We’d really like to allow him to use the time as an opportunity to try things out.  Maybe work on entrepreneurial or consulting projects that might not pay out in the short term (and that don’t have their own retirement plans) rather than having to take any job he can get in this small town.

What if we use the job loss as an opportunity to move to a city?  Our salaries will probably go up, but of course the cost of living will as well.  But on net, we would probably be making more money.

At the latest round of conferences, I was strongly encouraged to apply to a couple of jobs close to family (but away from the weather I prefer).  I wasn’t expecting that.  A job offer would mean a nice raise for me, whether we ended up moving or staying.  We could go the other direction and DH could find an industry job, while I follow for a soft money position.

So I don’t know… worst case scenario we drop down to just my (raise-free) salary (and perhaps have small start-up costs for DH’s next career stage)… but is that worst case scenario really what we should be planning for?

On the one hand, planning for the worst allows us freedom.  We won’t be stuck if the house doesn’t sell or DH can’t find a job he likes in town.  On the other hand, perhaps we’re cutting things down too much for an unlikely future.  Or perhaps it is all too likely.

A final question is what are we sacrificing… what are we cutting that we would otherwise not need to cut.  The short answer is, I don’t really know.  The easy answer from our financial fire drill is savings and charitable contributions.  But that answer is still not satisfying.  And also isn’t sustainable long-run.

What do you think?  What do/would you do when you see a potential jobloss for one partner on the horizon?

You know you’re in New England when…

  • Don’t like the weather?  Just wait a minute.  (#2 points out that people from all over the country say this, and in some seasons it’s true everywhere.  Particularly in the PNW.)
  • The only people holding doors open for other people are tourists from the midwest.  (#2 thinks Bostonians are the rudest and most self-absorbed Massholes ever in the world.)

You know what… I don’t think we can do this one.  We were able to easily find nice things to say about all the other parts of the country we’ve lived in, but apparently we’re falling flat on this one.  After talking about the weather, we’re out of neutral.

Oh, I’ve got one… Blueberries, apples, and strawberries = awesome.

  • Apples!  Apple picking!  (#2: see also: Wisconsin; Washington State #1: Yes, but New England has DIFFERENT apples… Carousel, Macon, Honey Crisp etc.)  Apple wine!  Apple desserts!  Hard apple cider!
  • Fall is gorgeous!  Spring is non-existent.
  • If you like Lobster, New England is a good place to get it.
  • High ice cream per capita ratio.
  • Public transportation is awesome.  Driving… not so much.
  • Housing is expensive, even places nobody wants to live.

Ok, drifting back into negativity there.  If only the guy who thought we were trashing the South could see us now.

(And #2 can’t help it… she literally gets covered in rashes when she visits Boston.  But Pennsylvania, Delaware, parts of New Jersey, the parts of New York I’ve been to, etc., are all nice, except that #1 informs me these are not in NE.  I have never been to Maine; I like DC ok and would probably go back for the museums but not live there.  New Hampshire has some strange things going on.  But I think use of the word “wicked” is wicked awesome, so there’s one nice thing we can say about New England!  I actually like parts of NE quite a lot but don’t have specific things to say about its quirks.)

Dear readers, surely those of you who have been to New England can finish this list for us…  Remind us of the good or just quirky things that let you know you’re in New England.

One Link Leads to Another

CPP has an interesting idea about the illusion of control and making real change, building from initial comments on politics and extending them into work life.  Go read and comment.  It’s actually similar to an almost excellent post by Fareed Zakaria earlier this week that we cannot link to because of his egregious misuse of the your/you’re homonym.  He still hasn’t fixed it, and that makes us sad.

Something our Fox News watching readers should see, if we haven’t driven them all off (we suspect we have).  The important part is where he runs the numbers and shows what 50% of the wealth of the poorest 50% of Americans amounts to and makes comparisons.  Powerful stuff.

Center of gravitas noting that we find drunk girls sexy and that’s kind of sick.  And not sick in the good way.

Would Neil Degrasse Tyson please run for president? A plea from pharyngula.

This xkcd made me laugh out loud, but DH doesn’t get it.  I still love him.

Apparently I also have this B of A temporary credit card feature.  Who knew?  Well, In mint condition, obviously.

A trenchant analysis of the tea party and the general population by We are respectable negroes.

Dr. Virago with a fun informal survey on academics and debt.

Aieeeee!  Do you have a kindle?  Amazon is having a $1.99 Georgette Heyer sale until Sunday.  I, um, bought 25.

Our hearts ache that some people are Not Equal Enough. A powerful post from A Practical Wedding.

We were in this week’s carnival of personal finance.  (Rawr, CPP?)

Oh dear: dumb but catchy:

Even more googled questions answered

Q:  are homeowners associations liable for poisonous snakes on property?

A:  Probably not.  But check your bylaws and with a lawyer.

Q:  do professors check email over the summer

A:  No!  Absolutely not.  Don’t even bother trying if you have any sort of complaint.  They have these amazing filters that allow in professionally written emails that are important, but completely filter out the whines straight to spam over the summer. Amazing secret technology.

Q:  what to do with a rental house that foundation is slipping away and we still have a mortage

A:  Either fix it or sell the house.  Be sure to disclose the problems, ‘cuz it’s illegal not to.  If you cannot sell it for your mortgage, then you either have to pay the mortgage down or try to work with the bank to shortsell.   You could probably foreclose on it too.  If you shortsell or foreclose, bad things will happen to your credit, and you may still owe the money or taxes on the money (depending on the state).

Q:  is it hard being this perfect

A:  Sometimes, sometimes.  Not usually though.

Q:  If you can’t pay your mortgage why would you continue to pay association fees

A:  Because depending on the state you’re in and the bank your mortgage is from, it might take longer for the bank to foreclose on you than the HOA.  Also, the HOA may harass you more frequently, since they kind of live right there.

Q:  can i take a year off from teaching without tenure

A:  It is possible.  You can take a year off without pay for many reasons, including family leave, a great opportunity (say a presidential appointment or a prestigious fellowship), if they think you’re valuable enough to keep but you need to spend a year elsewhere (say another university is wooing you or you got an amazing post-doc).  Some places and departments give automatic pre-tenure leave, some don’t.  (#2 laughs a hollow, bitter laugh.)  Some will delay your clock a year, some won’t.  If you department allows it, you may also be able to continue to get paid if you buy out your classes– if you have nice grants, for example.  Some departments limit the number of courses you can buy out though.  In some places you may also be able to get your teaching load reduced if you go into administration, but that’s generally not a good idea pre-tenure.

Q:  if you foreclose on your home can they get your savings

A:  It depends entirely on the laws in your state.  In some states yes, in others no.  Also be sure to look into tax implications.

Q:  are you a homebody

A:  Yes.

Q:  is there too much feminism

A:  No.

Q:  is “do you still love me” correct grammar

A:  Might we suggest the following corrections?:  Do you still love me?  Why not?  Since when?

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What have we been reading?

Harry Dresden novels… not as good as the Kitty Norville novels.  They make decent airplane reading but I can’t focus on them outside the plane.  I also don’t like the way every woman is a sex object.  Neither Kitty nor Rachel Morgan seem to feel the need to make every man a sex object.  Every vampire (of either gender), sure, but not every person of the opposite sex (or the same sex either).

Oscar Wilde plays LM Montgomery short stories.

DC discovered my Kindle on a recent plane ride and got halfway through the Tin Woodman of Oz.  Ze was adorable and a wee bit annoying reading while walking (ever so slowly) through various airports.  (At one point I had to confiscate the Kindle so ze would speed up.  But never fear, I returned it after there was room for folks to pass.)  We got lots of comments about what an interesting video game ze must be playing.

Kraken by China Mieville:  it’s the end of the world!  Sort of.  It’s about belief and magic and religion and science and squids.  Echoes of Neil Gaiman and a bit of Pratchett, too.

Queen and Country: Politics bore me and I don’t like how the main character is drawn.  Still, I kept reading to find out more about the protagonist’s personal life.

In a bizarre fit I decided I wanted to read The Feminine Mystique, but I couldn’t get through the forewords for each new edition.  I just can’t think that hard about not-work stuff right now.

On the kindle (for free!):  Miss Mapp… think uh, Sherlock Holmes if instead of solving crimes he were a provincial old maid in a small town with a nasty streak.  I keep thinking, man, if only she would get hired by Scotland Yard her life would have meaning.  It’s awfully droll stuff though.  Usually I can’t get into a book if there’s nobody to root for, but this one is tres funny.  Apparently this is part of a series starring someone named Lucia who does not appear in this book… Miss Mapp is her foil.  (Amazon suggests there may have been a British tv show based on the series?)

I just finished The Book of Air and Shadows.  It’s pretty good — the last third or so of the book gets very twisty.  Some twists I figured out early, some I didn’t.  Turns out this author has written a ton of other stuff I’d never heard of.  Hmm…

I yearn for more Georgette Heyer.  Obviously I need another library stop.  I wish the university library had more of her stuff– they deliver directly to my office!

I also yearn for collections of Sheldon.  (#1 is just missing the newest book.  Her bathroom is well-stocked.)

Have you been reading anything good (or craptastic) lately?