Thursday, February 23, 2012

For the archives. The comments at CT, linked in the previous post
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see #21
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seth edenbaum 12.02.07 at 6:28 pm
...try reading the paragraphs as if they were the words of a narrator in a work of fiction. Don’t read the words as content, read them as form. Then think about what they might imply about the narrator’s relation to her role and to others. 
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LizardBreath 12.02.07 at 6:53 pm
think about what they might imply about the narrator’s relation to her role and to others.

Hrm. I’m coming up with “She’s attempting to communicate the difficulties with managing the conflicting demands of her family, her own career, and her husband’s career without sugarcoating her own role or presenting herself as a flawless martyr.” What do you come up with? 
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seth edenbaum 12.02.07 at 7:04 pm
I’m coming up with “he was owed” among other things.
Ideas are not implications.

Or is the point to only look for subtext in things you disagree with? 
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LizardBreath 12.02.07 at 7:21 pm
I’m coming up with “he was owed”

What conclusion are you drawing from this? Does it illuminate your understanding of the writer’s character, or of the quality of her relationship with her husband, or your opinion of her veracity? I understand that you think this is interesting and informative, and I might agree if I knew what you thought it meant. 
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[George Scialabba] geo 12.02.07 at 8:04 pm
An affecting piece. But it’s true, as others have noted, that her conclusion—“Perhaps we can both make better choices for ourselves and do better sociology if we take the complex interdependency of our system as a starting point, and then attend specifically to the ways that we go about simplifying or schematizing our understanding of it”—is lame. Not to be drearily ideological, but isn’t it all capitalism’s fault? Aren’t Ruskin and Morris still the starting point for any solution to the contemporary epidemic of stress, overwork, and drudgery, with the resulting cultural and environmental blight?
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seth edenbaum 12.02.07 at 8:27 pm
I had to come back for one last comment. I never made it to the end of the post. That quote from the conclusion is amazing.
She certainly became what she does.

There’s a Gordian Knot that needs to be cut. She’s just pulling it tighter. 
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LizardBreath 12.02.07 at 8:53 pm
There’s a Gordian Knot that needs to be cut.

Yeah, there’s nothing more annoying than someone who complains about a situation when there’s a simple, obvious solution staring them right in the face. Clearly, she should have… huh. I’m stuck. You? 
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Bill Gardner 12.02.07 at 9:30 pm
Yeah, there’s nothing more annoying than someone who complains about a situation when there’s a simple, obvious solution staring them right in the face. Clearly, she should have… huh. I’m stuck. You?

Perhaps the only escape from this kind of situation is a kind of grace. I was, for several years, an untenured, divorced man who had my kids half time. An easier situation than a single mom with no man on the scene, and perhaps easier than what the author faced. I fell head over heels in love with the kids. That saved me. I’m not saying she ‘should have done’ this, because I didn’t do it. It just happened. 
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MissLaura 12.03.07 at 6:13 am
I know that was a very good post because it made me angry, and then reading many of the critical comments here made me equally angry.

It’s a dilemma with several sides that make me angry, and peculiarly so given it’s not a dilemma I’ve yet faced and it’s one my parents dealt with quite adeptly. 
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seth edenbaum 12.03.07 at 8:18 am
It’s not a dilemma, it’s a decision. You can’t do it all. Pick a few things and let the rest go. Children are first and foremost a moral responsibility. You either want that or you don’t.

#26 [#25] “If someone else is paying for 24/7 nanny coverage, sure.” Then they’re not your children anymore. Let the servants take them home. They have kids too: that they can’t take care of while they’re taking care of yours.

#25 [#24] “We do not speak honestly of class, but we like to sometimes use gender as a substitute.”
I have no sympathy for anyone, male or female, who can afford to hire servants. I have no sympathy for people with “careers,” only for people with jobs.“We do not speak honestly of class”
No, you don’t.

This isn’t the life “of the mind” it reads like the life of the over-worked and self-absorbed bureaucrat. There’s not an ounce of emotional sympathy for another human being in the language of the post or in most of the responses. It’s not about you it’s about the kids. All your store-bought expertise and you end up where you started: adolescent/academic narcissism.

“He was owed”
No…
“I owed him” But even if she’d had the guts to write it straight she’d be incapable of attaching any irony. 
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c.l. ball 12.03.07 at 5:08 pm
#26 [#28] “If someone else is paying for 24/7 nanny coverage, sure.” Then they’re not your children anymore. Let the servants take them home. They have kids too: that they can’t take care of while they’re taking care of yours.

24/7 nanny coverage means hiring three full-time (8 hour shift) nannies, down to two when your kid is able to sleep through night regularly. Having a nanny on shift does not mean you never interact with the kid. It can mean that while your playing outside he or she is doing the kid’s laundry. It means that when a colleague returns your calls while your playing or feeding your child, you can take the call without yelling for your spouse to stop what she’s doing to watch your child. I’ve seen the stress-levels that dual professional couples with dual-nannies display around the house. It’s a lot less than the stress-levels at mine, where there are no nannies.

Why assume that nannies still have kids at home? Some have adult children or have not yet had children.
I'll add this on its own.#32. "The more we privatize caregiving" Amazing
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KC 12.03.07 at 3:35 pm
Many of these posts overlook the structural constraints on her choices. Her story perfectly illustrates the fact that parents and children suffer the more we privatize caregiving. When both partners are active parents, when employers allow flexibility (in academia things like on-site childcare & stopping tenure clocks for childrearing), and when governments provide supports like universal preschool & after school programs, parents are less likely to be torn b/t kids and work and resort to the TV as caregiver for 10 hours a day. (Janet Gornick & Marcia Meyers’ excellent book Families that Work shows how U.S. kids are by far the worst off on all kinds of measures, due to our turbo-capitalism and privatized view of caregiving.)

I think her post also shows how these dilemmas are often particularly difficult for women. We get more education now, are expected to have careers,… then once having children are confronted with an intensive mothering ideology (see Sharon Hays’ The Cultural Contradictions of Mothering) that extorts us to lavish time & attention (& money) on our kids. It seems men suffer in particular ways too—from all kinds of institutional constraints that prevent the majority from reducing work hours for childrearing. These phenomena exist in North America—other CT posters can speak more to other countries.

So, while many of her parenting decisions might seem questionable, let’s remind ourselves of the structural conditions under which she lives—and that these similarly affect other employed mothers in North America. (And that those without partners or other folks to help out and those with low incomes are clearly the most disadvantaged in our privatized system of caregiving.) 
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Mark 12.03.07 at 10:55 pm
“…the structural constraints on her choices. Her story perfectly illustrates the fact that parents and children suffer the more we privatize caregiving.”

These seem like odd thoughts: human caregiving has always been “privatized” i.e., done first and foremost by kin of the one being cared for as opposed to strangers. Thus, it makes no sense to say “the more we privatize” it.

And, the phrase “structural constraints” is one of those massive generalities that just sweeps so much under the rug. Laments about ” no universal preschool” etc are irrelevant to the original post, most of which deals with events that occurred once the kids starting going to school. It is a structural constraint that one can’t have one’s cake and eat it too. One person’s “structural constraint” is another’s “real world.

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