Saturday, May 11, 2013

11211 Love

Williamsburg, 2013

A gorgeous Friday and a thunderstormy Saturday around these parts.

We went to the garden center on Metropolitan (behind Crest hardware) and got some veggies for our roof plot (but did not see Franklin the pig); checked out a hydrangea and crab apple tree that might work on our deck; had a delicious lunch thanks to Blue Apron; and popped into the new children's shoe shop, Wonderwolf.

I finished Homeward Bound. Hard to distill what's actually a very nuanced book, but I liked it very much and saw my own dilemmas in its pages.

A few points that resonated, or made me think:

A lot of this glorification of the domestic sphere has to do with Gen Y's sense that the corporate world has failed them; that (for men and women) working 60+ hour weeks is incompatible with a balanced life; that there must be something else. That a sad Amy's Organic burrito heated up in the microwave after a twelve hour work day isn't quite cutting it. It's no surprise, then, that a lot of otherwise ambitious people fantasize about checking out and moving to Vermont to make cheese.

That said, a lot of what's called "dropping out" or "opting out" isn't exactly that. You read a lifestyle blog that glorifies the charms of a folksy, cozy, stay at home mom life...but if that blogger is earning $60k writing about their chili recipes, they're not so much a stay at home mother who has dropped out of the work force as they are a small business owner. Just because it doesn't look like work doesn't mean it isn't. It's sometimes a new phenomenon that isn't exactly like the return to '50s values it may appear to be.

The roots of the hyper-natural parenting movement have to do with a disappointment in "the system." If there are scares about Big Food, people feel they must make their own organic food. If there is no reliable, affordable day care, if you only get 6 weeks of unpaid maternity leave, if, ultimately the sacrifice (and the math) doesn't add up, maybe you quit your job and become an attachment parent or simply "lean out" for a few years.

And maybe you embrace doing so....but that doesn't mean you would have made the same decisions if there were more options to fuse gratifying paid work with raising small children.

The author talks a lot about highly educated women who've rejected conventional careers and taken big pay cuts to sell knitted goods on Etsy in the name of work life balance, perhaps making do with less to make it all happen. But she explores the trend with a cautionary note. If few women are left in the corporate or political worlds and thus well positioned to fix a broken system, the hard-won battles of previous generations of women may be undercut.

If everyone, say, home schools their children, or quits their job due to inadequate maternity leave, who is going to be around to make the public schools better or push for family-friendly leave policies from a position of power?

Just the other day I was talking to a friend who has turned down several promising job offers because the company wouldn't let her work one day a week at home (and thus see her toddler a few more hours a week.) So the company loses a great worker, and my friend freelances, making some economic and personal sacrifices in the process.

All in all, a good read.

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