Wednesday, February 20, 2013

It's Sad

I've met lots of friends through the blogosphere, but one of my nearest and dearest is Darcy.  Our blogs are very different, but our backgrounds are very similar.  We both worked in biglaw, we both left it to stay home with our kids, we both live in the DC area, and we both enjoy a good cocktail.

It was over one of these cocktails last week that she mentioned to me an article she read where the author argues that women who plan to stay at home with their kids do not deserve an education, because they are taking the spot of someone who will better use that opportunity for a real career.

I rolled my eyes, but I didn't get too angered by it.  After all, I've heard this before - from articles, from message boards, from the look on people's faces when I tell them I quit my job.  I've heard it on this blog, through a comment that caused me to write a whole post in horrified opposition. (Said comment, in case you don't feel like clicking on the link, went something like:  "I wonder if [your] coveted law school spot would have been better spent on someone who needed [a law firm job] and would more likely stick with it.").

I try not to get too angry over this stuff anymore. I figure it is just the rants of ignorant, chauvinistic kooks, and why should I even spend my time thinking about what they have to say?

But then today, my friend Darcy wrote an eloquent, well written, and reasoned post in response to the article she had mentioned to me.  She linked the aforementioned article, and I read it.  And I had to write this post.  I just can't help myself.

The article is written by Vivia Chen, who writes the blog, The Careerist.  It is a very popular blog, and one that I read from time to time.  I have even emailed Ms. Chen in the past, pitching some blog posts (none of which she has ever picked up - but I promise I have not held it against her!).  I have always respected her - she is a former corporate lawyer, a mother, and runs a very successful blog.

The fact that these words came from her keyboard floored me:

"[The future stay at home moms] of the world are squandering their privileged education.  In fact, they are taking away seats from other brilliant kids who might actually need an [Ivy League] degree to achieve their dreams."

This is disgusting on so many levels, and Darcy does an excellent job explaining why - I highly suggest you read her post (click here).

I am disgusted, but I am also sad.  I'm sad that this argument comes from a woman - a woman who I respected, who has a background similar to mine.  A woman who is a former lawyer, who writes a blog, who tucks her kids in at night.  A woman who has a voice - an educated, well written, widely heard one.   A woman who looks at me and thinks my education was a waste - that I never deserved to be there, that I cheated others in the process.

It's just another example of women tearing each other down, when really we should be fighting for each other - building each other up.  We should be fighting for better work life balance, for better part time opportunities, for better parental leaves which encourage women to stay in the workforce.

We certainly shouldn't be arguing that women shouldn't be getting an education in the first place.

Don't we women face enough hurdles as is?

I just think it's sad.


  1. Such thinking is unacceptable and I am just floored that someone (Ms. Chen) with the background you summarize would promote this kind of position.

    I agree that we need to fight for change, not throw our hands up and quit.

  2. The author's biggest mistake is that she thinks most current stay-at-home mothers PLANNED to be SAHMs from the get-go. Unfortunately, most SAHMs were people who were pushed out of their jobs by the inflexibility of the American workplace. The reality is that American women make less money than their husbands, so when push comes to shove, which partner do you think is going to be the one sacrificing her career? This is what women should focus on, not tearing one another down.

  3. Thanks for the shout out and the support! It means a lot!!

  4. I take it she missed the memo that law school applications are down by what, 25% in the past year? Most brilliant kids are getting wise to the unaffordable laughingstock that is higher ed nowadays. Stay at home
    moms of the future aren't taking anyone's spot.

    Also, when people commented last November that my two and a half year old was incredibly brilliant as she explained the election process and structure of government and favorite political candidates to confused and awed audiences, I did secretly think to myself, she sure as hell didn't learn any of that from a minimum wage paid daycare worker. If only everyone raising children could have advanced degrees. :)

  5. I certainly don't think that SAHMs took anyone's spot at any school. They had the college/grades to get in and they could pay for it/take on loans, so they did. When they did it, many (most?) did not know where life would take them; I know smart women who were on partner track, who then met the love of their life, had a child, and realized that both spouses can't be on partner track and still have the kind of traditional family they grew up in; it was a spousal decision for the woman to take a back seat. But a different question to the SAHMs is -- don't you feel like you wasted your time killing yourself in college, so you could get into a top 10 law school, so you could bill 2000+ hrs at a top firm? I realize SAHMs want to say - no, I'm smart and that'll help me educate my kid. But really, can't a high school grad teach a kid ABCs or electoral process or whatever -- since most of that stuff was covered by your middle/high school educations, not grad school? Unless you really really liked learning for the sake of learning (and I only know a few people who are like that), what was the point if you never use it in any capacity -- I'm not saying that a JD has to be a lawyer, but there is a big difference between a JD striking out into business versus one changing diapers and being room mom.

  6. 10:11 Anonymous Poster--I'm going out on a limb here and assume you do not have children. Your post made me laugh. Here's why--I did all that and it makes me laugh to think someone would think I consider all those years and all that time a WASTE OF TIME.

    I had a 4.0 in college, top percentile at law school, did big law, and now I stay at home. And no, I don't feel like I wasted my time. I can't understand that rationale at all--why would working hard be a waste of time if my goals have changed? Most stay at home moms are stay at home moms because they want to be--whether they spent years in the work force or not. To say that the time spent working hard in school and in big law is wasted suggests that one is not allowed to change plans, change goals, change priorities. And yes I am sure a high school grad could teach my child ABCs, but, *I* wanted to do well in college, and *I* wanted to go to law school, and then *I* changed my mind about working. And I remain happy about every choice I have made thus far. And what I love most about living in this time and in this country is that we DO have choices--I can work, I can stay at home. I can do either at any given point. My daughters know I'm a lawyer, and they also know I stay at home.

  7. I have two thoughts about this sort of thing:

    First is that I believe in learning for its own sake. If you have the ability to get accepted to a school, want to go, can swing it financially, and can perform once you're there, you don't need further permission to attend.

    Second is that it's foolish to believe that anyone knows at the age of 17/18 what their future will bring. Say at 17 I want to be a SAHM. What happens if I have fertility problems and don't have children? What happens if I have children and my husband dies or is incapacitated? What if it turns out that what I wanted at 17 isn't at all what I want or need when I'm older? What if a million other things? It's not impossible to deal with all the what-ifs without an education... but I think a solid educational background makes things easier.

  8. Dear Anonymous 10:11, I went to an ivy league college, and *everyone I met* "really liked learning for the sake of learning" - at a minimum. Most of us loved it. Education is never wasted on anyone, and (as several have mentioned), no one has a career or life crystal ball. The point of this post is that it is sad that people are taking time to judge what others are currently doing with their education and training. I will add that it is also destructive and pointless. Because see, that's the thing about having an education. You get exposed to information, ideas, and options so you have the resources available to make informed choices - choices that college graduates are qualified to make for themselves.

  9. Very interesting. Here's the thing: everyone is different. And everyone goes to law school for a different reason (not, shockingly enough, only because they want to be a big firm lawyer). I did well in college, went to a top tier law school, graduated order of the coif, went to work at a big firm (especially because my husband had gotten laid off during my second year of law school and we had a mortgage!), went to a small firm when we wanted to have kids, worked part time after kid #1 was born, quit altogether when it became apparent we wanted kid #2, went back to work part time when kid #2 was a toddler, now am back to working full time at a big firm (on a contract basis) while my husband starts his own business, and once the business gets going, I plan to quit law completely and use my legal skills to set up a charitable foundation and save the world. Can someone seriously sit in judgment of me and say that that's "wrong" or that I somehow didn't "deserve" that education? I had no idea where life would take me, but I knew I wanted/needed that education, and I'm damn glad I have it. It's good for me, it's good for my family, it's good for my (current) firm where I'm kicking butt, and ultimately it will be good for the world at large. I dare anyone to tell me I shouldn't have gone to law school just because I didn't want to follow a traditional path, especially since I didn't have a crystal ball to tell me what my path would be.

  10. Ha! Doesn’t she know that educated SAHMs (and dads) don’t live in isolation? That instead, they are sharing their expertise with the community by volunteering for school foundations, sports leagues and other nonprofit groups that desperately need their help? I know that our local soccer club wouldn’t survive without the legal, financial and design services that committed parents provide for free. And that’s the same for Little League, Scouts, Music Boosters and all of the other extra-curricular organizations that our children love. So, to all of you SAHMs and SAHDs, I say THANK YOU!

  11. Just remember when commenting on this post that it is equally offensive to suggest that those of us that do continue to work, even if we yearn to stay at home, leave our children with minimum wage or unqualified day care workers. Each of the head teachers at our daycare has a colleee degree in early childhood education - they are not "minimum wage" daycare workers and my children learn an awful lot from them from the ABCs to music to authors to social skills. I would sure love to stay at home and agree that no one can likely teach our children better than we can, but I take some comfort in knowing that my children are well cared for, loved and learning while I'm away from them. We need to support each other and our choices rather than taking digs where we can. The article you link to is grossly offensive, but SC Mom's comment felt like a bit of a punch in the gut to this wanna be stay at home mom.

  12. Vivia Chen writes shit like that because it gets page hits. Doesn't matter a bit whether she believes it or not.

  13. My take is that an educated society improves society. An exclusively educated workforce is unbalanced and unhealthy for equality. How can we enjoy the ideas, contributions and improvements that both female and male minds can come up with if we limit the potential of stay-at-home moms?

    And who's to say an education is wasted at home (agreeing with anonymous from 2/21 at 10:43)? Teaching and raising kids has to be one of the toughest jobs around. It is also one of the greatest opportunities to teach the rising generation to value obtaining knowledge and education. A stay-at-home mom that just happens to have a JD-Doctorate is going to provide some serious inspiration for her child. Imagine if she worked her way to the top of her class.

    I would encourage every mother to go as far as she can/wants to in her education. There's no societal rule saying that only those who plan on using it in the workplace for 40 years can get one more degree. I included this link because I think it best describes the way I view I have about anyone (male or female, planning to work or not) obtaining just one more degree.

  14. Funny, regarding the 10:11 anonymous comment that intentionally raised hackles -- at first glance, I thought his/her point was, don't you regret spending all that time killing yourself because you were prioritizing things that ultimately mattered less than what you're doing now? I know that if I quit my biglaw job, I would feel (actually, already do feel) regretful about spending all my spare hours at work instead of with my kids. Of course, by the time I got to the end of the comment, I realized that wasn't where it was going.


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