Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Mr. Momism

The case is perfectly modern.  A female breadwinner loves her job. Her husband stays home to bring up their toddler.  It works well for everyone involved… or so she says.

Now, she and her husband want to have a second child. The letter writer, who enlists the help of Carolyn Hax, is so well indoctrinated that she suggests that the two of them are going to be pregnant.

She is facing a daunting problem. She wants to wait a month or two before trying to get pregnant. She does not want to do so just now because she feels that it will somehow compromise her work performance. Her husband is not on board with this decision, so she does not know what to do.

Strangely enough, she believes that her husband is the one who just can’t wait. If you do not find that bizarre, you are not paying attention. Does he resent the fact that he cannot get pregnant? Does he resent the fact that the other mothers do not include him in their group? Does he resent the fact that his male friends look down on him?

Hax sees it as a sign that things are not going as well as she says. Hax is right.

Here’s the letter:

I have this job. I really, really love this job. Sometimes I resent how consuming this job is, but I do love it.

My husband stays home with our toddler, which works well for all three of us.

We had been planning to try to get pregnant again next month. But some work deadlines shifted, and from a work perspective, it’s suddenly better to wait a few more months. Not “or I might lose my job” better. Just “to maximize my performance” better.

So, part of me wants to wait. It’s just a couple of months, right?

But another part feels guilty and ashamed for prioritizing work ahead of family ... and I know for sure my husband will resent having to wait. So much of our household already revolves around this job.

Yes, I do know nobody can ever really plan these things — we might start trying next month and try for a year. And yes, I do know this “problem” emerges from extraordinary privilege. Still, I gotta decide, and I feel really, really stuck. Any suggestions for an approach?

Congenital Overplanner

For the record, no one seems to care about what pregnancy and childbirth will do to her job performance. So no one says anything about it.

Since she has been pregnant once, she must know that pregnancy changes a woman’s brain structure, making her more sensitive to the needs of an infant. It does not produce the same effect on a father’s brain. Perhaps she knows that being pregnant will compromise her work performance. Perhaps she believes that maternity leave will cause her to lose out on a promotion.

She says nothing about any of this, suggesting that she is not dealing with the salient issues.

As it happens, Hax understands that however much Congenital Overplanner insists, her arrangement is not really working out very well… for her or her husband:

Come to think of it, even if you didn’t have a new work deadline to manage, there’s still the issue of bringing another child into a situation that actually isn’t working “well for all three of us.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with a household running around any particular thing — a job, a hobby, a sport, a health issue. What matters is that the family co-chairs agree on how things are run. So please set aside time to get frustrations out and addressed.

Fair enough, Hax suggests that the couple sit down and work it all out. She questions how much this marriage is cooperative and how well the couple communicates. If a delay of a month or two cannot be discussed, what can be discussed?

Hax hints around the other salient issues. Frankly I think she is right to do so. We do not know how much the household division of labor is based on choice and how much is based on necessity. Surely, Hax is right to point out that it is strange that her husband would be leading the charge for having another child… when, despite what political correctness says… she alone will be getting pregnant and carrying the child.

Is this woman really that happy leaving a toddler to her husband’s tender ministrations? Does she feel guilty and ashamed for abandoning her children? Would she feel more guilty and more ashamed for abandoning a newborn baby in order to improve her work performance?

As I said, it’s a very modern predicament.

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