Female Frontier pt 3: Jennifer Senior of New York Times – Further with Ford

Female-frontierIn part one, we heard Chantel Lenard talks stats of women in the workforce. Part 2 brought Jenna Wolfe talking real-life experiences. Jennifer Senior now takes the stage

Senior talks more on point of view – what the woman sees and what the man sees in the workforce. For instance: when the woman comes back home, the clock starts as she has to get her work done before the end of the day. Then it starts all over the next day.

Jennifer Senior talks about the studies between the men and women and how they take their roles.


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Jenna Wolf: I am now going to turn it over to, I’m going to call you colleague, and a friend, I wanna…. My bestie, I just met her like, 8 hours ago, so we go way back. She’s a contributing editor in New York Magazine, she’s author of the book “All joy and no fun”, refreshingly detailing the changing role of parents over the years, how children change our lives so completely. You have to read this book, you will quickly realize you are not alone in this. I promise you, we all feel the same way, and she’s wonderfully fun, and Jennifer Senior, come on up here.

Jennifer Senior: One of the most robust findings in social science is that kids do not improve their parent’s happiness. Not one iota.

If anything may slightly compromise it, and it is worse for women than it is for men. This is not a one all finding, as I said it’s very robust, there’s a literature going back 50 years that actually talks about this. The most famous study of its kind, oh and you find it in very silo of social science, by the way.

The most famous study of this kind, which many of you might know about, it was done by Danny Connaman in 2004, it became an instant classic the second it was published. It was he and his colleagues, they’ve interview 909 women from Texas, and they asked them to go about recreating their day. They asked them what they were doing in every moment, and how much they liked doing it. How they felt while they were doing it. And, [Inaudible] child care clocked in 16 out of 19, in  “http://www.thefreedictionary.com/pleasurability” pleasurability. So things that clocked in higher. Vacuuming.

Housework clocked in higher. Something else that clocked in higher, which I personally like, napping. Which is to say that, losing consciousness entirely, was considered preferable in the spending time with your kids. Here is the thing. I have been studying how kids effect their parents for quite some time, I wrote a book about it as you’ve very kindly mentioned, “All joy and no fun”, and here’s what I can say.

I can very safely stipulate here, kids are not the problem. Something about parenting, right now, in 2014, that’s the problem. Parenting has aged a lot over the last few generations. A lot. I’m gonna discuss three ways that I think they are very significate, particularly for women. The first is choice. I know it sounds very obvious but I really want to flush this one out. In Plymouth colony, there were 8 kids per family, in 1850 there were 5, today there are two. We’re also differing having kids. If you are a college educated woman, odds are you’re gonna have your first child when you are 30.3 years old.

That’s a national average. So now imagine what it’s like in dense metropolitan areas, in New York, in L.A., in Chicago, in Detroit, and Boston, it’s gonna be higher.

Now there are consequences to this. I mean, if this means that basically, having kids is the equivalent of what marriage was in Jane Austin novels. Right, it’s this capstone to a life, this thing that heroin is kind of racing to it. Imagine how much meaning you assigned to the experience of parenthood once you finally have it. And how much value you assigned to each kid once you have them, ‘cause you’re only having two. This is very big deal. Now, here is kind of paradox, or at least the recipe for tension that is baked in this particular situation.

If you were differing having kids until your thirties, odds are you’re leaving a pretty good job. You’re probably making a fair amount of money, you probably have a fair amount of responsibility, that job that you’ve just left wass pretty hard one, that status there. But you’ve also just had this baby. And having that kid was also hard one, ‘cause you’ve waited. You waited until you were secure enough to have that child. So you really want to enjoy both, you have these two high-stakes investments in your life, that are in some ways competing, and that’s pretty intense, it is very different than graduating from college and having your first kid in 22 and having three more by the time you’re 30. It’s different. Okay, so that’s a change number one.

Change number two, we don’t consider this but it’s historical. The role of a child has changed dramatically in the last 70 years, let’s say.

Kids until very recently, we’re considered economic assets. Right? Now, it’s pretty much the opposite. They’re very expensive. They used to work for us, and now, essentially we work for them. It takes two incomes to raise them, if anybody out here has a kid and it was born in 2010, you should know that your child is going to cost you 300.000 dollars to raise, and that doesn’t include college. And they’re huge investments of time. Because, in a world of shrinking middle class prospects, we don’t feel like we can have an average kid, we have to have a super-child. So, we run all of our creation doing million things for them, we take them to competitive speed skating, and T-ball, and soccer practice. We teach them piano, and we probably learn the piano too, because they were doing it. This is a “zoo key” ??? method. This is a ton of work for us. And, no, it’s just very, very time consuming. And who do you think this falls to?

It is mothers, mainly, who assume the burden. And this brings me to my third point, what I think is the third significant change. So, women are in the workforce now, in record numbers, right. Our workforce participation has never been higher. Yet, yet, we still at home do not have a good set of scripts for how to divide the chores, now that both women and men are bread-winners. I just wanna tell you, this is a really big sorce of tension in couples. This is what couples fight about most. It’s not sex, it’s not money, it’s not annoying friends, it’s not personal habits, it’s who does what around the house.

Ah, sorry, I lost my place again. So, here’s how I would look at it. Women still do twice as much childcare, they do twice as much housework. Men do more paid work. SO, objectively speaking, if you look at the ledgers, the amount of hours that everybody puts in is kind of even. Here’s the problem. When women come home, they don’t think of home as being in haven, they think that shot clock is running the minute they walk home and they walk through the door. Because, they are doing far more deadline centered work then their husbands are. They are the ones who are getting anxious about getting food on the table by six, dinner prepared by… I’m sorry, homework checked by six, getting you know, the kids bathed by 9 o’clock.

That’s the way that they’re thinking. Whereas man, are doing less deadline centered stuff, like very famously, yard-work. And, I’m not capitulating the stereotypes when I actually say this, this is in fact worn out in American Time Use surveys and in diary studies from universities, and it explain… Also, here’s another thing, women multitask much more when they’re at home.

They’re dividing and sub-diving their time, they essentially feel that home is like a video game where they’re docking and dodging Dupree, and racing around, as man are where calmly going from one activity to the next. They multitask when they are at work. So, this is how you get the scenario that many women can tell you about, where, you know, it’s the morning, they’re making oatmeal, and they’re also on their, you know, phone, writing their boss, and they’re also playing a game with their kid, while their husbands are fully dressed and have read the paper.

Right, there is a reason for that, so she looks and says, why haven’t you been doing anything? And he says, what do you mean? I’m about to face an 11 hour day. It’s a bad, it is a recipe for quarreling, is what it is. Here is the other consequence for a women, you know, working so much. Guilt. And I really feel strongly about this, I really wanna talk a little bit about this. We are still extremely ambivalent as a culture, about women working. It doesn’t matter what Chantel said, you know, 4 out of 10 mothers are now the primary, if not so, bread-winners in their family.

Doesn’t matter if women really like their jobs, we still are very resolved about this issue. And if you wanna know how resolved, if you wanna know how neurotically contradictory the reviews are about women at work? I’m just gonna give you to statistics from [Inaudible] that I think kind of some it all up for us, okay. They both came out last year. Number one, more Americans than ever are completely delighted and are okay with women out-earning their husbands. 60 percent of them are great with that. On the other hand, number two, fifty percent of all Americans think it would be much better if women stayed at home with their kids full time. Full time! Resolve those two, knock yourself out. You can’t do it.

So this explains why women, the way are working at record levels, we are also spending more time with their kids than ever before. We now spend more time with our kids than mothers did in the 1960’s. Four more hours per week, to be precise. And when I say this, people don’t believe me. But let me tell you what it is. People look at the American Time Use survey data, it is very clear why. In the 60’s, women kept impeccable homes. The floor were clean, there was no ring around the collar, they made perfect dinners, and they put their kids in playpen, and they sent them off to go on their bikes, and bang the gong at 6 o’clock that can tell them to come home. Now, if you look at the same data, we don’t know how to cook, we don’t clean at all.

Man, do we spend a lot of time with our kids.

And, this changes all the reflected in our language, and I think this is a really important linguistic shift to consider. Back in the 60’s, if you’ve stayed at home with your kids, what were you? A housewife. Emphasis on the word house, we kept perfect homes. Now if you stay home with your kids, what are you? A stay at home mom. Emphasis on mom, we have to be perfect mothers.

Now, men are starting to feel this too, which is very, very interesting. They are the ones who are now reporting more and more work-life conflict, it’s not women, and they are spending anywhere from 2 to 3 times as much time with their kids, which suggests… that… I’m sorry, twice as much time, or three times as much time with their children as their fathers spend with them. So, what this suggest to me, is that they’re trying to be more like their mother, and not like their fathers. Which stands to reason, if you think about it, because they were raised watching Marry Poppins, they know that you can’t be an estranged banker, you’ve got to be an engaged maker of kites. Right?

So, I’m just gonna leave you with this thought, though, and I think this is very important. We are so apoplectic, and so guilty and feeling like we’re not spending enough time with our kids. But if you ask kids this question, which Allen Galinski did a few years ago, she interviewed a thousand children, and said to them: “Are you parents spending enough time with you?” Only ten percent of these children said that they didn’t see their mothers enough. But 34 percent of them said that they really wish that their mothers will be less stressed out. Something to think about

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