I have long been a fan of Nancy Folbre's blog posts at the New York Times. She typically discusses the economics of parenthood, and I've regarded her as a champion of families in all their various shapes and sizes. Today's column was unneccessarily nasty.
She refers to the recent article in Bloomberg about the rise of stay-at-home dads and their role in supporting successful career women. A reader forwarded me the article a few weeks ago, and I believe I threw out a quick link on the blog. The article discusses how many dads either slow down their own careers or stop them entirely to watch the children, as the wife works the long hours or travels for her job.
The article was mildly interesting. I have several friends who took on the role of primary caregiver with the wives taking on the role of primary breadwinner. I didn't really need an article to be aware of this trend, but I was happy to see the guys getting props for their work.
Folbre seems to not like anyone staying home, regardless of their gender. She prefers the Scandinavian model where the state makes it easier for both parents to work. She says that American tax policies have created unfair incentives for stay-at-home parents.
Professor McCluskey asserts that the marriage tax bonus should be termed “aid for affluent husband care.” Given the existence of homemaker dads, a more accurate term is “aid for affluent spouse care.”
Whatever we call it, there is no reason to subsidize it. Beautifully decorated living rooms and gourmet meals are delightful after a long day at the office – but they shouldn’t come at taxpayers’ expense.
Excuse me? Excuse me? Is that what Prof. Folbre thinks that I'm doing in this house? Does she really believe that any stay-at-home parent is home and forgoing thousands of dollars of salary, because they get an extra $20 in their tax return? Folbre needs to get out of the university and actually talk to some real parents.
I'm home, because there are no jobs that will allow me to leave at 3:00 when the school bus pulls up and for parent-teacher conferences or illnesses. The job that I was trained for, no longer exists. I am only qualified to work at jobs that pay $20,000, which would never cover the amount of childcare that I would require for school vacations and summer breaks. (Not even discussing the extra work involved with raising a special needs child.) I am not preparing gourmet meals most nights. Think hotdogs and Annie's Mac and Cheese. I am helping with homework projects and driving kids to swim practice. I'm making a few dollars here and there with writing projects when they happen. I am volunteering at the school.
It's a huge sacrifice to be home like this. My 401K nest egg is pitiful. I feel guilty buying new shoes for myself. It took me a couple of years to get over the huge loss of prestige of dropping from a university professor to the untouchable status of stay at home parent. It's completely bizarre, mean spirited, and ignorant to think that anyone does this job for $20 on their tax return.