Monday, December 23, 2013

Few Regret Interrupting Their Careers for Family

By Anna Sutherland
Institute for Family Studies

The new Pew Research Center report on the gender wage gap and work attitudes among millennials shows that, in median hourly earnings, 25- to 34-year-old women make 93% as much as men make. If you include all age groups, that number falls to 84%—and millennials’ wage gap could increase as they start families. Unless you somehow missed the great Lean In debate of 2013, however, many of Pew’s findings will seem like old news. But one set of figures in the report leapt out at me: people’s views on family-related career interruptions.

Fully 94% of those who reduced their work hours or took a significant amount of time off to care for a child or other family member are glad they did, despite the negative career consequences that many experienced. Those who turned down a promotion or quit their job to do the same expressed similar levels of satisfaction (88% and 87%, respectively). And those numbers cover quite a few people: 65% of mothers, 45% of fathers, and roughly 25% of childless men and women report having experienced at least one of these career interruptions to care for a family member.

But why should it come as a surprise that many Americans are willing to put their family above their career? Despite the cliche about deathbed regrets (“No one ever said on their deathbed, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office’”), recent discussions about work-family balance emphasize the many ways that caring for a family can stunt careers and focus on those who wish they’d never stopped working in the first place. Moreover, most work/family public policy proposals, from free universal daycare to tax reform, focus on keeping parents constantly in the workforce. As Zoe Williams lamented in the Guardian last month,
Women, by modern logic, win by having economic agency and lose by being economically excluded. Children, having no productive contribution to make, are either a neutral value in the equation, an appendage of the mother, or a negative value, a drain on the mother. What if the mother wants to hang out with the child, not because she has been subjugated by the patriarchy but because she thinks the child is awesome? What if the father does too? Well, that point of view makes no financial sense, so unfortunately cannot be included in our discussion. . . .

People want the freedom to react to things – an illness, an irrational hatred of nursery – without that signifying a lack of professional commitment. Never mind women, this is what all parents want: some recognition, from the workplace and beyond, that there is more to life than making money, and yet that making money is a blessed diversion from full-time making a mess.
We should, to be sure, try to make work and family life more compatible, for the sake of men as well as women. Yet at some point, tradeoffs may be inevitable. When people faced with a tradeoff freely choose to prioritize their family above their career, we should stop regarding them as an object of pity and support them instead.

This article originally appeared at Family Studies and is used with permission.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Is the 'War on Women' Rhetoric Demeaning to Women?

By Mary C. Tillotson

As I’ve written before, I really can’t stand the “women’s issues” and “war on women” rhetoric in American politics. So when I saw Make Love, Not War (On Women) by Brenda Zurita at Concerned Women for America, I thought: I need to talk to her.

So I did.

When we think of “women’s issues,” we usually mean abortion, contraception, sex, etc. But regardless of what you think on those issues, the “war on women” rhetoric is degrading.

Here’s Brenda:
There are polls out showing that the majority of women are pro-life, so the mainstream media just perpetuates this myth that all women think exactly alike. It’s insulting. They don’t group men that way. I don’t know if you’ve seen those bro-choice commercials – they’re ridiculous, but do we think all men are like that? No, I don’t, and the media doesn’t portray all men as being like that, and yet we’re all supposed to say, “Well, if Planned Parenthood thinks it’s a good idea, of course I support that.” 
The power is if you repeat it enough, people will believe it and not really research what it means.

I think it’s offensive that people wouldn’t understand that women are different – we don’t all hold the same positions – or the fact that because I’m a woman, I’m going to believe these things means you don’t think I’m up to researching an issue and deciding for myself. That’s why Concerned Women for America was started. We got fed up with hearing feminists on TV defending their position and saying this is how all women think, and wait a second, there’s a whole contingent of women that don’t think that way.

How often do you see the president and CEO of Concerned Women for America on TV? You see Nancy Pelosi and Planned Parenthood representatives constantly, but there’s a conservative voice out there.
Whatever individual women think about abortion and contraception, those often are not their top issues when voting, she told me. When Americans lose their jobs or safety or financial security because of a bad policy decision, many of those Americans affected are women.
I don’t think “women’s issues” are as important to women as economic issues and national security issues, but every time a Democrat wins, it seems like they say, ‘Oh, war on women, women agree with us on freedom of choice issues,’ but women, most women take care of household finances and they have to balance the budget and they understand those things. The government today is running willy-nilly. If only we could all live like that: we don’t have the money, we’ll just spend anyway!
Frustrating, right? Rather than wallow in how horrible it all is (which is what I’d really like to do), Brenda offered a suggestion for bucking the bandwagon. (I know. Fixing the problem. Totally men’s work.)

Contact your local representatives and senators and tell them what you think about the issues that matter to you. I found this piece really helpful – it’s written by a former congressman about how to get your message to your congressman most effectively. If you don’t remember everyone’s names, try this -- you just plug in your zip code, and your national and state officials pop up.

Because, look. The "War on Women" isn't a war and it isn't against women, any more than any other policy idea is against women. It's against the liberal, pro-abortion agenda pushed by some men and some women but not all men and not all women.

If women are going to be in politics -- whether it's voting, writing, or running for office -- it's only fair to be fair and remember that we have just as much right to disagree with each other as men do. One more word from Brenda:
[The media] denigrate conservative women. Look how they attacked Sarah Palin. The attacks against her were so file. If they'd been perpetuated against Nancy Pelosi or Michelle Obama or any Democrat leading lady, they never would have tolerated that.

Brenda Zurita is a research fellow for the Beverly LaHaye Institute, at Concerned Women for America. To get involved with CWFA, visit

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fear-free marriage

By Brianna Heldt
Just Showing Up

When my husband and I first began discussing the possibility of further growing our family through international adoption, it was 2005.  Our biological daughter was 15-months-old then, and our life was somehow manageable and flexible enough to consider jumping into the proverbial deep-end of paperwork, social worker visits, and parenting traumatized children.

Going into the process was exciting and hope-filled, but frightening and anxiety-inducing too.  You don’t know what particular challenges lurk silently ahead, nor can you realistically anticipate–as hard as you try, you really, truly can’t–how your family dynamic will change or what the emotional impact will be.

So when we brought our sons to the United States we became parents to three children ages two and under.  Adopting twin boys that were only eight months younger than our daughter was, I suppose, kind of a crazy leap of faith.  But we did it because we had discerned through prayer and discussion and research that it was right for us, and that God was–for whatever reason–calling us to it.  We said yes.

Even in spite of a relatively smooth transition for our sons and daughter, those early months of learning how to do life with three little ones afoot were intense.  There was constant movement, the addressing of countless medical and emotional issues, and mess.  Lots and lots of mess.  Crumbs and laundry and sippy cups and toys and diapers.  My husband and I would collapse on the couch at the end of each day, look over at one another and laugh–laugh!–at how positively tired we were, at how crazy life felt and at how strange we surely looked when we were pushing around a double stroller while also wearing a small child strapped to our chest.

But do you want to know what else we’d talk about in our living room at the end of long, toddler-filled days?  We’d talk about healing.  And progress.  We’d talk about the mystery of love, about how God was miraculously knitting all of our hearts together in a way that transcended biology and personal history.  We’d talk about joy and fulfillment and about how we’d sealed our fate as “that crazy family with all the kids”, which transformed into a public, gasp-worthy spectacle anytime we ventured outside our front door.  We’d talk about our sons’ birth mother, extreme poverty and about how no baby ought to be starving.  We’d recount the really hard things that happened that day–a post-institutionalized little boy, with no muscle tone and a failure-to-thrive diagnosis, having a panicked melt-down upon even the slightest glimpse of food, or my heroic attempts at crossing streets and navigating grocery aisles with three itty bitty kids in tow–and we’d remember the really good things that happened every day, like a sister and her brothers holding sticky, chubby hands, giving hugs, and laughing together.  Wanting to spend every single moment of the day side-by-side.

We were seeing redemption and mercy and the glory of the human family, happening right before our very eyes

We would of course go on to have two more biological children in the following years, and then adopt again in 2011, this time two little girls who’d been born with Down syndrome and severe congenital heart defects.  Then we had another baby this past spring.  So we have eight children, and they’re all relatively close in age, and I won’t tell you that our life isn’t messy or busy or occasionally hard.  Because (hello multiple heart surgeries and meal planning and homeschooling) it is.  But I will also tell you that it is GOOD.  It is happy.  It is marked by joy, and ups and downs, like most any life.

And yet I admit that every single time we’ve been given the gift of a child (whether by birth or adoption), I was a little bit afraid.  Afraid that we’d implode, afraid that we’d overextended ourselves beyond repair, afraid that we were certifiably insane–which, you know, maybe we are.  But crazy-town or not, every.single.time. God gave us a sweet little one, do you know what really happened?  Our family was renewed.  Each one of us grew in our capacity to love.  Our family life was strengthened.  Unconditional acceptance abounded.  Our family dynamic changed–for the better.  Sometimes we argue or yell or need a little bit of space, but then, doesn’t everyone?  My children are many, but they are happy.  I am happy.  And we are living proof that you don’t have to be a perfect mother, father or biped of any sort to live a marriage that is open to children.

I suspect that part of why we experience fear in this area is because we sense, on a very deep level, the gravity or weight of having a childand that is, in many ways, good.  The God-given power of participating in procreation (or the ability to adopt) isn’t something to take lightly or be flippant about.  So in that sense it should be approached with awe, reverence and humility.  But I also think there is the potential for us to miss out on a whole lot of beauty, love and grace when we become crippled by fear, doubt, and the internalized messages of our modern age.  And I’m just as susceptible to that as anyone–I’m generally non-committal and am an imagine-the-worst-case-scenario sort of person.  The fact that I was a 20-year-old bride and am now a mother to eight are all examples of God’s delightful sense of humor.  But what I learned all those years ago, in the exhausting days of having three children ages two-and-under, was that God can do good things with our “yes”, that a marriage can endure and THRIVE in the midst of raising babies, and that large families can flourish in happiness–even in our modern age.  And they are especially needed in our modern age.

So let’s worry less.  Be not afraid.  Families are specially designed for nurturing children and marriage is particularly ordered towards openness to children, either through the miracle of birth or the miracle of adoption.  Shared bedrooms and crowded kitchens and full-to-capacity carloads may no longer represent the typical American family’s landscape, and may indeed necessitate sacrifice and adjustment.  But they also have the special ability to harbor a childhood’s worth of hush-spoken secrets, side-splitting laughter, and shared memories that will last a lifetime.  They potentially shape and form and soften and grow.

Love multiplies, right before your very eyes.

And then one day you and your husband collapse on the couch–years older and hopefully a little bit wiser–and you realize that, in spite of your many children thundering around like elephants in the next room, long past bedtime, playing a game they invented called “stroller tag”?  You really kind of had nothing to fear.

Brianna Heldt is a mother to eight and contributor to Ignitum Today, Catholic Stand, and Catholic Exchange. In addition to her four biological children, she and her husband are also parents to four adopted children from Ethiopia, including two daughters with Down syndrome. When Brianna is not busy blogging or homeschooling, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading good books, thrifting, and advocating for orphaned children with medical needs. She lives with her husband and kids in Denver and blogs at Just Showing Up, where this post originally appeared.

Monday, December 16, 2013

50 Shades of Submission

By Christine Dalessio
The Catholic F Word

I have to write about it. Why? Because it's out there, seeping into the culture. Because it is most popular where I live (NY, NJ, PA, FL and MN.) Because women are collectively stating that men need not apply. Because I AM woman - hear me roar.

There is a certain need in every life for fantasy. What would Ignatian spirituality be without imagination, for example? How boring would our humanity be without it? I have been reading fantasy of some sort or another since the first time I walked through a wardrobe into a snowy wood, and the day I vanished by trying on a ring.

I understand that women work hard - at home and in the workplace. That women have been fighting the uphill battles of glass ceilings and loads of laundry for decades if not centuries. I know that fantasy provides an escape to a world of wonder that helps us deal with an uncertain, if not cruel at times, world of reality. And I know that fiction is fiction and fact is fact.

But our appetites for fiction feed our factual world. I don't believe that I am ever going to be able to put my feet in the sand and become a rooted tree. But in considering nature in this way, I perhaps respect trees a little more, embrace their gift, their shade. It makes me consider the specialness of the real world, and acknowledge what is fantastic.

When the appetites of women around the US and the world turn to bondage, sadism, masochism and punishment as a means of escape, the world must be dark indeed. This new affront to the dignity of woman and the value of the body and the well-being of the human person, this novel idea that turns sexuality into something secret and useful and a matter of contract is called 50 Shades of Grey.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Motherly Love

By Anna Dunham

This weekend we reached 33 weeks! As we get closer to full-term, thinking about delivery is definitely starting to outweigh thinking about simply being pregnant. And there are a lot of possibilities to consider: I may be able to have our baby without any intervention or surgery. I may need to have a c-section, if the doctor is unable to remove my cerclage. Things may get more complicated if the baby comes especially early. The doctor explained this many months ago, and as a type-A firstborn who likes to know and plan as much as possible, I've appreciated having time to think about the various scenarios. 

One aspect of being pregnant that I've loved is the support I've immediately gotten from the mothers in my life. I feel lucky that this first-hand support has been so positive, especially since as soon as you move from your friend-circle to the internet-circle, support seems to be squashed by competition. I've been struck by the fact that people can in the same breath admit that each baby and situation is unique, and then assert that one method or technique is universally superior. Epidurals, induction, breastfeeding, seems like every aspect of parenting is open to criticism and censure. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Not Washing Dishes: A Tribute to My Mom

By Mary C. Tillotson
Image by Sarah Korf

Once upon a time, when I was a child, my mom made impossible pie for dinner. One of my siblings asked why the quiche-like food was called "impossible pie." (We were too young at the time to have "quiche" in our vocabulary, and that may have been the reason.)

"Because it's impossible to make anything better!" my brother piped up.

"Or because it's impossible to make anything worse," I grumbled.

My poor mother. Despite my picky eating and just plain not eating, I learned a lot of important life lessons from her, many of them regarding food. For example, whenever my dad cooked, she'd say, "Marry a man who's as nice to you as your dad is to me." (I did.) I also learned things like "Don't eat soap" (I don't), and, most importantly, "Don't wash more dishes than you have to."

My mom is a master at this last one, as you'll notice from her comment on my chili recipe a few months ago. She's amazing. This isn't something every woman gets to learn from her mother, so I thought I'd share her secret here and show you exactly how it's done. (She'll probably leave a comment that will eliminate one more dish. Just watch.)

Some general tips: Cutting boards double as plates when you're just having a snack -- especially if it's cheese and crackers or a sliced apple. Meat can be cooked in a saucepan before adding spaghetti sauce. And the only reason not to mix measured ingredients right in the measuring cup is to support the mixing bowl industry.

For the real demonstration, I'll make impossible pie (which I like now -- it's funny what adulthood does to you), after which I'll only have to wash the following:

one cutting board
one knife
one one-cup measuring cup
one four-cup measuring cup
one fork
one 8x8 pan

Here's the recipe:

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Reflection on "My Abortion"

By Erin Karlovich
Guest Contributor

Image by Katie Tegtmeyer
In a recent issue of New York Magazine, the cover story is "My Abortion," and in it 26 women share their experiences. It's incredible that a mainstream news source like this would address the issue so openly. Although it begins with commentary from the author, Meaghan Winter, the majority of this article is dedicated to the words of the women themselves, each of whom wrote a short paragraph describing her abortion.

Their stories are raw, expressing every emotion from regret to relief. Sometimes the voice is impersonal, as if the woman is trying to remove herself from her own memory. Some of the stories are graphic, discussing the reasoning, procedure, and reactions in detail. All of them share the same pain and underlying plea for acceptance.

I'm certain that this piece is sparking many reactions and conversations, but I want to focus on one small detail: the women's reactions to the pro-lifers they saw or spoke to outside of the facility or in their communities. As pro-lifers, our goal is to protect the lives of unborn children, yes, but we must never forget the mother in the process. These women are vulnerable, frightened, and seeking help. Their babies will die gruesome, painful deaths, but these mothers will live the rest of their lives with the memories of their abortions.

While most of the women don't mention encounters with other people, the little said is striking. I have taken excerpts from some of their stories so you may read for yourself (all emphasis is mine):

Although I always thought it was a woman’s right to choose, I honestly thought if I got pregnant I’d find a way to make it work. All that changed. My boyfriend terrorized me.... When I went to the clinic, there were protesters with awful, very graphic signs. I felt their judgment....With the slew of shitty things that have happened to me, I wonder, am I paying the price for what I did? I believe in a God who wouldn’t punish that way. But when you don’t want the gift you’re given, will the universe offer up that gift again? -Lauren, 34, Colorado

Friday, December 6, 2013

Obamacare attacks religion, but hurts women

By Helen Alvare
Women Speak for Themselves

The Supreme Court yesterday agreed to hear two important cases about whether women and men who own businesses are protected by civil rights laws against religious discrimination. The Obama Administration says it can ignore religious freedom laws when regulating businesses and their owners because it believes earning money is inconsistent with exercising religion.

Reacting to the news that the Supreme Court will consider this important issue, the White House struck its typical pose as the one and only protector of, and voice for, "women and families." The president assures us that he is pressing these cases so that "women and families -- not their bosses or corporate CEOs" make decisions about whether to use abortion-inducing drugs and devices.

The White House stance assumes that women care far more about free access to contraceptives, or their sex lives, than about religious freedom, or allowing businesses to have a conscience. This view of women is degrading. It treats women as one-dimensional victims needing the protection of government-as-big-brother.

Moreover, the government misjudges women at every turn. First, the idea that service to "women and families" requires crushing these businesses with fines is absurd because the businesses at issue are actually owned by . . . women and families. While it may have escaped White House notice, the plaintiffs in the two cases include women owners and operators of the relevant businesses. This should not be so surprising: there are more than ten million women-owned businesses in this country. And here in the 21st century, many women are the "bosses and corporate CEOs" the White House criticizes. Crushing businesses with fines-particularly businesses with women owners-hurts women, rather than helping them.

Second, the White House view ignores the fact that women benefit -- indeed, everyone benefits -- from having a job market in which people of all different faiths are able to create jobs. Hobby Lobby, for example, employs more than 13,000 people, and actually provides free contraceptives to its employees-- just not the small handful that can cause abortions. There are thousands of women whose lives are better and whose families are stronger and more secure because of those jobs. Crushing Hobby Lobby just because of its owners religious beliefs would hurt these women, not help them. The last thing our economy needs, and the last thing American families need, is the government shrinking the already too-small pool of available jobs.

Third, women actually tend to practice religion more than men. For this reason too, the government's attack on religious freedom rights hurts women more than men.

The White House insists that its heavy-handed approach is needed to protect women because it thinks contraceptives are "essential to women's health." That is, to say the least, a highly dubious claim. Women get sick and die, for the most part, of things like heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Their long list of ailments rarely calls for free contraceptives to solve a health problem. In fact, as Judge Janice Rogers Brown recently noted, there are credible medical sources (like the World Health Organization) who now classify some hormonal contraceptives as carcinogens. Americans spend millions of dollars a year to buy chicken and meat that have not been pumped full of synthetic hormones-precisely because they fear the associated medical risks.

But even if the government is right about how we all need easy access to contraceptives all the time, there can be no serious argument that the only way to provide us with our pills is to force unwilling employers to pay for them. Contraceptives are widely available and cheap. And for those who cannot afford them, the government already spends millions of dollars per year providing them for free. With the Obamacare exchanges now open, if the federal government thinks more women need or want this insurance coverage, it now runs a marketplace in which they can get it.

Women do not need big brother steamrolling religious liberty to make their lives better. They would prefer to hold onto religious liberty itself.

Helen Alvare is a law professor at George Mason University and the founder of Women Speak for Themselves. This article was originally published at USA Today and is used with permission.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Redeeming "Women's Studies"

By Mary C. Tillotson

A couple weekends ago, my husband and I saw the local college's performance of The Three Musketeers. The actors and set designers and costume-makers and everyone did a fine job, especially considering the limited resources, but I was disappointed with the play itself. The playwright had added a character: D'Artangan's little sister Sabine, who I think was supposed to represent a "women can be strong, too" theme, but was really an enthusiastic but annoying tag-along little sister who mostly got in the way. The three inseparables and D'Artangan are constantly irritated with her, and the play ends with her running off with them to battle some kind of evil, but she doesn't even have a sword. It cheapened the whole job of the musketeers.

At the beginning of the play, D'Artangan sets off for Paris, hoping to become a musketeer, and their father sends Sabine with him -- she's off to Paris to study. As soon as their father is out of sight, she rips off her skirt to reveal pants, then announces her intention to skip school and do something more exciting (I can't remember what) in Paris. Throughout the play she makes comments like "Life isn't very fun for a woman in 17th century France."

It was jarring, and I wanted to protest, but I don't know much about women in 17th century France. In fact, I don't know much about women in most of history. I hear two conflicting narratives: (1) that women were oppressed by men until the 20th century when we finally started breaking free of the patriarchy (from suffrage to birth control), and (2) that the oppression of women is an overblown historical myth, and things weren't near as bad as modern feminist pretend. I have sympathies with both understandings of history.