Pull up a chair in my domestic church and let's chat!

I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Stay-at-home-moms a drain on society?

Oh the Dutch! This is the society that has been the world’s leading proponent of euthanasia. It is bringing us the Groningen Protocols to legalize killing seriously ill babies and disabled adults. Now it is going after stay-at-home-moms. Dominico Bettinelli’s blog points out a Dutch politician who wants to penalize women with college degrees who want to stay home with their children because they are "destroying capital". Sharon Dijksma, a Dutch member of Parliament, proposes a substantial financial penalty for women choosing not to enter the work force. This is motivated in the Netherlands by the state funded education system. The state does not think it has gotten its money’s worth from these women it educated. However, a more serious underlying premise of this proposal is that women who stay at home to care for their children offer no societal benefit. What greater “capital” is there for a society than its future generations? Does the Dutch Labour Party really believe raising well adjusted children with a firm moral grounding is a worthless endeavor? Do they really think a college-educated mother has nothing of value to offer her children that an uneducated babysitter cannot provide?

Of course America is not free of this thinking. Linda Hirshman, a professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies at Brandeis University reveals a similar perspective at Inside Higher Ed:

Recent analysis of the opt-out revolution reveals that the only group of mothers not continuing to raise their work-force participation despite economic ups and downs is mothers with graduate and professional degrees. Their numbers are flat and have been for several years. Their decisions matter because their careers, if realized, would be influential. Their decisions are a mistake because they lead them to lesser lives, by most measures, and because these decisions hurt society.

You can read her entire essay here but be warned she chooses to use some profanity when discussing comments by her critics.

Okay, I plead guilty. I am a medical doctor and I am choosing to be a stay-at-home mom. We are not independently wealthy. This has meant some lifestyle adjustments. I have not always stayed at home. My first two children were born during my family practice residency. My third child was born when I was in the military. The fourth child came when I had my first civilian job. I gradually began to decrease my work hours over the next few years because I felt the kids needed me more and more. I need to be there to greet the kids when they come home from school. I can tell by the look on their faces how their day went. If I waited a couple of hours to see them, school would be a million miles away and I wouldn’t have a clue. A great deal of learning and bonding goes on during the shuttling of kids from one activity to another. It takes time to teach the intangibles like faith and morals. It has been a blessing to be available to my children when those teachable moments arise. Once they are in high school it is even more important. I want to know who their friends are and where they are spending the after school hours. The sexual activity, drinking, and drug abuse by teens is most likely to occur when they are unsupervised after school.

My husband and I both felt the needs of our children were more important than our careers. However, his career as a military officer had far less flexibility than mine as a family physician. My career was the one that compromised. This wasn’t a sexist decision. This was a family-first decision.

I am not trying to fuel any “Mommy Wars”. Every family has to set priorities and act accordingly. And as with our family, what works for a while may not work forever. Situations change. As parents we have been entrusted with children as a gift from God. Parenting in and of itself is a valuable and worthwhile endeavor. Far from being a drain on society, being a good parent is a treasure for society.


Tara said...

I couldn't agree more! I am a 28 year old registered nurse with a 9 mos. old baby...sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking I am a "drain" on society because I don't bring home a paycheck... however, I know my daughter needs ME and I am happy that I have chosen to stay home! This is not just a "job," but my vocation.

Tony said...

Let's see. Who is a bigger drain on society... Someone who only works for a living, or someone who produces 5 more workers or more. :)

WV: fcaphos! "God bless you!" :)

Anonymous said...

As a family physician I wholeheartedly agree with the issues you identify in your childrens needs for your greater involvement and congratulate on your choice. However, I recall many discussions in med school about women physicians not giving back to the needs of our patients and community because of "dropping out" of practice after fewer years of service or less time overall due to part-time practice.
My question is, should there some assessment as part of the interview process regarding the long term practice plans given the extraordinary "investment" made by society in training physicians (as expensive as med school tuition is, is still does not cover the cost of education). Obviously, this is an issue for men as well, tho far less frequently.
God bless you for your choice, but I believe I have been given gifts to heal and serve and so I work full time in the inner city - and that this is also a vocation, as is my marriage and parenthood.

Catholic Mom said...

If I had been asked my plans when I was applying to medical school, there would have been no thought that I would ever drop out of practice to care for kids. I thought you just made arrangements for day care and pressed on. I also assumed it was much easier to work once the kids started school. I didn't know I was going to marry a career military officer. I started out working full time but after a while it became clear our family needed something different. As I said, every family has to make its own decisions based on its own resources and needs. Those needs change thoughout the lifetime of a family and what works at one time may not work later on. The Air Force paid for 3 years of my medical school and I paid them back with 3 years of service. I have no further debt to society for my medical education. My obligation is to raise my children to the best of my ability. If that means working outside the home I will work outside the home. If that means staying at home with them, I will stay at home. Society benefits if I raise four well adjusted productive citizens. I will do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Marissa said...

Catholic Mom! wow..I have a blog designed and set up just like yours on this blog site as well! How do you link them like this?

Let me know please!

Also, will need to get back with you on the subject of your blog...very relevant to me!!!

Michelle said...

Hi Denise. I just saw your link via SFO Mom. It's a tough thing to leave behind the lucrative pay and all the glory of a professional career!

How can anyone say what their lifetime plans are when they are in their 20s? I didn't really think I'd have a bunch of kids and stay home either. We're told we can "do it all" easily. That's such a lie.

It was "easier" when woman were expected to work as a teacher, secretary or nurse until they got married and had kids. Now I have to teach my daughters a balance: find a career that you enjoy, and that can support you if you don't get married, or if something were to happen to your husband...but be sure that it's a career you don't mind leaving behind if you have children.

Jordan said...

This response to Hirshman from Jennifer Roback Morse may interest you.

Heidi Hess Saxton said...

Hi, Denise. I just "linked" you to our Catholic writer's site, "The Silent Canticle" ( You are wrestling with a lot of the same issues that face many of us as well. Thanks for expressing what many of us have felt so eloquently. (Come and see us sometime!) Blessings-- Heidi Saxton, Editor.

Medical Housewives said...


Wow! I love this article! Just wondering what you and your readers think about my situation, if you ever happen to see my comment (I can see that you wrote this quite a while ago).

I have been accepted into medical school and am currently finishing my preperatory year. I have however realized recently that if I get married, I would very probably want to completely give up my career to care for my children. Because of where I come from, my education is almost free (that is, state-funded) and doctors are also veeeery scarce. I just can't justify doing my MD and then not practicing for 30 years, especially as I am likely to marry young if at all. But I definitely see the benefits of having a college education when it comes to raising children, although obviously I do not need an MD.