Sunday, June 29, 2008

She didn't take the weekend off

Instead, she turned the idiotic babysitting post into a whole series, because when everyone disagrees with her it's because we don't understand what she meant. It couldn't be that a blogger who accuses her critics of sexism has retrograde opinions on the value of her own gender, could it?
No shorters, longers.

What's in a skill?:

But isn't childcare skilled labor?

In some trivial sense, all work is skilled. Walking is a skill that takes years to master. So is carrying items from point a to point b. But when the majority of the population has your skills, we do not refer to the employment of them as "skilled labor".
This is going to be painful. It's a good thing I'm such a misogynist I can agree with all the stupid shit Megan is about to assert, otherwise, I might find it offensively dim.
Childcare is hard. I would far rather do almost anything else than care for someone's baby full time (I am told I will probably feel differently about my own, in the event that any arrive). That doesn't make it skilled. Cleaning houses is also incredibly difficult. But assuming that one has had a semi-normal upbringing, one can master the tasks involved in well under a week. After that, the main skill is not jumping off a bridge on the walk home.
Raising a human being and changing someone's dirty sheets are, like, totally equivalent, at least insofar as Megan has no experience with either.
There is a lot of talk about the way that traditionally "women's" professions are devauled [sic], and I think that there is something to that, but those women's professions also have odd characteristics--like flexibility in hours, and the ability to take long periods of time off without suffering much of a wage setback--that make direct comparisons somewhat more difficult than most people quoting those statistics take into account. We can have a long, elegant discussion about whether all professions should offer such perks, but the fact remains that those benefits have economic value, and you have to pay for them by accepting something less elsewhere.
Yep, Megan just decided the "mommy track" is a benefit system, probably because it's something she's never really thought about. Also, where are these magic "mommy" jobs where your hours are so flexible and your options so vast? My Mom had a job like that, but she quit her job at the state and went to work for my Dad to get it. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say most women don't have that option.
I'd say more about how clueless Megan is about the mommy track, but I'm a guy and a grad student, so I can't really say much. I do know that in academia you don't want to get pregnant before you get tenure, which only means most academic women have to wait until they're nearly 40 to consider it a real option. But really, it's stunningly stupid for Megan to call the mommy track a benefit. You'd think with her dedication to her career Megan would at least be sympathetic to the way having a kid lowers the glass ceiling on many a career, but she's probably trying to make a virtue out of deciding not to reproduce. Women who trade career for family, to whatever degree, choose the Mommy track, making it a benefit. I really can't believe she's arguing this.

Let me put this another way: Childcare Q&A:
The basic argument is that we should have highly skilled, quality childcare available for every child under the age of five in America. We should ensure this by paying a high wage and good benefits to those workers.
Let's unpack this a little.
Let's call skilled childcare workers someone with a degree in early childhood education. Those degrees currently pay pretty well, actually--north of $35,000 a year, according to the best estimates I can find on the web.
Now, we could ask whether $35K a year really is being paid well, but let's instead notice that Megan is blatantly cooking the books. When I think "skilled childcare worker" I think of a physically fit grandmother working as a nanny, not a special needs teacher. Or I think of one of those young, beautiful nannies that well off Upper West and East Side families employ to determine whether the husband will remain faithful. These nannies earn major money, but at least part of that has to be considered a modeling fee. The talented grandmas face a crapshoot and are just as likely to make nothing as a huge fee. In any case, here's Megan's point
Say we pop the little beauties into daycare at six months and leave them there until they're five. By my math, we'd need the following:
650,000 people caring for the nation's infants.
1 million people caring for the nation's toddlers
2 million people caring for the nation's 2-4 year olds.
Call it 3.5 million people, conservatively. The pricetag on just their wages would be $140 billion a year. You generally estimate 30-50% on top of salary for payroll taxes, training, and a decent benefits package, so call it $200 billion a year. That's before you do anything like heat the daycare center, buy insurance, pay rent, put someone in charge of handling the administrative work, and so forth.
Now, you might wonder how much is already being spent on child care in the US today, but Megan won't tell you, because she wants you to think we need to come up with $200 billion from scratch. My guess is she's more concerned about corporations having to give up a tiny sliver of their sacred profits to provide adequate day care for their employees than the difficulties of logistics and public funding.
But of course, at the current price, we don't have anything like 3.5 million women* with early childhood degrees scrambling to work in daycare centers. In order to get those women, I presume we will actually have to raise the price of their labor. Why? Well, ask yourself why you want this fabulous childcare. Answer: you do not want to spend your entire day in the company of one or more toddlers. That's your fascinating, adorable toddler. Presumably even less do you want to spend your entire day in the company of someone else's snotty nosed brat, getting sick every month from whatever the children are passing around, changing forty diapers a day, toilet training seven or eight children at a time, and so forth.
Yes, you want childcare so you can get away from your awful, loathsome children, you horrible mothers you, not so that you can go and earn the vast sums needed to provide for said child or continue to have any kind of existence of your own. Megan doesn't like your kid, so fuck you, breeder, don't expect her to chip in.
There is something truly odd to me about highly educated people who simultaneously believe that they have something better to do than employ their degree in singing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" seventy times a day, and also that there should be a large supply of bright, educated people who choose to do just that. There are very special people in the world who genuinely long to spend the rest of their days caring for small children. They are very rare.
No Megan, you just don't have a soul. If taking care of kids paid respectably a lot more people would consider it. Know why? Cause being around kids is awesome. They're full of joy and love and wonder and play, and it can be tiring, but it can make you younger, too. If a childcare worker isn't overburdened their job can be a wonderful thing. But Megan thinks it's only genetics that makes someone enjoy being around children, because she's dead inside.
I'm not talking about caring for your own children--even though I have yet to meet anyone under the age of sixty who has uttered both these sentences to me:
"I really loved my job."
"I decided to stay home with the kids."
Notice the qualifier? Maybe that's because it's become nearly impossible to afford a family on a single income in the last 2-3 decades and staying home with the kids isn't an option anymore? Nah, Megan's incredibly qualified and specific experience here must be telling in the ways she means, which isn't clear to me but seems to prove that women only go on the mommy track because they want reduced expectations and income and prospects.
But nature prepares you for the difficulties of caring for your own child by flooding you with neurochemicals that make you fiercely interested in its life. Very few people experience that same feeling for any random group of very small children.
Hence "women and children first."
Childcare is extremely tedious. Bright, educated people rarely voluntarily seek tedious work. This is why even most people with degrees in early childhood care do not actually provide day-to-day childcare. You will have to spend a phenomenal amount of money on salaries to attract these high-quality workers you believe your children should have--indeed, in most cases, much more than either mother or father makes.
I made you read that to set up this.
I love children, and wouldn't mind having some of my own, circumstances permitting. But the very mothers flooding my comments with angry dissertations on the appalling state of American childcare also dwell quite lovingly on all of the insane tedium of doing nothing but provide it to their own children. There is a pretty deep disconnect here.
Please, Megan's ovaries, give out early. It'd just be cruel to let her bring a child into the world, both to the child and to the people who'd have to deal with such an emotional cripple.

Being a stay at home mom is hard, cont'd:
There are a couple of commenters and emailers who declare that I have no idea what's involved in being a stay at home mom--not merely the childcare, but the cleaning, the laundry, the bills, the scheduling, arranging for repairs, and so forth. These people seem to be under the impression that I have a staff of ten or twelve, or perhaps live in the magical fairy world of single people where my air conditioner has not just broken, and the bill-paying gnomes show up once a month to organize my personal finances and regrout the bathtub. Sadly, I too do laundry, cook meals, pay bills, get the car serviced, repair broken appliances, wax the furniture, wade through accumulated mountains of paper, wash the dog, clean the drool off the walls, and so forth.
Yes, Megan did just compare caring for herself to having a child. She really is that fucking stupid.
Moreover, I come from a pretty large extended family, and have put in my time as both a remunerated and an unpaid childcare worker. I am familiar with the operations involved, and rest assured, I can do all of them except breastfeed (right now, anyway). And just to put everyone's mind at ease, I do know at least enough to put the formula in the bottle and the strained peaches in the dish that your child is about to throw onto the floor.
I went to Vassar, I totally know what women are going through when they're on their periods. I totally know what it's like to be a lesbian. I am aware of all womanly traditions.
I have, believe you me, endless respect for the fantastic amount of labor required to care for a child, and my hat is off to each and every one of you who has voluntarily undertaken this herculean task. But it is not "skilled" labor in the sense of "something comparatively few people know--or can quickly learn--how to do." It is particularly not "skilled" when we are talking about childcare, rather than parenting. Their job is to tend to your child's physical needs and keep him or her occupied. You still have to do the trickiest part of raising a decent human being.
I so want to make a crack about Megan's parents here, but I'm going to pretend I'm better than that. Besides which, personally, I think it takes a great deal of skill to be a good childcare worker. You have to have extraordinary amounts of energy and self-control. You can't get mad, you can't reason with a hyper kid or one throwing a tantrum, and you have to deal with asshole parents with no sense of reality. If managing all that isn't a skill, what is?

More thoughts on childcare:
A reader (gender unknown) says something I've heard a lot of guys say: that I have the good fortune to have a career where I can work from home.
Well, sure. As long as there are no children in it.
Having small children and writing is no more compatible than having small children and being a lawyer. For the first five years, childcare is constant. I might be able to freelance an article here and there provided my husband cared for the children while I wrote. But when a child is in the house, and you are responsible for it, you don't do a damn thing that requires more concentration than running a load of laundry. I always laugh at the men I know who entertain fantasies that their wives will bring in the major salary while they stay home with the kids and write. If you are of this class, take a daytime babysitting job for a day and bring some work along with you. Report back on how far you got. My bet is that you didn't even get a paragraph finished.
Yes, Megan is lecturing men about being inconsiderate of the demands of childcare after all that. Yes, Megan thinks she's a feminist.
Oh, also, Megan? Maybe you shouldn't lecture people about a situation you've never experienced? Just maybe.
Guys do babysit, too. I did plenty, back in the day. And I'd sometimes bring homework with me, which I'd do when the kid was napping, or watching tv, or playing on his own in the corner. No, I didn't have to do the laundry or clean the place, but if you're well enough off to comfortably raise a kid on a single income you likely can afford a maid and/or part time nanny. Also, once the kid is in pre-school you kinda have half the day to yourself, and then the whole day come 1st grade, unless you expect stay at home dads to conform to the archaic gender roles pop culture assigned to moms and spend all day baking cookies and making chicken pot pies. Shit, about half the comments on this post are by guys whose personal experience disproves Megan's assertion, including one guy who wrote five books before his daughter turned five.

It's almost like talking out of her ass does Megan a disservice, in that it makes her constantly wrong. Ah well, at least we can be sure she'll post about this topic a lot more. She's never met a hole she can't make deeper. Expect more unfounded assertions about the impossibility of stuff she's never experienced in the morning.


Anonymous said...

Crap, so much stupid in so little space, but with so many words.

"Walking is a skill that takes years to master."

Uh, no it isn't. And it hardly takes years. Potty training a kid is harder to teach than walking; walking is like breathing. Unless you have a disability, it's a semi-involuntary bodily function that you do without thinking. That's like arguing that it's a skill to sit on a toilet and take a shit because, at one point in your life, you had to learn how to do it.

"So is carrying items from point a to point b."

That might be the stupidest thing she's ever written, though I realize I probably say that every day now. Ever heard of back packs, Megan? Carrying items? What are we talking about here? Six tubas, or a pack of pencils? Even then, it's not a skill, it's just a difficult hassle.

It's funny how she wrestles over and over again, trying to explain herself making the same arguments, wondering why all the mommies are so indignant as to her cluelessness about child rearing. She seems to think babysitting and caring for young family gives her great insight into the subject. I've done the same, but at least I realize that keeping an eye on kids for a few hours gives me absolutely zero understanding of the proper way to see to their moral, physical and intellectual development so that they grow into a functioning, civilized human being. There's a gigantic fucking difference.

By the way, am I the only one who's starting to find her habit of posting four or five follow-ups to criticism that essentially argue the same empty point again and again a little, well -- psychotic?

NutellaonToast said...

She's a libertarian. Everything she does is pathological in one way or another.

Rachel said...

The fact that she says childcare is not skilled labor is the biggest load of crap I've ever heard. I've been a preschool teacher, and I adored that job. Is there a lot of drudgery involved? Yes. That's the case with most jobs I can think of. But there's a lot of skill involved too. Knowing each child and his or her particular circumstances. Monitoring their behavior, both solo and with other kids. Refereeing disagreements, facilitating discussion on tough subjects (why isn't my daddy coming back? How come Daniel yelled at me?), encouraging proper social behavior at a time when each child is *struggling* to understand the basics while asserting their needs and wants, as well as correcting them when they act out--these require a lot of subtlety and understanding about the human condition. And if you're lucky, you get the chance to begin educating them in science, art, history, math, literature, etc.

I think one of the major reasons that childcare is so looked down upon is that it involves human beings who are still struggling to find their identity and voice on a very basic level. The fact that Megan doesn't seem to recognize these kids as individuals with valid struggles is a sad indication of her inability to recognize their humanity, or the humanity of the work involved in their care.