Monday, May 03, 2010

Sharon Lerner talks about The War on Moms.

Sharon Lerner talks about her new book The War on Moms: On Life in a Family-Unfriendly Nation.

Events: Sharon Lerner's book party is on Tuesday, May 11 at 7 pm at Three Lives Book Store; on Wednesday, May 12 at 8:30 pm, she will sit on a panel discussion at The New School.  Details are here.


Sharon Lerner

Comments [60]

Brenda Cortez from New Jersey

I believe that this is a problem stemming out of lack of education and/or aspirations. What I mean is that if men and women were more educated about the costs of having children, then they would think twice about having kids at a young age. However, at some point a couple will have children and research shows that the first few years of children are paramount to the development of children. Therefore, moms should stay home and have some financial help up to a couple of kids only, because if you can have more than two, you should have money. Then moms should have job security so that they can focus on their kids and still work part time. To all the men who disagree with this, then you should've either not been born or should value more what women have to do to give you life.

May. 20 2010 01:06 PM
Philosopher Mom from The suburbs

Wow, why is there so much hostility here???

To all the men who are saying "parenting is a choice" -- first, let's make sure it truly is a choice, with all the other options freely available.

Second: It sounds a lot like "you're it, I quit" and leaving the women to do all the child-rearing. Where is the shared work &, if necessary, sacrifice? Just because you CAN let someone else *literally* bear all the burden, doesn't mean you SHOULD.

May. 11 2010 01:50 PM

I'd love to stay home too! I live in CA and I think it is time to start rethinking some of our laws related to parents/parenting.

The sad fact is it (as much as you save and prepare) it's very difficult to raise kids. I rely on my parents to help out (alot).

I see way too many teen moms. I believe most woman in their 20s and 30s see how hard it is, are opting not to have kids anytime soon.

I'd love to see more smart working moms having kids to start forcing these issues.
I have great confidence in the next generation of parents will get what is soring lacking currently.

Paid maternity and paternity leave for starters.
Flexible work scehdule.
Longer school days.

Octomom lives less than 10 miles from my house. It's a scary future out there.

May. 04 2010 02:39 PM
unrequited... again :)

Thing is, I pay those taxes too. On my regular job and on my extra job (not the parenting one) - as do all female and male taxpayers, who share very similar proportions of the workforce, incidentally. As taxpayers we all have a right to fairness, and to opinion on how OUR taxes are spent.

I in no way want to be supported by the State, either; I'm just asking for recognition and fairness across the board, a la the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and not for being made out to be a radical for wanting said fairness.

May. 03 2010 03:08 PM
peter from vancouver

let me get this straight: women want to be paid by the state (i.e. taxpayers) for having children instead of having to work like the rest of us? this is simply entitlement. as for the woman calling in complaining about needing two incomes, well you did have four children .. now you expect the state to pay for your decisions?

May. 03 2010 01:15 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

I get what you’re saying, but that’s between you and your partner. I’m already doing my part to benefit society. To me, your posting came off as very disrespectful and ungrateful to all of the people like myself who already pay a great deal of taxes (for WIC/AFDC, education, Medicaid, children’s health, tax deductions, public daycare programs, etc) to support other people’s choices. I don’t have a problem paying the taxes, but do take issue with being slapped in the face after I do.

May. 03 2010 12:29 PM
Unrequited career aspirant

Granted, Voter. But I did go into it expecting that personal responsibility works both ways - a reasonable assumption I thought, and certainly in family law: it takes two to make a child.

Beyond that there are of course personal aspects that are naturally complicated and private. But that said, it is very rarely just one person's fault, one person's responsibility, and this is what I'm contesting. Don't get me wrong, I like hard work, especially for my child; I just don't like to be expected to be the only one doing it, and to be labeled stereotypically when I raise it as being unequal.

May. 03 2010 12:17 PM
Tony from Downtown Brooklyn

Hugh Sansom, choices have consequences. If you drop out of high school it harms your earning potential. If you abuse substances, it's going to be detrimental to your work performance. If you have children, it's going to require resources to care for them.
My point isn't that life is not made up of a number of choices. My point is merely that CHOOSING to have a child isn't the same thing as a natural disaster or catastrophic illness.
The demands required of a parent are very predictable and should be known to anyone considering having children. Dropping out of college or getting a tattoo on your face or refusing to bathe all have predictable consequences as well. I'm not willing to subsidize those choices, nor am I willing to subsidize your choice to be a father.
My initial post was merely an attempt to introduce the often ignored fact that having children is a choice for most people. And the choices we make determine our professional and personal fates.

May. 03 2010 12:08 PM
Ellen from Brooklyn

I am sympathetic to parents...and new's overwhelming and affordable (that is the key word) child care in our country is lacking.

I am single and have had to carry the load for pregnant and post partum coworkers numerous times...working overtime without pay and being expected to work holidays so that people with children can be w/ their families. I have been told that it doesn't matter if I work until midnight b/c I don't have a family.....etc......
I don't mind pitching in at times, but I don't like to be treated as a second class citizen b/c I simply have not had children yet (and may not)....I need time off too for my personal life...and to help w/ my elderly parents and w/ my sister's kids. There has to be equality in leave for workers with and without children. Elderly parents or sick siblings or spouses also require time off.

The whole parental leave issue needs to be readdressed. They need leave and I don't think that they should be in a financially precarious position, but I am not sure who should pay for time off.
I'm also not sure how small businesses are supposed to hire experienced people to fill in during parental leave times (paying both the worker on leave and the replacement) and then dump the newer workers for returning workers who are often distracted when they return to work after having a baby. Larger companies tend to be able to deal w/ this some, but I have seen it hurt the bottom line at several smaller companies in significant ways. Having a new baby IS wonderful but is is also exhausting and overwhelming.

Not sure what the answer is. And I haven't heard a lot of the acknowledgment from the new parents of the burdens (and I don't mean paying for leave) that their distraction (from early pregnancy on) causes the companies they work for. This is a complex issue.

May. 03 2010 12:03 PM

The only time our nation is friendly to families is when they want us to spend our money of the two income families.

May. 03 2010 12:02 PM
sven from Manhattan

Maternity leave in Sweden is great and on top of that everybody has the right to have their kids in kindergarten. But it's expensive and your pay is reduced when on leave and you pay more in tax . So most people drive cars with only 4 cylinders and everybody has to work. The US like all countries has to choose between higher private consumption and maternity leave for everybody and things alike. Where I live in Manhattan a lot of people obviously can afford not to work or their own private child care. Nobody can afford that in Sweden.

May. 03 2010 12:00 PM
Equality is a myth

Re Rod in Manhattan: "We need to give women a year off BEFORE she gets pregnant... so you won't be shocked when parenting realities hit you."

Right, because it's only up to the women to deal with the realities of parenting, obviously!

May. 03 2010 11:56 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Did I miss something or did you just ask why a complete stranger who is doing the parenting you can’t or won’t is paid more than you? Also, why didn’t you get your education, save or marry well and make sure you could support a child before willingly having one?
It’s personal responsibility.

May. 03 2010 11:56 AM

Hmph! Political correctness runs rampant today. I wrote a note saying "who cares?" and the post was deleted.

May. 03 2010 11:55 AM
Tegan from Astoria

As you can see from the comments on this board, this issue is as subject to the culture wars--or more so--than the health care debate. Unfortunately, as long as we have such an individualistic mindset we'll never get anywhere on this issue.

May. 03 2010 11:54 AM
Jean from NYC

Helping mothers as a group means that we, as a society (a group), are deciding to help one of our sub-groups. We would be acting as "socialists," daring to say we should all be responsible to taking care of social problem, not just making individual actions. Not something with which American individualists are comfortable.

May. 03 2010 11:54 AM
Mike from Inwood

anon from USA replies to Susan's "Sorry, but if you have a child, that is your choice... ": "So if _you_ are injured in a car accident and are hospitalized for a week or two for recovery, and need to have physical therapy for a few weeks before returning to work full time, you should forfeit _your_ pay? After all, you chose to get into the car..."

This makes no sense. The choice to have children is more deliberate than the 'choice' to have a car accident. If you don't understand this, look up 'accident' in the dictionary. We have disability insurance for car accidents. Through a strange quirk, preganacy is also a 'disability'. This is to prevent men from claiming the same benefits. Try to look beyond your gender.

May. 03 2010 11:52 AM
JP from NJ

Please ask how many US mothers would trade place with a Chinese mother who is working in a sweat shop who works 14 hour days and gets paid basically nothing just to get day care and time off after pregnancy.

May. 03 2010 11:50 AM
Robin from nj

I'm a homeschooling stay at home mom, and I'd like to see a preference given to heads of households. My husband's income and mine are one and the same.
As for having children being a choice, please try to imagine a world without children, without a next generation.

May. 03 2010 11:50 AM
Unrequited career aspirant from Queens

Change society's attitude. Why am I considered an ungrateful, out-of-touch feminist for merely asking:

- That we somehow recognize unpaid work (the unending legion of chores) and that many women work many more hours daily and are paid less for the privilege.
- Why nannies DO make more than I do.
- Why I am not able to get further education and therefore earn enough to save, because of expectation that I do bulk of childcare, cooking etc, and am also expected to work full time.
- Why I still need to do freelance work to supplement my income.

May. 03 2010 11:50 AM
Alan from Flemington, NJ

Just where is the money supposed to come from to more family leave....the companies? Why should shareowners or taxpayers have to subsidize additional family leave? This is crazy. Where does it all stop. Having children is a CHOICE. If people are not prepared to have children then don't have them. The author says "a failure of government" I think it is a failure of her brain!

May. 03 2010 11:50 AM

Gee, you know, I've never thought of it that way! That's a good arguement. Next time I have sex, I'll hope I don't get hit by a car.

May. 03 2010 11:50 AM
Unrequited career aspirant from Queens

Change society's attitude. Why am I considered an ungrateful, out-of-touch feminist for merely asking:

- That we somehow recognize unpaid work (the unending legion of chores) and that many women work many more hours daily and are paid less for the privilege.
- Why nannies DO make more than I do.
- Why I am not able to get further education and therefore earn enough to save, because of expectation that I do bulk of childcare, cooking etc, and am also expected to work full time.
- Why I still need to do freelance work to supplement my income.

May. 03 2010 11:49 AM
Hoho from TBCA

Not sure what the issue is here:


May. 03 2010 11:48 AM
Rod in Manhattan from Manhattan

We need to give women a year off BEFORE she gets pregnant. She can spend the year PREPARING for the child ... hopefully, in that year she will figure out that:
1. kids are expensive
2. kids take time
3. kids take sacrifice

If you are prepared for kids, you won't be shocked when parenting realities hit you.

May. 03 2010 11:46 AM

I take it Tony from Downtown Brooklyn would also penalize people who live in earthquake zones, or near flood areas, or near the coast, or where there is lots of snow, or too little rain, or who choose to smoke or eat too much or too little or sit in the sun too long or too little. Or choose to work for banks or not or chose to work at the World Trade Center on 9/11 -- all choices.

How much cannot be reduced to a choice? Our genetic sex and skin color? Is that it?

May. 03 2010 11:46 AM

seems odd that we don't see the social benefit of having children. once the boomers retire who's going to be left to keep the lights on

May. 03 2010 11:45 AM
anon from USA

to Susan re: "Sorry, but if you have a child, that is your choice... "
So if _you_ are injured in a car accident and are hospitalized for a week or two for recovery, and need to have physical therapy for a few weeks before returning to work full time, you should forfeit _your_ pay? After all, you chose to get into the car...

May. 03 2010 11:45 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

I agree with limited taxpayer subsidized paid leave and non-taxpayer supported onsite childcare with large employers, but wealth redistribution from people without children to people with children is already rampant in the US… Tax breaks, public daycare, the education system and WIC/AFDC could not be sustained on the taxes paid by people with children alone. Maybe worker optional insurance similar to unemployment insurance would work. If you plan on haveing children, have a little extra taken out every two weeks.

May. 03 2010 11:45 AM
gary g from nyc

given that women do almost all of the child rearing in this country, why is it that men still have such a lack of respect or knowledge about the so called plight of mothers.
so perhaps mothers need to stop being so self loathing and make these changes for themselves thru the child rearing process.....

May. 03 2010 11:44 AM
JT from Long Island

This administration can't do anything about parental leave because they'll be labeled as being against small business.

May. 03 2010 11:44 AM
Mike from Inwood

Employers will discriminate against hiring young women as long as there is profit to be made from it. Do you want to end job discrimination against women of child-bearing age? Make mandatory one-year paid leave-of-absences for ALL employees, not just women who have children. That way, there would be no benefit to the company to not hire and promote women of child-bearing age.

May. 03 2010 11:44 AM
Alison from manhattan

Childcare law - preschools and day care! Very hard for we, the middle class to work a low paying job and send kid to child care!! Also maternity leave - and for those of you who have comments like the first person - shame on you!!!

Am a working mom who would love to be a stay at home mom!!!

Look into France and how they handle childcare and maternity - that's the way to go!

May. 03 2010 11:43 AM
Edward from NJ

New Jersey actually has 12 weeks of paid leave for new mothers. Six weeks are paid under disability and six are paid family leave. I believe fathers are also eligible to take the six weeks of family leave. The pay maxes out at around $500 per week, so it's not necessarily economically viable for everyone. It's my understanding that this system is under threat in Christie's budget. Perhaps the show could do a follow up.

May. 03 2010 11:42 AM

There is also a paternal wall. I have seen faces change before my eyes as I told interviewers that I have children. It happened enough that I stopped making the 'mistake' of mentioning that I have a family. A friend who counsels people on work issues just laughed when I expressed surprise that I might be rejected for work because I am a father.

May. 03 2010 11:42 AM
Tony from Downtown Brooklyn

The argument about the rights of parents(mothers in particular) always ignores the very relevant fact that having children is a CHOICE. If there is an illness the FMLA exists to protect people.
Making the choice to have children is no different than making the choice to sail the caribbean, or meditate on a mountaintop, or work on your golf game. I don't expect my employer or taxpayers to pay for me to make those choices. And I don't think it's reasonable in a free market country to have to pay for other people's choices.

May. 03 2010 11:42 AM
CH from SI

We need to ensure 4 weeks paid vacation for all full-time (32+ hrs per week) salaried/hourly wage earners, 2 weeks minumum paid vacation for part-time. Sick-days and personal days should also be allowed to be carried over from prior years.

May. 03 2010 11:41 AM
susan from Manhattan

Sorry, but if you have a child, that is your choice. I get tired of hearing people complain about how hard it is to be a parent. If you can't take how hard it is financially, schedule-wise, etc... don't have kids til you can handle it!

May. 03 2010 11:40 AM
Gabrielle Langholtz from NYC

Law suggestion: support breastfeeding (and the notion that new moms and babies need each other) by banning free samples of formula (I've been inundated!) and require labelling ON formula that clearly explains the superiority of breastmilk.

May. 03 2010 11:39 AM
JT from Long Island

I would hope that benefits for stay at home moms also apply to stay at home dads.

May. 03 2010 11:39 AM

OMG! This women has the nerve to compare the US to Djibouti? How many women there are doing subsistence work? And can she compare "day care" there and here? RIDICULOUS.

She has really undermined my believing anything she says.

As a woman who has chosen *not* to have children, I am so freakin' tired of hearing this. These woman ALSO want to be able to come right back into their jobs where they were before. The rest of us who kept working are supposed to take a backseat to them.

I'm not saying that there aren't certain issues that could be addressed, but I would be much more likely *not* to write to my respresentatives to complain about these things if I didn't hear so much BS from women like this author.

May. 03 2010 11:39 AM
KZ from New York

Yes, this is a problem, but the bigger problem is that women still don't have equality in the workplace, and our social safety net stinks. I don't have children, but I pay high costs to send other people's kids to school and for their children's health care or whatever the state subsidizes, but there has been no help for me when I've lost my job and health care. I am happy to pay my part to support mothers, but I am sick and tired of my needs being ignored as a single woman. Talk about no safety net.

May. 03 2010 11:39 AM
Daniel from Munich

Germany doesn't give a salary per se to stay at home parents; but it does give Kindergelt, which is money from the state given monthly to people with kids, regardless of employment.

May. 03 2010 11:38 AM

For older women who have outlived their husbands, I would like to see legislation to better protect their well-being.

(Mr. Lehrer just hit the nail on the head as I was writing this.)

May. 03 2010 11:38 AM

As long as lobbyists are in control of politics, corporations will continue to undermine the basic rights and values of mothers, families, and anyone else who will cost them a penny.

May. 03 2010 11:38 AM
John from NYC

My wife is French. I worked in France. I was agog at the differences between USa and France. She had her job held and all the pre-natal care was taken care of, great doctors. We paid nothing for excellent care. We don't have a social contract with our government.
As Sharpton mentioned once, every pol talks about family values but no politician here has the coglioni to value the family. THe right in this country don't know what's in their best interest. What clowns.

May. 03 2010 11:36 AM

I eavesdropped a telephone-speaker conversation in my office last week: two men were talking about hiring young women in general, and one told the other - if you hire THEM too young THEY might get pregnant on you and then you're screwed (honestly, verbatim, his words). Then the other man replied - YEAH I know, that's why I'm only hiring THEM in their 40's. That minimizes that risk.

I being in my early 30's and having zero intention of even having kids - thought of all the missed employment opp's I may have faced without even being aware to it, because the man interviewing me, envisioned me getting pregnant and "screwing" him over.

May. 03 2010 11:36 AM

I'm a mom-to-be and I'd like homebirth to be legal again in NYC!

May. 03 2010 11:36 AM
SuzanneNYC from UWS

The socially conservative forces in this country make it impossible for enlightened policy with respect to families. It's a classic case of the tyranny of the minority. We think we're family friendly as a society because we fetishize childhood but have idiotic policies with respect to actually caring for children. We're stuck in fantasy that families can actually survive on one income. We refuse to see the reality of what families live with every day.

May. 03 2010 11:36 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Universal free afterschool programming till 6pm! (What to do after school is my biggest challenge holding a full-time job.)

May. 03 2010 11:35 AM
rosalie from astoria

I would love a new law for nyc mothers that requires ALL rentals to have a washer and dryer in the apartment. That is about as big as I will let myself dream.

May. 03 2010 11:35 AM
sunphat from border town USA

WTF, every country mentioned is Socialist, go move to one of your "favorite" Socialist countries.
....tuning out now.

May. 03 2010 11:34 AM
oil monkey

It is much better for GDP to have all child-care taken out of the home and privatized. A parent caring for their own child may be beneficial to the household economy (and the long term health of society at large), but it is a minus for the GDP and the money economy, and policy is decided to benefit the money economy and GDP (at all costs).

May. 03 2010 11:34 AM

It isn't that the US hasn't figured out how to provide paid leave. It's that American corporations viciously oppose it, just as they oppose do anything for workers.

Obedient Republicans and many Democrats check first with their corporate bosses before doing anything for the families they claim to take so seriously.

May. 03 2010 11:32 AM
Andy from Brooklyn

"... women who don't have maternity leave in the US, which would be half of everybody ..."

Half of _everybody_? Wouldn't that be 100% of women?

May. 03 2010 11:32 AM

My point was, pregnancy, motherhood, fatherhood and parenthood is a lot easier for those who are prepared for it. So the advice was be prepared.

If you need a step by step on how to raise a child by a random poster on the Brian Lehrer show forum, you probably aren't prepared for children yet.

No sense for subtleties.. read between the lines, or not.

May. 03 2010 11:02 AM
a g from hudson county

sorry,my comment on the bomb scare is in wrong section. as for Mcm-it should all work out? what does that mean? could you be more vague? life is a little more complicated than a simplistic painting by the numbers mentality can afford.

May. 03 2010 10:46 AM

raising kids isn't that hard.. they practically raise themselves, between the tv, internet and McDonalds, they get everything they need to become productive adults.

A parent's role is mainly not to mess them up too badly

On a more serious note, yes, things are unequal for women. Pregnancy is not a benign condition. Plan for parenthood accordingly, make your choices and it should all work out.

May. 03 2010 10:31 AM
a g from hudson county

if we had social suppt for those raising children [gov't economic, and social spiritual] we'd have a lot less of people going after each others money after a split up ,married or not. a lot of the pain is due to fear of destitution on the part of women. certainly often a legitimate fear. but we really don't talk about this becaue it is very thorny. if people had greater license to simply fall out of love, while still caring for their kids,we'd have a more sane society fro everyone. the system is set up to make one person good and the other evil. the WWF ethos in really not a heck of a lot better. BTW- let us stop lumping all men in the same category. not everyone leaves because they are shirking responsiblity[man and woman alike]

May. 03 2010 10:05 AM
Ed from Larchmont

I agree, this is a very family unfriendly nation, but it didn't use to be. That's why, I think, so many people don't get married.

May. 03 2010 08:07 AM

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