Here's a very interesting article by E.J. Graff in the Columbia Journalism Review entitled "The Opt-Out Myth." It is partly a response to Lisa Belkin's article "The Opt Out Revolution" that came out in the New York Times magazine in 2003 and other similar articles that have been coming out on the topic (the Times, for instance, appears to feel compelled to publish such pieces every six months or so).
"The Opt-Out Myth" highlights the problems with framing this topic in this way, and pushes back on some conventional wisdom that usually attends these discussions:
"The moms-go-home story keeps coming back, in part, because it’s based on some kernels of truth. Women do feel forced to choose between work and family. Women do face a sharp conflict between cultural expectations and economic realities. The workplace is still demonstrably more hostile to mothers than to fathers. Faced with the “choice” of feeling that they’ve failed to be either good mothers or good workers, many women wish they could—or worry that they should—abandon the struggle and stay home with the kids.
The problem is that the moms-go-home storyline presents all those issues as personal rather than public—and does so in misleading ways. The stories’ statistics are selective, their anecdotes about upper-echelon white women are misleading, and their “counterintuitive” narrative line parrots conventional ideas about gender roles. Thus they erase most American families’ real experiences and the resulting social policy needs from view."
It also gets at the idea that these women really have a "choice":
"Williams establishes that “choice” is emphasized in eighty-eight of the 119 articles she surveyed. But keep reading. Soon you find that staying home wasn’t these women’s first choice, or even their second. Rather, every other door slammed. For instance, Belkin’s prime example of someone who “chose” to stay home, Katherine Brokaw, was a high-flying lawyer until she had a child. Soon after her maternity leave, she exhausted herself working around the clock to prepare for a trial—a trial that, at the last minute, was canceled so the judge could go fishing. After her firm refused even to consider giving her “part-time” hours—forty hours now being considered part-time for high-end lawyers—she “chose” to quit."
At any rate, it's definitely worth checking out. See also our other posts on this topic here, here, and here.
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