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The Big Answer


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The Two-Paycheck Marriage

a book by Caroline Bird

(our site's book review)

This is a 1979 report full of enlightening statistics on how the working woman phenomenon has changed American life. It’s overly idealistic and liberal, but still has some important conclusions to make that surprised many people—and empowered many women—when it came out. Some conclusions:

Working women have it better than stay-at-home women; they live better, feel better, live longer. Women are more likely to go to work as a result of having kids than they are to quit work and stay home as a result of kids, and that’s because it costs so much to raise a family. Homemaker women tend to be less mature, more dependent, and less good at coping than working women. Mental health seemed to improve when women went to work. And working women had many less mental problems than homemakers. A surprise to most is the fact that intelligence increased in women who worked for four years, while women who stayed at home actually regressed and lost intelligence. They became less curious, less open-minded, less interested in new experiences, less able to cope with new experiences and less autonomous. College-educated working women had better marriages than wives who didn’t work.

College-educated working women had better marriages than wives who didn’t work
College-educated working women had better marriages than wives who didn’t work


Homemaker women tend to be less mature, more dependent, and less good at coping than working women
Homemaker women tend to be less mature, more dependent, and less good at coping than working women

The best predictor of happiness that turned up in research turned out to be the number of significant contacts with people. (This is another PSB-use indicator that also supports MCs, since normal working people haven't time for many significant contacts, but MC people can handle this since the PSBs and superior childcare scheduling strategies make it easy.. See Why Register for an MC?.)

PSB
PSB


Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match

Overall conclusions from the author: “Housewives may have more problems because they are relatively isolated from adult contact. . . . The women with the best of all possible worlds are those who are married and employed outside the home. They are happier than single women and have fewer psychological problems than housewives. Working women often feel they are better mothers because working makes them happier. Research bears this out. And few children of working mothers complained about the theoretically-based “maternal deprivation” that (male) child-development “specialists” in the 50s were talking about. Instead, they complained about the feelings they detected in their mothers: working mothers who were over-stressed caused daughters to become nonworking housewives later in life, while nonworking mothers who were submissive and weak cause their daughters to become career women to avoid a similar fate.

Nonworking mothers who were submissive and weak cause their daughters to become career women to avoid a similar fate
Nonworking mothers who were submissive and weak cause their daughters to become career women to avoid a similar fate

Studies showed that children are less affected by whether their mothers work or not than they are by how their mothers feel about what they’re doing. A happy housewife or career women will have happier kids than an unhappy housewife or working woman.

The book gets especially insightful in the area of flat-gradient nurturance. It gets the reader to ask herself the most important questions, if she’s considering having kids, such as: “Do you just want to relate to and nurture kids? Must they be ‘your’ kids? Would relationships with other’s kids, such as teachers or daycare workers, fill the bill? Or how about just relating to nieces and nephews?” In other words, if you desire to be with children, don’t do anything about it until you define specifically the type of relationship you want. Another way of saying it is: the world needs nurturers and teachers more than it needs more kids.

Because childless couples were actually shown to be happier than those with kids, in studies, it is easy to predict that if the lifestyle around the child-raising environment was improved until it was really satisfying (like with MCs), then the statistics would soon reverse themselves. “When children are few and urgently wanted, they will get more of what child specialists want for them. More direct care from their parents during the early, preschool years, and more tax-support services from a government concerned about the falling birth rate.” Fewer kids will be born for the wrong reasons: loneliness, proof of manhood/womanhood, conformity, pressure from others, boredom, or “duty.”

We need fewer kids born for the wrong reasons: loneliness, proof of manhood/womanhood, conformity, pressure from others, boredom, or 'duty'
We need fewer kids born for the wrong reasons: loneliness, proof of manhood/womanhood, conformity, pressure from others, boredom, or 'duty'

What they really want is flexible scheduling that allows them to spend as much of their time as they want with their kids when the kids are young. After predicting this, the author predicts that, in the future, people who procreate “ . . . will have enthusiastic help from the large amount of childless adults who like to have some contact with children. . . . Families will get along better with each other because they will depend on each other primarily as friends. There will be less chance to quarrel over money, possessions, or each other because neither parents nor children nor husbands nor wives will be each other’s only source of emotional support. Families will spend less time with each other, but the quality of time will be higher, and deliberately scheduled, as friend’s meetings so often are.” (Think PSB.)

Unfortunately, the author resorts to liberal welfare state solutions to many child-related issues as if there was great evidence available that the government is the best source of solutions to our many social problems, and that social engineering doesn’t usually backfire. Oh well, nobody gets everything right.

Quit looking to social engineering superheroes and rely instead on local community efforts
Quit looking to social engineering superheroes and rely instead on local community efforts