I burned my thumb cooking tonight, so can’t type very much.  Instead, here are links to two surveys that I’ve taken recently.

  • One is the WorkLife Wizard which collects information about people’s jobs, industries, and the types of organizations they work for, and then asks a set of questions about working conditions.  There were some interesting questions about perceptions of male and female coworkers, which I’m curious as to how they’re going to be used. It’s sponsored by the Labor and Worklife program at Harvard Law School, and my understanding is that a consortium of groups is doing similar surveys in several countries.  If you fill out the survey, you can get your work-life question answered by their advisor.
  • The other, via Raising WEG, is the Moms as People survey being conducted by Suniya Luthar, a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University.  Luthar’s work is not only the basis for Judith Warner’s recent blog post on the dissatisfaction of highly educated and affluent moms, but also for the article a bit back on the drinking playdate. And yes, she asks an awful lot of questions about the various ways that one can self medicate.  As usual with these things, my experience doesn’t fit nicely into the categories available (she asks about in-person and phone contact with friends, but not about on-line connection), but it made me think.

12 Responses to “Surveys”

  1. Phantom Scribbler Says:

    I left a comment after taking the survey about considering online community as well as in-person and phone contacts.

  2. trishka Says:

    i enjoyed filling out the surveys. for the “momsaspeople” one, i substituted email for talking on the phone with friends, in terms of quantity of contact, without any qualms.

  3. amy Says:

    I filled out about 2/3 of the survey and quit in annoyance. That’s not “moms as people,” that’s “moms as mental healthcare consumers/victims,” and the implication is that motherhood and being a wigged-out nutcase go hand in hand. Which, if you’re going to live the assigned life for many mothers, seems to me perfectly reasonable, but then the thing is to change the conditions & expectations, or teach mothers to tell social expectation to go to hell. Not figure out what MH services to deliver.
    I’m back to delightfully overpaid work and school since July, divorce on the way to final, and A has fulltime daycare & a network of other people helping to raise her. I am, most of the time, an honorary man again, and hot damn, I love it. I roll out of bed in the morning, let the nanny in, go back to sleep for an hour and/or make coffee, and trundle off downstairs to read and write. Most nights I’m up till 2 or 3 doing the same, just as I did pre-kid. I travel on my own again and go out like a grownup. Not interested in another husband, thanks, but I’ll take some romance on the side. (That’s not a solicitation.) Now I’m sure there are legions of people who’d have a wonderful time being indignant that I’m jetting around talking to other eggheads for no money instead of driving up to Target to buy A. more panties, but happily, I don’t care enough to bother doing anything about it. Which leaves me scrolling through the mother-as-victim survey pages, thinking about how I certainly did feel many of these things when my main job was incomeless caregiver to baby and sick man, and how the very best remedy for that was to say, “I’m done.”

  4. Christine Says:

    I am glad that I am not the only person who was disturbed by all the mental health questions on the moms as people survey. I am glad that things are great for you, Amy, but the reality is that it is not for many women. Why are women still dealing with alot of the issues mentioned in the survey? For me financial independence is key – if I could support my child and myself as well as my husband does I would be happier and could say ce la vie to married life. These questionaires are useless unless they can specifically target the problem and offer a solution. Over the past 2-3 decades women have been built up to believe that they can have it all and be happy with choices like staying at home or working. Realistically this society is not set up for that belief system unless one is wealthy.

  5. amy Says:

    Christine, I’m not wealthy. My own income will come out to around $30K (part time), and not-terrifically-exciting child support and gifts will probably bump it up to around $45K. I believe that puts us below median income. But I do know how to live well with low overhead, and am prepared if necessary to give A. a middle-class life, full college ride included, on around $20K/yr. I suspect the keys are planning, self-preservation, and a sense of entitlement to one’s own life. If you drift into starry-eyed marriage, have three kids and no financial chops, decide not to bother with the self-preservation end, and take people’s word for it that there’s nothing more important for you to be doing than raising those children as hard as you can, then yes, I bet you’re going to be checking all those “I’m falling apart” buttons.
    I’m suddenly reminded that most of my education was with men. My university had only started admitting women 12 years before I enrolled, and it was still mostly men when I started. It was also quite a conservative school — the oldfashioned money kind — and I was there during Reagan years. The world was starkly competitive, if nicely upholstered. Wishfulness and soothing were not great features. I’m glad of the training now. As much trouble as I manage to get myself into, I think it’s saved me plenty more.
    Incidentally, why do you qualify “if I could support myself and my daughter” with “as well as my husband does”?

  6. Susan Says:

    I too took the moms survey, and enjoyed it. I don’t think it is entirely about mental health / self-medication. Sure, there are questions on these issues, but there are also a bunch of questions on satisfaction with different relationships (children, spouse, friends, colleagues), on spirituality, on feeling that what you are doing with your life is ultimately meaningful.
    If it is false, as Amy said, that “motherhood and being a wigged-out nutcase go hand in hand” — I think it is important that those of us mothers who *are* doing well speak up too!! Otherwise, we are tacitly contributing to perpetuating the vision of mothers as miseries.

  7. trishka Says:

    what susan said. i was happy to fill out the form & report that i am quite satisfied with my life at the present moment.
    also, that i am in a situation where i am able to work part-time, with flexible hours, at a job i find enjoyable and fullfilling.
    i want this to be a data point that gets recorded somewhere. it’s not just that i’m satisfied but the associated information about my life (& amy’s & susan’s) about what the conditions are that result in a woman with kids who is happy with her life.

  8. amy Says:

    Well, here’s Luthar’s area of interest, from her TC pages:
    “Conducted within the framework of developmental psychopathology, Dr. Luthar’s research involves vulnerability and resilience among at-risk populations. Studies currently in progress focus on adjustment disturbances that can be prominent among children in wealthy families; adjustment processes among inner-city teenagers as compared to their more affluent counterparts; psychopathology and competence among substance abusers’ offspring; parenting concerns among drug-dependent women; and group psychotherapy interventions for at-risk mothers.”
    One would assume the current survey’s supposed to be relevant to her research interests. Which is why it’s not asking, “So, what do you do? We want to know; we want a more accurate picture of what women who happen to have children do with their lives, what they think about, how they see themselves in the world and how they view the likely arc of their lives.” Instead, it seems to take for granted that mothers are an at-risk population.
    I will qualify the following by saying that I haven’t read the last third of the survey, which may take care of the complaint. But given what I have seen, I think it’s very interesting that resilience in this model appears to be associated with therapeutic connections to others, rather than the meaning of one’s own work and career through life, child-related or not. I notice, for instance, that the “how many people could you call on” questions have all to do with emotional support and worries about children. None of it’s to do, say, with “How’s your network of colleagues? Are they fun? Got lively conversation that makes you feel like you’re doing substantial and interesting work with a good group of people? Are you satisfied with its quality? Oh, and how’s the sex been? Been to a good show lately? When’s the last time you went to speak to your local government? Anyone you were excited enough about in the last election that you worked on the campaign? Would your SO follow you if you got a better job? How’s that retirement account coming?” Etc.
    I have no problem speaking up about satisfaction with my life, but I’m not going to legitimize the view she appears to be taking by continuing to fill out the survey.

  9. Christine Says:

    Amy, “if I could support myself and my daughter” with “as well as my husband does”? is related to our lifestyle. We started off middle class and progressed to an upper class lifestyle. For many different reasons I am not sure how I would handle not sustaining this lifestyle since my earning potential could not match my spouse’s. I grew up in a limited income household and we did just fine, but selfishly I enjoy not worrying about finances. My main point with that statement (I may have mentioned it before on this blog) is that if women were earning the same dollar as men and had the option to have total control over their household, would they even bother getting married? The problem I had with that survey is that the focus is on the emotionality of women. I will bluntly say that motherhood in general is a harsh reality amidst the over-romanticized marketing campaign for everthing baby. Answering negatively on that survey just made me feel awful and did not seem to offer many solutions.

  10. amy Says:

    That’s a good question about whether women would bother getting married…my guess is yes, given the number of high-income women who do. For me, though, once is plenty. The only reasons we did it in the first place were 1) good health insurance option; 2) seemed like it’d be easier legally if we were going to have kids. The second turned out to be a piece of naivete.
    Personally, I don’t see the advantage, unless it’s a religious thing for you. Even if you’re poor and the guy’s rich. I almost married a multimillionaire in my exciting youth, but pulled back because I just had a feeling it was a job I didn’t want, and that with that kind of money involved, it was sure as hell going to be a job. I don’t plan on getting married again. Apart from not being keen on the stepparent picture, I just got done with a frightening premarital-asset/custody negotiation, and I don’t fancy going through that one again. And for another, I don’t want to be attached to another guy’s liabilities again. It seems to me that I can enjoy a man’s company just fine without marrying him.

  11. Jennifer Says:

    She’s now asking about on-line connection with friends (although it doesn’t include blogging!) so your feedback has been taken into account.
    As the breadwinner in a reverse traditional family, it did feel to me as if it assumed that mothers are always the main caregiver (in emotional support of the household) which is not true in our household.

  12. whymommy Says:

    I thought this survey was very interesting, although it does have flaws (i.e. homeschooling is not even an option in Question 1, leaving a bunch of really involved moms unidentified as a group). The big problem I had with it (and I told her so) is that so many of the keys for depression/isolation could also apply to moms with medical restrictions (for instance) and there was no place to indicate that. There was definitely an overemphasis on mental health and self-medicating, but I’ll be interested to see the results. Thanks for the heads-up, Elizabeth!

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