Unemployed? Just have a baby!

by d
Mosaic: Babies aren't cheap

Mosaic: Babies aren't cheap

This headline made me stop in my tracks: “Forget the Job Hunt. Have a Baby Instead.” I read on, not sure what to make of the argument within:

Hey, girls! Here’s an idea for what to do if you’re unemployed: Have a baby. Your first reaction is probably that this is a throwback to the 1950s. But it’s not. This is the most up-to-date career advice you’re going to get for dealing with a down-in-the-dumps job market.

Penelope Trunk wants you to know that having a baby is way better than the usual means of escapism (read: grad school), that you can avoid leaving a job to have a baby if you don’t have a job to leave, and that “The biological clock trumps career aspirations.” Her arguments are facile, necessarily brief for this short column. She says grad school isn’t worth it, there’s no wage gap anyway(!), and, really, the clock is ticking so you better get baby-making right now.

There is some logic here, but not much. Most people would take several years off to be with their kids if they could; unemployment is essentially forcing you to be a stay-at-home parent. But most people don’t do this, for one great big, whopping reason that Ms. Trunk completely ignores: Money. It costs a lot of money to have a baby (one commenter says it can range from $5000-$12,000 for birthing alone, never mind prenatal care) and then you have to raise the thing for at least eighteen years.

They have some calculators over at BabyCenter.com, where I chose options for a money-conscious unemployed parent–inexpensive pricing, minimal child care, opt to do manual labor instead of hiring it out. The First Year Calculator comes to well over $4000 (I also opted out of saving for college, it is a recession). The absolute lowest I can get the Life Time Cost is $180,000. That is a LOT of money to be staring down, even if you have a steady, well-paying job that you’ve been ‘guaranteed’ for life. Those guarantees are increasingly meaningless, of course, but they may give you some sense of stability.

Never once does Ms. Trunk bring up that the first year of a child’s life will cost you thousands and thousands of dollars, or that medical care can skyrocket if mother or baby get ill (and, remember, you don’t have health insurance!). She doesn’t pay any lip service to the long-term financial goals parents should have, namely providing college funds and life insurance. Oh, and don’t think about your own retirement, which you are currently not paying into.

She also fails to mention anything about pre-baby living situations. Do you even have a committed partner to do this with? If you do, are you strong enough to survive both a hideous recession, prolonged unemployment, and a baby? Money is a major cause of divorce; throw a kid in there are you’re straining the situation further. Do you have a support network of friends and family? What’s that? You’re thinking of moving back in with your parents to save money? Well, my, friend you’re in luck–child care will always be free!

The article is just plain irresponsible, not to mention callous. Any young person looking to her for advice may just take it, and find themselves in a morass of debt. Having a child is a huge responsibility, not a diversion to take your mind off your other worries.

Of course, I can’t let well enough alone, so I checked out the rest of her blog on BNet, which is called Free Beer. Yes, Free Beer. We should all be taking parenting advice from this woman, remember.

Her postings include:

  • A Salary Gap Between Men and Women? Oh, Please. – In which she uses bad math and essentially argues that if the wage gap has lessened or evened out in one sector of the economy it must be the entire thing is garbage. Oh, and you should

    Admit that feminism is not dead. That’s right. It’s not dead. It’s alive and well with bitchy, outdated ranters who say things like “young women are so ungrateful for what we did for them.” (And where do baby boomers get off complaining about this, anyway? It’s not as if Woodstock was a festival of gratitude to older generations.)”

  • Why Your Career Needs Plastic Surgery — Literally – No, really, she thinks you should have plastic surgery. Because pretty people go further in life, and don’t you want to be successful? It’s just statistics, natch. Oh, and everyone’s doing it, so it’s totally not a big deal.
  • There Are No Bad Bosses — Only Bad Employees – Suck up, suck up, suck up, suck up, suck up some more, and then suck up again. Suck up to your boss and your boss’ boss. Do things that aren’t your job to make your boss happy. Make your boss look good. Your boss’ boss must like something about your bad boss, so you better become like your boss in order to earn the big boss’ affection. One last time, together: SUCK UP!
  • The Terrible Career Advice Women Give Each OtherLet her bad experiences be your guide! Your biological clock IS ticking, and don’t bother reading books about business that are written by men, they’ll be completely useless to you. You’re not a man, are you? But this is the real kicker:

    [Bad Advice] 2) Report sexual harassment, even if it’s just a minor infraction.This was good advice for the 1970s, when people didn’t believe it was happening. But now everyone knows it happens all the time. Please find me one woman who did not experience some sort of inappropriate behavior from a man during her first five years of work. We all know it’s happening. But we also know that there is no longer a salary gap between men and women, and we know that there aremore unemployed men than women. So it’s hard to show that women are actually victimized at work today.

    What there is, instead, is a major acknowledgment among senior management that the company does not want to be embroiled in sexual harassment lawsuits. They are terrible for companies for a range of reasons. So human resources people are trained to protect the company from these lawsuits. Which means as soon as a woman complains of harassment, the company does everything it’s legally obliged to do to protect itself from a lawsuit. Companies are not legally obligated to comfort the woman. HR’s job is to protect the company.

    And, the retribution against women who report harassment is huge. Sure, it’s illegal. But it happens all the time. So there’s widespread consensus that women shouldn’t report harassment. Besides, you can handle it yourself. Men harass women all over the place, not just at work.

    Mmm, sorry, I almost choked on my tongue. WHO IS THIS WOMAN!?

She’s a widely syndicated columnist, has written for major publications, and her personal blog (apparently) has 40,000 subscribers.

I weep, I despair! Ms. Trunk may have readership and respect, but not from me.

7 Comments to “Unemployed? Just have a baby!”

  1. Shje also said that she had no grief over two abortions, although she admits to being very irresponsible about birth control. Then she writes a bloog desparing over the fact that nobody had any sympathy over her having a miscarriage at work, another unplanned pregnancy because of her irresponsible birth control issues. She also said that travel is a waste of time. She has some real wierd ideas to match her Aspergers Syndrome.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

  2. Wow, this is terrible! It’s hard to believe that this woman is even serious. There’s so much to say about this, where does one start? You’ve done a good job of summarizing the general slack-jawed “wtf” reaction most people, men and women alike, would have over this.

    This woman is just a nutjob, if you ask me. I hope that she’s not serious, but even if she isn’t, she’s coming off as serious about it and people might actually take her advice. Who actually asks this woman to speak anywhere??

    And the things Mr. Wilder has outlined about her in his response above is even more atrocious and ridiculous. Those are mild words for the reaction I have, but I can think of no words sufficient at the moment to accurately convey my reaction. This woman does not need to be giving advice to women, or to anyone.

  3. I don’t understand how someone can find an audience for this sort of thing. Who is her intended audience? What is her background, in terms of values she was raised on, education, exposure to and analysis of the variety of social boundaries placed on–and, as evidenced in her column, oft supported by–women?
    If she’s talking about the lack of a gap in pay, she’s right–but ONLY if she is talking EXCLUSIVELY about minimum-wage, no-experience, no-skill, dead-end jobs (like working at a grocery store… *grumble grumble* thank God I’m done with that). If she’s talking about higher-paying, demanding, challenging, extra-work-to-take-home jobs such as corporate, medical, legal, freelance or otherwise professional (which requires a higher education which is, by the by, good for more things than “just” employment opportunities–it’s called self developement and life experiences worth remembering, not to mention networking) *career-oriented* jobs, then she is waaaay off.
    Beyond that, all I’ve got for this columnist right now is resounding “WTF?”

  4. You can’t believe the number of self proclaimed feminist sycophants who fell all over themselves supporting her. The supportive comments were about 5-1 against critical comments.

    I can understand her idiosycrasies becasue of the Asperbergers syndrome, what I can’t understand is all the women who sucked up to her in her distorted thinking. Proves that there are a lot of sheep out there who lack the ability for critical thinking skills and introspection.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

    • John, can you be more specific? I poked around her blog and didn’t see any mention of Asperger’s. From what I’ve seen I can totally believe that she’s careless and self-absorbed, but I’d appreciate seeing the material you’re referring to.

      And I really want to know which feminists are with her! There’s a radical wing that does go to the man-hating extreme (and, as she complains, there are plenty who feel the younger generations aren’t grateful for what they did), but I find it really hard to believe that anyone rational could support the sort of posts I’ve linked to here. Where are the comments you mention? When I was looking, the vast majority were along the same “WTF?” line as the ones here.

      • She talks about Asperger’s in every other post, really. You might not find it on the bnet blog, but it’s on her blog on her domain.

        Myself, I love her, I have her book, and I find her to be a fun read. She’s off the wall, but sometimes there’s good advice in there. I mostly read her for entertainment, though.

  5. She has made numerous comments on line about her Aspegers syndrome.

    The column that I am talking about was published several months ago and stil recieves occasional comments. What is safe to comment on at work or something to that effect. She talked about having miscarriages at work and no one having sympathy and talking about previous multiple abortions due to her careless birth control issues. You will have to go back to her archives to find it.

    John Wilder

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