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  • Deborah

Opt-in or Opt-out: No one gets a hall pass

This morning, my husband emailed me the link for today’s NY Times article “The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In” and I, in turn, am including it here. It’s a follow-up article to the “Opt-Out Generation” essay published in the NY Times Magazine in 2003.

Any man or woman who either 1.) has kids or 2.) is thinking of having kids NEEDS to read this article.


Because it provides one of the few open, honest discussions about the challenges of raising a family.

Whether a woman opts-in or opts-out of her career (in order to focus her full attention on child-rearing), there are sacrifices, consequences and hardships all-around in the house. Neither wife nor husband gets out unscathed.

How do I know this?

My husband and I are for whom this story was written. In 2001, I opted out of my ambitious career to raise our children full-time. I thrived setting my children on the “right path in life” while experiencing first-hand the memories of my children’s infancy and early development years. I also struggled with my identity and self-worth and probably sustained a low-level dose of depression over those years. Oh yeah. I had it all — the good & the bad of opting out. And then, two years ago, I opted back in to my career. I was embarrassed by my outdated resume, intimated by the new technologies, excited about the intellectual challenges and empowered by the daily challenges of starting my own business. I’ve gained 10 pounds, I vacillate between guilt and resentment on a daily basis and I never socialize with my friends. Again, I have it all — the good & the bad of opting in.

Why do I love this new NY Times article?

Because it speaks the truth. There is NO easy answer for any couple raising children.

My husband and I spend far too much time talking about how much work we have and how little time we relax. We’ve had those conversations about who does more work, who’s more tired and whose responsibility it is to call the cable company and request a new remote control. We’ve had the traditional 1950s household and we now have the chaotic household of two working parents. Which is better? For us, I think it’s the “now” version. Is it more work for my husband? Absolutely, yes. Will we make it? I hope so. He’s my best friend, my closest confidante and my most qualified mentor. But that means I have to understand his side of the equation, too. My opt-out and opt-in has as much of an impact — both good & bad — on him as on me. Time will tell if it was the right move for him.

In the meantime…

My husband, not prone to typical romantic gestures, included a virtual love note in this morning’s email. Here’s an excerpt:

I know the past six months have been hard w/r/t Totefish, but you are doing an awesome job… I never considered how it might make someone feel who left but wanted to get back in the game. This article made me think how tough it may have been for you.

Raising kids is hard and how a couple structures their home environment is a very personal decision. But we can agree that both husbands and wives need to communicate.

Understanding and empathy go a very long way.

Virtual love notes go even farther.


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