“People are totally freaking out,” says Marilena Greig, a divorced New Canaan stay-at-home mom I interviewed for The Feminine Mistake. “I go to yoga in Greenwich with a lot of these women who spend their days shopping. Now their husbands have lost their jobs, and people are terrified. They’re pulling the plug on everything; they’re telling their kids, ‘That’s it!’ These are people who live in 30,000-square-foot houses, but a lot of them live on the edge; they’re leveraged not only in their accounts, but in their lives. There are a lot of ‘For Sale’ signs on these properties now, but the houses are not moving. And two-thirds of the marriages in Fairfield County end in divorce. There are so many women going to these job counselors, but they’ve been out of the work force for 20 years. What do they do to make money? How do they support their lifestyles?”This got me thinking. For the past five to ten years, during the boom years, we’ve read countless articles about Opt-Out Moms: professional women who went to the best schools, worked in top firms and companies, then left it all when they had kids to stay at home. Clearly that was a choice in the boom years, while their husbands made bank and their 401k’s soared. But now that many of those husbands are experiencing a drop in compensation or job loss, and those 401ks are quickly plummeting, opting out may no longer be a viable choice – especially considering that some of those marriages might have held together sheerly for economic reasons.
With times looking to be lean for the next few years, perhaps we are looking at a new mommy trend: that of Bust-In Moms. Bust-In Moms will be, in essence, Opt-Out Moms who have to get back into the workplace in order to attempt to continue their standard of living. They will either have to rekindle their previous careers as professionals, or try a completely new field if it’s really been 20 years -- or if their old career was in financial services. They won’t be able to be picky; security and stability will be keywords in their job search.
If growing numbers of Opt-Out Moms re-enter the workforce, there will be repercussions on all of the dependent areas. Bust-In Moms will need quality childcare, affordable work outfits, fast and healthy family dinner options, and of course, career guidance. (I also predict sequels of Working Girl and Baby Boom, coming soon to a theater near you!)
The scary part about all this, of course, is that jobs will be hard enough to get and maintain for women who’ve been working all along. All of those flexible schedules we’ve fought so hard for may go flying out of the window in the face of plunging profit lines. For Bust-In Moms, there may be few jobs to bust back into. For instance, Greig, the woman mentioned above, ended up getting a job cold-calling to sell supplemental insurance on commission. But there’s no salary.
Many stay-at-home moms who weren’t professionals or high earners to begin will also have to get back into the workplace, and for them the options will be even fewer.
Bennetts, whose book is all about the mistake stay-at-home moms are making by not earning a living and having a livelihood outside of raising their children, says she takes no satisfaction in being right about her ideas. And indeed, there is no satisfaction seeing the lifestyle options of women and moms dwindle even further. I have a feeling our generation will be forever changed by this recession. I know I’ll definitely be teaching my daughter about the benefits of staying active in the workforce.