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Last week a feminist writer waded into the mommy wars; well not so much waded in but threw a bomb into them:
And now I am really going to get myself yelled at, but I also think the issue of example-setting for a kid is a totally fair one. What example are you setting when dad works for pay and mom does the care work at home? Lots of reasons not to want to set that example for a child.
— Jill Filipovic (@JillFilipovic) March 10, 2021
To Twitter’s credit, most people didn’t take the bait; it’s not worth explaining to someone completely unfamiliar with motherhood why a mother might want to stay home and raise her children herself. But here I am, trying to explain that decision.
Last night I was on a Clubhouse call (for those unfamiliar, it’s a new social networking app that allows you to create global conference calls that you can listen in on and/or participate in) about sex, that devolved pretty quickly into a conversation about motherhood. One software developer said something extremely risque: She went into the job looking for the flexibility necessary to one day have a “lot of kids” (the number we’re slated to have come summertime) and stay home with them. She mentioned something I had never heard of before: Jeff Bezos’ “Regret Minimization Framework” which just amounts to “I don’t want to regret anything when I die.” It’s explained here,
A mental model is a way to think about the world. It is how we respond and make decisions on the things we encounter in daily life. No single model is right for every person, so it’s important to understand what works for you. You need to understand how you perceive the world and what you hold important. Furthermore, different models work for different situations.
For Bezos, the model he used for this decision became the Regret Minimization Framework. While simple, it’s what got him to take action on the idea he had been incubating for some time. It was what turned a difficult decision into an easy one.
It all starts with a question: In X years, will I regret not doing this?
This is basically how I live my life already, although it differs in one very distinct way from what Jill Filipovic and Jeff Bezos prioritize: I don’t want to regret any decision I make, and I place more importance on not regretting personal decisions than professional or business ones. I can pinpoint this prioritization to one place and one time: The evening of December 28, 2002, the night my mother died with me, her only child, alone by her side. Her estranged parents were standing off in a corner, uncomfortable fully engaging in the scene, a few friends similarly hung back from this extremely personal and raw moment. It was just me and my mother. When I consider my regret minimization framework, it centers around my deathbed looking different. When I was helping write my mother’s obituary, I couldn’t remember all the places she had worked, but the fact that I was alone in the funeral director’s office putting her funeral in place was crystal clear. When I decided to stay home with my kids when my oldest was born over seven years ago, I did so because I knew I would rather spend my short time on Earth with her than anyone else, doing anything else.
In response to Jill’s tweet, I saw a similar feeling expressed by a widow whose deceased wife had stayed home with her children. Excuse the profanity, but it perfectly encapsulated how I felt about Jill’s original tweet:
My late wife was a stay at home mom. She lived for and ultimately died loving our children. It was her full time job. I can write so much more on this subject, but suffice it to say that belittling her decision to prioritize our children over "work" fucking pisses me off. https://t.co/zThDNDNYZM
— Matthew Kolken (@mkolken) March 11, 2021
It’s honestly a sad way to look at the world, just within the framework of a cost-benefit analysis when it comes to one’s bottom line. Our bottom line is… low, it’s low, but our happiness quotient is very high.Published in