How Dutch women got to be the happiest in the world

Few Dutch women work full-time—does this mean they’re powerless, or simply smarter than the rest of us?

The feminism happiness axis

Photo by: Thomas Schlijper

Like many Dutch women, Marie-Louise van Haeren views herself as liberated. “Every woman in Holland can do whatever she wants with her life,” says Van Haeren, 52, who lives just outside of Rotterdam and rides her bicycle or the train to work three days a week at a police academy, where she counsels students. She has worked part-time her entire career, as have almost all of her friends—married or unmarried, kids or no kids—save one or two who logged more hours out of financial necessity. Van Haeren, who wasn’t married until last year and has no children, says she’s worked part-time “to have time to do things that matter to me, live the way I want. To stay mentally and physically healthy and happy.”

Many women in the Netherlands seem to share similar views, valuing independence over success in the workplace. In 2001, nearly 60 per cent of working Dutch women were employed part-time, compared to just 20 per cent of Canadian women. Today, the number is even higher, hovering around 75 per cent. Some, like Van Haeren, view this as progress, evidence of personal freedom and a commitment to a balanced lifestyle.

Others, however, view it as an alarming signal that women are no longer seeking equality in the workplace. Writer and economist Heleen Mees, for example, argues that the stereotypical Dutch woman has become complacent. “Even at the University of Amsterdam—the most progressive university we have—I had a 22-year-old student say, ‘Why is it your business if my wife wants to bake cookies?’ and the female students agreed with him! I was like, what’s happening here?”

Mees runs an organization called Women on Top that strives to push more Dutch women into ambitious career paths. Its slogan is “Out with the part-time feminism!” and it points to part-time work as a major factor in a lingering pay gap. Then there’s the matter of principle. “I think highly educated women have a moral obligation to take top positions, to set an example by their choices,” says Mees. “When women just stay at home or work part-time, they don’t reach the top, and they set bad examples for their daughters and daughters’ daughters.”

But Dutch women appear deaf to the siren call of the workplace. Asked whether they’d like to increase their hours, just four per cent said yes, compared to 25 per cent of French women. And while across the Channel, British media are heralding the resurgence of feminism—last weekend, some 500 women crowded into a feminist training camp, UK Feminista, to be trained in direct action and activism—in Holland, women like Van Haeren baldly proclaim no further need for the movement. “Feminism wasn’t necessary anymore by the time I grew up,” she says. “In my eyes, it was a thing of the past.”

The relationship between personal lifestyle choices and the socio-economic standing of women has been under the microscope in Holland ever since the publication of Dutch Women Don’t Get Depressed in 2008. Ellen de Bruin, who patterned her book after Mireille Guiliano’s bestseller French Women Don’t Get Fat, began by defining the stereotypical Dutch woman: naturally beautiful with a no-fuss sense of style, she rides her bike to fetch the groceries, has ample time with her kids and husband, takes art classes in the middle of the week, and spends leisurely afternoons drinking coffee with her friends. She loves to work part-time and does not earn as much as her husband, but she’s fine with that—he takes care of the bills. The book went on to note that Dutch women rank consistently low, compared to those in other Western countries, in terms of representation in top positions in business and government—and rank consistently near the top in terms of happiness and well-being. In fact, just about everyone in Holland seems pleased with the status quo; in 2009, the Netherlands ranked highest of all OECD countries in terms of overall well-being.

Understandably, the notion that there’s a correlation between women’s relative powerlessness and their happiness rubs people like Heleen Mees the wrong way. Yet others frame the correlation differently, arguing that Dutch women have smashed the vicious circle of guilt that traps other Western women, to embrace a progressive form of work-life balance.

Sarah Sands, of the U.K.’s Independent, writes, “Perhaps [Dutch women] are happy because they don’t feel guilty for falling short of perfection. We are torn to shreds between the American and the Mediterranean models of womanhood. On one hand, we are boardroom feminists expecting equality of expectation and outcome. On the other, we are matriarchs, wanting to run model kitchens and walk through meadows with bands of children.”

Or to put it another way: yes, the personal is political—but it’s also pretty personal, too, and happiness has to count for something. As Germaine Greer opined in a recent interview on CBC Radio’s Q, “I think you have to understand that the corporate world is not the only world, and if women are going to enjoy their working lives, they have to arrive at a different paradigm. Life in the corporation is not all that much fun.”

Van Haeren echoes these sentiments. “Dutch women do not aspire to top positions because they do not want to encourage the values of the business models of today’s world. It is a silent resistance movement,” she says. “Maybe this will turn out to be the fourth wave of feminism. Women protect the possibility that one day we’ll wake up to realize that life is not all about acquiring more material wealth, power, status. Many Dutch women that I know want to stay sane, happy, relaxed.”

Eline Duterloo, 48, agrees. “I think women just simply do not look for 100 per cent fulfillment in their work. Women see themselves in a lot of different roles that they find more important to them: being a good friend, a good daughter, a good mother, a good sister, a good wife. That is why they are not 100 per cent competitive, and so do not reach the top, because in their hearts they do not really care about it enough.” Duterloo has a husband (who works full-time) and three daughters, aged 21, 19, and 16; she recently started working full-time as legal counsel to a major American corporation after years of part-time work.

Author Ellen de Bruin is puzzled that “everybody seems to have an opinion about how Dutch women are leading their lives, and some say it’s enlightened and others say it’s old-fashioned. What I find funny is the point of view that somehow we have found the solution for this work-life imbalance. What’s important is that women in the Netherlands are free to choose whatever they want to do.”

Social structures, however, undoubtedly play a role in what choices are available. Generous social programs make it possible for a two-parent family to get by quite nicely on a single full-time income. And yet, a strain of social conservatism persists in Holland: daycare is expensive, and shops close at 6 p.m. on weekdays and are closed entirely on Sundays—less than conducive to the daily juggling of full-time work and raising a family.

Women aren’t alone in choosing to opt out of the full-time rat race. More men are working part-time than ever before, and society is beginning to reward fathers for pushing back against the system to make time for their families. Last year, Lof, a magazine for working mothers, awarded a “Working Dad Prize” to a man who fought his employer in court and won the right to work part-time. And this year, businessman Rutger Groot Wassink was acknowledged by the government with a “Modern Man Prize” for his work in co-founding a campaign that promotes “Papadag” (Daddy day)—a day off for working fathers to be with their kids.

It’s hard to argue that people who choose the lives they want, and opt for happiness rather than titles, are not empowered. (I grew up in the Netherlands with a Dutch mother and a Canadian father and came of age watching my female relatives—who hail from educated, middle-class families—repeatedly prioritize free time over career progress and money.) Nevertheless, Mees argues that striving for happiness is slowing down progress in the women’s movement. “Happiness is overrated. It’s defined as the absence of problems. But it’s good to have challenges in your life. I believe in another kind of strength that women should have.”

De Bruin disagrees. “I think that’s such a strange argument. I hear it all the time. At some point, happiness is everybody’s ultimate goal. Everybody is seeking a way to live their own life in the most satisfying manner.”

In 1986, Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique, came under fire when she told the New York Times, “What we need are real choices. And I don’t want to hear women saying one choice is more feminist than another.”

Perhaps women in the Netherlands have achieved that vision of real choices. Certainly, the prevailing cultural attitude seems to be that one choice—say, working part-time instead of striving for the corner office—isn’t better than another. Whatever this says about the current state of feminism, it is evidence of a certain type of independence: in Holland, it’s every woman for herself.




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How Dutch women got to be the happiest in the world

  1. “‘Why is it your business if my wife wants to bake cookies?’ and the
    female students agreed with him! I was like, what’s happening here?”

    This made me laugh.

    I’m a woman, I’m all for women equality in terms of women having equal access and opportunities as men do, being equal in the status of a citizen, with rights and obligations that are the same. But I don’t consider myself a feminist, because unavoidably you get a picture of a woman like Ms. Heleen Mees. What’s wrong with baking cookies? I love taking care of my home and family. There’s nothing more ridiculous than a woman freaking out because a man opened the door for her. It shows ignorance, and worse, really low self-esteem. To say that a woman highly educated who chooses to be there for her family is giving a bad example to her daughters is outright absurd. A woman can be a (good) influence anywhere she is – in a top position of a company or not. Chances are, that by not being overwhelmed by a crazy around-the-clock work schedule, she might be able to use her knowledge and influence a lot more efficiently than otherwise. Her priorities are, in my humble opinion, very misplaced.

    • I’m flipping through my feminism 101 text book, and I don’t see anything about not being allowed to bake cookies or have doors opened for me. Where did you get the idea that feminism had anything to do with baking restrictions?

      • Lots of women who want to be stay at home moms report being harassed and humiliated by feminist women who don’t consider that proper.

        • The reverse is true also. Dr. Laura Schlessinger, somewhat ironically, built a career on it. It’s called the Mommy Wars, and it doesn’t prove any kind of point about feminism.

          • That’s a pedantic point, soutu’s original comment and manwithplan’s follow-up are both obviously referring to certain people who describe themselves as feminists, not feminism itself. “Feminism” itself is a nebulous concept which does not seem to have an agreed-upon definition, although I’m sure you have one to throw at me in a reply. Maybe it’s in your feminism 101 textbook.

          • Laura still owes me my Canadian.

      • It doesn’t have anything to do with “baking restrictions,” your glib non-sequiter notwithstanding.  It has to do with uber-feminists like Mees who view women exercising their choice to NOT work full-time and focus on their families as being a negative trend in feminism.

        • This is feminism showing their true faces, they stand for no one, not women either. How dare a woman make a choices and want to be happy, feminism does not want that. No free choices for anyone. Yep, that would be a hate movement.

      • “No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her
        children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have
        that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women
        will make that one.”
        Simone de Beauvoir

        “Since marriage constitutes slavery for women, it is clear that the
        women’s movement must concentrate on attacking this institution. Freedom for women cannot be won without the abolition of marriage.” Sheila Cronin

        “Being a housewife is an illegitimate profession… The choice to serve
        and be protected and plan towards being a family- maker is a choice that
        shouldn’t be. The heart of radical feminism is to change that.”

        Vivian Gornick

    • Agree; this is the problem with “feminism”.

    • I believe the point that should have been made is that when you abdicate positions of power eventually you corrupt the whole system of equality and choices. The choice to have a career no longer becomes one of your options. When you aren’t economically self sustaining as an individual than you are dependent on someone else who has control over you to some degree. You no longer have a level playing field for self-determination. All these things are achieved by being in a position of power and affluence where you can impact policy making. Women in the Netherlands today are riding the waves on what OTHER WOMEN before them worked hard to achieve….choices. And they are abdicating their responsibility to insure choices for future generations. You won’t feel the backslide until it’s already been undermined.

  2. The whole point of feminism was for women to have choices…that it wasn’t a lock-step march into a pre-determined role.

    The role is decided by the individual…but it must involve equality, legally and financially….and not be looked down on as inferior.

    • Here here!

      Its all about self determination. “feminism” to me has often been trading a  predetermined gender role for another.

      • Well  it’s all ‘predetermined’ culturally and has been for a couple of thousand years.  It’ll take time for us to move away from both those roles, and move on to something new.

        • The ultimate freedom will be not being afraid to embrace our nature, because our nature shaped our culture. While humans are almost infinitely complex, some generalizations do hold. Men are generally, more aggressive and competitive. Women are generally more nurturing and collaborative. In this sense I think the Dutch are getting near the height of human achievement, they are moving past feminism, they are in a society with very little sexism and they are allowing people to do what they want, fairly free from religion and constrictive ideology. If the end result is that men work more than women and women spend more time with the family, that is fine. We don’t necessarily need something ‘new’, we need freedom, happiness and individual fulfillment. If this is how it looks, that’s fine.

          • Those are all cultural constructs, and have nothing to do with reality.

          • LOL, typical left-wing hermeneutics; I think you forgot about MOTHER nature.

          • Mother Nature, Mother Earth, Mother Land, Mother Church, Mother Ship…all cultural constructs.

            Not ‘left-wing’….reality.

          • Actually, according to psychologists, a woman is more likely to respond with a flight instinct than a man is, and a man more likely to respond with a fight instinct response. Also, in studies of children with Asperger’s, it’s been shown that part of the reason why it’s under-diagnosed in girls and over-diagnosed in boys is because other girls are more likely to help a girl with behavioral disorders than boys are likely to help another boy with behavioral disorders, resulting in the one seeming shy and her problems being dealt with in part through the help of her peers, while a boy’s issues tend towards being aggravated by his peers. Also, girls demonstrate being more socially aware, which becomes more obvious when comparing girls with behavioral disorders to boys with the same behavioral disorders. Psychologically-speaking, there are numerous differences between males and females, which play very large roles in how they behave, resulting in the social constructs. So while there are always exceptions to the norm, there is in fact, a norm for behavior, and Bruce has it pretty much spot-on.

          • Cultural constructs. There is no ‘norm’

          • Yes, there are normal behaviors in people. Hence the reason why we recognize that there are such things as behavioral disorders. People who have extreme behavioral tendencies have not developed in the same way that most people do. Normal, in this context, refers to how most people would behave in a certain situation, or how most people would respond to their instincts. People with behavioral disorders show the differences between the sexes most clearly, since their behavior is an extreme of a normal one.

          • If something was ‘normal’ in people, it would be true all over the world regardless of the culture. Nothing is.

            We all act according to [or are the product of] our
            dominant mythology

    • Completely wrong.

      “No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her
      children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have
      that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women
      will make that one.”
      Simone de Beauvoir

  3. Sounds like Dutch women are hitting the final and most rewarding step in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – Self-Actualization.   Fine place to be, good for them!!!

    • What about the Dutch men? Are they in this place or not? Are they worse off or better off? Someone needs to do a study like this on them.

      • The article states the Dutch men are working part time as well. Their wives are baking the cookies because the Dutch men get the munchies after spending all afternoon in those special ‘coffeehouses!” LOL

  4. “Even at the University of Amsterdam—the most progressive
    university we have—I had a 22-year-old student say, ‘Why is it your business if
    my wife wants to bake cookies?’ and the female students agreed with him! I was
    like, what’s happening here?”

    Then there’s the matter of principle. “I think highly
    educated women have a moral obligation to take top positions, to set an example
    by their choices,” says Mees. “When women just stay at home or work part-time,
    they don’t reach the top, and they set bad examples for their daughters and
    daughters’ daughters.”

     

    Wow – I guess in this ladies version of feminism, all women
    are equal and free, but they have to do what she wants, not what they might
    want. . .Why can she not see how diametrically opposed the two ideas are?

    • Yes, I think that is pretty clear from the line where she calls being able to spend time with your family “powerlessness”.

      • Yes, feminism is all about disconnect. Spending time with our families is top priority, not fulfilling some radfem wet dream. Feminism does not get to dictate what is acceptable, they are showing their true colors and must be confronted with their sickness. The epidemic of disconnection is perpetuated by feminism.

  5. Happiness is an inside job and how we find that happiness is an individual choice Ms Mees….”.Happiness is over rated” is the most ridiculous, seriously twisted thing I have heard in my life!  Happiness brings about balance and peace in the soul which leads to greater things than becoming president of a large company.  It is not our obligation to be full time working(outside the home)  mothers, it is our obligation to contribute to the world in the best way that we feel we can..and if that means staying home and baking cookies….then thats our choice.  Isn’t feminism about choices?

    • Feminism is only about choices when a woman chooses Feminist-approved directions for her life. Feminism, especially second-wave feminism, has been about pushing women away from family life. “No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children.
      Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice,
      precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make
      that one.” -Simone De Beauvoir

      After decades of Feminism, women report increased unhappiness (link: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14969)

      The Feminist response? “Who said that feminism was about your happiness?” (link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pamela-haag-phd/feminism-happiness_b_830221.html)

      • Your post reveals more about your ignorance of feminism than any response I could possibly offer.

        • Quoting one of the vanguard of second-wave feminism is revealing ignorance of feminism?

        • Actually Dirty, you just showed your ignorance of feminism.

    • People who think that happiness is overrated are people who are bored, not happy. Or they believe that the natural state of humanity is conflict and war. 

      • Happiness is overrated. Why? Because it’s fleeting. It’s like always being on a journey and never reaching the destination. Some people will never be truly happy because they can’t be satisfied with what they have and the grass always looks greener on the other side.

      • Well said SamSteele!

  6. I suspect Dutch women’s choices have very little to do with feminism and everything to with a very generous social safety net, which allows women to make the choice to work part time.

    • Where does the money for the “generous social safety net” come from?  It’s not as though governments have money trees.  They have to take the money from the private sector, in the Dutch case from what sound like single earner families.  So what sense does it make for a government middle man to tax the male earner heavily, take a cut for itself, then spend money so his wife can stay home?  Presumably the real explanation is that social costs are kept down by families remaining intact and raising their own children.  Therefore the government doesn’t have to tax as heavily to provide social programs that families provide themselves and a single earner can support his family and his wife’s choice to eschew full time paid work.  Perhaps Holland also does not need to employ a massive government bureaucracy to administer activities better handled by families?  The Dutch may well have figured out the lunacy of both parents on a career treadmill farming out their children to strangers to raise both during their marriage and post-divorce.  Confiscatory taxes for government provision of what families can deliver better make little sense.

      • The Dutch are really a conservative, family-oriented people. They have realized that happy children grow into happy adults who in turn raise happy children. A higher percentage of them (about 60%) also go to church than other Europeans. 

        We Canadians need only look across the border to the United States to see that the mad pursuit of money and pleasure isn’t the be-all of existence. It’s hard to have any quality time with your children if both parents are working 40 hours or more, because you need to spend lots of quantity time with children to get any quality time. 

        • And underneath it the mad pursuit of gadgets and gizmos and boats and trailers and a house that ten times bigger than they need. . . . and on and on. Having some Dutch ancestry, I believe that life can be simpler than we think.  Do all those women out there really need to be chained to a desk? Perhaps somewhere but most working women. to steal from Thoreau, ‘live lives of quiet desperation.’.   

          • Feminists want absolute power hence why they shame housewives into becoming career women.

            They want all women to work in careers so they can advance their goal of world domination by women. Kinda like what Hitler wanted.

          • Hitler hated feminists. He had them locked away in concentration camps. He praised the babymaking “Hausfrau” as the savior of the Reich. So much for your theory.

          • Wow, that actually does not help your argument at all.

          • Agreed! Minimizing greed, maximizing happiness!

        • Sam’s claim that 60% of the Dutch go to church is incorrect. The actual figure for regular church-goers is under 20%. If you exclude the 6% who are Muslim, the number drops even more.  It is true that the Dutch are conservative, but they’re NOT overall religious. [I think the assumption that conservative and religious automatically go together is a North American viewpoint.]

          • …maybe if they count the number that are a member of a Church…

            Dutch parents used to register their children right after birth and the Church keeps counting you (and on you donations) forever. Or you must actively ‘unscribe’

          • me as a Dutch part-time female worker  41 (South of the rivers), I have the experience that we don’t visit church at al….maybe some for funerals, christmass, and mariage,  baptising children (because we used to and most people don’t want to be an exeption in their village)

            For the part-time happy mom….there are more options…

            Working full-time is for me:
            not realistic while my husband works more than 55 hours as an enterpreneur. I have to be there for my kids we have no housemaid or au pair…no parents that can help us out…
            Even though I usually do his bookkeeping and my Saturday used to be the day off for my husband with the football match to play for my oldest son…Than I went with the little son to work in my husbands store…
            It is also a tread mill….when you work part-time….go quickly home to get the children from school and organise the sportatctivities and washing, drying, cleaning your house while kids are making appointments to spend time with friends…. Your husband is not so energetic coming home late at 19.00h and than having diner…
            A nine to five office job full-time is more regular than that.
            No one expects you to go home in the middle of a working day ( customers in the shop) and they usually call when you go home or come in when you should be already driving your bike to school…
            We call it the permanent “spagaat” as in ballet/turning.

            Further more in my case I have to live with the fact that the career of my husband is only succesfull as I am the flexible one to change when the situation changes….because the enterpreneur should be there for the customers….
            And that my oppurtunity to grow in my job is less taken serious as for my male collegues who ar maybe 4 years younger than I and function as my chief…
            Count it this way…partimers also are more energetic workers..Why they don’t have the same Fryday blues and don’t have the improductive hours as there are sometimes from 15.00 til 17.00…..

        • It’s absolutely incorrect to state that (approx.) 60% of Dutch people goes to church… We’re the most secularized people in the world!!!

        • I think that the Dutch would laugh to see that they are being called conservative. More than anything the Dutch are pragmatic and have an I-don’t- need-to-prove-myself-to-any-one outlook on life. Family centeredness is not necessarily conservative.

          • Dutch are more communal and less individualistic than Americans and thus more conservative in that sense. Loyalty and honesty are important qualities for Dutch people. As liberals are more conservative when it comes to the environment and conservatives are generally more liberal when it comes to the preservation of nature thus the liberal Dutch are more conservative when it comes to family life.

        • Sorry Sam but regarding the church, you are way out of it if you consider that only 49% are atheist! In addition, 1 in 2 marriages end up in divorce (I know as I live here) with the system providing a generous divorce settlement which always favours the wife as she works part-time and does not feel the need to increase her hours so that she can continue to get benefits which equals to someone working full time. So family oriented exists but when you have such a high level of divorce something is getting lost. On the other hand, they do live a very simple life which makes it very easy to live on a single earner wage.
          Minaka, there is plenty of bureaucracy here too! I work in the public sector and I know.

        • Conservative and family oriented? With legalized prostitution, legalized marijuana? And a far lower than average church attendance rate? and a lower than ever should be legal age of consent (12)? Not likely!

      • That’s a lovely exercise in magical thinking but in fact the Dutch do have a generous social system, much more so than Canada, and yes, Virgina, it is based on corporate and personal taxes. Dutch families who use formal child care arrangements are entitled to a childcare allowance. Their child care act stipulates that the government, parents and employers must contribute to childcare costs, and this is partially funded by a levy on employers. They also provide healthcare and very low cost post-secondary education, and low cost housing – in many large Dutch cities, social housing can comprise up to 50% of the housing stock. (Incidentally, the subsidized housing rate in free-wheeling, uber-capitalist Hong Kong is a similar 48%). So it’s easy to extrapolate that living in cheap housing, with cheap childcare, and no heavy student loans to pay off could lead to women being able to spend more time with their families. If only our own government would figure that out.

      • Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, and the girls are heavily taxed. I suspect the ‘wages of sin’ is probably what holds that nation afloat and gives other women the choices they have.

    • I am a firm believer in the social safety net. If people could work part time while making enough to live on and not have to worry about whether the kids get off to school on time and eat right, we would all be better off. There’s a lot to be said for baking cookies. 

      The problem is, not enough people want to pay for good crèches. Well, you get what you pay for. If you don’t want to pay for anything, nothing is what you will get. 

  7. Love that these women are being so true to themselves and bringing balance and joy to their lives in ways that are meaningful to them. I could use more of their outlook in my insanely busy life!

  8. I have many Dutch cousins and travel to the Netherlands often.  The women do seem happier and less stressed that many of my friends at home.  They are more social and derive much pleasure  from their family relationships.  Their children are affectionate and well balanced and enjoy spending time with their parents.  Family time is a priority.  They don’t seem rushed but take time to enjoy each others company.  It looks pretty nice to me.  I guess happiness is not overrated afterall. 

  9. My sister, who lives in California with her husband and two sons, is perfectly content to work part time as a registered nurse. Why not? Her husband is a millionaire working for a billionaire in Silicon Valley. She doesn’t need to climb the corporate ladder if she doesn’t want to, and not everybody wants to. My sister spends more time with the kids, gets to hang out with friends, and do more of what she wants to do. If everybody could work part time and do what they wanted without suffering too much of a financial burden, we would all be happier. There’s a lot to be said for happiness, you know.

    • a millionaire….you compare here something??

  10. I’m just a seventeen-year-old, so I’m looking for someone more learned than I to answer my question: is this a recent development? Fifty years ago, were stay-at-home wives seemingly more content than today?

    • Ask Betty Friedan.

    • It is like today, some were, some weren’t! The great thing about today is that it is a choice!

    • So content that the prescription rate for tranquilizers was at an all time high in 1957. They were so commonly prescribed to women then that they earned the nickname “Mother’s Little Helper.” Be careful not to romanticize the past so much. If the 50s were so wonderful, how come we had the 60s?

  11. To me, the breakthroughs and benefits of feminism have been the freedoms to choose. The fact that choices come with consequences is a reality. Happiness and self-fulfillment should be the goal for everyone – and to hear that someone else might want to decide what that should mean for me is more than insulting. 

  12. For me this brings up a basic question I’ve had for sometime. How is it that since the 1900s we’ve increased productivity in real terms thousands of times over and yet somehow it often takes two incomes to sustain a modest lifestyle while raising children, when only 50 years ago one income was sufficient?

    Is it inflation or are the expectations of today really that much more onerous?

    • In the 1900s, the middle class was much smaller. Unless they were well off, most women worked both inside and outside the home; they worked in factories, coal mines, did piece-work, took in laundry and sewing, or went into service – cleaning wealthy homes and taking care of wealthy children. Their own children were raised by extended family or caregivers, and went to work in their early teens, if not sooner. Most families did not expect to be able to educate their children or own their own home.

      50 years ago, during the post-war period, the middle class boomed as government invested heavily in housing and education (especially for war veterans), and with the economy on an upswing, there were plenty of secure, entry level jobs available. None of this is true today. The price of housing and education has soared, and, with more and more education required for most jobs (many of which are now part-time or contract), many young people carry student debt well into adulthood, forcing them to postpone starting their own families.

      In many ways the post-war nuclear family, in their respectable, modest bungalow affordably financed by dad while mom stayed home is the historical anomaly, not the norm many (especially those of a conservative bent) like to think it is.

      • Historical interpretations aside, what I’m essentially talking about is the radical increase of productivity (ie. work/person – inputs) over the past century and how so little of it seems to have benefited the average person in any notable fashion over the past fifty years or so. In fact despite this radical increase it seems like we’re losing ground in many ways. Perhaps it’s just a perception, but in either case I think it needs to be considered.

        I look at the many ways we’ve increased productivity, and I am at a loss to understand how it is that people still work as much if not more than they did 50 to 100 years ago. For example we’ve:

        1) Replaced human and animal power with machines, and mechanized many processes.

        2) Increased energy efficiency by many times ie the conversion of energy to things like useful work, process heat or chemical energy in the manufacture of materials.
         
        3) Improved infrastructure efficiencies with planes, railroads, highways, pipelines etc.

        4) Improved work practices and processes: scientific management, mass production, assembly lines, modern business enterprise
         
        5) Improved materials handling: bulk materials, palletization and containerization
         
        6) Developed scientific agriculture ie better fertilizers, GMO’s etc.
         
        7) Developed new materials that increase efficiencies in work as well as new processes for production and dematerialization.
         
        8) Essentially given birth to mass communication through computers, cell phones and the internet which includes aspects like mass data processing and informational uses not even conceived of a century ago.
         
        9) Developed broad and efficient public services like water supplies, household gas networks, home appliances and the like
         
        I’m sure this list could be expanded even, so how is it we’re losing ground?

        • I think a large part of it is our expectations.  I don’t think we do have to work more than our parents and grandparents did.. if we’re willing to accept what they had at that time.  We’ve come to expect so much more though. We’ve got larger houses now, which have larger TVs and larger closets in them — that we need because we’ve got more clothes that are larger in size because we eat so much more.  Do we have less leisure time, or do we just fritter more of it away on things like making forum posts and watching whatever’s on that big TV at the time?

          I mean sure, a lot of the excess productivity has been collected in the pockets of the wealthiest, but we’re still by and large much better off than our ancestors were more than a generation ago for much less work.

          • I’m not sure this is entirely accurate. After all things like big sreen
            tvs and other consumer goods have become cheaper and cheaper due to a
            reliance on cheap, foreign labour, but things like housing and education
            have become more and more expensive. For instance the cost of a
            university education in the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s, expressed in today’s
            dollars, is a fraction of what a student would pay today, and having
            that education has gone from a nicety to a neccesity. Same goes for
            housing – it eats up more and more of a family’s income, regardless of
            the size of the house. (Perhaps this is geographical. In Vancouver for
            example 92.5 per cent of the average familie’s pre-tax, income to pay
            the mortgage, taxes and utilities for an average bungalow. The national
            average is 43 per cent). So sure, we can afford more foreign made
            consumer goods, but we still have to work harder and longer to get an
            education, own property, or start a family.  And I’m not sure one less big screen tv will make much of a difference there.

          • That’s true. When I went to university most of it was paid for through grants I received from the federal government, whereas colleagues of mine only slightly a decade or so younger had to borrow their tuition and book fees.

            I have one young friend who did a masters in engineering and ended up $30K in debt at the end of it all despite working full time summers and part time during the school year, and he seems pretty frugal all in all.

            As a result he’s had to delay his first house purchase even further than he already would have because of the out of control housing costs.

          • I don’t suppose you have any figures?  I mean, I don’t either, but my gut tells me that the actual cost of the university education hasn’t increased, but tuition now pays for so much more than that. 

            I mean, if we were to contain ourselves to what the university provided in the 50′s, 60′s, and 70′s, would it be more expensive? If we let a university forego being subscribed to all the various digital services that are now seen as pretty much requirements for a decent university, or if we cut the breadth of the course offerings back to those offered to our parents and grandparents? Or if they stopped doing the amounts of research into those esoteric areas that require very expensive equipment and experts drawn from an extremely small pool?

            I’m not saying any of these ideas are good ones, but I’m trying to show that a university education of the 50′s, 60′s, and 70′s was cheaper because there was less being offered and done.  Incidentally, I’m also not arguing that the cost to the student hasn’t risen beyond the extra gains.. our gov’t has definitely dropped the ball on that, but Phil’s original question was about the overall price.  So if you add up both gov’t and student contributions then and now, I think the difference isn’t really that great.. what’s shifted is the emphasis on who’s paying it.

            Same goes for housing. I don’t think it’s likely that much more expensive when you consider the additional size and amenities that folks want these days.  Sure, some areas are way overpriced, but it wasn’t long ago that you could pick up a house in Detroit for 600 bucks, or definitely in the 4 figures range. So that’s just geographical.

          • Statistics Canada has a lot of numbers on their website for the last ten years, and here is some stuff I dug up which also uses Stats Can numbers:

            http://www.cfs-fcee.ca/html/english/research/factsheets/CFS-Fact%20Sheet-Tuition%20Fees.pdf (this is a bit out of date in the contemporary section because the provincial tuition freeze, at least in B.C. was long ago cancelled and fees here have doubled since 2001.)

            http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2008/05/15/f-highereducation-tuitionfees.html

            You’re right that universities are charging more, but I don’t know how much of it is because of ‘frills’ or how much is because of technological advances (a medical degree in 1950 would be quite a different animal than a medical degree in 2011).

            But is does seem pretty clear that the burden of who pays for an education is increasingly falling on the student and his/her family, whereas in our post-war boom times, the government paid a larger share.

             

        • I don’t know what you mean by historical interpretations but the facts are that since the post-war period, governments have provided less and less programs that reduce inequality – so more and more wealth than ever before is being created but it is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, with less of that wealth benefiting the middle class.

          I suppose it’s similar to the robber barons of the 1900s like Andrew Carnegie and Charles Crocker etc. – they saw massive wealth from technological advancements like the steam engine and greater productivity from things like the factory system, but this did not translate into better living conditions for most people. It took social programs, government intervention, and the mass unionization of the workforce to ensure these benefits were spread.

          • Put that way I have to agree.

            Perhaps the lack of suffering that once brought people together in numbers has faded enough that it has allowed the more selfish aspects of human nature to come to the fore again?

          • A good theory. Once everyone you know seems to be doing ok, it’s easy to forget how you got there.

        • The amazing productivity growth has not nearly kept pace with the combined increases in inflation, taxation and expectations. Yes, we’re better off, despite the taxation and inflation. But we don’t feel like we are, due unrealistic to expectations. 

          The pressure we now feel to attain unrealistic material wealth and status symbols is identical to the pressure we once felt to meet our basic needs. Our brains and our bodies cannot tell the difference. The stress feels exactly the same, and is capable of causing exactly the same kind of misery and ill health. Even with a full belly and a closet full of clothes and an SUV in the garage. 

          Thus we see consumer debt levels exploding, leading to more stress, and the cycle continues. I fear there will be hell to pay down the road, and sooner rather than later. 

    • Inflation. Expectations. Taxation. In that order. 

      Try paying a mortgage and raising two kids on one salary nowadays. I’ve got a friend who’s doing it – and starving. I swear he’s losing weight. Housing has more than doubled in cost in just the last ten years and we wonder if inflation is having an effect? 

      Expectations and the desire for instant gratification are far higher than they used to be. Everyone else’s kid has an iPod. Everyone else’s kid went to Disneyland for spring break. Everybody else’s kid is wearing brand name clothes, and getting $2000 in birthday gifts. Good luck limiting expectations. And those are just the kids’ expectations. I haven’t even touched on the ridiculous expectations of most alleged “adults” nowadays. 

      Finally, taxes are down slightly from a decade ago, but still a burden, and the tax system still does not recognize that sometimes two or more people are living on a single salary. We’re told this is coming, but I’m not holding my breath. 

  13. I think the Dutch women have it right. Women don’t have to be corporate tigers to get respect and kids benefit when both parents are not working full time. Part-time is the right balance between some work (to make life more interesting and make some money) but still have enough time to raise kids and run a household. Ultimately though people should do what works for them. Just because a woman decides not to work herself to death doesn’t mean she is weak.

    • I like the choices that dutch society has made.   They have chosen time over material goods.   Canadians are working more hours than and much of that is because a society we have increased consumption.   This increase in consumption and the culture of the automobile has led to Canadians needing automobiles just to get around their neighbourhood.    If we reduced the size of our homes and our cars, we would not need as much income.  

      I think that the Dutch are more advanced as a society because of the choices that they have made.  The next step will be to give men the  choice to chose the right balance.

      • YES, for boys to have the choice to be stay-at-home-dads !!

    • In America, no one takes part time workers seriously.

  14. I am a Feminist – yet I choose to stay home with my children. I work only when my husband needs help with his business, and I am valued for my contribution to our joint finances when I do so. Equally, my husband chooses to take time out with our children whenever he can, and puts the needs of his children above the needs of his business.  My question is – in what way are my career choices a bad example to future generations of women?  Does valuing my children’s needs above my own potential ambitions make me less equal to my husband? No way! Conversely, does my husband choosing to value his children’s needs over pure profit make him less of a man, or less ambitious? No – absolutely not! The answer is that the world is a changed place.  Modern Feminists understand that “female equality” does not equal “female domination”. Men and women equally want the chance to enjoy raising their children, and to enjoy quality of life.  Men or women who blindly pursue the corporate or academic ladder to the exclusion of all else really have achieved equality in one area – stupidity!  

    • I clicked “Liked” in the absence of a “Really Like it” button. I couldn’t have said it better.

    • At least one feminist (modern or not, i don’t know) does not understand or accept the choice or distinction.

    • What makes me laugh is people seem to think in terms of once a SAHM always a SAHM. What happens when the kids grow up and leave home? or at least get into grade school? Then there’s ample time to have a career. Women have different stages in their lives and I think those who make the argument pro-SAHM or pro-career seem to forget that.

  15. This cannot be true. If nothing else, western culture has proven that the key to happiness was finding worth in your work, making lots of money, and achieving as high a status as you can.

    Just look at all the smiling faces. . .

  16. Just because some women can’t figure out this whole “happiness” concept, doesn’t mean all women should cast it aside. I am ever so glad that Dutch women have found their balance and are H-A-P-P-Y!! 
    Hey Feminists…leave them women ALONE!!

  17. Hey people.  Ever heard of “Happy wife, Happy life.”
    It’s about choice.  Simple as that.

  18. First reactions: First of all, how is this national ‘happiness’ measured? How can something like this be generalized? Second, I’m pulled two ways by this. On the one hand, I completely agree with the fact that the pay gap needs to be pushed to be completely equal. On the other, I don’t want the women’s movement to be co-opted into the idiotic march of progress type corporate globalization structure. A woman CEO does not necessarily a liberated woman make. Here is the thing — is it really a “choice” if a woman behaves in the way that she has been socialized into behaving? Here is where the really interesting bit of the debate comes in — although the ideal for me would be to have an egalitarian society where neo-liberal corporatization isn’t the standard by which success is gauged, as long as we have this, it is imperative that all women of all classes and all colours (and all people of all classes and all colours) receive equal pay for equal work, with special conditions like maternity taken into account. 
     It ends on this faux-positive note, leaves me wanting more. I think this is a complex situation with many aspects to it, a clean little standard web-magazine article isn’t going to be able to be very conclusive about this. I find it funny that people assume they know what ALL women want. A part of me thinks EVERYONE should find work-life balance, whatever that means. Another part of me thinks that as long as it’s ONLY a section of society, namely the female one, that is co-opted into this little box, things are still pretty asymmetrical, even in Holland. :)

    The first few comments by people on this article are truly depressing. Reminds me of the Sally Vickers talk at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Somehow there’s the popular notion of the feminist as the kind of woman who hates men and the idea of romantic love. I’d like to say I am a feminist, and I love men and I crave and seek companionship just as much as the next person. Please don’t dehumanize me for speaking out about my beliefs!

    Also: all these people are singing praises about nothing being wrong with family time. “Her husband is a millionaire, she doesn’t want to climb the corporate ladder…etc.” My point is that if she had not married him and simply been his lover or girlfriend many people would not hesitate to call her a gold-digger, yet another neat little degrading category to put women into. The heterosexual norm of the marriage has lent a whole new aura of sanctity to her living off of her husband’s earnings. Now if a MAN had been doing the same thing – a wave of Dutch men, for instance, then his masculinity and abilities would be called into question. Would there be sunny and happy articles about how liberated the Dutch man actually is because he’s finding family time? I agree, we should all have close relationships we enjoy but this should be free and unrestricted to BOTH men and women – BOTH should get to spend family time and raise children, and BOTH should have a hand in supporting the family in whatever way it needs to be supported. But here again is the fundamental unit of the patriarchal nation-state – the family, and the narrow ways in which it is defined. If you can show me a family unit whose basic premise is egalitarian, and not the implicit sexual control of the family members lower in the hierarchy – in short a non-hierarchical family unit – with no ‘head of the family’ or ‘primary continual breadwinner’ – a family where these roles are easily switchable whenever desired/required — then I will say that the situation consists of choice, equality and awareness. Until then, I remain skeptical.

    Personally, the last thing I want to do is make money my priority in life and focus on making bundles of it. But does that mean I’m going to think it’s ok for those women in professions where they should be paid and treated equally to be discriminated against because they have vaginas? No way! And it’s a way more all-pervasive attitude than obvious, glaring discriminations like that. The stud/slut dichotomy? Representations of female sexuality? It’s a whole system of objectification.

  19. The author has quite some inaccurate facts and clearly has not lived in Holland for many years. Stores closing at 6pm and entirely closed on Sunday? Maybe a decade ago. what about the tax brackets? The reason so many women do not want to work over a certain number of hours is to stay in a certain tax bracket. This article is based on mere anecdotal stories.

  20. “Happiness is overrated”. Sounds like vagina envy.

    Just shows how sick the so called “progressive” feminist left is.

  21. A really thought provoking and encouraging article.  The comments have also been very enlightening!  As a half British, half Norwegian woman who worked full time when our son was small, I worked full time,  believing it was the right thing to do. BUT when I took time out to care for my terminally ill mother  and spend time with our young son, it was a privilege to care for them both, and see that Life was about relationships, rather than achievements.

    Since 2002, (at 50) I’ve worked part time and I LOVE it.  I have 1000% more friends than before, have travelled widely, know 200 people in my local town, have written and published a book and am completing my second one.Family is the basis of society, and the source of our nurture and love.  What could be better spending time with family, enjoying meals and outings?  There’s so much that we can do for free, when we research it.  Yes, I have less money than before, and there are things I’d like to renew at home, but that’s a ‘want’ rather than a ‘need’.  Rather like the Netherlands, my Norwegian cousins who are mothers, also work part time.  Their husbands are great dads, and everyone gets home at a civilised time.  (And that’s in a country where there is now a quota of 40% women in boardrooms.)

    It’s not just about feminism, we ALL want to be able to make choices.  So I salute these women who opt for sanity and freedom, just as I appreciate those who prefer to work full time: men or women.  Our families are our rocks and foundations, let’s not forget that.  And to have the choice of working part time?  In today’s world, we are very, very lucky to have that choice. 

  22. the woman in question is married and so are the other women they talk about. What about single women? could they also work part time and enjoy a life balance? If so, I’m moving to the Netherlands. Cuz that doesn’t happen in the US.

  23. “‘Why is it your business if my wife wants to bake cookies?’ and the female students agreed with him! I was like, what’s happening here?”I think the emphasis should be on the word ‘WANTS’ and not on ‘Baking cookies’ It’s a bout having choices, freedom… and to be able to do what you WANT. And if a woman prefers working part-time ánd baking cookies… well, why not? She get’s two great things in life!

  24. My son has a lovely wife and two little boys (2 and 6 month) My daughter-in-law is a working mom as he is a working dad, but she also loves to bake cookies, to make curtains, to walk with her ladyfriends (also working moms) and some more things. I am 75 myself and have always been a working mom til the age of 65. And I did it, because I wanted it myself and I have loved it very much.

  25. Never mind that many more women in the Netherlands work part-time opposed to Canadian women, the number of days of leave per annum are shockingly higher also.
    For starters, in a full-time position, you get 20 days of leave per year or more (NL wikipedia states that in 2003 employees have 25 days of leave per annum).  The number of days paid for sick leave are higher too.  I’ve lived in Canada for eight years and I’ve seen how blue collar workers are treated there. Abysmally.  In Canada you start off with 10 days’ leave per annum for a full-time job.  For that reason alone I never wanted to be employed there.  It’s a rip-off bordering on abuse. 
    On the other hand, social security is harder to come by in the Netherlands.  To receive money from govt. while unemployed, you are screened in the Netherlands, and have to apply for jobs a certain number of times each week (and provide proof of this).  In Canada, you just go on the dole (EI) for a year and never have to prove anything at all – I witnessed this as my Canadian husband was laid off.  I suspect that for that reason alone the working parties are far worse off than in the Netherlands.  They pay for the abusers.  The system was abused for a long time in the Netherlands and they got their act together to put an end to this.  I have seen many seasonal workers in Nova Scotia who work for less than half the year, go on EI for the rest of the year while they do plenty work under the table.  They simply repeat this ever year.  Canadian employees should protest!

  26. Interesting stuff. I decided to stay home now that we have a baby and I’m SO glad I made this choice. I left my career and it’s my choice. It’s been 7 months now and I can already see the benefits of me not being totally stressed from work, then coming home totally spent and not having enough energy for my husband and baby girl. Not everyone can survive on 1 income; I’m thankful to God that we can.

    • So many women don’t have that choice. So you are fortunate indeed. I had to work F/T when my husband decided that he preferred to be single than married and he left. STill, I’m glad I had those 5 years I was at home with my daughter when she was small.

  27. Well, in today’s society, or I should say since the feminist movement, we have been fed the lie that success is in the workplace and climbing up the ranks…what the heck?!
    if a woman wants to stay home and ENJOY and BE SECURITY and BE RESPONSIBLE and SUCCESSFUL in her home with her dear children, who are only home for a few years, and they’re thrown into this big responsibility of citizenship and school/work place, WHY NOT??!!
    As a stay at home mom who has started my own business so I can be home with my children and work whenever I want, I realize the value of staying at home. EVERY mother I have asked WOH HAVE SUCCESSFUL CAREERS  – ALL Say I wish i had stayed at home, I regret it/
    I have NEVER heard a mom ssay I wish I had worked. Of course we all have those days where we need to get “out”  and change of scenery FOR A FEW HOURS is sufficient – BUT, everyone I see around me who is working and doesnt have a family member to babysit their children, have regret and loathe the fact that they have to bring in so much money per month just to pay their bills.
    I’m all about scaling down, get rid of the access, and live simply…relieve yourself of the pressure, the headache, the rush, business and LOVE those little people that are a treasure from God.
    At the end of your life when you are dead and gone and slip into eternity to face your creator are you going to say well, if only i and worked more?? no, i think the only thing I’ll wish is that I had spent more time with people I loved – working or not.

  28. To me is emancipation doing want you want to do, without any restrictions. And whether that is working full-time of working part-time, that doesn’t matter. 
    Ms. Mees has to realise that not anyone wants a career. She doesn’t realise there are differences between men and women, and thats just okay. We don’t have to be the same after all.

  29. Why make a problem about it if we’re happy about it? :)
    I think we’re already treated equally, and we’re just as important as men.
    But I think women just don’t really care about those jobs. Does it really matter if someone rather bakes cookies than work? It’s her choice right? As long as it’s our own choice, and we don’t get forced by men to do so, I think it’s alright.

  30. I only know 2 Dutch women who work “hard”. One does a 32 hour week and the other 36, but its all relative of course. The other Dutch women I know are either unemployed, long term sick or live off their baby-boomer parents. Some Dutch women I know have been off sick for months and sometimes years through – wait for it – work related stress disorders (you can’t make it up!). My girlfriend say she is stressed because she’s not busy! She’s not worked for 2 years the consultancy company who couldn’t find her a placement. She still gets paid. No Dutch women I know are poor. The poorest I know is the richest in freetime (100%). She hasn’t worked in 10 years, lives off the state in the centre of amsterdam and no, she is not a whore (although the state is her sugar daddy).
    The terras tables of amsterdam are full of Dutch women like her during the working week. And I really do mean full. So, of course Dutch women must be happy. Let’s face reality. Dutch women are spoilt and every person in the world, man or woman, would love to swap lifestyle with them. I’d swap 50% extra freetime and no financial worries with them right now. They only thing they worry about is where to go on holiday and when they lose their mobile phone. This is all fine but for one thing: Dutch women nag and moan as much as every other nationality. And reading the comments on this board helps confirm it. Dutch women should just enjoy their princess lifestyle and stop moaning about how things could be better – they might get more respect at least from me. *I’m generalising of course, as I said at the start I do know exceptions to the general Dutch female population. To really understand what I mean you have to take a 6 month sabbatical (if you can afford it) and just chill every day at the same cafes they do. (And guys the chances are you’d get alot more sex too – I know through experience of being unemployed for a year 7 years ago).

    I’m being blunt and direct. Something I learned from Dutch women.

  31. I just wanted to say…
    I am 21 years old and currently studying English Language and Culture at a very good University in Holland. I have very strong ambitions to become a manager at a big publishing firm or a head graphic designer at a well-known advertising company some day.
    At this point in time, this is my choice. Maybe after ten years I want children and I might put my ambitions on a practical hold to give them a good start in life. But in my mind I will stay ambitious: I don’t see why ambition and having children and family life should be opposite from each other, in my opinion they are both elements, or ingredients as you will, that make your life good. I think it is ridiculous to say that women who raise their children and work part-time are not liberated women; they have simply made the choice to benefit the most from life.

    My mother was a stay-at-home mom. She has never set a bad example for me and has simply shown me that you can do anything you want: whether you’re a male or female, black. white, handicapped, homosexual or hetero. She has taught me so much of the world and she is an extremely intelligent, ambitious and strong woman. The fact that she doesn’t have a job will never change that.

    Feminists of Heleen’s generation have seen the stereotypical depiction of the woman as a family raiser and home maker. This involuntary ‘push’ into family life has been contested, and for this we are thankful towards the feminists from the early 19th until the mid 20th century. But like many tendencies, balanced ideas and opinions are good, extremes from both ends are bad. If she calls a stay-at-home-mom a bad example to women, she is just as bad as somebody who says that working women are a bad example.

    In Holland, girls and boys are pretty much equal. The fact that there are not so many women in top positions seems weird to me, because the students at my university are predominantly female. But you know what: if the Dutch women are the happiest like that, who the hell cares? I voted against the proposal that was made by a Dutch left-wing* political party that companies should take on a fixed percentage of women so that there is an equal amount of men and women in the same job. To me, this seems just as weird as discriminating against women; to be honest, I would be really offended if I found out I got a job simply because I am a woman.

    That was all I wanted to say :) .

    *Right-wing in Holland is considered liberal and left-wing in the U.S., and left-wing parties in Holland have more proposals about social welfare or are green orientated.

  32. http://tinyurl.com/kvode37

    Heleen Mees had been in a relationship with Citigroup’s Willem Buiter, but when things soured, the Dutch economist and one-time NYU professor began sending him a barrage of messages through emails, which ranged from racy, to X-rated, to demented. Mees was arrested on Monday night.

    • There’s always a psycho in the bunch lol

  33. Women should be allow to take decisions that suit them and not whether it suits a feminist notion. Feminist essentially plea for women to be able to make her own choice and if it the choice of a woman want stay at home and want to look after her children does not mean that she is against Feminism. And she is exercising her right to choose what she is comfortable with. Whether that be baking cookies or having the top job. The women of Dutch have chosen that they prefer spending time with their children and being happy rather than working to acquire material possessions then its their choice.

    • no, they have to marry to acquire kids and possesions, so in what way is that an independent decision?

  34. http://wearedangers.bandcamp.com/track/stay-at-home-mom

    Why didn’t you kill yourself today?
    What cross, what coupon, what cathode ray
    Put the joie de vivre in your diseased heart?
    How Anne Hathaway,
    How Peg Bundy
    Thou art.
    Hey Sugar:
    Prove to me that the air you breathe
    Wasn’t better served by the leaves of a tree.
    You’re but a breeder,
    Tax break receiver
    With menopause sweats
    A TV tray and a mosh pit son
    Who wastes the marrow of his bones
    Jumping into these drums.
    Please tell him:
    Don’t stand so (no)
    Don’t stand so (close)
    Don’t stand so close to me.
    See, I know your children
    Because I’ve been your children
    And us children, hopeful children
    Ain’t worth the stretch marks baby.
    ‘Cause we may sing these songs of protest,
    Cast our ballots, too
    Forgo meat and
    Ride our bikes and
    Get our band’s stupid tattoo
    But it means nothing,
    Nothing,
    When we get eaten by the sun.
    Que sera
    Que sera
    For, whatever there is will soon be all gone.
    So what’s wrong
    With a song
    That asks wherefore and why have you lived this long?
    A purpose?
    You want a reason?
    Stop believing.
    Or stop needing the answers.
    There are no answers
    Except the sun, the sun, the sun.
    While you sit on your couch
    And wait up for your boy
    We’re polluting his mind with this
    (noise).

    YO women, you might be ‘happy’, but you breed apathy in our brains

    • Get help…and stop writing bad poetry.

  35. I think the reason women like Heleen Mees laments the idea of women being content with what she considers as “less” is because that idea does not fit her view of the feminist ideal.

    You cannot be a true feminist, as defined by her, without a certain animosity toward men and what the male gender repersents to women like her. Men, by their posistion in society, represent obstacles and oppression and the feminist movement has largely been able to blame men as the reason for the oppression that our mothers and grandmothers experienced more than or generation has.

    However, when the facts are that women as a group, simply have different values than a desire to be ball-busting oppressors of men, it harms the feminist agenda and the purpose of a movement that was largely born out of sheer misandry. Women, as a whole, desire fairness and justice. We want the vote, we want equality under the law, we want opportunity and we want the ideals of sexisim, from both genders, to be deeply discouraged.

    THOSE are the values that I have tried to teach my 6 daughters….and I don’t appreciate women like Mees, thinking my mothering skills, are less than her board room skills..

  36. this charade is ridiculous…

    Of course some women are happier raising a family, that’s the cornerstone of a happy society for her family, kids and husband. Now if money is tight, part time work is great.

    Career women who don’t want kids should never say anything bad to these housewifes.

    They are a different breed. End of story.

    • It would be nice if each woman and man could be free to make their life choices without either having to seek validation or avoid judgment, wouldn’t it?

  37. If applied to US culture, the problem is that a woman who elects to work part-time does not accrue the same retirement benefits or workplace experience and therefore loses out financially if there’s a divorce, which can be detrimental in later years…though I can not speak to Dutch retirement benefits.

  38. All of those ridiculous statements and arguments about first world problems like baking cooking and men opening doors for women are nothing but obfuscation. A way to veer off from a meaningful discussion of the real issues women face around the world each day. Does anyone think the women in 3d world countries give a darn about this stuff when they can’t get a decent education, enough food, are forced to marry as a child to a man old enough to be their grandfather, and where male relatives literally hold the power of life and death over them (honor killings)? This is what feminism should be dealing with NOT whether a North American or Western European white woman makes $100,000 a year, bakes cookies or gets to have an orgasm every night!

  39. I am a dutch woman, work fulltime (one day from home), the father of my children does the same. We have three kids aged 6, 4 and 2. They go to daycare / after school care the other three days. The combination makes for a healthy income and healthy happy kids and as a result a happy mom. Dont make it more complicated than it is (a very sane dutch philosophy)

  40. When applying for an engineering position a recruiter asked if I had children, upon my reply of yes the follow up was how old? At the time my son was 14 month s. I was informed that the position would not be a good fit for a mothers and that was the end of the conversation. Good luck finding high quality positions for less than 40 hrs a week unless you got into a company before you had children and by law manage to take some parental leave creating a part-time position for up to two years. It’s a bit of smoke and mirrors, the burn out rate and depression is noteworthy in NL and conveniently not mentioned.

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