Friday, June 8, 2007

Beware of career mentality

On the subject of women working outside the home, I've read a variety of thoughts and opinions, which ranged from saying that working outside the home is always a sin to claiming that it's irreplaceable for a woman's personal growth and development.

So where do I place myself on this scale? From reading my previous posts, you can understand I don't think working outside the home or attending college is necessary for being a happy, fulfilled, mature, educated, productive and creative individual. And while my desire is to get married and be a full-time homemaker, I don't think working outside the home is always a sin. It's not black and white. Women go out into the workforce for various reasons. Take for example a single lady like myself. I'd love to spend my single years living under my father's protection and authority and helping him, but it so happens that I have no father – therefore I'm probably going to start working soon.

I also think there's a huge difference between a woman who works part-time, hurries home to be there for her children, makes dinner for her husband and welcomes him with a gracious smile – and a woman who comes home late in the evening, ignores the precious toddler who has been missing his Mommy, and rushes to the computer to check e-mails and go through a few more work papers. Sure, both of them work outside the home, but only one of them has what I will refer to as 'career mentality'. To avoid misunderstandings, I define 'career mentality' as putting one's career, consciously or unconsciously, ahead of anyone or anything in life, including relationships with God and loved ones. The second woman I described might say she is working extra hard to earn some more money for her child, but at the bottom line, when the choice is between spending time with her child and checking emails, the emails almost always win.

So, I'm certainly not passing judgment on anyone or telling I know the magical answer to this dilemma, but in my humble opinion, women who work outside the home could ask themselves the following questions:

1) What is my top priority?
Look into your heart. If you had to answer that, I know you'd probably say, "God, then my loved ones, then everything else". Look at your life – how do you spend your days? What occupies your thoughts? What takes the best part of your daily efforts? Think again about what you said matters the most to you. Do you act accordingly?

2) Why do I work outside the home?
There's no right or wrong, black or white here. But still, think about it for a while. What would your answer be? 'Because I think I have to'? 'Because I want to make more money for my family'? 'Because I'd be bored at home all day long'? 'Because I love my job'? 'Because my husband and I had a talk and decided it would be better for our family'? Or it could be 'because I don't want to depend on my husband', 'because this is the norm in my community'… just look into your heart and mull it over.

3) Does it interfere with taking care of my husband, children and home?
No, I'm not saying women who work outside the home are not helpmeets to their husbands. I'm not saying they are not good mothers or that their homes are always badly kept and untidy. However… I don't know about you – but I only have 24 hours in my day! Suppose I sleep for 8 hours and spend 8 hours in the office. I still have 8 hours. But I also need to eat several times during the day (2 hours), get dressed, take a shower, brush my hair (1 hour), and there's commutation (right now this one eats up 3 hours in my day). No matter how you look at it, I only have 2-3 hours a day for everything else. I'm single right now, and I still feel the strain. Suppose I get married someday. Imagine having only 2 or 3 hours every day to take care of the household, cook, shop, do laundry, run errands, spend time with my loved ones, and of course – pray. It just doesn't seem enough. Remember, I'm only looking at my personal example here.

4) I'm super-efficient. I can do anything and everything. Is it taking a toll on my health?
Let's go back to the previous division of hours in a day. Suppose I only sleep for 6 hours a day, and spend 1 hour on meals, 1\2 hour on dressing up, shower etc, and 1 hour on commuting. I still work for 8 hours every day. I have 7-8 hours to do everything else! I'm a champion of efficiency! Right? I don't think so. Maybe it works for someone, but I know it wouldn't work for me. I could handle constant stress, rush and sleep deprivation for a period – but not for years. Not if I want to keep my health and sanity intact.

5) Do I avoid developing a career mentality?
I think this last point is especially important for single ladies like me. Let me explain what I mean. Suppose I start working right now and tell myself, 'this is not my goal in life. I want to focus on God, marriage, family, children. But I need to pay the bills in the meantime'. And surely I don't want to waste my single years on a boring job! I want to be useful. I want to be productive. I want to serve others. Then bit by bit, work occupies a more and more important place in my life, and when the chance to get married finally comes along and my new duties demand my full attention, I resent not having enough time to keep my job. Are you willing to give up your job if more important duties demand that, without feeling resentful, oppressed, unfulfilled? If I go through work papers while my husband needs my advice and support more than anything else, that's career mentality. If I spend more time with my boss than with my husband, that's career mentality. If my home is a mess, my refrigerator is empty and I haven't prayed for days because I don't have time – and I claim it's not too bad after all – that, again, is career mentality.

Do I have any conclusion here? Not really. These are just thoughts. But I know I don't want to let careerism and various oppportunities make me lose focus of my biggest dream, my goal, my vision - being a wife, helpmeet and mother.

27 comments:

Alexandra said...

In reference to #3, it is heart retching to leave off your little ones at daycare. You see them in the morning for an hour and a few hours at night before you go to bed. I hated it, and I hated the fact that daycare was raising my child. It reminded me of a great big orphanage.

Anna S said...

Alexandra,

I avoid pointing an accusing finger and saying, "oh, those are bad, selfish mothers". But I do believe we must face the truth - that we are only human beings, with limited time, and therefore we must have our priorities.

Often, when I speak about my desire to be a homemaker, I get response such as "but don't you see that today, women have it ALL? Careers and homes and beautiful marriages and children..." - let's be realistic! When you juggle too many things at once, something falls - or you fall. OK, I won't speak for everyone. Maybe someone can do this. I know I can't, and see no reason to be ashamed of it.

Kyla said...

nna,

I enjoyed your thoughts on this subject. I wanted to thank you for sharing your thoughts without being judgemental.
I know for me it comes down to my focus. I think that the ideal order in my life is God, Husband, family and then Job. Anything that messes up that order is wrong. Whether it is my Career or the things that I want to do in my home. I learned early in my marriage my husband would rather have me hang out with him than clean out a closet. He loves my career and is proud of me but he didn't feel that way until I changed my attitude and put him first.

Have a great Friday.
In Him,
Kyla

Anna S said...

Hi Kyla,

I know this discussion can quickly turn to the slippery slope of legalism, and I certainly didn't want this to happen.

This post was inspired by discussions with several young women who say, "Oh, but of COURSE family is the most important thing in the world!" - yet they are annoyed by the very thought there would be any sort of delay in their career because of having children. So, I'm not God and have no right to judge their choices, but I got the feeling some of them are not going down the path they think they are going.

Kyla said...

Anna,

I hope that you didn't feel that I was turning this into a legalistic debate.

This just really struck home for me because it is something that I commit to prayer daily. And although I did choose to be married a few years and establish my career before having children, your well stated points did remind me of what my ultimate goal in life is.

Anna S said...

Kyla,

Of course it's not anything you said. :) I just know how it can be, from previous discussions.

AnneK said...

My priorities used to be God, family, job. Now it is dog, dog, dog.

Perennial Pioneer said...

Amen sis! I do have a comment! If you are single, try to find a vocation that will permit you to stay at home, and raise your children, and also to help bring extra money to the home. It may not be big, but it at least helps. I know the degrading feeling it is, for a wife to bring home more income then the husband. He feels he is not longer the provider, and he becomes Mr. Mom. And the woman become secure in knowing her family is safe, while she works to save the family. That sounds disgusting to me.:(
I am currently studying Fashion design, and agricultur, to help with my family needs. I am also studying, writing fiction, for children!
God bless you!
Perennial Pioneer

Lean Not said...

This was a very good, well-thought-out post. Thank you for taking the time to articulate your thoughts so well.

I work in a professional position for a Christian ministry. There are several ladies whom I work with that I highly respect for their balance. Although they do have very demanding jobs, they work only part-time and then rush home to their families. Even at work, seeing their focus on their family responsibilities rather than on their work responsibilities has been an excellent example to me as a single girl.

My thoughts right now are that if I were to get married, I DEFINITELY would not want to be working full-time. Obviously I would discuss this with my husband, but I suppose I would either cut back to part-time or would stop working altogether. If I had children, I really would not want to work. But whether or not I had a job, my top 10 priorities would be family, family, family, family, family . . . you get the idea! :)

Lean Not said...

By the way, I loved your cleaning idea that you mentioned on Mrs. B.'s blog. It's cute! :-D

Mrs. Brigham said...

Thank you sharing your thoughts in this post; I agree with much of what you said. One thing I have been a bit weary of since entered "Blog Land" again is the black & white attitude that some have about the sinfulness or working outside the home. I grew up in a Christian home and my mom was a SAHM when we were young, however, she did go back to work when we was older, due to some various circumstances. My parents did not want my mom to work, nor did she find it "fulfilling". My mom worked in the same public school system we attended and had the same days off and summer breaks that we had. She also got off fifteen minutes after we were out of class, so she would drive us home and be with us for the rest of the evening. Being that she even worked at the same school we attended, she was there should we become ill or need her and always had the flexibility to take a day off to care for us when we needed her. Although she did work, she did still take care of the house, cook healthful meals, take us to the library, help us with our homework, and spent lots of time with us. My dad also spent lots of time with us and they were both very active in all aspects of our lives. I realize I am very biased, but I do not believe my parents' choices were sinful, nor I believe other's like them are being "sinful". Sometimes God tests us with difficult situations and sometimes we have to deal with the consequences of past sin or just plain living in a fallen world.

PandaBean said...

I feel that my job directly interfers with my ability to take care of my home and family. I get stressed enough at work that when I get home all I want to do is veg out for a few hours and by the time I really feel like doing something, it's getting really late and I need to get to be to work again in the morning.

Thursdays are especially nasty for me, it's the day I work all day. I see my daughter from 6:30 - 8:15 in the morning as I'm getting her ready to go and myself ready for work. She's almost always starting to get tired and fussy every morning when it's time to leave the house and I feel awful for not being able to simply take her up to her bed and put her to sleep like she wants.
Anyway, back to Thursdays. She comes with my G-ma to pick me up from work and take me home at 5:30. By 6 she's starting to get sleepy, so it's time for her bedtime routine: bath, bottle, bed. She's out for the night by 7 most nights. All told, I get to see meine schatze ("my treasure" in German) for about 3 hours total. It bites! >P

For me there is hope on the horizon. My wonderful husband is due for a raise in the next month or two and so by my birthday in October, I should be able to stay home full time! Yay! Please God, make it happen, for it is only by Your grace that anything is possible.

marie said...

As a single woman I cannot say what makes a better mother.

But I also think this is a two way street. When the father returns home from work it is good to share the parental responsiblities even though the mother is a stay at home Mum.

Life doesnt always work out how one plans it....As I shared before my own mother HAD to go to work once my father had cancer. As a family it drue us closer...I think in the end it is a case of respecting one anothers career choices whether it be staying at home or a career.

There is also nothing worse than to hear a wife being berated because she bought herself an item. I have heard husbands say 'that is MY money'. I witnessed this argument with married friends I have...the stay at home mums crime was she bought a crate of dried apricots..her husband HIT the roof. It was VERY embarrassing to witness such a thing and I excused myself very promptly.

Thought provoking piece Anna...I am not a feminist...but life is not simplistic. If only it were.

Peace and blessings to you:)

Marie

Anna S said...

Laura - I believe there are plenty of ways to enhance the family income without making the man lose his role as provider and without developing a career mentality. Not that a homemaker HAS to earn money directly. She can be frugal and thrifty, a wise steward of finances!

Lean - off topic, but that cleaning tip does work wonders. :P

Mrs. Brigham - thank you for sharing your story! I think that saying 'working outside the home is a sin, period' is very simplistic. We need to look at all the circumstances and consequences.

PandaBean - I hope it works out for you and you can become a stay-at-home wife and mom like you want!!

Marie - the situation you described ("this is MY money!") is certainly NOT how this is supposed to be. The family is a team, a unit that works together in joint effort. The husband isn't supposed to say "this is MY money", and the wife shouldn't say "step off MY clean floor"! This is not how it works.
By the way, I have encountered this in families when both husband and wife work, too. An extra income doesn't protect from such hen-pecking.

Anonymous said...

Oh how right you are! Unfortunately, my husband is currently out of work, looking for a job. In the meantime, I am working full-time. We have a baby at home, and it is heart-breaking for me to be away from our dear child. I feel I am missing out on some of her most precious moments. Our plan is for me to be a stay at home or work at home mother as soon as possible, and we are taking steps that direction. I think it is wise advice to consider developing skills that help to save or make money at home to avoid such a situation. This also helps in the event that the husband and father are unable to work or die unexpectedly, or in the sad case that he refuses his God-given responsibility.

Anna S said...

Anonymous lady,

This is exactly what I mean when I talk about the difference between simply working outside the home and having a career mentality. I hope you can return home soon and be a blessing to your family as a full-time wife and mom!

Paula said...

"I don't think working outside the home is always a sin".

Anna,
only the Magisterium of the Church is the one to decide what is a sin and what not. Be careful how you use this word. You may offend some people.

As far as I know according with the teaching of the Church, women who make careers are not in a state of sin.

Anna S said...

Paula,

I'm sure you read everything I have to say in this post, and of course you noticed that I say it's not black and white and that I'm not judging anyone. The point of this post was not to offend people, and this is why everything is said under the title "in my humble opinion".

Was the point of this post to point a finger at women who work outside the home and say, "you are a bad, selfish person because you have a career!"? No. Of course not. However, I believe that every choice has certain consequences. For example, the choice to have a career might make a woman tired, stressed, frustrated, overwhelmed; and even worse, it can cause her to neglect her sacred duties as mother and wife.

... Again. Notice that I'm not saying, "women who have a career are bad mothers". I'm just pointing out that sometimes we have to make a list of priorities. There are women who say, "well, career is, indeed, my top priority". What can I say? It is their choice. This post was aimed at those women who say, "family is my top priority, but I must also do this and that, go here and there..." - and as a result are often overwhelmed and can't understand why they don't have it all together.

Janelle said...

I didn't read the other comments, so this is my one shot in the dark response. By the way, you do not know me. I found this blog via google during research (an essay on virginity, of all things).

I think that motherhood is one of the most beautiful things in the world. I aspire to be the woman that God has intended me to be, by his definition, not the world's.

I desire to be a wife and a mother. My gifts lay elsewhere. I am going to the local university and living at home, in part, so that I can cultivate the gifts needed to have a home. I am going to college to cultivate the other gifts. I am offended by those that say college (especially secular college) is in any way bad for girls. College is potentially dangerous for everybody. One website in particular listed on your link'd list, Ladies Against Feminism, is particularly against any form of the working or formally educated woman. I would not presume that you hold those sentiments off-hand.

I want to be a wife and a mother, but I believe that it would be horrible of me to neglect my "other gifts". In point, I have not only a desire to enter law and the heady world of political consulting, but I have the abilities that make such a career very possible. I think that the workplace, that workplace especially, can benefit from women. I am particularly interested in working on free speech issues and on the laws dealing with child sex offenders. If I choose this career first, because I believe that God has gifted me and planted with other desire concurrently with one for a family, then is it really so bad that I pursue it?

Anna S said...

Janelle,

Thank you for visiting and sharing your insight. You raise a few interesting questions.

One, you say secular college can be a danger for men too. I agree with you! Men are not immune to worldly influences either, and I think every effort should be made to study in a religious college, among fellow believers. As someone who is at the end of her degree in a secular college, I KNOW what it's like. It's possible to adhere to what you believe in, but there are so many very, very, very difficult situations.

About LAF. I think the concepts of this website are often misinterpreted. Here's a quote from the 'Start Here' section on LAF, by Mrs. Jennie Chancey, LAF editor:

'Yes, I have a B.A. from a college and graduated with honors. No, that degree has in no way contributed to my success in running a home business or educating my children... Is college inherently evil? Nope. Can good things come out of a college education? Indeed. But is college the sole place to equip the mind for a successful adult life? We'd like to challenge that stereotype (for men as well as women).'

As someone who is about to graduate from college, I can also tell you: no, it's not all bad. Yes, it contributed to my education. But I had to be VERY, very careful. Click on the 'college' label if you want to read more about my college experience.

About having a career. Again, you won't hear me saying, 'working outside the home and having a career is BAD' (as in itself). The thing is, and I don't think we can stick our heads in the sand about it: careers are time consuming, and there are only 24 hours in a day.

Are women capable of having a successful career? I don't doubt it. Can the workplace benefit from women? Sure. But what about their families? Husbands, children, homes?

A researcher from my fiance's department recently abandoned her career to become a housewife, right after getting her PhD. He aid to me: "This might be a loss to our field, but it is an enormous gain to her family".

And I must say I agree.

Janelle said...

Well, thank you for responding. :)

I think my general problem is that I am essentially trapped in the middle. I know that whatever I choose, I will have to discuss with my husband (god bless him, whoever he is). I know that the best time for raising kids is in the twenties, but I won't be out of law school until I am at least 25 (Lord willing). I look forward to maybe a few years of a career, then raising a family. Jeanne Kirkpatrick, the late and former U.S ambassador to the U.N during the Reagan administration went back to work after her kids were grown, using her previous experience. Phyllis Schlafly, the women we have to thank for defeating the E.R.A ran for congress at the age of 27 with two small children and one on the way. Those women, along with my own mother (who saves lives as a nurse in the pediatric oncology clinic at a local children's hospital), are my heroes. I wouldn't recommend it as a general rule, nor would I recommend staying at home to everybody, but I humbly believe that by the grace of God and the support and blessing of my husband (again, god bless him, whoever he is), I could make it work.

I am actually excited to going to secular college. I am pretty well-prepared, mostly because like Mrs. Chancey, I don't believe all my learning should come from college. I am in fact, planning on not taking maybe any English classes (AP credit baby) or history classes, preferring to teach myself history at least. I believe college to be of great benefit to everybody though. Who ever said you need to do anything with that degree? It's the experience. It used to be better. At one time, Harvard used to stand for a search of truth in God. But I digress.

Maybe I am in general disposed to prefer secular surroundings. My mission statement as a christian (taken from the title of Hugh Hewitt's excellent book on christian ambition), is that I be "in this world, but not of." I never agreed with the sentiment that we need to 'take back the world for Jesus'. Jesus made it pretty clear that this world and the man-made things in it, are not of him. We can't 're-claim' the world. Christians (and the Israelites before them) have always been opposed to secular culture. There was a brief time when this world, and the things in it, were ultimately and thoroughly pleasing and obedient in God's sight. Then we fell. I don't want to remove myself from the secular world in order to cloister myself with other christians in order to 'take back the world'. That's not me. I want to confront it head on. I know who wins in the end.

I think that the church has harmed its image. Callous words, but the secular world is a big believer in 'image', and who are we trying to reach anyway? Do we want to appeal to the pope, or the kid with a dad who's never home and burning question in her heart? There are somethings that we must "stand athwart history yelling stop!" (to quote the wonderful WFB Jr.). Nor should we be embracing the culture. We stand not on what we're against, but on the rock of the ages. We stand on the word of God and what it says. That is what should define us: who we are for, not who we are against.

I would rather devote my time to challenging secular culture not from some far off camp, but directly and upfront. I can't honestly help non-believers if I don't see where they're coming from (essentially the same thing, original sin, but the particulars often elude us). Christian college is for some, those in ministry especially. But I couldn't stand being around so many people I agree with (Or potentially really disagree with. Give me a secular athiest over a bible thumping christian of the little-endian, big-endian type zealotry anyday). I don't want to get lazy and forget the "battlefield", an appropriate but over-used cliche.

My best situation possible, and the one that keeps coming up in talks with God, is one where I marry young, finish school, work a little doing what I am gifted to do, then having children in my late twenties (what I am built to do!). Possibly I'll write from home, but when the babies come, that's my job: them. I just don't mind putting it off a little. I want kids badly, and I don't see myself putting it off too long. God has plans for every one of us, and I will follow whatever his plan is for me. I don't find it a stretch that this might be his plan for me.

Anna S said...

Janelle,

Wow, this was a long comment! Thank you for taking the time to write and share your thoughts.

When is, indeed, the best time to raise kids? I can only very humbly say it's God's time. God has a plan for each and every one of us regarding when and how many children we are going to have. If I get married at 24, I might be blessed enough to become a mother at 25. Or maybe God will decide my time is at 35, or not at all. Whatever it is, I'm sure of one thing: children are God's blessings. And why would someone put off being so blessed? No, I'm not being judgmental here, I'm just saying we should think and pray about it a lot.

Being in a secular environment can help us challenge other people and be a light. However, I know I wasn't ready for this battlefield and so it was very, very hard. I'm happy I have my degree, but I don't think it's absolutely necessary for good education and/or skills.

Another thing we must remember that children aren't the pillar family is built upon. The center of marriage is our relationship with our husband, and THAT becomes our top-priority job as soon as we get married.

What can I say? I'm just a humble woman. I can't say what's right. Each and every woman must pray, and pray, and PRAY. And make sure her decision is based, indeed, on God's plan and doesn't go against the word of God in any way. Janelle, I don't have the slightest doubt you want to please God and do what's best for your family and yourself. I don't have the slightest doubt you're praying about it.

You did mention you feel trapped. And you said you want to have time to put your talents into action - before you have children. Does it mean you feel you will have no room to use your gifts after you have a family? Your first comment inspired me to write a post on the subject, which I will probably post tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Janelle said...

I'll comment on your other post probably, but a clarification. I feel trapped between two camps. Unfortunately, I have been in churches where my mother has been almost lionized for working outside the home. I didn't like that. Then, on the other hand, I've been at times gently rebuked for my plans to eventually be a mother (never by a teacher or a guy, but by fellow girls--although, usually by the end of the conversation they announce that "they respect my choice"). I didn't like that either. I am honestly in the middle. But God sees me in the middle, and you are right indeed that the best choice will be God's choice. I am not sure how political intuition will help me in the home, but I do love learning and I love learning (I am double major with a minor), and I look forward to teaching my children stuff they won't learn in school (I am determined that all my children will be well-read in Shakespeare and Philosophy by middle school and fluent in at least in two languages by Pre-K)

I know that motherhood will be great. I know that being a wife will be amazing. I kind of feel that I could make a great whatever (something to do with law or politics). I don't feel pressured to be one, but I have this growing feeling that if I became one it would be a part of God's master plan, and not me being neglectful of my duties as a future wife and mother.

Mom-E said...

I just wanted to thank you for sharing your blog. I may get a few 'tisk, tisks' for it, but I'm not a Christian (I am a Pagan- a witch) and I share the same view regarding homekeeping that Christians with your viewpoint share. (Minus the religious reasonings, of course :) ) I just love and appreciate how you so sensitively address the issue of women working outside the home and particularly the priorities of family. I adore your blog and hope to read alot more in the future. Thank you for sharing! :)

Anna S said...

Mom-E,

Thank you for commenting!

Maybe I should confess to you that I used to be a witch, too.

The result of walking that path is right here, in front of you. :) How sharp are the bends in the road of life!

Karen said...

Well, I am a wife, mommy, and former career women (I did work for a while full-time when I was pregnant with my 2nd child). All I can say is from my own experience, I say it's possible to do 2 out 4 things superbly, 3 out of 4 of them adequately (with help!) and 4 out of 4 things VERY very sloppily, (unless you are superwoman which I am not!) those 4 things are raising your children, being a wife, having a career, and taking care of your home!

I don't get the career mentality because coming from a poor family I already knew that money doesn't buy my happiness, and I absolutely hated coming home exhausted and running errands, and feeling like my children were growing up without me. My mom had a job she liked but she still hated and had a terrible time keeping us kids in line at the end of a hard day, and coming home to a messy house!

Anonymous said...

My sister is a principal at a school and has two precious kids but she works so much - it worries me. Also, her husband is not really working and that also deeply troubles me. I know they are ok with it but I see the kids coming home and not eating as well as they should and her lovely husband is rotting in my eyes as a man. he is not earning a living and allowing his wife to stay home to raise their kids. that is my opinion. I suppse they would disagree and tell me to mind my own. But I can see it will harm the kids in the long run because they will have less of a female element guiding them in the formidable younger years. They are both female, one is 4 and the other 10. Any tips? I/they really need divine help and God's intervention. Everytime I say something - my sister tells me to come on over and help her out with her kids and family. I get angry and clam up after her comments and stubborn refusal to see. She has this exhibits this unwillingness to see and to hear how she is potentially harming her girls now and more in their future. her husband is living the life - nice man - but earning no keep at all - also he does not really tell us about the fact that he does not work - he pretends to be a realty agent - but has no clients or sales - he used to be an engineer and moved here to marry her - lost his job and there are no jobs here in his field - aeronautics. Sad really. Bright guy - stays home - watches tv - plays games with his kids - conserves the family money to ensure he never has to work again really. uses my sister and they both seem to enjoy it. she also always tells me she likes working - it gives her a break from the stress of the kids and having to deal with an unmotivated but kind and bright man like her husband. Ugh. Makes me sick really. Help please. great web site. thanks. Alex