Thursday, June 7, 2007

Working mom = better mom?

Sheri touched an important point on her blog; she shared her surprise about the claim that women who work outside the home are, in fact, better mothers than full-time homemakers. Please note that I'm not about to say that a woman who does this or that is a better mother, but I've encountered the same claim several times, and the argumentation usually goes like this:

1. Staying at home, I would be unfulfilled and unhappy. My husband and children don't need a stay-at-home wife and mom who is unhappy in this role.

2. By going out there into the world, I'm expanding my horizons. As a stay-at-home wife and mother, what could I give my children intellectually?

3. My children need things. They need new toys and furniture and clothes, trips and various activities. Without these, they will feel deprived, unhappy. The money I earn at work can buy that, and it's my only chance to give my children what they deserve.

I think these arguments boil down to:
- Being a full-time homemaker is not fulfilling and rewarding enough to dedicate myself to it.
- Money matters more than anything I can give my husband and children at home.

Well, what can I say? Our life at home is what we make of it. It can be very happy or very miserable. The beauty of being a homemaker is that it isn't a rigid path; many wonderful and beautiful things can be done at home to make you feel creative, productive, happy, fulfilled. No two homes – or even two days in the same home – are ever the same. And about a woman's education – who said the best way to be broad-minded and intelligent is to sit all day long in a boring office with boring papers? There are endless ways to enhance your knowledge.

A child needs to grow and develop, but who said children need all the expensive things money can buy? What about having their mother at home? Think about your own childhood. What mattered most to you? What made you happiest? What did you miss the most? As someone who was raised by a single mother who had to work full-time, I can tell you I missed most having my mother at home with me. Seeing her when I came home after school. Being able to talk to her about everything that bothers me. And sure, I did miss having those new clothes and schoolbag. But now that many years passed by, do you think I still think about that schoolbag? Of course not! But the pain of not having a real family, of not having my mother with me, will never go away. The real things stay with you for as long as you live, and no money can pay for them.

15 comments:

Elizabeth at A Biblical Home said...

"By going out there into the world, I'm expanding my horizons. As a stay-at-home wife and mother, what could I give my children intellectually?"

What a ridiculous statement. As though receiving a paycheck is a prerequisite for expanding your horizons!

Lean Not said...

Good post, Anna.

I think that you would enjoy reading this article:

www.boundless.org/2001/departments/
finding_your_place/a0000560.html

as well as the one that she links to in her article.

Anna S said...

Elizabeth,

As you understand, I also think this claim is ridiculous. Yet it is not uncommon, and this is why I felt it should be addressed.

Lean,

Thank you for sharing this link with me! I loved the article. Especially this quote: "Woman’s place is in the home not because some chauvinist put her there but because there is a law of gravity in human nature as there is in physics by which we seek our happiness at the center".

Buffy said...

Yes I've heard this one. A lot of women who come back to work when their children are 6 months say they would go mad at home looking after their baby(ies) and they need the stimulation of other people at work.

I'm not sure if they're just trying to reconcile themselves to having to leave their baby at home when they don't really want to. I don't really see that looking after a baby, even when they're so young they can't interact with you and are very demanding, is less interesting than working in an office.

I think the idea that you are a better mother if you work is rubbish. Only if you're the sort of mother who just sits at home watching TV all day!

Anna S said...

Buffy,

This statement, I think, goes along the lines that "all intelligent and capable individuals have a career. To be a good mother, you need to be intelligent and capable. Therefore, if you don't have a career, you're not intelligent or capable and you're not a good mother".

Rubbish, of course. And not without a hint of self-justification.

Christie Belle said...

Money and self gratification was what I was hearing out of those excuses too. It is totally what we make it. You choose to be the kind of mother you want to be, stay at home or working, I definately don't agree with the statistic that working moms are better moms. It all comes down to the person, not the job. Thanks for sharing this, great post!

Perennial Pioneer said...

Amen Sister! I have heard nearly all these arguements before, when I took a job, at a local grocery store. I reasoned out the fact, that as a single woman, I had no home to care for. Then the Lord, said, " You have your siblings, and your parents, who are still needing you." He provided a way for me to be home, and therefore, I cannot imagine being out in the world, working. It was degrading, because I was homeschooled and naive. THey looked down on me, because of those issues. I had to quit, because they were doing that, and also, my conscience would not allow me to work with a Gay boss!Anyone else feel this way?

God got me out, and I was thankful!I enjoy being a homemaker in training!
Perennial Pioneer

magda said...

thanks for this post!
i was thinking about this recently- girls used to be taught primarily so that they would make good wives and mothers. this wasn't just home management knowledge, but also for the education of their children, and the edification of their husbands. this is why the continuing self-education of women is so important- as you and coffee wife have both so eloquently pointed out. most women- most PEOPLE- do not have horizon-expanding jobs. a woman who works a mind-numbing job all day has no more to talk about with her husband than a woman who watches soap operas all day.

Coffee Wife said...

"Life is what you make of it" EXACTLY!! If we walk around at home worrying and moaning about everything we are supposedly "missing out on" then of COURSE we'll be miserable!

I was just looking in the newspaper at movies that are playing on TV and found another classic story about a "downtrodden housewife."

Have you ever noticed that you don't see "housewife" much these days. You always see "downtrodden housewife" or "unhappy housewife" or any other number of opressed and negative prefixes. ("Desparate Housewives" anyone?) NO WONDER we have such a sour view of housewives!!

marie said...

"By going out there into the world, I'm expanding my horizons. As a stay-at-home wife and mother, what could I give my children intellectually?"

OK I find that comment offensive. Stay at homes Mum's are not mentally deficient if anything it is a vocation with no breaks, no vactions and many sleepless nights.

I learnt so much from my own mother when she was a stay at home mum....We discussed politics and other issues at our meal table. I learnt MORE at home than I did at school!

Peace and blessings,

Marie

Mrs. H said...

I, personally, would have far less time to expand my horizons if I had to work outside the home. You have to have free time to do such things. As it is, I am constantly learning new things, often in the realms that the "working" public claims as strictly theirs.

Politics, for instance, fascinate me. At home, I am free to investigate (online, mostly) much of what goes on in our world. I have to inform my husband (and most other people) of what has been happening lately in our nation and the world, what bills seem likely to be passed, and what it all means in the context of history, etc. They just don't know. They're too busy.

I have time to learn foreign languages, study history, teach myself sewing and other crafts, pursue my interests in psychology and home school my children.

The only thing I am in the dark about is the office gossip, and I never was very interested in that anyway.

Anonymous said...

I always think back to Christ's example when I hear women say, "By working outside the home, I'm getting a break and fulfilling myself. That means my children and husband benefit when I take care of myself and love me first!"

Did Christ love Himself before He could love others? I think not. Sacrificing Himself on the cross doesn't equate at all to the New Age hooey of "you must love yourself before you can love someone else".

Now, as far as some women working outside the home. . . I try not to judge. Could it be possible that God would put a lady in such a position for the furthering of His kingdom?

My bro-in-law, a pediatrician, said unsolicited to me last year when his wife, a PhD in genetics, was pregnant with their first child, "Sue is going back to work after the baby's born. She's not like you. She actually loves what she does as a career."

How could such a "smart" man be so ignorant? I quit a career in architecture and elementary education not because I disliked my jobs but instead because I desired to be a full time mother to my children. . . I felt God call me there, and I've never looked back. Nor do I wish I was back in my "career life". And my husband wouldn't change a thing either.

Needless to say, my newborn niece was given over to grannies' care at four weeks old, and then at two months, she entered all day childcare (7 am - 5:30 pm). My sister-in-law indeed does well at her job, their home stays clean (no one is ever there), and her life is self-controlled and compartmentalized to the point of perfection. If that makes her a better person and mother, I will counter that it's through adversities that we are molded and refined. I think staying at home has challenged me and grown my character. . . I thank God for that blessing and so many other moments of joy and challenge with my family as a SAHM.

My sis-in-law won't tell you this outloud. After a year of this lifestyle, my sister-in-law is desperately trying to go part time. I wonder why?

Anna S said...

As always, I enjoy reading your thoughts, ladies!

Laura - when I worked full-time, I have encountered many unpleasant, immoral moments as well. I think I should write about it someday.

Magda (love your name! My Grandma is also Magda!) - I think teaching of girls to be good wives and mothers is desperately needed these days, especially since so many girls don't have proper role models for that!

Michelle - the word 'housewife' has such a negative feeling these days that saying 'I want to be a housewife' can actually cause a small explosion. I have experienced it only yesterday and will write about it soon.

Marie and Mrs. H - I agree with you, and I think the best way is to let other people see how fulfilled, challenged and motivated we can be as homemakers.

And, Anonymous - I think the lifestyle you described is extremely stressful and can't be held for very long.

Mrs. U said...

Good post. I am always amazed at the reasons wives and mothers give for working outside the home. There are times when a lady has to work, but when it's an option... why choose it? I believe it's because women these days are so incredibly selfish.

I love staying at home. There is nowhere else that I would rather be than here in Mr. U's home making into a place where he WANTS to be at the end of every day. I am blessed.

His,
Mrs. U

Anna S said...

Mrs. U,

I think our entire culture is incredibly selfish. Do you know those people who say, "oh, we're not having children because we are fighting overpopulation! We are doing it for the sake of the planet!". Right. Would they ever recycle or walk rather than use the car? Of course not. But when it comes to doing what suits them, a whole lot of noble reasons can be made up...