Monday, October 1, 2007

More opportunities, but less happiness. How come?

This article was sent to me by a reader (thank you!), and I decided to share it with you because it discusses an issue I've been thinking about for the past year or two – and something I've already touched a couple of times since I started blogging.

It's a conclusion I just couldn't avoid, from my own observations and experience, and from sharing the experience of many women much older, wiser and more mature than myself. It's the following simple, yet often such an elusive statement: you can't have it all. If you think you can, that's an illusion. We are human beings with limited time and resources, and when we try to do too much at once, something is inevitably compromised. We can let this make us feel bitter and unfulfilled, or strain ourselves beyond our endurance – or we can let the 'have it all' myth go, and allow peace, contentment and order back into our lives.

If you are a young woman of this generation, most likely you have been told more than once you should 'live to fulfill your potential'; you've been encouraged to pursue a prestigious degree and a high-paying career – because you have the brains, skill and opportunity to do it. No, you probably weren't explicitly told you should abandon and neglect your role as a woman, daughter, sister, wife, helpmeet, mother, homemaker, nurturer – only someone forgot to tell you how exactly you are supposed to cram it all into your life.

The result? More opportunities, more money, fun, activity, independence – and less happiness.

A few comments by other readers of this article that caught my eye:

'Lists and piles….those are the bane of most adult women’s existence: make the dental cleaning appointment for the daughter; mail in the soccer club check and form for the son; compile the grocery list for the week (and do the shopping); pick up the husband’s shirt and pants at the drycleaners; write in the family calendar the days the kids have off from school. And, in your spare time, work a 40+plus hour a week job where you are appreciated (and handsomely rewarded) because of your attention to detail.'

'Even as women’s obligations in the home remained the same as before they entered the workforce in greater numbers during the 1970s, their contributions to family life were devalued by both men and women. They were sold the idea that they could be hard-charging boardroom dynamos by day and feminine nurturers by night, earning twice the satisfaction their mothers did. Conversely, men learned decades ago that even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat, and are happy with that.'

' We’re less happy because we’re tired. We’re expected to do it all and be all things to all men. I have to take care of my husband, my children, and I’m expected to care about the world. It’s too much. I’m ready to crash and burn.'

63 comments:

mermade said...

As someone who is recently engaged to be married, I have given this a lot of thought lately. However, it would be helpful if someone could clarify what it means to "have it all." In the modern context, I know it means that women are expected to have both a career and children. I personally think that it is not an either/or situation. I personally would like to be an English teacher someday. That is what I am studying for in college. I tutor part-time and also work as a "Reader" (I help grade papers) for one of my old teachers. At the same time, I DO want children someday. I also am preparing for a career in education. I do not understand what is sinful about that. (I am just throwing my story out there -- I LOVE your blog, as you know, these are just my thoughts).

What I guess I mean to say is this: why can my fiance prepare for a career and fatherhood at the same time, but I am told that it is shameful and foolish to want the same things? I want to be a stay-at-home mother while my children are young, but I (personally) do not think that is my only calling.

I guess this is complicated by how my own mother's parents discouraged her from going to college and having a career. When she told my grandparents that she wanted to be a Marine Biologist, my grandfather literally drove her to Scripps University and asked, "So, how are you going to pay for it" along with the whole, "You're just a girl. Marry a guy who will take care of you" speech. It undermined her self-esteem, and therefore does not want me to go through the same thing.

These are just my thoughts. :-) I always worry when I post comments like these because I do not want to sound offensive -- I am just sharing my story. Thanks for reading!

Anna S said...

Mermade,

First, you have said nothing offensive (I wish more people had your delicacy :p), always feel free to share your thoughts!

"What I guess I mean to say is this: why can my fiance prepare for a career and fatherhood at the same time, but I am told that it is shameful and foolish to want the same things?"

It's not shameful and foolish - but the roles of men and women are simply different. Men are called to be leaders, providers, protectors; women are called to be helpmeets, wives, mothers. This basic role division has been already outlined in the book of Genesis.

I'm sorry about your mother's experience; I don't think her parents should have told her, 'you're JUST a girl' - rather, they should have taught her what God has to say about the role of woman, and why it's beautiful and important, not small and demeaning.

Anonymous said...

To Mermade:
Understand that men and women are different, and their priorities in life are different - whether you are religious or not. Men and women find happiness in different ways, which was the point of the NYT article.

No one today is stopping you from choosing a career, but it will come at an expense - lesser time with family/children, busier life and more stress. You have the equality of opportunity, but not the equality of outcome. Since you brought your husband into the topic, if you wish to live an egalitarian marriage, why don't both you and your husband try less-than-full-time work, and share household and childcare responsibilities OR use daycare and work full-time? (This blog discourages this mentality. Do read the older posts and comments)

Moreover, many women, who stay home with their children, do work part-time or from home : but not at the expense of their marriage and family. (Some have to work because their family really needs the money.) This is the choice you will have to make.

-----

Women happier if they work part-time

Women are happiest with part-time jobs that allow them to combine work and family life, a study has found.

They found that women who worked part-time reported higher levels of satisfaction with their job than those who worked full time.


-----

Another link (a bit long but must-read)

Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature

Terry said...

Hi, Anna. I think your post is wonderful. Your first commenter grabbed me because I too wanted to teach English, being passionate about literature and all that. I found that doing the job of homekeeping well was more then enough to keep me busy and challenged. If I worked outside the home, there is no doubt my home life would suffer. As you know from reading my blog, I am sympathetic to those women who feel they must work for various reasons (overwhelming debt, pressure from spouses, etc). However, I think our children and families are best served when we can devote our time wholly to them without distractions. As to the distinctions between men and women, our society has pretty much convinced women that being a wife and mother is somehow less valuable than other work. That makes me sad. As usual, you wrote a great post.

Gothelittle Rose said...

Some careers are more geared towards allowing women to balance than others. In Education, you get more choice, especially the higher your degree is now. I got a bachelor's degree and don't regret it because it has paved the way for my own "have it all".

Currently I have one kid, who is just starting homeschooling this year. I also have a part-time job as a faculty adjunct at the nearby community college. During the week I clean house, teach my kid, grade papers, and prepare the lesson. On Saturday mornings, I teach. I feel as if I do "have it all", as I personally love teaching a class. It keeps me energized and excited. It also does not come at the expense of family.

However, before you can decide how to "have it all" you have to decide what you actually want. What YOU want, not what other people say you're supposed to want. In my experience, most people with more accomplishments and less happiness are trying to get everything that everyone says they should get to keep them from 'missing out' somehow.

During my stint in Office Culture, several women tried to talk me into going bar-hopping with them. I simply had no desire. "But you're missing out!" Well, I'd rather not waste time doing things I don't like to do for the sake of "not missing out". It ties into the "Jones' Culture". You get a bigscreen TV or a sportscar, not because you care how big your TV is or because you like to go fast, but because that's how you show your membership into certain levels of society.

Well, if sitcoms bore you and you love gardening, dump the cable subscription and spend that money and time on plants. Who cares if you didn't watch what everyone else was watching? I'm sure they'll tell you all about it anyways.

Anna S said...

Gothelittle Rose,

I think you hit the nail on the head - the problem is often trying to do *everything* we are expected to do. For me, having a good husband and children and being home full-time would be 'have it all'. But I had to overcome a lot of struggles with cultural expectations before I came to this point!

USAincognito said...

"Having it all" - I definitely think this should be an individual decision. What it is to one person may be something different to another person. To me, I am living my dream! I am single, working fulltime in law enforcement, on a specialized Drug & Narcotics unit, and have the freedom to go & do whatever it is I want whenever I want. To others, it may mean working fulltime and being a mother/wife, as well. And to others, it may mean staying at home while their husband works.
I think there are too many judgmental people in this world when it comes to both sides of this "having it all" idea. And too much "your sinning" speeches when a woman chooses to work. Nobody should be telling another person what to do with their lives. That person will only end up miserable if they do what others want. Each person needs to decide for themselves what it is they want in life and GO FOR IT!! :) Live YOUR dream!! (not someone else's dream!)

Buffy said...

Just to say that I don't think having it all means just having children and a career. It's much worse than that. It also means being dressed in the latest fashions, being perfectly groomed at all times, having a big house that is decorated in a a modern fashion with all the newest amenities, two holidays abroad every year, a wonderful relationship with your husband and, of course, a fantastic sex life. No woman (or indeed man) can do all these things!!!! The pressure on men and women to 'have it all' is just leading to more unhappiness on all sides in my opinion. (Not to mention exhaustion and debt.)

Anna S said...

USA: I agree with you on the judgmental part. Human judgment is faulty. What we need to do is to seek His wisdom and His guidance, and then see how our personal goals/dreams can be incorporated.

Buffy: absolutely right! When I say that my highest aspiration is to be a full-time wife and Mom (God willing), I often get response such as, 'but how will you pay for vacations, a second car, piano lessons, nice things etc etc etc?!' - but who says we need all that?

Mimi said...

Dear Mermade,
If you love literature and wish to be a teacher.. here is a thought...
Be a teacher until you are blessed with children of your own... then become a stay at home mom ... and home school... that is one of the most rewarding things you could possibly ever do in a lifetime..
(or homeschool your friends children.. you can do that at your home)

Kristy Howard said...

Wow, what a great post... as a stay-at-home-wife and mother, I've often wondered HOW in the world working moms manage their home AND a full-time career... I guess the answer is... they don't. Something has to go, and usually the home does.

Thanks for sharing this, Anna!
~Kristy~

Ashlie said...

Anna, I have been reading your blog for a couple of weeks now & I just love it! I hope you don't mind that I linked to you on the sidebar of my blog! You have such wisdom & grace for such a young woman. You're beautiful inside & out and some man will be very blessed to have you as his wife someday! I am recently married at the age of 25 so there is hope yet! Thank you for all the insightful words you share with us!

Anna S said...

Ashlie - welcome, and thanks for linking to me; I certainly don't mind! :)

Anonymous said...

Wow! So many good comments to this so far. The NYT piece was an interesting read, to be sure...I also browsed the comments section. As is the usual case, some of them (comments) made me laugh, others made me angry, some were just too random to follow, & a good many were just plain rude.

I had to find myself agreeing with Mark, #63, who said "we tried to tell you, but you were too busy accusing us of abusing & controlling you." How true!

I think happiness begins when you stop chasing after it so hard. Forgive me if it sounds corny or overplayed, but it really is often in the smaller, less grand things of life. For a woman such as myself, this meant being at home, having a family, doing for them the things that will form a solid foundation in their lives. I don't consider this lowly servitude, & I always think it's too bad that some people do.

And what of the young women who want to pursue a career, especially a high-powered career in the legal, medical or business fields? What if she has the talent & drive to do such a job well? Can she? Should she? We all know the answer: legally, no one can tell her "no". But practically, that's a different matter. The demands on her, if she chooses to mingle such a job with marriage & motherhood, will be excruciating, thereby benefitting nobody.

Women breathe life into a home, however humble. And all the wonderful toys & vacations in the world will never be able to make up for the lack of it.

Brenda

Anna S said...

Brenda - your comments always contribute a lot to the discussions here, thanks for taking the time to share your insight! :)

I often hear the argument, 'but this or that young woman could be so great at this or that job' - well sure she could! But who said we can pursue *all* the things we could be good at, without feeling overwhelmed?

Gothelittle Rose said...

Part of the work/not-work has to do with your standard of living, too, what you're willing to put up with and focus on. Someone who, for instance, lives in an apartment with just the bare necessities and likes to eat out is going to have a much different lifestyle than someone who owns a house and plants a garden. I have a sister-in-law who has a good life with my brother because what he needs in a helpmeet is an events co-ordinator to keep life interesting. They spend a lot of time going out and doing things, and she's excellent at finding things to do at low or no cost.

My husband needs his home to be a haven, a place where he doesn't need a vacation from it and a place where his friends can come to find rest. He's got a generous spirit and likes to have nice things to share. So my job is to make this lovely home and it's lovely grounds into basically a family resort. I do this by several different methods, from buying good food in bulk and from farmer's markets for freshness and price, to hanging clothes outside for a lower electrical bill and a nice scent, to promptly renewing auto registration and bills so that when he gets home he doesn't have to think about our finances.

This bears noting, single girls and guys. My husband is happiest with a comfortable but not opulent life, with neat stuff to share and peace in the home. He's a worker, a steady worker, the unappreciated sort who does his best every day and earns a very steady paycheck. I'm a physically sensitive person who does best in a peaceful environment, a multitasker, a good organizer who prefers to set my own hours. The two of us make a perfect fit. It's best to know your intended's goals before marrying, to think of someone who really can work with you to make a good life, to be what you need them to be. As a creative organizer who doesn't do well in "cube farms" with set work hours, I knew I'd better find a steady worker who wanted someone able to pinch pennies without pinching good times. So I went out and did.

mermade said...

Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts and suggestions. I guess I just see things a bit differently: that motherhood is a role, but need not be an all-consuming identity. I wish my mother would have other outlets to give her happiness besides providing for me and my brother. Also, I have a similar situation to Anna in that my father is not always the easiest guy to be around, to put it nicely. He can have a bad temper and make life miserable. So, for me personally, my choices are based more on my personal experiences, desires and what I believe God is calling me to do -- be a teacher AND mother.

I also (personally!) do not believe that men and women are wired differently in the sense that it is almost fate. Like, I do not think I will automatically be unhappy if I choose a career and have kids. Or, my fiance WILL be happy if he has something different. He is actually much better with children than I am, as he was raised around a grandpa who cared for (literally) hundreds of foster kids. (She even had James Dobson's son, Ryan, until he was six weeks old!) Anyway, my fiance teaches ME how to be better around kids because he has more experience. He will make a wonderful father. :-) But anyway, I personally don't see how men are wired differently. My fiance is just as good, if not better, with children than I am.

My plan is this: I want to be an English teacher until I have kids. When they are of school-age and going to school, I will return to teaching. Part of the advantage of teaching is that it gives you the same hours as your kids. (I should add that I was raised 100% in public school, so homeschooling is a whole different world to me and one I know nothing about.) :-)

Again, this is just my story. Thanks for listening!

Elizabeth said...

Hmm ... interesting! 'Having it all' is a difficult concept to put in a nutshell ... but these days EVERYONE wants to have 'it all', whatever 'having it all' means. (And I do believe that 'it all' varies from person to person.) The pressure to have it all is immense, but I think there are two problems with giving into that pressure ...

The first problem is tiredness! I know that might sound odd, but EVERYONE is tired these days. Walking through the supermarket, everyone looks tired and rushed and stressed. I expect there are a lot of contributing factors, but I think that trying to have it all is probably a BIG one ... because the pressure to have it all dictates far less sleep than the average adult needs, lifestyles that allow no REAL rest and relaxation and encourage the breakdown of family relationships and friendships ... all these things result in deep and profound tiredness.

The second problem is ... well, when we try to have it all, where is God in our pursuit of 'it all'? Surely when we try to have it all, we're pursuing WHAT WE WANT ... and while there's nothing wrong with pursuing our dreams to a point, while we're likewise pursuing what we want we're vulnerable to believe the lie that we CAN have it all and that we HAVE to 'do it all'. We try to do TOO much. There are only 24 hours in a day and we're all finite beings! What God has called/given us to do, we CAN do, in His strength ... when we start pursuing what we want, it's all too easy to keep adding more and more things to our schedules and just run out of energy and enthusiasm.

Anyway ... these are my somewhat random and unorganised thoughts on this subject!

Kelly said...

Wow, I saw this article last week. The point here is that no one has it all, not men or women. I plan on teaching my daughter that being a homemaker is as much a dignified a profession, maybe more so since you give up so much of yourself, as any other.
I'll tell her to get a degree but be prepared to devote time to family and children if God calls her to that.
And if she wants children and a full time career I'll warn her that something will have to give, either her family time or her career. It's important to chose or that choice will be made for you in time.
Kelly

Anonymous said...

Hi. I am a woman with a different opinion that respects your views on the subject.
I agree that feminism did not deliver all of its promises and for the most part put more pressure on women. Because you have the opportunity now, you are expected to have a great career, at least two children with the perfect husband, be thin, AND do the house work! However, feminism also brought opportunities and choices that I am grateful for. My mother and grandmother would have loved to have these choices.
I know women that are very happy to be housewives, taking care of their husbands and children. I think it is great that they found their passion and are living it. I would never look down on them, to the contrary. They are having a great career and are good at it.
However, it wouldn’t be for me. Not because I was brainwashed, or because I am following a trend. I just wouldn’t be happy and I wouldn’t be good at it.
I chose to go to law school, work in a law firm and presently I am finishing an MBA at an Ivy League school while working in a very demanding corporation. And I love it. I really do enjoy my work and I am good at it (I think)…On the other hand, I can’t cook, I can’t sew (it is not that nobody tried to teach me, it is that I am really challenged in this area!). I do clean but that’s it. So, should I be celibate? I decided to get married.
But I had to choose my husband really carefully. The reason women are overwhelmed is because they have a full time job and husbands that think it is great but won’t help in the house. The problem with feminism is not so much the women (although they share responsibility in what happened) but men that didn’t see that they had to evolve as well.
So I fell in love with a man that was supportive of my life as a working woman outside the house, and didn’t mind doing his part of cleaning, cooking and taking care of the house. We do it together, when he is stressed at work, I do more, when I have a busy schedule at work, he makes sure that the house is clean and cozy when I get home. We are a team.
We don’t have children yet (we might or might not) but it is clear that since he is self employed and has more flexibility, he would be the one who would spend more time with them. So yes, I think I have it all because the choices I made in my life.
Thank you for your time and your blog. Even though I don’t share your opinions, I like the fact that you go against the “flow” and against what is “politically” correct.

Anonymous said...

Well, of course, you can have it all. Men do all the time and no one questions it.

The real problem is that you can't DO it all. It is absolutely impossible to have a high-powered career AND be the primary caretaker of a home and children. It is not freedom and opportunities that cause women to be overextended. It is the strong cultural (and religiously sanctioned) expectation that the wife, not the husband, is primarily responsible for the childcare and upkeep of the home, regardless of the other roles she may be playing out in the larger world.

I understand that your religious beliefs and those of your readers mandate the woman's role in the home. But I don't think it is fair to argue that feminism does not work -- it only does not work if you believe that women must inevitably play the "helpmeet role," a role which feminists do not believe women should be required to play.

-- Pendragon 3

Ashley said...

I am watching how having a family + career is working for my three sisters-in-law. Two have children, one doesn't.

So far, the words I hear the most 'tired' - 'stressed' - 'drained' or 'busy'. (Their terms, not mine.)

I could work part-time; but I think I would run out of time for the little things. I have an 18mo, and I'm due 11/8/07. I'm supposed to be one of the most frazzled, stressed-out, weary creatures. I get many looks of pity, LOL. Instead, I keep a simple, clean house, I keep up with the laundry several times a week, I read books and blog. My son loves to help me vacuum, empty the dishwasher, and cook. We chase leaves blowing down the road and pick tomatoes together.

My weekends are actually free to spend completely with my dh. We do nothing but work on projects together, talk, and play with our son.

Even if I worked only part time, something would have to give. I would have a time crunch, I would be stressed about having two babies so close together, something. Perhaps I'd just stop hanging my sheets on the clothes line and use the dryer, but things would change.

One thing I have learned from reading the blogs of older moms; they beg younger mothers to enjoy their little ones, not just to 'get it all done'. So when the days seem long sometimes, that's okay, because one of these days I will look back and remember when it was just me and my son and the wee one tucked inside, reading the same board book for the third time . . .

AnneK said...

Oh, I missed so many of your posts. Finally back now.

I tend to agree most with Buffy. When someone says "have it all", what comes to my mind is something like that. Just having a career and keeping home does not sound like "all" to me. My mom did that for 40 years. We grew up fine and she is happy and satisfied in her retired years. My MIL on the other hand was always a SAHM and she (same age as my mom) now complains that she did not do anything with her life, husband was too busy working so they never got to go anywhere and many other regrets. She is too under confident even to take a flight by herself.

I am NOT making any generalizations here, but it is very important to understand that having it all means different things to different people. I personally do not know anyone who has it all together all the time. We all have moments of doubt "I wonder if by staying at home I am being a financial burden?" "I wonder if my family is suffering because of my decision to work?", every loving normal woman has asked herself these kind of questions at least once.

Anna S said...

I'm thoroughly enjoying this discussion; thanks to everyone for their input - and to those who disagree, for being respectful.

Indeed - if I didn't believe in God-ordained separate roles for men and women, as written out explicitly in the Bible without leaving a shadow of a doubt, I don't think I could defend my beliefs as boldly. Without it, other arguments would just sound feeble.

... Of course, there's the inevitable fact that with all our progress, no man has been able to carry a child and breastfeed yet :)

Speaking of - Ashley, I wish you a safe and easy birth! So excited for you and your family, with your newest little blessing due so soon.

PandaBean said...

I would also like to say that I'm really enjoying this discussion and am very pleased that there are people with varying opinions who share them respectfully.

Personally, I believe that it's all about God and what He wants. It has little or nothing to do with what /we/ want, even if He calls us to the single life (which is just as important as married/religious life!)
For those who choose to not follow God's mandates in their marriages, it is a matter of finding what activities you can squeeze into your days. I hated missing my daughter while I was at work, then I felt so wiped/stressed out that I didn't enjoy the time we did have together. I feel that God made my personality to be a SAHM.

Okay, I'm not having anymore coherant thoughts (nasty cold) so I'll leave it at that. :D

God Bless!

Anonymous said...

Pendragon 3 : Men do all the time and no one questions it.

Incorrect, the fact remains that no one likes working, if working was fun, there would be no salaries paid to you. Men and women who work outside the house always do it at the expense of time with family. Given a choice, a lot of men would try staying home more while the woman works, but how many women would like a man who stays at home ? Very, very few.

It is easy to say that men have it easy - no, as the NYT article pointed out, women who have lived the lives of men ie careerwomen are unhappy. While this does not mean that every woman who chooses a career is unhappy, but there is a higher possibility that she might. Moreover, dual-working couples tend to have strained relationships and higher rate of break-ups.

As mentioned, women today have the opportunity to live their life as they want, whether they wish to work full-time or not, but there is no guarantee they will be as happy as men who work full-time. The reason why feminist propaganda will always fail : on one hand they bash men and masculinity, on the other hand they try to become like men. Have you ever noticed this ?

Stephanie said...

There is a verse in the Bible that says, "Godliness with contentment is great gain." How true... I feel like I DO have it all. I have enough to eat, I have a home (its an apartment, and plenty of room for our family of 4... you can only stand in one place at a time!!), our needs are met. We know the Lord. There is nothing else we need. If we always feel like we need "just a little more", we will never be satisfied, but if we trust the Lord to take care of us, we will be truly fulfilled.

JoAnn said...

Again, a very true and insightful post. Thank you so much for sharing it and the link to the other article. :)
JoAnn

Lily said...

Hi Anna,
I do agree with you (as usual, lol). I have written a piece on my blog about this article. I discussed the part where the writer says the government is not meeting its obligations because there is no universal preschool. SIGH, that is very upsetting to me. Actually, it frightens me to think that is the way the US is headed.

Melisa said...

Pendragon 3 : Men do all the time and no one questions it.

I daresay that my husband would disagree with you. He would dearly love to spend more time with us than at work. He works 45-50 hours a week (yes, I know there are many who work more hours, but at what ultimate cost to their families?). He hates the nights when he does not get home until 7, misses out on family dinner, only gets an hour with the children and perhaps another hour with me before he is off to bed. He would love to spend more time with his family than he gets some weeks. So, no, he does not have it all (by the worldly standards)- he would love more time with us at night.
----
I went to school to be an educator. My 3 goals in life (earthly ones, anyway) were to be a teacher, a wife and a mother. I am a wife, a mother and we homeschool our children. In that regard - I have it all. Hmmm. I love spending my days with my children. We wish Daddy were home more during the week at night, but my husband is a fabulous model to my son of how a man is supposed to take care of his family. My daughter looks to her daddy and sees that being modeled as well so that when the time comes, the man for her husband (if God will is for her to marry) will also have such dedication to her and their children (again, God willing). I had those same expectations. By the time I was in high school, my mom was working full time. Trust me when I say that all 3 of us knew the difference between the years she was at home and the working years. What a difference it made to us to come home and mom was waiting for us!

Do we have all the worldly goals that saw "we have it all"(ie fancy new cars, a McMansion, expensive vacations, etc.)? No. We drive older cars (the van will be paid in full next month - hurray!), we have a lovely home in which to live. It is not gigantic, but it is comfortable for us. God has richly blessed us in our eyes with a wonderful marriage, beautiful children, shelter, food, clothing. Even so, my children still have an overabundance of toys (not all our doing, either - we need to have a chat with grandma, lol!). But they also know that their parents love them and that Jesus loves them too.

What can be better for our world than one more stable, happy family?

Anyway, I am rambling now (I am good at that). Anna, I have been enjoying your blogging immensely and sharing the link to it with my friends. Keep it up! Thank you!

Anna S said...

Melisa - thank you for stopping by and sharing your experience.

45-50 hours a week means 9-10 hours every day, which is quite a lot! I'd say more is crazy!
It's difficult, but it *is* a man's job.

Brenda said...

I saw women getting out of their cars after work the other day to go into the grocery store on their way home. They all looked so tired and worn out. And I know supper, laundry, etc. was waiting for them when they get home. It made me really sad. How much stronger (and happier) our homes would be if ladies were allowed to spend their talents at home.

Brenda said...

Mermade, I don't know that it's all about men and women being wired differently. It is about them being created for different purposes by God. We have different roles in the family structure.

And several folks have commented about finding what makes you happy...that is not my goal anymore. My goal is to fulfill the roles God has created me for and bring Him glory. And I have found SUCH peace doing things His way, instead of what would make me happy. (which can border on selfish).

Great discussion!

Anna S said...

Brenda - I agree with you, and think that doing things His way, not our way, eventually leads to a deeper happiness.

Gothelittle Rose said...

It is, however, an unrefuted medical fact that men and women are 'wired' differently, and that difference is seen in every single cell of their bodies, affecting every single organ, including the brain.

Laura said...

Anonymous, I think you are wrong. In fact, I know you are. I DO like my work. So does my mother and father. Of course I need money to pay for a place to live, food, other bills etc...Many people do work without being paid a salary, they are called volunteers. However most of us need money to survive, so we need to get paid. Many of us are lucky enough to get paid for it. Since when did it become better to say you don't like your job?

The Chatty Housewife- said...

Thank you for your inspiring and interesting blog. Thank you also for your comment on my own blog!

Anonymous said...

If a woman wants to stay at home and she is able to I think that is great. But not all of us desire that. Some of us work in areas that make a difference...like nursing or teaching. God has called us to these roles just as He has called some women to be homemakers.

Anna S said...

Oh, I never claimed a woman isn't capable of making a difference in the world. Some women do it, and do well; but... the majority of them still has their own homes, families and children. How many of those families are suffering while the wife and mother dedicates the majority of her time to "making the big thing out there"?

One woman from my fiance's department recently completed her PhD - and decided to continue as a full-time homemaker. She has a husband and two small children, and feels work is taking too much of her time to be doing much else. It's a great loss to her field - but an enormous gain to her family, who *cannot* have another wife and mother to fill her place.

Anonymous said...

Laura :
Many people do work without being paid a salary
Rules make for good exceptions.
But exceptions make bad rules.(With all due respect to volunteers)

I DO like my work
But would you choose work over time with family, if you could afford it ? No. That's my point.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous and Laura point out that men don't "have it all" either because they sacrifice family time in order to earn a living. Of course, it is true that you can't have it all in the sense they are using the phrase. But only women are constantly told that we can't "have it all" and that we will find ourselves completely frazzled and unhappy if we pursue a career. These discussions (like the comments in Anna's post) usually presume that the woman will be doing 100% of the home and childcare as well as the career. That is sometimes true, but the solution is not always for the woman to give up her career. Women can also negotiate or insist on a more equitable division of labor with her husband. (With the right man, it can be done, and done happily, despite cultural norms to the contrary.)

We all, men and women, homemakers and careerists, make trade-offs. I just question whether the trade-offs I have to make are written in stone just because of my sex, when the sacrifice of staying at home is not the right sacrifice for me or my family. Anonymous asks why feminists are "trying to be like men," but again that presumes the very gender roles with which feminists disagree. I have never once thought of myself as trying to be like a man. I think of myself as individual trying to figure out the best way to spend my time in order to best meet the needs of myself, family, and community. For me, this involves a demanding job in the workforce.

-- Pendragon 3

Anonymous said...

At the risk of prattling on too long, I also want to address the supposed widespread unhappiness among career women.

First, I would note that of course paid work is usually difficult, and demanding, and stressful. But obviously there is something of value to be had in a career. Otherwise, women would not have fought so hard for the right to have enter the workforce in a position of equality with men. Do you really think that feminists are so dim that it never occurred to them that careers are also hard work?

Paid work has many advantages including the satisfaction of providing services to people beyond one's immediate family and the chance for an individual to exercise particular talents and interests she may have that find no outlet inside the home and family unit. Earning one's own independent salary and enhancing one's own earning capacity is nothing to pooh-pooh either.

I am not trying to convince you to pursue your MBAs. The point is that it is misleading to pretend that women don't really get anything but a world of grief from working outside the home.

-- Pendragon 3

Anna S said...

"It is misleading to pretend that women don't really get anything but a world of grief from working outside the home."

I agree with you on this point. Many women enjoy their jobs outside the home and find them fulfilling at least to some extent.

The question is - at what cost? What are, as you put it, the 'trade-offs' they must make? Could it be that the things that are neglected are precisely the ones that will matter in the long run?

And, I'll say again - *yes*, my beliefs about division of roles between men and women, and submission of women to their husbands, are based on the Bible. All other information (studies, surveys, research), I consider only back-up of what God already told us in His wisdom. I understand many people today find any reference to, for example, the book of Genesis, nothing short of laughable, and with them I just have to politely disagree.

Still, I think that today, it's hardly possible to doubt that *many, many* women feel robbed of their feminine identity, their peace of mind, their family life. Many feel trapped in trying to do all that is expected of them; many have to give up their hopes of spending more time at home, or having more children.

Every week, I get at least a couple of emails from young women like me, who yearn for a good husband who will provide and protect; from mothers of little children, who feel either unappreciated as homemakers, or overwhelmed as 'career moms', and don't know how to get back home; from older women, who feel they have missed out on so much of their children's early years. I wish I could express how I feel for those dear women, their stress, anxiety, despair and grief for being robbed of their realm, the home. It's more than anecdotal evidence - it's a trend.

Anonymous said...

Pendragon 3 : But only women are constantly told that we can't "have it all"
At the same time, your 'foremothers' were the ones who were screaming in the 70s that women should have-it-all. And in the 90s most of them realized their mistake - to have it all you need to do it all. This is the point of the NYT article. Let me repeat : no one is stopping you from pursuing a career + a family. As for dual-working couples, the statistics are still against them.

Pendragon 3 :Otherwise, women would not have fought so hard for the right to have enter the workforce in a position of equality with men.
Incorrect yet again, statistics(posted above) show that women who work part-time are most happy, while men who work full time are most happy. There goes your gender roles argument. Women who live men's lives(full-time career) are unhappier than the same men. Why do feminists try to force their view that men and women are EQUAL, when common sense and all studies prove that it is not so. I repeat : equality of opportunity is fine, but don't expect equality of outcome. Feminists ususally get confused between the two.

Do you really think that feminists are so dim...
I think you are trying to bait me...

Anna S said...

... Let us not be confused between equality of opportunity, and egalitarianism, which assumes men and women are 'just the same'. If asked directly, majority of feminists will state they are simply fighting for equal opportunities. I can accept that some truly believe that. But if we look at what women, especially young and educated, are pressured into, we'll see a dangerous tendency towards egalitarianism.

Anonymous said...

Are we are called to the same "dream?" Are you so sure that it is wrong for every woman to be educated and hold a job? Not all of us will be wives and mothers and perhaps, even if we are, working may be what is best for one particular family.

Anna S said...

Anonymous: first, I *definitely* don't think it's wrong for women to be educated. I think women *should* be educated, and have said so several times - you can browse through my FAQs section, on the sidebar.

Second, the majority of us will be wives and mothers. And once God gives a woman her own household and a precious family to care for, it becomes her primary duty.

neuropoet3 said...

Anna,
I haven't commented before, but I've read your blog almost every day since I found it about a week ago. :) I love being a "keeper of my home" even though it is really hard to keep up with it - (if you saw my house you wouldn't believe how much time I spend just trying to keep it clean everyday!) I face a lot of pressure from "outside" forces to "make something of myself" - and I have to do my best to ignore it. My oldest is almost 10 and he's a high functioning autistic, and my other boy is 6 1/2 with sensory processing disorder, and they both struggle with OCD - so I feel that the job I do for them here at home - keeping the house a home, homeschooling them, and keeping our family a unit - I feel it is very important. But even knowing it is what is best, it is still a struggle to face people who don't understand what I believe my "calling" is. I am one of the many intelligent young women who has "given up" any ideas of career to take care of my family. Of course, since my oldest was born with a "different-ability" my plans for college at the time were sent right out the window - so in a way God "saved me" from what I thought I wanted at the time. :) At times I think my life would be easier if I shipped my boys off to someone else for the day and just relaxed at an office somewhere - or maybe taught someone else's kids - ;) (my boys' different-abilities make life very complicated and harder in some ways than I ever imagined it coud be) - but I don't think I would be more fulfilled -- just because you do something that is easy doesn't mean you're automatically going to be happy. God wants our best - our all --- not what is convenient or "easiest".

Anonymous said...

Hey anonymous, thanks for the response. Let me respond in turn to some of your comments:

You said: At the same time, your 'foremothers' were the ones who were screaming in the 70s that women should have-it-all. And in the 90s most of them realized their mistake - to have it all you need to do it all.

Yes, feminists did argue (and continue to argue) that women should be able to have family and career, just as men do. These women did not make a "mistake," and I think they (we) would adamantly disagree that to have it all (i.e. a career and a family), women SHOULD need to "do it all." The only reason women need to "do it all" is that gender roles and assumptions are deeply entrenched. If your husband won't do his share of the housework, and you assume that it is your job because you are a woman, then you are going to find yourself overextended and miserable if you are also working full-time outside the home. But the problem isn't feminism -- the problem is that you are trying to fulfill traditional gender roles and a feminist lifestyle at the same time. The two simply don't mix. You cannot be a traditional homemaker and a career woman at the same time -- that is the expectation that is problematic, not women's careerism.

Incorrect yet again, statistics(posted above) show that women who work part-time are most happy, while men who work full time are most happy. There goes your gender roles argument. Women who live men's lives(full-time career) are unhappier than the same men. Why do feminists try to force their view that men and women are EQUAL, when common sense and all studies prove that it is not so. I repeat : equality of opportunity is fine, but don't expect equality of outcome. Feminists ususally get confused between the two.

I am not confused by the two. It is just that it is difficult, if not impossible, at this point to separate women's desires from social pressures. For example, women may be happier working part-time because it allows them to concentrate on housework which they and their spouses continue to assume should be the wife's responsibility. How do we know that more women would not be happier working full-time if we were freed from the expectation of constant housework?

I don't feel like I KNOW what women in general would be happiest doing. I would like to see women freed to make the choices that suit them best as individuals. If that is homemaking, and homemaking is a truly voluntary choice, fine by me-- as long as I have the freedom to pursue my dreams without regard to my sex. Right now, unfortunately, I think a lot of women (not those who read this blog necessarily) are pressured into career sacrifices that they might not otherwise make. (I know quite a few women like this.)

And lastly, I apologize for seeming as though I was trying to bait you. My intention was to make a substantive point (that women fought to work in careers because they WANTED those opportunities, understanding full well the hard work those opportunities entail).

-- Pendragon 3

Anna S said...

Neuropoet - I just want to tell you how much I appreciate you sharing your story, and would like to strengthen you. I know people whose children have different needs, and I know it isn't easy. You are a hero, caring for your children and not sending them off to some institution - don't listen to anyone: God gave you children, and it means He wants you to care for them!

Well, but you already know it of course. :)

Anna S said...

"You cannot be a traditional homemaker and a career woman at the same time."

Again, I totally agree with you on this point, Pendragon, though I'd replace 'traditional' with 'as described in the Bible'. Personally, my goal isn't being traditional - it's fulfilling God's plan for a virtuous woman.

And yes - if a woman believes she should be a keeper of her home, and that it is *her* job, also pursuing a career is extremely stressful. It's just too much.

Anonymous said...

Pendragon 3 :
Your long argument fails completely because you got too distracted in blaming society and husbands for housework, that you forgot to include children into the equation.
So far your logic stands good here, but in real life, in a family with children, your careerism falls flat.

Gothelittle Rose said...

I among others would find the social consequences of all that comes from "freeing women from gender roles" far worse for men, women, and society at large than a pile of dirty dishes and a mud-tracked floor.

For instance the 'free love' movements that encourage women to view sex as men brings nothing but heartache to these people who are simply wired differently. Also, society's insistence that boys be educated like girls (cooperation without competition and other various tactics) has led to a decreasing male presence in higher education as well as heavy medication of normal boys.

Seeing the mess that was made from every attempt to overthrow traditional social mores for the past about fifty years (or more or less) has only given me skepticism in areas where I used to be less conservative.

While I would not forbid women from seeking a career, I feel an attitude accepting of women at home better serves society than an attitude expecting them to all leave.

Anna S said...

"For instance the 'free love' movements that encourage women to view sex as men brings nothing but heartache to these people who are simply wired differently."

Good point!

Anonymous said...

For Gothelittle Rose :

Banning Boyhood

It is great that you are homeschooling your child(ren).

Anna S said...

I already read that article - great stuff. I encourage everyone to take a look.

Anonymous said...

Your long argument fails completely because you got too distracted in blaming society and husbands for housework, that you forgot to include children into the equation.
So far your logic stands good here, but in real life, in a family with children, your careerism falls flat.


Where did I blame society or husbands for housework? Dirt and laundry pile up and must be cleaned regardless of one's politics! I just reject the notion that it is automatically my job because of my sex.

As for children, my point stands. I reject the notion that because I have the capacity to give birth that I must have a child or that (if I do have a child) I rather than my husband am automatically in charge of the diaper changing and other nuts-and-bolts aspects of childcare. Of course, the best interests of the child or paramount, but I do not believe that the child's best interests are best served by traditional/Biblical gender roles.

-- Pendragon 3

Anna S said...

The majority of young women I know do want to become mothers, and most of them would like to have several children. And here's where juggle juggle juggle comes into the picture. It's not patriarchy. It's biology!

... Or, as I prefer to call it, God's design.

Anonymous said...

But does biology give me a monopoly on diaper changing or the other facets of child-rearing and housework, nor does it give my husband a free pass on those things? Only women can bear children but what about the other stuff?

In any case, I agree that feminism does not guarantee happiness, nor is it intended to, any more than the anti-apartheid movement guaranteed happiness to black South Africans. Feminism is a social justice movement that posits freedom, opportunities, and equal treatment of women as the main goals. Happiness, in contrast, is the responsibility of the individual. Feminism can only work towards the opportunity for women to engage in the "pursuit" of happiness. How you choose to use your opportunities to pursue happiness (if happiness is even the goal) is up to you. (I am not sure that happiness is my goal, although it is certainly nice. There are also other values that are perhaps more important.)

In any case, the NYT article may be a bit misleading in terms of men and women's relative happiness:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/004969.html

Pendragon 3

Anna S said...

No one said a husband can't give a hand at dish washing or diaper changing; but the primary responsibility is, yes, the woman's (*again - if you don't believe in the Bible, we have little common ground for discussion...*).

Gothelittle Rose said...

For "Anonymous" who says:But does biology give me a monopoly on diaper changing or the other facets of child-rearing and housework, nor does it give my husband a free pass on those things?

Yes, it does. Studies confirm the importance of the mother-infant bond. A baby must establish a close relationship with his or her mother over the first few months of his or her life to be able to socialize optimally with father and then other people in his or her life. In fact, when I was unable to breastfeed my first, I knew that it was vitally important for me to look into his eyes and touch bare skin against bare skin when I bottle-fed him. This releases certain hormones in both mother and child that protects them both from current and later diseases among other things.

Sometimes a child simply can't start out with the woman who carried him (or her) to term. It's unfortunate, but with care that child can still turn out ok. But why would a present and living mother purposely turn away from the best chance to give her baby a good start in life for the sake of 'gender equality'? Isn't that little person more important than equal rights in changing diapers?

That isn't to say the husbands do none of the work. I was exhausted from a difficult delivery. My husband started caring for the baby from 6pm (when he came home) until midnight (when he went to bed) just so that I could sleep six hours a day, and he did so until the little guy started sleeping through the night. Diapers, feeding, the whole thing. It didn't do any harm! It was a wonderful thing! But I was still and am still the primary caregiver. Yes, biology predestines women for the role, for optimum child-rearing. And why do women in this culture bother playing Mozart to their big tummies and then deprive their children of this important start in life?

Now as your children age, you have different choices in life, and before they are born (or if they are never born at all) you have different choices in life, and I think I've said in every post I've made here that I don't want to deny all women any desire for a career. But yes, yes, biology does destine you, should you have a baby, for diapers and feedings.

Don't worry, until they get into solid foods at around a year old or so, the diapers ain't nothin'.

Anonymous said...

Well, yes, breastfeeding and bonding are very good for babies. I am pretty sure that a lot of working mothers do both (along with a lot of baby bonding by fathers) quite happily, as long as they are not also trying to cook all the meals and keep the house spotless without any help. I am also pretty sure that a mother's careeer can enhance her children's life considerably. I am so glad that my mum had a career when I was little. I got to see my mother live out a world of new possibility for women, a world I would be able to participate in as an adult! I don't think children are incapable of appreciated this -- I was very grateful to her for all her hard work at home and modeling her role outside the home for my benefit!

There are a lot of ways to parent. Homemaking is one way. It has advantages and disadvantages. Two careers families are another way, that also have advantages and disadvantages. There should not be any one blue print for all.

-- Pendragon 3

Anonymous said...

Gothelittle rose, you absolutely crack me up!! But all humor aside, I think you've put things very well, & more importantly, you are right. If God had wanted men to incubate, birth, & feed babies, He certainly could have created things that way. He did not. It is not the "pitching in" here & there, a husband for his wife, or a wife for her husband, that is damaging. It's the trend that we've been treated to with overt role-reversals (you're going to do it, & like it!!!) that has created such havoc. We can't educate ourselves out of our messes. Obedience to God, however, will go a long way toward righting many wrongs.

The very best statement I ever read addressing the whole idea of trying to have "it all" was, "Don't try to ride two horses in two different races & expect to win both of them." Priceless.

Thanks, Anna, for bringing such important topics to discussion, & for your kind comments to me. Much appreciated!

Brenda