When I started writing here, I was in the final year before completing my degree, and already very disillusioned with the idea that feminine happiness can be achieved through a mad race of trying to keep up with a career, family, marriage and home - all at the same time. I knew I just wanted to be a wife and mother, raise my children, and through my daily works give my family a peaceful life. On the outside, I was a promising, successful, educated young woman on the verge of a blossoming career. On the inside, I was a traditional, heart-at-home aspiring housewife.
Now I'm a stay-at-home wife and mother, blessed to be married to a wonderful man who appreciates my efforts at home and has a sound and realistic perspective on how the movement of women out to the work force affected individual families and society as a whole in less-than-positive ways. I live in a little house surrounded by a little garden, and am busily occupied by issues such as: how to raise a family and nurture a home on one income, how to cook healthily and frugally, how to be more efficient with house work.
I still have a lot to learn about the basics of keeping home and other, more subtle domestic arts. Because I didn't have much background in this while growing up, I think I will keep learning in years to come. I'm not anywhere near perfect, but I do love to cook, work in the garden, catch a quiet hour here and there knitting and/or crocheting and/or hand-sewing. I'm passionate about growing as a person through marriage and motherhood.
And I think that only now, I'm starting to truly feel the social pressure most, if not all women today face if they dare to remain at home for their husbands and/or children, rather than be out working. When my degree was all finished and done, I was already very pregnant. Then I had a baby. Shira is not six months old, but I think 90% of babies her age are already staying with a nanny or in daycare around here. More and more, I find myself having to answer questions, such as: why aren't you working? Aren't you bored at home? When are you going to do something useful with your life?
And more: don't you feel a hint of panic when you see all your peers working and gaining experience, while your education is slowly using relevance because you aren't keeping up? What if something happens to your husband and you need to establish yourself in the work force not this year or the next, but 15 or 20 years from now, when it's too early for you to retire but too late to do anything with your education? What will you do then?
Staying at home does not come without challenges. I enjoy society, but I'm also a natural introvert, so making acquaintances isn't easy when company isn't pushed on me (like it was in school). I can get lonely but it isn't easy for me to reach out and make friends. Sometimes I'm discouraged because I can't keep up with a schedule, or because I have a seemingly never-ending list of goals and I can never accomplish more than a fraction of it. But I'm definitely not bored. I'm busy and challenged, intellectually as well as physically. No, it doesn't take much brains to do the laundry or wash the dishes. But it does take lots of effort and thinking to direct this enterprise called "home", and it's certainly challenging to try and find more efficient and economical ways of doing it.
Yes, something might happen to me or my husband one day. God alone is unfailing. My husband is human. However, I think it's hardly constructive to let my life be directed by fear of what might happen. I can work outside the home, limit my family size and give up all the precious early years of my children's lives, thinking I'm being wise and preparing for what might come in the future. And what if, in 40 years, when both my husband and I are retired, I see the years of our lives stretching behind us and realize that I have given up our dream and vision out of fear? What if I end up telling myself - oh wait... nothing happened after all. We could have made it on one income. We could have had something different than this mad rat race we've lived in... why did we give up? What a bitter thought it would be! I want to be guided by love and trust in God, and by my husband's leadership... not fear.
I'm not saying being employed outside the home is ever and always wrong in all circumstances. But if you and your husband are in agreement that it would be the best for your family, and the only thing that is stopping you is fear of possible (present or future) financial hardships, or concern of what others may think, there might be ways to make it happen. It isn't wrong to try and secure the family's future in case something ever happens to the main provider. If you are worried, you may want to invest extra in a good insurance, and/or keep up the wife's qualification for something she might do in the future.
Paying attention to what others think may seem shallow, but it can be honestly overwhelming. If all the women in your family work, if your in-laws raise eyebrows every time they hear you are still at home, if everyone is asking when, finally, you're going to do something useful, if the overall feeling directed towards you is that of concern and pity, no wonder a woman is pressured to leave her home. It's so important for every wife to pray and to consult her husband.
I'm just a beginner along this path of wifehood, motherhood and building a home. Often people write to me and ask for my insight on various matters, courtship, marriage, education for young women, raising children and faith. When I write back, I always begin by saying that I'm a young wife and the main focus in my life right now is learning, not directing others. I'm often overwhelmed when I think about how much there is still to learn. I can only pray that as long as I strive to be the best wife and mother I can, I will be fine.