When you tell that you chose to focus on raising your family and keeping a home, because you cannot satisfactorily balance it with working outside the home, do you ever hear, but everyone is doing it - and very successfully?
Look at S., for example. She has a good husband, nice children, a lovely home and a successful career (have you noticed, by the way, that men usually talk in terms of "job", while women use the terms "career", "self-fulfillment" and "professional/personal growth"?); why can't you be like her?
Of course, you don't really know how things work in other people's homes. It might just be that what appears as "perfect balance" on the outside is really neglect of something or other. Perhaps the marriage is under strain because the husband and wife don't have enough time together. Perhaps the woman itself is heart-broken because she doesn't see her children. Perhaps she is detached from her family.
Or perhaps she is running herself ragged trying to be perfect at everything. Recently, I read an article in a magazine (in Hebrew) which featured interviews with several mothers of small children who chose to go ahead with their demanding careers full-steam. Their day starts at the crack of dawn and ends well over midnight. The words they used most often in description of their lives were rush, stress, frustration, exhaustion. It's only a matter of time before the shell begins to crack.
There are, perhaps, those rare women with boundless amounts of energy, who can thrive on 3-4 hours of sleep at night, work full-time, drive the children to ten different activities and still manage to spend a romantic evening with their husbands. They excel at everything they do and are perfectly happy with their lives.
Still, it doesn't mean that our normal, ordinary, human selves are supposed to feel guilty because we cannot be like those superwomen. Or because we chose not to. When people talk about "balancing work and home life", they rarely imagine a woman who has 4 children under 5 (why would she?) and perhaps another 4 under 12 (again, why would she?). Even if they are pro-family, they picture a family with a "reasonable" number of children, who are all "reasonably" spaced and spend most of their time in a "good" daycare starting from a very early point in their lives.
It's obvious that if you don't choose to limit your family size, you will spend the lion's share of your productive years, your energy, talents and intelligence, raising and caring for children. When someone comes up and tells you that you could be "doing what everyone else is doing", they rarely mean that you can combine a career with having a baby every year or two and spending as much time with your children as you and your husband think appropriate. Most likely they mean that you should wise up, start using birth control, and find a suitable "arrangement" for those children of yours so you can finally go out and do something worthwhile.
More often than not, you cannot realistically do what "everyone else" is doing, on top of what you are doing. You have to choose, and it's between you, your husband and the Almighty. Then there's of course a great deal of faith and trust, because sometimes it seems there's no way you'll get the financial provision for what you are doing. My husband told me many times that when God gives a couple the gift of a baby, He also designs ways to take care of that baby. My husband pointed out examples of couples who were impoverished even without children, and somehow, much better off financially once they had their fifth child. According to the world's wisdom, they shouldn't have started a family because it was "irresponsible", but with some prayer and planning, God provided.
Now it's summer; poke around family-oriented websites and magazines, and I'm sure you'll find dozens of articles titled "How to Survive the Summer and Keep Your Sanity" and "What to Do With Your Children On Vacation and You Run Out of Ideas". Families spend so little time together that it's awkward for parents when the entire family is at home, so children are sent off to summer camps to spend some more time away from the family. People say that children are bored at home and need their peers. Maybe, but I'm convinced it is largely so because the children have spent most of their life in age-segregated groups. Not only school, but afternoon activities as well. Is this really the way a family is supposed to function?
Perhaps in a way it is easier for me than for some women, because I never felt "torn" between family and career. In my heart, the only thing I ever truly, really, deeply wanted was to be a wife and mother, and to have a good family. Oh sure, there are probably fields I would enjoy working in, and I do have hobbies such as writing which might blossom into something more professional, but I never felt powerfully drawn to something that would be a burden on family life. I didn't, for example, feel called to spend a decade studying to become a doctor, and called to become a wife and mother at the same time.
At some point, however, I did feel as though I'm supposed to be called to something "greater". It took me a while to be at peace with the realization that it's alright to be "just" a wife and mother. Just a simple woman living a simple life and delighting in every moment of it.