Monday, November 23, 2009

Seasons of life with no children at home

Two interesting questions were raised in response to this post, and to do them justice, I decided to write about them in a post of its own. Both are about two sides of the same coin: what is expected of a woman when there are no young children in her charge? Is tending to the hearth and home sufficient to keep a woman productively employed at every stage of her life?

Here is the first question:

"Do you think it is best for a father to support his unmarried daughter, if it is within his means to do so?"

Saying that a father should support his daughter implies that the daughter would be a burden; I would rather say that the daughter should remain under her father's roof and protection until she is married, all the while taking care to remain productive and use her time wisely. There are many things one can do during the single years, many skills to learn and master. I can attest for myself that there are things I learned while single, which I wouldn't have had the time and energy to learn if I delayed them until I got married.

I understand, of course, that in this age of ours not every young woman can remain under her parents' roof until she is married. Some, like me, grew up fatherless; other come from unhealthy family situations. But whatever the young woman's situation in life is, she can prepare for a vocation of wifehood by choosing a path that would at least make her ready to start a family when there is a chance. Even if she has to work to support herself, it doesn't mean she has to dive into a path of a five-year degree and a job with crazy hours that would leave her drained and exhausted.

Young women are encouraged to invest in their careers before they start families; even those who explicitly say what they want most in the world is to be wives and mothers, are often pressured to enter a path of studies and career that would leave them in debt, exhausted, and would teach them nothing about running a home, being a good wife and taking care of children. The reasoning given is that they "should do it why they can".

Personally, I think it's awfully short-sighted - if a young woman plans to dedicate her life to being a wife and mother at home, why on earth would she invest precious years and lots of money and energy in doing something that would be entirely incompatible with wifehood and motherhood?

Here is the second question:

"My husband retired in Sept., and the day after, he was hired to work at the only place he ever wanted to work after retirement. Due to our thriftiness, and having no debt but our home, we are able to make it. On the other hand, I am a nurse, and am thinking about going back to work part-time so our savings doesn't go down, and as a "cushion" (my husband's income has gone down considerably). One daughter is in college (living at home), and the other I am homeschooling (she is in her last year). My husband wouldn't mind if I went back to work, but has not pressed the issue. What do you and your readers think? Should we stay home forever? I have lots to keep my busy here: gardening, cooking from scratch (my husband is on a special diet), just living a frugal lifestyle takes time." - Mrs. G

As a young mother, I expect I am still many years, perhaps decades away from the time I will become an empty-nester. I have, however, thought about that time in a woman's life. Before marriage and children, we are inexperienced, and have a lot to learn about keeping and managing a home; when children are grown, we are generally wiser and have much more valuable skills, and our homes are most likely running on a smooth routine, and much time is freed up for things we were too busy for in the hectic years of raising a bunch of little ones.

I think the years after the children have left can be a wonderful time for a woman to extend her creativity now that she has more time. A most wonderful example is Rhonda from the "Down to Earth" blog; Rhonda and her husband are a retired couple and their children no longer live with them, but Rhonda fills up her time with so many wonderful, productive ways. She gardens and cooks from scratch, sews and knits and works in the garden, keeps chickens, makes soap and writes. While I don't believe in copying anyone's life, I think that in a way, I want to be like this when I no longer have children at home: young in spirit, busy, productive, with more time on my hands to try things I have always wanted to try, and the doors of my home always open to children and grandchildren who come to visit.

I think that after half a lifetime of bearing and raising children, a woman should ideally experience a gentler, slower pace to her days, while still being there for her family. It doesn't mean she would be idle. Like Mrs. G said, there is always plenty to do at home, especially if you have a garden and cook from scratch. It's an awful shame, in my opinion, that older women, instead of having the freedom to enjoy their time at home, are once more facing the pressure to enter the working world, perhaps to compete with younger people for jobs. I think about my own grandmother and how important it was to me that she was always there while I was growing up, a solid presence. What a waste it would be if grandmothers are no longer waiting with open arms and hearts.

Of course, when a woman's children are grown, she may find more time for pursuits outside the home, if her husband approves. She may do volunteer work, or expand some of her skills in a way that would serve others as well as her own family. If these skills bring some income, I don't see anything wrong with it per se. I just don't think an older woman should be pressured to enter the rat race instead of tending to the hearth and home.

22 comments:

Persuaded said...

Anna... this isn't really a comment, but rather a request. If you don't mind, that is. I did a post on the discipline of fasting this morning- something I deeply desire to know more about and experience more of. I would appreciate your insights as a conservative practicing Jew so very much. If you have the time, of course- I am aware of how limited your free time and online time are, so feel free to ignore this request with no hurt feelings on my part whatsoever:)
Bless you my dear,
Diane

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you comment about grandparents "being there". A lot of women in my mother's generation went out to work while their mothers took care of the children. So my granparents were "there" when I was little. Now that I have children, my parents are busily retired, constantly on the go, and seldom "there". My husband's parents are the same way. They like to "see" the grandchildren, but 30 minutes at a time is enough. They do give very generous gifts, and we appreciate that, but there is little in the way of time or relationship. As you say, it is a waste, and it's sad.

JennVan said...

While I love that you give the advice for women to stay at home and learn how to make and keep a home, especially if that is what they want to do with their life, I think it is somewhat short sighted. I think it assumes that the woman will marry fairly early in her 20's and never have to provide for her own care. It was my desire to marry early and have a large family and yet I am in my 30's having never married. It was definitely not in my plans to be in this place and if I could, I would change it immediately. I do hope that women would educate themselves wisely so that they can in turn educate their children and support themselves if their life is different than they would like it to be. As much as I would like to go back to old times when a woman could look to her family for support should something happen, in these days and for many people, that is not an option and therefore may need to provide for herself and maybe even her family.

Wordy Wife said...

It seems that a lot of people view a career as the priority, with children and family second. It's all a rat race to get back to the workforce, as if this is the most important and valuable thing in life.

Anonymous said...

Anna, I would like to respond to your commenter because her question is near and dear to my heart.

First, in my religion, we are always counseled to seek the mind of Christ and of the Lord. We are commanded in the Bible to raise children and guide the home while young women. And to teach the young women how to do this successfully when older.

Friend, you mentioned you have two children, one still at home and a Husband. May I gently say that no tomorrow is promised to any of us. I know, I have lost nearly all of my very large family and there was never any warning. What I would give to have spent more time with them....including giving up any money I ever had.

You are not done raising your daughters yet. They are not yet wed. Once they leave you, they are not coming back. You may no longer see them everyday...and you will never, ever get to go back to where you are right now.

Yes, it is always good to be skillful, productive and frugal, but I dare say that you can save more "working" from home.

If is it necessary to work as a nurse, you have the ability (at least in the states we do here) to work at your own pace and even include your daughters. You could provide home care for the disabled or even do some kind of home business that does home care on a very specific basis (I have few nurses in the family and they do per diem or even work from their computers "checking" in on clients from their homes).

I would look to ever opportunity to stay right where you are and finish your race. Leaving your post will leave your family open to the tyranny of TWO people who are slave to their work hours. You will be exhaused and worn out when you are at home. Being ready for work and recovering from it will be your priority.

You will miss birthdays, special talks, special moments, sunsets and sharing secrets with your daughters. You will miss dreaming with them, planning with them and preparing with them and you will teach them that work comes first, whether you mean to or not.

Not to mention your relationship with your Husband. Now is the time to run away and be together. To be able to be free whenever he is is the greatest luxury!

Now is the time to learn and do and try and grow and see all you are able to. Work..is just work.

Not to mention, what I and MILLIONS of other young women wouldn't give for the gift of an older, wiser women who has some wisdom to give on homemaking and child raising. I cannot even ask these quesitons of the women I know..they have never cared for their own children nor run a home.

I asked a family member how to get a baby to take a nap and she honestly had no idea. She has FIVE children. They all were in daycare and they went right to school with extra care from others while she was at work.

Sad, this resource is good as gold. This is a true ministry and the greatest work you could ever do. Have a young mother over for a cup of tea and encourage her...you will effect her and her children for generations.

I will pray for you. Standing a post is never easy...it is having the intestinal fortitude to know you have been assigned and will not be moved...because once your home and children (even OLDER children) are unguarded..that is when the enemy comes in.

Many Blessings :)
Ace

Anonymous said...

I actually agree with this, on the whole. It is not fair for a woman to be a full-time homemaker in her twenties and thirties and forties, perhaps even early fifties...and then be expected to start anew in the job market just when her duties at home are easing. No- that is just when she should be 'retiring', reaching the stage when she can enjoy some active leisure time.

I am in no way against women working, and definitely have nothing against women looking for a job once their kids are older. I just don't think it's fair to expect them to give up a career for motherhood, and then expect them to take up mundane jobs for a second income once motherhood is no longer so demanding. Unless finances are super tight, re-entering the job market should be a perogative, not expectation, for women who relinquished the career path.

As for stay-at-home daughters...well, I must admit I find the whole thing rather creepy. I can understand women staying home in their early twenties because of financial issues or comfort, but I think it's far healthier on the whole for them to get out there in the world. Girls don't get married at the age of 15 like they used to, and I just don't see the parental home as being the ideal place for a twenty-five or thirty year old woman to grow. (And I had a stable home, with a father very much in the picture. So did almost all my friends. I think our fathers would have gone crazy had we stayed home crocheting and baking. I don't think they would have minded had we pursued degrees from home though).
Tammy

Mrs. Lady Sofia said...

Anna,

I am currently a full-time homemaker, but I don't have any children in my home. I'm not exactly "retirement age" though - I'm 40. However, my husband desires that I stay at home and take care of the house, him, and my mother who is a widow (there are times when she needs my assistance).

I know that most would disapprove of me being a full-time homemaker instead of trying to obtain a career, but I enjoy what I do. I've worked outside the home in the past, and I never enjoyed the "rat race" mentality or atmosphere.

I will continue to be a homemaker unless necessity dictates that I be elsewhere.

Star said...

You have brought up some interesting topics Anna. I will comment on one of them - the one about what women do when the children have grown and moved out of the home.
This can be a positive time in a woman's life but it can also be a time of great sadness and loss, almost like a bereavement. Take for example the first inkling you get of it.....when you first child goes to school. Up til that point you are the central figure in that child's life. 'Mummy says this, mummy says that' but when the child goes to school, all of a sudden it is what 'teacher says' that becomes more important. That is hard for the mother to accept. They are then the second most important person in that child's life (let's leave dads out of this for now.) Go forward a few years and the girlfriend comes along. Up until then, the son confides in his mother, she is important to him but when the son has a girlfriend, then it is what the girlfriend says that he listens to. All these lessons are part of the growing up process. Then the child leaves home and the mother looks around.....no child to cook for, no child to wipe the tears away from......no child to share happiness and sadness with. The mother is on her own. That is the time for the mother to get a job and start her own life again. Maybe she doesn't want to and that's fine but if she does, then that is a good thing for her and will ease the pain of losing the child, for loss it is.
At your age you see things from a young person's viewpoint. I remember that very well. I see things from the other end of the scale. I am still learning how to cope with it. I loved being at home with my three sons and I am finding it hard to cope without that. My job helps a lot but it doesn't replace the feelings I had when I was at home. Yes, I have done the cooking thing and the chicken thing and the crafty thing and I am still doing it but the job gives me satisfaction. It makes me feel needed and wanted and important to somebody.
Blessings, Star

Holly Days Closet said...

I have been so blessed since finding your blog. This is a subject I have struggled with this for many years. I will tell you I have thought the same as you for more than 20 years. I'm glad to see other who think the same.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Anna, for responding to these questions. I am grateful for your thoughts and insights. I liked the phrasing that a daughter might "remain under her father's roof and protection until she is married."

It helps clarify the true nature of the situation, since the daughter most likely supports her father, as well, perhaps in ways that are not financial. It's sometimes hard to remember that financial support is not the only kind of usefulness a daughter can provide-- she can be useful through her homemaking work, emotional resilience, general caretaking of family members, cooking, teaching, and simply by being an inspiring person to be around.

How odd that these sorts of values are totally overlooked in a modern culture that values money so highly, as if it were the end-all of everything in proving the value and worth of a human being.

Thanks again, Anna. Hope you are doing well.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Thank you, ladies.

Ace, thank you for your well-worded and insightful comment. You say it so well.

Tammy, I don't necessarily mean an unmarried daughter should do nothing but crocheting and baking until she gets married. There are so many things she *can* do, though, without entering the path of college dorms/expensive rent and working 50 hours a week.

And yes indeed, an unmarried daughter can be an incredible asset to her family. I know I tried to be that to my family before I got married, and I know I am missed now.

Rhonda Jean said...

Hello Anna dear. Thank you for your lovely words about how we are living here. One of the things I truly enjoy is my voluntary work. Two days a week I work with the homeless and low income families. I believe that at this age, I'm in my 60s, that I have a responsibility to pass on what I know to those younger who want to learn. So I teach my frugal home workshops and counsel women and show, by example, that living this way after retirement brings great joy.

Unlike Star, I have found my wonderful sons bringing a new wife and a serious girlfriend to our family. It brings me a lot of happiness to be with these girls and we are working on getting to know each other. We work together in my home when they visit and I know that many of the things I am doing, they want to do too. So there is teaching involved. But that teaching also happens the other way too - they teach me new recipes, how to program my ipod and other things I would not know about if I didn't have them in my life.

I hope you and your readers continue productive lives well into the older years and when it is time, pass on the knowledge of those years to those who want to learn.

Jo said...

It is interesting the number of women who's husband like their wives at home. My husband allows me to choice what I would like to do and how to fill my day - however I do everything in prayer. We work in partnership (I know that not all Christians agree with this). We make financial decisions together, projects around the house, child-rearing etc.. As mentioned in previous posts - I work and love my job, but my adult/teenage children come first. There is no "rat-race" as I don't allow it. If women do work they need to take control of it and not allow it to control them or their families.

Anonymous said...

Saying that daughters who stay home are doing nothing but crocheting and baking is insulting and implies that is all the mothers do as well.

My 22yo daughter will stay home till she is married. (She is currently being courted and we hope she will marry within two years.) She has one part-time private cleaning job but otherwise helps her widowed grandfather once a week, is an invaluable help around the home in many ways including helping with some of the homeschooling of her 14 yo sister. She is actively educating herself in theology, literature, basket weaving (and teaches classes in the home), fiber arts (spinning, knitting, sewing), cooking, and animal husbandry. When she leaves there will be a gaping hole in our household and family but we will adjust. I am looking forward to the day when she can move from our home into her own to take on her career of being a help meet to her husband.

By being at home, we eat healthier and cheaper by not having to use process "quick fix" foods and have time to grow our own. I can keep the electric bill below a $100 average because I have time to hang the clothes on the line.

Working outside the home doesn't just earn money, it costs money too.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean to imply all stay-home-daughters do is crochet and bake. But I stick to my intial premise, which is that I think young women in their twenties should not be limited to a mainly domestic education at home. As far as I'm concerned, basket weaving, spinning, knitting, etc all fall neatly in that category.

Studying literature and theology at home is wonderful in theory, but likely just amounts to reading books on one's own. Subjects like these should be learned in a group, where sharp young minds from DIFFERENT backgrounds challenge each other. Studying at home is not like studying in a class. (Not saying everyone needs to go to college, but everyone needs that active meeting of different minds, some action, some new dynamics, to hone the mind in its youth).
Just my humble opinion.
Tammy

Jennifer said...

A different perspective:

My greatest dream my whole life was to be a wife and mommy, full-time, forever :) God has richly blessed and I am now living that dream! When I was 8yrs old however my dad left our family leaving my mom to raise 4 children on her own. Since she had quit college as a young women to help put my dad through school she had to real marketable degree or skills that could support a family of five in the U.S.A. This caused her to have to work four part-time jobs while going to school full-time and raising four children alone. (Her own dad died several years previous) God is faithful and enable her to do this well but it is certainly not something we would wish on anyone.
Coming from this background I felt that being a good steward of the days God has given to me meant that I should use the time and resources He gave me as a young women and attend college to complete a marketable degree instead of just preparing at home for what I hoped God would bring my way. A little sacrifice on my part as a young woman seemed well worth not having to force my family to sacrifice so much if the Lord blessed me with a family but then for whatever reason(death, disability) my husband was no longer able to support us financially. I know some would say that I should have just trusted God to provide in such a situation and that my studies were a waste of time and money. I feel God's provision in cases like this can come before the tragedy in the form of time and resources with which to prepare. God provided me with several years in which I was not married that I could work and earn a degree. I feel it would have been irresponsible for me to wait at home for God to bring a husband along instead of using the time to sharpen my mind and gain skills that may be needed later in life. I fully believe that God is more than able to care for us but He has also given us discernment and many opportunities so that we may live wisely for His Glory!
My prayer of course is that I would never need to use the degree I have earned to create income but that rather I will spend my life blessing others with all that God taught me and grew into me during those years (what a great time of maturing that was!).
Your blog is an encouragement to me as I seek to bless God with my life and a wife and mother in my small corner of the World. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with all of us!

Anonymous said...

You seem convinced women working would spell the end of family life. And I could certainly see that in cases of women pursuing demanding careers. But there is a reason so many women go into teaching and nursing, they tend to be more family-friendly professions and hardly the "rat race". Easily part-time and/or per-diem work .

There are careers out there for those of us who work, but also value family.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your post, Anna. The first topic I liked especially, as I am a 17 year old stay at home daughter. I love being at home. I don't want to get a job or get a degree or anything. Most likely one day I will be a wife and mother, and I am preparing myself for that by helping look after my siblings at home. I homeschool my two younger siblings (I have 9 siblings in all, ranging in ages 9 months - 19years), while my mother does the older ones. I cook, clean, and help my Dad with his accounts etc. I am actively involved in pro-life work with a youth based group here in New Zealand. I have sewn Victorian dresses and made clothes for myself and my little sister. I play the piano and regularly babysit my siblings while Mum goes out shopping. I have been a leader in many camps for underprivileged children. I could never have done so many of these things if I had a full time job or was studying for a degree. I love the freedom I have to pursue things that I want to do, and the things that are important like pro-life work and how to run a household. Definatly more than just sitting around baking and crocheting!
Rachel

Anonymous said...

I am not at all against women in the workforce, and I do believe millions of women desire to be there. Some are there by "force", but plenty others are there because they truly want to be. I think my issue comes when they start having families and feel they can somehow raise their children in a quality way when they only see their children for a couple of hours per night. I know certain situations dictate that scenario, but I will admit I do not at all understand women who willfully choose that.

As for me, I feel very fortunate for my "work" situation. I have a Master's degree in Human Services/Marriage and Family Therapy, and as my husband and I own a small business, the H.S. part has certainly come in handy when dealing with employees. I am in charge of payroll, general accounting and so forth, and my husband does the day-to-day outside of the home aspects. It keeps my mind and body busy, and I'm quite satisfied.

I am curious, however, what many think of infertile women's role in society. I think they are often seen and feel as outcasts. You speak of seasons before and after raising a family, but what of women who simply cannot have that family? Are they just to stay at home alone all day and continually clean their homes and bake for their husbands, lonely? Certainly those women should feel the freedom to contribute some of their time elsewhere, as they see fit. I've been married nearly six years, diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and am infertile. We are not childless by choice, but because my body has failed to conceive. As this minority, I sometimes feel overlooked in the home versus work debate, because my situation IS so different. If I could have children, I'd probably have at least two by now. Alas, I have received no such blessing, and find myself desperately seeking some opportunities to be outside of the home, because I just flat out cannot be here all day every day with no one else around me.

Andrea

Anonymous said...

I think Jennifer put it wonderfully. Young women should take advantage of the time they have. A marketable degree will be much more of a potential asset to a future family in a time of need than knowing how to do fine crafts.
One just needs to be careful not to go too deeply in debt for this 'security degree', or it defeats the purpose.
Tammy

Anonymous said...

I refuse to attend college because I want the world to contain one more person capable of handling the realities of life, and I can't become that person effectively if I'm wasting time and energy preparing to become yet another mindless "expert". If classrooms were really such great places to have your thinking challenged, or to prepare for real life, we wouldn't have so many "experts" so obviously completely lost when trying to deal with any deviation from "standard procedure".

Front Porch Society said...

Anna,

As you know, I am a single woman in her 30's. I have 1 college degree already and have worked for years in that career field. Just recently, I have gone back to college fulltime to pursue a 2nd degree and have made a career switch.

College and/or a career is not a rat-race to me. I love what I do for a living. And I am loving my college classes (once again!).

I have no debts either because I live my life financially responsible. I paid in full for my college. And I have no problems paying rent and other expenses.

SO for others to think of a career woman being pulled down with the weight of debts and the stress of always working long hour work weeks is wrong. This is not the always the case. Most of us woman who have careers are very responsible and can manage both our finances and time very well.

In fact, being on my own has taught me more responsibility than if I had ever chosen to remain at home.

The concept of having adult children still living at home until they find someone to marry (if that ever will happen which you cannot guarantee!) does not set well with me. I would hate to think parents would allow their 30 or 40 year old daughter to continue living at home and encourage them not to work or to provide for their own self. This just promotes laziness. Not responsibility. Adult children need to leave their parents and strike out on their own.

My mother was a stay at home mom. But when both my sister and I were finally out of the house, my mom went back to college to finish up her degree for teaching. And she now teaches part-time at a Christian school. And she loves it!!

Work does not have to be boring or dreadful or cumbersome. Work can be and should be enjoyable. If a woman is working a job she hates, that is her own fault. She has the choice to quit and find another job she loves.