Buffy mentioned in one of her comments that many of the professions now typically associated with women (teachers, nurses, even secretaries) are actually a way for unmarried women to display their feminine gift of a caring nature while they yet have no family.
It's a very interesting point of view, and in fact I somewhat agree. In the past, unmarried women were important members of the community, and their family and acquaintances were greatly blessed by the gift of time they had. Single women could take care of their elderly relatives or neighbors, or help take care of their sisters' children, or help new mothers with housework. There are endless possibilities to help others when one has time.
Now, however, when the families and communities have become so fractured, many single women find themselves lonely, and together with how most of us were raised, no wonder they feel useless if they have no paid job and no paycheck. On the flip side, many of the elderly spend their days in nursing homes, where they feel lonely and abandoned by their family.
Have you ever been to a nursing home? Even the best of them are institutionalized settings, not a real home. True, some elderly people need the help of professional nurses, but many just need some assistance in everyday chores. Because no one in their family can spare the time to provide such assistance for them, they are sent to nursing homes, which is very sad in my opinion.
My grandmother, who recently celebrated her 94-th birthday, has lived with us ever since I was born. She still lives with my mother. What she needs more than physical assistance is company. So many elderly people are lonely and neglected, even if all their physical needs are met. Depression leads many of them to eat very little and be malnourished, and no wonder – who likes to eat alone all the time? I believe that if my grandmother was placed in a nursing home, her condition would quickly deteriorate.
Of course, part of the equation is that people simply have smaller families. If a grandmother has five children and twenty-five grandchildren, at least some of them will probably make time for her. But if she only has one child, who has moved away, and one or two grandchildren, she is far more likely to end up living in a nursing home with no visitors.
I truly think we cannot over-estimate the value of strong, close-knit communities. I know that right now, not everyone can live near their family, but communities can be built anywhere, and they make a wonderful change in people's lives.