Thursday, March 17, 2011

It should be enough

Most women have more than enough to occupy them at home, and I’m not talking only about mothers of young children – indeed, Moms of little ones are often forced to stick to the bare essentials to just keep the home running, apart from their many childcare duties.

Granted, there comes a time of life when a woman has more time at her disposal, generally when the children have already grown up and left, and she has learned to do her housekeeping duties so effectively that she often has quite a bit of time on her hands. However, it is also a stage of life when the woman, although still far from old, usually benefits from the slower pace.

Perhaps some young wives with no children yet also have more time to spare, however, I think it strongly depends on how prepared they are to running a home when they are married. Personally I feel as though I have more time now than when I had when there were no children at all, because thankfully I’ve come a long way (although there is still a lot to learn).

However it always leaves me troubled when I hear the proclaimed success of women who combine family life and career, especially when we talk about mothers of large families. I am highly skeptical about the use of the word “successful” in these instances, because it is very difficult to measure outwardly just what was the price a family had to pay for the career goals of a wife and mother.

When this question is raised, for example in interviews, and the woman is asked how she “did it all”, we often hear vague answers such as “I had a supportive family”, but what does it mean, exactly? Or we hear tongue-in-cheek answers such as “I don’t bake cakes, that’s how I have time”. Is that all indeed? Why is it that few are willing to talk about the amount of stress entailed with balancing a home and a career? Or about how soon they had to leave their babies after they were born? Did they have to give up nursing and the many physical and emotional benefits that come with it? People triumphantly proclaim that someone is a world-famous scientist and also the mother of ten children. Yes, these are the dry facts combined in one person. But what is the real cost? Yes, she had ten children, but how much time did she actually spend with them when they were in need of her?

We also shouldn’t forget that we can’t all have the same degree of brilliance and energy. We couldn’t all have astonishing professional success even if we set our mind to it. As things are at present, the logic appears thus: doing something outside the home is worthier than pursuing things at and for the home and family. And the worth of a wife and mother is increasingly measured by her income.

There is always much and more to do at home, and if someone claims it doesn’t take a lot of time, they either aren’t aware of what it really takes, or bend the truth while it would be more honest to admit they choose to neglect some aspects of housekeeping in favor of other pursuits, which they are within their right to do, because certainly, we all have different priorities. For my husband, cleanliness and order are very important, while many men won’t mind if their wives use their time in other ways.

Taking care of children, however, is beyond a doubt full-time work. Children aren’t windows that can be left dirty until it is impossible to see through them, or dust balls that can accumulate under the sofa for years. Children will be taken care of, the question only remains, by whom – by their mother (which is the normal, natural and desirable state of affairs) or by a stranger who might be “professional” but who does it for money and not out of love and so will more often than not be inferior to a mother. Taking care of children and of a home is a career. It is time-consuming, challenging, worthy and satisfying. It should be enough and plenty in the eyes of anyone who wonders about the occupation of a woman.

A woman who works outside the home may contribute to the family budget if her income is significant compared to that of her husband, however, there are more than enough families where the supposed influence of that additional income is exaggerated, because it is mostly spent on work-related costs such as daycare and a second vehicle, and on “we can afford it because we work so hard” luxuries such as expensive trips abroad. There are many, many families who would have been much better off long term financially, among other considerations, with a mother at home and a single income which is prudently managed.


18 comments:

Susan said...

Hello Anna,
I've been reading your blog for a while now and really enjoy it. I agree with you on nearly everything! I am a 44 year old stay at home mom of three. My older two have moved on and started their adult lives. My youngest is 13. I have no plans to ever work outside of my home. There is too much work to be done inside of my home! It's true that I have more time now. Life isn't nearly as hectic as it once was. That is the season of my life right now. My husband still needs my home cooked meals, clean clothes, freshly made up bed and an organized and peaceful house to come home to after work. I have to say that I do miss the days when my children were young. I loved those times and you should cherish every moment! But this is where I am now. I have learned to enjoy the quiet days. It is much easier to keep my house clean and in order. I have less laundry. Life has seasons and seasons always change. Just because things get a little easier doesn't make my work any less worthy. My husband also enjoys the new calmness in our lives. If I were to work some where else, everything I have worked to create in our home would be gone. I am and always will be the keeper of our home.

Shorty said...

I agree with a lot of what you said, but in defence of the women with jobs outside the home...you mentioned budget - if there are ten children in a family, the costs are enormous, mortgage or rent, food, clothing, and schooling, especially Jewish day school. Sometimes there is a real need for both parents to be working. I am pregnant right now, and we have been trying to come up with a budget, and realistically, at some point, both my husband and i need to be working - and honestly it is just to pay for Jewish day school. And this is our first child! We don't live in an expensive home, and we don't go on vacations...its just how much things cost.

Lara said...

Dear Anna,
What a beautiful post. I totally agree with you. May I translate it into Portuguese and post it in my blog, linking it to yours?
Many blessings
Lara

The Retro Homemaker said...

I agree! I love your blog because it always lifts me up when someone puts me down for not working. I am a wife without kids yet, but I always find something to do at home!

Lena said...

Its feels terrible to be a mother with a full time job. All the 'benefits' that they claim that a woman gets when she works outside of home are trully no benefits at all. Mostly they are lies to cover up the sadness, the tiredness, the fear that the children will abandon her one day, the fear of missing too much of the children for they grow so fast. Its hard on a marriage, and hard on a woman when she doesnt learn all the basics of being a wife and homemaker, but spends the best years of her life working for someone else.

Analytical Adam said...

The sad reality is "MOST" women that have success careers actually don't have children. They did a study on it.

The only way it is possible is if you come from a well to do politically connected family and are usually the first born or the most favored child which sad to say in my own family it is the granddaughter of a pulpit Rabbi (not my side of the family) Families that seem to push this kind of thing with having their grandmother raise the kid for the first child although this will create problems for the other girls in the family as the grandmother can't do this for every child. They are hurting the Jewish people as a whole as many women believe they can do it all and don't wake up before it is too late and it hurts a lot of men as many women have on interest to get married until they reach a certain point in their career which may never happen. As I have noticed there is a very uneven distribution of children in many families including so Orthodox women where one child will have 7 children and the 2 others will have zero and this is just not good and is created more inequality. Yes some people will have more some less but it should be like a bell curve with more people in the middle not one extreme or the other which at the end of the day and you add to the mix those today that will only have 2 or 3 when in the past they would have had more it is a very bad mix. Like I have said 2 generation ago the 10 children of the movie that it is based on the sound of music had 27 grandchildren but 5 had 0 children and 4 others had either 6 or 7 with one of them having 2 children. From uneven distribution. It is giving false idea's for many women to think they could have it all which I myself was brainwashed as well. I didn't know Blu Greenberg was married to a Rabbi who graduated from Harvard (and he himself twists the torah to fit his agenda so his wife is only following his lead) and they have many connections.

Bethany Hudson said...

Haha! It certainly is more than enough. Somtimes I find myself dreaming of all I could do without little ones around. Don't get me wrong, I'd never trade these precious years or the sweet responsibilities, but you know what I mean? Especially as a writer, the extra hours I would have--the freedom to just head to a coffee shop and work uninterrupted! Bliss! But, even within the home--those corners I would really scour because I know they would stay clean for more than ten minutes--the skills I would hone up on--the breads I would bake--oh I could go on an on. I love being at home. And, don't get me wrong; that didn't come naturally. But, it is such a blessing. I can't ever imagine wanting to work in the public sector... unless, a publisher lines me up with a book tour, and then I will definitely sign up for a couple of weeks of "public service" :-P

Alicia said...

I was just wondering, you mentioned having to work outside of the home for a time didn't you- isn't that a sign that an second income isn't all but spent on daycare and gas? Wouldn't that suggest that a single income isn't always enough even if you do cut back on luxuries?

Lady Anne said...

Anna, you are so right about the costs of going to work. Our eldest daughter went to work directly from high school, and had a very good job by the time her second child was born. (She was secretary to the president of a major US bank; not shabby a-t'all.) However, she discovered that counting the time from leaving in the morning to returning at night, paying a sitter, buying disposable diapers rather than using cloth, bus fare, decent clothes, etc., it was really hardly worth the time and effort. She figured they'd have to cut back a bit after she quit, but they hardly even felt the differnce, and life was so much more pleasant that she joked she'd have paid money to be able to stay home, instead of accepting pay for going out.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Alicia,

Yes, I did work outside the home for a brief period of time while my husband was unemployed and stayed at home with our daughter. It only served to me as a strong illustration why a woman's place is IN her home.

Lara,

Yes of course you may translate this post and post it on your blog, thanks for asking.

Sarah said...

But it clearly is at times necessary, as you did it yourself for a short time. Perhaps for some other women, it is necessary for a longer period of time.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anna,
Have read your lovely blog for some time now and as always your posts give us food for thought.I personally can say please ladies think more than twice about working outside the home.My reasons are from the experience of being left to fend for myself from the age of seven and being left in a very vulnerable situation that led to abuse from a family member.I had siblings and my dear sister was also a victim to.Only we as mothers and parents love our children enough to protect them.Others will only see them as part of their job that brings them money.As a daughter I so wanted my Mum to be there,for the times you run home from school and want to share the good times and the not so good,for comfort, for hugs for protection,instead of an empty house and a hollow empty fearful shell that was me the child.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to point out that when it comes to working mothers it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. It is possible to reach a healthy compromise.
Where I live one fairly good income barely covers the mortgage and other housing related bills let alone food, clothing, fuel etc. And we definitely don’t live in a large house. Land is just VERY expensive here - especially if you want to live in a safe, child friendly area. So myself and my husband have a 20 month old daughter and we both work.
Having said that though, we (and note I say we not I) also decided that as we chose to have a child it is our responsibility to bring her as much as we can. Because of this we made a decision to each work part time so that we could share the childcare.
I am lucky enough to now work four days a week from home for a family business. My husband works full time hours over 4 days so that he can spend one day at home. That just leaves three days of childcare required. And no our daughter doesn’t go to a stranger or ‘professional’. She is cared for by a close family member who is also a registered childcare provider. By working from home I can easily keep on top of housework and cooking. Plus if my daughter is ill I can keep her at home with me, if work is quiet I can pick her up early etc.
I feel very lucky to be in this position as many of my friends have to work full time away from the home but there are also others who, like us, have found a way around this by working together as a couple.
I am a firm believer that a father can do just as good a job of childcare as a mother. Taking care of children should be the role of a parent – whether that is a mother or a father.

Anonymous said...

This is so cool! I didn't know there were blogs in the 1950s...

Katie V. said...

Anna,

I just wrote a long comment, but not sure if it went through? I hope it did. Katie

Katie V. said...

Hello Anna,

I'm so passionate about this topic, that I thought I would summarize what I already wrote (because I dont think it went through).

Thank you, thank you for writing this! It is the greatness sadness in the world to lose those precious minutes, hours with your children. There are only 24 hours in a day. Hours spent at work, are hours not spent with your children.

If the majority of women could see the beauty in staying home to raise their family, then tons of jobs would open up for men, their salaries would go up, and thus fathers could better provide for their families, families would be more stable because husband and children are happier etc...etc..etc.. Feminism had a huge cost.

GK Chesterton wrote poignantly on the mother's gigantic role in the home.

God bless you!

Anonymous said...

I make four times what my husband does, and my work provides all of life's necessities for our family.

No exaggeration of the importance of my income in our house.

Sally

angela said...

Well said!!!