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.