Friday, August 12, 2011

The real reason


I have lately become very doubtful about the reply I usually give when I am asked why I stay home to raise my children; more often than not, I say that I wouldn’t be able to earn enough to cover the costs of daycare and still have a sum of any significance left at the end of the month, which, combined with the difficulties of commute from where we live, the fact that we don’t have a second car, and I don’t even have a driver’s license… etc, etc.

Is the above true? Yes, it is. But lately I began to feel more and more strongly I have a problem with continuing to say those things, because it’s like saying, “I’m a victim of my circumstances. If only I had chosen a profession that would enable me to earn more, or if I could get someone to watch my children for me without having to worry about the cost of it, I could be earning a paycheck.”

In short, it is implied from what I say that it would be perfectly alright for me to leave my children in the care of a stranger for the largest part of the day and week, if only I could ensure I get enough money in return.

If it’s all about the money, no wonder the first thing well-meaning people start suggesting is how I could earn more while obtaining the lowest possible cost of daycare. “Women who work full-time get government benefits and daycare funding, you know”. Yes, the sad irony of this is that working part-time in Israel, for a mother, is often worse than not working at all, which means that very often, women at typical “feminine” professions who work half-time are actually worse off than if they would have stayed at home. This is meant to induce women to work full-time.

The full truth and the real, unequivocal reason for a mother to stay at home with her children, in my eyes, is not at all about money, but it’s so very difficult to get up and say it, when asked about it, because it would pass off as extremely odd or judgmental; most mothers where I live are either working outside the home, or staying at home on a temporary and semi-involuntary basis.

No doubt home is the first in their list of priorities, but I’m afraid it would still be taken in the wrong way if I explicitly state my belief that it is better for the children to have their mother at home on a permanent basis, even if, at a superficial glance, the family is financially worse off for it. I’m not saying unable to make ends meet, as someone will undoubtedly suggest; merely unable to put off a larger sum in a savings account each month, or to afford things like a second vehicle, trips abroad or a lot of extracurricular activities for the children.

I suppose that in a small community like the one we live in, the inducement is even greater to avoid direct confrontation and clash of opinions. The downside of this is, that I present my situation – which really is blissful, staying with my dear children in a nice and pleasant home, always with plenty to keep me busy but without the enormous additional pressure of a job outside the home – as an inevitable, irksome circumstance, rather than a conscious choice made for the benefit of my entire family.

I’m afraid many of us will have to continue facing this dilemma, on how to confront our family, friends and general well-wishers who aren’t really familiar with our ideas, until homemaking as a full-time career becomes an acceptable choice once more. But will it become an acceptable choice if we never defend it for what it is?

It should be done in an extremely careful and very gracious way, of course. I imagine it would be enough to make a fellow mother fire up and become defensive, simply by saying “I think my children are better off at home with their mother and not at all in need of all-day-long interaction with their peers in a daycare center”. Even if I put emphasis on the words “my children”, not anyone else’s, there is still no hiding I believe the above is true for nearly all young children. I have no wish at all to hurt anyone’s feelings. But I do not want to continue presenting my own situation as second-best, while I believe it is the absolute best for everyone involved.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

I handle that situation by responding "We have decided that me staying home with our children is the best thing for our family." No judgment of others is implied and it is clear that it is my choice. But I think it was clear anyways, because if I were working I would be making a great deal of money.

Marie

melinda said...

Anna,

My son is 4 months old today. I had a great job that I worked at until the night I went into labor which provided 40% of our income. I was excited to quit and stay home with my son. Was it hard? Yes, but we feel that the rewards of my staying home far outweigh any sacrifices. I would have brought home a good amount of money even after daycare costs, but some things in life are more important than money and my son is definitely one of them! Thanks for your encouraging blog.

Anonymous said...

Why not say you want to be home with them, because you love being a mother and homemaker, and you're very blessed that you're able to make it work financially and your husband is willing to make the necessary sacrifices for you to do that? It's the truth, and if other people love having careers, you're entitled to do what you love.

--L

Rose said...

You are doing what is best for your children Anna dear, why choose anything else?

angela said...

Hey Anna, I just think it is so funny that no matter what you say everyone is going to see it out of their own perspective. I say this because I try to tell young woman all the time that it is better for a mother to stay at home with their children, but because in our case they only see that my husband makes enough for me to stay home and still have extras. Sometimes I just want to shake people, but they do not think that I would still choose to be home IF we had to be in smaller house or have one car. It's hard to convince people that the real reason you stay home is because you love your children and are choosing to be with them and raise them yourself. In this day and time people think that anyone can take care of their child and it's sad to say that alot of times the moms are so into themselves that they might be right. Anyway, all you can do is what's right for you and pray tha God will reveal HIS will to those around you. Thanks for the honesty of this post!!!

Jana said...

People ask me if I miss working, especially my old coworkers. I smile and say in a grateful voice, "No". I tell them I love being at home and that my husband has set everything up so I can continue to do so for as long as I like. If I were to go back to work it would be a little bit of a hassle finding adequate daycare, a new wardrobe, etc. It would be expensive up front though I would make nearly as much as my husband.

You are describing the hassle of having to work to other people, and the well meaning ones want to help offer solutions. Just let them know you are happier at home and that your husband has made it possible for you to stay home as long as you want. If they start delving deeper you can give them more, but I'd go for telling them you love staying home as much as possible. You can also tell them that you have no desire to work or find a job to make more money and that your husband is okay with that.

It works. Don't be afraid to say that you love being home. When I put it this way, women often get starry eyed and wistful and tell me they wish they could have stayed home too when they had little kids. Avoid telling them of the drudgery and make being home sound wonderful.

Dove said...

I simply say I love being at home, and my husband loves having me here (our first baby is due in a month, but I haven't worked since our marriage).

People then say 'oh, if you can afford it that's great' but the point is that when we were first married we 'couldn't' afford it (according to most peoples standards- anyone else in our situation would be working) but the sacrifice was worth it, and we are not ashamed to say so (tactfully, of course!)

The Retro Homemaker said...

This post rings true to me! I am a homemaker without children yet and instead of saying I am a homemaker, I keep saying I stay home because of health issues.

You are doing a wonderful thing by staying home with your children! If more women did this, the world would be in a better place.

may said...

I think that you're being a trifle over-sensitive and defensive about this.

I have a full-time job in one of the world's leading law firms. There are women in our workplace who choose to continue to work once they've had children. There are also those who become stay-at-home mothers whether immediately after maternity leave, or later on.

One of my bosses recently made that choice. If asked, she explained it graciously as, "I've decided that I can do more good at home with my children at the moment. This is what's best for my family". I'm not aware of anyone questioning her decision, or criticising her for it.

Now, maybe she was fairly relaxed about the situation because she had made partner so no one could credibly accuse of her not putting in the hours and having done her bit. And indeed, no one did. Everyone took their tone from her and respected her choice. Why shouldn't the people you know respect yours? And if they disagree, so what?

I also think that if you know that the choice you've made is the right one for you and your family, then you should say so. Not in a combative or defensive way like in your final paragraph, but simply and kindly. It's a little strange that you feel that you can be frank and forthright about your choice here, where you are relatively anonymous and where the approval you receive must be flattering but is ultimately a little unreal, but you can not do so to the real people with whom you interact every day.

Apart from anything else, you owe it to your daughters to be honest about your choice if you're asked, particularly if you are keen on teaching them that it is a good choice and one that they should eventually consider making when it's their turn. Otherwise, what are you really saying? That this is a choice that you should hide?

I hope that you find your way through this. Shabbat shalom, Mrs T.

THE Princess Bombshell* said...

When people ask what I do or if I work, I always say, "I GET to stay home!". My reason is-- I ADORE those four little people more than anything! Why would I want to do anything else??! :) lol

CPass said...

When my best friend quit her engineering job to stay home after her second baby was born she told people, "We discussed it and prayed about it and decided that me staying home and raising children was the best decision for our family." No excuses, no judging, but the truth.

Stay at home parents should not have to give an excuse for staying home any more than working parents should have to for working. We each know in our hearts and souls what is best for our families.

Leah Brand-Burks said...

More and more, and with the help of your perspectives on this blog, I am willing to just say it like it is. I DO believe my children are better off with me, and thank G-d I am able to be here for them. But I, like you, fully realize that in telling someone this, I will be implying all children would be better at home raised by their mothers.

Anonymous said...

I stayed at home with my little one when she was born until she was 5, then returned to work for 2 years. They were 2 miserable years in which I missed so many moments with her that I will never get back. I resigned from my job 3 years ago and have never regretted it - especially now that I know that I can't have any more children. When people ask me why I'm still at home now that my daughter is at school, I just tell them that I didn't want to miss any more of her growing up.

Melissa D said...

I ditched a great career to stay at home, starting just before baby #1 arrived (we now have 3 kids, 6, 3.5, and 2). I've never once regretted it! Most of my friends are still working hard and don't get to spend the time I do with my family. I think if your joy in what you do is expressed, any resentment in another woman's heart is her problem, not yours. I try to be tactful, but if I just say "I LOVE being at home!" or talk about the domestic stuff I love doing with the kids, or how fun it is to solve problems that help my family, that joy dissolves any one-upsmanship. (And if it does not, perhaps her conscience is bothering her, not my choices!)

That said, I DO encourage mothers who are on the fence to stay home and build their family and home life as their main priority. Any home-based work that fits into those plans (I write from home) can be managed carefully to help support a main income. The trick is not to idolize a past life of easy accolades, a biweekly paycheck, and no pesky children around.

I love your perspective and thoughtfulness

Anonymous said...

What great answers! I always made the mistake too of saying my previous job would have made me put the babies in day care 7 days a week sometimes 12 hours a day..which is true but it is not the reason I stayed home. Now I find myself home with teens and people say there would be nothing to do they would be bored and I list all my many obligations now with elderly sick relatives but that is still not the reason I stay home. Good for you realizing you need a truthful sensitive answer before 15 years have gone by!!!

Katie V. said...

And hopefully Anna, one day, people can move beyond calling staying at home a career and see it as a state of life, a calling, a role -and a priveleged one at that.

TanyaL said...

I had to put some thought into how to explain why we homeschool for similar reasons, but finding and then practicing a pat answer (the one you share with folks you aren't close enough to to share more controversial opinions with) has relieved a lot of stress for me.

For me, my answer always includes the word flexibility and a mention of a more relaxed lifestyle for our family. Maybe combining L's suggestion above about *you* wanting more time with your children, plus your family decision to create a slower, more relaxed lifestyle, would spark a bit of thought without stirring up too much controversy.

The Gentle Mom said...

When people ask what I do, I usually just state that I'm a stay-at-home mom. If they say something along the lines of, "I wish we could afford for me to do that," I usually just smile and nod and don't say anything. If they persist in discussing the financials, I may just joke around that, "I really wish we could afford, it, too!"

On the rare occasions people ask WHY I've chosen to stay home, I just state the truth: "I always intended to go back to work after Trey was born, but I changed my mind the minute I saw him." I've never had anyone question me further, and no one ever seems to think I'm insulting them (and I have many friends who are working moms).

Mrs. J. and Miss J. said...

Thank you for sharing your struggle about this issue. I have the same dilemma explaining why I am a stay-at-home daughter who does not even work outside the home. I usually say that I stay at home because my mother has some chronic health issues and needs me to help keep up with the house work and meals and there are a few other obstacles in our situation that I sometimes mention.

All of those obstacles do exist but I also stay at home because I believe it is best for daughters to stay under the covering of their fathers until married if possible. However, for the most part society does not approve of that and people can say some very cutting things if I ever even hint at that idea.

Blessings,
Miss J.

Dianne said...

One should never feel that s/he must defend "This is our choice" or "We feel this is best for our family" or "I LOVE being able to stay home with my children!" :)

Anonymous said...

Loved "angela" 's comment about moms these days being "so into themselves". Very, very true. And very sad.

living from glory to glory said...

Amazing comments!! Yet one day we will all look back and ask where did the time go? Even after my children married and started their own families, people ask well now are you going back to work?
No I still have my dear wonderful hubby and a lovely home to take care of. It was a easy chose for us as a couple in the beginning now we know the fruits of our Labor. Blessings Roxy

Ann SM said...

I very much can relate to this post. I almost have to pretend I don't like being home to avoid hurting someones feelings or appearing judgmental. *shakes head* Guess we should just say this is what is right for our families and leave it at that. Some things you can't put a price tag on.

Michelle Therese said...

If people ask me why I stay home as a housewife I say, "Because I want to."

:-) A very simple reply! And it works.

Anonymous said...

If only we could all simply say "This what we feel is best for our family" and leave it at that.

(But as a working mom...I have to say I've also experienced this from the other side).

LouLou said...

As a full time student and full time mother, I cannot wait until I graduate in December to stay home with my son! I have struggled with this from well-meaning family members. They cannot understand why I would choose to stay home with my son when I have a degree that could be used.

I normally explain that I didn't know that I'd be a mother so soon in life and that I believe that someone should not put their life on hold for possibilities, including having a family, but that once I met my husband, we chose for me to stay at home after I got my degree. It was an option that we had because I was/am so close to graduating, and it was a good idea in case my husband is ever disabled (something that is a real possibility in his chosen career).

My mother understands that every mother deserves to raise their child(ren). My father thinks its great that since we've only ever lived on one income, we don't have the difficulty of losing any income. My husband's parents, however, believe its selfish of me to put the responsibility of finances on their son. We've explained that we want to raise our children ourselves, and that we want to homeschool. They believe that its impossible to live without two incomes and that it is irresponsible for me to homeschool them. I don't know what to do with this except to explain that financially, it is actually better we do it this way. I feel like I am lying to them about my real reasons, but money is the only reason they will take. What would you do, except to explain the real reasons and then explain it in terms they will understand?

I believe this is what you are doing in this situation. Good job!