Thursday, September 8, 2011

Happy at home


A reader says, "I know of several stay-home moms who have filthy homes and put their kids in front of the TV while they chat on the phone all day. I know several working mothers for whom working fulfills them as people, energizes them, and gives them more energy, patience, and attentiveness for their families. Different scenarios work for different people."

First off, just the fact that a mother stays home does not make her automatically better than the mothers who also work outside the home. If the stay-at-home mother has no vision, no self-discipline, no goal of serving her family through devoting most of her time to them, she might well slip into habits of laziness, selfishness and self-indulgence. The most precious resource wives and mothers at home have is their own time. Since no one stands over us to make sure we don't waste it, it's important that we do it ourselves.


Second, I have often heard women say, "oh, I could never stay at home full-time, it would drive me crazy" - yet when the arguments are analyzed, often it turns out that their desire to work outside the home actually has to do with things that aren't strictly related to their work. Most women here where I live don't have very ambitious careers, they have jobs. They are secretaries, preschool teachers, school social workers, school psychologists; for many of them, the issues with which they deal at work are similar to what they face at home (whiny toddlers or disobedient teenagers, for example). Yet what prompts them to go out and take care, for example, of someone else's kids instead of focusing on their own? 

"Going to work stimulates me to dress up nicely, get out of the house, talk to people," I often hear. Well, you know what? If I were to be stuck within four walls wearing my frumpiest clothes for weeks on end, I would probably become depressed pretty quickly! I might not dress up every day, but I always put on such clothes as wouldn't make me blush if an unexpected visitor comes along. Besides, it's my husband I want to look pretty for, not strangers! And we go out every day. Co-workers are not the only people with whom one can socialize. Admittedly, for me meeting fellow moms is quite easy - all I need to do is step out to the playground. Some need to go out of their way to make social contacts, but I can't think of a situation when it might not be possible at all.

Some say they must work for the money. Interestingly enough, those are often women who work as preschool teachers or social workers (both are low-paid jobs in Israel), while their husbands work very nice jobs with good salaries. So, they do have something at the end of the month left after daycare and travel costs are deduced, but it isn't that much compared to what their husbands make. Now, for some families this little something might be all that enables them to pay their rent or mortgage, but for some, it's no more than a perk-up they are perfectly capable of doing without. The peace and stability and the gentler rhythm of life that are gained by having a mother at home are worth it, even if it means living simply and reducing costs. 


Another thing to remember is that you can't plan special moments with your family. You can't say, OK, I finish work at 6, come home at 7, and until 8 p.m. the children will have the time of their life with me, which will make up for me being absent all day long. It just doesn't work this way. A relationship is built around the mundane, around the daily rhythm of breakfast, play time, lunch, a walk, dinner... and the spontaneous moments in between, when your child reaches to take your hand, or runs to you to show you a curious something they have found. Things like that cannot be scheduled in advance. They are lived moment by moment, day by day. 

It is true not all families fit the same mold. Sometimes a father is absent, sometimes the family is going through a period of illness, debt, or other stress. I just feel we ought to always think what we value most. What is truly precious, what will matter as we approach the winter of our days.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

This inability some women ( stay at home or working ) to see the home as anything other than a place to sleep ,store clothing, and eat occasionally,leads to just these things..mothers who stay at home not caring for the home or children, and women who work who do not need the money. I had a teacher complain to me that she so hated summer vacation because she was stuck with her kids all day ....ages about 3-5......her job? 1st grade teacher.She Wanted to be told what to do every moment of her day, thats all I can figure out. My 15 year old daughter complained that I was making her work on her summer "vacation" this is when I realized that she and most people see home as somewhere to relax and stop doing,not as a place of freedom to think of your OWN doing. I explained that it was a vacation from school work ,that this was still a place where clothes are washed, meals made, and gardens planted ,weeded, harvested and hay is cut and baled, animals still need care. A time to learn sewing or painting or read books that SHE desired not the school required. How do we get into this attitude? I think by leaving the home everyday since we were tiny having someone tell us what to do for 8 hours and then coming home in a daze and flopping in front of the electronic device of choice all evening just to do it again tomorrow.Our brains are disconnected from real life. And so many try to reinforce that real life IS a job away from home and electronic devices. We are loosing the ability to think and act on our own and use our brains.

~bakinghomesteader~ said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I am really enjoying it! I have a heart for home and it is so nice to see others that do as well. Thank you!

Lina said...

Beautiful post! I agree :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such gentle, beautiful words on this sometimes contentious topic, especially this: "A relationship is buit around the mundane, around the daily rhythm..." Important and potent reminders for me as I prepare to re-enter the hands-on, time-intensive phase of motherhood (baby due in November; older children are 18, 11, 10).

Lady Anne said...

The most common reason women give for working outside the home is the money, and yet when you deduct child care, travel expenses, decent clothing, etc., it hardly works out. Even if you pack your lunch, you may buy a couple cups of coffee or soda, a bowl of hot soup to go with a cold sandwich, and so forth.

Our eldest daughter landed an excellent job right out of high school and by the time her second child was born she was secretary to the president of a big bank.

Her babysitter's son came down with meningitis, and she asked me if I would come up and watch the kids for a week, which I did. Having the laundry done and dinner ready was such a blessing for her and her family, and I enjoyed watching babies - for that week, anyway! (Wouldn't want to do it all the time. There's a reason the Good Lord gives babies to young people!) Anyway, she and her husband sat down and figured out what they were spending and divided it into the time from when she left until when she got home, and decided it wasn't worth the hassle. She put in a month's notice and never looked back.

Eileen said...

A reader says, "I know of several stay-home moms who have filthy homes and put their kids in front of the TV while they chat on the phone all day."

Your reader sounds like a noseybody.

The Retro Homemaker said...

I agree, Anna! The argument you posted from a reader saying some SAHMs are lazy keeps popping up all over the web. Since girls are no longer trained to be homemakers, a lot of women feel bored and unchallenged at home, not really knowing what it takes to take care of a home.

Socialization is hard nowadays as very few women now stay home, but it is still doable. I think we should come back to a family oriented society instead of a me centric one. There is no greater responsibility than to raise children and I don't see how spending two hours a day with them counts as raising them, although it works for some families. Hobbies including reading can certainly be done at home to stay intellectually challenged.

Again, great post!

Anonymous said...

Tell you what - if you want to stay at home, then stay at home. If you want to work, then work. Whatever works for you, won't necessarily work for another woman and her family.

Why do you care what other mothers are doing?

Rosie

Cherish said...

I love being at home and I don't even have kids yet. It's not because I like to be lazy - I get plenty done at home. It's just where I find satisfaction. I think if more women found satisfaction in taking care of their home and family, they wouldn't need to find that satisfaction elsewhere. Now I'm not saying you can just blink and feel like that. I'm grateful that I find joy in being domestic.

LadyLydia said...

Very good and needful post. Do not let the critics tear you apart on this one: what you are saying is the truth. If going to work was not about the money and only about the "helping" profession, then why don't they do it for free? Homeschoolers do. Homemakers do. Mothers at home do.

Anonymous said...

Women who go to work tend to be more well rounded and interesting than women who stay home and do nothing but care for their home and families. It is much more interesting to talk to someone who can discuss something other than diapers and babies and the best kugel recipes.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Anon,

What you say is perhaps statistically true, because nowadays the women who stay home do it on a no-choice basis. But when a woman who is already educated and well-rounded chooses to stay home for the best of her family, she has plenty of opportunities for further self-education.

Many working women I know discuss nothing but diapers, babies, best kugel recipes... and office gossip.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Rosie,

Just yesterday, I said exactly what *you* said to a woman who is very focused on her career. This followed her and her husband's lengthy interrogation on why my husband and I choose for me to stay home.

So, it seems we all seek to find out what is best for families in general.

Sammy said...

I also wonder why you care so much about choices other mothers make. Perhaps you face so much scrutiny for your choices that you feel you must be extra defensive?

I stayed home for 3 years after my two children were born. This year I went back to work and I couldn't be happier. My children are doing great and my family is thriving. I was lucky to be able to have the choice, I chose to stay home for several years, now I'm working again and absolutely loving the balance between career (not a job!) and home.

L.S. said...

I did not mean that ALL stay home moms are lazy. I just wanted to point out that not ALL stay home moms are wonderful and not ALL working moms are selfish. I don't think it is fair to say that ALL women are meant to be full time homemakers and that homemaking is the ONLY acceptable path for a woman to take in life. There are many wonderful stay home moms and sorry, but there are some who plug their kids in front of the TV all day. I just don't understand why it is that men are encouraged to be individuals and to pursue independent paths but *ALL WOMEN* must be homemakers. Sorry, but there is absolutely NOWHERE in the Torah that says that it is sinful for a woman to work outside the home and to pursue a career or a job which fulfills her as a person. I am glad that Judaism gives women options in all areas of their lives.

Diana said...

I totally agree with everything you say here Anna.
I have been a stay at home mother for 21 years and wouldn't have it any other way!

Anonymous said...

Anna,

Thank you, and I agree. I do have a question, however: If we all seek what is best for our families, then why do you (and many of your readers) regularly criticize mothers who work?

Live and let live means, live your life and let others live theirs - without critical comment.

Rosie

Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs. Anna T,
Given that I am in the United States as opposed to Israel and only 17, but I can't help but disagree with you when you say that a pre-school teacher and similar occupations are jobs and not careers. My mother was a stay-at-home for many years, and a few years ago when my youngest brother began kindergarten, she herself went back to college to obtain an educational degree. Two years ago she then entered the work force as a pre-school teacher to children with special needs, such as children with Autism and Down Syndrome. Obviously I am biased as she is my mother, but she is a wonderful teacher who has made a difference in many children's lives who previously were not able to perform the simplest of tasks such as using the restroom or communicating. She has a career and it is almost insulting to say hear someone say that she doesn't. Though she works for little money, her salary will allow me to attend college next fall. Not only that, but my mother was unhappy as a stay-at-home mom and although she did that job very well, as a family we are thrilled to have my mother enjoying a sense of fulfillment and in all honesty her working has brought our family closer together as we truly cherish our time together. Furthermore, my siblings and I were extremely dependent on our mother when she stayed home and now are more independent and well-versed in life skills. My mother is more cheerful than she ever was and as her daughter it wouldn't matter if she earned one penny or a million dollars, so long as she was happy and felt like she was living her life to the fullest. You're absolutely right when you say that each family is different but you are not right to have a holier than thou attitude to my family, where having a stay at home mother was not the right choice for us.

Jennifer said...

I believe that a lot of women work because they like the independence it brings and the "self worth" that they may feel. What they don't realize is that in God's eyes, working and getting a pay check is not what should give us "self worth". The independence as well can be a bad characteristic in my opinion. When we get independent we might think that we don't need our husband, or we think we are equil with him. In the end, I think it can be selfish to work outside the home for these reasons, because being a Keeper at Home benefit's the family if done like the Bible teaches.