Mrs. H is rushing home. It's already late in the evening, and she was supposed to leave the office some time ago, but her boss held her back with instructions for tomorrow's conference, so she is in a hurry. She's late, and at home, she is welcomed by a disgruntled babysitter.
- Sorry, - she says. – I'll make it up to you at the end of the month. How are the children?
She is informed that Susie is fine, but 3-year-old Daniel has caught the flu again. He has already fallen asleep. It is unlikely that he will be able to go to kindergarten tomorrow morning. Can you come, then? No, Mrs. H, terribly sorry. Good night.
At that moment, 7-year-old Susie hears Momma's voice and comes out of her room. She runs forward and kisses her mother.
- Can you help me with homework, Mommy? – She asks.
- Not right now, sweetie. – Says Mrs. H. – Mommy's tired. Maybe later.
The door opens and Mr. H comes in. He looks exhausted
- Good evening! – He says, taking off his shoes. – What a day!
- Daniel has the flu again, - tells Mrs. H. – And the babysitter is busy in the morning.
- Oh… again? Could you stay with him tomorrow, dear?
- I have an important meeting tomorrow. – Snaps Mrs. H. – What about you?
- Well, I can't be late tomorrow either, dear… you know how busy it is now in the office…
- I'll call my sister. – She resolves. – She knows many babysitters. Maybe she can suggest someone.
Finally, that problem is settled, and Mr. H says:
- I'm starving. What's for dinner, dear?
Dinner! Mrs. H hasn't quite thought of that. She opens the freezer. Fortunately, it's not quite empty. She quickly pops a frozen pizza into the microwave, and the family sits down to eat.
After Susie goes off to bed, Mrs. H looks around her. Nobody has cleaned for days. Dishes are piled up in the sink; the kitchen floor is covered with sticky, greasy stains; the dirty laundry hamper is overflowing; children's toys, clothes and books are strewn all over the living room floor. Grumpily, Mrs. H loads the dishwasher and the washing machine, mops the floor, and picks up her children's toys. In the meantime, Mr. H tidies up the children's rooms and measures Daniel's temperature. It's nearly midnight when they are finally in their bedroom, ready to go to sleep.
- We need to consider hiring someone to help around the house, - says Mrs. H. – It's too much for us to handle on our own!
Mr. H looks troubled.
- I'm not sure we can afford it… but I'll try to take on another project. Might mean even longer hours in the office. Oh, and dear, a button fell off my shirt today; could you fix it, please?
- I'll take it with me tomorrow when I go to pick up my suits from dry cleaning. I'm sure they can fix it there, - Mrs. H replies sleepily.
Mrs. H's last thoughts before she falls asleep are about the dry cleaning; the babysitter; the new car she needs, because her current one doesn't look respectable enough anymore…
Mr. H, before sleep overcomes him, thinks about the long day he had; the even longer days he is going to have if they need to hire help; the shirt he will have to iron for himself tomorrow before he goes to work…
So, once Mr. and Mrs. H are asleep, let's think what we have here. The general picture is this:
We have children who spend more time with their babysitter than their parents;
A husband who feels he is unappreciated and his needs aren't taken care of;
A wife who is overwhelmed with duties both at home and at the workplace;
An unorganized household, where not much is done and a lot of money is spent.
Let's now have a more careful look at Mrs. H's expenses.
Mrs. H pays a babysitter and is considering hiring someone to help her around the house because she just doesn't have time to clean; she doesn't have time to cook either, so she stuffs her freezer with expensive, unhealthy, commercially prepared foods; she doesn't have time to plan her shopping carefully or compare prices, so every week, she just loads her cart with whatever items she looks upon.
Mrs. H also needs to keep up with a certain image that is expected from her at work. So she simply has to buy expensive shoes and suits that require dry-cleaning, even though that is not quite her style. She also needs a car that looks good, so she changes cars about every three years. Add regular visits to the hairdresser, and you will get an estimation of the sum Mrs. H spends every month just to look like she is expected to.
On top of all that, Mrs. H is feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and unfulfilled. She doesn't spend time with her children, and communication with her husband is close to zero. She is constantly tired and on the run. She has been taught she is supposed to have it all! Why doesn't she seem to be able to do it?!
All her expenses that we listed before have one thing in common: they are work-related.
If it wasn't for her work, Mrs. H wouldn't need a second vehicle or expensive clothes. She wouldn't need hired help. She probably wouldn't need even a dishwasher and a dryer! If Mrs. H stayed home, she could cook from scratch and plan healthy, nutritious, economic meals. And she certainly wouldn't depend on anyone to fix a button on her husband's shirt.
If Mrs. H took the time to be with her children and tend to their needs, she would know about little Susie's dreams, her ambitions, her friends and the influences she is experiencing. And if she found out about the new word Susie learned from one of her girlfriends at school that day, Mrs. H would probably decide to homeschool.
But most of all, if Mrs. H stayed home, she wouldn't constantly feel as though she is running a race that leads nowhere and never stops.
If Mr. and Mrs. H sat down together with a pen and paper and considered the numbers carefully, they would have realized that the "second income", in fact, melts almost into nothingness – or even forms a negative number!
But that, alone, isn't enough. Mr. and Mrs. H belong to a generation that has been taught to think that a woman must find employment and join the workforce ranks, or she is unhappy and unfulfilled; that being a homemaker and a mother is a form of oppression; that children belong in daycare, and not in their mother's arms. Unless they question that unquestionable "truth", they will not realize what a toll it is taking on their family life.
To see it, we just need to take a sober look at the typical day of Mrs. H. The typical day of the Modern Woman Who Has It All.