Thursday, July 2, 2009

"Why can't you do both?"

When you tell that you chose to focus on raising your family and keeping a home, because you cannot satisfactorily balance it with working outside the home, do you ever hear, but everyone is doing it - and very successfully?

Look at S., for example. She has a good husband, nice children, a lovely home and a successful career (have you noticed, by the way, that men usually talk in terms of "job", while women use the terms "career", "self-fulfillment" and "professional/personal growth"?); why can't you be like her?

Of course, you don't really know how things work in other people's homes. It might just be that what appears as "perfect balance" on the outside is really neglect of something or other. Perhaps the marriage is under strain because the husband and wife don't have enough time together. Perhaps the woman itself is heart-broken because she doesn't see her children. Perhaps she is detached from her family.

Or perhaps she is running herself ragged trying to be perfect at everything. Recently, I read an article in a magazine (in Hebrew) which featured interviews with several mothers of small children who chose to go ahead with their demanding careers full-steam. Their day starts at the crack of dawn and ends well over midnight. The words they used most often in description of their lives were rush, stress, frustration, exhaustion. It's only a matter of time before the shell begins to crack.

There are, perhaps, those rare women with boundless amounts of energy, who can thrive on 3-4 hours of sleep at night, work full-time, drive the children to ten different activities and still manage to spend a romantic evening with their husbands. They excel at everything they do and are perfectly happy with their lives.

Still, it doesn't mean that our normal, ordinary, human selves are supposed to feel guilty because we cannot be like those superwomen. Or because we chose not to. When people talk about "balancing work and home life", they rarely imagine a woman who has 4 children under 5 (why would she?) and perhaps another 4 under 12 (again, why would she?). Even if they are pro-family, they picture a family with a "reasonable" number of children, who are all "reasonably" spaced and spend most of their time in a "good" daycare starting from a very early point in their lives.

It's obvious that if you don't choose to limit your family size, you will spend the lion's share of your productive years, your energy, talents and intelligence, raising and caring for children. When someone comes up and tells you that you could be "doing what everyone else is doing", they rarely mean that you can combine a career with having a baby every year or two and spending as much time with your children as you and your husband think appropriate. Most likely they mean that you should wise up, start using birth control, and find a suitable "arrangement" for those children of yours so you can finally go out and do something worthwhile.

More often than not, you cannot realistically do what "everyone else" is doing, on top of what you are doing. You have to choose, and it's between you, your husband and the Almighty. Then there's of course a great deal of faith and trust, because sometimes it seems there's no way you'll get the financial provision for what you are doing. My husband told me many times that when God gives a couple the gift of a baby, He also designs ways to take care of that baby. My husband pointed out examples of couples who were impoverished even without children, and somehow, much better off financially once they had their fifth child. According to the world's wisdom, they shouldn't have started a family because it was "irresponsible", but with some prayer and planning, God provided.

Now it's summer; poke around family-oriented websites and magazines, and I'm sure you'll find dozens of articles titled "How to Survive the Summer and Keep Your Sanity" and "What to Do With Your Children On Vacation and You Run Out of Ideas". Families spend so little time together that it's awkward for parents when the entire family is at home, so children are sent off to summer camps to spend some more time away from the family. People say that children are bored at home and need their peers. Maybe, but I'm convinced it is largely so because the children have spent most of their life in age-segregated groups. Not only school, but afternoon activities as well. Is this really the way a family is supposed to function?

Perhaps in a way it is easier for me than for some women, because I never felt "torn" between family and career. In my heart, the only thing I ever truly, really, deeply wanted was to be a wife and mother, and to have a good family. Oh sure, there are probably fields I would enjoy working in, and I do have hobbies such as writing which might blossom into something more professional, but I never felt powerfully drawn to something that would be a burden on family life. I didn't, for example, feel called to spend a decade studying to become a doctor, and called to become a wife and mother at the same time.

At some point, however, I did feel as though I'm supposed to be called to something "greater". It took me a while to be at peace with the realization that it's alright to be "just" a wife and mother. Just a simple woman living a simple life and delighting in every moment of it.


Coffee Catholic said...

There is NO WAY that I could leave my baby and go run off to work. Nope. This baby, my home... this is my fulfillment! :-)

Did I tell you that I'm pregnant again??

Wendy said...

You are so full of wisdom at a young age. You are so right about this issue. I have chosen to stay home with my children, who are now all grown. Your comments are truth, God does provide. We have never been wealthy, by the standards of this country we are poor. But I was able to be stay home. They grow up fast, you will never regret the choice to be there as they do.

Rachel said...

Lovely post, Mrs T!! I agree. When my father told me (while I was pregnant with our now-two yr old twin boys) that I needed to "use some common sense" (ie, use some abc and stop having dc) after we had the boys. I was, at the time, struck dumb at the NERVE (I don't care who you are, telling a married woman she needs to put abortifacient chemicals into her body is a total invasion of the privacy of the relationship between husband and wife and none of your doggone business!)...later of course, I thought about what I should have said...something along the lines of "Well, if common sense means turning aside the blessings God would like to give us, then I'll pass and be a fool for God"...

That of course comes across as quite "holier than thou" now, but at the time, lol..

Remain strong, Mrs T. God has you where He wants you...snuggle Miss Shira for us!

Marianne said...

I tried juggling both before I came to my senses. I was miserable and felt like I did a lousy job at both career and motherhood. It did break my heart to literally wrench myself away from my clinging children to leave for work in the mornings, knowing that I would barely see them for yet another day.

LeAnna said...

I think you hit the nail on the head, here.

I once nannied for a family who had 3 foster children (they were adopting) - the mother and the father worked 24/7, and day care and myself watched the children. There was no structure. No discipline in the home. No routine. They adopted the kids, and within a year were divorced. Healthy? Hardly!

I never make a woman feel bad for working outside of her home, but I honestly do not know how they do it. Having young children, and being in the throws of the first 10 years of marriage is hard enough. I know that I would rather live a simple life, as you say, than to try to keep up with anything other.

JoAnna said...

I have two kids, am pregnant with our third, and have worked outside the home since I married.

I hate it.

I work due to financial necessity right now, but I pray daily that it will become possible to be a SAHM (preferably after this one is born). I envy the moms who can stay home.

Jasmine said...

Though I can understand your concerns, I just want to say that I grew up in a household where both parents worked 100% full time. I never felt neglected or anything even remotely resembling that. I had a wonderful childhood (and my parents marriage is on it's 30th happy year, and they're both healthy and not overworked or overstressed, they never were.) Just wanted to get that in, maybe more for my own sake than for the sake of the discussion.

I wish your family many blessings!


messy bessy said...

This reminds me a little bit of the anti-breastfeeding article you mentioned a while back.

As if "raising, nurturing, and educating tomorrow's adults" was nothing in and of itself! As if being at home and being the center of a family required nothing of a person except her physical presence.

When my husband and I were courting, we were in grad school, reading the Great Books and talking philosophy late into the night. I was already a teacher, and he wanted to be one. We often talked about how to save the culture from the degradation it seemed to be sinking into, and what we always came back to was: if we want to be part of the solution to the world's ills, we need to raise children right. It's a purposeful act, not just something that happens and you endure it.

I admire those women who have children and jobs too -- it would make life a lot less anxious financially for us -- but I've not been able to do it. And since we believe that raising children well is more important than being comfortable financially, I am at home.

Anonymous said...


I fit none of the examples of working mothers you give. Please understand that I do work for the benefit of my family, and my husband and I do (both) put family first. Not everyone works in a career that demands 12+ hours a day. I'm not saying that everyone should do as we do, but I don't want to be judged for my decisions anymore than you do.

Nurse Bee

Kacie said...

I don't understand how anyone can "balance" family and a career without something being sacrificed in some way.

If you're at work, then you're away from your children.

And if you're working part-time, then you aren't giving yourself fully to your career.

Personally, I have enough on my plate with raising my baby and keeping my home. I can't imagine adding out-of-the-home work to my plate!

Anonymous said...

I am seeing & experiencing the other side of things this summer. Having been a SAHM since my children were born, I now am working about 6 hours a day as a gardener. It's work that I enjoy doing, it's interesting, a good workout, etc. But I miss my children & home. And they miss me! Even though they are 17, 15, & 13, & are quite capable of helping in a good many ways here at home, things are just different. And often I am exhausted when I arrive home.

The decision to take on this job was not something I decided on a whim. My husband & I felt it was a necessary move to aid our financial situation, however. But I have hopes that it will not be long before I don't need to work my pay job anymore.

Home is where I am edified, satisfied; it is where I can nurture those I love best, & for whom I can provide a measure of sanity in a world that is so often chaotic.

I pray all is well with you & yours, Anna!


Katy said...

It is funny how guilt manages to slip in through the cracks and into our daily lives. When I first got married I read all of the homemaking/homeschooling blogs. I loved them! Then, I began to look at my own life (that my husband was happy with)and became more and more discontent. I worked outside the home (as a teacher)...the women I read about did not. Maybe I was not fulfilling my calling. I didn't wear a headcovering...maybe I was not Godly enough. After a few months of this...I had driven my poor husband (who thought he had married a sane woman)CRAZY! He liked me the way I was...he liked our life the way it was...and he told me to stop reading the blogs that told me that my life was sinful and that I was not fulfilling my calling. Over the past 3 tyears...we have added a little Princess to our family and we have found our balance. I feel that God called me to be a teacher to those with special needs AND a wife and mother. We need to put God first, families next, and jobs third. We need to listen to the needs and wants of our husbands and children. We need to pray for guidance. God calls each of us in His own way. By the way...I love your blog! :)

Alicia said...

Anna -

I came across this interesting article today about a father's struggles trying to be more involved in his child's life. I agree with everything you say about the importance of a mother being in the house full-time, but I'm curious what you think about fathers taking on such expanded roles as what this man does.

NelliFamily said...

I find your blog very comforting. My ideas of home and family have changed dramatically after having my third child. I have always stayed home but have only recently felt a calling to go even further in my role as mother and do more than just love and enjoy them. I cannot think of a higher calling than to educate my kids at home. Do you feel that calling? Your fictional story which includes homeschooling made me wonder. Sure, we could pay a lot of money to send our kids to GOOD private schools but I no longer think that is the very best for them. Perhaps the very best is to learn in the comfort of their own home by a mother who feels called to teach them in a community where she can also find support from women who are doing the same.

Thanks for reading.


Hilde said...

You are so right here. If you want all, something or somebody will always suffer. How often I hear women complaining about the work, the co-workers etc., but when I ask them why they do not stay at home with their family, they tell me they would be bored to death. And when their marriage ends through divorce, they tell you they were right to have worked outside the house because now they are able to provide for themselves and the children.

Walters Inc said...

Excellent post! I worked out of financial necessity after my daughter was born. Thankfully, I have been able to be a stay at home mom since Feb. What a blessing!
You are welcome to check out my blog if you like :)

Buffy said...

There are women who sleep for 4 hours a night and manage to have a good marriage, children and a career. Mrs Thatcher springs to mind, but she was exceptional. The rest of us women shouldn't be made to feel guilty because we need a good night's sleep and consequently have to prioritise what is really important to us and put our energy into that, instead of spreading it too thinly in many areas.

Pom Pom said...

Our identity lies in our worshipful hearts, in our prone bodies, before the Creator of the Universe and we are privileged to serve. Parents pour into children and siblings carve and chisel souls and somehow, even if a mother must add an additional vocation to her day, the Lord can work miracles. I wish we could live in true community and rise above the lie that what we build here on earth will survive. No, what we invest in hearts and souls - that will stick and prove eternal.

Shannon said...

I can't see how I would be able to balance both. I feel that being home would be a great opportunity to develop talents and skills that often get put on the workforce shelf in place of a "career." I read a very interesting article recently about college being I was surprised as it was in a well-known news outlet. So many people here in the US attend college to accrue thousands in student loan debt, and are now standing in the unemployment lines.

Sadly, you don't go to college for an education, but a 4 year training course on one subject. The typical 30 something woman here holds a masters degree in business administration, yet is unable to cook a basic meal or iron a shirt.

MarkyMark said...


You're right, of course; no one can have it all. Somewhere, somehow, at some time, a trade off will have to be made. Trade offs are everywhere in life; why do we think that they won't be present in family matters too?

For example, as you may recall, I had two motorcycles. One was a big, fast bike; the other was smaller, more for fun and cruising. Guess which one was more expensive to own and operate? Yeah, the big, fast bike. In fact, I spent two to three times the money on the bigger, faster motorcycle vs. the smaller one. The trade off here is that, if you want a fast, powerful vehicle (either two or four wheeled), you're going to PAY for that performance.

To pursue material success, we see the same thing: if you want money, you're going to have to work for it. The time & energy spent acquiring money means that there will be less time for fun, hobbies, and/or family.

If one wants a big fancy house, it's going to cost more to purchase it. The taxes on it will be higher. Electricity will cost more, as will heating and cooling. A big, fancy house will require more maintenance too; that either has to be done by the owner, or by someone the owner hires to do these tasks. Either way you slice it, this costs more in terms of time or money.

Since trade offs have to be made in all other areas of life, why do people, especially women, think that they can have it all?! Why? A woman cannot both work & raise children, and expect to do both well. Supermom is a fantasy creation; she does not exist!

I see this with my sister in law. She has one child, and she'll be having another one any day now. Even so, she's working in a new business, working 50 hours a week! When I visited last year, she'd leave about eight in the morning, and get back between 7 & 8 at night. Yes, she leaves her kid at the church nursery, a religious day care if you please.

I don't know if my brother & SIL ever talked about her staying at home. I doubt it, because they both buy in to the two career couple lifestyle. That, and the contracts pertaining to the business had been signed prior to her learning about her first pregnancy; I don't know if it would have been an option without losing thousands of dollars. Still, I can't help but wonder if my brother & SIL wouldn't have been better off if she'd stayed home with the children once they were born. Those are my thoughts...


PhDCow said...

I spent 4 years earning a bachelor's degree. I spent 2 years earning a master's degree, during which time I married my husband. I spent 7 years earning a doctorate, during which time I gave birth to my two children.

I'm not the working mother you describe in this entry. True, there is no real balance, but I'm fine with that. I'm doing many worthwhile things, the first of which is being a mother. My children go to school and play with their friends before and after. They thrive on the socialization that I never received as an only child with a mother who never encouraged opportunities. I'm a successful college professor, which is another worthwhile activity. And, honestly, being a mother makes me a better professor and being a professor makes me a better mother.

Discussions about SAHM vs. WOHM mothers, etc. make me angry. Aren't there enough forces in society trying to tear women down? Why must we do it to each other?

Each woman is unique and each situation is unique. I'm pleased to hear that being SAHMs works so well for so many of you. I'd appreciate the same courtesy for those of us who work outside the home.


CappuccinoLife said...

Great thoughts!

I can think of a number of interesting, "fulfilling", enjoyable jobs that might suit me. I might even manage to do them while mothering my children.

But I doubt it.

Maybe other women are superwoman, but I'm not. There have been some weeks where we were crazy busy and I nearly went insane. This summer my two oldest went to Bible school every evening for a week, and my youngest and I missed them so much and we were also We need to be together. It's good for all of us. And for our family, being able to have a tidy, liveable home, a low stress life, meals together every single day, all of that is very important and all of that would go by the wayside if I worked even part time. Because I am just not that organized or skilled.

Anonymous said...

Hi I am totally new to this blog culture and felt I have to leave something behind after reading all this in I am over whelmed by the sense of community and sisterhood this space provides. I had my reservations about reading about someone elses life (a complete stranger in fact) but i found it very interesting and engaging. As a SAHM mom of 3 i feel very fortunate to be able to enjoy my girls and be part of their journey. I must admit that when last year i tried to work it was very hard to be away from my family. I also found out that when i told my boss i couldn't fill a shift for family reasons she (yes she had kids too) looked at me with a frown and showed no understanding at all...Well hope all is well and we should be proud of the choices we make. Men have no idea how hard it is to be at home with the children untill they are left to do it...

Besorot tovot
Looking forwards to reading more,

Anonymous said...

I much agree with Katy's comment. I am currently pregnant with twin boys. I work four days per week as an RN and plan to return to work, hopefully 3 days per week. I enjoy my job getting to help people and by me working it means that both my husband and I will get to spend time with our children. If I was to quit altogether, he would have to take on a second job and possibly third job and never get to be with our family. At this point in our lives, I make more money than he does, so me staying at home fulltime just doesnt make sense. I agree that the Lord calls us each to different things, we need to listen to Him rather than compare ourselves to others who have different lives than we do. I enjoy reading your blog Anna! Jill

Laura said...

This is my first visit and as I read , I was enchanted.
I'll be back,


Mommy-moto said...

Wonderful Mrs. T! I'm a stay at home mom (in America) and the very sad thing is that anymore being a SATM is a fairly lonely experience, simply because the our society is both parents are working full time.
I do have a part-time job *very* part-time, as in I can go two months without being needed to come in. I'm okay with that, but it still gets lonely. Thank God I have a wonderful family who lives close by! And on the real lonely days, my almost-8-month-old son does something totally amazing and at the end of the day, I know I can wake up ad do it all again.
I do agree whole-hearted with most mothers being split between job and family. I can remember many, many nights when I was young going to bed without my mother home. Talking with her now, she says that choice was one of her greatest regrets.
I have always known that being a mother was my true calling from God. I greatly look forward to watching and experiencing my son (and future children) grow and thrive.
Blessings to you, as always!

Anonymous said...

I might add to my earlier comments, that being a SAHM in no idea insures a better marriage. A husband and wife may not see each other due to a husband's long hours and perhaps multiple jobs. They may be stressed over finances (such was the case of my forgive me if I do not believe the message that you preach).

I would love to see so many of these blogs of SAHMs simply enjoy what they do and feel blessed to do it instead of tearing down others who choose differently. I truly wish all of you well and continued success and contentment. I enjoy such blogs because I do enjoy getting homemaking and parenting tips, as well as recipes. I am no less of a wife and mother than anyone else.

Nurse Bee

Anonymous said...

Dear Anna,

Great! You really have a clear vision to become wife and mom in GOD, and you really breath it.
"Contrary" (not really 100 %) to yours, i know the vision as wife and mom in GOD, but i feel it haven't become my breath yet.
Honestly, sometimes, i still get my self frustrated with current condition (Stay at home mom). I still looked back to my past. Before married, i never (if ever, it was seldom) do cooking and other homemaking duties. I was best graduated student at school and university, i get good job/career (although not 'bright' as i hope) with pretty good salary, so i am ambitious woman to always achieve the best of my self in GOD during study and work. And when i was still in school, from the bottom of my heart, I wish when someday I get married and give birth, I will raise my children with my self (of course with my husband) and wouldn’t use nanny like other mother usually do in my country. Because I live at developing country, so there are many women/moms who couldn’t have good education/career so they are SAHM by condition not by choice. And women who get good education and good career prefer to work outside home. For them, it looks fool that leave a good job/career (which should pass good education first) just to become SAHM as many women who didn’t get opportunity to had good education and job.
With pray and seek GOD’s calling, I decided to be full time mom at home after my son is 7 months old. The basic reason is children are GIFT FROM GOD that we should take care carefully in GOD’s love and WORD. I can’t let other (nanny) to take care of them. But sometimes, I still see those wo do both, and ask a question that it looks ok to have both. So, I just remind my self about GOD’s plan for me and my family.

Enjoy your post.