Friday, August 26, 2011

I am not alone

Some days ago, I had the pleasure of meeting, in my neighborhood, a lovely lady who is the mother of eight children, and has been staying home with them for over 20 years now. She currently has her two youngest children, almost 4 and 2 years old, at home with her, and is tandem nursing them both.

She confessed to me that she had just started her university degree when her eldest daughter was born, and that after her birth she dropped out of school and never looked back. It was clear, from the cautious way of her communication, how many raised eyebrows she had received in the course of her life at home. If you are a full-time homemaker but live in an area where most of the women work outside the home, or at least don’t normally stay at home on a voluntary and long-term basis, you can imagine what a delight and encouragement it is to speak to someone who shares your lifestyle and convictions, and who doesn’t view you as an oddity.

“I am often asked whether I’m not tired of being with my children all day long,” she said, “but are kindergarten or school teachers asked the same question? No; and why? For the sole reason that they get a paycheck, and I don’t. So it all comes down to money. If what you do doesn’t directly result in a sheet of paper on which your income is printed, you are worthless.”

Anyway, this lady also told me that in our local girls’ school, they sometimes hold conferences for the girls who are graduating, in the course of which they are introduced to women from various professions, and that she, too, had been invited there several times, as an example of someone who rather chose to stay home and invest her time in her family. She said the girls are literally dumbstruck by what she has to say, as it goes against all they have been taught, all their lives.

And here I may add that in the religious Jewish circles, especially, I feel it is nothing short of cruelty to encourage young women to have a large family, and to pursue an ambitious career at the same time. The strain, the stress, the price to the whole family can hardly be measured.

Feminism, I believe, came a little late to the Orthodox Jewish community, and that’s why we still lack, perhaps, the period of experience which will introduce sobriety and make our young women to see feminism, to some extent, for what it really is. The warped logic, the misery, the stress, the unnaturalness which are separating mothers and young babies, which leave homes empty for the best part of every day, are yet to be seen in a realistic light.  

Women who were raised by a mother who stayed at home, or worked part-time and made the best of the hours she did have at home, do not know what it is like, what is the real price of growing up as a latchkey kid, the child of a mother who works full-time, whether by choice or necessity. If they are ignorant of the consequences of such a choice, they will not feel uneasy about making it themselves. Only their children will receive the full bitter effects of it, and will think much more soberly when deciding what they wish for their children.

People go so matter-of-factly about babies only 3 months old placed in daycare, about parents spending hardly any time with their children, about women boasting of “doing anything rather than be shut up at home”, that I sometimes think – is it only me who is weird, thinking it all a tragedy of international scale? But no; the natural, the right course of things for mothers and children, for families, is togetherness, not separation. Young children belong with their mothers. Our lives aren’t meant to be a hectic rat race, at the course of which we attempt to earn and spend as much money as possible, at whatever cost to our dearest relationships.

I now come to an ending which is rather abrupt; as usual, there is much and more to be said, but time allows me to continue no further at the moment. I thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts on this.


Anonymous said...

I think the comments will never cease to come my way as 80% of mothers work where I live as the government offers cheap daycare and one-year maternity leaves. The fact that I am childless raises even more eyebrows! I have not worked since I've been married and I am happy for it as I have the time to create a home. I am also blessed with a husband who likes me being home and approves of stay at home mothers.

I've been in college and joined the rat race. Been there, done that! I am not that kind of person. I'd rather put my heart and energy into home and family. Children should not be separated from their mothers unless there is extreme poverty...If some women are more intereted in their careers, I wonder then why don't they spend time with their nephews and nieces instead or get a dog? Daycare providers say there is a big difference between the moms who have to work but try to spend as much time with their kids as possible and the mothers who pick their kids up as late as possible or prefer to have more me time after work...

It is just an overall sad situation as I believe that kids are not behaved nowadays: the well behaved kids are an exception, at least from my experience. Young men are not trained to be providers and young women are not shown all the wonderful ways to take care of a home, which is so much more than cooking and cleaning!

Thank you so much for your blog! I still have a long way to go before I become more ladylike as I was raised by a feminist housewife who is embarrassed that I don't have a career, plus society is so at odds with my values...

Lanita said...

I totally agree, Anna. I have been a stay-at-home mom for most of the last 30 years. I try to encourage women I see who have children to do the same thing. I have mentored young mothers to not only stay at home, but to keep their children with them-educate them. It is encouraging to find like-minded women, but at the same time see MOST women looking at us who stay at home as something less than productive. I love being at home and with my children. I wouldn't have it any other way. I am so blessed to have a husband who wanted me to stay home and allow him to be the provider.

Elena said...

Anna, you are such an encouragement! Thank you for this post!

Leah Brand-Burks said...

"Only their children will receive the full bitter effects of it, and will think much more soberly when deciding what they wish for their children."
This is me. I would have given almost anything to have my mother at home with me, but instead not only did she work full-time, even after school I spent most of my time in an after-school care program. Not seeing my parent except for two hours in the evening before bed left me aching for as much time with them as I could get. I never want my children to feel that. As long as God blesses me with this opportunity of staying at home with my sons, I'll hold on for dear life.

may said...

You ought to take some comfort though from the fact that this lady does go to the school and talk about her choice and her way of life, which suggests that there are people who are willing to listen to her and to suggest to others that it is a choice worth considering.

Carol said...

I enjoy your blog. You articulate the benefits of nurturing your children and family so clearly. It takes strength of character to swim against the current of culture.

My daughter is a stay at home mom--three children and the fourth on the way. She struggles with the opinions of her college friends. I am happy that I live close enough to encourage and support her.

It is pleasant to read about your new friend.

Nicole said...

I agree with you--mostly. I myself have never worked outside the home in the course of my married life but realize (since you are speaking to an international society) that there are parts of the world where if a woman doesn't work, her family doesn't eat. That said, I agree that families were meant to spend their days together--the thought of sending a baby off to an institution all day every day breaks my heart.
There can definately be sacrifices along the husband's business crashed bigtime in our downed economy and we have been living in my parent's 700 sq. ft. studio for the past three years while we get established again. So mayn people think we are crazy for doing so, but we are not willing to jeopardize our family's stability (yes, stability!) by my getting a job. Who would cook to my daughter's allegy needs? Who would homeschool our children? Would we have to send them to school? Who would care for our baby? Regardless of money, that is the kind of stability my children need.
End of rant. *blush*

Rose said...

Anna, I am so delighted for you that you met that lady in your neighbourhood, I hope the two of you will meet on many more occasions.

Lady Anne said...

I agree that mothers whould stay at home as much as possible. Sometimes I wished I could talk to somebody - anybody! - who had a vocabulary that included words of more than one syllabe (other than "potty chair") but I did find another mom in the area with children around the same age as my own. It was good for both the grownups and the kids.

The biggest thing I see is how few young women today know how to cook. I don't mean heat up something froma box, I mean actually *cook*. We used to give turkeys for the holidays and more than one sweet young thing would look at it and ask "What do I do with it?" Make a pie crust? You're kidding!

I teach Colonial life styles, and I was showing the students a toaster - too complicated to explain - and one student nine or ten years old - suggested it would be good for waffles as well as bread. It must have been obvious from the expression on my face that I hadn't a CLUE what she meant, until the teacher sugggested that perhaps they didn't have frozen waffles in the 1700s.

Anonymous said...

My mother had an affair with someone in her workplace. My husband's father had an affair with the babysitter they hired while his mother was off working in the military in faraway places.

I often wonder what our lives would have been like, how our families would have been different, if our mothers had stayed home with their children instead.

Mrs Tatiana G. said...

As a lady, who's family has always stressed that I am to get an education and be in a successful profession, I still know my God-given place is to be at home with my children. While we don't have any children right now, I'm perfectly content with working- as does my husband- but he knows that I would prefer to be able to improve upon my homemaking skills (cooking and cleaning).

So you are not alone :) It's fine to be well-educated and be skillful at something outside of the home, but I could never imagine turning my back on my children, on God's blessings to my husband and I!

Katie V. said...

Hi Anna,

Thanks for reiterating these points!!! One other little thing that frustrates me is that from the moment they are out of the womb, girls are breathing in an environment that continually reminds them that the normal thing to do, is to have a career! I'm tired of childrens books, TV shows that always show the "working woman", from the postwoman, the female doctor to the female engineer or female-voice tractor." I opened up a childrens book at the bookstore abd it was about a tiger that was giving a hug to a lion cub while the lion mama was out hunting (since when did the mama animal leave her young? Sounds like animal daycare and the working woman). Let's keep on changing culture by Staying at Home and showing it can be done!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with your comments, Anna. It is basically the same here too in Australia, sadly; children being raised by people other than their parents. It is so heartening and uplifting when one finds like-minded families who value the role of wife and/or mother. That's why the internet is such an encouragement because sometimes in one's own environment it's practically impossilbe to find people who embrace this traditional lifestyle. Linda

Heather @ Mrs. Southern Bride said...

We do not have children (as of yet!), but I chose to leave the work place after my first six months of marriage. We had made the goal that I would work part time for those first few months, then after that I would work from home.

I do get comments and jives all the time about my stay at home status. But, let them "raise eyebrows". My husband and myself are both happier now that I'm pursuing my lifelong dream of being a homemaker. I'm confident that this is God's will for us. :)

Taking care of my husband and having time to see to the needs of the household brings me more joy than any paycheck.

Katy M. said...

Katie, not to argue such a thing, but could the book have been trying to teach facts about lion prides? The lionesses do the majority of the hunting so that the lion can save his strength for protection.

SubWife said...

It's interesting to read your post because my experiences are exact opposite. Most mothers I know either work part time or stay at home. I very rarely find mothers in our community who work full time, like I do, but it does become more common. I always get these comments, "Really? How do you manage?" and in similar vein. Whether it is in my head or real, I always feel a shred of judgment in these comments - how COULD you be a good mother if you work full time?

Truth is, I would prefer working less, but I cannot. It is simply not an option at this time. But I don't feel like I have to explain myself to everyone. Neither should you for your choice to stay at home.

That's what feminism means to me - being able to make a choice that is right for you, whether it is to pursue a career or stay at home with children or trying to combing both.

Yes, ideally mothers should be with their babies, but even throughout history this opportunity was afforded to precious few. Sometimes circumstances are less than ideal - i.e. lack of funds in the family. Sometimes, mothers are less than ideal - who find it easier not to stay at home all day for emotional or psychological reasons. I am happy that in my circumstances, feminism allowed me to get a degree and have a job that I mostly enjoy and thus help my family financially rather than washing somebody's clothes or being someone's maid to make a living.

I am happy that you are able to lead the life that you chose. More power to you! Is it possible that those judgmental people are simply jealous?

Anonymous said...

It amazes me that something that was "just so" such as staying home with your children has become such an oddity.I am 52 which is not exactly "olden days" and it was an unusual thing and not good for women with children to work full time outside the home. Femimists would have us believe there never was a time such as that. I remember those carefree days of childhood with my mom and other moms the lawn chairs and iced tea, days at the lake, helping each other with canning or large cleaning jobs or watching a child and providing meals for the sick or newly given birth.I have heard sad stories of girls being left at babysitters or daycare or on their own for hours a day year after year and there are no sweet memories of childhood just the constant want of momma.My own in laws are here and they have a new baby in the family 7 months old and breastfed healthy and smart and all I have heard from everyone is she needs to get that baby into daycare it is becoming too attached to it's mother. I tell her she is doing a good job but I see just 4 days of them working on her she is starting to call her baby a brat and tryng to push her away. Honestly I think this world has gone nuts. I am so glad for you that you have someone like minded . Karen

Juliette said...

Once again, another great post. And once again, there is really nothing I can add in the comments that hasn't already been said so eloquently by you! I enjoy your blog so much for the support it offers to my choice to be a stay-at-home mom. Something that is almost unheard of here in NYC, the land of full-day nannies! Please keep blogging. We need a way to show young women that it's OK to choose to be a full-time mother!