Sunday, July 1, 2012

The same work?

Joluise says: "It's important to remember that every woman who works outside the home also does what you do, they also work at home. All the tasks a SAHMS does, I do likewise even though I work full time."

I decided to refer to this comment in a separate post because it holds a grain of truth. It is true that many women who work outside the home, also work hard in their homes; I honestly believe that true career-oriented women are few and far between - a lot less common that women who have no deeper interest than their home and family, but are ingrained and educated with the message that to be worthy, they need to be doing something - anything - outside the home that will bring in a paycheck.

Actually I believe this is one of the biggest disservices feminism did to women. You can take a woman outside her home, but you can't take the home out of the woman - the hominess, cosiness, being family-oriented, children-loving... all of this comes far more naturally to most women than to most men, and so it happens that even when both spouses work, often the bulk of homemaking and child-rearing still falls on the woman's shoulders, making her overworked, overburdened, and overwhelmed. The feminist ideal, of both spouses working equal hours and spending equal hours at home and splitting the childcare and housework exactly equally, just doesn't work in real life (naturally, I'm speaking on a society-based level, not on a personal level). 

However, having said that, I believe it is futile to deny that much - MUCH - of what makes a house a home went down the drain once women went into the paid workforce. On a general level, no, the woman who works outside the home usually does not do all she would have done, had she been at home full time. Of course this depends on many variables, such as the age and social status of the woman, the number of her children and whether they would have attended school/preschool/daycare anyway, or they are sent off only because she works outside the home. Perhaps if one is super-organized and has a super-efficient routine, and no children in the neediest ages, she may pull it off and have a nice home and a happy husband and a nice job as well, and all this without feeling constantly torn apart and pulled in different directions (because if that is the case, I feel the price is too dear to pay). 

I'm not trying to make it sound as though in every home with a working wife there's serious neglect. I know that in every normal home I've been to, dishes are washed, meals are cooked, and the floor does not look yucky. Actually in the homes where the wife works and the children are sent away to daycare/preschool, the stuff usually looks nicer and keeps longer than in, say, homeschooling families. With less people at home for less hours, there's less to clean up, and upkeep is a breeze. But is it the true spirit of home? 

I confess I know little of living my life at home as a childless wife. I did that, for a while, but G-d saw fit to bless us with our firstborn a mere 10 months into our marriage, and so for most of that pre-children time I was pregnant,  not feeling very well, busy with various health appointments, etc. Now most of my time during the day is spent caring for our two girls (now 3.5 and almost 2 years old). So I learned - like a woman who works outside the home - to be more efficient in my homemaking routine; I do things with the girls when I can, and when I'm pressed for time I use the little pockets of spare minutes I have here and there throughout the day. At this season of my life, I seldom have time for extras, such as gourmet cooking or keeping a spotlessly clean home. 

I don't, however, see this as ideal; I am looking forward to a time in the future - perhaps with daughters who are a little older, and can lend a hand with the same goodwill but with more efficiency - when I am able to invest more in my home. To re-learn the habit of ironing, to try sourdough bread, to go back to making candles, to improve my knitting, to have windows with no fingerprints... perhaps all these things don't seem terribly important, and perhaps sometimes one has to forgo them for the general good of the family, but somehow it just doesn't click in my head that the bare minimum I am currently adhering to is the absolute best. 


Joluise said...

Thankyou Mrs Anna for your comments on what I said. I can tell you with complete honesty that my home is very much a family home and if you pop over to my blog you will see. I put a lot of effort into making my home a home (just as my mother did). My husband and I work together and between the two of us we cook all our own food, we grow our own food (early stages of doing this), bake, keep a very clean house, spend time together, have our hobbies (mine is photography), look after our adult children, have 2 spoilt dogs and 2 gorgeous cats - yes, it can work in real life, I'm living it.

And I have a job I love and good at - I work for an organisation that is family friendly and has flexiable hours.

My house is not neglected and nor are my family. Yes I am very organized and that does help a great deal - that does come naturally to me. One of my sons has ADHD (he is now 24 years old) so I did have a needy child, but that was just part of being a parent.

I'm not superwoman at all - but it does work for us and I know many other women that do the same as I do (my mum did).

The Working Home Keeper said...

"You can take a woman outside her home, but you can't take the home out of the woman "

So very true! I'm a wife, mother of three and work outside of the home full-time. I'm not a feminist or a careerist. Being a wife and mother and keeper of my home, is my highest priority and ultimately what I've come to see as my calling in life. I would love to be home full-time, but my husband does not desire it (it's not always the wife that makes the choice for her to work). But, I look forward to a season in life when my time is not so divided.

Mary Ellen
The Working Home Keeper

Anonymous said...

In reading your post it occured to me that I have lived just about every option (except working with children in the home). I was a stay-at-home wife with an unemployed hubby, employed hubby, then a working wife (part time then full time), then a stay-at-home while prego, then with ever increasing numbers of children. Today I homeschool all of my nine children, my oldest being 20 (doing some college work at home while helping me with the house, garden and farm stuff. "farm" being one milk cow, couple dozen chickens, a few rabbits).

I can tell you that a working woman does NOT do the same things a SAH does. Even when compared to when I had nothing but little ones, I didn't get nearly as much done when I worked outside the home.

We have lost the vision of what womanhood is supposed to be. A mom is supposed to raise her own children, mold the future. When we put them in daycare and traditional schools, we are farming out part of our job.

So, no. The working woman, ESPECIALLY the working mom, does not do "the same things while holding down a job." I change my own babies diapers, feed them every meal, teach them to walk, talk, read, write, do algebra (ok, half my "babies" are now taller than I am!). You working women don't. You hire someone else to do these things and then pat yourself on the back for how good you handle both traditional women stuff and work. You are being lied to and lying to yourself. Someone else is "mothering" your babies while you earn mere money.

(and this doesn't even count the cleaning and cooking which, yes, I did much more of as a SAHM with only littles than I did as a working wife with no children. I was simply too tired when working outside the home. With littles around I could sneak in a minute here and there to put the bread on or wipe up the toilet, something I couldn't do while away from the house. And now that I have so many nearly grown [1 adult, 3 teens, 4 old enough to do chores, 1 baby] My house is actually cleaner even with 10 people in it just about24/7!)

Anna, you are right on!

harper said...

When my husband and I were first married, I worked outside the home (one part time job as well as running my own business) and was a college student. We ate out a lot and we rarely brown-bagged a lunch to work. I'd try to cook good food from scratch on my days off, but we never ate it outside of those days that I cooked. And we always wanted to go out to eat, party a little bit, to blow off steam from our jobs. Neither of us had the energy for housekeeping either. I'm ashamed to say that we would often go months between vacuuming or cleaning the bathroom. It was all I could do to keep the fridge cleaned out, the dishes washed, the cars maintained, and our laundry clean and ironed.

I'll grant it didn't help that neither of us had predictable work hours, and many working moms are much better at time management than I ever have been. Still, as my mother taught me, if you choose to spend an hour working, that's an hour you are not spending doing any of a million other things. We all have to make choices. If I choose to work outside the home, that means I have to choose not to do other things.

Thank you, as always.

Leah Brand-Burks said...

I think it's important to remember too that the home that is left empty all day doesn't see as much wear and use, and therefore won't need as much constant attention as a home lived in all day, day in, day out. When all the messes are being made at daycare or school and work, there is less to clean at home. Just a thought.

Mrs. V. said...

While I know there are women who work who take pride in and love their homes, to say that the SAHM/SAHW *doesn't do anything at all* they they don't also do is not quite fair. Would it be correct and fair for a SAHM to say that there is nothing a working woman does that she doesn't do? That obviously cannot be correct. In the same way, it can't be 100% correct that someone spending 8-10 hours working on her home is doing absolutely no more than another woman who spends perhaps 2 or 3.

I am home full time, my husband works from home 4 out of 5 days and I homeschool my children. So on most days I cook three full meals and clean up from three full meals. I have a house full of people almost every single day. When a family is home instead of everyone being at work or school, more mess is created and there are more needs to be met. Homeschooling is such a very large commitment unto itself. Because we are home as much as we are, there is more to do. Just because a working woman has a clean and well run home doesn't mean she is doing the same things the stay at home moms are doing.

If I only spent the same number of hours working on my home that a working woman does, things would fall apart very quickly. By the same token a working woman may adore her home and run it quite well, but to say that those of us dedicating our life's work to it are doing nothing at all more than someone else who spends a few hours a day on it really is not fair.

We may all do different things but if our families are happy then that is what matters and it is all of worth. Our lives won't look the same and there's nothing wrong with that. But let's be fair about it and not lay blanket statements onto stay at home women that all the hours they spend in their chosen life amounts to nothing more than what someone else does in a couple of hours at the end of the day.

Lady M said...

Leah B-B is correct. As a homeschooling mom of 4 (ages 13-1), the cooking and cleaning often seems non-stop. The older 2 children would probably concur since they help out (and even then, it still goes and goes, sigh). We make all 3 meals plus any snacks each day (dishes, dishes & more dishes). Clothes for the little ones get dirtier outside in the yard (makes for more laundry work), there are lessons to be checked, books to be read aloud, little ones to look after & keep out of trouble at the same time. We use our homes 24/7. When we only had 2 children and I worked a PT job at night, it was such a relief to go to work, sit down in a chair and do what needed to be done. I did not have to dump the garbage, clean the counters, etc. at work - that was someone else's job. Now that I don't do that, there is no break to be had it seems. Mind you, I love taking care of my family, but it does get old hearing people say they do the same things I do but in shorter time. I have a very, very hard time believing that since the littles are at daycare/school most of the day & only one big meal must be made. The laundry & vacuuming I can see, but the rest...nope, not seeing it.

Rose Godfrey said...

Mrs. T,
Ironing is vastly over rated!
There are different kinds of doing one's best. The values and security you are instilling in your girls truly are the best gift you can give to them right now. And all of that will stick with them better than the memory of a freshly ironed shirt.

Joluise said...

In response to Betty Sue - what works for one mother may not work for another - but that is ok, we aren't all the same. This should never be a competition of who does what better. My family are happy, loved, healthy, well cared for and live in a clean and tidy home - a home that is our refuge from the world. Isn't that important - no matter what I do during the day.

I have been a SAHM and no I wasn't busy all day. I had plenty of time to sew for pleasure, read, garden, play with the children and help others. I now have two grown children (wonderful adults) that I am very proud of.

Yes, my children attended school - I would have done that if I was a SAHM, I live in Australia and very happy with the education system in our area. No one does my cooking (from scratch and organic), no one does my washing, no one does my cleaning - I do it all. Being organised is the key.

And yes, my house is very tidy and it was when I had young children because I taught them from a very early age to tidy up after play.

If women want to be at home - that's fine, if a woman wants to work, that's fine too. This is not a war between women at work or at home. I respect your choice and I hope you respect mine.

PS I don't work because of any feminist ideology, I just happen to have a job (Statistican) that I'm good at and I really enjoy it. And no I'm not lying to myself, if only I could show you how it works so smoothly in our house. And my husband loves me very much for all the things I do for him.

Katie B. of said...

This is such a divisive issue. All I want to point out is that, when a woman works outside the house, she is far more likely to receive help on housework from her spouse and children. In addition, the family's standards and other peoples' expectations of the home's order, cleanliness and hospitality are different when the woman works outside of the home than when she's a SAHM or WAHM.

That said, I think we are all constantly trying to do our best, no matter what our current situation in life is.

Lisa @ Just the 6 of us said...

Recently I was telling a wise friend about a mom I knew who was proud that she had 5 kids and also worked outside the home. And my friend responded, "Yes dear, but she doesn't do both at the same time."

And that's the truth that has stuck with me. You can be a mom who works outside the home, but when you are working you aren't mothering or keeping your home, no matter how organized and efficient you are, it's just not physically possible.

For some reason this comment has made me feel so much better as a SAHM. I realize now that I'm not doing less than those those women who juggle family and career, I'm just concentrating ALL my time on the things that I love.

Robin P said...

I'd like to suggest, with all due respect, that it is a woman's personal, individual choice. My mother chose to give up her career when she had children (a choice for which I am extremely grateful). Will I choose the same, when I have children? If I have children? I do not know. Perhaps I won't have children, and will remain a full-time career-woman. The true power of feminism is that it has given women the ability to make this choice themselves, the chance for each to look within herself and decide with her own mind and heart. The pitfall is that it has made a stay-at-home mom perhaps feel less valued because she doesn't earn a paycheck for the hard and important work she does, and that is a viewpoint which we as a society should reconsider. But ultimately, the ability to make concrete and weighty choices regarding my life's path is something for which I will always be grateful to the feminists.

Tzipporah said...

I enjoy very much reading about your experiences with you and your young family. You have a lot of wisdom and encouragement that many other women can benefit and I really respect that!

However, what I really, truly don't understand is why a person feels the need to put down other peoples choices to feel good about their own.

I've been a SAHM, a WAHM, and a working mom... and you know what? Every which-a-way was hard and rewarding for me and my family in different ways. The idea that someone with two kids under 3.5 thinks they can define any of those experiences (or which one was "best" for my family) strikes me as an opinion from a highly inexperienced and immature mother who feels the need to prove her worth by means of dis-proving others. It isn't becoming and probably isn't the impression you trying to give either.

When you gain experience in motherhood, and life in general, perhaps you too will be able to sit back and realize that your POV and your experiences do not adequately define others. It is best to maintain your happiness by way of being the best you that you can be in your given circumstances, and let others worry about themselves. You will realize there is way to believe completely in YOUR way, without devaluing the way of others. You will realize that to define someone else (or their value) is the opposite extreme of what feminism has done to women. and that both extremes dis-empower women from following their hearts and valuing that which is most important in their lives and encouraged them to bend under whatever pressure if greater--the voice which tell them they are worthless if they don't work and the voices which tell them they are worthless if they do work.
To De-value or UNDER-value another women is the most harmful thing you can do to family life. If you want women to regain their love of being SAHMs, then empower them to make their own choices--don't tell them they've made bad ones.

Most sincerely and with all due respect,
-a proud SAHM

Mrs. Anna T said...

Tzipporah, you are right in saying experience and POV change with age, and most likely new perspectives will open as years go by, and that is a good thing. However, I just couldn't help but feel a little irritated at comments like "There's nothing to do at home, I do it all in the few hours I'm home from work". It's NOT the same. The principal difference is mothering style, I suppose. If you stay home with your children, your workload multiplies.

Tzipporah said...

Surely you are right--there IS a difference. But arguing with other mother's about who does more work around the house/with their children is moot. It serves no purpose. Everyone gets defensive and it breaks down the walls of communication between mothers/women.

Anonymous said...


Do you know what really bugs me about some religious/home-orientated blogs?.... comments which appear such as this; from BettySue, posted earlier in this thread:
"You hire someone else to do these things and then pat yourself on the back for how good you handle both traditional women stuff and work. You are being lied to and lying to yourself. Someone else is "mothering" your babies while you earn mere money."

.....The amount of bitchy, judgemental, nasty accusations thrown by women towards other women. So much for sisterhood, and so much for some apparently religious women on this site, among others.
Maybe some women have to work outside the home, maybe for some women child-rearing isn't the ONLY possibility or even desire for their lives and they consider themselves to be a good role model in many ways, including being in the home, cooking and cleaning. Maybe, just maybe, women are allowed a choice as to how to raise their children.
I am about to have a child, I would like to show my child something of beauty in this world, I would like to pass on skills and knowledge to my child, for him or her to confident and cultured. By keeping a neat, welcoming, Christian home is part of my role. However, my child will have thoughts, desires and possibilities beyond our home, and I feel it is my duty to be able to engage with those feelings to the best of my, and my husband's, abilities. If that means working outside the home later on to bring in extra 'mere money' to afford private tuition, art classes, horse riding, etc, I will do that with prayer and belief that I will not be harming my child or be banished to hell for such actions.
God bless, An Expectant Mother.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why this is such a theme on your blog vis-a-vis the population at large. How about you do what you want to do (stay at home), I do what I want to do (work), and we leave it at that?

Why initiate this conversation given that this is - clearly - such a personal choice?