Sunday, November 18, 2012

Another "but what if..."

Those of us who live and work full-time within our homes and communities - as women have always done, but for the short period of modern history - now often have to deal with questions such as were posed in a comment I received last week:

"Being a stay home mom is great until husband loses his job, husband becomes disabled or gets cancer, husband divorces you, or husband gets hit by a car and dies. Many homemakers are ill prepared to support their families when such tragedy happens and then the children are thrust into poverty. Also, bear in mind Anna, that your girls will be teenagers while you are still in your 30s which is quite young. What will you do with your time when you are 40, which is VERY young and healthy, and your daughters are out of the house with lives of their own? How much time is really going to be spent on cooking and cleaning once your daughters are gone? What will you do to occupy your time and give you socialization?"

Do I know what will happen in my life in 20, 10, even 5 years? I don't and can't have a sureproof way of knowing, when I look back on how much my life has changed in the last five years - I got married, had two children, moved house with my husband 3 times, learned countless things, baked birthday cakes, gathered fresh eggs, and nursed babies. We lived through times of financial and emotional unheavals, began what is now a sort-of-homestead, and overall just tried to enjoy the ride along the way. 

I love my two daughters so very, very much. They are simply such wonderful, beautiful children, delightful in every aspect of their beings. My hands and my heart are open for more children, either through birth, adoption or foster care, or perhaps just having our home as an "open house" for children I know, whether from the family or not. But even if I never have more children, I am unspeakably grateful for my daughters. I am their mother; G-d gave them to me - not as possessions, but as a precious fund. I am to care for them,  teach them, learn with them, laugh and cry with them, walk down the path of life with them as a mother and friend. 

This is what I am called to do in this season of my life. I know I am. And I know that I will never regret spending those years with them, no matter what happens. I will not allow vague fears of the future prevent me from enjoying the blissful today, which is so joyful not just because I am doing what I love, but I am doing what I am called to do - be a wife, mother and homemaker. Yes, things may happen, but so often they don't happen the way we plan them; sometimes, our "prepration for emergencies" turns out to be not at all relevant when the rubber hits the road. 

For example... a woman may work so she has "something to fall back on", and then when her husband becomes sick, she realizes she must quit work anyway - with all the financial hardship it entails - to take care of him. A relative of mine lived through such a situation precisely. 

I believe I have already written on my blog about options of what I might do with my time if I suddenly find myself with heaps of it on my hands (ha!). The list is endless; I already invest some of my time in helping my husband with his work, particularly translating documents for him. We might embark on some common enterprise together. I might be able to be more active in the community - recently I was asked to join a committee, which at this time of my life I realized would detract too much from my home, so I was forced to say no. In the future I might be needed by my mother, who isn't getting any younger. I might dedicate more time to creative writing, and hopefully publish. 

A wonderful example of an active, creative older woman is Rhonda Jean, a mother, grandmother, homemaker and book author. If I might find myself in Rhonda's situation in 35-40 years, I will consider my life very well lived indeed. 

The commenter goes on: 

For many women, work is not only about money but it's about sustaining social interaction during the day, engaging in intellectual pursuits, and feeling productive and like they're contributing to society. Though my salary is meager, I work because I love my job, because I am thanked and appreciated every day for the work that I do, because I learn from it every day, because I genuinely love my work and love the autonomy earning even my meager wage gives me. I love not having to ask for money and to spend it as I see fit. 

But you see, if your wage is meager, and your husband's is nice, it might be that you aren't really creating very much financial stability for your family anyway. In fact, with tax deductions, commute, work clothes and childcare costs, it might be that a family with a husband who earns nicely and a wife who doesn't earn much, would actually have been better off, financially, with the wife at home, in particular if the value of humble life and reduced spending is realized. 

And here we get to a point that, and I hope you will forgive my bluntness, I must speak against. I have noticed a tendency in women who do paid work to believe that the money their husband earns is family money, but the money they earn is their own private money. I am sorry, but it doesn't work this way. There were times when I worked, and my husband stayed home with our daughter. None of us wished for this, but it was a temporary measure we felt was necessary, during a period of unemployment. Anyway, the money I earned went not into my personal account, but into the account used to pay bills. I never took any of it personally for myself, it was all for the family. 

But does it mean I never had access to money? Not at all. We always kept an envelope of cash in the house, and from it I could take, without asking my husband, whatever I needed for groceries, bus fare, etc. My husband always knew I can be trusted to spend wisely; he knew I would not be frivolous with money. 

Furthermore, it is selfish to only stay within your own home and not use your talents to benefit anyone outside of your own home. Please re-read proverbs 31 and you will see a woman who invests in real estate and deals with merchants and generates an income. Especially in today's world with internet and telecommunting, people can now work from their laptops at home with flexible hours and combined with the fact that we have washing machines and dishwasher our ancestors never had )as well as fewer children), there is no excuse to economically overburden our hard working husbands.

I believe this has been discussed at length already, but I believe, as had already been excellently said, that the Proverbs 31 spans the whole course of a woman's life. It doesn't say "this is what must be accomplished by all women, of all seasons and walks of life". It is plain that a woman with young children at home cannot afford to spend as much time on various pursuits, paid or not, as a woman with grown children, or a young bride who has no children yet. As I said, I might have my own business in the future, or a business with my husband, or someone might even pay money for my writings. But right now, my hands are full at home - yes, believe it or not, even though I have a washing machine (but not a dryer - I like to line-dry. And not a dishwasher, I do the dishes by hand). 

As for "overburdening" my husband by staying home... would he have it easier if I worked? Financially, perhaps we could have a bit more money to spend. But it's not like my husband works long hours because I don't earn money. He worked long hours before he was even married - that is how it is in his profession, at least in Israel. He can't exactly walk over to his boss and say, "hey, my wife works now, so I would like to work less hours because I can afford it". That is simply not how it works at most jobs. Husbands have to work full-time, whether their wives work or not. But of course, I believe it is the wife's job to handle the family income prudently so that the husband won't feel the need to work overtime, if he'd rather not. 

Thanks to having a wife at home, my husband can come home from work and know he can put up his feet and relax (apart from doing some yard/homestead work I am physically/technically incapable of doing). He doesn't have to play catch-up with housework.

Thanks to having a wife at home, my husband can keep chickens and goats. He likes it, and it's relaxing for him to work and interact with animals on weekends. But he wouldn't be able to do it if there wasn't someone (me) to do the routine work during the week. I am able to research information for my husband, make calls for him, compare prices for possible purchases online, place ads of things we want to sell, and overall handle things which my husband otherwise would be hard pressed to find time for. 

My husband realizes the importance of a wife at home, not in the least thanks to his mother, a wonderful woman with a heart for home, and another shining example of how productive an older woman can be. My mother-in-law never had higher education or a high-paying job, but she is loved by everyone. She never had a bad or insensitive word to say about anyone, and has her heart and her arms open for her grandchildren, always, even though she is over 70. 

When your daughters are out of diapers and go to school, you will need outside stimulation as cleaning the house does not take 8 hours a day!

Hey, guess what? My daughters are out of diapers. Well, almost. 

Here we reach the part of the comment that speaks about why homeschooling is bad and is only the choice of selfish, immature people. I will tackle it, but right now I feel this is getting too lengthy already, so I will just say this:

The value of a woman in her home has never been doubted, until very recently in history. Now it is assumed that a woman at home is either looking for something better (a job, a higher degree, etc), or is simply someone who isn't good enough, who is wasting her life and leeching off her husband. This view has deprived families, homes, communities of the gentle touch of a mother's hand that is so vitally important. I refuse to comply with this view, and so do many others. 

I am living my life, doing my best to live it the way G-d intended for me, joyfully, without the burden of fear and guilt. You are welcome to join me as I share bits of this path. 


Thia said...

It's been a while since I've said, "hello." It's good to see you doing well. You've written another solid post. Many claim they want women to be free to choose the path for their life, but in reality, they want the path of SAHW/M closed. It's sad. I know it's not for every singe family, but it can be for many.

Mrs. White said...

You handle these types of questions so well. Your words speak for so many of us who are grateful to be mothers at home.

Gothelittle Rose said...

In my country (the U.S.), a mixutre of disability/death insurance, the Social Security program, and the mandatory unemployment taxes (leading to a benefit in the case of being laid off), make it very unlikely that these situations will impoverish a family without the mother working full-time.

Even the shorter-term benefits will give her the time she needs to prepare herself for a career that will support the family.

Whether it be through the government, through the society, or through the church (as originally intended), widows and orphans are meant to be cared for by *us*. I find it ironic that the modern societies that insist on the biggest safety net are the ones who are most strongly against *previously married* women with children taking advantage of it!

becka said...

Anna, you have such a wonderful attitude toward your home and family and a wisdom far beyond your years. I'm glad that you are able to be at home with your girls. My children are all grown and married and some have children of their own. I did work part time for many years and have been retired for the last two years. I find that my days are very full now, so full, in fact, that I wonder how I used to get everything done! I can spend time with my local children and grandchild, help my husband with various projects, help in my church and my community, and have been able to tackle some home projects that I never had time to do before. Truly the only thing I miss from my working days is the friends I made there. There are plenty of good things to fill your time with in the home no matter what your age is. Keep up the good work.

Jennifer said...

Very nice post Anna!

Anyone of us could get in a car accident and loose our arms today. Does that mean we should start teaching ourselves how to do everything with our feet just in case that happens? That's the same as all the what if questions about a mom choosing to stay home and take care of her family. Living in fear of all the negative possibilities isn't time well spent.
I'm a homeschooling mom of 3 and if something should happen I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

Anonymous said...

Very good article! My husbands mother worked 3 jobs oftentimes bc my father in law got laid off a lot-due to his profession. She regrets it. My husband did not realize the importance of a sahm until I had premature twins and another baby to follow 20 mths later. We are in the thick of things w 3 yo twins and a 17 mth old. The few times I am gone for half a day or so to run errands, dr appt etc, he realizes the work involved in raising little ones and is happy to turn them back over to me-ha! He's very thankful that I can stay home, as am I. I'm fulfilling my dream thanks to God who answered my prayers after 6 yrs of infertility. I was a full time nurse in mgmt, a demanding job. I would not wish to be doing that rather than being a mom for anything. I do work from home abt 8 hrs a week, but that money is like you mentioned Anna, family money not just mine. Thank you for another great article. God bless you and keep you safe! Jill

Kate said...

Thank you Anna for another diplomatic response to some of these ignorant and foolish reactions to your choices. No one should feel like the supposed "responsibility" to society is more important than the actual responsibilities towards your own family!!! That is ludicrous!

I do want to make another comment to something else you mentioned, which is when you said you were "forced to say no" to join a committee. I surely hope it was in fact that you "contentedly chose" to say no to that opportunity knowing that what you could offer your children may be in some deficit with that engagement. I would hope that you weren't "forced" (imposed by coercion) to give up something you wanted to do by family requirements. I don't think that was the case at all.... but as we can already see here with the comment you received... people who don't quite "get it" can latch on to any little thing you say to prove their point.

Your friend,

living from glory to glory said...

Dear Anna, You are a voice and those that walk the same path our very much encouraged! We all will have to look back one day. Live and have no regrets. Love and care for those who our gifts.
I would not change the life my husband and I chose together.
For him to work outside the home and for me to be at home.
Blessings, Roxy

Mrs. Anna T said...

Dear Kate,

Of course, I meant that my own considerations about how much time I can spare at the moment led me to decide I can't join the committee. It never occurred to me someone may read into my words and see some sinister meaning of coercion.

Although I have to say, that I did feel obligated to ask my husband's opinion, and he said "it's up to you." If I felt I'd like to join, but he'd feel it isn't appropriate, I would go along with his wishes.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Dear Lady Anne, please accept my apology - when moderating comments, I accidentally deleted yours. I'm truly sorry. If you feel like commenting again, by all means do so.

Kate said...

Oh yeah I am the same as you and always consider my husbands feelings and if he didn't want me to do something and had valid reasons I would definitely not do it no matter how badly I wanted to, because I respect his opinion and feelings and it just wouldn't be worth sacrificing our relationship over something.

And yes I hope you don't think I thought for even one second that you *really were* forced in any way to say no to the committee offer but it just popped up at me as something people with opposing viewpoints would be sure to use as further material to show you the "error of your ways" so to speak. I hope I am making sense! :)

Serena said...

Very well said, Anna. I couldn't agree more!