Monday, 25 July 2011

21st Century Housewives

I never ever EVER wanted to be a housewife. One of my grandmothers and my mother were housewives, but I never saw this as a career choice for me. As a teenager, it never occurred to me that being a housewife was, in fact, a step up, or getting a job was a step down, for earlier generations of women. Most women in history have worked outside the house because most women in history have had to. Even if she had a dozen children, Mrs Whoever often had to go out and do a bit of scrubbing for a wealthier woman.

The abject boredom of Betty Friedan meant absolutely nothing to legions of women who were glad to have homes of their own and, perhaps, remembered a time when their ancestresses scrubbed and cleaned other homes. If I have this right, one of my great-grandmothers was "in service", a professional cook for a rich family that emigrated to Canada from the UK. Once she was safely in Canada, my great-grandmother quit. She married my great-grandfather and became a housewife.

Another of my great-grandmothers worked in an office almost all of her life. It wasn't know until recently that she was my, uh, great-grandmother, since there was a convenient family fiction that she had "adopted" my grandmother shortly after arriving in Canada from the UK herself. As she never married, becoming a housewife was never an option. Her savings saw her through her last years in a nursing home; she was a real trooper.

Still another of my great-grandmothers was a Society Lady, an American club woman who married a rich industrialist. She had household staff and the whole kaboodle until the stock market crash of 1929. Alas! I don't believe she went out to work after that, however. Her husband did, though. He got a job and worked into his 80s. He was a real trooper, too

I'm rather hazy about the career of my fourth great-grandmother. If I have this right, she looked down on "lace curtain Irish" despite being married to an Irish-American herself, so my guess is that she wasn't in service. She had something like 10 children, too.

One of my ancestresses operated a ferry boat during the U.S. Civil War. I can't remember which one, but it is an interesting detail on the ancestral C.V.

Anyway, although most of my career plans have gone West, I still do not consider myself a housewife. Considering how long I put off the laundry, etc., I would not be a good example. I'm more of a society hostess whose staff is permanently on its day off, and so she scrambles about making do. In between scrambles I write things, and sometimes I even get a cheque for the things I write. This is a great relief, for then I can buy my husband presents with money he didn't actually earn himself.

I'm thinking about housewifery because of readers who are Single but want to be Married AND Housewives to boot. Now that Betty Friedan is older than the hills, I think we now understand that it is not a cruel form of imprisonment but rather an amazing opportunity to stay at home with the kids and bake muffins. Not a lot of couples can afford to raise their own kids instead of sending them off to grandma's house or the state daycare. Many couples make huge sacrifices for the wife to stay at home.

Whether this situation is a tremendous improvement in Western society I leave for you to battle out in the combox. Where women have many more opportunities to work, we seem to have fewer opportunities to stay at home and raise our kids.

Many housewives do, in fact, work outside the home in part-time or casual jobs, and it makes me want to cry to think how hard mothers-who-work-outside-the-home have to work. But working outside the home is indeed the reality for most women in the world. Very few women escape having to be financial responsible for ourselves, and I don't just mean practicing household economy. I mean that very few young men nowadays really can afford to keep a wife and growing family on their salary, not if they wish to buy a house or anything else, really. I'm sorry that it's so, but it's so. And this is something to consider when you wonder why college-age men are not in a huge hurry to get married and have kids.

One of the many non-romantic things a courting couple has to talk about is where the money is going to come from. I know many a Single woman thinks that her financial situation will improve if she marries, but I am sorry to say that that is not always so. Men, too, incur student loans and credit card debt.

Update: There's a new poll. It is called "The Inevitable Housewife Poll." It's inevitable because having asked men if they dreamed of supporting their wives at home, I should ask women if they wish to stay at home.

I'll write later about the men's poll. I know the results were very much affected by the homeschooling thing. For readers who were wondering whether homeschooling is rampant among orthodox Catholics these days, it isn't. As far as I can make out, it is most popular in the USA and in rural parts of Australia. I haven't heard of any Catholics in Canada or the UK homeschooling, although I'm sure some Catholics there and here opt for it.


theobromophile said...

Whether this situation is a tremendous improvement in Western society I leave for you to battle out in the combox. Where women have many more opportunities to work, we seem to have fewer opportunities to stay at home and raise our kids.

I'll fire the first shot.

The opportunities to stay at home and raise kids depend on a lot on where you live (especially in America). If you grew up in the Midwest, went to a good state university for your degree (i.e. cheap!), and live in an area in which you can buy a nice house for $200,000, it is quite possible to stay at home. If you live in San Francisco and have loans from Stanford, well, have fun trying to buy a house on your husband's salary.

Moreover, the issue isn't working per se - it's the ability to do interesting work. Our working ancestresses weren't earning some extra money by practising law from home, working at a paid position at a non-profit, or doing 19th century science on a 3-day-a-week flex schedule. They were scrubbing other people's floors, watching other people's kids, and cooking other people's meals. Those jobs are lousy enough to do for oneself, let alone for someone else.

I do think it's an advancement that floor-cleaning, toilet-scrubbing, and meal-cooking got to be so much easier. (Time spent on one's hands and knees cleaning the floor is not time spent teaching your child his ABCs.) It's also good that women's options to support themselves are no longer governess, maid, or prostitute - and include some really interesting careers.

As the hard-headed pragmatist here, I'll also say that we've moved backwards if women think that they are somehow exempt from being able to support themselves in a pinch. Husbands die, divorce, gamble the money away, get sued when they drive home drunk and kill someone in an accident, lose things in a stock market crash, make lousy investments, get incapacitated from heart attacks, et cetera.

Sheila said...

Hm. I like being a stay-at-home mom (I prefer this to "housewife" mainly because I am no good at housework) because it's better than the alternative. I mean, how on earth would I manage everything if I had to go to work, too? I barely manage as it is.

On the other hand, there are some definite downsides. It can get REALLY lonely if you don't have a second car (and who can afford one on one income?) and all of your neighbors work. You find yourself doing ridiculous things and walking for miles pushing a stroller just to hear another adult talk.

We've considered it "worth it" in our family, though my husband really does the heavy lifting in this regard. He's gone from home about 13 hours a day, which sucks. And of course both of us have to be very frugal, but we both were raised to it, having been about as poor when we were kids as we are now. Even if I didn't love it, I think it's important and that the kid really needs to have me around. Not to mention that we're not in an income bracket to be able to afford much in the way of childcare, and still wouldn't be even if I went to work.

I'm glad I stay home; I see it as my duty and just as important a job as a career; but on the other hand, it's not all roses. It's probably harder work than any job I've had. However, I chose it, and I choose how to do it. Like you say, there's a freedom in cleaning your OWN home as opposed to someone else's.

Sometimes, letting the wife be a housewife is just a matter of accepting that you will be poor. There won't be any cable, any second car, any fancy cellphone. But there will be a homecooked meal on the table and you won't have to watch your child cry at daycare dropoff and feel horrible about it. It's a tradeoff, one I'm happy about, but I'm not surprised that not everyone makes my choice, either.

Are you going to poll the ladies about whether they'd like to be housewives, too?

Sheila said...

"As the hard-headed pragmatist here, I'll also say that we've moved backwards if women think that they are somehow exempt from being able to support themselves in a pinch. Husbands die, divorce, gamble the money away, get sued when they drive home drunk and kill someone in an accident, lose things in a stock market crash, make lousy investments, get incapacitated from heart attacks, et cetera."

I agree absolutely. I have a "back-up" career which I practiced until this spring, and with which I can support myself (barely) if I need to. I think every woman should prepare for this. It makes me mad when I hear girls (not usually Catholics) say, "I'm not going to college. I just want to get married and have babies."

I think everyone here knows the problem with that statement! And even after you're married, things happen. You have just as much responsibility to prepare for disaster as a man does -- or you're not much of a helpmeet!

Magdalena said...

Then there are professions where you can't drop out for more than 12 months, e.g. as a scientist. You have to stay up-to-date with the developments and you have to keep up your network of people. So you can't support yourself after 10 years of stay-at-home when your husband dies, unless you want to end up doing secretary work at your old institute, being absolutely underpayed (er, is this a correct English word?) for all your university education.

Seraphic said...

Very true, Magdalena. There are professions, there are careers and there are jobs. No male scientist could drop out of his profession for ten years and then expect his job back at the end of it.

Okay, I have put up the inevitable housewife poll. Hopefully the results are not skewed by men who get a kick out of pretending online that they are women.

The Crescat said...

Nursing is another profession. I work one weekend a month as an LPN just to keep my license active. Though I do work full time in real estate.

I have a unique perspective on both worlds; having lived in both. I was a stay at home for a bit then I got divorced and became a working single mom.

I loathed staying at home. I felt isolated and bored. I didn't have to drag my laundry to the river or raise crops, so a trip to the store and a load of wash took 2 hours... ok, what to do with the rest of my day.

And kids don;t really need to be entertained. They are pretty content just hanging by your side playing in the clothes hamper while you sort whites from colors.

I got involved in with mom's groups and found them terribly competitive and the woman horrible.

I couldn't wait to go back to work and talk about something other then coupons and poopy diapers.

Even if I re-married today there is no way I would ever go back to that lifestyle.

theobromophile said...

(Raises an eyebrow) Many of my former colleagues dropped out of work for months or a couple of years (not 10, certainly) and returned to engineering. I wouldn't go so far as to say that you leave for twelve months and you can be a secretary, that's it, because it simply doesn't mesh with what I saw in the field.

Now, I will be the first to say that the best way to not have to work your butt off to get back into a field is to stay in it. Even if that means working from home, writing proposals, technical papers, etc., you're keeping up with it and keep your contacts.

Some women really do want to be stay-at-home moms even when their kids are in high school and college (okay, fine), but a lot of women want to go back to doing something when their kids are a bit older. Hence the value of keeping your toes in the water.

Seraphic Single said...

Engineering is not the same as the highest levels of research science. I know a German scientist who had to choose between academia and industry, knowing that there would be no way back to academia. He picked industry. It is very competitive out there, for men as for women,and I think women might have begun to understand why previous generations of high-earning or high-profile men just couldn't spend that much time with the kids or helping with housework.

Angie said...

I've been a SAHM for about five years (southeast US). I have a two sons, who are 5 and 3. I'm a pretty terrible housekeeper in the sense that I only really clean when I know someone is coming to visit, I cook, but leave the dishes for my husband, I do laundry, but almost never fold it, who says you need to have matching socks anyway?! get the idea. Looks like I'll even be homeschooling my son this year, even though he was a in public pre-K program last year. Our only option was the local public school, which has a less than stellar reputation, so we are doing a sort of online public school, that gives you a free curriculum and the support of teacher when you need it. We'll see how that goes, this is not something we would do if we had other options.

I also just started a part-time and I love it! As much as I love spending time with my kids, and doing crafty stuff, I really need some time away. I'm working 3 or 4 evenings a week a local natural grocery store. It's not exciting, but it's the most relaxing part of my day, in the sense that I get away from the kids!!! And I get to talk to adults!!! I'm only making enough to pay on my student loans (brought more debt to the marriage than my husband, although that's not something he ever worries about, I do.)

Many moms that I know either stay at home for a while with their kids while they are young, or flex their work schedules around the husbands. Most families I know cannot afford to live on one income, or afford childcare. Most of us fall in the middle where we don't qualify for any government help with that sort of thing, so we just get creative and make it work. It certainly helps to have training in jobs that flexible in terms of hours. I have friends that are yoga teachers, massage therapists, do pet care, cake baking, etc. I know just a handful of women who choose, and are able, to just stay home.

Jam said...

Here's a little listening material for anyone who wants some historical perspective: - "housewifery" is one of my favorite historical topics.

I can never speculate about this stuff. There are too many variables. I can imagine a happy married life staying home, and a happy married life working, just as I can imagine a happy working life in a small town or a big city, or close to family or away from them. There are always pros and cons.

Anonymous said...

I'll preface my comments by saving that I'm not a Catholic but, like surprisingly many folks, was raised in what might be called a 'traditional' manner and have retained many of those views.

My mother gave up a successful public life to raise four children at home in the seventies and eighties while our father worked full time. Three of us were girls and it is notable that none of us have chosen (or would put up with) full-time stay-at-home motherhood.

One sister works full-time at a high-stress job. Her husband is the stay-at-home parent to their children. The other sister has an even more high-powered job and will be returning to her career as soon as her maternity leave ends. Her husband will care for their child while she works; since he's recently picked up part-time work at night, she plans to care for their child in turn while he is at work. My husband and I have one child and both work part-time in rewarding careers that enable us to care for our daughter at home.

These are three different alternatives to traditional SAH motherhood, but what they have in common with it is that the children are cared for at home. Is this not the point and, having achieved it, are there not many degrees of freedom for wives *and* husbands regarding work?

In my view there is no need for a binary choice; e.g., work full-time versus be a housewife. Nor do I see it as a moral issue. As long as children, where they exist or are desired, are prioritized, who is to say what arrangements 'should' be made. I'll add, as another commenter does above, that there are many ways for a stay-at-home parent to further her career if she has one. It's also worth pointing out that life with children shifts year by year -- once children are in school there is typically a lot more time to pursue other things, including part- or full-time work.

[Seraphic, I'll send a private note so you know I'm the one who's commented here anonymously.]

Meredith said...

Well, this is certainly a topic I think about a lot. My foremost talent is poetry-writing, and that has never, ever been a viable career option for anyone but a single person. I am not a prolific poet either. Kay Ryan, who toiled in obscurity for decades before finding success, is probably my doppelganger. Being a SAHM would not hamper my poetry production any more than working for an insurance company impeded Wallace Stevens.

I love cooking. To me, life holds no greater joy than sitting down to some delicious food and a glass of wine (no matter how cheap). If I could grow veggies and cook good food for my family every day, I think I would feel deeply satisfied. Also, I actually kind of like cleaning. What can I say, I'm easily amused. I'm that odd duck who leaves books and mugs everywhere, and then suddenly morphs into a human Zamboni machine, dusting, straightening, laundering.

No matter what, poetry will always be a work-from-home job for me, and if I could work from home and take care of my kids, husband, and garden, that would be as ideal as things are likely to get in this nasty old world. My chosen profession is teaching, which has traditionally been compatible with women's (and poets'!) changing lives and priorities. I like it, but I wouldn't do it for free. I would still write poems, though, even if I never made a cent from them. If I were trying to pursue a non-literary career while raising my kids AND trying to get into Poetry and the London Magazine, I think I would be miserable. So yes, I would like to be a SAHM (for lack of a better phrase). I think it would suit my personality and my goals.

Meredith said...

Anyway, I'm 20-something and single, so becoming a mom, never mind the SAH part, is still a fantasy at this point. There's certainly time for me to change my mind about working full time while raising a family, but the likelihood that I will ever have a high-powered career diminishes daily.

Maria said...

I voted on the poll that I would love to be a stay-at-home mom, but ideally I would love to have the best of both worlds. I would love to stay-at-home most of the time, but work part-time through either freelance work or a part-time position.

I really enjoy my profession, an academic librarian, and am grateful that it seems that there are avenues in this field that would make it feasible to work part-time.

Right now, as a single woman who is very devoted to my work, it's hard for me to imagine leaving the professional realm entirely if/when I get married and have a family. I suppose that if the time came and I did have children, I might decide that I would just prefer to stay-at-home 'full-time', but right now I think I would prefer a blend of the two options if I had that opportunity.

Magdalena said...

Meredith, that sounds really similar to what I feel, at least the "If I could grow veggies and cook good food for my family every day, I think I would feel deeply satisfied" part. Before somehow landing myself in academia I was working on several farms and loved the work! My "dream" (but Seraphic sais rightly that we should be rooted in reality) is finding a Nice Swiss Mountain Farmer :-)
I actually know how to milk cows and goats, how to spin wool, how to knit, how to chop wood, and I can play the piano and the guitar for evening amusement - so what do you want more, all you Nice Catholic Swiss Mountain Farmers?? Wait, this combination (NCSMF) does probably not exist...

As to the staying rooted in reality, I have a long university education (hopefully soon ending with a doctorate), which I want to USE later. But science and family does not seem to work well together, and I have not yet found out how to solve this problem. My boss for example has a part-time professor job because of her child - and she is doing all the rest of her science work in the night when the kid is sleeping, getting more and more exhausted. Being a part-time professor is apparently not possible. Well, as long as the NCSMF does not come, I will stay somewhere near science and academia trying to mix up this nearly-all-male world, and if he comes, we shall see... I would also love to stay at home for some time with the children, but for now this is no option, as there's only me.

Eowyn said...

Just wanted to say there are large handfuls of Catholic homeschoolers scattered across Canada. Personally, I know of bunches of them around Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Good people :)

Little Mary said...

I have a new coworker who just switched to first shift -- prior to that, she worked a different shift from her husband because they needed two salaries and couldn't afford daycare... they don't look like they are doing it for a ton of fancy stuff (I don't know what he does). Quite the sacrifice -- they didn't see each other for more than an hour or so for seven or eight years.

I tend to think staying home with toddlers is a good idea, maybe working a little. There are some studies that show that very little ones do best when they can attach to one caregiver for a number of years, rather than the "school" daycare model popular in the US. After that, I think something that fit a kid schedule would be a good fit... something where you would be able to take a day off for a sick kid, sort of during school hours. No homeschooling in my current fantasy...

I think this is a situation where one needs to know themselves and their spouse, and to be able to be flexible as kids come along.

Kate P said...

I'm just curious as to whether women's "ideal" situations are influenced by what their families were like when they were growing up.

For example, my mom was pretty much a stay at home mom and also helped out in school when we were school age. She did take a part-time job temporarily, twice, to pay for things like a much-needed kitchen renovation and (I think) school tuition for us when two of us were in college and one was starting high school.
We did not have cable TV or central air conditioning, nor did we take annual family vacations (in fact, my dad "sold" some of his vacation days, I later learned). I have never been to Disney World!
At the very least, I would like to be home with my children full-time while they are little. After that, I have no idea. But everything depends on the hypothetical situation and circumstances, and what is decided by us as a couple. I say all this as a thirty-something who is trying to be optimistic!

IMHO, being required to work in order to provide for the family is very different from wanting to work to finance a higher lifestyle or advance my own career or profile.

Evelyn said...

I marked that I wanted to be a SAHM, and I sort of am, but not really. I'm a single mom (not by choice) and have made the choice to live at the poverty line so that i can be home when my kids are home. When they are at school, I babysit, provide home medical care, work on websites, and do merchandising. Were I ever to remarry and not need to work, I think I would still keep my toes in the career-ish things and let the rest go. If I were to have another child, I would drop everything for 2-3 years, and would never want to marry a man who wasn't in favor of that.

Salixbabylonica said...

Although I don't live on a farm, I suppose I see myself more as a farmwife than as a housewife. By which I mean, I don't view my staying at home most of the time as removing myself from the family economy. Like the 19th century farmwife, I see the work I do, regardless of whether it involves the exchange of hard cash, as a contribution to our family's financial well-being. For example: if your husband is going to eat bread, then you can either make it yourself (for, say, $1/ loaf) or you can buy it (for, say $3/loaf). As I see it, every time I make bread, I've earned $2. The same principle applies to much of what I do at home. For instance, there's easily $70 worth of produce that I picked out of the garden today. Removing myself form economically productive activity seems as much of a fantasy to me as having a rewarding, intellectually stimulating, personally fulfilling career.

Staying home with the baby does involve financial sacrifices, but they are not so hard as people seem to think. I tend to believe that many more people can afford to stay at home with their infants than is popularly believed; however, it requires living in a way that is so far from the middle-class norm that for many people it simply never occurs to them that you can live like that. (Real conversation: “You don’t have cable? But . . . but . . . how do you live? What do you do?”) You see, it’s having the child that really causes the financial hit in most cases, not the staying home with him. Once you have a child, someone has to take care of him. It's false to think of staying home to care for your child as forgoing a $15/hour salary. In reality you are forgoing $15/hour minus the $12/hour you're paying the babysitter. Now, if I have to endure the misery of being separated from my baby, I darn well better get paid more than 3 bucks an hour to do it. Frankly, I just don't see how not staying home with an infant is financially viable for many people. School aged children being an entirely different affair, I would imagine, but I have no personal experience with that.

What I do wish had been discussed when I was still single and childless (i.e. before it was too late) was the idea that if you want to stay home with your child, you ought to choose your career carefully. As Sheila and Theobromophile brought up, a woman should expect to be making a financial contribution to her upkeep for her entire life, to a greater or lesser extent. Most of the jobs that can be done from home, or part-time, or flex-time, or can be dropped and picked up again a few years later, are much easier to get into if you are established in that field before you “drop out” to become a housewife. There are fields out there that can work around your family needs as well as provide a decent living in the event of a tragedy. Whether or not the field you’re interested in is one of them should definitely be one of the considerations when you are deciding what field of employment to enter.

Mrs Doyle said...

Kate P is right - many women choose to follow in their mother's footsteps because it's what they know.

My brothers and sisters were very fortunate, in that we were brought up by both parents - equally!

Mum and Dad are both nurses and can work shift work, so there was always one parent home. I never had a stay at home mum, so it doesn't seem 'normal' to me.
Mind you, neither of them saw their professions as careers, and there was a time when Dad was home more often - because Mum was qualified to take on a more senior role.

What I think the focus should be on for men and women, is to look at your skills and talents, and try (if you can) to educated yourself in a way which would make it flexible for either to bring up children.

I have chosen to spend more time at university educating myself in a way which is broad and easily adaptable to a lot of different businesses/schedules etc.. and where I could probably quite easily work from home.

My ideal scenario - would be to marry a man equally adaptable so that he and I would be able to bring up our children together.

I don't feel comfortable personally with the idea that my husband would have to work Monday to Friday 9-6pm with some overtime on weekends etc... and not see his children. While I, throw a hissy fit at 6pm, dog tired and fed up from looking after the kids all day and hand them over to him!

I want my children to know their father. I want both of us to be attentive, available parents.

Many of my friends who grew up with a stay at home mother are only just becoming closer to their dads now, when they are 20 something, after not knowing what he did for all those years - being the cash cow (and knowing it!) and never getting to see him.

I find that sad!
I don't like the idea that a woman should give up everything (years of education, interests outside the home etc....) while her husband almost continues on as before, as if he hadn't married or had children.
The teeny bit of a feminist in me finds that really unfair, not just on women, but men also, and the children.

That said, I think we also have to influence business and society in general to accept more flexible working arrangements for both men and women.
Perhaps also, we could see our jobs as our professions, and not as our 'careers' which takes on an exclusive sort of connotation - to the exclusion of all else.

Seraphic said...

I find all these comments very interesting. I'm also tempted to go and stay with Magdalena the next time she is on holiday. How could a NCSMF (if he existed) resist?

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

I know a few people who homeschool in Britain.

Notburga said...

This is a topic about which I have thought a lot. I grew up in Eastern Germany, where being a housewife was (and is) quite frowned upon, and very much adopted that attitude. On becoming a Catholic, I realized what an amazing vocation being a mother and wife actually is, and would have loved to become both straight after university (which, alas, failed due to lack of husband).
I then started a PhD and grew to love my work very much. Still single, I hope to pursue an academic career. As Magdalena sais, staying at home for more than maybe a year (even if you keep contact with your work during the time) will tremendously decrease the already small chances of ever getting a professorship (i.e. nearly the only form of tenured university job) in our field of work.
If I actually had success with my work, and then married and became pregnant, I would find the decision what to do an exeedingly hard one. Not only is working while having young children awfully stressful, and probably also quite sad; I would aditionally have a really bad conscience.
As the Catholic view on this topic has been presented to me at times, it is the woman's role to be mother of her children; stay-at-home-dads are therefore a feministic abomination. Spacing the births of your children for career reasons would also be a very bad thing to do. A mother might work for economic considerations, or part-time when the children are older, but to compromise in any way on the comfort of children and spouse, or the openness for life, just to pursue a career, is an utterly selfish thing.
I greatly admire SAHM, particularly mothers of large families, but I really wonder if this would be the thing I could do. And that is the point that I cannot help finding slightly unfair: It seems that only men have the option to in any way adapt their vocation to their personality, while the one proper vocation of a married women who can have children is to be a mother (and mother of as many children as responsibly possible). Men are individua, women a class.
I felt my own ideals quite echoed in those of Mrs. Doyle, but always had my doubts if any NCB (or NCM) of any orhtodoxy would accept such a solution, plus whether my wish to pursue my career and my dread of being stuck at home did not simply reflect selfishness and unwillingness to 'give'.

Sophia said...

I am running out the door, but I did want to comment from a formerly homeschooled person's standpoint, that I believe it is often unrealistic for women to believe that they need to be stay at home moms, full time teachers, and full time housekeepers. If those in the older days worked full time, their children were often uneducated. Those women who were supported by their husbands had hired help. They also had people to teach their children (think tutors and governesses and schools). It is no surprise that stay at home moms who attempt to be their own tutors/governesses frequently don't have time to keep up the house.

Grad in a big city said...

Man, I feel like my blogging worlds have collided. As a science PhD student, I read a lot of women-in-science blogs, and work-life-kids balance is the number 1 topic of conversation. Research science is a career, and the system is certainly not set up for anyone, male or female, to take time off for any reason. So I voted for working until retirement in your poll, because my chosen career won't let me do anything else. I'm ok with that, at least in the purely hypothetical sense, without even a boyfriend in the picture, let alone husband and kids. But it's critical to recognize the challenges in your field before you start, as Salixbabylonica mentioned.

sciencegirl said...

Notburga, I love your comment. Tralala to the mini-Magisteria. The real Magisterium of the Church does not in fact deny, implicitly or otherwise, that we women are individuals. Listen to the real Pope, not the wannabes.

If it's not against the OT commandments, and Jesus didn't preach against it, and the NT epistles don't chastise anyone for it, and the Real Magisterium hasn't cautioned against it, then I don't see how Faithful Catholics can deem something a sin, from how you raise your kids to how many retreats you attend, to what flavor you use in cake.

Things that are not sins but that people might try to make you feel guilty about include stupid things like not enjoying their favorite films or liking the wrong ones or preferring mushroom soup to tomato-based casserole. I know childcare is important, but even if you were to stay home with your kids, you would still never run short on criticism. A woman will never be short of a rude opinion if she gives out the impression that she needs the direction of her helpful Christian brethren. Or even if she doesn't! It takes knowledge of the actual teachings of the Church to resist the guilt and the call to casserole (yum!).

There are so many sins women and men can commit together and so many ways marriages can fall short that calling happy dads "feminist abominations" is A Bit Much. There is a virtue in minding one's own business. Personally, I commit enough real, actual sins of which I need to repent to bother spending much time worrying over how bad a mom I will be for my non-existent children. I understand fears professional scientists have over how we might raise families in the future, but I also know nothing is easy or judgment-free. I have never met a mom who has not been loaded down with "helpful advice" that drove her crazy. It's best to figure on ignoring most of it with a gracious smile. Just smile and nod. Wait for the man wearing a sweatshirt that says "Feminist Abomination" in German, marry him when & if he asks (I mean if you love him, but if he wears such a shirt, what's not to love?), and laugh at the world together from the safety of the Church.

The shirt might not have to be a sweatshirt if German men are too classy for them.

Magdalena said...

I would love to see the Historical House if I could get to Scotland again :-)

Notburga said...

@ Sciencegirl: :-D
I used to talk about the Nice Single Orthodox Catholic Man I hoped to meet at this event or other - knowing perfectly well that at a scientific conference in Sweden / a mountainbike race in Germany etc. NSOCM are not that easy to come about. However, the thought of the Pro-Feminism Nice Single Orthodox Catholic Man requires a real leap of faith in Providence in me.
The thing that troubles me is that while I have become emancipated from most 'mini-Magesteria' I cannot help but feel that I might be slightly at loggerheads with the real Magesterium (emotionally, not rationally) on this issue (i.e. the documents on woman and on marriage). I also love reading the more witty sort of Catholic Mommy Blogs, and see how a live spent thus would be a beautiful thing; I feel deeply sorry for the babies of colleagues taken to the office from the age of one month up to the point when they can be given to child care at one year old; so its more me myself who is giving me trouble than anything well-meaning pious people might say. Maybe the Old Times were right when it was O.K. for a woman to be a teacher - if she staid single; i.e. that a Profession and marriage are mutually exclusive for a woman?
[Though, re-reading 'Gaudy Night' and 'Busman's Honeymoon' recently, I still dream of a modern day Lord Peter - sorry, Seraphic - who will allow me to combine both family and what I feel to be my vocation.]

theobromophile said...

Nortburga: I think a lot of us have trouble with the idea that a small child should be left at daycare, every single day, because her parents want to go off and have a career. (Don't forget: in the farm days, most men stayed at home, too!)

But I can't find it in myself to get worked up about a woman who works from home when her kids are small, sometimes leaves them with a babysitter when she has a conference or a meeting, and goes back to work when they are in elementary school. Guess what? Kids need to learn that the world doesn't revolve around them.

Some people who are in big families really love it; many, many children feel lost in the shuffle. With better nutrition, women are fertile more often (about every 3 to 4 weeks, not 6), and the infant mortality rate is a lot lower. If a woman decides that six kids are enough, and wants to use NFP after that, again, I just can't get worked up about that decision. (The "one precious designer baby" thing can get irksome, as it seems more about the parents than the child.)

The one thing I do get worked up about is the idea that women - and only women - should sacrifice everything for the family. I doubt that anyone who says that women need to stay at home, no career whatsoever, would say that her husband is obligated to never get drinks after work with the guys, or never take a business trip that takes him away from his family, etc. Also, I think it's good for kids to learn that they aren't the centre of the universe, and preferably, do so in a way that doesn't involve turning the older ones into mommies and daddies when they are teenagers because no one, stay at home mom or not, can handle 13 children.

(Yes, I'll get flamed for this, but when the number of kids starts to go above about 8, the sad reality is that the eldest kids give up their youth to change diapers, the middle ones are resentful, and the younger ones can't figure out why their siblings hate them.)

sciencegirl said...

No, I agree with you, theobromophile, though I could imagine many exceptions to the "sibling as parent" rule. I think it is great, for instance, to have a buddy system in families, and to ask kids to do chores and help each other. I think when it becomes wrong is when the older siblings do the job a parent should be doing or the job that would cost hundreds of dollars in babysitting fees -- and have no way to opt out. It is actually quite difficult to babysit one's own siblings if they know you have no authority, and equally frustrating if your parents give you no choice in the matter. I have heard more than one proud-to-be-childless woman say "I had to raise my siblings, so I have had enough of that." They weren't talking about the occasional bottle/diaper change or story time, but about how it was expected them to do full-time childcare duty. These girls grew up feeling like childcare was something that trapped them -- so why would they inflict it on themselves again? I would also note that there are many more older siblings who are very proud of the ways they helped their younger siblings and who are going to be even better parents because of their experience with little kids.

I think it depends on the family and especially on the parents. They should always see ALL their children as their responsibility. I would also say that in 13-child families, IF the births come every couple years, there are not 13 kids in the house at any one time.