Friday, February 13, 2009

So, what do you think?

(Uh-oh...I think this might be another soapbox moment.)

My sister has decided she wants to be a Stay-at-Home-Wife and her husband is totally on board with that. They are able to afford to have her stay home, if they cut back a little and they're both willing to do that. The problem (as she sees it): They have no kids. So, she feels she should be doing something valuable with her time and feels guilty for wanting to stay home. When we talked about this, so many things struck me at once that I had to ask you all your opinions.

1) Why isn't it valuable for someone (gender irrelevant here) to stay home and care for the home?

2) Isn't part of the problem with "home" these days is that no one has the time to care for it?

3) Doesn't everyone function better in a well-run home?

4) Why does she have to have children to make this choice more "legitimate"?

I've talked with Superman about this dilemma and we both agree that there is tremendous value in someone being home and actually, mindfully, caring for the home. I worked full-time for the first ten years of our marriage and I won't deny that there was a huge adjustment to be made when I came home full-time. It wasn't always easy, and like my sister I often wondered if I were not actually making a valuable contribution, but it was worth it. From being better organized and better fed, to being more self-sufficient and making a better use of the household's resources, we think there is tremendous value in having someone "managing" the home.

My sister and her husband moved into a new house in a new town in August or September and they both started working at new jobs immediately. Guess where all their energy and focus was directed? Not at home. Fast forward a few months and my sister had quit her job and run smack dab into the holidays. Guess where her focus was? Not really on her home...instead it was more on "pulling off the holidays when she felt like a crazy person". So, here we are in second week of February and she's begun to relax. She sees tons of things that need to be done in her house and actually starts thinking she can get them done. But, alas, then the ugly voice begins again: "You should do something important, something valuable. Go make some money instead of WASTING your time here."

When did having a well-run home become a waste of time? Or, even more absurd, when did it become accepted that she should be in charge of a well-run home and devoted to full-time employment? Why isn't being home, caring for your home and your community, an admirable pursuit?

Finally, why does she have to have children to want these things? No, I'm not being naive...I understand that many people think children are an "excuse" to stay home. No, they add a lot of work to the job of keeping a home running and many, many of us take years to figure out how to make it all work. I would have loved to have been home for a few years before I had children...instead, I did at-home training to learn to care for my home. It wasn't that long ago that no one would have expected her to go to work after she got married. (Yes, I know also that in many cases she wouldn't have been allowed to, but the point is, the time she would have been at home was considered too important to lose her contribution.)

Why would it be more legitimate for her to work full time for money she doesn't need, to buy things she doesn't need, so that she doesn't have time to care for and do the things she (and her husband) really want to do? When did this become the way things are done?

So, what do you think? Should my sister go back to work? Should she feel good about staying home and turning this new house into their home? What are your thoughts? Let me know...


loveaphid said...

No I don't think she should go back to work, tee hee. Of course I'm biased, by being your sister and all. Thanks for the post I love that you feel this way, since you know what a struggle it has been.

Anonymous said...

Ah, my soapbox and you are standing on it. Get OFF! (she lovingly pushes Erin off the box)

I think she should stay at home and care for the family whether they have kids or not. Now let me explain that yes, I do have three kids and yes, I did go back to work three years ago part time. I was bored at home and wanted to have some adult conversation and figured why not get paid for it. I leave two hours after my kids and get home two hours before they do so even though I am working, it's during their school hours and so I am still at home with them. I have school holidays and summers off.

But our home has run a lot less smoothly in the last three years. Dishes and clothes don't always get timely attention. Hubby has had to take time off work to care for sick children. Granted, no children, not as much an issue. But when the wife (or husband, my brother-in-law was a stay at home dad) stays home, things run so much more smoothly. Dinner is done when the working spouse gets home, so no need for take out. Clothes get washed and mended before they become rags from stains or tears. YOu can shop sales and not when you are desperate for new clothes, food, etc and save a ton of money. (We've always lived about 25% better than our salary, because I shopped sales.)

No, I don't think she needs kids for this to be legitimate. They have both decided they want this for themselves. A less stress free environment for THEM! Why do you have to wait until you add a third person into the mix to want peace?

I enjoy my job, but there are days when even my 4 hours a day makes me stressed and my home suffers. I like that I have friends to talk to and a reason to get up and get dressed since when I stayed at home, laundry did not have the same appeal, but I think it was mainly that feeling of needing to do something that mattered that got me back into the work force. Being a stay at home mom to kids in college sounds funny. It shouldn't but it does.
Somewhere in the late 70s, women earned the right to have it ALL. Unfortunately, no one bothered to tell us that we didn't have to DO it ALL. We have the right to do that which makes us happy and our spouses happy, but we don't the obligation to do it all.

Now, if you were telling me she loved her job and had three kids and wanted to go back to work, I'd say go for it. The thing is doing that which makes us happy and the most fulfilled is best for our family. So that is why I work part time. It allows me to feel fulfilled and have a little time with the girls, (and a small paycheck) yet I can still be room mother and supervise teenage dates, and drive carpool...
It's just the weeks like the last few that I have had that make me feel overwhelmed. I know this too shall pass.

So I say, she should do what they agreed upon. Feel blessed. Care for her home and her man. Maybe even have a few babies if she wants those too. But NO GUILT. It's a useless emotion.

Erin said...

Loveaphid, read Generations comments...she's saying exactly what I've been saying and she doesn't even know you!

Anonymous said...

I don't know you, but I know how much peace a well run household can have on a family and yes, you and hubby sans kiddos is a family. If you and hubby have agreed this works for you, then don't hesitate to follow your heart. You can always go back to work, work part time, volunteer, work from home... if you find you have too much time on you hand at home.

I was home a year before #1 was born. I painted, worked on flower beds, organized, had the house ready for a new born. When we sold our first house, #1 was 3, #2 was 2. It was so well organized the lady that bought it just moved it. She didn't need to do anything but have the carpets cleaned. Not only had me being home blessed our family, but it blessed hers as well.
If you follow your heart, you will never look back and regret the decision. Just be thankful you can afford to follow your heart.

momstheword said...

I quit my job three months after I married my hubby. The I eventually worked part-time for awhile, then went to fulltime to meet some financial needs.

I do not plan on returning to work after the youngest has left the home.

Your sister can just be home and be a wife. She doesn't need to justify it. She can cook, clean, perhaps serve in a church ministry (if she belongs to a church), take up a new hobby, and just make a home for her hubby and herself.

The only thing is that she will want to watch how she spends her time. For one thing, some people will not value her time and will seek to fill it up for her.

She will probably have people asking her to do things for them ("because you're home and you have nothing else to do so can you come over and let the plumber into my house? Can you return this to the store? Can you take my dog to the vet?") or with them ("let's do lunch today!").

So she will need to guard her time. If she sets priorities and goals for her days and weeks, then she will know when to say no.

momstheword said...

BTW, I wanted to add you'd be surprised at how many people have asked me if I'm returning to work after my youngest has graduated and I am no longer homeschooling.

It's as if homeschooling him is the reason they think that I am not working. I wasn't working before my kids started school.

I have a job. It' being a wife and a mother and it is enough for me! Someday it will just being a wife and making a home for my husband and I.

Erin said...

I agree (and I get the same questions now that I do homeschool). With my oldest in college and my youngest turning 10 soon, people seem to think I'm chomping at the bit to get out of my home. On the contrary, I think our lives are all better by the focus I'm able to give to the smaller details of our lives. LOL! I had forgotten about the number of people who assumed I had all the free time in the world (and now the ones who are assuming I'm miserable because I don't go out much).