Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Stay-At-Home Wife?

My sister and I have been talking a lot about stay-at-home wives: women who choose to stay home, even if they don't have children. A little more than a year ago, she joined their ranks. It hasn't been an easy transition for her. This is not a new topic of conversation...in fact, we talked about it here (Feb. '09)...and not much has changed since then.

I know how much I struggled to make my way as I became a stay-at-home-mom after working full-time outside the home for the first ten years of my marriage. Finding my way, finding value in what I was doing in a world that only seemed to value my wage-earning abilities was really difficult. I didn't know how to do much in the home-making arena. I, however, had children and society, while not exactly enthusiastic, recognized my desire to be home for my children as an understandable decision. Oh, I still got the "So, what do you do all day?" questions and the "But don't you want to do something that matters?" questions, but I'd "been there, done that". I am blessed with a supportive husband who was completely behind my desire to be home and willing to ride out the ups and downs as we all adjusted to a new way of life. I met up with some wonderful women who were stay-at-home-moms who validated my efforts and made me feel like I wasn't the only one trying to live this old-fashioned lifestyle. In the almost 11 years that I've been home full-time, I've learned so much and I wouldn't trade these years for anything. What once seemed so alien and challenging now seems like the way it should be for me.

My point? My sister has been home for a year and is struggling. No, she's not struggling with the work she does in the home. Instead, she's struggling to make her way in a world that absolutely doesn't value her contribution in the home because she has no children. The more we've discussed the situation, the more I've come to understand that this is the dark, underside of the work/stay-at-home debate. 50 years ago, no one would have questioned her desire to be a stay-at-home wife, even with her college degree. Obviously, lots of things have changed in 50 years, but doesn't feminism really mean she can actually choose and that choosing to stay-at-home and make a wonderful home for her husband and herself is a valid and respectable choice?

I found this post about Learning the Art of Homemaking at Domestic Felicity and thought I'd share part of it with you (but do go over and read the entire post, it is fabulous):

"The way I see it, successfully running a household is in many ways similar to managing a small hotel: meals have to be served on time, everything must be neat and clean and presentable, with a well-organized routine of work that helps things run smoothly. All this, while staying within the strict limits of a budget. And in countless ways, running a home is so much more than running an hotel, because the homemaker is responsible for the long-term well-being of her family, and therefore must make sure her husband has his needs attended, meals are nutritious and made of high quality products and the menu doesn't become too predictable…

… I know it's impossible to list the many arts a good homemaker must know, and there's always something new to learn. But beyond cooking, cleaning, laundry, budgeting, scheduling, organizing and decorating, there is an important trait a homemaker must have, a trait that cannot be learned and tossed aside, but is only acquired through years of practice. It is patience.

Maybe your floors are so clean you could eat off them and you cook like a chef, but as a homemaker you need much more than that. You must learn to do the same tasks, day after day, week after week, with joy and contentment in your heart. Sure, technically, it's not very hard to change a diaper. How about ten thousand diapers? Doing a load of laundry is easy. Then why is laundry piling up in people's homes? Obviously, because after the thousandth load, we have a tendency to get bored and just let things go."

So, here are my questions to you all:

Is there value in being a stay-at-home wife if you have no children? (Obviously, I see value, but what do you think?)

Are there blogs out there supporting the idea that home-making is not limited to the parents amongst us?

How can someone who has made the decision to be a stay-at-home wife feel good about her decision when just about everybody she knows/meets wonders when she's going to start doing something important.

Tell me, what do you think?

20 comments:

Andrea said...

Forgive me, but I think some people just do NOT get it and frankly, I believe some are jealous of people like your sister. It does not make sense. She should be praised, instead of condemned.
Blessings, andrea

Julie the Army Wife said...

I really wanted to be a stay-at-home-wife but it never happened because we needed my income. I think there are so many things that could be done at home even with no children. There are also a lot of opportunities to make money while still being at home. I don't think homemaking has to be limited to just moms.

On the flip side, before you have kids is when you can have the chance to work in a place that you might enjoy. If you wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom but not right away, it is a great idea to work at a job away from home.

Great topic :)

generationsgoneby said...

No, feminisist would tell her that her chioce is to have it all. A husband, children and career. She doesn't get to choose husband and home. She's going against the grain. LoveAphid, throw out the feminist agenda. Go to the Bible. There you will be supported. God believed that woman should be her husband's helpmate, children or no. The thing is you are going to have to take pride in what you do and in your husband's praise because the world will never rise up and call you blessed. That is a possition that is left to your husband and if you have them someday, your children. Until about 50 years ago, it was normal for a woman to stay at home until she had children. If she did not have children for what ever reason, she didn't go out and look for a job, unless she wasn't married and then she had to have means of support. That job was usually a school teacher. The minute she got married, she lost her job. It was part of her contract. Now we view marriage and staying home very different. The stay at home wife is considered lazy. Granted modern conveniences make our lives easier, but there is still a great deal to do in running a home.

Look to noone to decide if you are doing the correct thing but your husband. Is he happy?. Is he content? Is he stressed? Does he miss your income?

Last week, we had this same discussion because I am recently at home after working. My children are teenagers, and I'd like to work, but circumstances have shown me being at home is where I need to be right now. When I said I wanted to work, Hubby said, why, we aren't hurting, I said, but I am bored. He said, so I like you at home. You have to ask your husband what he thinks. His is the only opinion that really matters.

Clark said...

This is a very tough subject to have a conversation about. Men are ripped for "oppressing" their wives by encouraging them to not work and stay at home to care for the home whether there are children or not. Women are accused of selling out other women by not "having it all". Whether people want to admit it or not, we need people staying home taking care of not only our homes but our communities. Someone needs to be there to make sure that where we live is a place that has real value (not monetary) and is someplace we want to be. You can argue that men should be willing to do it as well and I agree. I did it for a while when I was in school and working nights. I will be the first to admit that I was not nearly as good as Erin is at taking care of the home. It is not a cop out, but guys just are not as good at it. I know, I did my best at it, but never reached the levels that she has. Just my two cents....

Bonnie said...

Erin, I can't believe people actually said to you "but don't you want to do something that matters". That person must not have a spouse or children! I applaud your decision and am interested in how it's going to go for me when I start my own stay-at-home journey in 4 weeks.

My best friend is 42 and has not worked outside the home since she was married, except for one summer, working part-time. She is the happiest person I know. She is there for everyone, very content with her life, and is just so pleasant to be around. I hope your sister finds a similar contentedness in her own life and I'm excited for her to have the opportunity to choose that path for herself! I have seen some blogs of wives who support their working husbands as stay-at-home wives. If I run across those url's I'll send them to you.

DarcyLee said...

I love this post! I read the other one, too. Good for your sister that she is doing this. I always, always wanted to be a SAHM and made it very clear to my husband to-be at the time and he was all for it. The sad thing is that many young men these days seem to just expect that their wives will work even with children in the home. Their moms did it and even their grandmothers did it. I know that good jobs can be hard to find sometimes but my husband and I always believed that our children and our marriage came before anything else. It is really hard when there isn't anyone at home making sure everything is getting done. I worked full-time (and more!) for a couple of years when my girls were much younger and it was so exhausting! My house was never clean and I always felt like I never got enough time with my husband or children. It was like having two jobs. I could go on and on but thanks for posting this, Erin! Love it.

Organizing Mommy said...

Tell your sister that the couple that had the most impact on our lives for the Lord was a couple without children that had a "stay at home wife". They were always ready for hospitality and Bible studies and had many spiritual children. I loved them dearly. (They are both with the Lord now) Anyway, true religion is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep yourself unspotted for the world. Being a non-career woman does not mean you have to sit idle! There's plenty of work to be done for the Lord. I'll be praying that she finds her special niche.

Together We Save said...

I was able to stay home till my girls started school... then one thing after another happened and I work 2 jobs now!!

sewducky said...

You know, why does anyone else's opinon matter? Yes I work (and I have to) but even if I got married, I would be at home doing it, because I want to. I see no reason for anyone else not to do what they want.

I also have a job people don't view as a "job" either. I quit caring about what people think and when they hit you with rude questions a "I'll forgive you for the question if you fogive me for not answering it" works wonders.

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Anonymous said...

I dunno . . . if you're looking at the Bible on this one, the Proverbs 31 wife is doing anything BUT staying home without kids. That's a woman out there doing and making and buying and selling and raising some awesome children. I doubt any feminist would argue against the Proverbs 31 wife as anything but a legitimate economic choice.

But that's not what modern SAHWs do, is it?

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I have been a stay at home woman for over 30 years. The first 18 or so years it was to be with my sons, now that that they are grown and one is married, I am still home and enjoy it. Though I don't work outside of the home, I am always busy, whether I am teaching myself how to use the computer, educating myself on different topics like finance, health issues or anything that is of interest to me by just googling or just catching up with friends. I also like how I have been able to come and go as I please. My husband works very long hours and when he is able to get off from work, I am there to enjoy his company. If I worked outside of my home how would I be able to have the luxury of getting off on the spur of the moment to be with my husband? The most enjoyable thing about staying home is that when my sons call I am able to speak with them as long as I like.
There are some people that make snide remarks, yes, I do think they are a bit envious, but they shouldn't be, this works for me and my husband, it is not for everyone.

Anonymous said...

If a woman has kids, staying at home to raise them is good.

If no kids, then she would be a lazy, self serving, layabout, selfish, no-ambition, drain on society, taking advantage of her husband sloth

Erin said...

Well, okay, then...thank you for making your point clear.

Anonymous said...

I lost my job a few months ago and this has been on my mind since then. My husband has a very good job and we financially can live with his income only. I get many odd looks when I say I am a full time housewife and I believe it is because we do not have any children (yet). We just were married this year and it will be in our future. Currently my husband is happy with me being a stay at home wife, but it doesn't feel the same way with society. Thank you for this article as it has helped me greatly!

Alliebefree said...

I'm glad you and your sister brought up this topic. People have been brain washed and they don't even know it. Public school for the working class is a new concept. It has been around since the industrial revolution. Why? Not because "they" care about you and your children..it's the exact opposite. They want as many people as possible working for them, at the bottom so that they at the top can make as much money as possible. When the government finally deemed child labor illegal, they had to find a way to keep the cycle going so they 'educate' your children. Really they are socializing them to be college bound drones so that they can perpetuate their excessively high incomes while leaving you the working class to continue in the vicious circle of debt.

I was a stay at home 'wife' before I became a mother and it was a hard transition. Even though I knew better I had devalued the homemaker and over legitimized the working woman. Now I'm a stay at home mom and I'm never going to work for someone else ever again. I will continue to care for my home and household and help with the business and maybe even go back to being a childcare provider....don't be fooled it's so much less stress staying at home. Both adults don't need to be stressed.

Plus I'm the eldest of 15 and my Mother home schooled us. My Mother sacrificing and staying at home with us was one of the best decisions she could've made.

sawmarshall said...

This topic is close to my heart. My hubby and I have been debating this subject in home. I approached my hubby ~ 5 months ago about my desire to take better care of us and our household by being a stay at home wife. We are both now 40+ and I have worked all my life. We have done good financial planning but our homelife/personal life takes a back seat to our work. My hubby fears I will get bored in the long run. I think that there will be PLEANTY to do not only in our home, but with our aging parents. I would love to hear from other women who do not have school aged children at home about the value they add in their marriages/family life by being a full time wife.

The Professor's Wife said...

I am a stay at home wife (three weeks ago I quite my part-time job at a preschool) and I LOVE it so far, in fact I am deliriously happy. My husband has been wanting me to stay home for over a year now, and so did I but I was struggling with what people thought too much to take the plunge. But I kept getting sick working with small children who were sick all the time (and should have been home!), so I finally quit three weeks ago. Right after I quit, my sister who has three kids was sick, and I was able to go visit her for a whole week. I couldn't do that working even part time! I am able to go to some of my husband's bible classes (he is a college Bible professor). I can cook and clean stress free. I have been able to study the bible more, go to bible studies, am finally able to start a garden - I could go on and on and on.

What is really giving me the confidence to hold my head high, not in pride, but in confidence, is reading what God's word says to women, about them being keepers at home and helpers to their husbands. I may not get the approval of man, but I feel God's pleasure, and my husbands. I'm sure it will be a struggle for me at times, but I would encourage your sister to cling tight to the Lord and pray for grace and strength to not care what other people think.

The Professor's Wife said...

Oh and my blog is theprofessorswife.blogspot.com. I don't directly address being a stay at home wife, not all the time, but I do talk a lot about my daily life at home

Anonymous said...

I just came across your post regarding your sister. I do freelance work, but am usually without work all summer. My husband loves it because i have more energy to devote to myself, him, and us. Our home is usually spotless, I cook wonderful meals, and enjoy hobbies. Does your sister findd fulfillment? That's what matters. I personally could not care less what others may or my not think of our lifestyle. Many people are jealous, and also many mother's say they "Have to work" when in reality their income only covers the child care, gas to get to and from work,etc. They don't want to admit that they simply want to be away from their kids....