At Home by CHOICE?

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(Image by Stockimages, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

You may have seen the articles that have been making the rounds for a while, showcasing a collection of vintage print advertisements from the 1970’s and earlier. They’re considered shocking and sexist. You can view an example of one such article here.

I understand why people find at least some of them offensive. They’re not a reflection of the world we live in. We don’t have to turn back the calendar very far to encounter women who can’t even fathom the changes the world has been through. My daughter, for example, is a young adult, and she could look at my life history and see nothing so different from what she’s familiar with. My own mother finished high school in 1955, but even her life was not like these ads would suggest. She never had the chance to be Betty Crocker or Susie Homemaker. While she had no strong political leanings that I ever heard of, nor any serious desire for a career, she always worked outside the home because nobody offered her an alternative. I wonder, now, how she felt about that. Did she grow up just naturally expecting to marry a man who would work to support her while she kept the house and raised the children? Did she go through life feeling she got cheated out of that?

My father is not the man my mother spent most of her life married to. (They divorced when I was still a baby.) But my father believes that feminists messed up the whole order of things by flooding the job market with women. There were then twice as many people competing for jobs, so everybody’s paycheck got smaller, and consequently we wound up with a world where many women HAVE to work. That may be a little simplistic, but I see some logic in it. I can sort of see a woman like my mother, who probably wanted to be a homemaker, saying, “Thanks a lot, feminists. I had to work in crappy jobs all my life because you didn’t want to stay home.” Through no fault of her own, she never got to live the life she was led to expect.

Here’s all I’m saying. A lot of feminist-bashing goes on among Christian women. You’ll read about it on a lot of blogs–heck, you can read whole books about it if you look for them. And meanwhile, SAHMs ¬†share that they set aside their careers to raise their children and care for their husbands and homes. There is no job more important, they tell us, and¬†I happen to AGREE with them. So, summing up: philosophically, many of us agree that home is a good place for wives and mothers to be.

I’ll invite you to consider just one other possibility, though.

Suppose you’d never had a choice? It’s one thing to prove to the world that you can graduate from the finest university and excel in your chosen field and then decide to take up the profession of homemaking. You’ve already proven you can stand on your own two feet, you can paddle your own canoe! But suppose your parents had laughed at your silly desire to go to college? What if they had patted your pretty head and said, “College is for boys, dear. You don’t need that kind of education to change diapers!” What if no scholarships or financial assistance had been available for you? What if the field you were interested in working in was something other than being a teacher or a nurse, and everyone had ridiculed you? Imagine going to a job interview at a place where you had amazing skills to fit the job, and a burning ambition to work, and being summarily told that they were looking for a man to fill the position.

Suppose you had wound up exactly where you are right now: keeping house and caring for your husband and children…but you’d never had a choice. Suppose you had the same capable hands and brilliant mind that you do right now, but had never been afforded the chance to prove it to anyone. Would you feel as confident as you do today? Or let’s go briefly down another road…what if your husband mistreated you, but the law still regarded you as his property? What if he died and you had no choice but to fall on the mercy of relatives who would support you? That happened all the time, and not so long ago.

It’s very easy to condemn the wicked feminists who messed up the world. I wouldn’t even totally disagree, since some of the world’s most famous feminists were clearly not fighting on God’s side. But it wouldn’t hurt to remember that our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers fought hard to get us the rights we have today, partly because they knew something most of us will never know: what it was like to be at home because you had no choice.

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28 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Carlotta
    Nov 17, 2014 @ 03:10:38

    First off, your blog name is interesting for a Christian women. The Bible says that a fountain of water does not give off both sweet and bitter water.

    Second, you absolutely had a choice in being able to stay at home or work. You knowingly chose to marry a man who wanted you both to work. You repeatedly deny your choice in the matter. When in fact your are simply refusing to take responsibility for one you regret.

    Third, women have always worked. In every century, culture and country. No one denied American women the right to work. Feminist never gave them this right. Feminists leaders were clear from the start the goal was always to ELIMINATE A WOMEN’S CHOICE to stay home and raise her own children. You have a serious chip on your shoulder and a severe lack of accurate historical knowledge. As a former feminist I encourage you to educate yourself. As a true Christian women I remind you to actually read and understand your Bible. You will be held accountable for the advice you are giving.

    Reply

    • Sweet-Water-and-Bitter
      Nov 17, 2014 @ 23:07:41

      Hello Carlotta, I’m sorry you were so upset by this post but I would like to reply to you and maybe we will come to a better understanding.
      About the name of my blog–there’s a reason for that. If you read the “about me” section, it gives somewhat of a hint. I know that Jesus said a fountain can’t give off both sweet water and bitter. My reason for naming my blog that has to do with my struggle over the course of life with repeatedly failing to be that 100% “sweet” fountain, and giving then giving up trying because I could not do it. I spent years cut off from God because I just could not be good all the time and it made me feel terrible. Of course NOBODY can be good all the time. So my blog has that name because even though I can never be good enough, and neither can anybody, we don’t have to give up on being a Christian. I do the best I can, and then there’s grace…………..Now. You sat that I had a choice in being able to stay home or work. Well, at the time I married my husband, quite honestly it was the farthest thing from my mind. I was older than him, I owned a house, I had a child. He was 23 and living with his parents! We met at work, anyway. It never crossed my mind that I’d stay home while he worked. Frankly, if I had met some different man who had offered me that deal, I might have been a bit wary of it, and wondered if he was somehow trying to isolate me from other people or keep me under his thumb. My desire to stay home is something that grew with time. It grew out of trusting my husband not to abandon me and leave me penniless, for one thing. But I would not agree with you that I have a “serious chip on my shoulder.” I would like to stay at home, I sure would. But I also totally understand my husband’s position that he didn’t sign up for that, and that he prefers me to earn money instead of keep house. Oh well. Maybe someday….”Women have always worked.” Well, I guess. But they didn’t exactly have many career choices open. When I remember my relatives who were one generation older than my mother–none of them worked. What would they have done, anyway? There were no daycares for the kids. The family usually only had one car, that the father used to get to work. The women couldn’t even drive, in most cases. I am not cheering for or supporting the feminist regime, but I find it rather hard to believe that they had an evil plot to force happy homemakers to work. Seems more likely that some of them just had different ambitions and wanted to be allowed to pursue them. But if you know of something I should read to learn otherwise, please let me know. ………and finally, I wasn’t really giving any advice with this post. Just saying “here’s something to consider.” Dang, I think that reply was longer than my original post.

      Reply

  2. Jenny (@LittlestWay)
    Nov 17, 2014 @ 15:07:00

    I always tell my girls be careful about college because they don’t want to inquire so much debt and then marry and stay home. Plus if they have spent all that time on a degree they may be tempted later on too step away from the home and use that degree they worked hard on. If college is God’s will then I support them, but I pray thy listen for His call.

    Reply

    • Sweet-Water-and-Bitter
      Nov 17, 2014 @ 22:46:35

      Hi Jenny, I understand what you’re saying. It’s an interesting and somewhat controversial choice that some parents are making these days, to encourage their daughters to consider homemaking and motherhood as their path instead of automatically steering them toward college and a career. That lines up with the point I’m making here. I mean, isn’t it funny that YOUR way of thinking is what’s considered by the world to be radical these days? A few generations ago, people would have thought a girl was weird if she chose to focus on a career; now it’s considered weird if they simply get married and start a family. Have you heard how people criticize the Duggar girls? Whew!

      Reply

  3. Rachel
    Nov 17, 2014 @ 20:49:25

    This is a really mature way to look at things. What a thoughtful post. Things just aren’t “black and white”. There are many variables in a woman’s life.
    I do agree that the woman’s movement certainly flooded the job market. And affirmative action, equal-rights, etc. have forced women into the work place. Properly raising a family contributes greatly to society.

    Reply

  4. Carrie
    Nov 19, 2014 @ 14:05:48

    A very interesting post, thanks for sharing! I am a stay at home mom because that is important to my husband and I. It’s worth it to me, and it was my choice. I don’t tend to enjoy things I am “forced” into, so I’m not sure I would be as happy and content if it had not been my choice! I was also encouraged to get a college degree because you never know what life may bring. I was blessed to be able to do it debt-free and I am glad I have it if I ever need to fall back on it. Do I need the degree to be a homemaker? No, not at all. But I am richer for the experience and the knowledge and better prepared should I ever need it. Thanks again for sharing!

    Reply

  5. Heather
    Nov 19, 2014 @ 21:50:05

    I completely agree that we need to be thankful for what women have done for us. I’m glad that we aren’t property anymore. I’m glad we are able to work and yes, job discrimination against women did happen and still happens to this day.

    Reply

  6. Brooke
    Nov 19, 2014 @ 22:34:35

    I just want to say that I really liked this post. Right now, I’m newly married and pregnant with our first child. But, I am the breadwinner of our family. It does not make financial sense for me to be a stay at home mom even though I want that sooooo bad. My husband will probably be the one quitting to stay at home with the kids. My job money allows us to have the resources to give our kids a great life – one with shelter and electric/heating bills paid and clothes on their backs without the help from government. We couldn’t give our children that life if we solely depended on my husband’s salary. I feel like I’m put in a situation where I don’t get to choose. I have to work to provide for our family, but I’m happy I make enough that at least one of us gets to stay at home and raise the kids. Anyways, thank you for this post. That first comment was so misguided and I pray that lady learns to not judge others and understand people are in different situations that they don’t necessarily choose. Thanks.

    Reply

    • Sweet-Water-and-Bitter
      Nov 19, 2014 @ 22:43:12

      Thank you, Brooke, I appreciate that. I know there are some people who feel so strongly about the husband working/wife staying home thing that they really might feel it was right to do it that way no matter how destitute their family would be. Like you, I happen to think a little practicality is reasonable. I’m glad you liked the post.

      Reply

  7. Teresa
    Nov 21, 2014 @ 05:23:59

    I’m unsure how I feel about this post, and I am trying to prayerfully think about my response. My husband wants me to stay home as soon as he is better employed (he just lost his job). That said, we do not yet have children to feed, but I believe that even if we did, it would still be the goal. I remember him telling me once about his childhood. His father worked, and his mother stayed home. There were five children (and one more after this part of the story!) They were really struggling, sometimes didn’t have enough food to go around. My thought at first was, why didn’t his mother work? Apparently that was his thought at the time as well, because he asked his mother outright- “Mom, why don’t you go to work?!” So she did, in a canning factory. As he was telling me this story, he said, “I am ashamed that I asked her to go to work.” From his expression, I felt that the loss of mother at home, even from his perspective as a hungry child, was greater than any difficulty that they experienced during that lean time. She didn’t work that job for long.

    It is my belief that if you do what God expects as a wife and mother, He will provide a way. He may not provide as much as you want, or in the way that you want it, but it will come. My husband and his brothers are all strong, successful, family-oriented men, and all but one still go to church. Their struggles strengthened their family and kept them focused on what really counted- love and togetherness, even when they had to live in a car or have one meal a day instead of three. They all survived it, and are an abundant family, many grandchildren, lots of faith and love. I’m jealous, honestly! Sorry this post was so long, I just wanted to be as clear as I could about my feelings, through example. Thanks for reading.

    Reply

  8. Sweet-Water-and-Bitter
    Nov 21, 2014 @ 09:51:42

    I appreciate your reading and writing, Teresa. I find that really interesting that your husband thought having his mother at home was more valuable even than having enough to eat. I can’t see myself staying home if my children were literally hungry, but I understand that some might make a different choice and be glad of it in the end. Thanks for your comment.

    Reply

  9. Terri Presser
    Nov 21, 2014 @ 10:27:30

    This is a very interesting post and I see that you have had a few different responses. Thanks for writing your heart and feelings. I am a stay at home mum and have been for the past 15 years, but before then I worked and sent my kids to school. God spoke to my (and my husbands) heart and I came home and we started homeschooling and we relied solely on my husbands income. It has been tough and we do without, which is ok, because in all sense we have so much.
    My craving in all that I do is that it is God’s will and that I respect and honour my husband, if I am not doing this I am out of Gods will.
    I also want to say that it is not our place to judge what others do, and we should appreciate their opinion whilst gently and lovingly giving our own.
    Thanks for linking up at Good Morning Mondays.

    Reply

  10. Sweet-Water-and-Bitter
    Nov 21, 2014 @ 11:33:15

    Hi Terri, and thank you for being a faithful reader and comment writer, as well as link up host! There are times when I have a topic on my mind and I realize it might alienate or upset some people and maybe I should just leave it alone. But the blogosphere would not be much good to anybody if we all just echoed the same thoughts and agreed with each other about everything.

    Reply

  11. robbie @ Mom Hats & More
    Nov 21, 2014 @ 11:49:22

    Interesting post…I agree though, women have always had to work in some capacity – maybe not in a “paid” sense, and in other times (ie factories in time of war or to make ends meet as an immigrant) because it was a necessity for stability. There are days I am admittedly jealous of my non-employed mom friends, and days I know I am hurting my career by turning “off” at 5 p.m., but we all try to make what we feel is the best choice for our family.

    Reply

  12. womenwithintention
    Nov 21, 2014 @ 18:47:04

    I have always been very thankful for the freedoms I have. I was blessed to be able to go to the college of my choice and get the degree of my choice. That is definitely not the case for many women.

    I am also thankful that I am able to stay at home with my children, be available to my husband and be inspired to follow my dreams.

    Do I have college debt to still pay off? Yes- about $5000 worth of it. But it’s in the budget and if something happened financially, I have a degree to fall back on.

    I liked your post a lot. There is no black and white to this. I’m generally anti-feminist as well but because of that movement, we do have opportunities that weren’t available before that. :)

    Reply

  13. Jane
    Nov 21, 2014 @ 20:28:16

    I was a young mother during the height of the feminist movement (the 1970s) and I can tell you that the feminists were very hostile towards me for choosing to stay at home with my children. I often received the comment “I wish I could stay home and eat bonbons all day.” And Phil Donahue always referred to us SAHMs as “little Mary swinging on the garden gate”, assuming that all we did was wait for the moment our husbands would arrive home from work at the end of the day. I even knew some women that took jobs that paid less than the childcare so they could say that they had a job, even minimal jobs such as cashiers and restaurant hostesses were considered better than saying you were a SAHM.

    I made lots of sacrifices to be a SAHM and certainly wasn’t laying about eating bonbons! We only had one car, so I had to walk everywhere. We never went on vacations or dined out. I didn’t even have a dryer and hung my clothes outside always. I went without new clothes and haircuts. I garden and canned enough food to feed our family.

    There is one good thing that came from the feminist movement and that is that it ended sexual harassment on the job. You women of the younger generation have no clue to how bad it was. I was once fired for refusing my manager’s advances. Men often made really crude jokes in front of their female employees. It was difficult.

    I still believe that it is best to stay at home and raise your children if you have a choice. I can see a significant change in the American family since the feminist movement. Quality time versus quantity time is a myth. Children need one parent home with them. Although it could be the father, if the mother is better paid. What I cannot understand is why a women feels the need to have children if she is career driven? I’ve known several woman that just didn’t have the aptitude to be a mother but felt that they must because it was expected.

    Reply

    • Sweet-Water-and-Bitter
      Nov 22, 2014 @ 02:40:20

      Very interesting comments. You reminded me of a woman I used to know, who I think would be around your age (raising kids in the early 70’s). I remember her telling about how at one point in her life, after deducting child care, gas and so forth, out of a week’s pay she cleared five dollars. But she so fiercely defended it, saying, “At the time, we NEEDED that five dollars.” Quite frankly I thought that was about the dumbest thing ever. Most anybody could figure out a way to spend five dollars LESS per week, or either do some task to earn five dollars. It would be nuts to work full time for that! But maybe, in light of what you’re saying, she felt pressured that she HAD to work full time just to feel like a good person.

      Reply

      • Jane
        Nov 22, 2014 @ 22:17:33

        I’m just glad that women do really have a choice now whether to stay at home or to work. Although I always felt it was sort of a myth that women didn’t have a choice about careers before the feminist movement. My husband is a chemist and there were women working in that field as chemist, engineers, and managers that were twenty years his senior when he started his career. However, as I stated earlier the corporate world was a man’s world and you needed a thick skin to survive. There was now HR teaching about sensitivity back then. LOL!

        Feminism was propagandized on TV and the movies back then, just as TV propagandizes stuff today. This was the era of Marlo Thomas’ “Free to Be You and Me” as long as it wasn’t choosing to be a mommy. We had Maud, Archie Bunker, even Mary Tyler Moore, to tell us that a woman’s worth was in how amazing of a career she could have. Not to mention all the magazines and newspapers were directing women towards jobs and careers over marriage and motherhood.

        Anyway, interesting discussion. Thanks!

  14. Chris Carter (@themomcafe)
    Nov 22, 2014 @ 20:11:22

    Well, first of all- I am just so sorry your first comment had to be so nasty!!! I was surprised she was a Christian actually… disagreement can be done lovingly and I just hate that you had to endure such an attack!! God bless your precious heart for responding so beautifully to her. <3

    I applaud your words and your message! I wonder if my own mom had a choice in the matter or if it was just the way of our family culture back in the 60's and 70's… I believe what I always hold – as respect for all choices that are best for each family. I think my mom embraced her role and didn't think twice about staying home.

    I agree that in our too recent past, I don't feel women/moms had an option or at least they had limited options to build a career for themselves! I also feel such a passion for those beautiful mothers who created and cultivated a life in her home raising her children.

    I have been both. And I feel at peace about each decision. :)

    Reply

  15. Lor
    Nov 22, 2014 @ 21:29:35

    This article was well written, thoughtful, and spot on. Excellent job.

    Reply

  16. Donna Reidland
    Nov 23, 2014 @ 04:56:50

    Thanks for a thought provoking post and for linking up at Soul Survival. Thanksgiving blessings!

    Reply

  17. rachaeljdebruin
    Nov 24, 2014 @ 03:18:35

    I really agree with where you’re coming from. I do believe that much good has come out of our new found rights, and that now being able to choose has benefited many of us. I can also see that some of your comments (above) have rightly pointed out that the feminist agenda seems, in some cases, to have taken us too far. That I have to agree with, and you did mention that as well in your article (no change is a perfect bed of roses).
    I myself am well educated (university degree; honours student & one of the top of my class) however in the end, we chose for me to stay home with the children. I do work from home part-time (very part-time!) yet I’ll admit I sometimes miss being around more adults like in previous years…(only at times). I am glad to be able to have my choice, but do feel that many look down on us for it.
    It’s not an easy world to navigate for godly women these days..has to be done very prayerfully for sure :)
    Thanks so much for linking up with us last week! Hope you come join us again for this week’s Inspired By Me Mondays :)

    Reply

  18. Brittany at EquippingGodlyWomen.com
    Nov 25, 2014 @ 04:16:04

    I think the whole “to work or not to work” argument is misplaced. If you read about the Proverbs 31 woman–she worked. So women working is obviously not a bad thing (That is not against you–but against the arguments that women have).

    Personally, I’m a WAHM and I love it. But to each their own.

    Reply

  19. Sarah Ann (@faithalongway)
    Nov 26, 2014 @ 19:18:47

    Thanks for sharing with the Saturday Soiree Blog Party! I personally have always worked, first full-time and now part-time, but would love to be a full time at home mama. I recognize that on some days, going to work is easier than staying at home. With that, there’s no place else I would rather be!

    I wish women everywhere would unite and stop this petty bickering! Raising kids is hard and we need a community, not a war zone. Every situation is different and God calls all of us to use our talents for His glory, regardless of where that may be.

    I applaud you as blogger for taking a stand and sharing your heart! It’s not always easy to do when there is controversy!

    Reply

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