At Home by CHOICE?


(Image by Stockimages, courtesy of

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.

Staying Home is Not the Hardest


I would love to stay at home.

Over the course of my years as a mother, I’ve done it all three ways: working full-time, part-time, and staying home. Staying home was by far the happiest, most fulfilling, most enjoyable time I’ve ever spent as a mother. I knew it was temporary, and I continued to pay my share of the household expenses by spending up the entire balance of a 401K account that had taken me twelve years to accumulate.  I have yet to regret it. Sure, I might want to retire some day, but I wanted to stay home right then, and it was a wonderful time.

I was aware, every day that year, of the luxury of time available to me. If I didn’t get to a task today–eh, well, I could do it tomorrow. There was no rush, no need to cram every possible errand into a Saturday morning. I had time to take my children where they needed to go, and time to chitchat with them. Time to sit out on the deck and watch the rain with them–you know, it rained today while I was in the office, but I couldn’t go outside and enjoy the smell of it and the feel of the breeze. My time belongs to my boss, and she doesn’t pay me to sniff raindrops.

I kept on top of the housework while I stayed home, and I was able to circulate around to several different stores to catch the grocery bargains. (That’s unthinkable to me now…my husband usually does the shopping while I stay home Friday nights to clean, but if I DO occasionally get drafted to go, after that one hour of shopping I’m totally beat, because I’m already running on fumes when I get there.) When I stayed home, I cooked for the family every night. My kids would ask me what was for dinner and I would have an answer for them. (Sometimes now my son gets a shrug.) I remember my husband remarking about how nice it was to come home and find there was nothing he needed to do. (Now he does a couple of loads of laundry every night, at least.) I joined a gym while I stayed home! They had free child care available for my little boy. Now, we have a free gym available in our neighborhood.  My son ( now twelve) asked me, this very night, didn’t we say we were going to start going to the gym? I groaned and said, “Let’s not.” Driving home and climbing the stairs is workout enough. Once I get in the door and get out of my work clothes, leaving again is not in the forecast.

I’ve been giving you a picture of my life. Granted, not everyone will experience working or staying home as I do/did. I’m sure lots of women think working full-time is a piece of cake, and they still have plenty of time and energy to do what they want in their off hours.

And I am even MORE sure that a number of SAHMs are chomping at the keyboard to tell me that their lives are not a breeze because they have ten kids, not two, and they homeschool them and live on a farm and churn their own butter and whatnot. Yes…that sounds much harder and more taxing than my stay-at-home time. But there were some choices made there, right? You did choose to have that many children, you certainly chose to homeschool them, and they do sell butter at the grocery store. I am not knocking you! God bless you in the life you chose.

If you would only stop complaining about it. That’s right…complaining. When you say, “It’s the hardest job in the world….oh, um, and the most fulfilling.” Or when you post those memes about “I work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.” When you commiserate about what a sacrifice it is to stay home. When you gripe about how your baby kept you up all night or your kids have been sick for days. (Try the agony of deciding whether to send a somewhat-sick child to school or face dire consequences at your job. Try being up with that crying baby and still having to put on your dress and heels and makeup, and then sit up straight and look at little numbers on a computer all day.)   What’s worst is when you describe your job as “thankless.”

Wow, I wonder how that makes your husband feel? In my eyes, the fact that you are allowed to stay home is an extreme PRIVILEGE. Have you lost sight of the fact that it is a GIFT made possible by your husband? Thankless? How about you being a little more thankFUL? If my husband came home tomorrow and said, “Hey, guess what–why don’t you quit your job and stay home. I’ll continue to drive in rush hour to work all day every day to satisfy customers and bosses who may or may not be reasonable. I’ll deal with the stress of knowing that at any moment, if I make an error or if I  don’t perform well, they could walk in and tell me I no longer have a job. I’ll pay for the roof over your head and the food in your mouth and every stitch of clothing you wear…and if you decide you need volumizing mascara or new cushions for the sofa because you’re just no longer “feeling” the old ones, well, honey, I’ll pay for that, too. I’ll pay for your mammogram and your prescriptions, and your glasses, oh and of course your car and gas. If you want to buy a birthday gift for a friend, I’ll pick up the tab for that, even though your name will be on the card and I don’t even know her.” Etc., etc., etc.  Are you kidding me—I would fall down dead of surprise.

I realize some of you have red faces and steam coming out of your ears right now, because you are wanting to say “I DO MY SHARE AROUND HERE. I WORK TOO, and my work is just as valuable as his.” All right. No argument. But suppose you (like me) were married to a man who felt that there were two able-bodied adults in the house, so why should he carry the entire financial burden? Just imagine it for one second…a husband who believed  that whatever contributions you might make around the home would be far outweighed by those you could make as an employed financial contributor.

Please understand that I am not bashing my husband. When I think of “do unto others,” then I must consider how I would feel if HE wanted to stay home while I carried the entire load. I tried it once, by the way. We had two kids at home and I had a great, well-paying job, when his company shut down. He drew unemployment for a while, attended school, did the housework and had dinner cooked every night when I got home. My response to this was to have a literal nervous breakdown. The idea that four people were depending on me made every moment I spent at work somehow magnified in importance, leading to terrible stress. And despite the fact that my husband was keeping things up at home, I seethed with resentment over the free time he had and the relaxed pace he was living with. It wasn’t fair.

I am not proud of that, because he certainly did not treat me that way when I spent my year at home, but that’s just the difference in the sexes, I think. While I felt embarrassed to have an unemployed husband, he felt a certain amount of pride at having a wife at home. The thing is, he was not willing to pay, indefinitely, for that feeling. After a while, enough was enough, and he was more than happy to return to pitching in with the laundry and groceries and whatever else needed doing at home, in exchange for the salary I could earn.

If you are a stay-at-home wife and/or mother, then yes–of course what you are doing is valuable. But take a moment today to realize that you, too, could be married to a man who would consider a paycheck more valuable. The fact that you’re home is a gift from him to you. Be thankful.


Also linking with:

Mom's Morning Coffee


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 71 other followers