Money Saving Mom has a post today answering a reader’s question about becoming a stay-at-home wife. Crystal gives good advice to her reader, as usual, and never questions the decision to stay at home before having children. I’m not sure why, given our culture’s emphasis on paid work as the only path to usefulness for women, but I was surprised to see so many comments advising the future wife to get a job, lest she be bored, useless, and disconnected from the community. Given the demographic for that particular blog, I would have expected a lot more support, and a lot less narrow-minded nay-saying.
I’d urge anyone thinking of becoming a stay-at-home wife to consider it, if only because getting a household set up and running takes a while, and doing it without a little one to throw a monkey-wrench into the works can make the transition to new motherhood that much easier when the time comes to be a stay-at-home mom. I suspect that a lot of the post-partum depression that plagues modern women—even though it is partly hormonal—stems from the fact that new moms are often transitioning not just into motherhood, but also into the new world of homemaking. It’s just too much to take in all at once!
As I said in comments on Crystal’s post, if your homemaking is only for the sake of your children, then you’re shortchanging your husband! Maybe a husband doesn’t need a mommy to tie his shoes for him, but he certainly could use someone to pack his lunches, be a ready (and rested) companion when he needs one, and manage his household in a more detailed way than a working wife will have time to do.The months or years before parenthood are a precious time for a couple, and I can’t think of a better way to spend it than learning to serve your husband.
If nothing else, many men get a sense of accomplishment and pride from being the provider and protector. Mine certainly did! While our first years together weren’t typical (I was ill, both physically and spiritually), and being at home wasn’t exactly a choice for me, my job as homemaker was such a blessing to my husband that he preferred me to keep it up even after I got better. When Jesse lost a job and bills were coming due, and going back to work would have been as easy as making a couple of phone calls, I offered to get a job to fill in the gap until he was back on his feet. I was surprised to find that he valued my work at home so much that he asked me not to re-enter the work force. We had a difficult few months of it, but we survived!
I certainly don’t want to disparage paid work, but life is much easier and more comfortable for everyone if there is someone in the home whose life is devoted to the physical and spiritual care of the rest of the family. Having a job isn’t a bad thing, but if a woman wants to stay at home, even without having children, she will have no shortage of useful work to do. Homemaking goes beyond sweeping floors, after all. A homemaker is more available for hospitality, volunteer work, and handling the curveballs that life throws (like jury duty, getting hubby’s forgotten lunch to his desk, or helping a sick relative keep house) without having to ask an employer for time off.
In the case of a wife with no children, the family that she helps is not only her husband, but their extended family, friends, and the community. A stay-at-home wife who maintains her relationships can find herself the very busy and much-appreciated focal point of her community, bringing comfort to the sick, visiting the lonely, and helping other families through difficulties. A stay-at-home mother is necessarily less able to fill these needs in the community, so being “at home” in the years before motherhood is a unique chance to serve others and learn how to give of yourself without grumbling—something that comes in handy at 2 a.m. diaper changes.
I think that pretty well puts the “bored and useless” charge to rest, but what about money? Many people seem to think that if you’re not earning money, then you must be costing money. But a second income is often not even worth the effort. It would be nice to sock away some money against the medical bills when baby comes along, but doing the math may convince a woman that the few extra dollars she’s coming out ahead aren’t really worth the amount of time she’s spending to earn it. Add to that the fact that a well-run household can save as much money as a job brings in (if it couldn’t, we’d be broke), and having a job just for the sake of earning money may not be as good an idea as it sounds.
I’ve said before, and it bears repeating, that there’s no shame in earning money. A wife whose husband is willing and able to support her, however, needs to make sure she’s able to do her traditional job before concerning herself with punching a clock.This is actually a much bigger job than we’ve been led to believe, and I don’t think an industrious woman will ever find a lack of need for her services.
While filling those needs that her husband, family, and neighbors have (needs that aren’t easily covered with money), a wife is also doing something almost unheard of in our culture—she’s forging relationships and building community. In our fractured society, the most common complaint seems to be that there is no real sense of community. Stay-at-home wifehood seems to be a perfect way to remedy the problem of disconnectedness in our society, if we could only open our eyes to the possibilities of feminine servanthood with the home, not the workplace, as its base of operations.
I like this post so much I’m linking it up at To Love, Honor, and Vacuum’s Wife Wednesday linky.