Thursday, August 18, 2016

On being a stay at home mum/homemaker

I always find it awkward when people ask me when I'm going "back" to work, presuming that I'm going to do so! When I tell them I'm a homemaker, they always say "oh but he's starting school soon isn't he?" Yes..but school is only 5 hours a day [until it becomes 6 hours a day and so on] what about the rest of the time? Even when he's in old enough, I don't want him coming home to an empty house on a regular basis during his growing up years.  Also, it's not just the kid - the home and family [including the husband] need caring for and nurturing, which is a full time job. In any case, why do I have to defend my decision? (Titus 2:3-5) is my guiding principle on this.

We all make our choices based on our individual circumstances, I don't dictate what model of car my neighbour should buy as i don't know their budget/needs/circumstances. Whether one should splurge on first class tickets to Amsterdam tomorrow depends on their bank account balance, how long they're gonna live for, whether they have family there or whatever. As much as some people can't afford to be stay at home mums, some can't afford not to.

In short, there are pros and cons of both working outside the home, and being a homemaker, and for our family's [unique!] goals and needs, we deem my being a homemaker is the best way to achieve them.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.    Why don’t you want to go to back to work?

Staying at home to raise my son furnishes the highest practicable chance for him to turn out to be holistically well adjusted in as many possible senses of the word, and have a deeply meaningful relationship with his parents both now and into adulthood.

2.    Everyone leaves their children in care but they turned out well.

Indeed, I know that many children of career mums can and do achieve many great things. However from observation and personal experience, on balance children raised by mothers at home appear to have greater core emotional stability, resilience, and ability to relate to others. To me, these are the most important metrics of success that override others such as professional achievement, as important as they are. Some children of career women appear to be resilient and relate well to others too, but I am responsible to provide Jo the best chance in life within the resources I have. Certainly, I do not judge others by their choices as I can’t know all the details of their circumstances – they may have other resources such as grandparents to that end, or there may be overriding financial reasons for their choice to continue as career mothers.

3.    What about your own self-worth and personal development?

There is no denying pursuing a career outside the home can have a positive effect on a woman’s personal development and sense of worth. However I have come to see my domestic career as a career path in its own right. Contemporary mainstream thought seems to see home makers as ignorant and slothful women, but the reality is that as the world grows in complexity and challenges, so must the home maker rise to the challenge. Just as work outside the home has largely transitioned from menial labour and repetitive administrative tasks to creative and relational endeavours, with modern technology replacing much of the traditional manual tasks at home the modern and thinking home maker’s job is becoming more and more about management, administration and conceptual development. This is intrinsically beneficial to my personal development and sense of worth. Of course, we do not live in a vacuum and which average person would not welcome society’s approval? However with mainstream thought putting negative pressure on home makers it can be a lonely road – that is the price to pay for those who go against the grain but I am comforted by the thought that throughout history the people who made things really great were the ones who dared to see things ahead of others.

4.    Don’t you want to achieve financial independence then?

First up, true financial independence is the domain of investors and businesspeople who have made it big. For our generation and the foreseeable future, employees will never achieve that. It would not matter whether our family were on a single or double income.

5.    What about paying off your home loan early?

It is certainly an important thing to be debt free, and my working outside the home could certainly help pay off the home loan earlier. However with the cost of extra child care and hidden overheads arising from external employment it is not quite as big a financial impact as it initially appears. The question is whether the financial reward of working outside the home outweighs the parental intimacy that staying at home makes more probable, and in my estimation and in my particular situation, the answer is no.

6.    What will you do when Jo’s at school?

The first two years of school, namely kindergarten and prep do not involve hours long enough to be encapsulated within a typical work week. This especially true in Tasmania, where most if not all schools hold kindergarten sessions for only three days in a week. This would make juggling an office position very difficult, let alone shift work. While some people are able to negotiate work arrangements that suit their family needs, my career had not progressed to such a level of bargaining power. In any case, the consensus among developmental psychologists is that a person’s character is especially influenced by his or her experiences up to the age of six, and I certainly want to pay my full attention on my son whilst he is within this age.
As for the later years, I would certainly contend that it would be beneficial for my son to have a mother who is always there for him while he is growing up. Most if not all men of my generation whom I regard as emotionally stable, resilient, and well-adjusted have been raised by mothers who had stayed at home for the most part. Of course, there is the question of taking care of my husband’s needs and my staying at home puts me in a better position to fulfil that role. Even from a purely economic perspective, my full attention on domestic management is crucial in optimising resources and minimising wastage. Cooking food at home represents a huge cost saving relative to eating out regularly, in addition to its health benefits.

7.    Aren’t you being some oppressed, sad, pathetic woman? Is your husband sexist?

The matter of being sad and pathetic is a subjective feeling that changes depending on circumstances, and is by no means exclusive to women working in the home. Certainly the repetitive bullying of home makers on the part of the media and other intellectual elite of society can be a cause of feelings of sadness and oppression. However, the office can also be a source of oppression and sadness. Anyone denying that must either be inexperienced in the workplace, or is experiencing selective amnesia simply because the current discussion is being centred on a controversial topic.
The suggestion that by working in the home I am an oppressed woman due to society’s historical treatment of women is largely moot in my context because the expectations around me are such that I am expected to work outside the home. It is important that we do not get hung up on the issues of the past, and as some say, the problem with many armies is that they had only prepared for yesterday’s war. As for my husband being sexist, the fact is that like many men of his generation he does his share of the work in the house, and was raised thinking that this is the normal and right thing to do. Throughout his career so far he has always had positive working relationships with the women he has worked with, so there is nothing to suggest that he has misogynist tendencies. My choice of working at home rather than pursuing a career outside it is my own. He supports me in this choice, as any husband in a healthy spousal relationship would.

8.    Aren’t you wasting your degree/talents/brains?

For the record, I had already earned more than enough money to recoup the financial investments made to obtain my degree. To think of waste in terms of loss of potential financial income, one needs to definite what one’s priorities are. Personally, my life’s goals are more about meaningful relationships and finding out the essential nature of reality rather than to experience delights of the hedonistic variety (no pejorative insinuation intended). Making more money than what my husband already provides would not bring me any further in that pursuit.
The utilisation of one’s talents are not necessarily confined to professions that elicit a monetary exchange. As such I do not think that my degree, talents or brains are wasted by working at home, because they have given me some tools to deal with our world’s ever increasing complexity and changes. Just as professional life is now much more about intellectual and relational endeavours than menial labour and repetitive tasks, in my context the home maker’s job has a substantial intellectual and conceptual development component to it. My intellectual life is as vibrant now as it had ever been, so I do not think my career choice has wasted my brains – in fact it has given me the opportunity to explore a wider ranging and encompassing body of knowledge than if I had to devote to a career outside the home.

9.    Why are you judging working mums, you Judgy McJudgerson!

If I do sound judgmental at all, I do apologise as this is not my intention. I do not claim to know everything about other mothers and their circumstances. They could have absolutely legitimate and even admirable reasons to work outside their homes, and I acknowledge that many of the good things we enjoy in life today are made possible by working mothers. However, a distinction must be made between judging people and judging ideas. I do not wish to judge people because this is a very complex question that can only be done properly by someone who has all the facts, but I believe it is important to stand for what I am convinced is right. I stand by my belief that on balance children raised by mothers at home have greater core emotional stability, resilience, and ability to relate to others – and that a mother’s primary responsibility is to facilitate these outcomes to the best of her abilities/resources. To those who disagree with me, may we disagree with each other respectfully, bearing in mind that our finite minds cannot possibly have everything figured out.

To conclude, I think it's very important that we don't find ourselves at the end of life succeeding in the things that didn't matter. Seek God's face, and His will - If He guides us to something-He'll provide the means for it. [I'm learning this lesson every single day...and i keep having to relearn again!] If we're not provided something, perhaps it's because we didn't need it, after all doesn't He say He'll provide all our needs? Salvation is not found through our own works - so we needn't kill ourselves trying to live a certain way to justify ourselves. Only by coming to God can we find the answer to life's biggest questions.

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