the unhealthy pressure to be a housewife
Also on the topic of housework, I think you may come from a different perspective here, not being Christian, but for us, housework is just another way to show those that we love how much we care about them. We’re keepers of the home, and take pride in taking care of our homes well. I know that might make no sense to someone who doesn’t value homemaking and child-rearing as a profession, but for me, this is my job right now. (Dragonfly)
There seems to be some confusion in Christian circles about what ‘traditional Christian values’ are when it comes to the organisation of a family unit. All too often there is an unhealthy pressure for women in a marriage to abandon any paid work they might have doing, in order to exclusively take care of the home and children. This is unhealthy.
Think about how women would have lived in the majority of human societies. Family groupings in close communities; smaller generation gaps and intergenerational living; a mix of community and home based daily tasks e.g. food gathering and preparation, maintenance of common and home areas. People spent a lot of time outside, tasks were very physical and shared with others, children were exploring the world together, under the supervision of a network of adult relatives and friends when young. This is natural, this is what any traditional Christian community would have looked like.
Now think about women today in this artificial ‘housewife’ role. One lone female adult for most the day inside a block of wood and concrete doing physically simple tasks and caring for one to several young children often indoors. To add to the bored, under-stimulated children, a tired male enters the home at the end of the day with expectations of comfort and peace. Given that he doesn’t to take responsibility for ensuring this comfort and peace on a regular basis (and if he does on occasion, he has the fresh enthusiasm of role-playing on his side) he has no idea what this entails on a day-in and day-out basis. Home is a place of relaxation for him, he’s done his bit. The role of the housewife has no fixed hours but grinds on for most of the female’s adult life, often with declining levels of discernible appreciation from either the growing children or the ‘busy’ husband.
Human society is not likely to return to the natural community model any time soon. There are too many disadvantages in terms of privacy, wasted time and general comfort. The most sensible way to deal with the changed living conditions of modern society is to consider how to balance life for everyone in a nuclear family.
One parent staying at home with young children is not natural, it’s often not pleasant, and it’s certainly not approaching the range of social contact and interaction that all human beings need on a daily basis. Of course, in some family situations there are no other options and everyone just had to get on with it. But to sell this isolated and limiting set up like it’s beneficial to anyone, like it’s something to aspire to, is to sell everyone short: women are limited in their scope and all too often reduced to the proverbial doormat; children are deprived of the necessary range of adult input and child socialisation; men have a tendency to become pampered queens prancing about like the ‘important’ person in the house.
So, let’s knock this ‘Christian’ lie on the head. If you’re desperate enough to look for role models from ancient cultures, even the Good Wife in Proverbs generated her own income and conducted business transactions:
She looks over a field and buys it, then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden. (Proverbs 31)
Well shoot, Violet, you better document this day because I am in total agreement with you! I’m married to a rather wonderful man and so we have always both worked at least part time. When the kids were babies, I stayed home with them all day, but then I would go do the dinner shift at the restaurant a few nights a week and he would watch the babies.
Your reference to the Proverbs 31 wife is pretty funny because what always gets me into so much trouble? Quoting the truth of scripture like you just have.
I don’t understand this stay at home wife thing and perhaps it has something to do with coming from a long line of working class women. We all stayed home as wives and mothers, but we all worked within our communities too.
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I don’t know whether to be pleased or concerned! 🙂
Well, I’m glad we’re finally quoting “the truth of scripture” here. Sirach 25: “A bad wife is a badly fitting ox yoke, trying to master her is like grasping a scorpion.” (verse 7); “No wickedness comes anywhere near the wickedness of a woman, may a sinner’s lot be hers!” (verse 19); “Sin began with a woman, and thanks to her we all must die.” (verse 24); “If she will not do as you tell her, get rid of her.” (verse 26).
There you have it: Sound scriptural marriage advice.
Thank you Jim! I’m not familiar with this at all, in fact I’ve never heard of Sirach (which surely shows I was a rubbish Christian in the first place). Perhaps the whole thing should be displayed, as it’s rather stunning:
Advice about Women
13 No wound is as serious as wounded love. No troubles are as serious as the troubles that women cause. 14 No sufferings are worse than the sufferings caused by people who hate you. No revenge is worse than revenge taken by an enemy. 15 No poison is deadlier than the poison of a snake, and no anger is deadlier than the anger of a woman.[e]
16 I would rather live in the same house with a lion or a dragon than with a bad wife. 17 When a wife is in a bad mood, her expression changes until she looks like an angry bear. 18 Her husband has to go and eat with the neighbors, where he can’t hold back his bitter sighs.
19 Compared with the troubles caused by a woman, any other trouble looks small. May such women suffer the fate of sinners!
20 A quiet man living with a nagging wife is like an old man climbing up a sandy hill.
21 Never lose your head over a woman’s beauty, and don’t try to win a woman because she is wealthy.[f] 22 When a man is supported by his wife, there is sure to be anger, arrogance, and humiliation. 23 A bad wife will make her husband gloomy and depressed, and break his heart. Show me a timid man who can never make up his mind, and I will show you a wife who doesn’t make her husband happy. 24 Sin began with a woman, and we must all die because of her. 25 Don’t let a bad wife have her way, any more than you would allow water to leak from your cistern. 26 If she won’t do as you tell her, divorce her.
Sirach is one of the books of wisdom cut out of the Bible by His Protestantisimo, Martin Luther.
Sirach has its own season in the Mass readings of the Catholic Church.
It is the atheist who reads wonderfully wise biblical verse and thinks it a license to sit on his toilet throne of judgment.
It is simple common sense to read to wonderfully wise biblical verse and find the need for self-reflection.
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Right, SOM, the Bible never means what it means when what it means is embarrassing.
Atheists are routinely embarrassed by wisdom.
I suppose there is a segment of the population attracted to such sentiments.
Give me one instance in which an atheist has been “embarrassed” by biblical “wisdom.”
Interesting debate. I’m old enough to remember raising kiddos in the early 80’s, when being “just a mom” was somehow seen as less than impressive, as a waste of a good intellect, which is also an unfortunate presupposition. On the other hand, I take exception at Dragonfly’s use of the all-inclusive “we”. Perhaps it’s only due to the limited quote, and although I applaud her passion, yet not all Christian women necessarily feel this way. I love Proverbs 31 for many reasons, not the least of which is the balance God provides for all involved in the family, in a variety of creative and productive ways. All my children are grown now, I’m still working, and looking forward to if/when God says it’s time to retire. Then maybe I can get around to washing my windows…..
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Did you enjoy it? If you could have worked and balanced the childcare is it something you would have considered? I’m sure there are both men and women who genuinely enjoy it, and there are some families who have no other option. But I object to the idea of promoting it as some kind of rule or ideal. It definitely has more drawbacks than advantages for all involved.
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Drawbacks/advantages depends on the definition I think. And the teen years may even be more important the toddler years, as far as having a family member to come to (dad, mom, grandparent, etc) rather than someone who isn’t really “there” for you, or an empty house. Again, lots of variables. Enjoy your brain-rest, just read your post from today.
What a strange view of family life. When people think about what the goals are for having a family and raising the kids, then it becomes rather obvious that it’s a team effort, with different spouses doing different but essential jobs to what best contributes to the family and the kids becoming a part of that effort, part of attaining the goals.
What I don’t get is the stereotypical gender expectations… unless people really haven’t thought much about what ‘it’ is they’re trying to accomplish and spend all their time reacting. That must really suck.
I’ve seen quite a few Christian wives in this role. None of them seem happy or fulfilled – although they do their best to pretend it’s all fine, good and the god God’s perfect plan.
Yes, I agree… but it’s hardly a Christian problem alone. It also deeply embedded in many if not most cultures.
My point is that anytime people fall into roles – especially gender roles – they’re not thinking much but simply reacting. That’s fine… but rather shallow and stupid behaviour because it isn’t individually honest. It’s like a borrowed jacket that is put on not by careful selection but because it’s merely handy… whether it fits or not.
Reacting by parents – as a strategy – during child rearing is usually a major indicator that they don’t have a plan, a goal, a clearly understood and shared path for the raising of kids and so they have no plan, no principle connected directly to that goal, to utilize in their parenting. That’s often the reason to fall back on gender roles…. when all your parenting toolbox contains is a gender role hammer, then every problem is approached like it’s a nail. And the results produces dysfunctional families the world over… especially producing the next generation of children raised to fill their parenting toolbox with a gender role hammer. Re-labeling that hammer as ‘God’s Will’ or ‘a good Christian family’ doesn’t alter the nature of the parent’s failure to have a parenting game plan that can be implemented every minute of every day no matter what the latest event may be.
So it’s not religious belief that is thwarting individual spouses with children from attaining life satisfaction nor gender roles that is the source of this problem: it’s a problem of the individual who enters marriage and parenthood with a lack of understanding, a lack of forethought, and a lack of preparation. And children get to pay the price for the failures and resulting dysfunction of their parents.
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I grew up in a traditional Catholic family.
As I remember it, my dad was in there just as fervently as my mom, wiping dirty butts and noses and taking care of the house.
As a matter of fact, I earned my weekly allowance taking care of the yard and doing the evening dishes with my older sister.
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That’s right, silenceofmind, and you read Sirach 25, too. They seem to be skipping over that information in Mass nowadays. It must be some sort of evil modernist influence. I’ll bring it to the attention of the bishop.
That’s interesting SOM. Are you married?
Unfortunately, when God handed out Love of Woman, I must have been in the bathroom.
A lucky escape. 🙂
Interesting. I always felt a huge amount of pressure to work outside the home, not inside the home. It was extremely hard to do with a husband deployed a great deal of the time and working long hours. When I ignored this pressure and quit my job and became resolved to the fact I couldn’t have it all, everyone’s life became a LOT better. Wish I’d accepted that sooner it would have saved me a lot of stress and frustration.
I’d like to add there’s also a difference between work (the simple act of earning money) and a career (the act of earning money while attempting to prove oneself and also climb the ladder in a competitive environment that sucks up a lot of one’s time and energy).
That difference doesn’t have much of a distinction becomes pretty important when their are children in the home.
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You’re based in the USA aren’t you Liz? I think there’s a different approach to work generally over there. Live to work or work to live. Don’t get me wrong, people have stressful time-consuming jobs over here too, but increasingly there’s a much nicer approach to how we balance work with other aspects of life.
For instance, I just had nine months maternity leave on full pay, and I had a phased return to work for the first three months, along with a negotiated change in working hours, including some from home, to accommodate childcare. Flexible working is much more common in Europe, employers are receptive to keeping their workforce happy. We also usually get around 6 weeks of annual leave a year, which enables people to have three good chunks of holidays. There’s parental leave for kids being sick. Lots of people compress their working hours into four days. The benefits and variations in work patterns are endless, and I hope it’s the way working lives continue to evolve.
But your point about stressful careers is well made. I guess people have to evaluate how much they are really getting out of their job, and if it’s worth it. I don’t think the only option is to quit it all and stay at home. There are happy middle grounds. I had little interest in a stressful career lifestyle even before I had children, so working to live is still my peaceful and fulfilling option.
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Yes, I live in the US.
We also moved an average of every year and a half (due to my husband’s career). It was pretty stressful trying to find a job and train and feel comfortable and then move again in the blink of an eye.
Last place we lived (New Mexico), I literally got finished with an all night shift (13 hours), to a garage sale at my own house (movers were coming the next day, no time to waste!). Think that was my fifth 13+ hour night shift in a row…then the pressure to apply to the next place because that would determine where we lived next, and we only had two weeks to find a new home, including the drive across the country (of course school districts mattered more…lots to think about). Good grief what a nightmare.
Ah well, all stuff that makes life interesting and I can (sort of) laugh about it now. 🙂
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Think I’m actually in a better position than most to compare/contrast the types of “pressure” on mothers out there.
When I was a working/career person everyone would say, “I don’t know how you do it! You’re SO AMAZING!” That’s a pretty common meme. Reality was, I didn’t do it all very effectively…but I let myself think so for a while.
Now that I’m not working, one of the first questions anyone asks is, “What do you do all day when the kids are in school?” you go to the doctor’s office or sign up for insurance or anything and one of the first questions is, “Where do you work?” Even my son’s college application asked. That was a little confusing to him. “Mom, what do I say here?” I’m an artist, and author, I am still a nurse (unpaid, to folks who need it in the area I help with homecare). I told him just put down “homemaker”.
You clearly waste a lot of time blogging. 🙂
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HAHA! Guilty as charged. (at least, I waste a lot of time online in discussions). I’d like to think of this stuff as mental exercise, but I’m probably kidding myself.
My rationale: Consider that debate is how decisions get made and executed in the REAL world, a great percentage of the time. In business, in politics, in charities and campaigning and community groups, and in friendships and relationships.
You can do all the cost-benefit analysis and PowerPoint presentations you like, but until the decision makers have been persuaded and have discussed it among themselves and with other interested parties – through the process of debate – no decision will be made.
If the person coming to the table with the idea doesn’t have the skills to debate effectively, to cite supporting evidence, to address points of clarification and criticism without taking them personally and turning civilised debate into an all-out argument, the decision will not go their way.
So….I like to really consider WHY I think the way I do and fully understand conflicting positions (to as great a degree as possible, not being a robot I’m still going to be influenced by all the emotional chemicals and preconceived assumptions, but I try).
I call it “sharpening my axe” (the axe being my mind). But, honestly, my time would probably be spent better on brushing up on emergency medicine or something. 😛
We have a lot in common … yet so little of it in opinions. 🙂
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You might come around. 😉
That was a stab at levity.
Anyway, time to take a break from the internet, I think.
Thanks for the reminder.
I think you make a very important point: this idea of selling girls the idea that they can ‘have it all’. I think this adds a huge burden to women because it’s true girls have a full range of choices, but each choice carries with it both a cost and a benefit. One cannot ‘have it all’ a be a committed career worker while, magically, a committed parent able to raise children single-handed. One cannot be at work and at the doctor’s office at the same time, cannot commute to work and be at school at the same time, cannot write a report and supervise children at the same time, and so on. Choices have consequences but pretending all choices are to be attained adds a tremendous burden of shame and guilt when women fall short as they must. Choice comes with reasonable constraints and finding a balance means not ‘having it all’.
Having children is a choice and, to be done well, requires a primacy commitment that cannot help but adversely affect a career that demands the same, that comes with common demand to compete with others who have more time and energy and focus… because many don’t have children, don;t have competing commitments.
Knowing this ahead of time would help reduce this unnecessary and unreasonable burden women face to ‘have it all’ – especially among themselves – and allow for planning a much more balanced approach not based on gender but on teamwork that plays to strengths and abilities and desires of the individuals involved.
Kind of interesting Violet, I grew up during the 60’s on the far left extreme of things, and what I encountered is this same precise attitude of basic disrespect for women, dishonoring us as full human beings. Women used to have babies with no prenatal care, at home, with no help around the house. They were expected to home school their children, to isolate themselves, to also grow all the food, and of course, to unconditionally provide themselves sexually. It was the free love 60’s after all.
It is so odd to me to encounter what you call ‘traditional Christian values,’ because for me, those are actually called “radical secular values.” What you are encountering, what you are complaining about, are actually the extremists from both ends of the political spectrum, both believers and militant atheists. Dragonfly is not really a traditional Christian, she is actually one of those red pillian Christians I often clash with.
Submission, genuine biblical values, traditional Christian values, are actually very respectful and honoring of women. If we truly read the bible and have a look at how these values have shaped our society, we eventually arrive at the Western world, where in spite of our flaws and issues, women actually enjoy more protection and provision that we have anywhere else in the world, all through history, and children are actually granted the ability to have a real childhood.
Some of those Christian extremists you will find in the manosphere, will flat out tell you, they envy Islam for it’s more extreme attitudes towards women. They believe they have more in common with Islam, than say with people like you, progressives, the far left. It’s an odd situation I find myself in, because to me, they just read as secular progressives in rebellion to culture, just as my parents were. Anybody who wants to remake society into an image they perceive as more beneficial to themselves, gives me pause.
Let’s hope your caution applies to Christians, too.
I grew up in a Christian community that insisted women must stay in the home. That’s what turned me into it’s a strong feminist! It’s really about limiting women, Isn’t it? Keeping them economically dependent and under male leadership.
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Violet, I wish I had the time to read every one of these comments… But I must interject here, with my life experiences… I, as the husband, believed It was my responsibility to earn the money for the household… I did make enough, praise the Lord, to support the family, and allow my wife to stay at home in the early years of raising our first 2 children… I believe there is nothing like a mothers love and time with the kids…which is missing for the most part, when children are stuck in a day care center while the wife goes out to work…
Neither my wife, nor myself were Christians at this time… I spent the first almost 52 years of my life, working long hours some weeks to support my family…all the while believing I was a Christian… I was graced with salvation on June 2, 2002… Praise God for His patience and long-suffering with me…
I now see both of my girls with kids…both working… My youngest daughter Ali just had her first child just 3 months ago… She now is back to work part time…with her mother-in-law, me and my wife, and her aunt helping to watch little Gabe when Ali works… Ali is a nurse, and is able to work some nights and week-ends, where my son-in-law Josh changes diapers and takes care of their new son… He does an amazing job… Not too proud to do what some feel is a woman’s work !!
As Christians, we understand the priorities in life… God first…our spouse 2nd…our kids 3rd…then our jobs… When we depend in absolute faith what God promises…God has never failed to provide… With God first, He promises to provide a roof over our head, and food and clothing (Matthew 6:33)…but we must seek Him first and foremost…
Parenting the children is a dual responsibility, not a wife’s job alone… I see with my older daughter (who has to work to help pay the bills), a love and concern for my two grand kids, who are almost 10 and 12…an amazing love with guidance of my 2 grandchildren by sharing the importance of God being first in their lives…
I was with my grandkids yesterday, and it is amazing what they already know about what God teaches us in His inerrant Word, the Bible… Both of my grandchildren are honor roll students…and both know Christ as their personal Lord and Savior…
I see other families at my church, with young children…where living for Christ first has consistently guided them to a family life just like the older generation remembers way back when…
I must share an app I have found…where one can read the Bible in a year with an 10 minute audio done my Nicky Gumbel, a preacher in London with an accent that I love…who teaches us about each of 3 pieces of scripture from either Proverbs or Psalms…the O.T. and the N.T. He brings the Bible alive with his teaching… the app can be found at http://www.bibleinoneyear.org and is amazing !!
The God given love, peace and joy spoken about in the Bible,(Ephesians 3:16-20, John 15:11, & Philippians 4:6-7… is absolutely a reality in my life…when I humbly remain submitted to the leading of the Holy Spirit… Anyone reading this can find the Gospel of Christ presented in the “About” section of my blog…
I am a slave to the Lord…and I am proud to say that He has never let me down… Every one is either a slave to sin…or a slave unto the Lord… I am living proof that the latter is best !!
Have a great day !!
Hi Bruce, my apologies, this was sitting in my spam folder. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I must admit I feel sad for parents who have to go back to work after only three months off! In most countries in Europe, six months paid maternity pay is standard, with decent employers stretching payment out for longer, and up to a year (last three months usually unpaid) as a right for those who wish it. And this can all be split between parents. I just don’t understand why people in the USA put up with such unhelpful family laws. Anyway, my partner was more into having kids than I was, so it’s been a natural split of childcare, and I can’t imagine having it any other way. Good for the kids, good for us.
So, if I read you correctly before Ark edited your comment, you seemed to suggest that one of your posts was evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, is that right? I’m intrigued.