Recently an article from a 1955 issue of Woman’s Day Magazine made the rounds as mass e-mail and women from 2008 were up in arms. How dare they suggest we cook and clean and run to the door to greet our husband with drink in hand while perfectly groomed kids sit in Sunday best ready to partake of the evening meal already steaming on the table? What do you mean don’t burden him with the story about how little Billy failed his math test? Why should I wait until he settles down and unloads the stress of his day on me? After all, I cooked, cleaned, and cared for children all day and that’s a job too!
The women who were assaulted by this article in 2008 and passed it along in an effort to insight outrage in their friends are who I used to be. A woman who bought into the notion that she was defined by her financially beneficial job more than she was by her naturally and genetically encoded one. A woman who thought she would take time off to have kids and then go back to a career. A woman who realized that wasn’t possible and she needed to give up her June Cleaver dreams and go back to work or there wouldn’t be a house to come home to. I was too drained from working to hang out at baseball practice all afternoon, make supper, wash and fold laundry, clean dishes, and then host the cub scout meeting later that evening with fresh baked brownies in hand. Uh-oh, what happened to little Billy needing help with his homework? No time for that. No energy for that.
I’m not saying we should be living like an article from 1955. Environments change, animals adapt, that’s the natural order of things. Our problem is we changed the environment too drastically and too quickly for adaptation of the female species and now we are suffering severe growing pains. There is a resurgence of women as stay at home or work from home moms because it is a good thing. Women who rail against staying at home; claiming even if they could they wouldn’t because they want to contribute significantly to the financial well being of their household are being held hostage by the notion that the only way to be a value is to have financial worth in the job market.
Women have always worked. First in the home then as important and necessary members of the work force in all fields. We’ve come a long way to equality in the financial forum but at what cost? I have worked for financial gain since I was 12. Before, during and after I had kids I worked. I’m not saying women should stop working; Lord knows the world would come to a grinding halt if they did. I’m saying we need to rearrange so we can work equally hard at the things that matter to our nature as we work at the positions we have been nurturing under the light of socio-economic change.
What is the ultimate impact of the changes the previous generations of women have fought so hard to inflict upon us? Think in terms of your happiness. Think in terms of the happiness and ease of your family life. Think about the things that really matter to you; things you are naturally and genetically predisposed to want and do. And yes I mean cooking and cleaning and taking care of the kids. Nature doesn’t make mistakes. There is a real and natural reason men and women are built differently.
Two years ago I left the business world where I did more work than I was compensated for while other people gained from my hard work in their paychecks and benefits packages. I decided to work from home where I was needed and couldn’t be replaced by someone with less experience who would accept a smaller paycheck. We made sacrifices, changed our thinking on things we thought were necessary, and rearranged the house to provide a workspace that suited my new endeavors. Some days I work hard at my job, some days I hardly work at it, but every day I am working on my family. Every day I am reassuring my children that they are the most important thing and the environment in which I am raising them is equally important. That was not the case when I worked under duress outside of the home. I suffered under the guilt of choosing my job over my family or endured the fear of losing my job should I choose family.
It’s not perfect. Not everyday is a joy. I could always make more money. There are times the kids get under my skin and on my nerves. But now when the school nurse calls I go without batting an eye instead of hurrying to finish what I am working on, or giving someone a list of things to take care of in my absence. I attend School functions during the day or chaperone field trips guilt free because I can. As for the house being clean, I still wouldn’t eat off the floors but it’s better than it was. When it comes to dinner being on the table when my husband comes home I’m on the money about 50% of the time. Groceries and other errands are done during school hours so I don’t need to wrangle the kids throughout the store or monopolize our weekends.
I realize this is not feasible for many women but a shift in attitude is. I found that once I made up my mind that this is where my heart was and what my family needed I felt better. I interacted better. I am happier. I think in the positive. Every time I thought I might need to give up and go back to working outside of the home I’ve gone to bed with the positive thought that something would come to make it work out for my family’s best interest and it has. I will never open a bank to hold my financial wealth, but I am funding my kid’s future with the love and care I have put into their sense of self worth and family. I am banking on being a happy creative person grateful for the opportunity to see the world through open eyes and mind instead of the constricted view through the maze of office cubicles. I will profit from my children realizing happiness can come in the form of a well earned albeit smaller paycheck that doesn’t compromise your natural inclination.
Once you shift your thinking your path becomes clear. It might be cutting back your hours, it might be working one less day during the week, it might be shifting to a home based business. It may be getting a maid or a nanny to pick up some of the slack at home to free you up for the more important moments. Whatever your solution, it is specific to you and your family. As long as you are steadfast in what you believe is right for your family it doesn’t matter what the working world thinks or what the other working girls say around the water cooler when you are no longer there.
There are always options and here are just a few:
Contact the guidance office of your local high school. They can put you in touch with students willing to work a few hours after school. This can be help with cleaning the house, babysitting, or tutoring. A reliable teen in your home to keep things moving while you are not there can make a world of difference in how you spend your time when you do get home. Little Billy’s math scores might even improve.
Organize a playgroup within your neighborhood that rotates households. Sometimes you will be able to leave your child in the care of other trusted mothers and sometimes they will be able to leave their children in your care. If you are lucky enough not to have something to do that day you may be able to stay and enjoy the company and activities.
Utilize and help organize after school activities and enrichment programs. These will keep your kids in the safe environment of the school while you finish your workday or run an errand. Kids not only enjoy it but also have the opportunity to experience or learn something they are interested in. Many local libraries host after school activities as well.
Propose a job share program so you can spend less time in the office. These programs have been on the rise for the last decade and involve two people holding the same position on a rotating schedule.
Implement a way you can work from home (telecommuting) one or two days a week. You’ll be surprised how much more you can accomplish in your pajamas at the kitchen table without the constant interruptions of phones and co-workers.
Review your financial situation. What can you live without? What do you have to pay off before you can consider staying home (if that is your goal)? What available opportunities appeal to your interests? What do they pay compared to where you are now and can you afford to make that jump? Make a plan and set a goal for your financial status so you can get to where you want to be.