Can ambitious women be happy at home?

July 27, 2007 | Motherhood | 93 comments

Occasionally friends and old clients rope me into doing a couple hours of consulting work here and there, and the other day I found myself listening in on a business conference call. The subject of targeting a certain product to stay-at-home moms came up, and this led to the subject of women outside of the workforce in general. One of the women on the call said in passing, “Obviously an ambitious woman could never be happy staying at home with kids.” The group reacted to this statement as if she’d said “the sky is blue, ” and moved on to the next subject.

What’s surprising is how often I hear this. I’ve had a couple of friends say the same thing to me within the past few months (each time leading to the awkward moment when they realize that I am one of those stay-at-home mommy people now). To my ears it sounds like a shocking, borderline offensive statement, yet I know that that’s not at all how it’s meant. Many people perceive it to just be an obvious truth.

Since I seem to hold the minority opinion on the matter, it’s left me to wonder a lot lately: Can ambitious women be happy making their full-time job the raising of children and the running of the household? My gut reaction is to say yes, of course, since I think of myself as ambitious and I’m happy with my role as a housewife. But the more I think about it I realize that maybe that’s just my personality type — I’m ill suited to be a mother, so raising my children is far more challenging to me than any job I ever had, leaving me with a feeling of great accomplishment that we’re all still alive (so far). Also, my entrepreneurial spirit (read: inability to handle being told what to do by a boss) makes it fulfilling for me to come up with my own little challenges and projects, even if they don’t involve a salary or any other sort of public recognition. …Or maybe I’m just not as “ambitious” as I thought I was.

The other issue that usually goes hand in hand with this is the perception that men have it easier on this score, since they can be married and have families and easily fulfill ambitions outside of family life. I think that there is some truth to this, although plenty of men have to stifle their ambitions, at least job-wise, to support a family (most of the fathers I know are not pursuing their career dreams because of financial or work/life balance issues). But since a husband’s traditional role puts him outside the house for much of the time, I suppose it is easier for men to pursue personal goals that don’t necessarily involve the family.

All this is to say…what do you think? Can the ambitious woman be a happy housewife? Is it easier for ambitious men to be happy husbands and fathers than it is for ambitious women to be happy wives and mothers?

This sounds like a fun/interesting conversation, I can’t wait to read the comments.

93 Comments

  1. elena maria vidal

    It is difficult to stay home if what a woman wants most is worldly success. But if her ambitions are to create a beautiful home that is a fun place as well as a spiritual place, a refuge for family as well for friends, then there is every reason to be happy staying at home. It can be a challenge, but then everything worthwhile is a challenge.

  2. Emily (Laundry and Lullabies)

    I think it depends on your definition of “ambitious”. If you mean “wants to tackle long hours and difficult problems in a business environment, rewarded with high pay and respect from the working world” then no, an ambitious woman probably wouldn’t be happy at home. If, on the other hand, you mean “enjoys tackling difficult tasks and finds fulfillment in overcoming them” oh mercy you’ll find plenty of THAT at home!

    What I miss most about being in the working world is the affirmation that comes along with overcoming difficult tasks. I used to direct high school choirs, and at the end of each semester we’d have a concert. Talk about accolades! It was a big fat pat on the back and it made all the difficult days worth it. (To be fair, I also truly enjoyed the teaching – it wasn’t just all pats on the back!) 🙂 For me, affirming words make all the difference. So coming home has been difficult because at the end of the day you don’t have a “concert” to show off what you’ve accomplished. If you’re lucky your house is about as clean at the end as when you started, and the children have all been fed!

    Um…all that to say that I’m not sure if I’m “ambitious” so much as very “affirmation driven”. And sometimes I wonder if ambition has a lot to do with that, anyway! Maybe more women would direct their ambition toward the home if people were more affirming of their (very real!) accomplishments there, as well as the business world.

  3. Jessica

    My first response to this is: well, it really depends on what your ambition IS. It’s all well and good to be “ambitious”, but ambitious towards what?

    I guess I don’t think you can be a happy housewife if you haven’t adopted the ambition of being a good wife, homemaker and mom. On the other hand, if your idea of success is to serve God to the best of your ability, and you believe he’s called you to raising your kids full-time, well, then, yes, I think you can be ambitious and happy as a stay-at-home mom. Your ambition will be to obey God in your everyday life, and you have a good chance (with the Holy Spirit’s help) of making that ambition a reality.

    Two other things come to mind. First, if your ambitions still include career success outside the home, you can consciously acknowledge those desires, and then consciously set them aside for the five or ten or however many years it is that your children need your undivided, 24/7 attention. Not dismissing those ambitions, just being patient while you wait for a better season for their fulfillment. Second, not all career ambitions are incompatible with the life of a housewife. I get up an hour early most mornings to write, because I want, eventually, to get paid (more often!) for my writing. I have another friend who longs to go back to teaching choir someday, and in the meanwhile keeps her hand in by teaching voice lessons on the weekend. You might not be able to follow a vocation full-time, but you can keep up with it while you wait for a different season in your life, I think.

    Okay, one more thing. (That was a really thought-provoking post you wrote!) It seems to be that the main reason those women you mentioned are dismissive must be because they don’t believe homemaking or child-rearing is something that can be done well or that is worth doing well. If they did, I think they’d see that you can be ambitious about doing it.

    peace of Christ to you,
    Jessica Snell

  4. lyrl

    I’m going to echo the previous posters – ambition to do what?

    A woman who is ambitious to have sixty people look to her for guidance every day is not going to be happy staying at home. A woman who is ambitious to see objects she worked on enter into hundreds or thousands of businesses or households all over the world is not going to be happy staying at home. A woman who is ambitious to be the backbone of her family and to see her loved ones thrive directly because of her personal attention certainly will be happy to stay at home.

    I don’t think any of those ambitions are any “better” than any other.

    While women may find it more difficult to pursue ambitions they have that are not family-related, men generally find it more difficult to pursue ambitions they have the are family related. While I think part of the reason stay-at-home days are rare is because of biological disposition – part of it is also because of this huge cultural stigma on men who choose to put their family first. As in, not first to receive the paycheck the man makes or his attention in his time off a 40- or 50-hour work week, but first in the sense that he spends most of his waking hours with his children.

  5. Kate

    Since the women side is so well covered already, I thought I’d comment on the idea that men can “have it all”. Now, my husband is fortunate enough to have a job he enjoys and still have time with his family. But the cost is that his earning power is somewhat limited at this stage of the game, there are no benefits, and there are no paid vacations. Oh, and we no longer live near either of our families.

    I know other men who have been faced with the clear choice between following their ambitions into prestigious or intellectually stimulating career paths, or finding less interesting jobs that pay the bills, support the family, and allow more time at home. I know gentlemen well suited to academia who work menial jobs instead in order to support their families.

    Trust me, women aren’t the only ones who have to make sacrifices!

  6. Anonymous

    Everyone makes sacrifices, and everyone is faced with trade-offs. No one has a perfect life and we will all always wonder “what if”.

    Okay.

    Next….?

    Seems like most of your posts are some kind of attempt to prove to yourself you’re happy with the choices you’re now making in light of your new-found Catholicism.

    If some women find greater fulfillment outside a domestic environment, so be it. If some women find more fulfillment within the domestic environment, great!

    If you find yourself constantly comparing and wondering and feeling a need for validation, I think you’re better off asking yourself whether you’re really happy or not rather than trying to find some kind of confirmation of your supposition that women who are ambitious and choose to follow a high-gear career track are somehow less happy or less “womanly” or less worthy than you.

    The majority of your posts speak to some kind of resentment and bitterness towards those who have things you don’t: a nice house, a great job, money, lots of stuff, etc., etc., etc.

    If you don’t want those things, why do you care so much what other people do or want or believe?

    If you are happy and content and feel you’ve made the best choice for yourself, then why are you always craning your neck to get an eyeful of what’s going on over on the other side of the fence?

    How come you never write about how happy and fulfilled you are by staying home and being a full-time, stay at home mother?

    You seem to be very focused on what other people are doing and how your choices compare to theirs.

    And everyone’s right — define ambition. Ambition in itself is merely a personality trait that can be manifested a million different ways. Don’t you really mean “women who have ambitions outside of being a full-time wife and mother” here? If so, then the question itself provides the answer. No. Women who have ambitions to be something other than a full-time wife and mother will not be happy being full-time wives and mothers.

    Kind of a no-brainer…

  7. Freddy Mac

    Disclaimer: I am male, and that may be influencing my thoughts on this.

    So many “ambitious” and “high-achieving” and fabulously wealthy men are childless: Leland Stanford and John Doerr come to mind, but I’ve seen so many other examples. I’m not sure if it’s the lack of progeny that causes them to work exceptionally hard, or whether the causality runs the other way. But this much is certain. My genes are going to make it to the next generation, and theirs are not. So I win. They can’t enjoy their wealth after they are dead. But long after I am dead, my progeny will still inhabit the earth.

    The point is this – if you want to be competitive (silly and un-Christian as that may be), then by all means compete in a manner that matters, and that works over a longer span of time than one lifetime. I would argue that mothers and fathers of large families have nothing to envy. They have already “won” in the only sense that really matters, well, at least the only worldly sense that matters. As Catholics, we know that the real competition is to see who can beat down their own self-interest and ego enough to become a saint and make it to heaven.

  8. Anonymous

    Freddy Mac, what about men and women who aren’t able to be mothers and fathers for one reason or another?

    Do they just automatically “lose”?

    And what’s with the competition and comparisons?

    Why not do what you feel you’re called to do, live your life, and stop peering into other people’s lives and passing judgement on them?

    Live and let live. If one woman wishes to pursue her ambitions to be a research scientist and comes up with a cure for a major disease, then how did she “lose” compared to some mom who had five kids and never left home?

    What if that mom who has a big family and stays home is terrible at it and screws those kids up or beats them or is a closet alcoholic or whatever?

    This is the problem with making generalizations and comparisons.

    God doesn’t see us in general groups and he doesn’t compare. Why do it to each other?

  9. Rae

    If she’s spiritually advanced enough to do without praise…. or if her husband and children will recognize and praise a clean floor, then….yes, I think that the ambitious housewife can be happy completely within the home! (Unfortunately, in my experience floors are only noticed when dirty.)

    Otherwise, I think it might be necessary to have some outside work as a source of affirmation–work that will give her perspective on that clean or dirty floor, so that she won’t resent her husband for not always noticing it (or for noticing it too much)!

  10. Renee

    As for career vs. home, I don’t tempt myself with career. That meant cutting off ties from professional organizations, reading professional journals, and making my license in-active.

  11. Jennifer F.

    Anon – any chance you could phrase your points with less hostility? I don’t mind your opinions, but your angry tone makes it hard to have a civil discussion.

    Also, since it’s confusing as to whether or not we’re talking to one or multiple people here, I’m going to disallow anonymous comments. Feel free to get a Blogger account and continue the conversation.

  12. CatholicInTheAcademy

    To the two anonymous posters–when someone makes a momentous decision (conversion, decision to stay at home with children, decision to go back to work and not stay at home with children), is it not natural to wonder how life would be different if the decision had gone the other way? In moments when confronted by what we have given up (ie, in a phone call by former colleagues), how many people can truly not give it a second thought? How many people never even entertain a stray thought about that former life?

    My awed compliments to those who never compared themselves to another, or their choices to another’s. I hope that someday I might reach the same level of holiness (truly not being sarcastic here), for it seems that this is one of the hardest things for me to let go of when I think of giving up my career to stay home with my children (if I am so blessed). Choosing something wholeheartedly can be a challenge at first if it is something that the wider culture/our families/friends/colleagues/upbringing suggests is unworthy of our time and attention (in my case, anyway).

  13. N.

    I’ve always had a blogger account. I’ll just disallow public viewing of my profile, is all.

    And I’m not being hostile.

    I’m being honest and direct.

    when someone makes a momentous decision (conversion, decision to stay at home with children, decision to go back to work and not stay at home with children), is it not natural to wonder how life would be different if the decision had gone the other way? In moments when confronted by what we have given up (ie, in a phone call by former colleagues), how many people can truly not give it a second thought? How many people never even entertain a stray thought about that former life?

    I addressed this. Everyone goes through this to one degree or another. I opened with that observation. It is neither unique or interesting to wonder “what if”. Everyone does it.

    But when someone is obviously spending an inordinate amount of time with an issue, and from a very specific angle, then there’s a problem.

    To me, it seems as if Jennifer F. is looking not just for validation for her choices, but some kind of confirmation that other choices are bad or lesser to some degree.

    Also, “ambition” in itself, as has been pointed out several times now, is merely a trait. What’s the real question here?

    The real question, in the context of the situation that gave rise to it, is whether or not women who have ambitions to succeed outside the domestic environment will be happy in the home, and the answer is screamingly obvious: no.

    One can certainly have ambitions that are compatible with staying at home. Those women will be happy pursuing those ambitions along with their domestic activities.

    One can have ambitions that revolve only around the home and childcare. Women who feel this way will be happy pursuing those ambitions.

    So ambition isn’t the problem. It’s comparing one person’s set of ambitions, one person’s goals to another’s and assuming that one has to be better than another. It doesn’t. As long as you’re doing what you feel you were called to do, and are doing it with honesty and integrity, then it doesn’t matter what other people think.

    And I think that is the crux of a lot of this stuff — what other people think.

    If that’s what you buy into, then you’ll never be content no matter what you do.

  14. N.

    If she’s spiritually advanced enough to do without praise….

    There are other motivations besides receiving praise for being ambitious in areas that take one outside the home.

    Also, it seems that people are assuming that all ambitions that lie outside the home are strictly business-related. What about artists? What about scholars? What about people who work many, many hours outside the home for philanthropic causes?

  15. Literacy-chic

    Part of the answer to this is requires asking what we mean by “ambition.” You answer it one way here, mentioning the challenge of motherhood for you. But if “ambition” is a code word for achieving material success, gaining fame or recognition from people who do the same things you do or people you don’t know at all, then no, staying at home with children does not fulfill these kinds of wishes. And I guess then we would need to ask from whence those particular types of “ambition” stem. Was there some deprivation in childhood? A need to impress parents or friends (that is, to seek fulfillment externally rather than internally)? If a woman wants to seek new challenges, and rise to them, and if that is the definition of ambition that she holds, then I think an ambitious (and creative) woman will always find a way to fulfill these urges! My mother used photography and sewing (I find sewing a great challenge myself!), cooking–any number of things, really. She could make me a new dress literally overnight when I was in high school. (Still can!) In college I had a strong ambition to see my name in print. It’s happened a couple of times. The prospect is still exciting in a way, but is somewhat diminished by the knowledge that it’s something I have to do for the academic career. I’m not sure what the state of my own ambition is at this point, but it doesn’t necessarily propel me out of the house. That they pay me to teach is generally what propels me out of the house! 😉

    I realize I’m echoing pretty much everyone else here, but hopefully I’ve added some nuance! That’s the problem with responding to a post like this–I wanted to run with my ideas, which meant waiting to read the comments, which meant risking redundancy!

  16. Stephanie

    I do think it has to do with the definition of ambitious.

    I’m reminded, though, of something I recently read on Ignatius Insight, a quote from G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, actually, explaining his understanding that women must be “broad” in what they do, so that men can be “narrow” and competitive in their trade and still have a place to come home to.

    Here’s a quote, you can read the whole thing at the link above.

    The wife is like the fire, or to put things in their proper proportion, the fire is like the wife. Like the fire, the woman is expected to cook: not to excel in cooking, but to cook; to cook better than her husband who is earning the coke by lecturing on botany or breaking stones. Like the fire, the woman is expected to tell tales to the children, not original and artistic tales, but tales–better tales than would probably be told by a first-class cook. Like the fire, the woman is expected to illuminate and ventilate, not by the most startling revelations or the wildest winds of thought, but better than a man can do it after breaking stones or lecturing. But she cannot be expected to endure anything like this universal duty if she is also to endure the direct cruelty of competitive or bureaucratic toil. Woman must be a cook, but not a competitive cook; a school mistress, but not a competitive schoolmistress; a house-decorator but not a competitive house-decorator; a dressmaker, but not a competitive dressmaker. She should have not one trade but twenty hobbies; she, unlike the man, may develop all her second bests. This is what has been really aimed at from the first in what is called the seclusion, or even the oppression, of women. Women were not kept at home in order to keep them narrow; on the contrary, they were kept at home in order to keep them broad. The world outside the home was one mass of narrowness, a maze of cramped paths, a madhouse of monomaniacs. It was only by partly limiting and protecting the woman that she was enabled to play at five or six professions and so come almost as near to God as the child when he plays at a hundred trades. But the woman’s professions, unlike the child’s, were all truly and almost terribly fruitful…

  17. Stephanie

    Um, yeah, let me try that again.

    Ignatius Insight link is here.

    🙂

  18. Literacy-chic

    There are other motivations besides receiving praise for being ambitious in areas that take one outside the home.

    Can we discuss these? They might be relevant.

  19. Literacy-chic

    I find the Chesterton quote more troubling than helpful. Women are there to do lots of things well, but not too well, so as not to draw attention to themselves or outshine their husbands? In non-household terms, my husband has developed a wider variety of talents than I have, and we’re pretty equal when it comes to housework, except that he’s more willing to do it. Perhaps I’m missing the gist or the positive?

  20. Literacy-chic


    A woman who is ambitious to have sixty people look to her for guidance every day is not going to be happy staying at home.

    Not unless she is one heck of a fertile matriarch!!

  21. Lady of the Lakes

    It seems to me that when a person goes through a very powerful change in their lives, (i.e. a spiritual realization and conversion) they suddenly see the world, themselves, and other people from a new perspective. I am saying this from personal experience. I think Jen has also had this experience and sees herself and those around her in a different light than she used to. I don’t see her posts as “craning her neck” to see what other people are doing, simply that she is seeing them, and herself, differently than she used to. This, as one could imagine, invites contemplation on her part and gives rise to many many questions about life, some with answers, some without. Really it is all about growth. I find this blog very thought provoking, which is a good thing. Subjects commented on here cause me to look at life a little differently sometimes and even to reevaluate my own behaviour and life choices. That is the earmark of good writing, to invite the reader to experience life, for a time, from another’s perspective. Good job Jen, keep up the good work!
    Edit: I also find great truth and satisfaction in the quote from Chesterton. So often in my life, when looking at a carreer path or choice ahead of me, I have felt frustrated because of the neccesity of having to limit myself to a particular field of study, or a particular job. I often say to myself “if only I could do X,Y, AND Z” but it just isn’t possible.

  22. Tom

    I think ambitious women CAN be fulfilled inside the home (have you seen some of those Mommy Blogs – not mine, BTW- I am in awe of many of them!)
    I also think men CAN be stifled, and have the worse part, if their ambition is unfulfilled due to family duties (seeing someone else, maybe not as qualified, get a promotion because they are able to travel or relocate frequently).

    I would define ‘ambition’ not necessarily as material success, but as a constant striving for something better, to improve one’s circumstances. Men and women can fulfill their ‘ambitiousness’ at home or out of it; they can also have their ambition frustrated at home or out of it.

    BTW, many of the aforementioned Mommybloggers have careers as writers, have opened their own web businesses, act as consultants and freelancers… not all of us are letting the dishes soak while we watch Oprah!

    Mama Says

  23. La gallina

    I love the Chesterton quote, Stephanie. I couldn’t agree with him more!

  24. Stephanie

    Women are there to do lots of things well, but not too well, so as not to draw attention to themselves or outshine their husbands?

    No, I don’t think it’s so as not to “outshine their husbands,” it has nothing to do with that. It has to do with the fact that all the mundane stuff has to get done, or else there is no household to come home to, there is no “center” for family life. If the wife went off and focused only on one interest, and so did the husband, who would be there to do all the other stuff that needs to get done?

    Chesterton is just explaining that in promoting the idea that the widespread tasks women had to do were, basically, worthless and meaningless, if people buy into that and leave the “drudgery” to follow a narrower path, there will be gaping holes left at home.

    Now, I personally know of stay at home dads who do all the mundane stuff while the woman goes off on the “narrow” path to compete and excel in one area. I don’t really see anything wrong with that at all…I just think that, [big generalization warning] on the whole, men by nature are probably driven more to go out and compete, and women are more prone to do “everything else.” (I mean, let’s face it, even among women who have a big career, they often end up doing most of “everything else” on top of that career anyway, lol!)

    That might sound like a bad thing to our modern ears…but I think that’s kind of what Chesterton is getting at, that on the contrary, this is what makes women amazing.

    Another snippet from the whole thing linked above:

    How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.

  25. N.

    Striving for personal excellence in an area that you’re gifted in is a reason for one to be ambitious.

    Striving to accomplish something for the good of humanity is another.

    Again, this “ambition” thing in this post seems to be all about making money in a business environment, which makes it look like it’s all about promotions and dollars, but there are very ambitious people who are not making a lot of money and who are tucked away in research labs in buildings with no names on the outside of them, and so on, or in libraries or universities, or any number of other places where there just isn’t a lot of praise or financial reward involved.

    It is possible for people to do a thing for the sheer love of it. I think that’s been discounted here, too.

    I personally think it’s possible for anyone to do just about anything if they set their mind to it and free themselves of the good opinions of others. There is no greater prison than living your life through other people’s eyes.

    I don’t think it’s impossible to live that way, or even unusual. I’ve known people who’ve done this all their lives, and I see people doing it today. They just don’t look like “one of us” to a lot of people, so they go through life invisible.

    Invisible, content, and happy, ambitions and all.

  26. Michelle

    What is interesting is that everyone here is assuming that an ambitious woman seeks only personal success (however that is defined). Perhaps a single woman will primarily be concerned with her own status. But I think many wives and mothers are willing to share the definition of success with their families: if the goal is money, husband’s promotion is just as good as her own promotion. If the goal is fame, then a child’s star-role in the local production of Annie is just as good as having her own picture on the cover of the local paper.

    This could be a bad thing where you have a domineering, pushy wife and mother who gets her kids involved in every activity, every sport camp, every enrichment program to help make them “the best”. Or this could be a good thing where the ambitious woman is willing to make the sacrifices necessary (a paycheck with her name on it, personal recognition for excellence, etc) in order to free her husband to pursue a certain career path or in order to be available to her children through homeschooling or simply help with homework and the usual after-school activities.

    I think I am an ambitious woman, and I stay-at-home. I want my children to be successful, and I want my husband to be successful (and ultimitely, I want our family to be successful, and I define that as all of us getting into heaven). I don’t think I’m a “win-at-all-costs” type or overly pushy about worldly success, but I would like a nice home and I like to take nice vacations and I want my children to have certain opportunities that I didn’t have. And when you have a large family, some things, like swimming lessons for 4 children, or piano lessons for 3 children, or orthodontics for any child, cost money. These are “luxuries” my parents couldn’t afford, but we are managing, so far.

    My husband is in the military, and success and promotion come when you are willing to move around the country (or the world) and sometimes do hard jobs with long hours and possibly days (or weeks or even 15 months) away from home. If I were focused on personal success, his career would suffer as we took into account my career’s needs, including his need to help with childcare and household chores. We have seen, time and time again, soldiers bypass opportunities because the wife wasn’t willing to move (her career) or they weren’t willing to disrupt their children’s schooling (one reason we homeschool).

    So, I think plenty of ambitious woemn can happily stay-at-home. I just think they turn their energies elsewhere, even if their ambition is to have the prettiest front lawn in the neighborhood or bright white, starched and ironed fresh sheets on the beds every day.

  27. Literacy-chic

    My beefs with Chesterton:

    I also find great truth and satisfaction in the quote from Chesterton. So often in my life, when looking at a career path or choice ahead of me, I have felt frustrated because of the necessity of having to limit myself to a particular field of study, or a particular job. I often say to myself “if only I could do X,Y, AND Z” but it just isn’t possible.

    I have hobbies, too, and diverse interests, but I don’t think it’s a gendered thing to develop multiple interests, or to want to. Chesterton also really limits what those “secondary interests” are or can be. On the other hand, I have left a lot of things temporarily behind because of the constraints of my degree, like French literature and Art history, but that doesn’t mean I can’t develop them at a later date, or that I would trade English lit to be the best darn cook in my immediate family, or to fold those clothes perfectly! I do remove some mean grease stains, though…

    It has to do with the fact that all the mundane stuff has to get done, or else there is no household to come home to, there is no “center” for family life.

    Chesterton is constrained by the conceptions of men and women’s roles that existed in his time. Surely we can agree on that? It wasn’t exactly the norm for women to expect their husbands to help around the house or to help with the kids–or even to show much affection for or involvement with them. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t now, or that we shouldn’t, or that I’m being some radical and challenging the nature of how God made man and woman. I see the couple as a partnership as nurturing the “‘center’ of family life,” and I think that’s perfectly compatible with having a Catholic marriage and family. Why can’t both be broad–in this weird house-work-y sense–together to allow for BOTH to have specialized interests?

    ***
    Here’s something I take issue with a bit:

    BTW, many of the aforementioned Mommybloggers have careers as writers, have opened their own web businesses, act as consultants and freelancers… not all of us are letting the dishes soak while we watch Oprah!

    It takes money to make money. Not everyone can accomplish these things. After all, it doesn’t matter how great your idea is if you don;t have the money, credit, or connections to someone else’s money to accomplish it. My mother has been wanting to start a business her entire life. Guess what? It’s kind of a mark of privilege on some level for this to be plausible.

    ***

    I do agree with N., here, and I thank her for clarifying:

    Striving for personal excellence in an area that you’re gifted in is a reason for one to be ambitious.

    Striving to accomplish something for the good of humanity is another.

    It is possible for people to do a thing for the sheer love of it.

    This goes further toward clarifying different types of ambition. I can definitely relate to the first one, and it has led me time and again to ask, “Well, if God wanted me to give this up, why did He make me good at it?” We need to discern ALL of our talents, not just our so-called “womanly” talents, and see how best to make ALL of the pieces fit with the personality that we have been given.

    While not many people see real value in teaching literature and writing (I’m not a doctor, after all), I do have some shred of a belief that it enriches people’s lives in interesting and useful ways. I won’t go into that here. I’m not saving the world, but maybe I am making a difference to someone in a small way just by helping them to glimpse a different perspective.

    And well, once I could relate to that last one, too. I wanted to be able to support myself and my family by doing something I enjoyed doing. Perhaps I’ll rediscover that enjoyment some day! ;P

  28. :o)

    women have been fed a diet of “a woman must have a career outside the home to be fulfull” for far too long. Being a fulltime, in the home mother/wife is the most challenging and important thing a woman can do. No career leaves the legacy children do.

  29. Stephanie

    Well, I don’t think Chesterton is saying women CAN’T have a focus, something they enjoy and want to improve upon, I think his main point here is combatting the idea that without a “narrow path” (even if temporarily while kids are at home needing to be taken care of), a woman cannot be worthwhile, the idea that if a woman isn’t out competing against others and proving that she is better at this or that than other people, then we assume she is somehow lesser. This is what he’s trying to disprove, by showing how VERY valuable women are, even WHEN they don’t go out and compete and focus on one narrow path to prove their worth.

    Why is he trying to combat this idea? Because at that point in history, people were already shoving it down women’s throats that to “merely” be “just” a housewife is always and without exception oppressive and shackling.

    This is the context in which I read his passage, so for me, it rung very true.

    But as I mentioned before, I have no problem with the idea of typical roles being reversed or shared or what have you, as long as all the bases of home and family life are being covered. I do think, in general though, that men gravitate towards one role and women towards another. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having exceptions to that.

  30. Literacy-chic

    Well, I’m going to say it. Staying at home to the exclusion of my studies and eventual career, keeping house, and devoting all of my time to my children exclusively, however worthwhile, would drive me up a wall, perhaps because of some of the things that Jen has said before on the blog about community support for mothers. I stay at home a lot. It is very trying. Having another outlet for my talents and creativity is important. And it doesn’t make me a bad mother, wife or Catholic. I parent my kids. I’m probably about on par with Jen when it comes to housework 😉 , but I don’t need a perfect house. I’m not sure if this answers whether an ambitious woman could stay at home. Perhaps it is because of ambition that I could not–I don’t know. But I would go crazy. But intellectual engagement is really important to me, and while I do engage my children and my husband intellectually, the former is on their terms, and for my husband and I to engage intellectually requires each of us having something to bring to the table, if you will. After a while, I wonder why the affirmation of fulfillment in domestic duties is so important–I just don’t feel fulfilled by how well I keep house, etc., and it’s not the kind of challenge that I want. Is it really a matter of ambition? Or taste? Or have I just been brainwashed? 😉 (The funny thing is how I get slammed by my colleagues for being anti-feminist and saying that everyone should keep their kids at home with them!!–hah!)

  31. Stephanie

    Chesterton is constrained by the conceptions of men and women’s roles that existed in his time. Surely we can agree on that? It wasn’t exactly the norm for women to expect their husbands to help around the house or to help with the kids–or even to show much affection for or involvement with them.

    Oh, and I don’t necessarily agree with the above…certainly you had many families and husbands who acted this way, but I do think a lot of families in the past have been unfairly maligned and misrepresented in an attempt to “free the angel in the house” and convince everyone that “traditional roles” are always and without exception oppressive. I tend to think women weren’t automatically unhappy doing what they did, the way that some people seem to assume they were in the past.

    But then, I’m also starting with the assumption that even with “traditional roles,” a loving husband will always want to help his wife with the mundane when he can, and support her in a more narrow goal she has when he can. I always have mutual self-sacrifice and respect in the back of my head when I speak of such things, and sometimes forget that others don’t necessarily have the same idea in mind as well when speaking of traditional roles…

  32. Literacy-chic

    Does Chesterton really leave room for anything else? That wasn’t my understanding. Yes, he’s combating the idea, and yes I’ve met a lot of women who feel the need to prove themselves in the ways mentioned, but I believe that Chesterton is outlining THE way to see women’s role in the family/society, and it’s a restrictive way, though perhaps useful if we generalize from it instead of reading it literally, though the literal reading is what Chesterton no doubt intended.

  33. Literacy-chic

    Many, many people–men and women–throughout history have been automatically unhappy with their roles, and many would have been happier in other roles, though they made their own happiness out of what they had to work with. And certainly (as comments here indicate) many, many women do and have found fulfillment in domestic duties and traditional roles. But that’s not to say that it’s not valuable to have other options to work with, or that oppression didn’t exist. I’m kind of a moderate and I don’t want things to swing too far in either direction. And kind and loving husbands didn’t always help out with mundane tasks or allow their wives to pursue specific dreams and talents. It just wasn’t done that way. See Tolkien’s life, for example. And it didn’t make him any less of an admirable person. He in fact seems to have regretted that it had to be that way…

  34. Stephanie

    I’m sure a lot of it has to do with personality.

    We have not yet been blessed with children though we’ve been trying for over a year and a half, and I would love to be a SAHM. Instead, for now, I’m a stay at home wife. It gives me great joy to make my house a home (I’m a neat freak by nature anyway), and because we share a car I’m “stuck” at home all day, so I’m home with only a cat during the day, but I also enjoy intellectual stimulation. It’s why I went to college (even when I knew I’d most likely be staying at home – I never stopped receiving looks of shock when I told fellow classmates this.) But then, that’s why I blog, and write, and engage in theological and philosophical discussion various places online. I enjoy it. 🙂 My husband supports and encourages me to do such things.

    I also shy away from competition of any sort, so I’m happy to be able to do my thing without anxiety.

    I guess I’m just “unambitious”, lol.

    Oh, and I do hope you don’t think I was ever saying it’s un-Catholic or un-Christian for a woman to be ambitious about something outside the home. Certainly not. I just thought Jen might find the Chesterton quote interesting, food for thought, as it related to the topic.

    For me, my one ambition in life is to do God’s will and do it well. We may all share that ambition, and it will look very different in each of our lives, though it will ultimately bring us all to the same place. I would never claim that women need to be cookie cutter wives in order to “do God’s will.” Just wanted to be clear about that!

  35. Stephanie

    I’m kind of a moderate and I don’t want things to swing too far in either direction.

    Lol, I’m chuckling because this is very nearly my life’s motto. (Just read a bit through my blog to see my constant frustration with extremes!)

    I never denied any of the things you said in your last post, I’m just trying to point out the “extreme” (and quite common today) view that ALL people were automatically unhappy in traditional roles, and that NO people could be happy in them is a false one. 🙂

  36. Literacy-chic

    We share a car, too. I bring my husband to work. I also don’t relish competition, which is why I’m in a less high-pressure field than some. Yes, we do see things similarly, but Chesterton did not, which is where my critiques of Chesterton come in. But while you may not have stated it–nor anyone else here–there is this idea that is prevalent among Catholics who are interested in such questions–as not all are–that in discerning God’s will for the family, the woman must generally take the traditional role. It’s all over the place. I think that the prevalent interpretations of how things should be in the ideal Catholic family are a bit narrowly conceived in general, that’s all.

  37. Literacy-chic

    I don’t say “or Christian” because not all Christians consider “discernment of God’s will” in the same way. Seems pretty unique to Catholicism, actually–from a convert’s perspective!–probably because discernment to the religious life or priesthood has been expanded out to include those who are NOT called to the priesthood or religious life, so as to emphasize God’s calling in ALL of our lives.

  38. Stephanie

    I do admit, I read it more generally than literally. 🙂

  39. Darwin

    But while you may not have stated it–nor anyone else here–there is this idea that is prevalent among Catholics who are interested in such questions–as not all are–that in discerning God’s will for the family, the woman must generally take the traditional role. It’s all over the place. I think that the prevalent interpretations of how things should be in the ideal Catholic family are a bit narrowly conceived in general, that’s all.

    If I may speak as a representative of the oppressor class here, some of this is simply because it fits better with biological realities. I’ve known one woman who successfully earned a PhD while working full; had three children (whom her husband homeschooled); and had a very successful career as a programmer, which not allows he to jaunt off to cities all over the world to give talks.

    But frankly, most men aren’t able to pull that off even without the added difficulty of carrying each baby for nine months (with some degree of resulting physical infirmty), giving birth, etc.

    So while it’s certainly not that case that a married woman who desires children must be the one who stays at home, it does result in simply logistics since she clearly has to be the one to bear the children.

  40. Tony

    Why can’t both be broad–in this weird house-work-y sense–together to allow for BOTH to have specialized interests?

    Of course. It all depends on how you define yourself. Do you define yourself as “CEO of XYZ company” or like I do “Husband of X and father of Y and Z”.

    I work, not for accolades or personal satisfaction, but to put food on my table. I excel at my job for two reasons, one: because it is what God expects of me in the use of the talents He gave me and two: If I earn more, my family can be more comfortable and put some away for possibly lean times.

    I’m also, like Chesterton said about women: A pretty good electrician, but not a master electrician, I can repair a washer, but I’m not the maytag repairman. I can configure a computer but I’m not… wait, I am the computer programmer 🙂

  41. Literacy-chic

    Darwin, I feel oppressed now. Great. ;P Biology is a constraint insofar as the one who has to take time off to actually bear the children is the woman (at least, that’s not a gender role that I’ve ever known to be reversed). But it seems as though your colleague was equally if not more constrained by her choice of profession. Very cool that her husband was able to accomplish what he did! I couldn’t have, and I am a woman! That, I think, is where personality supersedes gender roles.

    O.K.–I can do manly odd jobs, too, Tony… How are you at laundry and dishes? 😉

  42. Literacy-chic

    Clarification:
    Very cool that her husband was able to accomplish what he did!

    I mean, with the family. Especially since it allowed her talents to flourish. That’s an ideal situation, in which the two were apparently in sync with their talents and personal and familial goals. It is always ideal when both can agree and make it work, whether gender roles are reversed or not. But it can also be ideal when both work fewer hours or less stressful jobs and divide familial duties more or less equally. It’s not possible in all professions, obviously. But it also can work. There are a number of ways to prioritize family life–for mother AND father. Maternity (or paternity) leave is a different issue altogether.

  43. N.

    Thing is, it’s 2007 and, outside of high-risk pregnancies, “child-bearing” just ain’t that big a deal. Yes, we’re going to take “time off” to deliver a baby, but there are men out there who probably take three or four times the sick leave women do just because they happen to have sicklier immune systems, or whatever.

    And the “time off” thing is only an issue if men aren’t given the same parental leave as women. Here, in the US, this is still an area where we’re behind other developed nations. In other countries, both men and women are allowed the same amount of parental leave. AAMOF, other developed nations have a much healthier outlook towards work life and personal life than the US. Americans take far less vacation time, even when paid vacation time is available to them, than people from other developed nations. It’s downright unhealthy, and a sign of very bad priorities. But that’s an entire topic unto itself.

    Also, things are changing. Granted, change happens slowly, but it happens all the same. There are three full-time, stay-at-home dads on my block alone in our town. When I was first married and having children there were probably three full-time, stay-at-home dads in the whole town.

    There are also familes who combine parental duties and work hours in all sorts of combinations these days. I’m constantly amazed by the creative and flexible ways families have adjusted over the years, and the kids are doing just as well, if not better, than the kids raised in a traditional setting.

    Biology is just not that big a division anymore. And we women are healthier for it. Where women used to “eat for two” (even if one of you could only be seen through a microscoope), sit home, and never exercise through an entire nine months of pregnancy, women now work full-time and exercise regularly and eat much more healthily through pregnancies than they ever did before. Heck, I’ve yet to run a marathon where several obviously pregnant women haven’t been running alongside me, and I’ve run my share of races pregnant as well. And we are better for it. Healthy, fit women have easier labors and less complicated deliveries than women who are overweight and not physically fit.

    So, biology, schmiology. Yeah, we menstruate and we give birth. Get over it already. Men don’t, and most of them still can’t keep up with us…;-)

    Jeez. We’re not elephants. We do gestate our young in under a year, and we can do more than one thing at a time, you know. /rolleyes

  44. Stephanie

    Well, call me crazy but I still think that at a natural level, setting aside what women “can” do (because I think we all agree they “can” do anything they want), I just believe that, in general, most women will feel a greater pull to *want* to stay home and nurture their children if possible(especially at the newborn stage), and feel this pull greater than a man will, primarily because they have carried this child in their womb and have a stronger instinctive nurturing urge than a man would. I just think that’s part of being feminine…

    Again, that doesn’t mean I think it’s bad for the typical roles to be reversed, for a man to be able to stay home if that is what happens to work best for a particular family. I just think that by nature, women on the whole have a greater urge to want to be with and nurture children than men do.

    I mean…that used to be fairly obvious, but now people seem afraid to say that kind of thing for fear of sounding “sexist,” as if admitting generalized natural differences in gender somehow diminishes one role or another.

  45. Renee

    As soemone who stood in front of a judge to answer a motion whie holding a two-week old baby, you can’t be at two places at once. It is just as unfair to an employer/client if you can not devote your undivided attention to their needs. Why this is at issue for women, rather then men is becuase we are constantly asked ‘if we’re done (having children) and ‘when are we going back to work’. I’ve been a stay-at-some mother for over two years now. Whether it is work or family planing, what ever happens, happens.

  46. Renee

    In David Blankenhorn’s “Fatherless America”, one thing I noted in his book in how over time we’ve taken the father out of the home. Back in the day, a husband would work beside or near his wife as in a trade that was performed in a shop near the home or lived right on a farm.

    Prior to the automobile and the interstate highway system, men worked close to their families. One of the things my husband and I observe, was that even thought both our mothers works, both our mothers and fathers worked within a mile or two. Even our grandmothers ‘worked’ close by in the local mill. None of them were ambitious or ‘creative’ or ‘flexible’, they were poor immigrants.

    Technically speaking I’m the first stay at home mother. The concept of being a stay at home mother really didn’t develop until men started to work so far away. Their work was a part of the community, not in an industrial park off a highway exit 25 miles away.

  47. N.

    Well, why don’t you ask your poor, immigrant grandparents if they worked as hard as they did so their grandchildren could work at the mill.

    Yes, we all come from poor, immigrant families. My great-grandmother was a maid and my great-grandfather was a garbageman here in NYC. She came off the boat at 16, he at 13. Their children were skilled craftsmen, and their children are lawyers, doctors, corporate CEOs, professors, etc.

    The reason our ancestors made Herculean efforts to get to this country and worked endless hours at menial, thankless jobs was so their children and grandchildren wouldn’t have to. They wanted something better for their children. They wanted opportunities and choices for them. That’s what made hauling garbage or operating a dangerous machine for twelve hours straight worthwhile — knowing that their children wouldn’t have to work in similar situations.

    People can wax nostaligic all they want about the “good old days” where everyone lived in an agricultural society and the women chattered and giggled over the laundry line, or mom and dad were just up the road at the mill — or the coal mine — or the smelting plant, but the realities of those times are not nearly as rosy as some people would like to think.

    We don’t live in that world anymore, anyway. So we have to stop looking backwards and keep our eyes in front of us. There are very few mills and plants and privately owned farms anymore. We live in a high-tech, information-age, fast-moving society, and for all that some people love to focus on the negative, it’s a better society than the one where kids as young as 12 and 13 started sucking in coal dust for 12 hours a day and then dropped dead in their thirties and forties from cancer.

    People can be creative and flexible now because of the world we live in now. Women can do many things during the course of their lives — not necessarily all at the same time, but they can do more than our mothers and grandmothers did.

    And, no, stay at home motherhood is not a concept that began when men started to commute to office parks.

  48. Literacy-chic

    And, no, stay at home motherhood is not a concept that began when men started to commute to office parks.

    No. It was promoted by Rousseau and others around the time of the French Revolution because they thought it would raise the morality of the society.

    It was also regarded this way in Victorian England, though not so self-consciously so. (Except that a lot of leisured Victorian stay-at-home moms had nannies.)

    Basically stay-at-home motherhood has been promoted in times of great social, intellectual, and moral revolution and upheaval or when people had the leisure to see things in that way. Hmmm…

  49. Renee

    Regarding family time society isn’t that great, because both mom and dad are stuck in a commute over an hour and there is no one be with at home to guide children into being adults. There is nothing rosy about sitting in bumper to bumper traffic and being fined by your daycare provider for being 20 minutes late. I don’t call that progress. As for work related deaths, I agree peope actually live to see retirement which is great. So N. can you conclude what is the rush to workwe, there is nothing wrong to staying at home to have kids, because people live long enoought o have both.

  50. N.

    Uh, Renee, I stayed home for over a quarter of a century with my children.

    My husband commutes 20 minutes to work, never commuted more than 25.

    I worked from home as a freelancer when my kids were younger, and I combine working from home and working in an office environment now.

    My kids are grown and are either on their own entirely, or live in their own off-campus housing in NYC while they attend Fordham and NYU, respectively.

    My oldest is 27, my youngest, 19.

    I’m 46.

    Put that in your pipe and smoke it, honey. It sure would be an improvement over what the hell it is you’re smokin’ now.

    So, the quality of MY family life was and is just fine, thank you very much.

    Also, there’s this thing, it’s called “public transportation”, and it’s the way many, many people commute. They’re not all sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Often, they’ve got a nice, short, commute on a comfy, air-conditioned commuter train, during which time they can read, enjoy a cool beverage, and/or check email/messages on their Blackberry before they get home.

    Oh, yeah, and there are other people who actually raise their family in cities, and they sometimes, ~gasp~, walk to work!!

    Your experience isn’t everyone’s, nor is your take on everyone else’s experience even close to accurate.

    If you are happy with your choice to stay home, fine. Just don’t assume that people who encourage women who feel stifled by staying at home all the time, doing nothing but clean, cook and wipe poopy butts all day, didn’t stay home with their kids, or commuted hours and hours, or worked in an office, or dumped their kids in daycare, or hired an illegal alien nanny, or whatever other little pre-conceived notions you have rattling around your head.

    The point is that there are so many more options for women now, no matter what choices they make regarding work, personal fulfillment, family, etc. No one person’s way fits everyone, and no one way guarantees a happier family.

    It is also not Catholic teaching for women to stay home 24/7 from birth to legal adulthood when it comes to raising their kids. There is a not-so-subtle attitude among the blogging SAHMs in the Catholic blogosphere that this is so. It’s not. If Catholics would stop misrepresenting the Church, the Church would come off looking a lot better than it does in non-Catholics’ eyes.

    You don’t have to be a home-birthing, ecological-breastfeeding, home-schooling, stay-at-home mother in order to be a good Catholic, a more “womanly” woman, or a good mother. AAMOF, I have witnessed terrible, terrible family situations in which the parents lived a very traditional lifestyle. I’ve seen abuse in these families, I’ve seen intellectual stagnation, the perpetuation of ignorant, bigoted attitudes, and I’ve seen the mess that the children raised in these families grow up to be.

    Don’t assume things about other people, or assume that your way is going to serve you well in the end. It just might not, and then all your prideful, narrow-minded little chickens will be home to roost…

  51. Darwin

    So, biology, schmiology. Yeah, we menstruate and we give birth. Get over it already. Men don’t, and most of them still can’t keep up with us…;-)

    This doesn’t exactly jive with my experience of having pregnant female co-workers.

    Maybe it’s partly because I work at a large corporation these days which is pretty good about moving women into less essential roles while they’re pregnant, but I hear a lot of “Oh, sorry I didn’t email you I was going to miss that meeting, I was throwing up all morning.”

    Now, this gradual weaning off relying on someone being around all the time is a pretty good lead up to dealing with them being out for three months on maternity leave, but it’s definitely not “equal”.

    Nor need it be. The thing is, men and women are not interchangeable, and gender roles do indeed matter (unless one wants to simply not have a family — in which case it doesn’t touch you.)

    When we had our last baby, I was getting calls the same day as the birth to log in remotely and make reporting changes so that people would get paid the right amount. I could do that since I’d only been there to watch and help catch the baby — but I could not have done that if I’d been the one giving birth.

    Further, if neither parent is a stay-at-home parent, while it’s true that most women can walk around fine a week after giving birth, dumping a one week old in 10-hour-a-day childcare seems a bit harsh.

    If one gets into the child having game (something which it seems to me marriage indicates an intention of doing) you need to expect it to make significant changes in your life. It’s not a minor hobby to be fit into one’s spare time.

  52. N.

    Darwin, again, you’re assuming that “ambition” leads only to working some mid-level management job in a corporate situation.

    You’re assuming that there are two choices, and only two: stay home and live like Little House on the Prairie, or dump your kid in daycare and climb the corporate ladder.

    There are tons of options in-between. There are as many definitions of “ambition” as there are people on this planet.

    Some women mild the pregnancy thing unfairly. But I’ve certainly met my share of whiny, hypochondriacal men in the work-place, or men who slack off, or men who need to take a bajillion smoking breaks during the day (women, too). Yes, life is unfair, and there will always be people who don’t pull their weight and let others pick up the slack for them, all while drawing an equal paycheck.

    But this is a separate discussion. Yes, I’m all for equal pay for equal work. Get everyone back on a clock and let ’em clock in and out for puking breaks or peeing breaks or smoking breaks, and let the clock show who took off for whatever ailment or personal issue they had. Fine. I only get paid for the work I do, so, to me, that’s a great solution.

    But that doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that some women find saying home in a traditional domestic environment unhealthy, depressing and stagnating. These women should not be made to feel as if there is one and only one option for them should they choose to have a family.

    And I still say biology, schmiology. If I can do all I’ve done while I’ve been pregnant or had a bunch of small kids at home, then anyone can. There’s nothing all that special about me, believe me. I just don’t like slackers and whiners and people who make excuses, and I don’t like people who insist their way is the only way.

    When I hear that, all I can think is that they’re miserable with their choice and that they want some company to join in their pity-party. Bleh.

  53. Literacy-chic

    I am on board with N’s suggestion that biology isn’t as limiting as it’s sometimes represented–but that depends in part on the pregnancy and other circumstances. I’m finding #3 at 30 a whole lot more taxing than #1 at 19 and #2 at 28. And generally there are provisions made for a temporary replacement if the woman giving birth has an essential job–at least that’s how I understand it. And while I do think there is somewhat of a bias toward SAHMs in the Cahtolic blogosphere, you should see what happened when I suggested that academic moms don’t necessarily need to put their kids in daycare because there are other possibilities!–you know, those “in betweens”! They were telling me the same things that N. is telling the participants in this dialogue. In my experience, any time you tell anyone that other options besides the ones they currently favor are possible, you get grief. Suggest that more time with mom & dad is actually GOOD for children, and you’re positively backward. And this is all coming from someone who understands that being at home can be stifling, and who does feel like she can work & take care of her children. Having said this, I want to point out a thing or two about what N. has said:

    The point is that there are so many more options for women now, no matter what choices they make regarding work, personal fulfillment, family, etc. No one person’s way fits everyone, and no one way guarantees a happier family.

    I would have to argue that this is a bit off topic, since the choice that’s being discussed is the choice to stay home, and the question is whether it allows for fulfillment in women who are “ambitious,” though that’s a disputed term. The conversation has tended to heavily justify the decision to stay home, but it is a decision that is frequently attacked by those who maintain that everyone has choices–some choices are simply affirmed over others, and the choice to work outside of the home is and has been considered the preferable choice for intelligent, “ambitious” women. That’s what this whole discussion is in response to. So yes, women have more choices, but in today’s society with the predominant philosophies about women and what is oppressive or not, certain people feel more of a need to justify their own choices. After all, how often do you see baby magazines affirming the mother’s choice to work compared to her choice not to work, or telling her not to feel guilty, that her kids are just fine? The other side is not so often represented in pop culture, and it takes venues like this for those opinions to be affirmed.

    It is also not Catholic teaching for women to stay home 24/7 from birth to legal adulthood when it comes to raising their kids.

    This is true, though some aspects of Theology of the Body and statements about gender differences can certainly be used to support these positions. There are also a lot of fundamentalist Christians who support similar ideas. It seems to be a movement in society–counter-cultural, if you will, that finds justification in theological views of the family. It’s not the only way to see things, but I don’t think it’s harmful to anyone who believes differently.

    You don’t have to be a home-birthing, ecological-breastfeeding, home-schooling, stay-at-home mother in order to be a good Catholic, a more “womanly” woman, or a good mother.

    No, but you can be any and all of these things together, or pick and choose. I’m a big breastfeeding fanatic, believe in natural birth, like organic food… Kind of granola-y altogether. But I’m not all that traditional a wife or mother. These things don’t always go together!

    I guess finally, I have to say that while a lot of justifying is happening here, it’s not motivated by misery. I don’t promote breastfeeding because I hate it so much and want others to commiserate. We all work out our beliefs by running through our own justifications. It shouldn’t threaten others’ choices or make them doubt their own justifications–not if they’re secure in their choices to begin with. The nature of the blog is that this is done in public, with idea exchange, contributions, everyone’s own reasons. It can seem like “misery loves company,” but really I think it has to do with dialogue and support–perhaps even learning more about the roles we’re discussing. I have to say that I have gained much more knowledge of and respect for homeschooling and SAHMs through the Catholic blogosphere–learning what intelligent, motivated, and dynamic women are making these choices that I could not make personally and may have had a tendency to demean at one time. It’s about really coming to appreciate and understand others’ choices for me, though I’m not inclined to agree at all times, as you know!

  54. Renee

    Funny you mention public transportion. I wrote about in my blog my husband trying to take public transportation here in Massachusetts.

    http://uponchristianhill.blogspot.com/2006/04/have-you-tried-public-transportation.html

    “My husband works about an hour away, off an exit of a major highway in Eastern Massachusetts. Interesting we talk about distance in terms of time, not length of miles? It doesn’t matter if is ten miles, or a thousand what matters is the time it takes to get there.

    As the cost of gasoline goes up, my husband took time from his lunch hour to see if public transportation was available from Lowell to his place of employment. We live right near a bus stop, so he has access to Gallagher terminal. Well technically he could get from Lowell to a near by mall, which was across the highway from his office. It would take four transfers and about three hours one way to reach his destination!

    Eastern Massachusetts is sprawled out and built around its highways. If you haven’t traveled down the 93 and 128 corridors you can witness a transformation of commuter friendly condominiums being built for easy on/off access to from the highway. Unfortunately our public transportation systems do not match the traffic patterns that cross over one another through intersections and clover leafs, leaving us dependant on automobiles from some time to come.”

    —-

    Housing costs are still rising in Massachusetts, a home that cost 130k in 2000, was 190k in 2003, and is now valued at 250k in 2007. My taxes doubled in four years. I live on .1 acres and can walk to do my errands. I live in a city of over 100,000 people. Interesting the city, which was filled with jobs, promotes itself now as a commuter town. Now all the downtown office space are condos.

    My experiences are real, they are not pre-concieved. You can talk about choices, creativity, and what year it is, but in a constrained reality not all choices are there. I understand not all women can choose to stay at home, you on the understand can’t understand why I woman would devote her time totally to being a mother for a period of her life.

  55. N.

    Yes, but “staying home” doesn’t mean limiting oneself to domestic tasks only. There are choices within the choice to stay home. One SAHM’s life may look very, very different from another’s.

    And I know that it’s not all or nothing when it comes to birthing and feeding and educating kids. But that is more often than not the message one sees in a good number of Catholic SAHM blogs — that it is the “Catholic” thing to be a crunchy, hardcore mother earth type.

    It’s my point that you don’t have to be all of these things or even any of them in order to prove your womanhood or how “Catholic” you are.

    And, sorry, but I do see this as a misery loves company thing, or a sour grapes thing. The assumptions about the women who’ve made choices other than those I listed are just a bit too telling, IMO.

    All people who live in nicer suburban homes are not materialistic with poor priorities (a stereotype I see ALL the time — as if anyone could know all those people and their histories and how they came to live in those houses!). All families who save for college (ahem…) are not limiting their families in order to do so. Some of them just make more money than you do. Some of them may be better investors. Some of them may have made huge sacrifices in order to do so.

    And women who have interests outside of fluffing and folding and potting fruit are not selfish and putting themselves before their children, and very often they do stay home and look for something to do besides vacuuming and making homemade tomato sauce, and that doesn’t make them bad.

  56. N.

    Geez. I guess that 27+ year period of my life where I stayed home to take care of my kids just doesn’t count with Renee because…because…because…

    Well, why doesn’t it, Renee?

    And what do public transportation issues in Eastern Mass have to do with the price of tea in China…??

    My point is that your experiences may be real, but they are not everyone’s, so to jump from your personal experiences to making sweeping generalizations, rife with all sorts of ridiculous assumptions and truly ignorant stereotypes is just plain wrong.

    Staying home for you may not look like staying home for me. Commuting for you may not look like commuting for me. Housing situations for you may not look like housing situations for me.

    If your ambition is to stay home and immerse yourself in domesticity, fine! Just don’t assume that women who don’t share your ambition are something they’re not. Or that you can’t combine staying at home with developing another area of your life and still be a good mother.

    When the only way you can convince yourself that your choice is a good one is to see nothing but negativity in other people’s choices, then you’ve got a problem.

  57. Darwin

    You’re assuming that there are two choices, and only two: stay home and live like Little House on the Prairie, or dump your kid in daycare and climb the corporate ladder.

    Given that the thread started off with a post about how Jen had been on a conference call connected with some consulting work she was doing — I’m not sure I’m see a whole lot of evidence of people holding out for a “Little House on the Prairie” view. The only reason I mentioned dumping kids in daycare is because that’s what all my coworkers (who are indeed working towards some kind of middle management goal) do.

    Though since you bring it up, I find myself doubting that much of anyone (professional or otherwise) manages to do frontier level workloads these days…

  58. Renee

    n. This isn’t just about working or not working, but being ambitious. If you are truly ambitious, I just can’t see how you can be ambitious on a part-time flexible basis. When I worked, that was all I could think about.

    If I did work, I wouldn’t know when to say no and it would just consume my family life. For me to be happy, I have to completely seperate myself from my field. If my family needs extra cash, I would actually find something non-career related. I worked to win, not to keep busy. That’s me though.

  59. Literacy-chic

    Sorry, N., but you’re the only one exuding bitterness here. What’s not clear is what you’re bitter about–besides others’ opinions.

  60. La gallina

    I absolutely love being a HOUSEWIFE. Yup, I do. I thought, in my pre-baby days, that motherhood (especially of the stay-at-home variety) was for LOSERS.

    Well I’ve got a big “L” on my forehead. I love it. I love being home all day with my pack of four. I love that they are turning into awesome little people. I love that my husband comes home from work and kisses me on the back of the neck while I’m cooking. I love (almost) every minute of my day, and I’ve been doing this for 10 years now.

    My only regret in life is the time I spent as a feminist. I was way too “liberated” to learn girly things like cooking and sewing. (Now I struggle becaue cooking and sewing are, in fact, fun and creative. Who knew?!) Hmm I was so liberated I was ignorant. My feminist friends and I pretended we were interested in things like truck repair and football. But we were really just trying to prove that men and women are not different.

    Well, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that men and women are different. People have known this since the beginning of time. (These days we know so much more than people in the past, and yet we don’t.) We can complain. We can fight. It doesn’t matter. Men and women are different. THAT’S NOT A BAD THING. I don’t have the tiniest desire to be a man. (Although my husband does shave my head every month. I can’t bear having long hair!)

  61. Jessica

    To the question of when stay-at-home moms came to be: certainly before the Enlightenment. Wives and mothers used to stay at home, doing hard physical labor, from dawn to dusk. It took all of one persons hard work during daylight hours to keep a family fed, clothed and clean before the Industrial Revolution. So, SAHM’ing looks different now, but it’s existed (and for good reason!) for centuries.

    Also, just on the level of biology, I think a lot of you are overlooking breastfeeding. Yes, you don’t have to breastfeed. But you have to admit, biology sure gives women a mighty nudge in that direction, and that is one thing that could add to the “time off” that’s being discussed.

  62. Literacy-chic

    Jennifer–the question was not when stay-at-home moms came in to being–arguably at the beginning of time. I at least was talking about when stay-at-home motherhood was recognized as such, when it became a concept, and when it was promoted as the way things should be (in response to the fact that things weren’t that way among the upper classes).

  63. N.

    I’m not “bitter”. I’m responding to Renee, who is just…mind-bogglingly off…I mean, apparently, I’m not a “real” stay at home mom because I had aspirations outside scrubbing floors and doing laundry. She isn’t expressing an opinion. She’s completely discounting my life and completely missing the point right and left.

    “Ambitious” in itself is meaningless.

    Renee’s ambition is to be a stay at home mom to the exclusion of all else. She is fulfilling her ambitions.

    Mine was to be a stay at home mom and a serious runner and to write. I am fulfilling my ambitions.

    literacy-chick’s ambition is to be a stay at home mom while continuing her education and pursuing an academic profession. She is fulfilling her ambition.

    The only way it’s not possible to be ambitious and to fulfill one’s ambitions while staying at home is if your ambition is to pursue a full-time career outside the home with no interruptions from the day you get your first job. Then, no, it’s not possible to be ambitious and be a stay at home mom and be happy.

    Many women are capable of being stay at home moms and engaging in something other than purely domestic endeavors. Technology and attitudes have progressed to the point where this is increasingly easier to do. Yeah, you have to actually proactively work at it and invest a little effort and creativity into it, and you have to think outside the traditional norms and be flexible, but it’s possible.

    And it doesn’t make you a bad mother or any less “real” a stay at home mother than one who doesn’t want to do anything outside of domestic tasks.

  64. Renee

    I can be a power hungry control freak, being a stay-at-home mother has let me let go of that. The problem I experienced with technology is that you can never get away from work either. I was at the beach with my family for the day, and a motel with ocean views boasted that is had wi-fi. All the camp ground up in the mountains have it too. One of the benefits of a time when we didn’t have cell phones and email, is that you could leave work at the office.

    When I cook and clean for my family, I don’t see it a miserable list of chores, rather I see it as an act of love. Doing things out of social cause, ambition, or self-fulliment is acceptable, but to do somthing out of love is not. When my family sees I do things, because I love them, I find they are less likely to see me as a cook and maid.

  65. N.

    Yes, Renee, but what about the husband and children who, out of love for their wife/mother, allow her time to do things for herself? Why is that not seen equally as an act of love and self-sacrifice by a certain type of SAHM conservative Catholic woman? Why is that act of love not as “acceptable” as the classic self-sacrificing mother role?

    We’re individuals. God intended for it to be this way, and with good reason. If you find the best way that works for you is to immerse yourself in strictly domestic undertakings, either for a time or forever, that’s fine. I’m not denying you that choice at all, and I think it’s great — I personally do think it’s best for at least one parent to stay at home to raise children, although I know it’s a luxury for most people, even if it doesn’t feel particularly luxurious at the time.

    I just think it’s unfair to assume there’s greater holiness in that choice above others. I’ve seen women who’ve made that choice who are nothing but a misery to everyone around them because it isn’t the best choice for them. Had they admitted this from the get-go, and tailored their choice to suit themselves and their situation, they’d have been happier people and better wives and mothers.

    I don’t know when this happened (although I have my theories), but somehow over the past few decades Catholicism has turned into this weird, legalistic, form-over-content, uniformity-over-unity, shallow, superficial, self-centric religion. I look at these blogs written by conservative Catholics and they are seething with negativity — picking apart every little thing — music, architecture, body position during Mass, who went to Confession, who didn’t, who’s receiving Communion, who’s not, MY personal holiness, MY journey to sainthood, how many candles are on the altar, which way the altar is facing, who breastfed for how long, who had their baby on a shower curtain on their living room sofa, who stays home, who dares to have an interest outside of making beds and washing bathrooms, who doesn’t, who sat where during Mass and why, who lives in what size house or drives what size car, and on and on and on.

    It all adds up to a completely joyless, legalistic, comparison-game contest to see who can “look” the most “Catholic”.

    And then if a Catholic dares to suggest that perhaps we need a little more feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless, they’re sneered at and mocked for being liberal, warmfuzzybuddyJesus people. I’ve even seen blogging priests — priests — make snarky assumptions about women having abortions in their past because of some completely non-related thing they’ve done or said. It’s obscene! Obscene!

    I don’t know when Catholicism morphed into this vapid, ugly, empty thing where everyone’s constantly into everyone else’s business and sitting in judgement on them, and where perfectly innocent people are accused of terrible things merely because they are called to serve God differently than someone else. All I know is that it’s so dead and lacking in any love or charity or joy or humility or any of the Christian virtues.

    When did Catholicism turn into this appalling mess in which we’re all expected to march in lockstep with each other or be considered bad Catholics or bad parents?

    I’m done raising mine, and they turned out pretty darned great, thankyouverymuch. And you have no idea what I gave up or what sacrifices I or my husband or my children made for us all to be where we are today. Yeah, we live in a big house (and own a second). Yeah, we sent all our kids to very good private colleges without taking out loans. And this makes me bad how? This makes me selfish how? This makes me a lesser “Catholic” how?

    That’s the sense that anyone reading through the Catholic mommy-blogs, or the blogs of the older conservative Catholic women, gets — that there’s one way to do things or you’re bad, wrong, not holy, and a lousy parent.

    I had my kids in a hospital, I never breastfed a drop, and I sent them all to private school. I think housework sucks, and for several years now, I’ve had someone come in twice a week to do the really dirty stuff. I grocery shop via Peapod. A guy comes to do the lawn and rake out the leaves in the fall. I have always managed to do things that aren’t related to being a servant to my husband and children. I’m a damned good runner and a damned good writer, and I happen to think I did a damned good job with my kids, in spite of the odds, and in spite of the naysayers.

    If that makes me a bad person or a bad mother or a bad Catholic in some little ninny on teh interweb’s eyes, fine. Their opinion doesn’t matter one bit in the long run. Only God’s does.

  66. Sarahndipity

    I also think it depends on your definition of ambitious. By the world’s standards I am not very ambitious (that is, I have zero desire to climb the corporate ladder), but at the same time I definitely have things I want to accomplish during my life that have nothing to do with raising kids. For example, I want to become a successful poet. So in that sense I’m ambitious. And I would think it would actually be easier to find time to write if I didn’t have to work. But most people don’t understand these nuances in our business-minded world.

    I think a lot of it is also my personality, in that I hate hate hate the corporate world and having a boss and all that stuff. Like you, I have a bit of an entrepreneurial streak and would like to get in to freelance writing or freelance graphic design or something like that. “Ambitious” doesn’t have to mean having a desire for your stereotypical high-powered corporate job, which does not appeal to me at all. But the fact that it doesn’t appeal to me doesn’t mean my only ambition in life is to raise kids – far from it! (Not that there’s anything wrong with only wanting to raise kids, of course).

    I also completely agree that men do not have it easier. I am soooooooo thankful I’m a woman! Men are almost always the ones who have to provide for the family, and they often can’t work at their “dream job” because it would be too impractical or wouldn’t pay enough to support a family. Being able to stay home with your kids, work part time, or do more “fun” kinds of work is a great privilege, and almost exclusively the privilege of women. I don’t understand why so many people seem to think that men can “have it all.” First of all, no one can!

  67. Sarahndipity

    By the way, N., although I agree with you about the judgmentalism on a lot of Catholic blogs, and I certainly don’t think one has to homebirth and homeschool and breastfeed until age 12 to be a good Catholic, I’m not sure what you’re so bitter about. I read through all these comments and it didn’t sound like a single one of them was attacking your choices.

  68. Literacy-chic

    Apologies to Jen for responding to this, since it is waaaaay off-topic, but it is surely fallacious to judge Catholicism by a handful of bloggers! If I were less busy right now, I would likely address some of N.’s ideas on my own blog. While it’s bad to wallow in criticism and negativity, it’s unfortunately easy to do because of our critical nature. It’s also bad to fail to take things in the spirit in which they are intended, judging others’ expressions of their views so harshly and generalizing to Catholicism in general. Either way is letting judgmentalism get the better of us.

  69. Darwin

    I’m sure it’s bad policy to comment on a rant that is clearly the result of some kind of personal pain or other, but…

    I’m a damned good runner and a damned good writer,

    One can’t judge your running ability, but if you are indeed a damned good writer it may be that the feelings which reading whatever blogs you are reading (though either your reading comprehension is a little off, or you’re reading very different ones than I do) inspire in you are clouding your normally “damned good” abilities.

    Given that one hates to see talent ruined by emotion, and that you’re clearly not enjoying whatever blogs it is that you are reading, it might be advisable to stop, or else find a more congenial selection.

    Yes, you can certainly find blogs out there that are angry and judgemental. (Though I would point out that you’re not exactly sounding un-angry or un-judgemental yourself at the moment, so perhaps something is just rubbing those writers the wrong way, in the same way that the current conversation is apparently doing to you.) But there’s no cause to spend a bunch of time reading things you don’t like.

    Surely, if you are a damned good thinker as well as a damned good writer, you realize that within any group of a reasonable size there are a wide variety of people: argry and irenic, judgemental and understanding. That holds whether you’re talking about Catholics, Hindus, atheists, knitters or car afficianados.

  70. N.

    No, I’m sorry, but Renee’s comments have been more than a bit judgemental and accusatory.

    If you’re going to force people into the position of proving a negative, they’re going to get defensive.

    I’m not bitter. You may need to think this, but it’s not true.

    I’m not even all that angry. People like Renee, with their assumptions and their ignorance annoy me a great deal. It’s inexcusable to be that ignorant and to make the kinds of assumptions she does about other people, especially given the fact that she claims to be an attorney, albeit a non-practising, unlicensed one. A state of affairs for which, I would imagine, the Commonwealth is eternally grateful.

    I know all Catholics aren’t like that. Those of us who aren’t, however, are getting tired of having to “prove” whether or not we’re “Catholic enough” to those types, however, and it’s particularly frustrating when it comes down to having to defend the job you’re doing as a mother.

    You know, if you’re comfortable with your choice to be primarily domestically-inclined with few ambitions outside caring for a home and a family, you wouldn’t have to dress it all up as some big Christian or Catholic mandate. And when you go on the offensive like that, it’s just a bit too disingenuous to start claiming that I’m being defensive on the topic.

    Darwin, don’t you have male friends your own age? Why are you hanging out on a blog frequented mostly by women half your age and who are not your wife? Aren’t you at work? Doesn’t this time belong to your boss? If it’s unfair that women who have to take pregancy leave get paid as much as you, isn’t it just as unfair that you get paid as much as someone else who isn’t dickin’ around with a bunch of younger women on the internet while he’s at work?

  71. Rae

    “It all adds up to a completely joyless, legalistic, comparison-game contest to see who can ‘look’ the most ‘Catholic’.”

    I’ve felt this, too, at times (not while reading this thread, but at other moments); and I’ve worried about having to possibly “prove” myself to the veiled, long-skirted, stay-at-home mothers who populate my Latin-Mass parish! Luckily they really are good people, and have accepted me in spite of my knee skirts, my studies, and my childlessness….

    But–though I’ve been fortunate, and don’t feel the same degree of anger–I can relate to what this poster is saying; and I think that it’s a valid perspective that traditional Catholicism has to address in a personal, human way (as opposed to the formulaic responses of my German priest–who really does mean well, but sometimes sort of misses the point!). I’ve no answers, but… again, I can relate.

  72. Literacy-chic

    Okay, N., you are 46. I am 30. Jen is near my age. Darwin is younger than I am. Don’t attack out of ignorance. And don’t feel that you have to justify you Catholicism to people who are 1/3 of your age. No one is asking that you do so. Renee at this point is your scapegoat. Your responding to a (counter-?)cultural and “virtual” phenomenon that has very, very little to do with you, and doing so very unfairly. If I were so inclined, I could analyze your rhetoric to demonstrate why you are being classified as “angry,” “bitter,” etc., and to justify Darwin’s suggestion that you perhaps are not displaying the writing skills you claim since you are exercising so little control over your tone–something very basic to a skilled writer, as you are no doubt aware.

  73. Literacy-chic

    There is a “flavor” of Catholic culture represented here and on similar blogs. This blog has the additional characteristics of a convert blog, which is often very difficult for non-converts to understand, in my experience. Other blogs I have stumbled across that are self-described Catholic blogs have the disclaimer that they are written by no-longer-practicing Catholics, or Catholics who do not follow the teaching of the Church on one or another issues. We can expect different emphases from each, and different levels of orthodoxy in the posts! There is a lot of room for lifestyle choices within orthodox Catholicism. It is certainly an interesting phenomenon that this “flavor” of Catholicism–or Catholic motherhood–has somewhat unequal representation on the net, but bloggers are self-selecting. This particular “type” of Catholic, for lack of a better term, finds greater representation perhaps because they are more inclined to examine their own beliefs and motives in an in depth manner, engage with Church teachings as such to determine whether what they’re doing seems to fit with the Church they believe to be the One True Church, in the way that they see that Church through their intellects and consciences, and then publish them without restrictions on who reads their meditations and justifications.

    Clearly, I have noticed the “grumpiness” of other blogs (I could list the ones I no longer read, but that would be tacky). I have also noticed that a lot of those around me have different assumptions, different backgrounds, have made and support different lifestyle choices that I’ve made, come from different socio-economic backgrounds than I do (when suburban neighborhoods and such are mentioned, I step back a bit; materialism looks different when you have grown up below the poverty level and a dual grad student income was a step up for a family of 3!!) and disagree with a lot of what I say. But I think we have some similarities, too, which is why I keep reading, responding, etc. N. and I also see things similarly to a degree. I sometimes feel like the SAHM model is being promoted as the ONE TRUE MODEL for motherhood, but when I step back, I see that this is not the case. Jen’s being honest and engaging with her beliefs and doubts. If one does not want to be on the defensive or to seem that way, than one needs to start the conversation oneself on one’s own terms, or else be rational, and clear, create one’s ethos according to how one wants to be perceived, and to illustrate the logic of the perspective one holds. At least, that’s how I like to operate when I feel the conversation is worthwhile. Or perhaps you do not see the conversation as worthwhile?

  74. Literacy-chic

    people who are 1/3 of your age

    That is, of course, people who are 2/3 your age. Notice, I’m in English, not math… But my math is more accurate than yours in this case!

  75. N.

    Omigod…

    If you say so, literacy-chick, it must be true…/rolleyes.

    Analyze away. I’m sure it’ll make you feel terribly clever.

    Just remember, all this combox stuff is nothing more than a whole lotta performance art in the long run.

    I’ve raised mine. There ain’t a-going to be anymore (and before the holy-holies send me to hell for that comment, I am no longer in possession of an endometrium, so just cool your jets already…). The conversation is a moot point for me.

    Hell, do what you want. Most people do in the long run, no matter what they say, or write in blogs. Jen presents what Jen wants to present to her target audience for whatever reasons suit her at the moment. That’s what blogs are — they’re not sincere, true, deep forays into one’s soul or one’s emotions or one’s mind. Everything is carefully written and edited to play to a particular audience.

    The only time anyone is really honest is when no one’s looking. When it’s just them and God. That’s all that’s ever going to count, anyway.

  76. Literacy-chic

    When you don’t have an answer, mock! (rolls eyes)

    Writing to a specific audience does not necessarily preclude sincerity.

  77. N.

    Mmmm…whatever. I wouldn’t be the first one, not even on this thread alone.

    Answer to what…?

    That I’m pissy? Um, yes? I’m pissy. Okay? Happy?

    This is so pointless. You refuse to understand, to see things from my perspective, and then throw in that oh-so-tedious little bit of blather about analyzing my rhetoric, and I’m supposed to provide you with an answer? You didn’t even ask a question!

    Whatever. Raise your kids as you will, pot jam, tat doilies, do phone sex for extra $$$, sell your crap on eBay, go back to work, whatever…do what you want. I honestly don’t care. I’m willing to admit that men and women can pretty much design their lives as best suits them and their families’ needs. I’m not the one running around saying it’s all or nothing, stay home, wear an apron, make babies until your vagina is swinging between your knees. I don’t care what you do. I only care that people want to limit others just so they don’t feel as lonely in a choice that obviously isn’t satisfying to them.

    If you want to be a full-blast, ladiesagainstfeminism.com SAHM, good on ya! It’s a free country and a big, wide world. Plenty of room for all of us.

  78. Renee

    I’ve only been married for seven years, but this past year has been hard. Some unexpected bills came last fall, while I was 6 months pregnant. I couldn’t exactly apply for any job. So my husband took a second one, and was working easily 80+ hours a week. It was only for a few months in this arrangement. still there was some outside issues with our extended family that added to the stress.

    Sometimes in life, there is no “me” time or “his” time. All that matters is keeping the family together. I only can guess, despite your description of your lifestyle now, that you expereinced this type of sacrifice in your own marriage at some point.

    So if the siutation came up, where there was no time, money, or energy for ‘me’ could you be happy just being a housewife?

    Yes

    They call it a vocation for a reason.

  79. N.

    Could I be “happy” just being a housewife under those conditions? Well…I’d probably be mostly worried and exhausted with little time to contemplate my happiness level much before I collapsed into bed each night.

    We all of us, when push comes to shove, are committed to doing the right thing. I don’t think anyone is questioning that.

    In a stable situation, however, when we’re enjoying financial security and good health and things are going relatively normally, I would not be “happy” just tending to household tasks and childcare 24/7. I’d end up resentful and bored and depressed. So why not combine staying at home with actively engaging in an area that interests me? Kids nap. They get older. They go off to school.

    Plus, Renee, you’re being a bit unfair here — you went through college and law school while I was staying at home with my kids, remember? You had your time for self-discovery and immersion in an area of interest before you had a family. I didn’t finish my degree until I’d already had three kids.

    But that’s the thing — your life and my life are nothing alike, outside of the fact that we were/are both stay at home moms. You seem to think it’s wrong of me to have studied while my kids were napping, or gone to night or weekend classes, and later gone to classes while the kids were in school. Why would not educating myself and wandering around the house dusting have been a better choice for me? You make motherhood and family sound like the end of a woman’s life. Like it’s all over once she says “I do” and/or has that first baby.

  80. Renee

    I wasted away in college, with anarchists professors preaching self-fullfillment and immersion. I argued I had to go to law school, because I learned nothing in college. It worked. It wasn’t about fullfillment or self-discoery, it was about obtaining a skill.

    My husband and I met when we 19, if we could of married sooner we could of. I was married my first year of law school, and had a baby my third year of law school.

    My cousin, about your age, n, lost her husband at the age of 44 this week. She loved and recieved love from him, amd will continue with her three school aged children. The joy he brought into her life, and our entire family will be remembered forever lasting. I would take that over personal fullfillment or choice.

    The fact we have nothing in common, I take as a compliment.

    Unfair? Review your posts.

  81. N.

    Renee, get off it.

    Just because a woman might be interested in something outside of the home does not mean she loves her family less than you do yours, or is less loved.

    How dare you imply that I don’t love my children or love my husband, or that they don’t love me, or that I wouldn’t mourn my husband should he pass away? How dare you?

    And literacy-chick says I’m using you as a scapegoat? Please.

    You are now asserting that women who choose to pursue any interests other than being a full-time stay at home mom with nary a thought in their head other than cleaning, cooking and raising children will not be loved or remembered by their families. Again, how dare you? How dare you? To judge another family’s relationship like that! And you call yourself a Christian!

    I agree that your university and law school experiences were a complete waste of time in your case. You didn’t even learn proper English grammar, much less how to construct a reasonable argument for your position.

    BTW, you claim you’re TOTALLY into your family, yet you have THREE blogs. My God, the hypocrisy…the absolute, sheer hypocrisy of you…

    Now run off and go iron something, or clean a toilet. You’re slacking dearie…I don’t think posting here counts as total devotion to home and hearth…

  82. Renee

    n. You can get my e-mail, via my profile. Leave Jen alone, if you want to tell me what I’m doing so wrong I’m yours.

    Sorry about the post just above been a real bad week for me.

  83. Renee

    What do you want n.?

  84. Renee

    Yeah, my grammar stinks too.

    Pot meet kettle,maybe we can make time to go to confession.

  85. N.

    No, I’m not going to engage in an email conversation in which I have to prove to you that I am worthy of love from my husband of over a quarter of a century, sweetie. Or that I did a good job raising my kids, and that they turned out really well and, ~gasp~, they don’t hate me because I’m not an empty-headed ninny who can’t string three words together into a coherent sentence. Or that I’m Catholic enough, or loved by God, or not going straight to hell for not being you (whom I highly doubt ever went to any kind of college or law school — and isn’t it odd that a woman who prizes her full devotion to her family lists her big fake law degree before her status as a wife and mother on her bio on her blog…??).

    And I’ve got a big ‘ol news flash for you, honey — you start spouting off like you just did and God will take you down real fast. You keep telling me what a crapass mother I am and what a lousy Catholic and how my family won’t miss me when I’m gone, and he’s going to teach you a lesson you’ll never forget.

    Just don’t expect me to shed a tear when you HAVE to use that big pretend law degree of yours to support your kids because your husband ran off with a more interesting woman.

    ‘Bye.

  86. Renee

    Reviewing my first post…

    “Whether it is work or family planning, what ever happens, happens.”

    How is this judgemental or accusatory?

  87. Darwin

    Jen,

    Everyone has their own standards, but there does come a point where to keep a certain level of discourse in the comments it becomes necessary to delete all the comments of a specific commenter for a while…

  88. Literacy-chic

    Or close off comments because they’re so far off topic and so much about personal problems and rants that it’s ridiculous. Sharing is O.K., but geez, let’s have some theory to go along with it! 😛

  89. Kate

    Regarding Darwin – we love Darwin. It’s great to see a guy who isn’t immediately bored by topics surrounding women’s roles. I would thing any egalitarian woman would be thrilled to see a man participate in this sort of discussion. He is always thoughtful, and I would be thrilled and honored to see him at my blog.

    More to the point – N, I wish you had adopted a different tone in this discussion, because I think you have a valuable perspective. But your willingness to write the rest of us off and your eagerness to take offensive make you impossible to dialogue with.

    But please do feel free to come back and try again another time, when you are feeling calmer. I know it is possible you will take offense at the suggestion, but I assure you I am being sincere. I’ve had those days where I went on a rampage online because something resonated with a personal bugbear of mine, and I am almost always embarrassed the next day. There’s usually a few different options then. 1) avoid the situation (and website) entirely until the incident fades in everyone’s memory. 2) Go on the offensive defensive, in attempt to prove to myself and other that I said nothing wrong, or 3) humble myself to apologise for my poor manners, and attempt to clarify between what I needed to say, and the poor way in which I said it. Too often I pick the first two, but occasionally I have the courage and strength for the third.

    Praying for you.

    Kate

  90. N.

    Where did I write anyone off? That’s the thing, Kate. I was SUPPORTING staying at home and SUPPORTING the variety of choices women who do can make.

    Then Renee-the-terminally-retarded jumped in with her bullshit and twisted it all around, completely discounted the fact that I HAD stayed home with my kids, and then implied that because I had interests outside 24/7 servility to my (grown) family, they didn’t really love me and wouldn’t miss me when I was dead.

    But I’m the bad guy.

    Whatever.

    Really. Tell God all about it. Like I said, his is the only opinion that counts. I’m sure he’ll be real thrilled with the usual gang-bang going on here.

    But at least some of you got some excitement for five minutes, which is the only reason you all keep coming back to goad me some more.

    SO Christian of you, really.

    What a pile of horseshit Catholicism has turned out to be, thanks to the likes of you.

  91. Literacy-chic

    This post has been removed by the author as not even remotely worth it. I think we’re playing a “who will have the last word.” As long as the sentence that ended the last comment is not the last word, I am satisfied.

  92. Jennifer F.

    Darwin – thanks for the tip. I only have a sec right now and don’t have time to catch up on the conversation and see what should be deleted, so I’ll just close comments. 🙂

  93. joenel

    you know it was exiting to read your to ambitious diary!!

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