I was listening to some of my coworkers talk today. The wife of one had undergone surgery and he was filling in for her household duties, including grocery shopping, driving the kids to soccer practice, making dinner, etc. He commented on how hard it was, and then turned to me and said, "When you get to the point where your wife is a stay at home mother, don't ever tell her what she does isn't hard work!"
Let me say a few things as background. A) I'm going to get fired for this. Really this time. B) All of my coworkers, and this is not an exaggeration of any sort, are White men between the ages of 48 and 53. C) Of the ones who have children, the wife of every single one is a stay at home mother. In fairness, they have all also relocated with work multiple times, which makes it difficult for a spouse to have a career. D) Every single one of them is Republican, Christian, and yearns for a return to 1950.
Of course the assumption for them is that when we have kids, my wife will quit her job and stay home to take care of them. Now, I won't say this won't happen. Our baby-making days are still decently in the future, so anything is possible. But considering that she already makes more than I do and she's been working a third of the time I have, it's not something you'd want to bet the farm on. (If you have a farm. Lucky you with all the subsidies you get.) Stay at Home Moms are the Right-wing ideal, along with 23-year old virgin daughters and Bible study in public school. I'm not disparaging what they do. It's a tough life, eschewing adult contact, spending your hours chasing after toddlers or spending 10 hours a day driving kids to school, from school, to swimming, to soccer, to ballet, to the mall. It's not a job, though, unless you're a nanny or a au pair. It's a lifestyle.
I don't really understand why people think SAHM must be a job. If you firmly believe that you're doing the best thing for your family and your children, why would you be ashamed for not having a job? Why is having a "job" more important than your core values? Of course, if you're only staying at home because of financial necessity or because you don't know what else to do, then I guess it makes you feel a little better saying you're "working". I'm reminded of the insurance commercial that shows people getting ready for work that says, "Why do we work? Why do we get up and go to work every day?" For me, it's so I have enough money that one day I don't have to work. I wouldn't be ashamed to retire are 45 or 35. I don't exactly volunteer here at the job. I do it for the money. When I have kids, it will be for the love. Not the money. So taking care of my kids won't be a "job", even if it's the hardest thing I ever do.
I also don't understand why the assumption is that it will be my wife that stays at home. Is that because she has a vagina? I have to go fight traffic and wear a tie and talk to strangers all day because I have a penis? The Truth is, we both want to be stay at home parents. Why have kids if you can't enjoy them? My coworkers don't understand. They don't even really know their kids. They spent their kids' childhoods working 10-12 hour days or more. Their kids were their wives' "jobs", not theirs. Someday, my company is going to ask me to relocate, and we're going to have to decide where our priorities are. I think it's telling that my company is already having extreme difficulty finding people willing to relocate. 2-income households aren't exactly rare these days.
The conventional wisdom is that it takes a lifetime of work to be able to retire comfortably. "Idle Hands are the Devil's Tools" - a phrase that I feel sums up the Protestant work ethic. But when I visited Costa Rica and St. Thomas, poor people were living lives that the wealthy American tourists envied. How many people work 40 years so they can have a little house on the beach? One of my managers is preparing for retirement now. A multi-millionaire many times over, he bought a ranch in Texas and a double-wide trailer and will live there, 90 miles from the nearest town, shooting deer and squirrels. Now really, how many years did he have to work to achieve that? Was it worth not being home with his children when they were growing up?
We work so much more now than we ever have before. If raising children is important (and it is), why do we still assume this is the sole province of women? Why in a workplace where people wouldn't dream of asking you about your sex life or how you pray, it's taken for granted that the woman will give up her career for her children while the man will give up his children for his career?