Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Not Anglican Fudge With Added Nuts!

So there I was about to post a recipe for fudge (I call it Anglican Fudge With Added Nuts...named after the great and wonderful Anglican Communion...) when I looked through my new comments and found one from my chum, Linnet. Such a forthright question deserves an honest (and unfortunately long) answer. So here's the question.

Just out of interest, will you be returning to outside work when your children are both in full-time school or are you going to stay a full-time homemaker?

A woman's place is in the home; and out of it whenever she is called to guard those she loves and improve conditions for them.
Nellie McClung

Linnet, the short answer to your question is that I shall not be looking for paid work outside the home...in the following long answer I shall give my reasons.

So it's half term and it's raining. My kids have had a busy weekend, despite of the rain and today we are just chilling with our books and toys and kid's telly. We'll pop to the shops later on and make some fudge and the little one is determined to paint a picture of the rabbit she played with at Lichfield Cathedral yesterday (yes, the Cathedral had their own pet rabbit, he's called Erasmus and he's very fat!) If I were in paid work I would be rushing the kids to a child minder right now, feeling guilty about leaving them at half term, I would be stressed because I'd be late for work and I would feel really resentful towards the DH for not being involved in taking them to daycare...oh, and I would also feel insanely jealous of their child minder because deep down, I really want to be spending the day with my children. "But, Dulce Domum," I hear you ask, "I know that in your previous profession you were a Secondary English teacher, you'd have the half terms off, to take care of your kids! " Ah, well, you're right...but (and I speak from experience) right now, I'd be feeling that special kind of "double guilt" only a mother in full-time paid work feels. I've been out and about all weekend with the DH and the girls and we've had a great time, however if I were in paid work I'd be worrying about all of that marking I've got to catch up on, not just KS3 books, but year 10 and 12 coursework. Oh, and the two schemes of work I need to write because I'm so behind...the previous term I'd been concentrating so hard in cramming year 11 and 13 for their exams I really need this half term to catch up....So I'd be feeling guilty about not being able to keep up with my paid work and also feeling guilty that I'm not spending those precious half terms being with the people I love the most. I gave up teaching to shake off the dreaded "double guilt".

Now, not every working mother experiences the "double guilt" phenomenon and not every Secondary School teacher is as behind in their work as I was. I'm just being honest about my own experiences of being a mother in full-time work. So far, it's been all about me!lol! However, I just want to say that I enjoyed teaching very much, I was quite a good teacher and I believe that it is still a wonderfully creative and entertaining profession. I also think that the fact that I've chosen full-time motherhood over teaching makes my choice all the more powerful. I loved my job, but I love homemaking more. I feel uncomfortable with many of the ultra-conservative ideas which are floating around the internet about "stay at home daughters". If a girl chooses to stay at home then fine, but a girl who has experienced paid work can make an informed choice about her future life...marriage, maternity, homemaking decisions are made safe within the knowledge she is free to make her own choice and only women choosing homemaking through informed choice will elevate it socially and politically as a fine and proper vocation for womankind.

So, this brings me onto "informed choice". First, let me say that I feel fortunate to be able to make a choice. Although, financially it has been very difficult, especially in the early years, we have coped very well without my income but not all families are fortunate enough to have a sole breadwinner, indeed English speaking capitalist economies are now based on two income families...consumerist economies need consumers. It's tough for the average person to take a step back from the consumerist rat race when we have little or no job security and a high cost of living. However, when it comes to caring for our children we must take into account research which shows us that home-based child care far outshines outsourced childcare in terms of child development and good child mental health. Penelope Leach, Stephen Biddulph and Oliver James have called for a stronger emphasis on home-based child care at least for the early years, indeed James states that a full-time parent at home, up until the child is at least six years old, will be extremely beneficial to a child's development. Again, we English speaking nations need to face up to the fact that the UN report on child mental health was largely damning about the state of childhood in our countries. The UK and USA coming joint bottom of the league of child well being and Australia fairing little better. It seems to me that a commitment to child-rearing is what is needed to stem the tide of ill-being our older children are feeling in this country. Motherhood has become political and anti-consumerist, stay at home mothers, who make the choice between the financial benefits of paid work, and full-time care for their children are making a choice not to participate in a system which is detrimental to the well-being of their children.

My children are now 10 years old and 4 years old, so in fact they have passed those crucial early years when all of the respected experts say that children need to be at home with a full-time parent (or perhaps two parents who both work part-time). And, very soon my baby will be donning a green gingham dress and going to school with her big sister! So, in theory I can go back to work. To be honest, I would consider part-time work if I were bored at home and felt unfulfilled, but I don't! lol! If you're inclined towards general arty-fartyness home is a great place to be! I do feel lonely sometimes, and long for interesting conversation, but that's where the internet comes into its own. Also, I have little burning personal ambition, in fact my only real passion is my home-life. I am a domesticated animal, and importantly I have embraced my domestic nature knowing that I have the choice to go back to well-paid work if times get tough, that my choice to be a homemaker is not a lesser one but an equal one, a good one and a sound one. Moreover, I stay at home because I know that my children and husband still need me there, our family works better as a fully functioning unit because I am at the helm, there are no arguments between the DH and I about who will take time off when one of the kids gets sick, no arguments about who will cook tea, who forgot to pay the gas bill, I'm not too tired out with teaching other people's children to help my own with their homework. In fact, if I were to do one of those "Works for Me Wednesday" posts it would be about staying at home!lol!

But here's the crux of the argument. It works for me. I have good friends, some of them from my church, who are full-time working mothers. They love their jobs, they love their families. They have the knack of finding a balance and are well-supported by extended family and husbands whose work is not stressful. I love these women for the work they do in my community and I love them as friends...hospice nurse and mother of three, deputy head teacher and mother of one, police officer and mother of two...they manage far better than I ever did when I called myself teacher and mother. Perhaps their family set up is more supportive than mine (my parents live in Spain, my sister works and my elderly father in law lives in the south), perhaps their husbands work shifts which tie-in with their own shift work, perhaps their husbands are self-employed or fellow teachers...perhaps their work keeps their family afloat financially. Either way their family set-up allows paid employment, mine I believe does not. I am sure they have made their own informed choices, they are intelligent and caring women and until I have walked a day in their shoes, I cannot and will not declare that their choice is of lesser value than mine, as some passionate mothers/homemakers often declare over the anonymity of the internet. However, I am happy to defend my choice and be as proud of my vocation as they are of theirs...I despise the "mummy wars".

So, talking of friends from church. Do I believe that it is a biblical command for women to be homemakers? In a way a discussion of Titus 2 is a moot point. I am Anglican (and not an Evangelical Anglican) and although I believe that the Bible is the word of God and the absolute cornerstone of my faith (scripture, tradition and reason...Hooker's three legged stool) I do not believe all of it literally. I believe that there are metaphorical verses, verses which are parables, verses which describe the time in which they were written, verses which are prescriptive. In short, much of it is mystical. We are to use our God given intelligence and God given conscience to interpret the scriptures as truthfully and lovingly as we can. I get confused by deep theological arguments I read on other people's blogs, we seem to get so bogged down in our differences that ill-feeling abounds. However, I do know this, regardless of whether I see Titus 2 as descriptive or prescriptive, or whether the verse means staying at home with no outside work to do or not, Christian women have a responsibility to exercise moral courage, active humility, hard work, good stewardship, faithfulness, a strong attachment to their home-life and above all active and absolute love. If I am to be the best kind of Christian woman I can be, I need to be at home to do it, so I can have the time to exercise "faith, hope and charity"...for other women their calls are different, and I like that difference as it reflects our Creator's love of variety.

Finally, where's the rush? When I am but 45 years old, my eldest girl will be 20 and my youngest 15; a grown woman, and a nearly grown woman; when in society's terms I will still be a young woman myself. I will have twenty years of working life ahead of me. Who knows what the Creator has in store for my life? But, I do look forward to that future life and thank Him for it, because I know that I am blessed and all good things come from Him.

I do hope that I haven't shocked or upset any of my readers through this post. Despite theological, political and personal differences I love all you homemakers and Christian woman and women, full stop! The choices we have to make in life are so hard and our work is so very important that it seems silly and upsetting to squabble over smaller differences.


Jenny said...

I love this post and I am so glad that we met. I treasure our friendship and the marvellous way you express yourself.
Thank you

Dulce Domum said...

Oh Jenny, your words have really moved me. I too value our friendship and you've always encouraged and inspired me. The internet ain't all that bad, eh, chuckie egg!

Anonymous said...

The choices we have to make in life are so hard and our work is so very important that it seems silly and upsetting to squabble over smaller differences.

Totally agree chuck.

You stated your case beautifully. I think the question a woman has to ask herself how does she contribute to the home and the family. You so obviously contribute in spades I love to read your daily exploits.

You mentioned the argument that goes on in Christian circles about women being at home as a biblical command. My own personal view of Titus 2 is that it was advising women in their current situation. Proverbs 31 woman (oh that most marvellous of women! ;)) worked outside the home without it affecting the home negatively but affected it most positively. I don't think Pr 31 is about the home (as in the simple environment of the home) at all, but about the work of a loving Christian woman - caring for hubby, family, sevants, the poor and needy by using both her home base and her outside work. It has nothing to do with having a 'nice house' or even a 'refuge' but a productive blessing an honour to God (which I believe you are dearie).

I reckon if a woman has to work outside the home for the sake of the home - and I mean 'home' in the sense of family not the physical 'home' - then she is as much a Pr 31 woman as the one who is able to be productive from the home.

Like you I am proud to have been home for my girls during these early years. While my girls are at school (Squidge starts full-time in September too) I'd like to work for the church (as in 'church' as community/Body of people - not necessarily as an 'institution'...if that makes sense).

I too have no desire for a 'career'...unless some vocational desire suddenly drops from the sky!

But who knows what God has planned? If I have to work outside the home at any point it will be school hours, term-time only for me. I really wouldn't like to rely on child minders unless it was desperate measures.

Great post dearie, thanks for answering my question...I suppose it was rather direct :)


Dulce Domum said...

Hi Linnet
I completely agree with everything you say! Oh, I also think a good way to revive our church life in this country is to get a lot of mums of school age kids involved with church life and community.

Mrs Pea said...

It is such a blessing to be home. There are so many of the small things, as you say, that added together become greater benefits - someone always being home for parcels and deliveries and workmen, being able to get appointments for the off-peak times of day, all those silly little things.

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Mrs Pea
I think the small things are of real importance when outside work is often so stressful. If our husbands are in stressful work and we are in stressful work it is difficult to maintain a happy equilibrium at home (in my opinion!)

Gumbo Lily said...

Dulce Domum,
I love your brain. And I am in agreement that God created us all differently. What works for me, may not be what God is calling you to do.

I am always greatly encouraged by you and your blog. Keep it up.


Dulce Domum said...

Hi Jody
Those a sweet words and I thank you for them.

tanyaa said...
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