Reflections on life, marriage, and a young woman who is constantly learning how much there will always be to learn!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Serenity and Being Frazzled are Not Compatible!

Homeliving Helper recently published an article, Frazzled By the Age of Fifty, about the stress that results when women try to do it all (and naturally, fail!).

In one interview I had with a new homemaker, she gave her reason for wanting to quit her job and be a full time homemaker: she said that over the years she had observed that women who stayed at home and managed the house had a serenity and a more gentle countenance and a contentment that the women and work lacked.

I have found this to be true in my own experience! When I was gone from my home 60 hours a week, I lived in a constant state of exaustion, both mental and physical. I also felt hopeless about my role and contributions to our family life. The house was often messy and we ate take-out probably half of the time. I felt like a complete failure at home, and I hated and resented my job. My husband, for his part, was disappointed that we had to spend weekends cleaning and grocery shopping rather than relaxing and spending time together.

This perspective may sound whiny to some. After all, many woman "have" to work outside the home and do it without complaining. Their families survive, right?

Each family has a different situation and different experiences. But I have observed many families and seen the struggles and problems that result from stressed and over-burdened, over-busy wives and mothers. More than one of my former female co-workers has dealt with teenage children in "special" schools and juvenile delinquent centers over the phone from their paper-cluttered desks. More than one woman has sat with me in the work lunchroom, relaying that her teenage daughter is pregnant, or that the daughter cuts herself, or that her son's school called to say he didn't show up again. "I don't know how this could have happened!" I've had women tell me about affairs, or that they just don't "connect" with their husbands anymore. (Could it be that they don't ever SEE their husbands, or have time to work on their relationships?)

On a less drastic scale, I've had many conversations with friends in which we commiserated about the state of our home-keeping and our lack of energy to do anything about it because we were so drained from our outside employment. One of my grandmothers was a nurse for many years. She was always stressed and frazzled. An amazing transformation occured when she finally retired! She now relishes her time spent at home, cooking and caring for my Grandpa. She's softened so much that she doesn't even seem like the same person.

If you work to earn money, whether outside or inside of your house, you will serve your family with a divided heart. One or the other will not be done well. You cannot serve two masters successfully. Usually, the one that "pays" will get the most attention. Money talks, but it is often hollow talk. The money you make while neglecting your family, your house, and your life, will often make itself wings and fly away. You probably won't be able to point to very many things that you have, that you got from earning money. Mostly, it pays for things you cannot put your hands on.

Amazing how this works...but true! When a woman starts paying other people to take care of her home and family, in many her cases her profits seem to just dissipate. At my last job, I remember my chagrin when I discovered that my REAL wage (after taxes, gas, other car and insurance costs, extra food costs, other conveniances, etc. and including "extra" non-paid driving time) was about $3.oo an hour. Great! Did I really want to spend 60 miserable hours a week to come out a measly $180 ahead? Not a good trade-off, if you ask me:o) Since being at home, I've been able to find more ways to be frugal (money saved by not being spent is not taxable, by the way!), and Micah's income has increased so that we are not really worse off than we were before.

Even a well-paid professional woman may find that all her money isn't worth what she's given up: Time, home, and especially relationships.

We women sometimes worry that if we don't go get a J-O-B, our finances will plummet. Mrs. Sherman has interesting point about this: Is it possible that we are actually doing our husbands a favor by standing back and letting them stretch their Provider Muscles?

If you have an able-bodied husband whose back is not broken, then do let him be the provider. It builds him as a man and draws out the qualities he needs to be the masculine protector and provider.

I've always said that if a married woman will work, the man will let her, and he will not feel the pressure he needs to feel in order to recognize his responsibility to earn a living for his family. It may entail letting a bill go unpaid, and letting the phone go dead before he will open his eyes, but if you continue to stand in the gap and earn money for something like this, you will never be relieved of the responsibility.

Let me tell you what's happened since I've come home. Not only has Micah's pay increased simultaneously (not really under our control, but a blessing from God!), but he's become a lot more motivated in his desire to develop some cottage industries for us. Since that's Mr. Business Major's forte and I'd rather sit and write:o), I've stood back and let him research and plan some things that we can do together to earn extra income to get out of debt. He's really excited to be in the process of getting some things going, and our plan is for me to take over some of the day-to-day operations of our part-time business once it's working, as a help to him. As long as my other responsibilities aren't being neglected, I can help him in this way, and then we can work together on evenings and weekends or during lulls in his day-work as need be. During almost three years of marriage, I've never seen him as excited and motivated to work on this as he is now. And before I came home, I would not have been in a position to be a partner and a helper for him in this regard.

One final thought from Mrs. Sherman:

There are plenty of people that can do all that extra work, but there isn't anyone else that can be the wife, mother and keeper of your home. No one else will do. You are it.


Blogger Samantha said...

I read homeliving helper's post yesterday, and it's so true! These days money-saved is often better than money-earned. I especially appreciated the part about serving your family with a divided heart. I remember feeling like I was in bondage to my job. Going home after work and bringing all the baggage home with me.

It's difficult for me to understand how our society has been so blind to this. Divorce rates, unfaithfulness, teen pregnancy, homosexuality, etc. are increasing at alarming rates. It's time to stop and think about why this is happening. If we think about what has changed within the last 30 years or so, it's very evident that the breakdown of the family institution plays a key role.

It's so refreshing to hear other young women share their perspectives on this subject. Thank you Erin, you are such an encouragement!

2:18 PM, May 09, 2006  
Blogger Samantha said...

Oh my word! That was a really long comment:) My apologies!

2:20 PM, May 09, 2006  
Blogger Kimi Harris said...

Thanks, Erin, for sharing your story. I had read Mrs. Sherman's article and found it helpful. I also wanted to let you know that I added you to my blog links because I enjoy coming to your site! Thanks for the posts.

7:38 PM, May 09, 2006  
Blogger Mary Ann said...

Enjoyed the post, Erin. While working, I felt the same way you did. I know a lot of women who balance work, marriage and family and seem to like it, but I just couldn't do it. My weekends are much more relaxing now too and husband likes having me home when he gets here. :-)

7:44 PM, May 09, 2006  
Blogger Becky Miller said...

Thanks for the practical encouragement for women like me who are working toward being at home full time! It's a scary decision, but we're determined to do it. I think it will make our lives much more peaceful, and that's more important than money.

9:06 AM, May 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can completely identify with you! For the first year of our marriage, I was working full-time and was so exhausted at the end of the day that my husband only got "leftovers" of me (after dealing with a classroom of children all day, there wasn't much left!). I spent my days filled with guilt b/c I felt I was either being a bad employee or a bad wife. I was not giving 100% at either of my jobs. Finally, believing that God called me to be a wife and keeper at home before an "employee", my husband and I stepped out on faith and he allowed me to quit. Since then, we have moved, God provided my husband with a higher-paying job and, even though we still have a very tight budget, we are making it. God is faithful!! I still struggle with being a homemaker, and doing it to the glory of God, but I know this is where He wants me.

11:06 AM, May 10, 2006  
Blogger Heather said...

I have read your blog for awhile now and can relate to this post. I am a FT working mom of 2 kids. I work right now because of my husband being is a HUGE necessity with 2 kids. We do not live out of our means at all. I am frugal whenever I can be.
It is my complete desire to be at home with my kids during the day. I do what I can all day long to not think about not being able to be with them during the day.

I see so many of mothers at home working out of there home. Every time I think I have found a job that I am able to do out side of my home is always a dead end. Do you have any suggestions?

Thanks for all of your transparent posts. They are always great to read!

2:59 PM, May 11, 2006  
Anonymous The Happy Feminist said...

I completely agree that women shouldn’t have to “do it all.” Of course, this leaves me wondering where the husbands and fathers are in this picture. Why aren’t they pulling their weight? Why is it considered the woman’s responsibility to keep the house clean? Why aren’t men feeling guilty that their work doesn’t leave them enough time to prepare home-cooked meals and such?

I think exhaustion and stress are inherent parts of the professional world whether you are a man or a woman. Giving oneself to one’s vocation requires self-sacrifice. I grew up seeing my father sacrifice himself and I have followed his example. I happily live with both exhaustion and stress because I believe in self-sacrifice for a worthy goal, the goal being what I accomplish for my clients, my employer, and my community in my role as an attorney. If my calling were to be a homemaker, I would have to make sacrifices also but the sacrifices would be different. I do not believe that one vocation or sacrifice is superior to another, nor do I believe that these choices should be dictated by one’s sex.

4:19 PM, May 12, 2006  
Anonymous Ansley said...

Thank you, Erin...well spoken. I couldn't aggree more and eagerly await the day that I too, can devote all of my time, energy and heart to my REAL job...nuturing my family.

12:08 AM, May 15, 2006  
Blogger Ashleigh said...

Erin, thanks for this post. It's very thought-provoking. I worked part-time outside the home until we had our first daughter and now I'm a stay-at-home mom.

I love being at home with my girls because I'm not missing the day to day growing and changing. However, I do freelance work from home, which I think is an okay balance as long as it is always a priority under taking care of my family.

I try to do my work when my girls are napping or in bed at night (if my husband also has some work to be done). I've told myself that if the freelance work I do starts to detract from time with my husband and girls, or it makes me stressed out when I'm with them, then it has to go. But so far it's been kept in check (and I've been doing it for about two years).

2:01 PM, May 17, 2006  
Blogger Erin said...

Thanks for all of your thoughts! I read and appreciated ALL of them! It's very neat for me to read what other women have to say about this topic, because I often find so much encouragement for my own journey.

HF- when I worked outside the home, my husband DID help me out a lot. But it's true that he wasn't as attuned as I was to the things that were being neglected! I don't blame him for this. It's a difference in personalities and focus. I WANT to focus on my home. He WANTS to be in business and make money to get us out of debt.

The point at which you and I disagree, is that I think the fact that I'm a woman contributes to my desire to be home-focused and my husband being a man makes him who he is. I believe we were created to be different in these ways. I also know that some women don't seem to feel this way or choose not to live this way, and you certainly have the right to make your own choices! But I want to encourage women who DO have a heart for home to pursue it. It's worth some measure of material sacrifice! And I believe that women of all temperments can find ways to serve in and from the home that will match their particular skills and interests.

Ashleigh- I just wanted to mention that I definitely agree...paid work from home, as long as it's kept in balance, is a fine way for some women to help their husbands and families! That's my situation too. Any money I can bring in right now will bless my husband, since it is our desire to become debt-free. I'm thankful that he supports me in taking the harder road...finding ways to combine my desire to be at home with helping out financially.

5:11 PM, May 18, 2006  

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