Just read a story whose headline suggested millennials may be more amenable to the now old-fashioned concept of women staying home and taking care of the children. There were a lot of survey statistics and those always confuse me because sometimes they don’t seem to paint a clear picture in my mind, but that is not really important to what I want to say.
I think the story was basically trying to say that maybe some of the younger generation (younger than I) are seeing the problems of raising a family with two people occupied with work outside the home and that in some cases young men have grown up to see their fathers struggle with the fact that men have lost their dominance in the work place and often their role as main bread winner.
And I think there was a statistic that said couples without kids on the whole enjoy life better than ones with kids, that is if they both work.
In a little more than a hundred years we have gone from the extreme of women almost being forced by custom and law to stay home and rear the kids and in many cases having no right to own property to near equal footing in the workplace (except still maybe not in pay — and that is a hard one to figure), or maybe in many cases women are surpassing men in the workplace. It often seems easier for women to get a job than unemployed men.
I don’t personally make surveys, and like I said, stories that throw a bunch of statistics at me, especially ones that in some cases seem to contradict each other, muddle my mind. But I do know what I have seen in my life (1949 to present).
In my lifetime my own mother mostly stayed at home. However, she was older than most mothers by the time she had me. She had worked out of the house from time to time when she was younger, even after she had her first child. But that was seasonal work, such as working in a fruit cannery.
(And actually, when I was in high school mom returned to seasonal work. She worked in a peach cannery and then a prune processing plant.)
But in my childhood it was more like the old sit-com Leave it to Beaver.
Mom prepared three meals a day, mostly from scratch — a lot of baking and frying and boiling on the stove. She nursed us when we were sick. She read stories to me, made Kool-Aid and cookies for me and my friends, was a Cub Scout den mother — oh yeah, she fed and cared for the family dog, supervising its periodic bath in the backyard. Mom did all the grocery shopping. And sometimes the family car was not available. As a toddler I recall riding my trike next to her while she carried two bags of groceries under her arms several blocks.
Did mom like the arrangement?
Maybe yes, maybe no, maybe not all the time.
I know she wanted to be able to work outside the house, partly for variety but mainly to add more income to the family budget. She envied women who had jobs — she envied two-income families.
As far as I can recall (and I would have never known for sure), most of the mothers of my classmates did not work outside the home — this was in the 1950s.
Of course the biggest difference between then and now is that almost all of my classmates had a mother and father at home. By the time my own daughters went through school they were an oddity in that they had both mother and father at home.
We live in a far different world now than when I grew up. For most households it seems people have found having both mom and dad work is a necessity in order to provide a roof over the head and food on the table. Now that might not be true for high-paid professionals but then they want to keep up with their peers in lifestyle.
Of course what I said about having both mom and dad work obviously does not apply if it is a single-parent household and there are so many now. And there are so many single mothers, the result I would say of a breakdown in society.
I don’t think we want to or even can go back to a time when most women stayed at home to rear the kids, society has moved on, but certainly there are advantages.
It of course does not have to be mom who stays at home. There are cases when dad stays at home. But whoever it is, if that person can cook, and especially if that person can go beyond opening cans or microwaving frozen dinners, oh what a savings in money and if balanced meals — including fresh fruits and vegetables — are served, oh what a possible boon to health. But even if the stay-at-home person primarily warms up prepared meals that would still be a major savings over fast food or restaurants or delis.
And of course having one spouse able to stay at home and do all the other chores on the home front, cleaning and watching the kids and so on, is both a savings and a relief from the stress of the work world and would seem to promote a happier household.
We need paid maternity and family leave and probably tax incentives to allow one spouse to stay at home. In some cases, I don’t know, spouses might trade off.
I have to say, in the past it seemed rather natural that women took care of the house and kids — it’s kind of a biological thing, wouldn’t you say? But modern conveniences have lessened some of the workload around the house. And our society has liberated women from the slavery of the past — and no one, man or woman, should want to return to that.
So all I was really trying to say is that there can be major advantages to having a stay-at-home mom or, for that matter, a stay-at-home dad. I had not really thought about the tax incentive thing previously, but now that I did — yeah why not? I think it would be good for individuals and society as a whole.
While I in no way want to criticize single mothers, I don’t think we should encourage this situation. It takes two to tango and we need to find ways to encourage living up to responsibilities.