Monday, May 16, 2011

Keepers at Home are Not Stepford Wives

I did at one point work outside the home full-time (more than full-time,really) and when I first started to have some uneasiness about this and to worry about whether this was the right choice, the decision to transition home was not an easy one for my husband and I to make. We feel firmly convinced that this is the right and Biblical way to order our lives, and I have to admit that I am a much happier person now than I was when I worked in an outside office 50+ hours per week giving the bulk of my time and energy to someone other than my family. I think I'm now a better wife, a better follower of Christ, and I feel like I spend my days doing more that is of lasting use than I did in prior years.

I'm sure anyone reading this is not wholly astounded to learn that there are those who would look at my life and not see it as I do. While some folks have been truly encouraging to me, others most definitely are not. What truly stings in all of this is that some of the critics proclaim themselves Christian. I know that no two people have a Christian walk that looks the same, and while I stand up for my beliefs, I would not want to personally belittle married women who work outside the home. In some cases, I may not agree with someone's choice and I may, with people I know well enough, try to engage them in a discussion one on one, but that does not mean that they are a lesser grade of person and I have no right to treat them as such. In addition, there are some circumstances under which women may have to, in addition to keeping the home, work outside the home on at least a part-time or temporary basis.

One of the criticisms that I heard over and over again was that I must be a "Stepford Wife". I hadn't seen the movie, but I've heard this phrase often enough to know that it's meant to denigrate stay at home wives. So - I went on a little research expedition.

It turns out the the Stepford Wives are a group of zombie-like, doormat wives who cater to their husbands' every whim. The docile women in the movie turn out to be lifelike robots.

Pretty chilling stuff - and certainly not like my life. I may be a wife who seeks to model the type of marriage that the Bible instructs us to have. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I stumble like the imperfect human that I am. However, submission to one's husband in marriage and being a keeper of the family home is not the same thing as thoughtless conformity. My husband is no abusive tyrant, he is a man who values my opinion and cherishes me. And I certainly have not lost free will or the ability to formulate a thought. Femininity is not a synonym for blind subjugation.

Even though I learned all kinds of homemaking skills from my family, I still find keeping the house far from mindless. Every day, I feel like I'm learning something new and the challenge of making the house feel like a haven keeps my mind sharp. The insinuation that a wife at home is somehow stunted in her development or lacking in intellect upsets me because this is a modern feminist notion that simply is not true.

While I found The Stepford Wives interesting, it's impossible to miss the message of the movie. Wives in the home are dumb robots while women who work outside have full lives. A pretty direct jab at the stay at home wife's beliefs and lifestyle, isn't it? It's not the first time popular media has attacked traditional ways of life and I'm sure it won't be the last, but I do wish the popular thinking of our time was not so dominated by these ideas. It's actually gotten to the point that not only women embrace feminism, but I have heard plenty of men state that they would never want to marry a "Stepford wife".

I knew plenty of highly intelligent women working outside the home and now that I am not chained to a desk for hours on end, I have had the opportunity to meet many other very intelligent, well-read ladies. The main difference I see is that the ones who are staying at home often seem more content than the ones working outside. They also seem to spend more time educating themselves on topics of their own interest and those of their family rather than working for the vision of some outside entity.

In fact, when I think about it, I have to wonder which is the more thoughtful behavior - seeing what the culture of the world does to families and trying to think of ways to confront it or simply accepting what the media feeds us about women in the workplace?

8 comments:

  1. I whole heartedly applaud your desire to be at home. I think I read elsewhere in your posts that you guys don't have children yet which probably makes it even more of a difficult topic with those who don't share the same vision as you. While I think that it is easier to work outside the home before having children I also believe that it is still very taxing to do everything a wife is called to do at home PLUS a job outside the home. What a blessing that you and your husband are working towards you being able to be at home even before you have children. Yes, you will probably have some extra time on your hands, but you will have the freedom to use that time to serve the church, other families, the elderly and so on... things that women are so great at and are called to do! I am happy for you.

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  2. Thank you for the encouragement! We don't have children, but it's certainly a blessing we've been praying for. I actually worked full-time for several years, but it really did reach a point where it felt like having a two-career home pulled my husband and I away from one another rather than allowing us to work toward a common purpose. Keeping house, helping elderly family members and other folks, and then starting up a small-scale business from the home keep me more than occupied. However, it's the sort of busy that seems to have a real purpose to it and I feel more connected to my family and to the community than I did when I simply commuted to an office and then came home, too tired to do much more than crash.

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  3. This is a very lovely article. I'm not even married yet, but I feel the calling to be a stay at home wife and mother. I'm 21 years old. So people ask me a lot if I am going to go to college or start a career. When I tell them my aspiration, then tend to look down on me for it. Like maybe I'm too dumb to go to school or something. However, I don't let that get me down. I know quite a bit about many thinks. I'm a wonderful cook already, I know how to clean just about anything and I'm already getting things ready for my future life.

    It bothers me worst when the ones saying hateful things are "Christians". They should know better than to judge.

    God bless,

    Ella

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  4. Thank you, Ella! It's wonderful that you already have started preparing yourself for the future. It's certainly nothing to look down upon, and I wish you all the best. I saw your blog, and I can't wait to read more.

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  5. this is an interesting article. i wonder how you feel about women who work from home -- but whose jobs cannot be reasonably considered "small, side businesses"? i work from home, but i imagine i still don't fall into what you would consider the "stay at home" wife category, considering i probably do less homemaking than i would if i were working full time. well, actually i have a very low standard when it comes to house cleanliness, so perhaps i do the same.

    but yeah, i guess that's my question -- if a woman works from home, and has her own business, is she still a stay-at-home wife? in which case, would i also consider my husband (who works from home) a stay-at-home house-husband? i'm guessing it comes down to priorities, but yes...the question remains...

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  6. In my mind, the description of an "at home" wife doesn't hinge on a legalistic analysis of hours spent on a home business vs. hours with the vacuum. It is, as you mention, a question of priorities.

    I actually know quite a few women who work from home. Some have small side businesses they fit around their children's needs and others have larger operations, and they do everything from web design to court reporting to writing/speaking on various topics. I do consider all those folks "at home" wives because their first priorities are still serving God and their families. Making a house a real home and haven for the family is a major part of the job, but that doesn't necessarily mean that cleaning house all day is the only way to be that "at home" wife.

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  7. hmm. you say you consider women who have "small side businesses" and "larger operations" to be "at home" wives -- is there a point where you would no longer consider a wife who works from home to be an "at home" wife? i'm curious as to how this part of the blogosphere defines this.

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  8. Well, I have a feeling that each person in the blogosphere that you ask will have a different answer to the question. For me, I look at pourpose and intent. As an "at home" wife, I see my primary purpose and goal to be that of the keeper of the home. As that keeper, I see it as my responsiblity to make sure that the home is kept in good order, my family is cared for. I help my husband with managing our resources and yes, working from home can be part of that. However, my primary role is still that of a keeper at home. If I saw my primary role as a business owner and just fit my homekeeping in whenever I had a little free time, then I don't think I would be fulfilling that role as I'm meant to be doing it. I hope this helps clarify for you. You may find the description of the wife in Proverbs 31 helpful in trying to understand my position.

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