Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hearth, Home, and Happiness

So there's this thread on TOS at the moment concerning a brave career woman in Germany who resigned from her very prominent job; because she was crucified following her comments urging more women to stay home and raise their kids.

I am one of those women who has forsaken "professional" paid work for a far more misunderstood occupation: homemaking.

I hate that label. "Homemaking" sounds like all I do is take care of the house. The label I prefer and use is "professional wife and mother", which is more fitting. I am responsible for the health and welfare of my family; that involves much more than keeping house. In short, I manage all of the variable, inconsistent parts of of family life so Chris can concentrate on his 9-5. I make it possible for him to devote all of his workday energies to making money, while I handle variables like doctor's appointments, grocery shopping, and life's minor emergencies. This makes him more productive, therefore increasing his worth as a professional and enabling him to make more money.

Could I do that while working? Yes and no. A two-income family has more worries, not less: transportation difficulties, deciding who stays home with the sick kid, deciding which stressed out parent makes dinner at night. We could work that out between us, but the bottom line is that with only one income to worry about we can devote more time and energy to the health and welfare of the family.

But what about the lost income? Isn't that necessary? No, not really. Back in December we calculated how much my working cost us, and between childcare, taxes, and other considerations I would have to make $48K a year just to come out even, and it's just not worth it.

But thanks to Feminists and the breakdown of the nuclear family, lots of people have misconceptions about one-income families. It is a common belief that women who stay at home are barefoot, pregnant, uneducated, and downtrodden. They are, according to myth, forced into servitude by a patriarchal society like those poor women in Colorado City.

I am not barefoot, pregnant (though that will change), uneducated, or downtrodden. I am also not a servant. I am actually HAPPIER and HEALTHIER being a professional wife and mother than I was working. My occupation is rewarding and worth far more to me than more money could ever be.

But enough about my happiness.

What many people don't understand are the logistics of such an arrangement. Far too many people equate worth with money and assume that if one parent is making all the money the other parent is subservient. That's just not true.

Chris and I are equals. We both work hard towards the same goal, the health and welfare of the entire family. We each have responsibilities, some of which are separate and some of which are shared. We have equal access to his income and equal say in major decisions. In fact, the responsibilties are distributed like this:

  • Most childcare and supervision
  • Medical responsibilities (appointments, records)
  • Laundry
  • Breakfast, lunch, and baking
  • Grocery and household shopping
  • General transportation
  • Forms and recordkeeping
  • Most school related things
  • Dog care
  • Cleaning and general housekeeping
  • Taking care of Chris (a BIG, but not all that hard job, believe me)
  • Earning money
  • First aid
  • Emergency management
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Dinner, and dessert other than baking
  • Technical crap (theres a lot of it)
  • Home repair and improvement (theres a lot of it)
  • Building and repairing things (from toys to furniture)
  • Paying bills
  • School conferences, meetings, etc.
  • Protection and security
  • Legal and administrative stuff
  • Most of the financial work
  • Taking care of Mel
  • Taking care of the kids
  • Decisions concerning the kids
  • Major spending decisions
  • Planning for the future
  • Financial records / account upkeep
  • Budgeting
  • Religious education
  • Child discipline
  • Educational decisions
  • Everything else
You'll notice that all major and financial decisions are shared between us, and are discussed. We have equal say in all these things and compromise often.

Can this work for everyone? Well, no. A husband who can't even handle a screwdriver can't fix things; a wife who can't cook to save her life shouldn't. But far beyond that, not everyone is capable of this kind of set up. There is a massive amount of trust involved: trust that neither parent is going to leave the other in the lurch, trust that nothing is being hidden, trust that both retirements are planned for. Not everyone trusts their partner that much, and many really shouldn't.

And I think that is part of why many people distrust the power sharing in these kinds of relationships: they are not capable of that level of trust, and envy people who are.

But for those who can handle it, forsaking a second income is more than worth the "loss" of money. Ours is only one example of how that can work, though we know of many others. Am I subservient and downtrodden? Hell no. Am I happier, is Chris happier, and are the kids happier this way? Without a doubt. And that is what really matters.


Just call me Mel, everyone else does.