I randomly ran across a couple different stories about author Mary Harrington. Intrigued by the synchronicity, I looked her up. Harrington’s book is called Feminism Against Progress, and her online writings are so thought provoking; they also reminded me of a point I have been eager to write about.
In this post-feminism age of the 70s, most mothers have made the switch to the “progress” of going off to work a job. Indeed, that may spell out financial progress for the family. Two incomes should equal more money, theoretically. However, if there are children, two working parents also means childcare costs going out of the household, along with a slew of other expenses, both unexpected and not. Admittedly, some mothers may only be happy with their lives if they have an occupation outside the home, and for those types, the pursuit of a career is a no-brainer. However, others are left with the feeling that there is no other choice. To them, stay-at-home parenting is not always represented as a real option, as something which carries vital importance, or is rewarding. It’s often portrayed or thought of as the lazy option, or just for those who cannot find a job. It’s less frequently considered as an intentional choice. Instead, we are programmed to believe that two incomes is the best way to raise a family.
My response to the feminists who pushed for this lifestyle to be the cultural norm 50ish years ago is, “Why?” Why act like the mothers who are staying at home, not in the workforce, are doing so because they aren’t capable of performing a job? To me, it was never because women who were mothers couldn’t do outside jobs, but that there was something more important they should be doing. Raising kids, so that they feel that unique love that only a mother can offer, is a more essential task than making more money for the family, in most situations, except for extremes. Allowing children to be nurtured in a safe, caring environment is the only way to cure society’s ills, mental health crises and all. Sadly, however, many families don’t consider it, because it is such a stray from the standard.
Now, is the life of a stay-at-home parent easier than working outside the home? In most cases, no. But, will it affect a greater reward? Most likely, it will. It can also allow the partner who does enter the workforce to fully engage with their job, instead of having to share so many domestic duties, like taking off work to help care for the many sicknesses that pop up when kids are immersed in germ-rich kid-raising factories. Having one parent fully engrossed (as in paying full attention to and delegating, if needed, not assuming all the responsibilities of) in the details of running a successful home- the finances, the chores, the schedule, all of it- reams rich rewards, not just for the family involved, but also for the whole community, and all of humanity.
Happier, healthier children can be raised into more caring, thoughtful, productive members of society as adults, if only they receive more of an investment during their childhoods. Childhood is such a unique, tender time in a life that shapes the habits that will likely form an entire lifetime. And parenting these precious young ones is such a short-lived gift, which needs to be embraced, cherished, and done with purpose. Being absent from their lives 40+ hours a week, and sending them off to a farm, to be treated as a commodity, so that someone else can extract your family’s money, by offering subpar (compared to their own loving mother, who can shower them with more affection, if only she’s allowed the freedom) child sitting services, well, that does not quite provide ideal conditions for the parent-child bond, and the desired positive after-effects, to grow. This is not a put down of all childcare workers, as many are awesome at their jobs, but is merely a comparison of the their role, versus that specific, unique and loving relationship that only a parent can offer their child, which should be celebrated.
Summarily, I wish stay-at-home parenting and the value of running a home were viewed with more esteem, and that progressive movements could see the unintended consequences they will cause in the future, so that we could see what we are actually progressing toward. The demise of the nuclear family life that feminists of yesteryear encouraged is certainly progress towards something, but is it to a world anyone wants to live in?
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