I am a 25-year-old girl. I have never been married or engaged, nor has the 29-year-old guy I am dating. We are very happy together, and we want to get married. The problem is that he wants me to continue working after we are married. I have a college degree and a good job, but my dream has always been to become a housewife and mother. I don’t want to work outside the home. My mother, who is also educated, stopped working as soon as she got married.
Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I am not interested in having my children raised by a maid. All around me while I was growing up, my friends were raised by Spanish-speaking women, and that is not what I want for my future family.
The guy I’m dating just doesn’t get it. He says that nowadays everyone works, and that is just how it is done. He makes fun of women who stay home, saying that all they do is eat all day.
If he did not earn a good living, I might be flexible about working. But he has a fabulous job as an accountant, and money is not an issue.
My parents agree with me, because my married sisters also don’t work. Do you think I should continue to date this guy if he doesn’t change his mind and see it my way?
By Baila Sebrow
If you come across any of the old children’s storybooks from years past, the following scenario of an all-American traditional family is typically illustrated. The husband and children awaken to the delicious aroma of a freshly cooked breakfast, complete with an array of baked goodies waiting to be devoured by the hungry family. While the family cheerfully looks forward to a productive day, the mother has already prepared individual lunch and snack bags, which she lovingly hands to each member of her household as they are ushered out of the house.
Fast-forward to the modern-day family, and you will find in most cases the complete opposite. The mother and the rest of her family are rushing to get themselves ready for the day. In some cases there is a maid who helps the process along, while others simply fend for themselves.
Professionals continually debate whether women should work after marriage. The debate seems to be more focused on the future happiness of the wife and her ability to feel good about herself. That said, even women who can afford to stay home often do not, because they feel more fulfilled and accomplished by going to work and bringing home that paycheck.
Others, however, feel a greater sense of fulfillment when caring for their family. There are professionally capable women who are well qualified for employment and could use the money, yet choose to stay home.
Your feelings are more popular than you realize. There are many women who wish that they could be stay-at-home moms, such as you desire, but the family’s financial situation may not allow for such luxuries. And so, if they can afford it, these women hire help to care for their children and home while they go out to work.
It is not surprising that, having witnessed your own mother in the role of a stay-at-home mom, you are comfortable with that idea and envision it for yourself. Moreover, your married sisters, too, seem to be enjoying that lifestyle. From what you are communicating, it sounds like you cannot possibly imagine being happy otherwise.
Do not feel that you are old-fashioned in craving such a lifestyle. There is something beautiful and comforting to the children and husband in the knowledge that Mommy is home and not just taking care of the meals, but managing the home and running the errands. The awareness that Mommy is home in case someone is not feeling well is oftentimes emotionally reassuring to the family.
Women who stay at home and take care of the family might actually be working more hours than those who work outside the home. Furthermore, the stay-at-home wife and mother does not get compensated for all the hours and aggravation that she consistently may have to deal with.
This is not to minimize women who work and raise a family at the same time. Such women are equally loving and devoted wives and mothers. And although they may be at work, their minds are consistently on their families and on what needs to be done to ensure that the needs of their families are met.
The guy you are dating may have been raised to believe that housewives eat all day to relieve their boredom. If there is anyone who possesses an old-fashioned view about women who stay home, it is probably him. Many old-timers used to joke that homemakers do nothing but eat bonbons from morning till night. There are shows that still portray such settings.
The issue here is not who makes a better wife—the woman who stays home all day or the woman who goes out to work. The issue is not whether the children turn out better when raised by their mother or a foreign maid. I have seen wonderful and productive adults who have emerged from both types of households. True, it is easy to point the fingers and place blame when things go wrong either way. But that is not the focus here.
The heart of the matter at this point lies in resolving your vast difference of opinion. My concern is not just for the two of you to agree on whatever you both eventually decide, but that you will respect each other for it.
It sounds to me that although the guy you are dating seems to be financially stable, he might be concerned that along the way, with the high cost of living in frum communities, there may come a time when money could get tight. Purchasing or renting a home these days in popular communities is more expensive than when your parents did the same. In addition, nowadays people are more inclined to renovate and update their living accommodations. Add yeshiva tuition and the everyday cost of living to the equation, and you will be surprised to discover that even a high-salaried person can find himself a bit short on cash every now and then. This is why it has become so common for women to work outside the home. And even with two incomes, people find that they still have to be frugal and may not be able to afford some of the extravagances that their parents enjoyed.
Stating that if the guy whom you are considering for marriage did not earn a good living you would be flexible about working conveys that you possess a sensible and easygoing personality. Utilizing these traits, you need to sit down with him and explain your views.
When expressing how you feel, make sure not to reiterate over and over that your mother and sisters are stay-at-home wives and mothers. That will only weaken your position and make you appear as though you are just following a family tradition. You must focus on your goal and that which you truly want.
In the same way you told me how you’ve always dreamed of being a housewife and mother, you must articulate those feelings to him. Tell this guy that for you, staying at home means that you will always be there for him and your future children, G‑d willing. Explain that you are not comfortable having a stranger raise your children and that it would make you so much happier to be there every step of the way for them.
Point out that should the need arise, you are willing to roll up your sleeves and help contribute to the family’s bank account. The fact that you have an educational background and are currently holding down a job should set his mind at ease that you are capable of chipping in, whether it means going out to work or even working from home in some capacity.
If after this discussion he still makes fun of women who stay home or you are afraid that he could potentially do so anyway, then you might want to reevaluate your compatibility with this guy.
In most cases similar to yours, explaining one’s outlook on the matter, along with an open-minded, pleasant attitude about the possibility of financially helping out, is enough to help make both parties feel as though they are on the same page and attuned to each other’s needs.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. v
Questions and comments can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.