Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Endangered Species of Housewives

This is not about feminism, so please don't go there. It is a few thoughts about the value of having one dedicated stay-at-home spouse, and one dedicated work-outside-of-the-home spouse. Which spouse does which is not the topic I'd like to address here, because even though I believe in the guidelines in the Family Proclamation, I also believe in individual and familial adaptation and agency. (With my trust issues and other things, I do see value in having one gender primarily doing one or the other, but that is beside the point.)

I don't know many of my neighbors. No one in my family participates in community activities. I barely know anything about national political issues, let alone local ones. If I needed to borrow a tiller, I wouldn't know who to ask. If my neighbor needed to borrow my chainsaw, they probably don't have a clue that I have one. I don't really know if anyone on my street has kids my age, or what their names are. Very rarely does my family eat a meal that takes longer than 30 minutes to prepare. If I do take 30 minutes, I'm proud of fixing a "real meal". I have a few piles of things that need to be organized in my house, that I've just not found energy or time to organize. I don't decorate for Christmas beyond quick basics. My house is relatively clean and relatively comfortable, but not as much as I would like.

Of course, you might say that is because I'm a single mom. But if you examine my pre- and post-divorce schedules, that was just as much the case when I was married as it is as a single mother, probably more.

It is becoming increasingly necessary for two parents in a household to work. Strangely, it is a bit of a self-fulfilling problem. You don't have time to prepare meals from scratch, so you purchase quick-fix meals. You don't have time to decorate or clean, so you pay for others to do it. Rather than borrowing a tiller, you rent one from a home improvement store. All these things require money, so it becomes necessary to work in order to live the way you know how to live.

And meantime, we lose our sense of community. Interest and hobby groups take the place of geographical community. We are less exposed to things outside of our comfort zone. We live in our own isolated independent bubbles, spinning together briefly to touch on common interests. All those unseen, unsung contributions that the masses of stay-at-home housewives used to knit the community together have all but disappeared.

And almost none of those things have anything to do with having children.


  1. I appreciate your thoughts -- too often in our world, we're losing our sense of community -- maybe even in our LDS wards, too...

  2. My children are still young (7,4, and 10 months) and I can honestly say that I cannot imagine how parents of kids this small do it with both of them working. However, I know a lot of them who do. My husband and I have done various types of scheduling in our married lives: both of us working part-time, both of us in school, one of us in school and the other working, and so on. For the last year he has been working full-time and I've been generally just at home (for the last few months I've started teaching part-time as an adjunct). Even just my part-time work makes things kind of crazy sometimes. But I think your right--while cost of living in many areas seems to necessitate dual incomes, often dual incomes just create their own expenses. It can be a viscious cycle, and I think you are very perceptive when you point out that it can also create lives that are too busy to really create a community.

  3. SilverRain, first hats off to you for somehow managing as a single mom. What a huge (if inevitable) undertaking.

    I agree that the stay at home parent does have an opportunity to interface with the community, but there's less and less of it these days, unless it's on the sideline at some organized and paid-for after school activity.

    Even our annual subdivision picnic fell by the wayside this year. :-(

    We do connect with neighbors at the crossroads -- while dropping our daughter at the school bus or when more than one of us happens to be outside working in the yard at the same time.

    My SAHM wife gets a little more interaction because she teaches a few neighbor children piano and connects with their parents in that way. But my long work day and long commute put me out of the house in the morning early and home late so my neighbor-crossover time is sorely limited.

  4. My neighbors and I swap tools when needed; they pick our blueberries if we are gone when they are ripe. They also acccept surplus tomatoes. Another neighbor has a kick-ass snowblower, but one leg. I'm happy to use his snowblower; he's happy that I use it. I ride to work with yet another neighbor. We've had a succession of single women (teachers or students are on the right work schedule) live rent-free in our spare bedroom, in exchange for cooking and cleaning. Having, or making, a good community is a Godsend.


Unfortunately, I've found it necessary to screen comments. Unless your comment violates the commenting policy, it will show up as soon as I can approve it.

Popular Posts