Friday, June 5, 2009

Traditional Roles for Mothers and Fathers

This is going to sound strange, perhaps, but women now are facing as a group what men should have been facing for centuries, but too often haven't - how to properly balance occupation within the overall circumstances of life that include family. For many years, especially with industrialization, men (unfortunately) have had the ability to neglect wife and kids - by claiming that their wives would raise them while he provided for them.

When everyone worked on a farm, this arbitrary separation often didn't occur, and it still doesn't occur in situations of real poverty. "Traditional roles" aren’t traditional; they are fairly new to the history of the world for the "common" couple. They appear historically in times and circles of wealth, when two incomes are not necessary to sustain life and relative comfort.

I sustain and honor stay-at-home-mothers, but I also understand it's a relatively modern luxury that used to be reserved for only the truly upper class. It is difficult in so many ways specifically because it is not "natural"; it is something that must be accepted and learned and acquired - and it is absolutely critical, in my opinion, to accept and honor the flexibility articulated in the Family Proclamation that allows for adaptation in personal circumstances.


adamf said...

I don't have the stat in front of me, but in a fatherhood class during undergrad I learned that about 1 in 10 U.S. families can make it on one income alone. My wife and I are trying to do it, but it's going to take getting to the top 1% of the country (in regards to education) to get there...

Recently I have been reading some stuff that actually suggests a biological/evolutionary base for mothers as the "primary" nurturers. I should have a post up at MM in the next few months, but I want to look into it more.

Unknown said...


I find it interesting that as a Stay at home mother (lucky as I am) I have many assume that I do EVERYTHING for the kids. I usually laugh at this cause when my husband is home we split the duties half and half. I find that people are usually surprised by the fact that we share duties. How warped is that?

Anonymous said...

I understand how difficult it is to make it on one income. I live in New Jersey making $20/hr, and my wife stays at home with our two children. While it is hard, we would likely spend as much on day care as my wife would make working. So, no, I do not agree that stay-at-home mother's are a luxury reserved for the truly upper class.

Anonymous said...

In response to Aprillium, I think it rather unfair to expect completely equal sharing. People are often offended that my wife and I do not trade-off changing diapers. We do not have set rules governing sharing; our "rule" (if it must be so called) is to do what it takes to lighten the load of the other. If my wife is cooking dinner, I will change the diapers, if there are any. If my wife is tired, I will pick up the slack. She does the same for me. It is illusory to truly split duties, and is often unfair.

Papa D said...

Anonymous1, remember, I said historically it is a luxury. In our modern times, especially up until fairly recently, it has become much more doable for the middle class - but it requires a direct repudiation of much of what has become seen as necessary.

Anonymous2, in my mind, the key is for each couple to figure out what works for them - and that is the heart of what the Proclamation says. An exact split and tally sheet is foreign to me and wouldn't work in my marriage - but I can't say it should not be implemented by anyone, since it might work for someone. Likewise, I can't say that ALL should have either one income or two incomes - since each situation is unique and individual.

I can discuss a general ideal in isolation of real circumstances, but each couple needs to adapt that isolated ideal to create their own customized ideal.

YvonneS said...

Stay at home mom has acquired a negative connotation since the 1960s. Historically all women, even rulers stayed home because the home was the work place. Everyone worked. Supporting a family was a group effort.

With the advent of the industrial revolution, child labor laws and technologies that took the work into the market place women's work became limited to what we now call homemaking. Who is making the home now? Based on some reading I've done nobody.

After WWII when women went into the factories to fill jobs men left behind attitudes began to change. Ultimately women who stayed home to take care of their kids now called lazy and made to believe they are of little value unless they get up off the sofa and let someone else to take care of their kids while they got a job.

Women who stay at home make an important contribution. Children and they way they are raised matter.

Unknown said...

I never said it was each task split equally in half. Just the effort of caring for the kids. I consider me making dinner and hubby watching kids a equal split cause they aren't under my feet. He is helping me.

I too find the tally sheet concept unreasonable for me and my spouse. Too much tit for tat and too much possibility for assinine arguments.

I just find it interesting how many people are surprised by the fact that he helps out so much when he is at home. To me, it is only far, when he gets off of his "work" me workload lightens because he switches gears to help me out because I'm mom 24/7

I too stay home basically because I could not make enough money in the workplace to justify daycare for three kids. Plus, I'm generally not inclined to leave my kids with people I don't know very well.

Kalola said...

PapaD, you stated: "I sustain and honor stay-at-home-mothers, but I also understand it's a relatively modern luxury that used to be reserved for only the truly upper class."

I grew up in a working class neighborhood in Queens, NY. The majority of women were stay-at-home-mothers. I'm trying to understand why some people think SAHMs was "reserved for only the truly upper class." Where, and when, did this belief originate?

My two older sisters were SAHMs. My BILs were working class, not upper class.

Perhaps I am misunderstanding what you wrote.

Papa D said...

Kalola, when I said it "used to be" reserved for the upper class, I meant before the advent of modern technology and the Industrial Revolution. I don't mean a few decades ago; at the least, I mean over 150 years ago.

I should have made that FAR more clear.

In our modern times, think of poor families without Welfare, Food Stamps, Medicaid, Church assistance and other types of available help. Think of immigrants - or anyone trying to raise multiple children on minimum wage jobs. There still are examples of this, and, frankly, the relative wealth of our middle class blurs the historical reality for many of us.

Kalola said...

Papa D ~ Thank you for the clarification.