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Mrs. Micah–future stay-at-home mom?

I read some good blog posts recently which got me thinking about what I plan to do with my life, especially if/when Mr. Micah and I have kids. I suppose it was also started off by the “If I were debt free” meme.

Mr. Micah has pretty much figured out what he wants to do with his life. He wants to help people learn to think. And he wants to do it by being a philosophy professor. That’s great! I’m so relieved to be living with someone who’s living his dream (though he hasn’t finished his dissertation yet and isn’t a “full” professor).

If you ask me what I want to do with my life, I could probably give you a half-dozen things. I want to be a writer, a quilter, a librarian, a therapist (if I can stay sane anyway), a person who makes the world better, a theologian. There’s six and I don’t think I’ve covered everything that interests me.

In a way, that’s fortunate. Because it means I’m quite flexible and could be happy in a lot of different roles. If we were debt free, I’d take time off work to explore them, as long as Mr. Micah was employed.

I think this also prepared me well for being a stay-at-home parent. I don’t want to be one just yet, but the prospect of having a kid in 3 years doesn’t crush my soul.

I could do so many thing–I could sew on the side. Or I could do some freelance writing and blog. Or have short telecommuting jobs (via Hire My Mom and such). Or I could work on a novel. Or I could make quilts for charities (both quilting and making the world better). Or I could volunteer on the days when Mr. Micah doesn’t have class/has class only in the morning/afternoon. Or I could do some really part-time paging at our library (10-12 hour weeks) during times when Mr. Micah’s able to be home with the baby (kid). Or teach people to sew/play the violin/do other things.

And maybe when my kids are older I’ll work part-time or even get another degree (if we can afford it) in psychology or theology…or personal finance.

As many before me have shown, having a second income doesn’t often mean much if you have kids. Costs for childcare and costs of working suck most of it up. Plus it detracts from quality of life. It probably would do little for our debt repayment. I’m in favor of gender equality for staying at home. It’s just that Mr. Micah is really passionate about his job/career. I don’t have something like that right now. And I have passions which can be expressed best if I’m not employed full-time.

My mom raised us after spending her first 20 years of college going around the world, teaching in the Peace Corps, getting her PhD, and teaching college courses (and lots of other exciting things too). Having us was the second phase of her life.

Even as a kid I really appreciated her being home. She didn’t make money on the side, as I might, but read a lot. I think that’s what she did most…read. Besides caring for and then homeschooling us, that is. The latter was a good bit of work in itself.

Once I went off to college, she started teaching Latin part-time at a one-day-a-week school. This earns her some money which she mostly gives to charities she likes. She saves some for special treats as well. (This and having terminal cancer! Some weeks it’s quite hard for her, but she loves the kids.)

We’ll see what happens, of course. I can’t predict the future. But what I can tell you is that life seems so much more flexible now than it did last year. The binary between career/home has dissolved into many options.

(The other bloggers who got me thinking were Trent with his whole series on Your Money or Your Life which prepped me for this and brip blap who wrote about his wife’s decision to stay home.)

P.S. Yes, Denise, I know this is the koolaid of patriarchy. πŸ˜‰

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Mrs. Micah: Finance and Life / My philosophy of food
November 19, 2007 at 7:19 am

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Brip Blap October 22, 2007 at 8:51 pm

I wish you nothing but luck πŸ™‚

My dad actually has a PhD in philosophy so you had me at hello, so to speak. And I’ll tell you this, as the parent of one toddler and one-on-the-way: every plan you have will be smashed to bits by kids, and you won’t mind at all. Your mom sounds great – and I don’t just say that because my mom went back to school and got a bachelor’s in classical languages and taught Latin at our local junior high school after we started school πŸ™‚

All joking aside, wonderful post – one of the best I’ve read in a while! Thanks for the link, and the main thing I would hope to impart from my article is that being a stay-at-home parent should never, ever mean feeling that you’re compromising your goals!

Andrew Stevens October 23, 2007 at 12:26 am

You were homeschooled? My wife is planning to homeschool, mostly because it’s just very difficult to find even a private school which still offers a classical education (meaning the trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, but certainly any children of mine will learn Latin at a young age as well). I’d actually love to be the one who stayed home and taught the kids, but the economic reality is that my skills are worth a great deal more on the market than my wife’s and she’s probably got more patience for teaching very young children than I would have. (Perhaps we’ll be able to switch off when it’s time for high school.)

I also sympathize with Mr. Micah. My dream job, if it existed, would be to teach philosophy to high school students. It has to be high school students, because by college I think it’s often too late. College students have frequently already become fixed in their opinions and lazy habits of thinking. Sadly there is no such job, so I had to settle.

Paula Bellman October 23, 2007 at 9:27 am

Not to burst your bubble or anything, but with small children (especially if close in age), you’re lucky to get a shower, let alone do any sort of crafting.

This is not all the time, but when I had my first, I was under the impression I’d get all sorts of reading done, watch soap operas, clean the house, whip up gourmet meals, etc. I was seriously disappointed when none of that panned out.

Maybe some people are more moviated than me. Maybe some people have easy going children who don’t cry every minute of every day and require that you hold them while STANDING UP AND ROCKING SIDE TO SIDE. Maybe I just couldn’t get it together enough to do some of that stuff.

Now my kids are school aged, and I get quite a bit of stuff done while they are at school. This is about to end though, since I’ll be homeschooling next year.

I’m glad you’re making the commitment to come home when you have children. You won’t ever regret it for one minute.

mrsmicah October 23, 2007 at 10:12 am

Good points by the parents. I will not be surprised at all if the kids smash a lot of my plans. I hope, however, to put something together–if not in the first few years, then later, like my mom did. If nothing else, I have the benefit of being married to a man whose career allows him to work from home more than most peoples’ do.

Laura October 23, 2007 at 10:30 am

I’m glad you have options. You’re right that life is not a set of binary decisions. Whatever you and Mr. Micah decide to do in the future, I wish you well.

FrugalBabe October 23, 2007 at 10:41 am

I wish you the best of luck with this. I think it’s great that you’re thinking about your options while the reality is still years away. One of the reasons my husband and I settled on working at home (in 2002 for him and 2003 for me, years before we started trying for a baby) was that we wanted the flexibility it would offer when we did decide to have children. I will probably quit my job at the library once the baby is born (although my thoughts on that seem to change weekly) and we’ll both work part-time from home. Our income will be reduced for a few years, but we both feel it’s worth it. Good luck!! πŸ™‚

Queercents October 23, 2007 at 11:04 am

MM: I wrote a post about simultaneous professions or slash // careers as they’ve been coined. You commented and linked to it before, but worth repeating again: multiple jobs can feed and fulfill multiple interests all at the same time. This sometimes makes for the happiest career… whether you have kids or not.

mavis October 23, 2007 at 4:32 pm

i’m a great fan of patriarchy, try it, you’ll like it. πŸ™‚ sometimes words are so culturally conditioned that we hear them and automatically think ‘eew’, often not bothering to think why. it’s always fun to find these and smash them whenever possible. as for me, i love sending my sexy red-haired boy off to work to take care of me. it’s great. i enjoy staying home with my kids, and don’t really see anything that could parallel it in terms of value.

i went to college and took english with a philosophy minor which eventually turned into religion (overlapping subjects it happened). and while i enjoy lots of things, like you, i never found any of them consuming. in fact they all seemed kind of flat in comparison with any ideas on the ‘meaning of life’. i mean, something with a dollar sign accompanying every hour is automatically suspicious. “i’m doing this for paper? really? dirty paper?” real jobs are quite depressing when considered in their minutia anyways, no matter how grand the scheme may be. this, on the other hand, is fabulous. i read what i want, express myself in the ways i feel compelled, cook the food i want to eat, corner the people i want to corner, all the while saving my greatest energy for my greatest loves. loves which are best in their minutia. it’s good stuff, and certainly not anything that should result in soul crushing. your on the right track baby.

Andrew Stevens October 23, 2007 at 10:44 pm

I could get into trouble for this, but I’ve never quite understood feminist hatred of the nuclear family (as distinct from feminist hatred of earlier historical periods in which women often were treated as slaves). Certainly, once labor-saving devices were introduced, I imagine it could be pretty boring to be a housewife and stay-at-home mother (thus the “bored ’50s housewife” stereotype), but I don’t see why it has to be that way. As Mavis says, it can be quite liberating to be in such a position, if you’re the right person. I’d be happy to stay at home with the kids and take care of the house if our household economics and family dynamic could stand for it. If I did, would I be submitting to the matriarchy?

Indeed, I think it’s the feminists who have been sipping the Kool-Aid of the patriarchy for too long. Raising children is the most important thing we do. It’s purely the fragile male ego and bluster which pretends that the jobs we work and the money we make are more important than child-rearing. I think a great many feminists have swallowed this bluster hook, line, and sinker (which their grandmothers never did, though they might have pretended to in order to protect their husbands’ egos).

Naturally, I’m sure there are women for whom taking care of kids and the home would be sheer torture and we can all be glad that they have the option not to do so (and indeed not to have children at all).

Note: by the term feminist, I mean only that brand of feminism which is unalterably opposed to the nuclear family. I do not mean merely advocates for equal rights for women.

Spells October 24, 2007 at 9:44 am

Mrs. Micah, another good post — thanks! My husband is now the stay-at-home parent in our household. Once our daughter started elementary school, he enrolled in seminary to study theology. . so, some similarities with your aspirations!

Andrew, my husband and I sympathize with your comment that you’d love to be the one who stays home with the kids. Also, one of our friends is a philosophy teacher at our local high school — so, those jobs do exist, though they may be few.

Andrew, I’d like to gently chide you, though, for your later post, in which you seem to say that if a woman is “tortured” by staying home with kids, then she shouldn’t have kids at all.

I am sensitive on this point, I admit, because I work outside the home and my husband is the parent at home. Where we live the dad-at-home thing is an oddity, but he mostly gets props for doing it. I mostly get dissed.

The fact that I work while my husband stays home, seems to mean “he’s a wonderful man” (which, by the way, he is); and I “am a greedy, uncaring mother” (which I am not).

Your statement struck me because I commonly hear versions of it, but I NEVER hear people say that if a man doesn’t want to stay home with kids, then we should be grateful that he doesn’t have kids. Society seems to make no value judgment about a man working outside the home, and it seems to be overly impressed with a man who chooses to stay home. Women have it worse in either situation: they’re uncaring if they’re the “breadwinner,” and just doing what’s expected if they’re the at-home parent.

If both parents are truly valued, then let’s not judge the women more harshly for working outside the home, and let’s not give stay-at-home moms less credit than we give stay-at-home dads.

Mrs. Micah October 24, 2007 at 10:02 am

You make an excellent point, Spells. I think a COUPLE (can one make italics in this?) should figure out why they want to have kids if neither one wants to stay home. Maybe they have a good reason. But they probably shouldn’t if they’re only going to see the kids for a few hours and on weekends.

I think you deserve props for supporting your family. And your husband gets props for caring for the kids while you care for them in a different way. I’ve seen the attitudes which you’re describing. It’s sad, too. Because as long as the family works…then it works.

Mr. Micah plans to spend summer time at home with the kids (when possible, depending on whether he’s teaching summer classes). That’ll free up some time for me. It’s a blessing of his job. He helped raise his littlest brother (who was born when he was 16) and I really admire his skills with kids. πŸ™‚

Andrew Stevens October 24, 2007 at 11:24 am

Spells, I apologize for the misunderstanding. I did not actually mean to say what you think I said. When I said, “Naturally, IÒ€ℒm sure there are women for whom taking care of kids and the home would be sheer torture and we can all be glad that they have the option not to do so (and indeed not to have children at all),” all I meant to say was we can be glad that they have the *option* not to have children at all. I never meant to imply that I thought they shouldn’t have any children at all. (But you’re not wrong about the unconscious sexism. While I didn’t mean to say that, I admit it’s possible I could have, so I appreciate the correction anyway.)

However, I actually disagree with you that stay-at-home fathers are more valued than stay-at-home mothers. I suspect people are just more close-mouthed about what they’re willing to say about it.

Andrew Stevens October 24, 2007 at 11:36 am

Oh, by the way, philosophy teacher at a high school? Is that a Catholic school, a public school, or a private school? I always thought I might be able to do it at a Catholic school, but I am an atheist, so I never thought that was much of an option for me. (Though I was principally trained in philosophy by an Aquinas scholar, so I’d have been happy to teach theology as well.)

Meg October 24, 2007 at 1:09 pm

I just have to point out the other side of the coin here. Paula says “you’ll never regret it for a minute” if you have no career and stay home for your children. I disagree. You might regret it a lot, especially if your husband a) loses his job, b) dies, or c) leaves you. Then how will you take care of those precious children?

In this day and age, it’s very very risky for women to give up their earning power by leaving (or never starting) any meaningful career. I know no one thinks it will happen to them, but the divorce rate is well over 50% now. Plus there are risks of illness, disability, and death of your husband.

You might also regret it when they go off to school (forget college, we’re talking grade school) and you have no meaningful occupation. Sewing and reading are not nearly as rewarding as they seem–especially when done for decades on end. Your kids only need constant care for a few years–there’s no reason for a woman to refuse to work for the entirity of her life just because she has small children at home for 5 or 6 years.

Plus, it’s a HUGE financial burden on men who are forced to be primary breadwinners in today’s world, supporting 2-5 dependents on one income. They don’t have the option to choose to sit around and read, sew, and explore their own interests instead of making a living.

Mrs. Micah October 24, 2007 at 1:43 pm

Well, currently I’m not in a meaningful career. I’m working to support my husband as he goes through a PhD program. I’m still trying to figure out what a meaningful career would even be for me. At heart I’m a writer and a sewer.

When I say sewing, I’m talking about a business–making curtains, tailoring, custom clothes–to whatever extent my free time can support it. This is something I’ve had a passion for for over 10 years. I’ve made money doing it, I’ve done it as gifts and favors, I’ve made wedding dresses, historical costumes, prom dresses, pants, blouses, quilts, and more. Plus I love doing it.

Sewing, which you dismiss, is a much more meaningful career for me than working in some corporation like I’m doing now.

My husband is also passionate about teaching philosophy. He doesn’t see it as a job, but as fulfilling his telos. If he stops liking it or if it can’t support us then we’ll find a way. But if he’s making enough that we can live on and loves his job…

The “precious children” will do a lot better, I expect, having one parent actually raising them than abandoning them to be raised by other people (for single parents, of course, it’s a necessity). Even if that means living a bit below cultural standards. Plus most mothers’ salaries go primarily towards childcare anyway.

Really, nobody should even have kids with the worldview you describe. They’ll have to spend the whole time their child is growing up working just in case they get divorced or someone dies. The kids will be raised by random people who are hired to do it. I had friends who saw their parents for maybe 2 hours/day. They were much closer to the people who did afterschool care. I ask why have kids then? As pets? Maybe people have reasons, but I have to wonder about some of them.

Nor was I refusing to ever work for a living. Well, I expect to “work” plenty when they’re young as well.

Maybe you’re meaning to be helpful. But I’ve seen a lot of women (and men, too, if they make that choice) ridiculed for staying at home, told they’re not being practical, etc.

I also feel insulted and patronized at the image that’s implied of me staying home and sipping tea, working crosstitch samplers, and reading novels while my husband slaves away at work and feels enormously pressured to keep me on that pedestal. I don’t know why I even feel the need to defend myself, but perhaps because lots of women feel judged if they stay home or worry that they have to work even though they have the financial stability to enrich their family by staying with the kids. And, as I’ve said, if the relationship is more suited to the man staying home, great!

Spells October 24, 2007 at 2:46 pm

Andrew, our friend teaches philosophy at a public high school in Tennessee. It’s “regular” high school, not a magnet school, too. That school also has a sociology teacher, and I always thought that would be a “dream” job for me.

Thanks for your response, too — I probably was being touchy, as I said. I live in a town with many, many stay-at-home moms who act “surprised” when they see me rather than my husband at a school event or whatever. So, I probably have grown, unjustly, to see slights
where there are none.

Mrs. Micah, I agree with you that some women are ridiculed for staying home with kids (and as Andrew said, that men probably are treated the same, but sometimes peopel hide it better). I had a lawyer friend who clerked for a federal court of appeals, and then came home to raise her daughter. The lawyers at her husband’s firm dismissed her completely at social functions – would turn away from her. At one party, they were talknig about this brilliant legal opinion that the court of appeals had just released and said to my friend “oh, I’m sure this must be boring to you.” And my friend said “No, it’s not. I actually wrote that opinion when I clerked for that court!” It’s like they assume you lose 20 IQ points, coming home.

But, Mrs. Micah, I think you are being harsh, and categorically rejecting all families where both parents work. There are many, many reasons why both parents may work, and we cannot know what goes on in their homes and lives. It is not fair to judge from the outside whether their choices are good, and surely it cannot be universally true that “nobody should even have kids” if they have good reason to worry about financial stability.

Kids can be seriously screwed up in a parent-at-home household or in a both-parents-work-outside household. Neither path is failsafe, but both should be safe from categorical judgments.

Andrew Stevens October 24, 2007 at 4:04 pm

Without getting into what’s rewarding and not rewarding (which will depend on the individual), Meg is incorrect on a few factual points. 1) The divorce rate is not, and never has been over 50%, nevertheless “well over” as Meg asserts. It’s much closer to 40%, and that’s for the people who have had the most divorces (people in their late 50s now). At the peak of the divorce rate (1980), there were half as many divorces that year as there were marriages, but there is no cohort of age-defined people who have had 50% of their marriages fail. 2) Once there are children, two-thirds of all divorces are initiated by women. We won’t get into whose fault the divorce might have been (it could easily be the man’s fault, but still initiated by the woman), but the specter of “being left” is a much smaller risk than is normally assumed. 3) There certainly are risks if the husband dies or is disabled. This is why I am extremely well-insured. Were I to die, my wife would face many, many grave and serious problems, but money isn’t one of them. As for unemployment, double income couples who have expenses which are greater than either of the incomes face much greater risks in this regard than single-earner couples. Single-earner couples have a safety valve; the non-earner can reenter the work force. (This is mostly just an argument for living on only one income, regardless of how many incomes you have.)

Actually, the largest risk is exactly what happened to my mother. When my father was afflicted by schizophrenia, she was left in a terrible bind. He didn’t die so she didn’t get Social Security or life insurance and there was no insurance which covered disability caused by mental illness and it’s very difficult to get such insurance today. We were quite poor while I was growing up because of this, but, as long as you’ve got your health and don’t live in a crime-infested neighborhood, poverty in America is no hardship. It’s more irritating than anything else.

Mr. Micah October 24, 2007 at 4:22 pm

It seems to me that Meg simply hasn’t ever met a sewer for whom sewing is a creative process on par with the activities of other artists. I couldn’t have thought of sewing in these terms either, before I met Mrs. Micah (she wasn’t called that then, though). But for her it is a creative outlet, an artisic venture. And there is nothing more Godlike than that, it seems to me.

That understood, I think that being creative and learning for the rest of one’s life sounds enormously fulfilling. And worthwhile, I might add. I’d like to work on being Godlike for the rest of my life!!!

Spells October 24, 2007 at 7:37 pm

Andrew, thanks for responding. I am sure I sometimes see slights where there aren’t any, and I should not have put thoughts into your post that weren’t there.

As for the philosophy teacher, he teaches at the public high school in our Tennessee town. It’s a “regular” high school, not a magnet school. They also have a sociology teacher, which, while we’re fantasizing, would be my dream job. Not a lot of turnover there, though– once somebody snags a dream job, they don’t leave!

Andrew Stevens October 24, 2007 at 7:51 pm

Spells, quite all right. It was an easy misunderstanding to make and you were “gently” chiding me anyway. I can easily see how you could have gotten that impression from what I wrote. And I can easily see myself saying something like “Women who don’t want to be with their children shouldn’t have them.” However, I would also write “Men who don’t want to be with their children shouldn’t have them.” Ideally, if you are a couple having children, the one who gets to stay home with them ought to be considered (by both partners) to be the luckier one.

Thanks for the info on your friend. It’s too late for me to go into teaching in any event. I have a job I enjoy very much now. I’m not likely to give it up for a job that I *think* I would enjoy more.

mbhunter October 26, 2007 at 9:19 am

We’re tending toward wanting to home-school our daughter (who’s now 2 1/2). A good fraction of the church we go to home-schools their children.

An interesting story: One of the daughters of a home-schooled family was getting treated at the orthodontist, and the assistane asked if she was home schooled. She said, “Yes, but how did you know?” The assistant replied, “Because you talk to me.” As long as the children aren’t studying all the time, and do get to accompany the parents places, especially when they go talking with their friends, homeschooled children can be a lot more socially adept than they’re often given credit for. (Plus, they’re not being told to sit down and shut up all the time.) πŸ˜‰

Andrew Stevens October 26, 2007 at 2:38 pm

The socialization argument has always struck me as a poor argument against home-schooling. The socialization found in schools is a phony socialization. At what other time in your life will you be surrounded by people who are almost exactly the same age as you are? Indeed, one of the reasons why I favor home-schooling over traditional schooling is to avoid that socialization. I think schooling produces children who have largely socialized each other and I believe the process of socialization is too important to leave up to children.

A much stronger argument against is that having only one teacher can narrow a child’s educational breadth. There are, I am sure, many home-schoolers who inadvertently pass on their disdain for a particular subject to their children.

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