Is Motherhood a "Calling"?

My dear friend, Carla, and her co-blogger Caryn over at TheMommyRevolution answer with a robust No!  Money Quote:

It boarders on idolatry. Dave made a statement that
troubles me to no end. It is just the kind of statement that sends a

deeper message to mothers: Dave mentions that a woman’s proper focus is
the family. I’m not sure where he gets that. Well, I know where he gets
it, but I don’t know what biblical basis he has for that statement. As
I said, the gospel doesn’t include specifics about parenting. Jesus
didn’t exempt mothers from participating in God’s work in the world.
And Jesus wasn’t just talking to the men when he told his followers to
feed and clothe and visit the poor and imprisoned. The idea that my
three children are more important than other people goes against
everything the Bible teaches. It makes an idol of my family. So I can’t
justify having tunnel vision about my parenting. I can’t call myself a
Christian and then live a life that centers only on a small, select
group of people-no matter how much I love those people. And I can’t
fathom God giving me gifts and passions and dreams with the intention
that I limit the use of those to the lives of three people. There is a
huge, hurting world out there and mothers-with our heightened
compassion, our deepened sense of justice, our ever-growing longing for
a better world-are uniquely qualified to get out there and work toward
bringing about the kingdom of God. I could go on and on about mothers
who have changed the world, but we’ll save that for another post.

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  • A Walker

    It is not controversial that a central element of the human calling is written upon–and emerges from–our human biology. That is, our own bodies carry with them a message: “You are a reproducer and child nurturer.”
    For women, this message emerges from their wombs and breasts. For men, this message likewise emerges from their sex organs. We are creatures, and there is no way to get around our creaturely-ness. And that fact arises merely from a basic survey of nature using reason.
    When we come to religion, we see countless directives about parenting as the central calling of humankind. “Be fruitful and multiply” is but the first command of many. In other words, we see that parenting *is God’s work in the world.* This fact does not make an idol of one’s family; instead, it makes a mission of one’s family. The family–the procreation and godly education of children–is a mission of God in the world.
    And it’s a 24/7 job which goes on for decades.

  • As a young woman with many dreams and ambitions (starting my own daycare, learning Spanish fluently, traveling the world, etc.), I truly believe that women should not be pressured to stay at home raising children and keeping house while Husband goes to his job and brings home the bacon. However, as a young woman who has dreamed her whole life of doing just that, I also believe that no woman should feel ashamed that her dream job is taking care of her family.
    Women have made a huge shift from being content staying at home as a housekeeper/mother to looking down their noses at any woman who has chosen that path. Raising children is hard on both mom and dad – and not giving that responsibility the attention it deserves is irresponsible and foolish.
    There is the misconception that stay-at-home moms don’t have a life outside of their home and family. I disagree. I look forward to devoting my “career” to raising well-educated, balanced, healthy children and supporting my husband in all of his endeavors. However, I also get supremely excited about my own ambitions and how my “career” as a mother is going to facilitate my growth and success. It is a pity that some women are going to look at me as a disappointment to the female gender for choosing to stay home with my young children; but I could not be more sure of my purpose and am over-joyed at the thought of carrying it out.

  • Virgil Vaduva

    Tony, I find it interesting that we often speak against consumerism in our society and then condone the literal daily splitting of families by consumeristic tendencies…or even defend it under the guise of “pursuing dreams, gifts and passions.” (I am speaking in terms of wives and mothers pursuing careers away from families)
    What if we consider the Biblical and the Middle Eastern understanding of hospitality, which has been unfortunately redefined by us westerners? Hospitality (which has been at the heart of the Biblical story) has always been about servitude and extreme care for another person, often at the expense of your own comfort. We see this manifested by Abraham for example and in the New Testament by Mary Magdalene. Scot McKnight commented on this issue a long time ago when he saw in Mary’s constant presence and servitude for Jesus and the disciples the manifestation of hospitality required of all of us. It seems that the very presence of women and the very manifestation of their femininity brings sacredness to a space: their motherhood brings fertility, life and purpose to an average home or place; motherhood turns the average into extraordinary.
    In the west we have corrupted the idea of hospitality and servitude in the family by redefining it to mean “earn money to provide for the family and to fulfill my dreams.” I am not sure what biblical basis there is for that approach.
    Note that Mary did not manifest hospitality by pursuing her dreams and passions, rather she showed the heart of a servant by becoming a “mother” to all these guys back in the first century; she brought a new level of sacredness to their lives through hospitality. To quote Scot, “Martha and Mary illustrate, not simply a contemplative life vs. an active life, but instead the proper kind of hospitality with an improper kind of hospitality (Luke 10:38-42).”
    Perhaps the conversation should assume that motherhood should be viewed as a virtue rather than a calling; and if mothers do not show biblical hospitality to their own families, who will?

  • Brian

    Here is where it is from:
    “to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”
    (Titus 2:5)
    Idolatry to love your kids?! Are you serious?! So your saying to neglect our own children for the sake of others. This is highly problematic. your kids will hate you. God loves his kids more than non-believers (Jacob, Esau, etc.), why would we do any different? Every sane parent I know loves their own children more than other children.

  • Rebekah

    I have a hard time believing that “be fruitful and multiply” is God’s primary directive for Christians. What about “Love the Lord with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself?” Or “Go into all the world and preach the gospel?” Or “To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God?”
    The point Carla makes is that while motherhood (and fatherhood) are good and wonderful things, and will be an integral part of the lives of most Christians, it is hardly the sum of Christian mission in the world, for men or women. We see in western culture today a sort of idolatry of family (in both the secular and religious cultures) that places children at the center, rather than within the matrix of family life. This is exemplified in the mainstream culture by the phenomena of “helicopter parents,” the mania for overscheduling avery moment in the life of a young child to provide “enrichment opportunities,” the Park Avenue obsession with getting 4 year olds admitted into the “right” preschool,etc. In the Christian subculture we see this manifested as an overstatement of the importance and virtue of parenthood, in particular motherhood.
    Indeed, this rhetoric surrounding motherhood can become particularly toxic, and seems to be in part what Carla is responding to in her comment. So often Christians women are told that motherhood is the highest and most fulfilling calling for women, a vocation that they as women were created specifically for. Even if their pastors do not teach outright (as say, Mark Driscoll does) that women must stay at home and raise children in order to be faithful to God, the surrounding Christian milieu that is constantly trumpeting the supreme joys and wonders of motherhood conspires to make them feel very guilty if they do not.
    If we reduce women (or men) as A Walker seems to do, to their reproductive organs, we are denying the fullness of the image of God that they bear as his creation. If we insist that a woman’s primary function in the Kingdom of God is to bear and raise children, because that is what she as a woman has been designed to do, then we betray the words of scripture, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

  • David

    Brian – you should’ve known better than to quote a verse and take it at face value on this blog. Wasted time, my friend… wasted time.

  • Angie

    “their motherhood brings fertility, life and purpose to an average home or place; motherhood turns the average into extraordinary.”
    …and what of women who are unable to conceive or afford adoption? Are these women and their homes destined to be simply average?
    Also, I can’t imagine what kind of world we would be living in had women throughout history refrained from fulfilling their dreams when those dreams were of bringing justice and peace to those outside of their inner sphere.

  • too weird. my friend and i were just discussing this very thing from carla’s book yesterday! believe it or not, i felt more pressure to be a stay-at-home mom from my first emergent church experience. i think we can take anything–vegetarianism, motherhood, childbirth–and turn it into a legalism of sorts. and that’s exactly what happened to me among “emerging” people about 9 years ago. at first i bought into it, and for a long, long time i thought my sister, who wanted a career as a counselor AND raise a child, was abandoning her responsibility as mother first and foremost.
    but after reading carla’s book, i felt a weight lift, freedom from the legalistic way of thinking. i am disappointed that this can happen in “emerging” churches (by the way, this is a very well-known one!), which claim to be more open-minded…

  • Virgil Vaduva

    Angie, I believe you missed my point. I am writing in the historical context of hospitality and motherhood; Mary was not literally a “mother” to the disciples and to Jesus, however she served in her role to satisfy the sacred virtue found in motherhood…I thought I made that pretty clear.
    Please read my initial comment again; saying “what if” in response does not satisfy what I wrote initially, especially when I am attempting to restore to a biblical – not modern – understand of motherhood and hospitality.

  • A Walker

    How could you deny that “be fruitful and multiply” is a directive to God’s people? It’s in the Holy Book recited and rehearsed by God’s people since the earliest times. Moreover, it’s written into our very biology/design as creatures made by God. Our bodily designs tell us things.
    The family has always been the primary mission field for fathers and mothers. The bible says countless things about educating and training our children in the Holy Faith.
    You are correct that it is not the total sum, but it is the primary mission of fathers and mothers, who spend decades at a 24/7 schedule raising/educating children, meeting both their material and spiritual needs.
    The point you bring up about children as part of a matrix is a fine point. That is, parents are not slaves of child masters. But that’s an issue of *how* we are to do our duties as parents, not *whether* we are to carry out duties as parents.
    But I disagree entirely with you that we can “overstate” the importance and virtue of parenthood. Remember: “If anyone does not provide for his own [relatives], and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim 5:8).
    So, among the primary duties of humans to God is to tend materially and spiritually to one’s own family. Moreover, if one does *not* do this well, one is not fit for ministries to the Church (1 Tim 3:4-5). Obviously, loving one’s neighbor starts locally and works out from there.
    How can talk of motherhood be “toxic,” when mothers are to be praised for their hard work and effort? And could making widgets or pushing papers really be of more value than making healthy and good kids? Of all the things I’ve done in my life educationally and professionally, not one thing will ever be as important to me as the well-being and success of my kids. So it is with all good parents. So, there’s a hierarchy of important tasks in this world, and human beings are of the highest rank in importance.
    A woman’s vocation of motherhood is written into her very body. This is to be praised and celebrated, as is a man’s calling to fatherhood. These are great things to be highly esteemed.

  • Annie

    Can I just say that Virgil Vaduva’s comments are some of the most insightful commentary on this question I’ve read in a while?
    We imagine motherhood in terms of the contemporary emphasis on the nuclear family, which is isolating for mothers and yes, perhaps makes an idol of the family. But the nuclear family, even with two working parents, is no less an idol in the larger culture and no less isolating for the family unit. Something is wrong here and it isn’t the expectation that women (and men) should primarily be invested in the people closest to them. Frankly, I can’t figure out what’s wrong with that expectation at all, except that under our current model, the expectation is that women will do that work.
    The answer isn’t for both men and women to abandon it. It’s for both men and women to invest. Setting aside the one income model, what if work entailed flexible scheduling, so that both parents were in the home a good portion of the time, instead of gone 40+ hours a week? What if we expected less in terms of income, spent less, lived in larger groups to share costs, and yes, invested in our homes rather than in our careers? Would that be such a terrible thing? Isn’t this about something more than a “return” to some kind of misguided vision of the 1950s? Are we talking anything short of revolution?
    What would it look like if we enlarged that circle beyond mom and dad plus 2.5 kids to include extended family and friends? What if we took care of our own elders instead of putting them in nursing homes? What else would we have time for, without a “career” to worry about, as an unqualified good? Time to help the poor and nurse the sick? Time to worship with other Christians daily instead of weekly (at most)? All of these things in more. In short: time to serve Christ instead of serving capitalism.
    I think this conversation (and our culture) is suffering from an acute failure of imagination when it comes to work, home, and family. There are many more possibilities than we habitually allow.

  • Angie

    In your post and your response to mine, you seem to be using the terms “motherhood” and “hospitality” interchangeably. I do not believe them to be the same; one is a command for all of humanity and the other has obvious gender bias.
    Whatever your take on the biblical notion of motherhood, the word (as well as your reference to “fertility”) conjures up certain literal meanings that perhaps you didn’t intend.
    Furthermore, you seem to be taking issue with “wives and mothers pursuing careers away from families” while stating that Mary was not actually a mother to Jesus and his disciples but that she still used hospitality to make her life – and theirs – more sacred. How is that different from working women – journalists, activists, community workers, etc. – who through “extreme care for another person, often at the expense of their own comfort” improve and make more sacred the lives of others? Is it simply because they are not doing it from the comfort of their own home? Or that they are getting a paycheck for making the world a better place?

  • A Walker

    Angie asks: How is that different from working women – journalists, activists, community workers, etc. – who through “extreme care for another person, often at the expense of their own comfort” improve and make more sacred the lives of others”?
    A Walker: There are differences between work outcomes and parenting outcomes. First, a parent’s primary duty is to his/her kids. You then work outward from there. All religious duty begins locally and works outward. For parents, loving one’s neighbor as oneself begins with loving his/her kids and sacrificing for them.
    Next, there is an issue of rank. Creating good newspaper articles is great. But it doesn’t compare to creating good kids. Why? Because one’s kids are more important in rank than newspaper copy. No one should ever praise a good writer or salesman or computer maker who abandons, neglects, or abuses his/her children. People come first, and for parents, kids are the first people to whom parents have responsibility.

  • Angie

    I hope you aren’t suggesting that being a good parent and a good newswoman are mutually exclusive. I use the journalist as an example because it is a career through which injustices are exposed and lives all around the world are transformed through knowledge. Should women and mothers be excluded from careers such as these? Perhaps you believe the Bible says so, but I do not.

  • Dan H

    Hmm. I felt the original quote in the post was a bit extreme (it almost seemed to be discouraging spending much energy on parenthood altogether), but found a much broader, more nuanced position when I went to the original post on MommyRevolution. I’d recommend others to do the same.

  • Joel

    Isn’t that view a bit…sorry to use the latest catchphrase…Platonic? Who is she to assume that raising children isn’t part of the Lord’s work?
    Regardless, this is a prime example of focusing on one part of Scripture while ignoring the rest. I think a prime response would simply be Proverbs 31, which states that a wife/mother is to look after her family first (as this is pleasing to God). Notice in Proverbs 31 that helping the needy is a PART of being a mother, but not the entire part.
    What kind of message does that send to the children? How is an absent “ministry mom” any better than the pastor who sells out his children for his ministry (or the dad that works 12 hours a day and ignores his children for the television at night)?
    God says that children are a gift – we should treat them as such. To say, “They’re no more important than the homeless in terms of priorities” actually is unscriptural (for BOTH parents) and a form of super-spirituality.

  • A Walker

    I am not suggesting that being a good parent and a good newswoman are mutually exclusive. And of course I don’t think women should be excluded from careers outside the home.
    However, children come first once one has children (obviously), and if one can manage the home first, then one can move outside the home. This is a fundamental logistics issue for all parents. It greatly aids the situation to have TWO parents working together on the parenting thing. Single motherhood almost entirely wipes out career opportunity for women. For kids need 24/7 care, and humans can’t do everything, due to real-world time and physical limitations.

  • Your Name

    A Walker,
    Please read my comment again. I never denied that “be fruitful and multiply” was a directive from God. My point is that it is one of many, arguably more important, directives throughout scripture. Talk of motherhood is not in and of itself toxic, but it can become so when it reduces women to mere procreators, or insists that motherhood is the only God-given calling for women. Much of the talk about motherhood within the Christian subculture, while not explicitly elucidating the above thoughts, in practice has the same effect. Continually praising mothers, and motherhood while failing to praise women for their many other accomplishment sends the sub-rosa message that motherhood is all any woman who has her priorities straight should ever hope to accomplish, that motherhood is somehow the pinnacle of womanhood or personhood.
    I would never suggest that children are somhow unimportant, or should not be loved and cherished. Having children will rightly reorder any parent’s priorities and require sacrifices. What is toxic is placing the responsibility of this reordering and sacrifice primarily on the shoulders of the mother. I agree with Annie that there is a lot of work to be done in creatively re-imagining how we order our families. Virgil asks, “if mothers do not show biblical hospitality to their own families, who will?” Well, how about fathers, and granparents, friends, aunts and uncles? I know several men who have chosen to stay at home, either not working or working from home, while their wives go to work. What about forming child care cooperatives where parents with flexible work schedules can take turns watching the children? What about fighting for affordable child care and flexible scheduling for working parents?
    Finally, not all people will be called to have children. I currently do not, and may never, although I am not opposed to it. Some people I know do not want, or do not feel they are called to have children. Does that mean we are not fulfilling our God-given purpose?

  • Rebekah

    BTW, that is my comment above, under “Your Name.”

  • A Walker

    I’m not sure we’re in disagreement. (Though I disagree with your “motherhood-talk-is-toxic” idea. You have to promote the good acts and behaviors so that people do them.)
    If your point is that women are “procreators-plus,” we totally agree. Men are procreators-plus. The problem is that feminist theorists have come to utterly despise the procreative biology of women, likening it to “slavery” (I swear I didn’t make that up), noting that parenting is such a time-intensive and labor-intensive job.
    And when the broader pagan culture belittles motherhood and family to the point it does in our time, it’s natural for Christian communities to rally around its mothers/parents, to counter that negative force. Don’t you think?
    Women who feel exclusively called to career should not marry and have kids, for family is a 24/7 job that lasts decades. Instead, they should use celibacy as the primary aid to accomplish their non-child-rearing mission. Christianity has a long tradition of nuns and brothers and priests who forego marriage to accomplish a non-child-related mission of forwarding civil good and Christian justice.
    But anyone who marries is “called to have children” by definition, for that’s what marriage is–the contractual right to exclusive sexual relations with another.

  • Angie, I am using both terms in an anthropological-biblical sense here, which is why hospitality came up since it is tightly integrated with the biblical concept of motherhood. The implication from Tony’s initial blog entry was that there is “no biblical support.” I am showing that there is. Mary did not abandon her small children at home in order to pursue community volunteer work, so I am having trouble with the comparison. Even with that in mind she still manifested her motherhood through her humility and hospitality to Jesus and the disciples – her actions have nothing in common with a modern mother putting her children in a daycare in order to pursue a career.
    Rebekah, you asked about fathers and grandparents; the problem with your question is that it assumes an inherent equality between the abilities of men and women to “deliver motherhood;” this is the fallacy of modern feminism in my opinion and it is a contradiction in itself – a male, friend or stranger cannot possibly provide motherhood to a child. Also, the idea that the only difference between men and women are our sexual organs has been proven fallacious already. Perhaps you do not mean to espouse this, but those are the implications; fathers and mothers can deliver and provide their children with unique experiences that can hardly be swapped. Let’s return to the biblical narrative for a moment. There is a reason for which the church is described as a bride (female) ready for Christ, the bridegroom (male). Each one evidently has a specific purpose: the femininity of the church implies the care it births and cares for those who dwell within her while Christ, the male brings about salvation and protection for the bride.
    The idea that the bride and groom are freely interchangeable does not seem to be feasible; it’s not feasible in the church (the church cannot save herself, only Christ can do so – and Christ has nothing to save and deliver without his bride) and it cannot be feasible in a family. This is the biblical story whether we like it or not; if you find it unacceptable, then we can settle on that issue and we can explore the cultural/anthropological aspects of the narrative, but that is a whole new issue entirely.
    What troubles me the most about this whole conversation are the excuses we make in order to justify our extreme consumerism; we are apparently willing to go to any lengths (including abandoning our children or handing them over to a stranger, friend or daycare) in order to justify pursuing wealth, money, goods, passions, dreams, etc. And when I say “consumerism” I am not just speaking about money and material things; I am also referring to our tendencies to satisfy every want, dream and passion we desire as westerners living in a land of the plenty.
    Frankly I find this extremely disturbing and I am sorry, but I reject this paradigm. Our children are our message to future generations, to our grandchildren, and great grandchildren. If I have to give up my career for them, I readily do it – and my wife already made that choice. If I have to give up volunteering at the local homeless shelter for them, I would do so. Very little, if anything is more important than them, and the concept of motherhood is a critical piece of this picture and of the future of the Kingdom of God.

  • Marty Davis

    If the Annunciation of Mary was not a “calling” to Motherhood and the ultimate blessing on the station of Motherhood I don’t know what is.

  • Angie

    I can only say that I am grateful to have parents who allowed me to pursue my dreams and passions – most of which have nothing to do with consumerism. And if those dreams allow me to be a self-sufficient person who does not need to rely on another to feed and clothe myself, I see that as a pretty great thing.
    My understanding of God is that He created me to be a unique individual with passions that were meant to be pursued, not sit dormant or be stifled by parents, peers or society. I don’t see that as a self-centered western philosophy. As I stated before, I cannot and do not want to imagine what kind of world we would live in had people (men and women, mothers and fathers) refrained from pursuing their passions and dreams. Think of the art, music, science, literature – not to mention health care and the technology that allows us to have this conversation – that would not exist in the world if this were so.
    I believe that most people, women included, pursue these dreams not at the expense of their children, but to their children’s benefit.

  • And Angie, I am with you regarding the pursuit of dreams as long as long as they are not at the expense of their children; the challenge is for all of us, when we are surrounded by a prosperous and also extremely selfish society, to be parts of our children lives in such a way that we equip them with what is necessary for them to take the message of the Kingdom with them to tomorrow.
    I have really enjoyed the conversation here; I hope my own passion for the topic has not offended anyone. 🙂

  • A Walker

    I strongly urge you to delay getting married so you can pursue your non-family career. Once you are married and kids come, your entire schedule will be made for you against your will, and you will have to make a tough choice to lay down your full-time professional ambitions–I assure that if you’re a good person, you your family vocation will take precedence (unless you’re rich and your farm out your parenting responsibilities to a nanny).
    Don’t ignore my words. Family and kids is a 24/7 job—yes a job, like any other job. How successful do you think you will be if you are trying to juggle two or more jobs within a 24-hour day? Very few people can juggle two separate non-related jobs. Humans aren’t made for it, and after a short time they melt down under the time limits and relational strains. I’ve seen it over and over.
    In other words, your 40-hour-a-week career will likely be at the expense of your children, and your children will hate you for having hated them via your choices that lead to their neglect. (Children are more than a 40-hour-per-week task.)
    Stay single. Get your career mission going good. Then, after you are well established in a career, see if you can marry. You may be able to, but you may not. But whatever you do, realize that parenting is a 24/7 career in itself that goes on for decades, like any other career.

  • Anna K.

    Or Angie could marry a guy who’s willing to be a stay-at-home dad. That’s what my neighbors did. 😉

  • A Walker

    The stay-at-home dad idea is ultra inefficient, though it can in rare instances work (if you are okay with mediocre results).
    Men don’t have breasts to feed the babies for a year or two at a time. They don’t have wombs that carry babies for nine months at a time. And if they attempt to share 50/50 home duties, then the family has no real money maker for the long haul. And everyone does a mediocre job at everything. Some people are okay with that, but this is mostly frustrating for the adults and the kids.
    Contrary to popular thought, people aren’t super humans. We encounter real-world restraints such as time limits, physical limits, and workplace dynamics that can’t be avoided. A man who attempts to do 50/50 home duty will fail to become a professional success, which economically hurts the family. Likewise the 50/50 home-duty woman will fail to become a professional success.
    The most efficient and success-oriented family system is this: assign one parent to manage the home and one parent to earn the money for the home.
    A decent compromise that can work is to give one parent 75% focus on home work. But again, this will produced mostly mediocre results, both at home and in the workplace.
    Success at home or in the workplace requires full commitment of time, focus, and resources. Splitting a person in half, where he/she has one foot in the professional workplace and the other foot in the home vocation, leads to failure in both arenas.
    Choose wisely. Career-minded women need to seriously consider foregoing marriage for a long time. The woman’s biology will trump her professional interests each and every time, causing perpetual frustration for her, if she is career minded.

  • Keith

    A Walker writes
    The most efficient and success-oriented family system is this: assign one parent to manage the home and one parent to earn the money for the home. . .Success at home or in the workplace requires full commitment of time, focus, and resources. Splitting a person in half, where he/she has one foot in the professional workplace and the other foot in the home vocation, leads to failure in both arenas.
    Well, just how much focus is needed? How about each spouse focusing 75% on one of the areas? Well, not awful, A Walker lets us know, but still not a very good choice:
    A decent compromise that can work is to give one parent 75% focus on home work. But again, this will produced mostly mediocre results, both at home and in the workplace. Success at home or in the workplace requires full commitment of time, focus, and resources.
    So, we really seem to need one being almost fully focused on home, and the other almost fully focused on work.
    But isn’t this the system that let so many children down? The Dad so focused on work, as A Walker recommends, is not very focused on his children, many of whom seem to need much attention from both Mom & Dad.
    That’s why many couples have found it wonderful to split things up other ways. It gives the children a good slice of both Mom & Dad’s attention. Yes, it can in cases achieve mediocre results — just as more traditional set-ups have in many cases. But I’ve seen it achieve wonderful results, too. Of course, I’m just reporting what I’ve seen. But I’ve seen enough that I’m not going to be bowled over
    by A Walker simply asserting that this work fine while that only achieves mediocre results. Real studies are another story — and I’ve looked at many. There’s a lot of controversy over how to interpret them, but one thing that does seem clear is that different things work for different people — “Your mileage may vary.”
    (Disclosure: Because my wife wanted to stop working outside the home after our children were born, we did things pretty much the traditional way — though I was never as fully focused on my work as A Walker seems to recommend, always trying to be focused to a very good extent on my family as well. So I have nothing against the traditional division — except when people start trying to tell everyone, or almost everyone, that that’s the only good choice for them. Yes, it’s a great option for many, and I believe folks when they tell their stories about how unhappy they were until they switched to the traditional way. But I also believe those who relate that they were unhappy & they & their children were failing to thrive in the traditional set-up, but things went wonderfully better when they divided up tasks some other way.)

  • A Walker

    This topic is not so much about “traditional” vs. “non-traditional” as it is an issue of job efficiency and effectiveness. You can’t be a success at TWO full time jobs, and raising kids is ONE full time job, and being a journalist or a marketing manager or an electrician is another full time job. No human can do two careers at the same time.
    Since no human being can do TWO full time jobs, and since few organizations allow employees to achieve leadership levels at 25-30 hrs per week (i.e., part time, so as to be at home with kids), the only solution is to have one person at 40+ hours of professional career and the other managing the home during those same hours.
    This is the only division of labor within families that enables everything to function efficiently, effectively, and with clear job focus. Everything else is a messy unfocused juggling act that produces frustration and mediocrity at work, at home, and for kids.
    So the question becomes: who goes out and gets the money, and who stays at home raising the children?
    Biology gives us the normative answer: the man is least restrained, as he does not carry or nurse the kids. Efficient work design tells us that he is the one to go out and earn the money for the family while the female manages the home.

  • Keith

    since few organizations allow employees to achieve leadership levels at 25-30 hrs per week (i.e., part time, so as to be at home with kids), the only solution is to have one person at 40+ hours of professional career and the other managing the home during those same hours.
    The “only solution”? You should watch it with these one-size-fits-all solutions, because some people might really believe you.
    Some decide to forego “leadership level” positions, are thereby able to have both parents spend significant time with the children, and find the trade-off to be well worth it. (In some professions, huge amounts of time are really required to make it to the top. Having one parent completely neglect the children is worth it for the material success involved for some couples. Not for others.)
    Some find they simply can’t make it financially (at a level they find acceptable) with only one of them working outside the home.
    Some couples find that both of them need accomplishments both within and outside of the home to be fulfilled, and are able to work this out well to everyone’s satisfaction, while at least one of them, and quite possibly both of them, would be absolutely miserable — even if “efficient” in some way unimportant to them — if they followed your “only solution.”
    And indeed, many couples find that one of them wants to be primarily at home with the children, and the other seems meant to pursue a career. And that’s one way to go.
    Sadly, others find that there is no good solution for them, given their make-up and employable skills.

  • A Walker

    Foregoing leadership level positions is antithetical to the career concept. Part-time professional employees do *not* earn very good pay, nor do they tend to have satisfying careers. They tend to go in and out of odd jobs, many of which don’t make use of their personal abilities.
    Now, if one parent is dedicated 40-45 hours during the Monday-to-Friday work week, that parent will have good family time during evenings and weekends. Moreover, the home-vocation spouse will be relieved that he/she can do his job without distraction or financial worry. That’s ideal.
    Personally, I think you’re mistaken in suggesting that two part-time working parents can provide the long-range financial security for the home that the traditional model affords. Again, to have one foot in a part time professional career and one foot in a part time home vocation leads to mediocre results all around–at work and at home.
    I agree with you on one point: the designated full-time parent must be careful not to get roped into much above 45 hours per week. Yes, this will preclude some executive jobs, but not most professional jobs. And again, having one spouse do that frees up the home-based spouse to do a fantastic job at managing the children and home. That’s an efficient and effective division of labor.
    As to your comment about “fulfillment” for the adults. Adult “fulfillment” must never come at the children’s expense (i.e., neglect), which is what normally happens when adults chase “fulfillment” around. The work concept, as related to family, is this: parents work to provide for the family and its needs. It’s not all about “personal job fulfillment,” though professional work does not necessarily exclude such.
    Moreover, the wrongheaded idea that a family vocation is not fulfilling comes from anti-family peer pressures of the past few decades. If more people celebrated the home vocation in our society, women would be wholeheartedly dedicated to it. Women are great at raising children (and men can do an okay job), but women are tragically being diminished in their home-based job by pop culture, which has degraded and devalued the human family in recent decades. This creates a tough mental situation for anyone, as esteem needs are important to work attitudes.
    Either way, both parents have to take their primary fulfillment in having provided for the material and educational needs of their kids. The professional parent should link his/her 40-hour job back to the home need, and so should the designated home worker. In families, everyone’s working for the family objectives first and foremost.
    And that’s why I recommend to Angie and other women that they ought not marry for a long time, if they are absolutely dedicated to full-time professional vocations. Following my advice here will do justice to themselves and to the kids they would neglect.