To Work or Stay-at-Home: Supporting those who pursue a middle way

Previously published in the column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” from the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch

Caught up in the waves on links on the world wide web I encountered an insightful article on the “Cult of Domesticity” by Daniel Stewart, known more to me as the husband of Haley Stewart, host of the podcast, Fountains of Carrots. In the article, Stewart discusses the concept of work within traditional marriages. 

To work or not to work

It is a hot topic for many young families. Should both parents work? Should the mother stay at home? Could the father stay at home? What type of education should the children receive? Is the stay-at-home-parent capable of homeschooling? 

And when the choices we make because of our values, abilities and circumstances seem less than ideal, my eyes wander to the other side of the fence. How green the lawn is there! How straight the boxwood hedge! 

Perfectly manicured house and lawn
Photo by Gus Ruballo on Unsplash

We look across the aisle to ask ourselves, “am I making the right decision?” “Is this the best I can do for my family?” In some cases, frustration over the impossibility of our personal ideal sets in, and resentment grows.

More than black and white

In her book titled The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts, Judith Wallerstein, in a longitudinal (long-term) study, conducted in-depth interviews of couples married more than seven years who self-identified as having a happy marriage and found no less than four types of marriages, two of which were based on markedly different views of how labor in the home would be divided. 

These lasting, satisfied couples affirm that sense that there are things in life and relationships that are negotiable. We can plan and hope, but as we move forward in actually living our lives, the turns in the road might have more say in our decisions than early musings. The ability to remain open to these changes and work through them strengthens the bonds of the relationship.

A Historical Perspective

Stewart pointed out is that the traditional arrangement of a husband working outside the home and the wife working within the home was more a product of the 1950s and 60s than truly historical. 

He explained the industrial revolution transferred work from the home to the factory, later the office. Before, families could see each other more because dad came in from the field or the blacksmith shop for lunch. Women made lace, sold chicken eggs and preserves, and produced the goods needed for comfortable living for her family. 

The work was demanding, and the skills needed demanded learning. That learning brought a deal more satisfaction than mere consumption, that is, being in charge of buying whatever the family needs.

So, in the 1970s, when women asked “is this all there is?” the question was not unreasonable. But rather than return the work for both spouses to the home, because the world had changed, the women went out to work. 

Times are changing again.

With the internet and the gig economy, we hear repeatedly that it is easier than ever to work from home. Whether the hours are spent for a traditional job with a flexible schedule, freelancing an afternoon out of the week, or selling from a multi-level marketing company, options abound. The economy and culture practically demand that both parties work in some capacity. The gig economy makes it possible. 

While that potential may be in flux for some professions (like my own), at this time of year we see this movement on display, blessing our homes and Christmas trees each year. 

On October 25 Samaritan Village hosted their holiday boutique. Patrons pack the sidewalks at Downtown Turlock’s Shop the Blocks, November 3, and hunted for treasure at Vintage at the Yard, November 16. 

Coming up

On November 23 and 24th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the 20th Century Club Arts and Craft Fair continues its 47-year tradition at Hughson High School. 

The following week on November 30 (Small Business Saturday), Mod Shop, Downtown Modesto’s artisan craft fair, opens an extra hour early this year running from 4 p.m. To 9 p.m. 

When we bring our shopping back to the local level, when we support small business entrepreneurs and the community in which they live, when we choose to connect rather than bargain hunt, we can take a small step in helping those families whose members are pursuing their interests with passion, looking for creative ways to support their family in order to live their ideal life, and returning to the skills that are sorely needed in today’s society of mass marketing and production. We meet the makers, hear their stories and grow a better world today.

Christmas craft of wooden snowflake
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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