Stay-at-Home vs. Working Moms
A couple of years ago, Julie Beck, the LDS General Relief Society President, gave a General Conference address admonishing “mothers who know” to stay home, care for their own children, and keep a clean house. The Mormon blogosphere exploded with criticism and defense of Sister Beck’s remarks. Because I currently live in a neighborhood of mostly stay-at-home-moms, I thought the issue had been resolved in favor of SAHM.
A couple of weeks ago, I was surprised to hear two young mothers with part time jobs comment during enrichment meeting that their husbands wanted them to go back to work fulltime and were willing to help out with the kids and household chores. Both were mothers of toddlers and preferred not to take on full time employment. Still, they sympathized with their husbands who wanted the security of a two-income family.
Even with careful management, a single income doesn’t always stretch to cover house payments and keep food on the table and shoes on the feet. And many formerly secure jobs now shake in the winds of recession. Opting for the financial stability of two incomes makes sense for many families.
Two fulltime jobs creates strain for most families. An easier situation is for one parent to work part time. Here’s where education and training pay off. A person with a degree or specialized skill works fewer hours for the same or more money than a less skilled worker. After her first child’s birth, my daughter, a social worker, worked ten hours a week at $20 an hour. She would have had to work full time at minimum wage to earn $200 a week. Just think how few hours she could have worked if we’d sent her to dental school!
Regardless of what Church leaders preach from the pulpit, couples have to weigh their options and decide what works best for their own family. One talented young couple I know agreed (before marriage—after the ceremony is not the best time to negotiate) that each needed time to pursue creative endeavors and that they would take turns. He provides the major income with his teaching job and she stayed home with the preschoolers for four years while he taught and wrote his first book. With his book published, he took over more child care responsibility freeing her to teach art.
A couple in our neighborhood agreed that he would work full time and complete his degree with evening classes while she stayed home with preschoolers. With his degree completed, he now cares for the kids while she is takes evening classes to earn her own degree. Will they be criticized by ward members for this decision? Obviously their schedule for the next four years precludes his accepting church callings that include week night meetings.
When I worked full time with a family, I felt no support and a lot of criticism from the Church. Has this improved for young families? Is criticism for working moms now limited to mothers of preschoolers? Are men criticized at church or in the community if their wives need to pull in some extra income?
Stay-at-Home vs. Working Moms