A Woman’s Vocation and a Culture of Choices

I often think about having children. Josh says that it is safe to assume that I think about it daily since I talk about it “at least six days out of the week.” But I do not want to be a “stay at home mom.” I’ve written many posts on this topic, and somehow they never make it to a final draft because this just isn’t a safe topic. We can’t have a calm conversation about something which people take so very personally. Or can we?

A few months ago Josh and I watched Alasdair MacIntyre’s lecture (will open in media player) on “A Culture of Choices and Compartmentalization.” MacIntyre said that once choices were “revelatory of character” but now we see choice as underlying belief. He further suggested that now “what my choices reveal is not my character, but my identity” and that “criticism… now becomes a threat” to the individual rather than an appeal to an objective standard by which all involved can be judged.

MacIntyre perfectly analyzed why it is so difficult to talk about vocation for women. The question of mothers “staying at home” or “working” is now a question of identity.  And so I hesitate to explain my choices because in doing so I do not simply argue for my philosophical and practical understanding of what is best for me and my family, I make others feel threatened for their differing choices. I am not afraid of being judged as a future negligent mother, or one of “those career women” who prize work over family. But I am afraid of others completely missing my reasons in their automatic defensiveness of what they believe to be the ideal situation for all families. It is perfect for them, so it must be right for everyone.

I would love to have a long philosophical discussion on the “roles” of women, and the significance of the presence of both sexes in the domestic and public spheres. There are tremendous philosophical implications for the insistence that women must choose between children and work in a way that is not required of men. But I do not think that the average person is willing to actually pull apart their beliefs to this extent. And it is impossible to separate our decisions from our experiences.

And so I do not talk about my plans with most people. They can imagine that I really want to be a SAHM some day. If all goes according to plan, then they can assume that my husband simply was not able to find a high-paying job with good benefits which both allowed me to be a SAHM and prevented him from being able to equally parent. As long as it works for my husband and children, I feel no need to justify my choices to the whole world.

But this is my blog. And it is impossible for me to avoid offending people. So I am going to share my story and my hopes and dreams, as well as guest posts from other women who have come to different conclusions. Please check back next week for more!

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25 thoughts on “A Woman’s Vocation and a Culture of Choices

  1. Katie

    I commend you on turning up the heat! I always feel the same: I don’t want to touch hot-button issues because I’m afraid I’ll offend someone…and I’m a sissy, so I don’t, but I should take note of the way you fearlessly step out! :-)

    I’m very interested to read your story! I especially agreed with the magnitude of your statement, “There are tremendous philosophical implications for the insistence that women must choose between children and work in a way that is not required of men.” Regardless of the final outcome, bearing the weight to have to choose between children and work is a difficult undertaking in and of itself.

  2. Kristy

    *sigh* It’s so frustrating to talk about things sometimes. I understand that some people have very deep-seated convictions, but how can a logical person not understand that what’s right and best for A is not necessarily right and best for B? That’s not to say there shouldn’t be healthy discussion (discussion, not crazy screaming matches) about all sides of the argument – learning is never a bad thing, even if it doesn’t change your opinion – I just wish people would be willing to be open and listen.

    That said, I’m really looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

  3. Trena

    I hope everyone can remember this post when they start reading your next entry! Maybe a disclaimer at the top as a reminder will let new readers know where this started. :)
    I’m very interested to hear what you have to say. At a part-time stay at home part-time working mom I think I have the best of both worlds!

    1. Rae Post author

      I remember reading surveys that most mothers wish there were more flexible work options. I think that your situation is great!

  4. Molly

    The way I see it is that being a SAHM is a type of job, and just as not everyone is meant to be a doctor, not every woman is meant to be a SAHM for a variety of reasons. This isn’t to say that you can’t be a mother without being a SAHM, perhaps you have talents that God wants you to use both inside and outside of your home and you should not be ashamed of this!

    I can’t wait to read more about it.

  5. Dawn Farias

    I am looking forward to your thoughts. Currently, I only have one issue. You said, “It is perfect for them, so it must be right for everyone.”

    For people like me, I follow the converse of this statement. I believe SAHM to be first the perfect fit for everyone. I secondly try to adjust my attitude to fit it, embrace it, perfectly. Regarding others, I think it should be the first assumption, the starting point, and then modified by need (maybe the mom makes more money so the dad becomes the stay-at-home parent, maybe both parents need to work for financial and even emotional reasons, etc.)

    1. Rae Post author

      I can’t help but think that you wouldn’t be as inclined to think that it was perfect for everyone if it weren’t a good fit for you personally. But I also know the feeling of believing something to be true and trying to conform my life to that truth, so maybe I know what you mean?

      1. Dawn Farias

        Yes, you know what I mean, but only when you say, “I also know the feeling of believing something to be true and trying to conform my life to that truth”.

        Not when you say, “I can’t help but think that you wouldn’t be as inclined to think that it was perfect for everyone if it weren’t a good fit for you personally”. I did not mean to imply it is a good fit for me personally. It’s not and it hasn’t been. I work hard and pray a lot towards adapting my mindset to it.

        I noticed you posted a few new posts and I will have to come back later to read them! :(

  6. twistedxtian

    As a SAHD whose wife went back to work, I also look forward to your story. :) In the same way that more men are challenging the norm and staying home, I love that more women are choosing the path to work. :)

    1. Rae Post author

      I love “meeting” SAHDs! I really wish that Christians were able to value children enough so that we would support all people (including men) who choose to spend most of their time raising their children.

      1. twistedxtian

        There are those Christians-lacking-love that I’ve come across that think I’m not living biblically, or fulfilling my duty as the head of the household. That my wife will lose respect for me because I’m not the main bread winner. (She makes more money than me even if I was working, so what is she supposed to do, make less? I never understood that.)

        For the most part people I come across are super supportive, which is nice. :) I find women that go back to work catch more flack than dad’s staying home which is totally unfair. (Neither should get anything but love and support.)

  7. Maggie

    I look forward to your future posts on this subject! I get so frustrated when people start judging people’s choices (when they don’t affect someone’s soul or something like that…) especially when they judge on blogs. I commend you for writing about a “hot topic”… I have about 3 posts I have in draft form that I’m too chicken to publish!

    1. Rae Post author

      Do post them! If people get out of line, you can always delete their comments. I’ll promise to be a “good” reader, even if I disagree with you. :-)

  8. Sarah

    I’m going to have more to say (soon I promise!), but for now, I’m so excited that we’re going to all chat about this. I have faith we can be charitable and kind to one another. :)

  9. Kathleen

    I struggle with this, too. I am not exactly a SAHM, though that’s what I claim to be, b/c I spend so much time working from home, through writing and teaching. So I’m one of many “hybrid” moms. (Maybe I should retitle my blog, LOL). But I often feel that I end up making people defensive when I surely didn’t mean to… sigh.

    1. Rae Post author

      I wish that all parents were able to be “hybrid” parents. And I confess that on more than one occasion I have complained to my husband that women who work from home are often called SAHMs. But he informed me that the same is true for many dads in the tech community, even if their wives are really the primary caregivers of the children! I guess that it is just easier to put people in neat little boxes?

  10. Kacie

    I…. am absolutely with you. I struggled to articulate it to my husband, because so often in our particular culture it’s just assumed that a woman would be content and fulfilled staying at home with the kids. I would say, “You know that drive that you feel to be really investing outside of the home in something meaningful? You know how everyone encourages you to pursue training in order to be able to fulfill those callings on your life? I feel that drive and calling JUST as much as a man does. I want to be a mother, but I also think I’m called outside of the home.”

    What this looks like can be really tough for women, I think. I’ve now grown comfortable with the thought of primarily mothering for a few years, but that is also why I want to be trained to be a counselor, so that I can be meeting with people casually and on the side without having to be a full-time worker. I want to be able have both my work and my family be flexible.

    Maybe I’m just dreaming, but that’s the goal.

    1. Rae Post author

      I think that dreaming is important. I was often told that people need to plan ahead in order to make it realistic for a woman to not work when she has children. I figure that the same logic applies to planning ahead of time in order to be able to combine work and children well! I really hope that it works out for you.

  11. practicinghuman

    Parenting is a vocation for all individuals called to it, whether they be the mother or the father. I firmly believe that either or both can be bi-vocational. What’s problematic when the already bi-vocational (before parenting) treat parenting like a hobby.

  12. Michelle aka Catholi

    Very cool…planning to read and weigh in! I have been so busy it’s been so hard to keep up on blogs. But this is a topic near and dear to me as I work full-time and my husband works full-time in a job that has opposite scheduling so that we care for the children and work. It’s crazy, but we truly feel called to it.

  13. Pingback: Innocence and Experience

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