The traditionalists among us would have you believe that, if not for feminism’s nefarious influence, women as a whole wouldn’t need to work. The counterculture insists that a healthy dynamic for men and women is one in which men provide and women are homemakers, without the financial necessity of work.
The Pendulum Is Swinging Back Toward Traditionalism
In this day and age, both men and women have trouble finding a suitable partner to date, never mind to marry. In the case of Millennial women, many were raised being told either by their parents, society, or both, that it’s important to prioritize education and career over romantic relationships and family. Moreover, they should never settle for anyone who is “less-than,” so it’s imperative to find someone who is equal to them in education, financial status, and earning power.
Men haven’t received the same kind of messaging or encouragement to specifically pursue high levels of formal education and white-collar careers. Since 1990, women have graduated from college in greater numbers than men, and for the past few decades, more and more jobs have been outsourced overseas. Men who skipped out on college for a blue-collar job (by either choice or circumstance) are disadvantaged by having fewer job opportunities. Given the romantic climate and already-high standards of the aforementioned women, they’ll be passed up.
This results in a disparity; a woman may be insistent on meeting certain criteria in a husband, and said criteria is either difficult to find in a partner around her same age, because not as many men her same age meet it, or they’re already married.
This modern mess motivates many to look to traditional roles in dating and marriage, and there’s no shortage of proponents of the stay-at-home wife lifestyle. Social commentators, relationship and marriage coaches, religious leaders – it’s echoed by a number of people; in fact, even younger Millennials and older Gen Zers.
63% of married women with children preferred to work only part-time or not at all.
Statistics show, that even as recently as 2018, it’s an appealing proposition for the majority of women. According to the Institute for Family Studies, 63% of married women with children preferred to work only part-time or not at all. A minority, only 28%, want to work full-time.
There are many benefits to stay-at-motherhood, both financial and for the healthy development of children. But life doesn’t always work out the way we plan, and what happens to a woman who’s given up her livelihood to raise her husband’s children, only to wake up one day to find herself needing to financially support her family?
No, this is not an argument for women to always keep a bag packed “just in case.” But none of us know what the future holds, and there’s a strong argument to be made for women to maintain a level of financial independence, even if she has the most wonderful husband in the world.
What Could Go Wrong?
No one who’s sane or healthy will marry someone expecting (or wanting) to get divorced or be widowed. Likewise, they don’t expect their partner to become a vastly different person – to be mean when before they were kind, to be frigid when they were once warm.
But people can change. Nevermind, they do change. The idea is to enter a commitment with someone with the expectation of that and the agreement to love and care for them throughout those changes. But even this is much easier said than done. If you love someone and you see them changing for the worse, you have to call it out – and this can be very hard to do, because it can be hard for them to see that, and they can perceive it as you trying to change them.
It’s especially hard when major changes in character follow the worst tragedies life can throw at you: death of a parent, a child, or a loved one (especially if the passing followed suffering or pain); illness; the development of a chronic or life-long debilitation; infertility; a loss of livelihood. Even significant medical procedures can change someone to the point where they’re unrecognizable by loved ones.
No one gets married expecting (or wanting) to get divorced or be widowed.
Sometimes, the change in your spouse isn’t gradual or caused by a difficult event. It can be immediate, like the dropping of a mask, or there could be no change in them at all and it’s just you removing the rose-colored glasses and seeing the red flags for what they are. Sometimes, the love just fades and your spouse fails to see the value in fighting to reclaim that love.
I’ve seen it in women in my life, and my friends have shared similar stories with me. We’ve observed women who marry a man who was perfect at the beginning, and they devote their lives to him, making a home, raising their children.
Over time, things change, and not for the better. The husband turns abusive or neglectful, or leaves them for someone else. Leaving their wife to care for their children alone, to explain to them what’s happening and why. All of a sudden, the life this woman expected and worked towards is gone because the other integral piece broke away, and she’s left to fend for herself and her children when she’s been out of the workforce for years.
Return To Tradition – with a Touch of Modernity?
None of this is meant to scare young women out of marriage. It’s not to say you’re doomed if you marry young, and it’s not to condemn all men – there are many wonderful ones out there, who truly would make great husbands.
Just like I know many women who married young and submitted to traditional roles and suffered for it, I know several who married young and are still happy. However, I saw a notable difference between the two: those women I know who are happy and empowered in a young marriage still work, either full-time or part-time, and those I know who were disadvantaged had no way of making their own money and separating themselves from their husband when things got abusive or neglectful.
It’s not just women who find themselves trapped in a bad marriage who may face this harrowing situation. Think of a woman whose husband dies unexpectedly, or develops a health condition that precludes him from working. Insurance and long-term disability may cover part of the financial burden, but eventually the wife will most likely need to return to work in order to support her family.
You can work part-time or create a business based on your interests and skills.
The lesson I took from their experiences is that having a job, even part-time, was valuable for women both in and out of marriage. With this in mind, there’s a number of things a woman could do to set herself up for success. You can, of course, work, if that’s what you like, or if you plan to homeschool your children, it’s possible to work part-time and teach, or even form a community learning pod so you can work and entrust your children to community members you know and who share your values.
You can work part-time, no matter what, or create a small business out of anything – you can use the skills developed while being a homemaker or stay-at-home mom, skills honed through hobbies and personal interests, or anything else you’re good at. Remaining involved with people in your workplace, career, or community can open doors for you too, because often when it comes to jobs and careers, it’s about who you know rather than what you know how to do.
Of course, women should approach marriage with the will and temerity to honor a lifelong commitment, through all temptations, through the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful – just as they expect so from their partner. But no one is perfect, and we can’t predict what the future may hold.
Being self-sustainable in the event that things go belly-up with your spouse – or even in the event of other hardships – doesn’t mean you can’t also be a good wife, homemaker, or mother. And it’s important we reiterate that point when talking about good relationships within marriage.
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