There was recently an interesting post about re-entering the workforce by a woman over at Her.menuetics blog. It got me thinking about the topic of the feminism movement and stay-at-home mothers. (Full disclosure: my wife, a brilliant CPA, has chosen to stay home and homeschool our 6 year old.)
Let me say what too few Christians do: that the women's liberation movement, from Susan B. Anthony down to today, has been marvelous and wonderful for humanity. The treatment of women in Middle Eastern countries and third world countries today is deplorable, and it is hard to remember that, not too long ago, this was a standard. Further, as a hiring manager, I have found that women bring amazing diversity to the team and have enjoyed having women work for my teams in the past. One of the best engineers I've ever had--with whom I still keep in touch, though she has moved on now--is a woman who was bright, thorough, and an excellent communicator. So I fully support any woman who wishes to work, and think it is a crime that they are not compensated as well or highly as their male peers.
Now, all of that said...the feminist movement unfortunately has begun to attack any woman who is not "advancing" their cause. And that is unfortunate.
Women's liberation frees women to enter the workplace--as it should. But in no way should it obligate women to work. We are blessed that I was promoted and my wife could afford to stay home and invest in raising our children. It was her choice, not mine (if anything I was a bit hesitant at the beginning). But she found that she was much more interested in assuring that our kids got a top-rate education and spending time with them than she was doing someone else's taxes. She loved her work and was great at it--but she chose, of free volition, to do something else.
Why is that a bad thing? Yet to hear many feminists speak, my wife is somehow a traitor to the cause. Her decision to stay home means that employers trust other women less, pay them less, etc.; or, some say, she is wasting her considerable talent.
(Of course, my wife responds--what is a better use of her talent? To help an already-rich client save a few thousand dollars on their taxes, or to help our children have good morals, a loving home, and a good education?)
The broader point is that women's "liberation" has begun to reduce the liberty of the woman: it was once only acceptable for a woman to stay home and be a homemaker; now it is only acceptable if you do not stay at home and be a homemaker. Do you see, then, that the lack of liberty is the same in each situation?
One argument that I have heard is that the work a woman does at home is less valuable. If you press them on this, they will say that it is less valuable because it does not produce income. What a silly argument...do you think my company pays me because my job is valuable? No! It is me--the employee--who makes the job valuable or invaluable; they pay me because otherwise I wouldn't give them my talent. They have to pay you to come to work, because otherwise you wouldn't show up on Monday. My wife doesn't get paid to stay home, because she loves staying home. No one has to pay her a salary to make her choose to do it. Do not misunderstand: your salary exists for no other reason than to provide you enough incentive that you will show up to work when you otherwise wouldn't. So the lack of pay has nothing at all to do with whether your work is valuable, but everything to do with incentivizing you to spend you time at the company; the very fact that they have to pay you to create that incentive inherently shows that you find it less valuable than staying at home.
I for one am thrilled that my wife chose to stay home and invest in our children. And I will be completely fine and supportive when (if) she decides to re-enter the workplace. But we CHristians should help the feminists remember that point of women's liberation is truly to liberate them--not to exchange one set of shackles for another. So instead of degrading stay-at-home moms,feminists should be extolling their virtues, and showing them for the wonderful, self-sacrificial, loving caregivers that they have chosen to be.