Family matters: Does staying at home with the kids make you jobless?

In this our era you will agree that compared to the previous generation, there has been a rise in the number of working class women. It does not even matter whether they are educated or not. There just is an awakening in the female species in our country. As a result, many young ladies grow with a need to fulfill this desire. However, for many different reasons, this can be a reality that is either not actualised or thwarted due to marriage and having kids. Women constantly, like their mothers before them, find themselves feeling “forced” to put the family needs first. Is this really a bad thing? Is it the end of the world? Does not working nine to five or having a business mean a woman is unemployed and less of a Y2K compliant new-school woman?

Let us look at a typical scenario.

Dumebi is a young beautiful woman whose husband is equally young and resourceful. He earns well enough (no make that “earns exceedingly well” by all standards) and cares for the family, providing anything money can buy for their comfort and enjoyment. They live in their personal house, have two other rental duplexes in Lagos. In addition to this, they have their own house in the village. Cars, holidays and everything they need are at their disposal. She has two sons and a daughter. In fact life is good… 

However, she found herself very unhappy recently. The object of her sadness being her inability to contribute equally to the family pot “financially”. Her husband although in the dark regarding her true feelings neither complained about being the sole provider nor did he even want her to lift a finger.

She had graduated from a reputable university and earned herself a degree however, she felt under-utilised in her role as a full time house wife/ mum. She was so troubled by these feelings that she called her friend Stephanie one morning. Stephanie listened as she poured her heart out. She expressed strongly her feelings of helplessness to the situation as well as the fact she found herself extremely unhappy as a result of these thoughts.

Stephanie probed to see if possibly some peer or family pressures may have led to Dumebi’s strong desire to gain employment and contribute to the family. It appeared not to be the case at all. It was just a personal need to feel “useful” as Dumebi described it. She had full control of the family accounts, ATM cards and her husband was accountable to her for even his own spending yet the fact that he earned all the money bothered her. As usual, talking exhaustively helped Dumebi release the inner feelings of helplessness and sadness that she felt.

From the scenario above, you can see that Dumebi does not even see her role in the home as “useful” simply because it is not tangibly remunerated.

This situation is a popular one mainly among women. There seems to be a growing need to assume an earning role. I will say that as part of a couple myself, communication is key. It seems a bit sad that Dumebi’s husband was very oblivious of the unhappiness lurking behind her smiles daily. The fact that she did not feel confident enough that he would understand her feelings also says something about the communication level in their relationship. However, by not telling him, she was not giving him a chance to be aware of her feelings. She simply assumed that he would not understand her need for usefulness.

Every human being needs to feel “occupied”. The word occupation is derived from the root word occupy Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines occupy as a term that means “to fill or use ( an amount of time)”. While the same dictionary defines occupation as “(1) the work that a person does; a job or profession, (2) An activity that a person spends time doing” among other definitions. Just because an activity is not paid for does not make it less of an “occupation”. It takes up one’s time and the person expends effort and at times intangible resources like time to accomplish such an activity successfully.

The problem Dumebi has is that her role as mum and wife in the family seems irrelevant simply because she is not being paid a salary. She needs a salary which she can physically see and contribute to the family financial pot to satisfy her “usefulness” criteria. However, what she fails to see is that she is performing a role that is invaluable and necessary for the smooth running of the home. In her role, she sees to the day to day care that the children require. She is available to give adequate attention to the children. Provide a warm hub for every member of the family to return to. She is in charge of housekeeping and basically turning the otherwise brick walled house into a homely haven.

Her children in return are well behaved and mannered, her husband is loving and she creates a secure stress relieving home for him. In reality, her role is even more difficult than her husband’s role. She does not go on break or leave like he does with his work. For even when the family took vacations, women like her remain on full duty, ensuring the travel plans, packing, shopping, hotel reservations and all the endless requirements are met.

If you find yourself, a loved one or even your wife experiencing these feelings, encourage her to hang in there and try to reappraise her feelings about her role as mum and wife. It is a necessary and praiseworthy sacrifice whose remuneration is not quantifiable. In the case of Dumebi in our above scenario, she was quite fortunate that her husband could meet all their needs, care for and love her totally without dropping any hints of frustration or pressure whatsoever on her. For some of my other women who are not so lucky, they joggle the pressures of earning a living with their desire to be as present as they can in her home especially for the sake of the kids.

I reassure you that this is ultimately a phase soon to pass. Kids as we all know do not toddle around forever. You can still pick up your career and feel useful in the way you desire later. You can only get one shot at playing a vital role in a child’s life especially as a parent. One shot at setting the pillars that will see the child through life and well into adulthood. A lot of homes lack parents who can give this level of attention.

While it can be a depressing phase especially for care givers and specifically mothers when children and marriages are young, turning one’s focus towards the big picture can help make this stage of family life more enjoyable. Speaking up to one’s partner is as important as getting that person to listen. Let the communication be done with a view to helping your partner understand your viewpoint.

Although what we have described is ideal, it must be a consensual decision. It doesn’t matter which party decides to stay at home or not, what matters is that no one is forced to do what they either do not want or feel comfortable with. If the family interest as a whole is the main focus, then the consent of the woman who will be the housewife must be sought and taken seriously.

As much as we want to do the best for our kids, it must be at a pace we can cope psychologically with. Just because it is a desirable sacrifice does not mean that choosing a different path (like working full or part-time) will not work for the kids. It may be more challenging but certainly not impossible. The important thing is to choose a path that makes you happy because as a parent you matter too. Effective communication between couples is a tool that can fill up the emptiness in the life of a housewife. Unfortunately being occupied in this way easily become very lonely although invaluable.

Thank you for reading.

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