Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Working Women Part 3- Roles For Women Today

Proverbs 31:17 “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks




I wanted discuss in the third post regarding women in the workforce, about the changing roles of women today and how it affects them.  Today’s society the roles of women have gradually changed and evolved. Unlike the past era, where it was common for women to mainly remain at home and tend to the domestic affairs and child rearing, now it has become more common for women to have a career outside the home juggling her work and family.  Despite this, there is still a debate over whether a woman should work once marriage and children come into the play. There is even the well know “Mommy wars” were both sides debate this philosophy where the stay-at-home moms judge the working mothers as selfish and neglectful to the needs of her family and the working mothers judge the stay-at-home mothers as lazy and not applying the gifts and talents.
I recall reading from a secular website an long article on why men shouldn’t marry a career women and couldn’t help find it flawed and unfair.  For example, one reason for not marrying a career woman was because women who work outside the home are more likely to have an affair.  However, it neglected the fact that in the past, plenty of men have also had affairs, many of them being office affairs.  The idea of the man having an affair with his secretary has even become an old cliché.  Another secular article I once read, where a male blogger reasoned that career women who work 50 hours per week don’t have time to meet men in explaining of single career women complaints about how hard it is to have a relationship.  It never seem to occur to this blogger that single career men who work the same hours could also have trouble having a relationship too by not finding the time.  Even in the secular post-feminist society there is still a bias against working women especially working mothers.  In the Christian community the bias is more against working mothers arguing that women’s first priority is in the home, afterall women are wives and mothers many reason.
However, it’s never been said that men are husbands and fathers yet they aren’t judged for having careers in fact they are expected to provide.  This is mainly due to traditional cultural expectations in gender roles yet among Christians it is considered biblically mandated.  In fact, some Christians who argue against women working outside the home or working full time, the duties of the household chores and child rearing will get neglected.  They may support having paying job for exceptional reason of financial difficulties that requires her to work only, but not out of personal fulfillment. Even Christian women who have their own ministries have been criticized for catering to a feminist agenda instead of her proper god-giving role.  One such person includes Beth Moore, who was criticized by a few Christian bloggers for having a ministry that requires her to sometimes travel away from home leaving her husband to do some of the housework rather than it being the other way around.  Then there was Southern Baptist preacher Rev. Voddie Bacham who back in 2008 commented on CNN about Governor Sarah Palin, who was running for Vice President that she should stay home and raise her kids and that she was anti-family.  Many more conservative Christians agreed with him.  As I mentioned before in a previous post,(see Christian women in the workplace part 1), there is a belief that the bible instructs women to be at home mainly taking care of the domestic tasks and children. 
The good news is that today among many Christians hold a more modern outlook supporting women working outside the home, some still believing that her primary duties are still in the home, while others encourage that idea that both spouses can share or split the division of the domestic work and child rearing.  The reality remains even among the Christian community, more women are working outside the home as more women are going to colleges, entering fields that were once dominated by men, and the economy today may require two incomes in the home and more single working mothers are increasing.  In fact, statistics claimed among pastors’ wives, 70% of them work outside the home some due to financial reasons.  There are also some organizations in even some books that support and cater to Christian women that work.  The examples are Christian Working Woman founded by Mary Whelchel, who herself was once a single working mother(although not by choice). The Christian Working Mom, a website founded by licensed marriage, family therapist and life coach Kimberly Chastain, herself a wife and mother.  Other websites that support Christian working women include “Christian Business Women’s Fellowship, “Godly Business Women” etc.  It’s great that Christians are even letting go of old stereotypes regarding gender roles in the family and becoming more open-minded to some of the cultural changes.
However, these changes are not so black and white and there not without other problems.  For example, decades ago when it was becoming more common for women to leave the homes and go to work, there was the mindset of women being able to do it all, having a job, raising family, taking care of the home and still have a social life and the myth of the superwoman emerged.  Women were doing what his known as the “second shift’ work and pay the bills and still be expected to take care of the house and children with little help from their husbands and leaving many more stressed out.  Plus, many working mothers more likely felt guilty about being away from the children even though they more likely spent more time with them then their husbands.  On the other side, for many to feel equal to men, they were started adapting some of the negative straits dominated in men in the workforce in the past such as placing their own ambitions above their families, spending less time at home and more time in the office, having office affairs with co-workers, or being too consumed with material things using the excuse of providing for their families’ needs to justify their reasons. 
As I mentioned before, I was raised by a working mother.  In fact, nearly all the women in my family had to work outside the home a couple of them were single mothers.  I was not neglected nor left in the care of babysitters or daycare after school.  I recall in my own early childhood plenty of times when I came home from school and a parent was home.  I believe that the mommy wars should cease and a diverse of mothers should be celebrated be it a stay-home-mom, working outside the home mom, working from home mother or a homeschooling mom.  Neither of these roles should be judged or seen as better than the other since all families are different and their needs will differ.  Despite this view, I have also come to understand some of the concerns about working mothers, especially when I read about working mothers who work full time despite having pre-school aged children and are able to live off their husband’s income but value having a second car and affording expensive vocations.  Or another mother I read wrote an article explaining how she prefers to work late then to home to her children and even asked the babysitter to stay later to read them a bedtime story so she wouldn’t have to.  Recently, I read an article about another working mother in England who explains how she sends her youngest four year old child to pre-school full-time from morning until 5pm, because it makes her life easier to focus on her writing career even though she admits shamefully that it isn’t in her child’s best interest.  I definitely agree whether a mother works outside the home or not her family is her first priority and calling, the same goes for husbands and fathers. 
In my younger years, it never occurred to me that a mother should stay home since I was raised by a working mother and assumed that mothers can work and raise a family regardless of the stages in her life.  However, being older and wiser, I now conclude that it is more ideal for one parent to put their career on hold to either be at home or work less hours when the children are small whenever possible.  I agree with many that mothers are commonly more suited for this role with their more nurturing nature.  Children do grow up and there will be plenty of time for women to focus more on their careers but family should come first.  Of course, not all mothers will be able to do this with the increase of single mothers or low income families may require two full time incomes. Also, for some reasons the men are unable to work , some women may have to take on the role of the sole breadwinner.   Even, when child rearing are no longer an issue as children grow up and move away, this still doesn’t negate the woman’s first priority to her marriage even if she chooses to return to work full time.  Wives still have responsibilities to their husbands and vice versa, and neither couples should allow their outside ambitions to interfere with time for each other. 
For the Christian community, rather than pigeon-hole women in a one size fits all roles in the family based on restrictive gender stereotypes from the by gone era, it would be better to move forward and embrace women in diverse roles whether works from home or outside with a career or ministry.  More support should come from the church for women who juggle careers and family life regardless of her situation without harsh judgment just as much as stay-at home mothers. Then hopefully, the mommy wars and other unfair biases against women who work will continue to cease among both the Christian and secular society.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Working women part 2 History of Women in the Workforce

Proverbs 3-10-31 "10 How hard it is to find a capable wife! She is worth far more than jewels! 11 Her husband puts his confidence in her, and he will never be poor. 12 As long as she lives, she does him good and never harm. 13 She keeps herself busy making wool and linen cloth. 14 She brings home food from out-of-the-way places, as merchant ships do. 15 She gets up before daylight to prepare food for her family and to tell her servant women what to do. 16 She looks at land and buys it, and with money she has earned she plants a vineyard. 17 She is a hard worker, strong and industrious. 18 She knows the value of everything she makes, and works late into the night. 19 She spins her own thread and weaves her own cloth. 20 She is generous to the poor and needy. 21 She doesn't worry when it snows, because her family has warm clothing. 22 She makes bedspreads and wears clothes of fine purple linen. 23 Her husband is well known, one of the leading citizens. 24 She makes clothes and belts, and sells them to merchants. 25 She is strong and respected and not afraid of the future. 26 She speaks with a gentle wisdom. 27 She is always busy and looks after her family's needs. 28 Her children show their appreciation, and her husband praises her. 29 He says, "Many women are good wives, but you are the best of them all." 30 Charm is deceptive and beauty disappears, but a woman who honors the Lord should be praised. 31 Give her credit for all she does. She deserves the respect of everyone."

My earlier post was about whether it is acceptable for Christian women to have careers outside the home.  In this post, I want to discuss the history of women in the workforce as early as the biblical times.  Despite the myth that during the beginning, women’s only role was as a housewife who only took care of the domestic affairs and childrearing and that it was rare for any woman married and single to work outside the home, the opposite as proving to be true.  Many women throughout history were involved in the labor force as well as managing their own homes bringing up the children.  In fact, there is a mention of plenty of known women in the bible who involved in the work force. 

First, there was Deborah, who was a wife of man named Lappidoth.  She was a prophetess and the only female judge who held court under a palm tree between Ramah in Benjamin and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim.  She also agreed to accompany the military commander Barak to lead his army into the battle against King Jabin of the Canaanites’ army led by Sisera since the king had been oppressing the Israelites for many years.  There was Priscilla, a Roman woman who along with her husband Aquila were tentmakers as well as early missionaries who traveled with the Apostle Paul on some of his travels.  Lydia, a Greek woman from Thyatira who was a seller and dealer of purple dye a very expensive product used to for purple clothing.  It is unknown whether Lydia was married or a widow but was businesswoman in her own right. 

There was also Dorcas/Tabitha, a disciple from Joppa who made clothing for the poor.  Mary Magdalene, a most famous disciple of Jesus, may have been in the business of exporting salted dried fish from her town in Magdala.  Ruth, the Moabite, gleaned in the fields where she met her future husband Boez.  The prophetess Anna worked in the temple.  There was also Sheerah, the great- granddaughter of Joseph(son of Jacob) who was builder and founder of the towns Upper and Lower Beth-Horon and Uzzen-Sheerah.  Although, it is unlikely she did the physical labor herself, she more likely had an organized team of builders working under her.  Shallum’s daughters helped their father and others rebuild the sheep gate in Jerusalem.  Finally, there was the Proverbs 31 woman, who was a mult-tasker as a wife, mother, homemaker, and businesswoman.  She made linen garments and sold them, supplied sashes for the merchants, started a vineyard business, and was also a charity worker who gave to the needy.  She didn’t do all the domestic chores as she had hired servant girls to help. 

The fact remains, she was a busy woman who was able to manage a home, a business, a domestic staff, bring up children and give to charity.  These women weren’t alone, as they were plenty of women during the ancient times in the workforce.  During first century Ancient Israel, a number of women ran businesses, some were widows who took over their late husband’s business.  Plenty were craftsman who sold their goods to the merchants, traders, merchants, involving in farming business, servants, etc. In first century Ancient Rome, plenty of women also ran their own businesses, although some of them with their husbands.  Others contributed to the labor force as equals with men.  They sold perfume, food, ran laundries, waitresses in taverns, hairstylists, dressmakers, midwives, shopkeepers, domestic servants, butchers, money lenders, mill workers etc. The majority worked in the textile manufacturing business that included the trade in purple, an expensive cloth that was dyed.  A few in worked in fields that was rare for women, such as doctors and lawyers.  One woman was lamp-maker.  In Pompeii, two named women ran their own businesses.  A woman named Eumachia ran a brickyard and another Asellina ran a tavern.  Women even worked in construction including shipbuilding business. 

In Classical Greece, poor women had some occupations aslo as merchants selling food and merchandise at the market stalls, working as wet-nurses, spinners and helping their husbands run the farms.  Throughout centuries women continued to contribute to the labor force and during the beginning of  the industrial revolution around the 18th century, large numbers of women worked especially in factories and mines.  By  the 19th century, in western society, women from poor backgrounds continued to have jobs outside the home, mainly in traditional female jobs such as seamstresses, laundresses, milliners, dressmakers, domestic servants, midwives and factory workers.  Some were tradeswomen and others ran businesses with their husbands or took over the business as widows.  A few ran businesses in their own right.  Even among the more educated women, mainly worked as nurses, teachers, governesses, writers, poets, missionary workers and charity workers.  There were even an exceptional numbers of women working in non-traditional fields for women including doctors, lawyers, journalists, inventors, engineers etc.  By the mid-19th century, the roles of working women started to decline more and more, as the ideal for the man to be the sole breadwinner relieving the wife to staying at home and taking care of the home and children had long since been the norm.  

The first and second world wars, would temporary increase women in the workforce, freeing the men to fight in the battles.  By the 1950s, women from middle-class and working-class families were mainly housewives, and working outside the home was hardly in option as the women’s role was to look after the home even when children grew up.  The women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s changed all that, as women were encouraged to go back to school and get a job outside the home and it was possible to juggle both career and family.  Of course, just as many women in the past decades didn’t have the opportunity to work outside the home, there was plenty who didn’t have the opportunity to stay home and take care of the home, mostly depending on race, social status and nationality.  Black and immigrant women always worked outside the homes over the centuries.  Black women especially worked in the fields along the men on plantations during slavery times.  Even after slavery, they continued to work, in fact around the 1950s, the majority of black women worked outside the home mainly in jobs as cotton pickers, cleaning ladies and the most common job were as maids for middle-class and upper-class white families where they did most of the domestic tasks and looked after the children while managing their own households as well.  Sometimes these women were forced to be the main breadwinner in the home due to lack of employment opportunities for their husbands or many were single mothers being the head of their own households. 

In modern times, women working outside of the home, having their own careers, while balancing their family lives has been the norm.  Still, many in the more conservative Christian groups hold to the ideal of a godly wife to be a traditional housewife of the by gone era.  However, long before the “Leave It To Beaver” model of the nuclear family unit, the traditional wife of the ancient biblical times was a woman likely earned a salary or even ran a business to support her family along with managing the domestic tasks and child-rearing.  The only main difference is that women back in those times only worked as a necessity and survival. 

Today more women have more options to work not just for financial reasons alone and still raise a family.  I will discuss furthur about these options and in the next post.