The joys of staying home with nothing to do:
Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of “The Secrets of Happily Married Women,” says stay-at-home wives constitute a growing niche. “In the past few years, many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home,” he says. While his research is ongoing, he estimates that more than 10 percent of the 650 women he’s interviewed who choose to stay home are childless.
Daniel Buccino, a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine clinical social worker and psychotherapist, says stay-at-home wives are the latest “status symbols.”
I’m of two minds about this supposed trend, or more likely, this latest media attempt to spot a trend in the making. While it’s certainly not my business how married couples choose to order their lives, while I’m very much in favor of stay-at-home mothers, and while I have in the past pointed out how the realities of the income tax and day care expenses render the net income and opportunity cost of the average working mother to be negative, I’ve also been witness to the very real downside of the completely unoccupied woman.
Now, it’s one thing if the woman is a genuine homemaker or seriously devoted to some creative endeavor such as writing or painting. My grandmother never worked after my mother got married; she was a painter and if her landscapes were largely unremarkable, they were both competent and visually attractive. She and my grandfather also maintained a garden and courtyard that bordered on the spectacular; the sheer aesthetic pleasure of visiting their house remains one of my favorite recollections. And, of course, one must remember that not all couples voluntarily elect evolutionary dead-end status; blaming the barren for their childless state is simply piling on.
But it’s another thing altogether if the wife’s idea of homemaking is “managing the help” and her real occupation is bitching about acquaintances at the local coffee shop with her similarly unoccupied friends. Anyone who has grown up in a sufficiently wealthy community will know what I mean; a group of such women gossiping away are like a poisonous swamp giving off a toxic miasma capable of polluting relationships two and three steps removed. It’s little wonder that so many of them end up divorced; there is truth in the old adage about idle hands.
I wonder, too, how many wives would be pleased to support a husband in his decision if he came home and declared that staying home and allowing her to support him was something that he wanted to do? I find it very hard to imagine any normal woman simply smiling and saying, “Why, yes, of course, darling, whatever makes you happy!” Now, the vagaries of the current economy being what they are, there will certainly be times when a couple with children will determine it to be advantageous for the family if the mother works and the father cares for the children. I certainly can’t cast any stones in this regard, as I’d always planned to marry a high-paid international model myself and had in fact made significant progress along those lines when I happened to meet this gorgeous blonde who looked like an Eddie Bauer model doing the whole look-I’m-wearing-an-Irish-sweater-and-walking-a-dog-on-a-cold-Atlantic-beach thing. As it turned out, she was actually a nanny. Whoops… and therefore in the place of a decadent life of writing jaded accounts of the existential ennui that results from living a five-star lifestyle in London, Paris, and Rome, I was forced to come up with some other means of avoiding a commute, an office and obscenely early Monday morning meetings.
The danger for married couples is that what makes an overwhelmed 25-year old woman happy and content may not necessarily do so five or ten years in the future. It’s boredom that makes the housewife desperate. Still, money isn’t even close to being the most important thing in life, so if you can afford to live a life of lehzhure instead of grinding away in pursuit of someone else’s dime, that’s great. But one must have a purpose in life; you can live very well without money or a paying job, but not without a definite reason to get up in the morning.
Or, the crack of noon, as we civilized men of letters prefer.