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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Career = Fulfilled?

I find it so amusing that so much of the feminist propaganda today revolves around the idea that having a career is fulfilling, and that staying home with your family is not. I can't remember the last time I heard anyone come home from work and say, "Wow! What a fulfilling day at work!" In fact, according to the most recent numbers, more and more American workers are unsatisfied with their jobs. This doesn't sound like the fulfilling life that is supposedly found in a career....

Before I was married, I used to work for a huge financial institution. According to my boss I was a very good worker and had a lot of potential for advancement in the company. I really liked my coworkers, and I thought the job was somewhat fun at times. But it was also boring much of the time, and I was expected to do things that did not agree with my morals (ie - tell "white lies" to the customers to increase sales, encourage financially unsound people to borrow more money, etc). Before that, in my last year of college, I spent a semester doing an engineering design project in a factory about an hour away from the college. The goal of the project was to determine why a new carpet backing was not responding the same way to a chemical treatment, and then to fix it so that the treatment worked again. Some of the work was interesting, but the factory was dirty and noisy and always smelled of chemicals -- probably not very good for my health! The work was also at times boring and repetitive. And that is *exactly* the type of work I would have done had I gotten a career in my field (polymer engineering).

Before the work at the factory, I spent some time in the summers working at a summer camp caring for children. That work was a lot of fun, but also tiring and (after a while) a bit wearing on the nerves. Ten twelve-year-old girls in the same cabin for a week will start to get up to all manner of mischief. I had also spent a week as a cook in the camp's kitchen. That work was completely thankless, although I did enjoy the people I worked with, and there were fun times. But it was also hard work, and *again* there were times that I was completely bored.

Before working at the camp, I also spent some time at a retail store as a salesperson. This was not a high pressure sales job, which I was glad of, and I did enjoy much of the work. However, I spent about half the day most days wandering around the store with nothing to do. Plus, my feet always hurt from standing so much.

I have also done telephone research (not telemarketing -- 99% of the calls I made were to out-of-service phones... the purpose was to record which out-of-service message was heard), I have played in symphonies, bands, and choirs. I have been on athletic teams (although that was *never* a viable career option, lol), I have taught music lessons, and I have been a tutor. Every single thing I have ever done that could have led to a career involved hard work, much of it unseen, and was at times extremely boring. I have never felt "fulfilled" or complete because of what I was doing. I enjoyed much of it, but I never in any way felt that I was validated because of the work I was doing.

And, by the way, that includes my current "career" as a stay-at-home wife. Laundry isn't the most fulfilling task in the world, although I don't mind doing it. And while I like saving the family money, I don't feel like my life is complete because I do it. I expect it will be the same thing when we have children. The feminists are right in that respect. Mothering is not glamorous work, nor is it fulfilling -- at least not in and of itself. But the truth is that careers aren't doing it for the working populace, either. I have experience enough of the working world to believe that I have just as much chance of being happy at home as I do in an official career. The secret is that happiness doesn't depend on the things of this world. "God has set eternity in the hearts of men" -- looking for fulfillment in the things of this life is futile.

  • "The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble." Proverbs 19:23
  • "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength" Philippians 4:11-13
  • "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it." 1 Timothy 6:6-7
  • "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." 1 John 2:15-17

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10 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Myfriendconnie

    Not sure I want to be a "meatbag", but here goes:

    I agree with your conclusions which are well supported by the scriptures you chose. Here is a quote by G.K. Chesterton that I keep on my fridge: "To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors, and holidays; to be Whitely within a certain area, providing toys, boots, cakes, and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone and narrow to be everything to someone? No, a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute."

  • Sara

    I must have missed that particular feminist memo. I'm a feminist, and I don't remember being promised fulfillment, enlightenment, and unmitigated fun if I worked. I was promised independence, financial security and maybe, just maybe, work that I found personally rewarding.

    Many people don't have careers, they have jobs. The reason they have jobs is because they desire food, clothing, and shelter. I'm sure most of us with a job, and not a career, would agree with you that their job is not intellectually or spiritually fulfilling. But it does help them meet their basic needs. The feminist movement has encouraged women to enter the workforce IN PART to help them find more intellectually fulfilling work if that's available, but mostly to help protect women. Anyone without skills and/or an income of their own are just a crisis away from poverty. I'll take my job which will eventually turn into a career which I expect to be fulfilling, and you can choose to opt out of the paid workforce. Feminists never guaranteed fulfillment outside the home- they just offered the option for those women (and there certainly were women like this!) who felt trapped and unhappy at home because they weren't using the natural gifts they were born with and were instead doing the boring, repetitive work of laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc.

  • JunkMale

    Sara,

    I find personal fulfillment in relationships, mainly with God, wife, and family.

    Not too long ago, I found it quite absurd that some would deem themselves worth something because of their career. I could understand this if it were work such as taking care of widows and orphans, or maybe running a crisis pregnancy center (or the like)...but other things? I don't see it. I like my job, but it doesn't complete my life.

    Not all women cherish their independence above all. My wife likes and prefers for me to be the provider. If I were to die or be otherwise incapacitated, she is quite capable of being an employee somewhere. And she could do this without a college education, if that were the way life had worked out.

    I suppose that if one were not a Christian, then finding fulfillment in earthly things would be the be all and end all of things. Of course one would want to spend his/her life finding that ever-evasive fulfillment. My goodness, of course a woman wouldn't want to spend her one-and-only life doing laundry. But we as Christians see it differently. First, this world is not our home and we are just passing through. (We have a home just over in the glory land). Second, the husband is the head, and the wife is the helper. These are our spiritual roles to one another, which are clearly set in the Bible. These unearthly mandates are part of the reason why my wife is quite content to take care of home and husband.

    I'm not condemning all career women or anyone who wants to find fulfillment in their work. In fact, it says in Ecclesiastes that it is a good thing to find satisfaction in one's work. My problem is when women flee the home at all costs, putting their families second to career. Or even put their careers on the same level as family. Married women have a place, and that's taking care of family. So politically incorrect, huh?

    (technically, I also have a problem with men putting career on par with family, but we are talking about women here)

  • Alan

    Sara wrote:
    > Anyone without skills and/or
    > an income of their own are
    > just a crisis away from
    > poverty

    That's a good reason for a woman to be able to support herself. But if that were the real reason married women pursue careers, then they would be saving their earnings. Instead, most families, by far, spend everything that both husband and wife earn. In order to pay the bills each month, they need both incomes. So if they lose the husband's income, there is still a shortfall equal to the husband's earnings.

    So the real motivator behind most working women is the pursuit of a higher standard of living.

  • Harmony

    Sara:

    "Anyone without skills and/or an income of their own are just a crisis away from poverty."

    If I am not mistaken, I believe that the vast majority of the families in the US (about 70% if I remember correctly) have virtually no savings, and are just one emergency away from financial ruin. In many cases, this is not because they don't earn enough money (even though most of these are two-income households) -- it is because they spend more than they can afford. The amount of debt that the average American has is staggering. I listen to financial talk radio very frequently, and I have learned that it doesn't matter if you make $150,000 or $30,000 a year -- it only takes deciding you want something you can't afford to put you in a financial disaster. Conversely, almost anyone can be financially secure if they are willing to live within their means.

    But you are talking in terms of feminism -- that is, you believe that a woman needs to have at least a job, so that if the worst happens and their husband dies or leaves her she will be able to support herself. This is a valid point -- or at least the first one is. My husband is very considerate on this matter. He has both life and disability insurance, as well as retirement plans and savings... all of which are either in my name too, or I am the beneficiary to them. As the provider for our household, he has made it one of his priorities to make sure that if something happened to him I would have time to find a job and get back on my feet without going into a financial crisis. God-willing, we will never need any of that money, but it is there.

    As far as the second option (that there will be a divorce), for thousands of years civilizations managed to survive with incredibly low divorce rates. It is my belief that most divorces these days are unnecessary. Also, if the statistics I read are correct, approximately 70% of all divorces these days are filed for by the wife. I remember reading another statistic that said that 80% of men surveyed would marry the same woman again. Only about 30% of the women answered the same way. I think that it is a good thing that women no longer have to live with abusive husbands, but let's be honest -- most of the divorces these days have nothing at all to do with abuse.

    "Feminists never guaranteed fulfillment outside the home- they just offered the option for those women (and there certainly were women like this!) who felt trapped and unhappy at home because they weren't using the natural gifts they were born with and were instead doing the boring, repetitive work of laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc."

    I agree that laundry and cleaning can be boring and repetitive (I happen to like cooking, so I'll skip that one :). But don't you have to do those anyway? How many people actually outsource their laundry? Only the very wealthy, I'm sure. I also believe that I'm using many of my God-given gifts at home. You should see the spreadsheet that I have worked out for our family budget. :) I brings me back to my engineering days at school. Had I gone into industry, the odds were I would be doing some sort of industrial engineering in the finance department (that's where many of my fellow students ended up). I feel like I'm doing the exact same thing, only at home.

    There's more I'd like to say, but maybe I'll just write a new post about it. I'm remember some Betty Friedan quotes about work being fulfilling, and the like... so instead of making this the longest comment ever, I'll try to sum it all up in a new post. :) Hopefully this clears some things up for you.

  • CappuccinoLife

    Harmony, I think you are right. There may not be a "feminist memo" about it, but I certainly know far too many women who despise the work of keeping home and will do *any* other kind of work, even menial stuff, so that they can be "intellectually stimulated" and because they can't possibly find fulfillment in caring for home and family.

    Personally, I do not envy my husband's "independence" and financial security. First of all, he's not actually independent of me. He depends on me for an awful lot. And his financial security is mine. We have made choices that have made us secure (like being debt free! and investing!) and we have learned to live frugally. I have no fear of the future, even if it should include his untimely demise (God forbid!) because we have worked together to make sure that everything is the way it should be, and because we know God provides, and have seen it in action. And we have done this on an income at half the national average, so it isn't a matter of us being part of the privelaged wealthy.

    Household chores may be boring, but there's nothing boring or repetetive about raising children. You couldn't pay me enough to get me to pay someone else to watch and teach my kids!

  • Elizabeth at A Biblical Home

    I very much agree with your post. I currently work part-time at my husband's office, and one of the ladies there (a total feminist) is always very concerned that I might get bored if I spend too much time at home. She doesn't understand that I spend way more time being bored at work than I do being bored at home!

  • JunkMale

    CappuccinoMom,

    I could be wrong, but I thought the "independence" referred to in previous comments meant independence of the woman, from the man. Although who knows...feminists might not want anyone depending on them either.

    Anyways, this raises an interesting point. Why is independence valued so much in the context of a marital relationship? Harmony and I do not spend our lives preparing for an impending D-word. We see no need for independence and actually seek to further entwine our lives around the other. The Bible says that the husband and the wife are one. Marriage is ideally a perfect union between one man and one woman, modeled after the union between Christ and His church. Does Christ seek to be independent from the church? (We sure hope not! Please, no!) Does the church seek independence from Christ?

    <sarcasm>"Oh you know, just in case Christ ever leaves the church, we want to make sure we can make it on our own. Girl, we ain't dependent on no savior *snap snap snap* "</sarcasm>

    But of course, we know that that previous statement is entirely absurd. The church without Christ is no church, just like a marriage without a husband (or wife) is no marriage. It's at worst a cult or pyramid scheme, at best a club.

  • Myfriendconnie

    OK, that "snap, snap, snap" cracked me up!

  • Sara

    My desire to be "independent" has nothing to do with my desire to be independent of 'any man' or my desire to avoid having 'any man' be dependent on me. It's the safety and security that comes from knowing that no matter what, I can take care of myself and my future children should the worst befall me. I believe that marriage is for life, and that it should be approached as such. But like it or not, sometimes spouses leave. Sometimes spouses die, or become ill. And while everyone SHOULD have planned for those events, through savings and insurance and the like, another great way I can protect myself is by finishing my education and building a career that will provide for me and my family. Acknowledging reality doesn't invalidate my future marriage or my love and faith in my future spouse.
    When women didn't have the option- bad things happened all the time and they were often left completely dependent on others, leaving their fate far to uncertain. I'm sure my grandmother planned on having the typical 50's life as a stay at home mother. Unfortunately her husband became mentally ill, and couldn't even care for himself, let alone their children. She was a skilled seamstress, but no one would hire a divorced woman- not in the Bible Belt, good "christians" didn't tolerate that kind of immorality. So she was dependent on her sister and brother-in-law for a number of years. Any woman that would allow that to happen to herself in era is a fool, and any man that asks that his wife sacrifice her financial own security for any reason is a.....well, a word I know I can't use on this blog!