woensdag 28 augustus 2013

Should The Husband Ask His Wife To Earn An Income?

Two years ago Lady Lydia from Home Living wrote an article which got a lot of comments. The name of the article was "Should Christian Husbands Ask Their Wives To Go To Work" and she caught some flak because of it. She wrote, among other things:

If a husband truly understands God's word, he will not hint, ask, pressure, demand or command his wife to "get a job."  He is less of a man if he does, because he is expecting her to be a provider. The Christian husband is supposed to be the provider. 


When the wife becomes a co- provider, she takes on the responsibilities that God has given to her husband.  The man loses a piece of his masculinity and will be forever dependent on his wife's salary, and she forfeits a part of her natural womanliness by leaving the feminine concerns of the home that were designed for her by God. The husband becomes dependent upon her salary and loses his sense of urgency and drive to earn a living. (emphasis mine).

While things discussed in the comments section varied from the Royal Wedding to the Australian domestic policies, the main topic of discussion seemed to be whether the wife should obey her husband if he commands her to go to work. Lydia stated that obedience to God comes before obedience to man, and that apparently caused hurt feelings in some.

The same discussion seems to resurge quite regularly on various alternative blogs and it somehow reminds me the famous discussion on what was first, the chicken or an egg. My particular opinion is that it often depends on the situation so that I would hesitate to give advice one way or the other without knowing the details.(Giving advice on the net is in general not my speciality).The thing I want to talk about today is the attitude which some commenters who take part in those types of discussions demonstrate all too often, namely that some of them seem to think that male authority can come without male responsibility. 

First of all, what exactly is marriage? Catholic Church teaches that it is a sacrament, while the various Protestant denominations don't, however, marriage has existed in various forms throughout different cultures, and if we strip it of all religious talk, and look at the matter from the purely economical point of view, marriage is a contract based on property rights, where the husband pledges to provide for the wife in exchange for having exclusive rights to her sexuality. Since traditional marriage is based on property rights, various "progressives" hate it and have been trying to subvert and destroy it for years, but that's not the topic of the present post.

The point I'm trying to make is that we simply can't have traditional marriage without the husband providing for his wife and children. His refusing to do so, negates the very basis of marriage in the same way as the wife's sexual infidelity does. In Islamic Republic of Iran, of all places, the wife can apply for divorce if the husband doesn't provide for her for more than 6 months for various reasons: "1992 amendments extend wife's access to divorce by addition of following grounds: husband's non-maintenance for up to six months for any reason..." (source.)

The law in Western countries used to acknowledge the husband as the head of the family just like it does now in Islamic countries, and the same law compelled the husband to provide not only for his wife, but also in some cases for his widowed female relatives. Jane Austen's married brothers had to provide for her and her spinster sister, in addition to caring for their own wives (that's probably where the pressure for women to marry came from, as the male family members didn't fancy being stuck with them till death do us part, in addition to providing for their own wives and children).

In the times when the Western man was the Lord of Creation he had to pay, pay and pay. As an elderly preacher who came once to preach in our church put it: "we didn't see our children. When we came home from work, they were in bed. We didn't retire, we died at work and I'm not sure whether that system was better than the one we are having now."

In addition to this, a man often was not able to marry until he could persuade the prospective bride's family that he was financially stable. Why do you think all those elopements happened otherwise? For instance, in the Netherlands even in the year 1960 neither the man nor the woman were able to marry without their parents' permission until the age of 30 (!). To quote the book on the etiquette which I have :"..the young man visits the father of the girl...and gives the account of his financial and social position and the future prospects." (translation mine).

Simply put, whatever the individual situation in every particular family, in general men being in charge also means men taking responsibility, including financially. You simply can't have it both ways. Men who expect full marital obedience from their wives and then tell them to go out and provide the income simply have no grounds to stand on. Whatever temporary difficulties any particular family should encounter, which may sometimes demand that the wife helps out financially, it's not an ideal and it never was. As a Dutch proverb puts it, the one who pays, decides.

27 opmerkingen:

  1. I agree. The second time my husband was without a job, I worked part time for 10 months and I didn't like it so much. I prefer to take care of our home! :)

    Now that he may go back to school, he asked me to work part time again. I'd prefer to live frugally on student loans.

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  2. Unfortunately, the male provider ethic has eroded significantly, thanks to feminism. Of course, in a situation when the husbands loses his employment or becomes disabled, sometimes it becomes the necessity for the wife to work outside home, at least temporarily. It's difficult to give advice in such situations, because as an outsider you don't know the exact financial position of the family. For instance, in case of disability, the husband will almost always get some sort of a pension, which may make it possible for the wife to stay home if they trim the expenses, etc.

    I wasn't really trying to address any particular situation, but more the idea prevalent in some circles that the authority of the husband is simply based on the fact that he is a man, not on the fact that he is the one responsible for the financial well-being of the family, and hence has the last word. The laws which compelled wives to obey their husbands were tied to the laws which demanded that the husbands supported their wives financially. You simply can't have one without the other.

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  3. Yes, feminism has done more damage than good, especially in this area!

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  4. I could live with the return of coverture, as described in this article:

    http://secularpatriarchy.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/marriage-is-masculinity-and-coverture/

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  5. Interesting how things have changed since the 19th century!

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  6. 19th century is fascinating to me, because it still had so much of the old world in it, but it was already giving way to the new, liberal principles. Still, men were men. Instead of whining about their hard life, they took action, even risking their life when necessary. I wish we had more men like that now.

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    Reacties
    1. Off topic, but I really had a very romantic idea of 19th century untill last spring when we found the Victorian Farm series on youtube. It was a shock to realize that it was already there in full swing, the industrialism, the kind of greed needing more than the farm provided...more, higher, faster...

      http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=victorian+farm&oq=victorian+&gs_l=youtube.1.0.0l10.213.2524.0.4169.10.10.0.0.0.0.521.1810.2j3j1j0j1j1.8.0...0.0...1ac.1.11.youtube.YQgG7BBE9xY

      I really like a lot more the Tales from the Green Valley series :-)

      http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=tales+from+the+green+valley&oq=tales+from+the+g&gs_l=youtube.1.0.0l10.59652.68431.0.70248.29.17.0.6.6.1.168.1695.5j10.15.0...0.0...1ac.1.11.youtube.k1VBobRHmzA

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    2. Oh yes, industrialism had already started, and the human greed has always been with us, since the dawn of time. I'll check the links, but sincerely speaking I'm not sure how far we can trust those historical reconstruction films, especially if they are from the BBC. British seem to hate their past with abandon, and will never miss an opportunity to say something nasty about those repressive Victorian times.

      I didn't mean to say that it was an ideal period in history, either. Economically, a lot of people had it difficult, and they had all sorts of social ills, as we do now, though they were trying to curb them. What I mean is that old concepts of honour and duty didn't give way to liberalism, and that Western men were still men, and women stayed home and stitched on samplers:)

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  7. I’ve done a lot of research and thinking on this subject of married women working and I am very much opposed to it; married women should not work. Most definitely a husband should not be pressuring or “commanding” his wife to work. Yes I believe in male authority, that husbands should be the “head of household” but male authority has to necessarily be intended towards the benefit of the wife and children to be legitimate. Male authority has a purpose, that purpose being to enable the man to serve his masculine role as provider and protector.

    More specifically on the issue of wives working; women working undermines the woman’s capacity to fulfill her role in the feminine realm. It takes the woman out of her area of strength (the feminine realm) and puts the woman into her area of weakness (the masculine realm). To displace someone from their area of strength to their area of weakness necessarily harms their ability to contribute to society. In this way women working is a harm to society.

    Those men who claim male authority for themselves while at the same time rejecting their duties as men, such as the husband’s duty to financially support his wife, are called Men’s Rights Activists or MRAs. Don’t be fooled by MRAs, they are not the friends of traditional women.

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  8. Jesse, if you check Lydia's article I linked to, you'll see that she makes exactly the same argument, about the woman's strength lying in the feminine realm of the home. I am also opposed to married women working in principle, but I will admit that we live in such strange times that it's probably not always possible for everyone to live according to this principle.

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  9. Both my mother and my MIL have not worked in a very long time in order to raise their children. Society is now expecting all women to work, even those with small children at home! A lot of working women look down on me but I think they are jealous.

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  10. Both my mother and my MIL have not worked in a very long time in order to raise their children. Society is now expecting all women to work, even those with small children at home! A lot of working women look down on me but I think they are jealous.

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  11. I guess in Canada it's worse than over here, in Western Europe.

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  12. Sadly, a lot of women are caught up in the materialistic society
    and want a lifestyle that a man can sometimes not afford. It is a messed up world. It seems women or men for that matter,are not willing to lower their lifestyles to keep the wife at home.
    Becky

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  13. I think you are right. After all, in less prosperous societies than ours there are more women staying home. Isn't it strange? We don't live in the Wild West any more, even a man who lost his job gets some form of government assistance which theoretically should be enough to survive until he finds another one. But it would mean for the family to trim all the luxuries. This, and some families have mortgages which they can't pay on one income only.

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  14. In my country very few married women are staying home, and those who do stay home often do not understand how necessary this is for society. As an ex-socialist country, Romania has a big problem with social need and financial management. There is a great discrepancy between rich and poor families and poor families do not know that opulence is not a desirable goal, the real necessity is to find a family balance where husband and wife fulfill certain roles that should not be interchangeable. Unfortunately, women want men to do the chores at home and men want women to provide and be "independent". Family life is not supposed to be independence, but communion and cooperation. We are dependent on one another. My husband is an Christian orthodox priest and if he divorces he probably loses his job in the church, as a good marriage is required for a priest in my religious realm. Priests are responsible for there wives' attitude and the priest has to prove his innocence after a divorce in order to keep his ministry. Coverture still functions in our Church but only for those families who believe in these values and principles and do apply them, whereas society and feminism have been having a very bad influence in families and women do not accept this kind of spiritual coverture, they have civil rights to divorce or work and nobody can change this but every woman herself can choose to live a traditional life or not. I am very happy to see that still many women and men do understand the importance of traditional family life.

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  15. Dear Alexandra, it's great to hear from Romania! It's also very interesting to hear a Christian Orthodox perspective on things. Being married to a priest must be challenging at times, isn't it? You are right about family life being about cooperation, not independence.

    BTW, it's rather strange that there are so few housewives in your country. My husband has some Polish colleagues and they tell him that in Poland many women stay home when married. Also, from what I can understand, there is a growing number of housewives in Russia, especially in Moscow where men can earn decent wages. However, from what I heard, in Eastern Germany a lot of married women work, as well. It seems that some countries recover from socialism better than others!

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  16. Sanne, being married to a priest is a challenge. Life changes very drastically because a young priest is sent to a rural parish and his wife usually has an urban upbringing and education. It sometimes takes very hard efforts to live as a homemaker, and unfortunately, there are clergy families who cannot afford the wife staying at home, because in some areas of the country or even in cities, some priests do not earn anything at all, or just occasional financial quantities that cannot count for the household. Not all the parishes are equal, some of them require sacrifices from the clergy wife and many wives try to do their best, but sometimes they get in financial collapse. There are happy situations of course, where the community is generous and understands that living in a village makes it very hard for the priest wife to find a job and anyway staying at home is very necessary because a priest is extremely busy at week-ends and cannot do chores at home as a common husband would do if his wife worked outside the home. I am a homemaker and we gave up many facilities for this to be possible, but there still are families that wish to have a homemaker wife and this is not possible. Living in a rural parish makes it possible to grow our own food, keep goats and chicken, but not every parish owns the necessary land where the priest and his familiy can live. In our village people asked us to move in the village and contributed to the construction of the specific house where traditionally priests are supposed to live in a parish, in a house that belongs to the church properties. Our bishop holds conferences with clergy families where priest wives are encouraged to stay at home if this is possible. It is a life long challenge and the familiy life of a priest mostly has to adapt to any requirement of the job which becomes the wife's job as helpmeet. My grand-grand mother was a priest wife as well and she never went to work, this was not imaginable in the early 20 century, but also because a priest wife is supposed to be very busy at home during the absence of her husband and she sometimes is asked to involve in the social life of the parish where people are very attentive at her lifestyle.

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  17. Oh Sanne,
    thank you for putting this issue so very good together!

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    Reacties
    1. Oh Sanne,
      thank you for putting this issue so very_well_together!

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  18. You are welcome! I'm glad you liked it...

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  19. Well, many future clergy wives have high expectations financially speaking because they see that many clergy families have a certain stability. I was very frightened at the beginning because I was convinced we would move into a parish with no place to live in and I prayed God to help me accept any situation no matter how bad it would be. My husband was ordained for this parish but we found out about the properties of the parish only after the papers were already signed, because the day we first saw the village nobody was there to show us more than a close church. We had a big surprise the day I still remember very well, my husband called a member of the parish council and asked him to show him the church and the surroundings and finally he showed us the parish house which had to be finished and where the new priest would live in. The former priest had left the parish due to personal problems and the house was under construction. We started to work with the help of the community and after 6 months we could move in. Of course we ran out of money because we had to buy a lot of things for ourselves and for the house to get finished and my parents helped us with the wood for the heating during winter time, we had a very hard period, at the beginning I started to work in the residence village as a teacher, then I gave up in order to be a fulltime homemaker and keep animals and a garden. We never know how much money my husband will bring at home, this is up to the community, but people love us and we love them, actually we don't fear the day of tomorrow. We trust God as our best provider. He has never disappointed us!

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  20. Your testimony is very inspiring! It's true, we should trust God and do what we consider our duty, whatever happens to us. I think that if the couple really believe in Titus 2, they will find a way for the wife to stay home, especially in Western countries which are wealthy and have all sorts of assistance for low income families.

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  21. I'd also like to add that ex-communist and Third World countries have problems of their own, however, it's generally not true for Western Europe where I genuinely believe most married women could find a way to stay home if they chose to. While writing this article I was thinking along the lines of a situation where the husband has a stable income and demands his wife to go and work to buy more toys. I knew a lady whose husband made a very decent living but insisted that she would find employment so that he could buy more stuff for himself. She refused and I believe she was withing her rights to do it.

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  22. What I forgot to mention is the fact that my husband has been encouraging me to be a housewife and the only period he asked me to keep my job was during his study period, although he earned a loan as a student and worked as a church cantor, we could not afford to live only from these sources of money. I started to work as a teacher because at the beginning I thought I could do my best with my education for the children from our community as we had no children and I didn't want people to judge me for being "kept" by them, but then I realized this was not exactly God's will and my health went worse and worse (Romanian schools at the country side are a very tough challenge) and then I quit my job, my husband asked me to become a fulltime housewife and I listened to him. People are happy now as we are keeping animals and many peasants bought goats as they saw how productive and economical they are. Now I am not afraid anymore to tell people I work as a peasant housewife because many wives in our village stay at home but they are considered primitive people who didn't study and had no choice in life. I stay at home and work at home by choice. I know the consequences on man and woman if the woman leaves her domain of duty.

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