Andy at Dead Mens’ Voices has a beautiful post written on the deference that men used to show women in our society. We lost much when we left our traditional ways, I think.
It brings up another subject I’ve been meaning to write about, though I will fail to do so in Andy’s eloquent fashion. I wrote here about one aspect of the economic value of women staying at home and raising kids. My point there was simply that children are an economic good, and remain so today, even if they are not as immediately an obvious benefit as they used to be in agrarian societies, which is probably why so many today forego those long-term benefits and opt for the immediate benefit of a salary.
But another aspect of the benefit of stay-at-home moms is the quality of life benefit. This is a major benefit to me. I have higher-quality meals; a cleaner house; someone taking care of the kids; someone bringing me my coffee in the morning. All of this is not an insignificant benefit. You might say that yes, there’s that benefit, but that’s an intangible, non-economic benefit. And my answer to that is, how much would I have to pay someone (or several someones, likely) to do all of the things that my wife does for me and my family?
Now this is especially relevant in my line of work. I’m a pastor. And a pastor needs to have people in his home a lot. Because I have a stay-at-home wife, I can feel comfortable inviting people to stop by pretty much any time, and I know that while the house isn’t perfect on a moment’s notice, it’s never a disaster, or something I’m embarrassed of.
But everyone, not just pastors, pays a lot of money for a lot of things that have to do with quality of life, and are not strictly related to need. You buy a bigger house. Get a nicer car. Go on a vacation. Go out to eat. How much money do people spend on these things? And it was my experience, when Andrea was working, that we spent a lot more on those things. Partly because we had it to spend, but I think a big reason was also because we felt the need to get away more. It was harder work to keep the house clean, and we didn’t even have kids then. Andrea didn’t want to work all day and then come home and cook too. And I don’t blame her.
One of the things I’ve learned from Getting Things Done is how much value there is to reducing the “stuff” in your life. “Stuff”, according to Allen, is anything that’s not in its place. And he makes no distinction in this regard between business and personal stuff, because all of it competes for the same mindspace. The same brain that worries about the new restructuring plan or the problem with the accounting department also worries about the carpets that need cleaned at home. Having a stay-at-home mom greatly reduces the amount of stuff in my life. I don’t have to worry about the kids in day-care or whether the cleaning lady is stealing the good silver.
Having a stay-at-home wife is worth so much to me. I’d be hard-pressed to put a price tag on it, but I know I’d need to hire a full-time live-in person to bring me the value that my wife brings. And there are lots of truly intangible benefits that the live-in person could not provide (like getting a kiss when I get my morning coffee!).
People often say that they could not afford to live on one salary any more. I say they’re often not looking at the whole picture. It’s certainly true sometimes. But a lot of times it’s just short-sighted; not looking at the whole picture. The wife in Proverbs 31 had created a worry-free environment that allowed her husband to pursue lots of other interests, including politics. Maybe we don’t have a lot of cash to take fancy vacations. But I love my home. I don’t feel that big a need to get away from it. And my wife is the reason that I love my home.