Monday, February 23, 2009

Traditions



Lois Greiman



As a historical romance novelist, I spend a good deal of time setting history on its ear. I mean, I stay inside the factual boundaries. I do my research. (Mostly so readers won’t tar and feather me.) But in some areas I take some pretty big liberties. Such as, even in the Middle Ages, my heroes had great teeth (not a blackened incisor or a missing molar to be found), they bathed regularly, no exceptions, and my heroines generally had a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude. They consider themselves the equal (or more) to any man. And that, we know, is pure fiction. In many cultures for many years, women were (and sometimes still are) considered little more than a commodity. Of course there were exceptions, but it hasn’t even been a hundred years since we got the right to vote. In 1840, common British law still prohibited a woman from owning property without her husband, and it’s only been a little more than half a century since American women were allowed to enroll in medical schools. For most of modern history, when women were married they were expected to work like slaves, bear children, and keep their mouths shut.

All these things make me a tad upset when I think about them. But to be absolutely honest, I’m not perfectly comfortable with the direction we’re taking now either. I worry, for instance, about the children of our modern society. Believe me, I understand why women work. Why they need to work, why they want to work, why they should work. But most women also want children, and if this generation’s mothers are in the workplace, that puts this generation’s kids in daycare. And no matter how phenomenal the daycare facilities are, we cannot pay others to love our children.

I also worry about marriage. Now don’t get me wrong, I, for one, don’t believe that matrimony is for the faint of heart. The divorce rate still stands at about 50%, which, I imagine, is one of the factors that encourages many couples to live together instead. But studies show there is more abuse among those couples than among couples who marry. And again, what about the kids produced from these unions?

I recently heard a theory that stated that the generation that was first put in daycare was the generation that began putting their parents’ in ‘old folk’s homes.’ I don’t want to go to an ‘old folk’s home.’ Remember the longevity test Helen had us take a few months ago? According to that, I’m supposed to live to be 106. I figure that would give me about thirty years to stare at the eggshell walls of some institution.

The heroine in my most recent novel, Seduced By Your Spell, out…..tomorrow, is a about a woman (who also happens to be a witch) who fictionalizes her history, making herself a widow and therefore being allowed more freedom than most women enjoyed in Regency England. But sometimes reality raises its ugly head even in my world. For instance, my wee, adorable daughter has been making noises about marriage lately and even though I adore her boyfriend, I worry. About everything. For instance, she’s brilliant, so sometimes I think she almost feels that she’s obliged to get her PhD and have some out-of-this-world career. But what if that’s not what she wants? What if she wants to be a housewife who stays at home, darns socks, and makes dinner every night. Is that okay or she failing the sisterhood?

So hmmm, what do you think? Are we on the right track? Which traditions should be nurtured and which should be drop-kicked into history? Should women be more serious about keeping their maiden names and hence retaining their identity? Should there be rings involved in a marriage ceremony or does that demonstrate a weird sense of ownership? Should the bride’s parents’ pay for the wedding or is that like paying a man to take her off their hands? And tell me, what do we do about the kids? Do we send them to daycare? Do we raise them ourselves? Or do we encourage our wee adorable brilliant daughter to stay home during their little ones' formative years?

Chime in. Neurotic minds want to know.

Oh, and I'm having a fun little contest on my website at www.loisgreiman.com. Drop on in, vote, and we'll throw your name in the hat for an Amazon gift card.

www.loisgreiman.com

39 comments:

Arkansas Cyndi said...

I'm not sure where to start with all your questions. I will say that sometimes women forget those women who preceded us and fought so hard for women's rights. Iron-Jaw Angles should be required viewing.

Sometimes I wished I had kept my maiden name. But back then (in the dark ages!), it wasn't really something I gave any thought to. Plus, I remember when Hillary Clinton moved to AR and announced she would keep her maiden name...wow the outcry. You would have thought she was active in a criminal activity. It didn't take long before she adopted Clinton as her last name.

I know woman have to work sometimes to make ends meet, but do you ever wonder if we have lost sight of what is necessary and what are luxuries?

But one of the nice things about today is that we women have a choice, which was something we didn't have years ago.

Kylie said...

I echo your sentiments, Lois. I have similar worries about my daughter, if for different reasons. She's very driven, very goal oriented (gee I wonder where she got that???) and currently is in grad school to get her MA. She's been talking for years of getting her PhD but medical problems are cropping up and now she's more worried about having kids. I'm afraid she sees it as an either / or proposition and I keep telling her it doesn't have to be that way.

But...that path is not for the faint of heart. And yes, we are still in a place in our society where raising a family wouldn't deter a man from pursuing his educational dream, but it does give the woman pause. Can it be done? Absolutely. But I can't tell her that it won't require sacrifice. And that's a hard truth to have to share with someone you want to see get her heart's desire. In all things.

lois greiman said...

Yeah, it's a tricky subject, isn't it? I so very much want my daughter to be independent and strong and self fulfilled. Which, on the surface, seems would be easier if she didn't have kids. In fact, easier if she didn't even get married, because, by necessity you give up at least a little part of yourself when others are involved. Especially if others are financially supporting you. But...the best part of my life was raising my kids. And staying home to raise them was definitely the right decision for me. So who am I to say it wouldn't be best for her, too?

lois greiman said...

Kylie, I do actually know a few men who, I believe, would be as nurturing to a child as their female counterparts. But honestly, that's pretty rare. I think women are, by and large, inherently better at the job. So having the man stay home while the woman pursues her career maybe isn't going to be the best choice for the child. And although I tend to think about my daughter's welfare, I can't without thinking of your future children's welfare, too. It's sticky.

magolla said...

When I had my kiddo I went part-time at work. There were a few reasons for this. As an only child, the kiddo wouldn't have the social interactions at home that she got at daycare. I also WANTED her to get exposed to all the snotty-germs out there when she was young to build up her immunity. She's been in school 4 years now and was only sick once--I think it was food poisoning, since neither hubby nor I got ill.
We've also been brainwashing her that she can't get married or have kids UNTIL she graduates from college.
And if/when she gets married we will give her and her fiance X amount of money for her wedding or not. Hubby and I paid for our own wedding with 'wedding gifts' of money from the parents. It worked out well for us and we didn't go into debt or have issues with either mother trying to take over OUR wedding.

Cindy Gerard said...

Thanks for starting my morning with such a thought provoking post, Lois. and congrats on the new release!! i hope it sells like gangbusters!
By necessity, not choice, I was a working mom. It was a tough row back then. We didn't have much and by not having much I mean nothing. No washer and dryer to wash diapers and i used clothe diapers because I couldn't afford Pampers. Wow. Hadn't thought about THAT for a while. And while my hubby was helpful, MUCH has changed since those days re: shared responsibilities. Our son and our Goddess of a dtl have given us 4 beautiful grandchildren. She works, in my opinion, the perfect job as a teacher 3 days a week. Still, it's difficult for her and so our son more than does his share to insure that Eileen isn't run totally ragged and the kids get that parental attention they need. It's a wonderful thing to watch them partner with all responsibilities.
From my perspective, they are a great example of 'having it all' on the home front. The kids are happy and well behaved (they clearly understand who's in charge) and both Kyle and Eileen have fulfilling careers they love. I could only wish that for all young families. But it takes dedication from both of them to insure that all in the hh - including each other - are happy healthy and fulfilled

amy*skf said...

Do you think men ever ask these questions of themselves? And I'm not being snarky--I think women are constantly wondering/questioning what they should could want to do, and what's best for everyone.

Mostly when my older kids were little I worked part time and often at night--so I was there with them during the day, but I now think it would have been better to be there during the day when they were older too. That's my goal with the youngest (10 years old) I'm still working part-time, but I want to be home.

Sometimes, I think our brilliant career is our children and sometimes it's the phd. I see so many women going back to school after their kids have been in college, these women are starting new ventures at 50, 60, 70 years old.

amy*skf said...

Oh, Cindy, I had almost forgotten about cloth diapers--it was almost erased from my memory banks. It was the same for us, couldn't afford pampers...

I agree that even though we have so many choices these days, sometimes we don't have a choice. And we just have to do what we have to do.

Helen Brenna said...

I think it all comes down to whether or not we have a choice in these matters.

Women have more choices today than ever, but, unfortunately, I think society still puts a lot of pressure on us to do things a certain way. On men, too, for that matter.

I know this is an over simplification, but we need to each follow what's in our heart. There's no one right way.

Helen Brenna said...

Cloth diapers here too. I swear that's why my kids were potty trained so young!

lois greiman said...

Cindy & Amy, personally I think part time work might be the best option for a lot of moms. They get out of the house so they're not totally overwhelmed. They make SOME money and they still keep their hands in the working world. But so many mothers have to work full time and I really don't know how they do it. I would have collapsed by the time my oldest was out of diapers...which...was cloth for me, too, but more for an environmental reason than financial.

So, Cindy, how did you wash those diapers??

Keri Ford said...

Ooh, touchy subject! I agree with Helen, you have to follow what's in your heart.

As a stay-at-home mom, my view is obviously swayed to that route. I love it and couldn't imagine putting my baby in some daycare where a stranger watched him do all his firsts. I think those first years are so critical in bonding.

Women can have a career and children, my sister does, but I can’t picture me doing that.

Cindy Gerard said...

Lois LOL - Laundromat. Although I do remember a couple of times when we were so broke that i washed them out by hand in the bathtub. I gained a whole new appreciation for those sturdy pioneer women who used a washboard, let me tell you. My hands actually blistered. Yes, i remember, it was that bad :o) Built character, though.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Wow, Lois, great topic. So many thoughts come to mind, all jostling to get on the page. Line up, thoughts. One at a time. (Yep, that's the teacher in me. She will not be denied.)

First, I think we're hard-wired in some ways, but maybe not quite the ways we think. I think you have to go way back in history to figure this out. I mean WAY back.

I don't think the nuclear family is the norm for the human race. Most societies are all about extended families. Women work when they're young. They take care of the toddlers when they're older. You'd love this set-up, Lois. You could live to be 106 and have a vital role to play, doing what you love most. I don't think day care kids put their parent in nursing homes. I think it's something else entirely. That whole "it takes a village" philosophy? We've ripped the village structure apart. That's the rub, IMO.

Kathleen Eagle said...

There's a pressure on women we haven't mentioned yet--the pressure to have children. We kind of look down on the young married woman who doesn't want to be a mother.

In my heart of hearts I'd love to see my daughter with her own baby in her arms. She's a wonderful auntie, but she doesn't want to be a mother, and she's constantly asked to explain that. (I used to say, "never say never," but no more. Now I'm singing R-E-S-P-E-C-T.)

Betina Krahn said...

Lois, what a great post! I'm with you on the historical thing-- historical accuracy into which we transplant a relationship modern women can relate to and want. sigh. And still sometimes we get scored for taking liberties with "Truth". . . as if there were only one brand of it.

I worked outside the home while the kiddies were young. . . then started writing full time and was at home by the time the youngest hit kindergarten. Can't tell you the number of people who said I was soooo lucky "not to have to work." Since I worked at home, they assumed I didn't "work." My kids were basically happy that I was there when they left and when they got home from school and that I helped with all the homeroom parties.

I felt good about being there for them. . . but money was always tight in the early days and I often felt guilty about not shouldering more of the financial burden. Dear Hubby said I'd soon make more than he did and I laughed. The day I learned I did make more than he did, I cried.

Now I look at my three precious grands and worry. The son and dil are both pursuing demanding careers and the kids are at daycare. They're in a good and stable situation (same provider for years, one who is good and loving to them) but I can't help worrying. The kids are just starting into the whole "swimming lessons" etc. thing and my son and dil are running themselves ragged. Things get a little chaotic at times and I wish I were closer to help more.

So see-- the guilt never ends. As a mom I was conflicted, now as a grandmom I'm conflicted. Can't tell you the times I've considered packing in the sunshine for a second round of snow in Minnesota.

lois greiman said...

Kathy, I can honestly only think of one friend who has remained childless by choice. And I think there is pressure, which is so sad. No one should have children if they don't absolllllutely want them. I think it takes a village too, but we're all so mobile now. Since the kids were born I've always been hundreds of miles from my village. It's a problem.

Playground Monitor said...

Another stay-at-home mom who used cloth diapers (but only with the first one). I did work for 6 years starting when #2 son was in 2nd grade and #1 was in 6th. I was able to quit for #1's senior year of high school. We had tight times but it's then that you learn the difference between the high cost of living and the cost of high living. I realize some mothers have to work and I have the utmost respect for them. I remember working 8-5, rushing home to feed kids, getting them to Little League practice (mine only did one sport at a time and their music lessons -- violin -- were part of their school). We had a chore chart on the fridge and the DH and I split up chores along with the kids.

My Goddess DIL works too and my grandbaby is in a wonderful daycare. My son is an absolute gem of a daddy and takes a much more active role in childcare than my DH did. I'm not dissing the DH, but that's the model he'd seen growing up and that's the way he behaved.

Young couples today have to just look at their own situation and circumstances and make the decisions that are right for them.

Regarding maiden names -- I didn't have a middle name so my maiden name became my middle name when I married. From my area of the south it's common for women to drop a middle name and keep the maiden name. So when Susie Jane Smith married Bob Jones, she becomes Susie Smith Jones. It's also common here for children to have the mother's maiden name in their name. My friend Leslie Kelley (not the writer) named her daughter Kelley. Another friend whose maiden name was Taylor gave her daughter that as a first name. My son has his father's first name as his middle (I didn't want a Junior), and had we had a girl, she'd have had my maiden name as her middle name.

Marilyn

lois greiman said...

Betina, it really has been kind of a blessing to be able to remain home during the growing up years. Difficult to get anything done but rewarding. It's so interesting to see the people they've become and wonder how they would be different if we had raised them differently.

Kathleen Eagle said...

I've always worked--had an income since I was 16. Only summer jobs in high school--frankly, I worry about the number of HS kids working during the school year, but that's a different topic--and work-study when I was in college. Like Betina, I quit the day job when our youngest was in kindergarten, but that was after I'd published enough so that a steady income from writing looked like a sure thing.

We had a terrific day care situation--same woman for all 3 kids, in her home. She was like a family member, maybe comparable to a grandma. Our older son was so excited about seeing her when she came to the Cities a few years ago that he said he ironed his t-shirt. (He was in his late 20's then.) So that's kind of the extended family thing in a way. Bertha was like a surrogate mother to me as well, with my mother living half a continent away.

I can't say I haven't suffered the guilties over the years. Every time there's a setback in one of their lives, I wonder whether it's my fault for not being at home. Even when I was at home writing, I was in another world half the time.

Man, this being a woman sure is complicated, isn't it?

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oh, yeah, I did cloth diapers the first time around, too. I had one of those tiny apartment-size washers and a clothesline. I did take Pamers to the sitter, though. I wonder where all my kids' used Pampers are now. Landfills? They stay around for, like, 100 years, don't they? Dang those guilties.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Lois, I know quite a few women who have remained childless by choice. Even more who have had children at least in part because they were supposed to. Including my grandmother. She insisted that you were supposed to have sex because you were supposed to have children, and that was all she had to say about THAT subject.

When I was growing up we had a neighbor who had a baby every couple of years, followed by a stay in a mental health facility, followed by a visit to the priest with her request for a special dispensation from the prohibition against birth control--always denied--followed by another baby. I mention this not because of the religious aspect, but social expectations. It was the 1960's, and we'd like to think things have changed. They have to some extent, but women still have fewer choices than men--obviously more so in some places or social situations than others.

For my part, I always wanted to be a mother. It's very much a part of my makeup. But I don't think I would have been a better mother if I had not had a career or two. I needed more than the income, and that, too, is part of my makeup.

Playground Monitor said...

My husband grew up in a little bitty village way up in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. Nice, hard-working people, but many were not educated beyond high school if that much. One girl got married and nine months later she went to the hospital and said she was there to get her baby. She wasn't pregnant. She was simply ignorant about the birds and the bees and thought marriage + nine months = a baby.

Swear to the Almighty, I'm not lying.

And then there's the Quiverfull movement that believes you simply trust in the Almighty to determine the size of your family and He will provide for as many kids as you have. That's how we get families with 18 children.

Octo-mom is another issue entirely.

Robin of My Two Blessings said...

Great questions. My mother was a stay at home mom and there every day for us. She didn't start working until my brother graduated high school. We appreciated the fact she was home to greet us everyday after school, sit down and talk. When I started going to college, she started doing volunteer work. I would feel a loss whenever I came home to an empty house.

Before my hubby and I got married, I told him that when we had kids, I wanted to be a stay at home mom. It made no sense to me to have a kid and then leave him/her to someone else to raise while I worked. We bought a smaller, cheaper house so we could afford to live on one income. We fortunately own our own business and James has the best of both worlds. Hubby stays home two days a week while I go into the shop. We home school because it benefits James and he is thriving.

For most women, staying at home isn't an option. Their lifestyle requires two incomes and the kids have to go to daycare or for older kids, they utilize the before and after programs at school. According to a book I read and it made so much sense, kids bond with who they are with the most.

If your child is with you, the authority figure, they will bond and obey you. If your child is with a group of children for a period of time, they will bond with the group of children. The adult no longer has authority over the child, because the child sees the group as his authority. Or they may bond with the teacher / caregiver if that person takes the time to establish a bond. I didn't know many teachers in school who cared to bond with their students. So ultimately, what is happening is kids are learning from their peers and not from their parents and family.

Hopefully that make sense. My cousins have successful careers and make lots of money. However every one of their children have been put into daycare or left with a nanny since the age of 6 weeks. They may spend all of 2 hours a evening with their kids and I have heard them saying they can't understand why their kids won't listen to them or obey them.

Sorry this is getting long. I know its old fashioned but I think if a family is capable of making sacrifices and have one of the parents being a stay at home parent, they should do it and kids will benefit in the long run.

lois greiman said...

Marilyn, yeah, my brother has nine kids cuz of the Almighty issue. Personally, I don't think that's the way to go, but it's all very personal.

Kathy, I do think that no matter what we do we'll feel guilty. But sometimes I think women actually have MORE choices than men. I think it's still pretty hard for men to decide to stay home and take care of the kids even if they are better suited than their female counterparts.

catslady said...

It's a very complicated issue. Unless our society values raising children more than it does, it may never change. I really think it should be a 50/50 proposition. Like a marriage should be 50/50. Not the same everyday but on a whole. I think ideally men and women should both work outside the home and also both stay home with the kids. Of course that means changing the way company's run business. But with the development of computers many jobs could be party done at home. There are lots of possibilities such as job sharing, longer work days but for less days, shorter work weeks, etc. I do think things are changing and men are getting better at realizing raising children can be a good thing but alas it takes soooo long for change.

lois greiman said...

Robin, I never thought about the bonding thing like that exactly. But it does make sense. At least, I certainly bonded. I can only assume the kids did too. :)

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who sat down with DH and discussed - BEFORE the marriage - how we would handle this issue?

I grew up with no clue about kids, whereas he helped raise his much-younger brother from birth. Plus, I could make more money than he could. To us, it only made sense that one of us would stay home with any children we might have, and from there it was a no-brainer.

So yes, I worked full-time throughout my pregnancy and went back at 8 weeks, and he raised our child. I took vacation time to be a Room Mother, to chaperon field trips, to do important stuff. The DH went back to work part time when said child went to school full-time, but one of us was always there for sick days, school breaks, and when the bus dropped him off.

It worked well for us, and I know there are more men out there now in that same position than 20 years ago when we were doing this.

Frankly, I'm shocked and appalled that you didn't even consider that option, and all the men who have put their careers on hold to raise their children. I don't think women will ever achieve real equality until these types of concerns are generally accepted as the family's decision, what's better for them, rather than some hooey about What Will Others Think.

...okay, off the soapbox now.
lw

wordverification "spity" -- I must be feeling spity today; usually I don't get so excited ::blush::

Kathleen Eagle said...

Catslady, I have to say that I married a 50/50 kind of guy. My dad was pretty much hands off until the kid can carry on an intelligent conversation, but Clyde knew more about babies than I did. Thank heaven. Our lives have always been kids and careers. Not much grown-ups only social life, which my parents had. Our social life involved kids. And I can't tell you how many writers' conferences my daughter attended with me. But Clyde has always been great with the kids--absolutely 50/50.

lois greiman said...

Anonymous, I did consider the father staying home. In fact, I mentioned that some men are better suited for nurturing than women. But overall I don't think that's the case, do you? My husband wouldn't have been good as a stay at home dad. You're lucky to have someone who could handle the job.

And Kathy, I KNOW you're lucky. Clyde's good with kids and horses. :)

Debra Dixon said...

Geez, Lois. Why don't you ask a hard question? Deciding the fate of children is soooooooo easy.

I can't speak for everyone. I had a belief about what would work best for my child and my family. I figured out a way to be home "most" of the time. My consulting career began when my son arrived. My career intensified when he entered school. I did not have the patience or the brain power to work 8 hours and try to be super mom.

Others could/can. Just not me. So, I choose the course which was most likely to create a solid foundation for the new little citizen.

I wouldn't encourage my daughter or daughter-in-law to do anything but the thing which makes them most happy. If that's work and kids, great. If that's work and no kids, okay. If that's only kids and living on a tight budget to stay home with them, that's okay.

I would encourage them to make the decision and not let hubby "tell" them what to do.

lois greiman said...

I have a friend whose husband was very insistent on her going back to work before she felt ready. She did, because it's so difficult to fight that kind of constant guilting, but she still feels badly about missing those early years.

So anonymous is right, of course, it should be decided ahead of time. But sometimes it's hard to agree on those really big decisions. And sometimes things change during the process

Christie Ridgway said...

Blogger ate my comment!

I wrote something totally different before and more serious, so this time I just want to say: What's wrong with rings? Preferably with big gemstones for us ladies.

In DIRTY SEXY KNITTING, the third book in my trilogy that's out in June, the reader learns that the hero of Book 1 wears an engagement ring because the heroine think it's fair that way (she also has one).

lois greiman said...

Yeah, engagement rings for men kind of make sense to me. But maybe I'm just touchy about this whole equality subject.

Linda said...

Wow, so many points to cover! LOL

My mom worked until I was born, then stayed home until I went to school. That worked for me.

I never wanted children (not sure why) and always took precautions. I do have three step children who were already adults when I married their father. The oldest's husband stayed home with their daughter when she was first born. He was great; I mean, really great. Taryn had a great job with benefits and he was an aspiring actor/writer. It made sense. The youngest step-daughter has two daughters and is a SAHM and she's awesome. I admire her so much. Steph is just wonderful with the girls and her husband is also very nurturing.

I admit I'm not crazy about daycare but sometimes there's just no other option.

About the bride's family paying for the wedding, I'm seeing more instances of the bride and groom paying for the wedding.

I like the visible symbol of wedding rings and, hey, Christie, awesome idea of both H/h having engagement rings.

Oh and about women keeping their maiden names, I wish I had. I've been married three times and twice I took back my maiden name after the divorce. Now, after 23 years with the married name, I'm pretty comfortable with it and don't much care. My mother, on the other hand, wants me to never forget my maiden name and wants me to hyphenate it (now that my DH has passed). Bless her heart.

GunDiva said...

Wow, this is kind of a touchy subject. I'm not wired to be a stay-at-home mom and I have so much respect for the women who are. I've worked multiple jobs from the time I was fourteen and feel guilty if I "only" work one. During college, my kids were with my Grandmother (I don't know what I'd do without her), but also spent some time in daycare. I tried, after my third, to be a stay-at-home mom and ended up on anti-depressants. When I was married, I was always the bread-winner and the alcoholic husband couldn't keep a job, so I'm sure part of the depression was lack of income control. I'm a much better mom when I'm working. The benefits to being a working single mom (which I've been for twelve years) are that my kids can cook, clean, do their laundry and have a better understanding of money than their peers.

I'm getting married in just a few short months and I haven't really addressed the issue of the name thing yet; I've been "me" for so long that the idea of changing my name is kind of scary. I'm leaning toward the keep-the-maiden-name-professionally-route, but what a nightmare that can be!

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campbell joe said...

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Anonymous said...

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