Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Isolation of the Modern Housewife and Mother

I just read Jennifer Fulwiler's recent article at The National Catholic Register, and this really resonated with me:
There are some advantages to moms blogging about their kids. The isolation issues that many stay-at-home moms face is no joke. As we've discussed before, it's unnatural for people to live utterly cut off from any real community, as is the case with moms who are outside of the workforce. Blogs give women in these situations a way to share stories and feel close to one another
There was a link within that sentence to an older article of hers, and there I found this second gem:
When I studied anthropology in college, one of the things that stood out to me the most was the element of community: In pretty much every time and place outside of modern Western culture, people lived around family all their lives. The average person was surrounded by brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. For women, the work of raising children was not done alone: Younger nieces and cousins would help with the little kids, the women would socialize as they gathered water or washed clothes, all the children playing together around them. This is the kind of life we were designed for.
In contrast, the average modern woman who is out of the workforce lives her life on a suburban desert island. The nearest family member lives miles (if not thousands of miles) away. She doesn’t know all the people on her street, and not many of them have kids anyway. If she’s like many Americans, she’s moved within the past few years, losing any sense of community she’d built in the last place she lived. Any opportunities for socializing with other women involve the herculean effort of packing up all the kids in the car to drive somewhere. She doesn’t even have the age-old mother’s release valve of banishing the kids outside and telling them to come back at mealtime, since safety concerns mean she has to keep them within sight at all times.
This is an incredibly unnatural way to live.

I have to say that I totally agree.  When there are no other stay-at-home moms around you, life can be lonely for the woman trying to go it alone at home all day.  And when there aren't moms home, there aren't going to be kids around for your own kids to play with.  In fact, the whole sense of community and neighborliness is compromised.

Quoting myself from a previous post:

In a neighborhood where all the moms stay home, they get to know each other.  They see each other around.  Their kids play together.  It builds community.  When moms are at work all day, kids are either away at some sort of daycare of after-school program, or under orders to stay in the house.  Kids don't go outside anymore, because there's no one to watch over them if they do.  Kids don't play with other kids on their street.  Moms don't know each other.  So their husbands don't know each other.  Suddenly, everyone's a stranger, and no one feels safe letting their kids out to wander anyways.  So kids stay inside playing video games and watching TV all day, because that's "safe."  Kids work out their strong need for socialization at home with texting, twitter, the internet...which are all poor substitutes for real human contact.
 Also, see the excellent blog Free-Range Kids for more thoughts on this and similar issues.


  1. Yep.

    I even consider myself an introvert who doesn't mind a day (or several) at home by myself, but I am also already feeling this.

  2. Oh man, me too! The immediate postpartum period is the worst for this, bedrest notwithstanding. Hurray for the internet telling me what's going on in the rest of the world. The world being other women's homes.

  3. yup... this is why I went back to work. My whole life I dreamed about being a housewife, however I found in reality that it is not a very nice role in modern day society . It is very socially isolating. I found myself going crazy after 3 months at home with my newborn. I hate this modern world. I wish governments and society would realize how valuable the role of housewife is and provide more support to women to go down that route. I wish I grew up in the world before the fifties. Yes it wasn't perfect but at least the housewife was respected. I would love to stay at home but you need adult interaction. For some women it is impossible. In Germany e.g women are legally encouraged to stay at home for at least the first 3 years of the baby's life. They therefore have opportunities to meet lots of women like themselves. I hate working and putting my son in daycare but I feel like socially it is best for both myself and my son.