Monday, February 4, 2008

Cultural Change

From an idealistic perspective, one would think we would have examined many of these issues and addressed them as a society/culture. For the most part, I think people agree with these principles in theory.

Perhaps I've just been hanging around a liberal college educated crowd.

Here are the principles, in no particular order:

1 - Women need to be able to provide for themselves and their families in case of death or disability (even if they are stay at home moms).

2 - There are times that married people should be separated.

So, for my first point, I heard about a mother who just recently lost her husband. They had five kids. He was in his forties. Their youngest child is 14. She never worked outside the home and has few skills/little education. At the funeral, a family member suggested to her that she should be able to live (without getting a job) on the social security death benefits and (perhaps) some small life insurance. Before he passed away, her husband was working two jobs. Again - they both were living their lives as if a mom staying at home (even when the youngest was 14) was the ideal - no matter what the reality was. Obviously, I don't know the entire situation. I'm just speculating for some of this and heard other parts of the story third hand.

I don't know if she will need to get a job now or not. But so often (especially in mormon/LDS circles) this is not emphasized. I do believe this is changing somewhat.

But it frustrates me that any family has to face this. With 50% of marriages that end in divorce (even among devoted religious families), and the chance of a husband's early demise - it is incredibly risky to not be prepared (somewhat) on some sort of career/education to fall back on. It seems to me that it is not against "family values" to ask that both partners' in a marriage to be prepared. And to encourage young women to get a good education.

For my second point, this is a sensitive subject at the moment. What I can say is, my husband's grandfather and his second wife are currently legally separated. On the good days, I think their immediate family agrees that this is in both their best interests. They had reached the (sad) point where she was interfering in his medical treatment.

For example, it's a little like what would happen if my grandmother had another stroke and my grandfather refused to call the hospital.

Anyway, it's just a messy, difficult situation.

So despite the fact that they are legally separated, various people are still treating them as being married. The local church's women's group (very conservative) sent them flowers - addressed to both of them. My grandfather in law was incredibly stressed out with how to separate the flowers.

Perhaps they were being kind, but also likely is that it was a subtle jab - we know you're separated, but marriage is a lifetime commitment in God's eyes. It's a little like my friend whose mom still received mail addressed to her and her ex-husband from the local Roman Catholic parish.

Then, this past weekend, another well meaning family member chose to ignore the separation - taking them both out as if nothing had happened. This is the same niece who wanted to take them out to buy a new car a week after their last accident. Again - going back to someone being married and the marriage vows/honor of that marriage meaning more than any logic or well-being/interest of the people involved.

I am not someone who feels that religion is always a bad influence. But in both cases, people were using/citing religious/cultural beliefs to promote unhealthy/unrealistic behaviors.

That women who focus on motherhood do not need to prepare their education or for a career and two - that marriage vows trump a person's health. In both cases, the people involved are incredibly religious, both (I think) in fundamentalist religions. I do not respect either of those beliefs - and I am separating the person from the belief. Typically I try to respect other people's beliefs, but these are two categories where I'm not able to.

The majority of religions agree that women need to have the security of their own education and careers. And, most religions agree that separation or divorce are acceptable in cases of abuse.

So why is it so difficult to get these messages to the laypeople? To people and families involved?

How do we continue to promote change within our culture?


Freckle Face Girl said...

I completely agree with both points. I also think that many women stay with horrible or even not so nice husbands just because they can't support themselves. It is a horrible situation to be in. I can't imagine feeling trapped.

As for religion being a part of that, you are right. When my parents were getting divorced, there were lots of church members who suddenly wouldn't/couldn't talk to us (their kids). We were adults at the time, but you could see how uncomfortable they felt even looking at us. That was a big turn off for the Mormon culture.

Aerin said...

Thanks FFG.

I just don't understand where the disconnect is. I guess I'm looking at an emotional issue logically - which never works....

laura said...

I agree as well, with one caveat: I don't know that having an education and a career, or potential career, is necessarily helpful if you choose to do full time motherhood for awhile. It's often very hard to get back into the workforce if you haven't been in it for awhile. Your skills are often considered to be not up to snuff; you've got a big gap in your resume.

And then there are situations like that of my friend whose ex-husband would not let her work. She also was never able to finish college, for a variety of reasons. And now she's got more small children to care for. It's a hard one.

Aerin said...

Thanks Laura. Yes - I hear what you're saying about fulltime motherhood. And the difficult choices parents need to make. It's true that there may be a gap in the resume which makes it difficult. For many families, it's a very rough decision.

I guess (trying to not offend anyone) - I'm just trying to promote the idea that everyone needs an education - or to think about how they will support themselves. I'm saying in our society, you can't depend on someone else to always be there - always pay the bills. You may not have to look for a job/career later in life. You may not have to use that education. But at least you have it or are thinking about it as a possibility.

Not just assuming that (again, reinforced by some family/religious messages) as a woman, you don't need an education or to think about a career because you will get married, have kids and your husband will support you. These messages were given with a past generation - and I didn't think they were still around. But they are!

I am so sorry to hear about your friend. I hope she will be able to (somehow) continue her education (even with young children) and/or support them as best as she can. Sometimes it seems like there are no good options for moms in our society. And picking up the pieces after a controlling relationship - I have a tremendous amount of compassion for her.

Floating in the Milk said...

This is my favorite hobby horse, but I'll try to not to go overboard on my comment. I probably will anyway.

I actively encourage my girls to expect careers when they are adults (as well as my boys). I think telling women they can choose to depend on a man as long as they have a backup plan infantalizes them. I tell my children that it is the responsiblity of parents to care for their children - this means providing money for neccessities and or course physical care and upbringing. I don't believe there is any significant benefit for children that justifies a parent not supporting themselves and their children financially. I hate it so very much that women are made to feel that they have to choose between being a mother and earning a living, when fathers are never viewed that way.