I came to the "Tim Gordon on Married Women Working" controversy a year after it happened, and I hope this post does not rekindle the conflagration. Tim lost his job as a well-respected Catholic school teacher because he criticised the Marxist BLM, and I don't want to pile on him months after most people have probably forgotten about his controversial interview.
As a matter of fact, I have heard denunciations of Married Women Working since I was 18 years old, and before then I read countless books that presented Married Women Working as objects of pity or scorn. My father's mother worked as a full time bookkeeper or accountant, but I had it in my head that this was to pay her sons' Catholic boarding school fees. My mother's mother, who lived in the era of the family wage (and good public education where she was), worked a bit for amusement and pin money. My mother had five children and so didn't have time for work until I was deep in my twenties, and then she got a job that paid for her younger son's private school fees.
About ten years ago, someone gave me a book from the 1940s or 1950s about Catholic Etiquette and there was a section about Married Women Working. The book stressed that a Catholic woman's primary obligations were to her husband, children, and house, and that she did no wrong by working outside that house as long as she did not neglect her sacred duties. At the same time, though, the book saw her needing to work as a calamity and counselled her husband and children to lighten her burden by taking part in the housework, etc.
This reminds me, by the way, of a priest who very much annoyed my mother in the 1970s when he preached about the messy state he found his parishioners' houses in when he paid calls. Can you imagine? Well, I can, for my father has a store of funny or alarming stories about the autocratic priests of his 1940s/1950s youth. But I digress.
Or do I? One of the characteristics of men of the so-called Greatest Generation is that many of them objected to their wives working for reasons that made sense to them. Some of them make sense to me, too. For example, working women were sexually harassed an awful lot. If homosexuality were not illegal for so long, I bet working men would have been sexually harassed an awful lot, too. But this sexual harassment was real, and the father of a former flame of mine once complained to him that things had come to such a pass that you couldn't tell a woman at work that she had nice breasts anymore.
Another characteristic of Greatest Generation men was that they thought Women Working suggested that their husbands were not Good Providers. Being thought a Good Provider was a big, fat deal for Greatest Generation men. And the fascinating thing is that, if employed, most of them really could provide for their families. Some of my favourite stories about life in post-war Edinburgh are told by the son of a union organiser. His father was also a builder of some description, and he managed to support his wife and children on his wages. If he stayed too long at the pub, his wife would bring his dinner and bang it down on the counter in front of him.
Unfortunately, millions of men in the West are no longer assured of a wage that will keep them, their wives and their children housed, fed and shod. I don't pretend to know why that is, exactly, and although as a child I thought we must be poor, I now realise we were very well off in ways that did not include designer clothes or ponies, my twin obsessions when I was 12. One of the ways we were rich was that my father had a career he enjoyed instead of a job or jobs, which is the lot of most people today, and another was that we had a proper house with gardens, front and back.
One of my most enduring memories is of my mother hanging out the washing on the ingenious twisted-metal line in the sunny back yard. The line worked on pulleys, and so I could see my young mother's impressive arm muscles working as she pinned up a piece of laundry and then pulled the line along to put up the next piece. My mother's arms were a testament to all the housework and child-lugging she did, and when she was in a good humour she was the most fun mum in the world.
However, my mother was not always in a good humour because she also had a first class, university medal-winning mind, and if you have such a mind, housework and childminding are terribly boring, especially when you are under thirty in the 1970s. My mother's mother yakked to the woman next door over the fence, and her eldest daughter now yaks to the woman downstairs over the fence, but the woman next door to my mother worked all day, and so there was no-one to yak to. It was frustrating. Also, my mother was both behind and before her times. Being a housewife was suddenly incredibly unfashionable, and there was no online community of mommy bloggers to encourage her because the internet had not yet been invented.
Therefore, women longing for paid employment simply because they are bored, lonely and unhappy to be at home all day with children have an advocate in me. And happily for primary obligations to husband, children and house, quite a lot of paid employment can be done from within the home, if necessary, especially now that the coronavirus lockdown has proved that. I recently read an hand-twisting essay by a man worrying about the Demise of the Office.
Naturally, this is not the only reason why married women work. One of the thing traditional Catholic women really need to understand about the traditional Catholic men they seek to be married to is that they are highly fragile. They are men, so they get sick. When I survey my family history, I come across all the calamitous early deaths of my ancestors or their siblings and--guess what? Those who die before 60 are disproportionately male. Most of the women seem to live well into their 80s.
You may laugh, but I have noticed that my friends' husbands aren't necessary blooming with health, and there is evidence that Benedict Ambrose's brain tumour was quietly, slowly and secretly growing even before I met him. Before B.A. got sick, I was a relatively lazy freelancer (although, you must admit, a very committed blogger). After B.A. got sick, I grabbed the first full-time job I thought I could get.
This turned out well: now I write for a living, and for a company that does not fire its employees for saying surgery and hormones do not turn men into women, etc. My job is more stable than my husband's job, not just because of the current epidemic of Woke but because the lockdown caused by the other epidemic has ripped the guts out of his industry. He has been at home for months now, atoning for the government-backed pay-cheques babes yet unborn will have to cover by working day and night to save his union members' jobs.
Just like male illness, male unemployment is a thing. It's a very terrible thing--apparently they suffer more than we do when they're unemployed, and there are various theories for why this is. If young men were at all likely to listen to me, I would tell them all to work and save as much as they can before they marry, fitting in university/college classes around their paid work, socking everything into an investment portfolio. Oh, what it is to know at 40-something what I should have learned by 18. Woe.
My pin-money earning grandmother told my mother c. 1965 that her B.A. would be something to fall back on if she didn't get married. Naturally I hyperventilated in feminist horror when I heard that in the 1980s. Now that I move in hyper-trad circles (although I must point out that the staunchly family-friendly company I work for employs many young mums who work with babies on their laps), I would say that professional or vocational training is something to fall back on if your full-time stay-at-home-mum dreams don't come true.
Important advice there, I think, is that if your one dream is to marry at 22 and become a full-time stay-at-home-mum, for heaven's sake, don't take on hundreds of thousands of dollars/pounds of educational debt. I'm a bit nervous about this advice, though, as I have just looked up the tuition for a Newman Guide approved American university, and yikes. Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, in Ontario, is nowhere near as expensive, though.
I'm a fan of both women's higher education/training and women marrying young enough to have children in the only manner God intended, and this is further complicated by my honestly acquired horror of debt. I'm also a huge fan of love marriages because I really don't believe western marriages can work without a golden, shiny founding myth to sustain the spouses as they get fat and cranky. Like me, my reader is likely to fall in love with a clever, funny, amiable man without either a job-for-life or an independent income. Oh, in what an age we live. Deus in adjutorium meum intende. Domine ad adjuvandum me festina.