Domestic help and wet nursing: a clarification...
( Note: Responding to the post, Carolyn Custis James versus Jeremy Taylor and Brother Lawrence..., our eldest daughter, Heather, sent an E-mail detailing some concerns she had with the post. Here are those concerns, followed by my response.)
I like the first half of your latest post, but the second half will come across as harsh to many women. I think the quote from Jeremy Taylor will be seen less as an indictment of daycare and more as a requirement that all women nurse as opposed to bottle-feed.
And the sentence, "Certainly the temptation has always been there for wives and mothers of means to hire out their domestic and maternal responsibilities" makes it sound as though a woman can never hire anyone to help with duties around the house without feeling as though she has sacrificed her biblical duty. I think Mrs. Keebler was referring less to women hiring others to take over their child-rearing duties, and more to the times in history when all women with any money at all had, at the very least, one household help, because it wasn't possible to do it all oneself.
Many women today who have large families, homeschool, and also try to keep up with normal household duties would give their right arm to be able to afford someone just to come help clean, sometimes. I clearly remember (Jane Doe) talking about the unbelievable expectations being put on homeschooling moms that they be able to do it all.
Thanks for the help. Please forgive me for not being sensitive to how my post would come across to wives and mothers. A little explanation is in order.
In my experience, there are two kinds of women who employ domestic help. There are women who consider domestic work to be beneath them and have the money to hire others to do all of it (or almost all of it) for them...
These women aren't homemakers, nor do they think of themselves as homemakers. They're career women or professionals, and housework is beneath them. On the other hand, there are women (including my mother-in-law, mother, and wife) who have help with cleaning the house, cutting the lawn, or washing the windows, but never would dream of referring to themselves as "not a kitchen wife." They love their homes, they have a vision for hospitality and filial love, but caring for an invalid aunt, severe arthritis, or homeschooling their children force them to pass on work to someone else.
For this second group, paying someone to help them with their work is a necessary step to keeping up with their domestic and familial responsibilities. None of them choose full time work outside the home because of their disdain for housework. So no, I have no objection to hiring domestic help.
Similarly with nursing. The context for Jeremy Taylor's exhortation was not infant formula and bottle feeding, but wet nursing, the sending off of newborn infants to be nursed by lactating women who would keep the babies until the time of their weaning. Wet nursing had been practiced from ancient times. It was mentioned in the Code of Hammurabi, the Bible (Pharaoh's daughter hired Moses' mother as a wet nurse not knowing Moses was her infant son--see Gen 2), Homer's poetry, the writing of Hippocrates, the Koran, etc.
Royalty and wealthy women put their children out to wet nurses for a variety of reasons, particularly to avoid the onerous duty of feeding their children and to protect against any decline in their sexual allure due to the wear and tear nursing a child would cause their body. While under these wet nurses care, many of these little ones died. In France from 1815 to 1885, for instance, between a third and half the children placed with a wet nurse died while under her care.
Of course, there were legitimate reasons some women used wet nurses. If one's milk didn't come in, the wet nurse was the only possibility for the child's survival. Then too, many mothers died in childbirth, and their babies had to be wet nursed. Today, we have similar situations with both household work and the feeding of infants. One of the most tragic is where a mother can't do her housework or take care of her child because her husband has died or run off with another woman, and she is forced to work full time. These cases are tragic and I've known too many of them, personally.
But the exceptions don't disprove the rule and the godly woman will not look down on housekeeping or taking care of her own children. Circumstances may force her to hire out some or all of the housework. Circumstances may also force her to put her children in day care. But the woman of God will not do so because she disdains the work.
Finally, I'm frightened to even speak of the matter of bottle feeding because of the emotions this issue packs among women. But if I can say one thing and then make a mad dash for the door, it was never my intent to condemn women who hold their babies in their arms and feed them through a bottle.