Wednesday, May 4, 2011


I’ve been doing a lot of Career Day sessions at Middle Schools and High Schools lately, and have noticed a change from when I was a kid. No one professes that when they grow up, they want to get married and be a mom. I mean when I went to school, half of the girls there would proclaim that when they grew up they wanted to get married, have kids and be an at-home wife.

Is that a dying career goal for our girls? Is it no longer considered a future prospect or acceptable prospect for a teen girl to depend on her husband to manage the house.


With so many divorces, mixed families, or single parent household, many girls don’t believe that they can totally trust that a man or another person will be that devoted to take care of them and the kids financially for their entire lives. They are willing to talk about staying home with their kids – but with the thought to be prepared just in case things don’t work out. Wow!

I can honestly say I get that. My mom didn’t marry my father, and when she did get married the guy was abusive. Also, for as long as I can remember the women in my family weren’t home makers. They worked and coordinated childcare between each other. But secretly, I wanted a ‘normal’ family with mom at home like I’d seen on TV and dad a perfect support and provider (I grew up watching Leave it to Beaver, The Brady Bunch, etc)


I also believe our teen boys are more flexible than in the past. The thought of men staying home as the care-giving parent isn’t such a far-fetched idea anymore. Also, as for my son, he wants his wife to work also. Which shocked me, and I asked him why. He stated well you’re a great mom and you work to, why can’t you babysit my kids and my wife and I work. Huh?! Well that’s not such a crazy idea considering that’s what my mom has done for me. She stayed home with my kids, cooked and cleaned while my husband and I worked. She did it only for a few years, but it helped a lot. Also, with the death of a family friend, who’s wife had been home raising their kids – my son witnessed the financial devastation of the family since the mother had no job skills. As well as my husband stayed home with my younger two kids for 5 years while owning a Real Estate business to supplement lost income. So my son experienced all types of family support structures for the kids.


I believe the future is boundless. The make up of family will continue to change with husband and wives freely being able to switch roles as needed. It’s starting to happen in some YA books. More YA lit is showing alternate family structures. Usually though most have a mom and dad – but let’s face it, they’ve probably been killed off. Some I wonder may even have alternative households with single mom, blended families or even a mom or dad that have various sexual orientations. Who knows? So watch out for the shifts.



Kelly Hashway said...

I'm cheating because this is middle grade, not YA, but in the Sammy Keyes series, she's raised by her grandmother. Sammy's mother is a soap star and Sammy has no idea who her father is. Sammy illegally lives with her grandmother in a senior's only building.

My mom stayed home with me until I was in middle school. Then she went to work to put money away for my college tuition. I'm home with my daughter until she's in school full-time. I wouldn't trade being with my daughter for anything. Mom is the best job in the world. (Writing is a close second.)

PK HREZO said...

UGH, LM! I just typed this long response and blogger gave me an error so I lost my page long comment! I'm so sorry! WAH!!!!

Writing Writerly things said...

Most of the YA books that I read either have absent parents, or single parent household. In my current WIP the MC was raised by her father, and she's forced to go and live with the "egg donor" in the Caribbean.

I think it's a shame that the feminists of the world who profess equal rights and the likes, look down on those of us who want to be stay at home mums. While I lived in England and France, many female friends and family members on my husband side of the family, would ask me when I would get a job. I would always reply that I had a job, actually two, being a full time mum and writer, it's a heck of a job.

My mother, after my father died, became a stay at home mum, only going to work full time when I was around ten, when she opened her own shop. She only remarried after I married. I wish she had remarried when I was young, so I wouldn't be an only child, but her main concern was my upbringing and I'll always be eternally grateful for that.

E. Arroyo said...

Great post. Something to think about.

cleemckenzie said...

I guess my books reflect a lot of the shifting in family structure. In Sliding on the Edge a grandmother takes on the responsibility for a teen in crisis. In Princess of Las Pulgas a mom who has been privileged to be a stay at home, is suddenly forced to work and figure out how to keep her two teens safe. I'm sure YA novels will continue to reflect the world we live in. That's what makes this category so wonderful for teen readers. Great post.

Catherine Stine said...

Interesting post--hmmm... in a lot of YA books, the parents are mostly in the background, for good reason. During the teen years, kids are individuating. That said, one book where I really liked the unified parents who helped guide and support the daughter in Nancy Werlin's Extraordinary.

Author Dawn Brazil said...

This is an interesting post. Most of the teens in the stories I read live with either mom or dad or one of them.

I am a stay at home mom and I love it. I have three children and I am there when they arrive home from school, I can volunteer at the school, have a hot meal waiting for them when they get off the bus...You get it. I couldn't do this when I worked full time. I missed so much then. I feel so blessed to be able to do this.

I'm not encouraging my daughter's to do this. I want them to get an eduction and do what they want to do. If it's writing - great, singing, acting, Corporate America - I'm behind them 100%. One rule only in our house: You have to go to college.

Ellen said...

Very interesting points! I've met a couple teens (well, early 20s people now, but a few years ago they were teens) who do still want to be stay-at-home mothers, but what I found interesting was that some of them felt looked down-upon because of it. like people don't feel that it's a valid life goal anymore. which I think is kind of sad. it's not my personal goal, but if someone wants to dedicate that much more of their life to their kids? hey, more power to them, I say.

Deb said...

My mom's marriage left me very, very marriage-averse. Twenty years later, I've gotten to the point where I no longer see all marriage as evil . . . but I definitely understand a growing reluctance to select that as your future! (I suspect it was easier to see that as the likeliest, safest path forward in days where barriers to job entry were higher.) That being said, I do still very much see it as a valid, respectable choice. I admire the fortitude of people who take that path!

One of my favorite examples of a non-traditional family unit is The Princess of Montmaray. Royal cousins live together on the crumbling island of Montmaray, guarded only nominally by a crazy king. How I loved those girls by the end of the story! (I'm midway through its sequel right now . . .)

LM Preston said...

I'm glad everyone jumped in on this topic. I believe whatever way parents think is best to parent their child can work. However, it's sad to me that young people no longer seem to value the choice to stay home and raise a family as an important career choice.

Natalie C. Markey said...

What a great topic. A great YA example of this a different family is Cassandra Clare's 'The Mortal Instruments' series. The MC was raised by her mother and mother's friend turned boyfriend turned fiance.

I do believe that more girls are thinking about how to work from home. That is what I did and now I'm living it as I write professionally from home while raising my daughter.

Great topic and sorry I'm jumping in on this discussion a little late!

Kim Baccellia said...

In my first book Lupe is raised by her grandmother after her mother deserts her. In Crossed Out, Stephanie has parents but has real 'issues' with her mother. In No Goddesses, Jordan has a loving family.

I grew up with parents who weren't married. In fact, my father was still married to his first wife for a while. My father didn't like when my mother was pregnant and didn't want her to go outside. I was clueless and believed my mother when she said they were married.

I think when I write I want to show some of the truth that's out there. I used to HATE stories as a teen that showed all these happy families. I wondered why I didn't have one. I remember refusing to sing the church song about having a happy family. I can't help but feel other teens have these same issues/struggles too.

I do have one project which is violent and deals with mental illness in a family and what happens when one member refuses to address it. I grew up in a home like this and I'm had a number of people ask me to finish writing it.

I think the big thing is to be true to your story and characters. Jordan's family is kind of what I'd hoped for as a teen. I just try to listen to my character's voices when I write their stories.

Unknown said...

Growing up I got a lot of strange looks for saying I wanted to stay home. I was part of the "smart kids" so staying at home was considered a waste.

I love being home with my girls, but I also know that I need other ways to stay stimulated like writing.