A path less traveled

by Nancy Marr Eckel '57

I was amazed by the articles in the [Winter 2010] issue of Scripps Magazine and especially by the “Post Scripps” non-paid working mom. I was the same kind of non-paid working mom as Mary [Waite Garvey ’93] and for the same basic reason! Raising my children is and was the primary reason I stayed at home with them after their father died. There were six of them from one to eleven years old, and having lost their father, I believed they didn’t need to lose their mother to a job as well. In 1968, daycare facilities barely existed nor were family members available to help. The biggest problem then was that women were basically paid minimum wage and could be hired for very few responsible positions. No matter, my heart said that my children needed me, which meant that I stayed home as much as possible.

The vast majority of my family, friends, and neighbors never “got it.” They told me about various sales jobs in department stores, or men who were looking for secretaries. Too bad, they told me, that you aren’t a nurse or a teacher. Years later, when I did apply to be a secretary at a local business, the owner wrote to me saying that he liked my résumé but what a shame it was that I stayed at home all those years doing nothing. Those were his words and are precisely the attitude I found and still find among many of those who have bought into our commercial culture.

So I cheer Mary Waite Garvey for doing as she is doing and putting her family first! I didn’t have a husband to provide a wage for me, nor had I completed the spectacular education offered at Scripps, having left to get married. But I had an amazing father-in-law who pledged $500 a month to me (while still saying my attitude was rationalization) and sent it every month! That, plus Social Security ($250 per month back then), made it possible for me to be at home with the children.

I did many things outside the home as well. I helped found the first psychiatric half-way house in our area; I was one of the early female deacons at my church; I marched endlessly for many causes, including women’s liberation; I wrote; I preached; the work I did was, like Mary’s, unpaid. I completed my college degree in theology at St. Joseph College in West Hartford, Connecticut, (often taking a child with me) and followed that with a master’s degree in pastoral counseling and opened a pastoral counseling center in my home. My youngest was a teen by then. I spent a year in Nicaragua after the children were launched. I have indeed lived a full, rich life after I decided to stay at home, “doing nothing.”

We still have a long way to go before parity with men. Women do have many choices, and being a mother is an important one. It does demand sacrifices, and one of them, among those who choose a career, is to again honor the choice to stay at home to raise one’s own children.

The cost, for me, has been great, financially. I spent every penny that came my way and now have only my husband’s Social Security to live on plus a tiny trust from my grandmother. But I am happy in my HUD housing and very happy I took the path less traveled.


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