A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Archive for the month “November, 2011”

When husband and wife both work outside the home

Today in most countries around the world, the majority of couples have both partners working at a income generating profession outside the home. In some cases one or the other may physically work at home, in a home bases business, but this is considered separate from domestic duties. Usually when there is a newborn or very young child at home, the wife will take some time off from this outside job, to take care of the baby, and recover from the delivery. Some countries have paid maternity leave, and a few now call it parental leave. The difference being under parental leave the couple decides who stays home with the children. For example in a case where the wife is making more than her husband, she may take a short period off for the birth and recovery, then the husband will assume the stay at home role for a period. This is at the discretion of the couple but does not penalize the family financially but assuming the woman makes the lower salary. I know of one couple, where the wife works for a rapidly growing regional bank, and had had several promotions, most recently to branch manager. Because of this she now makes a higher salary than her husband, who is a teacher. When their son was born a few years ago she took enough maternity leave to be sure she and the baby were healthy, then went back to work. He then took time off to care for their child until, the grandmothers were in a position to babysit. You might say this is a new version of the multi-generational family. They were adamant that their son not be raised by strangers, but by family. I should also point out she was born and raised in China, he is a 4th or 5th generation Caucasian Canadian. Yesterday i mentioned about the elephant and thinking of sides, rather than front and back, they truly are equal partners in their marriage. I also believe that it is this equality that allows them to both be fairly happy people, and exhibit the love they share, by the way they interact.


The hind legs of the elephant

I used this popular Thai saying to title this post, because even though it is Thai, it can be said to be the attitude of many cultures to women’s subordinate role to men. In many countries this still exists in practice if not officially proclaimed. In traditional Asian societies women are still considered to be the weaker sex. They also earn less than males for similar work. Yet when they get home they are expected to be the manager, workforce and entertainment director for the family. That most of them do all of this with such grace and dignity, humbles me.

In the west you may hear the term glass ceiling. This term refers to the virtually impenetrable, yet invisible barrier that keeps women and visible minorities from reaching the uppermost rungs of the corporate ladder. this regardless of their abilities, qualifications or achievements.

Perhaps we as men need to quit thinking of front and back, or who leads and who follows. Rather we should consider left and right sides. If men are the right side legs of the elephant then women are the left side legs, then together they carry the family on their back. This would help both sexes understand their relationship to each other as equal partners, who jointly move forward in life. At times the right foot leads, then the left foot advances further forward. If both sides carry their fair share in advancing the family all will be in harmony. If only one side is doing all the advancing, then just as an elephant, we would just be going around in a small circle. The Buddha said women have the same innate abilities as men to achieve enlightenment. Perhaps it is time we males helped then carry the load more equitably. If we do then we honor our mothers, sisters, daughters and wife as beings worthy of  our love and respect.

Children within a Buddhist family

Children’s place within the family. To a Buddhist if either spouse has children they bring into the relationship, those children should be treated the same as any biological children born into the relationship. Also as a step parent it is even more important to support the biological parent in the area of proper discipline. This does not mean you can’t disagree privately, but as long as the child is well treated, not abused, then respect the biological parent’s decisions and like children born into the relationship, present a united front on matters. Children will attempt to get one parent to ease or eliminate a punishment the other has given out. The first time they try this explain that this is not proper behavior, but don’t punish them, they are naturally testing their boundaries. Children do best when they have rules that provide guidance, necessary restraints, and when needed appropriate penalties for wrong actions.

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