I just stumbled upon this post and found it correlated with my thought some time ago. When I adopted the Theravadan path, many of my friends actually asked me: are you going to be a monk? are you not going to have a family? In that case, how do you even need to study and work now? (at that time I was still a student).
To be honest, I find it difficult to answer the question. I could not deny the emphasis placed by the Buddha on the greater utility of renouncing the householder's life and entering into a renunciate's life. At the same time, I could not totally deny the householder's life either. Besides, living in a society governed by Confucian values further erodes the image of Theravada Buddhism and the value of monkhood. A person is supposed to get a good education, get a job to support his parents who had worked hard when he was young, get married and have children to continue the family lineage, and at that time, I'm just a college-attending student. How am I supposed to defy this order?
At this point of dilemma, I encountered my teacher, the late Ven Suvanno Mahathera from Malaysia. His biography was so inspiring as if I was awakened to a new truth. Called "Striving to be a Nobody," it narrates his life from young from the moment he was "dumped" by his mother and raised in a unfriendly environment up to the moment he became a Maha-Thera. It was said that, Ven Suvanno had been a practicing Buddhist even before becoming a monk. He first found solace in Buddhism in his childhood and realized the meaning of dukkha through his own hardships. Since then he had always harnessed the intention to renounce the householder's life, but then he persisted until having a basic education, a stable job and finally had a family with children. Then, at the age of 60 (if I remembered correctly), after his children were all well-established in values and their lives and his wife having a stable on-going income to survive, he renounced the householder's life. One thing that struck my mind was one of his messages in the book that learning and practicing Buddhism does not solely mean renouncing your current life; in fact, (Ven Suvanno) believed that his continuous engagement in Buddhist practice of Dhamma and meditation during his householder's life provides a strong foundational background for his monkhood and further enhances his practice later as a monk.