Friday, January 22, 2010

What Do We Teach Our Daughters?

Recently on a friend's blog, she graciously allowed me to disagree with her premise that Christian parents ought to be teaching our daughters to be housewives and stay-at-home moms. Although she did not go so far in her post, and I don't believe she holds the extreme views I will put forth below, I have heard other Christian parents advocating young women getting married early and discouraging them from attending college or pursuing any kind of higher education because she is "just going to stay home with the kids anyway."

Well, I'd like to clarify the position I began on Andrea's rather lengthy stream of comments (length mostly provided by my ramblings). I welcome comments from both points of view on here, just keep them respectful.

First of all, something I forgot to state on her post was that I intend to teach all of my children how to cook, clean, manage, organize and care for children to the best of my ability. I believe that as human beings at some point they will need to utilize those skills. And my daughter will probably get a little extra training along those lines since she will likely be a wife and mother at some point. I remember a huge percentage of girls in college, mostly friends at church who had no idea how to clean a bathroom and whose cooking skills ended at making pasta. I find this to be a tragedy and a real mistake on their parents' part. They struggle now with keeping their homes organized, with fixing healthy meals, using a budget and with keeping up on chores like tidying and laundry. It makes me grateful that my "old-fashioned" mother taught me how to do these things so well they are pretty much effortless now.

But on to the real point of this post. The notion that a woman is destined by God to be a sort of pseudo-child, bound to her parents until she is married, then bound to her husband thereafter as a biblical model for proper feminine behavior makes me a bit sick and completely shortchanges the amazing contribution Christian women can make to our society. I believe with all my heart that a woman can have the proper attitude of respect to her husband and be a helpmeet to him, fulfill her role as "gatekeeper" of her home and raise her children without being relegated to the status of a perennial child and maid. She has just as much worth and responsibility as a man, but in different areas.

I believe that a woman has a duty before God to be the best she can be, to use the skills and gifts God has given her, no less than a man does. Regarding higher education specifically, I see several reasons a Christian woman ought to be well-educated. First of all, say she does become a stay-at-home mom. Or a "homemaker" (I shudder to even use the word). A well-educated homemaker would be more likely to know the value of nutrition in meals, would be better able to keep the family's budget and is better equipped to raise well-educated children. I have talked to moms who say things along the lines of, "I could never homeschool my kids because I don't know how to do Algebra." Pardon me?? First of all, you're sending your children to the same institution that failed to teach you such a basic concept as substitutionary numerals? Secondly, you could sit down with your ten-year-old and learn it now. It's never too late. But I digress. This is not a homeschooling post.

Here's another angle on higher education: Should we let only secular women be well-educated? We place so much emphasis on defending our faith, yet we neglect to give the tools women need to do so intelligently. Women's Bible studies, for example, tend to be a shallow cesspool of feel-good devotionals, usually about child-rearing or housecleaning, with a few token Bible verses thrown in. Or worse they degenerate into gossip sessions thinly disguised as "prayer requests". Women are not educated in theology or encouraged to study the Bible deeply, to know their faith inside and out or to touch on the concepts of other religions, politics or world events. Yet we are supposed to be training the next generation and giving reasons for the faith within us. Many of us are poorly equipped to do so, and to the scorn of secular women, we abdicate that job to whatever handy male happens to be around. I would hope the men can do it too; I am not for the cultural softening of masculinity, but I see no reason a woman should not be aware of issues in politics, technology, theology, science, religion, philosophy or any other -ology or -ism that happens to affect our world today.

Then, there are the women who are called by God to do something other than marry and stay at home with kids. Should such a woman be made to feel inferior? By no means! She should do with all her heart what God has given her to do. She should do it well and not be ashamed. Some women need a "fall-back" career at some point as well. The ability to support herself financially contributes greatly to a woman's options. While the ideal for a SAHM like me is to be secure in her husband's financial support, we all know it's not always the case in our insecure world.

I touched on the issue of combining homemaking (shudder) with having a career in this post so I won't repeat the details here. Suffice it to say that I see no problem with women who want or need to do both as long as her heart is right before God. Having a career for purely materialistic gain and neglecting her family isn't going to cut it, but making sure her home responsibilities are covered by helpful family members or employees would fall in line with Biblical teaching in my opinion. Just because I chose not to go that route doesn't mean I think it's wrong.

To sum up a post that is already getting too long, I don't plan to groom my daughter for a career in homemaking (shudder). My parents did not groom me for one, although it happens to be what I feel God has asked me to do at this time. I was told over and over that I could be anything I wanted to be. I went to school and became a music teacher, but discovered I didn't like the administration using me for a punching bag. Later I married and am currently a career mom. Am I "just" a mom? Absolutely not. This job takes every bit of training, education, patience, creativity and work ethic that I possess, far more than any outside career job I have had so far. In the future I will probably go to to other pursuits as well. For my daughter, I want her to be equipped to do whatever she is called to do in her future. God has given her a very bright mind. He has given her a strong body. I won't be disappointed if she chooses to live at home and raise a family. It's not a second-rate choice. I won't be disappointed if she chooses to work at a career. It's not a masculine choice. I plan to educate and equip her to the best of my ability to have the knowledge and skills to do any number of things she might be interested in doing, just as I will with my sons. Her gender does not limit her in my eyes to menial service, rather it empowers her to be the absolute best woman she can be. Feminine, yes. But also strong, smart, independent and assured. To me that is the most effective Christian wife, mother and woman.

9 comments:

  1. I am in complete agreement with you. In cases like me where I had my children young and can't have any more children. For health reasons it would not be wise to remain barefoot and pregnant in my case. I will only be in my mid-forties when my children graduate and most likely move out, either to get married or go to school or eventually both. Giving the life expectancy of human beings these days that leaves me with a lot of years of doing nothing if all I know how to do is take care of children. With no children at home housekeeping is not a full-time job. It's more than a full-time job right now, but I stayed home for a time when I was pregnant with my first and I had a lot of free time. Luckily it was only temporary (obviously), and a nice break actually, sort of the calm before the storm that would be named Jeremiah, but had I remained idol for very long that would not have been good for me. I believe the bible has a few things to say about the dangers of idleness and I think that applies to women as much as it does men. I personally would like to go to bible school when my kids are older. I would love to write bible studies, teaching God's Word in a very serious way. Some people might frown on that, since I'm a woman. The only reason I'm not doing that now is because I do not believe I could help my children the way I need to right now and be a full-time or even part-time student with deadlines right now, so I am waiting until that door is opened to me. I do enjoy reading serious books on theology and I don't think that makes me any less feminine than anyone else.

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  2. What a beautiful post. I agree. I am a Christian woman and I am the primary breadwinner while my husband is a stay-at-home dad. I feel judged sometimes but I believe I am taking the path that God led me down. I want to raise my daughter to know she can do anything and to listen for God's guidance.

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  3. I totally agree with your post. I think that my education has helped me to better deal with the problems that come in my house. I also know that if something happened to my husband, I would be able to support my family. If he were to lose his job, I would also be totally comfortable working and having him stay at home too. I will do what is best for my family. At some stages, that has meant working and other times, it means that I am staying home with my children.

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  4. I also agree with you. As much as I love being a SAHM, and I think for our family the best thing I can give them is having me at home, I don't think it's necessarily that way for everyone. I also think it's good to have an education under your belt in case something happens- God forbid the husband dies, leaves, or otherwise becomes incapable to be the provider.

    I wish my mom had taught me more things like cooking(besides stuff from a box) and sewing and keeping a budget and stuff like that. Although, I did get thrown into the cleaning and caring for my younger sibling, so I did get some valuable experience later on in life.

    I also think that boys should be taught to be nurturers, to cook and to help around the house, too. My aunt never had her boys help clean- it was always her girls' responsibility. I think she did a great injustice to them, and I'm sure their wives(current and former) wish that she hadn't been so gender-role oriented.

    I also agree with your comments on homeschooling. ;)

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  5. Oh, and I should add that I just went and read the discussion from which this post was born, and I thought I would clarify that I do agree with men being men, but I don't think it's a bad thing if they are able to help in parenting. I think that a lot of guys are given the wrong image that they don't have the capabilities to nurture and do things around the house, so many guys just don't even try. I am always saddened to hear women say that they have to go rescue their husbands after only a couple of hours of leaving them with the kids- or even worse- that they never can leave their husbands alone with the kids.

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  6. AMEN!! I really think "grooming" a child to be anything other than what God created him or her to be is a gross misinterpretation of both scripture and nature.

    You can begin to tell by the time a child is ten - twelve years old the direction he or she will likely take in her life. Some denominations call this her "vocation." And I believe we as parents are expected to help our children discern the gifts God has given to them and help build them up.

    And I would consider homemaking to BE my career. I believe I get paid to do it in so many ways, don't I? I can take from the bank and buy myself anything I choose. I'm simply responsible with the bank account and not greedy. Imagine what my husband would pay a nanny, or a daycare, and babysitters. All the expensive take-out he would order because there's no time to cook when work ends at 6 pm. How little time he'd have to shop for sales on children's clothing. Would he have time to work on homework and take kids to sports? We're working on FIVE kids here LOL.

    Me being good at my job requires all the skill and precision of any accountant, doctor, barrister, chef, personal assistant, educator, ad infinitum!

    What I like best about the choices I've made is that I've managed to weave my own personal self, just the way God made me, into all that I do. I'm extremely busy but still a literature junkie who loves to sew, knit, paint. I still make it out to quaint cafes with friends and sample foreign foods. I'm still me. There is no cookie cutter from whence I came :)

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  7. For those following this point/counterpoint discussion, there is another post at Rightthinker on this subject.

    http://andreamomm.blogspot.com/2010/01/another-excellent-anecdote-of-gods.html

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  8. Erin, I agree with everything you have said here.

    At this point, I am at home with my kids almost full-time. However, I do work PRN as a nurse, and I am very thankful that I have this education. I do feel that being a mother and wife is not my only calling, and I don't feel (nor does my husband) that I am forsaking my wifely and motherly duties by taking a bit of the financial burden off his shoulders by working one shift every week or two. I can make as much working one shift every two weeks as he could make working a second job and never seeing his family, so in our situation, it would be unkind of me to expect him to take on a second job making much less per hour than what I can make working as a nurse.

    I am especially thankful that I have a "back-up career" this week, as my husband found out that his workplace is in dire straits and may be unable to pay for health insurance and payroll for a few weeks. My husband and I would both be much more stressed about this if it wasn't possible for me to pick up a few shifts in the evenings to help pick up some of the financial slack.

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  9. I love hearing stories from all of you. The ways that you make it work in your families along with cherishing a heart of caring for your home, mothering your children and supporting your husbands give me such joy!

    It also reinforces my thinking that not all women who work outside the home do so for materialistic gain and that some (not all) women are called to minister and contribute both in their homes and to others outside the home as well. The fact that they can do so well is a tribute to their ingenuity, work ethic and love of and for their families.

    Thanks for sharing, everyone!

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