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.