Saturday, April 19, 2008

When Religion Hurts Women- Yearning for Zion Ranch and Mars Hill Church

I've noticed something about Christians' response to the recent child custody case over Yearning for Zion Ranch (YFZ) read more. We don't really know how to come down on all this.

We could just say Mormons are not identical to Christians. The Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) believes in things beyond our Scripture, their founder Joseph Smith originally taught polygamy, increased heavenly rewards for multiple children, God used to be a man and man can one day become a god and strict and somewhat weird rules have followed: no caffeine, stockpiles for a year, year long mandatory mission trips for males.

But don't Christians also have seemingly weird (to the world) rules, too (no gays in our clergy, prohibitionist residue, no sex before marriage, shame about divorce, males in charge of church and home)? If we harp too loudly against the FLDS, what might the state's newly flexed muscles do to Christians?

As one FLDS mother of two boys (ages 11 and 14) said (quoted by CBS, April 19, 2008), "We are all Heavenly Father's children. You have your religion. I have mine. You choose to live how you want. I choose how I live mine. Is this not freedom? Can't we choose?"

We get to see how unclear the line between freedom of religion and the powers of the state really is. For some our freedom ends when we harm another. As one person, identified as "joyous88", wrote on CBS comment line,
"We can say with certainity {sic} that any group that isolates human beings from the outside world, be it the catholics, the christian sects and cults that abound, or small little husbands that want to enslave their wives, any group or person that isolates human beings is up to no good, they are hiding their dirty little secret and need to be found out."

Do you agree? I believe that when religion enforces a belief that hurts another image bearer of God we should at least pause.

But here's where it gets sticky. In America there are few things more sacred than the love of mother for child. So when I see the worried faces of the mothers on The Today Show (watch the video here and see for yourself), asking to be reunited with their children in order to love their children, to protect them from the world, I see their argument. Who are we to remove the children from their mothers?

The state responds: These mothers were not able to love their children. They were accomplices in illegal marriages between minors (as young as 13) and men their senior. No woman can be truly free when their concept of freedom is mediated through their male leaders. No teen is capable of freely choosing marriage when all her mentors advocate polygamy and perpetual child-bearing as the means for godliness.

These accusations have yet to be seen, however, I've noticed a growing discomfort in me as I've read both sides of the argument.

The debate hits very close to conservative Christian understandings of womanhood, motherhood and gender roles.

Traditional Motherhood

Our cultural conception of motherhood (and this is especially strong among Bible-believing Christians) is that women have a sacred office as primary child-care giver. We justify this with Scripture (though I have found no single verse that exhorts women to spend more time mothering than any other activity, the mandates for childrearing are usually given to parents or just to fathers). We write books linking the uniqueness of women to bear children as the proof that it is "natural" (by which we actually mean common) for women to stay home with their children. We go so far to write essays on the proper and godly vocation of mothers at home. We've dubbed this "Biblical Womanhood" (see Piper and Grudem's Rediscovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood with chapters like "The Church as Family: Why Male Leadership in the Family Requires Male Leadership in the Church" and "The High Calling of Wife and Mother in Biblical Perspective").
There are journals, blogs, letters, organizations and manifestos all intent upon preserving "traditional" (by which we mean the last 100 years) gender roles, baptizing these ideas in every Scripture imaginable. As a side-note, before the Industrial Revolution there was no such thing as a "stay-at-home" mother, both parents worked together, children as young as 6 participating by caring for younger siblings and learning the family business (for more see Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen's Gender and Grace: Love, Work and Parenting in a Changing World and My Brother's Keeper: What the Social Sciences do and don't Tell us About Masculinity, and Sharon Hays' The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood).

In scouring most Christian literature (Van Leeuwan's books offer refreshing exceptions to the rule) I've found few questioning the sacred love between mother and child. But Jesus does.

Mother's Sacred Love?


"Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even life itself—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:25-27)

How could a mother's love for her children get in the way of her love for Jesus?

There exist certain desires, we often call them instincts, that are more common and more convenient than others. Mother's love for their children, for instance, is much more convenient and helpful to society than the desire for vengeance, so we tend to think that mother love is a better, more natural, even a sacred instinct. We rarely have to discourage mother love. And yet, Jesus does.

C.S. Lewis does a good job explaining why,
It is a mistake to think that some of our impulses--say mother love or patriotism--are good, and others, like sex or the fighting instinct, are bad. All we mean is that the occasions on which the fighting instinct or the sexual desire need to be restrained are rather more frequent than those for restraining mother love or patriotism. But there are situations in which it is the duty of a married man to encourage his sexual impulse . . there are also occasions on which a mother's love for her children have to be suppressed . . . Strictly speaking, there are no such things as good and bad impulses" (Mere Christianity, 23).

Jesus was saying that mother's role as mother can get in the way of a woman's love for her God. Women, especially American, Christian women have a very hard time believing that a mother does not know what is best for children. And we, rightly so, get nervous when the state moves in claiming to know better.

The YZR case is difficult because we are watching the real possibility of a mother not knowing what is best for her children. We are seeing that women influenced by her gods or her devils can actually harm herself and her children. If we believed mother love is sacred, this is a heavy blow.

Here's where I believe we need to make some distinctions between Mormonism and Christianity. But both are controversial and both show that some forms of Christianity do, in fact, harm women.

First, the God of the Bible has not mandated that women be primary care-givers. If we choose to stay home with our children, well and good, but doing so is our choice, not more biblical, not more godly, not more honoring to Jesus than working full-time, hiring a nanny, using day care, or inviting a relative to care for our children. So the idea of a woman/mother having more wisdom for parenting than a man is not Biblical.

One Mediator Between God and Woman: Husband

The second distinction between Mormonism and Christianity is even more controversial. It is about a man's role of leadership. Can a woman trust God to lead her through her husband? Many Christians say yes.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to step on more toes. While I'm not saying it is impossible for God to lead through another person, it is not necessary to expect that "spiritual leader" should be an exclusively male role. I would argue that it is un-Biblical to believe that any spiritual leader should mediate my ideas of Jesus, God's will, motherhood, womanhood, identity, salvation, grace, truth. This is not what Jesus teaches.

Here's where patriarchy (literally "male-rule" also called complementarianism) slides down a slippery slope. Patriarchy can produce places (in churches or in Texas ranches) where women see their godliness hinging on approval from the male leaders. I believe this is a flaw in patriarchy, not just an abuse by cultic leaders.

Priesthood of All Believers

I'm a firm advocate of the Protestant belief and Quaker practice of the priesthood of all believers (I Peter 2:9-10). Which means that males are not the only priests, women are, too. We are each equipped with a mind, will and emotions and these are gifts for the equipping of the entire body, our entire families, not just in being a wonderful mother and homemaker

"So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Eph 4:11-13).

By golly, yes, women need to mother, but not more than fathers need to father. Sure women need to be in the nursery but not more than men need to be in the nursery. Absolutely men need to be in the pulpit, but women need to be in the pulpit as well. For a further explanation of women and authority including Biblical passages, read the Soulation article Dale and I co-wrote "Unmuted: The Welcome Colors of a Woman's Voice".

We need one another's differences all over, in our churches, our homes, our parenting, our organizations, our manifestos, our government. So in this way I am a complementarian, I believe men and women need to compliment one another all the way up and all the way down the chain of command.

So can men be spiritual leaders, without removing responsibility that women cultivate their own leadership in their own lives? Let me be quick to assert that I do believe men should be spiritual leaders, but I believe women should be spiritual leaders along-side them. Women and men will lead differently and this is precisely why we need one another in leadership (for more see my first book Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home).

Imagine if women had been given an equal portion of authority over families as men at the Yearning for Zion Ranch? Do you think they would have dressed as they do? Do you think they would sit as they do? Do you think they would practice polygamy? Do you think they would have chosen to marry so early? To have as many children as they did? We will never know. The fact of the FLDS is that women's authority was severely curbed because of their womanhood. I'd invite you to watch the women's demeanor, tone of voice, eyes, posture and their reticent spirits in the Today Show interview. Judge for yourself.

One of my favorite apologetics for Jesus is the way he treated women. Compare him to Joseph Smith. Notice how Jesus was the first to claim that women had a place: alongside his disciples to learn (Mary leaving the woman's place in the kitchen for the disciples' company at his feet), to decide to obey (Mary Magdalene at the tomb), to evangelize (Samaritan woman at the well), to know him (Martha at Lazarus' tomb). Nowhere does Jesus even hint that women must rely on their spiritual leaders (both men and women are called to mutual submission, Eph 5:21), nowhere does Jesus suggest that women's primary glory and responsibility is in mothering her children, nowhere does Jesus teach that women are anything less than co-image bearers of God deserving of equal dignity and rights of decision-making.

While the state may have inappropriately torn children from parents, perhaps they moved too soon, perhaps they were too harsh (removing cell phones from children and mothers). I am glad, however, the state is concerned with protecting women and children from men who mediate truth from God. Anytime a prophet prevents an image-bearer of God from using her own mind, will, emotions, I'm concerned. This is why some have called the YZR a brain-washing cult. (Picture is aerial photograph of FLDS temple and cabin-style barracks).

In some of our churches we have advocated similar things, the sacredness of motherhood over all other vocations for women. If you doubt it, I invite you to read something from Mars Hill Church, the fastest growing church in Seattle, pastored by Mark Driscoll. Read this blog for and by women "Reforming the Feminine". Here you will find a post of a housewife sharing her "sin of idolatry" for wanting more than a life of motherhood "A Desperate Housewife Comes Clean" (June 29, 2007). A long list of affirming comments reveal the prevalence of women at Mars Hill who feel ashamed of their desires for a career, believing this desire is both sinful and idolatrous. One wife, mother and blog contributor, Shelly Ossinger,wrote:

(Almost) every Sunday for the last 7 years since I officially ended my ‘career’, I ferret the Seattle Times Job Classified section to find all the jobs in the legal field I ‘could’ have. For some reason (that I quit analyzing or agonizing or guilting myself over many editions ago), this is comforting, to think there are jobs out there that I could pursue. Then Mark shakes his head and winks at me as he hands me the stinky kitchen rag that really should have went in the laundry yesterday, I wipe Jack’s oatmeal off the floor and last nights dirt from Henry’s nose before I sound my last holler alarm to the teenagers to GET UP NOW. (As a sidenote, occasionally, I still get cold feet when I think of my marriage, but that’s another story.) God is faithful and good to conform us into the image of His Son (that’s what this whole gig is about).

Is this the image that God had in mind? If we are to be like Jesus then we are to use all our powers and gifts for all the body whether at home or in an office. Being a full-time mother may be the best place for you or me, but we must decide this. To be a mother because we feel this is the only place a woman can be "in God's will" sounds uncomfortably similar to a ranch in Texas. I hear echoes of mind-control, abusive ideas and harm to women. Others have weighed in with concern over Mark Driscoll's teaching on women (see Faith and Gender: A Necessary Conversation). I want to add my voice to this concern. This idolatry of the home, idolatry of our husbands is not what Jesus brought.

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (I Peter 2:9-10).

52 comments:

Tasha said...

When I read the confessions, I gathered a quite different impression as to their meanings and the reasoning behind them. My interpretation (correct me if I am way off) is that these women chose to stay home with their child, resented the lack of glory in motherhood, resented their husbands, and confessed for succumbing to the idea of "having it all". While I do think it is wrong to say one desires "more than marriage and motherhood" as these are both sacred institutions made by God, I do think one can desire for something different. The problem, in my understanding, was that they felt inadequate, like they weren't as worthy as the working woman and desired something more glamorous than wiping oatmeal.
Also, in pre- Industrial Revolution eras, the common man and woman did work together for survival however they did not consciously choose to have a child then pawn them off to another for rearing. While in some instances it is necessary for both to work, one should try to stay home.
Again, these are my understandings and as a 17 yr. old I am still growing.

Lorijo said...

thanks for posting this. I haven't followed much news on this...and haven't really known what to think...so thank you for your perspective.

it's sad about the mars hill issue...it makes me a little frustrated.

have you read any of carolyn custis james' works? she has some great thoughts on women as equal partners with men in the church...she calls it the blessed alliance. (i bet you have...i have enjoyed her book Lost Women of the Bible, and just got both her first book and also her latest "the Gospel of Ruth". i look forward to reading them)

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Tasha-
Thanks for your comment. Let me first say that I do think that staying home and being a full time mother is a wonderful, God-given opportunity and can be exactly where God would have a woman be. There is nothing shameful or inadequate about being a stay at home mother.

I agree that the main thrust of the Mars Hill women was "having it all." However, no one ever broached the possibility that these women might have a valid choice to work outside the home. It wasn't even offered or discussed as a valid option. Why is that? Why do we assume birthing a child requires a woman to stay home? It is this assumption that I am challenging, while trying to maintain that staying home is a viable option.

I'm not sure I'm doing a good job, but I appreciate you writing because it gives me a chance to clarify.

God is much more personalized in his dealings with roles, working vs. staying home to each individual woman and family than I believe we often think he is.

My main concern with Mars Hill is it's focus on glorifying stay at home mothers ABOVE women who choose to work. This is not godly or biblical. It creates several problems
1- the mommy wars where stay at home mothers assume working mothers are as you put it "pawning" off their children to caretakers. Ask any working mother about what she thinks about childcare and you'll find it's not because she wants to pawn off and rarely because she just selfishly want to pursue her career.
2- It pits mother against mother and creates false systems of judgment. "Oh, she works full time, you can't really be a mom your kid needs if you work full time." etc.
3- it creates a system of hierarchy by which to judge what kind of mother is more biblical/godly. The stay at home mothers often feel their choice is better i.e. more spiritual.
4- it does not take into account the serious problem of single mothers (whether widowed, divorced or unwed) and lower income mothers who have no easy choice to stay home. Most lower-income women who work would rather stay home with their children because they believe this is what good (and they often mean higher-income) mothers do.

One more point about pre-Industrial Revolution families. Actually they did consciously choose to have children and they did let their other children (any child over age 6 was a full-time nanny- and this still happens today in developing countries) other family members (aunts, grandparents, cousins) who often lived close by or with the family care for the child.

It was not until fairly (last 150 years) recently that we believed the mother was mainly responsible for rearing a child.

I want to tell you how much I appreciate your mind and your thoughts. Thank you for caring enough about this issue to write. I hope to interact with you again, soon!

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Lorijo,
Thanks for writing about Carolyn Custis James. I LOVE her work. I'm not through with "Lost Women of the Bible", but I recently endorsed her new book "The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules" I think it's her best, so many new insights into how Naomi is a sort of female Job and how Ruth breaks rules in order to get the food, status, family in order to provide for Naomi, not just herself.

Eric Twisselmann said...

Jonalyn,

I think you've rightly discerned a dangerous phenomenon that is quite alive in today's Church (we might call it "pediolatry", and it's close "materolatry"). Lewis (as usual) is well-quoted here, and I would remind readers that the specific phenomenon of "loving one's children too much" is given a frightfully poignant expression in _The Great Divorce_.

But while you are correct in pointing out that there are SOME underlying similarities between the sexist, pedophilic polygamy of the LDS and the idolatry of masculinity in many parts of the Christian Church, I certainly hope you're not suggesting to your readers that the only way that Christianity can distinguish itself from the former (and also avoid "worshipping children/motherhood" too much) is by becoming "liberated" egalitarians.

Indeed, if it's sinful to give undue worship to "traditional conceptions of motherhood", it would be equally wrong to pay undue worship of the idea of the "liberated woman".

The irony, of course, is that, try as they might, many feminists actually engage in a tacit, indirect worship of the "masculine". They reason: "men get to do X, and since society (which is male-dominated) has put a higher value on X, then women should also be liberated to pursue X with equal vim and vigor."

But isn't this the same trap that women like Jenna Jamison (sp?) have fallen for? Whether it is the desire to be worshipped as a powerful sex-goddess or the desire to be worshipped as a powerful CEO, it's still an idolatry that grovels for male recognition.

So on the contrary, we need not abandon the traditional, complementarian perspective to be good liberators of women. I've found that the most powerful, perceptive, and courageous voices of feminism are those who are questioning these skewed and deeply entrenched values at a deeper level—why buy into the idea that going out into the "workforce" is preferable to being a stay-at-home mom, just because you get a paycheck for the one and not the other?

I bristle every time I hear some idiot (woman or otherwise) use the phrase "just a housewife" or make a distinction between a wife who "works" and one who "just stays home with the kids."

So yes, while it is true that women can, in effect, build "high places" to their own children and to motherhood, women do not avoid this sin by sacrificing their children on the altars of their own cultural Molechs, thinking they have "forsaken all" to follow Christ.

Your article mentions "power" a lot. In Christ, our "power" does not lie in privilege, prestige, or position; rather, it lies, as you say, in "priesthood", but this priesthood involves offering ourselves as living sacrifices.

We should start with our own households.

As you know, my wife is a tremendous example of power and courage because she has freely and confidently said "No" to what mainstream society/feminism have said she should pursue as "the good life," in favor of being "busy at home" with the beautiful children God has entrusted to us.

I wish all children could fall under the power of such a woman.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Eric,
I appreciate your sharp mind in this discussion. I could not agree more that many egalitarians have succumbed to the idea that equality means sameness between the genders. I totally disagree with this position. I value and have decided to dedicate years of my post-graduate study to mining out the distinctions between women and men. In Ruby Slippers I've written more extensively on how women have aped fallen male standards and called it liberation. "Women parroted men's vices, proving just how competitive, ruthless, and promiscuous they could be" (91).

I do not advocate either working mothers (often called liberated feminism) or stay at home mothers (often called traditional families) as any more godly than the other. I prefer to note that historically there has been much more freedom for women and men's roles in the family than most complementarian churches offer. This degree of variability across time (and across culture) should give us all pause before we advocate either stay at home mothers or career mothers as the best way. I do think that giving women freedom to think through their decision to work inside or outside the home is a godly idea.

It is as unfair to assume that most women who work outside the home are seeking power, prestige, recognition, money as it is to assume that most women who work in the home are mindless, lazy, slavish, barefoot, pregnant and subjugated. I hope you don't mean to communicate the former in your post. I never meant to communicate the latter in mine. I do believe, however, that women who are not given the CHOICE to stay at home, but are either shamed or bullied, commanded or demanded to stay home to work are not free to love Christ fully.

Women who choose to work at home are not doing less work. I know women like this, I respect and value them for I know they have chosen this. The woman closest to you is intelligent, hard-working, capable, intentional, powerful, wise and your equal. With the same desire for fairness, let me say I have found many women who work outside the home who are not mercenary, power-mongering, selfish fame-seekers. There are many reasons these women work outside the home: their husband's job allows for them to pursue a career, their work helps them grow their minds in new ways, their work opens them up to more peers with like-minded interests, their work helps the body of Christ, their work has allowed them to set up an office at home or during school hours. But none of these mean that a woman who works full time in the home with her children is less creative or honoring to God.

I do not mean to communicate worship, special privilege or undue priority to mothers who work outside the home. And, I don't think a woman who stays home to mother her children is "just a housewife" etc. That's why I wrote above "Being a full-time mother may be the best place for you or me, but we must decide this."

I'm not sure I agree with you that "we need not abandon the traditional, complementarian perspective to be good liberators of women." But that is probably a discussion for another time. Let me just be clear to say that godless feminism is wrong, but so is godless motherhood. And frankly, I know many women whose choices to stay at home have much more to do with not bucking the current church's system than with honoring their God and their minds. I want women to seek God's ideas first. Isn't that what following Jesus means?

When men say things like, "The most important job in a woman's life is raising her children" they often promulgate the idea that stay at home mothers are actually doing more to further God's kingdom and to honor their husbands than mothers who work outside the home. I find this an anti-Biblical idea, for God has never stated that motherhood is any more important than any other job for his kingdom. (The Prov 31 woman is a good example.)

My goal in this post was to communicate that God grants women freedom to choose whether to work at home or to work outside the home and mothers should not be demonized for choosing one over the other.

You are correct, if a woman is choosing a career outside home because she wants to be worshipped as powerful, then this is wrong. But if a woman is choosing to be a stay at home mother because she wants to be worshipped as godly, then this is wrong as well. In many ways, Eric, I think we agree both of these motivations are wrong-headed.

I have to agree that I would want all people to fall under the influence and power of a wife such as you have. However, let's be careful to apply the same desire for you.

If Jesus wanted us to find our power in laying our lives down for each other, then men no less than women ought to serve as living sacrifices, giving up career, privilege, position for the sake of rearing their children. In other words, men have a choice to make, too.

Gretchen said...

A couple of thoughts about Working and mothering.
As a mother of one young child I now understand the importance of being available to to my family and home. I work two days a week and those days I come home tired and socially worn out. It's hard to deal with a toddler, laundry, and basic things on those days. I can't imagine working much more than I do.
I (now) have strong feelings about the importance of women's role in the home and I do feel that it is a major problem in our society that we encourage and applaud women so much for building a career while they have young children and a husband that need them. I'm not talking about the single mom who is desperately trying to survive. She is a symptom of a broken society. (fathers not fathering, lack of community etc...)
I'm talking about the women who doesn't feel fulfilled by the role she took on as a mother. Mothering is NOT glorious. It's tiring and can be a boring, sometimes (alot of the time) thankless job. There are no financial bonus's no certificates or applause but it is the most foundational part of our society.
I understand that financially many women need to help bring in a little extra. That's what I have to do but my first and most important job is mothering. I don't think that it is in the best interest of my son to have someone else spend everyday with him. They don't care about him like I do and he knows it. I don't ever want him to feel second to my whims or selfish need for accolades. I LOVE my job of styling hair. I'm good at it. People love what I do but in the end I'm left with the questions, "How have I loved my family? What lasting impression did I leave on them?, and are my desires in the best interest of those that I love the most?" These are basic issues of selfish verses selfless. This doesn't mean that I won't spend time nurturing my self as a creative interesting human being. I will always have hobby's and interests. But they never take precedence over people. Especially little people that I love and am responsible for!
I know that as life goes on things change. My son will go to school grow up and need a little less of my undivided attention. I may be able to put in more time at the salon. But not at the expense of his safety, well being or needs.

Your comment about "traditional motherhood" not being in the Bible rubbed me the wrong way because it occured to me that when the Bible was written there wasn't a question of whether mother's mothered. It's just common sense that mother's mother.
It means women have to put self aside. Just as Father's have to put self aside to love, provide and protect.
I'm sure there is more but not for this format.

Emily said...

Two things I'd like to comment on:

First, regarding a mother's instinct not being better than any other impulse.... are we not ignoring the fact that God speaks of Himself as a parent and when we parent/mother, we are reflecting His image? I think parenthood in general (fatherhood, too!) is a holy calling. Of course any animal can give birth, but nurturing our child's souls should be a work of the Spirit. I would have been much more likely to agree with you before I became a mother, but now... it's changed everything. I think our mothering instincts are an incredible gift from God that should be followed and listened to (of course not over the voice of Christ). My family is my first ministry (as is my husband's), and my relationship with my daughter is so closely related to my relationship with God that I've never found the two to be in opposition. My love and instincts toward her are a gift from Him, and as I listen to them, He has taken me deeper with Him. So, I guess I feel uncomfortable with the idea that it's about choosing my daughter or God. I find that when I parent her as God parents me and as I imagine Jesus would, I am drawn more closely to Him and it becomes such an incarnational experience.

And I think there's a reason why men don't give birth and nurse, there is a difference in the way I feel toward my daughter than the way my husband feels. Those things are not just physical experiences, they create enormous attachment between the child and mother. We both love her, but there is something very special about a mother's attachment and instincts, and I think that's a gift of God. While both parents should shoulder responsibility and both should sacrifice... there's something different in my husband's experience of going to work every day than mine would be. There's something about the way my daughter preferred me over him from day one. A parent is a parent, but being a mother is different from being a father, and I think that her giftings and instincts should be celebrated as a reflection of God.

Secondly, while I agree with you that a woman should not be considered more or less holy based-on whether she works or stays at home... I think the part of the conversation that has been left-out is the best interest of the child. Psychologically speaking, is it really the BEST thing for a one year-old to spend 9 hours a day in a daycare center and only see his parents for about 3 hours? (usually when they're rushing around getting ready for work and fixing dinner and in the car, that's not a lot of face-time) Is it a horrible thing, of course not. But when you consider child development and how they learn and how they attach emotionally and spiritually and psychologically... I want my daughter's internal world to be developed through time with her parents...I want to teach/discipline her in a way that I imagine Jesus would, not according to daycare policy. What about the importance of bonding and attachment and the way that a baby understands who he is and the world and God through his interactions with the mother? I'm no expert, but I've read enough about maternal bonding and the way that God designed children to flourish under the careful attention of a mother that it would be hard for me to say a daycare provider could do as good a job. That's a whole other topic in itself, I just think that it's an important consideration in this discussion. I think the soul of a child is designed to best develop under the love of a parent through a great deal of time spent together.

Even if over hundreds of years older children shouldered much of the child-rearing burden, don't you think that was really more about the fact that the mom was probably busy working the fields or doing other work than her not wanting to spend time with her kids or God not thinking it important for a baby to be with his mother? I'm definitely not saying anything about "roles" or that we should delineate parental responsibilities based-on that... But I do think that God designed the heart of a baby/child to flourish through attachment to his parents, particularly the mother. Let's not leave-out of the conversion the issue of the child's heart growth. And while it shouldn't be considered sin or wrong for a mother to pursue a career, it is not a black and white decision and there are many more issues to consider than simply the woman's freedom of choice. (sorry this is so long!) =)

Ladybug said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ladybug said...

Just a preliminary two cents before I go off to cook dinner with my husband after I PhD-ed most of the day. These must, by necessity of my duty to my husband (I told him I'd come home soon) be brief and allusive, so I hope you'll forgive me for tossing a few propositions off.

(1) For a married couple, a child is not a lifestyle choice.

I hear all the time from crusty misogynists that having a child is a "lifestyle choice". The context: they're telling women junior scholars to tough it up and just play by men's rules when it comes to having children in the academy. The message: if you can't be pregnant or have an infant and work 60-80 hours a week just like a man, then you don't deserve to be in academia.

One problem here (of many): the idolatry and the rhetoric of 'choice' obscuring the natural differences between motherhood and fatherhood. Child-bearing and the rearing of very young children is not all of life but a season with its own particular set of concerns, boundaries, and graces. The career track unfortunately (and sometimes unavoidably) penalizes women in this season of life and presents them with few "choices" -- only more constraints. When I look at career and motherhood I do not see the church in my way - I see man-made institutions, career deadlines, and professional values doing their level-best to bind my hands from doing what I would truly desire. Day care would not be my "choice" any more than completely leaving academia.

Also, just to note: the Christian church has long taught that children are natural gifts of marriage to parents, not accessories.

(2) Motherhood (like career) is of course thoroughly able to be made an idol (we're so good at idolatry!), but that doesn't undercut its uniqueness, as Emily and Gretchen seem to be pointing out.

That uniqueness is not a mere cultural construct, but rooted and recognized in the natural order of procreation. I know that the idea of "nature" can sometimes be abused, but I wonder Jonalyn if you're not quite giving it its due and instead almost replacing it with autnomous self-fashioning individuals who can choose (for all sorts of reasons, whether good and bad) to ignore the suggestive promptings of nature? Nature need not provide a law so much as, in the words of Leon Kass, be a suggestive teacher about what to aim for.

Vicki High said...

It will be interesting to see what changes occur in America and Western culture at large in the next 10 years. With this Zion Ranch situation coupled with all of the recent reality TV shows that include multiple partners, such as Girls Next Door, Tila Tequila, Rock of Love...etc. It seems that society is being challenged in this area from every direction.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Gretchen-glad to hear a mother weighing into the topic. Thanks! I also find mothering very valuable and necessary.

Here is where I think we disagree. I don't think that the fact of a child needing love and attention should fall, full force, squarely and solely on women's shoulders. I think mothers and fathers should equally decide on who is to stay home with their children.

If women do feel dissatisfied at home (and here I realize I'm venturing onto thin ice as I am not a mother, yet) then I believe this might be an indication that they need to either grow in contentment OR grow to spread their wings. I don't think all mother's frustration with being at home is an indication of them selfishly wanting careers. It can be a god-given dissatisfaction, catalyzing them into additional work outside the home. Of course, I would never venture to prescribe that you or anyone else should work more outside the home. I have no idea where you or any other mother ought to use her skills, gifts, training. But God does. My concern is to free women to seek God's ideas about what we are to do, not simply our Christian culture's ideas.

You have chosen to make mothering your first and most important job. That is awesome, but that should not be a one-size fits all prescription for all mothers. That is my point. Let's offer freedom to all mothers to think through how they want to raise their children.

In my growing up years my mother also stayed at home. That was really cool, but I also had some quality, long-term nannying time with both grandparents. Once my parents left me so long with my grandparents (Mama Grace and Papi) that I didn't even want to go home. I loved and felt comfortable there, as much as at home. So while you may have found that other caretakers do not care about your son as much as you do, my experience proved otherwise. I know I am loved as much by my grandparents, as I was my parents. And I believe the cases of adoption, pre-Industrial Revolution families where aunts, grandmothers, siblings essentially nannied also indicates that other people (besides the mother) can capably and effectively raise our children. The fact that you have chosen not to is perfectly fine, but let's not cut off the opportunity to others who want to involve other care-takers. Now, as an adult, I'm so thankful I had multiple mother and father figures, it has helped me relate to God in different ways and offered other benefits.

My point that while some models (abandonment, abuse) are always wrong, no one model is necessarily THE most righteous or most godly model for all Christian women. We have freedom.

I loved your questions: How have I loved my family? What lasting impression did I leave on them?, and are my desires in the best interest of those that I love the most?" I think these are wonderful questions we can all use to sieve through our desires and goals.

I know a psychologist professor who has 2 young boys. She has hired a nanny who is part of their family's culture. She comes to all their birthday parties and still gets together with them though they are in school now and don't see her daily. This psychologist mother has often made the point of sharing her career goals with her sons (why she won't, for instance, homeschool them because she loves the work God has given her to do). She wants them to see how their mother is using her gifts for the benefit of the church body, so they learn how to share their mother. She would also say that the people she counsels and teaches are as much her ministry as he children. That is an important distinction. Many Christian women who do work outside the home are not putting their selfish career goals over people, they're not abnegating their responsibility to parent. As they see it they are sharing their responsibility with fathers, grandparents, nannies, day-care centers, churches, in order to share their gifts or the church body.

You and I might not do it that way, but it doesn't mean they have been selfish. Even if we totally disagree with her decision, but let's not assume she is being ungodly or unBiblical, at least without evidence. The Bible has not come down hard on any one model of parenting. I'd love to hear any verses that you fell do, it would be interesting to talk about them.

I'm afraid I don't think it's because it was just common sense that mother's mothered. The Proverbs 31 woman is just one example (and there are many more: Deborah, Priscilla, Mary) that mothers of honor were very involved in commerce and business. And this was a reason to honor them, not accuse them of selfishness or not attending to the safety, well-being and needs of their children.

I think it's important for us to embrace a parenting model that works for us and honors God.

Anonymous said...

You asked..."How could a mother's love for her children get in the way of her love for Jesus?"

So...what if you asked that to a stay at home mom. And after she takes that as you questioning her motherhood and as an insult, she responds with, "I've never experienced the love of Jesus." Where would this fit into bringing someone to Christ? (Matt 29:19)

It comes across as a question of pre-judgment.

Sometimes we become passionate because of past issues in our own lives...is this an example of that?

Gretchen said...

Jonalyn, I agree with most all of what you said. I do believe that dads can nurture just as well as moms (my husband is an example of this).Moms tend to do it more because of pregnancy and breastfeeding etc... This subject is pretty complex and I do agree that not every situation is the same.
I like the example you gave of your Psychologist friend. I'm sure that she is doing the absolute best that she feels for her family. It would be interesting to ask her kids and many like them what they would have preferred when they have grown. I think most kids feel safer and less of a second priority when parents have more time with them. No matter how good the care, kids need parents not nannies on a regular basis.
I know that this is not necessarily what you are saying but is sounds a little like that.
I do believe that women can be involved in business and commerce as the Prov. 31 women is without working full time outside of the home like women today do. Most likely her children were by her side or with her mother/sister if she was away.
There are alot of nuances to this subject and this really is a difficult format for such a discussion. I realize in writing this and my last post that alot is being left out. So, thank you Jonalyn for addressing this subject. It's a hot one! =0)

Heidi said...

This is a very interesting discussion. I just spent a couple of hours this morning watching video and reading articles about the YFZ Ranch situation. I also read some articles about women who have left the FLDS church.

I believe that the real issue we are all talking about here is an identity issue, and a spiritual issue-not a circumstantial issue. I have been both a full time mom and a full time worker (you know Parkville...:-) at different times during my adult life. What I have found is that freedom in my life comes not from my physical circumstances, but from freedom in my spirit to be the person God is calling me to be. I am changing in Him each day, and I will be until I die. What form it takes in the natural is not so much the point as my right to obey the Lord as He leads me.

I had to learn that my wants and needs are valid, that my "no" is valid, and that I can trust my instincts. Control of any kind is actually abuse. Control can be maintained by religious reasoning, physical intimidation, verbal intimidation, and things as subtle as undermining one's confidence in one's basic instincts.

I see the women in the FLDS church subject to all these kinds of abuse in an overt way. I agree with you, Jonalyn, that it happens in the Christian church too. The issues of women's roles is one place where it happens, but that is just a small part of it. Anytime guilt is used to control behavior, or when fear is part of our Christian walk, we are being controlled by a spirit other than the Holy Spirit. "Shoulds" and "Oughts" are not from the Lord either. It is much bigger in our Christian culture than we realize, and we can't see it until we move out of it.

Men suffer the same bondage that women do if they are kept in any way from the freedom God has for them. I believe that men who want to control the people around them are in as much bondage if not more than those they are controlling.

Ultimately, what we are really dealing with here is the age old battle between God and Satan. God always wants to lead us into freedom, and Satan always wants to lead us into bondage. When Jesus came to earth, he did treat women amazingly differently than their culture. But he also treated men differently. He accepted sinners and oppressed of all kinds, and announced his ministry with the passage from Isaiah 61..."The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to preach Good News to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim that captive will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord's favor has come."

Honestly, as I have begun to walk in the freedom that comes because the Spirit of the Lord is in me, my distinctions between men and women, or circumstances, or functions in life has melted away. I now see myself, and the Christians around me, as a part of the body of Christ, where there is "neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female." I am so delighted to walk in the same ministry that Jesus did-That of bringing freedom to the captives. Any time I hear His voice and obey, I bring the same freedom that He did; to myself, and to those around me, no matter who they are. They might be my children, they might be my coworkers, they might be the people I interact with daily. It doesn't really matter who.

Last night we celebrated Passover, which is the perfect picture of how the Lord takes us out of our bondage and into freedom. It's pretty ugly- there are the plagues, the unhappy Pharaoh, the leaving of the familiar, moving into the unknown, insurmountable obstacles like the Red Sea, and even 40 years wandering in the desert if we don't quite get it. But it is the hallmark of God's ministry in our lives.

My heart breaks for the women of the Yearn For Zion ranch. And yet, I'll bet you anything this is God answering their yearning. Because He will always find and free those who truly yearn for Him.

Anonymous said...

re: psychologist friend/nanny situation.

I don't know what psych theory he/she practices from, but according to studies of attachment theory, the mother is the significant attachment object in early childhood, while the father is more significant later on. this means that each parent is equally valuable in terms of developing secure attachment (important as a basis for attaching in future relationships) but not at the same points of development. In addition, I am suspicious of your lone example method of proof; this also happens in your book. (I know men/women who are x...)

In a previous post you mentioned that we ought to take the truth of other disciplines as supporting the truth of the kingdom. the evidence of attachment theory, from all sides of the religious divide (even those that hate the kingdom), is not subject to reasonable disputation. Attachment theory would support the conclusion that mothers ought to be home with their children in the early years of development.

What do we do with this? Revising your thesis seems out of the question...

Randy

Kimberly said...

Randy:
You raise some good points when you speak of attachment theory. I have also been reading these posts with that category in mind, as I am a graduate student in psychology. For those that are not as familiar with it, attachment theory in the last 50 or so years has become a dominant category in which to think of early childhood development. It argues that 0-3 years of age is a key time for a young infant to develop a sense of safety and trust with primary caregivers. Obviously, a nursing mother is one way this attachment gets built. However, I would like to take your point a little bit further. For one, attachment theory is still a working model: while we know that early attachment is key for children, the evidence is not indisputable as far as how this plays out between mothers and fathers. I do agree with you that evidence suggests that mothers are more important for infants. But, it is also true that much of how we think about the Oedipal triangle is more the vestige of Freud than empirical data and there is still more work to be done in psychology. I am grateful researchers are showing us the importance of early childhood development, but honestly, I would like to see a lot more research on the involvement and role of the father before we make concrete the theory about parental roles.

Furthermore, while the infant might indeed be bonding more with the mother early on, there are psychologists who would say that the father has a very important role to be near and care for the mother during this time. Researchers like Fonagy have shown the importance of the caregiver providing consistent “affect regulation” and “mirroring” to a child; when mothers are on duty 24-7, it becomes pretty difficult for the stress level of the mother to be well regulated enough so that the stress level of the child remains well regulated. What I am saying is that co-parenting at an early age of the child– and making choices around co–parenting– is still an aspect of attachment theory. The fairly modern split we have set up in our society (where work is often in the public space and parenting is in the private) is often not conducive to a father being nearby during early childhood development. This is a problem that is not easy to fix, because in the US anyways, we don’t have good long term maternal and paternal leave set up (unlike other countries.)

I don’t think Jonalyn is dismissing the role of a mother in a child’s early development of attachment patterns. I think she is saying that fathers are needed, too, and there are ways for each parenting unit to work out the best interests of their child. Furthermore, attachment theory says we need to care for mothers well, because the regulation of stress in a mother has direct effects on the child. One parent having primary caregiving responsibilities 24-7 may not be in the best interests of the child. We need more commitment to co–parenting.

I am struck by one of the first verses about John the Baptist in Luke, as he paves the way for Jesus. How will his prophetic ministry be known? The text says, “He will turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children” (1:17.) I want to fully uphold the role of a mother in the development of a child, but I believe it is our worldly culture– not the Bible– that seems to dismiss the role of the father.

Anonymous said...

Kimberly--

I cede many points to you. I think you understand attachment theory very well. My main focus was the non-interchangeable nature of mothers and fathers in relation to infants. It seems that Jonalyn (elsewhere) has argued that roles are interchangeable (an egalitarian concept), but attachment theory, and common sense I might add, refutes this. You well know that attachment, between the mother and child, begins in the womb: it is a relationship that begins in the pre-natal stage. this is something that a father cannot replace. While the father can provide more security for the mother to attach with the child, the father is, nevertheless, in a secondary role: he is not the primary attachment figure, and this is by nature's design. Even if he was more available than our culture currently allows, he is no substitute for the mother. I make no argument against the need for co-parenting. And I think the John the Baptist passage is more hyperbole than to be taken literally...

I appreciate your comments

Randy

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Emily,

Loved hearing from another mother! I really appreciate how you've dignified the excellent task of mothering. I totally agree with you that mothers show us more about God when they mother well. However even wonderful, God-imaging instincts like motherhood can be twisted and mis-used as are all God-imaging instincts e.g. fathering, serving, teaching, judging, etc. So while I believe mothers do tell us what God is like, they also can twist this God-given instinct and glorify it passed i's due.

Two points you bring up that I want to respond to:
1- the incarnational aspect of motherhood, where your love for Jesus coincides with your love for your child.
2-what is best for your child

1- this is so exciting to me, a way of whole motherhood that embraces each task as a gift for Jesus. I’d love to mother this way! Sunday I volunteered for the church's nursery and I got a tiny taste of what you mean. When I changed a diaper I'm serving Jesus, when I read the book the 18th time I'm reading it for Jesus. When you do it unto the least of these you've done it unto me. I agree, I'm uncomfortable with the idea of choosing between our kids and God, too.

That's a weird dichotomy; however, Jesus is the one who brings it up. Mainly because I think he knows how easy it is for the good loves to get deified. As C.S. Lewis says, “love ceases to be a demon only when it ceases to be a god.” Here's an example of what I'm after: When a mother has chosen to love her children because she needs to be needed by them but she calls it sacrificial/serving love. She drops everything for them, but she also creates needs that "only she can fulfill." This can actually become a sort of demanding love, and I'd say can get in the way of our love for Jesus because we are not, actually willing the good of our children as much as we're wanting them to need us. Motivation is pretty big behind this, not actually what we do. Lewis talks about this Need-Love more in The Four Loves, pg. 74. Am I making sense about how needy-love could get in the way of our love for Jesus?

I don't mean to accuse you of Need-Love. I do mean to give women a place to question if they are engaging in Need-Love but mis-calling it sacrificial love.

I agree that mothers and fathers provide different care. Much of that is due to our physical differences (birthing, nursing), but there is also the soulish aspect of our differences. I’ve heard how daughters prefer mothers to fathers from day one. But this is not always the case and even if it was does not mean that your daughter deserves or even should have your time/attention more than her father's attention. I guess we’re sort of getting into parenting styles but the differences between child-directed parenting and “baby-wise” parenting both seem to indicate to me (and remember I’m an untried novice here) that we have lots of models to choose from. Nursing is another natural indicator, people say. And while it is certainly more convenient to have you near to nurse, I don't think it means that God wants women to be the primary care-takers for the first year. He provided Naomi to be Obed (her grandson’s) nurse, even while Ruth (the mother whose breasts were heavy with milk) would have been the most natural choice (Ruth 4:16-17). I guess I believe the circumstances of each child’s birth (the parent’s work, the grandparent’s legacy, the plans of God, the needs of the body at hand) are always worth considering how best to raise each child.

2- So what is best for each child? This is hard for me to answer as I have not had any experience of my own child-rearing. Though I did play primary-caretaker of my little sister (10 years my junior). I think the vast amount of contradicting evidence does indicate that much is “up for grabs” still. Your scenario of day-care for 9 hours is (I agree) not the best for the child. But there are so many options in the middle. I don’t want to set up a false dichotomy: either stay home with your children or dump them at a day care all day long. There is partial day care, nannies, au pairs, grandparent/aunt/sibling care, etc. I agree that many studies indicate the need for attachment and bonding. However, it is clear that this MUST be the mother? I thought this could also be a grandmother or grandfather or really any person committed to this child (as adoption indicates) who spend quality, long-term time with them at a young age? Please correct me if I’m wrong.

You asked a good question: “Even if over hundreds of years older children shouldered much of the child-rearing burden, don't you think that was really more about the fact that the mom was probably busy working the fields or doing other work than her not wanting to spend time with her kids or God not thinking it important for a baby to be with his mother?”

Actually I don’t think so, from what I’ve read women really did want to mother their kids (life on the farm, for instance, provided more time for that depending on the season), and the role of parenting was considered very important, so important in fact that usually only men were instructed in how to rear children (since it was assumed women were too frail, emotional and flighty to do it properly). I agree, however that we should not assume that history offers the best model. I find it interesting because it indicates that what we find “traditional” or “natural” was not always so evident.

Thank you for weighing in!

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Ladybug

Loved that you took a moment to write. Hope that dinner turned out well!

Those crusty misogynists are not in my camp, however, unless you believe in the (well-argued) Catholic idea that every sexual act should have the possibility of procreation (i.e. no birth control) then I have to disagree with you. I think having a child is a choice (NOT in the sense that you can terminate your pregnancy but in the sense that many couples do choose when to have their children and how many to have). I think choosing to try to have a child is a matter of stewardship.

I do know what you mean about "lifestyle" choice, this makes a child sound too near an accessory, and less like a human made in God's image. However can we separate the two and say "lifestyle/accessory baby creating" is not good but that if we agree with birthcontrol then every child we conceive is a chance for us to practice stewardship with our time, gifts, opportunities (knowing all the time that God can always surprise us)? So I'd say for a married couple having a child does present a choice for them to talk about.

2- You have hit upon one of the main struggles I've been working (notice present tense) through. How to use my gifts in a market that does not understand or praise women for sacrificing time to their children, a structure in universities that demands the most time for gaining tenure during the key child-bearing ages. I know you’ve said that you see “man-made institutions, career deadlines, and professional values doing their level-best to bind my hands from doing what I would truly desire.” But I see the church in being part of the problem when they make full-time motherhood the only godly option. The church stifles discussion/debate and name-calls. It’s so rare to find women from both sides of the issue even talking about ways to make it better. Often I’ve heard frustrated women announce “I want a wife!” because they feel they just cannot do it all. That’s why I bring in my psychologist/professor friend who works at Rosemead alongside her husband. She had her 2 boys while working for tenure and hiring a nanny was an intentionally made, huge decision for her. But she is so glad she made it. She’s made motherhood and working outside the home one of the areas of expertise to research how a woman can do both, while remaining committed to being the unique mother for her children. Her name is Dr. Elizabeth Hall. Do you know her?

3- Yes I appreciate your point that nature is a suggestive teacher. So what does it teach? That is the rub, isn’t it? For so long nature seemed to teach that women’s child-bearing capacities made them unfit for any higher thinking. Nature seemed to teach that women were unable to properly raise their children (Puritans directed most child-rearing instruction to fathers). Nature seemed to teach that total pain was an unavoidable curse on all mother’s births. Nature seemed to teach that all women should all bear as many children as possible. And back to the FLDS, nature seems to teach them many things we would argue are not really “natural” i.e. polygamy.

It seems that having a womb that grows and swells indicates that I should slow down, that lactaction indicates that a mother is a key component in a young child’s life. I know that does inform how I will make my decisions. But I may be interpreting natural wrongly, therefore, I would not attach a righteousness tag to this form of parenting. If another woman chooses to hire a wet nurse or a nanny, I will not critic her for being ungodly or even unwise. Nature has many “messages” it teaches.

Kimberly said...

Randy,
A few more thoughts! Building off our recent comment thread, I do really agree with you that attachment theory has been a wonderful thing for understanding early childhood development, but I also want to speak my concerns about the danger of misappropriating it. From its earliest origins (Bowlby), there was always the danger of this really good research on infant development getting misused to make rigid rules about parenting that don’t fit the scope of what the theory is really offering (and potentially puts unfair blame on mothers).

For instance, I will cede that there is a bond with the infant and mother that is not the same bond as with the father. But, I think when fathers are actively engaged and caregiving, this starts to shift and the baby begins to learn not only to differentiate themselves from their parents, but also “mom” from “dad.” This is in fact an important part of development for the baby.

My second point would be somewhat a reiteration of what I touched on in my previous post, and that is the importance of the mental/emotional health of the primary caregiver. In the often-individualistic American world of the nuclear family, primary caregivers can become very isolated. Furthermore, post-partum depression is a very real experience for mothers. When churches even imply that such feelings are “sinful,” the culture around the primary caregiver is not offering the support needed. Anyone who has been home with a child day after day, all day, knows this is probably the most demanding job there is. If we think more creatively and ask fathers to be more involved, I think we can care for mothers betters; if we care for mothers better, we are perhaps doing one of the most significant things we can do to help the infant.

And now forgive me, because I am going to do my own personal case study here ☺ , which is just my experience, but here goes. I am not a mom myself, but I know several young moms in their late twenties and early thirties. One of the themes that keeps coming up is, “I love my child, I want to be as good a mother as I can be in these important early years of development, and…I am in a much better mental, emotional, and psychological space if I get more help in parenting, and if I can pursue part–time work that engages other parts of my mind.” Of course, recognizing this need for mothers to have other outlets means recognizing the importance of fathers stepping up. Or, as Jonalyn suggested, there are family units that provide other kinds of support (grandparents, etc.) We have to recognize that in many cultures throughout history, families were not just the nuclear family, and a range of loved ones early on cared for children. What I am suggesting is that we see attachment theory through a range of lenses (multi-cultural and historical).

When I read the posts on the women’s blog at Mars Hill church, my heart aches that the social structures around parenting are so rigid. There are more creative solutions out there to both uphold the needs of the infant and assist mothers and fathers in co-parenting. If women are depressed and shaming themselves for feeling that way, their children will feel the effects, and I would like to suggest that the community is in part responsible for creating such an unhealthy environment for women and mothers.

Thanks to all of you for your thoughts! I always appreciate being able to have conversations on these important topics. I just wish all these commenters could be face to face! I think in the diversity of perspectives shown here, we are all saying some important things together.

Angela C said...

In my experience of counseling and in talking with two other counselors on staff, the lack of Fathering is one of the most common complaints or source of pain in the the lives of our counselees. The lack of Father relationship, affirming, love, security, and affection is crippling the children emotionally and relationally. Even though the mother was there for them, it's not enough. It's almost like all the love, affection and affirmation from the mother doesn't count. I know that isn't true but it seems that way.

I think the traditional or patriarchal influence in the home has left the male unprepared or trained for the relationship of a nurturing father. Girls are given dolls but boys are given trucks and Legos. Girls are encouraged in nurturinga activities while boys are discouraged so that they can be more "masculine."

Let's be honest, none of us parents took Parenting 101 but parent according to what was modeled for us.

In general, men are not prepared and ready to nurture, not because they can't, but because it hasn't been modeled. It has not been a priority and it has shown up in the lives of the men and women sitting in our pews and counseling offices. Men, in general, are relationally crippled because they are disconnected with their own fathers. It's a desperate need.

In case some of you haven't noticed, not all women nurse their babies but bottlefeed. When the father holds that baby close feeding it and allowing it to look into his face they bond. When the father shares the getting up in the middle of the night to change diapers and feed and rock the child, they bond. That activity enables a man to bond and become nurturing. My son-in-law is great at doing this and he and his daughter are very close. The Father sharing the nurturing activities cause an early bond that helps him to feel connected and invested in the child and prepared for further nurtuing in their lives.

I loved staying home with my three children when they were born and their early years. When my first child was three I had to go to work fulltime because we were in the recession of the early 70's. My husband was the Pastor of a small church and watched him for twenty hours a week while my son also went to daycare for 20 hours a week. That was one of the best things that ever happened to my son. Instead of my husband working two jobs, my working enabled my husband to spend bonding, nurturing time with his son. They became so close I could have been jealous but I knew it was good for my son and husband. That experience caused him to see the need to be involved in the early years of our other children who are very healthy emotionally and spiritually. We are very close as a family and I know my husband has made more of a difference than I have. He has been a great role model the families of our church.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Anonymous- I can't find Matt 29:19. What did you mean? I think in sharing Christ I would not ask the question, ""How could a mother's love for her children get in the way of her love for Jesus?" right off the bat. I'd start somewhere else. And yes, I do believe my passion for this stems from my current struggle to understand how to stay faithful to Christ and my desire to have children. In my past, I had such wonderful mother figures (2 grandma's and mother) that I don't think I'm re-acting to a poor model.

Gretchen-yes, I'd love to ask Dr. Hall's kids to weigh in when they're adults. But I've begun conducting a little informal survey just around my town and have noticed that children of working outside the home moms are rarely resentful, most feel very loved and valued by their parents. Their parents showed them that their kids had priority, but in other ways. Interesting I thought!

Heidi- I love your mind, thank you for contributing. I'm of one mind with you on longing for freedom for all people in all situations. Thank you for re-directing us to the subtle ways control is manifested.

Randy- Dr. Liz Hall is a strong advocate of attachment theory. She wanted to bond with her children from a young age and especially during her early years. And from what she’s told me she also wanted them to bond with their father in meaningful ways, but she also made space for her children to bond with their nanny, too. I believe as Kimberly has stated and as you have ceded that fathers and mothers are key to any child’s early development.

I bring Dr. Hall up not to be a lone example, but to show that if one Christ-following mother who has found a way to integrate another child-care provider to function as a 2nd mother who also shares her parenting with her husband (who is also a professor) then there might be even more models of ways to co-parent and work outside the home. I often have found that many women do not want another woman (or man) having as much influence/power over their children therefore they don’t allow this. I know I would struggle with the idea of having another female (or even male for that matter) having as much bonding time/power with my kid, but while this desire may be natural, I’m not convinced sole-child-care proprietorship of mothers is God-given or healthy (as Kimberly has pointed out).

Why are you suspicious of lone-examples? Do you doubt that they exist? Do you doubt that someone like Dr. Hall is truly wanting to follow Jesus? I’ve found when people believe something like “all crows are black” my job is to make sure of that by searching for a white crow and then when I find one I need to report it. I see Dr. Hall sort of like a white crow that you can value the attachment parenting model (Kimberly thank you for helping us understand that better!) and still work outside the home.

Later you’ve written “It seems that Jonalyn (elsewhere) has argued that roles are interchangeable (an egalitarian concept), but attachment theory, and common sense I might add, refutes this.”

I do not believe that roles are interchangeable, I believe a woman’s soul is unique from a man’s soul, that women uniquely contribute to the world something different from men’s contribution. I believe that women and men together offer a picture of what God looks like (as they parent, lead, teach, guide wing to wing and oar to oar).

I’m curious where you’ve found me arguing that roles are interchangeable? Either in my book or in this blog?

I would never say and don’t mean to argue here that a father can be a substitute for the mother. But neither can a mother be a substitute for a father. The fact that a child is growing within a mother’s womb does not mean the father is ipso fact “a secondary role.” It does mean (as I have argued in Ruby Slippers) that there is something very intimate about a mother and child, but that shouldn’t shoulder out a father’s intimate attachment as well. I would not want to say that nearness, shared space, the co-nourishment of mother to child (etc) indicates as you say “by nature’s design”, that the father is secondary. The father’s body was there from the get-go, a father provided his own DNA and his body is being used now in the creation of this new body. I believe a father provides much, much more than security for the mother.

I believe the Luke 2:17 passage is not hyperbole as much as it’s indicating the importance of both parents to remember the great task of rearing a child.

Kimberly-
AMEN to co-parenting…. a wonderful verse to point out in John. I appreciate you bringing this up. I believe (as the TNIV translates it) that he means to include all parent’s hearts back to their children.
“And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
I think you bring out a good point that parents need to be involved with the rearing of their children, their hearts need to be directed and intentional about the unique things they each contribute to their child’s development.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Here is some helpful information about how difficult it is to leave FLDS "Out of Polygamy"

Also Christianity Today's article written by a child of a FLDS family and what they taught her
"I Grew Up in a Polygamist Family"
from December 2006

Emily said...

Well good grief, Jonalyn, I bet you weren't expecting to get into all of this! =) Just wanted to say thanks for your response, you cleared-up for me what you meant about mothers improperly loving their children over Jesus. I wasn't sure what you meant before, but I see that now and I agree with you.

And you're right, you're definitely touching on parenting models, and there are a LOT of opinions out there!!! The example about a 9-hour daycare is what it looks like if a woman works a full-time 40-hr. workweek, but like you said, that is definitely not the only option out there or the situation for everyone. I definitely think you brought-up a good point about the importance of attachment to other caregivers... (and I must admit, when I think about this situation, I'm internally thinking of an infant or small child since my daughter is so young, and really the situation is completely different when your child is older) I probably would leave my child to be watched by a family member if I had to/wanted to work b/c I know they would love her and take care of her so well. My hesitancy would be daycare centers where the teacher turnover rate is so high and a teacher is watching many children at a time. That's not a lot of opportunity for a baby to become attached.
But I do think that the mother is the crucial point of attachment for an infant. From my readings of attachment theory, a baby doesn't even know that he's a separate person from his mother until he's older. He literally thinks that they are the same person. So even when the baby is left in the care of a loving grandmother, it's not the same to the child and she is not with the person who is showing her the only reflection of herself that she knows. And then you get into the separation anxiety phase. My daughter started around six months to cry whenever I left the room, even if she could still see me. (now she just follows me wherever I go!) It's a scary thing for them to be left by a parent (she does the same thing with my husband), and for a tiny baby that can be pretty traumatic and cause them to lose trust. I realize this is WAY off the original subject, I'm not trying to steer the conversation away from your original intentions. These are just the things that run through my mind to give me pause about considering if I would work for any significant time period while my children are young. When they're a little older, that's a totally different story. A three year-old has a totally different experience of daycare and babysitting than an infant.

But, I definitely agree with you that women should have the FREEDOM to choose what's best for them and their situation without being looked-down on. And fathers should be given equal responsibility. And a big AMEN to whoever was talking about fathers supporting mothers who get tired with all the caregiving! Anyway, sorry to stretch things, I appreciate you clarifying your points! =)

Anonymous said...

Sorry...typo...Matt 28:19 (Great Commision). At least you will be selective with what you speak. Now what if the same "unbeliever"read your blog? In other words...you already asked.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Emily,
Enjoyed reading your clarification. Thanks for sticking with this and sharing your experience. I agree with your desire to make sure younger children are cared for by parents. That seems most ideal.

Anonymous
I'm sorry to leave you hanging. I was on vacation. You know I'd love to go more in depth into your question via email. Would you be willing to email me?
jonalyn@soulation.org

Jodi H. said...

I guess I disagree with one main point. Yes, the Bible doesn't discuss the working mother v. stay-at-home mother argument. But just because the Bible doesn't specifically address it doesn't mean that neither position is better than the other. I am not a psychologist, but I do know that God physically designed women to bear the children and feed the baby, usually for about the first year of life. Of course, this is overwhelmingly true with mammals as well, and this is not a coincidence of nature. Along with that, there is the fiercly protective instinct that is unleashed once you become mother (also true with many mammals). I don't think God could have made it any clearer physically or psychologically as to who is the absolute best caregiver for the child, and with that said I do think we are designed and best suited for being cared for primarily by our parent, especially the mother. That does not mean that working mothers should be shamed or looked down on. The Bible never, ever condones that type of behavior, but it also doesn't shy away from speaking the truth and encouraging people to do what is best! And just because it is a touchy subject I don't think we should avoid taking a position on it. I believe that children need us to take a position on it because it is in their best interest.

But with that said, I also don't think that being the primary caregiver means you have to be "stuck at home twiddling your thumbs all day long"! Many women do part time work, work at night, work from home or do numerous other things to bring in income and keep themselves fresh mentally and spritually for their households. I think that is very healthy and also good for children to see their mothers being industrious and hard-working. Look at the Proverbs 31 woman; she didn't sit home all day, she worked exceedingly hard day and night and provided for her family. I think she's a good example for all of us.

Jodi H. said...

Sorry...! One last thing I wanted to mention. This may sound cold, so forgive me if it does, but I have to say that I am far less interested in freedom for women and far more concerned with protection and consideration given to the needs of babies and children. I think that is the main problem with the modern feminist movement; it is exceedingly self-indulgent and self-focused. It's all about what "I want". But truly, once you become a mother life simply doesn't revolve around you and your desires anymore. Everyday you make choices that are not convenient for you but best for your child (like getting up and tending to the baby at 3:00 a.m.). And that is the way it should be. Mothers and fathers are adults and can handle making adult decisions that aren't always fun or easy and 100% fulfilling. I don't think it's any more complicated than that.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Jod,

Glad you wrote. I love your commendation for women to be creative if they choose to stay home with their children and your reference to Prov 31. She's come up quite a bit in this discussion. I'm glad for that.

We agree that the body of a woman should inform what we do as we mother. The fact that we can bear a child and produce nourishment is a great indicator of what we can do for the child.

However, I don't want to overstate this ability. Sure if a woman can birth a baby and produce milk, it seems that she should share this with her baby. But this doesn't mean that a woman should be the primary caretaker. It merely means that she is a key source of the baby's food.

Caretaking (I'm assuming this means everything from burping to feeding t changing to cuddling) is something men can share in almost all ways (even feeding, most babies begin eating solids as early as the 1st year and dad's can be a key part of that, not to speak of pumping and letting dad feed with bottle).

When you wrote: "I don't think God could have made it any clearer physically or psychologically as to who is the absolute best caregiver for the child" I have to disagree.

God could have been much clearer that the mother was the absolute best caretaker. He could have addressed all parenting commands to females.I think because all Scriptures that deal with parenting address both parents, not just the mom, we should assume that God is pretty excited about co-parenting and not overstate that a woman's physical body requires her to be the primary caretaker.

Of course women can and often do the most caretaking, but this would not have been traditional, natural or normal 300 years ago when all Christian parenting guides addressed the fathers or parents, never mothers because and here I quote women were susceptible to "passions and affections" and given to "indulgence" and "excessive fondness." Wives were valued for their fertility, not their child-rearing abilities (for more see Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's "Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England 1650-1750, Oxford University Press).

So the very arguments that you've given as proof that women are the absolute best caregiver are the very same arguments Puritans argued made women unfit to be primary caregivers... a woman was too close to the child to be firm, stern, responsible. I'm not saying I agree with these arguments, I'm simply pointing out that what seems very natural to us has not always been the case and this makes me pause.

I wouldn't want to come across saying that either is more Biblical nor more natural. What I do think is natural is for a woman to bear a child and for a woman to nurse her baby. Beyond that should be decided upon by each family as giftings, time, family culture, jobs differ and all without the fear of being called unnatural or ungodly or "not best."

Of course, there are ways of parenting that are not natural, not godly and not best. But perhaps we've drawn the lines too tightly, like another corset for women.

As far as the protective (mamma bear) instinct, that is also not unique to women. Most dads I know get awfully protective of their children as well, something is awakened when that child is born. This might manifest itself in different ways, but both parents feel protectiveness.

Your 2nd comment did give me pause. I certainly would be embarrased to know that you think I'm trying to advocate a "me centered" approach to parenting. I agree we should never be selfishly concerned with what only pleases us. You've said this is the main problem with the feminist movement (I'd add this may be true of the secular feminist movement, but not the Christian feminist movement). You've also said that you are far less concerned with "freedom for women and far more concerned with protection and consideration given to the needs of babies and children."

Jodi, I beg you to rethink that statement. It is short-sighted at best and destructive at worst. In raising babies and children we want to provide them with a worldview that values women, so that as they grow up they can have a life that values and recognizes women’s uniqueness and dignity? What are we protecting children for? What if you had a young girl and you said that to her? Can you imagine protecting her and then when she reached her teen years she began to believe she could not use her gift of music or composition or art and got involved with the FLDS wanting only to find a husband to have his kids and be one of his wives? What if she felt stilted for the rest of her life because protection ended up created a cage for her? What do we want the world to look like for your children, for you? What do you want the future wives of Linus and Sebastian to offer them? Don't we want to provide more freedom and less abuse to women for the multitude of blessings that this provides (because Jesus treated women this way, because women offer a picture of God’s image on earth, because mothers who are free to choose how to use their gifts offer more to their children, because healthy mothers mean healthier children, because Jesus died to set women free, not just children and babies).

I love that you are a stay-at-home mother. But you are making it sound like those who are not concerned with protecting children and babies in the way you have chosen are modern feminists, self-indulgent, and selfish. I think you should be careful here. There are many ways to protect children, staying home with them is just one of them. And from my experience and reading, the Christians who are feminists are not like this. They know plenty about midnight feedings and giving up their own rights. They do what they do because they’re concerned about their children when they grow up, they do what they do because they’re concerned about being faithful to the gifts God’s given them.

Kimberly said...

Jonalyn,
I am really intrigued by the last paragraph you just posted, because I have been thinking (and writing) quite a bit this week about what it means for women's voices and gifts to be supported both in the home and in society. We need women's voices in the home and we need women's voices in our society: women bring unique perspectives and concerns to parenting, to politics, to the study of law, to the love of theology, etc. The fullness of God's kingdom requires the gifts of women to be used and valued in so many spheres.

Like Jonalyn alluded to, there are women who work outside the home not because they are selfish, but because they feel called to offer certain gifts to the world. (Certainly, there are many reasons women work outside the home. For instance, many women out of necessity need to help provide monetarily for their families. I concede that some might indeed be selfish in their career pursuits- like wanting excess income merely to feed materialism- but many moms work outside the home for very legitimate reasons.)

I know that I want to be a mother one day, and I also want to continue in my career as a writer and a teacher, because like Jonalyn mentioned, I consider that my career is connected to making the world a better place for my children and other people's children, too (I do think it is important that we consider our sense of family beyond the nuclear family as we have this conversation). I know I will need to marry someone who is excited to find better ways for fathers to be involved in child raising. But, I believe our culture is now longing for fathers to be more connected to their children's development, so I am eager to think about how men and women can better share parenting responsibilities.

What I am becoming more aware of as I read these blog postings is that each of us "see in part." We all have something so important to offer this conversation, especially as we speak out of different life experiences and callings. I appreciate the mothers who have shared about having young kids in the home, and the importance of children having
secure attachments at an early age, and what it means to sacrifice on behalf of our kids. I also appreciate those who have spoken up to encourage us to see that different parents can legitimately choose different ways to co-parent, without being unbiblical.

Jodi: One more thought in response to your post! I think your critique of aspects of the modern feminist movement totally makes sense. In fact, non-white and non-Western feminists often have offered the very same critique as you. They want their often privileged Western sisters to understand the importance of family and they will critique some of the individualism that can be too dominant in Western, white feminism, which is usually the kind of feminism we see depicted in the mainstream media (which doesn't depict diversity very well.)

Ariana said...

Hi Jonalyn, Heidi linked to this post,and I have enjoyed the discussion. I just wanted to weigh in and share my experience as a mother, and as someone who grew up in a subculture that dictated that the most godly vocation for a woman is to stay at home with her children, taking care of her husband and family. I really enjoyed growing up in a "traditional" family. For most of my growing up years, both of my parents were in the ministry, and not having ordinary work schedules, we actually ate three hot meals a day at the table together. So I have strong nostalgic ideologies about food and family and domestic roles (however, I do have to note that those hot meals were prepared by household help, not my mother!)

By nature, I love to cook, I love to nurture, and I love order and having an attractive lving environment-- all traits that would make me the ideal housewife, right? I also LOVE TO WORK-- and always loved my job and experienced a lot of success and fulfillment in the workplace. Until I got married, I threw myself into work and school, so much so that I completely burned out by age 25, around the time I got married. I gradually stopped working, but it was an extremely painful process for me, and I really had many feelings of worthlessness. But I had a new career in mind, so that helped.

I have always wanted a family, and couldn't wait to start one. I had difficulty conceiving, and questioned my merit as a female. After a while, we did become pregnant, and although I'd always fantasized about pregnancy as such a wonderful, joyful female experience, it was frankly awful (although I never would have admitted that to anyone, since I was so aware that I was getting what I wanted, while others out there are unable to conceive.) The birth was extremely difficult, and 40 hours of vomiting and hard labor later, I had a c-section birth. I am about the last person in the world I would have expected to not be able to have a vaginal delivery, and it wreaked havoc on my spirit. I felt like such a failure, and was ashamed that I couldn't perform the basic female functions of giving birth. Two years later, this is something I am still grieving, even knowing that I am not being judged by others for it.

My baby had colic, for 9 months. If she was awake, she was crying. She didn't sleep through the night until she was 1 1/2 years old, and I was constantly in tears from exhaustion, unable to function socially. She wasn't gaining weight after 4 months, and was diagnosed as undernourished by her pediatrician. I started making formula for her every day at home from scratch to supplement breast milk, and she weaned herself within a week! I was devastated that she didn't want to nurse from me, and in came more feelings of inadequacy. In the meantime, I was sleep- deprived, caring for a constantly crying baby, making formula, washing cloth diapers and cooking everything for my family from scratch. The perfect picture of domestic bliss, right? I was so depressed, so beyond my own resources, incredibly let down by family and community (I had almost no help at all, people didn't even want to HOLD my crying baby,) and wondering if they would take me if I tried to check into a mental facility. And yet I still felt all of this pressure to enjoy motherhood and make sure I did a really good job. And try to believe that this was what I was created for. And not complain. And be able to handle it all. And, the hardest part, to be NICE to people!

I muddled through. About a year or so into it, I had a revelation about the breastfeeding. If I had been able to nurse her all through her first year, I would have been bound to her constantly. Instead, I was able to give her a bottle and send her off for a couple of hours with my husband-- once, it was for two whole days! What a gift from God! There is no way that I would have opted to give her formula if I was physically capable of feeding her from my own body, but that limitation, which felt like such a shame and and an insult for me ended up giving me FREEDOM. I wish I'd been able to appreciate that sooner. I still don't like to think about our first year together, and have to fend off guilt for even feeling that way. I am really thankful to have the luxury of not having to work outside of the home, but down the road the plan is for my husband to reduce his hours so that I can also invest in myself and the outside world. I have learned so much in the last two years about the level of expectation that is placed on mothers, and they way we judge peoples' spiritual merit based on how they parent-- but there is an incredible double standard! I would love for my husband and I to share the burdens of parenting more equally. This is something that he was so happy to be able to do once bottle feeding was an option.

My intention here is not to make one big important point, but to share a bit of my experience as a new mom within the conservative Christian subculture. So much of the difficulty of my experience had to do with what I had been told made me a valid woman and Christian, and dealing with reality, along with those beliefs. I would love to say that I have been emancipated for those ideologies and no longer struggle with feeling inadequate, but it is a process for me to identify what I was told about my value and what is actually biblical, and how I can please God authentically.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Kimberly- yes, we do need one another as we work to explore, as we long to participate and share in the home and the world at large. Thank you for broadening the discussion

Ariana- what a gift you've given to us. I really valued your story as I've only heard bits and pieces and you seemed so "on top of things" in the way you and your daughter interact... your honest frustrations and deep disappointments were not what I had assumed. Thank you for sharing openly.

You've given me a template into the many ways I might be rocked as I struggle with what makes a mother a "good" mother.

It makes sense that you are grieving that 1st year.... with your expectations to have a baby without surgery, to feed without complications. I relate to these expectations! You've opened my eyes to the variety of mothering experiences, and the ways we can adapt to the hand we've been dealt. You're an example to me of both vulnerability and creativity in your response! Thank you for forging new trails as you seek God's ideas about authenticity and motherhood.

Kimberly said...

Ariana,
I just wanted to leave a quick note that your story keeps reverberating in me; I appreciate your courage to speak so honestly. I think you have so much to say, and I hope many others get to hear the voice you bring to these things.

Jodi H. said...

Joni,

Thanks for the open discussion. I've thought so much about what you and all the other commenters have said about this issue. I am such a ferocious advocate for children (and what I think is best for children), that I think sometimes my emotions get in the way of hearing GOD! While I still disagree on some points, I think the main point you're trying to make (and I'm finally getting it) is that each woman must first faithfully and urgently seek God's will for her life and the life of her family and not worry about social expectations (am I right?). I struggle so much with the idea that missionaries may put their children in danger, or that they may have to have other people raise them for periods while God calls them somewhere else. Looking at that purely from a mother's perspective it makes me feel ill and sad and a little bit angry at those parents, but then looking at it from a heavenly perspective, I get it, even though it's still hard for me to digest. God calls us as individuals to serve his purpose and we must individually seek His plan.

My ending thought is that I think universally both parents are called to care for their children and should urgently seek God's will in deciding how exactly to go about that, especially if they are deviating from one or both parents as being the primary care-giver. God has a way of working things out in ways we could never expect or changing the desires of our heart to achieve His purpose, whatever that may be for each of us.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

From some comments from Jodi H and some stimulating, helping conversations, I'd like to make a few clarifying comments for those who have had the endurance and kindness to read thus far
1- I'm defining a nanny as someone who is a nurse for a child. And as the dictionary defines a child's nurse as a woman employed to take care of a child; a nursemaid or a person who serves as a nurturing or fostering influence or means. I do not have a problem with parents choosing another person to help them parent their children as long as their decision stems from using their gifts and enriching their child's life with another mentor.

2- Because of Disney and other's negative portrayal of the families that hire nannies (Mary Poppins and The Nanny's Diaries) I feel it is necessary to state that nannies are not are terrible ideas. They do not always prove that parents are "farming out" their children. I do not believe that nannies are ungodly choices as they often can enrich an entire family's life (given their hiring is done with wisdom and care). Nannies, or au pairs or family members as caretakers are more evidence of how the body of Christ can use and lean on one another in a very important job: raising children.

3- I don't endorse parents sacrificing their children's needs (as they best understand them) for the sake of a ministry, mission field or calling. As I stand at the moment, I believe it would be best for these couples to abstain from having children and operate as husband-wife teams instead. And though I do not support sacrificing children upon the altar of Christian ministry, I believe we must have grace and humility as we define what "sacrificing our children" means. We must be eager to ask these missionaries or ministry workers if they feel they children are being abused, neglected, harmed by their absence, etc, rather than assuming a wayward child is proof of the parent's neglect.

Martin said...

Nice Work! :)

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Thanks Martin. I'm going to add to this already vast comment section the link to this article that will give readers a picture of the academic debate. Notice how Gilbert 3/4 way down the article makes the comment that no one should use the current full-time male model of work where one works from high school until retirement. I found this refreshing as I see men often sacrificing too much of themselves because they bear the full brunt of "bringing home the bacon" Read "A Mother's Work"

madame said...

Hi Jonalyn,
I just found you on the web ;-) (Molly, from Adventures in mercy linked to you).

I like this entry and I love your style!

I haven't gone through all the comments, so I hope I'm not echoing someone else.
I see leadership the way you do. I'm still "complementarian" to an extent, I still struggle with the meaning of some passages regarding women in pulpits and male headship and such. I can't just disregard them, but I struggle even more with the doctrine that has been made of it. "If you are a woman and you preach, you are against God's will" or "Women were made to be in subjection to men..."

The Bible does teach that women are to be "keepers of the home". I believe a mother should keep her home, guard it, protect her children, nurture them.. There is an argument for that. (Titus 2), BUT I don't believe that a woman can ONLY do that.

As a mother, my primary job is caring for my children. If I'm at home, I believe it's right for me to look after the home and cook meals. Would it be wrong for my husband to stay home and me to go to work? NO!

So that's where I stand. I just wanted to point out Titus 2 as the main passage for "women stay at home" teachings. (you probably knew about it anyway!)

I've added you to my blogroll.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Hi "Madame"

I think you'd benefit and enjoy reading all the comments. Let me know what you think when you do.

I agree, we cannot just disregard or claim "they're all just cultural" for those verses on male headship and women preaching/teaching. My husband and I wrote an article about these ideas available on our webpage. See it in our library "Unmuted: The Welcome Colors of Woman's Voice"

I have seen the Titus 2 verse, however, (and I think we agree) I don't think that means a woman should be the only, primary or exclusive keeper of the home. I think the point of this passage is that the gospel and Jesus to be honored in all things. The way some women stay home and keep house (unwilling to cultivate their minds) and the way some women work outside the home (unwilling to sacrifice money for family) both dishonor God, just in different ways.

Thanks for blogrolling me!

Shelly Ossinger said...

I like your ideas, because you're different. I get the sense that mainstream annoys you as much as it does me! We could probably have a great theological conversation over a glass of Chardonnay (my treat). Although I admit I bristle at the idea of promoting Mars Hill's theology and Christian doctrine akin to the distorted unbiblical doctrines of the Yearning For Zion cult, on the other hand, its not our first rodeo to controvery and criticism.

God is hardly conventional. And so, as a sort of update on the Shelly Ossinger comment you quoted, as a working mother due to the housing crisis, I am embracing the new season God has given me, though its not without its trials (but neither is full time motherhood), enjoying my gifts whether God chooses to use them in or out of the catholic Church, content with where God sovereignly leads me to glorify His Name, whether that's building Legos this minute, or changing diapers, or making shrimp pasta for my husband, or writing, or (currently) drafting legal documents in the professional world. As I said in the portion that you neglected to reprint, "seasons change, my friend." There will always be Christian dichotomies (parallel truths that run the same way), and depending on which way "we're running", we tend to lean towards that bent. I'm hardly perfect, less than humble, and have a long way to go to being truly like Jesus. But I love Jesus, and have found He girds up my love for being a woman, loving my family, loving my Church, and loving my job. I agree with you, that's not popular to print in Western Christianity! (I was also geared up to have the James Dobson daughter, but got a different "model", check it out on my post "How To Love Your Daughter's Sugar Skull Tattoo"). Things may look a lot different this side of heaven, but God reigns. May we all, wherever God chooses to use us, glorify God, and enjoy Him forever (borrowed from the Westminster Catechism). May it be so for all of us, Jonalyn. Thanks for your ideas, and I invite you to read the full scope of our blog. God bless~

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Shelly,

I'm thankful you took the time to read my post and write. I've been thinking and praying how best to answer you. I think I'd like to take you up on that theological discussion. I'll miss the Chardonnay :) and interacting with you in person, but perhaps we can sharpen one another regardless.

My primary thought is that we would do well to listen and learn from each other. I already respect you for writing!

Would you be willing to engage in a discussion over some of the key words and ideas we both care about? (words like "Helpmate" and "godly femininity") I thought we might be able to email one another with some of our thoughts and differences on these ideas and then I could post them on my blog. I know my readers would enjoy hearing 2 women who respect each other dialog about femininity, godliness and even Scripture.

Please let me know your thoughts. And feel free to email me back at jonalyn@soulation.org

Kimberly said...

Shelly:
It was so cool to see your comment here. I admire how you brought your perspective– with such graciousness and courage. I already feel like I have much to learn from you...I hope you take Jonalyn up on her idea. I for one would LOVE to see Christian women (with various perspectives) dialogue together across some of these differences. Thank you again for joining the conversation!

Shelly O said...

Sorry I'm so delinquent-I've been sewing prairie skirts and defending my sister wives (Humor meant to induce fun). Seriously, apologies for being less than timely with blogging invitations, as well as VERY delinquent with even my own deadlines. I'm a dabbler, hardly a in league with such a heavyweight...okay, I'll give this some thought, Jonalyn and be in touch! In His Love, S.

Rebecca Trotter said...

I'm way late to this and I'm afraid I don't have time to read through all of the comments right now. However, I just wanted to throw in a note of caution about how this issue is discussed. I think we need to consider that when we discuss this issue as if it were about women, mothers, father and men we are in serious danger of forgetting that it's really an issue about children and how to do right by them in our culture. IOW, it's not really all about us.

In particular, I think we need to be very careful in holding up pre-industrial families as comparisons. First of all, the history of childrearing is probably even more fraught with demeaning violence, disregard, neglect and abuse than the history of women. While it may be right to reject a rigid set of sex roles which only trace back to the industrial revolution, I don't think any one would argue that a look even further back in history would be real enlightening in showing us examples of other ways to treat women. Let's not do that to the kids either.

The other issue with using pre-industrial revolution families to raise questions about our current model is that there are very real reasons which go far beyond male patriarchy and the church for how we ended up where we are today. Raising a child to survive in our complex world is a much more intense and laborious job than raising a child to be a substinance farmer. Heck, even our life spans have affected how we raise children. Back on the farm, even if the mother was not providing care full time, it was usually the family and the mother wasn't leaving her children to work - they usually tagged along when they weren't out playing with almost no supervision. The comparisons between a working woman of 1500 and a working women of 2000 are simply not valid at all. The circumstances, resources and goals are radically different.

Finally, the woman who worked in 1500 didn't do it because she chose to. She didn't generally seek to find a job where she could serve God or others, develop her abilities, etc, etc. Women work for all sorts of reasons today. What is amazing is that if you look at polls of mothers, only a very small percentage of them say that they want to work full time outside of the home (I think the last poll I saw was in the range of 20%). So framing this issue as a matter of respecting choices while ignoring the fact that left to their own druthers, very few women would be working full time out of the home seems a bit paradoxical. Every one is so worried about stay at home moms who may be feeling "godly dissatisfaction" or whatever sort of discontent about staying home and whether the church is pushing women into roles they are not called to. What about the large numbers of working women who are not very happy with dumping the kids at daycare (unfortunately, the industrial revolution destroyed the extended family network that your parents and those who lived before the industrial revolution depended on)? It seems to me that there's a lot of discontent to go around. Focusing on the stay at home moms who may feel pressure to be there without also looking at the large numbers of women who would rather be home and what forces are preventing them from "choosing" their path seems off to me.

Anyhow, I hope that makes sense. Gotta go.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Hi Rebecca,

I do not mean to make this an issue "all about us" I'm concerned that you have gathered such a selfish tone from my post. Could you help me see what made you think that I was arguing that the only item of importance was women? How have I indicated that children are not important?

I know that raising children now is different from raising children 150 years ago, however, my example still stands to show that intensive mothering is not necessarily better simply because it's the New Way of doing things. Also, the fact that child abuse did (and does) exist is not a good way to judge ANY parenting style. Abuse happens today from stay-at-home mothers, but we do not judge a thing by it's abuse. I would ask for the same courtesy in judging an ancient or older parenting style as well. Let's judge a thing by it's ideal implementation, not by it's abuse.

By the way, I'm not meaning to compare a woman from 2000 with a woman from the 1500's. Women as recently as 100 years ago were raising their children in agrarian cultures, where children were cared for by other caretakers and it was not considered (nor was it to my mind) abusive, harmful nor did it render the child stunted or embittered.

You bring up a good point about the many women who are unhappy as you put it "dumping their kids at daycare" (by the way I'd caution you to not use such an emotionally charged way of speaking about their decision). I've met these women and I"m afraid the current Christian church is very responsible for making them feel even MORE guilty for their decision because we couple good godly mothering with staying at home. God never does that, but we do.

Also, I'm curious, how many friends in your acquaintance are very excited about working full-time and are also (in your mind) excellent mothers? I'm wondering what you make of these mothers. If you do not know of any I'd like to introduce you to a few of my friends who are. Their testimonies have been key to helping me realize the freedom to love your children in a variety of ways.

I think many women feel it is "their place" to be the number one caretakers. And this is what I'm trying to question. Whether women feel they should be home or not is not as interesting to me as the question, "Why do women feel they should be full-time mothers?" What would be your answer?

Esther said...

Hello Jonalyn! I know that you recently shared with me of your planned vacation, and so I do not expect a response to this comment for a bit. I also realize that this blog post has been inactive for many months, but I just read it today and would like to respond.

First, some important things to know about me: I am a mother of four and I am currently homeschooling my oldest, who is six.

When I was a naive teenager, I wrote in my journal that my dreams were to find a godly husband, have children, and have a career. For the longest time I wanted to be a writer. I wrote growing up, and my teachers praised my writing.

I ended up studying early childhood education, a decision I made partly because I was not confident that I could get a job as a writer. Although I did also enjoy studying education...I used to "teach" my disabled sister at home when we were both teenagers.

While in college, I came across many "biblical womanhood" sites...and because I wanted so bad to honor God, obey Him, and be a real "biblical feminine" woman, my views on having any sort of career changed. I believe that is part of the reason I did not pursue more than two years of training, for at that time I was planning my marriage and knew I'd want children...so what would have been the point of pursuing higher education? I thought.

I worked at early childhood centers, as either a teacher or TA, and, though I enjoyed "nurturing" the children (just lovin on them) and teaching, it was not exactly my ideal job. While working, I got married and was pregnant about 1.5 months into the marriage. I do not regret this, although I was of the persuasion (from these biblical womanhood sites) that if you did not let God plan when and how many children you'd have, you were not trusting Him.

Now, here I am with four children. (Three pregnancies...I had twins) I love my children dearly. I love to cuddle them...love, love, love to read to them...and I like to teach them:) But we are not homeschooling because I gain incredible fulfillment from it (although many aspects do fulfill me, while others are very challenging), rather because my husband and I truly believe it is best for our children. I would never say it is best for all families though.

A while back, I began re-thinking my "beliefs". I kept pondering the truth that we can say to our sons "you can be anything you want to be when you grow up" but to our daughters "unless you do not have children, your calling is limited to whatever you can do in your home." How is this right? As was previously said, it is putting more responsibility to sacrifice on a mother than a father:) Do not girls have passions, talents, and gifts just as boys do? And how about me and my teenage dreams for motherhood and a career? How can it be right that in order for a woman to be a mother, she has to forsake her other passions and gifts?

So, in this case, I understand how Christian feminism is looking out for the welfare of children. I want my daughters to have full lives when they grow up. I want them to value children deeply and honor motherhood, but I also want them to be able to realize that it is okay to pursue their *other* dreams and gifts, as long as it does not hurt the children.

And, in regards to that, I DO believe a mother should put her child's welfare before her own. It is godly (like God) for the stronger to sacrifice for the weaker. It is honorable. I think of the Titanic, when men gave up their places for the women (not that all wanted to). With only a certain number of boats, not all on the Titanic could be saved. So the stronger, the men, gave up their "rights" to protect the weaker- the women and children. It is just as honorable for us to put our child's needs before our own. This is not saying that we don't have needs, but that if one of us-mom or child- has to sacrifice, it should be mom.

I read through all these comments and took fervent notes, studied and thought much about this topic. I truly dislike when people ask me how I have time to read and write with four children, as if I should never pursue my hobbies and passions? I do not work outside the home, I bring in no income whatsoever (although if I could I would, but I cannot think of a way to...I'd only want to do it if it was through my passions and gifts, as I do not need to add another "responsibility" to my long list...) but I do not neglect my mind and giftings. That is the key. It is not all about making money...it is about bringing our unique contribution to those around us. And, right now, for me that means researching and sharing with others what I am learning. I have a dream/goal to write a book one day. My children have daily "quiet time" in their bedrooms...and that is my time to pursue my interests. I do believe that the research I am doing now, while my little ones are all with me, may one day result in open doors to bring my giftings into a broader sphere of influence.

I have also struggled with the idea that the only way a woman can "reach the world" and make a difference is THROUGH her children. It is true, that I may now be raising a future doctor, pastor, lawyer, etc. (although since I have 3 girls and 1 boy, I guess according to that theory I'd be raising three mothers who in turn may raise boys that will make an impact on our world)...and that is truly GLORIOUS to think about...but that does not mean I cannot reach outside my home and make the same difference myself that my children may one day make.

I believe much of it also has to do with "seasons" in a woman's life. I recently read the book "The New Eve", of which really did help me to see the big picture of the seasons in my life, although I am not claiming I agree with everything in that book.

I guess the problem, as has been mentioned previously, is that our society is not set up to accomodate women in their various seasons...but I do believe these things can be changed, and as a Christian feminist (who is a devoted stay at home mother currently, but desires to make a path for equality for women), I would love to be used of God to help bring those changes about:)

A few things I also wanted to comment on:

1) Ariana...I'd love to have hot meals provided by someone other than me! I do not like to cook at all and if I had the money, I'd hire someone to take that over in a heartbeat. For those who may wonder about my husband, he says he would love to cook but he physically cannot. He had an accident as a teen and lost both his arms as a result. So all housework falls on my shoulders. But I continually remind myself of how difficult women had it long ago in regards to cooking and laundry, etc. I have many servants- my washing machine, my dishwasher, my crockpot. We women do not have to spend as much time on the basics of housework as in ages past...if I did not have my "servants" I would not have the time to homeschool my children and sit here now writing this.

2) As far as choosing not to have children all together, I believe all couples should really consider what the Bible *may* say regarding that. I would never accuse a couple of sinning if they chose not to have children, but I must admit, it does seem to be God's heart for us to have them. Look at Genesis, when God told Adam and Eve to "be fruitful and multiply" and after that He told them to "subdue and rule". How can we say we are still to rule the earth together, but say that we are no longer supposed to be fruitful together? One can say Adam and Eve only received that command because the earth needed more people and we have enough now...but then I can say that perhaps we also are no longer commanded to subdue and rule? One is right there with the other.

Also, Malachi 2:14-15 asks the question why did God make man and wife one? The answer: He seeks godly offspring. If I am misunderstanding please inform me. But it seems God desires for all couples to have children, although we cannot say when or how many. Notice that I said "seems"; I am not trying to create a legalistic belief here and I'd not judge others but I am leaning toward that opinion. And, of course, we all know the scriptures that speak of children being blessings...and one reason is because they are like arrows. Happy is the man whose quiver is full of them. We are here, on earth, to battle- both men and women...and our children are the ones we shoot forth down generations to impact the earth. Think about this also: one man and one woman can make a huge difference in the world...and they should! But if that one man and one woman multiply with children and those children grow up and are used by God...WOW! Talk about impacting the world...each life is unique and needed:)

I want to write more, but my time is up for now. I will write more later tonight or tomorrow, so if anyone happens to read this and would like to hear the rest of my thoughts, please check back:)

Esther said...

Hello Jonalyn! I know that you recently shared with me of your planned vacation, and so I do not expect a response to this comment for a bit. I also realize that this blog post has been inactive for many months, but I just read it today and would like to respond.

First, some important things to know about me: I am a mother of four and I am currently homeschooling my oldest, who is six.

When I was a naive teenager, I wrote in my journal that my dreams were to find a godly husband, have children, and have a career. For the longest time I wanted to be a writer. I wrote growing up, and my teachers praised my writing.

I ended up studying early childhood education, a decision I made partly because I was not confident that I could get a job as a writer. Although I did also enjoy studying education...I used to "teach" my disabled sister at home when we were both teenagers.

While in college, I came across many "biblical womanhood" sites...and because I wanted so bad to honor God, obey Him, and be a real "biblical feminine" woman, my views on having any sort of career changed. I believe that is part of the reason I did not pursue more than two years of training, for at that time I was planning my marriage and knew I'd want children...so what would have been the point of pursuing higher education? I thought.

I worked at early childhood centers, as either a teacher or TA, and, though I enjoyed "nurturing" the children (just lovin on them) and teaching, it was not exactly my ideal job. While working, I got married and was pregnant about 1.5 months into the marriage. I do not regret this, although I was of the persuasion (from these biblical womanhood sites) that if you did not let God plan when and how many children you'd have, you were not trusting Him.

Now, here I am with four children. (Three pregnancies...I had twins) I love my children dearly. I love to cuddle them...love, love, love to read to them...and I like to teach them:) But we are not homeschooling because I gain incredible fulfillment from it (although many aspects do fulfill me, while others are very challenging), rather because my husband and I truly believe it is best for our children. I would never say it is best for all families though.

A while back, I began re-thinking my "beliefs". I kept pondering the truth that we can say to our sons "you can be anything you want to be when you grow up" but to our daughters "unless you do not have children, your calling is limited to whatever you can do in your home." How is this right? As was previously said, it is putting more responsibility to sacrifice on a mother than a father:) Do not girls have passions, talents, and gifts just as boys do? And how about me and my teenage dreams for motherhood and a career? How can it be right that in order for a woman to be a mother, she has to forsake her other passions and gifts?

So, in this case, I understand how Christian feminism is looking out for the welfare of children. I want my daughters to have full lives when they grow up. I want them to value children deeply and honor motherhood, but I also want them to be able to realize that it is okay to pursue their *other* dreams and gifts, as long as it does not hurt the children.

And, in regards to that, I DO believe a mother should put her child's welfare before her own. It is godly (like God) for the stronger to sacrifice for the weaker. It is honorable. I think of the Titanic, when men gave up their places for the women (not that all wanted to). With only a certain number of boats, not all on the Titanic could be saved. So the stronger, the men, gave up their "rights" to protect the weaker- the women and children. It is just as honorable for us to put our child's needs before our own. This is not saying that we don't have needs, but that if one of us-mom or child- has to sacrifice, it should be mom.

I read through all these comments and took fervent notes, studied and thought much about this topic. I truly dislike when people ask me how I have time to read and write with four children, as if I should never pursue my hobbies and passions? I do not work outside the home, I bring in no income whatsoever (although if I could I would, but I cannot think of a way to...I'd only want to do it if it was through my passions and gifts, as I do not need to add another "responsibility" to my long list...) but I do not neglect my mind and giftings. That is the key. It is not all about making money...it is about bringing our unique contribution to those around us. And, right now, for me that means researching and sharing with others what I am learning. I have a dream/goal to write a book one day. My children have daily "quiet time" in their bedrooms...and that is my time to pursue my interests. I do believe that the research I am doing now, while my little ones are all with me, may one day result in open doors to bring my giftings into a broader sphere of influence.

I have also struggled with the idea that the only way a woman can "reach the world" and make a difference is THROUGH her children. It is true, that I may now be raising a future doctor, pastor, lawyer, etc. (although since I have 3 girls and 1 boy, I guess according to that theory I'd be raising three mothers who in turn may raise boys that will make an impact on our world)...and that is truly GLORIOUS to think about...but that does not mean I cannot reach outside my home and make the same difference myself that my children may one day make.

I believe much of it also has to do with "seasons" in a woman's life. I recently read the book "The New Eve", of which really did help me to see the big picture of the seasons in my life, although I am not claiming I agree with everything in that book.

I guess the problem, as has been mentioned previously, is that our society is not set up to accomodate women in their various seasons...but I do believe these things can be changed, and as a Christian feminist (who is a devoted stay at home mother currently, but desires to make a path for equality for women), I would love to be used of God to help bring those changes about:)

A few things I also wanted to comment on:

1) Ariana...I'd love to have hot meals provided by someone other than me! I do not like to cook at all and if I had the money, I'd hire someone to take that over in a heartbeat. For those who may wonder about my husband, he says he would love to cook but he physically cannot. He had an accident as a teen and lost both his arms as a result. So all housework falls on my shoulders. But I continually remind myself of how difficult women had it long ago in regards to cooking and laundry, etc. I have many servants- my washing machine, my dishwasher, my crockpot. We women do not have to spend as much time on the basics of housework as in ages past...if I did not have my "servants" I would not have the time to homeschool my children and sit here now writing this.

2) As far as choosing not to have children all together, I believe all couples should really consider what the Bible *may* say regarding that. I would never accuse a couple of sinning if they chose not to have children, but I must admit, it does seem to be God's heart for us to have them. Look at Genesis, when God told Adam and Eve to "be fruitful and multiply" and after that He told them to "subdue and rule". How can we say we are still to rule the earth together, but say that we are no longer supposed to be fruitful together? One can say Adam and Eve only received that command because the earth needed more people and we have enough now...but then I can say that perhaps we also are no longer commanded to subdue and rule? One is right there with the other.

Also, Malachi 2:14-15 asks the question why did God make man and wife one? The answer: He seeks godly offspring. If I am misunderstanding please inform me. But it seems God desires for all couples to have children, although we cannot say when or how many. Notice that I said "seems"; I am not trying to create a legalistic belief here and I'd not judge others but I am leaning toward that opinion. And, of course, we all know the scriptures that speak of children being blessings...and one reason is because they are like arrows. Happy is the man whose quiver is full of them. We are here, on earth, to battle- both men and women...and our children are the ones we shoot forth down generations to impact the earth. Think about this also: one man and one woman can make a huge difference in the world...and they should! But if that one man and one woman multiply with children and those children grow up and are used by God...WOW! Talk about impacting the world...each life is unique and needed:)

I want to write more, but my time is up for now. I will write more later tonight or tomorrow, so if anyone happens to read this and would like to hear the rest of my thoughts, please check back:)

dara said...

I know this is an old post but I've just come across it in my research into working full-time in the context of biblical motherhood. I want to say thank you for your comments, because so far this blog is the only source of consolation I have found -- I became a mother 15 months ago and never considered staying at home with my son, in part because the option was never open to me. My husband is an artist and simply doesn't make enough money for that to be an option, and even with both our incomes, we are barely getting by. That doesn't mean I'm any less a "full-time mom" than mothers who stay home. If nothing else, I work even harder to be a biblical mother simply because I have only two days to do at home what stay-at-home-moms can do in seven.

This puts me at odds with the assumption, which I have seen from most pastors and churches I otherwise respect and admire, that it is always better for a mother to stay home with her children, and a mother who works either isn't trying to live out God's true design for women, or is just selfish or generally an unfit mother. I cringe at the position my own church has taken, without pointing to any specific line of supportive Scripture, that mothers are supposed to stay at home and those who do not are to be pitied as a helpless minority who would stay home if only given the choice (i.e., single mothers -- this is usually the only exception to stay-at-home moms even recognized by my church).

I am a living example of how wrong that position can be. I wonder how many other working moms must feel completely excluded by their church when the church addresses biblical womanhood. I would like more direction from the church on what God designs for all women, whether they stay at home with their kids or not. It is simply refreshing to know, after reading this post, that I'm not the only one.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Dara,

Your story makes me realize that it is worth it to write these posts. Thank you for chiming in! I have a few resources/books that I think will add to the voices cheering you on to be the unique mother that God has equipped you to be.
1- Caryn Rivadeniera's "Momma's Got a Fake ID: How to Reveal the Real You Behind all that Mom" Great Christian read about what Motherhood can be. check out her blog "The Mommy Revolution" at http://themommyrevolution.wordpress.com/
2- The Myth of the Perfect Mother: Rethinking the Spirituality of Women by Carla Barnhill- Christian mother and highly recommended
3- The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood by Sharon Hays--great sociological explanation of how we got so mommy-staying-home is the only way
4- Have you read my book, Ruby Slippers? I think it would give you a good dose of Biblical evidence and value to your unique, female identity so that you can feel confident in the way you've chosen to co-parent with your husband.

I value the way you're blazing a trail in your community and church to show others (who are often silent) that there are other godly models for parenting with excellent.

Keep forging your trail... Jesus is beside you, cutting aside the brambles!

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Dara... p.s. Have you read my post on working moms? http://jonalynfincher.blogspot.com/2008/09/sarah-palin-integrating-work-and-home.html

Even if you don't like Palin, you might enjoy.. especially a few of the comments.

dara said...

I did read the post about Sarah Palin and thought it was a refreshing reminder that there are some very admirable Christian mothers in the workforce. I wonder why so many in the church today seem to overlook women like her, continuing to believe that staying at home is synonomous with perfect motherhood while speaking of how great a rolemodel she is.

I haven't read any of the books you mentioned, but I do need to add them to my reading list. Your posts remind me of something very important about myself, so I can thank you for bringing it to mind -- I worked my way all the way through school, finishing law school and passing the Bar in 2006. But once children came into the picture, I took a turn away from the attorney career so I could be home more often with my kids. I now work as a legal assistant, with significantly fewer hours (though still full-time) and I have never doubted or regretted that decision -- it just seemed right, and still does. So while I haven't become a stay at home mom (and probably never will), I have made big decisions that enable me to be with my son at home more. If that's not good enough for the SAHM club or the church in general, then so be it. But I do wish the church would get its eye back on the ball and emphasize biblical womanhood with a more biblical perspective.