Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sarah Palin- Integrating Work and Home

When I got the news that McCain had picked a running mate, I was surprised, amazed that a conservative would be running with a female on his ticket.

And so this young wife and mother named Sarah Palin came into the spotlight. In the days following I've heard some sharpening of knives.

Palin is a mother of five children, her oldest son is headed to Iraq soon, her youngest is a baby with Down's Syndrome. This young child indicates that her commitment to life at all stages is something more than a political sound byte. Nevertheless, Palin continues her career. Check out the way she does politics in this photo. It reminds me of Pakistan's Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto's, way of doing politics. In May 1994, journalist Claudia Preifus described Bhutto's plane for The New York Times Magazine.

"In all the world there cannot be another plane quite like the official jet of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto. The front section is a kind of office-cum-nursery, jammed with toys, briefcases, newspapers, nannies and Bhutto's children, Bilawal, 5, Bakhtawar, 4, and Asifa, 1. In the main cabin, political advisers, security commandos and generals are keeping an eye on the Prime Minister they cautiously support,

"Hello gentlemen . . . Hello, babies," Bhutto calls as she enters the plane. It is both jarring and interesting to see soldiers saluting a woman with children on her lap."

One conservative Emmy award winning journalist and author, Liz Trotta, claims Palin might not be able to balance work and home responsibilities, that conservatives have a right to ask how Palin will care for her children (even though we do not ask that of Obama as a father, we assume his wife will cover those responsibilities). Conservatives believe bringing up children is a full-time job (they also believe women are built to take the lion's share of this job- I've discussed my belief about women being built or designed to be full-time mothers here "When Religion Hurts Women"). Conservatives care deeply about family values. Which brings me to an interesting philosophical question. Does family values have to mean that a mother stay home with her children? Trotta believes conservatives will disapprove of Palin running for Vice-President, because a mother belongs at home. Watch the feisty short exchange between Megyn Kelly and Trotta here.

When a working mother values her home and family, what should she do? As a recent friend of mine said, "My wife stays at home with our two children." I told him I thought that was great, and then asked, "Does she want to stay home?" He replied, "She realizes the value of watching our children grow up. Being with them for these moments is priceless. She doesn't have to ask the caretaker what happened each day because she was there. And my daughters are growing up so fast. There's no way of getting that time back." I have to admit that I cringed when I heard that because it sounded like an apologetic justifying why they've decided she should stay home not what his wife had actually wrestled with and decided upon for herself and her family's best interest. The answer was scripted (to be fair, I should say it "sounded" scripted to me). It reminded me of the many responses of mothers, responses that are not examined by us, responses we expect from mothers. I'd like to examine this response for the sake of Palin and for the sake of mothers everywhere.

I value childhood as a significant time. I value family immensely. I honor and admire women who've chosen to stay home with their children. I'm so grateful for the hours upon hours that my mother gave me during childhood. But there are some problems with the belief that only stay-at-home mothers really care about family values.

Problem #1- it assumes that being physically present is the only way to show care and concern for family values. But physically present mothers can sometimes be emotionally absent, intellectually stunted, psychologically unhealthy. But few conservatives decry these damaging affects on children, though these are as real and significant. Conservatives often make the mistake of assuming being "there for your kids" is enough, when it is not.

Problem #2- it assumes that women are the only capable, proper caretakers, sidelining capable fathers. For instance, no one has asked Obama who will be caring for his children while he runs for office. This double standard is common among conservatives, but it is inconsistent and unhelpful given how many conservatives are also Bible-believing Christians (like myself). Because as we ought to know, in Scripture God himself is clear to point out that parenting is a two-person task, and never commands mothers to stay-at-home as their God-ordained duty.

Problem #3- Many women have included others women and men in the task of caring for their family without sacrificing their children or their careers. If you begin asking children of working mothers, you will find incredibly creative, valuable and clever new ways of mothering. You will also find children who are as grateful as I am for my mother. It is the children of constantly absent mothers (and this can be emotionally or physically) who are embittered or feel neglected. I know from watching and listening that you can be an excellent mother and still work full-time outside of the home. It is difficult and demanding, more so because we have so few visible examples to watch and emulate. I hope Palin's instant visibility will begin to change that and offer women more viable, God-honoring options.

Problem #4- This view idolizes childhood as the most important time a mother can be present, when in reality, childhood is no more important than the tween years, the teen years, the adult years. I want my both my parents to "get" me and what I'm doing now, perhaps even more than when I was a baby. Why? because I'm grown-up, I know when they're resisting me, on board with me, distant from me. I can pick up all these clues and remember them vividly. Children will remember, too. We all know about "childhood scars", but let's not forget that adults need love and support just as much as children.

Problem #5- What about the significant thesis that "Mothers Lead Best" argued by the new CEO of Zondervan, Moe Grzelakowski in her book Mothers Lead Best: Fifty Women Who Are Changing The Way Organizations Define Leadership. Grzelakowski found that in mothering women develop: superior negotiating skills, warmer interpersonal skills, the ability to differentiate between protecting people and taking smart risks, patience, crisis management skills, alliances and better communication skills. She found that mothers learn to work better with men, than childless or single women. I caught up with Moe and asked her a few questions about her thesis and this book project.

J: What books or individuals inspired and strengthened you in your work (both in and out of the home)?

M: My parents were the most influential. They had six kids and both worked when the youngest started first grade. Despite this my mom was the head of the women's group at church and my dad led the men's. We had the closest family in the neighborhood (and the most organized!) So in essence - working and raising a family was second nature for me.

J: What can mothers who choose to stay home do to support mothers in

working environments outside the home?

M: Focus on being good at what they do and appreciate the incredible contribution they, themselves are making. If they are aware of their own self worth - they will be naturally supportive of others.

This last point is interesting. I wonder if more stay-at-home mothers would be supportive of working mothers if they were convinced their sacrifices were right for them, and not a dogma to enforce on mothers everywhere.

Moe's book helped me realize that if we really believe mother's are so important to a family, for their abilities to nurture, read people, intuit, multi-task, offer compassion, resolve paradoxes, ambiguity and navigate unpredictable situations, then perhaps we need a mother very, very near the president, with enough power to change things beyond influencing him as his wife.

Problem #6- In Ruby Slippers I write about how God thinks men and women are a good team. He started his Earth creation with the ratio of men to women being 1:1. I believe the best team effort for running anything, whether it be the family, the business, or the country is a man and a woman. If we keep women out of such a significant job as Vice-President based on our personal conviction that we would like to be home with our children, then we are effectively baring women from freely and individually choosing how our gifts best fit into our families and our world. I don't think we can decide this for Palin, we can decide this for ourselves. We do not know her resources to hire help, we don't know how much she has delegated child-care responsibilities to her husband, her daughters and we do not know how her individual gifts (though I hope we will get a chance to see these in action soon).

Palin's mothering skills are taking a hard hit as her 17 year old daughter, Bristol, has recently announced her pregnancy and intention to marry her child's father. I've been surprised at how liberals are now questioning if Palin can adequately care for her growing family and run the country in such a demanding job as the vice-presidency. The Wall Street Journal quotes one social worker, Barbara Licthman, a liberal woman living in Florida, who accuses conservatives of being hypocritical, "When you're campaigning for vice president, you're on 24/7. Who's watching the baby? And what kind o f nurturing is going on in that 17-year-old's life is she's pregnant." I believe this expresses what many people think, but haven't brought themselves to say.

If so, then let me point out something. Have you noticed, no matter what the child's age, if a child has a deficiency, it is the MOTHER who is responsible for it. If the daughter is pregnant, the mother failed to nurture. If the baby has needs, the mother must meet them. This heaping of more responsibilities on mothers is inappropriate and at core, un-Biblical. It is voicing our judgment of condemnation and blame, when only God can be a just judge.

I have yet to meet a mother who does not struggle under the guilt, the weight of societal pressure to be the ideal mother, to prove that she really loves her children BY giving up her personal time and career goals to prove her undying family values. I thought liberals believed in freedom of choice! I guess that's just for women who want to terminate their pregnancies, it's not for women who believe in God-sanctioned, time-tested, viable options in raising their children.

Isn't it possible that Palin's daugher, Bristol, a 17 year old women, chose to have sex, that her mother is not responsible for her daughter's choices? When you are 17, no amount of nurturing will keep you from doing what you like. This is the age when children are nearly adults. It's time we stopped blaming parents, particularly mothers, for their adult children's mistakes.

Palin worships at Juneau Worship Center, which is affiliated with the Pentecostal Assemblies of God. I'm glad she belongs to a church that recognizes and validates women leaders (For an exmample see my blog covering Aimee Semple McPherson "Is America Ready for a Female President?"). In many ways, Sarah Palin reminds me of the woman in Proverbs 31 who also has children, but like Palin, works with eager hands, provides food for her family (Palin answers her Blackberry while she pumps breast milk for her infant), considers a field and buys it, out her earnings she can plant a vineyard (Palin has invested in the state of Alaska, working hard to cut out corruption and now her earnings have given her a chance to invest in larger things). The Proverbs 31 woman is beautifully clothed both with fine linen and strength and dignity. In the face of the media frenzy upon her personal life, Palin and her husband, Todd Palin have conducted themselves with both dignity and strength. I know many will be watching both of them as they draw nearer to the white house. Finally, and perhaps most important for those who believe a woman's place is in the home, let us us not forget that the ideal woman in Proverbs 31 was one who "watches over the affairs of her household" but also one who had traded in the marketplace. If the Hebrew patriarchal culture could honor such a woman in their city gates, shouldn't we modern Americans be able to do the same?

A few months back, I heard a lot of people say that though America was ready for a woman president, they weren't excited about Hilary Clinton. Well, they now have a chance to put their vote where their mouth was. We'll see in November.

I, for one, am impressed and delighted to have a chance to vote for a working mother like Sarah Palin.

52 comments:

Amy said...

Jonalyn,
Wonderful article!! There's so much here! I love all your excellent points. Causes me to want to vote for Palin even more! As well, I just love how all your blogs encourage and affirm the value of women.

Blessings,
~Amy :)
http://amyiswalkinginthespirit.blogspot.com

A.T. Stowell said...

Jonalyn,

There have been few times in my life when I've been inspired by a woman (come to think of it, being inspired by a man is just as rare), and Palin's Friday afternoon speech was one of those moments. I really like her, as do most conservatives.

I think she's intelligent, capable, beautiful, graceful, and yet, can mix it up with "the boys" without emulating them to compete. I see a woman who is virtuous, but also authentic and comfortable being a woman. She lacks that thick shadow of pathological striving that hangs over Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi; Palin is a breath of fresh air.

As for voting, her selection sealed the deal for me...and I secretly wish she was the top of the ticket, not the bottom... ;)

adam

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Amy,
Glad this inspires.. excited to check your site out soon!

Adam,
You encourage me. Where can we see this inspiring speech?

Thanks for weighing in so honestly and openly. I admire that.

A.T. Stowell said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gg0darQB7r4

Quality is not great, but its good enough

I think she improved my opinion of McCain as well...

Grace said...

Jonalyn
I've always come to your blog when i've needed it most. Though your article was about Palin, I feel like you nailed what i am personally struggling with.
As the owner and operator of a growing photography studio i find it hard at times to fully understand my role as a wife and now i've taken on a new role of being my husband's boss...
i find myself questioning if i am to give up my career when children come along, if i would be ok with being a CEO of a business and have my husband at home. how would my husband feel about that? would that make him feel less of a "man" because his wife is his superior in a business setting, that he is at home with children...
I've found that i am not struggling so much with what my role would be but how it would effect my husband , having both come out of a very conservative background (though we tend to be more liberal when we approach this issue. )
i wonder if Palin's husbands struggles with the idea that his wife is his superior.
Just a couple of random thoughts...

Angela C said...

Great Post -- thanks for all the work. I wish Meghan Kelly would talk with you on Fox News. Any way we could send her your blog link?

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

"Grace",

I believe any man who is confident in his identity/masculinity will be able to articulate his fears and concerns without removing you from your giftedness or requiring you to quit... unless of course YOU really want to do that and you BOTH decide it's healthy. From what I know of your husband, the most damaging thing to his identity would not be something that comes from within him. I don't see him as someone who must earn the bacon to consider himself valuable. I'd imagine (and I'm only guessing) that his primary concern would be centered around him not fitting your ideas of what THE MAN should be doing. I'd imagine (and this is all speculation) that Todd Palin is secure in his identity and value (he's got quite a list of his own accomplishments) and loves being able to "lay his own life down" for the sake of loving his wife into the spotlight.

Adam,
For some culturally saavy comments on how Palin's speech at the RNC last night is helping American realize the potency and vibrance of the small town life (something I give a hearty AMEN! to now that I'm a small town transplant) see "Dick Staub's blog".
Enjoy!

Kimberly said...

Jonalyn,
Thanks for the post! All this is so important right now to be discussing.

Adam:
I am wondering if you could give more words to what you meant when you described H. Clinton and N. Pelosi as having a "thick shadow of pathological striving?" That observation intrigued me and made me a little uncomfortable, and I would love to hear a bit more on where you were coming from.

I am left wondering after reading your first comment if it seems to you that Sarah Palin shows a different and perhaps softer kind of femininity, and that is one of the reasons you appreciate her? I admit, your comment about her being "beautiful and graceful" got me thinking, too. In my reading today of news articles, I have seen quite a few people commenting on how pretty she is (while Hillary Clinton, of course, got ridiculed for not being fashionable enough).

I guess what I am getting at is this: You said Palin looks "comfortable being a woman." Does Hillary not look comfortable being a woman? (And what does it look like to be comfortable in one's femininity? Perhaps we all have a few stereotypes about that.) Just a few questions that were stirred in me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Angela said...

Woo hoo, Jonalyn! I couldn't agree more with every word you said! Wonderful post. Truly a breath of fresh air.

A.T. Stowell said...

Kimberly,

I'll do what I can, though it will probably fall short of a satisfactory explanation...

My experience of HRC is that of an ethos that is at war with itself. I experience her as an unsettled soul, turgid... when she speaks, I don't sense sincerity or authenticity; I sense opportunism and political necessity. When she laughs, it feels forced, as do her tears. I sense a reservoir of unresolved anger (and I think she has reason to be angry [read Bill]), and a subtle contempt for men...She has a stony, icy texture, and when she speaks, I find her difficult to believe, to trust. Dito for N. Pelosi.

Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is not stony, she is leathery...tough yet flexible. She has an ethos that reflects serenity, and operates as wife, mother, and political figure from a place of peace, humility. I don't sense contortions and interior writhing and gritted teeth. She is beautiful, but beauty is a coalescence of physical and psychological characteristics; ones physical beauty can be nullified by a lack of virtue. Her smile betrays warmth, and is quite distinct from her physical beauty; I know the difference between fake beauty pageant smiles and the deep, contented smile of one who is at rest in their own skin. And you can tell that she he has a respect and love for her husband--when she speaks well of him, she is believable.

I think there is a fine line between "type(s) of feminity" or "types of masculinity", and the presence/absence of virtue and vice, which are not gender specific. We must be careful not to define as a type (and thus bless) what is in fact pathological in nature...the fallout from such a scenario will be ruinous for many...

I'm not threatened by her competence (if she in fact is), nor am I resistant to a woman being in office, but I am concerned with the vice-driven and the pathologically skewed, whether they be man or woman...

adam

A.T. Stowell said...

...And I'm fine with her (Sarah) in office and Todd with the kids...provided that she doesn't exercise veto power over whether or not he can take them on the snowmobiles...

;)

Kimberly said...

Adam! Thanks for your words. That definitely helps me understand much better. I really appreciate you taking the time to write.

I remember that when I had a job in "corporate" America I would see these tough/stony/harsh women in high positions of leadership and wonder if that is what it took for them to get where they were at. I often wondered if they had to act that way to be respected in a "man's world." But then, I also had to kind of pause and wonder if I just didn't allow for that kind of toughness in my category of femininity.

Palin certainly shows a toughness...but it is still sort of a charming toughness in contrast to Hillary. But, I think I know what you mean about Hillary being or looking forced in her emotions. And, I also appreciated your words on vices and virtues that are not gender specific, but are just part of our humanness.

For the record, I am actually not a huge HRC fan, but I so appreciate everything she has done to open doors for women and put "a million cracks in the glass ceiling," as Michelle Obama said. I cannot imagine what a female pioneer like HRC has gone through; there probably is not a way to really understand the sexism she has endured unless one has actually lived it. So, there is part of me that wants to be really gracious with her "pathological striving," while another part of me totally sees what you mean.

It is at this point in a blog conversation that I wish I could be face to face with people! There is so much to think and talk through in this historical moment—so many important conversations to be having.

Paul F. said...

Good post Jonalyn, I was waiting to hear what you had to say about this!

I wonder if you'd have much to say about why Palin seems to be getting really hammered from feminists. (e.g. http://warner.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/04/the-mirrored-ceiling/index.html)

I have my suspicions, but would like to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Paul,

After reading this scathing, contemptuous attack I could sum it up by one word "jealousy" which is so common among women that it could be likened to a disease.

In this link you've listed, Judith Warner calls Palin fake, dense, belittling, non-intimdating (and that's a bad thing) and somehow infuriating to Warner because she's so likable. Its strange how quickly successful, competent women tip their hand and reveal their vice, rushing to get out their voodoo dolls and needles when a woman is prettier, more liked, more popular than them.

As if Warner needed to compete? Come on, Judith, you're pretty and intelligent and well-liked (remember your New York Times bestseller?) too. You have very little ground to criticize someone for being attractive, intelligent and likeable. If we used your criteria on you, we'd have to discount you as well.

I'm afraid Warner illustrates the reality that female solidarity, while lauded by the secular feminists, is a myth.

I've only seen widespread female solidarity among the women who follow Jesus. Warner, I believe, is afraid that if Palin seizes a slice of the popularity pie, she'll get less. If so, that is a position of fear, not security.

Warner wants a VP that's intimidating. She's confused confidence with intimidating. You can be competent without bulldozing, or stiletto-stepping your way over the necks of intimidated men and women. You can illicit awe with goodness and virtue, commitment.

The fact that her mothering skills and domestic abilities have made news indicates more about the awed public that a mother of 5 really might be able to have it all. The focus does not undercut Palin's small, but significant achievements as mayor and governor.

America is awed at a woman who is actually doing what many women long to do well. If we throw mud at her then we (including Warner) get mud on ourselves.

No doubt Palin is attractive and likeable, but instead of taking the skeptical approach of judging likeability, relatability as suspect, Warner might spend her ink on political issues, things necessary for the job and quit fixating on Palin's dropped "g's" and nursing a grudge that Palin can relate to people Warner is used to ignoring.

p.s. 1- I don't recall Palin claiming to be subordinate to a great man? Did she mean McCain (and if so isn't that what VP means... you can be subordinate in a temporary role such as VP or Vice Principal or employee etc without being permanently subordinate in function/essence/value) or her husband? If her husband, then I have to see the place Palin claims this?

Paul--- your thoughts please?

yvette said...

Jonalyn,
I was not bothered by McCain’s choice of a running mate ( being a women) as I thought I might have. =) But after learning about her family of five children, and the baby having downs syndrome and only being a few months old, a feeling of deep concern for the children rushed through me. If the father is going to be the primary caregiver then my concerns will be at rest. But if these children are going to be cared for by anyone else more than their parents, I don’t feel it will be in the best interest of the children.

It is a blessing to have a child and I find it so hard to understand why so many parents choose to let someone else raise their children. I don’t blame parents who both have to work to pay the bills and in order to put food on the table. But there are many families who could survive on one income, but choose to both work. Maybe I didn’t have the right profession, but I can’t believe any career would be more important than raising your own child. I am more addressing the parents that have the choice to stay home, but say “I don’t have the patience for that” or “I really enjoy my career”. Then why have children? All children are the children of God and He has entrusted them to their parents for only a short time. To be a parent is a calling and a job in its self, which should not be pawned of to someone else. As for the response your friend gave to why his wife stays home with their kids, doesn’t sound scripted at all. It is rather factual. Being with your children is “priceless” & a time in life you can never get back. For some it is not a decision that needs wrestled with. For me it was a burning desire in my heart and soul to be with my children.

This also goes along with what you listed as problem # 4. Of course children always need their parents in any stage of life. But childhood is idolized as the most important time a mother (parent) can be present is because it’s the time a child is shaped and molded with morals, values, and character the child will carry the rest of their life. Why would anyone want someone else to train up their child? This is the most important time for a stay-at-home parent to be home because the child is home. When the children start school there is ample time in the day for one to work.

I do agree there is incredibly creative, and clever new ways of mothering. I do believe one can be an excellent mother and still work outside the home. But I do feel so strongly that one parent, Mom or Dad, needs to be home for the children. Occasional child care is OK, just as long as it does not take the place of what Mom and Dad should be doing.

As for Palin, I do hope her husband is the primary caregiver for their children, If she is elected into office she will be one very busy lady.

Wilson Family said...

Hey Joni,
I've read several times how you understand the value of a stay at home mom, and yet when I read through the lines of your articles, I feel you fighting so hard against it and really valuing everything else above it. I'm not sure why you seem to be fighting this so hard. Someday if you guys have children of your own, you might have an "ahh ha" moment. When you experience the overwhelming love for your child and their complete dependence on you, it is a natural desire that you put aside your needs (and wants) for those of the child. There is nothing unbiblical about self-sacrifice. In fact its what Christ calls us to. When people choose to bring children into this world, they are responsible for all areas of that child’s well being. The first 5 years are very crucial for that is the time when the child builds foundations for social, moral, spiritual, physical, and psychological well being. No one can know, love, and respond to a child better than his/her parents, which is why it is so crucial that one parent is their child's primary care giver. This usually falls to the mother, but not because society has put this wrong pressure on her, but because it makes sense. On the whole women are more nurturing then men. Now I know that this is not true for every woman and if a couple decides that it would be better for the husband to stay home than that is fine.
A woman who chooses to stay home and raise her children can fulfill every aspect of the proverbs 31 women.

Concerning your comments about your friends wife and the question of "Does she want to stay home?" I thought his answer was full of truth and wisdom and in no ways "scripted." It may have sounded scripted because you've heard it before and that is because it is truth. Is life really about what "we" want to do? This way of thought leads to a dangerous lifestyle of selfishness where we are constantly asking ourselves if "we" are being fulfilled in what we do. Or if "our" skills are really being used? How many times does Christ ask us to do what "we" want to do. None! Could I leave my kids in child care, go get a job, increase our income and make me "feel" more put together and useful? Absolutely. But for what goal or what purpose would I be doing that? I can think of no greater purpose (or joy) than to bring glory to God through raising up children who love him. I would never entrust that responsibility to someone else so that I could feel more useful. 18 years is a small sacrifice in the scope of a lifetime.

"It reminded me of the many unexamined responses of mothers. I'd like to examine this response for the sake of Plain and for the sake of mothers everywhere."

Jonalyn, I don't need to take time to "examine" my reasons for staying home and raising my children. I stay home because it is the right thing for me to do. I don't think that your thoughts are helping or encouraging moms, but instead pushing them down the road of "I can be more than 'just' a mom.... I can have it all"

problem #1
I agree that being "there" for your kids is not enough. And yes some moms may be dealing with things that make them "emotionally absent, intellectually stunted, psychologically unhealthy" and women in this situation should reach out and get help. (Thankfully there are great resources out there) But it is also true that a childcare worker could be "emotionally absent, intellectually stunted, psychologically unhealthy" so your argument doesn't work. Yes there are times where mothers have damaging effects on children, but it is much more likely that someone who has no vested interest in the long term well being of the child will have more damaging effects on the child's life.

Problem #2 Find me one culture in the entire world and in all history where fathers have ever been the primary caregivers? It just isn't how a majority of people are wired. Parenting is a two-person task, but the tasks look different. You are right that God never commands mothers to stay-at-home but someone needs to care for the children and natural law has this usually fall to the mother.

Problem #3 "more viable, God-honoring options"???

Are you kidding me? I would challenge your assumption to find adults whose parents both worked full time (for reasons of fulfillment rather than financial need) “who are as grateful as I am for my (their) mother.”

Problem #4 No idolization of childhood, just simple fact of the importance of the early years. There are countless studies that prove this. Adults do need love and support from their parents but in a different, less time-consuming way.

Problem #5 "both worked when the youngest started first grade"

See they were past the most crucial years. Then the children were in school and were not being raised by others. Once a mother always a mother. I don't think this book means that Mothers ONLY lead best when they are mothering at the same time they are leading organizations.

"Moe's book helped me realize that if we really believe mother's are so important to a family, for their abilities to nurture, read people, intuit, multi-task, offer compassion, resolve paradoxes, ambiguity and navigate unpredictable situations, then perhaps we need a mother very, very near the president, with enough power to change things beyond influencing him as his wife."

Nope, the only women that should have that kind of influence on a man is his wife or mother.

Problem #5 "If we keep women out of such a significant job as Vice-President based on our personal conviction that we would like to be home with our children, then we are effectively baring women from freely and individually choosing how our gifts best fit into our families and our world."

Sure, be a team to lead the country, but do it when your children are older and out of the house. Yes, they still need you, but not as much as young children do.

"Finally, and perhaps most important for those who believe a woman's place is in the home, let us us not forget that the ideal woman in Proverbs 31 was one who "watches over the affairs of her household" but also one who had traded in the marketplace. If the Hebrew patriarchal culture could honor such a woman in their city gates, shouldn't we modern Americans be able to do the same?"

You can trade in the marketplace and still stay home with your children.

My concern is that so many women will miss out on the high calling of mothehood in pursuit of "success" in a materialist world. Though it requires a good dose of humility to stay home with kids, ultimately our riches aren't to be gained here but in heaven.

Jennifer

Euodia said...

Jonalyn,

Another great post. Must admit I had to skim it fast, as my 9 y.o. is yanking on my arm to get off the computer and my 12 y.o. needs a ride to his Little League (Fall Ball) practice.

As the mother of four, I've seen motherhood from both sides of the fence as a "working mom" in the corporate world for a number of years as well as a "SAHM" (current). I can appreciate both sides of the equation. I wish more could... and/or that some folks would stop equating "Biblical" with "Conservative" (in the political sense).

frogmama said...

Hi Jonalyn,
I just wanted to add my thoughts.(small disclaimer- I am not a professional writer by any means so please forgive any and all gramatical errors:))
You said "let us us not forget that the ideal woman in Proverbs 31 was one who "watches over the affairs of her household" but also one who had traded in the marketplace. If the Hebrew patriarchal culture could honor such a woman in their city gates, shouldn't we modern Americans be able to do the same?"
If you are equating the bibical woman trading in the marketplace as the same as most working women in todays society, I would have to strongly disagree. I am pretty sure that in bibical times there wouldn't have been a daycare center or a nanny to tend the children while the mother left them and worked an 8-10 hour day. No, she had the children with her, learning the skills also and tending to them as she worked, probably with one on her back:)

You say "I have yet to meet a mother who does not struggle under the guilt, the weight of societal pressure to be the ideal mother, to prove that she really loves her children BY giving up her personal time and career goals to prove her undying family values."

As a mother of 3 I feel the much greater societal pressure is that if you choose to be a stay at home mom you are missing out, or not living up to your full potential.Why is it a struggle when someone asks in an introduction "what do you do?" To say "I own my own business" before saying " I am a mother" as if the second has lesser value.
I feel also that there are seasons in life. When I was younger and before children I chose to work and gain fulfillment in the corporate world. Once I had my first child I returned to work for 1 week before deciding my true value and most fulfilling position was home with my baby. Maybe when my children are grown I will return to full time work or volunteering outside the home, but for this season of life I truely believe my most valuable contribution is home with my family.

I can tell you first hand I don't think women having a family and a business, or working outside the home is the ideal. Yes it can be done with much sacrifice, but it is not the bibical model for all women, and I think portraying it as such just increases burden on moms instead of lessening it.

Lorene

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

I love how mommy ideas gets people's minds in gear and lots of mothers and women I love writing in.

Thank you for posting. I have a few follow-up questions to spur us on

Angela C- I attempted to send Fox News my link. We'll see if anything happens.

Kimberly- I wonder if one of the marks of a female public servant should be how they weather the barrage of ceiling crashing... does it make them more humble, more jaded, harsher, stronger, tougher, more calloused, more cruel or kind?

Yvette- Can I push you a bit and ask what Biblical justification you can give for why a parent should be the primary caretaker? For instance if Palin hired her mother to help her with her kids? would that be acceptable, "as good" as her husband? What about an aunt? What about several hired nannies? One of my concerns is how easy it is to assume your (wonderful) experience of longing to be home with your children as their primary caregives is (or should be) normative. Many godly, Christian women do not want to be with their kids as much as you do. Many godly, Christian women look forward to the ways other caretakers can invest, train, love, nurture, teach their children. I am actually a product of a nannying system, my mom gave over the "rights" of parenting to both my grandparents and aunt many times. This enriched my life and I believe it is a viable, Godly, Biblicaly tenable way of parenting. I personally would like to spend a lot of time with my kids (should I have them) especially when they are young, but this is a not something I would expect or assume, nor pressure a woman to do should she have the resources/inclination to invite others into her parenting. I'd also encourage a bit of caution when using words like "pawning" your kids off to day care. There are so many ways to see that your children are watched, loved and provided for between a mom staying home and day care. I don't want to dismiss all those options and I want to be open to the ways day care could be a good thing. What has been your experience in taking with children who attended day care? Do you know any mothers who use day care and are pleased with the service provided? I'm still gathering thoughts from these mothers, but if you have any to add, I'd love to hear.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Jen,
So glad you chimed in!

Okay, a few follow-up thoughts
1- It's sort of frustrating to me that when a woman claims that she doesn't want to be a full-time stay at home mother, she gets accused of not valuing stay at home moms. It doesn't seem fair to me. For instance, you might value artwork, but several years back you gave me your art supplies cuz you didn't think you'd be using them. Now I wouldn't accuse you of not liking any art because of your gift to me, nor would I assume that because you choose to spend time elsewhere that you don't find art valuable. In the same way, I'd love the courtesy of at least assuming that women who are not Stay at home moms do also love and value their children and care deeply about being GREAT moms.

2- I can't speak from experience, but I do have lots of good friends I know who after having kids still want to work outside the home (the desires you've shared of total overwhelming love and natural longign to be with them are sometimes absent, which tells me that they're not always so natural or common.. and that's okay, what's important is that we don't normalize our experience into everyone else's) and work it out very, very well, to the satisfaction of all involved. And as these women are godly Christians, I have a hard time accusing them of not valuing their kids... which I feel you might be edging toward.

3-I do not mean to indicate that staying at home with your kids is not a good choice, I mean to indicate that there are REAL options.

4- Here's a new angle for ya. What if the overwhelming desire to put your kids desires first and your own desires second is quite common (as it does seem to be) BUT that this is something to filter through God's will for your life. In other words, what if women need to guard against becoming too enmeshed with child-raising because it is so "natural" that it can feel overwhelming and stifle other God-given gifts, callings, talents that God is really excited about you using? I mean if wanting your kids' best gets in the way of God's best, that can't be good, right?

5- You wrote: " No one can know, love, and respond to a child better than his/her parents, which is why it is so crucial that one parent is their child's primary care giver." I completely disagree, for it would mean that any adopted child will never be loved, responded to as well as it should be. I think ANY person (including someone at day care, which is a job I worked at and poured love into those young ones lives) is capable of raising a child well, if they choose to love and respond to the child with agape love, the kind of love that wills the good of the child. And this can be done by a grandparent, aunt, sister, nanny, friend JUST AS WELL as a mother. There are the stories to prove it. What is important to think about, however, is what is the best way each of us can engage with the children in our lives. I think if we sat down and put our heads together we'd realize how many people were involved in our parenting that had major impacts (as much if not more than our parents) on our lives. This indicates to me that God entrusts the body of Christ, not just the parents, in loving and responding to each child in their midst.

6- I disagree that women are naturally more nurturing than men. There are many cultures where the father and mother equally share parenting responsibilities. Today you see this in families where mothers have deserted their children, or mothers have died. But you also see it in cultures where the environment is less harsh, allowing less struggle for existence and more leisure. I've blogged on how this helps and changes gender relations and parenting here "How Harsh Environments Hurt Men and Women" . I think men are often GREAT at parenting, and while doing it in a different way are just as good at nurturing. Which is why I think you say that it's fine if a dad stay home and the mom work. I do want to go on record right here as saying I DO think women are better at birthing, nursing and weaning the baby. And that this should make all women think about how we do these things in a way that treasures both our bodies and our babies bodies well.

7-You wrote: "A woman who chooses to stay home and raise her children can fulfill every aspect of the proverbs 31 women." I say, AMEN to that and would challenge you to share how you find that specifically shown in stay at home mothers lives that you have seen. As far as your challenge to find kids who were raised by parents who worked full-time and went to day care and really, truly loved the sacrifices their parents did make for them.. well, Jen, I have to be honest and say that I've found many people like that, both men and women. What really concerns me is that you doubt that they exist. I'd highly recommend you check out the book "Mothers Lead Best" to get several stories of how and why this could be the case, even when moms are working full time in the 1-5 years stages. I don't want to jump to conclusions, but it sounds like you may have bought into the rhetoric that feminism is the MAIN reason for the social breakdowns of the family. There are, in fact, many more reasons society is breaking down than the fact that "it's all a matter of working mothers."

8-I do want my thoughts to encourage moms to really think about their decision to stay at home because I honestly believe not every woman who is at home is staying home for the right reasons (and I do think there are many good reasons to stay at home, but stating that it's the ONLY, God-honoring option for a mother with young kids is not one of them) Let me challenge you to share why you know it is the right decision to stay home for you? My guess is that you are using the same criteria (you've called it selfish and focused on "wants") that working moms use:
You find fulfillment in your work

All work done by a believer in Christ is work we can do as a sacrificial act of worship to God. Whether I'm writing a book, or you're teaching social skills to your children or my friend is letting her baby be watched by a nanny for one day a week while she works with college students, all this work (book writing, teaching, nannying, mentoring) is valued as equally delicious to God. Neither is more sacred or more valuable.

What I hear from you is that your work as a stay at home mother trumps all other work women who choose to work outside the home (with kids) do... Do you mean to communicate that?

I also want great riches in heaven, not merely here. And I believe the work we do, all of it, from loving our children to cleaning our floors to speaking, teaching, accounting, nursing, consulting is all valuable and necessary for the kingdom of God.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Euodia,

Glad to hear you appreciating these words since you've seen both sides of the debate.

Lorene,

No worries about writing/grammar details stuff. I'm just glad you've chosen to write. Thank you for caring enough to type it all out.

I completely agree that women in today's working world are VASTLY different from women in Hebraic culture. However, with the surge of telecommuting options combined with the high demand for females in the work force, more women are receiving the option to both mother work and stay at home. I think this would be a bit closer to the Hebrew culture than the 1970-90's working/office/career track. That's one reason I love the example of Bhutto (in my post) she was using technology to be present both to her work and her children. I love that.

I agree with you that it's a real shame and discouragement to women who have chosen to stay at home (like you with your darling 3 little ones) to be told that they aren't making the most of their potential, etc. I disagree with that and hope my words have not discouraged you or other stay at home mothers from enjoying the work before you with your children. My biggest concern is that we do not criticize, discourage or shame women who want to both work outside the home and mother. It's been so hard for me to communicate clearly how I support both... I feel I keep getting accused of being only on one side or only on the other side.

I really, truly believe that God gifts and guide women differently. And that's so like him, God of creativity, power, variety who has put reflections of himself in each of us.

I love that you've found your ideal job in staying home with your kids. I'm glad you found first hand that working in an office was not as rewarding as nurturing their lives. However, that does not mean that others would feel/act the same. There are so many varieties of job set-ups, family situations, giftings, incomes, possibilities.

The only thing you wrote that I'd really take issue with is when you wrote "working outside the home can be done with much sacrifice, but it is not the bibical model for all women, and I think portraying it as such just increases burden on moms instead of lessening it."

I agree, the Biblical model allows for many possibilities, it's actually the Biblical models (e.g. Eve, Hagar, Rebekah, Hannah, Deborah, Mary, etc). However, I don't think we should be anti a woman like Palin simply because she provides a model that makes us feel like "the odd woman out." Do you know what I mean? I guess to form an analogy, when I see a really good female skier on T.V. I feel inadequate as a skier, but I feel that is something I must wrestle with and overcome, I don't fault the skier for being so good. DO you see what I mean?

Here's a question for you, "Do you feel the current culture fails to show us any examples of fulfilled stay at home mothers?"

I feel we've got lots of examples, but perhaps from your perspective it feels lopsided like the only examples in the culture are these working mothers.

I'd be interested in your feedback.
Thanks again, Lorene!

ellyn said...

Jonalyn,

I spent some time the other day on-line checking out Sarah Palin and Cindy McCain. I am glad that John McCain has these two women influencing his sphere. In a campaign where I didn't know which choice would be a good one, John McCain's choice for a running mate + learning more about his wife has likely helped me decide where my vote will be cast.

You know that at present, I am a stay at home mom by choice. I'm not going to get into the debate about who or how parents should parent here. I do want to share this... I was baking with one of my daughters today, while doing so, I was thinking about Sarah and even the little "sacrifices" that might have to be made by this mom. I prayed for her and her family.

What came to my mind about Sarah is that she may be like a "Deborah", a mother of Israel who governed over the people and gave them confidence in the battle. Who was behind all that Deborah accomplished - God. God still uses women and men to accomplish His purposes and sometimes that requires sacrifice, faith and courage.

May I encourage and remind us to pray for our national leaders and be grateful for the sacrifices they make (men or women); ask God to give them wisdom and provision for the "sacrifices" that they must make and to go even further, pray for their marriages and their children.

Ellyn

frogmama said...

ok a few thoughts and then I need to get off to bed.:)
yes I think there are now more moms than ever before who are able to work from home, but this is still a very small percent. For most working class moms this is not an option. In the city where I live I would venture to say less than 5% of the full time working mothers do so exclusively from home, a few more do a blend, but the vast majority work normal away from home jobs. So yes if most jobs in our society were flexible and allowed women to bring their children to work, or have time off when children or ill, have special needs etc, then I probably wouldn't be having this discussion. But in out society these companies are rare- that is why when you hear of them it is such a big deal, they make headlines for being family friendly companies because they are not the norm. Next time you are at walmart take a look at all the women working there.

I am not in any way anti Palin. I think she is a rare situation. I do not know her personally. as the previous poster mentioned, I do not know all the sacrifices she and her family have made to get where she is today. From the surface I have seen it looks like she is doing a great job. But again her situation is rare. For most middle class working women, they would never be allowed to bring their baby to a meeting, or put down their blackberry(if they had one) to pump milk. Many women are not even allowed to pump milk at work unless just at lunch break and only in a bathroom. Which most breastfeeding moms know 1 pumping a day is not enough. So I think from the little I have seen sarah palin is doing a good job, and it should encourage working moms out there that if she does get elected as VP maybe some of her attutudes and opinions about mothering will become more mainstream.
ok so your question
"Do you feel the current culture fails to show us any examples of fulfilled stay at home mothers?"
YES!!!!NONE!!
When was the last time I turned on major network TV in the evening and saw a good role model of a stay at home mom who was happy about it and enjoying her family and husband. Please let me know if you know of one as I would enjoy watching it. There may be some current books out there with good role models, but most mothers with children I know have a stack of books waiting to be read in a free moment...if we ever have one.
ok off to bed- lmk what you think:)

frogmama said...

Ok this got me thinking so I just posted a poll on a moms site I am on with many working moms. If they were financially able to stop working outside the home full time and stay home with their kids would they? I will let you know the results.

yvette said...

No, no other care taker for Sarah Palin can be “as good” as her husband. Parents should be the primary caretaker of their children. I never said they should be the only one to ever care for the children. I do think it is beneficial for children to be with and around other adults and friends. My own children have been in preschool 2 days a week. Jayden started when he was 18 months It is great for them in so many ways. I have even worked outside of the home after having children to help our finances stay afloat. But I found ways to do it part time. Sometimes they were with a care giver, and times they were home with their Dad. What I did say and do believe is that parents should be with their children more than other caregivers( parents should be the primary). In Colossians 3, Deuteronomy 6, and Ephesians 6:4, are just a few of the scriptures that give views of parental responsibility, but how can a parent be responsible if he or she is not there?

I also never mentioned “day care”. I did say “to be a parent is a calling, and a job in its self, which should not be pawned off to someone else.” Whether it be, grandma, aunt, nanny, or day care, a child should not be raised by someone else if the parents are fully capable. I think Jennifer explains it best when she said “No one can know, love, and respond to a child better than his/her parents, which is why it is so crucial that one parent is their child's primary care giver.” I disagree that this would mean an adopted child will never be loved. When a child is adopted he/she will have parents! Just as much a parent as those who had biological children. Adopted parents, if acting as responsible parents, will be around enough to know their child to know that child best and meet his/her needs.

Dale Fincher said...

Wow, this has been an interesting string of comments! I didn't intend for this to be so long, but here some thoughts.

I'm not a parent. But most of my friends are parents of multiple children of all ages. Some biological, some adopted. And I had parents, divorced, struggled to put food on the table. So all this discussion on parenting is interesting.

Something unclear to me is what a 'primary' caretaker is. It seems 'primary' in much of this discussion has connoted an idea of 'sole.' If it doesn't, then what does it entail? I take it to mean the parents have the responsible input that oversees the raising of a child. If this is the meaning, the parent can enlist many involved in child-rearing and remain 'primary.' As an example, the President is the primary caretaker of the USA, but he has a lot of under secretaries that represent him all over the place. In the Scripture, this seems to be the attitude, but the Scripture, from what I can tell does not require parents to shoulder the child's daily regimen the majority of the time.

If we followed Yvette's scriptural references, we note that a parent's responsibility is to ensure his children know the Jewish law, be brought up with training and instruction, obey, not be provoked. I find it an interested note that Eph gives that responsibility to the father (which is why, 200 years ago, custody was given to fathers, not mothers). But it doesn't say that the only one allowed to train and instruct are only immediate parents.

I also find it interesting that no one has noted that in the ancient world, large families lived together. If you look at Jacob's family, for example, you see his twelve sons and their families all living together. Over 70 moved to Egypt. That's a lot of kids running around. Entire families raised children in the old days. And even older children helped raise the younger. This is the assumed cultural backdrop on most of Scripture, even for the Prov 31 woman. It is dangerous to import 21st century culture back into the Bible.

The parents' responsibility was to see that the child was growing and developing into a good follower of Torah and the one true God. It was not to ensure no one else was teaching their child.

Yvette, your comment about the adopted child has me curious. If caring for a child does not require that person be biologically connected, they why can't a grandparent, for example, who is biologically connected learn the needs of the child? If learning the needs of the child can be done, then why does someone need an adoption paper to suddenly acquire this ability? In the old world, again, the grandparent would be living nearby. It seems Timothy had a primary caregiver in his grandmother.

The Dept of Labor says 60% of mothers with children at age 3 work (2000 census). That means 40% stay at home. That's a huge cultural example that women stay at home. It may not be celebrated on television, but neither is monogamy. Yet examples in our culture abound everywhere that monogamy is good and celebrated, though not necessarily on television.

And I see stay at home mom's praised in evangelical circles way more than working mothers. It's a badge of honor. And that's a strong cultural example. It's almost a sin not to (as the shape of these comments have shown us.) With organizations like MOPS abounding, I'm surprised so many woman apparently feel the cultural 'pressure' to work outside the home. It makes me wonder if that pressure comes from within but they have talked themselves into saying that being a mother is the highest calling...? Just makes me curious as I've studied evangelical culture for a long time.

The Scripture never says that being a mother is the highest calling. We've imported that because evangelicals are really good at making up laws for people. I was once told being in ministry was the highest calling. And that was bunk too. We've created a whole culture around how we're supposed to behave, think, and fall into step with our community.

For all that Jesus taught us to lay our lives down, we don't get instances where he commands parents to always cater to their kids (perhaps 'cater' is too strong of a word, but the rhetoric goes both ways). With so many child-centered families, it makes me wonder if part of societies ills come not from children feeling neglected but from children feeling more important than their parents. They take our cue from us.

And I know of stay at home moms who do it, not out of calling, but because they don't want to work. They'd rather watch soaps while their kids play. They'd rather have the freedom to do whatever they want: go to the gym, go shopping, hang out with their girlfriends and gossip like in the old days. I've also seen women want to be mothers because they don't feel like they are successful at anything else, so they take up momming as their career and won't share parenting because their identity is wrapped up in it. I see teenage girls buy into a form of a cult-of-motherhood by wanting a baby as an accessory (like a chihuahua).

I'm not pointing fingers at anyone in particular, but I am saying that motherhood at home is not all roses and stained-glass. We need to get honest about this before we get dogmatic about it.

I also want to note that the cultural 'child-centered' view has also trumped the 'spouse-centered' view that Scripture has stated over and over again (two shall be one flesh). In no instance have I seen anyone complain on this blog about how Palin will see less of her husband. There's only concern about the kids. And I've seen no concern that Obama will see less of his kids and less of his wife. This should alert us to our own worldview of relationship.

If anything, the one who will suffer most if Sarah is elected is Sarah. Todd will have his network of family and friends. The kids will be surrounded by family and friends. But it is Sarah who will be out there on the front lines.

What I draw away from this blog is the tendency to overemphasize on children coming from conservative evangelical thought.

My own view is that the most ideal family is one where both parents play active parts in a child's life as well as extended family, friends, and the whole community. In my ideal world, this could be better accomplished if we lived in a more agrarian society (like they did in Bible times) where this could be accomplished. Today men and women are torn from their communities because of the American industrial system and suburbanite living. And instead of looking for creative ways to change the system, we'd rather beat each other up for not conforming to our own 21th century 'models' that keep us within the system. This needs to stop. I know no Scripture that will endorse the kind of industrial lifestyle we've created and what it has done to our families.

Each person/family needs to make a decision on what is best for his/her own family, spouse, children, and self (not selfishly, but what is appropriately human). And pursuing the Kingdom of God with the gifts God has given us seems to trump it exceedingly in the writings of the gospels.

What boggles my mind is the rules we've created and require others to follow with such insistence. Can't we live according to our consciences anymore what Scripture hasn't mandated?

Knowing Jonalyn, I know she doesn't mean women cannot be stay at home moms. But she does think they need to check their reasons and motivations. And the same goes for working moms. But once motivations and reasons are in check, I know she believes there is more freedom here than we allow one another. In other words, God gives us more freedom than we give ourselves. We are free to follow Jesus where he is leading us. And that could mean various ways of parenting as well (like in Bible times).

The protesting in these comments tells me there may be something more going on under the radar... something unsettling, a disruption of what one was taught or a way of life that makes one feel safe... Then again, it's hard to read tone.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Ellyn- thank you for helping us focus on how much Sarah may be like a modern day Deborah, she does need our prayers

Dale- good to have you weighing in

Lorene (frogmama)-
I want to be sensitive to say that you are probably more aware of the anti-stay at mom stuff out there, you've probably got more radar for it. I do want to list, however, some examples in the media/culture (which I'm sort of handicapped in, since I didn't have a TV growing up :)) of stay at home mothers who are beautiful, admirable, interesting examples:
1- Helen Par in the Incredibles, facing the day in day out stuff of raising kids at home as mom of 3 kids (She goes into Elasti-Girl mode only to save her husband/marriage).
2- The popular sitcom "How I Met Your Mother" when Marshall goes home to visit his family. His mom is a stay at home mom who is TOTALLY dedicated and all her boys love her.
3- The popular film Lars and the Real Girl has the stay at home pregnant woman, Karin, who is courageous and beautiful in her love
4-Pam in The Office professes to want to quit her job and raise kids when she gets married. IN most ways she is the sitcom's heroine.
5- The Movie Finding Neverland has Kate Winslet's character play a stay at home and very desireable, beautiful mom
6- Cinderella Man has Renee Zellweger playing a devoted, amazing, feisty stay at home mom.

I'd be interested in your survey. Thanks for doing it! I would throw in this caveat, though, our conservative culture doesn't look too kindly on women who claim to WANT to work outside the home.. it's much easier (more acceptable) to claim we HAVE to work, but in reality many women are dishonest about this...they really ENJOY their work, too. I'm afraid so many women do not feel safe to share that they do want to work outside the home (as this dialog has indicated... honestly I would not feel safe if I had kids and wanted to work outside my home for my own and not financial reasons while allowing a nanny to watch my kids. I share this mainly so that you, Jen and Yvette realize the consequences of sharing as you have.) Many women have chosen to not have children rather than face the criticism of raising their kids with other childcare support.

p.s. Guess who one of Sarah Palin's favorite authors is? C.S. Lewis. Nice! See her in Charlie Rose's Green Room "here".

Anonymous said...

"The protesting in these comments tells me there may be something more going on under the radar... something unsettling, a disruption of what one was taught or a way of life that makes one feel safe..."

I'd be careful at levying a charge like this...its a blade that cuts both ways

Dale Fincher said...

Anonymous...

Notice I use the word 'may' and that it's hard to read 'tone.' I thought that would be charitable enough and still allow speculation.

This is also why we need evidence and put our assumptions of Scripture to the test. That's what I put forward as well as unearth some of the industrial assumptions we are carrying.

So while anyone could be accused of argument motivated poorly, I hope any reader would see that there's a real issue here ot deal with and real modern cultural assumptions to uncover.

And, let me recommend you post with a name rather than anonymous. With discussions like this one, people like disclosure. :)

frogmama said...

Joni,
This will be my last post on this subject.
Before I had children I had some similar views to you. Something mentally, emotionally, happens when you become a mother, whether by birth or adoption. When you have another human being completly dependent on you to live. As your child grows and shows you unconditional love. There are tremendous joys to being a mother, more than words can say. I hope in the event that you and Dale are blessed with a child that some of your views change as mine did. Mothering has its ups and downs, but the days and years go by so quickly. For me, I would regret missing any of it, by being away from home, each new experience only happens once.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Lorene (frogmama),
I'm grateful for the input you gave us. Thank you and I hope you visit and post again when you so choose.
Joni

yvette said...

Are we not all sharing our own opinions? Isn’t that the idea of a blog? Why should I be accused that my thoughts, feelings opinions, would keep other women from having children “rather than face the criticism of raising kids with other childcare support.” Especially from my previous post I have agreed other caretakers are beneficial.
As Lorene said there is also “societal pressure that if you choose to be a stay at home mom you are missing out, or not living up to your full potential.” The criticism goes both ways.

I think ones decision to have children should be between them and their spouse and God. It should not be based on what other people think. Are you not acknowledging that I have said “it is good and beneficial for children to have other caretakers.” ? All I am saying is a parent has a responsibility to raise their children. How can that be denied? Where I feel so strongly is that parents should not rely on other people to do their job entirely. Parents should be involved which I think we both agree. I think where we disagree may be to the degree of the involvement?

And its' ok with me for people to disagree. That is what makes us all different. I do have friends that are working parents and friends that stay-home. I do have an opinion about what I think is ideal, but I don't judge those, look down upon, or think less of working parents. There are so many factors and circumstances that play into every family situation.

No I do not mean primary to mean “sole”. Dalereplies for it to mean “parents have the responsible input that oversees the raising of child.” But I also think the responsibility weighs much more heavily than “overseeing.” The parent should be the main source of influence, knowledge, and guidance in a child’s life. That would also be my answer to Dale’s question about adoption. Yes, others can learn the needs of the child, but parenting is much more than simply meeting the child’s needs. I agree parenting is not the highest calling. But it is a calling, one that requires responsibility and action.

I also agree “the most ideal family is one where both parents play active parts in a child's life as well as extended family, friends, and the whole community.” The bases of why my husband and I moved back to Colorado this summer. To be closer to family so our kids will have extended family in their lives.

Dale, I am glad you mentioned the father! That is so is very real and has been on my mind. There is so much here in this blog it’s hard to comment on everything that is going on.

I did find more scripture that relates to family. I would like you’re your thoughts as I admire and respect your ability to understand scripture and you are very good at explaining how it applies to us today. Titus 2:3-5 says, "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." The other direct verse is 1 Timothy 5:14, which says, "So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander." Another translation for the phrase "to be busy at home" in the Titus 2 passage is "to be keepers at home."
Proverbs 14:1 states that it is wise for a woman to invest in her home. I see the priority that God places on the home and the woman's involvement. Clearly the home is not to be neglected for the sake of outside employment. Nor should outside employment be obsolete. But family & children should be the main priority.
I'm out of time for now..........

yvette said...

Are we not all sharing our own opinions? Isn’t that the idea of a blog? Why should I be accused that my thoughts, feelings opinions, would keep other women from having children “rather than face the criticism of raising kids with other childcare support.” Especially from my first post I have agreed other caretakers are beneficial.
As Lorene said there is also “societal pressure that if you choose to be a stay at home mom you are missing out, or not living up to your full potential.” The criticism goes both ways.

I think ones decision to have children should be between them and their spouse and God. It should not be based on what other people think. Are you not acknowledging that I have said “it is good and beneficial for children to have other caretakers.” ? All I am saying is a parent has a responsibility to raise their children. How can that be denied? Where I feel so strongly is that parents should not rely on other people to do their job entirely. Parents should be involved which I think we both agree. I think where we disagree may be to the degree of the involvement?

And its' ok with me for people to disagree. That is what makes us all different. I do have friends that are working parents and friends that stay-home. I do have an opinion about what I think is ideal, but I don't judge those, look down upon, or think less of working parents. There are so many factors and circumstances that play into every family situation.

No I do not mean primary to mean “sole”. I do agree more with Dale for it to mean “parents have the responsible input that oversees the raising of child.” But I also think the responsibility weighs much more heavily than “overseeing.” The parent should be the main source of influence, knowledge, and guidance in a child’s life. That would also be my answer to Dale’s question about adoption. Yes, others can learn the needs of the child, but parenting is much more than simply meeting the child’s needs. I agree parenting is not the highest calling. But it is a calling, one that requires responsibility and action.

I also agree “the most ideal family is one where both parents play active parts in a child's life as well as extended family, friends, and the whole community.” The bases of why my husband and I moved back to Colorado this summer. To be closer to family so our kids will have extended family in their lives.

Dale, I am glad you mentioned the father! That is so is very real and has been on my mind. There is so much here in this blog it’s hard to comment on everything that is going on.

I did find more scripture that relates to family. I would like you’re your thoughts as I admire and respect your ability to understand scripture and you are very good at explaining how it applies to us today. Titus 2:3-5 says, "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." The other direct verse is 1 Timothy 5:14, which says, "So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander." Another translation for the phrase "to be busy at home" in the Titus 2 passage is "to be keepers at home."
Proverbs 14:1 states that it is wise for a woman to invest in her home. I see the priority that God places on the home and the woman's involvement. Clearly the home is not to be neglected for the sake of outside employment. Nor should outside employment be obsolete. But family & children should be the main priority.
I'm out of time for now..........

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Yvette,

I think you are right we probably agree on quite a bit. I don't want to accuse you falsely, I mainly wanted to share that the criticism cuts both ways (which is what the Mommy Wars is all about). I am glad you clarified about that we probably both agree that other caretakers are beneficial, while we disagree as to the amount/degree of time these caretakers have with children.

I have to admit that being a woman with no children, it is hard to be certain what I would do. But I'm glad we can dialog about this and come to understand each other better.

Dale and I will look at these verses and get back to you. Thanks for being willing to share and push back on this. I appreciate that.

amy said...

This was so beautifully presented! Thanks for your insight...I enjoy Palin as well.

Sarah said...

Wow! This has been an interesting comment thread...

I so appreciated Dale's comments because I was just thinking about the fact that we are so confined by the way we live in our society. Living in large family groups would change all of this. Because most people don't live that way (and our whole society isn't set up to function that way), I think that we really do need to have a LOT of grace for each other in this parenting arena. Each and every family and employment situation is so unique. To me, what it boils down to is that we have to make the most of a very imperfect framework. Because so much time has passed since sin entered the world, our job as parents has become unbelievably complicated and difficult.

I personally do not believe that it is even possible for parents in today's world to be completely fulfilled or to bring up children without some serious sacrifices. And I think that because we ourselves are sinful, we all have some pretty big blind spots. I think that when we love each other and our children, and most importantly, God, we simply rely on Him to do the best that we can with what we have.

I never knew how selfish I was until I had children. Seriously. My only dream in life was to have children and stay home with them. But it was not like anything I had imagined. I was good at some aspects of child rearing, but I was really bad at others. I honestly can't say that I have ever felt "fulfilled" by the job of raising my two children. But I never pursued working outside the home because I knew that I would have completely lost the little sanity that I had left. I wasn't able to think of a viable way to make it work. I would have ended up needing to leave my kids with people that I didn't trust enough, and work at a job that I didn't love enough, and then still come home to do the work that I really didn't love at all, and then squeeze in some kind of quality time with my kids. (I'm not saying that this is what other mom's lives look like who work outside of the home. I'm saying that it was all that I had open to me in that scenario given my skills, income and location, etc.) So I chose to stay home because it was the best option for myself and my family. What really helped the whole situation was that I did have trusted friends and family who would help out enough for me to get some great creative outlets. That restored the balance that was lacking in my life and helped me be a much happier mommy.

That phase of life changed when our daughter was diagnosed with cancer. For nearly a whole year, our son was taken care of by his grandparents while Ellie was in treatment. It broke our hearts to spend so much time away from Ethan (who was three and four years old during that year) but it was what we had to do. Honestly, we have been so pleased with how Ethan has done. His grandparents were so loving and took way better care of him than we ever could have while juggling Ellie's needs. His suffering ended up far less than it could have.

Our situation now is different than it has ever been. Ellie died, so now we only have our little Ethan. But now we live on a property with Ethan's two great aunts, a great uncle, and a great grandmother. Living in this way has given me a whole new glimpse into what God may have planned for us. Yes, we are still to leave our parents and cleave to our spouse... my husband, son and I live in our own house. But we all share so much of the burden of work - cooking, cleanup, yard work, errand running, shopping, driving Ethan to and from Kindergarten. It is AMAZING. Ethan learns different things from each person and noone feels burdened by a heavy weight of work and responsibility. John and I make the decisions regarding Ethan's care, but others play a huge part in his day to day care. And I still stay home, because quite frankly, the only options that I have for outside the home work are not nearly as enjoyable or creative as my home life is right now. And now I don't worry and feel guilty because I'm not meeting each of Ethan's needs. There is someone there to pick up where I am weak and someone else to help me see things that I am missing because I was only looking through my own grid. It may not always be a perfect situation, but it has been wonderful in so many ways. (I am not even trying to point to this as being the ideal for everyone. Our culture and society are just not set up for this to become the "norm". But it has opened my eyes to a different way - and for us, a very good way.)

In all of this, there are three things I have learned.

1. Until this world ends and we live in the perfect one that God has for our future, parenting will carry incredible challenges and sacrifices no matter how you do it.

2. I can trust God to lead and guide in my family. And I can trust Him to lead and guide in other families. He is the only common denominator that any of us have.

3. The only thing that can bring me true fulfillment is my relationship with Christ. Seeking fulfillment in any other thing - whether it be children, job or even spouse - will always bring disappointment.

Wilson Family said...

Jonalyn,
First let me restate my position. I feel that as a whole, Christian mothers of young children (0-5?) should stay home to care for and raise their children. Obviously, if the mother must work so that her children have food to eat and a place to live, then that is different. Also if a woman is able to work from home, have a part time job or some other arrangement that allows her to still be the primary care giver of her children then that is great! My main argument would be mothers who choose to work full time outside the home when their children are young. (Children over 5 still need lots of time from their parents, however the dynamic of going to school adds to the moms flexibility of what she can do.)

I have a degree in Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood so I have both studied, and experienced first hand (as a daycare worker and a mom) how crucial those early years are. I would argue that even from a non-Christian perspective, it is in the child’s best interest to be at home with their mother (or father). After college, I spent a year working at a “Child Development Center” (i.e. daycare). Fortunately the place where I worked was known as being one of the best centers in the nation. The daycare program is located on the same campus where the parents work, and consequently resulted in the company being named as one of the best places for Women to work in several prominent national magazines. Moms/dads were encouraged to come by often to visit during their workday. At the center we went to much effort to make the environment as “homelike” as possible. Couches, soft lamps, pillows, etc. were used to make the sterile room feel “homelike.” Interesting. We also had “primary care-giving groups”. Each of us were assigned 3 babies to care for during their first 3 years of life. Our center realized the essential need for babies to form a strong bond/attachment with their caregivers. This is key to healthy development. When a child doesn’t form these crucial bonds as a baby, there are life long ramifications. (There are many secular studies to support this) During that year I often felt like “my” babies were in fact “mine.” After all, I spent all day with them (sometimes from 6:30am-6:00pm) and then sent them home for dinner and bedtime, just to be repeated the next day. I witnessed first hand the looks on mother’s faces as I told them how “their” child had taken their first step, or said their first word, today. The moms felt disappointment and guilt. Contrary to what many views have expressed in these posts, I don’t think this was because of societies pressure that they should be at home with their kids, but instead a genuine longing to be there for those special moments. It’s natural for a woman to want to care for her children, and witness their development.

Can a grandparent, aunt, nanny, etc. be the child’s primary caregiver? Absolutely, however if this person is doing the majority of the care giving, then the parents have to own the fact that their child will likely be more attached to the caregiver than to the parent. In the case of a nanny this can eventually lead to heartache for a young child when their nanny moves away, gets married, gets another job, etc. Some heartache in a child’s life is unavoidable, but this is not one of them.

The vast majority of families cannot afford a full time nanny. If they don’t have a grandparent/aunt nearby, day care is their only other option. There are some good day care facilities out there, but by and large that is not the case. Most daycare facilities are overcrowded and run by people who may or may not care about the overall well being of your child. Your child may be fed and changed, but are they being “trained up in the way they should go?”

Do I think that God says that every women needs to be a stay-at-home mom, or even to have children? No, but I do think that he calls us to be faithful with what we’ve been given. If we’ve been given children then we need to be faithful to the task of training them up for righteousness.

Are some families overly “child-centered”? Absolutely! If every aspect of how a family is run is based “only” on the needs of the children, then that is a family living out of balance. Children who are raised with the world revolving around them will not grow up to be healthy well-rounded individuals. They will be selfish.

However, it is true that an inventory of how you spend your time is a good indicator of what you value. While I agree that a mom who works full time outside the home still loves and values her children, her actions are showing that she values her career more.

A few last questions from your statements…

“There are many cultures where the father and mother equally share parenting responsibilities.”

Really? Where? I checked in with my History loving husband and he couldn’t think of any. However he does agree with Dale’s assessment about the industrial revolutions effect on the family. Prior to this, most working was done on the family farm or in the family business. However, the primary caretaking of children throughout history and across cultural lines has always been by the mother/women. It is only our postmodern western society that has been so bold as to challenge the traditional role of mothers as the “primary” caretaker of young children. Although, other cultures have used some sort of daycare equivalent in the raising of young children, this has been almost exclusively reserved for the elite and done by women. (wet nurses are a good example of this).

“I don't want to jump to conclusions, but it sounds like you may have bought into the rhetoric that feminism is the MAIN reason for the social breakdowns of the family. There are, in fact, many more reasons society is breaking down than the fact that "it's all a matter of working mothers."

I in no way do I think that feminism is the MAIN reason for the breakdown of the family, but it definitely plays a big part. I think one of the over arching reasons for the break down of the family is in the increase of “individualism” AKA selfishness. Today we are obsessed with looking our best, feeling our best, and making sure we are putting all of “our” gifts to use. It really is all about us. Unfortunately, even the Christian community has bought into this lie. When everyone is looking out for #1, there is no self-sacrifice, no putting our needs aside for another.

“What I hear from you is that your work as a stay at home mother trumps all other work women who choose to work outside the home (with kids) do... Do you mean to communicate that?”

Your question answers my main point. It’s not about me. It’s about what’s best for the children. Its not that “my” work at home trumps others work outside the home, it’s that the outcome of one is eternal, and the outcome of the other is temporary. If your question was is my work at home more important then theirs, I would say for the most part yes. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule. But can you think of a job that is more important than raising up the children that God has entrusted to you? I think that as a wife/mother your first ministry is to your family.

Jonalyn, thanks for your willingness to engage both sides of this issue. I normally don’t participate in these types of debates, but felt compelled to as I have a deep concern for mothers (and children) in this society.
Thanks again!
Love ya!
Jen

dramaturge said...

Well said. Many of your statements mirror my thoughts on the matter. I find that many conservatives like to use verses about women keeping their homes, while ignoring that fact that the Proverbs 31 woman (so touted as the ultimate biblical example of womanhood) very obviously pursues endeavours, money-making endeavours, that take her outside of the home. Yes, nurturing the family is a high priority, but there is no reason a capable woman cannot both nurture her family and work outside the home. In fact, sometimes the two are the same. And having been involved in the homeschooling world for years, I can echo your point that just because a mom stays at home does not mean she is a nurturing parent. Not at all.

I also find it interesting that Palin's mothering skills are in question in regard to her daughters pregnancy, when it is widely touted that the father is the most influential figure in a daughter's life and emotional well-being. I also find it interesting that when a conservative is the one in question, people finally feel free to start asking the questions about teenage pregnancy that no one dared to ask before. Quite interesting. But again, I agree with you. A 17 year old can and will make their own decisions about what they want to do, regardless of what they've been taught, and regardless of what they know or feel to be right. They are old enough to make their own choices, and they do. Frankly, I have to give the Palins kudos for their response to their daughter's pregnancy. Many conservative parents would have over-reacted and made rash decisions out of fear and disappointment. The Palins have reacted as mature parents which is a good example to us all of how to react should we ever be faced with a similar situation.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

One of the women I served with at the National Pastor's Convention, an author and speaker and one time resident of Alaska, Margaret Feinberg is featured here on CNN. "Palin and the Pulpit". I think it helps contribute to this discussion by raising this question: How can we allow a woman to lead the country, but not allow her to lead in the home? The pastor brings up Titus 2, again and while Margaret hints at "keepers of the home" meaning many things, I want to go a bit deeper. Dale and I will be researching that one a bit more and getting back to you!

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Oh yes, you must read this, an article by Camille Pagli on Sarah Palin's debute, commenting on her muscular, American (and I'd add Christian) femininity. She's the new Annie Oakley. Read "Fresh Blood for the Vampire""

Jen,

I had a brief exchange with my psychology professor friend, Dr. Liz Hall, who works at Biola's Rosemead and is the mother of 2 young boys.

Here's some thoughts from her email I thought you'd enjoy, my comments are in parenthesis.

"Only white, middle-class women typically have the luxury of making the choice for hiring care. (this was Lorene's point and a good one). One study found, for example, that providing financially for children is part of African American women's "motherhood ideology." It has had to be, because of their history in this country.

I'm not aware of any culture where men have played the primary role. I think there are natural reasons for this. Before breast-pumps and formula, the baby was tied to the mother until weaning, and at that point, the "primary caregiver" status was set. We have more options now.

One point I will make--and I make it tentatively, because it can sound like something I am not intending to say--is that historically, the "dirty work" of childrearing has always been relegated to the less powerful. In all cultures, women of means have delegated the nitty-gritty of childrearing to others. I'm not advocating this; you know I value attachment and involved parenting. But it does bring up the point that power differentials are also at play in "who takes care of the children."

This ties in to Wilson family's comments about self-sacrifice. Remind me again why women are the only ones expected to do this? And why COMPLETE abdication of self is the model for self sacrifice? (Jen, could you speak to this?)

However, there are cultures where men have played a much more active role. As Dale noted, this was probably normative in our Western culture until the Industrial Revolution took men out of the home and into the factories.
I have also heard that the aboriginal people have much more involved fathers. I imagine an anthropologist would be better able to answer this question. (Any anthropologists reading?, Jen did you check out that site from GFL above? I cited an anthropologist in that, Mary Steewart Van Leeuwan who cites several cultures where men have a more active parenting role).

The key to being a good primary caretaker is not gender, biological tie, or even type of familial relationship, but the capacity of the caregiver for loving attunement. In other words, the capacity for healthy attachment is much more important than the gender of the person. There is nothing about this capacity for attunement that is different between the genders. There is a large body of literature on the connection between unhealthy attachment styles in parents correlating with unhealthy attachment styles in children.

I have no objections to what Wilson is saying at this point in the blog. I do have problems with parents--male or female--who put their children in daycare--however good it is--for 12 hours a day. I don't think anybody is advocating this. (correct, I am not advocating 12 hour day care)

And I don't think the mother's guilt is the criteria for what is right or not. (also correct, for we often feel guilty for things we need not feel guilt over, also we don't feel guilty for things we should) We have all internalized a variety of voices regarding how we should live our lives, and, frankly, whatever choice we make will contradict one of those voices.

I do object to the "eternal value" vs. "temporal value" distinction. When we look at the overall picture of God equipping each of us to play a role in his redemptive plan for history, then nothing that we do, in or out of the home, should be devalued in this artificial way.

Those are my thoughts!

Liz Hall

Coral & Jake said...

Jonalyn-
I must say you raise an interesting point... well, several points really. I'm sure this will be somewhat scatter-brained as it is nearly 3am when I'm writing this. Here are my thoughts:

I think women of all ages, races, backgrounds, classes need to be applauded. I don't feel that one is any better than the other... we are each given cards and must play them as best we can.

Do I think that women can both work outside the home and be a good mother? Yes. Do I think that there are sacrifices on either side of this coin? Yes. From my life experience as a daughter of a mother who worked full time (and then some) it put a real strain on our relationship for quite some time. My mother wasn't around enough to form a strong bond and she had the mentality of "I'm your mother first and friend second." Being a mother now myself I can see the validity of that statement but having lived through my teen years with a mother who didn't "hear" me has been tough to overcome. It is my belief that if she had been present more our relationship would not have been so strained for so many years. Praise God that she is now one of my best friends and a superb Granny to my Sawyer. Let me just add that she has stated that her opportunity to be a full-time-undivided-attention kind of Granny helps her feel like she's making up for the time she lost with me. I'll not question what is in her head or her heart as I'm not into hearsay.
So, with a mother that worked outside the home more than full time as a teacher then a principal and a father who was home with me more is it any wonder that I am more like my father? Not surprising, too, is that I'm more like my dad (in my eyes) because as I was growing up my grandparents (his parents) were my primary caregivers. To this day I'm so connected to my grandparents, much more so than any of my other cousins who came 5-11 years after me.

I myself work part time at an amazing place using enough of my gifts and allowing my family a little more financial freedom. It also helps me keep sane because I can have adult conversation as my Sawyer isn't talking just yet. My job helps me feel tied to the world on an intellectual level and gives me just enough distraction that I am usually eager to get home and be with my husband and son. I don't know that I am wired to be a stay-at-home-mom even though that is what I thought I always wanted to do (that was before I knew what motherhood entailed).
My husband is a good father but I'm not sure I'd feel totally okay with him being the primary caregiver to our son. Why? Well, he just doesn't think like a nurturer. Perhaps I would feel differently if he were able to spend more time with our son so I could see the bond between them and if it gets stronger or not. It's simply that my husband doesn't pay attention to our son's cues... and if anyone thinks children don't communicate from the day they're born they're nuts! See, I know my son's different cries. My husband doesn't. I know my son's schedule. My husband does well when I tell him what our son needs. Now, that's not to say my husband wouldn't or couldn't figure it out... it just takes him longer. My husband doesn't think about changing a diaper if it's just wet... it has to offend his olfactory senses to register. These seemingly simple things are missed by some men because of what I call their "wiring". In addition to the above my husband is a processor. Meaning that he needs his cave time to really evaluate and think through things. This is not conducive to parenting all the time- I find myself needing to stay one step ahead of the game.
All of this is to say that parenting is a job best shared. I applaud, twice, single parents! God bless you.


When I saw the picture of Palin you posted it struck a chord. My initial response was what is that baby doing with her in a professional setting? As I kept looking at it I began to feel like that is a nice thought... being able to mix work and family like that. However, I wonder what this does for the argument of "children are off limits" in political races, scenarios, campaigning. Biden said it best when he said, "children are off limits" in reference to questions he'd been receiving about Palin's pregnant daughter. He scored some points there!


When I read your comment about your friend sharing what his wife's take on staying at home was it made my bp rise. Why would you say that her response was scripted? Not to put you down- you don't know what being a mother is like from an experiential stand point and all the feelings attached to it. I think one reader said "it sounds scripted because you've heard it before" and I think that is right on. Just because it's been said before doesn't make it less true or "scripted". Why do you feel that choosing to stay at home is a question that requires wrestling? For some situations and women I'm sure it does but there are a lot of us who don't believe that to be true. My concern is that you claim to want to empower women but with one small sentence you tear a large group of them down by not giving their honest answer the weight and power it deserves.

Last thought, why does a position of authority (like VP) mean that she (Palin- or any woman) is more powerful than her husband? She is in a powerful position but it's not over her husband. He is always her equal and her partner... it would be foolish to think that she exercises "power" over him simply because she might adorn the title of VP. I don't think that just because she's in a high profile job that she forgets what he brings to their family's table. In truth, she could not do all that she has done without his support on so many fronts. I think we need to stand up and applaud him too!! How about applauding all participating fathers?!?!? I like the idea of empowering women but I don't like the notion that we have to put down men or stomp on them on our way to the top.
Okay, I'm getting down off my soap box now.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Coral,

I appreciated your points about how your life allowed you to get very close to your grandparents and your mother forfeited that closeness by being physically (and emotionally?) absent from your childhood. I think, as Jen mentions above (Wilson family) that a mother must be willing for the primary caretaker/s to be incorporated just as significantly as she might have been. Like you say this is a significant sacrifice, but one of the many options available. I believe most mothers do not care to share this closeness with others. I’m glad my mom did as it enriched my life then and now.

Interesting fun story about how your husband must SMELL the diaper before changing, while for you wetness is sufficient. I do think parenting is done best when there are both genders involved, as you do. Men nurture in different ways, sometimes. From my limited experiences in watching mothers and fathers, I think some men “get” kids needs/cries better than some women. I have a friend who’s husband is quicker to change his daughter’s diaper because he gets to make it his special forte.

Do you think women tend to whip responsibility out of men’s hands before men can learn to do it really well? I think woman’s tendency to, as you put it, stay one step ahead, is only one (very important) slice of the type of nurturing/cultivation I think kids need. There’s a great book on that called “Father Need” that would be interesting to talk about further. I haven’t read it yet, but my husband raves about it.

About the reason I felt this stay at home mother’s response sounded scripted, let me share some other details that gave me that indication.
One, this woman was a flourishing nurse before she had kids and she loved and thrived in this job. She now does not work outside the home
Two, she is currently suffering from severe, debilitating depression.
Three, this was not her response, it was the response given by her husband who was filling in what he thought his wife would say (she was not present in this conversation).

It bothers, and will probably always bother me even when I do have kids, when anyone assumes that a stay at home mother is THE best way. And this is what his response communicated. He did not say, “Well, she loves being home with her kids, it’s her main goal and pleasure right now.” This is also a common response, but is not “Scripted” meaning, it would have been rooted in his wife’s desires, well-being, appropriate to her giftings and wants (as directed by Jesus). It would have been a sufficient reason. But when I hear a mom say, “I stay home because it’s the only way to show my kids I really value them above everything else” I struggle to rejoice along with them.

Stay at home mothers need to learn to say, “I stay home because I want to,” not because “it’s the only good way to raise your kids.” Do you see the difference? One I can respect, one I cannot.

And three cheers to your point about Palin’s husband. YES, she can be VP without being “over” him… and he is a great picture of partnership and mutual sacrifice. I think he really loves her quite well. I’d have to say that we should never think that a woman’s success means a man’s failure, this is the economy of the fallen world, not of God’s kingdom. The problem arises when men see a woman succeed in something they cannot do and they feel their masculinity threatened, that’s insecurity, but it’s alive and well in many political pundits of our day.

madame said...

That was a great post Jonalyn.
I agree with frogmama that when you have your first baby, feelings you didn't know you could have kick in all of a sudden. When I had my first child, my husband and I had just moved to the UK to work with a church in a deprived housing estate. We lived upstairs from the church, and we experienced some light "persecution" ( we had things thrown in through our open windows, through our letterbox, and someone broke into our flat while we were gone).
When my baby was born, I was terrified of the world around me and wanted to protect him, even from well meant neighbors! I never knew I could be so overbearing.
I have relaxed, thankfully, number 3 plays in the sand while I lie in the grass and watch her (she's 1)

I'm a SAHM by choice and conviction. I thought I'd be a homeschooler, but then we moved to Germany, where it's illegal, so now my firstborn is in Kindergarten. Probably God wanted me to let go a bit!

On another note, I think that self sacrifice has to be a result of conviction and done with the power of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, we will expect the same degree of self sacrificing from everyone around us. That's when we become dogmtic and start putting yokes on people.
Self sacrificing can make us feel more righteous than the people we perceive to be less selfless,and we become proud.

I know that we could be better off financially if I worked, but I think that, in my case, it's not what God wants. He has given me a conviction that is very strong, and that is keeping me at home, with my precious children.

I absolutely agree, it's not good for the children's primary caregiver to be emotionally absent or depressed, but I'd not automatically say that they should find a different one, just work on the issues that are causing the depression or anxiety.

Molly Aley said...

EXCELLENT and thoughtful commentary, Jonalyn. Good stuff!

Laura said...

I am a wife, mother, and practicing attorney. At one time, I thought that I could do it all. Now I have two kids and work full time, and I've begun to question my views on women working outside the home. Through my experience, I've come to the conclusion that you can't have it all. I feel incapable of being a good wife, mother, Christian, and employee, but I'm desperately trying to do it all. I am an ardent defender of the capability of women to work and lead, but I'm also a defender of the roles that I believe Scripture has clearly defined for men and women. I don't think those roles exclude wives and mothers from working outside the home, but I believe that parents should prayerfully consider the impact of both parents working outside the home will have on their family.

I felt the pressure to become a career woman and do more than "just stay at home." I think our culture now has gone in the opposite direction and doesn't value women who sacrifice to stay at home with their children. Some of my friends tend to feel like they're not accomplishing anything, and that's so not true.

Before I had children, I had no idea how strong my desire would be to stay at home and nurture them. My perception of stay-at-home moms was so skewed. Now, I long to be at home, but because I chose to borrow money to pursue an education to become the successful career person that I thought I wanted to be, I have to work. I do enjoy my job, but I wish I actually had the choice to stay at home.

I will defend Palin's capability to do the job of the vice president, but I will question whether such a demanding position is prudent for anyone (man or woman)with four children at home.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Yvette and Wilson family (and any others who want to know my take on the Titus 2:3-5, I Tim 5:14),

One principle that I always use in interpreting is context and I think this is helpful for both these passages.

In Titus the verse about young women being taught to keep house is actually in a list of ways the older women can teach the younger. This is a wonderful Biblical tradition of the older women helping the younger (as Naomi did for Ruth, for example).

The TNIV puts it like this "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."

I believe these verses mean that when the older women teach the younger they will be teaching things like "be kind, be pure, when you're at home keep yourself involved in the lives of those around you." It is not saying that women ought to always be busy nor that they should always be at home. For if Paul meant that then he'd be in violation of the ways the Prov 31 woman worked outside the home.

The purpose of this instruction is so that "no one will malign the Word of God." In today's culture a lazy woman who stays home all day and doesn't help those around her is still discrediting to God and his people. But I wouldn't say that this is a command to stay home with your children if you are a woman.

In Timothy 5:14, "So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander." This is a culturally specific command, not meant to be applied across times and cultures. Here's why, Paul writes something different to widows in Corinth, there he says that widows should not remarry (see I Cor 7:8-9, 29-40). But in Ephesus, the place where Timothy was leading a church when he received this letter, the young widows were easy targets for the false teachers, so marriage becomes a good way to prevent them from falling into sin/deception. Keep in mind that young women (most women for that matter) would not have the theological training to ward off false teachers. "They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires," (II Tim 3:6). So Paul is warning the women in this specific town (and other towns in a similar situation) to get married so as to be protected from being bait for false teachers.

Hopefully this helps explain why I continue to believe that while Stay at Home Moms are doing a valuable work in their children's lives, they are not commanded to play this SAHM role in Scripture. As I mentioned before, I believe parents need to decide what is best for their families.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Laura,

Good to have you weighing in here. Thank you for your input.

Can I share something I would love for all mothers to work on together? And please keep in mind that I speak naively as I have never raised a child of my own.

I would love mothers everywhere to fight for more ways they can integrate their children into their working world.

I would love mothers who have the power to change ideas, corporate structure, meetings, expectations, policy and law to begin to make a way for women (like Frogmama) to be able to experience motherhood and working in the field they love as a whole experience.

I would long for my children (should God give them to us) to accompany me on the road, in the audience when I speak, in airplanes, in restaurants, at the retreat center, and not be expected to remain like perfect, quiet mice.

I hope to fight the belief that children cannot be a part of church services because they are "disruptive" to fight the idea that children are distracting, special case problems. (Currently our house church engages with the elementary school children as a part of our body, as if they really have things to teach and engage with us about).

I want to have a life that wholly integrates the children in my life. And I know I'm a hopeless romantic idealist.. I know.

But I will still fight for ways I can help make our institutions, policies and laws more supportive of this idea of parenting infused into our workday lives.

I guess that is part of the reason I believe a mother of 5 in the White House, would be helpful.

madame said...

Jonalyn, I admire this desire.

"hope to fight the belief that children cannot be a part of church services because they are "disruptive" to fight the idea that children are distracting, special case problems. (Currently our house church engages with the elementary school children as a part of our body, as if they really have things to teach and engage with us about).

I want to have a life that wholly integrates the children in my life. And I know I'm a hopeless romantic idealist.. I know.

But I will still fight for ways I can help make our institutions, policies and laws more supportive of this idea of parenting infused into our workday lives."

As a mother of 3, whose been told off for my children not sitting quietly in church, who feels she has to keep them quiet so the grownups can talk at ease, etc... I really appreciate people who don't have children yet being aware of the importance of integrating children, for what they are, not adults, in everyday life, including church.

I think we are still too influenced by the belief that children should be seen, not heard.

On the other hand, children have to learn that they aren't the center of attention and shouldn't be constantly heard. They have to learn to respect other people, to be mindful of adults, and to be a part of what is going on, when appropriate. For example, in church, children can sit (or stand) and take part in worship, singing with everyone else. They can pray, answer questions, etc... But if we are in a traditional church, where the pastor preaches for 20 minutes (or so)then they either have to learn to be quiet, or they need to leave the room and have some sort of class for them.

Regarding children in the work place, I'm not so sure it's compatible with many, many professions. Children can't be allowed to roam in a large kitchen (restaurant, hotel), to play in a classroom (too distracting for the other children),go to court, run around in a hospital, etc.
Let's not forget that many of those workplaces would be very boring places for children.


What I mean to say, I think that Sarah Palin has a privileged type of job, demanding, but she has freedoms that aren't there for every other working mother.

Victoria said...

I enjoyed reading your article on Palin. I've been glued to news since the RNC. It causes me to readjust some of my thinking. Not having children of my own, my opinions are from observation. What I'm most admiring about her is her fluid sense of self. She appears to me to be an golden example for women of what means to come from a place of acceptance, therefore allowing her self to flow comfortably through all she is equiped to accomplish.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU Jen Wilson.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Madame- I agree that there are places where young children cannot e easily integrated. However, I guess what I would hope for (in my ideal world) is that the government, big biz, churches, community would provide easier, creative, workable job sharing AND "on and off ramps" to enter and exit our paid jobs. And if they could provide these on and off ramps for both fathers and mothers, what a change it would make in our family lives. This would mean that taking 1-15 years off for each child would not be so destructive to our jobs/passions/careers/giftings/voice.

Victoria- "fluid sense of self" is a great way to describe Palin, she does seem able to move into different places and not be so rigidly concerned with appearing one way. Her self-confidence is part of her attractiveness.