Earlier this month I shared a section from a seminar I did on feminism a few years ago (Does the Answer to a Woman’s Identity Crisis Lie in Her Career?). To answer another controversial question – should mamas stay home with their babies? – here’s the next section from that seminar.
What Adds Real Value to Society?
I will start with the caveat that many women face life circumstances out of their control that keep them from choosing to stay home with their kids. For single moms or families facing tough financial situations or medical crises it’s not possible for moms to stay home. God still works through them as wonderful mothers, and I wouldn’t want to add additional guilt to their already tough circumstances. This article is aimed more toward mothers who have the choice to stay home and may be feeling guilty for doing so.
And this guilt comes primarily from another lie propagated by the feminist agenda of the 1960s-70s which is: there is no value in “just” raising a family & keeping a home.
For many well-educated, independent women, the thought of getting a college degree in a field they thoroughly enjoy, and then marrying and staying home with babies seems like a waste of money and intellect.
The way that Betty Friedan describes it in The Feminine Mystique makes homemaking and child-rearing sound like dull necessities – things you still need to do, after which you get on with your career where you find the real value of your life.
From the chapter, “A New Life Plan for Women,” Friedan says, “The first step in that plan is to see housework for what it is – not a career, but something that must be done as quickly and efficiently as possible […] Then, she can use the vacuum cleaner and the dishwasher and all the automatic appliances, and even the instant mashed potatoes for what they are truly worth – to save time that can be used in more creative ways” (413).
For my own sake, I’m grateful for modern conveniences such as dishwashers and washing machines. I wouldn’t like to return to the days when doing laundry was an all-week affair. But Friedan’s underlying premise is that staying at home as a wife and mother is a demeaning task, and that there are far more worthwhile things to be doing with one’s intellect and time.
Indeed, when I talk to some stay-at-home moms, they feel they have to justify why they aren’t contributing financially to the home or qualify their homemaking with other pursuits on the side.
This is because they’re facing strong statements like Betty Friedan’s, either overtly or subtly – “But even if a woman does not have to work to eat, she can find identity only in work that is of real value to society – work for which, usually, our society pays” (pg. 418).
But my question is, how is raising the next generation not of “real value” to society? How is staying at home with our children in their most formative years and shaping their thinking, dreams, and passions not of the greatest gift to tomorrow’s leaders, pastors, politicians, and authors? How is creating a safe haven and peaceful home for your family not the best identity & stability you could give to your children?
Society itself is based on the family unit. And currently, that family unit is in a lot of trouble in America. And it’s not just because women are working outside the home. Marriages crumble shortly after they’ve begun. Kids are shuffled back and forth between parents’ homes like pawns on a chess board. Moms and dads are too busy looking at emails, texts, and Facebook to stop and look at their child’s face over the dinner table. The home has become either a place of noisy discord with shouting matches or a place of silence where everyone spins in their own worlds of electronic screens.
As a teacher, I’ve seen the violent rage that comes from a boy with no active father in his life. I’ve had a girl tell me she had learned more from me – her teacher – than from her own mother. I’ve seen a kid be so confused by shifting week by week from mom’s house to dad’s house that he had no apparent respect left for authority. And I have come to realize that when women no longer place value in the home, when fathers abandon their children, and when marriages shatter, society itself begins to crack in two.
God’s Design for Home and Family
It takes work. It takes sacrifice. It takes counseling sometimes. It takes forgiveness and commitment. And due to sin and outside circumstances, there will always be special-case scenarios. But people’s sin still doesn’t negate God’s original plan for families.
Elisabeth Elliot says it like this in Let Me Be a Woman, “Either there is an order or there is not, and if there is one which is violated disorder is the result – disorder on the deepest level of the personality. I believe there is an order, established in the creation of the world, and I believe that much of the confusion that characterizes our society is the result of the violation of God’s design. The blueprint has been lost. Everybody is guessing at how the building is supposed to look” (p. 110).
God designed women to be nurturers and caretakers. It’s part of their make-up and his purposeful order. And it’s not necessarily when women refuse to believe this that the problems begin to occur. It’s when they make it a little less important and add on too many other things. Feminists try to tell you that women are superheroes and can do it all: career, mothering, and homemaking. But I don’t believe you can do it all without sacrificing something in one area or another (see the 2011 movie I Don’t Know How She Does It. Spoiler alert: she didn’t).
Sometimes there will be life circumstances beyond our control that force us to make sacrifices that we wish we didn’t have to. And God will give us grace and wisdom for those areas when we come to them.
But on the whole, when given the chance and the gift of staying at home with your children as they grow, it is not a sacrifice of your intellect, but one of the greatest gifts of your intellect to give it to those who need it the most – your children.
This is the second glorious truth that replaces the second lie of feminism – that God designed women to accomplish something supremely valuable to society in nurturing the home, the marriage, and the family.
What this looks like practically is different for each individual. Some women will be able to have a part-time job that they do from home while raising their kids. Some will wait until all their kids are in elementary school and then go back to their career. Some will wait until their kids are in high school to do so. And some won’t ever choose to work outside the home again. But the tasks of raising kids and managing a household, especially when the kids are under ten, is truly a full-time job (with no paid vacations, lunch breaks, or overtime pay).
If we look at the Proverbs 31 woman, for example, we don’t see a ditzy trophy wife, only interested in glamour magazines and watching soaps while her curls set. Rather we see a woman who “looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness” (verse 27) – a woman who uses business savvy, intelligence, diplomacy, planning, compassion, and wisdom to take care of her household, support her husband, and raise children who “rise up and call her blessed.” There is nothing to be pitied about this kind of wife, and she is a beautiful example of God’s design for womanhood.
The value of homemaking can be practiced also by women who aren’t married or don’t have children. The desires to nurture, create, and give are not unique to a wife or mother, but are within all women. And the more those traits are cultivated as single people, the more easily they will transfer into married life if that comes to them one day.
Even if marriage or children don’t come to some women, they can still have an impact on society by upholding these values and helping to strengthen them by any means possible. This could look like investing in other people’s kids, opening their homes to others, and speaking positively of homemaking and stay-at-home moms.
How Do I Give Up a Career I Love?
Some women’s objections to staying at home, however, might be, “But what if I really love my job, and would hate to part with it if I have children?”
I get that. I love my job and find great mental stimulation and creativity in what I get to do every day as a teacher. When talking with some friends of mine, a pastor and his wife, they gave two wise insights into this legitimate concern. The wife stated that sometimes women have to look beyond a time restraint and value the time with small children. That might mean setting aside a career for a few years to invest in children in their most formative years of infancy to school-age. A career is something you can always come back to. The years of childhood, however, is not.
And the husband made the remark that all of us – men and women both – have to submit to Christ above all our desires and earthly delights. He said, “Initial submission to Christ means a total death to self for something with more significance and joy in the long run.”
If our attitude toward working outside the home when we’re married and have kids is, “Well, I have to work because I won’t feel fulfilled if I don’t,” we’re placing our perspective on fulfillment in a narrow field. Both men and women may have times where God allows a job they love to come to an end, and they are forced to find their deepest fulfillment not in a job, but in God himself.
We often long for a stage of life other than what we have. However, God must teach our hearts the discipline of contentment no matter the circumstances, even if that means laying aside one type of fulfillment for a time in exchange for another.
I should know. I once was a girl sure she would find her fulfillment only in being a wife and mother someday. And that girl had to learn fulfillment in a host of other things that God brought her way.
God calls women to do many wise and noble things with their lives, but one of the wisest and noblest privileges is to motherhood – that of raising up the next generation to love and follow Him. Isn’t that worth some time away from a career that will divide attention from mothering?
Feminists claim that a woman’s highest nobility is in the demonstration of her intellect in a career. But what if her highest nobility was actually in sacrifice at home – in the laying down of her life for her children?
This would truly be counter-cultural, and who knows? It just might help turn this society around.
*Disclaimer: If you have thoughts or questions on this topic that you’d like to discuss with me, I’m always open to private, respectful conversations. I do not, however, engage in debates via comments.