Tuesday, November 27

Musings on the controversy of motherhood

I'm often astounded at the uncanny similarity between the words that come out of Christian women and the words that come out of women who don't know Christ regarding motherhood.
Let me put it this way:
You deeply desire to change the world, to be mover and a shaker. To tip the scales of humanity for good. To see nations changed.
I'll give you a handful of world changers to mentor and disciple, teach and train and work under your guidance. They'll be powerful and significant weapons against the darkness in this world. Are you up to the challenge? It won't be an easy task. You'll miss a lot of sleep, lose and gain weight, gain gray hairs and often fight for the dignity of your calling. You'll use your education in ways you never imagined and receive a lot of on the job training to supplement the areas where formal education has caused you to lack. Some people will mock you, and tell you your job is a waste of time and that you could be more significant working elsewhere.
You'll read discouraging comments like:
"What in the world is the point of encouraging a girl to dream, that she can be anything she wants to, only to have her grow up and realize you didn’t really mean it for she is really only meant to be a mom?"

That's right. If you've accepted this monumental world changing mission, you've just accepted the often despised and lowly job of a Christian mother.(Susannah Wesley)


Katie said...

Ok so I'm pretty sure I clarified that being a mom is NOT a lowly task, so please don't ascribe those words to me. But I do still very strongly disagree with it being the highest calling of a Christian woman, because that makes my life right now basically entirely useless. I cannot reconcile your view of biblical womanhood with my life, for there is no place in it for this season of my life. Your view states basically that I live a lesser life, that the ways I can serve God are lesser than the ways you do simply because I am unmarried.

Saying that the highest calling for a wife and mom is to be a stay at home mom is a very, very narrow view that condemns a lot of women to a lesser life, when God may very well be calling them to do other things as well as raising godly children. Just as saying all women should pursue a career and work full time while they have children is a very, very narrow view. I don't understand why there can't be a middle ground.

I was serious in my question I posed that you quoted. I wasn't saying there isn't a reason, I was asking what it is. If I a girl is simply meant to be a mother - and yes that is a high calling, an honor and a very important job - but if that is where she is to end up in life then what in the world is the point of pursuing anything else? By all means then lets bring back finishing schools and lets teach girls to cook and sew and clean and take care of babies. But nothing else because we wouldn't want them to get any crazy ideas that they could do something else...

I don't believe your job is useless or that you could be doing more significant work elsewhere since this is where not only you want to be, but where God wants you to be. But is that truly the case for every single woman who is a wife and mom? Must every woman truly be a stay at home wife and mom in order to fulfill God's calling or does God ask different things of different women? Obviously my answer to that is clear.

I find myself in this position right now that you have never been in. That is where these questions come from...I respect you and what you do, but would you respect me if the way I raise my children is different than you? Would you respect me if I also had a job? Would you respect me if I sent my kids to public school? Whether you realize it or not, your opinion comes across that no, you wouldn't, for I would be forsaking "my" calling as a mother (by the way some of my friends who read your blog also feel like they will be complete failures as mothers because they do not see a mom as having to stay at home, while you seem to leave no room for any other option as "respectable"). But is it possible that my calling someday as a mother will be different than yours? It will simply because I am a different person and we are not all called to the same thing.

Have no fear, I will raise godly children, I will encourage them to dream big dreams. I will encourage them to be world changers, and I am positive I will LOVE being a mother...but what I just can't wrap my mind around is why encourage a girl to dream of accomplishing great things for God perhaps by being a nurse, or a teacher or preacher or missionary, when such a thing, as you see it, is not her highest calling? If the way she is to change the world is only through her children then wouldn't it be best to just prepare her for that job? It's an honest question...NOT a discouraging comment or critique. I truly don't understand and am trying to find my way in all of this.

I respect you and women like you very much. I respect what you do and the time and care and love you give to your children. I also respect women who raise godly children while also having a career or ministry outside their family, or perhaps with their family. Neither position is wrong. Neither position is the one for ALL women.

Some constructive thoughts from a wonderful wife and mom such as yourself as to how you do reconcile dreams as I talked about in my post would be wonderful. Answering my question would be better than saying I meant it as a discouraging comment. I truly posed it as a question I just don't understand.

As far as I can gather from your thoughts my life really is leading towards one pivotal moment that may or may not ever happen...and while I do not deny that that moment will change my life forever, I really don't know what to do with such a thought because it really does make me feel like where I am right now is totally useless and pointless. I cannot live my life as if that moment will happen anytime now...I cannot let my life revolve around something I cannot make happen, something God may not have for me.

While your writings encourage some, they discourage others for they look at how amazing you are and realize that they just don't possess those same gifts as you do. And if you put what you do as a model for ideal biblical womanhood, you leave behind you a whole hoard of women who just can't, for whatever reason, live up to you. It is not that what you do is wrong or lowly...not at all. What you do is incredible and honorable and worthy of admiration BUT as you have mentioned on stuff I have written before - we are not all called to the same thing, even if we occupy the same position.

It's ironic - you fight so strongly for what you say is the "dignity of your calling" and I fight so hard for the fact that there are other callings just as dignified. As I said, a choice to be a stay at home mom is no less worthy a choice than to have a career. You get criticized for being a stay at home mom, while working moms get criticized for working.

I guess I ask this of you - before you criticize what I write, could you truly attempt to address what I write in a positive way? Advice is great, and no one is really in the business of offering it to single young women my age other than telling us that someday we will be married and have children and it will be wonderful - which is so not helpful. I love reading your blog, and I love seeing you truly flourish in being a mom. You have a lot of wisdom to offer, and while I don't mind you challenging what I say...please realize that I very rarely write just to be difficult or ornery. I write because I am trying to understand who it is I am supposed to be as Christian woman. Constructive criticism is always more welcome than a backlash at a comment that I did not mean to be discouraging. I'm pretty sure my confusion came across loud and clear in my blog....

Anyway, I'm also pretty sure my confusion just came across again loud and clear and all the wonderful stay at home wives and moms who read your blog are really going to think I'm an absolutely horrible person lol.

Katie said...

And just in case any of your readers are curious and would like to read my blog so they can disagree with me as well lol...or maybe offer some helpful thoughts...here is the address: http://katiespeer.wordpress.com/

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

I , as far as I can recall, have never stated that a woman's highest calling is to be a wife and mother.
I do firmly believe that if God has called you to a season on singleness, than you ought to be working fully and completely at the tasks he gives you in that season.

And just the same, I believe that if God has called you to a season of motherhood, you ought to be working fully and completely to the tasks he gives you in that season.

You asked "how do you reconcile these dreams?" You don't reconcile them. It is not in your power. You realize that if God has given them to you, than He will work out the details. You realize that there are different seasons to life, different seasons for different dreams.

You have some opinions of me and my beliefs that aren't correct.
You critisize me for believing in many things regarding motherhood: homeschooling, working from home, and accuse me of being narrow minded. I have many friends who are mothers who parent differently. Many send their kids to public schools and choose ways of parenting that are foreign to me. Please do not accuse me of things you do not know to be truthful. My life and heart are pretty much an open book. I have nothing to hide from.

I have seen so many children raised by mothers intent more on careers or "ministry" than on their children and I've seen the fruit of these mother's lives. It is nothing to emmulate.

I didn't ascribe any words to you and I did not ascribe an author to the statement because I love you and am praying you find the answers you seek. I certainly don't think you are a horrible person,as you worry my readers will. (KT is definitely not horrible!) I do see the effects of a feminist education and the enviroment you're in. Perhaps that's where the real conflict and questions are coming from.

Sean's comments after reading your response were: "Ouch." and "wow." he reiterated what I basically wrote about embracing the season of life God puts you in and encourages you (if you like hard facts) to seek out the studies regarding how children turn out with a stay at home mom vs. a parent who is absent most of the day.
I love you,

Katie said...

I am sorry that I have misunderstood you and I did not mean my comment to be harsh in anyway. Sometimes I really wonder why I try to understand and how I end up so far from understanding...anyway I deleted my post.

By the way a post on what exactly you do view as biblical womanhood would be wonderful, in my opinion, since clearly I and others have misinterpreted your views and now I am very curious at to what they are.

Rebecca said...

Having been in both the position of a single woman preparing long term for a career/ministry outside of the home and now being in the much loved position of a stay at home mom, I find this to be an interesting discussion. My husband and I have been asking that very same question as Katie has raised almost verbatim in regard to how to raise our little daughter. And with that question, come a whole slew of other thoughts. I will share them below, and please realize, I am sharing them as we have thought them thru and asked them, not trying to cast judgment on anyone else' decisions or beliefs.

What does "highest calling" mean? Does it mean that calling that is most important in God's eyes? Does it mean some one, thing that you are preparing for like being a mom/wife? Does it mean the calling that spans all seasons of life and is thus the same through singleness, married life, motherhood and possibly even widowhood? Does it simply mean the eternal purposes of God that we are all created for - those being relationship, character, dominion and fruitfullnes as seen in Genesis 1:26-28? How you determine "highest calling" determines a lot else. (I also thought you were defining it for all women as being a wife and mother.)

My husband and I decided highest calling, to us, are those things which God has called all people to which span all seasons of life - relationship with God and then others (as seen also in the Great Commands), character, dominion (over sin and by extending His Kingdom in our sphere of influence) and finally fruitfullnes which here is not talking about character but about converts. These are what I was taught in Bible college are the eternal purposes for which all people have been created.

So we have begun our premise of a "woman's role and highest calling" with saying we need to prepare our daughter first and foremost for those 4 things. For example, if she is someday a good mom, but does not even have (and isn't pursuing) at least one good friendship with an unsaved person, we will feel as though we have failed her. We would feel disappointed that she is setting aside her highest calling on the altar of family.

Now obviously, the responsibility to one's own family comes before the responsibility to others as seen in Paul's Epistle where he said that an elder must first be taking care of his own family. I think the principle given in that verse is true in all areas of family and ministry. However, I don't believe the Bible makes it a *one or the other* question. We clearly are not, in an attempt to right the wrongs of generations of missionaries who have sent their children to boarding school, supposed to forget about the lost. To do so is to forget the sole reason we are here sucking air on planet earth. We could accomplish all of our other eternal purposes (ie highest callings) far better if we were immediately raptured at the point of salvation.

So from that premise of highest calling being our eternal purposes, my husband and I have come back to then ask where in all of that does the role of wife and mother fit in? Obviously, in that season of motherhood, there is nothing more important than the souls of one's own children. But still one cannot deny their responsibility to the reasons we have been created and left here on earth. So how do we prepare our daughter for these roles?

We believe very strongly in the position of a stay at home mother, tho we would never say that it means every mom must stay home all of the time. For most, yes. For most of the time, yes. But neither of us see any problem with a woman working part-time if her home and child(ren) are still well cared for. I worked part-time in helping to start our business last year and we have talked about me possibly teaching ballet 1 evening a week sometime too. Neither of us would have any problem with a woman having someone else wonderful watch her children for a few hours per week while she worked. As for full time work, we don't like the idea of a mom doing that, but we know that sometimes it is unavoidable for all sorts of reasons, good and bad. For example, one situation we know of is a mom whose sister is living with them and watching their one child so the mom can work for a year so they will be able to afford to adopt another child since the mom is not able to have any more.

It's hard for us not to judge, when there are clearly a lot of women working for nothing but selfish reasons, but that is between them and God so we try our best not to.

So after thinking through all of that in regard to the issue of staying home, we come to the conclusion that our daughter will most likely find herself someday in a long term season of a stay at home mom (or staying at home with only working a few occasional hours). Here, we see that there is a lot lacking in most young woman's preparations. Besides a bit of housework and baby sitting, I don't think many woman are prepared mentally or practically to expect that someday they will spend decades at home keeping a home and raising children. Really, I never thought much about that as a single woman. It's just not what people talk about to a single gal or what a single gal is interested in usually. We hope to do things a bit differently with our daughter and make that a part of her expected reality. We hope that she will look forward to that season and have a lot of practical skills and a good mental picture of what it will entail.

However, we have both decided that the opposite extreme is not right in our opinion either. We don't want our daughter to someday spend her single years doing nothing but living at home and waiting for a man. How unfulfilling it would be to think that you have no purpose in that season!! I saw too many women in my Bible College days, who tho they were at least in Bible college and pursuing God, were really feeling visionless and unfulfilled without a man in their lives and without the prospect of children in their near future.

I wrote a recent post on my blog regarding a woman's roles, pointing out that my theory as to part of the reason why women in the 50's were so unfulfilled was due to the fact that they were taught that they could do *nothing* but be a wife and mom. Proverbs 31 makes it clear that a woman is to (at some point in her life, regardless of when) supposed to fulfill much more than just the role of wife and mother.

So then our next "conclusion" is that, our daughter needs to be prepared for much more than the role of wife and mother. And that, to us, means it would be just fine if she chooses to go to college. I'm sure she would use her education in some way in mothering, probably before then, possibly in her empty nest years. Besides, an education has a wonderful way of expanding one's mind and teaching one to understand how other's think. We personally think it is very advantageous to understand how the secular mind thinks. It seems to make it much easier to relate to them and to understand what they need to help them come to the Lord.

My husband grew up in a Christian home, but was around unsaved people all of his life. He has always had an easy time of making friends with them and thus being a good witness. I, on the other hand, grew up mostly secluded from the world besides some time in ballet which was largely educational and not social. I was always flabbergasted at the way unsaved people thought and the decisions they made. So much so, that I couldn't relate to them at all. I was never a very good friend let alone witness. After years, I have come to understand them much better and to see how they view Christianity and why. I now have a group of unsaved friends and can already see God beginning to use that. All that to say, that I think a college education, even a secular one, is not a bad thing. We think it's important for every adult to understand the philosophies out there and to be able to defend the truth and to not be so caught up in their Christian subculture that they can't get enough perspective to see what is Christian culture and what is really Biblical truth.

So our conclusion to all of this has been that a woman is called to many things, including, most likely, the roles of wife/mother. She needs to be prepared for all of those things. We won't take either extreme - preparing our daughter only to "spread her wings and fly" or only to be a wife and mother.

Taking the entire counsel of scripture, including both Titus 2 and Proverbs 31, parenting a daughter involves preparing her for a large number of possible roles.

Obviously, some of that preparation should be similiar for all women - preparing them for the role they will likely fulfill as a wife and mother. Much of that preparation tho will differ from one girl to another depending upon her particular gifting and callings.

So while we will prepare our dear little one to someday pursue her dreams and to dream big and help her to polish her talents, we will also prepare her to know that she will likely spend a sizeable portion of her life devoted to her home and family. During that time, her dreams will not necessarily be on complete hold, but will take a backseat to the priority of raising children. What that will *look* like for her I cannot say. Maybe she will do something from home maybe work outside a few hours a week.... who knows... The particulars will be between her and her husband and God.

So anyway, that's the lengthy thought process and conclusions that my husband and I have talked about.

Interestinly enough, I have also had a similiar conversation with my secular and feminist friends. The big trend in feminism right now is the woman's right to stay at home with her children while also at some other point pursuing a career.

New Mom said...

Sorry, another long post from me...

Last night, while lying in bed with my husband, we discussed some issues that have been laying heavily on my heart. In a very unusual conversation (for us) I told him how I had been feeling lately in regards to being a stay-at-home mom.

I, too, went to a Christian college and graduated with a degree in church ministries with the intent that I would use it in some sort of humanitarian aspect, and so I have... up untill now.
My previous job of working at a rape crisis center and doing children's ministry on the side left me feeling fullfilled and, dare I say it, successful in other Christians' eyes (which I realize is irrelevant). Since mothering a child is new to me, I sometimes get into slumps where I feel that I am not serving God enough with my life as I spend the majority of my time wiping behinds and picking up toys :)

After talking with Nathan, he reminded me that this season in my life is temporary. That (God willing)there is still plenty of time for me to pursue some of the things that I dreamed about doing in my Bible school days. I do love staying home with Elon, but occassionally, I do get discouraged and have to remind myself how important a mother's role is. For me, I realize that my purpose in life is to honor God in whatever I am doing. I realize that motherhood is in keeping with God's chosen path for me, although it may not be for you. As a single woman, I sought to honor God through my singleness and was able to do things that would be much more difficult to do as a wife and mother. (Mission trips, street witnessing, etc. I wouldn't care to take my little baby out on those forlorn streets at night!)

My little sister has Turner's Syndrome, which means that without a miracle she will never be able to bear children-- a fact we found out just a couple of months ago. When my parents adopted her and before she knew of the illness, my mother had a vision of this little girl among her people in Russia and ministering to children in orphanages. What a high calling! She will never have natural children but if the vision proves true she will have spriritual ones!

I have come to the conclusion that as far as I can I am going to serve God to the best of my ability in whatever place I am at in life. In motherhood, I will make the decisions that I think will benefit my child the most, such as being a SAHM (which I really do love being and see the value of). To fullfill my desire to do outside ministry, I plan on starting a new small group for women. When my children begin to attend school, or if I choose to homeschool then after they graduate, I plan on going back to school for adoption law and working in that field. After airing out my emotions, I've realized that all of these seasons are significant in my life and to God's plan... to enjoy being a single woman-- discovering myself and who God is, in motherhood-- laying down my own desires to serve God in raising up an awesome next generation, and later-- using my gifts and talents to do some of the things that I couldn't accomplish while concentrating on raising children. "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might." Whether it be ministry as a single female, being a stay at home or (if necessary) working mother, or whatever the case may be. All of these *callings* are equally valuable to God's kingdom.

Me said...

Beautifulully, well put post, New Mom, thank you.

Me said...

And sorry for the spelling error. I really need the comment section to have spell check. My brain goes faster than my fingers sometimes.

New Mom said...

Thank you Hannah. I know, I get spoiled by spell check too. It's a bummer having to reread my comments and finding misspellings!