Thursday, August 9, 2007

Biblical motherhood: What the heck is that, anyway?

In browsing the internet this morning, I came across a note that one of my Facebook friends had posted on her wall. It was all about how she has been reading The Feminine Mystique and trying to see how its concepts fit into her biblical worldview. Being an avid reader, a quasi-feminist and a Christian myself, I could relate to her dilemma. Many of the comments left on her post were in opposition to her views that women should not feel morally obligated to be stay-at-home moms. Many of these people were pointing out that men are obligated by things such as traditional wedding vows to "provide for their families" which apparently is synonymous with "no woman shall be permitted to bring in more income than her husband." I thought some of you (my non-existant, captive audience) might like to see the comments I left for her, as they represent views that I also feel very strongly about. Erin has got me thinking, and I have decided to buy myself a copy of The Feminine Mystique as well. It may or may not support a biblical worldview, but that is something that I can only truly discern by reading it for myself. There is no rule that says you can't be a Christian and a thinker at the same time. In fact, I like to think that God would rather we actually use the brains He gave us instead of letting them atrophy by jumping on the bandwagon of book burners and blind haters that so many who claim His name tend to do. Anyway, without further ado, my thoughts on biblical motherhood, whatever the heck that may mean in today's society:

Erin, I just want to thank you for being bold enough to post these ideas on a public forum within a community that so often will disagree with what you have to say on these issues. It is refreshing to see someone who shares many of my questions about gender roles and Christianity when I have grown so used to women/girls at LU simply buying into the "men lead, women blindly follow" and "how dare you get a job and not breastfeed" mentality without a second thought. These are questions/issues that I have been seriously grappling with for the past few months as I am due to have my own child in the fall. Thankfully, Brendan agrees with many of my views and is very much okay with me continuing to work outside the home once the baby is born. Then again, this is the same man who has jokingly boasted that I will be his "sugar mama" so he can be a stay-at-home dad because the profession I have chosen to enter could easily bring in six figures a year while he intends to be a youth pastor.

I understand that I have been seriously blessed to have a husband who is so open-minded and, dare I say, progressive, in his ideas about gender roles and biblical submission. However, just because I have support within my home doesn't mean that I am not faced with opposition from without every day. Good friends of mine cannot fathom why I would "abandon" my children to daycare, allowing someone else to "raise" them while I "selfishly and ambitiously" seek to utilize the $50,000+ degree that I have worked my butt off for. For starters, I honestly don't expect the daycare center to raise my kids. That job is for Brendan and I, and it is a job we can still do while both working full-time. Just because I don't spend every waking moment with my child doesn't mean that I will never be able to teach him/her morals, manners and basic guidelines for life.

In fact, in my experience working with youth, many of the kids I have seen who have the most issues are the ones whose mothers hover and refuse to let go. I don't want to be the woman who has no choice but to homeschool her children because they have separation anxiety that makes day school impossible. I would rather have children who understand why it is necessary for them to be independent of me (after all, I won't be around to hold their hands forever). I don't think that utilizing daycare for a few hours a day early in my child's life will nullify any attempts I ever make to raise a morally upright human being that is capable of thinking for him or herself and making good choices. Sadly, many of my Christian brothers and sisters disagree with me, but I can't let them stop me from making my own decisions and choosing to do what I honestly feel is best for my child. Social norms and biblical principles are not synonymous, regardless of what the breastfeeding nazis like to say.

In fact, considering our current financial situation, I would consider myself an unfit mother if I quit my job to stay home with the baby. Love does not put food on the table, and with the added expenses that will naturally come with this child, neither will one income. My husband and I BOTH have a moral, biblical and social obligation to provide for the basic needs of our child, regardless of what "traditional" wedding vows say (and by the way - we didn't actually use the traditional vows, so what do they mean for our relationship?). As a result, I must work to contribute to the provision of food, shelter and clothing for my kid, and I see nothing wrong with that.

But I have rambled on too long. Just know that you aren't alone and that someone else is struggling with these issues in a very real way. I don't think there's a definitive answer to any of our questions in sight just now, but hopefully more and more people will begin to consider this an issue worth studying and debating instead of just blindly following current social norms and judging and mislabeling those of us who dare to think differently.

So those were my thoughts on the issue. If anyone is actually reading this, then by all means, feel free to tell me what you think on the subject. Though I should warn you, I am not looking for an attitude-filled, ad-hominem-based debate or blatant attacks on Christianity in general and probably won't respond to such comments.


HIS Princess said...

Hey Hannah!
I am so excited you have a blog! I am praying for you up at LU!


dallimomma said...

I can't believe I'm reading you on the web. Very cool. I do have a question/comment and I hope that you will not find it attitude-filled; just curious. Can you clarify for me how someone can be "open-minded and progressive" in their thinking about Biblical submission. For me, the mere presence of the word "Biblical" leaves no wiggle room. It is what it is. I think of God's word as relevant for today and accurate beyond measure. Those things don't seem to mesh with open-mindedness and progressive thinking. Please explain.
As the soon-to-be grandma, I would offer this completely unsolicited advice to you and your darling husband: stay open. I don't mean in an "all night, 24/7" kind of way although, with a newborn, that goes without saying. Let me clarify. Someone (I honestly don't remember who) once told me that you change so much in the time between high school graduation and age 25 that you're practically not the same person. I can only vouch for my own experience, and observation of my own kids, but I have found this to be true. The same is true for the whole "before delivery/after delivery" of having children. What you say you will do and won't do becomes much more flexible in the bright light of day-to-day reality. Don't get me wrong; I applaud your courage, ambition, ideals and having a goal for your family. I just want to encourage you to remain pliable in the face of a life that is never going to be the same again (or for any two days in a row, even). Thank God!
If you can do that, you will spare yourself much, but not all, of the grief that new and old parents alike experience on a daily basis.
And in case you're doing research for that book (couldn't it be non-fiction?), I'll give you my survey answer. I would have stayed home with my kids all day, every day from the very beginning if given a chance and actually did make that decision when JW was a baby. Finally. You and I, we are different in so many ways and so we won't make the same choices. But we love lots of the same people and that makes me happy. Love you. "Mom"

dallimomma said...

P.S. I forgot; that "breastfeeing nazis" line ought to get you a few comments! Way to stir up the traffic!