The Mommy Wars

Reposting this from Nov. 3, 2004 in the interest of defining some things about SAHM’s and some of the cultural myths that are *still* with us.

Prologue:
While keeping track of the election results and discovering new blogs I came across a set of things that caught my interest and have the common thread of comments on parenting, and being a mommy in particular.

The first was a book,Home Alone America, which the webpage headlined as reopening “The Mommy Wars”. I suppose that is related to the “Cultural Wars”, or a subset of sorts. I read the interview with the author, Mary Eberstadt , and she basically uses research to point up the problem of parental absenteeism, which includes the role of Mom, though it doesn’t restrict the problem to that. ( According to reviews).

The second thing was an article from the Wall Street Journal, which you can access in pdf form, here or look up on the Wall Street Journal site, it is called, “The Carriage Trade: Stay At Home Moms Get Entrepreneurial”.

The third, also a book review article, is

The all-too-female cluelessness of “I Don’t Know How She Does It”
from Salon.com.

Those were the inspiration, here are my thoughts-

…. but first, know that I am not wading into the mommy wars. If you are going to read my thoughts, get ready for a realistic look at what it is to be a SAHM in our culture, and not a blow by blow dissection of working women’s choices.
Continue reading The Mommy Wars

Are Stay-At-Home Moms Economically Productive?

The question seemed to be raised whether a woman who oversees a home is as economically productive, or even if she is -at all, as the woman with a career. This discussion arose in the comments at previously cited, the evangelical
outpost’s “Don’t Marry a Proverbs 31 Woman”
. Although this was not the main point of the post, which I happen to agree with: that we should have a Biblical model for the “Virtuous Woman” standard and not a reworked 1950 Sitcom throwback.

But along the way, we found this detour:

It probably started here, in Joe’s post

“This is not to say that marital bliss requires women to become June Cleaver-style stay-at-home moms. In fact, the biblical ideal for a wife, which is clearly presented in Proverbs 31:10-31, shares much in common with what we would nowadays consider a “career woman.” The primary difference is that becoming a “professional woman” entails acquiring qualities to build an impressive resume, while becoming a “Proverbs 31 woman” requires obtaining qualities to build an impressive character. But just as Noer warns against marrying a career woman, many Christians would advise (in reality if not in theory) that you avoid marrying a “Proverbs 31 woman.””

but it was in the disucssion that some of the thought was fleshed out

from commenter ‘Boonton’,
“I think for a small minority homeschooling is a perfect fit. I think, though, that for many many others homeschooling would quickly devolve into “just watch TV while I do these chores”.”

and
“I think getting the job done is the most virtous. That means it’s more virtous to have the humility to admit that you probably can’t homeschool your children very well and therefore let the school do it than it is to neglect your child’s education”

…it started to develop more here

“1. The assumption that God desires a Christian wife to devote herself to maintaining her home, rather than doing economically productive work.”
with a three point clarification from ‘TeresaHT’

as the contrapuntal view of stay at home woman now means one who does not do “economically productive work”

TeresaHT goes on to further elaborate:

“Some housework is economically productive, yes. But most of it, arguably, is not. Rather, it is work spent consuming and maintaining what someone else has already earned. It is not the same kind of work as raising chickens, spinning wool, maintaining a garden, or weaving cloth. All of these latter actions produced raw materials or converted raw materials into goods which could be used, bartered or sold. That’s what I’m calling “economically productive” work. Some housewives do this kind of work, but for many women, if they do it at all, it is only a small part of their work. Going grocery shopping is consumption, not production. Vacuuming the floor is maintance, not production. Do you really not see the difference? I’m not saying such consumming-and-maintaining work is unnecessary or unhelpful. Buying groceries, preparing meals, and clipping coupons is real work, no doubt about that! I’m just saying that I don’t believe God intends for such maintenance-and-consumption work to be the primary work most women do. The “men are producers, women are consumers and maintainers” model is not a Biblical model for division of labor: it is, rather, a result of the Industrial Revolution.”

Then a commenter, ‘giggling’ ( don’t be fooled by the inconequential name, this is one cogent and hard-hitting commenter) answers,

“What’s interesting here is that you seem to be stuck in the Industrial Revolution mindset as well, with your IR distinctions of producers of goods, consumers, and maintainers.

But in today’s society, it seems that the “goods” that people produce are not necessarily physical commodities that you seem to elevate in importance above “services” that people produce.

Services, after all, are what you are describing as somehow lower in importance than the production of physical commodities. Yet what is your justification for such a distinction?

Isn’t it true that companies exist today whose sole purpose, for example, is to go grocery shopping for you and deliver them to your door? They are called service industries and there is simply no reason to say that what they sell are less products than shoes are to Nike.

I seriously believe in light of examples such as this that your own Industrial Revolution perspective limits what you view as production, and therefore taints your view of the legitimate production that wives do (not to mention those employed in service industries).”

I couldn’t have said thngs better myself, not even with time and editing.

There is much more in the comments ( 77 and counting last time I looked), but this is enough quoting to give you the direction that some of the opinion was taking.

======

IMO

There is much made of falsely quantifying criteria for the purpose of rendering soundbytes. That isn’t the fault of a singular blogger, it is the way we deal with information in our society. If you are issuing government statistics or computing taxes, it makes sense to reduce “economic productivity” to the restricted terms used here, but in real life, and in actual computation of what makes the financial cut, there is a whole passive economy that simply isn’t factored in. And the SAHM’s are smack in the middle of that “passive” economy. I thought we had come to a place in our society where we understood that a throw-away consumerism will cost everyone more in the long run. I guess I was wrong, because when you give added weight to those “produce” through creating goods, and marketing only, the ‘career women’…. you have returned to that mode of assessing value.

So instead of outright preaching, I throw it to the common sense and sensibilities of the readers: do those who maintain the wealth, who provide volunteer services, do untold tasks for healthy families which then require less “help” form government and non-profits ,who keep the warp and weft of society strung together count for something economically?

(yes, I kinda preached anyway)

The Virtuous Woman

I love how Joe Carter put the Proverbs thirty-one verse we know so well in a clarified order. Set up as character qualities that are universal- it makes some of the concepts much easier to grasp.

I think this verse has lasting application for us as women and it did me good to take a fresh look through Joe’s eyes…even if I didn’t agree with everything that was presented in the declarations of participants on the topic.
Read, enjoy, think, apply.

That is what it is all about.

the evangelical outpost: Don’t Marry a Proverbs 31 Woman

The Proverbs 31 woman is charitable, entrepreneurial, fashionable, financially astute, healthy, industrious, loving, managerial, productive, prudent, resourceful, responsible, reverent, self-confident, skilled, trustworthy, virtuous, wise, praiseworthy as a wife and mother, and married to a respectable husband.

According to Proverbs, the ideal wife is:

A woman who is…virtuous

10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.

A woman who is…trustworthy

11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.

A woman who is…loving

12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.

A woman who is…industrious

13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.

A woman who is…resourceful

14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.

A woman who is…responsible

15 She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.

A woman who is…entrepreneurial

16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

A woman who is…healthy

17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.

A woman who is…financially astute

18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.

A woman who is…skilled

19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

A woman who is…charitable

20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

A woman who is…prudent

21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

A woman who is…fashionable

22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

A woman who is…married to a respectable husband

23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

A woman who is…productive

24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.

A woman who is…self-confident

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

A woman who is…wise

26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

A woman who is…managerial

27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

A woman who is…praiseworthy as a wife and mother

28-29 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”

A woman who is…reverent

30-31 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Should you be interested, I have had my own commentary on this Bible passage. We wander around without any idea of what we want to accomplish with our lives, but we don’t need to, the Bible has lots of enlightening advice, such as this passage. We just have the problem of going all glassy eyed with our own presuppositions that we already know how useless it must be… or illusions that we will find better answers in what passes for women’s literature and magazines these days. Tsk tsk, no wonder we are all so very very confused and hurt and disappointed.

Woman Problems

I’ve been contributing over at Intellectuelle and posting on the topic of women in the Church. During the course of discussion Hannah Im contributed “Submission in Ephesians 5” which was interesting in itself, but in the comments following someone gave a link to a site selling articles and books dealing with the concept of Biblical equality.

It is mind-blowing to see how much writing on the the subject, just on women alone.

I happened upon the name of Katharine C. Bushnell. After I came upon that biography and read this,

After her years on the mission field, Katherine began to realize “that woman’s plight was rooted in the fact that the Bible was seen to support the degradation and suppression of women. Her conclusion was that the Bible needed to be reinterpreted. . .” Her final battle, conducted on paper, God’s Word to Women, has basically been ignored by Bible scholars.

It made me think.

Is there any truth in that contention? I have not considered it from that perspective, given that this is the the argument of those I usually find as opposition.

I have always stood on the opposite side of the fence as an adult woman. I chose to stay at home with my children when there was an exodus of women into the work/day care world, I have fielded back handed compliments and outright insults for doing so. I am adamantly convinced that it is better for children to be raised in a traditional family with mother at home to take care of them. That is settled for me, but what is most unsettling is the lack of balance in the ideas of women’s ministry. I have found deeply disturbing things in the Church, and now this voice from the past, in Katharine C. Bushnell.

I haven’t read enough of her writing to know what it is I think, but it is something I intend to pursue.

This is important to me, since one of the principles I am convinced of is that we should be “doers” of the Word and not hearers, only. I am not willing to give false ideas of submission and authority the benefit of the winking eye and the hypocrisy of double standards. I just need to know where the lines fall….

Beauty

Last time I attended homegroup we were asked the question,”What are your passions?” in the discovery process of our gifts and calling. My own answer was “beauty”, as I have had that as a life long expression in many areas. As a child, the answer to the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question was “an artist”. This was usually countered with the impracticalities of earning power in such a career, yet if you have such a passion, it flows into avocations and sort of rises to the top eventually.

It colors what I appreciate in others, certainly. I have broadened my definitions of what makes for beauty in life. It can be a thought well expressed, a home that is perfectly suited for hospitality, the best points of a culture, ….many many things.

In reading through my blogroll, I arrived at today’s lessons where, in this post, the homeschooling mom attempts to provide an answer to the “trend in our culture to ridicule those who love beauty”. Revealing, “when I admit my love of beauty, even to myself, I feel shallow and vulnerable, like the addlepated Anne of Green Gables who was so often twitted about her romanticism.”

I wrote a comment only to have my computer suddenly shut off, and after rebooting decided the topic was worth of a post. While it is a longstanding trend to devalue beauty in our culture, it seems a peculiarly American Christian struggle to rationalize our passion for it. In recognizing this, I am nevertheless nonplussed in explaining it. How do we question God’s intent for this aspect of life when so much of it is integrated into the natural creation? We are surrounded by beauty and it is nature that brings us back to ground in the awe of how much we need to view beauty in order to remember and appreciate the Creator.

When addressing this narrowed viewpoint that seems adopted by Evangelical Christians, I am always reminded of the efforts by the Schaeffer family to rectify this defect. Whether you read Francis, Edith or either of their children’s writings on various subjects, there is an effort to convince Christians that aspiring for excellence and creating something of beauty in life is praiseworthy, and is an important way to glorify God in this life.

So like the homeschooling mom, known as ‘thicket dweller’, I feel that beauty, its appreciation and pursuit, are an important and intrinsic part of a womans life. I think it is most likely more than that, though. I think that God has incorporated beauty into so much of His expression that this is a part of life as it is meant to be lived, both here and in the hereafter. It is a way we inspire, in which we aspire to something greater than ourselves. It brings joy, and for that reason alone we ought to cherish and esteem it.

~~~~~~

Dr. Francis Schaeffer Complete Works
Edith’s book on family and homemaking

Sidetracked: Andrea Dworkin

I’m interested in Andrea Dworkin, now. I have held opinions that prostitution and pornography are damaging to women, especially on the macro social scale of degradation of image and the ensuing degradation of status.

And yes, the way we view women as a whole matters.

So Andrea Dworkin interests me. Even though I wouldn’t necessarily subscribe to her theories, I want to know something of what she thought on the subject.

The trouble is that she, and many feminists do this, railed against the ‘what is” of there being the male side to the human race. If things are awry-even as terribly awry as they obviously are, the answer is not to get rid or suppress the entire other in the group.

Maybe that is part of the problem in focusing on problems… you become convinced that you can make things better by eradicating somebody. It is the surrender of hope, not believing that understanding will accomplish anything to solve any problems. Not believing in the possibility of change, not willing to protect the boundaries of another.

Perhaps that is why people get so solidified and rigid, they look only at the negative and think that the positive will prevail if they take out more. When the positive has a presence and substance and needs to be grown and cultivated.

Maybe that is why so many revolutions have so many bad endings… they only make room for more of the same negative results, rather than transforming the situation and solving the problems.
======
To any proponent of pornography I demand that they answer on the rising exploitation of women and children in the modern form of slavery that we see proliferating today. Women and children sold into the sex trade, tricked into its confines.

If it is such a victimless crime, why do you have to fill your coffers with the fresh blood of the unwilling?
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Anytime you objectify a person you wipe the face from them, they are no longer more than a thing…they seem devoid of feeling or vulnerability. They are some cartoon character on a two dimensional surface, which you get to erase and rewrite at will. That is a deadening exercise. When you do not try to capture the spirit, but instead so stylize something that it is no longer defined for you.

Maybe this is what deadens a marriage. You are no longer interested in the person, in discovering the uniqueness of who they are.

This doesn’t just happen within one category in the idealized woman, the cobbling together of physical and personality attributes, results in a fantasy woman, one that changes at the will of the imagination. What real woman can live up to that? But how many women lose themselves trying?

Perhaps this is something affecting men, too, but I have never given that much thought. It seems it could work in reverse, but I think the reason so many people define themselves by their work is that this is a time honored way to escape the insecurity of whether you match up to society’s, or significant others, expectations. You just have your nice neat job description and your bona fide paycheck and there you go!

Not always so easy, but the drift is there….

Is real so very hard to face? Is real so unappealing? I always look at the message of The Matrix when I think of this. For some reason real is so much more satisfying that we are willing, at least some of us are willing, to have the very ugly real over the surface perfection of the manufactured.

Strange, isn’t it? for all the hype of the manufactured, we want something more…… intangible.

Post-Partum Penciling

Penciling, because that is best I can do on the subject, but I can’t really blog on other things until I try to put together what I’d like to say on this.

It’s a situation complicated by the clash between what we expect to happen and what actually can happen. I thought Amy‘s story did a good job of rendering the one against the other in her experience… I don’t know if it was written intentially that way, or that is just how it tends to fall naturally in our mind.
Birth is supposed to be joyful as an event, but… I mean to be the best possible mother …but… my body…the circumstance… me… what is happening and why isn’t the way I was led to believe it would be? the way I hoped it would be?

This can happen in various circumstances, but giving birth to your children is one of those huge milestones of life. When we struggle with how that unfolds for us, it is so huge. Crushing, if it doesn’t go as planned, many times.

We are individuals, we bring in individual strengths and weaknesses, often the sort we have no conscious control over. So if depression postpartum hits you hard, with or without complicating factors, it is a serious matter for you and those you love, and that new baby dependent on you. But often times you are helpless.

Before I say anything more, I just want to say that everyones birth is unique, even each birth that the same woman has- each is a unique experience. Birth is a natural process, but one of those that carries the possibilities of risk. You have to face that. With or without medical help you cannot guarantee the outcome 100% . And that has nothing to do with you- you just try to get all the odds in yours and the babies favor, and this is what I’d like to look at.

I have had ten different births, in different circumstances. Some were very different from the others, one had severe postpartum depression, one had none. I can’t compile any sort of “finding” from this, I can just share some of what I think.

I think that support makes all the difference. Loving support is a major factor in outcomes for women on many levels in their birth experience and their mothering. I am convinced of this.

Unfortunately, we isolate women, we expect unhuman strength: pop those babies out and get on with the business of life. The real business, and ignore your need for recovery, ignore the fact that interventions may have seriously interfered with your bonding, and be a man about it.

That is right…be a man… pretend you don’t have the needs you do from the complete body and emotion experience you have just gone through. It wasn’t always this way, but we don’t dependably have the love and support we need. And I don’t mean from the main man- he may give all he can and it still isn’t all that is needed. We need other women, some who do practical things, some who do emotionally meaningful things. And we need someone to share with when we feel we are going over the edge.

Most of us get by without the ideal levels of support, but the more we have the richer all our families are for it.

The better off the children are.

And this can entail simple things. A hired doula for a couple weeks. A helpful friend to do laundry, ones mother. This was ( I don’t know if it still is) a part of the success that the Netherlands had with lower infant mortality. The mothers had a helper at home, after the birth.

Hospital births have interventions that interfere with birth and bonding, but no one practically expects American women to change from hospital birthing for the most part. It should be compensated for, however. The old time Church ministry of lovingly prepared meals for the family are one thoughtful support. Breaking off the false face of being the perfect mother from the get-go might help, too. Maybe just whatever comes from an organic relationship of wanting that woman to be successful in her mothering- simply an openness of attitude around her.

And that makes me think… that at birthtime, we ought to make it all about her. More than someones wedding day- which is that one day that is supposed to be all about her; on the birth day of someones baby we ought to make it a honeymoon time of being all about her: her comfort, her celebration, her tears, her feelings. Sort of an account from which she can draw as her life becomes all about her baby for a time. We share in the tremendous effort and joy that brought forth a child into the world- we gather around as community.

Can we do this? Is this too hard? We have strapped on so much luggage for the new mother. It is surprising that there is desire to go through the reproductive process at all…it must be that our hearts have more say than we realize.

In postpartum depression, however, some of what we need to give is a listening ear, a space where the fears can be shared, and the disappointments expressed. I believe that support will do much to dissipate the power of depression, but if an individuals need is more than can be dealt with in this way, at least the support can help in the healing process.

Much of the business of life is in the daily details of relating…. and not in the boardrooms and public image. We are not machines, we are not resources to be spent, we are women. In birthing, we give much of ourselves and we need some recovery. We need encouragement and nurture in learning to love and allowing the blossoming of our maternal instincts.

That is the reality. Celebrate with the happy, embrace the despairing…. isn’t that wisdom?

Romans 12:15,16

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

Be of the same mind one toward another.

Mamas

I sent out some interview questions, but I thought I would simply post them here and link when I get responses. If you are not a mother of many- that is just fine, just mold the questions to your own situation and let me know the link in the comments section. Open to whoever wants to participate!

Ready, set, go…
Continue reading Mamas

Replay, Seasons in a Woman’s Life

This is probably the last I will do of ‘replays’, I didn’t save much of my material when I updated or deleted things from my website. But this is one that I like to reread, just to remind myself when I feel overwhelmed by the clamor of this modern life.

(Jan 21, 1999)

Seasons and women are twining together within my thoughts, the blurring and disintegration of the two, and our losses because of it. The thread of explanation:

We (our society and our own selves within it) try to create a seasonless environment. Changes and the need to make adjustments just make us irritable, such interference with our plans and schedules! We get this false sense of control from heating, cooling, and humidifying systems, from the mini environments of our cars, homes, and offices, and it extends into our mental and emotional environments. We have these ideal pictures of what we will accomplish and how we will fit living into our frameworks so carefully wrought. But weather, electrical supply, and other personalities don’t always amenably comply, and we wake up exhausted and disappointed from trying to form our world. That can be a blessing, you know: to step outside of the perfect, tight, and well-run schedules. There is even a cliche’ for it…smelling roses.

In a woman’s life there is such a crush of busyness that runs from the mid-twenties to the mid- thirties. It seems we must become so many titles and fulfill so many expectations that we build our card houses precariously balancing everything and hoping all the while that all will “just stand steady”. Please, please, please.

But life as a whole is a progression of seasons, seasons of learning, seasons of doing, seasons of resting. There are beginnings and progressions and endings, and we are wise to observe such things. Because we may artificially mask the changes of the seasons does not always mean we should. Our means are tools for us to make our adjustments, not our weapons for fending off phases forever. We would not choose only sunny days all the time if we really thought carefully about it, and we would not stay fixed at twenty years old, or in a high state of romance, either, if it was static and false. A woman’s life has phases like the moon and seasons of nature, each with its own particular joys and chores.

If I garden like crazy, working on too many plans, where is my joy in the June’s special rose effects? It will not be repeated for another year and maybe not in that special way in a lifetime. So, seasons of marriage, and children, of skills and production, of caring and being cared for, wax and wane. We have a marvelous skill of discernment of time, and we have only the need to take the time to put it to use. “Lord, teach me to number my days”.

Lies I Was Told

In the discussion on parenting styles, Mommy Wars (working moms vs. SAHM), twixter woes, and related topics, I thought I would list some of the lies I was told in my own generation ( tail-end of babyboomer). They went like this:

  • Don’t have more than two or three children
  • divorce is better for the kids than unhappy parents
  • You can’t afford more than two or three children
  • Making a home doesn’t count, having a stylish home base does
  • You are only as worthwhile as the paying job you hold
  • Being with children deadens your mind
  • You have power to mold your children contrary to any other factor
  • You will not be able to wait til they are in school!
  • You will have a life again as soon as your children are in another’s care
  • Your generation is different- and better
  • Old fashioned mores aren’t applicable anymore

Those were just the ones I grew up with, after becoming a Christian I took on a few more lies:

  • Children need discipline starting early- show them who is boss by making them “cry it out”( leaving them in the crib)
  • Your children should be exemplary examples of what you can do with them
  • They, and you, need to “act right” – the way the great WE deem best
  • Christian women who ‘work’ are better than Christian women who don’t
  • Volunteer for everything you can
  • Be at church every time the door opens
  • Don’t have so many children that it crimps your volunteer availability
  • Christians who dress right and dress well and who have children who do, are better
  • Women ought to shut up- especially you

The thing is, you have to wade through lies that don’t appear to be lies …everyone else is giving their lives to the same prospects…and you are all on one great lemming run together. Along the way are interventions of revelations, stop-and-view-the-results moments, harrowing experiences of seeing other people’s lives fall apart, and some honest looks at what your Bible really says; along with reading historical accounts of people and hearing speakers that found insights into alternatives. Supported with actual results.

But sadly, those last two examples are few, most is “live and learn”. It seems the norm for humans to go through phases of reassessment. In fact, maybe all these discussions on twixters? Maybe those are the reassessments of the thirty, forty and fifty somethings of today. Who are ready to give the very best five years of their lives to raising those ungrateful kids… and then feel they deserve a grand retirement with all the frills as compensation. Like their moms and dads received.

Twixters?

But, you know, life as we have known it in the past couple decades seems like an unusual blip on the history of the generations being responsible for and to each other. There is so much out of balance that the corrections look like they will be very harsh. I hope not, but I think that it will take more honesty than the present discussion has given forth. It will take more than snarky Simonisms, tongue-clucking, and slick commentary.

Perhaps it will take a social valor we find uncommon, in finding the course and staying true- with all the sacrifice that means for our own little kingdoms and fairy tale castles in the air. I am not sure we have the heart for it, to tell the truth.

Our lies have made us so comfortable….not unlike our kids……