“You are not here to get your ‘Mrs.’ degree.”
It was my first week at college and I was in a “freshman seminar” class (which was as pointless as it was a waste of time). The professor spoke these words to her new students to make sure that they knew one thing: by the time they were done, they would have their vocation set. Indeed, the professor reminded us on multiple occasions that a vocation was more than just what religion called for, but what our professional careers would be. This did not include marriage.
I was shocked by the statement. Though I was there to learn, my goal in life was to become a wife and mother. But after the surprise wore off, I was saddened by her statement, for this was a Christian university, one that, I thought, would be doing what they could to encourage strong, Christian marriages that would bring up strong, Christian families that would do likewise.
Now this professor’s statement did not speak for the school or even all of the professors. It is, however, in the back of the minds of many people. This is not a problem found solely in the Church but one that, like many, have seeped in from the culture. The issue is this: women should not subjugate themselves to marriage and children but should put their careers first. While I am not so very shocked at seeing this in our secular culture, I am shocked at how often I hear a similar sentiment in the Church.
In the last year, my husband and I have been to at least half a dozen churches (between internship, seeking calls, moving, and finally finding a call). At each one we went to I was asked, “So what job are you looking for?” It is never, “What do you like to do?” or “How is married life?” or “How are you adjusting to moving again?”. Now that we have moved again, I frequently hear, “Are you looking for a job? Such and such place is hiring. Here’s their number.” It is always assumed that I must be looking for a job. After all, what else would I be doing? I find this frustrating, despite the fact that I know they have good intentions. Here is my issue:
I have a job. Multiple, in fact. I am a full-time wife, homemaker, author, artist, daughter, and hopefully future mother. I frequently teach Sunday school and sing with the band on occasion. I care for my garden, train our dog, and make sure the house stays clean. I make sure food is ready for every meal, watch people’s kids, and try to keep spending below income. In what part of that do I need a “real job”? This is my life.
But, most of the people who ask if I’m looking for a “job” do not understand this. Actually, I’d rather say most of these women, for the majority of people who talk to me on this subject are women. These are women who have worked out of the house their whole lives and still, strangely, can’t seem to find a reason to go home. These are women who have been ingrained with the idea that they cannot find fulfilment in a husband, in children, in caring for the duties at home, for fulfilling their God-given duties. Instead, they were told to wait for a husband until after school. They were then told to wait until settled in a career until having kids. Then they were told to only have a couple of kids and to take fulfillment out of a career. They were told that the things that make them a woman were not good enough.
In turn, that is what these women tell me, whether they know it or not.
How these people would laugh if I told them that I, like many of my friends, want to have at least four children, I want to home-school them, and if I never had another “real job” in my life I would be as happy as a saint. They would laugh and say, “Sure, dear, we’ll see you in five years.”
Why does this happen in the Church? Why does my recognizing that children are a blessing and an inheritance from the Lord invite scorn? Why does my and my husband’s desire to teach our children from when they are young incur mockery? Why does the fact that I want to stay and be the helpmate of my husband from home produce derision, as if I am somehow less or think so little of myself for wanting this? I know my abilities and my worth. I know God has called me to what I do. Why then do so many people in the Church reject these things? Of all the places in the world, this should be the place where such desires are praised! What happened to the praise of the “Proverbs 31 Woman”?
I wish I could show people all the things my mother does. I wish I could show them that not having a college degree, marrying, and having three children was the best thing that could have happened to her. I wish they could see the way that she uses her God-given abilities to support my family, to help other families, and to fulfill her calling. I wish they could see the way she adores my father, thanking him for being the one to work out of the home, never wishing to take his place in that role. I wish they could see it, and I wish they could see that potential in other young women.
I see nothing wrong with women going to college. In fact, I would encourage it. I learned much, got my degree, and met my husband there. I laugh now when I think of that professor from my freshman year. I see nothing wrong in women working, especially if to provide for the needs of their family. I work every day. But what I cannot fathom is why people in the church would be telling young women that dreaming of getting married, of having and raising children, of being homemakers will make them less than what they are. Fulfilling their God-given calling by using their God-given abilities is nothing but good. What better thing is there to aspire towards?
Blessings to you and yours,