On a recent post, I received this (wonderfully honest) comment:
“I must not be working hard enough, but I don’t remember feeling this same kind of exhaustion before kids. Nobody whines at work and quibbles constantly and interrupts my every task with the frequency of little kids. At work I did what I got a degree to do. At home I feel far more untrained. For me, parenting is the most mentally exhausting experience I’ve had to do day in and day out.”
You are saying something I’ve heard many times now from other moms. I think honestly, and ironically, a large part of the mental exhaustion you’re expressing is due to Feminism.
Because of Feminism, we have had less training, and less mental preparation for motherhood and daily care of the home than any other generation before us. The vast majority of us did exactly what you have outlined here– got our degrees, and were prepared to use them in a sterile, professional environment.
What we WEREN’T encouraged to do was to consider how basic human biology might affect the pursuit for successful sterility and “you can do anything”-ism we’d been raised to believe in. What we WEREN’T encouraged to do was spend time with moms of little ones, and most of us grew up in 2-child homes, so our reality was far removed from any awareness of pregnancy, breastfeeding, and the real, daily demands of raising young children.
Whereas previous generations had watched their relatives (and often, their own mothers) go through the stages of motherhood, and seen (up close) the process of pregnancy, infant care, discipline, and parenting, we did not. Whereas the few generations before ours, since industrialization, had at least had home-ec and shop class to help them make the transition from academic work to family life, our generation mocked these things as non-academic, since they weren’t on the “college” track.
Putting it straight, Feminism belittled the thing that almost all women eventually do, and exalted the thing that many women (Christian and secular alike) opt to set aside, or place further down on the priority list for a time, in order to devote themselves to a season of childrearing.
Because of this, many of us arrived to adulthood ill-prepared for the daily tasks of being a mom. We came into motherhood unprepared for the whining, quibbling, interruptions, and everyday normal NEEDS of children. When truthfully, that is one of the ONLY things that, across the board, most of us as women would encounter.
You might work in business, my friend might be a nurse, and I might’ve worked in a political office, but almost all of us eventually become mothers of young children, and yet that common thing among us is the one thing none of us were well-prepared for.
I find that appalling, and a great failure of the 30-40 year rise of feminism.
This failure has left us most befuddled by the thing that happens to most of us, and most “well-prepared” (complete with degree and training and internships and such) for things that many of us (either due to motherhood or due to the crummy economy) don’t end up spending our lives doing.
This reader’s observation is one that points LESS to the reality of parenting and its challenges (which people have done for thousands of years, with far more children, with far less gear, far less education, and far less financial resources than we possess), and to me, points MORE to the reality of what Feminism has wreaked in our society.
In the comments, PLEASE SHARE:
- Did you feel well-prepared, or ill-prepared, for motherhood?
- As a mother, have the level of needs and daily demands taken you by surprise?
*** Heads up: Keep it thought-provoking; keep it kind. Rude comments will just get the “delete” button, cause ain’t nobody got time for that. ***
73 thoughts on “Unprepared for Motherhood: Thanks, Feminism!”
Yes! This so eloquently and gently says what I have observed. Thankfully I’ve had Titus 2 women all along the way to help me learn, and I intend to teach as well. Despite what society has tried to impress upon women, God does provide a way for us to learn!
So true, Lindsay!
It’s wonderful to experience God’s plan for our growth through the Body of Christ & the way we’re meant to pour into one another. I’m so thankful for the women (including my mom) who have fanned the flames of love for God, love for my husband, and love for my children, over the years.
I’m not a mother (yet… I very much want to be though), so what I say can of course be taken with a grain of salt. I have a job where I work with the public (retail), where I deal with whiney grownups throwing temper tantrums. Only difference between that and a mother dealing with the whiney temper tantrums of small children is that I’m not allowed to nip it in the bud, but have to keep my mouth shut. So I guess you could say I’m prepared for the onslought of tantrums to come my way from any children I might have.
I’m not saying feminism is helpful in any way, and I think it is a deadly poison to all who drink of it. I’m just saying that we can sometimes find ways to apply what we learn elsewhere to help us with children. It takes a bit of creativity I’m sure though.
Haha! Good point. I am infinitely more frustrated by hearing tantrums that I have no authority to stop, than by my own kids’ tantrums. And yes, I think there are a great many ways in “real life” without kids, where we can learn lessons that will help us when we do parent kids, if we’re careful (like you are doing) to look for those lessons.
Slightly different angle on that topic- but this was a great (and surprisingly honest & self-examining) article this morning that presents the problem that comes with abandoning the idea of authority: I’m a Die-Hard Liberal. It Ruined My Parenting.
Feminism had nothing to do with being unprepared for motherhood. I was 18 when my oldest child was born. I was unprepared for anything! However, in the ensuing 32 years, I’ve managed to get married, raise three children, finish college and have a career. Exhaustion was and is part of the game when you are working full time, have kids and are part of the “sandwich” generation where you are raising your children and being the full time caretaker for elderly parents.
And…even though my mother was NOT the most domestic or maternal creature around, I am a fantastic cook, can do almost anything around the house including the “domestic arts” and generally enjoy my life. I could not and can not see myself staying home all day, I’d go stir crazy. The few times I did stay home, I felt as if the walls were closing in. I prefer an active life, using my talents, abilities and education for the benefit of my family.
And yes, I am a feminist, working in a male-dominated world. I love it!
This is the definition of false dichotomy. Staying home is at least partly as isolating and horrible as you describe it because of feminism. Look at how you present an active life as something only attainable outside the home, which is only possible if one doesn’t consider one’s home a real part of the adult world. That’s abnormal and not terribly historical. Feminism is also one of the reasons the sandwich generation exists as well. And then of course there’s the way that feminism encourages simultaneously demeaning the traditionally feminine domestic arts while boasting about how easy they are to acquire and excel at.
Your comment is quite revealing, as your children are presented as an aside, less significant an accomplishment than “working in a male-dominated world”. Feminism as ever ends with desiring the masculine as the summit of accomplishment and demeaning the feminine, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes quite intentionally. I have no idea which is the case in your comment.
Feminism’s demeaning of motherhood and the feminine world have made it quite difficult for women like me, who love being at home and treating it as a full part of our lives and not just a place to sleep before going out to live as a consumption unit.
Ummm I disagree with your entire theory. I was raised in a very conservative home. I was the oldest of 5 children. The youngest was born when I was 13. I had plenty of time and experience caring for younger siblings. I babysat regularly, until I was 16, at which time I began to work full-time, while still in high school. I had to take that job because my family was very poor. I was adept at diaper changing, feeding babies and young children, and caring for them.
I went to college at 18. I loved it! It was an adventure. I met my husband and married him when I was 20. Shortly after we were married, I became a nanny for 3 children. I finished my schooling and had my first baby at 21. About five days after having my first baby, I collapsed into my husband’s arms and sobbed and sobbed. I was tired. It was hard. It was nothing like what I had imagined. For the entire first year of my child’s life, I felt wholly inadequate. I didn’t know what I was doing and was completely overwhelmed. It was nothing like taking care of my siblings. It was nothing like babysitting. Motherhood was the process of devoting my soul to the constant care of another individual. That process is extremely painful and challenging. I don’t think there is any way to be “prepared” for the demands of being a mother. It is learning to serve 24/7. <—That is one very painful lesson.
I now have 3 children. Some days we do fine, and some days I'm drowning. It doesn't get easier. Challenges change, but I'm still in the throes of breastfeeding and potty-training. It is still hard. There are days I feel unprepared for the challenges I'm facing. I'm a SAHM that homeschools my children. I didn't begin to identify as a feminist until just before the birth of my third child. Feminism has not limited my abilities as a SAHM. Feminism helped with ending the stigmas associated with breastfeeding in public. If I couldn't feed my baby in public, I could never go out. Because of feminism I can vote. I have a political voice. Because of feminism, if anything happens to my husband, I can provide for my family with a respectable career. Centuries ago, my only options would have been begging or prostitution. Because of feminism my husband doesn't feel emasculated by doing "women's work". He helps me clean, cook, and take care of the children (including diaper duty). I need that help. Feminism helped to make us equal partners in all things. Your theory is flawed. I am living proof!
No, La Leche League helped end the stigma of breastfeeding in public– housewives, not feminists, who pushed formula so that women could work outside the home in larger numbers and sooner after birthing.
As for women voting, that predates feminism too. Read some history, you might be surprised at what feminism didn’t wrought, for all its attempts to co-opt and claim various milestones. Centuries ago, women ran businesses and owned property, just like they do today.
I am sorry you don’t ask for support and help from other women, as is the historical norm for SAHMs rather than going it alone at worst and relying excessively on one’s husband to be sister and spouse at best. The forcing men to bring home the bacon plus cook it up and serve it that feminism has wrought has been very destructive to marriages. What SAHMs need is other women, not overworking their husbands and themselves out of perverse individualism.
My husband provides household help (other women!) for our household, so that I’m not stuck doing it all by myself or forcing him onto a second and third shift after he works all day to keep us fed and housed. That’s normal, not feminist.
I’m so happy for you Lindsay, It sounds like you made a great choice in life partner and your children will grow up seeing two adults who communicate with each other about societal norms well, and will not be limited by a strict narrative of what a wife, mother, husband, father etc should be.
Some people talk about staying at home like everyone has that option and they do not. True, in past centuries women (for the most part) worked within the household’s economy but people also died much earlier and had a higher infant mortality rate (hence the 15 plus children) women in the US today give birth knowing that their children will probably live to adulthood and will cost $400,000 dollars to raise before college is even thrown into the mix. Women have always made childbearing decisions based on economic realities only now those realities are different. To make women feel bad for not meeting up to an unrealistic standard of parental perfection is cruel. Mothering was always hard and mothers imperfect, its dangerous to believe that there was once this magical time when women where better than us.
Everyone *does* have the option of staying home, though. Not everyone takes it. But it is an option for us all. We are all free to do as we choose, and according to what we deem most valuable.
“in past centuries women (for the most part) worked within the household’s economy but people also died much earlier and had a higher infant mortality rate (hence the 15 plus children) women in the US today give birth knowing that their children will probably live to adulthood and will cost $400,000 dollars to raise before college is even thrown into the mix. Women have always made childbearing decisions based on economic realities only now those realities are different.” is full of problems.
I recently wrote a post for anyone who’d like to see it on Large Families & Sustainability (http://jessconnell.com/large-families-sustainability/), debunking this whole “cost to raise a child” thing. Those numbers are excessive, and mostly apply to those who have one of each gender and stop there.
No one here is seeking to “make others feel bad for not meeting up to an unrealistic standard of parental perfection”– (and ironically, there is so much disdain and judgment in that comment!). On the contrary, I’m all about encouraging moms to care for their souls (http://jessconnell.com/tag/soul-care/) and bodies (http://jessconnell.com/tag/burnout/).
Of course mothering is hard and of course we are all imperfect. That does not relieve any of us, as believers, from using biblical discernment to determine what is *best* and pursue it with all our strength. We will miss the mark, and yet we keep striving for that which is wise, fruitful, and eternal. Our decisions can not be based on temporary, ever-changing circumstances (like the economy) but on the faithfulness of our unchanging, dependable God & the wisdom found in His Word.
Well, I can’t speak for you, but I can speak for me. When I was 18, I was prepared for college. Prepared to dart away from my home, away from my family, away from my hometown as quick as I possibly could. The Feminist culture around me had absolutely prepared me for a gleaming feminist future. Even as a Christian, even having been a babysitter & knowing that I wanted a family, I dreamed career-centered dreams! Feminism was like the water we drank… so much a part of our lives that there is no way to fully identify the ways it’s affected us, but because it’s something new, as opposed to something that’s always been around, I believe we can look at the comparisons and contrasts from what existed in previous generations and make some fairly accurate and insightful observations about the ways that it has affected and influenced us all.
And I agree with you- Exhaustion is part of the game no matter what when you’re a mom. However, there is “good and tired”– a tiredness that comes from doing things well, and then there is an exhaustion that comes from having to scramble to do something hard that you haven’t been well-trained to do, and that (I believe) is what the reader’s comment is describing.
I can also say, from my limited 12 years of experience, that the exhaustion and challenge I felt when I just had my first son, or even my second (2 years later), was much more bone-wearying and mind-taxing than the exhaustion I feel now, even though now I have 6 children and am pregnant and 12 years older than I was then. Now, I have different challenges… learning how to interact with a young man, as opposed to a child. There are things I’m still learning. Ways that motherhood is still challenging me in new and fresh ways…
… but those early years of floundering through breastfeeding, mastitis, how to potty-train, what to do when a tantrum happens, how to respond when they hit me, when they hit each other (I cried!), when he first exhibited full-on characteristics of (gulp) sin even though I was convinced he was perfect (LOL, yes I did feel that way even though theologically I knew better). THOSE WERE TOUGH YEARS. And for my part, I’m convinced that much of that difficulty was wrought by the disconnectedness of our culture and the disdain for previous generations and their traditionalism (much of which was undeniably fueled by the rise of feminism).
Like you, I’ve grown in the domestic arts, and am thankful for the ways God has shored up the weaknesses inherent in the system in which I grew up.
I would say, that I think the way you are describing staying home would be like someone who took a job here or there and talks about how terrible it is to have a job. For my part, having both worked a career (an enjoyable position in my degreed area, that utilized my skills & paid well), and stayed home, I could say the exact same thing about staying home that you did about working: “I prefer an active life, using my talents, abilities and education for the benefit of my family.”
Best to you,
I felt very prepared. I was constantly arou
nd young families. I got married at 18 and had myfirst baby a year later. My closest friends from also married and had babies the same year so we supported each other.
Thanks for sharing your experiences, Sharon. Having a close community makes such a difference in those early years of childrearing… it’s something we all crave but not everyone gets to experience.
Jess, THANK YOU. I have four very young children (all under five), and I’ve often felt this way. And I grew up with a mom who stayed home until I was in school. I babysat and was comfortable around young kids, but I find myself often wishing that I’d done far less extra-curriculars and teenage “stuff” and focused on learning the arts of the home. I did learn the basics of cooking and baking, cleaning, budgeting, etc. So I thank my parents enormously for preparing me for a lot of what I deal with in wife-and-motherhood. In fact, I would say that thanks to my parents, I am a lot more prepared for being a homemaker than most people I grew up with. But now that I have four little ones, I really find myself wanting more than the basics. I can’t crochet, sew, can, garden…many no-brainers for women of past generations. Even time management is challenging because I have to wear so many hats at once. My grandmother had a large family and not nearly the conveniences we do…and yet she did it all with cloth diapers and glass bottles! Anyway it really saddens me, because I desperately want to pass those things on to my own daughter(s) and don’t have the skills. I’m hoping that perhaps we can learn some of them together when they’re older.
YES! Your story mirrors mine in so many ways.
My mom stayed home with us until we were in school. I babysat, and was raised in church. I was loved and given much input & support from my parents. But yes– I did so many extracurriculars and had a full schedule from age 11/12 until age 21 when I married, and yet, I got to marriage and had to read the back of the package about how to make rice. I bought chicken tenders because I didn’t feel competent with a knife and cutting board. We ate boxed food (what Weight Watchers & other programs refer to as “the middle of the grocery store”– that you’re suppose to avoid) a LOT those first few years… all because I was incompetent in the kitchen.
Like you, I would say, “thanks to my parents, I am a lot more prepared for being a homemaker than most people I grew up with.” Most definitely. I was encouraged to babysit, and my mom took time with me to do fun projects like homemade candle-making. Nonetheless, I found the daily demands of homemaking to be an uphill climb. On the flip side, I now live in a community where homeschooling moms are passing on so many of the things you mentioned… canning, gardening… all the things that allow for frugality and self-sufficiency and make the one-income family-life much more doable, and it is delightful to see.
Even if some of these young ladies remain unmarried, and/or go on to do other things, they will have a heap of skills that I still needed (and still need) to learn, well after becoming a homemaker and mother. One goal for me this winter is to learn how to can– eep! — I’m a bit nervous about that one but people keep assuring me it’s “easy” so we will see…
Anyway, thanks for adding your thoughts.
Jess, I think sometimes you are too hard on yourself.
Homemaking is a journey. No one knows it all at 21, nor should they. Where is the fun in that? It’s much more fun to pick up pieces here and there, as we desire, to give new life to our homemaking. At 21, my favorite recipe included crescent rolls, canned chicken (!!!!), a can of soup, and pre-shredded cheese. Oh my goodness!!! I think the difference is that I totally thought I was a good cook, then, and I still do now. But wow have my skills changed over the years. I can’t wait to see what kind of cook I am in 2o more years.
Homemaking is so broad and vast. There are so many necessary parts (cleaning and cooking, managing, childrearing), and so many places to add beauty, both in the unnecessary but great (home decorating, gardening, sewing) and within the necessary (cooking better, doing chores in an efficient and pleasing manner, raising our children in a way that gives us joy and beauty). I think that homemaking is the place that most women can find a place to shine, whether that homemaking is full time (what a privilege!) or done around the confines of another job. Homemaking is a beautiful art, and I desire that everyone embraces it as such.
I have always cared for kids and consider that my biggest talent. Having said that, being a Godly wife and mother has totally took me by surprise. My parents were believers and married but my mom didn’t really respect my dad and didn’t discipline my brothers and I, well, as to teach us anything. Parenting might have been a piece of cake if we’d had 2.5 kids, but my husband and I want a large family and so far have 5 beautiful children that we totally adore. I love my children and my husband but sometimes life is so hard. Mostly mentally. Our house isn’t very large but I struggle keeping it clean. Just today I was on my hands and knees scrubbibg the floor for what seemed like hours and wondered if that was normal and if other women had to deep clean their kitchen floors. Haha! I don’t know how to maintain my house well and I am lucky if I can keep up with the laundry, nevermind sorting it first. I try not to get down on myself for not knowing how to better care for mylittle family, but, YES. I wish someone had taught me these things. I wish I knew all the little tricks and secrets and how to cook fabulous meals. I wonder about how my kids will manage when ghey are older, because I dont know these things to teach them.
This is an old post…but I SO relate! I also have a small home and struggle to keep it clean. I’m also concerned about what my kids will learn from me. I don’t know where to even begin on improvements that need to be made in our home logistically and how I can be more intentional on what is passed on to my kids!!
It’s an interesting take. I was raised to be a homemaker, no doubt, by an excellent homemaker of a mom. She had to take side jobs here and there to make ends meet, but only during school hours, and she still took her job of homemaking very seriously. We were not the microwave food eating, latchkey kids that so define the 80s stereotype. I know that my parents made a lot of sacrifices to make that happen, and I’m thankful for that.
However, my parents also encouraged us to follow our dreams. Mine was college. I loved my college years, and yes, I loved the career that followed. Lucky for me, I had that career, because my parents were not in any shape to support me into adulthood. I also did not get married until (what felt at the time the very old age of) 26, and after several years of infertility, did not have a baby until 31. In those years, I was able to put my husband through graduate school, and truthfully, very much enjoy my career. Those were good years, and I don’t regret them in any way. I will also encourage my daughter to attend college and have career if she chooses, as well as stay home to raise her children when they come.
The babyhood of my first child came with challenges, no doubt, but so has every other transition in my life. At that point in my life, I really felt the lack of women that were 10-15 years my senior. I had friends my own age, all with our similar issues, but I didn’t have mentors in this parenting journey. I’ve really cultivated some of those in the last years, and it has helped. My mother is wonderful, but she can’t be everything, and it’s good to have a community. Finding my community has been valuable to me. And yes, for this, I do blame the rise of feminism and the shame with which full time homemaking has been tagged. It was hard to find people willing to share their journey with me, especially before I had children, because they were so gun-shy of people not respecting their choice of staying home to raise their children. And that’s the real shame.
The lack of community is incredibly tough in those early years… knowing who to ask for insight, and whose voice to shut out… finding people who will give wise counsel, and not just opinions to validate their own choices…. these are skills that I think are difficult due to the disconnectedness of our society, as well as the fact that so many of our mothers didn’t do things like breastfeed or stay with us.
I know my mom went through her own challenges trying to breastfeed, when her mother (a nurse! who had bought into the medical notion if the 40s that modern formula was better for your children) had not done so. I think ours is not the first generation to struggle in this modern era because of the lack of community around mothering.
The classic”I Love Lucy” story of a couple going off to NYC, having the time of their lives, and then having a baby, with no real friends that had any and parents who lived far away and just came for a short time to help, is really the story of so many of us.
Thanks for sharing openly here.
I think you have the wrong definition of feminism… It is about CHOICES for women so that women who want to stay at home can do that, women who want to work can do that. If you want to do both you CAN> No one said any of it would be easy. but it is a movement for women to have CHOICES. It is an evolving movement. NOt static. So I think that while your points about the challenges of motherhood are right, that feminism is to blame is pretty thin.
the trouble is the feminists aren’t encouraging at-homeness as a valid option OR the learning of skills that it takes to do it well and frugally. Also when you are 18 y.o. and starting college you may not be interested in learning to darn socks orcook on a shoestring budget because you may not realize or see that in 5 years you will be forced to either quit or put that precious bundle in the arms of a daycare worker… too often feminism just encourages feeding the fleshly desires, assuming that those desires must be right.
So true, Laura.
Feminists like to feed the line “Feminism is about choices.” But the truth is that in the eyes of Feminism, there are choices that are OK/good to make, and choices that are deemed “less than.” They don’t always outright say so (although sometimes they do, as in the case of Steinem, or even Obama), but there are absolutely choices that are seen with prestige and honor, and choices that are seen as idiotic and backwards.
This is the truth of Feminism. They have an agenda for you and your life; they just don’t admit it. They couch it in terms like “choice” but the choice to have 3 abortions in the pursuit of a career that puts you over men is absolutely seen as a greater, more “woman-friendly” choice, than the choice to have 3 children and willingly place yourself under the leadership of your husband, in pursuit of a healthy family life. The choice to go to college, and then graduate level work, is absolutely seen as a greater, more society-beneficial choice than to school yourself in the hard work of motherhood and devote yourself to the raising of responsible individuals who will make great contributions to that society.
Feminism is not the “choice-friendly” world it claims to be.
While true, what you are talking about isn’t a failure of feminism. This is exactly what feminists wanted. Feminists don’t want you to be a mother. To them motherhood is a waste of time. They think if, for some odd reason, you do have children, they should be raised by workers in daycares and teachers in schools so you don’t lose any “earning potential”. No, feminism hasn’t failed you! By choosing to be a stay-at-home mother you have failed feminism! Keep up the good fight so our daughters know motherhood is a noble profession!
I’ve been flat-out told by a feminist in my life that I am wasting my life, wasting my talents, and that anyone could do what I do with our children. (Yes, to my face, and if I hadn’t heard it with my own ears I would have a hard time believing anyone would say that to another human being.)
Those who say that I’ve got feminism wrongly pegged are missing the predominant message of the seedbed/ “first wave” of Feminism (late 19th/early 20th century feminism) as well as what many term “second wave feminism” (60s/70s) which is the version of Feminism that set up all the rest. Which is: don’t waste your talents on your family. Seek your own fulfillment. If you have kids, don’t let it change your life. If you have a husband, don’t let him lead you. Seek your own. And ultimately, that message is antithetical to the Gospel (which tells us to lay down our lives for others) of Christ.
Feminists nowadays want to clean up their image. They know that women are, in greater and greater numbers, abandoning the identity of feminist because they no longer need it, and secretly they abhor the radicalism and absurdity of its messages. Women *are* free to do as they wish. The problem with Feminism is that it so exalted the career & the workplace and so diminished the importance and weight of the home (and still seeks to do so today, but does so in less overt forms than the outright messages of early Feminism) that the culture is still reeling.
Even President Obama’s message last week about how staying home “isn’t a choice we want them to have to make” and how the solution is “more high-quality daycares”… and yes, I get that he was communicating in a larger scope (not just a 27-second clip) about women who stay home and later feel a dip in their lifetime potential income because of that decision. NO, Mr. President, our society does not need more disconnected families.
And our society does not need consequence-free decisions. Absolutely, if I was to start back to work tomorrow, I could expect a significant dip in my income. Whereas I had a profession with a linear resume that showed a progression of responsibilities, I now have a 12 year gap on my resume. Of course I’m going to have a lower lifetime pay than someone else who chooses not to stay at home. We aren’t in the business of insuring that all choices are equal in their results, nor in making every single choice equally possible to every person.
Anyway, I’m on a tangent about that now.
But yes, to those who say I’ve got feminism misrepresented here, I would point to commercials that (by and large) show dad with an apron and mom with the coffee cup and suit on, and our own President who makes comments like the above… we still have a society promoting women’s choice to work and not be home and deriding/belittling/posturing against staying home. Feminism may be trying to clean up its image and disassociate itself with radicalism, but it’s still got the same heart beating beneath the new outfit.
Mmmm, it sounds a bit like you’re blaming. We all fall victim to cultural movements and ideology at many points as we grow and mature, but at some point we are ALL 100% responsible for our thoughts and beliefs. When we reach that point of realization we have endless resources to help us overcome false expectations and move us forward in a healthy way. God’s Word is primary in this.
Also, you thank your mother later, in the comments. As I read your piece I wondered how her role affected your expectations. We have a lot to do with how our children view the world. I wish my Mom would have instructed me to choose a degree/career that would be more flexible when I became a mother. I perhaps didn’t listen when she warned me to prepare for marriage and mothering.
There’s nothing like having a child to ground you in reality in sometimes the harshest and most profound ways. I’m not sure that any new mother has her expectations in order when she comes home from the hospital, though. I don’t think it’s feminism’s fault and I think your piece is a bit sensational. I would concentrate more on the expectations of young women entering adulthood and not blame the culture. Christians have the best instruction manual known to man; we cannot ignore such a great salvation. If we do, it’s our own fault.
Spot on! Absolutely spot on!
No, I was not well-prepared for motherhood. I was well-prepared to wear the paints and rule the roost? But prepared, equipped to meet the needs of multiple ages and stages of little people? Not by a long shot. And yes, the demand of motherhood far exceed what I ever would have thought they would.
Praise be to God that the blessings have exceeded my expectations to and that my Father patiently and faithfully teaches this ill equipped mother how to do the MOST IMPORTANT job!
Thanks, Jess! Great, and accurate, people post!
Boy Ericka, you really hit the nail on the head:
“No, I was not well-prepared for motherhood. I was well-prepared to wear the paints and rule the roost. But prepared, equipped to meet the needs of multiple ages and stages of little people? Not by a long shot. And yes, the demand of motherhood far exceed what I ever would have thought they would.”
Whoo doggie, yes,
Having been raised by one of the many Boomer women that abhorred the traditionally feminine, I can definitely say feminism wrecked my ability to feel prepared for motherhood. While there was man’s work and woman’s work in the household I grew up in, I sure noticed that the woman’s work was grudgingly pursued and not valued at all. My extended family was not like that, but I never got to really spend time around them, as the atomicity that feminism encourages (since both men and women are supposed to work outside the home, moving all the time for work just ends up happening, and it did in our household) meant the isolation and rejection of things feminine started early.
I was not expected to be a mother, so when quite miraculously I ended up being one, I was very ill prepared and had no idea what support to even ask for, especially not from my mother, who did not identify as a feminist, but who completely bought into the careerist tropes of second wave feminism. It’s taken a lot of time to accept that me enjoying the comforts of home is not weird– what’s weird is the recent, feminist-driven push to reject that perfectly healthy and normal feeling about one’s home as a woman. Thankfully I married a man from a functional culture that doesn’t reject homemaking and the rocky transition into motherhood and especially stay at home motherhood has been made easier by being able to draw upon aspects of that culture.
Feminism making it unacceptable to have children be out in public was huge, you are very correct to note that aspect and how lack of hanging around kids makes the transition to motherhood super hard.
When I pulled up Yahoo! this morning, I found this article front and center:
49% of Moms are Breadwinners
A few quotes from the article:
“nearly half of all U.S. mothers are either the primary breadwinner or “on par financially with their significant other,” according to the new study “The Breadwinner PheMOMenon.” This is a significant leap from just last year, when only 40 percent of working moms were the major earner in their household, according to the Pew Research Center.”
“the majority of female breadwinners report their career hasn’t given them a greater sense of purpose, and they don’t feel in control of their destinies. In fact, 44 percent of those breadwinners say they are more stressed today than they were five years ago. “Most people think money equals control and purpose, but that hasn’t happened with moms,” Skoloda says.”
Timely and relevant for our discussion here.
Those women aren’t making very much money. I’ve looked at the data, it’s always the same depressing song– the women are making about the same as their husbands, or they are making more than their husbands, but far less than male breadwinners. There’s no giant pool of men staying home while the wife pulls in 100k, it’s more like she pulls in 40-50k at a government or pseudo-government job and he works when he feels like it pulling in 20k or so. And that’s why the women are stressed. Men need to work to provide, and if the woman does it for him, well, a lot of men don’t feel like they need to worry about it, which creates instability that stresses out the wives in such marriages except in the very rare instances that they do make a boatload of money.
Practical Conservative: Lots of speculation and theorizing based on your ideology but nothing to back up your claims… “Men need to work to provide…” was entirely supposition. You are letting your “Men work, women stay home and raise the kids” philosophy cloud your thinking.
I rejected feminism in my youth and young adulthood due to what I was taught. I was raised by a hateful woman who called herself a Christian, took me to church, sent me to Christian schools and Christian university. I grew up hating children and not intending to be a mother due to this Christian, non-feminist mother, not due to any feminist influence.
I am a mother to three daughters. I would consider them feminist but NOT anti motherhood. They are far more prepared for motherhood than I ever was. Feminism is not a rejection of the feminine. It is an empowerment of the woman as a human being. Woman can now vote, drive vehicles, own property – probably thing 0nce condsidered the goal of the ultra-feminist.. Feminism wants to view women as people, empowered to do the things all people can do, including parent.
I believe you are uniformed and a bit confused about what feminism actually is versus what you have been taught it is by others. Without feminism women would still be not much more than property. I know plenty of feminist stay at home moms that are happy to be where they are as well as moms with careers that are happy as well. No one – with feminism as an influence or not – is completely prepared ahead of time to be a parent – whether they have experience with children or not. That’s OK – my personal belief is that the problem here is that so many women have been taught the lie that motherhood should be something they do smoothly and easily. The problem isn’t feminism – it’s the way so many pretend that mothers should never struggle with exhaustion or have days when they want a break. Nothing truly rewarding is easy – being a mom is hard at times for everyone. Anyone who says differently is lying.
As a student of history, degreed in politics, I don’t believe I’m uninformed or confused at all about feminism or what it has wrought in our society. However they have been treated in various societies/eras, women have always been “much more than property.” In fact, biblical Christianity has from its inception valued women and their worth.
And contrary to what you are saying, I would argue that our modern age is just as anti-woman as any other society; it just shows up differently. Pornography is a scourge of our society, and despite what some feminists– yes Feminists– would have us believe, it is not empowering. It is horrifying. Women in the industry are beaten, mistreated, humiliated and abused. And the sexual abuse and sexual slavery it promotes and that thrives in our pornographic culture is every bit as horrifying as it has been in any other age, but the appetite for it has grown because (whereas before, at least, sexual deviancy had to be physically acted out through going to a specific place) now it can thrive in the dark. Now you can shop for your sexual slave from the privacy of your own home and have her delivered to your door. But oh our *enlightened* era… what a blessing we’re told it is to be in this Feminist & free society.
If you scroll through the comments, I just shared a (secular, Yahoo!) article that showed the discouragement women face even when they become the “primary breadwinners.” The line feminism has sold us is a lie. Not only are we less happy when we pursue everything identical to our male counterparts, but our families fall apart and we are more stressed, less happy, and have less legacy to show for it than we did 50 or 100 years ago. More anti-depressants. More sexually-provocative clothes. That we are expected and encouraged to wear for longer. We aren’t supposed to age. Plastic surgery and abortion and hair dye and hooker heels are all readily available so that we can be “cougars”– an idea actively promoted by our Feminist society.
These things are not woman-friendly. They are harming women. More women are less happy than ever before. Feminism is not the panacea we were told it would be.
I think you are mistaken about the beef here. The beef is not, “I wasn’t *fully* prepared.” The beef is that our society not only fails to prepare women in virtually any way for the task of motherhood, but in fact works against that in virtually every way, even though ironically motherhood is the one thing that (even in our feminist age) we can be certain the majority of women still want to do.
You and I are in agreement that motherhood is not “smooth and easy” for anyone… every one of us, even the most domestically-prepared, hits sleepless nights and sickness and teething and tantrums. It’s hard work… no two ways about it. But there are ways that we can support, educate, and prepare women more fully than we are currently doing, especially considering that (again) it’s something that even in our feminist era, the majority of women will encounter and do in one form or another.
I found this through a link on Loving In the Ruins….it is definitely true that there is the attitude of “you’re wasting your life” staying home and raising children. Has there been an uproar from feminists about Obama’s comments, if in reality feminism is just about choices and doesn’t have an undercurrent of demeaning, looking down on, or not encouraging a woman to stay home with kids? If that truly is what feminism is all about, and we are just all so misinformed here, the number one outcry should be from feminists (about our Presidents comments). We should be hearing something like, ” What is wrong with a woman making that choice? What if she wants to stay home instead of further her career? That’s HER CHOICE, and life isn’t all about “lifetime earnings”–it’s about us getting to do what makes us HAPPY!” I am pretty sure if I go and look right now I will not find a feminist saying any of that.
So many people have this la-la-land definition of feminism they hold dear in their hearts–it feels right to them, and if it is a softer and fuzzier and warmer version of feminism they don’t realize it–they think that their version is ACTUAL feminism, and those of us who think it is a radical way of thinking are sensationalists. I encourage those who think they know to actually study its history…as I did, because I used to hold to that warm, fuzzy feminist view myself. The truth was hard to swallow.
You’re right, (chuckle), there hasn’t been a feminist backlash against the President’s statements. Nor will there be. Not a loud one anyway.
Like you, I’ve gone back through the documents, watched documentaries about the start of feminism (and even then, Susan B. Anthony disdained Elizabeth Cady Stanton for continuing to have children rather than fight the fight. Even then there was misunderstanding about the value and place of children and family and the role of both in the fight for equality, vs. simply fighting, fighting, fighting.), and read books about and documents from the influential people in the movement, through the 20th century. When you read what it actually is, comments that indicate that it’s simply about letting women make choices fall flat. There are still prominent Feminists today arguing that women shouldn’t *HAVE* the choice to stay home, because of the fear that “too many (ignorant, it is implied) women would make that choice.”
Here are a few similar quotes, lest you think I’m pulling things out of context:
“A parasite sucking out the living strength of another organism…the [housewife’s] labor does not even tend toward the creation of anything durable…. [W]oman’s work within the home [is] not directly useful to society, produces nothing. [The housewife] is subordinate, secondary, parasitic. It is for their common welfare that the situation must be altered by prohibiting marriage as a ‘career’ for woman.” ~ Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 1949.
“[Housewives] are mindless and thing-hungry…not people. [Housework] is peculiarly suited to the capacities of feeble-minded girls. [It] arrests their development at an infantile level, short of personal identity with an inevitably weak core of self…. [Housewives] are in as much danger as the millions who walked to their own death in the concentration camps. [The] conditions which destroyed the human identity of so many prisoners were not the torture and brutality, but conditions similar to those which destroy the identity of the American housewife.” ~ Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, 1963.
“[Housewives] are dependent creatures who are still children…parasites.” ~ Gloria Steinem, “What It Would Be Like If Women Win,” Time, August 31, 1970.
“[The husband’s work] provides for greater challenges and opportunities for growth than are available to his wife, [whose] horizons are inevitably limited by her relegation to domestic duties. [This] programs her for mediocrity and dulls her brain…. [Motherhood] can only be a temporary detour.” ~ Nena O’Neill and George O’Neill, Open Marriage: A New Lifestyle for Couples, 1972.
“Being a housewife is an illegitimate profession… The choice to serve and be protected and plan towards being a family-maker is a choice that shouldn’t be. The heart of radical feminism is to change that.” ~ Vivian Gornick, University of Illinois, “The Daily Illini,” April 25, 1981.
“[A]s long as the family and the myth of the family and the myth of maternity and the maternal instinct are not destroyed, women will still be oppressed…. No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one. It is a way of forcing women in a certain direction.” ~ Simone de Beauvoir, “Sex, Society, and the Female Dilemma,” Saturday Review, June 14, 1975.
And then of course we have President Obama’s comments which (even when put generously in a larger context and *HOPING* it was an off-script gaffe rather than a purposeful jab) reflect a societal disdain for certain choices over others. Underlying his comments are the idea that wage-earners are better than not, even with young children, and that the better thing would be for mothers to ship their wee ones off to “high-quality” preschools (which used to be called daycares but now in this culture of education worship have gotten a facelift so that preschool is no longer truly a preK with 5 year olds, or advanced 4s, but rather, 2 year olds get taken by mommy to “school”… but I digress. He and others believe that we would all be better off if there were more, and more oft-used, “preschools”– which, let’s all be honest here, means that there is a ranking of choices.
To not admit that is to be dishonest about the culture we’re living in.
Though it’s a bit more partisan than I typically like to link to, I appreciated a couple comments in this article: “Choices We Don’t Want Women To Make”
Here’s my favorite part of the article:
Many commentators have given the president the benefit of the doubt and assumed that what he meant was that mothers shouldn’t be obliged to choose between staying home with their children and earning higher wages. Let’s assume that’s right; it’s still a nonsense statement. What will the government do — mandate that employers offer women who took perhaps years off to care for children the same pay and promotions they would have earned had they remained in the workforce? How would that be remotely possible?
You’d have to assume that the woman in question would have remained for all those years at the same firm, and would have been a good employee. You’d also have to assume that the employer remains in business and that the kind of work the mom did is still needed and hasn’t been superseded by technological or other changes. And what would become of the employee, male or female, who was doing the mom’s work while she stayed home with the kids? Besides, if firms were required to pay above the market value to returning mothers, wouldn’t that discourage hiring?
Liberals like Obama don’t think in those terms. They apply the “wave the magic wand” school of policy analysis, as in, “If I could wave a magic wand, there would be no trade-offs in life. Childcare would be plentiful, staffed by Ivy League graduates, convenient to everyone’s homes and dirt-cheap. Moms would be able to work while their kids were young and never feel a tug of regret. Or, they could choose to stay at home for a few years and return to the workforce without missing a step or a paycheck.”
This is the sort of talk that liberals and progressives have been feeding eager audiences for decades. It glides past economic realities without so much as a backward glance. How, for example, are you going to get those highly educated college grads to work in daycare centers when they expect large returns for their very expensive educations? Is the pay going to start at $100,000? Where will the money come from?
Actual feminism rarely gets put on display, but its fruits & beliefs are evident in statements like this.
Thanks for stopping by & chiming in, Obliterated.
Jess: With all due respect, I’m still waiting for your definition of feminism…
I keep seeing your comments about feminists but you are lumping people in a huge group. It would be the same as listing quotes from various Christians (or Democrats, or Republicans, or Attorneys) and building your case around that.
Plus, your comments about the President are off base. Did you read/hear the entire speech? It was not anti-stay at home moms… it was pro-equality and pro-family.
The President’s speech was not pro-equality. It was completely based in a nonexistent, impossible-to-exist world. There is no scenario where a woman (or man) can take a lengthy time off of work, removing themselves from their field/career path for a time, and then jump back into the stream of career with no consequences. Of COURSE his/her office will have moved on, replaced him/her with someone else, and the skills necessary will have advanced in minor or major ways that affect his/her ability to fill that position well. These are economic realities.
The President’s speech (even if you put his comment in the most stay-at-home-mom-friendly light) still is not based in reality. There is no world in which his “wish” can exist… there is no economic model that would support a woman’s ability to choose anything she wishes without financial ramifications. That is absurd.
Here’s a great article that more thoroughly expresses some of my concerns with President Obama’s comments: http://thefederalist.com/2014/10/31/3-reasons-president-obama-is-wrong-about-stay-at-home-mothers/
By the way, your argument about Feminism, Democrats, etc. falls flat. We do it all the time- we measure what a certain sector is pushing by what their leaders promote. Does EVERY person who self-identifies as a Christian believe that Christ is the only way to Heaven? No, unfortunately, they do not. But its leadership does. Its literature does. Therefore, it is accurate to say “Christians belief that Christ is the only way to Heaven.” There may be individual Christians who would quibble with that, but the overarching stream of thought in Christianity is based on that very idea.
Same with Democrats. We say “Democrats are pursuing X agenda.” That doesn’t mean that Suzie Salamander in Dallas, TX who votes Democrat, absolutely agrees with X agenda. It means that the group as a whole, in its leadership and in all available evidence, tends to pursue X.
Same with Feminism. When we talk about Feminism, it is right to look to its literature and its leadership and its history and its political pursuits, to determine what Feminism is about. Felicia Feminist in Toledo, Ohio might not agree with everything that the overarching movement pursues, but it would be inaccurate to say that simply because she disagrees that Feminism doesn’t pursue those things. That is what you’re trying to do. Something along the lines of, “I’m a Feminist and I don’t believe what you’re saying.” That’s great… but that doesn’t undo the ideas and pursuits of Feminism-at-large.
I’ve read the literature, listened to the lectures, perused the books, watched the political agenda move forward, and observed the things that Feminists cheer over and that they show disdain for. I make my assessments based on those observations and that overarching awareness of Feminism, NOT based on whether or not a reader here or there says “well, I’m a Feminist and I wouldn’t say that.” A group is not defined by the individual beliefs of one of its members but by what the leadership, literature, and trajectory over time has pursued and communicated.
Jess: You have decided what you want to glean about so-called “feminist leaders” and built your opinions around that. It isn’t a black-and-white philosophy/set of beliefs. Who appointed certain people feminist leaders?
Your issue is with what certain people have written or claimed, not with a nebulous set of so-called feminist beliefs. But in order to build your feminist case you have to generalize and label accordingly (no different than saying Republicans are anti-women, attorneys are ambulance chasers, etc…).
I wish that you had read or listened to the President’s speech and then you would have seen how pro-equality it was. People, especially Christians, have taken what he said out of context. He never said that there shouldn’t be any “ramifications”; just that women (or men) that take time off shouldn’t be penalized.
Chris, I think we all do that though, unless there is a human being out there that has read every single piece of literature that every single person that claims to be “x” has written or spoken (at which point, that person doesn’t have a *life*). We all read broadly in order to understand groups that we are not a part of.
It’s what non-Tea-Party folks do to the Tea Party. No, there is no “President of the Tea Party” at least to my knowledge, just in the same way that there is no “President of Feminism”… but both terms describe ideological categories that people willingly align, or do not align, themselves under. And then we all understand those groups better by the writings and opinions of the people who are prominent and outspoken within those ideological groupings.
I have not chosen to be a part of either of those ^^^^ subsets of human beings, and yet I do understand, generally, what each espouses, desires, and disdains.
But again, a world without penalties is economically impossible unless we wish to stop following any strain of capitalism and go strictly for a state-controlled everything.
Even then the penalties would rest on ALL of us because no longer would choices matter. We all could do anything we pleased and (in his magical world) have no penalties, no consequences, AND have the bonus of these amazingly educated and caring “high quality preschool” workers who would, I suppose, work for little to no money, just out of the kindness of their hearts pouring out their educations and hearts for the growth and betterment of little children. Ironically, that is what stay-at-home mothers actually do, and what I would posit no preschool has consistently done in the history of the world.
A penalty-free, ramification-free world does not exist. In Obama’s magic world, such a place could exist. In reality, these choices would not be economically possible. There is no reality-based system in the world by which you can make whatever choices you want in regard to education, job, and family, and have no “penalties” for certain choices and “benefits” for other choices. To say, “we don’t want them to have to make that choice” is to wish for something that cannot exist.
It’s not that I think the President is anti-stay-home-mom, necessarily. It is that he is speaking in a rhetorical-rich way that can not exist in any realistic place. His “wish” is like me wishing for lollipops that wouldn’t melt even on a summer day at the beach, or wishing for a dog that never smelled like dog. You can’t have both, and it is illogical and dishonest to keep acting as if his proposal has some sort of basis in a realistic world.
To expand a bit on the imaginary world in Obama’s head…
If everyone were guaranteed equal pay and benefits and such as well as a lack of consequences for the choices they make, society would crumble around us. I mean, if you could choose to work at the local pet store or go to college for a really long time to become a doctor, knowing there would be equality in pay and such…. We would cease to have new doctors in no time. Why do the extra preparation for an uber-stressful job when you can be lazy and still get the same results? Most people won’t do that. If I remember correctly, that is a feature of Communism, not Capitalism. And any moron can tell you that Communism doesn’t work well enough to keep society afloat.
No. There need to be incentives for things, and consequences for decisions, because that is just how the world goes ’round. Obama and any feminist that agrees with him needs to wake up from fantasy land and look at reality.
Definitely an illusion. I enjoyed math so I got a degree in case my husband happened one day to be ill or injured and unable to work……but there is something spiritual missing when women are not told the truth about their condition of being a mother….. It causes the woman to believe that her purpose to be like the men is her goal. It is not. It is to follow Christ first and pursue ultimate woman hood which is to preserve human life.
It may be my social background… I was homeschooled and do and did live in a small town in the mid-west… but I haven’t had the same experience a lot of people seem to have had. Yes, home ec may have been removed from schools as a “non-essential”, but it doesn’t seem to be assumed that knowing how to cook and clean is non-essential. It is merely considered non-essential in a scholastic environment. The assumption (often wrong) is that a girl will learn to care for her home IN her home. Thankfully I had a mother who recognized that as her responsibility and taught me at the very least the basics of all aspects of life. I am also blessed to come from a large extended family and to have known my mother, grandmothers and great-grandmothers. If Mom didn’t know, someone somewhere would. Having said that, I got married at the age of 20 and just had my first child this year. I have never felt unprepared as a mother, and I’m fairly sure the times I felt incompetent were due to sleep deprivation-fueled depression, since they are rare and short-lived. But I look back on myself as a newlywed and am so grateful that we decided to wait. I’m sure I would have done just fine as a mother, but I know I am so much more mature and better able to handle the emotional ups and down life throws at me.
One idea I take issue with is the thought that life is more fulfilling with a career than as a homemaker. Even the term implies it: “stay-at-home mom.” There is no reason a woman needs to stay inside her house just because she doesn’t work. Do the people who make these assumptions have no social life outside the office? My life is much more expansive as a wife and mother than it was in school, in college or during any of the periods in which I worked, for the simple reason that if I want to go somewhere I can bring the kid. Yes, I’m on the clock 24-7, but I can take my work with me!
I think perhaps part of the reason we feel so overwhelmed as new mothers is that a lot of us are no longer living in the same community with our entire family. My older sister is much more emotionally expressive than I am, and to her motherhood was extremely hard because she felt everything deeply. The difference between us was that when she had a bad day, Mom was five minutes away. I have a (admittedly limited) community of friends, but most of the people I would trust with my or my baby’s life live two hours away. If my husband’s at work, I just have to learn to deal with it.
Which brings up another good point: My husband is just as much my daughter’s parent as I am. I am not a feminist, and I don’t approve their methods, but I am grateful that feminism, time, technology or whatever cultural stimulant is to blame has made it at least marginally socially acceptable for a father to be an equal partner in child-rearing. He doesn’t babysit, and he doesn’t have to ask permission to parent. She’s his daughter.
As to feminism, I think the main problem is the suffix. When you have any -ism, you’re implying that the thing referred to is paramount, if not deified. If feminism is the deification of the female, I don’t want anything to do with it. If it is the implication that females are paramount, it is degrading to males and therefore to the human race. I don’t believe God intended for women to be lesser beings than men, but I certainty don’t believe that women are better than men or deserve a higher place in the world simply because they are female. That’s akin to the old belief that white people deserve to sit at the front of the bus because they’re white, and it’s just wrong. I’m all for letting women in the front of the bus, but don’t push all the men into the back just because they made you mad.
Please forgive the long-winded rant, I’m on sabbatical from my blog and had a lot more stored up than I realized. 🙂
Fathers doing some childcare was the historic norm in many cultures, including many Western ones. It’s a relatively recent modern quirk that led to “daddy day care” mentality, and things are just reverting to the older norms where a man did some childcare, just not as much or as often as the women did.
This article is so right on! Not only was I not equipped for the logistics of homemaking and child rearing, but I often feel I was trained to compete both in academics and in social games, yet I lack basic humann qualities for this calling-patience, endurance, self-discipline, (and I’m ashamed to admit) even enough LOVE. I have been trained my entire life to replace things for people, me for someone else, and screen time for relationships. Here I am, a wife and a mother and instead of flourishing in my role, I’m struggling to keep up. I’m so grateful that I we have chosen to homeschool our children and train them not only in academics but in relationships and real, every day work of being a family.
It’s true that many feminists place no value in motherhood, which is why they seek to bring so much shame to it. Here’s my take on why that is…
I respectfully disagree. But you know I love you. 🙂
I’m in my seventh year of teaching. I’ve been an aunt for 12 years. My life was all children ALL THE TIME. I mean I ate, slept, breathed kids, how they learned and developed and how to intervene when that development wasn’t happening appropriately.
And people told me motherhood changes everything. That your time is not your own and that you are on all the time and that you are constantly thinking about and calculating your child’s well being (especially when they come to you through adoption and/or have special needs). I intellectually knew all these things, had seen friend after countless friend go through it and I was ready.
Until I wasn’t. Until it was me who had to sacrifice an hour of sleep to shower and get ready before Ella woke up in the morning or who couldn’t sit and read a book or watch what I wanted to watch on TV. Till it was me who was constantly praying for and overwhelmed with her needs and – especially when confronted with jet lag – was an emotional wreck. None of this was something intellectually I wasn’t prepared for. Her medical need is something I’m very familiar with and I knew it would be all Ella all the time. But knowing it and experiencing it are two different things.
I can’t tell you how many times the first few weeks I said things like “But I lift kids all day! Why do my arms hurt?” or “I’m a teacher! This shouldn’t be so hard!” I mean one day I looked at an outing as a field trip just to get myself out of the house quicker! 🙂
Anyway. I guess what I’m saying is I think no mother can really fully absorb motherhood until they are in it. That’s not feminism. That’s just life.
Yes, and I’m betting you are still reeling from the newness of it! I’ll never forget the fog of those first 6 months with Ethan.
And this comment– “knowing it and experiencing it are two different things.” is exactly on point. Even when we *know* it, it is hard. Exhausting. Sometimes feels like more than we can do. But for those who don’t know about it, haven’t been prepared for it at all, just imagine how much more more stress that would bring.
One of the things I’m most thankful for about the time before we moved overseas was all the time spent reading, talking, and hearing from others about how hard it would be, and the specific difficulties we would face. So even though yes, it was absolutely HARD, our expectations were set that it would be, and so we weren’t taken off-guard. We knew we would want to leave on the next jet plane out. We knew we would feel alone and tired. Knowing didn’t stop us feeling those things, but it did give us a framework for sorting those feelings out in a way that was accurate and ultimately kept us pressing forward, willing to press through the difficult because we were able to get out of our own heads.
That lack of expectation-setting is what, I believe, most women in our culture experience in motherhood. Little to no real picture of what motherhood is like… which is *not* what you’re experiencing.
You’ve had the real picture. You’ve watched your nieces and nephews up close and personal & you know elementary kids backwards and forwards. You even had time to study up on specifics about your own little Ella before meeting her (something I haven’t experienced with my kids!). 🙂 And yet you’re still experiencing the reality of the difficulty.
Yes. Experiencing the reality happens to us all. But it is far, far, worse, when culturally we don’t actually expect these things. When our expectations are not realistic. When preparation for the reality is seen as “less than.” That’s where I believe Feminism has left us reeling as a culture.
Maybe I am a little old to comment on this, (I am 55), but I was definitely affected by the feminist mindset of the 1970s. I graduated early from high school to attend college and met my husband when I was 17. We were married a few months later and I quit college to help support us. I had my daughter when I was 2o years old and decided to stay home and raise her. My mother had always been home for us as children, but she did start an in-home daycare because my father went through a phase when my sister and I reached high school age, that he thought we should now purchase all of our personal needs and clothing ourselves. (His father died when my dad was 10, so he had to leave high school to support his mother, so he felt that we should be providing for ourselves) My mother doing daycare and my sister and I assisting her gave us the necessary funds for our needs. I learned a lot about children and some homemaking skills, although, not enough to prepare me for being a wife, homemaker and mother. A lot of this is “on the job” training!
Being the quasi-feminist that I was, I purchased trucks and cars as well as dolls and dishes for my little girl. Guess what – she played with the dolls and dishes and didn’t even look at the cars and trucks! I had a son 3 years later and ALL he played with were cars, trucks and his ride-on tractor. God showed me that He made them that way for a reason. ( My son is now a wind energy technician and he rebuilds engines and transmissions) There was very little support for us moms that chose to stay home at that time. My husband did insist that I go to work part time, but I missed my children something terrible. I didn’t have them to turn them over to someone else to raise. Then the unthinkable happened to our family in 1988. Our beautiful 9 year old daughter was diagnosed with a brain stem tumor and went home to be with Jesus 9 months later in July of 1989. I still miss her every day. BUT- God had other plans for our family. We had foolishly listened to friends that told us we had the “perfect” family – a girl and a boy – so my husband had a vasectomy. Worst decision we EVER made. He had a successful reversal a few years later (after a failed adoption) and God blessed us with two sons. They have been such a blessing to us, and I was able to start homeschooling my oldest son in 4th grade, which I continued to do through high school, his choice to return to public school for his Senior year. I was able to stay home most of the years our youngest sons were at home, having to work part time when they started school (not my choice, my husband’s choice). We moved to a different state when the youngest sons were 8 and 10 years old and they attended public school for a couple of years, before I was able to start homeschooling again.
I guess what I am getting at, is that feminism had taken away our freedom to just be a mom and enjoy it. I have never regretted ANY time I have spent with my children, my regret is that I didn’t spend enough time just doing things with them. I was too concerned about being the wife and mother who could do it all – super clean house, perfect baker, work part time to earn extra money for frivolous things, etc. You know – the Enjoli woman – bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, ever let your forget you’re a man. What a bunch of baloney. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect parents, He wants us to seek Him and His will for our lives. If you study the Proverbs 31 woman, you will see that her life is anything but dreary or boring. I wish more churches would have a Titus 2 program where we “older” women could teach the younger women what we learned and experienced. I would love to share my home-keeping knowledge and experience with others.
Wow Jamie, that’s quite a life to have lived thus far! I’m sorry to hear about your daughter… I can only imagine how devastating that was.
About the titus 2 thing you mentioned… I’m sure the young ladies at your church would love for you to volunteer your wisdom and time to teach them… hint hint 😉
Your story about the trucks reminded me of the day I looked over and saw my daughter when she was maybe 3(?) with her brother’s matchbox cars in her dollhouse, having them talk to each other. She wanted to be like her big brothers and play with cars, but even then, she had them in a dollhouse talking and having relationships. It was SO not like her brothers’ play of blowing up, driving off bridges into the ocean, racing, getting all the coolest cars lined up in a row of which ones win the race, etc.
Boys and girls just come factory-built different from one another in how they relate and play!
Feminism was a great blessing to my mothering.
Because of feminism I could work through my teenage years looking after other people’s babies and gaining experience.
Because of feminism, every student at my school had to take cooking, sewing, metalwork and woodwork. I didn’t have to choose, and I couldn’t skimp on my preparation for life.
Because of feminism, all students at my school were taught to budget, calculate interest and repayments. I was not interested, but got no free pass out because I was a girl.
Because of feminism, I could easily find a female midwife.
Because of feminism, my husband changed diapers at night before I nursed.
Because of feminism, I didn’t have to shop, cook, clean or do laundry when nursing day and night. My husband did it when he got home from work.
Because of feminism I have showered every day of the twelve years since my first baby was born, because I have another fully capable parent in the house.
Because of feminism, I don’t have to find someone to watch my kids for me,
I can’t imagine how women do it all on their own. I’m very glad I’m married to a feminist, I’m also glad that as feminists, both my sons and my daughters are going to be well-rounded, fully capable people who can choose to do anything with their lives.
Interestingly, Annie, nearly all of your comments have nothing to do with feminism.
For thousands of years, teenage girls have looked after other people’s babies and gained experience.
For thousands of years, preparing for life has happened in the context of a family and been (I believe) more effective than what we currently experience. I’m glad you were able (and even required–wow!) to learn so many real-life skills, but most in my generation were not.
Budgeting and understanding debt are good things for us all to learn, but again, that’s something that Feminism really hasn’t had much to do with.
Female midwives are as old as dirt. Exodus talks about them (circa 1500 BC), and they were even called before Pharaoh.
Husbands being attentive to their families is also as old as dirt. Jesus told a parable about a family who were all asleep together (the neighbor who keeps seeking bread for a guest). Feminism isn’t what’s brought that about. That’s a matter of having an engaged father. And there are still plenty who aren’t engaged nowadays. We just call them “baby’s daddies” because there is no longer the societal expectation or moral obligation of marriage & commitment to the woman you conceived a child with (and for that, we can thank Feminism).
In many cultures around the world completely disconnected from Feminism (Islamic nations come to mind), the husbands are the primary shoppers in the family, and yet these women are not liberated. These actions you list are not intricately connected with Feminism. My husband is no Feminist (nor am I) but he is a human being who is compassionate and cares for me and our newborns and thus, he does pick up the slack/fill in the void for me in those early months when I am resting and recovering from having a baby. I don’t think this has to do with Feminism, but rather, in having an engaged, loving, and understanding husband.
Wow, Feminism is responsible for your showering routine too… hmm….
I think you have chalked up far too much to this idea of Feminism, when in fact, just having a loving husband (which it sounds like both you and I are blessed with) is much more the accurate “culprit.”
Jess, now I see why you don’t give feminism credit for all it has done. You are working under a false definition! Yes, there have always been feminists, and the early/mid part of last century was a low point for gender equality. But yes, women working outside the home is not a welcome concept to anti-feminists, teenagers and midwives included. You don’t need to stand in front of a six foot high sign like Beyonce to be a feminist. By allowing your girls to work outside the home and allowing your husband to change the baby you’re practicing feminism, there’s no special distinction between babysitting and retail, same as there’s no special distinction between midwifery and doctoring, or teaching and being a corporate trainer.
Feminism is the belief that men are as capable as we are, and that the complex mix of hormones, brain chemistry and experience that make up each individual and help shape their preferences and opinions is more important than presence/absence of a chromosome.
It means we get to discuss what we want to do, and within reason, do it.
Like it or not, feminism is why we get to choose to stay at home. If our husbands were not feminists they’d be ordering us to work and stay at home themselves (just think of Orthodox Jews, for example).
That is not the way belief is defined. We don’t say “Buddhists believe everything that is good, therefore anyone who is not a Buddhist is an anti-Buddhist and believes that all those things are bad.” It is not those who are NOT Buddhists that are grouped together but rather, those who adhere to it that are grouped and understood according to their expressed beliefs. Feminists are the ones that have laid out, systematically, over time, what Feminism is, and it is not the pro-woman panacea that you are claiming it is. Feminists have pushed agendas that leave single mothers in the lurch, make for more single mothers, and have torn apart the family. They continue to do so. Their agenda is anti-woman in the long run. You don’t get to claim everything that is good in the world is attributable to Feminism, and thus, then, claim that anyone who does not adhere to Feminism is against those wonderful things.
It is ironic to me that you think you get to tell me what I believe, because I am not a feminist, with statements like this: “women working outside the home is not a welcome concept to anti-feminists, teenagers and midwives included.” but I am not supposed to quote and assess what Feminists have said all along, and hold Feminism to that line of thinking. The truth is, Feminists over the years have made it very clear that they do not want women to be at home. President Obama slipped and said as much last week.
Feminism is not what you claim it is.
Neither is “anti-Feminism” what you claim it is. (Which reminds, me, ironically of those who say “anti-choice”, thus framing everyone else’s beliefs around their own rather than recognizing that other human beings are worthy of respect and have come to their beliefs without having it all be centered on one’s own beliefs… I don’t go around saying anyone who is not a Christian is an “anti-Christian” or that anyone who is not a homeschooler is an “anti-homeschooler”– other people aren’t defined by their reference point to my own beliefs, but rather, defined according to the things they believe.)
And this? “It means we get to discuss what we want to do, and within reason, do it.” This is being human, not Feminist. This is what God Himself endowed us with the ability to do and those of us who are not Feminists believe these things just as fervently as those who term as “anti-Feminists” rather than thinking human beings who have arrived at a different conclusion.
Hi Jess, I grew up with a stay at home mom…we were a traditional family. I am theoldest of six kids, so was exposed to babies my whole life. However, my mom has such a servant heart that I never had to do much. I helped with a few chores, laundry and tidying, but never had to cook. When my husband and I first got married I was too selfish/lazy/ill-prepared to cook. We lived off chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, or eating out or going to mom’s. It literally took me 10 years of marriage before I realized it’s MY job to feed my family! Sad but true. Now, three years later I am a very simple cook and we still occasionally eat frozen foods. But I have come up with a repertoire of easy-to-put-together, relatively healthy but tasty, satisfying meals. So yes, I was very unprepared, but I’m not sure I would attribute it to feminism, but rather who my mom was. (Not blaming her, she was/is amazing!) As far as babies go, I was not unprepared for the physical care of a baby, but was totally unprepared for the 24/7 demanding care. But I would attribute this more to the difference between caring for others kids, when you can give them back at the end of the day and having your own baby and all the selfishness that brings out in a mom. So yes, I was ill-prepared but was never very feminist in my thinking. It was more that I was raised to be rather naive, sheltered by my mom who preferred to do for us rather than us having to take responsibilty. Anyway that is just my experience and two cents 🙂
Interesting; thanks for sharing your thoughts, Laura.
Stories like yours make me all the more resolved to be purposeful in the things we talk to our kids about, because those 18 years really can pass so quickly without us passing on things we may have intended to discuss or teach.
Same! I want to make sure my kids know how to be independent and carry their weight.
I left out a segment of my story I realized when I was thinking over the comment I left yesterday. I worked full time the first few years of my marriage, until I had my first baby. In Canada you get a whole year of maternity leave, which I gladly took. But after a year, I went back. Now, I did everything ‘right’ : my mom babysat my boy, I only took part time hours, my husband was on board with me going back. Logically, it made sense for me to work and bring in some extra cash. It’s what I was hearing from our culture: that I should be pulling my weight financially. Here’s what I found: working didn’t work for me. I was tired all. The. Time. Mind you, I was already pregnant with #2, but still. I also was not giving my all at work. If my little boy was sick, I skipped off work to be with him (paid sick leave but still, this meant my work and colleagues suffered). At work my mind was always elsewhere. When I came home I was too tired to do much of anything. And I only worked part time with one little boy at home! I cannot imagine how moms do it when they work full time with a few kids. I know I could not do it now with my three. In fact, after I had my second boy, while on maternity leave I quit my job. My heart was at home but I felt guilty for not bringing in extra cash. This was not coming from my husband either. It was what I’d been told by society. So there is another piece to my story that was affected by feminist thinking.
Hey Jess. This was such a good article. I was surprised by marriage and even more surprised by motherhood. It’s strange that I have two master’s degrees and can whip out 25 page papers within a few hours, but had no clue how to cook from scratch, maintain a home, and train littles. My entire life, nobody said to me, “someday you’re going to be a wife and a mother so you might want to learn how to…”
Yes, Sandra! Even though I did want to be a wife & a mom, I had my eyes on female pediatricians, female astronauts, female elementary school teachers, and female governors. We all were encouraged toward certain choices over others, and most of us were never encouraged to consider how the two (professional & biological) competing concerns might play out or affect one another over the course of our lives.
Even still, Feminism fights for things like women in combat, without a full acknowledgement of what things like stopping for menstrual cycles, weaker bodies, sexual interactions, and the potential (and reality) of pregnancy significantly affect a woman’s ability to serve in such a position. It is as if there is a denial of reality in many ways… a denial of biological truth.
Companies like Apple will pay a woman to freeze her eggs, and Feminists cheer. A woman can kill her developing child, and video it (and even plaster a smile on her face in order to convince other people that “abortion can be a positive experience), and Feminists applaud it and Tweet about it and celebrate it and claim that she is empowering women everywhere. But a woman who uses her eggs at the time they actually come out of her body, and lets them turn into amazing little people, is seen as backwards and so 19th century.
Feminism STILL fails to do what it says it does– celebrate choice in every form it takes.
Even now, Feminists fail to present a compelling real-world picture of the realities of life as a woman.
Even now, Feminists perpetually celebrate choices that are the opposite of using our unique abilities as women (the one thing we can incontrovertibly do that men can not– grow, give birth to, and breastfeed a baby) and continue to prod and delight in choices that seek to make us the same as men. Instead of celebrating our uniqueness, they want to act as if we are all the same.
This is what continues to handicap young women, because they are not given a full picture that says: “you may not desire it now; you may not feel anything like this now, but the likelihood is that at some point in your life you will have an incredibly strong desire to have children. And there will come a time when that choice is beyond your ability.” So consider all your choices, with that overarching theme in mind. Yes, you are free to choose anything, but no choice is without a downside, so consider carefully (on the front end) the way in which you will walk.
Great article about the importance, societally, of stay at home wives: http://www.aei.org/publication/crucial-importance-stay-home-wives/
This is another way where Feminism would historically and by implications (even if they do not/would not say it out loud) lead us to believe that one option is more valuable than another, and yet, there is societal benefit to those who eschew a paycheck in order to serve, volunteer, and add value to our communities, inside and outside of the bearing of their children. There is value in things beyond dollars and cents, but when you look at the policies Feminists care about (equal pay for equal work, for example, which actually means that they want for women to be able to make whatever choices they want without facing financial consequences for making different choices than their male counterparts, or federal funding of Planned Parenthood– which already makes a profit off of their abortion services, which by a LONG shot outweigh the financial impact of any other “women’s health” issues they claim to focus on), it is almost always linked to plain old dollars and cents.
I grew up in an unusual environment (compared to the rest of our society) in a small church/homeschool group. I was taught the truth about feminism, which I appreciate. It was an attempt by the church leaders to combat the ill effects of feminism on our society, but it was taken too far the other way. I was made to feel like a less valued creature as a female, inferior, and less important. I appreciate that I was prepared to sew and cook and care for babies. But I was a stunted person because of the inferiority complex I developed. I had no confidence. I couldn’t talk to people. I quit my first job as a cashier after a week because I couldn’t handle the pressure of people being mean to me. I was just too sensitive and fragile. And that made me feel even more like a failure. I ended up finding a job where I didn’t have to interact with people – housekeeping. I was a terrible example of a homeschooler, as far as the socialization issue goes. But it wasn’t being homeschooled that did that to me. It was the oppressive influence of male chauvinism. I went to college and also began dating my future husband. He also grew up in the same church group with me. And we talked about everything. And he said, “I hope you know I don’t agree with all that “women are inferior” crap that our leaders taught. And we spent the next 2 years figuring stuff out. And I did fairly well in college and gained lots of confidence from that. Then we got married and I worked as a graphic designer for two years. Now we have 2 kids and another on the way. I am a homeschool mom. I loved my graphic design job, but I love this one more. I feel that my husband and I together were able to figure out a balance. I’m not a feminist and he’s not chauvinist. We believe in respecting all people, including children. There are places and offices in life in which which God places people. And he designed each of those offices for certain purposes. I believe his creation is happiest and most fulfilled when embracing their intended purpose. Rebelling against that has endless ramifications. And using the authority of one’s office to belittle another is a poverty and the opposite of a Christ like attitude.
Sorry this is so long. What I’m getting to is, feminism did you no favors, but male chauvinism did me no favors. It was the confidence that I gained during my college years when I learned that I could do hard things (and the support of my then fiancé as well as a few encouraging teachers) that prepared me most for the even harder things I would do as a mother. I liked your article and I’m not at all arguing. Just sharing my experience because I know there are other groups out there like the one that raised me. So I would implore all anti-feminists and counter-culturalists to maintain balance and respect. And don’t take your frustrations with previous generations out on your kids. It doesn’t take a jackhammer to teach a child the truth. (I’m not accusing you of doing this. Just saying some people do.)
Absolutely! I’m so glad you shared. There is a dangerous heresy (filled with harmful lies) prevalent among patriarchal circles that sometimes are intertwined with homeschooling, and I definitely want to warn people against those and not in any way support subjugation of human beings. It sounds like God sent you a treasure in your husband, but many do not have that experience and deal with lifelong self-loathing or (worse) abandon God altogether because they have come to believe that God desires for women to be dominated– remaining mute and decorative, giftless and without value outside of the kitchen and birthing tub.
From the beginning, God made man AND woman in His image. Male AND female give unique but nonetheless valuable and real “images” of varying facets of God’s character. Jesus chose male disciples and gives males headship over a family & within the Church, and yet He & the apostles continually affirmed the dignity and worth of women. We are different in roles, equal in dignity.
Feminism is wicked & harmful.
Male chauvinism (patriarchy) is wicked & harmful.
Like Satan is wont to do, he can not create anything; but he loves to take what God has made and twist it into wicked and harmful forms.
So he has taken the beauty of our different, unique roles and made Feminists in our age reject it, in an attempt to make everyone the same, which only ruins everyone. We see the harm that happens as the effects of Feminism continually batter the family. And he has taken the beauty of equal dignity of males and females and made Patriarchalists/chauvinists reject it, in an attempt to make women subjugated. We see the harm that happens as the effects of Patriarchy attack women and men (classic examples both made way into the headlines recently, with Bill Gothard’s and Doug Phillips’ downfalls).
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and giving me the opportunity to more explicitly condemn chavinism/patriarchy right alongside my condemnation of feminism.
Thank you for being a great example of a homeschooled, small-church evangelical who figured out how to serve God without demonizing anyone. 🙂 I try not to get into arguments with people, but it is very hard to defend the way I was raised and educated when the “obvious” examples are always the crazy people who end up in the news. I’m glad there are a few people out there who don’t publicize their lives but still live them as an awesome example.
Wonderful and very true article. I was especially drawn to the point you made that we grew up believing in an ” ‘you can do anything’-ism.” As my fiance pointed out while reading this article to him, unlike women, men were never told growing up that they could be whatever they wanted to be when they grew up.
Men and women alike are given a set of God-given gifts that we are to use for His benefit! 1 Corinthians 12 — “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant… Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.”
Jess, I really enjoyed your article. I had not stumbled upon your blog before today, but I am glad to hear your voice of Biblically correct role models! Great job! I think you and several comments alluded to the fact of a mixture of preparedness/unpreparedness. We can have the physical skills (or acquire them as we go), but the real battle (as I’ve seen/lived it) is in the mind. There are certain things we encounter on this journey especially as Christian women that are in conflict with God’s true plan. Many things I didn’t even consciously realize I was following were not Biblically based though they were ideas I had seen at home/church/Christian college. These are the things that I fear contaminate the young Christian woman. The idea of children being a burden (you can see this one every time you enter a church and the first thing the usher wants to do is separate the parent from the kids so that they can “enjoy” the service without interruption).
It was once a commonly held belief that fathers were to lead their homes spiritually, but this idea isn’t so encouraged anymore since then those families might not “NEED” the pastor, assistant pastor, youth pastor, etc. to spoon feed them. Besides, if the family is actually trying to follow Biblical roles and the wife stays home, you have just cut the funding of all those pastors and the ministry they are committed to. My husband taught me early in our marriage to look at my life and question: where is my commitment? If it is to anything other than Christ (and that would include a commitment to church that eclipses that of my commitment to Christ himself)….then my priority is wrong. Having grown up in a committed to church type mentality, this was a hard lesson for me to learn, but I am grateful for the perspective and now filter ministries I am in contact with through this glass. Christ must be our focus, and as such, I am able to fulfill my role as a wife/mother without the guilt of not “doing enough” in any other sphere.