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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Monday, February 13, 2006

To the Praise of the Stay-at-Home Mom (I)

Where is the Voice of the Church?
Ideologues can screw up anything. The driving forces behind the Feminist or so-called “Women’s Liberation” movement are classic cases in point. Attempting to free women from the surly bonds of that ghetto called “the home,” the feminists de facto decimated true femininity and added—as collateral damage—a disparity between the sexes that will not be easily overcome for years.
What they accomplished—in a negative sense—is analogous to what the proponents of “Multiculturalism” envision. That is to say, multiculturalism, as an –ism aims at eradicating racism. Each culture, it is thought and taught, is considered equally valid and important. There are, in their teaching, “values” without Value. There are “truths” without Truth. The result of this utopic well wishing has been an actual rise in racism—the exact opposite of what the movement envisioned. You don’t hear a lot about that backlash because our left-leaning media likes to keep it quiet. You only have to live in a country—like Canada—for a while to understand that multiculturalism is—in the words of Reginald Bibby—a “mosaic madness.”
One of the reasons the LRL (Liberal Religious Left) cannot understand the terrorist mindset is because they believe the silly notion of “moral equivalency,” which is the stepchild of PC relativism. That is to say, they believe that Osama bin Laden and Mohammed Atta are basically nice guys. They’re probably just victims of some oppressive Western notion of freedom and burkas. Recently in the Orange County Register one man opined that John Ashcroft was as bad if not worse than bin Laden. Is it any wonder that we’re so confused?

Women Acting Like Men
Carolyn Graglia gives us the following synopsis of the feminist movement. “Feminists vowed that they would try to become as much like men as possible. They would be sexually available on male terms without commitment. They would abort their babies, or if they gave birth, they would place their children in surrogates’ care and continue to work outside the home at ‘meaningful’ job s so that someday, if they tried very hard, they might possibly be as interesting and worthy as men. The women’s movement could have been orchestrated by the editors of Playboy: readily available abortion to eliminate unwanted children; and devaluation of maternal commitment to child-nurturing so that mothers would remain in the workplace, ensuring that women would never become dependent upon their husbands.”[1]
Of course, Feminism didn’t just fall out of the sky one day.[2] It has been a long time in coming and you can find traces and evidences of it in antiquity. There is—rightly—talk about a certain “development” regarding the family in history.[3] For the Christian, however, there are certain “givens” or “axiomatic, eternal truths” that can only be neglected at the risk of the family and society itself. Unfortunately, a combination of feminist-driven cultural and societal forces have been brought to bear even, or especially, upon Christian families. Those families that were not adequately prepared for this type of “Terrorism” suffered great damage. The results were devastating but not irreversible.
In 1898, Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote a scathing article wherein she derided the stay-at-home mom as an economic parasite. In her zeal to see women flood into the workplace, Ms. Gilman resorted to name-calling. In her view, the home-keeper was a “blood sucker” and a societal freeloader. In response to this attack, Theodore Roosevelt wrote an article entitled, “The Parasite Woman; the Only Indispensable Citizen.”[4]
I’d like to use that article as a “jumping off” point for what must be praise for the stay-at-home mom. Bill Bennett is correct when he says, “One of the legacies of the social revolution of our time has been to stigmatize stay-at-home mothers as antiquated and unfulfilled. Particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, such mothers were made to feel as if they had to apologize for the lives they had chosen—for, in effect, siding with their children instead of with the cause of women’s liberation.”[5]
The stay-at-home mom has been vilified and unduly criticized for the longest time in our modern society. Why would a woman with a college or university degree want to “waste” her life performing menial tasks? Why waste such talent? What possible benefit could there been in potty training a child or cleaning up messy poop diapers? Doing laundry? Vacuuming? Dusting? Cooking? Why not be “cutting edge” and get into the workforce? Think of all the glamour of bringing in your own paycheck and rising to the top of some prestigious firm! With the assistance of TV and movies the “myth of glamour” in the workplace was allowed into our homes and minds on a regular basis.
This type of feminist myth-making meant that women exchanged market production for child-rearing—almost totally without thinking about it and called it freedom. Propaganda is a powerful tool, especially when the objects of the propaganda either won’t or can’t think for themselves. The “academic elite” tells us what’s best for us. They’re still trying to tell us how to rear our children every day. If you don’t go along with their agenda things get pretty nasty and pretty ugly pretty quickly. (El quicko, for those in El Puerco, CA.) If you don’t believe me, just try to get your local public high school to drop the teaching that homosexuality is a good, alternative lifestyle. The pundits get apoplexy when Ma and Pa act like they know what they’re doing in raising their children the way they see fit. If you were just more educated, more intelligent like the pundits, you’d understand and rejoice in the fact that the social engineers are trying to help us mental midgets in life. We’re too dumb to know how to do it, but they’re the “experts.”
The LRL cannot believe that you and I are competent to raise our children and actually to enjoy having and building a solid home apart from their intervention. It’s incomprehensible to them that women—talented and well-educated women—feel impelled to stay with their children by a strong emotional pull of love and duty. It’s equally incomprehensible to the LRL that a life of caring for children at home would or could be good for the mom as well. Carolyn Graglia is correct when she concludes that the love of a mother for her children and desire to see them grow, thrive, and prosper under her guidance and leadership escaped Feminism’s ideology. It is those very values and virtues “that contemporary feminism has destroyed by successfully propagating the idea that homemakers’ activities are largely valueless.”[6]
Anyway, what was found in a concentrated form in the 70s and 80s is a lingering (industrial-strength) residue in our time. There are still remnants of Feminism and some still fully embrace it in spite of the fact that is a failure. (This is kind of like people who observe the utter failure of Socialism but still want to try it anyway.) The offer of liberation is still held out, but it’s the kids that really suffer the most.[7] Ideologies die a long lingering death. Many Christian women still embrace Feminism, in part or in toto, in spite of its internal contradictions and the blatant contradictions it has with the Christian faith. Abort the babies and save the whales. Right.

The Ministry of Silly Assertions
Monty Python has a skit called “The Ministry of Silly Walks.” It’s a classic spoof on the pseudo-serious bureaucracies in government. All you have to do is to come up with a “silly walk” and you can get government funding. Many, most, if not all, of our social do-gooders qualify to be members of the “Ministry of Silly Assertions.” Charlotte Perkins Gilman was, no doubt, a charter member.
Her (silly) assertion was that if a woman did not participate in the economic process by leaving the home and getting into the workplace, she qualified as someone willing to live from the exertion of others. In essence, Gilman spoke of the stay-at-home mom as a welfare recipient. The more or less explicit assertion was that moms are on the dole and that they’re willing to stay at home and let the men do all the real work. It’s astonishing how that thesis has come back in various garbs in our modern times, isn’t it? Gilman, like modern feminists, wanted to make stay-at-homes moms feel guilty or unimportant—or both. Probably both.
Roosevelt begins his rebuttal of Gilman’s assertion by saying this. “Of all species of silliness the silliest is the assertion sometimes made that the woman whose primary life-work is taking care of her home and children is somehow a ‘parasite woman.’”[8] This assertion constitutes nothing less than a “ridiculous inversion” of the truth.[9] (Isn’t it refreshing when you can call a spade a spade? Roosevelt can use appropriate words like “silly” and “ridiculous” to describe Gilman’s tenets. I really like that.)
The problem, of course, is that there will be those who will accept this silly assertion with seriousness. Roosevelt doesn’t pull any punches when he discusses the types of people that would listen to an assertion like Gilman’s. He can be glad that he didn’t live in our time of liberation, harassment, and the ACLU because this is what he says. “[I]t is acted upon by a large number of selfish, brutal, or thoughtless men, and it is screamed about by a number of foolish women.”[10]
We’ve been taught—conditioned, re-socialized—to recoil from that type of speaking. It isn’t politically correct to say such things in such a way! Roosevelt’s words violate our modern sensitivities. The bottom line, however, is that he’s right. Let’s follow his argument to see how he arrives at his conclusions. What he wants to do in this situation is to bring “common sense” and “common decency” to bear on this assertion.[11] Not a bad notion. In order to arrive at a common sense/decency view of women, however, Roosevelt is convinced that you must begin with the male.
When you boil it down to its essential components, the primary work of the man is “to earn his own livelihood and the livelihood of those dependent upon him…”[12] In other words, a real, common sense, decent man is one who pays “his way as he goes.”[13] This certainly applies to some men who live off of government and are willing to accept welfare handouts from those who actually do work for a living. Roosevelt—and we too—acknowledged that there are men who want to work, but because of disabilities, getting laid off, or otherwise losing their jobs, cannot. There are, however, many who are bodily able but are so lazy, immature, and irresponsible that they are willing for others to work so that they can receive their “free money.” Despicable.

What’s Your Job, Sir? I’m a Homemaker
How many of us men, when asked to fill in the blank regarding our occupation would write down “homemaker?” And yet, according to the Word of God that’s precisely what we are. We have, however, been taught—conditioned, re-socialized—that our wife is the homemaker. We soften the answer in Christian circles by saying that our wife is not a “housewife” but a Christian homemaker. Wrong again. Nice try, though. Whatever else we might think of ourselves as men, we rarely, if ever, think of ourselves as homemakers. Even to our modern ears that sounds effeminate.
The old “tough guy” Theodore Roosevelt disagrees with us men however. One of his emphatic points is that men are homemakers. What about the woman? What is she then? According to Roosevelt, she is the homekeeper. That’s an important distinction to hold on to.
What does the male homemaker do? Let me begin by telling what he doesn’t do. Roosevelt is not advocating that men run around in aprons and talk with a lisp. He is espousing a true form of masculinity. If men are to be leaders in the home, then they are the ones who set the style, tone, direction, and virtues in the family. They are true leaders. They are neither tyrants nor wimps. They have a plan and they lead by word and example. They know what kind of family they want and they strive will all that is within them to build and nurture that kind of family. They forge and carry out their plan in the crucible of life. They are principled men. If they are Christians, they are biblically principled men.
But it is not enough that the male merely forges or hammers out the plan for the family. He must be seriously involved in the implementation of that plan. If Feminism encouraged women to go into the workplace—which it did—then that was bad enough, especially if women bought into that ideology. What is far worse, however, is when the male leader (homemaker) of the household is, himself, absent. Fatherlessness is more despicable than almost anything else.
The male leader does not “go it” alone however. Not if he’s biblical and smart. The male/father/leader makes the plan for the home, but the wise male/father/leader does this in conjunction with the wisdom of his wife. For he sees in her not only strength of character and convictions necessary for the successful implementation of the plan for the family, but also qualities, characteristics, and virtues that he lacks. The male has the primary responsibility to make the home, but the female has the primary responsibility of keeping what they’ve decided together to build. In this the husband and wife work shoulder-to-shoulder. There is love, deep commitment, and a desire to work and live in a manner that will be in the best interest of the family unit.
Marriage and commitment are powerful ingredients to achieve these goals. The author George Eliot once asked this important question. “What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined for life—to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent, unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?” Good question. We would add to that: sharing in the building of a strong, virtuous family where the members were lovingly taught to possess self-disciple, compassion, responsibility, friendship, work, courage, perseverance under trial, honesty, loyalty, and faith. She cuts to the chase and dismisses our so-called “alternative lifestyles.” She speaks of the solemnity and joy that attend marriage.
As we continue our examination of true masculinity in subsequent issues of Ethos, we shall spend more time on the male. For the present, however, I want to return to Roosevelt’s assessment of the woman as homekeeper.

The Indispensable Work for the Community
While Feminism portrayed the stay-at-home moms as beings of a “lesser life,” other, more clear-headed people considered their work as substantially more noble. Those common sense, common decency voices were often drowned out by the shrill rhetoric of modern Feminism, but their voices were there. When Feminism said that women should get into the workforce and pursue the “glamour” of a career, other saner voices spoke differently.
What’s disconcerting today is that if you ask young women what they want to do after high school or university they almost invariably answer you in terms of a some kind of career. Sad. Feminism did its homework well. Indoctrination is a powerful tool. Yet, there are still those in our country that can think—the fortunate few. Roosevelt gives us some essential concepts to ponder as we attempt to extricate ourselves from the dogma of Feminism.
In the first place, Roosevelt contends that far from being the parasite of Gilman’s venomous diatribe, “The indispensable work for the community is the work of the wife and mother.”[14] Not only is this true, but her work is the “most honorable work.”[15] You know it’s quite refreshing to hear someone talk like that again. After being harangued and vilified for doing the right thing, it’s nice to hear a male make that kind of statement. We men need to do more of this for our wives and for the stay-at-home mom. Bennett is correct when he says, “One of the legacies of the social revolution of our time has been to stigmatize stay-at-home mothers as antiquated and unfulfilled.”[16]
In the first place, stay-at-home moms will never really be outdated or antiquated. How could that be? If the mom doesn’t do her work, not only the household but the nation goes down the tubes. In the 1980s, Sar A. Levitan co-authored a book entitled What’s Happening to the American Family? When the second edition appeared a decade later, here is what Levitan said. “Widespread family breakdown is bound to have a pervasive and debilitating impact not only on the quality of life but on the vitality of the body politic.” (Italics mine.)
Roosevelt puts the matter in strong words to make his point when he states, “This woman (the stay-at-home mom) is not a parasite on society. She is society.”[17] By putting it in these terms, Roosevelt is saying that rather than being a person who squanders her talents and gifts, the stay-at-home mom is the one indispensable component part of society.”[18] “Unless she does her duty, the whole social system collapses. If she does her duty, she is entitled to all honor.”[19]
Can we make the necessary adjustments in our thinking and actions and accommodate Roosevelt’s words? It is patently true that much of the “duty” (you know it’s odd that we don’t hear that word used much in our society today, isn’t it?) of the stay-at-home mom can be categorized as routine and mundane. But every job has its measure of routine. Simply because something is routine does not mean that it is, therefore, unimportant.
It’s been a while since I’ve said to my wife, “Great load of laundry, hon.” I admit this to my shame. Occasionally my wife will go away from the home for a necessary trip. I manage—sometimes better than other times—to hold down the proverbial fort. Usually, however, she has prepared casseroles and menus for us in advance. But my point here is that there is a lot more to being homemakers and homekeepers than just going through the mechanics that work around the home requires.
There’s a decided, conscious labor of love, duty, and commitment that attends the work. Nobody can or will love your home like you do. If the mother is committed with the father to raising the children well, she will go far beyond the mere mechanics of cooking, cleaning, and doing the laundry. She will teach through her life. She will give indispensable advice, guidance, and counsel. She will mold and shape character. She will be the teacher of values and virtues. She will teach by word and example. She will laugh and she will cry, but in the final analysis she will know the truth that no ideology can take from her: She is society.
Roosevelt reminds us that, “Socially, the same standard of moral obligation applies both to her and to the man; and in addition she is entitled to all the chivalry of love and tenderness and reverence…”[20] It will take a major “paradigm shift” for us to understand and begin to implement this. It can be done, however. These are strange words we’re hearing: “moral obligation,” “chivalry of love,” “tenderness,” and “reverence” for the stay-at-home mom. This is truly her due for the labor of love and commitment she performs.
If she’s a Christian homekeeper, she will also, in addition to everything else she does, lead her children—according to the plan that she and her husband are committed to implement—to love God. Her homekeeping will include creating an atmosphere where God is the center, where He is worshipped, honored, loved, and glorified. Her children will hear her love for God in her voice and they will observe it lived out on a daily basis. She will bring attributes to the table that are lacking in the male. She will feed and clothe her family spiritually and thereby, once again, show herself to be the exact antithesis of the parasite. She is indispensable in the home. She is indispensable in society.In our subsequent issues on this subject of the stay-at-home mom, we’re going to look at what the Word of God teaches us about her.
[1] Carolyn Graglia, Domestic Tranquility. A Brief Against Feminism, (Dallas: Spence Publishing Co., 1998), pp. 34-35.
[2] Comp. Gertrude Himmelfarb, The De-Moralization of Society, (NY: Knopf, 1995), pp. 188-220.
[3] See William Bennett, The Broken Hearth. Reversing the Moral Collapse of the American Family, (NY: Doubleday, 2001), pp. 41-70.
[4] Theodore Roosevelt, Works, Vol. 19, (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926), pp. 140-151.
[5] Bennett, TBH, 25.
[6] Graglia, DT, 19.
[7] One example, offered by Bill Bennett will suffice here. He writes, “A truth that has been obscured in recent years is that once a man and a woman decide to have a child, the well-being of that child has chief claim over virtually everything else—including, surely, career ambitions and all-consuming jobs. But having both mothers and fathers in the workforce means that both parents spend less time with their offspring.” (TBH, 27. Emphases mine—RG.)
[8] Roosevelt, Works, 140.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid., 140-141.
[12] Ibid., 141.
[13] Ibid., 142.
[14] Ibid., 143.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Bennet, TBH, 25.
[17] Roosevelt, Works, 144.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Ibid.


Blogger Lindsey @ Enjoythejourney said...

Found your post through Blestwithsons a SAHM keeper of my home I say a resounding YES! to this post! I feel perfectly fulfilled in my role as homemaker and helpmeet.

6:00 PM  

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