To the Praise of the Stay-at-Home Mom (II)
Our society still lives under many of the tenets of feminist thought. What I want to do in this issue is to expose some of the views of a modern feminist, Naomi Wolf, just to point out to you that Feminism isn’t dead yet. In fact, you’ll hear in the words of Ms. Wolf some chilling concepts. From there—after I rake her over the coals—I’m going to expound some of Theodore Roosevelt’s practical ideas about the stay-at-home mom and finances—a hot topic—and we’ll end with some other practical notions. We’ll examine the situation of the single parent mom who has to work. We’ll also look at mom’s working at home. In addition, we’ll inquire about moms who work after the children are out of the home.
One of our key emphases will be the place of the local church of Jesus Christ in all these situations. So many of our young people are ill equipped for life. Many young women do not even know how to cook a simple meal or how properly to care for young infants. The “common sense” approach to life is all but absent. Worse yet, far too many Christian women are too busy to pass along God’s truth about being a mom to the next generation. (Cf. Ps. 48:13; 71:18; 78:4, 6; Joel 1:3.) I want to spend some time on how the local congregation (I’m going to call it the “covenant community”) can play an enormously important role here.
Who’s Afraid of Naomi Wolf? Or, A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing
Naomi Wolf has a new book out. Some will remember her from the book, The Beauty Myth. Her latest publication is entitled, Misconceptions. Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood. (NY: Doubleday, 326 pp., $24.95.) Believe me, the title is misleading. You expect her to be dropping an ideological “Daisy Cutter” on Feminism with such a title. Especially since not too long ago in the New Republic magazine Ms. Wolf had accused feminists of dehumanizing the contents of a pregnant woman’s womb. She capped her arguments off by asserting that feminists had failed to acknowledge that the death of a fetus is a real death. Sounds promising.
These apparent concessions were short-lived, however. Rather than concluding that abortion must be murder and therefore profoundly wrong, Ms. Wolf went on to say in that essay in New Republic that despite everything, abortion should be legal. Great logic. Let me demonstrate to you how cold and chilling feminist ideology can be. If you’ve every seen a photograph of Ms. Wolf, you’ll know that she is an attractive woman. She appears kind and, unlike many of her feminist counterparts, she is actually married with two children. I tell you those things because what she goes on to say in her essay is simply incomprehensible. She argues that sometimes a mother must be able to decide “that the fetus, in its full humanity, must die.” Inconceivable for you and me, but apparently not for her. Such a statement is really a (Naomi) Wolf in wolf’s clothing. This is where Feminism leads us. You can find it in the Robespierrean Susan Faludi, the ferocious Catherine MacKinnon, the existentialist Simone de Beauvoir, or in the dour Leninism/Marxism of a host of others. Wolf doesn’t appear to wallow in many of those things, which makes her approach more subtle and dangerous.
Vilifying the Birth Process
Misconceptions aims at listening to the wide and full range “of stories that women confess to one another, including stories that they intuit they must not speak out loud in our culture.” As a man, I can only guess what those confessions might be. I suppose that it’s that they really don’t know Mike Sweeney’s batting average this season or how many consecutive games Brett Favre has played for the Packers and they don’t know how to break it to us guys. In reality, however, I learn from Ms. Wolf that it’s about childbirth.
Now I don’t want to minimize the birthing process. I’ve been present at the birth of all but two of our six children and actually delivered one myself. Every woman and every pregnancy is different, but Wolf’s description of pregnancy and delivery is truly “over the top.” In fact, Naomi Wolf just might qualify as the Queen of Whine. She is able to complain about every aspect of pregnancy and birth. Naomi wants us to sympathize with her weight gain, cesarean sections, episiotomies, cold hands, maternity clothes, childbirth classes, obstetrical checkups, fetal monitors, anesthesia, diaper bags, and much more—including throwing up five times in seven hours. Bummer.
In addition, Wolf points out that many women feel “tied down” when they have children. No kidding. Trying to sound very intelligent and pitiable Wolf says, “I feared I would be chained forever to our bilious couch, sucked on all day by a hungry newborn, like Prometheus chained to a rock.” Gag. That kind of nonsense explains why she describes her time on the delivery table as “strapped down as if on a crucifix.” Right. That’s a helpful analogy. If your daughter asks you what being on the delivery table is like, you simply tell her that it’s like being crucified.
The woman is a pathological Boomer. The Queen of Whine has two healthy children, a hardworking husband, a huge house, the money to afford help, and her (now) part-time career. But that’s not enough to make her happy. She whines that her big house is “cavernous.” (May all your problems be small ones.) Her hired help is morally problematic. (Illegal?) The playground is uncomfortable, driving the kids to their events onerous, and—to her apparent shock—her career is now on the back burner while her husband’s is not.
Misery Loves Company
When Wolf describes her pain and suffering—Cavernous House Syndrome, Uncomfortable Playground Syndrome, It’s-a-Royal-Pain-in-the-Butt-Driving-the-Kids-All-Over-the-Place-Syndrome—she wants us to realize that she is not alone in her terrible predicament. (She sounds like a female Brad Pitt whining about how tough it is to be a celebrity.) She cites examples of pregnant women who walked the streets pondering the best way to commit suicide. Another woman is in therapy. Can you believe it? She was probably made neurotic and paranoid from reading Wolf’s self-centered drivel. Another yet says that, “There were times she had to walk right away from her shrieking Daisy, go into her bedroom, close the door, and pray, just to keep from harming herself or her daughter.”
I’ve been a pastor for twenty-five plus years. I’m the father of six and the grandfather of ten. I’ve performed hundreds of baptisms and made an equal number of home visits to first-time parents and I’ve never encountered anything that’s remotely close to what Wolf describes as normal or standard. She laments (whines) that no one told her how unbelievably bloody and violent birth would be. Violent? Someone has been watching too much TV. You know, I watch these TV and movie scenes where the woman is screaming and yelling and you’d think she’s being tortured by the Taliban instead of giving birth to a child. If you watch that nonsense long enough, you begin to believe that that’s the way it really is. Again, each delivery is different, but my wife had totally natural (no anesthesia) deliveries—at home—with four of our six children and our fifth weighed over ten pounds! Did she have contractions? Of course she did. Were some strong and powerful? Yes, they were. Did my wife scream and yell at the top of her lungs as if she were dying and threaten to kill me for getting her pregnant? Not even remotely close. (At least as far as I know, she didn’t threaten to kill me. There was that one time…) Was she—were we—overjoyed when the baby was laid on her breasts? We were ecstatic with joy and thankfulness. I still believe that most women and most families experience birth as a great joy and not as psychological trauma.
Wolf contends that her contemporaries (fellow-whiners) talk about losing themselves in the process of becoming a mother and needing to mourn that self. Uh-huh. One of her contemporaries referred to having the child at home as an “intruder who is never going to go away.” Now there’s a mature, responsible, adult way to look at life. Still another of her contemporaries have a “sense of acute social demotion” that attends motherhood. Is there any wonder we’re in such bad shape in our families? Is this the best we can do: be entrusted with a healthy child and sit around and have a pity-party? Good grief!
A long time ago the feminist Betty Friedan spoke of the “problem without a name.” Wolf and her cronies have given that problem a name: children. Evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker wrote these words in the New York Times Sunday magazine to the intelligentsia of this country. “Several moral philosophers have concluded that neonates (babies for those in Maxine Waters’ congressional district) are not persons, and thus neonaticide (baby killing) should not be classified as murder.” I wonder if Andrea Yates read his article?
Speaking of Andrea Yates, the feminists are very sympathetic to her. Katie Curic took up money for her defense fund. In addition, the Houston, TX branch of NOW also started a “support group” for Yates’ defense. Then NOW President, Patricia Ireland, predictably ventured that the Yates murders were the result of American patriarchy, where women are imprisoned at home with their children. Susan Kushner Resnick topped them all in an article in Salon about her own post-partum depression. Resnick admitted that she too had entertained similar thoughts about her own infant son. To show you what kind of sleaze Ms. Resnick is, here’s what she said. “The baby was the size of a chicken. What if I put him in the oven?” More from the academic elite. Can’t you see what a better person you’d be by reading such upbuilding material?
Are you starting to understand now why we’re so concerned about our culture? Three decades after Roe v. Wade was put into legislation there is no mistaking the connection between what the high priestesses of abortion believe about the disposability of the human baby. Connect the dots. We disregard life by murdering defenseless, helpless infants. Terrorism. Motherhood unleashes evil forces and enslaves women. Men get to keep their careers while moms must stay at home.
Wolf and her lieutenants are about as out of touch with reality as Hollywierd. But here’s the deal. They act as if they’re the ones with the truth. Publishers rush to them because that kind of cutting edge, avant garde crud sells. Never mind that it doesn’t correspond with reality of with 96% of the way women think today.
No one wants to say that the dirty little secret of Feminism—modern or otherwise—is that most women neither talk nor think about motherhood and babies—born and unborn—the way feminists do. Thankfully. Wolf and her ilk have formed an ideological goon squad. They might sway the thinking of a few ghouls, but they do not and will not have the hearts of the vast majority of North American women.
The Case of the Real Mom
I’ve bludgeoned you with feminist propaganda just so you’ll understand where a certain segment of our society is. Make no mistake about it: Feminism has had a profound impact upon our culture—even our Christian culture. If you get a group of young Christians together for a wedding and you read the text from Paul in Ephesians 5:22 where wives are called to submit to their (own) husbands—that’s the literal Greek reading—you’ll get an undercurrent of chuckles and animosity. Submit? Who are you kidding?
Far too many modern (Christian) marriages do not understand the biblical principle of submission. Erroneously, Christian women equate submission with inferiority. Wrong! We’re told that Jesus submitted himself to Joseph and Mary (Luke 2:51). Luke uses the same word that Paul uses in Ephesian 5:22. Was Jesus inferior to Joseph and Mary? Of course not! He submitted himself for a greater purpose. Our “me-oriented” society is not quite willing to make that concession yet. The sooner, however, that concession is made, the sooner we can get back to the matter of healing the rifts in the family and holding the family in high esteem.
Our focus now is on the women—the moms. The Bible is crystal clear that she is the equal of the male. She is not inferior. Women are intelligent—often very intelligent—and more spiritually minded than men are, in general. They are capable, creative, loving, funny, committed, gracious, hospitable, and a host of other attributes. They, like the males, are created in the image of God.
They have been given a different function in the family unit, however. We’ll get to the exceptions to this in a while, but for the present, I want us to focus on the calling moms have received in the household. Simply because women have different functions does not mean that their work is menial, unimportant, or irrelevant. The exact opposite is the case.
To Whom Does the Money Belong?
Some husbands are pretty boneheaded. Most of us are. As a pastor, I’ve encountered situations where the husband gives the wife a certain amount of money every week and that’s it. He holds the purse strings—tightly. The wife might not even know how much money they have. Theoretically, the idea is that all the money earned by the husband belongs to the family. In the practice, however, sometimes the men tend to believe that the money is theirs to dole out to their wives as they see fit. Isn’t that a silly and ridiculous way to think?
In the last blog I quoted Theodore Roosevelt’s article entitled, “The Parasite Woman: The Only Indispensable Citizen.” Roosevelt makes an excellent point when he says that the wife and mother ought to be “treated as the full equal of her husband.” I want to emphasize that she is to be treated as the full equal. What does that mean in the practice and with regard to her monetary position? Roosevelt explains, “An immediately practical feature of this partnership should be the full acknowledgment that the woman who keeps the home has exactly the same right to a say in the disposal of the money as the man who earns the money.” Right on.
This is also true in the case of biblical submission. Better said: Roosevelt’s principle is supported and intensified by the Word of God. Aren’t we sick to death of the accusation that stay-at-home moms don’t earn any money and therefore their task in the home is less important? We’re operating on the thesis that the husband is the homemaker and the wife is the homekeeper. With regard to the home and what they want their home to be, they’re on equal footing. “Earning the money is not one whit more indispensable than keeping the home.”
One of the (many) reasons I like Theodore Roosevelt in this area is that he’s a no nonsense kind of guy. He lays it on the line and doesn’t pull any punches. Here’s an example of what I mean. Listen to this guys. “The husband who does not give his wife, as a matter of right, her share in the disposal of the common funds is false to his duty. Aside from the money to be spent on common account, for the household and the children, the wife has just the same right as the husband to her pin-money, her spending-money.” As if that were not clear enough, Roosevelt proceeds and adds, “It is not his money that he gives to her as a gift. It is hers as a matter of right. He may earn it; but she earns it because she keeps the house; and she has just as much right to it as he has.”
What we want to avoid here is a kind of feminist-induced power struggle. The relationship between the husband and wife is meant to be as harmonious as possible. Feminism has done its best to create tension and an adversarial atmosphere between the husband and the wife. Naomi Wolf’s resentment that her husband was getting on with his duties to support the family and she couldn’t pursue her career is a classic case in point. That’s not the way marriage is meant to be. But any good marriage, like any good relationship, requires a lot of work, love, and mutual understanding.
We men cannot begrudgingly hand over money to the “Homekeeper.” That she is entitled to it and has a say in how it is spent is a matter of wisdom and honor. It’s a matter of honor for her husband to trust her that she is endeavoring with him for the best for the family. It’s a matter of wisdom because guys are “big ticket” buyers. Let me give a couple of personal examples. My wife hates it when I get near a sports store or a bookstore. I can also “lose it” when looking at DVD equipment, stereos, big screen TVs, and convertibles. Those are all “big ticket” items. At times, I might want very much to purchase one (or more—probably more) of these items and what we really need is something decidedly more practical for the home or family. I need to listen to her wisdom. If she’s right in her wisdom about what the family needs I ought not to give her the necessary money with a scowl on my face. Here’s what Tough Teddy says. “This is not a hostile right; it is a right which it is every woman’s duty to ask and which it should be every man’s pride and pleasure to give without asking. He is a poor creature if he grudges it; and she in her turn is a poor creature if she does not insist upon her rights, just exactly as she is worse than a poor creature if she does not do her duty.”
I don’t especially care for Roosevelt’s use of the word “right” or “rights.” Our modern culture misuses and abuses those words. Everyone screams about their “rights” when, in essence, the Constitution guarantees us precious few. What our Constitution confers upon us is truly precious rights, but they are few and do not include the right always to be happy or that society owes me “special rights” or money. But I think what Roosevelt is aiming at here is clear and, taken in context, points us to a very workable situation.
Rather than seeing themselves as victims husband and wife are to concentrate on their mutual duties for the good and well being of the family unit. Husband and wife chart a course for the family that involves values and virtues. Husband and wife work hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder to put that plan into practice. They know what they want their marriage to be, what they want their family to be like, and how they can achieve their goals.
But in the entire process, the wife is to be held in high esteem. Her labor in the household is vitally and ultimately important. She is the primary nurturer in the family. Her work, like everyone else’s, will go through phases. There will be times when it seems like the dirty diapers, runny, snotty noses, colds, flus, scraped elbows and knees, trips to the ER, and cleaning up spilled substances will never end! Unless there is genuine care and concern on the part of the husband, her work can drag her down. She’ll have bad days. Some days the kids will be horrible—all day long. The washing machine will break down, the refrigerator motor will quit, and the supper will be burned—all in the same day. She’ll have 2-year-old conversation most of the day and will yearn for adult conversation when her husband gets home, not to mention some relief. These—and many more like matters—are things young married couples go through from generation to generation. There really isn’t anything new under the sun.
Nevertheless, the “old things” need to be talked about, understood, and empathized with. The labor of love of the wife and mom is indispensable, but rarely truly and properly appreciated. It is the task of the husband to point out to the children—repeatedly—all the things mom does in and for the family. The husband must show leadership in teaching the children, by word and deed, to appreciate the work of the mom. The husband himself must be truly appreciative. Young families have long days and if they don’t work together both will get worn down and out quickly.
Husbands and wives need time to be together and to re-evaluate their plan for their family. This will necessitate helping each other and encouraging each other. They need to make a concerted effort to have their marriage be sacred and principled. My wife is a very smart woman. She has played a key and vital role in the shaping of the lives of all our children. She is a very effective “homekeeper.” She speaks to us often and eloquently about the need for what she calls “principled relationships.” She talks to me—and other married couples—about how it is imperative that we give conscious thought to what will benefit and enhance our marriages.Time. It takes time to forge a “homemaking” plan. It takes time to implement the “homekeeping” aspect of that plan. It will require the mustering of all of the resources of the husband and wife, but it is well worth the effort. We cannot—cannot—lament the dumbing-down and moral decay of our society unless we as married couples are willing to make and implement specific plans and goals. Men are called to be the leaders, but the wives remain the indispensable components of homemaking.
 When Hans, our last child was born, Sally and I were in the maternity ward in the Diakonessen Ziekenhuis in Voorburg, Holland. Sally was having a contraction and I was attempting to read—in German—an interesting quote from Martin Luther to her from a book I was reading. She looked at me and said, “Ron, shut up!” It really was an interesting quote.
 I’ve also encountered “modern” marriages where the couple has separate checking accounts and neither knows how much money the family has. Bad idea.
 Theodore Roosevelt, Works, Vol. 19, (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926), pp. 140-151.
 Ibid., 144.