I had a conversation with one of my favorite professors. We were talking about plans after graduation. She advised. I listened.
She is an incredible woman. Brilliant, funny, truly interested in her students.
I adore her. And I want to be her when I grow up.
We got to the subject of women in the workplace, in society, and in church. I knew that she was a fellow church-goer so I was intrigued to hear her experience being a workingwoman and having an active religious life. We agreed that the church, in general, doesn't like to see women out of the home and what does that mean for those of us who don't think our rightful place is in the home?
Certainly the home is one of our places, just as it is one place that a man should maintain. But, our only place? I'm not sure I buy that.
My professor argued that women should just give women slack. No job is easy, she said. We have choices - the great American ideal.
A woman can choose to stay home; that's not easy.
A woman can choose to not have children; that's not easy.
A woman can choose to have children and have a career; that's not easy.
We wondered why women seem so hell bent on proving that the path they chose was the correct one. The better choice. All other choices will be judged (something I am guilty of).
But then, and this is why I love history, she brings in the historical aspect of what child-rearing and family raising is supposed to look like. Somewhat refuting the very western idea of a "woman's sphere:" the home.
She said (and I'm paraphrasing because I so wish I had a recorder going):
You know, it's the privatization, the private nature, of our society. It's what our American culture is so proud of. The family unit was never meant to be secluded behind four walls with a fence barrier surrounding the yard. My children were both in daycare by two different women - one of whom quit childcare to become a nun so I always like to say that my son got more spiritual influence from her than he ever would have from me - and both these women came into my life so easily. I looked for them and there they were. We could use the word providential if we were so inclined. These women became very dear friends of mine. It took all of us to raise my children. And not just them. You know, when my kids graduated high school and we made a list of every to invite to the party, it brought a tear to my eye just thinking of all the people who helped raise them. Their teachers, their piano teachers, the neighbor who gave him a job mowing grass, sunday school teachers, and the list went on. I couldn't have done it by myself and I wasn't meant to. I feel for those women who think it is all their responsibility. Who feel that asking their husbands to help is somehow a sign that they are doing it wrong. That the responsibility is only theirs.
She and I have had conversations before about how the modern idea of family roles is just that: modern. Because, prior to the industrial revolution families worked together to maintain an agrarian lifestyle. Husband and wife worked side by side. Children were given jobs as soon as they could walk. The family was in constant connection.
So when I hear people argue that God's plan for women is in the home I think, fine but if that's the case then his plan for men is in the home, too. Actually, it's on the farm. Work it. Work that land.
For thousands of years humans lived in a predominantly agrarian society. One that required that all members of the family and community to contribute. It wasn't until the late 18th and early 19th century that we even see the idea of all women being in the home and men going out (somewhere, elsewhere, anywhere) and working for a wage. AND we see the seclusion of the family into a solitary unit that forces the burden of child raising solely on the woman. (AND THEN in the mid twentieth century we see a huge increase in women, in the home, who struggle with depression, alcoholism, and drug addiction)
This was long. I'm still thinking a lot about this topic: being a christian woman AND feeling that God gave me desires and talents that should be practiced and utilized AND that maybe that means I won't be in the home full-time AND maybe God's okay with that.
Your thoughts are appreciated.