31 July 2007

The Feminine Mistake -ish

To start with, I want to make clear that I have NOT read The Feminine Mistake by Leslie Bennetts. This is not a critique of her book, but rather a reaction to this piece written by the author and this interview (tipping my hat to you, Sarah, dear). I don't plan to read the book. Whether that makes me an ignoramus with a loud opinion, y'all can decide. Personally, I've got too many other new books to read and then I want to re-read Harry Potter. And then back-issues of The Onion and then the geneologies of the Bible at least 10 times and then probably my husband's American Riflemen magazines before I get to this book.
So, as I said, this is a reaction to Bennetts' post and the interview on Book TV. And it's my blog so if I want to an uninformed ignoramus, I can. So there.
ANYWAY, here is my take on this (and Sarah, I'm reprinting some of my comments here... I'm so unoriginal).

If the Feminine Mistake is believing that our futures can be assured by our husbands, I agree with the author. However, I’d go further. If we believe that our futures can be assured by anyone including ourselves, we have made a mistake. As believers, we proclaim that it is only our gracious God who holds and shapes our lives.

For this reason, I don’t really think a conversation of what we are "sacrificing" can take place between a secular statistician/ author and Christians called to, well… anything. We will always approach our purpose and meaning and “destinies” in life fundamentally differently. At least, we should, in my opinion.

As Christians, if we believe Christ calls us to work at home, we should expect to sacrifice some things. If we believe Christ calls us to work at a bank or school or town dump, we should expect to sacrifice some things. Our lives are about sacrifice. We may not want it to be that way, but when one is in relationship with other people and with God, like it or not, one has to give up a little or a lot of one's own desires and wants.

Several of the author’s points about financial independence did get me thinking, however. Bennetts seems to suggest that women who find themselves without material resources at some point in their lives are a drain on everyone around them. In the interview, she maintains that this was the case with her grandmother. I realized when I heard this implication that I don’t know any stay-at-home mother OR working mother who wouldn’t do everything necessary, possible or seemingly impossible to make sure that their children are secure. Divorce, untimely death of a spouse, loss of a partner’s wages… would only serve to strengthen that conviction in the people I know. Further, I think most normal and sane individuals don't regard "personal sacrifice" in these sorts of extreme circumstances as elective. I base this not on thousands of hours of research and interviews like the author but on a quick mental tally of folks I have known and met throughout my life. Yes, there are a few who would feel as though they were blindsided by their loss and thus "owed" something, but MOST would do anything and everything to make their lives a success.
And it strikes me as odd to maintain that there are women who honestly have never thought of the possibility of tragedy or refuse to consider the possibility. Are these people morons? I have been in bed next to my sleeping husband thinking about how his father died suddenly at 62, weeping, and praying that will not be the case for our family, but it is a possibility. It’s a possibility that I’ll dead tomorrow. I think most people consider possibilities. If the morons don't, so be it. But their entry into the workforce is not going to save the nation.

Perhaps if there is one gift that Bennetts has given to those of us who stay home or want to stay home, it is to consider the possibilities with more attention. But it just doesn’t follow that we must therefore launch ourselves en force back into the working world, as though that will provide us ultimate security. It won't. The reality is that we are humans who make mistakes and we are on a planet with other people who make mistakes. A nice, steady career may provide us with financial security, but it does not provide us with ultimate security. And it is only in the eye of the beholder as to whether financial security, emotional security, physical security, spiritual security, etc. is superior. As people of faith, when we make the choice to follow a calling to stay home, we must recognize that we are making a choice that might not present us the highest degree of financial security. On the other hand, following a call we believe to be presented from God affords a spiritual security that forcing oneself into employment for the sake of being employed does not.

Actually, this interview and this article has once again strengthened my resolve to not only get to a point where I CAN stay completely at home with my children, but has also reminded me to present that as a possibility to my daughter and son as they grow older. I want them to know that if God calls them to be neurosurgeons they have our blessing. If God calls them to be plumbers, they have our blessing. If God calls them to stay home with their families, they have our blessing.

I want them to know as they grow that this is a worthy calling. And a high calling. And as such, it deserves to be treated with respect. The choices they make as a young woman or man could determine whether staying at home is a possibility for them. So I will be teaching them, in the words of Indiana's Grail Knight, to “choose wisely” that to which they devote their resources. And similarly, it reminds me that we, Dennis and I, need to choose wisely so that they might be gifted at some point in their life with enough material resources to make staying at home more of a possibility.

Can you tell I’m the daughter of a financial planner?

Anyway, as I said before, I think this is a completely different conversation, though, than the one that Bennetts and Schappell are having. People of faith are called to trust God. We are called to KNOW God will provide where God calls. We are called to KNOW that sometimes God calls to sacrificial circumstances. We are called to KNOW it’s still God calling and we sure as heck are called KNOW that if it’s God, we’d better follow. Because God doesn't go away when God puts a call on a life. It's one of His more annoying habits.

I hate to say that those of us with this perspective are better, but, um… well...let’s just say I’m glad that I’m on this side of the non-discussion…


Jan said...

You must be feeling better with this long post! Good. I like how you ended: "Because God doesn't go away when God puts a call on a life. It's one of His more annoying habits." So true. Being the mother of four children (28-17), with only one still at home, I can see how it took me years of struggle to accept that I was really called to be at home with my kids. I kept going back to school and earning more degrees to prove my worth, which was one pull, and in the other direction, I was pulled by motherhood, as I was a La Leche League Leader!

April said...

Thank you -- we are all getting better.

I think what bugs me about this book is that it capitalizes on "the mommy wars" between SAHMs and working moms. I think the author really does have a valid point that SAHMs are financially vulnerable, but when called... well, you know! Vulnerability happens!

I understand the pulling in different directions. I never thought that anything would trump my calling to ordained pastoral ministry until I was called to be a mother in this way. It was so overwhelmingly clear to me what I need to do that it was not much struggle to resign myself to it, but continuing to be in ministry and raise children is splitting, to say the least. Part of me can't wait to read a book on preaching. Part of me just wants to cut out shapes with my daughter. But, boy is God good to have given me two such opportunities!

Blessings to you...

A. Lin said...

I read this book a few months ago. It went on and on, but I guess that was Bennett's point--to drill into women's heads that they need to have some plans for the future no matter what it holds.

I also I found out that I am not willing to wade into the "mommy wars" anymore.

I will just say that while many of my friends have decided to be SAHMs, I have decided that I am called to work a little outside of the home.

Thank you for your thoughtful post. How is it with the TV experiment? I wouldn't dare try something like it with my boys.