Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hold the Apron Just a Second

I love how crisis can hit me so early in the day. Granted, I woke up at 9:30, and then went back to bed until 11 because I had nothing better to do, but since I'm still in my PJs, I would categorize now as early.

I was perfectly fine this morning, even joyful, despite the fact that I have a dentist appointment this afternoon. I was eating a piece of toast with peanut butter for breakfast while watching Regis & Kelly. I was perusing my usual internet haunts, i.e. Facebook, my email, and this online magazine called Boundless.

Now, I am not knocking this entire website by any means. I've read some really great articles about a variety of subjects, especially in dealing with college and relationships. However, I've also read articles that incensed me, particularly concerning politics. But that's not really the topic that got me in such a bad mood today. What I read was an article tacking the taboo topic of a stay at home wife.

If you could hear me dictating all this to you aloud, you might notice the tiniest, unintentional drip of sarcasm hitting the floor from the words coming out of my mouth, and that's wrong of me. There's nothing wrong with a woman wanting to commit her lifestyle to holding down the fort, because no one should fault people for doing what they really want. The article comprised of a few letters that the veteran author had received about women who were afraid to admit that this was their dream job, and the author's response was to encourage them rather than expose them to more doubt and criticism. Fair enough, right? Why should Christian women be ashamed of perfectly godly desires, such as taking care of other people?

No, what got me was the long list of comments left by fellow readers. I don't know why I treat these like they are quality publications particularly, but I was curious as to what people would say in response to this article praising a stay at home wife/mom. Some people had unmerited comments insinuating that these women are lazy, which is pretty judgmental. Some people expressed that they were supportive of women either way, employed or not. But many people (all female, actually) not only worshipped the author for affirming their own beliefs, but also professed that they believed this was the only calling for a godly girl.

In response to the very notion that a woman could work outside the home, I quote one reader: "We women are just not wired that way."

My tiny little fuse burned up in a nanosecond. Without getting too fancy with my wording, my thoughts were very succint. "SHE DOES NOT KNOW ME!"

And that's true. She doesn't! She doesn't know that I am pursuing a double B.A. degree in International Studies and Economics -- two fields currently dominated professionally by men, which is interesting, now that I think about it. She doesn't know how I get excellent grades, and that I'm not paying the school for this education; they are paying me. I'm a National Merit Scholar, and in the Honors College, and have great relationships with the deans there who encourage me constantly to go for things like Rhodes or Fulbright or the myriad of other national scholarships. I wouldn't presume that she didn't have all these opportunities herself, because that would be equally ignorant, but I'm willing to bet that being capable of getting all these things would also indicate a sort of drive to use this education for something important.

I also feel like she was insulting my desire and motivation to work. While I do feel some gratification from being recognized as especially talented or intelligent, I am not looking for a job that makes me incredibly wealthy. I would be miserable if my only motivation for getting out of bed each morning was to ensure a $80,000 total by the end of the year.

What I want is a job where I know I am making a difference for someone out there. I am entranced by the idea of working for a nonprofit, or being a journalist that exposes injustices around the world, or being a lawyer fighting giants that oppress people. That's how I would want to be remembered when I die: "Lara spent her life in a line of work that changed lives. She could have been a business mogul or famous astrophysicist with her picture on the cover of magazines, but instead, she was more passionate about making sure that people had their basic needs met and their voices heard."

I'd make a terrible astrophysicist because I did not so much enjoy science classes, but that's not the point.

I won't repent from this idea, either. There is nothing ungodly or unbiblical about wanting to work as long as I used that job to serve God's purposes. I feel that I'm squandering God's blessings if I ignore my capabilities and passions, which are straight from His hand. I didn't make myself strong, driven, smart, or fixated on justice. There is plenty of scripture supporting women being active, which doesn't go against working outside the home.

I would never have a family if they weren't my priority, because that would be incredibly selfish of me, but let's put this in a focus different from what I had been reading on Boundless comments. So many women said that they found such joy in having the house spotless and relaxing, with dinner on the table, so that their husbands could be comfortable having come home from work. Again, this isn't a problem, because being concerned about the wellbeing of your spouse is important. You are called to love him as yourself. But because my needs are really not contained within a white picket fence, I wouldn't marry someone who was uncomfortable with me working anyway. I wouldn't want to spend my life with someone who was unwilling to pitch in to help do the dishes or at least have some basic knowledge of cooking, even pushing some buttons on a microwave.

To be blunt, I know I would not be happy if I spent the rest of my life post-graduation in servanthood to another person, locked at my house, sans the occasional little women's bible study or convention for moms that homeschool (which I really don't think I'd ever do unless there were some really extreme circumstances).

I have been raised in a house with a happy childhood, when my mom stayed at home until I went to school. Honestly, I might even be able to live with that, as long as I could freelance or work part-time or do something, anything. I understand that. Children should know their parents and not babysitters or daycare workers better than the people who conceived them. My mom started working, and life was still good. My dad goes above and beyond what I've ever seen any other husband do, the way he cooks and cleans and fixes up our house right alongside my mom. They have a very healthy relationship and I've never had any doubts that they would always be together. My brother and I turned out pretty well, if I say so myself.

I have seen this work, and work out great. There might be struggles I can't see, but as far as I can tell, being a woman at work with a family can be done and it can be done happily. My mom doesn't seem to regret anything. My experience has given me some pretty high expectations for how great a life I can have without exactly following the footsteps of my Victorian ancestors. I don't know about every other woman on this earth, but I can say that I'm pretty sure that I was not wired like that lady.

I was pretty confident about all that. The crisis began, though, when I became horribly afraid that God doesn't want me to do anything but sit in a house and knit socks for my six babies. Worse thoughts kept coming.

How much must the God of the universe have to hate me to design me in a way that desires other things, but want me to do something else?

Do I just not trust Him to make me happy?

Or is He really okay with me the way I am right now, and I'm just going insane trying to realize that?

I wish I could tie this entry up neatly, but I can't. I don't know what the answer is right now. I keep thinking of things that people can be or want that are contrary God's design, and then I wonder how much He must not have loved them to make them that way, which is ridiculous. I know it's ridiculous. But why?

I have to rely on the things that I know.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" Matthew 6:25-26

"Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

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