This morning I heard from several readers who echoed a similar refrain. They told me that their wives are homemakers because they want to be homemakers and find it fulfilling, that they homeschool (or will homeschool) because they enjoy it and find it a good fit for their family, and that I should remember that even as I have chosen to leave Christianity, others have found it fulfilling and meaningful. So I thought it I should take a moment to make a clarification. I don’t have a problem with homemakers, homeschooling, large families, or Christians. What I am saying is slightly more nuanced.
I don’t have a problem with a woman choosing to be a homemaker (similarly, I don’t have a problem with a man choosing to be a homemaker). Every family is different and has different needs at different times, and every individual is different. I would never advocate a one size fits all style of doing families. Having a parent at home works well for many families, and can be very fulfilling for many individuals. But the key word here is choice.
I DO have a problem with a woman being a homemaker because she believes that is the only appropriate option, and teaching her daughters the same. I have a problem with depriving women of choice. I have a problem with the belief that men must be the protectors and provides, acting in the public sphere, while women must be homemakers, attaining their identities as wives and mothers and remaining in the home. I have a problem with the belief that men and women have different roles and different spheres, and must not step outside of them. I also have a problem with the belief that husbands are to lead and wives are to submit, and that women are always to be under male authority. Homemaking is not the problem: seeing it as women’s only option and emphasizing male authority and female submission is.
I don’t have a problem with homeschooling. I am perfectly aware that homeschooling can work well for many families, and that homeschooling can be freeing and can open new avenues to learning. I think every family should decide for itself what educational option is best for it, and that homeschooling is a perfectly valid option.
I DO have a problem with homeschooling being used to isolate children from other points of view (aka “shelter”), or to mis-educate children by only giving them one side of every argument (aka “teach God’s truth”). I have a problem with parents using homeschooling to control their children and stifle them. I have a problem with homeschoolers’ frequent objections to regulation of any sort (the government regulates public schools and private schools to make sure children meet basic educational requirements, and homeschoolers shouldn’t be exempt). I have a problem with the idea that homeschooling is some sort of perfect panacea that has no problems, risks, or drawbacks. I also have a problem with the idea that public schools are evil or completely broken, and that homeschooling is the best option for everyone, rather than just one of an array of educational options available to a given family.
I don’t have a problem with large families. I very much enjoyed having numerous siblings, and I have seen many happy big families. Big families can be dynamic and a lot of fun. I totally support a couple’s right to have a large family, if they have the desire and ability to do so.
I DO have a problem with the belief that everyone should have a big family, regardless of whether they want it or not (Quiverfull). Big families are NOT for everyone. I have a problem with having older children raise the younger children, and with outsourcing the discipline of the younger children to the older ones. I have a problem when older children are expected to be little parents instead of being allowed to be children. I have a problem with families enforcing one mold and refusing to allow their children to have individuality or differences in desires. I also have a problem with families that are so big that parents don’t have enough time to invest in each child individually.
I don’t have a problem with Christians, or with other religious believers. I personally believe that there isn’t a God or a spiritual world, but I respect people’s rights to freedom of belief. I also understand that there are lots of Christians who emphasize Christ’s love and the need for service. I understand that people can find meaning and purpose through religion.
I DO have a problem with people who don’t allow their children to choose their own religious beliefs. I have a problem with the idea some Christians hold that everyone who doesn’t believe exactly like they do is leading a sinful life and going to hell. I have a problem with the way religion can tear families apart because of how a child who chooses different beliefs is seen or treated. I have a problem with enforced conformity and the strict limits placed on freedom of belief and the freedom to be different.
I hope this clarification helps. It is my hope that even readers who disagree with my current beliefs can find at least some truth in my critiques, rather than seeing them simply as me being bitter, or as the results of an unfair rejection of a lifestyle and worldview I have chosen to leave. I do try to speak directly to these issues, but I also try not to be dogmatic or forget love and understanding.