The Stay At Home Daughters: A Dream Greater Than Stardom?

Do you remember my post on diminished dreams? I recently came upon a book called Joyfully at Home on the Vision Forum website, and I think the promo has to be the saddest thing I’ve read in a long time:

By age fourteen, Jasmine Baucham’s little-girl dreams of becoming a mommy were supplanted by bigger visions of winning the Pulitzer Prize or an Oscar and appearing on Oprah. She began viewing the calling of home and marriage as second-rate. Then her world was radically challenged by the Scriptures, as she went from craving personal renown to craving to please the Lord through delighting in his design for the joyful home — an even bigger dream, she realized, than stardom.

In Joyfully at Home, Jasmine writes with verve and transparency about her own struggles and triumphs as a young woman, encouraging other girls to embrace a vision for the home as a hub of ministry and discipleship and as a training ground for life ahead. With humor, humility, and heart, Jasmine tackles the tough questions girls face, offering practical counsel on how to overcome false views of marriage, husbands, and singleness.

Jasmine had big dreams – dreams of being a writer or an actor – that is, until her parents told her that the Bible says God’s only plan for her is to be a wife and a mother. Just like many other girls like her, Jasmine’s dreams were diminished by the teachings of Christian Patriarchy – and for that, she is praised and held up as a success story.

There are three constant themes in writings by and about stay at home daughters. First, having dreams of a career naturally mean seeing marriage and a family as second rate. Second, wanting a career is equated with “craving for personal renown” while being a stay at home daughter is equated with “desiring to please the Lord.” Finally, the home is declared to be a bigger dream than having a career or, in this case, “stardom.” But the problem with that is that these things simply aren’t true.

First of all, having a career does not have to mean rejecting marriage or a family. Somehow, men manage to have careers while simultaneously being good husbands and fathers, and there is no reason women can’t do the same. Second, if desiring a career is so selfish, why is it okay for men to desire a career? What about women who want to be missionaries, or feel that God is leading them to serve him and further his kingdom as doctors or social workers? Desiring a career is not synonymous with selfishness, and desiring to please the Lord is not exclusive of having a career.

Third and finally, staying at home is not a bigger dream than having a career. These two dreams – being a full-time homemaker or having a career – are simply different dreams. As I’ve said before, I have no problem with women who choose to be homemakers because that is what works best for them and their families. I do however have a problem with people who say that full time homemaking is the only option or is somehow of more worth than having a career. If you think about it, telling girls that homemaking is so much more glorious than a career is just one more way to convince girls that their role is to take dominion by doing laundry and to ensure that they “keep sweet” as they spend their late teens and early twenties serving daddy and working beside mommy rather than developing themselves as individuals or gaining the skills and abilities they would need to function outside of the world of Christian Patriarchy.

It’s important to note that, for girls like Jasmine, staying at home is the easy path, the familiar path, the well-trodden path. Raising babies, cleaning house, and cooking in bulk is something they’ve been doing since they were ten or so. Going to college and having a career is a whole lot harder than the default of moving from junior homemaker (aka daughter) to senior homemaker (aka wife). I know because I’ve been there. The idea of going to college was big and scary. Staying at home seemed safer, more familiar and less dangerous. The Rebolution has held Do Hard Things conferences across the country over the past year or so, but for girls like Jasmine, staying home is actually the easy thing, the safe thing, not the hard thing.

I want to finish this post with a comment on something that has been puzzling me lately. Ironically, while Jasmine may not have left home she has actually fulfilled her dreams of being a writer. She wrote a book. You know, a book that got published and marketed. This is the thing I don’t get. The Botkins preach the importance of staying at home and learning to be a homemaker even as they condemn college as a cesspit of hedonism. But I have to ask. Do the Botkins ever actually practice homemaking, or are they too busy writing book after book, producing CDs, making documentaries, and making national speaking tours? For girls at the top of this movement – girls like Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkins and Jasmine Baucham – being stay at home daughters can actually garner a lot of stardom and provide them with a lot of opportunities outside of homemaking. What of the ordinary daughter, the daughter with neither speaking tours or book deals? What of the girls who won’t be crowned princesses but will rather spend their days changing diapers and making pots full of food as college slips further and further from the horizon?

What Courtship Was for Me
The Cold, Unforgiving World of Geoffrey Botkin
Fifty Shades of Evangelical Justifications for Patriarchy
When Marriage Looks Like the Only Escape
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Anonymous

    Being a stay-at-home adult (or near-adult) daughter also requires a stable at-least-middle-class family financial position.

  • Libby Anne

    Anonymous – Yes, another good point. The Botkins, the Bauchams, the Duggars – all middle class. It's the families who try to practice this lifestyle with fewer means that really struggle.

  • Sandra

    If those families are middle-class, I'm impoverished for sure! Those father's stated professions may not make them very much money (and that's debatable), but those households have BUCKETS of money rolling in from multiple books, movies, television deals. Those are two-three-or more income households. A lot different than one man making the average middle class income of 40-60K and trying to support his own wife, several children including adult daughters and possibly a spinster or widowed sister.

  • Gina B

    It seems the "catch" with this movement is that a lot of these families *aren't* single income; their daughters, sons, and wives have books, movies, CDs, speaking engagements or small businesses that bring in income. The thought of raising a large brood of children, homeschooling them, AND running a small business seems so overwhelming, and I've heard many former quiverfull moms and daughters talk about how tiring it is. Yet one of their marketing ploys is to appeal to the career woman's exhaustion and frustration and say she doesn't have to do it all; she can give up her career and focus on family. But instead she does keep doing it all if she's running a business, raising a large family, and solely responsible for their education; she just does it all from home instead.

  • Mommy McD

    I admit I feel a bit of envy over the ability to do all of that. Not that I want to do it, just having that kind of energy and organization. I literally would have no chance as a QF mom. I like my kids but I get burned out with just two of them – and that's leaving the house and socializing with other people about not-household related topics! If my whole life was domestic work – even as the stay at home mom that I am it isn't – I would completely loose my mind. Seriously I need a mini vacation once a week and I don't do nearly as much work as these women. It makes me more sad, since these women obviously have the drive and energy levels to really do whatever they set their mind to and I wish they didn't limit themselves. Epic levels of homemaking is admirable to be sure, but does the feeling of isolation ever get to them? I also wish they didn't act as though what they do is reasonably within the reach of the "average" person or family.

  • Wendy

    I know it's cliche, but once again the only job a conservative woman can hold is one where she teaches other woman they shouldn't work.

  • Anonymous

    Libby Anne makes an astute observation that these so-called "stay at home" daughters (the famous ones, at least) are actually getting widespread exposure as writers, speakers, and the like. That is a far cry from the experience women "on the ground" would have trying to implement their vision. At the same time, as the mother of three grown daughters (none of whom are making "staying home" their mission in life), the one aspect of a Botkin-esque outlook that has some appeal would be the "return to loveliness" that inspires some of their approach. Yes, my girls have all gone out to college and will pursue various careers. They are enjoying the fruits of their hard work and talents. But can I bemoan here the rude, crude, sex-crazed world they have often encountered among young men at college? Do we have to accept that as a society? I am not saying go as (absurdly) far with it all as the Botkins, but perhaps the idea of more civility between the sexes is not such a bad thing?

  • Libby Anne

    Anonymous – A desire to return to "more civility" between the sexes – with fewer rude, crude males – is actually part of the feminist agenda. If men and women were treated equally, the leering and cat whistling would be stamped out. :-)I agree, though – that is part of the appeal the Botkins hold out. They dress with a lot of femininity, sometimes copying bygone fashions, and expect men to be perfect gentlemen, approaching their father for permission to court them. But if I may, the Botkins appear to be sacrificing female equality for male civility. I happen to think that it should be possible to achieve both.

  • Tiziana

    Finally I see a written comment about my thoughts exactly of when I see someone like Debi Pearl or Jasmine Baucham – they are accomplished writers…while writing about how fulfilling it is to stay at home and simply raise babies and cleaning the house. Don't they see the irony I do?

  • Anonymous

    I just needed to tell you that I am loving your blog. You are wonderfully logical, and your writing style is clear, to-the-point and refreshing. You give the right form to concepts and reflections that tend to float elusively in my mind as well, and for that I think I should thank you :)

  • Anonymous

    Because of course we know that whatever the predominant culture desires that is the values we should embrace. This is the big lie "I" was taught as a child of humanism/feminism. Be all you can be. Achieve. Because that's THE singular most important thing that there is. I remember a workbook I was given that encouraged girls to not be the assistant but to be the boss. I did not really relate to thus because I did not want to be a slave to my job even if it meant less money. We in this country idolize careers. Not just feminists. Men too. Climbing the ladder of success is not all there is to life, despite what many would have you think.

  • Anonymous

    Many many people resonate with the idea that their relationships, family and otherwise, are more important than work.I forgot to add above: the vast majority of working women are either corporate drones who while they probably don't hate their jobs, atent really accomplishing anything of great human significance either. Or they are waitresses, cleaning women and other blue collar jobs that they often dislike because they need the money. Just like most working men. Imagine that. Very few people men OR women achieve that career nirvana that is held out as a prize to motivate kids to "reach for the stars" mostly they reach for the stars and end up managing a Starbucks (couldn't resist) the people who hold the elitist jobs that are the stuff of liberal fantasy are few and far between.

  • Libby Anne

    Anonymous – I'm sorry life made you so jaded. It must be sad to see the world the way you do, as one big dead end. I never said that careers should be valued above family and friends, and I completely agree that with the American emphasis on success and achievement we can sometimes forget to just be content with where we are. But that, my friend, was not the point of this post. Unlike you, I do have a problem with crushing girls' dreams and pigeonholing them into one specific track (stay at home motherhood) whether they want it or not.

  • Arachne

    Anonymous. What is wrong with women and men both looking for a career that makes them happy and that they enjoy? Yes, we live in a culture that values work over all else, I find this more to be resulting from the huge focus on money, and society's low value on women and "women's work". Since caring for children is considered "women's work" it is not seen as beneficial in society to make it easier on parents to spend time with their families and still rise to the level of work that they enjoy. It should not take 80 hours a week to devote yourself to your job enough to have a career and be promoted. This kind of mentality is understandably hard on women who feel the bulk of the responsibility to find care for their children, and effectively shuts fathers out of most of the lives of their children. It implies that a father's time with his children are not so important, since men are expected to follow that career where ever it leads, even if it takes all that time out of his family.The solution to our work and money centered society is not the patriarchal view that women can't get a career because it demands too much. That's a false solution, because it ignores the real problem- which is that an individual's time to be with their family is not respected. Why do you not consider it important to fight for companies to respect a father's need to be present in his child's life? Instead you are trying to prove that because the amount of time men put into their jobs is not feasible for a women(who society expects to care for the child) then women must not be allowed or encouraged to look for a career that fulfills them.

  • Jessie

    Awesome entry by the way. Loooove it and agree with everything you have said!

  • Aemi

    Jasmine has stated on her blog that she does not agree with everything the Botkins believe. As far as I can tell, her family is not as extreme as some. Besides, she is allowed to be a writer. Her blog followers are eagerly waiting with her for an acceptance from a publishing company. And her book, according to her, is a historical fiction novel and does not star a stay-at-home daughter.She is also pursuing a college degree (online, but that takes a lot of work!), and tutors high school students. I count Jasmine as a friend, and I have actually read her book. It made me bristle to see her incompletely represented. :)

  • Anonymous

    I really disagree with your post. I am a stay at home daughter and my parents did not choose this life for me. I chose it all on my own. I don believe the Bible encourages daughters to stay at home but that is not demeaning! We raise up the next generation of men and women for God's service. What better calling in life could there be? One thing that has happened in our American culture is we have started only valuing ourselves. We don't care to have a child because it might be inconvenient to our lifestyle so we just KILL them and call it planned parenthood or put them in daycare and pay someone to raise them for us. This is WRONG GOD knows it and I am glad people are waking up to the TRUTH.

  • Surprise

    I recently read about Anne Coulter counseling a sincere, educated conservative young woman that her role in life was to promote the leadership potential of her husband.

  • surprise

    Why is it that some religious people (as Anonymous does above) describe themselves as having "lives," while describing those that disagree with them as having "lifestyles"?"We don't care to have a child because it might be inconvenient to our lifestyle so we just KILL them and call it planned parenthood or put them in daycare and pay someone to raise them for us." Again, with the hyperbole, Anonymous. Not cool. Just clearly state your arguments; no need to demonize those you disagree with. Read the posts. There are nice, open people here. They'll listen to well-reasoned, thoughtful arguments.

  • Natalie

    I actually think it’s incredibly ironic that you pulled out the inconsistency…aka writing a book about giving up her dream of being a writer.