CTBHHM: Your Husband Can’t Cover for You

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 216—217

In this section, we see the alternative to the “good woman” Debi outlined in her three examples last week. In that passage she spoke of men who are lazy, or bad fathers, or dishonest, and informed women who may be wives of these men that it is their duty to cover for their husbands’ faults and make them appear faultless to the world. This week she speaks of women who are spendthrifts, or who leave their children with sitters, or who take advantage of others’ time and resources (her equivalent of each category for males).

The Ball-and-Chain Woman

” . . . But she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones” (Prov. 12:4).

Now for her three examples . . .

A ball-and-chain woman is one who spends her husband’s modest wages, five dollars here and ten dollars there, on things of no permanence. At the end of the day, she is “too tired to cook” or “there is nothing in the house to eat,” so she wants to eat out. There just never seems to be enough money to get ahead. He appears to be a poor man, and she makes him feel the lack of every penny. He gets discouraged easily, because no matter how much he makes, it never seems to stretch far enough. When it appears that they might be getting ahead a little, a vacation or new furniture that she buys eats up their reserve. Others often look upon him as a loser. Rather than being a crown to him, she brings him shame and is as rottenness to his bones.

I find it interesting that in the previous passage she spoke of “a man who is lazy or just does not make much money” and here she speaks of a woman who is a spendthrift. She appears to be unaware of the fact that there are men who spend their money willy nilly left and right, spending themselves into a hole one new truck or large screened TV at a time.

Also, why does Debi not suggest such concrete steps as wives talking to their husbands about their money issues and working out a budget together? It is also possible that some men don’t mind the eating out or the vacations or the new furniture, and don’t put as much stock in savings themselves. That’s the kind of thing a woman could ascertain by, you know, talking to her husband.

The next thing I notice is that Debi once again cares a great deal for how men are viewed by those around them. What matters here is that “others often look upon him as a loser.” But for a Christian, isn’t what God thinks supposed to be most important?

Finally, while Debi before urged women to cover for their lazy husbands, she here seems to suggest that it is impossible for men to cover for their spendthrift wives.

Now while I agree with Debi that it is important to be careful with money and to make wise spending choices, it’s worth adding that it’s also important to live. My father grew up poor, and I think as a result of that he was very tight with the money when I was growing up. We always had enough, but he funneled most of the money away to savings, etc., and there was very little to spend on special treats, or things he deemed frivolous. It took me a while to get over this mentality after reaching adulthood myself, but I now strive for a balance. It is very important to stay within your means and keep an eye toward our future, yes, but it’s also important to let your hair down and live a little. There has to be a balance.

A ball-and-chain woman can also be married to a man who is an attentive father and patient child trainer. Yet, because she wants to run around during the day while he is working, his children are left behind with baby-sitters. God’s Word is blasphemed because she, not being a keeper at home, allows bad seed to be sown in her children, which will reap a bitter harvest for them both. When the children “go bad,” people will say, “Well, he sure didn’t do something right.” This wife will also bring shame and great sadness on her husband. Ball-and-chain . . . ball-and-chain . . . ball-and-chain . . . dragging him back every good step he takes forward.

Is it possible for women to check out and not give their children the attention they need? Absolutely. But I don’t actually find that that correlates with getting a sitter. The question isn’t so much the time spent with other caregivers as whether the parent engages in quality time with the children. I wish the message here were “make sure you engage with your children meet their emotional needs” rather than don’t ever leave your kids with babysitters.

And of course, Debi is again speaking of outward appearance. The problem, she says, is that people will think the man is a bad father. In fact, she seems to see that as a bigger problem than that the children will “go bad.” The problem is that people will blame the children “going bad” on their father.

On another note, t’s hard for me to read this bit about children left with babysitters inevitably going bad because my mother recently reminded me yet again of what she thinks of my children being in daycare. My husband and I see our children thriving, but my mother apparently sees their daycare attendance as a terrible life choice that will have negative consequences. And given that my mother has read Created To Be His Help Meet numerous times, some of that may be coming from here.

Of course, Debi doesn’t really even address women who work and send their children to daycare. This is probably because she has already told women they are not to work outside of the home. What is she talking about then, when she references women running around and leaving their children with babysitters? It may help to remember that she earlier spoke of what a big mistake leaving her oldest child with a sitter so that she could run errands was. As a result, I’m really unsure of what Debi means when she speaks of women who want “to run around during the day” and thus leave their children with sitters.

I’m made to think of my own mother. As a stay at home mom and then a homeschooling mother, she still needed her own time. When I was small, she would sometimes arrange with another mom that all of us children would be with one mom the one day and the other mom the next, giving each mom some time to themselves. We children loved this, as it meant two days spent with friends, the ten or so of us children escaping what would have been school days to gleefully run through creeks or build imaginary fairy kingdoms. As we got older, mom would call up another mom and arrange for all of us to spend the lunch hour and early afternoon at one house, ours or theirs, while the two moms would go out for lunch. We children loved this too, even though it meant a lot of work for us older girls as we were in charge of a collective fifteen or eighteen children. Eventually, mom would run errands or take children to music lessons while leaving whichever child was oldest in charge while she was gone. So while my mother never got sitters for us during the day, she did sometimes find creative ways to grab some much needed personal time. Is this something Debi would have been okay with?

Also, I’m really curious how Debi squares her antipathy to babysitters with the fact that there are copious stories about Debi babysitting, none of them cast in a negative light, in To Train Up A Child.

Some ball-and-chain women are married to honest men of high integrity, yet because their wives use other people’s time or resources in an irresponsible manner, neither of them is highly regarded. The man is judged by his wife’s actions, yet a woman is seldom looked down upon because of her husband’s actions. He knows something is wrong, and spends his life repairing broken images and relationships and never moves forward. He loves her, yet she is as rottenness in his bones.

“The man is judged by his wife’s actions, yet a woman is seldom looked down upon because of her husband’s actions.” What is this? No seriously, what is this? There’s absolutely no way this is true. This ties into Debi’s summary bit, so let me go on:

Although a good woman can lift up a poor husband, a good man cannot make up for the deficits of a poor wife and create a family with a good reputation. A man married to such a wife usually becomes a lifetime loser, no matter how hard he tries to win. At first he has hope, but over time, deep down in his bones, he feels the rottenness, and despair consumes all his hopes.

What is this? No really, what is this? What purpose does this serve?

Oh wait, I just figured it out. It means that if a family looks bad, the woman can always be blamed. Either she is the cause of it, or she didn’t sufficiently cover for her husband. A man is never to blame for a family’s poor reputation, for children turning out badly, or for a family’s poverty. It’s his wife who is always to blame. Lovely. The same is true for the bit about being judged—if a woman is looked down on, it’s her own damn fault, but if a man is looked down on, it’s because his wife either besmirched his reputation with her actions or didn’t sufficiently cover for his bad actions. Glad we got that cleared up, anyway.

Ridin’-the-Line Lady

Here Debi gives a few examples of women trying to ride the line between being a good woman and a ball-and-chain woman. These aren’t really examples, they’re quotes put in the mouths of these ridin’-the-line ladies.

“I admit that I buy prepared foods that are expensive and not healthful for us, but at least we don’t eat out all the time.”

Quick note—I often find that healthy food is often more expensive than food that lacks proper nutrition. Our food budget his much higher today than it was a few years ago, but the reason is that I am now buying more healthy options and less ramen. I’m not sure this really relates here, but I feel like Debi expects women to prepare food that is both inexpensive and healthy, and from my vantage point, that really feels a bit contradictory.

I don’t run around leaving our children at sitters, but I do sit them down in front of a video now and then while I read a romance novel instead of investing that time in teaching them how to cook and make doll clothes.” ” . . . A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Proverbs 29:15).

Yes, quality time is important, but it’s also okay to take a break. Believe it or not, you can teach your kids to cook and make doll clothes and then take a break to read a book while the kids watch a video. Investing in your children is important . . . but so is investing in yourself. If you only ever invest in your children, you will end up burned out, and you will face an empty nest someday wondering what to do with yourself, and who you even are. Self care, people. Self care. It even makes you a better parent.

And now let me take a moment to add another entry to Debi’s blatant misuse of scripture. That verse she quotes from? How’s about we see the whole thing, hmm?

The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.

It’s not that I particularly like the beginning of this verse. I don’t. It has been used to justify abusive parenting methods. But quoting the last part of the verse as evidence that a mother is never to leave her children to entertain themselves without the context of the first part of the verse is misleading. More than that, it’s lying. When you look at the full verse, it’s obvious that it’s talking about a child that isn’t disciplined, not a child who is left on her own to entertain herself or watch a movie once in a while. I’m really starting to wonder about Debi’s supposed devotion to scripture.

But let’s finish up here, shall we?

“I would not dare be dishonest, and I think it is wrong for people to accuse me of wasting my time gabbing on the phone or sitting in front of the computer.”

I’m really not sure what this one means. So I’ll leave you with that.

Next week, Debi offers a test to determine whether or not you are a “Dumb-Cluck” woman. For the moment, I just want to reiterate that Debi is serious when she says women are to be their husband’s “helpers.” In Debi’s world, every thought and action is to be about making your husband look good, covering for him, serving him, caring for his children, etc. If you are taking time to yourself, you are in error. Your role is to be your husband’s servant. Period.

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.

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