by Libby Anne cross posted from her blog Love Joy Feminism
Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 149—154
Remember that Debi just got through shaming Jill for not being able to balance sick kids and getting dinner ready at time. Well, Debi’s about to explain to Jill just how she could have Done Everything Right. Because women’s true role is in the kitchen, dontcha know.
Learn to use the kitchen’s “wonder tool”—the crock pot. Today, as I write this, it is Sunday. This morning at 8 A.M., I put several frozen chicken breasts and some rice into the electric crock-pot. I added some water, celery, bell peppers, and seasonings, and turned it on low heat. When we came into the house at noon, the house was filled with a delicious aroma, and dinner was ready except for a simple salad, which took a scant few minutes. After we had eaten, I added some seasoning and more water to the crock-pot, which now had only a little rice and a few bits of chicken with broth. This simple soup simmered all afternoon and was the basis of our meal that evening.
How dare Jill not think to start a crock pot! If Jill was just Brilliant Like Debi, her husband wouldn’t be forced to be upset with her for not having supper ready on time!
Of course, there is something to be said for what Debi is doing here. Indeed, this is the sort of thing done on mommy blogs the world over, as each passes on some tricks of the trade to others—and there’s nothing wrong with it in the least. If Debi had simply set out by offering tips to young moms struggling with balancing everything on their plates, I would have no beef with it. But what sets me off is that that’s not how she prefaced this. And titling it “The Assignment”? Really?
While at church, I asked one of the eleven-year-old girls about feeding their family of twelve, “If your mama asked you to put a chicken in a crock-pot (or three chickens in three crock-pots) with rice and seasonings every Sunday morning, could you do it?” Her twelve-year-old sister laughed and said, “No problem.”
I don’t really know how to speak to this, because when my younger sister was 13 my parents put her in charge of cooking all of the meals for our family of the same size. Compared to that, asking an eleven-year-old to start a crock pot looks tame. Of course, it’s worth pointing out that Debi is basically telling women like Jill that one solution to having too much to juggle, between meals and children and homeschooling, is to pawn off some of their work on their children. Or is she actually shaming Jill by telling her she’s failing at something even a child should be able to do?
Always offer your children only one choice for breakfast. Several options will only confuse the child’s spirit. Choices always give room for argument or discontentment.
We are the Borg. You will be assimilated.
In Debi’s world, “children” and “choice” don’t ever belong in the same sentence.
Providing the same simple food every morning (except maybe Saturday) causes a child to look forward to getting cereal on that one special morning. It can actually help your children become more thankful and will bring about a more peaceful morning.
Debi must have said this in a previous book or magazine, because this is how my mom did it. Oatmeal, every morning, every day—except for Sunday. And let me tell you, that one day a week we got to have cereal was like Christmas.
I’m not going to type everything Debi says here, because she’s just getting more and more into the details of what food to serve and when. Debi says to mothers should serve their children a monotonous but wholesome and basic lunch every day, such as burritos—but only if the father isn’t home for lunch, because, as we shall see, dad gets special treatment when it comes to food. Debi suggests using paper plates and paper napkins to make cleanup simpler, and I find myself wondering if this is where the Duggars got their antipathy to dishes that can’t just be chucked in a landfill.
Debi lays out an entire week worth of meal planning to serve as an example and guide for women like Jill. Pinto beans are served with steak and sweet potatoes one night, and then recycled into refried beans and combined with ground beef to be served with lettuce and other veggies as a taco salad. Some of the ground beef cooked up for the taco salad is saved for spaghetti the next evening, to be served with salad and a sauce made of tomato paste and assorted veggies. Black beans and rice with sour cream, fried rice with bits of meat and scrambled eggs, a cookout with hamburgers, and a chicken crockpot graced with a can of cream and chicken soup close out the week.
Having proved her meal planning acumen, Debi steers this back to Jill:
It is not a grouchy old husband or bad days that cause the problems of cooking and cleaning for young wives. It is the lack of simple planning.
Sick kids? Ha! Jill should have planned ahead for that! How dare Jill not have supper ready for her husband!
When I was a child, we always had the same food on certain days. Dinner was ready at 5 P.M. . . . The regular dinners each weeknight made it easier for Mom to plan and buy the week’s groceries. My dad would look forward to the meal he knew would be hot and waiting for him when he came home from work. The key is to plan.
Take that Jill! You just need to be perfect like Debi’s mom!
And then there’s the kicker, because see, this is what’s underlying this whole discussion. Why are wives supposed to be always totally on top of meal planning? Why is a late supper inexcusable? Well. This is Debi. It should be obvious.
As wives, our life’s work should be to perfect how we may please our husbands.
I didn’t add that bold and italics. That’s how Debi wrote it.
Sometimes, maintaining a good relationship with your husband simply requires the performing of simple tasks, like having a good meal ready on time and a clean house, even when it is not easy or convenient to do so.
If the health of your relationship is based on whether you have a meal ready and the house clean, well, I don’t know what to tell you. That’s just weird. What happened to friendship and communication and cooperation and empathy and shared interests?
Your relationship with your husband is the single most important role you will ever play. If you fail here, then you have failed at your life’s work and have missed God’s perfect plan.
Let’s see if I can pull this together. Your life’s work is to please your husband. If you fail at your relationship with your husband, you fail at your life’s work. Sometimes all that’s needed for the health of your relationship is for you to have supper ready and the house clean. So . . . get back in the kitchen. At least, that’s what I’m getting here. Cook for your husband, Debi says, and don’t you dare keep him waiting for supper, because the fate of your marriage depends on it and your marriage is your reason for existing and if you can’t please your husband you’ve failed at life.
In case you’ve missed the messages so far, Debi offers this handy summary:
Traits of a Good Help Meet:
- A good help meet provides an oasis for her man.
- She fixes meals that please him; she does not cook to suit herself.
- She plans and prepares well ahead of time.
- She exercises self-discipline.
You think you have the right to cook meals you like rather than simply asking your husband what he likes and cooking that? You terrible selfish woman! You think having sick kids gives you an excuse to not have dinner ready on time? How dare you be so presumptuous! You should have planned ahead and had more self-discipline! You think you have a right to be angry if your husband is insensitive or rude? You didn’t have dinner ready on time! You were clearly asking for it!
Debi next tells us a bit about her grandparents’ marriage:
My grandma honored and obeyed my grandfather. It was their foundation of love and honor that made the family (even the extended family) strong. As you read the next story written by my good friend and first cousin (they were her grandparents, too), you will see how we were conditioned to please our husbands. They taught us to resist taking offense, and that we were never to “give him [our husband] a piece of our mind.” If Grandma did get offended, no one knew it, because it was well understood that a lady had duties, and she must be sober in the execution of them.
I really don’t like the use of the word “conditioned” here. I also don’t like the complete muzzling of women. Sure, simply chewing someone out is usually a bad idea, but since when is the solution silence rather than authentic communication? Also, why does Debi’s grandparents’ relationship have to be laid on the foundation of her grandmother’s obedience to her grandfather rather than on a foundation like mutual respect?
Debi finishes with her cousin’s story, which turns back to food preparation:
Life is so much different from what it used to be. Several of us ladies were sitting around a dinner table recently, telling about some of our early disastrous cooking experiences. It brought vivid memories of my newlywed days. When I married, I really didn’t know how to cook anything, On top of that, my family ate strictly “country”—peas and cornbread (still my favorite), ham, pork chops, fried chicken, turnip greens, etc., while my husband’s family ate a very different type of diet.
I’ll never forget that hot afternoon. We lived in an apartment in the back of an old Victorian-style house, which consisted of a living room/kitchen combination and a bathroom. We had no air conditioning, and that far down south could get really miserable in the summer. One sultry summer day, I worked hard to prepare a home-cooked meal for my husband, and had it ready when he came home from a hard day of construction work. When he walked in the door, he was so hot and sweaty, he took one look at that hot meal and said in despair, “This is not a day for a hot meal; this is the kind of day you need a cold meal!” My heart was just crushed. Hot and sweaty myself, I had slaved to serve him in the best way I knew how. I had never even heard of a cold meal. What on earth was he talking about? At that point in my life, a tomato stuffed with tuna or chicken salad was totally foreign to me. I must tell you, my story wasn’t very funny thirty years earlier, but as I finished telling it to my friends, we were all laughing about how “crushed” I was that day.
I was surprised to see that one of the younger women at the table didn’t think it was funny, as she huffily retorted, “Did you throw it at him? I would have!” This stopped me in my “memory” tracks. Was I angry? Did I want to throw the meal in his face? I really don’t remember ever having that thought. I do remember being hurt and sad. But my most compelling thought was to figure out how to prepare cold meals. When I married, I became MRS. Lansing. His life, his agenda, and his desires became mine. I considered my marriage to be my career for the rest of my life, and I intended to be successful at it. If he didn’t like the food I cooked, rather than refusing to cook anymore, saying that he was just too hard to please, I learned to cook the food he liked! I just WANTED, and WAS DETERMINED, to please him. And I found that he was really not that hard to please. Most men are not so hard to please; I heard someone recently say that all a man needs is food, sex, and respect, and he’ll be pretty content. That is certainly an oversimplification, but from experience, I know that those things are the basic, rudimentary needs of all husbands. And so, I have worked at it from that perspective for almost 33 years. It is still my GOAL to be pleasing my husband. I am pleased to tell you that he delights in me. I was determined to earn his delight.
Older and wiser and still very much in love,
Seriously, it’s your duty to please your man by cooking tasty meals for him really is the theme of this section. It’s no surprise that the idea that men can cook too never seems to occur to Debi.
I really don’t have anything to finish with but this:
Comments open below
Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Libby Anne blogs at Love, Joy, Feminism
Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the religious right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving fundamentalist and evangelical religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the problems with the “purity culture,” the intricacies of conservative and religious right politics, and the importance of feminism. Her blog is Love, Joy, Feminism
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce