by Libby Anne cross posted from her blog Love, Joy Feminism
Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 177—178
Debi is walking us through each of the things Titus 2 says older women are to teach younger women, and this week we begin the section titled “To Love Their Children.” I have to say, it’ll be nice to get a change from Debi’s constant focus on how women are to act toward their husbands. I mean, in Debi’s world, women are to be submissive wives, but are also to raise their children, and in 177 pages we’ve had very little mention of children (except that it’s more important for women to have dinner on the table than to care for sick children, Debi did say that). So now, finally, Debi turns to the children.
The most important thing a mother will do for her children is to create an atmosphere of peace and joy by deeply loving their Daddy and being satisfied with life.
Oh. I see. So even the chapter on mothers loving their children is actually about wives loving their husbands. I should have expected this.
Several years ago, my husband did a Family Life seminar for homeschooling families at a large, very conservative church. The people were given age-appropriate questionnaires before we got there. Each homeschool child (from every child who could write, up to single adults still living at home) was asked two questions:
- Is your home happy?
- What one thing would you like to see changed in your home that would make you a happier person?
We were not expecting profound answers. We thought the children would say that they wanted name-brand clothes, or more freedom, or maybe more access to video games. We hoped we would get a few serious answers, like some kids saying they wanted to spend more time with their parents or they wanted to be trusted. Their responses shocked and saddened us.
I’ve talked before about my doubts about the veracity of some of the letters Debi prints in this book. Debi might be similarly making up this incident as an illustration. But then, she might not be—they do hold such seminars. I really have no idea, and am not going to mention it further, except to say that I think a lot of the type of parents who would go to this sort of thing would be very suspicious of having their children fill out such surveys. For the remainder of this piece, however, I’m going to assume that this story is true.
Also, note that Debi calls single adults still living at home “children.”
Out of about 75 responses, only two or three kids considered their home happy.
Debi takes this as a sign that these families need to get better at following her patriarchal ideology. I would, rather, take it as a sign that the patriarchal isolationist fundamentalist homeschooling promoted by those like Debi is extremely bad for children’s wellbeing and happiness.
Nearly all 75 answers of the second question were basically the same. Ten-year-olds (who could barely spell) to single college-age adults had the same hopes and anguishes. They all said something to the effect of, “I wish Mama and Daddy would love each other.”
Really? Nearly all of the 75 children gave the same answer? That seems highly unlikely. Oh, and they all gave the one answer that perfectly backs up Debi’s entire argument! How convenient! Wait, I said I wouldn’t spend this piece questioning Debi’s story’s authenticity. Okay, stoping now.
Honestly, I’m surprised that these children would feel they could be honest enough to admit that their homes were unhappy in the first place. In circles like this, there is a lot of value placed on putting on a face, and these children had no guarantee that their parents would not somehow learn what they wrote. Would they really feel they could be this honest about their families’ dirty laundry? I mean, my parents fought relatively frequently, and it bothered me a lot as a teen, but I would never have admitted either that it happened or that it bothered me on a survey like this, at any church. In fact, I don’t think I actually understood it well enough to verbalize it. Oh wait. I’m back to questioning this story’s authenticity, aren’t I? Oops.
The younger kids wrote answers like these: “Our home would be happier if Mama and Daddy would not fight,” “I would make my Momma and Daddy like each other,” “We would have a happy home if Mama would not talk bad about Daddy” and “I wish Mama would not talk back and make Daddy get mad and yell.” The older ones wrote along these lines,” “Our house would be more peaceful if Mom did not walk around with this frozen bitterness. I feel like we live in a war zone.”
What. How in the world can Debi read “I wish Mama would not talk back and make Daddy get mad and yell” and take away from that that the problem in the family is with the mother? I mean I’m not surprised, but I’m still rather horrified! And that a kid is seeing that and interpreting it that way, as her mother “making” her father get mad and yell . . . there is something seriously wrong there. In fact, I would bet the father is saying that the mother’s “back talk” is the cause of his outbursts of anger, and that that’s where the kid is picking it up.
Oh and also, the bit about the mother walking around in “frozen bitterness.” How about encouraging the woman to talk to her husband about what’s bothering her, and encouraging her husband to listen and communicate with her as an equal? How about fostering a relationship of mutuality and openness rather than forcing people, especially women, into tiny boxes? How can Debi not see that her own ideology contributes to this problem? Can she seriously believe that all that is needed is more of her advice, which boils down to “close your mouth, stop being bitter, and smile”?
I mean, I know the answer to these questions, but it’s just maddening to feel like Debi can’t see what’s staring her straight in the face. It’s like she can’t see that these kids’ parents not getting along might actually be, at least in some part, a result of the very patriarchal beliefs she espouses.
How do you love your children? Let these 75 homeschool kids lead you to this important truth: Love their daddy. Honor their daddy. Obey their daddy. Forgive their daddy.
Again, I’m rather horrified at how quick Debi is to turn a chapter that’s supposedly about mothers loving their children into yet another chapter about wives loving their husbands—and at how quick she is to equate love with obedience.
But more than anything else, I just feel sorry for those 75 children.
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