Thirtyone – Adventures in Recovery

Thirtyone – Adventures in Recovery March 25, 2012

by Calulu

I was driving around the other day running a few errands and when I got back to my car I caught the tail end of a some random preacher speaking about the proper role of women in The Kingdom on local Christian radio. I didn’t catch his name or the name of his ministry or sponsor but his message was loud and clear and made my blood boil. Bulls eye. Trigger hit. Buttons pushed.

He started off speaking on the subject of what his ten year old daughter wanted to be when she grew up. She’s crazy for gymnastics and he asked her that question about the future we all contemplate, what did she want to be when she grew up. Her answer to that question was that she would be a gymnastics teacher as an adult.

I had to wonder how she’s come to limiting her own scope as an adult at that young age. I thought it was rather sad that his daughter said she was going to grow up to teach gymnastics instead of saying she dreamed of being an Olympic gymnast or of winning this or that gym meet. She simply wanted to teach her passion. She didn’t dare expand her dreams to include anything like actually being in competition as a gymnast. Her own goals were limited in scope to start with.

It was pretty obvious she wasn’t going to receive the same type of nurturing or encouragement the average ‘worldly’ or ‘atheist’ parent might give their offspring. Her passion and talent would never receive the type of acknowledgment and respect it might elsewhere. It’s hard to develop to the best of your talent without the emotional support of those closest to you. I suspect that is why this child could not see any further than teaching one day.

Not that there’s anything wrong with wanting to teach. But most of the people I’ve known that have a great passion for something and end up teaching do it much later on as adults, they don’t envision it as a kid. My friend that teaches sewing started out designing and sewing professionally, not dreaming of a future teaching. I can tell you the first twenty years I painted I never once thought of teaching, passing on my knowledge to others until I reached middle age. Now I teach the occasional art class and I still create on a regular basis. It blows my mind that the only way this child can see her future involving her passion is by channeling it into teaching.

Random Preacher stated in a very proud voice how he reminded his daughter that gymnastics teacher was a worthy profession, at least until she took on her real God-given honorable profession as wife and mother, at which time she’d have to give up gymnastics altogether.  Her ‘real’ profession. Like being a gymnastics teacher isn’t a real profession?

I forgot even what the niggling details of his sermonette actually were because I could not get over the audacity of this strange man decreeing that his daughter’s future was one of such a limited scope, limited by the restrictions he imposes based upon his own personal interpretation of a book written long ago and transcribed many times. I’m so saddened for that poor child, not allowed to decide for herself what her role will be years from now, her future as mapped out as that of any lifer in prison.

Her father started pontificating on the role of the Proverbs 31 woman and how our society is all screwed up because women don’t know their ‘place’, don’t live that Proverbs 31 life of waiting on husband and kids hand and foot.

I don’t know what version of the Bible this guy was reading but in mine the woman described in Proverbs 31 as a righteous woman wasn’t sitting around trembling waiting on her lord and master. This was a woman in charge of her life in significant ways. She supervised others in her household, she bought and sold, she didn’t stop every two seconds to ask her husband what he wanted for dinner or if she should do this or that. She understood her value, her worth and her role as self confident and freely able to do what was right for those in her care and for the family. Seemed to me that she occupied a role of almost equality with her husband, like a partner, working at those things she had talent for. Not a slave, not a servant by any means.

Yet most Fundegelical people will tell you that a true righteous Christian woman never works outside of the home, never has servants, never moves or does a damn thing without the man’s approval. Looks way different to me than what Proverbs 31 outlines. How can that be?

This one man’s words rubbed me the wrong way in light of recent attempts by those in government influenced by the Religious Right that are doing everything in their power to erase the rights of women, to take us back to a time when women were considered chattel and incapable of making decisions concerning their own lives. If they are successful we’ll be inching ever closer to the world Margaret Atwood imagined in her novel “A Handmaiden’s Tale”  This trend of political attacks on women frightens me more than any preacher screaming about heaven and hell.

I think if most women, Christian or not, acted with honor and self confidence at the things put before them as their lot, be it raising kids or working at a job, this world would be a better place. And yeah, there should be room for those things you have a passion for. Life without passion isn’t worth much. I hope that poor kid realizes that truth and has a chance to live her passion without a bunch of knuckleheads telling her no.

Discuss this post on the NLQ forum. Comments are also open below.

Sex Confessions ~ Cult of Personality ~Cereal Killers ~ Thirty One ~ The Piano ~ Barbie’s Head ~ Scaredy Cats ~ The Help ~ The Kids ~ Service Somebody ~ Circus ~ Fish ~ Boo! ~ Hi Ho Trigger ~ Surfing ~ SOS ~ The Big Truth ~ Pearl Clutching ~ Rolling ~ Can’t Dance ~

Calulu lives near Washington DC , was raised Catholic in South Louisiana before falling in with a bunch of fallen Catholics whom had formed their own part Fundamentalist, part Evangelical church. After fifteen uncomfortable years drinking that Koolaid she left nearly 6 years ago.  Her blog is Calulu – Roadkill on the Internet Superhighway

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


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  • shadowspring

    I always hate it when anyone declares to their daughter that being a SAHM is a calling, the only “real” life available. As a Christian, I would always think of that verse in the New Testament that warns against boasting assuredly about what one will or won’t do in the future.

    James 4:14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

    How do you know what your child will do when they grow up? It is especially cruel for women who have grown up with this one expectation- wife/mother- when they wind up unmarried, widowed, or unable to have children for any reason. I would never set up one of my children to have only one expectation for their lives. That is, as we say in the country, piss-poor parenting.

    Seriously, for Christians it borders on blasphemy. They should be raising their children to be up for anything, because only God knows the future. And if the Bible stories are truly records of God’s perfect planning, like fundamentalists claim, their daughters could wind up anywhere.

    Remember the story of Esther, how she was born “for such a time as this”? Her uncle encouraged her to enter a beauty contest more along the lines of America’s Next Top Model (Persia’s Next Top Wife)than Miss America, which concluded with her becoming a sexual partner of the (pagan) king and thereafter being consigned to his harem. Only if she was hot enough in the sack and beautiful enough to be memorable- the king had a new partner every night- would she have made it into the Bible.

    Fundamentalist parents would never envision such a future for their daughters! Yet those who believe God micromanages everything can’t deny that her uncle declared that she “was born for such a time as this”.

    So basically, fundies give lip service to “God being in control” but in reality, they don’t think God is up to the job. That’s why they have to take over and make the world live the way they think it should! Their god is puny and punitive, small-minded and weak. He is always getting it wrong (Roe v. Wade, affirmative action, universal health coverage) and needs the religious right to rescue him from his own impotence.

    *sigh* I feel sorry for their children. I hope this young lady manages to escape from her parents’ limited projections for her life.

  • Amy Ruth Blue

    I hear you, and get your point. But honestly, I think teaching gymnastics sounds good. I mean, I was raised to be a wife and mother by fundamentalist Pentecostal parents— I know all about that. My dad sent me to college, at least, and I earned an elementary teaching degree, in the event I never married or I was widowed. And true, I barely used it. I got engaged my first full-time year of teaching (contracted, public school, full benefits) and had to move to another state once married. Then I taught another year, in a small fundie Christian school and miscarried during the school year. and then got pregnant again and that was that. Once I had my first, I stayed home and have been home pretty much ever since (not due to beliefs, anymore).
    But what I wanted to say is, all these women who get the degrees and big jobs aren’t necessarily happier or more fulfilled. “Big jobs” or status or power do not necessarily mean your life is richer and happier.
    I know several women, with Ivy degrees, who all they did was study and work, work, work and now, in their 40s are looking at me like I’m bliss.

  • shadowspring

    And I know women with degrees and careers who are very happy with their lives. I even know one woman, my close neighbor, who was widowed when her youngest was only two. She is very glad of her degree, and grateful to God every day for her career.

    Being a SAHM is not bliss. It’s a career, in my opinion, like any other career: great for some people, horrid for others. Being an honest SAHM for the past twenty years, the honest truth is that it can be just as boring and tedious as any other job, and just as rich and rewarding. It all depends on the day and the people involved.

  • Liz

    You are over reacting. My eleven year old SON wants to teach guitar and build guitars. Not be a rockstar. I was surprised when he said this because yes, usually kids want to be that one in a million best in show. I am honestly glad that he has set his sights on something that he is passionate about that is realistic.
    As for the girl: Olympic gymnasts start young. If she’s a preteen, she’s old enough to know she ain’t going to the olympics. How about giving the kid kudos for being realistic enough to know how she can live her passion without aiming for something that she probably knows is a fantasy. How do you know that her coach and her have not already discussed this? And I can think of few things less emotionally healthy than shoving your daughter along the paths of Olympic stardom in gymnastics (or figure skating) the eating disorders. The crippling injuries. The loss of anything resembling a normal childhood.

  • shadowspring

    The point was Daddy saying she could only have one real destiny: wife and mother.

  • Calulu

    The point of my posting is that every female should be allowed the same autonomy and choices to decide what they wish to do when they grow up. A boy wants to be a stay at home dad or a shoe designer, or say, a guitar teacher then fine, he should be allowed to do so. But he faces far less boundaries in doing that than most girls raised in certain types of Christian circles. If this poor child really wanted to be a gymnastics teacher or a sahm or an astronaut or a lawyer or a grocery store clerk she should be allowed her ambitions instead of having smug daddy decreeing that her own role be that he choices.

    And I said nothing there about if a woman works or doesn’t work when she has kids. That is a personal choice that while I might not totally want to do what you want to do I would fight to the death to insure any of my fellow lady citizens have their rights under the law to pursue their own path to life, liberty and happiness.

    More than anyone I am alarmed by the attempts some politicians are making to take away the rights of half the population based upon their understanding of religion. It’s almost an all out war on women out there now. If we don’t start speaking up to the wrongness of it we will eventually lose our freedoms.

  • Calulu

    D’oh, I mean more than anything, not anyone in that last paragraph

  • Liz: I don’t think Calulu is over reacting– she’s just making a conjecture based on what she knows about kids and what she knows about patriarchalist religion. It’s possible that the girl really does want only to teach, but given Calulu’s experience, she thinks it more likely that the girl might be afraid to aim higher.

    Amy Ruth, you said: “But what I wanted to say is, all these women who get the degrees and big jobs aren’t necessarily happier or more fulfilled.” That may be the case, but it certainly should be up to each individual to decide what they want to do with their lives, and not the job of parents or church authorities to tell them what they have to choose– and that should be the case whether they’re male or female.

  • Meggie

    I cry for every girl who grows up being taught this and who is then unable to marry or have children. I can’t imagine how anyone would cope having been told there is only one God ordained path and then not be able to follow that path.

    I have three aunts and three great aunts who, for various reasons, were unable to have kids. All six are living fulfilling lives, busy with careers, hobbies, family and friends. I am only now realising how lucky I was to grow up with this example, as well family who did the SAHM thing and others who balanced work and children.

  • Lizzy

    I hate hate hate the narrative that so often seems to be cropping up that all those silly women with their power suits and fancy degrees are all secretly miserable and wish that they had just become stay at home moms when they had the chance. Please don’t think that staying home with children is what will make every woman happy. It won’t. Ever heard of the book The Feminine Mystique? Ever think about all of the women throughout history who have been forced to work because their circumstances don’t make staying home feasible? I have no problem with women who choose to be stay at home mothers. I am happy that they are fulfilled and satisfied, but please don’t use gender essentialist nonsense to imply to all of the women who make other choices will come to regret it. I adore my career. I look forward to going to work most of the time. I’m not a naturally nurturing person, maybe that will change when I have kids, but right now the thought of staying home with children all day is appalling.

  • Agreed. I love being a mom and enjoy my children very much, but three months of maternity leave was enough for me with each child and I looked forward to returning to my rewarding and interesting job. It is true that I have worked part-time throughout their childhoods, and I’m very glad that my employer allowed this– but I certainly do not regret my choice to continue working outside the home.

  • Off-topic, but some of your readers may be interested: Bill Gothard, or someone who use his name, just commented on my blog:

    I quoted something said of him here:

  • My MIL recently told me that back during her first marriage, when she was a SAHM, there were days when she would sit in the house and cry. And when she finally did get divorced–around the same time her kids were moving out–she seemed so lost. She’s spent most of her life taking care of others, and she doesn’t really know how to have a life that centers around HER. She seems define herself based on what she can do for others (we asked her to take care of our cats for a week–she cleaned our whole apartment). She wasn’t allowed to have much in the way of outside interests when she was raising her kids, so without a husband and children to take care of, there wasn’t really anything left.

    The danger in being a SAHP is losing any identity outside of that. That’s not healthy, and that’s exactly the lifestyle that people like Random Preacher are promoting.

  • abba12

    I’m not going to enter the debate of whether or not she should be encouraged to be a SAHM. But I would like to also support the fact that, I think, there’s a good chance she actually just wanted to be a teacher. I know people who, as children, really just wanted normal, average jobs. One kid I know, his ultimate job was to be a garbage truck driver. We can’t all have the ‘good’ jobs. Stop setting kids up with impossible dreams, unless she started gymnastics at 3 years old and is already winning gym contests at a high level she’s just not going to the olympics, simple as that. It’s like a teenager planning to become a world class ballerina, or an adult deciding to become geisha, it’s just not happening. Speaking of which, if you’re so against parents pushing their child to a specific career I hope you’re also against the mothers of ballerinas and gymnasts, who begin the intense training long before they can decide that’s what they want to do.

    As a kid I was very good at math, I loved math, all I wanted to do was be a high school math teacher. Mum and dad kept trying to push me, I could be a rich accountant, or a mathamatician, or a machine coder (as in actualy working with the base binary code etc) but I wanted to share my love of math and I did not want a high stress, long hours job. My husband dreamed of many careers, but what all of them had in common was low stress, shorter hours, ‘easy’ but rewarding jobs. My brother in law has his dream job, as a groundsman.

    It’s not wrong to have other priorities in life, a career needn’t be the be all and end all of life any more than children or hobbies or anything else. Not everyone needs to dream of being famous. Maybe this girl is just a reasonable, rational thinker.

  • Laura

    I worked outside the home from the time my daughter was an infant, because my husband did not make enough money to support us.

    Given that I had to work, I did not feel the need to do it in sackcloth and ashes. I have truly enjoyed my career.

    And it’s a good thing too, because the thing about kids is, they grow up, and if you did your job right, they leave you. If all of your life for years is rolled into the identity of wife-and-mother, and the kids grow up and move out, what now? I mean, empty nesting was hard enough for me, still having my busy, responsible job to go to every day. The only reason it’s bearable now is that it’s lovely to have a grown daughter who is completely independent and generally happy.

    And I still enjoy going to work every day.

  • shadowspring

    Or maybe she was home schooled and that gymanstics teacher was the only career women she ever met at work. If that was the only adult women she ever met who wasn’t frumpy, frazzled and fat from multiple pregnancies and endless housework/baby care, no wonder she would want to be a gymnastics teacher!

    Children can’t dream to be something/someone they have no concept of existing. Some of these religiously home schooled children are extremely isolated. I certainly know many home schooled students for which that could be the case. The most religious home schooling families don’t even go to museums, lest the children hear a positive word about evolution or an older age for the earth than their Bible doctrine teaches.

    Dance and gymnastics (in modest attire) is acceptable to these families to teach balance and poise. Some of them will also allow carefully vetted art instruction. Boys can do competitive sports, but again, it depends on the venue. In my state they are working hard to even get a strictly “Christian” football league going.

    If you’re not part of that world, you have no concept of how limiting it can be. We are not exaggerating.

  • abba12

    I AM part of that world, I know you’re not exagerating, but I think if they were one of those very extreme restrictive families where she has seen no woman working except her teacher then there is no way her father would even say in public she had thoughts of a career, those sorts of stay at home daughters don’t tend to work before marriage except in home based enterprise. She would be discouraged from a career at all, and it would almost be a scandal in the church for her father to admit her ‘sin’ of dreams of a future outside the home. If she is in a family that is happy to allow her to work at all, especially a career style job before marriage, and admit those desires publicly then she is probably also free enough to have at least seen olympic gymnasts and other employed women.

    Look, it’s possible she is in a unique circumstance of being restricted drasticly in her exposure yet still allowed to consider employment outside the home before marriage, but I find it doubtful, generally they go hand in hand, just as you usually won’t find a forced stay at home daughter who has interacted with people outside of church. It would be a contradiction.

    I just think people here can get a little oversensitive and assume the absolute worst at all times, even when, like in this case, it seems a little implausable.

    Again I’m talking only about her pre-marriage status.

  • denelian

    if this were as implausible as you suggest, why did this anon preacher go on to “gleefully” recount how he told this daughter that all should could ever be was a wife-and-mother?