In my last semester at an old, secular university, I was invited to a faculty dinner. In a conversational lull, the female principal asked me from across the large table what I was planning to in the fall (she had provided parts for grad school applications and wanted to know where I would be studying). Fourteen weeks pregnant, I told her what my plan was: to have a baby. The whole table went silent. Male professors were surprised and awkward, but the women were visibly angry. The other student there later asked if I was serious. The only positive reaction was from my old school liberal, Anglican (male) thesis advisor. Someone changed the topic.
Apparently, they didn’t believe what they had been telling me for the last four years – that I could choose my own path, do what I wanted with my life, and reach my full potential, regardless of people’s opinion. Now, I loved my studies and use my education every single day at home. But that wasn’t the school’s plan. Because they had made their definition of fulfillment and success absolute, mine was wrong, even if it was what I wanted. I wasn’t towing the feminist line of the secular academy, and they were not about to congratulate or affirm me. Apparently, a woman’s right to choose is limited to politically correct, feminist-approved choices.
In watching The Iron Lady last week, I realized again how empty feminism’s promises are. They promised Margaret Thatcher (who was not even a radical feminist) everything. Now, at the end of her life, she has an increasingly socialized country, estranged children, a dead husband, and, if the film makers got it right, much regret. She did a good job at her job, but everything she worked for has amounted to very little in the grand scheme of things. And the things which matter most – her soul and the souls of her family – have gone neglected.
If even the only female PM of Great Britain did not find true and lasting fulfillment in her life, what can feminism do for the vast number of wives and mothers who are working as Wal-Mart greeters, factory workers, secretaries, or bus drivers? Feminism would like people to believe that all women should and can have glamorous careers, but most of the working mothers out there have menial jobs, spend their money on daycare, and come home to a messy house at the end of a work day. Some women have to work because of certain circumstances. Some do enjoy their jobs, and a believer can pursue any legitimate calling to the Glory of God. But the picture which the feminists paint is a far cry from reality.
This rosy picture is perpetuated by the cultural assumption that women who stay home do it because they can’t do anything else, and that staying at home means you live in a bubble of toys, dishes and laundry. The feminists refuse to see that homemaking gives a woman more time in the kitchen than any foodie with a desk job, more opportunities to read than a librarian, more chances to shape children’s character than the super nanny, more time to do unsolicited good than a rotary club member, longer to decorate your home than any TLC crew, and more time to read more economic stats than Hilary Rosen. Staying at home creates more opportunities to develop your interests, skills, abilities, and ways to serve than any other job out there. And yet the feminists push women into cubicles, telling them they will have a life, feel fulfilled, and be connected to the outside world.
Our culture has it so backwards. It applauds Martha Stewart, who sacrificed her marriage and morals to build a corporation that makes millions off of American women who have no time left to think creatively about their own homes. At the same time it sneers at people like my mother, who turned down an amazing opportunity for graduate study in order to home school six kids for almost 30 years.
But at the end of the day, it’s the biblical pattern of being a “keeper at home” (Titus 2:4) that brings the blessing to women, because it’s God who ordained it for their personal and familial – and thus societal – benefit. Martha Stewart has shares, stocks, mansions, luxury vehicles, and an incredible collection of antiques. I don’t. I have a busy home, a full mini-van, a heap of laundry, and the hope of glory. Sure, there are days when an office job seems manageable or when an academic career is appealing. But that enjoyment and fulfillment would, at the very most, last a lifetime. It is only obedience that brings eternal happiness (Matt. 25:23).