Kirsten Dunst recently received attacks from some and applause from others this week for comments she made about traditional gender roles. The actress reportedly said in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, “I feel like the feminine has been a little undervalued. We all have to get our own jobs and make our own money, but staying at home, nurturing, being the mother, cooking — it’s a valuable thing my mom created.”
While the conservatives applauded her advocating the value of a traditional stay-at-home mom role, the more liberal activists condemned her ‘old-fashioned’ mindset. But the truth is that anyone who advocates that all women should prescribe to any certain lifestyle is wrong. If you truly are a feminist, believing God’s daughters are just as valuable as his sons, you have to support the notion that women can make their own choices pertaining to motherhood and career.
To the more liberal crowd who thinks that being a stay at home mom is somehow not ambitious, let me make a case for the benefits. I have plenty of friends who stay at home with their children, and for each of them they see it as a vocational calling from the Lord. They feel a sense of satisfaction and divine fulfilment by caring for and instructing their children as a vocation. My mom stayed at home with me and my sisters, and we reaped many benefits from having a mom that felt called to stay at home. My mom always felt passionately about caring for children. She even majored in child development in college to prepare her for the calling! Staying at home with us enabled her to bravely take on the responsibility of home-schooling, which truly put us ahead of the public school crowd. My three sisters and I all graduated from college with honors and are among that strange crowd of people who read for pleasure, thanks to her academic support. Her staying at home was also great for my dad. As he travels a great deal, my mom was a great help in keeping a high level of organization in our house, included keeping up with his travel schedule, helping him prepare for business trips, and keeping me and my sisters entertained when he was gone on the weekends. Even though I loved spending time with my dad, I still looked forward to his weekends away because mom would always order pizza and take us to Blockbuster to rent A Land Before Time (a long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, you had to drive to a store to rent a VHS tape of what you can now watch instantly on Netflix). But mom staying at home was not just good for my sisters and my dad. It was good for her. She did not just enjoy it; she felt a strong sense of fulfillment from it. That’s what I call a win-win-win situation.
Many stay at home moms get labeled lazy or unambitious. But this is so untrue and unfair! Taking care of children is hard work. And just because someone stays at home with their kids does not mean they don’t have other talents or passions. My friend Lauren is a stay at home mom of three, and she runs marathons every year! My friend Amy stays at home even though she doesn’t even have kids yet, and she is writing a novel. Staying at home does not equal a one-dimensional, domestic life.
But not every mom feels the call to stay at home. To the more traditional crowd that might think moms who work somehow don’t care for their children as well, let me now make the case for the benefits of being a working mom. I have always felt a call to ministry and leadership. In college I discovered a passion for serving college-age men and women and have been involved in Christian, higher education leadership ever since. The fact that I now have children has not changed my God-given calling to minister to college students. Our family benefits in many ways from having a mom who works. My boys get to see both their parents practicing obedience by being true to the calling God has placed on our lives. They also get to experience the financial comforts of having a two-income household. They won’t be spoiled, but they also won’t want for things like money to go on class trips, necessary equipment for their sports teams, or even tuition money when they go to college. Because I work, my boys also get to go to daycare. Okay I know some of you are thinking, “What?! You think daycare is a good thing?” While daycare might be a dirty word to some, and I’m sure there are some pretty terrible daycares out there, the right daycare, just like the right school, can really benefit children. Rick and I noticed a lot of positives when Grady first began at his daycare. His language skills improved, his coordination improved, and because we can already tell our 2 year old is extremely extroverted, he gets very energized by his play time with the other children. My mother-in-law worked when Rick and his sister were growing up, and I can see how Rick benefitted from having a working mama! She provided significant financial contributions for the family and even paid for Christian daycare and later private school for Rick and his sister. Rick’s mom is very extroverted, like myself, and thrives in the working world. And even though she is gifted in marketplace ministry, she never compromised emotional closeness with her kids. She was, and remains today, a huge support to her children even though she did not spend her 9 AM to 5 PM hours with them growing up. Again, they had a win-win-win situation.
Some working moms get accused of not loving their kids if they choose to work. I have even heard some skeptics ask, “Why would you want to have kids if you plan to not stay home with them?” This is completely a double standard, because no one thinks a man with a full-time job somehow cares less for his children. I grew up with two loving parents. One stayed home and one worked full-time, and I never felt that my working parent loved me less. My good friend Natalie works full-time as a pastor. Even though she is not home during the day, it is very obvious that her children feel loved and cared for by their mom. Bottom line, moms who stay at home do not love their children more than moms who choose to work.
I realize that I am an idealist and that we live in an imperfect world. I know many women out there would love to stay at home with their kids, but have to work out of financial necessity. I also know there are women who feel called to a career but are at home with their kids because they have not landed their dream job yet. Take hope in the fact that God can bless your situation, even if it is tough at times.
Believing that all mothers should stay at home with their children is as old fashion as believing all men should be hunters and fishermen. But belittling the calling to stay at home is just as damaging. It is not universally better for children to have a mom who stays at home, just as it is not unilaterally better for children to have a mom who works. Children need parents who model obedience to the Lord and serve in a way that puts their passions and giftings to great use. We would all be better off remembering the Apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthians:
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)
The body of Christ has many parts. We can’t all be the same, but we can all play our individual role in bringing the Kingdom here on earth until we reach the Kingdom in heaven. If you are a stay at home mom, do so for the glory of God. And if you serve in the work place, do so also for the glory of God.
I don’t take any issue with Kirsten Dunst and her admiration for her mom who stayed at home. But something else Dunst said did set off an alarm bell for me. In her interview she commented, “You need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. That’s how relationships work.”
You need a woman to be a woman. What does that even mean? Sadly women have bought into this idea that they are supposed to live up to some prescribed ideal. We’ve been made to feel that there is a model for the perfect Christian woman, and we are to strive to fit some vague mold (one that does not really exist) to be a “good” woman.
Does scripture advocate the idea of a single model for Christian femininity? Let’s look. Read through Proverbs 31. This portion of scripture has often been referred to as the ideal for Christian women to aspire to. Why? I have no clue, because clearly that would be impossible.
She manages her home, but she also travels far.
She is involved in real estate and sales.
She is an artist and a philanthropist.
She is a farmer, and she makes bank.
She makes her own clothes, and has stellar arm muscles.
She speaks wise counsel, and she cares for the poor.
Her husband respects her. Her kids sing her praises.
She gets up before dawn and stays up very late.
How could one woman do all these things? Even if you had multiple degrees and the ability to function with three hours of sleep each night, I’m pretty sure this would still be impossible. So why is this even in the Bible? To rub in our faces how imperfect we women are? I think not.
After careful research I found that many scholars believe the author of this passage is actually describing multiple women. They suggest that this is not a laundry list of what Christian women should try to scratch off their daily to-do list, but a beautiful collage of a variety of Spirit-filled, God-fearing women.
Wow! [Insert sigh of relief here]
You mean it’s okay if I’m not growing a vineyard in my backyard? Yep.
It’s okay if I have very skinny, not-so-muscular arms (or fat and flabby arms)? Yep again.
It’s okay if I’m not married, don’t have kids, and want to enjoy the single life? Yes, yes, yes!
This passage does not enslave women into any certain role. This passage liberates women to be excited about their distinctiveness. The gospel message is about freedom, not captivity. I serve a creative God. He did not make a bunch of cookie-cutter women (or men, for that matter). An “ideal” Christian woman is one who honors God with her life in her own unique way. We are fearfully and wonderfully made to live in communion with Him. The rest is just the details. When we try and force the idea of an ideal woman or man, we disrespect God’s creativity. If we want to honor God we need to not only encourage individuality and support our fellow brothers and sisters in their unique vocation, but also rest in our own beautiful calling. When we are uncomfortable or insecure about our calling, we tend to judge others who differ. If you stay at home but on some level feel insecure about the significance of your calling, it would be natural to judge women who work, belittling their calling to help you feel better about yours, or vice versa. You must accept and love yourself before you can lavishly love those around you. You can’t love your neighbor as yourself if you don’t actually love yourself, right?
I realize this post might make some folks angry. There are numerous high-profile pastors out there advocating that a woman’s place is at home. I won’t name any specifically, but I will go ahead and say they are wrong and their ideas cannot be backed up with proper biblical exegesis. Beware any pastor or preacher that tells you a Christian woman exists to get married, have kids, and live the domestic life. There are also numerous “progressives” out there that might not share in my support of women choosing to nurture and care for their children at home. Tune that crowd out as well.
When I’m training for a race, the course I am running dictates how I prepare for the event. If I’m running a flat 5k, I’ll do lots of 400s leading up to the big event. If I’m running a hilly half marathon, my training will look much different. We are all running the race, but God has given each of us a unique course. Let the Holy Spirit be your Coach, and don’t worry about training like anyone else.