It's a real gem. And some of it is even borderline heretical. Go ahead, read it through, and then we'll discuss it.
The first three paragraphs I take personally, because I am familiar with the American medical system. You don't go to med school for 8 years - you go to college for 4 years, then medical school for 4 years, then anywhere from 3-5 (or more) years of residency/fellowship training depending upon your chosen specialty. After making it through this rigorous agenda you're not going to wake up a few years into private practice and suddenly realize you should have gone into El Ed. Promise.
Paragraph 4 highlights the apparent tragedy of not knowing exactly what your future holds and therefore being caught untrained for it. Because we all know exactly where life will take us when we're in high school/college and can take exactly the right classes for what lies ahead.
Paragraphs 6-8 would make me laugh if the author weren't so serious. First, she quotes one of her own books saying, "Isn't it telling that our culture requires training and certification for so many vocations of lesser importance, but hands us marriage and motherhood without instruction?" - and then she quotes another author who echos her sentiment. EXCEPT THIS AUTHOR WAS WRITING FROM THE EARLY 1800's.*
Let's have a reality check. In the early 1800's (and to be honest, for the vast majority of human history), there were no temperature-controlled cooking appliance. No refrigeration. No electricity. Very little modern medicine to speak of. No central heating or air conditioning. No fresh fruit or vegetables outside of the growing season. No department stores with cheap ready-made clothing. Life in general, and especially for a woman, was difficult, and probably short. "Homemaking" was an entirely different set of skills than it is today (and to be fair, so was a man's required skill-set). You made your own clothes, put up food for the entire winter for the family, washed clothing with back-breaking labor, cranked out babies, lost babies, and died yourself pretty easily. These skills weren't "homemaking", they were "survival". To even begin to compare the skills required for "homemaking" today to the skills required in the early 1800's is ridiculous; to quote someone from the 1800's as an authority on homemaking is disingenuous.
Paragraph 9 finally gives a bit of what the author defines as "homemaking": to "love, follow, and help a husband; to raise children for the glory of God; and to manage a home..." Later on, she indicates it begins with marriage and ends when you die.
I don't understand this definition at all, especially when comparing it to reality. Although only 1/3 of her definition includes "home management", nearly all of the article's examples fall in that category. Given that, I would probably define "homemaking" as "life management", and I don't see this only starting once you're married. These are life-skills, not wife-skills. You can be a single woman (or man!) living in an apartment and you still need to know how to balance a budget, cook for yourself, clean your living quarters, do your laundry, and interact with your co-workers/fellow students/roommates maturely. Both genders need this skill-set. A spouse and children may intensify the need, but it was present long before the "home" began. And what if you never get married? What if you can't have children? What happens if your husband dies? What if your husband leaves you? Are you suddenly bereft of 2/3 of your "homemaking" responsibilities even though you're not dead? Really?
Required to accomplish the author's definition of "homemaking":
- "management abilities" (wow, you're right, no college degree will help with this)
- "knowledge of health and nutrition" (guess that MD is reasonable after all)
- "interior decorating capabilities" (eh??)
- "childhood development expertise" (ooh, MD wins again!)
Talk about making even the most capable woman feel inappropriately inadequate. A broad variety of life-experiences outside the home sharpens management abilities pretty well. And if you don't know the basics of health and nutrition, you apparently didn't go to school, don't watch TV, can't read, and have no internet access. Seriously, "interior decorating capabilities"? So if I don't have a well-decorated house** I fail as a "homemaker"? Plus, I have to be an "expert" in childhood development? Sure, the more you know about what makes kids tick at various ages, the easier it will be, but again - nobody has a doctor? can read? has internet access? Interacted with a child at any point in their lives prior to busting one out?
Ah, finally, the spiritual guilt-trip in paragraphs 11 & 12. Homemaking is commanded by God - though, Jezebel that I am, I don't remember reading the interior decorating verse nor the child development expertise passage.
"...homemaking is a career that demands considerable expertise, may encompass decades of our lives, and has the potential to spread the gospel to our families, churches, communities, and future generations."So once again referring to the skills required for "homemaking", if I don't decorate my house well then I may be obstructing the spread of the gospel. And read this description again - isn't what she just described essentially life as a Christian? Male or female, young or old, married or not, children or none: a Christian's life is God working out the Gospel. Homemaking isn't a means of grace.
Paragraph 13 reassures us that she wouldn't be so extreme as to say that homemaking is all that a woman should prepare for. Thank goodness for that. Those people who believe that are so out there, aren't they? But of course, the really spiritual girls will make sure their hopes and dreams don't get in the way of making sure they've gotten the necessary homemaking skills down first. I just hope that Interior Design 101 isn't offered at the same time as Biochemistry...
Paragraph 14 & 15: "God did not assign this vital training to educational institutions." Is there any training that God assigned to educational institutions? Have there even been educational institutions for the majority of human history? She emphasizes that the mother should be the primary one instructing, and uses Titus 2:3-5 as prooftext. (Never mind where the Scripture says "older women", it clearly meant "mother".) Watch what really happens in the next few paragraphs, however.
Paragraph 16 was where I just about lost it.
Mothers, we must begin by recognizing the full-time nature of our training. Remember Deut 6:7: "[You] shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." We must incorporate domestic training into the fabric of our daily lives. We must seize every opportunity to prepare our daughters for their mission.
Hold up now. What was Deuteronomy referencing? The Law of God! She puts her artificial homemaker idea on par with the Law of God itself in order to guilt the reader into constantly striving to meet her ideal. I honestly gasped when I read this. This is heterodoxy and borderline heresy.
The next three paragraphs tell the mother how to accomplish this training - the first of which is to essentially "talk up" being a homemaker. Not only does this seem artificial - the daughter isn't stupid; she can see both the rewards and the challenges of her mother's responsibilities - it also smacks a bit of protesting too much. Implementing a specific plan in the training is mentioned, as well as making sure the daughters stay at home often enough that they'll be used to it. Also making sure that they get a "steady diet of God's Word" - because of course, that will lead to making the same choices her mother did.
"Think of your daughter as your homemaking intern. She needs both practical training and instruction. You can provide hands-on training by delegating portions of the household responsibilities to her for short periods of time. For example, you may assign your daughter to buy all the groceries and plan and cook all the meals for a week, or you may have her prepare dinner once a week on a consistent basis. Actually you could rotate through each section of your daily tasks in order to furnish your daughter with a well-rounded experience of the homemaker's world."
Then she launches into a list of things her daughters did that were taught not by her, but by educational institutions, books or other people. Despite all the earlier emphasis on mother doing it all, there's a surprising amount of "other" performing the job. And the really ironic part? She talks about taking classes to learn homemaking skills with her daughters despite insisting up to this point that one should prepare for all of this ahead of time.
You know, practical training in life-skills is great. But I don't understand why this only needs to be daughters involved. This is the kind of thing *everyone* needs to have experience with. These are basic life skills. I plan on doing this sort of thing with my son - and if I have a daughter, with her too.
If you can ignore the sexism and heterodoxy, there are some good ideas here. I love the idea of taking a personal enrichment class with my child and being intentional about passing on knowledge. However, I have no idea why I would limit that to my daughter only. Parents should teach their children life-skills. End of story. In today's world, there's little difference between basic life-skills that men and women need. In fact, men need just as many "homemaking" skills as women. My dear husband recently took on the majority of the household management when I was nearly incapacitated from illness for 3 months. If his mother had followed this nonsense and declined to teach him basic "homemaker" life-skills, he could not have fulfilled this incredibly godly role that he did, and did well.
The deeper I get into this nonsense, the less sense it makes. But I guess that's why I left fundamentalism in the first place.
* It's a little unclear exactly when, however, as the author states in the following paragraph that it was written in 1828 while her own footnote dates it 1832. Maybe she missed that class.
** Regardless of budgets, personal artistic abilities, and by whose standard, pray tell??