I was notified that today is my “Blog-Aversary.” Therefore, I thought it was fitting to post about something that I’ve been thinking about for several months: girl wars. Prior to doing my senior research project on perceptions of working mothers, I had thought only “mommy wars” existed. However, it is not only moms that fight with each other about what moms should and should not do, it’s all women.
I grew up in a conservative faith background, in arguably the most progressive state (Vermont), in a family where the women “wore the pants.” I had my fair experience witnessing women, in person and on Facebook, tear each other apart for working or staying home. Stay-At-Home Moms (SAHM) argued that working mothers—regardless of if the woman was working by choice or because her family needed the extra income—were unloving and neglecting their children, while working mothers argued that SAHMs were ungrateful for all of the work women had done during the past century for gender equality. Both NOT true. The gloves really came off when a homeschooling SAHM went to bat against a working mother whose chose to send her children to public school.
All of the women in my large extended family worked at a business or worked from home. My mom and grandma, and many of my extended family members, were at every single concert/meet/game I played within driving distance from PreK-12th grade. They asked me about my life, I was able to tell they deeply cared, and I was never able to empathize with the argument that because women in my family worked I was unloved or neglected.
However, as I became friends with more conservative families my sophomore year of high school, I heard the “other side.” Every Christian friend I had grew up with a SAHM. Even after they graduated, their mother chose to stay home. I made the BIG MISTAKE of asking one of their moms (we were close, so I didn’t think it would be terribly awkward), “What do you DO all day?” Only to receive the stink eye, a thorough lecture, and a large serving of humble pie. Do not ever ask a SAHM that. Ever. Nope. Never.
As I became close to these more traditional families, I realized I was “suppose” to be a SAHM. I listened to sermons at various places about how a woman was suppose to be a help-mate, how she was designed to care for her children, and how the majority of problems with our youth come from a MOTHER not being home. I came to understand that it was my duty as a woman designed by God, and (hopefully) a future wife and mother, to be a stay at home mother.
However, I’ve always enjoyed school. Always. I feel God has gifted me academically, and thoroughly enjoy reading research journals. During high school I completed the first two years of nursing school because I planned to enter an accelerated nursing program. I thought nursing could be my happy medium, as I could keep my license and maybe work part time when my future children were in school.
I didn’t begin to realize that maybe I wasn’t DESTINED to be a SAHM until my high school graduation. I received multiple academic awards, and was told about the bright future I had. And I hated it, because with each compliment I thought, “It would be nice to continue school, too bad I’m going to be stuck home.”
DISCLAIMER: I don’t feel women who CHOSE to say home are uneducated (many SAHMs are super smart) or that they’re any less. But for ME I felt obligated and awful.
When I arrived at college, I had extra room in my schedule, and took classes that interested me. I realized I was gifted in, and really enjoyed, law and debating. After several tearful meetings with my academic advisor, I realized I should aim to go to law school. As I worked in sexual assault advocacy, and observed the work done by attorneys, for the first time in my life I really felt my calling, and God telling me, “This is what you’re suppose to do, Kris.”
To my disappointment, this “Divine Affirmation” if you will, provided little comfort. As I still felt like I was being a “bad” Christian. Yes, I was single and marriage and motherhood were no where close, but as a planner, it still stressed me out.
“How Can You Do That?”
When I began posting more about my law school application journey this past Spring, I was honestly quite shocked at the push back I received from many Christian women. “Why are you going to spend all that time and money when you’re just going to have kids?” Was a frequent question. Surprisingly, the only flack I received was from women. I think I’ve read more blogs about being a working mother than any single woman my age, because I wanted to have a good response to these questions.
I took a Gender Studies class (yes, at a Christian University by an Obama-supporting liberal, chew on that) my junior year and I became more aware of the many struggles that face working mothers. I thought about this material quite often, and when it came time to chose a topic for my senior research project on perceptions of working mothers.
My project consisted of three scenarios: Karen, Jenny, and Mollie. These scenarios were split between nearly 200 participants. Karen was a mom who took maternity leave and then returned to work, Mollie became a stay at home mom, and Jenny chose to go back to work a few weeks after giving birth.
My original hypothesis was that a recipient would be less supportive of a woman working if a) They had a stay at home mom or b) Their mother did not possess a college degree or higher. This was not supportive, instead, I found that the ONLY CONSISTENT factors of approval/disapproval were religion and gender. Christians overwhelming did not support women working, and men were more in favor of women working. Not what I expected at all.
We Need to Stop the Fighting
Ladies, we must stop fighting. I firmly believe that SAHMs and working moms deeply love their children, and have made their career decisions with their family’s best interest at heart. So here are my questions:
- Why does it matter to YOU if another woman works or stays home?
- Why would her decision change how you treat her.
God has given everyone special gifts and talents. And I believe some of these talents (like law, for me) can really be best used outside of the home. Does this make me less Christian? Less loving? NO!
As Christians we need to support everyone woman’s right to pursue the talents God has given her, even if her decisions are different than the ones we would make for ourself.
Additionally, we must always be kind, encouraging and and respectful of one another. ALWAYS. As women, and Christians, we have enough against us. The last thing we need is internal division over how we pursue ministry callings.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Eph. 4:23
So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.1 Thess. 5:11
Be kind, be smart, be fierce.