Friday, December 30, 2005

Nurturing Daughters

Kudos to Karen & Mollie, a mother-daughter team over at Got Me A College Girl for tackling the controversial subject of educating Christian women. They do it with sensitivity and style, and the commentary conversations are really wonderful.

As a mother to two involved, academically-minded high school daughters, I have thought long and hard about this question. Much of what I've read in the Christian reaction to radical feminism is just that - a reaction. While there's a lot to react against in the feminist perspective, the current Christian reaction leaves us feeling that after high school a godly father should essentially warehouse his daughter until he finds a husband for her.

It seems there are two fundamental misconceptions underlying this flawed idea of Christian womanhood. 1) A girl's preparation for life should have more to do with her office as a wife & mother than it does with who she is as a creation of God. 2) Being a "Keeper at Home" involves nothing more than cooking, cleaning and childbearing.

To the first misconception, I submit that training up a daughter to be a wife and mother should primarily have to do with developing the daughter herself, as faithful stewards together of her gifts. Since no one knows precisely what her husband will need, we really have no alternative as faithful stewards except to focus on making the most of what God has given to that daughter. To withhold higher education from a daughter who is intellectual is not only to despise that gift of God, but also to endanger that daughter's pure heart toward her father.

It seems to me that warehousing an able, intellectual daughter will tempt her to such despair and rage that she will either rush into an unwise marriage merely to be able to move on in life, or she will ditch the whole godly family vision as tyrannical. I know a number of young women struggling between these very temptations. Indeed this strategy may produce the very things the Christian patriarchy advocates (and I, too) want to avoid: young women who are less likely to have stable marriages and less likely to raise children.

To the second misconception, I offer the notion that daughters must be taught to view college, not as an alternative to marriage, but as a further preparation for what she will be called to do IN her marriage. In my 25 years as a keeper at home and a help-meet for my husband I have been called on not only as a cook, cleaning-woman, and child-bearer, but also as a foreign-missions fundraiser, a public relations officer, a lobbyist both domestic and international, a teacher, a musician, an artist, a beekeeper, an accountant, a Bible study leader, a recording artist, a writer, an accountant, a landscape and interior designer, a gourmet chef and corporate hostess, a school administrator, a journalist, a jewelry designer, a theater director, a costume designer & seamstress, a conference speaker, a translator, a child-development specialist and confidant... I could never have been what my husband needed without my college degree. Nor have I ever had what the world would call a career. I have borne six children and have been privileged to raise three to the glory of God.

Our family's financial situation has been such that I have needed to make significant financial contributions to the family income. My college degree has given me the scope and the credibility to be able to make those contributions from home, while maintaining a homeschool and training the children in various cottage industry enterprizes.

Our daughters plan to homeschool their children (God and their husbands willing). My grandchildren's educations may be curtailed by the decisions we make concerning giving our daughters a higher education. Our daughters may be widowed early. Dare we withhold from them training and verification of achievement (ie. a degree) that could enable them, in those circumstances, to continue to stay home with their children and make ends meet?

Our daughters' worth ought not be measured by the number of her degrees and the prestige of her career, but neither should it be measured by how thoroughly she has been conformed to a romantic one-size standard of femininity. In the Christian community, we all want the same thing: a restoration of strong, godly families led by self-sacrificing, caring fathers and supported by creative, faithful mothers. But we cannot achieve this either by insisting that every daughter be kept from college or that every daughter be pressed into it.


Shawn Abigail said...

I preface these comments with the assumption that a university and university program is chosen wisely, not blindly.

A good education for our daughters has many benefits. First, it can help train their minds. I firmly believe one of the best preparations for a ministry as a Bible teaching is several years of university level math. It helps train the mind. This education can help train their minds and give them confidence about teaching their own children.

Second, it opens up a number of interesting possibilities for them. Tentmaking missionary work, nursing at summer camps, teaching in Christian schools, etc. None of these would be available to them without an education.

Third, there is a strong possibility that they will need to support themselves some day (before marriage, during marriage or regretably after marriage).

Lastly, from personal experience, I would say and education can help a girl have confidences. I'm a very academically minded person, and it would be easy for my wife to become intimidated by my approach. But the fact that she has a degree from the same university as me (and took some of the same courses as me) is a source of confidence to her. This doesn't mean that she too is going to have an academic approach or all the same interests as me, but deep in her heart she knows she doesn't have to be intimidated by me.

Gem said...

What a great post! I've been re-thinking the idea that our daughters automatically should go to college, but you do give good reasons to still consider it. Your insight and reasoning really resonated with me and my husband.

Shawn Abigail said...

I think we should rethink the idea that anyone should automatically go to college. It's an expensive way to spend a couple years deciding what you really want to do and what your life priorities really should be. I ended up doing 8 years of university, completing two 4 year degrees. It was a long haul, but I finished without any debt and have had some decent jobs since then that would not have been available to me without my education.

I've sometimes thought it would be a good idea for a young person to take a year "off" after high school, get a job, earn some money, and come to grips with the kind of jobs they are limited to without further education (college or technical or apprenticeships, or whatever). However some kids who could benefit from additional education might never go back to school if they stop, so it's a tough choice.

All this being said, I think the right program at the right school can be a significant blessing for all of our children. Learning how to think, communicate and interact with technical specialties is NOT the exclusive domain of men.

As an FYI, can I point people to Augustine College in Ottawa? It was founded by some experienced professors from the local universities for the purpose of providing a one year program to help young people learn to think and interact with their culture. Many of the students are homeschoolers and many of the professors have been active in supporting homeschooling in the Ottawa area. The web site is at

Kim Anderson said...

Thanks for the link, Shawn Abigail!

You bring up some additional interesting points: preparation for mission work, training the mind to grasp God's word...

Kim Anderson said...

Gem, I'm glad if this was useful to you. Our daughters are such a precious resource. It does seem a shame to squish them into just one mold.

Rachel said...

...I offer the notion that daughters must be taught to view college, not as an alternative to marriage, but as a further preparation for what she will be called to do IN her marriage...

thank you so much for that point. I am in my second year at a public university after being homeschooled my entire life, and I love it. It was very clear that God called me here, and the opportunties I've had to grow and to minister have been undoubtedly God-ordained.

I am currently studying accounting for my undergraduate and working towards my masters in finance. I'd love to live and work in New York or DC after school, but regardless of any personal goals, I am working to prepare myself for marriage in countless ways. In the long run, there is little I would rather do than stay at home and raise a family.

What we must realize is that there is no distinct formula concerning college. Rather, each one of us must be willing to follow where God leads us. I've had dear friends that stayed at home and friends that moved to New York to attend college. It has been a blessing to see how God has worked in our lives regardless of our different locations when we choose to follow Him. That would be my encouragment to the Christian community at large- to encourage us and our families to seek the Lord and where he is calling us, and to support us in that rather than judging.


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