One of the loudest arguments feminists and egalitarians use against complementarians is the idea that being a stay-at-home wife or mother is a byproduct of privilege. In fact, during last week’s Twitter brou ha ha over the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s conference in Louisville, I saw that argument used over and over again:
“Complementarians need to understand that women staying home only works for the privileged. Not every women can/wants to stay home.” I am not attributing that quote to anyone specific; it’s kind of an amalgamation of a number of tweets I read.
I call hogwash.
(That’s a fancy Indiana term for you are completely off-your-rocker incorrect, my friend.)
Privileged? The first rule of debate is define your terms.
What does “privileged” mean? Financially? I mean, yes, compared to like 98% of the known world, I know that my husband and I count as privileged, financially, because we have jar of change in the kitchen. But compared to the people we attend church with? The people in our small group? Roughly 80% of the other stay-at-home moms I know?
We are the poor, unwashed masses.
Being a stay-at-home mother is not a matter of “privilege”; it is a matter of multiple sacrifices that most people are unwilling to make for the most vulnerable people on earth: children.
Choosing to be a stay-at-home mother is often not a matter of “can’t” – it’s often a matter of “won’t”:
Won’t quit eating out, won’t give up 250 television stations & a DVR, won’t shop anywhere that doesn’t sell brand names, won’t quit having weekly date nights to the trendiest restaurants, won’t quit buying $1000s worth of birthday & Christmas gifts, won’t quit leasing brand new cars or financing boats, won’t dress your children in hand-me-downs or thrift store finds, won’t use an electronic device longer than six months at a time, won’t quit going to Disney four times a year, and won’t live in less than 3,000 custom-built square feet in the best neighborhood.
Of course there are your outliers – the women married to the uber-rich stock brokers, bankers, VPs, CEOs, and what have yous. I know that is especially true in the suburbs and high rent urban areas.
But then there are those of that are not married to men like that. There are those of us married to truck drivers, postal carriers, preachers, servicemen, policemen, firemen, college professors, construction workers, miners, factory workers. Those of us who balance every single penny that comes into the household, weigh it, pray over it, plead with God to stretch it. Those of us who don’t accumulate debt, who only buy things we absolutely need, who shop at Aldi and *gasp* Walmart.
Those of us, however, would not hesitate to give said penny to you if you needed it, even if it means we go without a much needed new pair of shoes for ourselves yet again.
There is a sisterhood of us who watch our husbands get up every day, whether early morning or early evening (or both, when they unflinchingly take on multiple jobs), and shrug into a uniform, perhaps with their name stitched on it (that we may have stitched on ourselves), strap on heavy boots, pack a lunch (to save precious dollars better spent elsewhere than on a fast food meal), kiss our children good-bye, and steel themselves to face the cruel world of a hard job. Their broad shoulders bear the weight of their God-given responsibility to take care of their family, and even if they slump in weariness, they never collapse under the weight of it, because they know they are doing what God has commanded them to do.
We women? We pray, we tuck our children in, we clean our homes, we cook the meals, we do the laundry, and we are belittled, and criticized, and mocked by those who think we could do more – should be doing more.
“More what?” I ask.
We teach our children, we laugh with them, we pray with them, we see every single “first” that they accomplish, we comfort their fears, we nap with them on rainy days, we bake cookies, and dig up fishin’ worms. We read to them, we cuddle with them, we take them everywhere we go, so they learn to speak respectfully to all types of people across the whole spectrum of society.
What could be “more” than creating a home for your husband and bringing up your children to know and love the Lord?
We are told we are privileged, when, in fact, we barely have two nickles to rub together. We are accused of being privileged when we know, for a fact, that we are one broken appliance away from massive catastrophe. We are mocked as privileged when we cry over the fact we haven’t bought new clothing for ourselves in – literally – years, and what we have is starting to really show its wear, tear, and age. We are castigated as privileged when we have done the math and know that no job would pay enough to put our precious God-given children in someone else’s care long enough for us to make working outside of our homes profitable.
(that would be about 60 hours a week for us…and it’s simply not worth it. God gave our child to us to raise, not to us to hand over to someone else to raise)
So we give piano lessons, tutor other home-schooled children, bake for parties, take on odd jobs here and there we can do from home…
Do we sacrifice? In countless ways, every day.
Are we privileged?
I guess it depends on what you mean by privileged.
3 thoughts on “The (myth of) Privilege of Stay at Home Motherhood”
Put yourselves in the shoes of a single mother, or a woman whose husband is in prison, or as a young widows whose husband died unexpectedly, or a woman whose husband has been deported – biblical womanhood would say that you’re incomplete and since it’s wrong to do double-duty and fulfill both roles, you must marry again. Husbands are no longer irreplaceable partners, but makes and models of cars, as soon as one is totaled you have to get another as quickly as possible. If you don’t have to choose which kid to adopt out to in order to give the kids you’re keeping their best chance, you’re privileged. If you don’t work a minimum wage job and don’t have to go without eating so that your kids can eat a little more of what little food there is, you’re privileged. If you’re a legal citizen with access to welfare and other services, then you’re privileged over every woman who fears that her husband will be deported leaving her to managed the household as best she can alone. If your household can be comfortably supported by your husband’s paycheck, then you’re privileged. What would Biblical Womanhood say these outliers? Nothing helpful.
OUTSTANDING! My wife was always told she was “lucky.” From what we saw it was all a matter of priorities; we had a small house, were married for 10 years before we could afford a 2nd car, took camping trips for vacations, and rarely went out to eat. But we weren’t going to let other people raise our kids.
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