I always have fancied myself something of a feminist. I come by it honestly; I was raised by one. She raised us to be fiercely independant, emphasizing self-reliance and education. She planted the seed that my sisters and I could be anything we wanted to be: have any career, explore any field, take on the world. She is a strong, empowered woman and she raised three of us in her image. I'm very grateful to my mom and often a little in awe of her.
Another nice thing about my mom is that in the panoply of "things I could be if I wanted to be," homemaker was among them. She might not have been as cool with it if I had launched into my current career choice fresh out of high school or even mid-college, but she is not one of those who think I have somehow squandered my education or demeaned myself by choosing to raise my kids. In fact, she is very supportive and I'm grateful for that as well.
Being a feminist homemaker is harder than it sounds though. Or maybe it's not since it sounds like an oxymoron. The child rearing part is not a problem. I like taking the responsibility for teaching my kids and hopefully molding them into delightful, enlightened, maybe a little non-conforming members of society. It's the whole "making a home" thing. It invokes images of June Cleaver and Betty Draper (season one Betty, I mean). It involves a vacuum cleaner. Whenever I am preparing dinner from one of my antique Betty Crocker cookbooks I look at the pictures and shudder a little at the happy stick-figures in flouncy skirts holding out steaming casserole dishes to their seated husbands. Seated! It strikes a primordial chord deep within me that threatens to incite rebellion.
As I hope you all have guessed from reading this blog, my goal in life is to be closer to God. To live in His will. And so, in recent years, I have tried to read up on some Christian marriage and family books in the hopes that they will offer me a solution to the feminisit housewife dichotomy. After all, I have read a lot of Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, etc, etc. It's only right to approach these things from a balanced perspective.
I'm struggling. I did a Bible study on the book "The New Eve" by Robert Lewis. It has some good stuff in there and I really enjoyed the time with ladies I studied with. I got to hear some perspectives that were very different from my own. I learned; I grew. All of that being said, I cannot say I liked the book. Because when it comes down to it, the idea of teaching my daughter that her purpose in life is to find a husband and start popping out babies makes me vomit. And while that is not 100% of what Lewis is saying...it's in there.
So now I'm reading "The Power of the Praying Wife" by Stormie Omartian. At least I'm trying to. It's slow going. Not because it's poorly written...it's not. Not because the chapters are long...they're actually very short. But rather because as I'm reading happily along I run into something about staying attractive for our husbands or anticipating their needs and the bile rises in the back of my throat. I have a sudden and almost overwhelming urge to grow out my underarm hair and burn my bra.
My husband, by the way, is innocent in all of this. He does not expect me at the door wearing a dress involving a petticoat and holding a piping hot lasagna. In fact, that would totally freak him out. He insists he knew what he was getting when he married me. But it hasn't been all music and roses in our marriage and, like a good recovering alcoholic, I'm trying to figure out my side of the street in all this and do the next right thing. Like a good Christian, I'm trying to figure out God's will for my life and what being a Christian wife looks like.
Like everything else, there is no easy answer. Phillip and I are never going to be Ozzie and Harriet, if only for the fact that I never iron...anything. There has to be a balance, though, between needing him, as Steinem would say, "like a fish needs a bicycle" and joyfully picking up his dirty socks in a Stepford-wife, possibly lithium-induced, trance. So it's back to the drawing board (aka the library) for me. Because I know there is hope for us, we the Christian feminists. Hear us roar.